Oct 102012
 

Coffee - friend or foe?Australian’s are no strangers to coffee addiction – 45% of those who answered our recent survey said they can’t start their day without consuming their number one blend. It’s hard to say no to your favorite barista brewing up a good coffee on a Monday morning, but is enjoying the rich, full bodied flavor of your favourite instant, plunged or dripped brew a habit you could do without?

From a financial point of view:

Australians spend around $3.50 on the average cup of coffee. If you were to buy one coffee a day, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year you’d be spending $910 on this seemingly innocent habit. What could you do with the $910? An awful lot actually – you could buy an overseas airfare, a new television or a new summer wardrobe – you could even invest the money and from there who knows what riches may lie ahead!

From a health point of view:

There are many theories surrounding how much is too much when it comes to caffeine. Some health professionals recommend cutting out caffeine altogether while some say you should limit your intake to two cups. Yet a handful of recent studies suggest that caffeine could lower the risk of depression in females, and prostate cancer in males; provide protection from type 2 diabetes and decrease the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

However, there’s a flip side to this: excessive caffeine (we’re talking five or more cups of coffee per day) can lead to sleeping difficulties, anxiety and other health issues. The trick – like all good things in life – is to have it in moderation.

From a sanity point of view:

Some days, coffee just makes you feel good – whether it’s because the effect it has on your taste buds is out of this world, it means catching up with friends, or it provides you with the only moment of solitude in your day. It seems most Australians can scrounge together $3.50 from the depths of their wallets sate their caffeine cravings.

We’re only human and it’s okay if we need a little pick me up from time to time, right?

Have you given up or cut back your coffee intake, and why? Have you seen any benefits?

For the true caffeine connoisseur, we’ve also rated coffee shop chains and espresso coffee machine brands.

Sep 262012
 

I’m not going to lie to you: my motivation to find a cheaper product – especially when it comes to gadgets – is not a compulsion for saving money so much as a sort of game. That said, knowing how to keep costs down is an important skill for those with a taste for the high tech.

In the last six months I’ve bought a:

  • Google Nexus 7 tablet
  • Apple TV 3rd generation
  • Kindle 3rd generation
  • A car boot full of components for a home-built computer
  • Logitech mx518 mouse…two of them, actually

I’m not alone in this addiction: 30% of respondents to our recent survey said they allow themselves to splurge the latest electronic gadgets. I try to be balanced where I can; as I save a decent amount of money every payday, eat out a few times each week and still have plenty left over to pay the bills.

Avoid impulse buying

Given how expensive some electronics cost, try not to purchase anything on impulse. If you’re guilty of this, it’s okay; one in five survey respondents made the same mistake and reportedly own too many useless gadgets in their house.

That computer and mouse I mentioned before? I bought those once my old computer finally bit the dust – not simply for the sake of upgrading. Make sure you ask yourself if you need this gadget, or if you just want it.

Compare gadget prices carefully

This is a no-brainer – shop around! There are plenty of decent Australian owned websites to purchase gadgets from that are quick to deliver at minimal cost. That said; don’t act under the assumption that online shopping is always cheaper: my Apple TV cost less in store than any website I looked at.

Just don’t do what I did: venture into an electronics store, hop onto one of the demo tablets, go to an online comparison website to find a better deal…and then leave the store.

That’s just bad manners.

Consider letting family and friends shoulder some of the cost

My family hates buying stuff for me because they know how picky I am. If someone you know is struggling to figure out a good Christmas or Birthday present for yourself, ask them (or a couple of people if it’s pricey) if they’d like to chip in on a gadget you’ve had your eye on. That’s what I did with my Kindle, and my family was more than happy to oblige.

Have any gadget-savings tips of your own? Make sure you share them below!

Canstar Blue has also rated electronics retailers for all your high-tech needs.

Aug 222012
 

Supermarket Survival GuideOn a Saturday morning when the masses flood into the supermarket aisles and the checkouts start to get backed up, more than a few shoppers start to feel a little ‘war fatigue’. It’s enough to have anyone gasping about ‘the horror’ of losing that perfect car park, or plotting murder most ‘fowl’ against someone who stole the last reduced-to-clear roast chicken.

How are shoppers supposed to deal with the warzone that has become the weekly grocery shop grind? Here’s your field manual – a go-to guide for the weary shopper – to surviving in the battlefield of supermarket shopping.

