With more families feeling the squeeze in the UK, it is now more important than ever to save money and wipe out debt. This doesn’t mean that you need to stash your money away in a bank and live on Noodles and beans on toast. In this post, I will show you some easy ways to fire up your finances and secure your family’s future.
Here is what we will be covering:
- 1 How to slash bills
- 2 Internet and phone bills
- 3 Reduce transportation costs
- 4 Reducing your grocery bill
- 5 Family fun on a budget
- 6 Best borrowing options in the UK
- 7 More tips on living better for less
How to slash bills
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) utilities are among the biggest drains on a family’s budget. What if you could cut the bills below?
2) Debt repayments
4) Mortgage or rent
5) Homeowners or renter’s insurance
7) Phone bill
The first step to cutting down on energy bills is to look for a better deal. Fortunately, the UK has a relatively small number of energy suppliers, and switching is effortless.
Switching could save you hundreds of pounds per year. Just visit Uswitch, and enter a few details to secure a better deal. Notably, your current provider might charge you an exit fee.
Energy-efficient appliances can make a big difference. I saved £40 a month after getting an energy-efficient television. Energy-saving lightbulbs and smart thermostats make a huge difference. For instance, you can set a Nest thermostat to automatically warm up your home at a specific time and turn off when there is no one around.
Energy costs count for a significant percentage of household bills; therefore, small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
– Set a time slot for showering. That way the boiler isn’t being “overused” throughout the day.
– Cook in bulk and freeze. This saves you time and energy costs.
– Turn off the radiator in rooms which are unlikely to be used for an extended period.
– Check your home for holes and gaps. Draught excluders are cheap and block gaps in doorways so that your home requires less energy to heat.
– Turn down the thermostat a few degrees and wear an extra layer in winter.
Unfortunately, you can’t switch your water provider; however, using a water meter can trigger a dramatic drop in your water bill. It isn’t unusual for people to save hundreds of pounds per year.
Check how much you could save using a water meter calculator from the Consumer Council for Water.
Your local council might offer a discount or exemption based on your situation. Sometimes these are triggered automatically. However, this isn’t always the case; therefore, you could end up paying more than required.
Visit the government’s council tax discount webpage. Check whether any of the scenarios apply to you.
Mortgage and rent
Housing costs are among the highest bills of any household. It can be painful to see that money disappear out of the paycheck each month. However, what if you could reduce this cost.
Let’s start with rent.
If your bank balance is feeling the squeeze, let your landlord know. It isn’t unusual for them to offer reduced rent or offer a “payment holiday”.
You are in a strong position to negotiate if you are a good tenant and maintain a property in exceptional condition.
Aim to negotiate a 5 – 10% reduction. Remember “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
When it comes to your mortgage, you have a lot more leeway when it comes to getting it reduced.
If your mortgage downpayment was less than 20%, you might have been “encouraged” to take mortgage insurance. However, once you pay off 20%, you can secure a better rate.
Interestingly, mortgage lenders are very good at keeping quiet about this; therefore, you could be leaking money on your home. Please double-check the terms and conditions of your mortgage policy.
It took a relative five years to notice that they were still paying mortgage insurance five years after paying off the full amount. They were flushing money down the drain.
Notably, some insurance companies have a close business relationship with lenders. Therefore, you might not have received the best deal.
Rent out a room in your home
If you have a spare room at home, why not rent it out? The extra money could be used towards savings or to offset other costs. Alternatively, you could use Airbnb to rent out a room for a short period.
A quick tip: If you are off on holiday, rent out your property through Airbnb. Ou might be surprised at how much you could make.
Internet and phone bills
I bounced from one telecom provider to the other and struggled to find one with excellent service and great value for money. However, after finding giffgaff, I encouraged my entire family to join. We get free calls to each other and ‘goodybags’ (packages) starting from £5 a month. There are no contracts, and they will even help to move your number.
Get a free £5 in extra credit on top of your first top-up using this unique link.
