Energy bills, National Insurance, fuel costs, even food – the current cost of living is, quite frankly, excruciating.
But there are lots of ways to save money and still do the stuff you’re used to enjoying. Here are 22 ways to do just that - good luck – and good saving.
How to save money on bills
1. Change banks
Changing bank account is not the faff it once was, thanks to the seven-day switching guarantee. And some banks offer up to £150 bonus for switching. Just make sure it’s a bank that fits your needs so you don’t end up paying more.
2. Use less energy
You can’t save money by switching energy providers just now, almost every provider is simply charging the maximum they can within the energy price cap. But you can take steps to use less at home, from covering drafts to cutting wasted power. Read more tips here.
3. Cut your tax bill
Most of us have seen our tax bills rise recently, thanks to the National Insurance hike and the freeze in the higher rate tax threshold. You can reduce what you pay in tax through salary sacrifice, for example, paying more into your pension. That might mean less disposable income right now – but it might also help you keep Child Benefit payments, so it’s worth looking at the numbers.
Read more: 8 smart ways to cut your energy bills
4. Move broadband and mobile
If you switch providers at the end of your broadcast and mobile phone contracts then you can benefit from the better-priced introductory offers. Consumer champion Which? reckons that can save you as much as £240.
5. Use Tax-Free Childcare
This is a seriously underused tax break. You can cut the cost of nursery, childminders and even after-school and holiday clubs using the Tax-Free Childcare system. You can get up to £2,000 a year in help from the government. Find out more online.
6. Trim your subscriptions
We’ve all fallen for subscription traps and in the past you may not have noticed the odd tenner or fiver going out of your account each month. But now is the time to go through your direct debits and make sure you’re only paying for services you need.
7. Cut the cost of your debt
If you’re paying interest on your debts then you could potentially get that cost right down. If you use an overdraft then could you switch to a bank with cheaper rates (switching is easier now AND banks have to be clearer about their charges).
If you have credit card debt and a decent credit score then you could transfer your debt to a new provider with an interest-free introductory offer.
8. Get some help
If you find it hard to save money into your account each month then you can use technology to help. There are apps that link up to your bank account and save small amounts of money here and there – by rounding up your £1.85 coffee to £2, for example, and shaving off 15p into your account. It all adds up but you don’t notice. They have different charges so compare them carefully, but Chip and Plum are two of the most popular.
9. Claim your WFH tax relief
If your employer asked you to work from home this year, even for just one day, then you can claim tax relief from HMRC. It’s quick and easy to do, just read the rules and apply online. It’s worth up to £140 a year and you can apply for the previous tax year too.
Watch: The top financial mistakes we don't want our kids to repeat
How to save money on shopping
10. Try the downgrade challenge
In the supermarket, a lot of us buy the products we’re used to, without really thinking about it. But switching down a grade – so from premium brand to supermarket own, or from supermarket own to supermarket basic - can really save some money. By trying different items each week you can find out where you can cut back without noticing a difference (I am a big believer that basic tinned tomatoes are just as good as a named brand costing four-times as much!).
11. Waste less food
If you’ve noticed your grocery bill rising then one good way to bring it down is simply to buy less! According to the Love Food, Hate Waste website the average family chucks out £60-worth of edible food every single month. If you can trim that waste it’s good for the planet and for your pocket.
12. Buy more frozen food
Not only is frozen fruit, veg and meat often much cheaper than fresh – it’s also easier to waste much less. Instead of food going off in your fruit bowl, for example, you can just defrost the amount you need, leaving the rest for another day.
3. Use cashback websites
There are websites, including Quidco, TopCashBack and many others, that pay you cashback whenever you do your shopping through them. They are genuinely easy to use and simply give you a chunk of the affiliate money they get when you go through them. It’s possible to earn hundreds of pounds a year on your regular shopping – but remember it’s only a saving if you would have bought those items anyway!
14. Go second-hand
Buying clothing second hand is green, it’s ethical and it can save you a packet. And if you’re someone who likes to browse clothes from your sofa instead of mooch around charity shops then there are loads of websites that let you do that. Try Vinted and Thriftify for a start.
Read more: Woman who only buys second-hand shares her thrifting tips
Read more: Best online second-hand shops
15. Sell what you don’t need
While you’re browsing the second-hand market for new clothes, you might also want to consider whether you need all the stuff in your own wardrobe. Websites like Vinted let you sell your own unwanted clothing, helping you declutter and earn cash.
16. Let retailers tempt you
If you want to buy something (and assuming it’s not selling out fast) then it can be worth leaving it in your online basket and waiting. Sometimes retailers will email you a discount to see if they can tempt you to complete your purchase.
17. Get freebies from your boss
Are you getting all the support your employer offers? From free eyesight tests to discounted healthcare or gym membership, some employers offer a genuinely good package to their staff. Ask HR for a breakdown of any perks and see what you can save.
How to save money on fun
18. Get a rail card
It’s not just students who can benefit from a money saving rail card, lots of people can and they save you around a third on every journey. There are veterans railcards, senior railcards, even ‘two together’ railcards where couples or friends can get cheaper travel together.
And if you have kids then a family and friends rail card can really cut the price of travel – even if you end up buying a ticket for a child young enough to travel for free, the overall saving can be worth it.
19. Go out for free
Look, I can’t help you save money on a babysitter but you may be able to enjoy a free night out if you live in a city. You can apply to TV studios to be part of the live audience when they make chat shows, comedy quizzes, even musical events. Just sign up to their mailing lists and apply for tickets. The BBC in particular offers free tickets across the UK.
Read more: How to make money
20. Never pay full price on a day out
There are so many offers on days out that you should never plan a trip without searching first. For example, if you want to visit Alton Towers or another big theme park or attraction then check if you can use a voucher from a Kellogg’s cereal packet.
Sometimes local buses or train tickets will have a discount code printed on the back, to encourage you to take public transport.
Planning ahead can also help you save some cash. Often you can get a discount by booking online in advance. Spend a bit of time researching before you go and the savings can be considerable.
21. Go out mid-week
Not only is it nicer to go out when it’s quieter, it’s very often cheaper too. Lots of companies have special discounts and offers to get people through their doors at offpeak times. For example, you can often get two-for-one deals on cinema tickets on a less popular Tuesday night. But The Batman is just as good, no matter what the day!
And if you’re still stuck
22. Get what you are entitled to
Of course, these are just easy ways to save money if you’re only now looking to make cuts. For anyone who has already been living on a tight budget and is now really struggling, this may not be as helpful.
If that’s you then the best advice I have is to check you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to as many, many people don’t claim all the support they need. Online calculators available on websites like Turn2Us and EntitledTo are great resources to check.