Instead, check out these top tips from Faith Archer, a savvy spender, super saver and mother-of-two from blog Much More With Less, on how to save money without affecting your lifestyle. These tried-and-tested tips can make the biggest savings with the least impact.
By savvy shopping, bill switching and swooping on discounts, you can slash your spending. Then claim free cash and use our bank account hacks to put even more pounds in your pocket.
Put these plans into practice, and you could save thousands starting today!
Ways to save money on household billsPay less for power
Switching gas and electricity suppliers can save serious cash, especially if you have never switched before. Grab 10 minutes to check a comparison website like Simply Switch, MoneySuperMarket, uSwitch or the Energy Helpline.
Sign up with a cheaper supplier, let them take care of the switch, then sit back and enjoy the savings.
Slash your bills further by getting gas and electricity from the same supplier - a 'dual fuel' deal - and paying by direct debit. Learn more about how to switch electricity suppliers here.
Any time you get a renewal quote for insurance, or if a contract for the likes of TV, broadband or your mobile is coming to an end, see if you can pay less elsewhere.
Save without switching
Can’t face switching? Give your supplier a call. Get through to the ‘cancellation’ or ‘retention’ department. Tell them you want to leave because of the cost - then see if they offer you a better deal to stay. This works best for bills like your mobile, broadband, home phone, TV package, breakdown cover and home and contents insurance.
Cut your Council Tax
Sadly, you’re unlikely to shave much off your Council Tax, even if you ask nicely. However, if your neighbours in identical houses pay less, you could challenge your Council Tax band. Refunds can be huge if you have lived there a long time, so search your postcode at gov.uk/council-tax-bands. The only risk is that the council whacks more on your neighbours’ bills instead!
Splash out less on water
Don’t have a water meter? In general, if there are fewer people, or the same number as there are bedrooms, you are likely to save money with a water meter. All crammed in? Avoid asking for a meter.
If you have a meter and are on certain benefits, you may be able to get your bill capped if your family is large or has certain illnesses. Find out more by searching WaterSure.on the gov.uk website.
Move your mortgage
If you have a mortgage, check the interest rate. Rates are really low right now, and you could save loads by switching to a cheaper deal, especially if you have slipped onto your lender's standard variable rate. Use a mortgage broker to help you through the mortgage maze - check out the Money Advice Service recommendations on where to find a broker.
Ways to save money on food shopping
Everyone has favourite brands - but have you ever tried a different version? Swap to less expensive own brands or cheaper discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl, then see if anyone notices the difference!
Tap your shopping list into the website mysupermarket.com to tot up the total at different stores, then take the plunge. Don’t like the change? You can always swap back. But if you stick with cheaper versions in future, the savings will soon stack up.
Flash the plastic
Don’t shop at a more expensive supermarket just for the points - but if you’re shopping somewhere with a loyalty scheme, flash that card. Then make the most of any loyalty points by swapping them for restaurant vouchers, days out, travel or waiting until special points promotion events. I find the Tesco ClubCard, Sainsbury’s Nectar and Boots Advantage are the most generous, and also earn money from the Co-op Membership card, the Iceland Bonus Card and Morrisons More card.
Save on your smartphone
Download supermarket cashback apps like Shopmium or CheckoutSmart for cashback offers and freebies. Buy specific products, then save in seconds by using your phone to scan the barcode and snap a pic of the receipt, so you can get refunded. TopCashback Snap & Save and Quidco ClickSnap offer similar savings.
Check your cupboards and calendar
Sometimes the simple things make a big difference. Before shopping, give your kitchen a quick scan and check what you’re doing that week. No point buying food you already have in your fridge and cupboards, or won’t eat if you are out. Buy less, waste less, save loads!
Ways to save money on your spendingGet paid to spend
If you shop on the internet and don’t use cashback websites you are missing out on free money.
Just click through from the likes of TopCashback and Quidco before you shop online, and you’ll earn a few percent cashback on your bill. For more chunky sums, think bills and banks. You can earn higher cashback on new contracts for your phone, broadband, energy and pay TV, or on financial products like credit cards, current accounts or insurance. Just check you won’t pay less elsewhere, even including the cashback. Then earn extra by taking your payout as vouchers for big brands, rather than a bank transfer. I earned £163 pounds from TopCashback and Quidco last year, and I don’t even spend much!
Never pay full price
Swoop on sales, and look out for discounts by searching for voucher codes online, or checking magazines and fliers. Sign up for newsletters from your favourite retailers, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook, for more codes, deals and discounts. Then avoid pesky postage costs by waiting until you have a big enough order to qualify for free shipping, or by using click and collect services.
For big savings on days out, spa days, travel and other shopping, keep an eye on sites like Wowcher and Groupon. Then find freebies and samples on Dragons’ Den favourite Latest Free Stuff.
Snap up discount gift cards
You can also shop for less by buying discount gift cards from Zeek, the gift card marketplace. Offers change, but current examples include up to 23% off at Build A Bear, 12% at Debenhams, 11% at Odeon or 8% at Primark and New Look. Buy a gift card for less, then stack up discounts with sales, offer codes or cashback. Got a gift card you’ll never use? Raise some cash by selling it on Zeek.
Save as a student, even if you aren’t
You can get a student card even if you aren’t a full-time student, by taking certain courses online. Even better, look out for deep discounts from sites like Wowcher and Groupon when buying a course. Then sign up for an NUS Extra card and get discounts like six months free Amazon Prime, 50% off Spotify music streaming and 20% off at National Express. My biggest savings with an NUS Extra card are 10% off at the Co-op, and 10% off an Apple iPad, which more than paid for the cost of the card.