Fortunately, broadband is incredibly competitive in the UK. Therefore, providers are continually trying to outdo themselves concerning price, speed and reliability. There are two ways to slash your broadband bill.
1) Find a better broadband deal, then call up your current broadband provider and ask them to match it or provide a better rate. Their cancellation departments have some leeway concerning rates. I received a 20% reduction.
If they are unable to match the best rate, use topcashback to get some money back for switching. Cashback is painless and more people should do it.
The money-saving power of cashback and Amazon Prime
Over the last few years, I built a tidy pot of money just by shopping like I usually would.
Cashback sites give money back if you buy using a particular link. They are paid some money for referring you to their “partners”, and a percentage gets passed on to you. The hope is that you end up buying things you wouldn’t usually buy. However, if you are disciplined, you could make decent money from this.
I use Topcashback to buy groceries, train tickets, book hotels etc.,
Services and products purchased through their ‘special’ links are tracked, and commissions added to your account. Payouts can be made directly into your bank account or in the form of vouchers.
Even if this is the only technique you use out of this whole article, you could save yourself thousands per year just by shopping like you usually do. Combine cashback with seasonal sales to save even more money.
Amazon Prime has saved us a lot of money. We have been able to get rid of Netflix and Spotify, save hundreds of pounds per year with exclusive sales and shipping fees.
Amazon Prime comes with:
– Free unlimited one day or same-day delivery on eligible products
– Unlimited streaming of movies and tv shows via Amazon video
– 30 minutes of early access to lightning deals
– Unlimited streaming of millions of songs
It costs £79 per year or £39 per year for students.
Reduce transportation costs
According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), UK families spend an average of £72.50 per week on transportation. If you drive, there is the cost of insurance, maintenance, fuel, and possibly monthly repayments of your car loan. If you don’t drive, transportation costs can still be quite expensive
What if you could take a hammer to those costs?
If you use a train or coach to get to work, you could get cashback through Topcashback.
Vehicle owners have more choice when it comes to money saving techniques.
Some people get an expensive car with high monthly payments because they believe that it will make them look better or that they “deserve it”. However, it can become a silent killer of your monthly budget. Reducing a car payment is one of the single most significant things you can do to unlock more money which you can put towards savings.
Compare car insurance providers to make sure that you are getting the best deal
If you plan on purchasing a car soon, pay particular consideration to the cost of monthly repayments, and convert it to a percentage of your income. It is better to buy a used car which is 100% paid for than a flashy one with huge monthly repayments.
Vehicles lose value quickly. Therefore, they aren’t an investment. As a result, when it is time to sell or trade it in, you might be shocked at the amount you get. Being able to afford the monthly repayments doesn’t mean you can afford the car. What if your situation changes?
Depending on your situation, carpooling with services such as Blablacar or Liftshare could save you a lot of money. For instance, in my current location, it made more financial sense to use Uber, Lyft and the train to get around.
Reducing your grocery bill
We all have to eat; therefore, there is no dodging the grocery bill. But what if you could cut it?
Firstly, if you haven’t already signed up to the loyalty program of your favourite supermarket, do it soon. For instance, I carry a Clubcard, Nectar card and IKEA card everywhere I go. The IKEA card offers reduced food and freebies in any IKEA restaurant. As a result, this cuts down the cost of days out with the family.
Nectar gives me points for more than 500 brands, plus exclusive discounts. The Tesco club card comes with points but also has “boosts” which provide me with access to cheaper products and services from their partners.
When shopping, the lower you go, the cheaper the items get. They place all the name brand goods at eye level and all the store brands close to the floor. For even less expensive food, check out my favourite discount supplier. This site alone saves me 30% off my grocery bill.
Pre-packaged and microwaveable food might seem like a good deal, but over time they could hurt your pocket. Moreover, they are loaded with preservatives, sugar and salt.
Instead of buying microwaveable meals or canned food, cook in bulk, separate it into different plastic bowls and then freeze it. This also saves you on the cost of takeaways and eating it. Most people overpay for food out of convenience.
