How we used online tools to save $57,653

How we used online tools to save

In this article you’re going to find out exactly how we used online tools to save $57,653. I’ve worked in the consumer information industry for more than 15 years, so these online tools are second nature to me. And I think most people will be familiar with some of them, but I doubt everyone uses all of them. Which is kind of crazy!

These tools and techniques are free. They’re available right now online to everyone. Some of them are funded by the government (ahem, your tax dollars!). All of them will save you money. Some of them can save you a lot of money, and time. And, although you need to know a couple of little tricks, mostly this is super-easy, and really anyone can do it.

So, find out how we used these common online tools, that are available to everyone, and how we save over $7,000 every, single, year.

How we used online tools to save $57,653

Online grocery shopping in your nickers – $2,600

We looove online grocery shopping here at Kiwi Families HQ! It’s just so convenient. You can shop in bed, on a Sunday night (in your underwear), and your groceries get packed and delivered to your door, first thing Monday morning. No more tantrums in the checkout aisle, no more lugging kids and bags in and out of cars, and no more getting stuck in traffic with the ice cream slowly melting.

And don’t get me wrong, I love supermarket shopping. Going online was a tough choice, and we definitely don’t do all our food shopping online. But there’s one reason, above all others, that we made the switch to weekly shopping on Countdown.co.nz. And that’s money!

We save like crazy when we shop online. Here’s just a few reasons how you will save:

  • Zero convenience items. Those little shiny packets of over-processed, marketing brilliance, just don’t shine as brightly online. The lure isn’t the same, and so the ‘shopping cart’ only gets stocked with essentials.
  • Not so many sales item. There’s actually just as many ‘half-off’, ‘two-for-one’, ‘buy this-get that’ deals online as in the physical store. And we do buy some of the ‘specials’ online. But again, we just don’t end up with as many unnecessary extras.
  • Shopping lists made easy. This may not apply to all online shopping sites, but Countdown makes it easy to see what you’ve purchased each week. It’s a great visual reminder of exactly what should be in your basket (and what shouldn’t!).
  • The total cost tallies as you shop. This one is probably the main reason why we save when we shop online. You just can’t go over your weekly food budget. And even when you do, it’s easy to delete a couple of items at the end. In the physical store, we just stand there meekly watching the total go way over the budget, and then hand over the credit card.  Why is that?

The total savings from this awesome online innovation are a bit of a guess. But we’ve been over our accounts for the last year, and we seem to be saving at least $50 a week from it. That’s over $2,600 in savings every year!

How about a bonus tip here? Don’t forget to check out coupon code sites when shopping online, as there’s often percentage off discounts for even deeper savings.

Make the most of interest free credit card deals – $2,635

Interest free credit card deals are on the rise in New Zealand. It’s the sign of a healthy credit market, and really good news for consumers. It’s sort of debt consolidation on steroids really.

The usual deal in New Zealand is 12 months of interest free credit, and you can transfer up to 95% of whatever credit limit the bank offers you. You can also transfer multiple balances onto the new card. You want to make sure as much of your outstanding debt as possible is transferred to the interest free deal.

Remember though, you’ve only got 12 months to pay off the debt before interest is charged. So you want to plan out your monthly repayments to pay off the balance in full by the end of the year.

If you can’t pay off the whole balance in 1 year, make sure you choose a low rate, and low annual fee credit card. Also, don’t think for a second that you can’t transfer your new balance to a different bank. As long as you keep your repayments up, and your credit is good, you should be able to take up another interest free credit card deal with a new bank, and get another 12 months interest free. You’d be silly not to really.

For a full list of credit card rates and fees, check out Interest.co.nz. Once you’ve found a good rate, just Google ‘interest free credit card’ plus the bank’s name to see if they’ve got a deal going.

A quick word of warning on this one. There’s a point where debt management begins to turn into debt juggling, and you don’t want to be a clown right?

Negotiate your home loan rate like a boss – $46,418 + $3,000

This was our biggest savings deal overall, but it comes in third at around $1,800 per year, as it’s what we’ll save over the next 25 years. Still, it’s a crap-load of cash back in our pockets, plus it came with a $3,000 cash sweetener!

And, after we show you exactly how we negotiated a deal better than some mortgage brokers can get, I’ll show you how to turn this into another $50,000 worth of savings!

This little trick works best when negotiating on a new home loan, especially the cashback deals, but you can use a similar process for negotiating every single time you refix your loan. The process is pretty straight forward, and goes something like this:

  • Jump onto Interest.co.nz and compare your current bank’s rate with the lowest on offer. You’re looking for rates from New Zealand banks, so thats: ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Kiwibank, Westpac and maybe TSB at a push.
  • Now, go email the bank with the cheapest rate and ask them straight up for ‘$x’ amount of lending, with ‘$x’ deposit what’s the very best deal they can get you.
  • Feel free to email a couple of other banks if you want too.
  • Now go back to your bank and quote them the deal you’ve just been offered and tell them you want to stay with them, but they’ll need to go one better than the competition.
  • Don’t stop yet, you’re on a roll. Go back to the competition and email them your deal and see if they’ll match it. If they do, you want to go back to your bank, and get them to sharpen their pencil one more time. They’ll say the can’t, but be pushy here. Tell them you really don’t want to switch banks, but you have to put your family’s finances first.
  • They’ll move a bit further if you push. Remember your negotiating like a boss here, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

It might seem like a fair bit of leg work for just a few percentage points difference. But those few points really add up. Take a look at the awesome mortgage calculators on Sorted.org.nz and plug in a couple of rates to see.

