You work darned hard for your money. You stay behind late, you put in overtime, you shoulder extra responsibilities because that’s just the sort of person you are. Yet, for all your efforts it never seems as if there’s enough cash in the household. There’s no doubt about it, as living costs climb ever higher yet wages stagnate in austerity era Britain, households of all shapes and sizes continue to feel the pinch (however much our leaders may insist that austerity is over). Despite the respectable wage you command, there never seems to be enough to go around and the money in your bank account is siphoned away almost as quickly as it is paid in.
It’s a conundrum. It’s not as though you lead a lavish lifestyle. You don’t spend a fortune on designer clothes (unless you count Primarni), you quaff cava rather than champagne at Christmas and you don’t even go out for dinner all that often. Yet, at the end of every month your bank account looks more and more bleak.
Does it ever feel like your spending is getting out of control?
Despite your modest lifestyle, it can seem as though your household spending is getting wildly out of control. While you may not lead a lavish life, it’s still up to you to take charge of your spending. For many of us, our anemic bank balance is not the result of big ostentatious spends, but a combination of dozens and dozens of little expenses that all add up at the end of the month. Establishing a household budget (and sticking to it) is one of the most reliably to get your spending under control as it conditions you to account for every item of spending, large and small throughout the month. Very often, cutting down on the little things like getting a Starbucks on the way to work rather than taking your own coffee to work in a thermos can make a big difference throughout the month. Very often, however, you’ll find that you can make substantial savings without making changes or sacrifices in your lifestyle. In fact, most of us are overspending on the little essentials in life that add up throughout the year. Very often we can overspend by hundreds or even thousands of pounds throughout the year through a combination of brand loyalty, ignorance or misinformation. Most of the time we’re unaware of just how much we could save with a minimum of effort. Here are just a few areas in which most households today are overspending. Rein them in and you could find yourself with much more disposable income to spend on the things in life that really matter!
Your energy and water
It’s a given that every household has energy needs, but your evenings don’t have to consist of a meal of raw foods and charades by candlelight every night to cut down your energy costs. Most of the time we can make savings on our energy usage simply by doing little things like switching appliances off at the wall overnight rather than leaving them on standby or installing a smart meter to get a clearer idea of how much energy your appliances and devices are using. Even replacing your incandescent bulbs with energy saving CFL equivalents can scythe down your energy costs throughout the year. Energy saving bulbs can save you an average of £3 per year per bulb!
Aside from saving on your usage, you can also save a small fortune by changing your provider and your tariff. If you’ve been sticking with the big names to supply your electricity and gas, you almost definitely haven’t been getting the best deal. Energy is one area where you won’t find any fluctuation in the quality of your product. One supplier’s gas and electricity is absolutely no different to that of any other. With this in mind, it makes no sense whatsoever to be loyal to the same provider year in, year out. An energy price comparison can save you hundreds of pounds per year with many smaller providers offering far more cost effective tariffs than the bigger names. If you switch to an account that’s managed entirely online with no phone support you will also be able to make huge savings.
While you may not be able to switch water suppliers, you can still make substantial savings on your water bills by installing a water meter, using water saving shower heads, or even steaming your veggies instead of boiling them.
A mobile phone in the 21st century is arguably not a luxury but a necessity. In fact, many households actually eschew a landline and use their mobile phones instead. Nonetheless, even if you can’t function without your trusty smartphone you needn’t pay over the odds for your minutes, texts and mobile data.
As with energy prices, you can save a small fortune by looking for smaller service providers and brands. Check out Smarty.co.uk for a good example. Smarty is part of the 3 network and so offers a reliable service but at some seriously cost effective tariffs. Their “Large” tariff offers 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts for just £15 a month while their more modest “Small” tariff offers 2GB a month with unlimited calls and texts for just £7.50 a month.
Aside from saving money on tariffs, we can also save a fortune by getting off the endless carousel of expiring tariffs and upgrades. Do you really need to get back on another repayment plan with a shiny new phone when you’ve only just begun to own your existing handset?
Your car insurance
How often do you change your car insurance provider? If the answer is anything other than “every year”, you’re almost certainly paying over the odds for your insurance. Car insurance companies will never, ever reward you for your loyalty. Letting your existing policy roll over will invariably cost you more than taking your business elsewhere. Insurers assume that we assume that changing your insurer is an unnecessary faff and while the industry has been reined in considerably in recent years even giving refunds to customers who have been mistreated, it still behoves you to spend just a few minutes on a price comparison when your policy expires.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you need to see your policy through to the end of the year, either. If you see a great deal, you may be able to switch midway through your policy. While you may have to pay a small administrative fee, it may well pay for itself in prospective savings.
As we’ve already said, eschewing your morning latte at a franchised coffee outlet for a homemade brew in a thermos can save you a small fortune. So too is it much cheaper to pre-pack your own lunches. Absolutely no sandwich you’ll find in the supermarket chiller is worth the £2-3 price tag. Not only does packing your own lunches save you a fortune, it also helps you to better manage your nutrition. Be sure to snack throughout the day, too, as this will help you to keep cravings at bay and make those unhealthy yet pricey snacks in the work vending machines much less appealing.
When you carry out your weekly food shop at the supermarket, don’t be swayed by multibuy deals which will make you spend more than you initially intended on products that will likely sit languishing in your fridge or pantry. Be wary of prepackaged produce too and buy your fruits and veggies loose. The cost of packaging is usually incorporated into the price of packaged produce and since most of it is non-recyclable it’s lousy for the environment, too.
After a hard day’s work, we all need to have something entertaining to come home to. By the time we reach the age of 50 most Brits will have spent over £200,000 on entertainment (including eating out and holidays). Needless to say this is another area in which most of us can save. For example, how many of us keep on paying for our TV license but never ever watch BBC live broadcast content? If your evenings mostly consist of Netflix and snacks, you can save £150.50 a year by cancelling your TV license. It’s perfectly legal just as long as you don’t watch live broadcast television.
Speaking of Netflix, did you ever notice that we all have way too many subscription services these days? From Netflix to Amazon Prime to Spotify, Audible and even MS Office we’re all paying for a plethora of content every month that we rarely get our money’s worth out of. Carry out an audit of your subscription services and even if you can’t bring yourself to cancel them, at least consider putting some on hold for a few months. You’ll probably also find that you’re offered a few free months to lure you back.
Remember that your local library is a precious resource and with so many facing closure all over the country in recent years all communities should rally around theirs. They are a wonderful source of free books for all the family and cheap movie rentals that’s often overlooked in the era of subscription services.
You don’t need to completely change your lifestyle or even sacrifice your quality of life to make substantial savings each and every month which can amount to a great deal by the end of the year!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post