This year things have been a little more squeezed than normal. Inflation is way over the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target, pushing up the price of everything we buy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight back.
Any money saved is a benefit, no matter what your personal situation. It can go towards paying off debts or towards an emergency savings pot for unforeseen events, or towards specific savings, such as a house deposit, holiday or retirement.
Here are five everyday tricks to get you started.
1. Get it cheaper
If it’s brand new, use a price comparison website such as Google Shopping, Pricerunner or Idealo to see which retailers are selling it and how much they are charging, and don’t forget to add in delivery costs.
When you pay for anything, use a free browser extension such as Pouch to alert you to any discounts or deals on the item you’re about to buy. Don’t just reach for your standard debit card because by using a cashback or reward card you could be earning money or vouchers instead.
The reward credit card market is highly competitive and many cards offer good incentives to new customers. With a John Lewis MasterCard, for example, you’ll receive £30 when you spend £250 at John Lewis or Waitrose in the first 90 days, then it’s five points for every £4 spent and one point for £4 spent elsewhere.
With a Sainsbury’s Bank Mastercard, you’ll receive 8,000 extra points if you spend £400 at Sainsbury’s or Argos in the first two months, then it’s two points per £1 spent at either of these, or one point per £5 spent elsewhere. However, these cards only work if you pay them off in full each month, and most market-leading cards are only available to those with excellent credit scores.
2. Avoid new
Instead of forking out for more stuff, you can save your wallet and the planet by choosing second-hand. Charity shops are full of Christmas rejects in the new year, if you don’t want to trawl through your local second-hand shop. Most charities have dedicated online shops and there’s always online marketplaces such as Facebook and eBay.
The rental market is also booming, from dresses and children’s clothes to toys, books and even household appliances. You may not need to buy something new if you can borrow it, usually for a fraction of the price.
Before you head to the dump with an unloved or broken item, you could also try to upcycle or repair it yourself. The internet is littered with videos showing you how to give more life to your existing items before adding them to landfill.
3. Set a budget
One of the oldest financial tricks in the books is budgeting. It’s not new but it’s also the most important if you want to get on top of your spending.
Making a realistic budget and regularly reviewing it is key. If you haven’t tried it before, why not give the 50/30/20 budget a go this year. Split your income three ways: 50 per cent into essential spending such as housing, bills and groceries, 30 per cent into things you want to do, hobbies, subscriptions or new clothes, and 20 per cent into paying off debts or building your savings.
4. Scrutinise your food spend
Food shopping makes up a big proportion of most budgets yet a family of four could save up to £730 a year, according to the charity Waste & Resources Action Programme, by reducing their food waste. Addressing food waste, and grocery spending, is an easy way to create some serious savings.
Jenna Brown, who runs the @Foodsafetymum account, suggests strict meal planning and keeping your fridge below 3C to keep food safer and fresher for longer. The food safety expert says pretty much anything can be frozen, from milk and bread to sandwiches for a lunch box – she says ham and cheese work well but avoid freezing salads.
Brown also ignores best before dates and instead sticks to use-by-dates for food safety. “The list of what not to freeze – like cucumbers, mayonnaise and lettuce – is much shorter than what you can freeze. Remember the freezer just acts as a pause button on food, and don’t be put off freezing your raw meat, you can still freeze leftovers of a cooked meal that used previously frozen raw meat,” she says.
5. Know your rights
The last trick to save you money is arming yourself with the knowledge to complain and ask for compensation when something is not right. Companies make mistakes all the time and items or services can go wrong. The Consumer Rights Act 201 is your bible when it comes to standing up for yourself against broken, faulty or unsatisfactory goods or services.
Always check the terms and conditions carefully, you’ll be told the timeframe for returns, repairs and refunds when you buy. If you need help with a complaint, you may be able to contact the ombudsman. There’s an ombudsman for most consumer services and it can look into disputes for free. Organisations such as Citizens Advice or Trading Standards can also help.