Over the past six weeks, readers have been tweeting and emailing in their favourite money-saving and money-making tips, as part of a competition to win a copy of Spare Change, the latest money manual from financial blogger Iona Bain.
The response has been staggering, with hundreds of ideas on how to save more, cut spending, and get better value on the purchases you do make.
You won’t see anything about the bigger issues, such as saving for retirement, investing or mortgages, which needs a bit more thought than the coins in your pocket at the end of the week, but as JD of Glasgow reminds us, “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.”
Some of the tips are quite specific – like investing in a water softener to cut the shampoo
you’ll use in the shower or detergent in your washing machine (SR, Plymouth) – while others are universal principles that can help anyone, regardless of your circumstances.
SL, from Haycastle, perhaps said it best. Managing your money over the long term is about “being consistently frugal, not just when you’re short of money”.
Thanks to everyone who contributed – unfortunately, only 10 people have won a copy of Ms Bain’s book, but we’re grateful for every contribution, and are sure your fellow readers will be too. To everyone who suggested reading Moneywise – we completely agree.
If you’ve got a hot tip that’s not here, drop us a message at email@example.com, or on Twitter via @moneywiseonline.
The truth is Brits just don’t save enough. DM, from Edinburgh, suggests that a decent savings goal is to save £1 for every £10 you receive.
That won’t be possible, or even desirable, for everyone, but most of us admit we could be saving more. With savings rates as low as they are, it’s easier to grow your savings by adding to them, instead of relying on a bank to provide meagre top-ups.
Even small, regular savings can quickly add up. LL, from Derbyshire, says: “Always save something. Even if it’s just a few pence a week, get saving.”
In many cases, people plan to save but never quite get round to it. Perhaps they intend to put any left- over money into savings at the end of the month, but when the time comes the cash has gone.
KA, in Sheffield, says prioritising your savings over spending will help break this cycle: “Establish a payday savings habit – put some money aside for savings as soon as you get it.”
KC, in Amersham, agrees and says by setting up a direct debit, you won’t miss the money that you never saw.
Even people who can’t see the point in saving accounts paying as little as 0.01% interest should get saving, says @moneyhelpadvice: “Pop your #sparechange into a sealed moneybox that you don’t open until Christmas. It’s amazing how much it adds up.”
We agree with the sentiment – but practically no interest is better than no interest at all. And, of course, it’s possible to get savings working harder if you “keep checking the interest you earn on your savings,” adds IB in County Durham.
Younger readers, take note: “It’s always best to start saving while you are young,” says SB in Lancashire. He’s absolutely right – start your savings earlier and the power of compound interest means you’ll end up with more, even if you put away less money each month.
Cut your spending
The best way to cut your outgoings is “ask yourself if you really need an item before you buy”, says FJ in Dumfriesshire.
After all, in the words of MF in Hertfordshire: “Just because I have money, it doesn’t mean I have to spend it!”
To cut out impulse purchases, if you see something you want to buy, “wait at least 24 hours before you make the purchase”, says WM in Nottingham.
If you’re buying online, that can be even easier. Simply fill up your online shopping basket, go to bed, and then check in the morning if you still need it, suggests KH from the Isle of Man.
For the purchases you decide you do need, don’t be tempted to scrimp on quality to save a few pence. Buying cheap means buying twice, warns IB in County Durham.
That’s definitely true for substantial purchases, but for many household staples, own-brand products can be just as good as the big names. “A lot of ‘value’ supermarket products are perfectly ￼￼￼acceptable at half the price of branded,” says HS in Berkshire. And don’t be shy about asking for a discount. Retailers might say no, but they might not, and you’ll never know unless you try, says SB in Manchester.
Finally: “Shop around for anything or everything,” says GH in Cheshire. “Loyalty is a thing of the past.”
Stick to spending a budget
Regularly reviewing your spending is one of the quickest and easiest ways to bring it down. “Evaluate all your expenditure. However small, any savings will soon add up,” advises CF in London.
