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Money-Saving Ideas


The 200+ ideas that follow are mostly for everyone, with only a few specialist groupings (weddings, babies). I have made every effort to omit the many ‘false economy’ and impractical ideas found across the internet. They are all simple, common-sense suggestions.


I have also tried to resist the urge to put in some of the more extreme measures which I have read of, such as looking for loose change in the street, saving up scraps of soap for re-use, scrounging from Tesco’s waste skips, etc. – though I suppose there are plenty of folk out there who do this … and worse.


All the boring stuff first, I’m afraid…


Finance

 • Change your attitude to money. Basically, start showing an interest. Keep a record of all your ins and outs – then you’ll see where you can economise. You should spend at least an hour per month looking at your monetary ins and outs and your general financial position – surely you can manage that?


• Live within your means. This means spending less than you earn. Simple.


• Stop trying to keep up with the Jones’.


• Learn to enjoy LIFE instead of POSSESSIONS. Play with your kids; have a walk in the park; self-educate yourself in the finer things of life.


• Try to avoid any sort of debt, even interest-free – it’s a good habit to have. Remember this very catchy mantra: Don’t buy things you don’t need with money you haven’t got.


• Wean yourself off credit and credit cards. A debit card is a little better, because you’re not spending your money ‘up front’ – however, due to the laws of the land, you have more protection should things go wrong if you use a credit card, so there is something to be said for keeping one going for the sort of transactions that don’t include incurring a fee. Remember, though, to clear your credit card balance on time to avoid penalties.


• Ask for a better interest rate on any credit cards you insist on hanging on to.


• Always check receipts and statements (bank/credit cards) for errors or unjust charges.


• Never be caught out by bank overdraft charges.


• Never be caught out by ATM charges. This usually means NOT using a credit card at ATMs (debit cards are usually fine), and using only machines dedicated to your own bank.


• Don’t even think about saving until you’ve cleared your debts and/or paid off your credit card on time. The amount of interest you’d be gaining on the ‘savings’ will be more than eaten up with amount of interest you’re being charged on your debt.


• When paying off debts, prioritise them. Paying off the higher interest loans first makes sense.


• If you really need to take out a loan or add to/extend a mortgage, then ensure there are no early exit/paying-off fees.


• Look into the possibility of switching your mortgage to a better deal.


• If you can, pay a bit off your mortgage, or increase your mortgage repayments a little. In the long run it will save you a LOT of money and mean that your mortgage will be cleared years earlier.


• Identify your material weaknesses/vices and try to put things to right (and save money) by deliberately avoiding temptation.


• Budget properly and simply by allocating set amounts per month towards big annual expenditures such as holidays (£200p/m), Christmas (£100p/m), car MOT/tax/Insurance (£70p/m). It’s dead easy.


• Have a loose change jar.


• If you’ve something big to buy, save for it first (with the exception of your house, of course!). Almost no-one does this nowadays and it is the reason why so many people have so much debt. Adding a bit more to your mortgage to pay for the new kitchen is tempting, but trebles the cost of your purchase in the long run.


• Pay bills by direct debit – it’ll save you 10-15%.


• Registering for online billing may save you some cash.


• Know your tax breaks and benefit entitlements.


• If you live with someone as a couple, remember to take full advantage of each other’s tax thresholds and allowances by ‘sharing’ out as much income and savings between you as possible.


• Check you have the right tax code – many people haven’t and end up paying too much tax. Don’t assume that the taxman will automatically check this and refund any tax – it is up to YOU to make sure your code is correct. Go back and check previous years’ codes – you may get a refund.


• Make sure you pay your tax before any deadline dates – otherwise you could be fined.


• Arrange for any tax refunds to go directly into your bank account – it’s a quicker way of getting that money into your savings and earning interest.


• Maximise your savings – use ISAs and high interest savings accounts.


• Set goals for saving. Try to save £xxxx by the end of the year, or whatever.


• Consider saving a set amount each month by having it sent by standing order from your current account to your savings account a day or two after pay day.


