There are plenty of tips out there on cutting costs, but here are some that you might not have come across. Making use of these can reduce the pressure on your bank account Link opens in a new window and create some great money habits along the way.
1. Make a fool-proof budget
Many of us are having to watch our spending, and one of the best ways to do this is by working out and sticking to a budget. Your monthly budget should include all your essential and major outgoings: mortgage payments or rent, food, utility bills, transport costs, and personal spending, such as clothes and meals out. But exactly how you budget depends on what works best for you.
There are masses of budgeting tools to get started, and help you understand where you could save money. For example, the Virgin Money mobile banking app Link opens in a new window tags each transaction so you can track your spending. You can also set a budget within the app to help you plan your monthly spend. Gone over budget? Don’t worry, the app will let you know.
An easy way to work out your budget is by using a simple method like the 50-20-30 budgeting rule. Using this, around 50% of your income goes on household bills, 20% on savings or debts, and 30% on other spending. If you’re willing to put in more time, use one of the free online budgeting tools such as Moneyhelper’s Link opens in a new window.
2. Tackle your spending triggers
Identify what makes you most likely to splash out to help take control of your finances. For example, your spending trigger could be a situation, emotion or place, and could result in splashing a large amount of cash if not tackled.
Fanny Snaith, a money coach, says: “Ask yourself some key questions to discover your spending triggers, such as how you were feeling at the time, what happened just before, and where you were. Consider what you need to do to stop the situation arising again the future, so you don’t spend more than necessary, and how you could handle the situation differently.”
If you typically buy something new when you’re feeling low, this may provide short-term happiness. But it could make you more likely to slip into debt. Alternatively, you may spend a lot in social situations, such as when you’re out with friends. So, you could limit your nights out, or simply choose a cheaper venue.
3. Haggle with providers
With the cost of household bills rocketing, you want to make sure you’ve got the best deals possible. You can haggle with providers to see if you can slash the cost on everything from car insurance to your TV package. Armed with some handy tactics and the right lines, you could save a tidy sum.
You may be able to haggle the cost of any bill where there are other providers you could switch to – such as insurance, mobile phone, TV and breakdown cover. According to consumer association Which? research Link opens in a new window, customers who haggle save an average of £128 a year on broadband and TV packages, for example.
To haggle successfully you need to compare prices on comparison sites such as MoneySuperMarket Link opens in a new window, GoCompare Link opens in a new window and Compare the Market Link opens in a new window. Call your provider and say you want to leave if you’re near the end of your contract, using a better deal as the reason.
You’ll probably be put through to the ‘customer retentions’ department. Ask if they can match or better a deal, and whether any extras can be included such as cashback, TV channels, or breakdown cover with your car insurance. If you’re not happy, try calling again another time – don’t give up the first time you try!
4. Flog unwanted items
Consider selling stuff that’s gathering dust in your home to boost your cashflow. You can sell pretty much anything these days if you find the right marketplace. eBay Link opens in a new window has an option to search for completed listings Link opens in a new window, and Facebook Marketplace Link opens in a new window, Gumtree Link opens in a new window and Amazon Link opens in a new window can also give an idea of how much you can sell an item for.
Specialist sites such as Vinted Link opens in a new window and Depop Link opens in a new window enable you to sell unwanted clothes, and you can even sell secondhand wedding dresses on Stillwhite.com Link opens in a new window. For unwanted DVDs and books, try sites such as MusicMagpie Link opens in a new window or WeBuyBooks Link opens in a new window.
Andy Webb, finance expert at Be Clever with your Cash, says: “When you're selling unwanted items online, shop around different sites to see where you can get the best price - but be sure to factor in any additional charges and fees that will eat into your profit. If you're not sure what's a decent price, use the eBay ‘sold items’ filter to see what similar items to yours have gone for recently. For pricier items it's worth charging for more expensive tracked postage to protect you and the buyer. But it won't always be easy and if people aren't bidding for your item, try including the cost of shipping in the price, or reducing the cost."
5. Maximise government help and grants
It’s more important than ever to check you’re getting all the financial help you can. Around £15 billion a year goes unclaimed in means-tested benefits, according to research Link opens in a new window by advice site Entitledto.co.uk, and this help is more widely available than you might think.
Try our easy and free to use Turn2Us benefits calculator Link opens in a new window to see if you could claim extra support, particularly if you’re in a low income household. If you’re struggling to claim benefits, go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau Link opens in a new window to get help.
By being in receipt of benefits, you could access extra help such as cheaper utility deals and council tax reductions. You could get a one-off £500 from the government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant Link opens in a new window when you have a baby, for example, which you don’t have to pay back.
Anna Stevenson, senior benefits specialist at Turn2Us, says: “There are many different benefits you may be entitled to claim and, depending on your circumstances, you could access extra help that provides a much-needed income top up. This includes low-cost water or broadband tariffs, help paying travel costs for medical appointments, free school meals, and healthy start vouchers for your children.”
It may seem an uphill struggle to manage cashflow as prices keep rising – but knowing where your money’s going, making any possible cutbacks, and maximising ways to boost your income should put you on a better financial footing.
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