With 2016 well underway if you’ve so far failed to get your finances under control, and you’re really keen to do so soon, then budgeting and cutting back are important first steps. You may think that you’re already making all the savings that you can when it comes to your spending but there is always room to cut back a little more. We’ve got a few suggestions for small changes you can make in 2016 that together will save you thousands, rather than a few hundred, per year.
Make your own brew
Yes, your daily latte (or double dose of lattes) might seem like a little luxury but if you drop the habit you could be saving yourself £5-6 a day. That’s upwards of £20 a week, £80 a month and almost £1,000 a year. Swap your shop-bought caffeine consumption for supplies at the office or go old school and bring a thermos from home.
Be wary of multibuys
We tend to see signs offering us any kind of discount or something ‘FOR FREE’ and lose all sense of logic. Multibuy offers can provide some great savings but not all are as fantastic as they might seem at first glance. If you don’t really need three tubes of toothpaste then there’s no real value to paying for three on a two for one deal, even if you get the third free. You could even look at it as not a saving at all as you only needed to pay for a single tube of toothpaste. Pay particular attention to special offers along the lines of “2 for £2’ etc – look closely at the original prices and you may well find that buying two outside of the offer would have cost just a few pence more so there’s no need to feel forced into it.
Ditch the lottery dreams
We all think, somewhere at the back of our busy brains, that winning the lottery could someday, maybe happen to us. Seeing as most of us feel like we ‘deserve’ to win the lottery and, as the tickets don’t cost an enormous amount, large numbers of us in the UK find ourselves paying for lottery tickets each week. According to BT we each spend over £400 each per year on this! You should know that your chances of winning the lottery have gone down since it first began – way down. Since Camelot introduced 10 new balls the odds of winning the jackpot have gone from one in 14 million to one in 45 million. You’ve got more chance of winning an Oscar, being crushed by a meteorite or becoming an astronaut than winning the lottery so it’s not exactly a savvy investment.
Make use of your freezer
Food wastage is not just a problem on an ethical level, it’s also a serious financial drain that you can easily stop. Wasted food and drinks cost the average family with children £700 a year so save yourself some pennies and use your freezer instead. Freeze leftovers, freeze butter, freeze old pastry and put products such as meat, fish and bread straight in the freezer so there’s no chance of them going off before you can get to them.
Don’t join a gym
…or if you already have a membership, cancel it. If you’re on a money-saving drive then there are so many free ways to get great exercise that doesn’t cost anything. Running is the easiest, and one of the most effective, alternatives – there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that running outside is better for you as it’s less repetitive than a treadmill and you get out in the fresh air. Cycling to work is a great form of exercise and will also save you transport costs, from a tank of petrol to the cost of the bus or train. You could also join a local sports team and make a whole bunch of new friends instead of training alone in the gym with your headphones in.
Make lunches – for everyone
Ready-made lunches are incredibly pricey and when you look at what the ingredients actually cost ‘in real life,’ the markups that sandwich and take out food companies charge can be quite a shock. You don’t have to be lunching on lobster every day to see savings from taking your own lunches – and getting everyone else in the family to make theirs too. You can save even more cash by using up last night’s leftovers the next day – perhaps there is such a thing as a free lunch after all. With people spending an average of £8 per lunch you can save a small fortune by doing it yourself.
Because there are cheaper alternatives for all this “discretionary” expenditure you’ll find that with a bit of effort you could significantly trim your costs and perhaps avoid the tendency to reach for a short term loan when you’re faced with an out of budget expense like fixing a broken washing machine or boiler. You could even start to save what you don’t spend and put the money towards something you’ve been dreaming of – a holiday perhaps – or for your retirement (via a pension or similar). The sooner you start the sooner you’ll save.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley