If saving money was your New Year's resolution and you want some help with how to do it - without eking out every last teabag - have a look at this advice.
We’re looking at positive ways for how to save money rather than suffering through scrimping and saving. Especially since financial security was hard to come by last year with the furlough scheme under threat and questions around whether 30 hours free child care would be extended into the third lockdown. Don’t forget, £20 notes expire this year as well, so ensure you spend them before they go out of circulation.
We all want the best tips on how to save money effectively without having to go without our daily essentials (or weekend treats!), plus the buying advice to go with it.
Check out these top tips from Faith Archer, a savvy spender, super saver and mother-of-two from blog Much More With Less, on how to save money without affecting your lifestyle. These tried-and-tested tips can make the biggest savings with the least impact.
By shopping wisely, bill switching and swooping on discounts, you can slash your spending.
How to save money on household bills
Pay less for power
Switching gas and electricity suppliers can save serious cash, especially if you have never switched before. Grab 10 minutes to check a comparison website like Simply Switch, MoneySuperMarket, uSwitch or the Energy Helpline.
Sign up with a cheaper supplier, let them take care of the switch, then sit back and enjoy the savings.
Slash your bills further by getting gas and electricity from the same supplier – a ‘dual fuel’ deal – and paying by direct debit. Learn more about how to switch electricity suppliers here.
Save without switching
Give your supplier a call. Get through to the ‘cancellation’ or ‘retention’ department. Tell them you want to leave because of the cost – then see if they offer you a better deal to stay. This works best for bills like your mobile, broadband, home phone, TV package, breakdown cover and home and contents insurance.
Cut your Council Tax
Sadly, you’re unlikely to shave much off your Council Tax, even if you ask nicely. However, Martin Lewis recently revealed this trick for saving thousands.
It’s also worth checking whether your neighbours in identical houses pay less. You could challenge your Council Tax band if so. Refunds can be huge if you have lived there a long time as well, so search your postcode at gov.uk/council-tax-bands. The only risk is that the council whacks more on your neighbours’ bills instead!
Splash out less on water
Don’t have a water meter? In general, if there are fewer people, or the same number as there are bedrooms, you are likely to save money with a water meter.
If you have a meter and are on certain benefits, you may be able to get your bill capped if your family is large or has certain illnesses. Find out more by searching WaterSure.on the gov.uk website.
Move your mortgage
If you have a mortgage, check the interest rate. You could save loads by switching to a cheaper deal, especially if you have slipped onto your lender’s standard variable rate. Use a mortgage broker to help you through the mortgage maze – check out the Money Advice Service recommendations on where to find a broker.
How to save money on food shopping
Everyone has favourite brands – but have you ever tried a different version? Swap to less expensive own brands or cheaper discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl, then see if anyone notices the difference. Tap your shopping list into the website mysupermarket.com to tot up the total at different stores, then take the plunge.
Supermarket loyalty cards
Don’t shop at a more expensive supermarket just for the points – but if you’re shopping somewhere with a loyalty scheme, flash that supermarket loyalty card. Then make the most of any loyalty points by swapping them for restaurant vouchers, days out, travel or waiting until special points promotion events.
Save on your smartphone
Download supermarket cashback apps like Shopmium or CheckoutSmart for cashback offers and freebies. Buy specific products, then save in seconds by using your phone to scan the barcode and snap a pic of the receipt, so you can get refunded. TopCashback Snap & Save and Quidco ClickSnap offer similar savings.
Check your cupboards and calendar
Sometimes the simple things make a big difference. Before shopping, give your kitchen a quick scan and check what you’re doing that week. No point buying food you already have in your fridge and cupboards, or won’t eat if you are out. Buy less, waste less, save loads!
How to save money on your spending
Get paid to spend
If you shop on the internet and don’t use cashback websites you are missing out on free money. Just click through from the likes of TopCashback and Quidco before you shop online, and you’ll earn a few percent cashback on your bill.
For more chunky sums, think bills and banks. You can earn higher cashback on new contracts for your phone, broadband, energy and pay TV, or on financial products like credit cards, current accounts or insurance. Just check you won’t pay less elsewhere, even including the cashback. Then earn extra by taking your payout as vouchers for big brands, rather than a bank transfer.
Never pay full price
Swoop on sales, and look out for discounts by searching for voucher codes online, or checking magazines and fliers. Sign up for newsletters from your favourite retailers, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook, for more codes, deals and discounts. Then avoid pesky postage costs by waiting until you have a big enough order to qualify for free shipping, or by using click and collect services.
Save as a student, even if you aren’t
You can get a student card even if you aren’t a full-time student, by taking certain courses online. Even better, look out for deep discounts from sites like Wowcher and Groupon when buying a course. Then sign up for an NUS Extra card or UNiDAYS account to get discounts like six months free Amazon Prime, 50% off Spotify music streaming and 20% off at National Express.
My biggest savings with an NUS Extra card are 10% off at the Co-op, and 10% off an Apple iPad, which more than paid for the cost of the card.
How to save money as a family
Travel for less by train
While many of us aren’t hopping on trains around the country at the moment, by the end of 2021 we might be able to. Keeping train ticket savings in mind is a good move early in the year.
Spend £30 for a Friends & Family railcard and you will get a third off for adults and 60% off for children on most train tickets for a year. A family of four, for example, could cover the cost in a couple of trips.
