Trim some pounds: Some suggestions could literally save you thousands of pounds over the coming year
As the cost of living soars, millions of households are experiencing an unprecedented and uncomfortable financial squeeze.
Making savings to offset rising energy and food bills is therefore very much the order of the day.
Today, assisted by award-winning money journalists Rachel Rickard Straus and Toby Walne, I come up with 50 ways to counter the cost of living crisis. Some suggestions could literally save you thousands of pounds over the coming year.
Not all our ideas will be for you, but you should find something that will help you trim a few pounds off your spending, boost your household income or protect your assets from unnecessary tax.
1 Cancel those direct debits for unused services
Households spend on average £500 a year on subscriptions, according to Barclaycard Payments. So, if there are streaming services, gym memberships or food subscription services you are not getting good use out of, now is the time to ditch them – or to make a note to ditch them ahead of renewal.
The best way forward is to trawl through your bank statements and credit card bills to remind yourself of everything you are paying for. Make sure you terminate your subscription with the provider before cancelling any direct debits as this can be treated as a default on a payment and impair your credit score.
My rule on subscriptions is simple. If more magazines over a subscription period are left unread rather than eagerly devoured upon receipt, I don’t renew. Runner’s World bit the dust as a result of this policy.
A gym membership was also killed off after I realised I was simply using my local gym as a place to change and go for a run outside. Only occasionally would I jump on a fixed bike and pedal away furiously or indulge in a post-run session in the steam room.
2 Share film subscriptions with your household
Make sure you are not doubling up on subscription services in your household. If more than one person has the same subscription, you may be able to share and save some money in the process.
For example, a subscription to music streaming service Spotify costs £9.99 a month, but a ‘duo’ subscription for two people costs £13.99 or for a family with up to six users – £16.99 a month.
Similarly, a Netflix plan for one person costs £5.99, but two people can use it for £9.99 and four if you get a £13.99 premium account. If you share the cost between four, that amounts to £3.50 each.
My view on Netflix is a little more controversial. Why bother if you’ve got access to free-to-use BBC iPlayer, ITV hub (provided you are happy to watch the adverts) and Channel Four (All 4).
As a BBC advert keeps reminding me when I go to my local cinema, there’s a lot of good apolitical drama on BBC iPlayer. And it’s all part of the £159 annual licence fee.
3 Ditch the TV licence
You do not have to throw your TV out of the lounge window – just stop watching live programmes on all the channels and never use BBC iPlayer. This way you can dispense with the £159 annual licence fee, while still being able to enjoy other TV subscription services. Some, such as ITV Player and All 4, are free. Amazon Prime Video is £79 and Netflix starts at £72 a year – half the price of your BBC licence fee.
It’s not for me, but I can understand why many readers would be quite happy to jettison the BBC from their lives.
4 Get movies for free
There is no need to pay for a download or subscription service if you enjoy watching good films. Consider a free trial on websites such as Amazon Prime Video (free for 30 days), or Mubi, Rakuten, or Now (all seven days for free).
As long as you cancel before the trial has ended, you will be able to enjoy the services for free without incurring any costs. Check out the films offered before you sign up to make sure there is something that interests you.
I’m a big lover of cinema – the more independent, the better – so I’m happy to pay to watch a film on a widescreen. But I box clever by taking out an annual membership with Curzon, the cinema group I love the most.
It costs me £285 a year, but it means I can watch as many films as I want and it won’t cost me a penny. So far, Boiling Point and A Hero have been watched – and thoroughly enjoyed. The Duke, Nightmare Alley and The Eyes Of Tammy Faye are on my February radar. If I watch more than 24 films in this calendar year, I’ll be quids in.
5 Stop buying books and become a borrower
Remember libraries? In the new world of next-day Amazon deliveries, Kindles and streaming services, it’s easy to forget that there is a perfectly good, free alternative available in most communities.
Although local councils have been axeing them and trimming back their hours, there are still more than 3,000 libraries in the UK, offering free access to books, music and films.
You can always request an item if your library does not have it, so there is no reason why you can’t use it as a first port of call before spending money.