• Maintain a small ‘emergency fund’ for unforeseen necessities such as replacing a broken washing machine, fridge, etc. Then you needn’t eat into your savings or get anything on credit. This only means putting aside about £50 per month. And if several months pass without needing the ‘fund’ then you can transfer it to your savings, or stop paying into it for a while … or treat yourself!


• If you can, invest in property. It may go down slightly in value short term, but only goes one way in the long-term.


• Avoid investing all your money into one scheme … in case it goes belly-up.


• When dealing with all financial matters take great care with your private/confidential information to avoid being the victim of fraud – this includes ensuring your online security.




Food


• When out shopping for food stick to a prepared list – and go with a full belly, or when you’re pressed for time.


• Go grocery shopping without the kids (and, ladies, possibly without the husband, too).


• Shop for groceries online – it always proves to be cheaper, because you aren’t tempted to buy extra stuff you just happen to see on display.


• Buy ‘own brand’ goods – they’re MUCH cheaper.


• Buying fruit & veg ‘loose’ is usually cheaper than buying it pre-packaged.


• Instead of buying ready-made stuff (such as milk shake, custard, jelly, etc.) make them from powders, etc., by just adding water/milk and a bit of effort.


• Use money-off coupons and codes wherever possible.


• Learn to hit the big food stores when they’re knocking down the prices of their bread, etc. – usually in the evening. Loaves bought for pennies can easily be frozen for use many days later. And the ‘reduced to clear’ shelves are full of goods which can easily be frozen to extend their lives.


• Stop buying bottled water; it’s a ridiculous waste of money. Use tap water. Take tap water out on trips using old plastic bottles.


• Avoid vending machines – take snacks/drinks with you on trips. With a little planning you can buy these sorts of goods very cheaply in bulk, and never have the need to use these rip-off contraptions.


• Wash veggies in a bowl rather than under the tap, which wastes 10 litres per minute. A bowl holds 1-2 litres – and can be used to water plants afterwards.


• Eat less junk food/fast food/takeaways – generally, they’re dearer.


• … And if you must, don’t shell out extra cash just to have it delivered!


• Eat less.


• Make your own meals from scratch – and preferably in bulk (and freeze some for later).


• Be aware of expiry dates on perishable goods. Wasting food in this way is shockingly lazy. It helps if you don’t buy too much in the first place, of course.


• Buy non-perishables in bulk from places like Costco – it’ll save you money.


• If you can’t consume food prior to it expiring then freeze it, if possible. Bread, cheese, eggs and milk can all be frozen – but allow them room to expand. Remember that freezing food effectively suspends the “best before” or “use by” date.


• Expiry dates: “Sell By” means the shops have got to shift the goods on by this date in order to bring more stuff in – there is still plenty of time to eat them; “Best Before” means the goods are in their prime before the date, but should be perfectly edible afterwards (though they may not be in perfect condition); “Use By” means the goods will begin to deteriorate afterwards – but you’ve probably still got a little leeway. So don’t just throw stuff out needlessly – just use your common sense. If stored and prepared correctly most stuff will last longer than the label indicates.


• Only defrost as much food as you need. Bread is the classic example.


• Never buy ice-cubes. I mean, how lazy is that? They’re actually remarkably easy to make, you know – and you can always bag them up for future use.


• Pre-cut/shredded food is usually more expensive than ordinary stuff. Guard against such culinary laziness.


• Buy smaller fruit. You can get more small apples, bananas, etc, to the pound/kilo than you can large ones – and this means they’ll last longer.


• Remember that out-of-season fruit/veg will generally be more expensive, so just do without them until their time of the year comes round and the price has gone down.


• Discount warehouse stores (Costco, etc.) are good for all sorts of things, especially food. It is worth considering paying an annual membership fee for the savings you will make.


• Generally, the simpler you eat, the cheaper (and better) you eat.


• Rather than have you or your family (especially the kids) leaving food and wasting it, serve smaller portions.


