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How To Cope With The Rising Cost Of Living

cost of living squeeze

Struggling with the cost of living? You’re not alone.

Everything we need to pay for has seemed to go up. Petrol prices are out of control. The weekly grocery shop has risen astronomically from what it was last year. Interest rates have risen increasing mortgage repayments.

Energy bills are soaring as electricity and gas prices are hitting record levels. Add to this the rental shortage crisis and subsequent rent increases stress just to keeping a roof over your head.

There are many factors for this rise in the cost of living. Climate change is causing more natural disasters like droughts, bushfires and floods. This has a flow-on effect with the availability and quality of fresh produce. The war in Ukraine is affecting our accessibility to oil and gas. Petrol is at an all time high. The Covid pandemic has seen a shortage of workers, delays in transportation, a reduction in spending and an increase in inflation.

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These are uncertain and stressful times. It feels like every area of our life is affected by the rising cost of living yet our wages haven’t gone up enough to bridge the gap. It is particularly worrisome for those who are unemployed or underemployed, on the minimum wage, on one income, going through a divorce or desperation, battling a chronic health condition or illness, or on a pension. Spending on the most basic of necessities feels out of control. For those trying to make ends meet, this is feeling less achievable.

What can we do to cope?

With the rising cost of living, it can feel like you are just treading water and can barely survive from week to week. It can feel like you’re drowning under the pressure. It’s awful and a scary place to be.

There are a number of things we can do to reduce the impact and keep our head afloat. There is no quick fix, no easy solution, particularly for those really feeling the pinch right now. I do however, have some suggestions about how we can make a few changes to our lifestyle to make a difference moving forward.

Start with the biggest expenses such as housing, food and utilities and see how you can save money there before moving on to the smaller ones.

Here are 21 ways to help cope with the rising cost of living:

1. Mortgage

How to cope with the rising cost of living

For those with a mortgage and struggling with the cost of living, make sure you shop around for the best deal. Consider getting a mortgage broker who can help you negotiate and find the right lender for you. The lowest interest rate doesn’t always mean it is the best deal, and keep in mind that fixing your rate will restrict how much extra you can pay off. If you are not wanting to refinance, sometimes simply ringing up your bank and asking them if you are on the best deal can reduce it there on the spot.

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Banks prefer to keep customers where they can so if you play hardball, they may lower your rate to keep you. If not, don’t continue being loyal. Find a better deal elsewhere and switch. If possible, pay a little more than your minimum mortgage repayments. If you have an offset account, consider paying extra so it acts as emergency fund against your mortgage to reduce the interest payable. Provided you can redraw if necessary (with no fees), this can be a good way to have money aside in case you need it. You should also be looking at information provided by industry experts such as Reed Pirain to ensure that you are making solid financial decisions when it comes to your property.

2. Groceries

How to cope with the rising cost of living

There is no denying that food prices have gone up, even over the space of a few weeks and months. I’ve noticed that grocery basics like cheese and butter are super expensive. Although we can’t avoid paying more at the checkout, we can do a few things to reduce the impact on our budget. Meal plan from what you have left in your fridge, freezer and pantry and buy some top up ingredients to make dinners.

Use up what you have in your fridge already and clean it out regularly so items don’t go to waste. Have top up weeks where you aim to buy milk, bread, fresh fruit and veggies, and any other staples you need. Check out the $21 challenge that can save you lots and inspire you to use what you have. Shop with a list and buy fresh produce that is in season. For items out of stock or too expensive, look in the freezer section to see if it is more economical to buy that way (for example, broccoli, beans and spinach are handy in the freezer).

Try shopping at places like Aldi which offer competitive prices on their stock and have less options than their competitors. As much as I hate having to pack my own trolley, I am often pleasantly surprised at how much cheaper it is at the checkout.

