We live in a time of great uncertainty. Brexit, the pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine and the subsequent cost of living crisis/inflation that has touched every household in the UK and Ireland. When you’re in the thick of it, often it can be hard to see solutions that you’d otherwise act upon immediately.
Today we’re going back to basics and I’ll look at some great ways to save money. Some of them will only take a few minutes to act upon and in others, you’ll notice no difference in your quality of life. For those who want to look at some advanced tips to save money I’ve added a few tips I use myself.
1. Check your mortgage rate
Many of you may be coming to the end of your fixed term mortgage in the next 1-2 years and being honest, you need to brace yourself for an increase in costs. The historically low interest rates we’ve seen for the past decade are no longer an option. All commentary also points to the fact that we will see interest rates rise and rise again over the short and medium term.
The question, then we need to ask is when should you refinance your mortgage if interest rates rise? It might be beneficial to lock in interest rates now, even if you have an early repayment charges, especially if you expect rates to continue to rise. The short and long term costs of waiting to refinance your mortgage, could easily outweigh the initial charges to refinance your mortgage early.
Speak to your mortgage broker, and work out the costs to refinance your mortgage early. Ask them to model your mortgage at current rates, then 1%, 1.5% and 2% higher. Or at any level you think the interest rates might rise. Very quickly you’ll see when it might make more financial sense to refinance early.
2. Stop spending on frivolous items
We’re all adults and you spend your money as you you feel fit. I am not here to judge what is a necessity and not. I am here to challenge you to decide on that criteria.
For example, I love to travel. In fact, it’s my very favourite activity. In my budget, it’s a non-negotiable. I’ll forgo other items or luxuries for it if I have to and sometimes I do. I’d rather spend an afternoon on the slopes with my family than a mediocre meal out and drinks on the town. That’s my preference and you will have yours. It’s ok to be different.
What you should consider is how you spend your money. Do you get to the end of the month and wonder where it went? Does your bank statement look like a who’s who list of coffee shops and fashion stores? Did this spending provide you with value?
For the next month, I’d ask you to track your spending. Not change it. Understand where every £ or € goes and question whether or not that money could have been better spent on things you value.
In the following month, I’d task you with looking to reduce your spending without detracting from your quality of life, or even bettering it. For example, I used to eat out for lunch 5 days a week and breakfast 2-3 times. This would have been between £60 and £70 a week spend in local delis or cafes. 46 weeks a year, this was around £3000 spent on food alone. I bought it for convenience not because it was any tastier. I was busy and it was easy.
With a little bit of planning, I significantly reduced this cost to a fraction of the above and I now prep my meals for the week ahead. It has the added benefit of helping me lose weight as I can cook specific portions to meet my macros. I spend an hour on a Sunday cooking, where before I was standing in line 20 mins a day over lunch for “convenience”. And yes I have lost weight. Thanks for noticing.
Understanding where your money goes and how you can make changes to your spending habits is the first step.
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3. Create a budget
After you understand where your money is going each month, the most important next action is to create a budget. A budget is a forward (not backward) looking view of how you will spend your income. Knowing in advance what potential costs you will have, allows you to make changes before they happen.
For example, if you know your insurance is up this month, then cut back elsewhere. Even better, why pay interest when you don’t have to? Planning for your insurance next year and saving a little each month will mean you can pay your next bill in one lump sum, removing any interest the company may levy on you for monthly payments.
4. Eliminate debt
Let’s say you have £1,000 debt on a credit card at 19% interest. Each year you are paying £190 to service this debt. As the level of debt increases, so does the value of the cost to you. Paying down your debt from savings is often the best financial move. Where you get 1-2% interest from the bank on your savings, this is nowhere near the interest rate you are being charged.
Consider paying down debt as fast as you can. As if your hair was on fire. Debt eats away at your finances and for the most part, you’ll barely remember the value you got from your purchases, long before the debt is paid off.
5. Switch suppliers - Reduce energy use
In semi-normal times, the suggestion to take your gas or energy bill and head off to a comparison site for the next best deal was a common suggestion. There may be some merit in that still. More likely you’re looking for an energy supplier who won’t go bankrupt this winter.
The suggestion from many, myself included is to reduce your heating and electricity costs where possible this winter. Turning the heating down a little may not feel like a huge contribution to your energy saving, but even 1 degree will have a considerable effect over the coming months.
Don’t heat an empty home. Install a nest thermostat and it will be able to determine when you are in close proximity to your home and switch itself on.
6. Drop unused subscriptions
Prime is all well and good when you’re buying things, but in saving mode, it’s also time to look at your subscriptions. Do you need 3 streaming subscriptions every month? Can you alternate between these each month or when you’ve binge-watched everything you want? How will you save on your household bills?
Many online games now no longer require an Xbox subscription to play multiplayer. Check your subscription list and see if there’s anything you can cut, or reduce.
7. Check your workplace benefits
Many employers have benefits that can save you money. From healthcare plans to childcare or bike-to-work schemes, these support options may be readily available as part of your employment contract.
8. Ask for discount
In our household, this was drummed into us as children. If I heard the phrase, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” once, I heard it 100 times. And you know what, it’s absolutely true. I asked for a discount on a luxury purchase I bought a few years back and I got 10% off. Considering this is a brand that absolutely, never in a million years gives discounts, I consider that an absolute win.
It’s unlikely that you’ll get a 10% discount off your Tesco shop for asking, but wherever and whenever you spend your money, ask for a discount. They can only say no.
We’re moving from one period of uncertainty to another over the past year and the next 12 months. We can’t control what is outside of our own circumstances, but we can control many factors that will help us to save money.
I hope you found this article useful and my tips beneficial. If you want to add a comment below, please feel free to do so or you can leave a message on the Twitter page.