How to comparison shop for anything in one hour

How to comparison shop for anything in one hour

You know the letter, the one that says your contract is about to expire and here are the new rates? The letter you place in a file or drop in a pile and ignore? It’s the letter that fills you with dread because you know that deep down (read: immediately) you should comparison shop and see if those rates are competitive. It’d give you peace of mind to know you’re not being ripped off and you might save precious money. But who has the time? Who can be bothered?

You’re not alone. I’ve called up providers years after something was ‘out of contract’ to discover that I was paying for a plan that wasn’t even offered to new customers any more. It doesn’t matter if it’s for private health insurance or electricity or credit cards, or if the trigger is a letter or a financial need to examine your expenses. Every time you comparison shop around you come out of it better off.


More great tips here: Readers tell us their best money saving tips for families


The easy way to comparison shop

What makes this life admin tolerable is finding an approach that is going to give you an acceptable result as fast as possible. Nobody has time to embark on a project to comparison shop for everything on the market and find the one plan/contract/offer to rule them all. The good news is, comparison shopping actually only requires deciding just three things:

  • Decide what will make you happy.
  • Determine how long you can spend researching alternatives – an hour is plenty of time.
  • Know what criteria you’ll use to compare.

It’s time to embrace ‘satisficing’: finding something that will satisfy you and be sufficient if it meets a certain threshold of acceptability rather than pursuing an elusive optimal solution.

Decide what will make you happy

I will be happy if…I save $100 a year. Or  $500. Or get more convenient service in some way. Stop and consider what will make you feel rather chuffed with yourself. Meeting a budget goal for a specific dollar amount? Or merely paying less than you do now? In many instances, you’ll walk away content if you know you’re on a plan that is a better fit for you and your household and saves any amount of bonus cash.

Decide on the goalposts upfront so that you know when you’ve scored.

Determine how long you can spend

Next, time box the exercise by limiting the research to one Hour of Power, or one episode of Dead To Me, or during your daughter’s netball practice. Or decide on how many providers you’re going to compare. Will getting three quotes from the market leaders make you feel like you’ve done your due diligence? Five? It’s not necessary to comparison shop all the offers out there to find a better deal, nor is it possible. There are over 100 NBN providers in Australia! More than 60 credit card providers! Each of them has multiple products. So pick a number or a slot of time, and be confident that your effort, any effort, will pay off.

Know what criteria you’ll use to compare

Decisions are easy when you know what good looks like. But what does a good gas offer include? What about a good mobile phone offer? This is where consumer guides, like Choice and MoneySmart.gov.au, and comparison sites come in handy.

Choice is an independent organisation that tests products and surveys consumers to provide unbiased reviews and reports about all sorts of stuff. From superannuation funds to frequent flyer programs to pet insurance and beyond, Choice will outline what you should look for in a product, list and compare the alternatives out there and recommend top options. Choice reports and reviews are accessible online for free from your local library.

Comparison shopping made easy

Comparison sites come in three flavours:

  1. Official government sites that list every provider in the market, such as Energy Made Easy and PrivateHealth.gov.au
  2. For-profit sites that attempt to list every provider in the market but may feature those that pay for promotion, such as Canstar and Canstar Blue
  3. For-profit sites that only list providers who pay for advertising.

Then there are resources like our Life Admin Life Hacks podcast, which helps with this third step. Life Admin Life Hacks scours consumer guides and comparison sites to tell you what your decision-making criteria should be and what information you need from your current bill or contract to start shopping around.


Save more money this way: 50 cheap or free ways to have fun with friends


Try the power of three

My strategy for comparison shopping is therefore pretty simple.

  1. First, I visit government sites if they are available to avoid for-profit sites that don’t have a comprehensive range of providers.
  2. Next, I start researching by checking if there is a Choice report on the topic that will tell me what criteria to look for and who the best-rated providers are. Based on that, I pick the top three.
  3. Then I jump on a comparison site or the three providers’ websites to see what the latest offers are and get a sense of their customer experience.

Now I have a shortlist to compare, and usually, there is one glaringly obvious best choice for me.

What can you do for me?

There is a final step – and for some people who would rather skip the research but do at least something, this might be their first and only step – and that is to call your current provider to ask whether there’s a better offer available to you. Armed with your shortlist of alternatives, you can check whether your current provider will reward your loyalty and use your customer history to suggest a more favourable service.

Phone around and comparison shop to save money

Does the thought of doing this make you cringe? Remember that providers field this question one hundred times a day and they genuinely would rather keep a current customer than fight for a new one. Simply say: “My contract is up and I just wanted to check whether I should be switching to a better plan. What is on offer at the moment?” If they come up with something that ‘satisfices’ and meets your happiness goal, job done. If they don’t, then its time to call or sign up with a provider from the shortlist. Job also done.

One and done

What comparison shopping is lurking in your To-Do list? Maybe you’re scrutinising your expenses and want to take a fresh look at everything. Perhaps tax time has prompted a budget rethink. Maybe one of those letters has just landed in your inbox or mailbox. Regardless, you’re now equipped to tackle this task in one session.

