We might all enjoy spending money on the things (or people) we love, but constantly spending and never saving is an unhealthy habit. Worrying about rising debt can cause us to have sleepless night and lack of sleep cause us to become physically unwell. So getting in to the habit of saving is good for us in many ways. The young, middle-aged and old; employed, self-employed or unemployed we can all benefit from having a bit put by for a rainy day. Even if it’s just a small amount imagine the pressure that would take off if your car broke down or your boiler packed up? Imagine being able to pay for those repairs without worrying about hitting your credit card limit or taking out a loan.
Sure you have to make sacrifices to build up some savings but if you’ve never given it a try you might be surprised at how quickly a small, regular amount can build up. And that small savings pot could give you some financial freedom – maybe you won’t need it for an emergency and could spend it on a much-needed holiday. We’ve become a nation in debt with too few of us saving for our own financial security and many of have forgotten or never know what it feels like to be financially secure with a small back up fund.
And, yet, statistically, we are all going to be living much longer than previous generations so we should be saving more to take us through those longer years of retirement, but we’re not, because we have become used to being able to obtain credit. But borrowing is not always the answer.
The average life expectancy in the UK is now 81 years (although there is still a significant difference between the South of England and Scotland) – that’s lower than Japan’s life expectancy of 83 but higher that the average 78 years in the States. It even several years higher here in the UK than it was not so long ago back in 1990 so maybe a change in our financial habits is overdue.
By starting to save a little bit right now, today, you can make a difference to your financial situation – you just have to start getting into the saving habit. Almost all of us can manage to save just a little bit if we try. I’m not saying it will be easy, in fact, it’s hard work getting into the saving habit, especially if your salary hasn’t risen for years while the cost of living is going up, but if you start to put aside a small amount each week or month, then soon you won’t even miss the money. It doesn’t matter where you put it, a tin on top of a kitchen cupboard or a savings account, just make sure it is somewhere that you won’t be tempted to dip into.
Dealing with Debt
If you are already struggling with debt right now and can’t manage your repayments then please get help straight away. As with any debt, whether it’s a loan, credit card or a utility bill that you can’t pay you must contact your lender and discuss your options right away. If you have already missed one or more repayments then your debt will be increasing fast. It’s also a good idea to get in touch with independent organisations that can help you, like:
But this isn’t meant to be a lecture because saving can, believe it or not, be fun if you think of it as a change in lifestyle, not a sacrifice. And there are plenty of discount food stores and other discount retailers around now that can help us save on everyday items – I’m thinking, especially those small German supermarkets that are springing up everywhere.
So let’s look at some fun ways that will help you to save more easily and build up a sum that will give you some financial security whatever your age or personal situation. Because the sort of future you will have is in your hands and you can take control of your finances if you stop spending money on non-essentials and start saving for that better future. And it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life now – you can still go out or buy a new dress – it just means you can do it less often.
Fun Ways To Save Money
Learn To Cook and Make Your Own Meals
This is always top of my list of where to save money because ready prepared meals cost so much more than the raw ingredients, and food you make yourself is much healthier because it contains less salt and sugar. But it’s also much tastier. I never used to be a great cook but it’s amazing what a bit of practice will do – I like to use the BBC Food recipes you can find online, but I’ve also picked up some old Jamie Oliver books from charity shops and I’m starting to cook some great dishes (even if I say so myself). I never used to realise what all the fuss was about with Ready, Steady, Cook and The Great British Bake Off but I’m now a fan.
I’ve also cut back on meat and fish which saves a lot of money – I could never give it up altogether but a couple of days a week we go vegetarian (and it’s not bad). I also try and make double portions of everything, if I can, and freeze half so I’m not spending all my spare time in the kitchen. Who knew cooking could be such fun and I haven’t even started learning to bake cakes yet.
Try Different Food
We all know those supermarkets with cut-price brands that we don’t recognise – well start giving them a go. They are much cheaper and the quality is just as good as some well-known brands. Why not have a blind tasting with your family – get them all involved in choosing foods they like and, hopefully, they are the cheaper ones. But it’s not just those German supermarkets that can save you money – our own weekly markets, if you are lucky enough to live in a town that still has one, are great for fruit and vegetables and ethnic shops are great for basics such as rice, flour, pasta, spices and herbs (which you’ll need once you become a good cook). So be adventurous with your food and save money at the same time.