The trick is to be rigorous, so you can see where everything goes. “Write a budget and keep a spending diary so you know exactly where your money is going,” says LP in London.
In drastic cases, switching to a cash-only regime in the short term can make tracking your spending easier. “You’re less likely to fritter money away if you can feel it leaving your wallet,” says CM in Devon.
PMI in Sussex agrees: “Try paying in cash for a week to help reflect on and review your spending habits.”
Get paid to spend
Whether you’re buying online or on the high street, there are plenty of ways to claw back some of your outgoings through cashback deals and reward schemes.
“I always check my cashback website before I buy on the internet – a no-brainer and money for nothing,” says @poshpink101.
If you don’t already use a cashback site, QuidCo.com and TopCashback.co.uk are two of the biggest, and make good places to start.
The best cashback deals on credit cards aren’t as generous as they used to be, but it’s easy to get 1% of your spending back or more. Spend £250 on plastic a month and you’ll get £30 free at the end of the year. “Just make sure you pay the bills in full each month, or you’ll quickly erase any bonus,” advises JD in Glamorgan.
Boost your income
In a nutshell, there are only two ways to improve your financial situation in the short term: either bring your spending down or boost your income.
AO, in London, advises anyone who can to work overtime. It’s not an option open to everyone, but it pays well if you’re in the increasingly small group of people who can. Otherwise, “Look into the sharing economy and explore if it will work for you,” suggests @Briteeth.
If you have a property, or even a parking space, then the likes of Airbnb can get your home working for you, and incoming new tax breaks mean you’ll be able to earn £1,000 tax free, on top of your personal allowance.
It’s also possible to earn a few pounds online by doing surveys.
Most survey companies pay vouchers, but some do cash. “A few minutes here and there over the year can slash the cost of Christmas presents,” says MK in Lancashire.
There are plenty of other ways to make money online – many of them explored at Moneywise.co.uk.
“Educate yourself regularly on ways to make more money,” concludes DB in Oxfordshire, echoing the thoughts of legendary investor Warren Buffet (who rudely didn’t participate in the #sparechange competition): “The most important investment you can make is in yourself. Very few people get anything like their potential horsepower translated into the actual horsepower of their output in life. Potential exceeds realisation for many people... The best asset is your own self. You can become to an enormous degree the person you want to be.”
Every time you go into a supermarket, you’re entering a battlefield for your wallet.They’ve evolved over the years to incorporate lots of psychological tricks to get you to hand over your money.These include putting the most expensive items at eye level, multi-buy deals that aren’t as cheap as they look, or even simply getting you to walk past hundreds of things you don’t need to find the one or two that you do.
Here are your tips to fight back:
- “Always take a shopping list and stick to it. And never go shopping on an empty stomach!” – VB, Devon
- “Plan your meals before the weekly shop” – JH, Swansea
- “Buy in bulk whenever you see good offers” – RR, Kent
- But not for perishables – “only buy onions and bananas in small amounts as they don’t keep long” – says AE (address not disclosed)
- “Go supermarket shopping late in the evenings to pick up bargains” – CD, Glamorgan
- “Always check your till receipts for mistakes and special offers” – SK, Scotland
Around the home
Below are readers’ tips to waste less and save on household bills:
- “Install a water meter to save money” – AH, Portsmouth
- “Allotments can save on gym fees as well as food bills!” – JH, Birmingham
- “Revamp your wardrobe by customising old clothes to make them feel new” – SD, Devon
- “Cut any tubes of toothpaste or make- up in half. It’s amazing what is still in there” –LH, Cheshire
- “Use Poundshop vinegar spray for ALL your cleaning – no other products required” – SD, London
- “Write renewal dates in your diary to give you a fortnight to shop around” – JL, Yorkshire
- “Insulate a loft hatch better by gluing the foam from an old sofa cushion to it” –
- RF, Somerset
- “Don’t fill your car’s fuel tank right up unless going on a long journey as the extra weight uses more fuel” – ED, Devon
- “Walk when you can and leave the car at home” – IH, Wales