For so many of us, day to day life since the start of the recession has been based on having to work increasingly hard to make ends meet every week or month. Those people lucky enough to have a job are often still worried about how to make their household income stretch further and further. People who are without work - perhaps because of redundancy or perhaps because of a conscious decision to take a break and raise a family, for example - can face even more of a struggle.
In light of the above, people are now actively seeking out information on ways to save money and are becoming more and more confident to openly do so. Indeed, rather than conspicuously flaunting wealth as people are prone to do in more affluent times, people will now wear their bargain finds and money saving research like a badge of honour.
This article will point you in the direction of a few places that you can look in order to get your money saving plan underway, with a couple of links to useful websites where you can go to find out more information.
Check You’re Not Paying too Much for Your Household Bills!
Most people sign up to providers of gas, electricity, internet and telephone lines when they first move into a property and then don’t ever take the time to reassess how much they’re paying to see if there’s a more competitive offer elsewhere. Often suppliers change their packages slightly, meaning that you’re not necessarily on a contract that best suits your needs - there can be big savings to be made if you use more than one service from the same provider, for example.
Make a note to check your deals every year, as some people have reported savings of many hundreds of pounds. It used to be a time-consuming process to change but companies are now so keen to obtain your business that they will do all the hard work for you.
Ensure You’re Receiving All the Tax Exemptions and Benefits to Which You’re Entitled
Changes to the benefits system this year have seen many families lose out on financial support. Whilst it might be the case that you are no longer entitled to as much as you once were, it is definitely still worth clarifying your personal situation, as you might not be aware of the changes have affected you and your family and it would be awful to miss out. Just some of the ways you might be able to save money include: support for your childcare costs, tax credits, child benefits.
Again, it’s worth revisiting this topic every year and making sure that you enter up-to-date information about your circumstances in case there has been any change to your entitlement.
You can find more advice and a range of handy self-assessment calculators on the following websites:
Sign Up for Loyalty Points (NOT Store Cards) Everywhere You Shop Regularly
This is a very quick and easy way to save money on your shopping from a wide variety of different retailers. Most of the major supermarkets have schemes whereby you can earn rewards for the money you spend with them:
- Tesco: Clubcard points, which can not only be used to take money off your shopping but can also be converted into vouchers to use in a vast number of different ways, including at restaurants such as Pizza Express and at mainstream attractions for family days out. You can find out more here
- Morrisons: Payday Bonus scheme, which gives you a voucher every time you spend over a certain amount, with one voucher issued per week. If you collect the correct number of vouchers within a given month, you are then able to take money (currently £10) off your bill. Here are the details
- Sainsbury’s: Nectar, where you earn point for your shopping which can then be used as credit against your shopping bills. One of the benefits of this scheme is that Sainsbury’s is not the only retailer in the Nectar scheme, so you can earn points in many other ways (such as on purchases on www.amazon.co.uk) and can also spend the points in many other ways as well. Discover more about it here
Don’t forget that it’s not just major nationwide stores that offer loyalty cards. Many local stores have decided to join in and offer their own versions of these schemes and it can never hurt to ask if you’re not sure whether the shop you’re in participates.
||One final tip - don’t be confused by the difference between store cards and loyalty cards. Loyalty cards have no facility for you to spend actually money on them and certainly can’t offer you credit. Store cards often have extortionately high rates of interest and are best avoided unless you can pay off the balance in full each month.
Join the Mailing Lists for Brands and Stores Whose Products You Like
Most organisations, whether large or small, now have an online presence and connecting with the creators of your favourite products and services via the internet often allows you to be informed of good deals, offers and promotions before the general public find out. It’s quick and easy to visit the websites that you use the most and sign up for their regular newsletters, which is the best way to stay in touch with them and keep your finger on the money saving pulse.
Get Rid of Clutter and Earn Some Money in the Process
There is definitely something to be said for the old adage of ‘tidy house, tidy mind’. Not only could it make your daily life more pleasant not to be encumbered with an excess of belongings, but you could also earn a reasonable amount of money selling off your old goods.
Most people know about E-bay, but for smaller items the listing costs, selling costs and payment transaction costs can sometimes be off-putting. Some other ideas for you to try are:
- local notice boards in supermarkets, churches and community centres
- local free newspapers
- car boot sales
- local Facebook groups for buying and selling second hand goods
A few good tips for getting the best price for your items are as follows:
- Take good quality photos in decent light and upload as many of them as you can when listing your products
- Be honest about what you’re selling - it doesn’t matter if something isn’t in perfect condition but it does matter if you conceal this fact as you’ll only harm your reputation as a seller
- Be realistic about what price you think your items could fetch and decide whether or not there is a minimum price below which you won’t accept any offers
- If appropriate, factor in postage and packing costs and again, be honest about them
It is also worth considering the above sources for your purchases as well, as a great way to save money is to buy a second hand version of something you would have purchased new.