Know your enemy: Shop early in the day

”… If you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A recent news article revealed the peak shopping periods in Australian supermarkets are at 11am to 1pm, and 4pm to 5pm – all on Saturday.  If you want to avoid the masses, save yourself a headache and steer clear of these times.

It won’t come as a shock to anyone that some of the quietest times to shop are on Mondays and Tuesdays during the store’s opening hours…but interestingly, even Saturday early morning crowds were low, making it an ideal shopping hour. If you have to get your groceries on the weekend, aim for the opening hours for a less stressful shop.

You can also avoid the problem entirely by buying groceries online – the pros and cons of which we’ve discussed in a previous post.

Work as a unit: Don’t shop alone

“… Unit cohesion and teamwork are what give individual soldiers the confidence to use initiative, to be resourceful, and to be all they can be” – Glen E. Morrell, 7th Sergeant Major of the United States Army

Shopping with another person allows you to split up with two trolleys and grocery lists to get the work done in half the time. Furthermore, you can save yourself from impulse buying by avoiding certain sections of the supermarket.

You can also make it less of a chore by adding some competition to the shop. Who can spend the least, finish their shop the fastest, or (our favourite) find the tastiest treat for the week? The loser shouts the winner a cup of coffee and you both live to shop another day!

The importance of reconnaissance: Find the perfect supermarket for you and plan your assault

“Training is the cornerstone of success” – United State Army Field Manual 7-92 – The Infantry Reconnaissance Platoon and Squad (Airborne, Air Assault, Light Infantry)

We uncovered in our research that one in five customers drove to a more premium suburb because the supermarket there stocked a better range and higher quality products. Obviously, different supermarkets offer different benefits; and you should endeavour to find the one that best works for you. We’ve made it easier with our supermarket customer satisfaction ratings, comparing everything from supermarket value for money to quality and variety of products.

Once you’ve nailed down the perfect supermarket, learn the layout of the store, perfect your route and stick to your shopping list so you don’t buy in excess.

What would your supermarket survival tip be for this quote? Leave a comment below.

“There is no plan B” – The A-Team

Apr 042012
 

How much time do you spend online?Someone could fly from Melbourne to Sydney return (and even grab some lunch in the middle) in the time that many Australians spend on the internet each day.

That’s the statistic we found in our survey results: 50% of Aussies spend three or more hours online every day. This doesn’t even factor work related web browsing into the equation.

In the time the average Aussie spends internet use every day, they could:

  • Watch the final Lord of the Rings, or three episodes of Mad Men.
  • Bake and decorate an elaborate cheese cake.
  • Service their own car (assuming they knew how).

The big thing to take away from this? If Australians – on average – sleep eight hours and thirty one minutes (according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics), that means that our respondents spent roughly one fifth of their waking hours online.

And when added up, a three hour per day session adds up to 45 or so days spent online each year.

Do you think you spend too much time online? Let us know in the comments section below…

Make sure you take a look at our ADSL broadband five star winners.

Mar 212012
 

The Pros and Cons of Buying Food OnlinePacking your trolley with food from the local supermarket can be hard work. It makes sense that many have sought a better way:  buying groceries online – all the food, with none of the leaving home.

However, despite the obvious appeal of doing the shopping in your pyjamas, most Australians have yet to try grocery shopping online.  As with all things, there are pros and cons to this manner of stocking your pantry, so we’ve listed some of them here.

Positives of buying groceries online

Are you returning from a business trip or holiday, and want your groceries waiting for you when you return? How wonderfully convenient! By the same token, hungry families or housemates could be easily catered for from afar.

Similarly, if your supermarket is a fair distance from home, having groceries delivered might save you precious petrol (not to mention time). In particular, less mobile individuals such as the elderly or the sick stand to benefit greatly from online grocery shopping in the right circumstances.

Finally, shopping online (inadvertently) saves you from impulse shopping, as you won’t be strolling past displays in-store and suddenly become certain you must have a 24 pack of Coke. That said, you might miss out on reduced-to-clear bargains or products on special by not turning up to shop in person, which brings us too…

The negatives of online supermarket shopping

Negative number one: delivery fees, which you may not be comfortable paying.

Secondly, if you live in a remote area, you may have to pay a surcharge for delivery services…that is, if your supermarket even supplies to your area. To top this off, supermarkets usually only deliver groceries at certain hours of the day (think 9am – 5pm).

The biggest negative for buying your food online, however, is that you can’t check out the quality of your groceries before paying. In short, you have to blindly trust that your supermarket/grocer will deliver quality goods.

