Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves, they say – if only it was always that easy! It can be with our expert advice on making your money go further
Feeling the pinch? You’re not alone. According to data from Equifax (equifax.co.uk), 38 percent of workers say they’ve had sleepless nights due to money stresses. “Our research shows the connection between mental and physical wellbeing and debt,” explains Lisa Hardstaff, consumer credit information expert. “Among the money worries keeping people up, not being able to pay unexpected bills was top of the list at 51 percent.” So, here are seven ways to smarten up your spending to help you lose that anxious feeling each time you reach for your debit card.
You may groan at the thought of this but it’s the most essential and necessary place to start. “Assess your finances and, if you’re spending money on things you no longer need to, it’s time to re-evaluate,” advises Samantha Seaton, CEO of Moneyhub (moneyhub.com). “Using an app or tool to track your spending can really help, as it will categorise your transactions and provide smart nudges to show you where any savings can be made, whether it’s switching energy provider, loan or cancelling a subscription. Money management apps can help you find the 10 percent of money that you could access if you had the time, or knowledge, to complete your financial admin.”
Everyone likes a bargain but sometimes supermarkets lure us in with promotions that may not be worth it. “We’ve all seen those end-of-the-aisle unmissable deals stating buy one for 75p or two for £1.50, which seem absolutely necessary at the time,” says Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director at Fidelity International (fidelity.co.uk). “Whenever you feel tempted to splash out on one of these promotions, it’s worth doing a quick calculation to make sure that it isn’t too good to be true and you’re not about to be caught out at the check-out. Next time you’re rushing around the shop and think you’ve spotted a good deal, stop for a second and ask yourself two questions: do I really need to bulk buy this item and am I really making a saving here?”
Another tactic used in supermarkets is the careful placing of products. “Just when you’ve finished your shop and are heading to pay, you’ll often see cheaper items positioned close to the till to tempt you into a few last-minute purchases,” says Emma. “In order to boost the chances of this happening, there is a strategic way in which the shelves are stacked – items needing selling are typically placed in the customer’s eye-line or within reaching distance of the baskets. Next time, rather than reaching out for the product on the shelf straight in front of you, look down at the row below, as the odds are that the bargains will be found there and choosing these will mean less money leaves your purse.”
We’re great advocates of the gym but it can be an added expenditure if you don’t attend regularly. “If you find yourself paying for expensive monthly gym memberships and need to cut back on costs, you could get your friends round and follow an exercise regime on YouTube or Facebook Live,” recommends Anita Naik, lifestyle editor at VoucherCodes (vouchercodes.co.uk). “Everyone, from Kayla Itsines to The Body Coach, runs weekly workouts free of charge that can really save you money if you’re motivated enough to tune in! There’s no shortage of free fitness apps either, and they all feature a range of exercises to help you tone up or stretch out in the comfort of your own home. Although it’s very tempting to try out that quirky new yoga or boxercise class, you often have to sign up for a minimum number of sessions, which can soon add up, especially if you’re likely to end up missing a class or two. Scout for gyms offering day passes, so you can pay as you go!”
You probably already have a bank account but are you using it to its full advantage? “You may not realise it but using the same for your current and savings accounts means that you are more likely to risk dipping into your savings,” says Victor Trokoudes, CEO and co-founder of Plum (withplum.com).
“Moving your money into a savings account away from your day-to-day banking means you’re less likely to transfer cash across, and you could benefit from higher interest rates, too.” Also, start automating your saving. “Setting up automatic savings will help even the most profligate spenders regularly put money to one side each month. The key is to set up automated savings more than two to three times a month so you don’t notice them leaving your account. Over time, small amounts saved can build into savings that make it possible to realise that holiday or home that you’ve dreamed of in 2018”
Today, we’re always on-the-go, and a £3 meal deal habit or a take-away coffee is the height of convenience. However, these little payouts soon add up if we buy them every day. In fact, picking up your morning flat white from Starbucks could be costing you up to £660 a year, while a meal deal will set you back around £75 a month! So, the key is to plan ahead. “Put together a meal plan and head to the shops at the weekend,” says Tony Mills, Director at Uniform Tax Rebate (uniformtaxrebate.co.uk). “Preparing lunch the night before or making use of leftovers will save you time in the morning and keep precious pennies in the bank.” And as for coffee – “Either fill a travel cup using the next best supermarket equivalent or wait until you get to the office. If you really can’t bear to say goodbye to your trusted barista, take your reusable cup in-store as many coffee shops offer around 20p-50p off each time you use a refillable container.”
“It’s worth reviewing your finances and setting a budget annually – this can be done at any time so, if you didn’t do it at the start of the year, don’t feel that you need to wait until next January,” says Paul Stokes, head of products at M&S bank. “Regardless of when you set your budget, the most important thing is that you review it regularly – things inevitably change throughout the year, so take time to check that it still works for your lifestyle and whether you need to make adjustments. Sit down and properly analyse all your financial incomings and outgoings, assessing how much you need to cover for both your monthly and annual expenses. Don’t forget to consider once-a-year events like Christmas and summer holidays. Creating a spreadsheet to track your outgoings can also help.”
• Plum – This works as an automated money management chatbot – monitoring your spending and automatically setting money aside for you. Free, withplum.com
• Moneyhub – Things are always easier when they’re all-in-one. This app brings together all of your bank accounts, credit cards, investments, savings and borrowings, so you can see exactly what you have and where you’re spending it. Free, moneyhub.com
• VoucherCodes – It’s worth browsing through this app for discounts, deals and codes to see if you could save on your shop or meal out. Free, vouchercodes.co.uk