So we’re all skint from Christmas and making New Year resolutions to save more/budget better, etc, etc right? So I thought it might be useful to write a post about as many ways as possible that you can really save money and get a grip on your finances. It’s a bit of a long one but it’s worth the read as it really could help you.
I have always been pretty good with money (thankfully!) and saved every month but when we moved into our own home 7 years ago I realised I needed to make sure we could afford to cover all the bills and food/fuel costs, etc. I needed to be able to keep track of how much money we had coming in and going out and on what dates etc, so I set up a spreadsheet to help budget everything. I still use the same spreadsheet today and it is literally like my bible. I do online banking so I can check the bank account easily each day and see which bills have gone out, which money has been paid in etc. There is a picture of the spreadsheet below (minus the actual amounts for confidentiality reasons). So imagine this with the amounts for each item alongside them. These are then colour coded as shown on the right hand side of the sheet. Red is an estimated amount, black is a known amount and green is for when they have been paid. By the end of the month they should all be green. I have a sheet for every month of the year and adapt it to cover any additional costs that I know are going to change such as car insurance being due or the 2 months where we don’t pay council tax. The amount we put in savings depends on the amount we have left over after bills and the budgeted amount for food and fuel. I always leave a bit of flexibility in there for outings, take aways, gifts, etc that may come up. I also put the date’s payments are due in the column next to them. If anyone would like to receive a copy of this spreadsheet to adapt to your own personal use then just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to send it over.
You may notice that on our outgoings part of the spreadsheet I have put ‘Kids savings’. As soon as each child was born I set up savings accounts for them which are linked to my online banking. Every month when we get paid I move a set amount over into each child’s savings account and we also pay in any birthday/Christmas money they receive. It’s never too early to start saving for your children’s futures and I hope one day these savings accounts will help get them onto the property ladder. They also have money boxes in their bedrooms which they use to save up for a particular toy or whatever that they want so they learn to save for themselves as well as us doing it for them. We don’t have a set pocket money routine as such but they can earn coins through doing good deeds, hard work, achievements, etc. I never use this as a bribery tool. I think it’s important they learn to help out and do kind things, work hard, etc without the expectation of getting paid for it but that reward is there for me to give when I think it’s suitable.
When it comes to our own savings we have two savings accounts. One is the ’emergency account’ which has a set amount in there which is never touched unless it is an absolute emergency, i.e. the car or boiler goes bang and is then replaced as soon as we possibly can if used. The other one is our ‘general savings’ which is where we put money to save up for holidays, home improvements, etc. This is the one we dip in and out of when we need to (such as when your puppy gets really ill 3 days after you bought her and you didn’t have insurance set up yet. Yes I’m sure some of you have heard all about Willow’s Xmas sleepover at the vets 🙁 ). Having that emergency account is something I would really highly recommend that every single person has because seeing your current financial status as £0.00 is extremely scary. Always, always have something there for emergencies.
Now that’s the long winded bit about budgeting and sorting out your finances so they actually make sense and you can see what your doing. – If you’ve got this far and you’re still reading then well done! Keep going, it’ll be worth it I promise! – Below is a list of ways in which you can cut back your outgoings and save money in every day life. Most of them are really simple easy adjustments that you probably won’t even notice but they all add up.
- Write a meal plan for the week by going through your cupboards and fridge freezer to see what you have in already. Put whatever else you need on your shopping list and stick to the list. Compare prices online before you shop to see where is cheapest if you have several supermarkets nearby. My Supermarket is great for this.
- Remember to collect your loyalty points (i.e. nectar points, Tesco clubcard, etc). Supermarket loyalty schemes are free to join and you earn points for every £1 you spend which can then be used in a variety of ways. Lots of people simply use the points to get money off their shopping but if you use them wisely you can get a lot more from them. We use our Tesco clubcard points to purchase entrance tickets for days out as their value can be doubled, trebled or even quadrupled. Sainsburys Nectar points we either spend in Argos or Homebase, or we wait for special offers such as the Summer 2 cinema tickets for £5. Sainsburys also run ‘double up’ events throughout the year where you can double the value of your points and use them to spend in certain areas of the store such as clothing or toys.
