By Jack Sheppard - Last updated:
With average household debt increasing every year, it’s clear that many people struggle to keep track of their personal finances. Whilst many are acutely aware of their larger monthly expenditures, such as rent, mortgage and bills, they don’t realise that their day-to-day spending could also be slowly eating away at their wallet. However, by learning how to live on a budget, and ensuring that you count your pennies, you could make huge savings each month!
The following tips for saving money are simple and by applying just a few of them, you can ensure that you stop needlessly overspending.
- Write a shopping list and stick to it!
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s so easy to buy things you don’t really need when doing your weekly shop. To avoid this, plan your meals for the week in advance, and write a list of the ingredients you need. This way, you ensure that you only buy the things you need, and don’t waste money on those three extra pizzas you’ll never eat!
- Beware of special offers
Price reductions can be great, but they also convince you to buy stuff you don’t need. Simply put, if you don’t need it, don’t buy it, no matter how good a deal it seems!
Similarly, don’t pay for more than you need if you’re buying perishables. If you only need a chicken, don’t pay for an extra one just because you’ll get a third free. Not only are you paying more for food that you don’t need, but that extra chicken will have gone off within a week, before you have time to eat it. Having said that though...
- Stockpile Non-Perishables
Whilst buying more than you need is a terrible idea when buying perishables, the opposite is true of non-perishables. If you’re buying something that doesn’t go off, or won’t go off for months, there’s no reason you can’t stockpile it and save it for later, if it’s on special offer. Although it will cost more in the short term, it could save you tonnes further down the road.
- Bigger doesn't always mean better
If you need a lot of something, it’s not necessarily cheaper to go for the bigger package. Instead, check the price per unit, which is often found in small print underneath the main price. The cheaper the price per unit, the better value for money the product. This is because people assume that the bigger packages will automatically be better value for money, so supermarkets tend to give these a higher price per unit.
- Use own brand goods
This age old tip could save you a tonne on your weekly shopping bill. Not only are supermarket own brand goods cheaper than their branded counterparts, they often taste better. Supermarketownbrandguide.co.uk is run by food critic Mark Isark. The site compares and reviews the own brand counterparts of branded products, from many of the country’s leading supermarkets, including Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, to find out which supermarket equivalent you should go for.
- Shop Online
Many supermarkets offer discounts for new online shopping customers, for example Sainsbury’s occasionally offers new customers £15 off when you spend over £60. Not only can you make the most of these deals by switching between supermarkets, but it’ll also stop impulse buys, as you can’t see everything on display as you shop.
- Price Match Promises and Coupons
Many of the major supermarkets now price match on certain branded goods, so you’re always guaranteed to get the best price! The exact terms of these price matches vary from supermarket to supermarket. For example, Tesco takes the difference off at the till, whereas Sainsbury’s give you a voucher to spend on your next shop. More details can be found here.
Supermarket coupons are also a great way to save money. Not only can they give you huge savings at the checkout, the discounts are usually tailor-made to what you usually buy. There have been reports of people buying an entire hundred pound shop using coupons. Be careful though, they normally expire within a week!
- Live out of your cupboards for a week
If the tips above still aren’t saving you enough, you could try not spending anything at all! It’s not uncommon for people to stock pile frozen and dried food for when you can’t be bothered to cook, but how often do you actually come around to using them? Instead of buying new food every week, once in a while, try clearing your cupboards out and eating whatever you’ve been hauling. The savings will be massive, and although it may not be the healthiest food, you’ll be surprised what you could make!
If you do struggle for ideas though, supercook.com gives thousands of great recipe ideas, using ingredients that are commonly found in your kitchen cupboard!
- Make the most of free school meals
This one is kind of self-explanatory, but if you your child is in Reception, Year One or Year Two, they can get a hot meal at lunchtime for free. Not only will this save you money, but also the hassle of making them a packed lunch every day.
You may wonder about the quality and healthiness of these meals, but with new laws requiring school meals contain at least two portions of fresh fruit or vegetables, high quality meat or fish, and forbidding foods and drinks with added sugar, you can rest easy knowing that your child isn’t just being fed unhealthy stodge every day.
- Voucher codes
With voucher websites like Vouchercloud and Groupon offering discounts and deals at both chain and local restaurants, there’s no reason to ever pay full price when eating out. Although using vouchers may mean that you need to book in advance, and you won’t necessarily have access to the full menu, you’ll still get a great meal at just a fraction of the price!
- Drink tap water
All UK establishments that serve alcohol are legally required to offer tap water for free, so instead of shelling out for a tiny, overpriced bottle of spring water, just ask for a jug of tap water to go with your meal if you’re the designated driver.
