Are you living from one pay day to the next and failing to save anything for your future? To get a better grip on your cashflow, try adopting some of these old-school budgeting tips with a modern-day twist
1 Make it difficult to spend money
Spending money is just too easy – so put barriers in place to limit your spending. In the old days of cash, people would take out enough money to last a week and leave their cards at home.
But many places don’t accept cash now, so you need to adopt a new approach. One tactic is to transfer a week’s spending money on to a prepaid card that doesn’t have an overdraft facility. So when the money’s gone, it’s gone.
If credit card spending is your weakness, Mutaz Qubbaj, chief executive of budgeting app Squirrel, suggests literally freezing your cards.
“If you’re super impulsive, try placing your credit and store cards in a bowl of water and putting them in the freezer. When you want to use them you’ll have to wait for the ice to thaw,” he says.
If you need extra self-control at the online checkout, Google Chrome extension Icebox replaces the ‘buy’ button on more than 400 online shopping sites with its own ‘put it on ice’ button. All ‘on ice’ items are put into a virtual shopping basket and will stay there until a pre-set cooling-off period expires.
2 Use the jam jar method
The jam jar, pot or envelope budgeting method can help you budget and save towards different goals at the same time. But you don’t need actual jam jars or envelopes – you need multiple accounts.
Kara Gammell, who writes money-saving blog, Your Best Friend’s Guide to Cash (Yourbestfriends guidetocash.co.uk), has five instant access savings accounts for her short-term goals.
“There are a few expenses I know will come up every year, such as my tax bill, Christmas shopping and our six-week long trip to Canada each summer, so on payday, I siphon off money from my current account with a number of standing orders,” she explains.
“I transfer the money into savings right away, rather than wait until the end of the month. And do you know the best part about it? I am so used to the money whizzing out of my account automatically that I don’t even notice that it’s gone when I wake up on pay day.”
3 Set up a virtual loose change jar
When cash was king, many people would save their loose change in a penny jar and periodically count it, bag it and pay it into their account at a bank branch.
But with card transactions now being more popular than cash, it’s no longer the norm to come back from the shops carrying a purse full of coins.
However, there are various apps that save your loose change for you. For example, if you have a Monzo current account you can set up various savings ‘pots’. If you name a pot ‘Coin Jar’, Monzo will automatically round up any card purchases over £1 to the nearest pound and save the difference in the Coin Jar pot.
Rival digital bank Starling offers a similar service but rather than saving your spare change as cash, it invests it via a link-up with the Moneybox app.
Typing in the balances makes your bottom line seem more real
4 The 1p challenge
There are various fun challenges you can do to stash money away. The 52-week saving challenge involves saving £1 in the first week of the year, £2 in week two, £3 in week three…until you’re saving £52 by the last week of the year.
If that sounds a struggle, Ricky Willis, founder of the Skint Dad blog (Skintdad.co.uk), suggests starting small with the 1p saving challenge.
“You start saving 1p and increase by 1p each and every day. So on day two, you save 2p, then 3p on day three and so on. By the last day (day 365) you will be saving £3.65. At the end of the year, you will have saved £667.95 (or £671.61 in a leap year),” he explains, “Search online for a free printable chart so you can tick off each day. If you have some extra cash, then tick off more than one day at a time as it makes saving towards the end of the year easier and quicker.”
5 Keep track
If you want to see where every penny goes, there are plenty of apps for that. Money Dashboard, Money Hub, Yolt, and Bean aggregate all your financial accounts so you can see a complete picture of your finances in one place. You can track what you’re spending your money on and where.
But Andy Webb, founder of the Be Clever With Your Cash blog, reckons these apps can be easy to ignore. “I find a good old-fashioned spreadsheet the best way to keep on top,” he says. “Set aside an hour each month to check all your bank, savings and credit card accounts. Physically typing in the balances makes your bottom line seem more real, and gives you a heads-up if danger is around the corner.”
6 Learn to cook
Food blogger Jack Monroe (Cookingonabootstrap.co.uk) famously fed herself and her toddler on £10 a week. Her secret? She cooked everything from scratch. Her top recipes include 3p Ping Porridge, a 9p bean burger recipe, and 18p toad-in-the-hole.
Ms Monroe is vehemently against throwing leftover food away and her blog contains a handy A to Z with what to do with leftover food. She suggests freezing fruit, herbs and vegetables that are about to go off, or blitzing certain ingredients and adding lemon, garlic, oil, nuts or seeds to make pesto. Potatoes that are starting to sprout can be planted in a little soil in a cheap plastic bucket and, within a couple of months, new potatoes will grow.
Procrastination might be the enemy of productivity but it can be a big help if you’re trying to save money. Faith Archer, money blogger at Much More With Less (Muchmorewithless.co.uk) suggests a ‘buy it next week’ approach to spending.
“You’re not denying yourself everything for ever, just thinking about what you actually need right now. Do you really have to buy new shampoo, shoes or sushi, or could you last till next week with what you already have?” she says. “It can make you look at the contents of your cupboards with new eyes, if you use up odds and ends, dig out old outfits, reread books, repair stuff and rediscover hobbies. If you get creative, you might be surprised at how long you can keep spending stripped down to essentials.”
8 Travel like a local
When you’re on holiday, resolve to immerse yourself in the local area by living, eating and travelling like a local. While you might be tempted to play it safe with well-known restaurant chains, opting for local dishes such as tacos in Mexico, pho in Vietnam or paella in Spain will be cheaper.
If you’re on a backpacking trip, aim to take local buses and trains wherever possible. A ‘chicken bus’ in Central America or overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai will not only cost less than a taxi or flight, but will add to the adventure too. When it comes to accommodation, Airbnbs and guest houses will offer a better insight into local life than big hotels – and save you money.
When on holiday, resolve to live, eat and travel like a local
9 Never pay full price for anything
Make a rule that you won’t spend any money on discretionary or ‘fun’ spending unless you can get a decent deal. Tastecard and Dine memberships (often given away with packaged bank accounts or insurance policies) offer discounts on thousands of restaurants and pubs, while O2 customers can use the O2 Priority app for food and drink deals.
If you’re shopping online, TopCashback and Quidco pay cashback on thousands of online purchases while discount and promo codes generate money off, or free delivery, at online checkouts.
Another tactic is to ‘abandon’ your online shopping basket. If you’re signed in to a website but shut down your browser before paying for goods, the retailer is likely to email you and offer a discount to tempt you back to complete your purchase.
10 Have a buy nothing year (or week)
Extreme budgeters could potentially go the whole hog and not spend anything for a year. That’s what Michelle McGagh, author of The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More did for 12 months from November 2015.
Obviously Ms McGagh had to pay for her mortgage, household bills, food, basic toiletries and cleaning products. But that’s it – beyond that she spent nothing. That meant no pub visits, no takeaways or restaurant meals, no new clothes, no holidays, and no gym memberships. She cycled everywhere, met her friends for walks or trips to free galleries or museums, and went wild swimming. By the end of her buy nothing year, Ms McGagh had saved £22,439 compared to what she spent the previous year.
Obviously, spending nothing for a year is challenging, but a week or month may be achievable.
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