Top Tips for Saving Money
Our page on Spending Less Money suggests a process for going through your various items of expenditure and identifying areas that could be a target for reductions. However, it only provides a few examples of specific areas that might be suitable targets. This page takes that process a step further, to provide some tips on specific areas that are usually ripe for some savings.
The purpose here is largely to find sufficient savings from within your current outgoings to meet your household expenses. While this includes any fixed savings plans like pensions, the purpose of these savings is not deliberately to build up a savings pot. With the cost of living going up, saving for a rainy day may be a luxury that few can afford at present. However, if you can identify more savings than the bare minimum, it is a good idea to put money aside each month if possible.
1. Consider Your Cars and Other Vehicles
Cars, other vehicles and driving habits are generally areas where some savings can be made—but you may need to make several changes. If you doubt whether this is worthwhile, track your fuel costs for a week or so, and/or look at your annual expenditure on your vehicle, including tax, insurance, and servicing.
Using a car also has significant environmental impact, so reducing or changing your car use will also contribute to lower levels of pollution.
There is more information about how to do this in our page on Saving Money on Your Car.
2. Consolidate debts—and pay high interest debts first
If you have several sources of debt, talk to your bank or credit provider to see if you can consolidate them into a single, cheaper loan.
Remember that using a credit card (and not paying it off each month) is one of the most expensive ways to obtain credit. If your credit card bill has been increasing recently, and you’re struggling to pay it off, a bank loan on a lower rate of interest, with a planned repayment plan, may be better.
If you can’t consolidate your debts—for example, because they include state loans for university—then look carefully at the interest rates being charged. It is worth prioritising your loans for repayment so that you pay the most expensive (highest interest rate) ones off first.
However, don’t just stop paying the others: talk to your provider first to avoid any problems (for example, not meeting a minimum payment requirement and incurring fines).
On the subject of debt, it may also be worth refinancing your mortgage.
Most mortgages have a period (one or two years) of lower rates, before they revert to the lender’s standard variable rate. This is almost invariably higher than other mortgage rates. It is therefore worth checking to see whether you could take out a new loan with a better interest rate, either from your existing provider, or another.
Mortgage comparison sites are a good way to find out if you are paying over the odds.
3. Check Your Bank Account for Forgotten Subscriptions and Direct Debits
It is incredibly easy to sign up for a subscription (or several) and then forget about it.
You may therefore be paying direct debits for things that you are no longer using, such as old streaming services, outdated computer virus protection plans, or gym or club memberships. Check your bank statement and your direct debits, and consider cancelling any that you no longer need.
Contact the provider before cancelling to check that you do not have to give a particular period of notice, or pay a cancellation fee.
However, remember that if you are no longer using the product or service, a cancellation fee may be cheaper than continuing.
4. Maximise Your (Useful) Bank Account and Credit Card Perks
Many bank accounts and credit cards offer perks. Sometimes this is in return for a monthly fee.
It is worth looking into both perks and fees, to see if they represent value for money.
For example, if you are not using any of the perks, then it may be better to shift to a no-fee account. You may also be able to find another account or card that offers perks that are more useful to you. You could also be exempt and avoid the fee under certain conditions, which may be relatively simple to meet (for example, a minimum amount being paid into your account each month, or a certain number of direct debits going out each month).
5. Buy in Bulk and When Goods are on Offer
If you have storage room, and can afford a bit of extra spending, buying in bulk is usually considerably cheaper than buying small amounts. This is particularly true when something is on offer, when it is worth buying extra to stock up.
‘Buy One Get One Free’ offers are great, provided that you have room to store the product, and you will use it.
This applies to both food and other household items such as laundry and dishwasher detergent. Buying online can also save you money—and ordering more at a time often leads to free delivery.
Buying in bulk can also encourage you to prepare more meals upfront. This can therefore save you time later. However, this means that you will need freezer or fridge space to store your pre-prepared meals.
6. Buy Second-Hand or Used When Possible, Discount when Not
There are now plenty of online marketplaces allowing people to sell second-hand and used goods. This means that it is usually possible to buy used goods fairly readily.
It is worth checking out both online marketplaces and charity shops for cheap goods, especially if you’re not that bothered about how they look. Books, china and glassware can all be bought cheaply. Children’s clothes are great value second-hand, because most children grow out of clothes well before they are worn out. This is especially true for baby clothes.
You can also try discount stores, which often sell off discounted goods from big brands.
7. Look for Vouchers and Discount Codes for Treats
Vouchers and discount codes offer a very good way to get cheap deals on treats, activities, special purchases and tickets.
Check out local discount groups, connect to sites like Groupon if they are available in your area, and generally shop around. You may also find discount vouchers in local or national newspapers, or via local websites and neighbourhood groups.
It is also worth checking out your local ‘happy hours’ in bars and restaurants, or whether you can get a deal for a week-night meal instead of going out on Saturday night. Plenty of restaurants are keen to fill tables on Sundays and Mondays in particular, so you may be able to find a good deal there.
