1. Make a shopping list
Food shopping forms a significant part of our monthly outgoings and the supermarket is where the bulk of the money is spent. Tesco takes £1 in every £8 spent by UK shoppers. But be warned, stores spend a small fortune studying ways of making us part with more of our money than we would otherwise intend to. Have you ever wondered why your favourite song is playing in the background as you navigate the aisles? Have you even noticed the background music? Possibly not, but you will have noticed at the checkout that the bill is often more than expected. To circumvent this, simply make a shopping list. Dig out the cookery books, plan a few meals and only buy what you need.
Saving: £10 a week = £520 a year
2. When was the last time you went to the market?
One way to beat the supermarkets – that is, to eat healthily for less – is to use your local market stall. Lower overheads should mean lower prices. At the time of writing, cherries were on sale in Asda for £2.99 for 400g, the equivalent at the local market was going for just over £1.
3. Consider own-brand goods
You can buy a tin of Asda own-brand baked beans for 14p and a loaf bread at Asda, Tesco or Sainsbury’s for 19p. Enough said.
4. Don’t buy designer labels
Celebrities are given expensive clothes to wear. You’re not. At the end of the day, and let’s face it you may only wear the outfit once, can you justify paying hundreds of pounds over the odds because a top designer has had his or her name sewn on the label? And can you honestly say you can tell the difference at a distance between a £600 designer bag and a £9.99 one from the market? Think about it.
5. Sell your clutter on eBay
Take this quick test: You’re at home. Open a cupboard. Look inside. If it’s full of clothes you haven’t worn, or ‘good ideas a the time’ you haven’t used, for, let’s say, three years – you don’t need them. So why not sell them to someone else who does? Ebay, the online auction house, has opened individual sellers to a world of buyers. And you can flog anything for the cost of a small commission. Tip: you may want to buy a few items first to build up your rating as a respectable eBayer before you start selling.
Income: Will depend on what’s in your cupboard
6. Use your talent to earn extra cash
Let’s face it, if you’re not a pop star by the time you reach your 20s you’re never going to be. But you may be able to use your talent as a guitarist to teach other wannabes the rudiments of the 12-bar blues.
Income: It’s not unreasonable to charge £20 an hour
7. Do DIY
We’re a nation of obsessive DIYers and for around £100 you can take a course at your local adult education college to improve the skills needed to tackle most household repairs. If the college runs plumbing courses you could soon be on track to wiping out costly call-out charges and extra insurance policies once and for all.
8. Shop around for the cheapest household insurance
Unless you drive – car insurance is mandatory – you don’t need insurance. But it’s strongly advisable. Can you afford to foot the bill if your house burns down? Probably not. Similarly, can you afford to pay over the odds for the same policy available elsewhere because you can’t be bothered to shop around? Possibly, but it’s not advisable. The internet has made finding cheaper insurance easy and you can compare hundreds of policies in minutes.
9. Choose cheaper breakdown insurance
The breakdown sector is dominated by big names such as the AA and RAC. But being towed home if your car breaks down is just another form of insurance like any other and there are scores of cheaper alternatives.
Saving: Up to £100 a year
10. Are you paying too much for your life insurance?
We’re living longer. As a result the cost of insuring the unthinkable is getting cheaper all the time. If you were sold a policy when you took out or mortgage you may have been under too much stress to shop around. You could be missing a trick.
11. Book early
Low-cost airlines have created a market in holidays for people prepared to fly to any destination provided it’s cheap. You can benefit from this too. Just remember, only a few seats on each flight are sold at bargain-basement prices and once they’re sold, the prices rise. So book early.
12. Book your own ‘package’ holiday online
The popularity of High Street travel agents is waning as more and more people warm to the benefits of researching and putting together their own holidays on the internet. If your holiday consists of flights, accommodation, transfers and possibly car hire, then take this test. Order a brochure from a leading holiday company and work out the price of your holiday including all the complicated supplements. Now go online and, starting with the flights, try to put the same package together.
13. Don’t pay full price for theatre or theme park tickets
If you are prepared to tolerate the unwieldy website and hit-and-miss customer service, lastminute.com regularly boasts some amazing deals for London’s theatres and the nation’s theme parks. At the time of writing you can see top West End show The Producers plus a two-course meal for less than £20 a head, a saving of £60 per person, and tickets for Chessington World of Adventures cost from £12, a saving of nearly £50 for a day out for a family of four.
14. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses
Trying to keep up appearances is little more than a costly illness. Remember, you cannot judge someone by what they have because you don’t know how they got it. Chances are they’re in more debt than you are.
15. Ask yourself: do I really need this?
Imagine the scenario. It’s lunchtime and you’ve got an hour to kill. You find yourself in a department store and there’s a sale on. You pick up a beautifully packaged selection of barbecue tools and associated garden paraphernalia. And it’s half price. Now, stop! Ask yourself: Do I really need this? Exactly. Now, put it down and walk away.
16. Walk/cycle to the station/work
It maybe a bit of hippie notion to many people but it’s free.
17. Cut down your drinking
A few beers after work a few nights a week is a financially debilitating state of affairs. Set limits and stick to them.
18. Pack up smoking
Never mind the health implications, the guilt and the smell, your 20-a-day habit is costing you nearly £2,000 a year. Pack it in.
Saving: Nearly £2,000
19. Use your library
The local library is a mecca for the money saver. You’ll never need to buy another cookbook, guidebook or lifestyle manual again and if you can bear to wait a few weeks in the queue for the latest blockbuster, you never need to buy books again. CDs and videos are great value too.
20. Claim your benefits and tax credits
There was once a certain stigma in Britain attached to claiming benefits. Well, not any more. The Government has put benefits at the heart of the family budget and it’s your money so make sure you’re claiming it. That includes Child Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and other employee-related tax benefits.
Photo Credit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/