Use Price Comparison Websites for Larger Online Purchases
You might not find too much of a difference in price when shopping around for smaller items (though it’s always still worth checking) but for larger items there can be significant savings to be made by using a price comparison website.
These websites as a sort of internet search engine, where you enter the details of your item and then many results are returned. The advantage of using a price comparison website, however, is that all the results are displayed on one page and often you are able to list a few options and compare them directly next to each other. This provides a great visual aid for your decision making process and can save you valuable time and effort.
Additionally, some of these websites will have special relationships with certain retailers so that they are able to provide you with access to better deals then you might be able to get elsewhere.
Examples of reputable price comparison websites are as follows:
Look Out for Vouchers, Coupons and Deals!
It used to be the case that there was a stigma attached to using vouchers or coupons, but now they are so commonplace that it would probably be more tricky to find a transaction that didn’t involve them.
Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s issue vouchers pretty much every time you shop, either for money off products, for extra loyalty points or because they’ve fulfilled their brand match promise against their competitors and found that you could have bought some products cheaper elsewhere, so they’ve refunded the difference via a coupon. Tesco will send through a booklet of vouchers every so often, which can be redeemed the next time your shop with them.
You can also check local and national newspapers and magazines as they will often contain vouchers for various products and services.
If you are shopping online, it’s always worth checking some of the following websites to see whether there is a promotional code available for you to enter during the checkout process.
Other websites list vouchers that you can download onto your smartphone or print out to use as appropriate and some of these organisations even have an app, meaning that you can find out about the best deals while you’re on the move.
Recycle or ‘Up-Cycle’ Some of Your Unwanted Belongings
It can be really fun to try and think of creative ways to find other uses for items around your home. One such classic idea is using an old baby bath as a laundry basket for carrying washing to the line and transporting ironing back into the house.
Up-cycling is a term that refers to adapting and improving something so that it becomes useful and / or beautiful once again. One of the most stand-out examples of this is converting a cot-bed into a craft table for young children. You can view pictures and tutorials for this and other great up-cycling ideas here
Make Yourself a Budget and Keep Track of What You Spend
It is a really good idea to sit down with the other people in your household and come up with a realistic monthly budget that takes into account all your income and and outgoings and leaves you with the total amount remaining.
There will, of course, be times when you have to deviate from this budget ever so slightly, but if you have it in your mind (and preferably on your computer and perhaps even in a notebook somewhere as well) then you will soon train yourself to think rationally about what spending you can afford each month.
Sticking to a budget means that you are more likely to avoid getting into serious debt and therefore are more likely to avoid paying unnecessary interest charges.
Writing down (or entering into a spreadsheet) everything you spend is also a great tip as it forces you to take notice of how you use money and helps you spot it more quickly if you start overspending. It also provides you with a record of your spending, which will be useful when it comes to re-evaluating your budget at regular intervals.
There is some great advice on budgeting available on these websites:
Pay as Little Interest as Possible on Your Debts
A huge number of people are dealing with the repayment of some level of debt on a daily basis, but there is no reason why you can’t be sensible about what you owe and least try and save money by paying as little interest on your borrowing as possible.
Generally, credit cards with zero per cent interest are not as readily available as they once were, but there are still some great offers around. Make sure you read through all the terms and conditions and ensure that you are able to meet them.
Be a Savvy Shopper
Many of the money saving tips above are ones that you will be able to apply when shopping, but there are some other ways in which you can be cash conscious as well:
- Plan your weekly shop ahead of time and make a comprehensive list, so that you don’t get distracted by foods you don’t really need or want when you’re actually in the store
- Think about how to get the most out of all the ingredients you purchase and think about how certain products are packaged - for example, you might only need one egg for a recipe you are using, but you know that you will have to buy at least six due to the boxes they are sold in. Therefore, you could plan another meal that involved eggs in order to use them up
- Think about batch baking, where you cook larger quantities of a meal and then freeze some portions for consumption at a later date
- Visit supermarkets near to closing time, when fresh products are likely to be reduced (and as a bonus, it’ll also be much quieter!)
- Know when it’s acceptable to haggle. Clearly this wouldn’t go down well in a supermarket, but at local markets or even second hand car dealerships haggling is actually expected. If it’s OK to negotiate the price of house purchase, it must be OK to do it for smaller things as well
Consider Doing a Skills Swap
You might be an absolute whizz on computers, while your next door neighbour’s friend is a plumber. Instead of payment, consider whether you could save money and offer to build them a website if they fix your shower. It will be up to you and the other party to decide what constitutes a fair swap, but if you can find a mutually agreeable exchange then you could both find yourself quids in!
There are now websites that are catching on to this trend that offer a forum for potential skills swappers to meet up, so find out more here:
Use the internet and social media to save money
The final tip in this article is basically to stay in touch with all the organisations that could potentially save you money. Many companies now have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc. and they are fast realising that their reputation is one of their most valuable commodities. They look for ways to reward customers who stay connected with them and for those who take the time to feed back about experiences with their products and services.