Everyone can gain from saving money! Even when you are finally out of debt, if you can save money in some areas, you will have more left to spend on other things.
Save money on groceries
- Always walk past the Reduced shelf in your supermarket – the contents of tins with dents in taste the same and you can often find bakery goods that are going out of date for pennies – pop that loaf in the freezer if you don’t need it today.
- 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 Skint Dad’s Fakeaways.
- 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, dilute it by 25 or 50% – it’s more thirst-quenching and lasts a lot longer.
- Make saving money on food easier 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 local markets.
- Shop with a friend and split the BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Free) that you find.
- More ideas and links in this article about cutting your food bills .
Postpone buying things
- Don’t impulse buy. Think about it for a week and check if it fits in your budget.
- Leave your credit and debit cards at home to avoid temptation – just take the 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…
- Keep your current mobile when the contract ends, don’t upgrade but look for a cheap SIM-only deal.
- Could you repair what you have instead of replacing it? There are lots of videos on the Internet to inspire you.
Buy it for less … or get it for free!
- Don’t buy things in shops that are cheaper online.
- Compare, compare, compare – so one website says it’s a bargain offer but it might still be cheaper on another one.
- It’s amazing what you can get price comparisons for – there’s one for nappies!
- Always check if you can get cashback on it through Quidco or 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.
- Think if you can share rarely used things with friends, relatives or neighbours: suitcases, garden shears, power drill etc
- Ask if you can set up a book exchange scheme at work – just a shelf or a box by the coffee machine will do.
- Look into car sharing for regular commutes and for one-off long journeys.
- But don’t drive too far to get to a cheaper garage – a good rule of thumb is don’t drive more than 2 miles to save 1p on a gallon.
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?)
- If saying no to a wedding invite isn’t an option, look at Ways to be a thrifty wedding guest.
- You don’t have to turn into a hermit, many of your friends would love ways to socialise more cheaply. Here’s a list of 36 ways to entertain on a low budget.
- Don’t buy lottery tickets or scratch cards – if you want to have a bit of fun with a chance of winning something, try Free Postcode Lottery – you won’t win a fortune but it costs nothing and there are draws every day!
- 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 creativity by running a Pinterest board.
Cheap ways to have fun with your kids
- 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”
- 21 toys you can make for under a £1 – not just cheap, but making the toys is often as much fun as playing with them
- 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 may need to say No to kids’ activities. Look for cheap options – Brownies is c £30 a term, much cheaper than drama school at £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.
- If they can get a Blue Peter badge, they will get free entry to a lot of attractions.
Is fashion and beauty your weakness?
- “Shop your stash” – before you buy more clothes have a sort through what you already have that you haven’t worn for a while (or ever?) This can also apply if you are a make-up and toiletries hoarder.
- Get your hair cut or coloured by a trainee at a local salon or college.
- 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 make-up range, PS Love, and Superdrug’s MUA and MakeUp Revolution.
- Have fun bargain hunting in charity shops.
- Swap clothes with your friends – perhaps organise a “swishing party”!
Keep an eye on where the money goes
- 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 generous.
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 get 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!
- More ideas, including very easy presents to make (from mandarin vodka to lovely earrings) in this article.
Do up / look after your home on the cheap!
One of the major reasons for people getting into debt is getting a new place and then borrowing, often on credit cards, to furnish / improve it. You don’t have to get everything perfect immediately, start as cheaply as possible then over the years get the stuff you love when you can afford it. So:
- Ask friends and family – they may have old kitchen equipment, chairs in their attic or a TV they are about bin when they upgrade it.
- Look in second-hand furniture shops and on ebay – think how coat of paint could transform a battered side table or chest of drawers.
- Look on your local freecycle or freegle. Check every day and be patient!
- Don’t fall for the Brighthouse con – “pay weekly” is the most expensive way to buy furniture.
- Save a lot by making blinds and curtains. – lots of tutorials and videos on the Internet. If you don’t have a sewing machine, ask if you can borrow one from a friend.
- Live with that old carpet – put a rug on it if you can’t stand it.
- Make your own multi-surface cleaner – it works for kitchens and bathrooms, it’s cheaper and better for the environment!
- Look around the webs for ideas for house / room make-overs on the cheap – there are lots of blogs and masses of stuff on Pinterest!
- You know you want to quit smoking… get nicotine patches and gum on prescription from your GP.
- If Income Support, JSA or ESA, you are pregnant or have had a baby in the last year all your prescriptions are free .
- If you have a low income you can apply for assistance with medical (prescription and dental) costs. If you get a lot of prescriptions, check if you could save through pre-payment certificates. For more details read Help with NHS costs.
- Contact lenses and glasses are usually cheaper on the internet, so shop around.
- Check out the NHS Minor Ailments Scheme – prescriptions for your child are free, but this scheme may let you get non-prescription items for free from your chemist.
If your utility bills are high
- A regulator report says more than 95% of dual-fuel customers of the big firms would have have saved money by switching tariffs or suppliers. The savings they missed ranged from £158 to £234 a year per customer. If you are thinking this is a hassle, have a look at MoneySavingExpert’s Cheap Energy Club “We take the hard work out of being an energy tart.”
- Good article on “10 ways to stay warm and save money this winter“.
- Unplug electronic gadgets – why do your microwave, games console and printer need to be on all the time?
- 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 steak or chicken breasts.
- Bleed your radiators – this simple job (see this How To guide if you have never done it) improves the efficiency of your entire heating system – so you get a warmer home and lower bills!
- 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.
- A water meter may save you money if you use less water than the average in a house your size. Check if your water company offers free gadgets such as shower heads and tap inserts that will save money by reducing the flow of water without you noticing a difference. If you can’t have a water meter 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 – ask your water supplier.
- The cost of car insurance is rising again – read MoneySavingExpert’s guide to getting cheaper car insurance.
- 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 – people are getting payouts even if they didn’t think they had any because they were automatically signed up! Don’t use a claims firm – the Financial Ombudsman says they are not more likely to succeed than you are and their fees are astonishingly high.
- Never renew an insurance without seeing if you can get it cheaper (or get cashback) elsewhere.
Don’t start troublesome commitments
- Don’t buy a 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.
- Don’t be fooled by “only £1.20 a day” or “only £9.99 a week” adverts – they are hoping you only notice the low number and don’t work out what it will cost you over the year.