In Wokingham, Berkshire, where I currently live, I have friends who are avid library users – and are quite excited about the new library that is being built alongside an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It’s a habit I need to take up.
6 Meet friends for a walk
When meeting up with friends and family, it’s easy to fall into costly habits. But if you have, for example, a friend who you normally meet for lunch, why not suggest a walk instead.
Or, if you go to the pub or for dinner with friends, you could suggest meeting at one of your homes instead – everyone can bring a dish or a bottle and you can then share the cost.
You may find friends are grateful for a change of scene and a cheaper alternative to dining out.
7 Ease off on the accelerator
Putting your foot down hard on the accelerator is a real gas-guzzler. Driving smoothly in a high gear while sticking within the speed limit can knock 25 per cent off your fuel bill and can save the average motorist £300 a year.
You can also cut petrol costs by making sure your tyres are pumped up, turning off the air conditioning, and losing extra weight by emptying the car boot of stuff you don’t need.
8 Find the right petrol pump for cheap fuel
Use the PetrolPrices mobile phone app or website to find the cheapest stations where you can fill up. It can save you £10 on the cost of a full tank of petrol. Supermarkets tend to offer the lowest prices while motorway service stations are the most expensive.
9 Park on a stranger’s drive (but do ask)
Avoid rip-off charges levied by cash-strapped local councils and private car park operators by hunting down a free or cheaper spot. The JustPark mobile phone app will provide a list of parking prices and availability in your area.
Website Park On My Drive lists homeowners who are willing to let drivers use their parking spot for a cheaper fee than on-street parking or nearby car parks.
The savings available will range from a few pounds if you use this option every now and again to hundreds of pounds a year if you switch from using an expensive car park daily.
10 Rent out your own drive or charger
You can use the same online resources to rent out your own driveway or garage space. You can typically charge around £6 a day or £120 a month.
If you own an electric car, you could also make money by renting out your charger to neighbours. Use apps such as Co Charger or JustPark to manage bookings.
If you have four drivers using your charger, each driving 7,800 miles a year, you could make around £470 a year, according to Co Charger.
11 You’re never too old to buy a railcard
Railcards for cheaper travel are not just for young people. There are nine different railcards, so there is a good chance there is one for you.
Railcards tend to cost around £30 and are valid for a year, but with rail prices as high as they are it’s often possible to make your money back in just one or two trips.
As well as railcards for younger and older travellers, there are some available for veterans, two named people travelling together and families.
If you live in the South East, don’t forget the Network Railcard. It gives you 30 per cent off travel between destinations such as London, Reading, Brighton and Portsmouth – and anyone is eligible to purchase one. A Network Railcard typically pays for itself within three journeys.
If you are savvy, you can even max out the years on your travel card. For example, if you buy a three-year 16 to 25 travelcard on the day before your 24th birthday, you will have it until you reach the age of 27.
I have a senior railcard for my sins, but I use it regularly at the weekend to travel up to watch West Bromwich Albion get beaten The savings I make don’t deaden the pain of another footballing defeat, but watching WBA get beat on the cheap is better than watching them lose and paying the earth for the privilege.
12 Swap the accelerator for real pedal power
If I can, I walk or cycle. It’s all part of my 10,000 steps-a-day challenge – a challenge that I’ve kept going for 361 days.
When I get off the train in London of a morning, I walk or cycle rather than endure Sadiq Khan’s creaking underground. If I do a park run on a Saturday, I always walk the four miles there rather than drive. If I go shopping, again I walk rather than drive. It’s a good cost control mechanism too, because it limits my shopping to two bags.
13 Sell your treasure trove of junk
The average household has £400 worth of unused junk lying around their homes or sitting in a spare room or attic. Internet auction websites such as eBay provide a marketplace for absolutely everything – and that includes the rubbish cluttering up your home.
To be successful, do not be greedy and always include details of any damage or faults with plenty of photos. For eBay you do not need to pay a listing fee but you will typically pay 12.8 per cent of the final cost including postage plus a 30p charge.
