Most businesses carry out audits of their finances, and individuals should too. It's something most of us aren't taught in school, but it is a valuable skill.
All of us have monthly outgoings, but the key to getting into a good financial position is obviously to have less monthly outgoings than income. It is a common problem to spend more than you actually earn and if you are finding yourself in financial difficulty this is something you need to address immediately, because it isn't sustainable.
Here are 20 ways to save money that are relatively simple to do.
By setting yourself a budget it will be clear to see how much you are spending and how much you have coming in each month. This will make the areas you need to spend less on easier to see and enable you assess whether you can make certain purchases.
The Money Advice Service has a budget planner which can be filled out in 5 minutes and tells you how much money you have left after bills.
It can be easy for us to be complacent with our mortgages, sometimes we might think we have a good deal when in fact there is a better one out there. It can seem like it's a hassle to speak to your provider about changing your rate to a lower one or looking around for another deal, but it could save you possibly hundreds of pounds each month.
There are websites that will compare the most up to date mortgages from different providers so you can see how much you could save. Of course this will only apply if you are not tied into a current mortgage deal.
Search Google for mortgage comparison and you will find plenty of websites to help you find a better deal.
When you do your shopping, make sure you know what you need to buy before you go into the shop. Write out a list of the essentials that you need, and make sure it really is the essentials. The problem with not planning your shopping is that you are more likely to make impulse purchases when you are in the shop and spend more.
Most shops will try to entice you to buy things that you probably don't need when you are there, so making a list and then sticking to that when you are shopping is the most sensible approach to saving money.
Here are some great tips for writing a shopping list.
When it comes to both clothes and food shopping, opt for the cheaper brands. Designer labels are mainly just badges, there are often much cheaper versions of a piece of clothing from an online retailer or even another High Street shop. There is very little reason to spend hundreds of pounds more just because a piece of clothing has a certain label.
When you shop for food, often the very same item as a well-known brand can be found in the supermarkets own brand range at a cheaper price.
A survey from Trading Standards found that there was no difference between supermarket brands and more expensive versions of the same product. In the study the results showed that some of the testers preferred the cheaper brands to the more expensive options.
You could sell anything that you have lying around that you don't need. Ebay is a great place to do this or you could try car boot sales. You might be surprised how much cash you can raise with the goods you have lying around your house. If you have any debts this cash could help you start to chip away at paying these off.
You don't need to go any further than this article for some easy ways to make some extra money quickly.
Instead of that pricey takeaway or restaurant meal, you could cook it at home for a fraction of the price. Just search for a recipe you want online and buy the ingredients at a supermarket.
You can replicate just about any dish you can find in a takeaway yourself, and probably give it the added bonus of making it healthier.
Of course you need to treat yourself sometimes and eat out, but if you need to save money this is a good way to cut costs.
The BBC has some excellent recipes to help you recreate some of your favourite takeaway meals at home, and it's quite easy to do.
If you have debt on a credit card you are likely to be paying a very high rate of interest. Move your debt over to a 0% balance transfer card so you are not accumulating interest charges, and any payments you make to the card are paying off the remaining balance without interest.
Other loans can be cheaper than credit cards too, look around for the best deals to move your debt to. In the end however the best action is to make every effort to pay off your debt at the earliest possible opportunity, taking out loans to pay off other loans is not advised.
Citizens Advice explains in this article what the various costs of credit cards are, and you can see that if you can, it is best to pay your card off as quickly as possible to avoid the costs building up.
Shop when prices are at their lowest and the shops have sales. Most shops have sales twice a year or more. Consider waiting for the sales to start to buy something, you might be able to pick up a bargain because you waited.
If you see an item in a shop you can also look it up online to see if you can find it cheaper. You can find it there and then on your mobile phone and compare prices in different shops. Online price comparison sites can also be an easy way to compare prices online.
This infographic shows when the best time of the year is to buy various products or services. It's dated from 2014 but it's valid for just about any year. If you really want to save money, use this schedule as a guide.
Do you really need that state of the art phone and expensive monthly package? Sometimes if you move to a pay as you go SIM and don't upgrade your phone, you can pay a very small amount monthly compared to many of the pay monthly deals. Phone companies rely on people wanting to upgrade to the latest handset and locking them into a 24 month contract as soon as their old contract expires. You don't need to be one of the people that over pays.