Ways to save money as a family
Travel for less by train
Spend £30 for a Friends & Family railcard and you will get a third off for adults and 60% off for children on most train tickets for a year. A family of four, for example, could cover the cost in a couple of trips. Then for longer journeys, book in advance for cheaper tickets and see if you can save by split ticketing, where it can cost less to buy one or more tickets to cover a single journey on the same train.
Book activities early and in advance
Keeping the kids occupied can gouge a big chunk out of the family budget. Save money by booking big trips to the likes of zoos and theme parks online rather than rocking up on the day, or see if you can cash in supermarket loyalty points. For activities like bowling, swimming, cinema trips and softplay, look out for discounts at less popular times. For example, find tickets for as little as £2.50 a person for mid-morning films at weekends and during school holidays from the likes of Cineworld Movies for Juniors, Odeon Kids and Vue Mini Mornings.
Cut your childcare costs
Pay for child care while you work? Check if you can claim some cash from a combination of Working Tax Credits, the old Childcare Vouchers, which you can still sign up for before April if your employer offers them, or the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme that pays out up to £2,000 per child. Different options suit different people, but it’s worth wading through the Government website Childcare Choices to find what works for you.
Ways to save money by clearing your clutterGet some auction action
Stuff you don’t use, toys the children no longer play with or gifts no-one wanted? Turn your trash into cash by whacking it on eBay. You get 20 free listings every month, and should also look out for special offers on sold prices - otherwise eBay takes 10% of your selling price including postage, plus PayPal fees. Reach more buyers with a good title - use words people will search for, like the brand, colour and size when selling a skirt. Add clear photos with a plain background, write an accurate description and set your auction to finish when more people are online, so early evening midweek and on Sundays. Then get great feedback by posting items quickly.
Sell for free
Fed up with eBay fees? Try the likes of Gumtree, the boot sale app Facebook Marketplace or local Facebook selling pages to sell for free. Local buyers may also be willing to collect straight from your door - avoiding the time and hassle of postage and packing. Just don’t whack unwanted presents on Facebook straight after your Facebook friend gave them to you…
For quick cash from books, DVDs, CDs and games, I am keen on options like We Buy Books, Music Magpie and Ziffit.
Profit from sales
If you have a lot of clutter to clear, try piling it high at a yard sale, car boot sale or even an NCT sale for baby and toddler stuff. Expect to sell individual items for lower prices than they might make on eBay, but with the chance to shift more stuff in a single morning. Take folding tables, boxes and clothes rails to display your stuff, dress warmly and don’t forget plastic bags and spare change. Then get set to haggle.
Ways to save money on your bank account
Claim cash for switching bank accounts
Believe or not, banks are falling over themselves to give you money. Currently, you can get up to £200 just for switching your current account to banks like HSBC, NatWest, First Direct, M&S Bank or Halifax. Bear in mind you can’t just open a new account to claim the cash, but will need to switch accounts and close the old one using the quick and easy current account switching service (CASS).
Get paid for paying your bills
Want to make money just for paying your utility bills? Santander, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland all offer current accounts that pay up to 3% cashback on household bills, like your gas, electricity, water, Council Tax, home phone, mobile phone and broadband bills. Just weigh up the money you save compared to the cost of any annual fee.
Delete unused direct debits
Start today by checking which direct debits go out of your current account. See if you are still paying for magazines you never read, trial subscriptions you meant to stop or a gym you no longer visit. Then contact the companies to cancel.
More than £448 million is wasted on unused subscriptions every year in the UK, according to Bean, the personal finance app that helps track down and manage your bills and subscriptions.
Ways to save money on your credit cardMeet the minimum
Set up a direct debit to may off at least the minimum payment on your credit card every month. This way, you can’t forget and miss a payment, so won’t get hit with extra interest and charges.
Pay off your credit card bill in full every month? Check out whether you can get paid to spend, using a cashback credit card which gives you a cut of everything you spend. Use the card as normal, and see the pennies start to add up. I earn more than £90 a year just from spending I would do normally.
Check out the latest deals at comparison sites like Moneyfacts. Top tip before applying: use an online eligibility checker, to see which cards you are more likely to be accepted for. Helps avoid a black mark on your credit file, if you apply and get rejected!
...or cut your interest payments
Alternatively, is your credit or store card balance bigger than you can clear right now? If so, avoid cashback cards where the high interest charges will wipe out any cashback. Instead, investigate a balance transfer card with a low or 0% rate. By moving your balance from a higher interest rate to a lower rate, or no interest at all, you can slash your interest costs and clear the debt quicker.
Ways to save money on emergencies
Pile up pennies and pounds
If you have to borrow money for life’s little (or even large) emergencies, the interest costs can be expensive. If the washing machine floods, the car tyres go flat or your job falls off a cliff, it can be tough to make ends meet without any savings. Even small sums add up, so start by popping spare change in a jar or putting £2 coins in a moneybox.
Set up a standing order
If you can squeeze a bit extra from your budget, set up a standing order into a savings account straight after payday. That’s when you are least likely to notice the difference.
Several banks and building societies offer regular saver accounts, where you can save from as little as £1 to £25 a month for a year, and get paid as much as 5% interest for a year. Check out the best buy tables at Savings Champion for the highest paying accounts.
Get an app to save for you
Not sure how much you can afford to save? Try one of the automatic savings apps like Chip or Plum, which look at your bank account, work out how much you can set aside, and then transfer small amounts to a savings account every few days. Even better, refer friends and family to Chip, and you can earn up to 5% interest on your savings. Kerching!