Who is this suitable for?
Everyone! Even when you are finally out of debt, decreasing your expenditure in some areas will leave you with more money to spend on things you want more.
There are whole web sites devoted to living on less money, so this page just lists some ideas to get you started.
- Draw up a weekly meal plan so you know what is for dinner and don’t end up getting a take-away
- Cheap food doesn’t have to be boring see Cheap Family Recipes and A Girl Called Jack. Join Fill My Family On A Budget group on Facebook.
- Plan to have one or two vegetarian days a week
- Switch to supermarket own brands, the “basics” label, not the “extra because it’s in a nice package” sort!
- Don’t throw food away – use leftovers for lunch the next day, turn tired carrots into soup etc
- Make twice as much and freeze half, so you have a supply of quick and easy meals
- If your kids (or you?) love smoothies, make your own in a blender. If you must buy juice, then dilute it by 25 or 50% – it’s more thirst-quenching and lasts a lot longer.
- Buy for less by shopping in the right place: don’t set foot in Waitrose or M&S, check if you have a Lidl or an Aldi nearby and investigate any local markets.
- Check out the RFQS (reduced for quick sale) shelf in the supermarket. Skint Dad has some good tips on bagging a supermarket bargain.
- Shop with a friend and split the BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Free) that you find.
Postpone buying things
- Don’t impulse buy. Think about it for a week and check if it fits in your budget.
- Don’t carry your credit and debit cards around and be tempted – leave them at home and just take the amount of cash you want to spend.
- Don’t go window shopping or buy magazines full of things you can’t afford.
- Keep your car for another year or two. Or three or four…
- Don’t upgrade your mobile, keep the current one and get a cheap SIM-only deal.
- Could you repair what you have instead of replacing it? Lots of videos on the internet to inspire you.
Buy it for less
- Don’t buy things in shops that are cheaper online.
- Always check if you can get cashback on it, see Quidco and Topcashback.
- Wait for the sales! But a top reduced to £12 from £30 isn’t cheap if you have plenty of tops, it’s £12 wasted.
- Don’t buy at all, find it on your local freecycle or freegle. Or think if you can share rarely used things with friends, relatives or neighbours: suitcases, garden shears, power drill etc
Don’t start troublesome commitments
- Car on HP with a large payment required at the end.
- Look at all the costs of a new pet: vaccinations, worming, insurance, care when you are away on holiday etc.
Cut the cost of the fun stuff
- Put expensive hobbies on hold for a year or two whilst you blitz your debts, look for free things to do instead.
- Cancel the gym membership and run home from work. More ideas on fitness and losing weight in this blog post.
- Look out for free online courses – some just for interest but some may find a place on your CV.
- Say No to social stuff you can’t afford: stag do in Latvia, friend’s 30th birthday at a local spa. Get into the habit of saying you’ll have to check your diary as there is a family thing on about that time (gran is 80 again?)
- Ditch the Sky/cable, or even watch all your TV on catch-up and save the cost of a TV license!
- If you like decorating your home and craft-stuff, then indulge your inner artist by running a Pinterest board.
- Picnics! They aren’t just cheaper than eating out, kids love them. You don’t have to go anywhere special – the back garden with teddies or down your local park with a football or frisbee.
- Make a visit to the library a regular event – new books each week! Also audiobooks and DVDs
- Find printable activities online – search for things like “free zoo colouring sheet” and “free kids word search”
- Look out for competitions – it will keep the children occupied and you may be surprised how often they win something, which they will love.
- Grandparents often find it hard to get the ‘right’ present, so help them and your wallet by saying what your children need – dressing gowns, wellies, slippers, jumpers, trainers, football, scooters etc. Be specific “Star wars PJs, aged 5, from BHS”.
- You need to say No to kids’ activities. Look for cheap options – the Scouts is c £30 a term, drama school can be £150+
- Don’t buy special nursery furniture. Stickers or a coat of bright paint can transform a boring (and cheap) chest of drawers or wardrobe.
Fashion and beauty
- Get your hair cut or coloured by a trainee at a local salon or college – SavvyAnnie describes how she did it
- Use hair conditioner instead of shaving cream: cheaper and leaves silky smooth skin
- Wander round a department store and collect free samples
- Check out Primark’s new make-up range, “PS Love”
- Make your own beauty products from kitchen items
- Charity shops – how to have fun bargain hunting
- Swap clothes with your friends – perhaps organise a “swishing party”?
- If lots of it just seems to disappear, keep a spending diary for a month or two and track it down
- Look through your bank statements and credit card statements and see if there are any subscriptions or other regular payments you don’t need. Tell the supplier you are cancelling your subscription, not just the bank.
- Think twice about donations to charity or saving for the children. If you have credit card debt that you can’t clear, you are effectively borrowing at the rate of interest your credit card charges to give the money away… blitz your debts then you can afford to be more generous.
If your utility bills are high
- Good articles on “14 low tech ways to keep your house warm” and “6 seriously simple tricks to save money on water“
- Unplug electronic gadgets – look at how much gaming consoles and printers can consume.
- Get a slow cooker. It costs under 10p to have on for 8 hours, compared to 30p to heat an over for an hour. It will also save on food bills as cheaper cuts of meat work better in stews and casseroles than chops, steaks and chicken breasts
- Look on your utility provider’s web-site for ways to cut down your electricity and gas usage. Energy Saving Trust is another good source – you may be able to get a grant to help with insulation costs
- Investigate changing your supplier, and don’t forget to see if you can get cash back
- A water meter may save you money if you use less water than the average in a house your size. If you can’t have a water meter see ask your water company if you could pay less through an Assessed Household Charge
- If your surface water doesn’t go into the sewers, you may be able to get a discount.
Get present spending under control
- Set limits for everyone and don’t exceed them
- Try to buy presents early, preferably in a sale and don’t get ripped off in December. This also spreads the cost and means December is a lot less stressful!
- Small children won’t notice if you don’t spend a lot. Tell older kids that they aren’t going to get so much this year as Santa is broke
- Suggest to adult members in the family that you all stop giving presents, or organise a ‘secret santa’ if you all getg together, so everyone buys one present only
- Tell people what you would like. If a new duvet cover or a subscription to Cosmo will brighten up your life, then ask for it!
- Quit smoking! You know you want to… you can get nicotine patches and gum on prescription from your GP. Be inspired by “Tony the fridge“!
- If you get a lot of prescriptions, check if you could save through pre-payment certificates.
- If you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last year all your prescriptions are free and so is dental work, so make sure you have a check-up!
- If you get Income Support, JSA or ESA prescriptions are free. If you have a low income you can apply for assistance with medical (prescription and dental) costs.
- Contact lenses and glasses are usually cheaper on the internet, so shop around.
- If you have life cover through your work’s pension plan, do you need separate cover?
- You might think critical illness insurance is important, but if your finances are facing meltdown, you need to look at the trade-offs – you KNOW there will be a disaster if you don’t find a way out of your debts so you may have to give that priority over planning for a disaster that may never happen.
- Look into reclaiming PPI – MoneySavingExpert has an excellent guide with template letters.
- Never renew an insurance without seeing if you can get it cheaper (or get cashback) elsewhere.
If you have an addiction
Then you have to tackle it, not just the debt problems that result from it:
- For a gambling problem, self exclude yourself from local bookies and/or install software to help such as Gambloc – there is a good article here.
- For cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs, talk to your doctor about the options if you have tried giving up and failed.