If Coles or Woolworths are easier to access with their Delivery and Click and Collect options, look out for special deals and promo codes to save on your shopping. Coles offer specials with FlyBuys and often have promo codes like SAVE20 or COLLECT10 when shopping online (swipe across on the home page to find these). Woolworths offer specials with Everyday Rewards. Buy home brand items where possible and buy items that you can use in a multitude of recipes.

Plan more meat-free meals, and for the days that you do consume meat, bulk it up with blitzed veggies. Pasta sauce is a great way to have vegetables inside and can be a way to get fussy toddlers to eat their greens. Lower your standards. Your lunches and dinners don’t need to be gourmet. Keep it simple, healthy and delicious, and don’t be afraid to repeat your favourite dishes in your menu plan. Serina Bird gives a multitude of ideas on how to save on groceries in her book, ‘The Joyful Frugalista.’ She has creative tips of making your dollars stretch further.

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If you are able to, do a bulk prep and cook of your meals so you don’t have to be in the kitchen all of the time. Last night I cooked zucchini slice, zucchini chicken, sweet potato chips, potato bake and pumpkin scones. I had the oven on for two hours and used bacon, zucchini and onion across different dishes. Growing herbs on your windowsill and basic vegetables in your garden means you always have a few fresh ingredients on hand without having to run to the shops.

Last year, we bought a Thermomix. This has been an incredible addition to our kitchen and I have no doubt that it saves us money every week. I’m not affiliated, just a genuinely happy customer. You can find out more here.

3. Utilities

When the price of everything keeps going up, it is important where possible to consume less energy. When you’re at home in winter, try to keep warm using good old fashioned methods before turning on the heater. Think about putting on a jumper, wearing ugg boots, putting a blanket over your legs and making a hot drink.

My husband and I often go to bed soon after we’ve cleaned up the kitchen and put the toys away. We cozy up under our quilt with a wheat bag. This saves putting on the heater and it’s the warmest place to be. Another idea is to use an exercise bike or Chromecast a YouTube workout to get you fit, moving and warm.

Using your oven every two or three days to do big cook-ups is a better use of electricity than using it each day. It helps keep your house warm in winter too.

Consider doing an energy audit. We’ve just borrowed a kit from our local library and could figure out which appliances were using the most money, and how much a year they are costing. Turn off powerpoints at the wall to stop items using energy on standby, and seal up any gaps to prevent the warmth from escaping.

Close the air conditioner vents in winter, and better still, cut wood blocks to size to put in their place for extra warmth. Lower the thermostat by a few degrees if it is adjustable. Take shorter showers. Close your curtains before it gets dark to trap any remaining heat in.

Ring your provider to get a better deal and compare it with their competitors to check you are on a fair price. If they can’t offer you a better deal, switch to a different provider who can. You can find a government comparison site for your state here. South Australians have access to Energy Made Easy.

In summer, putting the air conditioner on early in the day means it doesn’t have to work so hard in the heat of the day to bring the temperature down. Get the unit serviced every year or two to ensure it is running effectively. Wear light clothing, exercise in the cooler parts of the day and close the blinds to keep the heat out.

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Have a cool shower or bath, get the kids into a splash pool or under the sprinkler, or dip your feet in a little pool after work with a cold beverage. Have meals that don’t require using the oven where possible so the house can stay cool.

Consider installing solar panels if you can afford them, as these can reduce your energy bills dramatically. If you have an old system, see how much it would cost to replace this. We purchased a new solar system at the beginning of 2023. Whilst it chewed into some of our savings (held in our mortgage offset account), we have noticed a difference in our electricity bills.

Also, be sure to check your internet connection. Some providers can charge extra or hidden fees, or ramp up your payments once you stay with them for a year or more, so you’ll need to be careful. 
Things like nbn® 100 plans can help you explore more options available to you and see whether you’re on the right tariff. Don’t assume that just because you got a good deal last year that the same will apply this year. Companies can change their prices, making it less prudent than you might think to remain with your existing provider.

4. Insurance

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Despite the rising cost of living, insurance is still important to have. Shop around for the best deal on your house and contents, car, health and pet insurance. Don’t pay the lazy tax by failing to review your rates annually. It can be a pain to do but a few simple phone calls can save you hundreds.