I also use a free-to-use site called Supercook to get recipes based on what I have in my kitchen. Simply type in a list of ingredients and supercool will show you different recipes which fit. This is incredibly useful for when you are feeling a bit adventurous.
Some food brands offer discounts if you are part of their mailing list. Just search for them on Google and join their mailing lists. This is incredibly useful for products you buy regularly. You might be surprised to know that you can get vouchers off your next shop just by asking. Just call or send an email.
Checkoutsmart is an app which enables you to get some money back from your groceries. Simply scan your receipt to get cashback. You can also check out the daily deals for a clear indication of how much you can make. This saves me hundreds of pounds over the course o year. And I know it sounds crazy, but it works, and it costs nothing, so check it out.
Pack your lunch
On average, workers spend an average of £5 a day on lunch. Therefore, if you work five days a week, that is more than a thousand pounds per year spent on a packed lunch. That is money which could go into savings.
Get a mason jar and check out these easy to prepare healthy recipes.
Family fun on a budget
As a nation, we spend a lot of money on entertainment. However, spending more doesn’t mean more fun. It is also one of the many ways through which money gets “leaked”. We have all woken up and wondered “Where did all the money go?”.
Here are some ways to cut down on your entertainment budget while having fun.
1) Free movies and tv shows
Instead of paying for movie streaming, why not get it for free? Netflix and other premium streaming platforms are great, but what if you could legally get access to a vast library of great content without paying a penny? Below are some sites which do just that.
BBC iPlayer – Great HD content for license fee payers. Also have mobile apps.
4OD – Great HD content from Channel 4 including free boxsets.
Tubi TV – This is a well-built movie streaming platform with great content from big studios.
Popcorn Flix – This is a free, ad-supported service which works incredibly well. I found some great movies on this site.
2) Get the best deals on eating out, travelling etc.
Sign up to LivingSocial and Groupon to receive incredible deals on entertainment, eating out and attractions.
4) Cheap local events
Visit your local library and check out their leaflets and displays for things to do in your area. You are likely to find some free and insanely cheap things to do. You might be surprised at what you see.
5) Teach yourself
We live in a highly competitive world and the more skills you have, the better your chances of getting a great job, moving up the ladder or even setting up your own business.
I am a firm believer that education doesn’t have to be expensive. Below are some great sites for learning just about anything without spending much money.
Skillshare – Learn skills from people at the very top of their respective industries for a low price.
Udemy – Has a broad range of courses from experts. This is also an excellent place to sell your knowledge.
Khan Academy- Free to use site backed by Bill Gates
Team Treehouse- Great site for learning how to join the computing industry. Treehouse teaches university-level knowledge at a much lower cost.
Best borrowing options in the UK
When it comes to borrowing money, the interest rate and repayment terms make a big difference. What if you could enjoy a lower interest rate and more favourable repayment options?
Paypal Credit: This offers 0% for four months on purchases of £99 or more. You get a different 0% offer whenever you spend £150 or more until you hit the spending limit.
Notably, you can’t take money out of Paypal credit. However, a simple trick is to use it to purchase vouchers and use that to shop. This could be useful for emergency situations. Paypal is accepted at many top online stores. Moreover, some stores offer cashback if you use Paypal.
Depending on your situation, Paypal Credit could be a good way of handling life’s emergencies and getting a better handle on your cash flow.
Ratesetter offers personal and business loans at a lower interest rate than most lenders. At the time of writing, this stood at 3.9%. Therefore, if you borrow £1000, you will pay back £1039 throughout the repayment period. This is good as compared to other lenders. You can borrow up to £35,000 for personal use or up to £750,000 for a business.
The approval process is quick, and the money could be in your account within 24 hours.
If your credit is less than ideal, you could still qualify for a credit card.
The best one I have been able to find for those with bad credit is the Capital One Platinum Credit Card. The interest rate is significantly lower than other credit cards for people with a low credit score. Moreover, if you repay on time, you can request an increase.
