January is a tough month financially with Christmas credit card bills plopping through the door and still another week to go till payday. Then there are the long nights and the cold weather to add to our joys!
So, fight back at the seasonal and economic gloom and use these top ten tips from financial expert, Jasmine Birtles to make the most of your money this month and for the rest of the year.
1. Save on motoring costs
Motorists are really feeling the pinch at the moment. Swap your current car for a smaller, cheaper, more fuel-efficient version. If it has very low emissions you will also save on insurance, car tax and some residents parking schemes. Keep the tyres pumped up at all times and try to drive at a smooth, constant speed as this reduces your fuel consumption. For more information on smarter driving tips visit Shell FuelSave. Making the right fuel choice can lead to significant savings each year. Shell FuelSave Unleaded & Diesel are formulated to save you up to 1 litre per tank* at no extra cost, helping you to save fuel and money every time you fill up.
You can also save up to £2,000 motoring costs a year by selling your car and joining a car club. In these clubs you pay a yearly joining fee and then hire a car that is located near your home for an hourly (around £4) or day rate (from about £40 depending on the car) which tends to be a lot less than car hire companies. You don’t have to worry about servicing, insurance, home parking, petrol or car tax. Check out StreetCar, City Car Club, and Zip Car to see which one has a vehicle closest to your home.
2. Get as much as you can for free
Use freebie sites (wisely – there’s a lot of rubbish to sift through!) for free samples of all kinds of things. Also, get into mystery shopping for free restaurant visits and supermarket shopping trips – make sure they are legit, though, like TNS-Global or JKSMysteryshopping.co.uk. Get a holiday nearly free by swapping your house with someone in another country. Try the websites Home Exchange and Home Link for an amazing selection of homes all round the world.
3. Sign up to bargains
There are loads of voucher sites and bargain newsletters that will send money-off deals and vouchers into your inbox every week. Just be discerning about which deals you go for. Some of the better ones include Wahanda, Groupon and LivingSocial. Sign up for free to the Moneymagpie free weekly newsletter for exclusive deals you can’t get anywhere else.
4. Be clever with your credit cards
If you have a nasty Christmas debt on your credit cards, switch to a 0% deal such as the 17-month offer from Barclaycard or a low lifetime balance transfer card such as MBNA’s card which offers 5.9%. Or, if you pay off your debt each month, get a card that rewards you for spending. Try Barclaycard Freedom where you can earn up to 1% ‘Reward Money’ of your purchase price at over 20,000 participating retailers. You can then redeem it at participating retailers for money off at restaurants and high street retailers. Visit barclaycardfreedom.co.uk for a full list of retailers
5. Do a budget and stick to it
It sounds boring but a budget is your family’s weapon against the money monster. You can even do it on the back of an envelope. Just add up the money that comes in each month then take away from that all the bills you have to pay to keep the roof over your head and body and soul together. Once you know what you’ve got left over you just divide that amount by four and make sure you don’t spend more than that each week. That will keep you out of expensive and miserable debt.
6. Make your home pay for itself
If you’re struggling to keep up with the mortgage, bring in extra cash by renting out a spare room. You can make up to £4,250 a year tax-free by doing this. Or just rent out your driveway by putting it on Parkatmyhouse.com. If your place is unusual or has beautiful interiors you could even make money by offering it as a film or photoshoot set. Try registering with Lavishlocations.com.
7. Save on food bills
There are loads of ways of cutting down your food bill each week. Switch one meat dish per week to a vegetarian one that is cheaper. Get tips from Lovefoodhatewaste.com on how to make the most of what you’ve got. Shop at street markets as they are generally 30% cheaper than supermarkets. Go down a brand with food in tins and jars – you won’t notice the difference with most of them.
8. Shop around to save
It goes without saying that you could save £100s on your insurance, utilities and other bills by using comparison sites before you sign-up. Also, though, use sites like Pricerunner and Kelkoo to research gadgets like washing machines, TVs and lawnmowers. You can even save on removal costs by using the website Anyvan.com where ‘man-with-van’ operations and removals firms bid for your job. Find bookkeepers, lawyers and household helpers through People Per Hour where all kinds of professionals bid for your work.
9. Buy secondhand
Now that VAT is at 20% the best way to avoid the hike is to buy things secondhand, particularly big-ticket items like cars, furniture and electronics. Use eBay, Gumtree, your local paper and family forums such as Mumsnet to buy things secondhand. Quite often, items just a few months old can be half price.
10. Be green. Get into green living and you will definitely save money. Mend clothes and gadgets where you can rather than buying new ones. Cut down on electricity, and your carbon footprint, by avoiding the tumble dryer and hanging clothes out to dry instead, using the ‘off’ switch when you’re not using electronic equipment and keeping the lid on pans when you cook.