14 Store someone else’s junk for them
Once you have cleared out all that clutter you may have a spare room, loft space or garage to rent to someone who wants to store their own excess possessions. Websites such as Storenextdoor can be used to advertise a single garage space for £25 a week.
World of opportunity: A number of online marketplaces now allow you to sell your skills online
15 Turn your skills into cash online
A number of online marketplaces now allow you to sell your skills online, such as teaching a musical instrument, designing websites, tutoring or translating. Websites include Fiverr, Tutorful, Udemy and MyTutor. Rates vary by website and skill, but earnings with MyTutor, for example, are up to £20 an hour.
16 Go ‘swishing’ (that’s swapping items)
Swap clothes, shoes, accessories and household items with friends and acquaintances – sometimes known as ‘swishing’.
Your unloved items find an appreciative home and you get something that you want in return. Websites such as Swishing and Streetbank offer help with swapping events. You could also borrow items rather than splashing out for new. Streetbank also offers this service and if you live in London you may be near a Library of Things centre, which allow members to borrow items such as strimmers, sewing machines and steam cleaners.
17 Make money sitting in front of the TV
Could you complete some surveys while watching the television or listening to the radio? Realistically, you won’t make a lot of money per hour, but if you’re doing it while relaxing or watching TV, you may not mind.
Options include Crowdology, Ipsos iSay and Swagbucks. You can earn anything from a few pence to a few pounds completing surveys and payment is made in cash or vouchers.
Some companies require you to earn a minimum sum before you cash out, so make sure you’re happy with this arrangement.
18 Sell an old mobile, even if it’s broken
Make money from old handsets that you no longer use – you can even sell broken ones. You can get more than £200 for some of the newest handsets, but even older ones could make you a few pounds. Plus it helps clear the clutter from the kitchen drawer. Check websites such as SellMyMobile, Magpie and Recycle My Smartphone.
19 Switch to filter coffee
If you can’t bear to relinquish your daily shop-bought coffee, choose a cheaper option.
For example, filter coffee tends to be cheaper than a latte or cappuccino. Some coffee shops give you a discount if you bring your own cup.
If you buy a coffee from the same place, you may save money with a subscription or loyalty card or app – check what yours offers.
I tend to go to Coffee 1 in Wokingham because if I use my app, I build up loyalty points which result in an occasional free drink. A piccolo tastes that little bit better when it is free.
20 Save £1,000 over your lunchtime
Make sandwiches for lunch at the office rather than buying a pre-packed meal. It sounds a chore until you realise it can save you £1,000 a year.
Alternatively, consider sandwich special offers, such as a £3 Tesco or £3.39 Boots meal deal (£3.99 in London and at airports) – which includes a sandwich, snack and drink that can cost £3 more if purchased separately.
I often bring in a packed lunch to work – toasted sourdough, blueberries, tomatoes; anything I can find in my fridge of a morning when I’m still half asleep and keen to get the first train out of Wokingham.
Sometimes, I eat it too early and then it’s a struggle to last until the evening. But it does save money
21 Always be polite to waiters
Of course, eating at home is cheaper than going to a restaurant. But if you wish to eat out you can still keep costs down. Ask for tap, not bottled, water. Search online for discount vouchers for the restaurant you plan to visit. Ask to take your leftovers home, so you get another meal out of them the following day.
And be polite and civil. It’s amazing how many restaurants will give you a free drink if you’re courteous or prepared to be flexible. One evening recently, I was given a bottle of Limoncello for agreeing to sit with someone who I didn’t know from Adam. I skipped out of the restaurant.
If you eat out a lot, you may save money buying a restaurant discount card such as Tastecard, Gourmet Society or Dine Club. Most offer a free trial, so try one for a month and see if you get value out of it – and if not, cancel before it starts to charge you.
22 Haggle on your broadband
Insurers, broadband and phone providers rarely offer you their best prices automatically. When a deal comes to an end, use a price comparison website to shop around for a cheaper one.