8. Turn Down the Temperature—and Not Just of the House
Most of us have our houses heated more than we really need and could save money on heating both the house and our hot water.
You don’t need to heat the house when there is nobody in it, so get a programmable thermostat that allows you to set the temperature at different times. Some thermostats can be controlled from your phone, so you can turn on the heating when you’re half an hour away. This is useful if you never know quite what time you’ll be home. You also really don’t need to be able to walk around in just a t-shirt in winter. Turn the thermostat down by a degree or two and wear a jumper. A temperature of 15–20°C is warm enough for most people, especially if you are moving around.
Your hot water needs to be hot enough to avoid any nasty bugs (think Legionella), which means 60–65°C (140–149F)—but no hotter.
9. Think Green When Washing Your Laundry
Your house and hot water are not the only things that can be cooler. You can also turn down the temperature on your washing machine without any ill effects.
Modern detergents are pretty much as effective at 30 degrees as at 60, so you can comfortably wash at a lower temperature. Also try to avoid tumble drying if possible, because it’s enormously expensive and not at all environmentally friendly. Instead, hang your washing up outside, or in front of a radiator.
There are more ideas like this in our guest post on how to save money on clothes.
10. Invest in Energy-Saving Lightbulbs
As your lightbulbs stop working, replace them with LED or energy-saving lightbulbs. These are more expensive to buy, but much cheaper to run, and also last much longer.
Savings pages are always full of tips to help you save money—but only after you have spent more money on a replacement or alternative. Unfortunately, this tip is one of those, but it really does give you a much better return on investment—and is now essential as fewer and fewer conventional lightbulbs are available.
11. Reduce Your Food Waste
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. The UK alone is estimated to produce 14 million tonnes of food waste each year. On average, each household’s food waste costs £540 per year. It is therefore worth trying to reduce your food waste.
There are two good ways to do this:
First, plan your meals before you shop, and only buy what you actually need.
Second, check your fridge every few days, and make sure that you use up your leftovers.
It is also worth knowing your food labels (see box), so that you don’t throw out edible food.
TOP TIP! Know your food labels
It is often possible to buy food that has been marked down because it is close to its ‘sell-by’ date. However, this food is perfectly edible, and can certainly be stored for several more days, or frozen for a month or more.
The only label that you need to worry about is the ‘use by’ date. This applies to perishable foods. It is a bad idea to eat something past its ‘use by’ date, because it is a food safety label.
‘Best before’ and ‘sell by’ labels are generally indicators for shops only and have no legal meaning in food safety terms.
You can also save money by being canny with your cooking techniques. For example, if you are going to have a stew, or something else cooked in the oven, pop in a potato too, to save you boiling it on the stove-top. Remember, too, that slow cookers are very energy efficient.
12. Increase the Energy Efficiency of Your House
Energy bills are one of every household’s biggest expenses—and global energy prices are currently rising.
Taking action to increase the energy efficiency of your house may cost money in the short term, but it could make considerable savings in the longer term. For example, two of the most effective ways to do this are installing double glazing or secondary glazing to reduce draughts and make heating more efficient, and insulating your loft or roof to avoid heat loss.
However, if you can’t afford these, you can still help yourself by closing curtains at night. This actually makes a surprising amount of different to the heat retention in a room, especially if you have big windows. You can also turn off radiators in any unused rooms, and shut the doors to avoid heating those rooms.
13. Turn off Lights and Unused Appliances
Leaving lights on, and leaving appliances on standby, is astonishingly expensive—and the costs mount up quite fast.
Get into the habit of turning off lights when you leave a room, or buy some timer switches that will turn them off automatically. You can also get devices that will turn appliances off if you leave them on standby for a certain length of time. This is ideal for devices like computers, screens or televisions that you may inadvertently leave on standby.
Remember to turn off chargers when you have finished using them, as they continue to use electricity when plugged in. Over a year, the costs are pretty small (probably only a few pence)—but every little helps.
14. Get Handy (Take Up DIY)
Getting to grips with your own home and appliance repairs is considerably cheaper than paying someone else to do them, especially when you take into account call-out charges.
It is also often much cheaper to repair things than buy a new one.
The internet is full of explainer videos showing you how to do everything from changing a fuse, through to changing the washer on a tap or the seal on a washing machine, right up to putting a new motor into a vacuum cleaner, or changing the element on an electric oven. Getting a bit more handy could provide considerable savings.
WARNING! Know your limitations
Obviously, some things should never be done by a non-expert, especially anything related to gas. Mains electricity also needs considerable care, and you should only embark on anything related to this if you are sure you know what you’re doing.
Knowing your limitations is crucial, because getting it wrong can be seriously dangerous, or even fatal.
Doing your own home maintenance, such as gardening and decorating, has considerable potential to save you money. You might even find you enjoy it!
A Final Thought
Sometimes you need to identify some savings simply in order to meet your household spending needs. However, it is always worth going one or two steps further, and identifying a few options to give you some headroom. If you can save even just a few pounds or dollars each month, you have started to create a savings pot, and that means you are building a fund for contingencies and emergencies.