You might even find a new job that offers better benefits, especially for health needs like dental. Of course, finding a new job isn’t always easy, but working with recruiting firms that can help businesses discover executive search candidates could be a great way to not only increase your insurance coverage but also earn more to help manage the cost of living.

Quick tip – I put my AirPods in and walk around my house doing little jobs and playing with my kids while on hold or speaking to them. It’s portable and keeps my hands free. I got them free when I purchased a laptop, but honestly couldn’t live without them now.

If you have a security system or cameras installed on your property, it can reduce premiums. Simply ring up your provider to let them know. Make sure that you are properly covered in the unlikely event that you’ll need it.

5. Less Activities

Consider putting some limits around what extracurricular activities you sign your children up to. This can help to reduce the amount you are driving, saving you time and petrol. It also saves on registration fees and uniforms. If you’re in South Australia, make the most of the School Sports vouchers that save $100 per primary school child per year on fees. This is set to rise to $200 from 2025. Similar programs exist in other states and countries to make participation in sport accessible to more families.

This doesn’t have to mean forever, but at least until you have your head above water. Who knows, you might enjoy a slightly slower pace of life when you say no more often.

6. Swimming Lessons

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Living in a hot country surrounded by water, I believe that it is important that children learn to swim. Are swimming lessons too expensive right now? If you have an infant, consider buying a block of casual passes and taking them for swims yourself. Watch what they do in baby lessons or on YouTube and try to replicate it yourself, by using songs to move them through the water and helping to familiarise them.

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Consider VACSWIM for children aged 4 and up. It costs around $50 per child for a full week of lessons in my area, plus we get free casual swimming at the centre. Over the week, this totalled to 15 hours in the water and was great fun. Having a chance to practise their skills before and after the lessons made a big difference to their confidence and ability. You can add a beach or lake week in too if you want them to learn extra skills or have a trip planned nearby. If you know someone with a pool, see if you can visit sometimes for extra practise.

7. Rethink Getting A Pet

How to cope with the rising cost of living

This may be controversial but I’m going to say it anyway. If you are struggling with the rising cost of living and putting food on the table, now is not the time to get a pet. Unless you are living alone and need company, avoid buying a new pet. I am not saying you should give up any current animals you own. However, pets like dogs and cats can be incredibly expensive.

Take into consideration the purchase cost, accessories, bedding, food, veterinary bills, medication and holiday boarding. Pets can reduce your chances of getting a rental, especially in such a competitive market. If you are willing to sacrifice in other areas and have a sinking fund for your pet that you regularly add to, it might be fine, but please don’t forgo your own ability to provide for yourself because you take in a pet.

If you would like to try having a pet without the cost and responsibility that comes along with it, perhaps look into an alternative option. You could train a puppy for the Royal Society of the Blind. This is hard work but they pay for everything that you need. You could become a dog walker, look after dogs during the day while their owners are at work (it’s a thing!) or provide a boarding service for animals while their owners are away. This way you get to enjoy looking after animals and get paid for your creative side hustle.

8. Know Where Your Money Goes

It is important to know where you money is going so it doesn’t trickle through your fingers. You can track your spending on a spreadsheet or via an app. WeMoney is one that I personally use (we both get $5 if you sign up and they plant a tree). I write more about the features of WeMoney (such as credit scores, net worth, community posting, podcast and blog) here if you’re interested to find out more. Another way to do it is to simply set up direct debits so on payday, money is diverted into different accounts.

For my husband and I, we have the mortgage deducted, then money goes into sinking fund accounts for spending, car repairs and upgrades, furniture and appliance upgrades, renovations, school and sporting fees, holidays and investing. I like this method because you make sure you put money away before you’re tempted to spend it and we can afford expenses when they come up. You can set up sinking funds for anything including Christmas, wedding, birthdays, pets, health etc.