Our bank’s ‘best’ rate on Interest.co.nz at the time was 5.90%, and we got this down to a rate of 5.19%. Plus the bank threw in a $3000 cashback deal as a sweetener (you do know banks will give you cash to get your mortgage right? 🙂 ). Here’s what Sorted told us we saved:

Best advertised rate:

Weekly repayments: $395
Total you will pay: $616,676
Including interest of: $327,676

Our ‘negotiated like a boss’ rate:

Weekly repayments: $366
Total you will pay: $570,258
Including interest of: $281,258

And now for that bonus tip. Don’t fix your entire mortgage at the new rate, leave some of your loan on floating so that you can pay off a lump sum each year. Put the difference between the 2 weekly repayments onto your floating rate, and your mortgage will come down a lot quicker.

$30 a week doesn’t seem like enough to make a difference though right? Well, in our scenario, we’ll save $50,485 in interest, and shave 4 years off our mortgage. So I’d say, yeah, it makes a difference all right.

Our exact email sequence for negotiating our home loan rate

The banks may not want you to know this part. But you’ve got to understand that the advertised rate is like the sticker rate on a car; it’s set to make room to negotiate. If you don’t get a better rate, then you’re probably paying too much.

So to help you out, we’ve included below our actual email sequence for negotiating a better rate. Feel free to use this however, and get negotiating:

Hi ???
My wife and I are currently looking for a new home in Wellington and want to make sure that we are getting the best possible lending rate. I’ve just seen the new ??? 3 year rate advertised, which looks very sharp.

Can you please send me the details of your best possible 3 year rate, including any cash bonuses, for lending over $350k with a 20% deposit.
Best regards.
Jarrod.

Thanks ???
???, our current bank, seem to have the best rates currently. Can you please send through ???’s best possible 3 year rate deal (including any cash bonuses) for lending over $350k with 20% deposit.

We’d need a pretty sharp rate to entice us to move all our banking and savings accounts over.
Thanks in advance.
Jarrod

Hi ???
Thanks for your email.
I have discussed with my wife and we would like to split the loan to provide some flexibility for lump sum payments on an as and when basis. We’d like to put $242k on fixed and $50k on floating.

The rates that you have offered a good but I know you could go sharper still. The best rates we’ve been offered so far are:
5 year fixed @ 4.99% with no cash incentive
5 year or 2 year fixed @ 5.19% with a cash incentive

Ideally we’d like to go for a 5 year rate for the fixed component. So you could better that just by matching the low rate with a cash incentive. I understand its a market leading rate though that ??? may not be able to compete with. We could consider a 2 year rate as well but might reconsider the splitting idea.

More than happy to offer the assurance of not moving our loan for 2 years. In fact that’s the reason we’re looking at a 5 year fix, to simplify things and provide a bit of repayment certainty.

Look forward to hearing back from you. It would be great to button this down before you go on leave.
Cheers.
Jarrod

3 bonus online tools to save hundreds more dollars every year

Powerswitch

There are so many power companies in the New Zealand market now vying for your electricity and gas dollars, that it’s almost your national obligation to switch.

Powerswitch is a price comparison tool that compares pretty much most of the power plans available in New Zealand. Grab your most recent power bill, plug in your actual usage, and the tool estimates your annual usage and shows you how much you could save.

The average annual savings is around $150, which is pretty sweet to have back in your pocket. But you might save even more. For an average Wellington family, the difference between the highest and lowest plan is $423. You’d switch for that right?

You don’t want to/can’t be bothered switching? Here’s a bonus tip. Use Powerswitch to find your cheapest plan. Then ring your current retailer, and get them to match or better it. They’ll definitely want to keep you on as a customer, and a littler $100 sweetener really won’t hurt their bottom line.

School donations

The Ministry of Education said in 2015, of those that filed financial statements, parents paid $126m but claimed back only $21.2 million. That’s only around half of all school donations being claimed back. What’s more the Ministry says that between 2013 and 2015 6000 fewer parents made a claim; while the cost of donations went up.

Claiming back school donations seems like a no brainer. It doesn’t cost the school a single cent if you make a claim. And if you don’t claim your rebate, it goes into the government coffers. Yet it seems only about half of parents claim. So why is this?

Perhaps claiming school donations just goes into the too hard basket? Too much paperwork, form filling and receipt gathering to make it worth it.

Well, one company has popped up on the scene to make claiming your donation back as easy as. SchoolRebates.co.nz takes care of all the hard work for you, leaving you with your money back where it belongs, in your bank account. They can process your claim within 2 working days, and you can claim back up to 5 years worth of your donations.

Tax rebates

Did you know that it’s tax season? Probably not, because you don’t do your taxes anymore right? Or, perhaps you’re a millennial, and you’re like ‘what’s a taxes?’ :-).

Back before the year 2000, tax returns used to be compulsory for salary and wage earners, it was a really normal thing to do. But a law change did away with all that inane form filling. And as a consequence people stopped getting tax refunds.

If you’ve worked part of a year, worked irregular hours during the year, changed jobs during the year, worked part time, on call or on contract, received Working for Families, or if your employer just hasn’t done their paperwork correctly, you may be due a refund.

What’s more, you can claim back taxes over a number of years. This one can really add up, even into the thousands of dollars. I’m guessing if you haven’t claimed your tax rebates yet, you’re probably not going to get around to it. You can jump online and get a tax rebate company to do it all for you. There’s heaps of tax rebate companies around, but we recommend Mytaxback.co.nz.

So, what are you waiting for? Get online, get negotiating and get your finances sorted for the year. It’s only you that can take charge of this part of your life. And just remember, it’s your money after all.

Jarrod Rendle

Jarrod is a quintessential Kiwi Dad. He lives in Pukerua Bay, and works from home in an office that overlooks the sea. His inspiration and motivation in life come from his wife and two children.

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