• Buy ‘dilutable’ pop. It’s better value as it’ll last longer. Fizzies are generally very expensive – keep them as a treat rather than a staple.


• Drink (tap) water with at least some of your meals instead of coffee, tea, pop, wine or beer. Water will, of course, help fill you up so you won’t need as much food.


• It is easy, in some cases, to re-use foil wrap and plastic food bags – usually without even needing to wash them.


• If you’ve the space, grow your own food.


• Carefully research vitamin and other health supplements before buying them. They are expensive and may not do you any good.




Transport


• Keep your car longer before changing it – and never buy new.


• Maintain/service your car regularly. The outlay will prevent more expensive mechanical failure.


• Learn basic car maintenance. The replacing of fluids, for one thing, is easy.


• Drive responsibly and properly – it’ll save you money.


• Switch to a smaller car – the savings can be huge.


• If you only use your car sparingly, consider ditching it and joining a car club (www.carclubs.org.uk).


• Consider car sharing – you know, take turns in giving each other lifts into work.


• See if you can get by with one car per family.


• Wash your own car … and I don’t mean via the carwash.


• Regularly check car tyre pressures – if they’re kept right you’ll use less petrol.


• Lightening the load in your car – and removing the roof-rack – will save on petrol consumption.


• Inconvenienced by a late train/tube? Visit www.traindelays.co.uk and claim compensation.


• Ask for return tickets on public transport instead of buying singles each way. Maybe even a bus pass is worth considering.


• Can you cycle to work? It’s cheaper and it’ll keep you fit.


• Walking to places more frequently instead of using the car/bus is cheaper and better for your health. Anywhere less than two miles can be reached on foot – and, yes, you HAVE got the time. If you feel you haven’t then you need to sort out your life.


• Avoid using taxis whenever possible. Taxis are only for emergencies or when there is absolutely NO alternative.




Domestic


• Wash your own windows.


• Hand-wash dishes.


• If you must use a dishwasher, make sure it’s full.


• When using a dishwasher, air-dry the dishes rather than using the dry cycle.


• When using a washing machine, make sure it’s full.


• Turn the washing machine temperature setting down a notch. 30° will suffice for most things.


• Always hang out your washing to dry whenever possible. Tumble dryers are VERY expensive to run. Even hanging stuff around the house overnight will work for most of your gear.


• Fridges and freezers that are full are more efficient; but OVERfull fridges prevent airflow.


• Use the sun to heat the house whenever possible by leaving curtains & blinds open.


• Use DAYLIGHT rather than artificial light as much as possible.


• Place foil behind radiators (shiny side away from wall) to help cut your energy bills. You can even buy special foil for this purpose.


• Use energy-saving light bulbs.


• Insulate your home. Grants are often available (you may even get it for free).


• Lag pipework that is exposed to freezing temperatures (in garages, etc.) to save on repair bills for burst pipes.


• In the winter, put on an extra layer of clothes and turn the central heating down a notch.


• If you keep your feet warm your body will feel warm.


• Buy energy-efficient appliances.


• Microwave food wherever possible – it’s FAR more energy efficient.


• Don’t put as much detergent in the washing machine – it’s expensive stuff.


• Do a bit of research into using bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) or white vinegar as cleaning solutions – it’s cheaper than the commercially produced cleansers.


• Don’t buy waste bin liners for your small bins; use old carrier bags.


• Showers are cheaper than baths (except power showers).


• Don’t overfill your kettle. Boil what you need.


• Do all the rooms of your home really need to be as well-heated as they are? Even a 1° reduction on your central heating thermostat will make a massive difference to your bills – and consider turning off radiators in rooms you hardly use.


• If you don’t already do so, cut your own lawns.


• Learn how to raise plants from cuttings.


• There are lots of cheap ways to get rid of bugs, etc., in the garden – vinegar has many uses, for one thing.


• Plant perennials in the garden instead of annuals.


• If you live alone, having a water meter fitted will probably save you money.


• A brick in the loo (cistern) saves almost 2,000 litres of water per year.


