10 simple ideas to save money

Whatever the time of year, saving money can be an excellent way to lighten the load and take a bit of weight off your shoulders. You don’t have to go all out coupon-clipper, but being a little more frugal in your day-to-day life is a fantastic way to make those pennies go further, giving you room to breathe and cash to save. Here are ten of the easiest ways to save money that are quick and easy to implement into your own life.

1. Think long-term for your commute

If you’re commuting every day via public transport, such as train or bus, then you’re likely spending a fortune on daily tickets that could go to better use elsewhere. Many rail companies and bus services offer annual, monthly or even quarterly options for tickets, often with a significant discount that’s sure to stop your pockets feeling too light. If you’re under 30, there are also rail card schemes that can help you reduce the cost of your commute even further.

2. Cut back on unnecessary subscriptions

We’ve all subscribed to something and then completely forgot to turn off that annoying auto-renewal. Whether it’s a monthly beauty box, a streaming subscription or access to online gaming, if you’re not using something that you’re paying for each month, it’s about time you hit the cancel button. This is especially true for streaming services – stick to a single one out of the many on offer, and your wallet will be far happier.

3. Shop the sales for you and others

Whether it’s Black Friday, end of the season or Boxing Day, shopping those sales for ‘needs’ instead of ‘wants’ can be a great way to save money throughout the year. Many savings-savvy people like to start stocking up for the following Christmas the day after in the sales – where the biggest bargains on gift sets and goodies can be found. If you have a list of must-haves, then keep an eye out for those all-important items in upcoming sales to save loads off the RRP.

4. Switch to annual on those insurance bills

If you pay monthly for your home or car insurance, then you’re paying over the odds. Many insurance services offer an annual payment, which may seem prohibitive up-front but can actually save you as much as 25%. If you can save up to pay annually, it’s more than worth it for the extra cash at the end of the day. While you do have to pay up-front, you’ll have that cash free for the rest of the year, so it’s more than worth it if you have the funds.

5. Explore interest-free options for your debt

If you have debt on a credit card that you’re paying high levels of interest for, consider moving it to an interest-free option. Many credit card companies offer this deal for those willing to try out their services but don’t forget to close your existing credit line once your debt is transferred over to ensure you’re not spending over your limit.

Even if interest-free isn’t an option for you (e.g. if you have a poor credit score and therefore don’t qualify), consolidating higher-cost debts with a loan or credit card at a lower APR can reduce your overall repayment amount. Just be careful to work out the overall cost over the term of the agreement and compare carefully, to ensure it will actually save you money.

6. Switch your energy elsewhere

Switching your gas and electric is a common way to save the pennies, but that doesn’t make it any less legit. Check out comparison sites to find out just how much you could be saving, especially with some great introductory deals out there right now. Switching is easier than ever, with many services now automating it for you entirely.

7. Stop spending on breakfasts and lunches

Those bacon baps, coffees and meal deals really do add up when it comes to five-days-a-week eating habits. If you’re currently surviving off food from your local corner shop or café for your workday meals, you could be spending far more than you realise. Instead, bring in your own coffee and some sandwiches, and you’ll be set for the day without spending an extra penny.

8. Use voucher and coupon sites for better deals

Stop! Before you purchase that item online, consider checking out voucher and coupon sites to find the best possible deal on the hoover, dress, saucepans or whatever else you’re considering adding to your basket. There are even some apps that apply codes directly within your browser, allowing you to get the best deals instantly for products you were already going to buy. Now that’s a bargain we can get behind.

9. Change your shopping list from branded to own-brand

It can get expensive in the supermarket when you’re buying only from big-brand product makers. The truth is, a great deal of own-brand supermarket products are just as good as their flashy counterparts, and in some cases, even better. Commit to switching out your branded goods for something more low-key each week, and you’ll soon have savings stacking up from that weekly shop. Washing up liquid, cleaning products, cereal, bread, and tinned goods are all great places to start.