Gyms can be expensive and in many cases unnecessary. Anyone can jog around their local area or buy some cheap weights to lift at home. The cost of buying weights is far more cost effective in comparison to the monthly outlay for a gym. There are even books you can buy that show you how to effectively work out at home using every day household items.
There are also many workouts you can do just using your bodyweight instead of weights. Many fitness experts swear by this and rarely use weights themselves.
This might not be possible for everyone but if you do have the ability to cycle or walk to work this could save you quite a lot of money each month. Commuting can be expensive because you do it every time you go to work, when you add up these costs it can be a significant amount. Saving on this could make a big difference to your monthly expenditure.
If you drive to work, read our guide to saving money on your motoring costs.
Instead of buying a ready-made lunch every lunch time, if you actually make your own sandwiches you can save money each month. Even if you are spending £3.50 each day, in a five day week that's £17.50 saved already. By making your own lunch you can spend much less than this and still eat well.
You will find that as an added bonus you can eat healthier food if you do this because often ready prepared food can be the most unhealthy.
It does get tempting to book an expensive holiday in the sun on a credit card or personal loan but that might only cause you money problems in the short term. Holidays should only really be paid for if the money is available, as they are a luxury that isn't always necessary.
If you do have the cash to go on holiday, there is no need to book a package with a travel company, you can put together your own holiday for a much cheaper price. It will take a bit more time but the cost savings should be significant. If you don't have children or aren't a school teacher, taking holidays when the schools are back will also be cheaper.
Google is a great place to start doing your research for cheaper holidays. Look for cheap flights and special offers for hotels and apartments. If you are flexible about the dates of your travel you can really find some good deals.
Do you have a skill or an interest that you can use to earn bit of extra cash on the side? Even if it's something like dog walking or cleaning, this could potentially earn you a bit extra every month and make your outgoings seem a little less daunting.
Advertise your services in local newspapers or online and see what kind of response rate you get. You might even find that you can make some significant income from it.
You could also rent a room in your house to earn some extra money. Read more about the Government's Rent a room scheme here.
The internet has allowed many people to start businesses cheaply online. The overheads are low and you can make an income from any location, providing you have an internet connection and a computer.
If you have a loan that has any kind of interest rate, every month that you have it you are paying more. Try to overpay on all your debts so that you clear them quickly. This goes for every loan that you have, whether it's your mortgage, or debt that has built up on a credit card.
Try to avoid only making the minimum payment on your credit card each month as it will take you a long time to pay the whole balance back. Pay off more than the minimum payment if you can and you will see the debt shrink quicker.
If you buy your Christmas presents at times of the year other than Christmas you will be able to save money. Although shops seem to offer sales around Christmas time, you can often find more bargains earlier on in the year and some of the most in demand Christmas presents will be cheaper then. Retailers generally won't discount items that are in demand and selling well, however the summer is when there are less shoppers about and they are more likely to offer big discounts to entice people to buy.
You will also avoid the crowds in the shops at Christmas and be able to spend some time enjoying the time of year, rather than worrying about buying presents.
Sometimes rather than having the goal of just saving money, you might find it more motivating to set a goal of a certain amount you want to save. This way you can measure your progress towards that goal and motivate yourself even more to achieve it.
If you don't have a goal you might feel like you aren't as focused and so don't have the will to save as much as you might have otherwise.
If it just seems impossible to save, start a spending diary. Write down everything you spend money on, and this means even the smallest thing. You might find that the smaller items you are buying are adding up each month.
If after you have worked out your budget you find that there is enough left over to save, then you could set up an automatic transfer by your bank into your savings account. If you do this you will be less tempted to spend the money you have left over and your savings will increase quicker.
Be realistic about the amount you set for this. If you set it at an amount that is too high, you will struggle with day to day bills. If you set it too low you will be underwhelmed by the amount you save and will be more likely not to bother in the future.
Check that you are claiming all the financial benefits from the government that you can. Especially if you are on a low income you might find that you are entitled some benefits that you didn't know about. The Money Advice Service website will be able to help you find out what you are entitled to claim.
Benefits are there for a reason, to help you out if you have a low income, so if you qualify for them and need more money then it is best to take them.