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.
Actually there are a few more than 88 ideas here, but 88 symbolises wealth and prosperity to the Chinese, so I’m keeping that as the headline number!
Lockdown – the ups and the downs for money saving
A lot of the ideas in this article are harder when we are in lockdown:
- you probably want to be in an out of supermarkets as fast as possible, not doing price comparisons;
- a lot of multi-buys have disappeared;
- second hand clothes shops are closed.
And the costs of home schooling … and the utility bills when you are all at home all the time…
But weddings and holidays abroad are off and why buy new clothes for adults when there is no-one to see them? The gym is closed so you need other ways to get fit and many of them are a lot cheaper.
One thing to be careful of is the sheer boredom effect. There is a big temptation to browse on your phone while you are watching TV, so if this is your weakness, read Buying too much online? 5 ways to cut back and get a plan to tackle it.
And if your household finances have been badly hit by Covid-19, see what help with debts & bills you can get.
Save money in the supermarket
- Always check 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your supermarket – the contents of tins with dents in taste the same and you can often find bakery goods that are going out of date for pennies – pop that loaf in the freezer if you don’t need it today.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 don’t get that “my mind has gone blank and the fridge is empty” feeling and end up getting a takeaway.
- Cheap multi-buy offers are great for non-fresh food if you can afford to buy and put away in the store cupboard. But in 2020 they become much rarer with the pandemic :(
- When the kids are at school, packed lunches can save a fortune – and getting multipacks in the supermarket will cut the cost even further, see Top Tips for packed lunches for more ideas.
- Cheap food doesn’t have to be boring, see How to cut your grocery bill and still eat well.
- Plan to have one or two vegetarian days a week.
- Don’t throw food away – use leftovers for lunch the next day, turn tired carrots into soup etc.
- 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.
- Switch to supermarket own brands, the “basics” label, not the “extra because it’s in a nice package” sort! This applies to branded drugs and toiletries such as Neurofen, Lemsip, Anadin, Sudafed. These can cost 8 times as much as supermarket and chemists’ own brands, but the drugs in them are exactly the same.
Postpone buying things
- Don’t impulse buy. Think about it for a week and check if it fits your budget.
- Make it just a bit harder buy things online if you tend to overspend in this area.
- 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 when a contract ends, instead switch to a cheap SIM-only deal for a year or two.
- 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.
- Do you need to own something that you rarely use? Or could you share/borrow from a friend or neighbour: 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.
- 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 here on fitness and losing weight in 2021.
- 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 .
- Don’t buy lottery tickets or scratch cards – if you want to have a bit of fun with a chance of winning something, try Pick My Postcode – you won’t win a fortune but it costs nothing and there are draws every day!
- If TV is your main entertainment, keep up with the latest news about options and deals on how to watch films, sports etc at Cord busters – a specialist blog.
- If most of your watching is Netflix/Now/Youtube read Do I Need a TV Licence? Maybe Not.
- If you like decorating your home and craft-stuff, then indulge your creativity by running a Pinterest board. If you love the idea but have no experience, there are lots of blogs and youtube videos to give you some inspiration and get you started, such as Crafty Sewing Sew.
- If betting is your weakness, it’s time to take control. There are practical steps you take to stop gambling.
- Everyone needs a break from work – but you don’t have to go abroad. Look for ways to enjoy a week or two off at home.
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.
- There is a free Lego quarterly magazine for kids aged 5-9 – lids love getting something through the post for them. Subscribe here.
- If they can get a Blue Peter badge, they will get free entry to a lot of attractions – when they re=-open of course.
- The Works often has good offers (10 for £10) on books for young children.
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 makeup and toiletries hoarder. This isn’t just frugal, it is also eco-friendly.
- Have fun bargain hunting in charity shops and swap clothes with your friends – well when we are all out of lockdown!
- 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 around a department store and collect free samples.
- Check out Primark’s makeup range, PS Love, and Superdrug’s MUA and MakeUp Revolution.
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. Apps like Yolt can make it easier to track spending.
- 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. And check out these 7 ideas for giving to charity if you are short of money.
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 adults 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!
Home-made edible presents are perfect for adults:
- Nutella fudge – it takes only 5 minutes to make. Get your teens to make these.
- this citrus vodka only needs a couple of weeks to mature and you can use cheap supermarket basic spirits.
- flavoured olive is easy to make and perfect for any friends who like food or cooking;
- Cranberry, ginger and orange chutney – it’s fine to make just a week before Xmas but it will keep for months.
And here are some other ideas for things to make that don’t need advanced craft skills:
- make a scrabble tile picture, arranging family and pet names, road names, town etc and framing them – look on Etsy for inspiration for what you can make yourself. Tiles are usually on sale on eBay cheaply, wooden ones can look good.
- make a collage from photographs of your children and frame it – perfect for the grandparents.
- make a personalised poster and print it off – this site has Xmas tradition examples but the topic could be gardening or football or cocktails etc.
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 a 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!
- 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 web 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.
- get the Smoke Free app – free on iOS and Android phones/.
- buy Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking: The Guide to Stop For Good.
- 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. For more details read Help with NHS costs.
- If you have a lot of prescriptions, In 2018, a million people in Britain could have saved money by getting a prescription pre-payment certificate – it’s cheaper if you pay for more than 12 prescrip[tions in a year.
- 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 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.” I switched with them in 2017 and the next year they emailed me to let me know I could again save money by switching – very simple to use!
- Good articles on “10 ways to stay warm and save money this winter” and The £6.99 cling film that could save you £100 in winter.
- Switch to LED bulbs. These used to be expensive but have dropped in price dramatically. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut an electric bill.
- 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 oven 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 improves the efficiency of your entire heating system – so you get a warmer home and lower bills!
- Look on your utility provider’s website 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 hundreds of pounds! More details on this, other cheaper tariffs if you are on a low income, what to do if you can’t have a water meter and how to use less water if you already have in How to cut your water bills.
- 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.
- Never renew insurance without seeing if you can get it cheaper (or get cashback) elsewhere.
Don’t start troublesome commitments
- be careful when choosing to buy a car on finance.
- 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.