If you want to stay with your existing provider, phone and ask them to give you a better price. More often than not, they will oblige. In normal times, shopping around for a cut-price energy deal is a must, but due to the energy price crisis you are likely to be best off sticking with your existing provider where you are protected (to an extent) by the price cap.
23 Never pay for insurance monthly
When you buy car, home or other types of annual insurance, you are usually given the choice of paying upfront or in monthly instalments. Choosing the former can save you hundreds of pounds.
This is because if you pay monthly, you are effectively entering into a credit agreement with your insurer – and they will charge you interest for the privilege.
Paying upfront on your car insurance can save you over £200 on average, according to comparison website MoneySuperMarket. Despite this, half of motorists choose the more expensive monthly option.
24 Beat the loyalty con trick
Don’t believe all the hot air about loyal customers no longer being stung for higher premiums as a result of new rules introduced by City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority.
In theory, the rules should save loyal customers £4billion over the next ten years in lower premiums. But it’s a figure plucked out of the sky.
Premiums are going through the roof – so the only way to combat them is by either shopping around for cheaper cover elsewhere, or by finding a lower quote from your existing insurer as a new customer (these deals still exist) and then challenge them to lower your renewal premium.
25 Get paid every time you shop
Websites such as TopCashback and Quidco reward you with free money when you are shopping online. TopCashback says its members make £345 a year on average. Before making a purchase online, check whether they feature on your cashback website.
If so, click through from that site first, and the cashback will be added to your account a few days or weeks later.
Cosy: A hot water bottle takes away the shock of getting into a cold bed
26 Fill a hot water bottle at bedtime
My heating has long switched off for the night when I hit the sack – and the hot water bottle takes away the shock of getting into a cold bed.
I’ve had mine for years, call it Tara (don’t ask).
If I was buying a new one today, I would go for the Boots Keep Cosy Hot Water Bottle. It costs £13.99 and gets you 52 points on your Boots card.
27 Free cash for each pound you save
The Government wants us to save for retirement and has a number of schemes to incentivise us to do so. Make sure you take advantage of all the free cash available.
For example, Help to Save is a savings account that gives people on low incomes a bonus of 50p for every £1 they save over four years.
You can save between £1 and £50 each calendar month and you will receive a bonus at the end of the second and fourth years that the account is open. For more details, go to gov.uk/get-help-savings-low-income.
28 Try roast chicken instead of lamb
Grocery prices have risen across the board, but more at some supermarkets than others. So it still pays to shop around.
Last year, for example, prices at Waitrose increased the most while Tesco and Sainsbury’s kept a lid on price increases – more so than Lidl and Aldi did.
Wing and a prayer: Last year the cost of lamb rose by 4.1 per cent, but chicken by just 0.3 per cent
While inflation is rising in general, the cost of some products is increasing faster than others so it could pay to make some switches in food choice.
For example, last year the cost of lamb rose by 4.1 per cent, but chicken by just 0.3 per cent; margarine rose by 6.7 per cent, but butter by 2.4 per cent; wine by 2.2 per cent and beer by 0.1 per cent.
At this time of year I can’t think why anyone would want to buy any flowers for the home other than daffodils. At £1 a bunch, they’re a steal.
29 Don’t forget the Lifetime Isa
It’s a tax-free savings account that gives you a Government bonus when you save towards your first home or retirement.
You can save up to £4,000 a year and receive a bonus of 25 per cent (£1,000). To be eligible for an account you must be aged between 18 and 39. For further details, go to gov.uk/lifetime-isa.
30 Lock into your mortgage rate now!
Remortgaging is likely to be the single biggest measure you can take to reduce your household bills. Borrowers could save nearly £5,000 over two years by switching from their lender’s standard variable rate to a new two-year fixed deal, according to analysis from credit reference agency Experian and L&C Mortgages.
Fixing also gives you certainty over your payments, which could prove especially valuable as interest rates continue to rise.
The amount you could save will of course depend on the size of your mortgage and the length of its term. There are still cheap deals around, but they may not last as interest rates rise.
