Whether it’s grabbing a morning coffee every day or forgetting to bring your lunch to work, many of us end up spending way more than we mean to.
In fact, Britons spend more than £2,210 a year each in high street coffee shops, according to a recent survey, which found we visit a coffee chain up to 152 times a year. In 2017, the UK spent £49 billion on food and drink purchased and consumed outside the home – and this excludes alcohol.
According to Kantar, more than 98% of people in the UK made such a purchase, which includes sandwiches, pub lunches and takeaway coffees – working out at about £1,000 per person.
So how can we cut spending without it making too much of an impact on our lives?
Take out a set amount of money each week
It’s particularly easy to overspend without thinking if you tend to pay for everything using debit or credit cards, especially if you’re using contactless payments. It can help to take a set amount of money out for the week, taking into account your travel expenses, food budget, bills and general spending money.
“If you’re using cards all the time, it’s easy to overspend,” says Anna Goodwin, an accountant who offers personal finance training and mentoring services. “If you take out £50 at the start of the week and by Wednesday it’s all gone, then you are more likely to think, ‘I’m spending too much money’.”
Goodwin also advises writing down everything you spend money on each day - even small items like a chocolate bar can add up over the course of a week. Taking note of everything you’re buying can help you keep track of where your money is going, allowing you to know where you can easily cut back.
“It’s what most people should be doing, it actually makes you think before you buy something – I’m going to be writing that down in a minute, do I need it? It works on a lot of levels,” Goodwin says.
Watch out for work drinks
Households in London spent the most on alcoholic drinks away from home, spending an average of £9.30 a week, according to the Office for National Statistics. It’s no fun to cut back entirely and deny yourself a social life, but reducing the number of times you go out can help.
“The other one, depending on the kind of job you do and where you work, is entertainment after work,” says Goodwin. “When I worked in London, every day we would go to the pub after work because it’s just that kind of culture. That’s a massive cost too. Even if you say, ‘I’ll just go on Wednesday and Friday’ instead of every day, then that will make a difference to the financial situation as well.”
Bring lunch to work
Many of us have good intentions, bulk buying pasta and vegetables to make a quick pasta salad to bring to work for lunch. Sometimes, you rush out of the house and leave it on the kitchen table – but other times, we leave it sat in the fridge at work, opting to head out for sushi instead.
Even taking lunch to work two or three times a week can make a big difference to your bank account – and it will make you appreciate eating out even more when you do. The same for morning coffee, too. If you can’t stand instant, invest in a coffee machine and a reusable cup or flask, and bring your own to work.
Goodwin also advises cutting petrol costs by walking whenever you can. And if you can’t avoid driving, there are ways to make your car more fuel efficient – which will save you money in the long-run. Keeping your tyres inflated, decluttering the car and keeping the air-con to a minimum can all help, as can accelerating more gradually and changing up a gear sooner.
If you rely solely on public transport, it can be worth skipping a bus trip a couple of times a week to walk instead. It’s easy to jump on the Tube to travel one or two stops, but it might not actually be too far to walk. And while many of us are guilty of ordering an Uber if we can’t be bothered to navigate public transport, opting for the bus or train can save a lot.
Consider your food shopping
“Having everything written down and sticking to a list can make a difference,” Goodwin says. “You see people wandering around a supermarket aimlessly, and they are more likely to be picking stuff up and putting in the basket because they haven’t got a plan.”
And while online shopping may seem easier and may stop you from making impulse buys, this isn’t always the case. “Because it’s so easy, you can get into it and still do the impulse bit - and it’s even easier because it’s all online. It depends on the way you are,” Goodwin says.
“But if you are online shopping and you can get it for a reasonable amount and you aren’t having to travel, then that is possibly going to be cheaper than the petrol to go to the supermarket. It’s working with your own mindset to say, where do I fall down with my own personal finances and what can I do about it?”