Drink More Water
Mmm – not sure this really sounds fun but it is healthy and much cheaper than soft drinks – because it’s free. If you are hooked on regular fixes of fizzy drinks or cappuccino (like I used to be) you will save a serious amount of money just popping that money in a savings tin each time you fancy one and having a glass of water instead. It’s free and healthy so that has to be good for you and your wallet.
Take up Cycling, Running or Walking
If you haven’t already got a bike then you can pick one up cheaply from charity shops or even for free on sites like Freecycle.org. Try and use it as an alternative to a car or public transport to save on the cost of petrol or bus and train fares. If you haven’t been on a bike since you were a child it is still just as much fun – you will save money and get fit at the same time.
If you can’t get hold of a cheap or free bike then why not take up running or even just walking – it can be quite addictive once you get used to the adrenalin rush and it is entirely free. Again it will save you money on petrol or fares and get you fit. If you haven’t exercised for a while start with a short run or walk and gradually build up your stamina.
Buy From Charity Shops
I love rummaging through charity shops and have found some beautiful clothes locally and once even bought a designer handbag when I was down in Totnes in Devon on holiday – for £5! There are at least 6 charity shops in my home town (a sign of the times, I guess) but I like the fact I’m supporting a charity while saving money on clothes, bags, jewellery, books, DVDs etc. I feel I can treat myself without spending much and feel good about it instead of regretting the cost if I’d bought something full price.
Make Christmas and Birthday Presents
Many people struggle financially when it comes to buying Christmas and Birthday presents but you can avoid overspending by making your own presents. Because if you don’t stop spending a lot on presents now those times are just going to come round and round again each year getting you deeper and deeper into debt or preventing you from saving any money. So think of some ideas for presents well in advance so you have time to make them.
What about a personalized make-up bag for a teenage girl or a personalized pencil case for a teenage boy using scraps of fabric or old denim? Or a pretty cushion, knitted hat or scarf for a friend. Look out for offcuts of fabric and felt from craft shops and odd balls of wool. Even if you don’t have a sewing machine simple items can be sewn by hand.
And if, unlike me, you are already good at baking then bake a special cake or biscuits or even make some homemade sweets to give to the birthday girl or boy. Sweet treats are always a popular present and before you know it friends and family will be looking forward to their home-made gifts.
Remember it isn’t “mean” or “tight” to spend less – it is simply being sensible and frugal. Your friends and family may even be relieved that they no longer have to spend quite so much on presents either. So you could be doing yourself and them a favour by cutting back on the cost of presents.
Become a Coupon and Voucher Expert
Don’t be afraid of using coupons and vouchers; they really can save you huge amounts of money on just about everything. Make it your mission to collect as many coupons and special offer voucher deals as you can and make sure you take advantage of them before they expire. Have a special place to store them so you don’t lose them or forget about them. Check online too to see what is available especially if you need to make a major purchase – even large furniture items like beds can be hugely discounted with special deals but do make sure you shop around if making a major purchase as headline deals and special offers might not always work out as the cheapest option.
Get Free Stuff Online
Some companies give away free stuff if you are willing to sign up for their email list and, if you are into social media, some companies give away “swag” if you say something nice about them on social media – I once got a very nice T-shirt, thank you very much, for tweeting about a new product I was using. And remember that by law all companies have to offer a way to opt-out of their email list if you really don’t want to stay on it once you’ve received your free gift.
Keep Up The Good Habits
Almost all of us will get into debt at some point in our lives but it only becomes a problem when it becomes unmanageable or becomes an amount that we are uncomfortable with. For that reason it is always a good time to try and ditch bad spending habits and become more frugal.
Budgeting effectively and saving money each month requires determination; it means only buying what you need not what you want. But it can be a fun experience and can even make you healthier so why not give it a go now, today and let us know if you managed to kick your bad spending habits and start saving.
- Clever ways to save money
- How the Money Advice Service could help you
- Where to get the best interest rate for your savings
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read more about Amanda Gillam
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