Cost of living crisis: How to save money without taking cold showers and turning off the heating

A recent survey revealed Kiwis are going to great lengths to cut down on their costs including forgoing hot showers and turning off the heating. 

As the cost of living skyrockets, many people are facing tough decisions over whether to buy groceries or heat their homes. 

Newshub has heard from one 91-year-old woman who said she has friends who are living almost entirely off two-minute noodles because the cost of fresh food is too high.

Meanwhile, pensioner Dave Stonyer told AM on Wednesday older Kiwis are struggling to cover the cost of the essentials with their superannuation. 

"Having worked until the usual retirement age I am now finding 20-odd years later I am now struggling," Stonyer said. "There's enough money coming in to pay rent, just, but food is the biggest cost."

It comes as a new survey by the Consumer Advocacy Council and Talbot Mills Research highlighted the stress many people are facing as costs increase. 

In the survey, 1441 people between October 11 and 24 were asked people which bills were putting the most pressure on their budgets.

It found grocery bills were the biggest concern for households with 54 percent of people saying they were very worried, while 27 percent were worried. Fifteen percent were neutral and just 2 percent were not at all worried. 

The next biggest concerns were vehicle costs, mortgage and rents and electricity.

And concern over high power bills had pushed some to drastically cut down on their heater use. The majority (55 percent) of respondents said they frequently only heated the room they were in and 46 percent said they put on extra clothes instead of turning the heater on. 

Meanwhile, 37 percent said they cut back on using heaters and 27 percent cut back on hot water use while a whopping 27 percent said they never used heaters. 

But is cutting out hot showers and turning off heaters the best approach? Newshub spoke to two experts about the best ways to save money without being miserable. 

Don't take the 'ostrich approach' 

Financial Advice New Zealand CEO Katrina Shanks told Newshub the very first thing to do is actually figure out where your money is going. 

"The first thing you should do if you're under a bit of pressure is a budget and see what you need to reduce your expenditure to get a balanced budget. If you can't get a balanced budget and you can't save any more, look at ways you can either increase your income or find alternative ways to pay bills," Shanks said. 

It was a view shared by RIVAL Wealth financial planner Tim Fairbrother who told Newshub knowing where your money is going is the key to saving it. 

"I think for lots of people, particularly over the last couple of years when everything has been going pretty well, people tend to take the ostrich approach where they just stick their head in the sand and don't worry too much about it."

Fairbrother said it's important to do a yearly audit of all your expenses and make sure you're not paying for things you don't want or need to be. 

A good way to audit your spending is to download the last three months of your bank statements and read through them, he added. 

Kiwis are being urged to pay attention to what they are actually spending money on.
Kiwis are being urged to pay attention to what they are actually spending money on. Photo credit: Getty Images

He said once you know how much you're spending it's easy to know how to save. For example, if your power bill is the issue you can see if other companies offer better deals.

"There are lots of costs which you can't escape. So, yes, you can be doing things like having cold showers but at the same time, you could actually be having a warm shower and still be paying for cheaper power and get into that same situation," he said. 

Fairbrother said often people seek out the seemingly obvious ways to save money when often there are better options that might just take slightly more time. 

"I remember a few years ago, we combined our phone, Sky and internet and we saved $150 a month. It's something you wouldn't even think about when things are going well and you have money going out the door. But then suddenly you have times like this and your mortgage is going up… and suddenly it's about really needing to tighten the belt," he said. 


In terms of cutting expenses, Shanks said for most people their biggest cost is their rent or mortgage, which makes it a good place to start when you're looking to save. 

"Look at ways that you can reduce maybe your mortgage repayments by restructuring your mortgage or if it's rent, look at maybe changing your rental accommodation if you've got those choices to reduce your rent cost," she told Newshub. 


Shanks said another major cost for most is transport - but thankfully using public transport at the moment could save a lot of money thanks to the half-price fares introduced by the Government in response to high living costs. 

She also suggested parents consider carpooling kids to and from school with other parents to cut down on bills. 

"See if you can share some of those petrol costs with other people. And if you're driving and you're paying for car parking, look to see if public transport is an alternative for you, especially with the Government discounts on them at the moment."


The next way to save some cash is to get better at planning meals.  Shanks said food is one of the biggest costs for most people but there are some ways to lower your grocery bill - even if it does mean giving up UberEats.  

"Plan your meals, only buy what's on your list, and look at alternative forms of food which can be slightly cheaper."

Saving on food will most likely mean cutting out takeaways but Shanks said that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy your meals. 

"Making homemade takeaways is  a fun alternative as well as looking at maybe cheaper cuts of meat or more vegetarian meals, which have different types of goodness in them."


The fourth biggest expense is normally electricity but cutting down your bills doesn't mean you have to give up a warm shower, she said. 

Comparing your electricity provider with others to make sure you're getting the best deal can make a huge difference. 

Shanks also recommended looking at how you can make the most of what your electricity provider actually offers. 

"There are companies out there that have some good off-peak offers and if you can take advantage of those offers that can certainly take some of the cost out of your power bill.

"For example doing your washing, if you're using hot water, certainly off-peak times will work much better for you than putting washing on during the high peak time. 

"Just anything where you can be smarter about how you use your water. It doesn't mean you have to change the amount you use, it's just being smarter when you use it. 

Expert says there are ways to save without being miserable.
Expert says there are ways to save without being miserable. Photo credit: Getty Images

Getting rid of online streaming services such as Netflix or Neon is another way to save cash as well.

"I think it comes down to if it's getting really tough, don't put your head in the sand. Look around and ask family and friends what they're doing." 

Shanks said family cellphone plans can be a good way of reducing costs. 


Using physical cash can be another easy way to manage spending, especially in the lead-up to Christmas when people tend to socialise more, Fairbrother said. 

He said setting up automatic payments for all your bills and then getting your spending money out in cash makes it more obvious when you run out. 

"That's all you have to spend so then you know once that's spent you can't be going out for dinner or going out for more drinks or spending stuff on the kids because your physical cash is gone… and you don't actually have any more money in your bank account to be able to fall back on. 

The last tip he had was to pay close attention to wants versus needs, especially during the festive season. 

"Do you have to go and spend expensive presents on people because that's what's expected of you? Or could you be going with that recycle, reuse theme for this year?" he questioned.