- Before going shopping arm yourself with money off coupons which you can print off at home. Do a quick google search of grocery coupons and you’ll see a variety of websites come up. Its surprising how many coupons are out there. Just make sure to read the small print and check how many you can use per transaction etc.
- Download cashback apps onto your phone. Personally I use Shopmium, Checkout Smart and Shopitize but there are others out there depending on whether you are on iphone or android. These work by giving you the cashback after you have bought the item. You scan the barcode and send off a pic of your receipt via the app and then they give you the cashback into your bank account or paypal. Some charge you a percentage if you withdraw the money when less than a certain amount (ie.£20) but most of them don’t. Shopmium and Checkout Smart have regular freebies on them as well so well worth using them.
- If you are doing any shopping online then use an online cashback site. I use Quidco but Top Cashback is also very popular. These sites give you a percentage back of the amount you spend when making a purchase through their website. You can get particularly good amounts of cashback for insurance renewals through these sites. I don’t often shop online but I have still managed to get around £75-£100 cashback per year just through doing my normal transaction through the cashback site. Before clicking ‘Pay’ also do a quick google search for voucher codes to see if you can get any additional discount or free delivery.
- Check through your direct debits and cancel any that you no longer need or use. Ring companies such as mobile phone, internet, sky, etc to see if you can change you subscription to a lower amount.
- Buy meat in bulk from the local butchers and freeze it. I buy a large 5kg tub of chicken breasts for £22.50 and then split it into freezer bags with 2 or 3 chicken breasts in each and freeze them. This will do us around 14 meals as they are such good quality meat and not pumped full of water, etc. If you are local to my area then we recommend Bob’s Family Butchers in Harwell. He often runs special offers on his Facebook page so it’s well worth keeping an eye on there as well Bob’s Facebook Page.
- Switch off all sockets when they are not in use. Yes that includes the kettle, microwave, etc. If you aren’t using it then it doesn’t need to be on. On the same note, turn off taps when they aren’t being used, i.e. when you’re brushing your teeth. Set a timer so you don’t take too long in the shower and let the kids share a bath (which doesn’t need to be more than a few inches deep).
- Buy items that are 2nd hand. If its in good condition then there’s no reason not to. Sell any outgrown toys and clothes to give you a little extra in your savings. Personally I prefer to do this via local Facebook selling sites rather than Ebay so I don’t get stung by Paypal fees.
- Look for money saving deals on Groupon and Jack FM Shop for days out or use your Tesco Clubcard vouchers. You could also look at getting an annual pass if you visit somewhere regularly. We have just got a National Trust annual membership for Xmas so we have free days out for the whole year. Merlin also do an annual pass for all their attractions including the top theme parks (their January sale has just started too so be quick if you want to make more savings!).
- Enter competitions. Ok so this one doesn’t save you money as such but you never know you may win a prize and let’s face it, everyone loves a freebie! Just 2 weeks ago I won a competition to receive a signed copy of a new children’s book to add to my kids story collection. Keep an eye on my Facebook page as I also run regular competitions for you lovely folks. There is a currently one on there to win a load of Lego goodies which ends on Sunday 8th January 2017.
- Take a packed lunch and flask to work/school. It’s amazing how much a lunch in the canteen every day can add up to or a daily trip to Costa. Try it for a week and see how much you save.
- Buy birthday/Christmas gifts when you see them on offer and put them away ready. Don’t wait until December and go out paying full price for everything in a rush. Start looking in the January sales now for any bargains. You can read more about savvy Christmas savings on my previous post here: Super Savvy Christmas.
Well there’s lots of ideas there to get you started on your money saving journey and I hope you have found some of them useful. Let me know if there are any you can think of that I’ve missed. Why not set yourself a money saving goal with a deadline and make sure you let me know how you get on? I really hope this post has inspired you and gives your finances a good kick start. Good luck!!!