The beauty is, once you’ve nailed this life admin in such an efficient way, the relief and elation will build momentum towards tackling the next thing. You’ll realise how much you can get done when you can make fast decisions with the right tools at hand. The hard part is actually choosing to do it.

Feature image by by Paige Cody; computer by Sincerely Media; phone by Ana Tavares

How to comparison shop for anything in one hour

How to reboot your social life on your terms

How to reboot your social life on your terms

As restrictions ease across Australia and we all feel The Busy reentering our lives, it’s worth considering how much you really need to reboot your social life. During these months of social distancing, some of us have rejoiced in our empty calendars. Others of us have quaked in horror at the potential lack of connection. That goes for our kids as well.

You wouldn’t be the only one if you started in one camp and found yourself in another. Where the pandemic’s silver linings eventually became oppressive, or what you thought would be tyranny turned out to be terrific.


Like this: I’m going to miss lockdown in lots of unexpected ways


There’s been plenty of time not just to think about the nature of our social lives, but also to observe what we have missed and what we clearly can do without. You might have noticed that in the past you’ve been way too busy with the wrong people, or you might have realised that your social life has been neglected and needs more attention.

A new way to be social

You may have learned that you don’t need to socialise the way that you have in the past. You might have reassessed who you spend time with and discovered how nice simply hanging out in the cosiness and convenience of home can be. Perhaps you reconnected with your kids and family during those quiet times at home. You may also have enjoyed how much money you’ve saved on eating out and pricey drinks when you head out.

Conversely, you might have come out of lockdown with the realisation that your social life is dead and its time to resuscitate it.

The great news is, we all have a clean slate right now. As the restrictions ease, there’s an opportunity to architect the social life you want. Maintaining a nourishing social life is an aspect of life admin that takes conscious planning and organisation. Here’s how to work out what you need from your social life and how to engineer the kind that nourishes and supports, rather than frazzles.

Reboot your social life on your terms

Reboot your social life

Social connection is a foundation of happiness and knowing the right balance for yourself is crucial. Ask yourself these questions to help prioritise your time.

  • Who do I want to give more attention to?
  • Who did you miss? Did you miss the person or the activity you normally do with them?
  • Where did intimacy come from? Who checked in on you during the pandemic and is around when you’re going through a hard time?
  • Who can you simply let go? Which relationships are you holding onto because they boost your ego, or they keep loneliness at bay, or you feel obligated? What transactional, or “filler” relationships can you step away from?

Who would you like to make more time for or get to know better?

  • Is there someone you feel resentful about if you’re always the one initiating things? If you struggle with the level of reciprocity maybe you really don’t want to hang out with them that much.
  • Who is a fairweather friend who can only be relied upon for a party and fun? How much time and what kinds of activities will you invest in these types of friends?

More tips from Mia on the Life Admin Life Hacks podcast:

 


How do I want to connect with people?

  • When is your social activity a ‘people priority’ and when is it an ‘event priority’, where you care more about what you do than who you do it with?
  • Who do you want to spend time one-on-one with versus in a group or as a couple or family?
  • Who are you happy to connect with via a phone call, video call or messaging to give you the social hit you need?

Have you been reactive in the past and just gone along with other people’s suggested activities?

  • Could you initiate more of the activities you’d like to do with the people you’d like to see? Could you reciprocate and recommend something?

Reboot your social life to suit you best

What do I want to do?

  • What kinds of things do I most like to do with others?
  • What past times and appreciations do I share with my current social circle?

What activities might I take up to expand my circle?

Outings with like-minded friends are a great way to reboot your social life in a gentle way. Subscriptions to ‘what’s on’ newsletters from Time Out, Broadsheet, and cultural institutions like cinemas and galleries can help you flag things to do that can potentially broaden or deepen your social connections.


Try some of these ideas: 50 cheap or free ways to have fun with friends


A shared digital calendar, like Google Calendar, helps you organise your social life as an individual, couple, family or even circle of friends. There is a single source of truth and everyone can see who needs to be where when, so you can plan events confidently and spontaneously. Doodle Poll is the ultimate app to find a date that works for a whole group. Use this when you’re trying to lock in a date and have a bunch of people to work around.

Reboot your social life by taking up a new sport - like rugby

Take it slowly

This pandemic period has forced many of us to reconsider the way we live and nudged us to move towards a more nourishing, authentic way of being in the world. Applying some life admin life hacks to your social life will keep you connected in ways that are positive and pleasurable.

Don’t rush to reconnect, but rather take time to reflect and consider what will truly suit you best. Work in time each week to spend with  your family so you can hold onto the bonds you forged during lockdown. Keep space for the people you love and make space to forge new connections.

How do you plan to reboot your social life?

Feature image and forest image by Kelsey Chance; walking image by Sheri Hooley; rugby image by Quino Al 

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