• Installing/making a rain barrel to provide water for irrigating your plants will save using mains water.


• Use remnant shops for your carpets – or at least for the rooms that are hardly used (i.e. most of them).


• Don’t agree to buy new underlay for your new carpet without first checking if the stuff that’s already there can be re-used. It almost always can.


• When moving house, improving the look of the place plus a bit of simple DIY will get you £1,000s extra in the long run. LOTS of people just can’t be bothered to do this – don’t be one of them.


• Sort out and dump your junk prior to moving house – it’ll save time, money and hassle on the big day.


• If you’ve not got a large house or many possessions, consider moving house yourself with a hired van and some help from a few mates. But this option doesn’t always prove to be cheaper, so take care.




Matches & Hatches


Weddings:


• Use a second-hand dress – or see www.oxfam.org.uk/bridal which sells discounted new, unworn dresses, etc.


• Avoid buying expensive silk-wear, as it creases and looks awful anyway. Synthetic material is cheaper and often looks better.


• Ditch the specialist wedding shops. Try the High Street shops, many of which now have cheap-ish wedding goods (inc. dresses & cakes).


• Pick wildflowers for your bouquets/buttonholes.


• Use balloons, ribbon, lace, white lights, candles, etc., for venue/table decorations instead of expensive flowers.


• Shop around carefully for the reception/party hire venue.


• Trim your guest list. It’s too long!


• Limit the number of bridesmaids/pageboys.


• Make your own invitations/place-cards on your PC.


• Consider having the big day at an ‘off’ time (weekday/winter).


• Above all, don’t get into needless debt just for the sake of your wedding.




Babies:


• Prepare financially for a baby well before the birth.


• Do not give in to shops and companies who try to make you buy all sorts of pointless fancy baby goods. You don’t need them.


• Breastfeed if possible.


• Use cloth nappies – at least partially. Think for a moment how much you’ll save over, say, a two-year period.


• Babies do not need designer outfits.


• Babies do not need two dozen cuddly toys.


• Look into ways of making your own baby food. Liquidising ordinary meals and freezing in small amounts (on ice cube trays) should do the trick.



• Share child-care/baby-sitting duties between friends and relatives – it’s cheaper.


• Don’t forget to take advantage of the government’s Childcare Voucher Scheme, which effectively means that you will be paying less tax.


• Use your imagination to entertain kids instead of the easy, expensive options (e.g. treasure hunts, a trip to the park, etc.). You must take every opportunity to enjoy your kids – and this means spending time with them, not necessarily money.

 


Other Stuff


• Spend an afternoon phoning around for new quotes on essentials such as phone, gas, electric, sky/cable, etc. Consider taking out a combined package which will almost certainly save you money.


• Insurances (house, car, etc.) are sure to creep up over the years if you don’t keep tabs on them. Scrutinise the market every year (comparison websites, etc.) to make sure you get the best deals. An hour or so’s hassle could end up saving you £100 or more.


• Guard against ‘double-insuring’ items. For example, some ‘Home Emergency’ packages may cover some things which are covered by your contents insurance; and many appliances have their own warranties, etc.


• When buying items with which you are not overly familiar use the internet to browse reviews of different models, etc., to avoid dodgy buys.


• When dealing with subscriptions or service providers of any kind, threaten to switch to another company. This often prompts the offer of a special deal.


• Consider giving up subscriptions to movie channels – join a DVD club instead (it’ll probably be cheaper). Better still: rent CDs and DVDs from the library. And do you really need those sports channels?


• Love the cinema? If you must go, time it right. Some periods are cheaper than others.


• Don’t buy books – borrow from the library. If you really must buy one, look online (maybe www.amazon.co.uk ) or try second-hand/charity shops.


• Another avenue for books is www.readitswapit.co.uk . It’s free (bar p&p).


• Take advantage of Tesco Clubcard Deals. You can get up to four times the value of your clubcard points on many deals, saving £100s per year.


• Loyalty cards are fine, but beware store cards that offer CREDIT – they usually charge obscene interest rates. Use them carefully, though, and you can benefit from special offers and discounts.