Getting your finances set up helps you to cope with the cost of living and feel prepared for whatever is around the corner. Consider how you can use your tax return wisely to help you throughout the rest of the year. Allocating some into sinking funds can be a helpful place to start.

9. Side Hustles

There is only so much you can cut out. Frugality is a wonderful way to be more mindful of how you spend money but it can be quite a restrictive way of living. Consider starting a side hustle so you have a little more spare cash. This could be delivering pizza or Uber Eats, tutoring or babysitting, starting up a YouTube channel or podcast, or writing a blog. You can take up a second job or start your own business. Side hustles can be a fun way to make extra money and get paid to do something you love. Canna Campbell, otherwise known as Sugar Mamma, has some great ideas in her bestseller, The $1000 Project.

10. Sell Unwanted Items

Needing extra cash to cope with rising costs of living? Suffocating in stuff? By going through and decluttering your things, you could find items of value to sell on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. When you take the time to sell things, it can make it easier to part with them if you are getting some money in return.

I’ve sold some of my competition winnings, like a rocking chair, to fund a massage chair instead. This in turn has saved me hundreds of dollars on massages and I can do it from the comfort of home. We’ve been surprised with how much stuff we actually had and sold well over $10,000 worth over the last few years. Your house will feel lighter and your wallet heavier.

11. Flipping

If you have a hack for spotting a bargain or seeing potential, flipping might be for you. Spot a chest of drawers in hard waste? You could take it home and upcycle it, pocketing a profit when you sell. Find an old book collection in the op shop? List it on eBay and watch the bids come in. Discover an item on clearance in a store that is sold out everywhere else? Sell it for a higher price online, especially if it is rare or in demand. Teaching Brave found a Louis Vuitton scarf in an op shop for $3 and sold it for over $400!

12. Cashback

A clever way to be savvy with the money you have is to utilise cashback apps. My favourite two are Cash Rewards and ShopBack. They both run promotions where you can get extra cash back from certain stores. It often takes weeks or even months to receive the cash back but then you can transfer it straight into your account.

Both give you money upon signing up (please note that I receive a sign up fee) and then any friends or family you refer, you get a bonus too! This can add up, especially if you know lots of people who don’t have these apps yet.

13. Gifts

Talk with your family around their expectations for gifts. Suggest limiting how much to spend and who you need to buy for. Does every adult need to get a present? Do children need to get a gift from everybody? It can feel awkward bringing up this topic of conversation but for all you know, others are feeling the same way.

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The older we get, the more we often value time spent together over material things. We’d prefer to buy what we want much of the time anyway too. Don’t be afraid to suggest putting in boundaries around gift giving and see what happens. It might save you some money, but also your sanity.

14. Buy Fewer Toys

How to cope with the rising cost of living

If you are a parent reading and for whom money is extra tight right now, stop buying toys where possible. Make it part of your routine to visit your local toy library. There is almost no need to buy toys when libraries today are stocked full of such a huge range.

For a small annual fee, you can have access to all the toys, puzzles, educational toys, puppets, board games, ride-on cars, scooters and dress-ups you could ever need, not to mention gear you can borrow for parties. It can be a way of trialling toys that your children might like to own before parting with money for them. Find out more information and discover your local toy library here.

15. Rethink Streaming Services

Whilst many of us enjoy snuggling up in bed to stream endless tv shows and movies, it is not a necessity. When the cost of living is making you rethink every decision around spending, this can be one to go. Can you watch free to air catch up TV rather than Netflix, or have just one streaming service at a time?

When you watch the shows that you want to, cancel and switch to another service. If you have Foxtel, perhaps you could downgrade to a cheaper streaming service instead. We recently cancelled our Netflix subscription. Our children watch ABC Kids and they have an abundance of shows to enjoy. For my middle boy who adores Paw Patrol, I’ve just discovered that Ten Play has plenty of episodes for free streaming.

Can you get out your DVD collection (if you still have any) or head to the library to borrow some? For music, consider listening to the radio, YouTube or Spotify Free rather than Premium.