Speak to the likes of L&C Mortgages on 0808 292 0724 or visit landc.co.uk.
31 Turn down your thermostat a little
You could save £100 a year on your heating bill by doing this. You may not even feel any difference – most families are happy with a setting somewhere between 18 and 21 degrees, but you may need it warmer if there are elderly or infirm people living with you. Avoid the temptation to turn up your thermostat to heat a cold room – it will not heat it any faster.
32 Block chimneys to banish draughts
Reducing how much heat escapes from your home is an easy way to cut your energy costs. You can buy draught excluders or chimney balloons to deal with chimneys that are not in use. However, an old pillow may also be able to do the job.
Seal gaps in window frames and cracks in floors and use draught excluders on the bottom of doors. These simple steps could save you around £35 a year.
33 Run cooler washes
Washing your clothes at a lower temperature can shave a few pounds off your energy bills every year. Detergents are now designed to wash just as effectively at 30 degrees Celsius so it shouldn’t affect the cleanliness of clothes.
34 Wear a thermal woolly vest
A £25 secret weapon in the fight against the bitter cold of winter – and soaring energy bills. A soft merino wool blend vest adds a layer to keep your body insulated. By helping to keep you feeling toasty, a vest may enable you to turn the heating down a notch without feeling the cold, helping to slash around £100 off your annual energy bill.
35 Update your light bulbs
Modern LED bulbs use 90 per cent less electricity than traditional incandescent lights and last ten times longer.
A 50-watt traditional bulb left on for eight hours a day will consume 146 kilowatt hours in a year – perhaps adding £23 to your annual energy bill.
That means buying a £5 LED bulb should save you £20 a year.
36 Go easy on using the tumble dryer
The average tumble drier uses five kilowatt hours of electricity to dry a full load of damp clothes – at a cost of £1.
For families drying three loads a week this could add up to more than £150 over the year. Dodging the rain and hanging out clothes on a washing line or a clothes horse is free.
However, if hanging clothes indoors, make sure there is plenty of ventilation to avoid problems with condensation and mould.
37 Bleed your radiators and keep them clear
Air often gets trapped inside radiators, preventing warm water from circulating and making them less efficient and more expensive to run. Bleeding radiators resolves this issue.
Energy supplier SSE has a guide on how to do it at sse.co.uk/help/ home-services/bleeding-a-radiator.
Also, make sure there is nothing hanging on – or placed in front of – your radiators as this can make them less efficient.
Food for thought: The average family of four spends £25 a month on bread, but you can cut this bill to £10 baking your own loaves
38 Bake your own bread
The cost of bread has risen by 27 per cent over the past year to an average of £1.37 a loaf. Yet the cost of the ingredients – flour, water, butter, yeast, sugar and salt – and the cost of baking, add up to less than 50p.
Kneading dough and baking is easy – but check out tutorials on the website YouTube if you need practical guidance.
The average family of four spends £25 a month on bread, but you can cut this bill to £10 baking your own loaves.
39 Play your store cards right
I love the Boots Advantage card which gives you four points for every £1 you spend. Each point is worth a penny and the points add up – especially if you make an occasionally expensive purchase such as some aftershave or perfume.
The Waterstones card awards you a point for every £10 you spend. Once you’ve got ten points, you get £10 off your next book purchase.
It keeps me away from Amazon and its click and collect service means that books I can’t find at my local Waterstones are delivered to it if I want to order and pick it up a little later on.
40 Unsubscribe from mailing lists
Retailers now routinely ask for email addresses when you make a purchase, or offer you a discount if you sign up to their newsletter.
But all this does is increase temptation. It can be hard to ignore a notification about an ‘unmissable’ sale at your favourite shop.
To avoid extra spending, unsubscribe from the lot.
Hang in there: Remove your payment details so that you have to enter them every time you buy something
41 Don’t store card details online
Retailers make it as easy as possible to shop on their websites. One way they do this is by storing customers’ bank details so they don’t even have to enter them when making a purchase.
However, friction in the payment process can be enough to slow you down and question whether you really need what you’re about to pay for.
