Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert describes how he saved hundreds of pounds before breakfast and £1,000 by the end of the day.
Early in my career, I was pitched a TV programme idea called "Can this man save the UK a billion pounds?" After pondering, I realised that showing a million people how to save a grand was easy the difficult bit was getting them to do it.
Offer someone £100 for five minutes' work, and most would salivate. Tell them all they need do is help someone use a comparison site to switch energy provider and they'd jump for joy. Yet suggest they spend the same time changing their own energy provider, which can save more than double that over a year, and many can't be bothered.
So here's my day's diary, peppered with tweets, forum posts and emails I've received, to prove the scale of possible savings…
While brushing your teeth, ask yourself this simple question does my home have more bedrooms than people, or the same number? Yes? If you're in England or Wales, you could save hundreds by switching to a water meter. Water bills are based on your home's rateable value, roughly equivalent to how much it's worth so the more bedrooms, the bigger the water bill. Yet low occupancy means you're likely to be overpaying. Use the calculator at ccwater.org.uk to see likely savings, then contact your water company to switch free of charge.
Tweeted proof from Helen Bevington: "Thanks, we've water-metered. Monthly DD down from £80 to £25."
8.15: Do you wear a uniform?
As you get dressed, ask yourself if you or any of your family wear a uniform to work it could be simply a branded T-shirt. If you do, and you wash and repair it yourself, you may be able to reclaim hundreds of pounds' worth of tax, going back up to four years. Full step-by-step help at moneysavingexpert.com/uniforms.
Proof from Michael King: "Thanks. Just received £409 for cleaning my work uniform over the last few years."
8.35: Missing £1,000s of child care help?
The school run is a good time to think about the cost of looking after little ones. If you pay for child care, including after-school or summer clubs, you may be entitled to child care tax credits. To get a decent amount, you need a total family income of below £42,000, and each parent must work 16 hours or more. Average payouts are £3,000 a year.
Failing that, check to see if your employer offers child care vouchers. This government scheme can be worth over £1,000 a year as it lets you pay for child care from pre-tax income.
9.30: Analyse your finances
Easy question: how much do you earn in a year? Tough one: how much do you spend? Unless you can answer both, you can't accurately manage your finances. Don't just do it from a snapshot of a month's finances, either that doesn't take into account things like Christmas, summer holidays or a new sofa. Sit down, gather your paperwork and examine everything.
If that sounds stressful, let my hardcore budgetbrain.com tool do it for you, then analyse the result.
11.15: Bite £100s off food bills
During elevenses, rummage through your fridge, cupboards or even larder, to check how many "Finest" or manufacturers' brands there are. If there are lots, try this Downshift Challenge.
On your next shop, swap Finest goods for branded, branded for own-brand, and own-brand for savers. Then, ignoring the packaging (taste with your tongue, not your eyes), see if you can notice the difference. If you can't, drop brand level permanently. For a £150 weekly family shop, dropping one brand saves £2,400 a year. In blind tests I've done, people can only tell the difference half the time, leaving £1,200 saved. The site mysupermarket.com has lots of handy tools to help you.
11.55: Spend a penny
I can't help you there.
12.00: Gas and electricity: save £200+ in 10 minutes
Easy one, this, as Leah proves: "You've just saved me £400 per year for my gas and electric, plus [as she was in credit] I now have an unexpected refund of £327."
To find the cheapest option, put your postcode and usage into a comparison site approved by consumerfocus.org.uk. Better still, go via my site's moneysavingexpert.com/energy , and the same sites will give you £30 cashback or a crate of wine if you switch. And while they may not be the cheapest, keep an eye out for EDF Blue and Scottish Power's long-term fixed deals, guaranteeing no price hikes or early exit fees.
12.10: Haggle £100s off Sky, broadband, the AA...
This Tweet last year from Stumpyian says it all: "Threatened to leave Sky, said I couldn't afford it and it halved bill." Don't be afraid to negotiate especially on mobile contracts, breakdown, broadband and digital TV.
1.00: Owed £10,000s in PPI?
