Financial expert Jasmine Birtles shares 12 practical tips on how to manage your finances and cut down your motoring costs by spending less and making a few simple changes to your routine.
1. Be clever with your credit cards
If you have a nasty Christmas debt on your credit cards, switch to a 0% deal such as the 17-month offer from Barclaycard or a low lifetime balance transfer card such as MBNA’s card which offers 5.9%. Or, if you pay off your debt each month, get a card that rewards you for spending. Try Barclaycard Freedom where you can earn up to 1% ‘Reward Money’ of your purchase price at over 20,000 participating retailers. You can then redeem it at participating retailers for money off at restaurants and high street retailers. Visit barclaycardfreedom.co.uk for a full list of retailers
2. Use loyalty cards
If you’re going to spend money you might as well get something back for it. If you use loyalty cards like the Boots Advantage card, make sure you get the most out of them. Boots commonly has ‘mega weekends’, either online or in-store where you get 1,000 extra points (worth £10). When one hits it’s worth collecting together everything you were planning to buy in Boots to grab the excess. With fuel prices increasing, it’s worth looking at how you can save money on fuel. Shell runs a loyalty scheme, Shell Driver’s Club – you’ll receive 50 bonus points on first registration online and additional points every time you fill up at Shell. Points can be exchanged for money off Shell fuel vouchers – 500 points gets you £2.50 of vouchers.
3. Save on motoring costs
Save on motoring costs. Swap your current car for a smaller, cheaper, more fuel-efficient version. If it has very low emissions you will also save on insurance, car tax and some residential parking schemes. Keep the tyres pumped up at all times and try to drive at a smooth, constant speed as this reduces your fuel consumption. For more information on smarter driving tips visit Shell FuelSave.
4. Get as much as you can for free
Use freebie sites (wisely – there’s a lot of rubbish to sift through!) for free samples of all kinds of things. Also, get into mystery shopping for free restaurant visits and supermarket shopping trips – make sure they are legit, though, like TNS-Global.com or JKSMysteryshopping.co.uk. Get a holiday nearly free by swapping your house with someone in another country. Try the website Homeexchange.com for an amazing selection of homes all round the world.
5. Share and swap with friends and neighbours
Get together with your friends and neighbours to save money. Have a swap shop every now and then where you and your friends swap clothes, accessories and even unwanted gifts. Also, share lawnmowers, power tools and other big-ticket items with neighbours. Bulk buy food and household goods at the cash and carry and share them out with neighbours so that you all end up paying less.
6. Sign up to bargains
There are loads of voucher sites and bargain newsletters that will send money-off deals and vouchers into your inbox every week. Just be discerning about which deals you go for. Sign up for free to the Moneymagpie free weekly newsletter for exclusive deals you can’t get anywhere else.
7. Do a budget and stick to it
It sounds boring but a budget is your family’s weapon against the money monster. You can even do it on the back of an envelope. Just add up the money that comes in each month then take away from that all the bills you have to pay to keep the roof over your head and body and soul together. Once you know what you’ve got left over you just divide that amount by four and make sure you don’t spend more than that each week. That will keep you out of expensive and miserable debt.
8. Make your home pay for itself
If you’re struggling to keep up with the mortgage, bring in extra cash by renting out a spare room. You can make up to £4,250 a year tax free by doing this. Or just rent out your driveway by putting it on Parkatmyhouse.com. You could even make megabucks by offering it as a film set. Try registering with Lavishlocations.com.
9. Save on food bills
There are loads of ways of cutting down your food bill each week. Switch one meat dish per week to a vegetarian one that is cheaper. Get tips from Lovefoodhatewaste.com on how to make the most of what you’ve got. Shop at street markets as they are generally 30% cheaper than supermarkets. Go down a brand with food in tins and jars – you won’t notice the difference with most of them.
10. Shop around to save
It goes without saying that you could save hundreds on your insurance, utilities and other bills by using comparison sites before you sign up. Also, though, use sites like Pricerunner and Kelkoo to research gadgets like washing machines, TVs and lawnmowers. You can even save on removal costs by using the website Anyvan.com where ‘man-with-van’ operations and removals firms bid for your job. Find bookkeepers, lawyers and household helpers through Peopleperhour where all kinds of professionals bid for your work.
11. Buy secondhand
Now that VAT is at 20% the best way to avoid the hike is to buy things secondhand, particularly big ticket items like cars, furniture and electronics. Use eBay, Gumtree, your local paper. Quite often, items just a few months old can be half price
12. Be green
Get into green living and you will definitely save money. Mend clothes and gadgets where you can rather than buying new ones. Cut down on electricity, and your carbon footprint, by avoiding the tumble dryer and hanging clothes out to dry instead, using the ‘off’ switch when you’re not using electronic equipment and keeping the lid on pans when you cook.