Remove your payment details so that you have to enter them every time you buy something.
42 Go incognito when browsing the web
When you search for a potential purchase online, that information is often stored on your web browser and you are then sent adverts enticing you to buy it.
However, if you do your shopping research in an incognito window – a special type of window that does not record what you have been searching for or reading online – your browser does not know what you’ve been looking at and so you will not receive tempting, personalised adverts.
43 Don’t check out online immediately
When shopping online, put the item in your shopping basket, but then wait at least 24 hours before completing the transaction. This has two benefits. One, having slept on it you may realise you don’t need or want it that badly after all. And two, sometimes the retailer will see the item in your shopping basket and offer you a discount to coax you into buying it.
44 Ask for a price match in store
Haggling is often thought of as something done in markets. But you’d be surprised how many high street retailers will drop their prices if you ask. See if you can find the item cheaper online and then ask them to price match. Or simply ask if that is the cheapest price they can offer or if there are any further offers or discounts available. It doesn’t always work, but there is nothing to lose in trying.
Occasionally, I haggle if I have brought in more than a dozen shirts to get dry cleaned at the excellent Country Cleaners And Cobbler in Wokingham. Sometimes, James and Peter relent and give me a small discount. They keep my business as a result.
45 Shop at the wrong time of year
The cheapest time to shop is always just after an event has ended. If you can afford to, stock up on Christmas cards, decorations, and wrapping paper in January, on summer clothes at the beginning of autumn – and buy Valentine’s Day cards later this month for use next year.
46 Claim cash you are entitled to
Millions of households miss out on boosts to their income that they do not realise they are due. Retirees on low incomes may be eligible for pension credit, help with energy bills, housing costs and prescription costs.
Carers may be able to claim a carer’s allowance while parents who are not working may be able to claim for years towards their National Insurance record, boosting the state pension they eventually receive. People who live alone may be eligible for a discount on council tax bills. Go to gov.uk/benefits-calculators to check if you are eligible for anything you do not currently receive.
Money in the bank: Every penny counts
47 Use all of your tax breaks
We have lots of allowances that shelter our savings and investments from the taxman. Use them. For example, if you have investments held outside a tax-friendly Isa or pension, consider an arrangement called ‘bed and Isa’. This means shares held outside an Isa are sold and then immediately repurchased inside your Isa. Although there are charges involved – including stamp duty – it results in more of your portfolio sitting inside a tax-friendly wrapper. The amount of shares sold and rebought under a bed and Isa is limited by the £20,000 annual Isa allowance.
Also, if you are married or in a civil partnership, consider the inter-spousal transfer of shares and funds. By doing this, it means couples then have financial assets in their own names and can use separate annual capital gains tax allowances (£12,300) to mitigate any tax on
48 And track down old pensions
We change jobs around 11 times during our working lives on average. With all that chopping and changing it can be easy to lose track of our pensions. There are around 1.6million pensions worth around £19.4billion that have gone unclaimed. Yet, they are not hard to track down. Go to gov.uk/find-pensioncontact-details or phone the Pension Tracing Service on 0800 731 0193.
49 Include your oven in a deep clean
Giving your home a good early spring clean can help reduce your energy bills. A clean oven door will stop the temptation to open it and check on your cooking, losing heat in the process.
A defrosted freezer and limescale-free kettle require less energy to work efficiently. Cleaning light fixtures and bulbs may render them brighter, and require fewer of them to be switched on to light up a room.
Added together, these steps could shave a few pounds off your annual energy bill.
50 Give old furniture a new lease of life
Join the modern craze of upcycling – in other words turning tatty junk into something of value. With a tool kit, lick of paint, varnish and imagination, you can save a fortune on new furniture by turning old pieces destined for the scrapheap into things of beauty.
For inspiration check out websites such as wikiHow and DIY Doctor – or look for tips on YouTube. If you master the upcycling art, you can even sell your works of genius on handcrafts trader Etsy.
- We would love to hear your top money-saving tips. Email [email protected]. We’ll publish the best of your ideas next week.
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