For longer journeys, book in advance for cheaper tickets and see if you can save by split ticketing, where it can cost less to buy one or more tickets to cover a single journey on the same train.
Book activities early and in advance
Keeping the kids occupied can gouge a big chunk out of the family budget and big trips will be at the front of our minds when the final lockdown ends. Save money by booking big trips to the likes of zoos and theme parks online rather than rocking up on the day, or see if you can cash in supermarket loyalty points.
For activities like bowling, swimming, cinema trips and softplay, look out for discounts at less popular times. For example, find tickets for as little as £2.50 a person for mid-morning films at weekends and during school holidays from the likes of Cineworld Movies for Juniors, Odeon Kids and Vue Mini Mornings.
Cut your childcare costs
Pay for child care while you work? See if you’re eligible for 30 hours free childcare or claim some cash back from combination of Working Tax Credits, or the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme that pays out up to £2,000 per child. Different options suit different people, but it’s worth wading through the Government website Childcare Choices to find what works for you.
How to save money by clearing your clutter
Sell on eBay
Stuff you don’t use, toys the children no longer play with or gifts no-one wanted? Sell on eBay. You get 20 free listings every month, and should also look out for special offers on sold prices – otherwise eBay takes 10% of your selling price including postage, plus PayPal fees.
Sell on eBay with a good title – use words people will search for, like the brand, colour and size when selling a skirt. Add clear photos with a plain background, write an accurate description and set your auction to finish when more people are online, so early evening midweek and on Sundays. Then get great feedback by posting items quickly.
Sell for free
Fed up with eBay fees? Try the likes of Gumtree, the boot sale app Facebook Marketplace or local Facebook selling pages to sell for free. Local buyers may also be willing to collect straight from your door – avoiding the time and hassle of postage and packing.
Profit from sales
If you have a lot of clutter to clear, try piling it high at a yard sale, car boot sale or even an NCT sale for baby and toddler stuff. Expect to sell individual items for lower prices than they might make on eBay, but with the chance to shift more stuff in a single morning. Take folding tables, boxes and clothes rails to display your stuff, dress warmly and don’t forget plastic bags and spare change. Then get set to haggle.
How to save money on your bank account
Managing your overdraft
Money expert Martin Lewis has issued a warning about new overdraft fees coming into effect in 2020. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced changes to the way overdraft charges will work. Rather than daily or monthly charges, instead you’ll be charged a percentage (up to 40 per cent) of the total amount you are overdrawn by within a period of 12 months.
Martin says, “The problem with overdrafts is that they’re a stealth debt. You don’t apply for them, you just end up in them.
“Right now, everyone with a bank account needs to understand what’s changing – good and bad.”
Claim cash for switching bank accounts
Believe or not, banks are falling over themselves to give you money. Currently, you can get up to £175 just for switching your current account to banks.
You can claim £175 if you switch to HSBC’s Advance account. You must open an account by Monday 2nd December, then start a switch within the next 30 days. The NatWest Reward account will give you £150 if you open an account and request a switch by Friday 6th December.
Get paid for paying your bills
How to save money when paying your utility bills? Santander, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland all offer current accounts that pay up to 3% cashback on household bills, like your gas, electricity, water, Council Tax, home phone, mobile phone and broadband bills. Just weigh up the money you save compared to the cost of any annual fee.
Delete unused direct debits
Start today by checking which direct debits go out of your current account. See if you are still paying for magazines you never read, trial subscriptions you meant to stop or a gym you no longer visit. Then contact the companies to cancel.
How to save money on your credit card
Meet the minimum
Set up a direct debit to may off at least the minimum payment on your credit card every month. This way, you can’t forget and miss a payment, so won’t get hit with extra interest and charges.
How to claim cashback
Pay off your credit card bill in full every month? Check out whether you can get paid to spend, using a cashback credit card which gives you a cut of everything you spend. Use the card as normal, and see the pennies start to add up.
Check out the latest deals at comparison sites like Moneyfacts. Top tip before applying: use an online eligibility checker, to see which cards you are more likely to be accepted for. Helps avoid a black mark on your credit file, if you apply and get rejected.
Cut your interest payments
Alternatively, is your credit or store card balance bigger than you can clear right now? If so, avoid cashback cards where the high interest charges will wipe out any cashback. Instead, investigate a balance transfer card with a low or 0% rate. By moving your balance from a higher interest rate to a lower rate, or no interest at all, you can slash your interest costs and clear the debt quicker.
How to save money on emergencies
Pile up pennies and pounds
If you have to borrow money for life’s little (or even large) emergencies, the interest costs can be expensive. If the washing machine floods, the car tyres go flat or your job falls off a cliff, it can be tough to make ends meet without any savings. Even small sums add up, so start by popping spare change in a jar or putting £2 coins in a moneybox.
Set up a standing order
If you can squeeze a bit extra from your budget, set up a standing order into a savings account straight after payday. That’s when you are least likely to notice the difference. Several banks and building societies offer regular saver accounts, where you can save from as little as £1 to £25 a month for a year, and get paid as much as 5% interest for a year.
How much should I save? Get an app to save for you
Not sure how to save money? Try one of the automatic savings apps like Chip or Plum, which look at your bank account, work out how much you can set aside, and then transfer small amounts to a savings account every few days. Even better, refer friends and family to Chip, and you can earn up to 5% interest on your savings. Ka-ching!