Need a Wallet WOF? The Curve’s Victoria Harris’ Dos & Don’ts of How to Save Money

wallet wof

The current economic climate and the rising cost of living means most of us are on the lookout for ways to make our precious $$$ stretch further, how to understand our money better – and of course, how to save money.

Independent financial expert and media commentator Victoria Harris from The Curve has a chat to Capsule about the dos and don’ts about everything personal finance – from performing a wallet ‘WOF’ through to how to make credit cards work for you, not against you, and practical ways about how to save money.

Hi Victoria! Tell us, what are the biggest changes that are currently happening in the personal finance space?

Right now, the cost of living is through the roof! People are feeling the pinch everywhere you look. We have inflation at levels some of us have never experienced before (e.g. me) and that has made a lot of people seriously look at their spending habits as well as how to make their paychecks go further. It has also meant a lot more people are buying things on credit – which isn’t a bad thing, as long as you are vigilant in paying it off each month so you don’t incur high bank fees.

How do you perform a Wallet WOF?

A warrant of fitness for your car is checking that it is fit & healthy – a wallet WOF is just the same. It’s checking that your money and bank account are in the best position they can be. It means operating a budget, checking to see if you can get a better deal from your electricity company and ensuring you are getting all the benefits out there that you can! Make sure you sit down and compare fees you’re paying and rewards you’re getting so you can be comfortable you are always getting the most out of every dollar spent 🙂

Are there hidden costs (ie subscriptions, interest) that people should be on the lookout for when they’re performing a financial WOF?

Hidden costs can seem small at the time that you pay them but if you annualise your spending, you can see how quickly they add up. Do you pay $20 a week for Netflix that your flatmates all use? That’s $1,000 each year! Or do you spend $5 a day on snacks from the office vending machine? Suddenly, that habit adds up to a substantial sum, making it harder and longer to save money or achieve your financial goal. So many of us avoid looking at our bank account, it’s much easier to have our heads in the sand, but you’ll be surprised at how much you can cut back on.

What’s your biggest advice to someone struggling with the cost of living and asking how to save money at the moment?

It’s OK. You are not alone. So many people are feeling the same right now. With the cost of living super high, it can be incredibly scary and stressful. When things feel out of control, focus on what you can control. While you can’t control the cost of things, you can take charge of your money and the way you respond to situations. Understanding where your money is going is the first step to managing your spending. Once you see just how much of your income is going towards each area – like food, transportation, or bills – you can focus on where you can make improvements. We have a great free resource about how to reduce financial stress on The Curve website.

Victoria (left) and The Curve co-founder Sophie Hallwright

Do you have any hacks for Kiwis to become more financially savvy or how to save money?

Start a money diary. Write down everything you spend money on and how it makes you feel. Did you instantly feel guilty after buying that $300 dress? Did you love being able to shout your best friend dinner? A money diary is a great way to figure out what spending brings you value and what spending you can cut back on. Another great hack is to continually assess the cards in your wallet. What fees are you paying on those cards? Have they changed since you last checked? What rewards are you getting on those cards? Are they still what you expected? Do they still deliver the best value?

Let’s talk reward programmes because it certainly seems they’ve become less, well, rewarding! What are your thoughts?

Yes, there has been a huge overhaul of rewards programs. It now is harder, on average, to earn rewards points from bank credit cards. Change is good though. It not only encourages companies (e.g banks and credit card providers) to be more innovative, it can be a great time for customers like you and me to check and ensure we are still getting the best deal – it can be a great time to shop around (not literally!).

A lot of people try and use credit cards for points – it can become a pretty complicated system! Is it still worth doing?

Yes! It’s definitely worth doing, as look as you are vigilant and remember to pay off your credit card each month. Not paying off your credit card can lead to you being charged some preeeetty high interest fees. I have always been hesitant to use credit cards. I was always scared it would be the start of a debt spiral. I couldn’t have been more wrong. By using my credit card appropriately I have been able to get ‘free’ flights, petrol and wine! I use my Amex religiously (and pay it off religiously too!) to pay for everything. I earn $1 Airpoint dollar for every $59 spent which is MUCH better than any bank credit card. It doesn’t take that long to have enough Airpoints to fly to Queenstown….That’s why I love it!

Does investing look different in 2023?

When you’re investing, every year looks different – and this year is no different. We have inflation and interest rates at unprecedented levels which can make any expert investor feel a bit uncertain about the future. However, if you take a long-term view with your investments, then this market volatility (the movement up and down of the stock market) will just seem like  a little blip. And if you are struggling to invest as much as you did last year because the cost of living is so high, that’s OK. Try your best to keep investing regularly and consistently, but just reduce the amount – investing $20 a week vs $50 a week is better than nothing! And Future You will be very thankful 🙂

If you’re a little intimidated by finance, what are your tips for people to start understanding their situation and potential?

Join the club! Investing can be intimidating for so many people. It’s often thought to be confusing, overwhelming and full of jargon! At The Curve, we are trying to break down those barriers and make investing exciting, fun and rewarding. Starting with as little as $1 is better than nothing. Remember, just like growing plants, improving your finances takes patience, perseverance & time.