• Trawl the internet for discount/voucher/promotion codes.


• Want to avoid 0870, etc., telephone numbers? Check out www.saynoto0870.com where you can find alternative contacts for companies using these expensive lines.


• Generally, complain more … and get refunds, credit notes, etc.


• Eat out ONE time less per month – and save at least £15 per family member.


• When eating out, you get more for your cash by going to a help-yourself, all-your-can-eat-for-£x type of establishment.


• Downsize from a PC to a laptop – or even a netbook. They use less power.


• Your printer’s ink cartridge running out? Give it a shake – it will last a bit longer. [Note: guard against using ‘unofficial’ cartridges – the quality is not the same and they can damage your printer].


• Turn the setting on your printer down to ‘economy’ to save ink.


• Print less. You don’t need hard copies of everything.


• Think carefully about taking out or renewing extended warranties. Is it worth paying £50 per annum for something which may only cost £100 or so to replace IF it happens to break down?


• Stop buying newspapers (or drastically cut down) – they’re opinionated and you don’t need them. There are plenty of other free sources for your news fix – most of them unbiased. If you REALLY want to read a newspaper then they’re available for free at the library.


• Cut your electricity bill by 20% by simply switching things off when you’re not using them – preferably at the wall.


• That second annual holiday doesn’t have to be abroad. Stay in the UK, avoid flying and save some cash.


• If you have no children, then holiday out-of-season to save £100’s.


• Expensive hobbies are great indulgences if can afford them; if you can’t, then don’t. There are lots of great FREE hobbies out there, most of them involving getting out and about in the countryside.


• Don’t over-indulge hobbies by buying too many items of over-expensive equipment which you don’t really need. Hiking, biking and camera gear, for example, can be pricey.


• Better still, try to make some money from your hobby.


• Instead of necessarily buying new clothes to keep up with the latest fashions consider going for trendy accessories instead to freshen up your look.


• Go for ‘mix-and-match’ or ‘dual-purpose’ type clothes so that you can switch your look easily and cheaply.


• Avoid buying clothes that need to be dry-cleaned.


• Don’t use your ‘good’ clothes doing mundane things like lazing around the house or doing DIY.


• For all goods kept in tubes (cosmetics, etc.) take a pair of scissors to them to get the dregs out (steady … I think we’re getting too extreme).


• Look after your teeth and avoid those surprising dental bills.


• Learn to treat yourself less expensively. For example, a £30 massage is a good deal cheaper than a £150 item of clothing that you may only ever wear once or twice before getting bored with it. Clothes ‘fashion-buying’ is a major drain on our resources – especially for the ladies. Learn to control it.


• Whenever possible, top-up your suntan outdoors instead of paying for a sun-bed session.


• Go out less. Have social nights IN. If you spend more than £25 on a night out with the lads/girls then you’re not really doing yourself any favours, health-wise or wealth-wise.


• Consider giving up your landline, and just use your mobile. Or maybe do the opposite.


• Look for a cheaper mobile deal. Almost everyone is paying way too much.


• Don’t use directory enquiry services. Try the internet or phone books when searching for a telephone number.


• Consider cheaper ways to communicate rather than the phone – emails, online chat/instant messaging, texts.


• Have a ‘buy nothing’ day every month. Better still: have one every week.


• Have a car boot sale to get rid of some junk … and free up some space.


• Rent out a room. The income is tax free up to about £80 per week. Check out the government rent-a-room scheme. There is also a scheme whereby you can take on an overseas student.


• Rent out spare space: a garage, storage space – even your driveway.


• If you have got a seriously large amount of spare space then maybe you should consider downsizing to a smaller home … and having lower running costs and pocketing a bit of capital and/or lowering the mortgage.


• Don’t impulse buy. Turn away – if you REALLY need or want it, then you can go back and buy it later. You’ll find that you probably won’t bother.


• Avoid buying items at the height of fashion. Even just delaying a little will save you money. Note how quickly the prices of newly-released DVDs come down within a few weeks.