10. Start saving little and often

The first step to saving money is, well, saving money. There are many apps and services out there that offer ‘change saving’, where all that shrapnel from your shop is transferred directly into your savings. If that doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of other options on offer – maybe you could try a saving challenge where you have to save a quid each day, or an increasing amount each week of the year, from £1 through to £52. Now that’s a great way to save without the stress.

What is the best way to pay for home improvements?

Whether you’re getting yourself a bigger space, a more modern finish or just tidying up those tatty edges, improving your home can be positive for your finances too. Homes and Property found that even a fairly modest programme of works can add up to £40,000 to your home’s value, so your improvement work could even pay for itself!

This all sounds lovely, but it can be an expensive up-front cost, especially if tradesmen are involved – so what is the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck?

Use your home

Remember how we said that home improvements can help your property? Well, this is also an area where your property can help you instead. Depending on the amount you’d need to borrow, banks will often agree to extend your mortgage or take out a separate loan against the value of your home that you can use for the works.

There are two ways you can do this effectively: one is to literally extend your mortgage either with your original lender or a new lender in what is effectively a re-mortgage. This can get you more money in one go, but remember that you may not get as good a rate as your initial one. You will also be liable for the entire amount, not just the small extension, so you need to think carefully about the wisdom of the whole loan amount.

The second method is to get a separate loan that isn’t linked to your original mortgage but is based on the value that your house has gained since you originally took out your mortgage. You’ll probably get less money this way, and your lender may require a valuation of your house before they’ll agree, but this is less of a financial commitment than a full re-mortgage and can happen faster.

Go interest-free

If you’re not careful, the cost of borrowing can dwarf the cost of the actual works many times over if you take the wrong kind of loan or use a high-interest credit card, but done right you can borrow the money you need for very little expense. A 0% credit card, or a 0% interest loan, will ensure you have the money you need without paying for it over and above the materials you use. If you’ve already spent the money and your interest payments are starting to mount, you could just get a balance transfer onto a 0% card that will have the same effect. This is a particularly useful method if you’ve had trouble getting finance elsewhere, or if you’d prefer to ‘buy now, pay later’ for your works.

Do It Yourself

It can be tempting to leave your home improvements up to the professionals, but even a generous budget won’t last long if you have a lot of help, so one way of making any budget stretch further is to carry out as much of the work as you can yourself. The Internet can be a great resource for how-to guides on just about any area of home maintenance and improvement, so with a bit of patience and hard work, it is possible to carry out a lot of the tasks yourself.

It’s also a good idea to look into renting the tools you need, rather than buying them. Some tools are highly specialised and liable to spend most of their lives gathering dust, so if you don’t use them regularly, hiring can end up cheaper. You can also go half and half on some jobs, and do the basics while leaving the rest to a pro. Getting a bathroom done to first fix and fitting the appliances yourself, or fitting your own underlay when carpeting, can really cut down the final bill.

Be smarter

If you’re hoping that your home improvements will pay for themselves as a means to get your renovation done, you need to keep your feet on the ground. Don’t opt for a standard of finish that’s disproportionate to the value of your home, because you’re unlikely to be offered enough finance to cover the difference later on if you misjudge what your works are worth.

The law of diminishing returns means that a £6,000 kitchen in a £250,000 house is likely to be much more cost-efficient than a £25,000 one – from which you’re unlikely to recoup the initial investment. As a result, if you’re planning to pay for your project using finance from your home as noted above, it’s a good idea to be strategic about the works you do, using the equity gained from more profitable works to pay for the cosmetic stuff.

Use your savings

It sounds like a no-brainer, but even using your savings will require a bit of planning in order to do it efficiently. For one thing, it can incur a fee to get your money out of fixed-rate products like ISAs and Bonds, so make sure you factor that cost into the whole price of your renovations.

Paying with cash also leaves you open to issues further down the line if you have a disagreement over the works with employed tradesmen or you’d like a refund – because you have no legal protection for your money. Paying with a credit card, even if you pay it off immediately with cash, can ensure that you don’t get left in the lurch if something goes wrong.