- Use cash
It’s very easy to get carried away with your card when you’re drinking, and it’s only when you check your account the next morning that you realise that that round of drinks you bought for everyone cost a lot more than you originally thought. To avoid frivolous spending, take cash out beforehand and don’t spend any more than you have with you! Not only will it make you more conscious of what you’re spending, but you’ll avoid any unnecessary surcharges.
- Cheap cinema tickets
Everyone agrees that cinema tickets are extortionately priced these days, but they don’t have to be. Many cinemas now offer a cheap night once a week, where you can get tickets for a lot less, or else, if you have a day off work, matinee showings are also usually a lot cheaper.
Meerkat Movies also give you 2 for 1 on cinema tickets on a Tuesday and Wednesday if you have bought your insurance through comparethemarket.com. But even if you haven’t, you can usually find discount vouchers online!
- Days out
It can be hard to decide what to do all day when the kids are off school, but there’s no need to splash out a fortune just to entertain them. Many museums, particularly in the capital, offer free entry, and they will also put on activities during the summer, so it doesn’t just feel like another school trip.
But if there are no free attractions near you, many theme parks and attractions also have discounted tickets if you book in advance or during quieter times of year, and again, Groupon and other discount websites will often have deals for cheaper tickets.
It’s all very well saving money on trips out, but it means nothing if you then have to fork out £6 an hour on parking. Justparking.com allows you to rent a driveway or private parking space for a lot less than at a car park, often just down the road from your destination.
Similarly, if you have a driveway that you don’t use, the site is a great way to make a little extra cash at no extra inconvenience to you. The only problem is that it charges you per day, so if you only need to park up for a couple of hours, this may not be your best option.
More or less everyone knows that you can save money on the train by booking your journey in advance, but there are many other ways to save money. If three or more adults are going on a journey together, you can often get a discount if you book together, even on the day you travel!
Rail cards can also save you a third off your journey, and there are plenty that you can use, most costing £30 a year. For example the two together rail card offers you a third off ticket prices when you’re travelling with your partner. The Family and Friends railcard also offers a 60% discount for under 15s, and up to four adults to get a third off their fare. You don’t even need to be related to the people you’re travelling with!
- Petrol prices
With petrol prices being one of the biggest inconveniences in modern life, websites such as petrolprices.com help you save money by finding the cheapest petrol available within travelling distance, and you’ll be surprised how cheaply you can find it if you shop around! Bear in mind though, that you may waste more fuel travelling to a cheaper petrol station than sticking to your local one.
- Shop around for utility suppliers and insurance
Don’t automatically renew your insurance each year or stay with the same utility providers without checking the prices of the competition. Many providers take it for granted that their customers will not look elsewhere, and so give you an inexplicable price rise. Instead, shop around and see how much other suppliers will charge you.
It’s very easy now with the large number of price comparison websites on the web, and even if you don’t want to change provider, your current one will often price match or lower their price if you tell them you’ve found a cheaper price elsewhere.
- Mobile phone contracts
Mobile phone payments are probably most people’s biggest monthly expense outside of bills, however it doesn’t have to be. Instead of getting the brand new iPhone as soon as your contract ends, keep your current phone for a year or two and get a SIM-only contract. Not only will you pay a lot less, but the data packages are often a lot more lucrative!
However, maybe you don’t need a contract at all. It may seem old fashioned, but if you barely use your phone, you’ll probably be better off switching to a pay-as-you-go SIM. That way, you’ll only be paying for what you need, and won’t be wasting you money on something you barely use.
- Gym membership
How many times have you been to the gym since you started your contract? Once? Twice? That’s exactly why gyms make you sign up for a year’s membership at a time; so they can continue to take your money even after you’ve given up on your New Year’s resolution.
Instead, of signing up for a contract you won’t use, look around for gyms that offer membership without forcing you to sign a long contract. Puregym and EasyGym offer a monthly contract, allowing you to cancel any time with no extra charge, and FitnessFirst offers a pay-as-you go system, allowing you to sign up for multiple sessions in advance, and use them whenever suits you. There are also many other deals available locally if you look around!
- TV contracts
Is it really worth paying that extra £20 a month for those extra five hundred channels you never watch? All TVs now come with Freeview fitted as standard, giving you access to over a hundred free-to-view channels, and with video on demand services like Amazon Prime and Netflix offering monthly subscriptions for under a tenner a month, you can find a great variety of film and TV content without having to pay those extortionate prices for satellite or cable.
- Save for Christmas or other big expenses
Big one off payments can put a strain on your finances if you are not prepared for them. Rather than ignoring Christmas until two weeks before the big day, put aside a bit of money each month, so that you're prepared for the holiday season before it arrives.
The average cost of Christmas per person is around £500, so saving just £40 or £50 a month will give you plenty of cash to play with. If you don’t trust yourself with your savings, there are plenty of Christmas saving schemes that won’t give you access to your money until a couple of weeks before Christmas Day, although they also come with their own set of negatives.