Somewhere between Brexit and the global Covid-19 pandemic, national short to medium term economic growth feels a little uncertain. You don’t need to delve far into the news to see that it is on the minds of businesses and individuals alike. Even without this nagging on our shoulder though, saving money for emergencies or just to boost a fun pot of pounds for holidays or trips out is never a bad idea.
It can feel overwhelming to look at income versus outgoings and think that the totals just don’t add up. So I thought I would share some of my top tips for making savings that are quick wins you can put in place for your household budget immediately. These work for all budgets too, so aren’t confined to a specific income bracket.
First a disclaimer though. I don’t have any financial qualifications, and if you are looking for solid and up to date guidance on investment and savings, I would always recommend you getting independent financial advice. That said, I have during the course of my professional life been responsible for decent sized budgets, and I apply relatable principles of spending and cost reductions to my own monthly household budgeting. That’s what I am sharing here.
Buy in bulk for large events, for example Christmas or even birthdays, and associated celebrations such as parties. This doesn’t mean buy a jumbo pack of one type of present (unless that’s what you need) though.
Take Christmas. Many people have separate budgets or even savings accounts for Christmas, and you see ideas like the ‘1p Savings Challenge’ spread far and wide on the internet. This is great when it comes to saving alone, but not always so helpful when it comes the spending element of the occasion. If you like to spread the cost of Christmas by starting your shopping early, it can become easy to forget about the things that you bought. Perhaps you have a ‘safe place’ to store them, but even then come November you might find that you have shopped for the same person three times over. If it is beyond the return date for the presents you choose not to gift, you may be able to pass them to someone else, or perhaps add them to a ‘spare present’ pile. Sound familiar? A quick chat on the school playground establishes that lots of people have one of those!
Instead of going through this process and spending extra money or running over budget with presents to spare, have a set day or two when you go out shopping for the occasion in question. Set up a separate savings account that you can put money in on a monthly basis, and use that as your budget. Then go and buy for everyone, following a list of preferred items to purchase, in one go. If you can’t make it into physical shops, or some things are only available via online independent retailers, then follow the same principle of your one shopping day but online. That way you know what you’ve bought, you’ve got funds available, and you’ve stuck to your budget without creating a spare present pile. Are those extra presents useful? Then consider buying a few extra general interest books or tins of biscuits at the same time for anyone who might have accidentally fallen from your list.
Save the small purchases
During lockdown 1, 2 and 3 it was oh so easy to turn to online retailers to stock up on essentials such as pencil crayons, socks and printer paper. If you are finding that you are racing through any spare change you might have though, pause your spending on those items and build up a list or an online shopping basket, then check it out once a week. This helps to review what you’re thinking of buying, and also keep a closer eye on your spending total. Your £2 pencil crayons and £5 socks from Amazon or eBay will quickly add up.
Shopping like this also helps to minimise spontaneous impulse buying, and view across the spread of the week what you are really spending on things that perhaps you don’t absolutely need.
Meal planning is possibly my favourite way to save money and simultaneously reduce food waste and thus our individual environmental impact. Win win! My advice here is to plan out meals for two weeks at a time, and think about the ingredients that you might need. Choose meals where you can use the ingredients more than once, for example, a Bolognese and a pizza base sauce could both use tomato puree, so you could use one tube split between the two. Or perhaps one day you might like a stir fry and the next day you might choose a chargrilled vegetable panini, thus using one set of fresh vegetables between two meals without anything going off in between.
In a similar way, you could overcook certain dishes that you know freeze well, creating quick freezer meals for days when time is tight or energy levels are low and avoiding take away costs. I have boxes of savoury crumble filling in my freezer. A quick defrost, a crumble topping and a short amount of time in the oven is then all that is needed for a hearty and healthy meal with no waste.
If you are on the lookout for new clothes, jigsaw puzzles or even books to read, consider buying second hand wherever possible or even making a swap. You could organise a book swap with friends or family for yourself and all your children, or even a clothes swap. Small electrical appliances can be difficult to rehome, but again if you know where they are coming from and that they have been properly maintained you could even swap these. Bread maker for a hairdryer? Slow cooker for a microwave? If in any doubt as to their safety, you can get them PAT tested before passing them on to anyone else. Most companies offering this service will test a bulk load of appliances so you could use it as an opportunity to undertake some safety tests on items you are keeping too, or test all the items to be swapped at the same time, splitting the cost between you.
Switching suppliers doesn’t have to be limited to utility services. You could switch companies for your mobile telephone, your weekly shopping, your clothes shopping, or even for where you buy textbooks from. Take a good hard look at shopping options before committing to one company and never be afraid to shop around to find the best deals. The reward for investing a short amount of your time is savings. You could save in excess of £100, often £200 per year, and that amount all adds up and can make a decent contribution to other purchases or savings accounts.
All that’s left to do when you’ve made some changes and saved some money, is to decide which pot you’re going to route it back into. I hope that these tips help you. Please feel free to join the conversation in the comments below!
Enjoyed this post? Perhaps you’d like to take a look at my advice for managing pocket money for children.
N.B. Some images in this post are from stock photography sites. Please do not reproduce without permission.