Hip-pocket hacks to help combat soaring cost of living

Last week, we learned just how much the rising cost of living is biting, especially for young people.

As the surging price of consumables and the Putin petrol effect hits us all, an exclusive survey for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by Resolve Strategic revealed that this election for people aged 18 to 34.

So, what can be done to mitigate the hip-pocket pain that does not involve either cutting back on something, or cutting it out entirely?

Get your tax refund in every pay

This is an excellent place to start for a relatively quick boost to your bottom line.

If you usually get a tax refund at the end of each financial year – in fact, probably well after the end of it – you are simply letting the government use your money, for free.

You could instead get this extra amount of cash in each pay packet by filling out what is called .

When you do that online, it will be just 28 days to a fatter salary.

Whatever you do though, do not over-estimate your likely tax refund. You don’t want to make your situation worse by owing the ATO money at the end of the financial year.

Claim a refund for gym membership or kids’ swimming lessons

Not many people who have private health insurance realise just how much you can claim through it. In many cases, you could claim enough to entirely retrieve the total annual.

However, before we go into that, first realise that if you do not have private cover, and you earn more than $90,000 a year as a single, or $180,000 as a couple, you will pay a tax penalty in the form of the . That works out at as much as 1. 5 per cent of your taxable income.

So, you may as well get private cover, since you would otherwise pay an equivalent in the MLS anyway.

You can cut the cost by opting for an excess on the policy of $750 for a single or $1500 for couples, payable only once a year and not for minors.

And if you have ancillary cover (as well as hospital) and have a previous injury or body niggle – and let’s face it, who does not! – you can probably claim back, say, $200 of your gym membership (and maybe a spouse, $200 too).

All you need to do is get a form from your insurer for your doctor to say that your gym membership is medically necessary.

Does not apply to you? Then perhaps you pay a small fortune for kids’ swimming lessons. You can get a refund for some of that cost, too.

Insurers often group this little-known perk in with gym membership in a claims bucket called something like health management. There might be a $400 limit, so you may not be able to claim both gym and swim.

However, once you have incurred $200 in kids swimming costs for the year (so $200 for two children to total $400), you could get a cash refund. Check it out today.

Work Medicare for ‘wealth’ care

For any regular medical bills, or even preventative treatment you have, did you know that you may be able to receive up to five visits entirely free?

For chiropractic, physiotherapy, osteopathy, dietetics, exercise physiology, speech pathology, audiology, occupational therapy or psychology – and a bunch of therapies in between – your GP may deem you qualify for an enhanced primary care plan.

This gives you a Medicare rebate of $55. 10 for usually five visits, or more if you have hit your thresholds for the year. What’s more, the provider may decide to bulk-bill you, meaning a normally expensive cost would be covered.

These next two options would require urgent attention before June 30.

Snare a $540 tax discount

Sometimes you have to spend a little money to make money, but in it for one partner is a better retirement and, for the other, up to a $540 tax discount.

If any partner in your relationship earns less than $40,000 a year – perhaps they are spending time caring for kids or elderly parents – an after-tax payment of $3000 into their superannuation will .

The lower-earning spouse does not have to be working for a couple to be eligible.

You should strive to take advantage of the strategy every year you qualify.

Save a free $500

Talking super, there is a way of pocketing a free $500 in the next two months. You can collect this amount each tax year. No, you do not actually get it now but future you will be grateful.

Simply make an after-tax contribution of $1000 to your super before the end of the tax year and, if you are earning less than $56,112 a year (you must be earning at least some income from employment), you will receive a super top up from the federal government as high as $500.

This also is an opportunity that you should look at snapping up annually.

Yes, times are tight but try to work the system to stretch your household budget, rather than becoming stressed by how you can earn more.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of . Follow Nicole on , or on .

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