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Rising costs: What you can do to cope now and prepare for future increases
October 20, 2021
Food, petrol and rates are all costing a lot more than they were a year ago and economists say prices are set to continue rising.
Annual inflation hit 4.9 per cent in year to September2021 – the biggest annual jump since 2011.
But experts believe there are tips and tricks people can use to cut costs, boost their income and prepare for future price rises.
Sumita Paul, an independent financial planner at Athena Wealth Management, said it was shocking to see the level of food and petrol price rises coming through and urged people to keep a close eye on their spending.
“Be aware of your monthly credit card bills.”
Paul said those living under lockdown conditions should be wary of signing up for subscriptions that started with a free trial and then added to their expenses down the track.
“Just being aware of all these stealth stealers taking money away from your monthly cashflow.”
She said those with a home loan should also be prepared for higher interest rates while having an emergency fund in place should something go wrong.
“It is being aware and being prepared – gauging how you are going to cope with it.”
She said borrowers should to talk to their bank about the status of their loan, how it was structured and when it was coming up for renewal.
“Knowing where things are at and not just letting it roll over and happen on its own. Talk to your bank or mortgage broker about that.”
Paul said it was timely for people to also review their insurance coverage, although she warned against cancelling any insurance just to save the cost of the premium.
“You may have paid down your mortgage, increased the equity in your property, and may not need the cover you initially took to protect your family five or 10 years ago.
“But be careful and conscious not just cancelling things off just to save the premium because the repercussions could be dire as well.”
Tom Hartmann, personal finance lead at Sorted, said people should check they were getting all the financial support they were entitled to from the Government while making a spending plan.
“In that plan you need to focus on the essentials but you really want to focus on those things that really drive wellbeing – anything that is not adding to wellbeing could be lower down on the list.”
He said cutbacks could be made to most people’s spending but everyone’s situation was different.
“Typically there are some places you can cut from – you might find subscriptions – not giving you the greatest bang for your buck. But these are things you can come back to, if you cut back on something it doesn’t have to be permanent it can be just for right now.”
Hartmann said the key to preparing for future cost rises was having some buffer room in your budget.
“This is not a static environment – this is pretty dynamic. Where it is developing before oureyes and which direction it will head, we don’t really know.”
“What is in our control is to make a plan that has some leeway, so we can move with the times.”
He urged people to collaborate their resources with others.
“Many of us might not have all the material resources in the world but very often we are quite rich in terms of our social networks. Social networks whether it is changing job, supporting each other, watching each other’s kids, very often that is where the solution lies.”
Hartmann said rising inflation would be a new experience for many New Zealanders.
“It will affect some of us more and some of us less depending on the things we buy.”
But he said just because it was a new experience didn’t mean it would all go badly.
“It really depends on our ability to see our situation clearly and not constrain ourselves.”
Hartmann said people should consider alternatives they might have previously dismissed as inconvenient, such as public transport or car pooling, as it could save substantial amounts of money.
Angela Smart – lead manager at free financial mentoring service MoneyTalks – urged people to be proactive about their finances.
“Don’t wait until you are hiding from every creditor.”
She said many of those who used its services waited until they hit rock bottom before getting in touch but it was better to talk to someone and get help before then.
Smart said those wanting to trim back on costs should shop around and use comparison websites like Powerswitch.org.nz to compare energy providers and switch to a cheaper option.
It was also worth shopping around for better phone and internet deals as well as a sharper mortgage rate.
“There is a lot of competition around. Just because you have always been with one bank forever doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay with that bank.”
Smart said cutting back on food costs could be tricky.
“It is challenging some of the norms and how we have always thought we have to buy fresh because fresh is best. Buying frozen veges or using the click-and-collect option.
“I know myself that if I use the online grocery tool I am far less likely to add all the extras and you are not under time pressure – you can write out a food plan for the week …you are less likely to add the extras and you know how much you are putting into the basket.”
Smart said servicing debts could soak up incomes and she urged people to think about the long-term cost of it rather than what it could pay for in the here and now.
“A significant portion of free disposable income that people have is going to pay for debt and it is that constant cycle that even once you have paid something down, it is easier to go and get another top-up through the finance companies. It keeps them in a trap. And the interest rates are horrendous.”
Smart said having a budget was one thing but it was important to check if you were actually following it
“Budgets are a lovely thing. We all have budgets but if you have a bit of fat in it, you are probably less likely to stick to it.”
She urged people to write down what they think they have spent over the past four weeks on essentials like food and utility bills and then go through last month’s bank statements and see if it aligns with actually spending.
Smart encouraged workers to ask for a pay rise, especially if they were in a sector that was booming and had tight labour supply.
“We know it is a tight labour market – ask for a pay rise or search for a different job because some industries are going gangbusters.
“In some industries, there is a reason why inflation is happening.”
She said asking for a pay rise was not rude and the worst that someone could say was no.
“As Kiwis, we are such humble people that to ask for something is really hard. It really goes against our psyche.”
But she said, with encouragement and backing, people could be supported into asking for a pay raise.