Although I hate to boast, I like to think of myself as a (* modest cough* ) genius when it comes to managing money, and making it go as far as possible. I have perfected this skill over many years of dealing with serious financial problems, and living on a very reduced income. I have also had to make ends meet during a period of state welfare as a single person with no other means of support, after losing my job at the start of the recession. So I am an authority on how to live on next to nothing! I consider myself a professional penny-pincher. The following money-saving tips are proven to work, if you follow them as much as possible, and can make all the difference in keeping your head above water financially.
- Shopping (groceries, household items, etc): It does take more thought and effort admittedly, but you can save a lot of cash if you always plan ahead and buy in bulk as much as possible, especially with food and household necessities. It can save the average shopper up to £100 per month to buy groceries in large quantities and multi-packs whenever practical. Also sign up for store loyalty cards at every outlet you can and use them for every shop; collecting points for money off can also help quite a lot (I am a bit addicted to collecting loyalty card points! It’s a kind of hobby of mine, besides saving me money). Additionally use coupons and money-off vouchers as much as is feasible. This can all make a dramatic impact on your day-to-day food and household bills.
- Timing of Shopping: Go into the supermarkets late in the day if you can, near to closing-time, to get the bargains. This is the time when the shops start reducing the prices of many products for clearance (i.e. not just stuff no one wants, but even useful things you might actually want to buy!)
- Household bills: Replace all light-bulbs with energy-saving ones and keep use of all appliances to minimum, especially heat-generating devices like kettles, ovens, etc. It is also worth shopping around for the best deal for the suppliers of your amenities like gas, electricity, water, etc. Some suppliers have markedly cheaper tariffs than others, so you could save around £100-200 per year or more by switching to one who best meets your needs.
- Car Use/Motoring: Diesel is a much more economical fuel than petrol, as it runs through the engine much more slowly, so drive a diesel vehicle if you possibly can (it is also better for the environment, so as I am green to the gills, it makes me feel virtuous to drive a diesel car). It does however depend on the type of vehicle you drive and the country you drive it in. If it is not possible to drive a diesel vehicle, shop around at all the filling stations in the area for the best prices for petrol; you will usually find that the supermarkets are the cheapest (and you can usually collect points as well, if you have a loyalty card, which also help you save money. I love my loyalty cards, and they certainly get a lot of use from me, far more than my credit cards!). When you buy petrol, don’t fill your tank right up, if you can avoid it. The extra weight will of the fuel will actually make it burn more, at the start! Try to drive it with the tank no more than half-full, as this is the most economical way to run it.
- Trains/Buses: Try to always travel off-peak, if you can, as these are the cheapest tickets available, needless to say. It can also save a lot of money to book tickets as far in advance as possible. Season tickets and travel-cards can also save several pounds per week/month if you use them regularly, e.g. for commuting into work.
- Communications/Telephone/Internet: If you can manage without it, avoid having a landline phone at home. Use a pay-as-you-go mobile with a cheap call/text tariff and no monthly contract (this is the type of mobile I have. The mobile itself was a free gift from my mobile network provider – I got it through saving up credit vouchers they kept sending me over a number of months and then used the total amount to buy a smartphone. Bargain!). Join the local libraries and use them for your Internet needs: if you are a member you can usually have around 2 hours per day completely free of charge. This should save around £60-70 per month, on average.
- Clothing: The best option for clothes shopping is to buy them from thrift stores, secondhand shops and jumble sales: you can actually get some very nice, good-quality clothing this way! I have found that very often a lot of high-quality and hardly-worn bargains can be obtained from these sources (if you can persevere with trawling through all the old tat). Supermarkets (i.e. the superstores) are also great places to get the most inexpensive essential items for your wardrobe. Another way to cut your clothing bills is to not over-wash them – i.e. wear them as long as you reasonably can before washing (I mean, if they are still relatively clean and look OK, obviously. I am not suggesting adopting “homeless chic”.). It is not always necessary to wash an item after wearing it once – if it is not dirty, stained or smelly it is more economical to wear it again. If you economise in this way, you should save several pounds each week in hot water, electricity and washing-powder. It should also help your clothes to last longer, if they are not washed too frequently.
These habits and practices are not difficult to change or put into effect in anyone’s life, and they can usually be phased in gradually, if not all at once. Changing one’s ways and becoming aware of how all money, even very small amounts, is being spent can really make a significant impact in financial survival and managing debt.