(Lunch is for wimps, by the way.) If you've had a loan or credit card in the past 10 years, spend your break checking if you were mis-sold PPI (payment protection insurance). Don't assume you don't have it; it might have been added by deceit.
Every day my Twitter feed is filled with proof: here's a tweet from Steverandall1965: "Inspired to claim. Put it off for ages, then downloaded the template, sent it off and got £12,225, no fuss or bother."
No need to throw 25pc at claims firms, either; do it yourself. If you don't have the paperwork, full help and templates are at moneysavingexpert.com/ppi or which.co.uk .
2.00: Slash credit card costs, or soup up savings
If you have high interest debts and savings, you're throwing cash away. Pay off costly debts with your paltry- interest-earning savings, and you'll be massively up. Then…
Boost your savings: yes, rates are pitifully low, but every penny counts. See postoffice.co.uk for the top easy-access deal at 2.1pc AER. If you've got £3,000-£20,000 to save, you can get 3pc in the santander.co.uk 123 bank account (there is a £2 per month fee, but this can be more than offset by the account's up to 3pc cashback when it's used to pay bills like council tax, energy, or home phones). Full best-buys, including cash Isas, at mse.me/savings.
Slash credit card costs: if you've got expensive debts and a decent credit score, do a balance transfer. That's where you get a new card that pays off the debts on your old cards, so you owe the money at a cheaper rate.
The three cards I'd pick out are barclaycard.co.uk , which offers the longest 0pc deal: 25 months, with a one-off 3.2pc fee of the amount transferred. If you can repay quicker, then try lloydstsb.co.uk at 21 months: 0pc but with a lower 1.5pc fee. If you need a lot longer, the mbna.co.uk ' s LIFE card lets you lock in at 5.9pc until all the debt shifted is repaid (1.5pc fee). Full help and best-buys for these at moneysavingexpert.com/bts .
2.45: Slash car insurance by £400 in 30 minutes
Don't just auto-renew. Many people find that even their current insurer gives a cheaper quote if you apply as a new customer. So as a bare minimum…
1. Combine comparison sites. They search different firms, so try a few. My current top picks are: moneysupermarket.com ; tescocompare.com ; and confused.com
2. Comparison sites miss out aviva.co.uk and directline.co.uk , so check them, too, and if you've two or more cars, add admiral.co.uk 's multi-car insurance. If you've got the time, and really want to slice costs, see my full tips at mse.me/carinsurance .
As proof, RedMikeKite says: "Followed your steps after a slight mishap which put my renewal up to £594. Got it down to £193 couldn't believe it, £401 saved."
3.30: Drive petrol costs down 20 per cent
1. De-junk your trunk (lighter cars save fuel) and ensure the tyre pressure is correct.
2. Bear in mind that better driving can boost efficiency by 20pc. Speed up gradually, change up a gear earlier, and watch road positioning so you can brake earlier.
3. Use petrolprices.com to find the cheapest forecourt near you.
4. Consider a petrol cashback credit card such as santander.co.uk 's 123, which pays back 3pc every time you use it to buy petrol (more than offsetting its £2 per month fee). However, ensure you repay in full each month so that there's no interest.
4.00: Check and challenge your council tax
It takes five minutes to check whether you're in too high a council tax band. If you are, not only can you get what you pay reduced, you can get a backdated payout from when you moved in (often £1,000s). Don't just challenge willy-nilly, though, or you could find your band hiked. Full checking system and free tools at moneysavingexpert.com/council .
5.00: Cut all spending by up to 5 PER CENT
The capitalone.co.uk Aspire World Mastercard and americanexpress.co.uk Platinum Everyday cards are both fee-free cashback credit cards, which pay you when you use them. This isn't an excuse to spend more; just use them for all your credit card spending. Provided you always fully repay to avoid the 19.9pc APRs, you can make £100s. Both cards pay 5pc for three months (maximum £100 cashback), then up to 1.25pc thereafter.
Proof from Nursey22: "I love this. I got one in December, booked a holiday on it, got £60 back on my Jan statement & paid it off in full = no interest."
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Look at your own expenditure to see where your big outgoings are. Whatever you spend your money on, there's usually a way to save. Good luck.