Credit cards are useful for handling severe emergencies; however, please aim to repay before the interest rates kick in. Also aim to pay more than the minimum monthly repayment. Used appropriately, a credit card can act as a quick fix for getting out of a tight situation. On the other hand, a lack of discipline could leave you in a hamster wheel of debt.
An emergency fund will help you to weather the financial storms of life. Vacations, eating out video games and entertainment don’t count as emergencies. Over time you could build up a nice pot of cash which can be used for a big purchase such as a mortgage downpayment, rent deposit etc. Plus, having an emergency fund will help you to sleep better.
More tips on living better for less
1) Live within your means
It can be challenging not to compare yourself to others. However, trying to keep up with others can lead you into a lot of debt, and working to repay lenders.
The UK is a nation of borrowers and instant gratification. There are credit options for everything.
I live by a simple rule; if I can’t afford to pay for something with cash, then I don’t deserve to have it. If I have no other option, I might ask a family member for money or use a 0% credit card or Ratesetter. Fortunately, after building an emergency fund, I am yet to come across a financial situation, I haven’t been able to handle.
Once you buy an item on credit, the happiness can wear off very quickly.
It is very challenging to build wealth and save if you need to make repayments. Don’t go broke trying to impress people who don’t care about you.
Set aside some money each month for “fun” and use it on luxury purchases.
2) Buy with cut-price vouchers
Instead of paying with cash, purchase a voucher at below its market value and use that instead. I purchase gift cards and vouchers from Zeek, Cardyard and Giftcardgranny.
Let’s assume you would like to buy a television from PC World for £500. After visiting Zeek, you see that someone is selling £500 worth of PC World vouchers for £400. Therefore, you buy the vouchers from Zeek and use that to purchase the television, thereby saving you £100.
I like to ‘stockpile’ vouchers after Christmas. This is because that is the time thousands of people place their unwanted vouchers on sale. As a result, I can snag a bargain. Over a year, this method alone could save you hundreds of pounds.
Bartering dates all the way back to 6000 BC and is the act of trading goods and services without the use of money. It can be an effective way to cut down on costs.
For example, I had a friend who asked his wife to become a stay-at-home mom due to the high costs of childcare. After a few months, his wife got together with a friend in a similar situation, and ‘synced’ their shifts. So one would work nights while the other works during the day. While one is out working, the other takes care of their children. This cut childcare costs to zero and enabled both to work fulltime.
This is one example, but I have seen people trade accommodation in exchange for taking care of a house. The key for this to work is trust. If you have some friends who could benefit from bartering, find a way to strike a deal which works for everyone.
Instead of buying items, why not make them? Here is a list of 101 simple handmade gift tutorials. People tend to appreciate handmade gifts more than bought ones. Moreover, this can save you a lot of money during Christmas and birthdays. If you are entrepreneurial, you could even sell your creations on eBay and Etsy.
5) Sell unwanted items
We live in a world which encourages materialism. Each day we are told that the more we have, the wealthier we are. Some companies suggest that wealth is how much you can spend. That is complete nonsense. You can’t shop your way to wealth. The only way to improve your financial situation is to either make more money or invest what you have been able to save. Ideally, you should do both.
Look around your home and find items which you no longer use. Take pictures of them using your smartphone and sell them on eBay. If you have a lot of unwanted clothes, electronics etc., you could sell them as a “job lot”.
6) Search for vouchers when shopping online
Your home will feel so much neater after you go through the process of selling unwanted items. Plus, it will put some more money in your pocket, which is nice!
Before buying anything online, I always look around for a voucher code. Recently, I saved a relative £80 just by doing a quick Google search. Just type in the name of the store followed by “voucher code”.
You might be amazed at how much you could save,
7) Buy used or refurbished
Some people swear never to buy items second hand; however, they are just pushing money down the drain.
I hope you found this article useful and use it to save money and live better. Do you have any tricks or techniques you use to keep more money? Pop it into the comments section below. It will help other people who visit the site.
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