Have you tried to shop online for groceries yet? Leave a comment to tell us about the experience.

If you prefer to shop the old fashioned way, check out our five star winners for supermarkets.

Feb 222012
 

Running at the fitness clubIt doesn’t matter if you jog for relaxation, keeping trim, or for the self-satisfaction of beating your best time; it’s important to mix up your exercise routine to stay motivated and challenged. Here are a few ideas on how you can spice up your workout for the better.

Switch from the outdoors to a treadmill, or vice versa

Did you know that treadmills are designed for better shock absorption from constant running? By comparison, roads and footpaths are not kind to runners’ legs. Instead of ‘pounding the pavement’, try switching to a treadmill a couple of days a week to save your legs some grief.

By the same token, you may see your workout a whole lot differently if you go out for a change of scenery. Running outside can bring new joys to familiar workouts, so take a running tour of your neighbourhood occasionally.

Barefoot running

While sports shoes are designed to absorb a lot of punishment, you may wish to explore alternative forms of footwear. For example, many swear that barefoot running can be better for your running form and your feet if you can get past the initial discomfort. You can buy barefoot running shoes (that resemble gloves for feet) to protect your feet from injuries. Make sure you read up on this branch of running beforehand to ensure you don’t injure yourself.

Set new goals

For those who plod along the same running route every day, maybe it’s time to set yourself a new challenge. Try and set a new record for your fastest kilometre or mile, or start training for a fun run or marathon. Maybe you’ve never tried cross country training, or bushwalking – now’s the time to have a go at it.

The main point here is, experiment with your exercise routine to keep yourself invested in your fitness and wellbeing.

What does your weekly exercise routine consist of?

Make sure you check out our gym customer satisfaction ratings

Feb 142012
 

Last Minutes Ideas for Valentines DayIt’s one of the most romantic days of the year: Valentine’s Day, but – understandably – you’ve been busy. There simply hasn’t been time to pick anything up, and now it’s too late to organise anything.

…Except it isn’t.

Your tardiness aside, several options are available to you if you need a quick fix on Valentine’s Day romance.

The meal

Sure, it’s probably too late to book your partner’s favourite restaurant, but it’s not too late to duck into your local supermarket and set up the most romantic home cooked meal ever. Check out food blogs to look for tasty recipes that won’t take too long to make.

If you’re a terrible cook, buy a nice premade pizza base, smear with pre-packaged tomato paste, top with yummy toppings from the deli, and cook until the cheese on top melts. With the right presentation, it looks quite ‘gourmet’ next to a bottle of wine and nice cutlery. Speaking of which…

Wine

If you can’t remember which type your partner likes (shame on you), then ask bottle shop staff which bottle of red or white is particularly good. Failing that, champagne is always a popular choice.

Flowers

Unfortunately, you’ve probably left this too late, but don’t give up hope! Failing a trip to the florist, you can at least pick up a decent bunch of flowers from many supermarkets.

The card

A personal message is all it takes to redeem a plain looking card so speak from the heart and write neatly.

Presents

Buying a present in the eleventh hour is tricky, but not impossible. Luckily, the internet is a wonderland for online shopping; and coupon and experience sites make it easy to pick something romantic for the two of you within minutes. This may be your saving grace.

Any advice for struggling romantics? Leave your own hints in the comment section below.

Canstar Blue five star winners:

Jan 272012
 

A car tyre that won't leave you feeling flatA new prototype car tyre has been developed that could mean the end of flat tyres once and for all.

These concept tyres, developed by Bridgestone, aren’t full of compressed air like regular tyres – but rather a series of resin spokes (they share visual similarities to bicycle tyres). Because of these spokes, these tyres are strong, durable, and will offer the same shock absorption as a regular tyre.

They will also never require inflation or be punctured due to the fact that there isn’t any air in the tyre to begin with. Obviously these ‘spoke’ tyres will still wear down with use, and will ultimately require you to replace them when they go bald.

On the plus side, these tyres could help vehicles tackle all kinds of harsh terrain without fear of tyre punctures – not to mention the long term savings for the average motorist.

The best part, however, is that these tyres are 100% recyclable. Once you’ve finished with them, you simply place them in the yellow wheelie bin and they’ll be disposed of in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Don’t get too excited though, as these concept tyres are still a work in progress. Still, it’s nice to see the humble wheel reinvented once again.

What does everyone think about this super-tyre?

Check out our car tyre customer satisfaction ratings.