16. Use The Library

Reading is a wonderful pastime but can become expensive. By utilising the library, you can try out a range of authors and genres. You can put books on hold from libraries around the state. You can borrow physical copies or ebooks.

For those who are time poor, listening to books can be super handy. They can also become quite expensive. Libraries allow you to borrow audiobooks for free on Libby or Borrowbox. If you haven’t already, download these apps and see what titles you can borrow today.

17. Shop Secondhand

A great way to keep costs down is to shop secondhand. Op shops sell a huge range of clothes and shoes and often organise them by size. Money goes further on books, toys, linen and kitchenware, and you can often find a bargain in furniture too. Garage sales and listings on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree all help to give items a new life. We reduce the impact on the environment by keeping old items out of landfill and not needing packaging and manufacturing for new products.

18. Join Your Local Buy Nothing Group

An easy way to combat the cost of living is to join your local Buy Nothing group. It’s a fabulous way to get to know other people in your area, ask for items that you need and pass on items that you no longer use. So many times I’ve almost made a purchase, and then stopped to ask my group.

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More often than not, some kind person has one to give away and saved me needing to spend money. Other times I’ve almost thrown things away or put something in the donation box, not knowing if it would be accepted only to have someone so grateful for the item that they’d been looking for.

19. Switch It Up

Being intentional with your finances doesn’t mean that you have to miss out altogether. Instead, it might look like a potluck dinner with friends where everyone brings a dish rather than an expensive meal out. Enjoy bubbly water or cordial in your SodaStream or juice instead of alcohol. Pack a picnic and bring a thermos to enjoy rather than buying lunch and coffee.

Try frozen pizza or decorating bases to cook at home rather than ordering takeaway. Cook double or triple and freeze the leftovers for nights when you’re too tired to cook. Swap interstate or overseas holidays for camping and holidaying near home. Go with friends or family and split the cost of an Airbnb.

20. Utilise Cooperatives & Community Groups

For those who are struggling right now, find your nearest cooperative. One near me is the Healthy Food Co and offer a wonderful, affordable service. They often have meal packs at a fraction of the price of companies like Hello Fresh. They are genuinely cheaper than buying every ingredient separately from the supermarket.

Community groups, churches and charities can provide free bread, fruit and vegetables and hampers to those in need. Some hold soup nights or free meals. They are a great source of friendship if you are feeling isolated. Second Bite collects excess food from supermarkets that would otherwise be destined for landfill. They deliver to charities and organisations to hand out to those in need.

There are many charities, organisations and churches equipped to help and would be more than happy to assist you. Foodbank can help provide groceries. You can find links to a Foodbank in your area here. Alternatively, comment or contact me directly and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

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21. Reach Out For Help

If life is really hard right now and you’re not sure what you can do or who to turn to, here are some options.

Desperate? Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Scott Pape from the Barefoot Investor recommends giving the National Debt Helpline a call on 1800 007 007. There you’ll find free, confidential counselling, to help you figure a way out.

The rising cost of living is pushing many individuals, couples and families to breaking point. It seems like every area of our life is getting more expensive with not much relief in sight. While these tips won’t solve the problem of how to stretch every last dollar, hopefully it is a starting point.

By reducing our expenses, negotiating better deals, saying no to the unnecessary and trying to live more frugally, we can get through this difficult season. By starting a side hustle or finding a casual job, we can reduce some of the financial pressure we find ourselves under and start to build up an emergency fund buffer.

If life is really hard for you right now, please reach out. There are many charities, organisations and churches equipped to help and would be more than happy to assist you.

Alternatively, comment below or contact me directly. I’d love to connect with you over on Instagram or Facebook. I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

Melanie Wegener

* Please note that this is an affiliate link. If you buy the book or item on this site, I might receive a small amount of money from Amazon. You do not need to purchase from here. I simply include it because it can help my family out if readers choose to buy from this link. It does not cost you any more to buy this way.

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