Are you suffering the January blues, with only a hangover and a depleted bank balance to show for the excesses of Christmas and New Year? If so, now could be a great time to set yourself some new year’s resolutions for 2018 aimed at improving your finances…
With bigger credit card balances to pay off and the end of month pay day seeming a long way off, it can be a bit of a depressing month financially. But January is actually a great time to change your behaviours around spending and saving.
We have teamed up with Emma Maslin from The Money Whisperer blog to find out about the best ways to save after the splurge of Christmas and how to successfully change your money habits this year. Over two articles, Emma will be sharing her top tips and tricks for a financially successful 2018!
Most of us wouldn’t say no to becoming richer in 2018. There are two ways to get richer; one is to increase what you earn and the other is to cut down on what you spend. For most of us, we can’t just magic a new year pay rise (I wish!), so it is easiest to focus on saving on our expenses.
Saving money doesn’t have to mean doing without, which is really important to bear in mind if you want to keep motivated to succeed here. I’ve got some easy ways to save money this year:
The cost of food has gone up substantially over the past year. If you haven’t meal planned before, preparing a simple meal plan and food shopping list can help save money in several ways. Firstly, it can help you stick to a budget and avoid wasting food. We all know how easy it is to get sucked in to the end of aisle deals and throw a couple of extra packets in the trolley just because they’re on the ‘buy one, get one half price’ offer. These deals are designed to get you to spend, but if you don’t need the food and can’t use it before it’s ‘Use by’ date, it’s a false economy.
Secondly, if you are buying the food you need for the meals you have planned, you won’t find yourself with nothing in the fridge and having to resort to takeaways or more expensive convenience stores.
Get rewarded for spending….
Actively saving money isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, for many reasons. But everyone has to spend money and every time you buy ANYTHING online, you could be saving yourself a nice little pot of cashback. Making purchases through cashback sites is a no-brainer for saving money, and if you are making a major purchase, even more so. If you are going to spend the money anyway, why not get a rebate on your spending?
Instead of going directly to the website of the company which you want to buy from, you click though to them via a cashback site such as Quidco or TopCashback, and you could earn yourself cashback ranging from a few pence through to £100+ for an insurance product or utility contract.
Top tip: if you withdraw the cashback as gift vouchers for popular retailers rather than as cash, you can get up to 15% extra!
Cancel unwanted memberships….
Our lifestyles change from year to year. The start of a new year is a great time to reconsider how we want to spend our time in the year ahead.
Take a look at any memberships you have and cancel any you aren’t going to use enough to get value out of them. Do you go to the gym more than once a week? If not, cancel your monthly membership and find one of the increasingly popular pay as you go alternatives. Do you only ever watch subscription services like Netflix, Amazon or Now TV to watch on demand or catch up programmes? If so, you don’t need a TV licence (except if you’re watching BBC programmes on iPlayer) – cancel it and save yourself your annual subscription this year.
Spend only cold hard cash….
Psychologically, it is far harder to spend cash than to swipe your card. Start by working out how much money you need for your weekly regular purchases. Take this amount out from the ATM at the beginning of the week and use only this cash to make all your purchases. Not only will you be able to see how much of your budget is actually left in your wallet, you’ll think twice about the purchase you are making when you hand over the cash. Could you get better value (and more change) from an alternative product? Do you really need the product in the first place? Try it and see!
Saving on your spending…..
Using Zeek, a discounted gift card voucher site, is a fantastic way to get more bang for your buck at the places you shop at regularly, as well as when you have a big purchase to make. You can find gift cards and vouchers for retailers from supermarkets through to cinema and restaurant chains and fashion retailers. With discounts ranging from 5 – 25% of face value, using Zeek is a really easy way to save on everyday and occasion spends.
Be travel savvy….
Travel is often a large expense and can end up costing us more than it needs to – but you can change that with some easy actions.
Book ahead for bus and train journeys to get the best prices, and travel outside of peak time if you can.
If you are looking for popular times e.g. school holidays for package holidays, it is best to book ahead but if you can be more flexible, wait until closer to the date for the best last-minute deals.
Book stand-alone flights early – they are often available up to a year before the date of travel and prices generally go up the later you leave it to book. Always remember to claim for travel delays – many people consider it too much hassle but you could be due a substantial rebate if you journey was delayed. Finally, consider if you really need to travel by car – could you ride a bike for short journeys or even ditch the car altogether and join a car share club.
Skim your bank account….
Skimming sounds like it might be something illegal but it’s not; it’s a simple technique to help you save small amounts of money. If you have a balance of say £64.89 in your current account at the end of the week, you could round this down to an even £64 and ‘skim’ off 89p from your current account in to a savings account. Some accounts don’t allow transfers under £1 but in this case, if you can afford to, round down £4.89 to £60. The beauty of skimming is that you can do it as frequently as you like – try setting yourself a target of skimming once a week and see how much money you save with the 52 withdrawals to your savings account.
Match bad habits with good ones….
Saving money is rewarding but everybody needs a treat every now and again; life would be boring if we cut out all unnecessary spending! But why not try matching the money you spend on these indulgences by putting an equivalent amount in to your savings pot; for every £1 you spend on your naughty money habits (think that sandwich from Pret a Manger that you could have brought in from home), put £1 in a glass jar and watch your savings grow.
With these easy ways to save money, you could see some benefits almost immediately. Set yourself a date in 6 months’ time to review how much you have saved – this should help keep you on track!
Emma aims to empower people to make good financial choices over at her blog The Money Whisperer. She covers topics ranging from the best ways to save money for your children, through to what happens if you die without a will. A busy mum of two, Emma shares easy tips to save money, make money and transform how you view your personal finances. She believes that getting in control of your finances and money mindset isn’t hard if you put your mind to it but it really can change your life.
‘Being in control of your finances and making the most of the money you have means you can enjoy life to the full. And you only live once…..’.