• Get rid of at least some of your magazine subscriptions – you can always read them for free at the library.


• Paying bills such as insurance annually (rather than monthly) may save you money.


• Mutually agree to limits in gift-giving.


• Use ‘re-useables’ whenever possible. Rechargeable batteries are a great example – they cost more to buy, but you save big-time in the long-run. Using throw-away, single-use items usually proves to be more expensive in the long-run.


• Don’t buy an expensive ‘real’ Christmas tree every year. An artificial one looks just as good, and can be reused many times.


• Have a Christmas budget … and stick to it!


• Use £1 ‘discount shops’ for at least the basics in life – though guard against false economies (this is usually down to common sense)


• Use a local college salon to get a free/cheap haircut from a student.


• Look after your pet’s health. A fat cat or dumpy dog will attract hefty vet’s bills.


• Don’t buy ridiculous ‘presents/toys’ for your pets. Empty cardboard boxes or rolled up pieces of paper are far more fun.


• Fix things (inc. clothes) instead of buying new.


• Try learning at least a little DIY; most of the more straight-forward tasks are down to common sense. Tradesmen charge a fortune for the simplest of jobs.


• Use the internet to learn how to do things (simple DIY, fixing stuff, etc.) instead of paying ‘experts’ to do them. The cheapest way to get info or advice is the internet. And it’s nearly always free.


• Decorate your house yourself instead of paying someone else to do it.


• If you think you need a new kitchen then consider freshening it up with new knobs, handles and perhaps new doors. Often the unit carcasses are fine.


• Cutting back from five to one takeaway coffee per week at lunchtimes can save £300 per annum. Making your own coffee is WAY cheaper.


• Quit smoking 20-a-day and save around £2,000 every year. If you must smoke, roll your own – it’s cheaper.


• Quit the £40-a-month gym membership and walk/cycle/jog … for free. You should not have to pay for ANY of your daily exercise.


• Take packed lunches to work and save over £1,000 per annum.


• Consider going on your European holiday by train (see www.raileurope.co.uk ). Or better still: stick to the UK.


• The cheapest of cheap holidays: ‘Wild Camping’ – basically, camping in the wilds of the UK for free. Look up ‘wild camping’ on the internet for tips on the legalities – but it is perfectly do-able.


• If you’re a senior citizen take advantage of all the special rates, etc., there are on offer – a lot of folk don’t.


• Buy your snacks and drinks OUTSIDE the cinema/stadium. Better still, bring your own from home.


• Buy online rather than in-store – it’s almost always significantly cheaper. Even then, shop around the internet, too – an extra 5 minutes of browsing could save another £5, £10 or £50. Just because it’s ‘virtual’ cash it doesn’t mean you should be any less careful in spending it.


• When you’re out shopping in the High Street don’t just buy something you like from the first shop you see it in – shop around. You may even go off it and not bother (good), or find it online back home even cheaper (next best thing).


• Buy stuff out of season; it’s cheaper. For example, buy your gifts for the year in the January sales, or buy holiday gear in October – and buy all those expensive Christmas decorations, etc., after Christmas and pack them away for a few months.


• When buying stuff, consider haggling – especially when the person you’re dealing with has the power to reduce the price (i.e. smaller shops).


• Look after your stuff. Whether it be clothes, equipment, tools (gardening, DIY, work stuff) – anything, in fact – then you’ll not have to replace it as often.


• Want something for nothing? Take a look at www.freecycle.org or www.snaffleup.co.uk


• Think before you buy pets. Can you afford them?


• Think before you have kids. Can you afford them?


• Don’t get divorced/separated (!) – it’ll cost you a fortune.


• And finally: devise a simple way of measuring your saving success. It’ll make you feel good about your efforts!





… And by this time next year you’ll be a millionaire ! … or at least a bit closer



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Note:  The above advice is issued on the condition that the author cannot be held legally responsible for any adverse situations which may arise from following the same.  Please exercise common sense at all times.