Still feeling the pinch from an indulgent 2012? Try these spending-savvy measures each month to keep you in the black for the whole year.
March: Wrap up the cost
Brits buy an average of 31 greetings cards each year, according to the GCA Greeting Card Market Report 2012. That adds up to an almighty £44.64 (calculated on an average of £1.44 per card), and that’s before you’ve bought wrapping paper, bows and tags. To save money, buy a couple of multipacks now (or cards in five-for-£1 deals). Alternatively, look for multi-buy deals on www.funkypigeon.com and buy personalised cards for the entire year. You’ll save money, and the last-minute dash for a work friend’s birthday you forgot!
April: Clean up – in every way
Despite the fact that most people hate cleaning, an average of £163 a year is spent, per person, on cleaning products. Try swapping brand names for supermarket own brands. (For instance, a popular well known brand of bleach costs almost one and half times more than a supermarket’s own brand – it still does the job). Or, if you’re feeling particularly frugal, try creating some cleaning potions with ingredients in your cupboard. For instance, a few drops of lemon juice applied to a marked kitchen work surface and left to work, brings up a sparkling clean finish. Or slices of lemon in a dish popped in the microwave for two minutes (on full power) will soften encrusted food and leave it smelling lemony fresh!
May: Points make pounds
Your opinion may be worth more than you think! By completing online surveys and questionnaires, you can earn some spare cash or vouchers and reward points that will take the sting out of the weekly shop. Head to www.sarosresearch.com where you can earn between £30 and £100 for two hours’ work as part of a focus group or www.valuedopinions.co.uk where you can earn between £1 and £5 for surveys (this is paid in vouchers for shops including Amazon, John Lewis, Boots and Marks & Spencer). But remember: never pay to become a member of sites such as these as it defeats the object!
June: Secret codes
Can’t face hitting the shops but know you’ve got to get kitted out for your hols? Go online, but before heading to checkout, scour the net for discount codes: from free delivery to up to 30% off, you’ll be surprised how much you can save with a little vigilance. You never know, you might just save enough to justify buying that stylish beach bag you’ve had your eye on for a while!
July: A tasty lunch idea
According to Bedford Borough Council, the average disposable lunch costs £3.68 for people in this area, whereas a waste-free packed lunch could cost as little as £1.69. This gives a cost saving of £388.05 over a 39-week academic year! In order to make your kids’ lunches – or indeed your own – more environmentally and financially friendly, rather than wrap sandwiches in clingfilm or tin foil, opt for a reusable food container. You could also try a reusable bottle such as the Citrus Zinger, £10.95 (www.jdharris.co.uk) which lets you zest water with fruit juice – simple and tatsy.
August: Think ahead
Buy household items out of season. Unlike clothes, they don’t go out of fashion, and you could land yourself a real bargain at this time of year. This month, it’s high time to purchase rucksacks, outdoor furniture, and dehumidifiers – print off this handy PDF to keep track of when to buy: www.consumerreports.org/cro/resources/streaming/PDFs/Seasonal Buying.pdf
September: Festive focus
Remember that frantic last-minute rush to buy the kids’ Christmas presents? Avoid it by buying early. Of course, not everything can be bought in advance, but electrical items and the like (that tend not to go out of fashion) can be purchased now to ease the financial strain that comes with Christmas shopping (and avoid potential price hikes). So next time you see something your sister would love, buy it – just remember to keep it in a safe place.
October: Plan a weekly menu
When it comes to food, £12 billion of it goes in the bin each year (equating to £50 a month per family). As well as denting your pockets, it’s damaging the environment (17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced from food and drink waste each year). To prevent unnecessary waste, make a weekly meal plan (so you don’t buy fresh ingredients you won’t use up); having a list to stick to each week will prevent unnecessary impulse buys, too.
November: Shopping detox
If your wild spending habits need curtailing, why not take part in this year’s annual Buy Nothing Day, on 30 November? The 24-hour shopping detox tackles consumer culture and can save you a few pounds, too, as eating out for lunch or grabbing a takeaway are out of the question. If you’re feeling brave, opt for a buy-nothing week. Visit www.buynothingday.co.uk
December: Clear out
Whether aunty Joy is coming to stay or the dining room has to accomodate a dozen relatives, this is the ideal time to de-clutter. It will not only make room for all those prezzies but could also earn you a few quid, too. Pop your unwanted items – tables, clothes, toys – on market places such as eBay and Amazon to profit.
January 2014: Bag a bargain
We all know what a financial squeeze January can be (especially if you get paid earlier than usual in December), so if you’re still pining after that bicycle you can’t afford, check out www.freecycle.org the recycling website where you can search out items that people are donating local to you. It’s an entirely non-profit organisation and each local group is moderated by local volunteers. You might find someone who wants stuff you no longer have a use for.
February 2014: Love is… cheap
A frugal Valentine’s day needn’t be a sorry state of affairs. Agree with your partner to ditch the costly teddy and chocolates, and instead opt for an evening of quality time together – even if it’s a night in with a good film and a bottle of fizz. The British public spent £334.3 million on gifts for Valentine’s day 2011 according to Marketing magazine – with an average spend of £550 per couple in 2010 (estimated by Clydesdale Bank)! So, don’t bow down to commercialised pressure.
It’s well known that parents fail to set solid saving examples to children; use these five tips to help get your offspring into good habits as early as possible
1. Open a bank or building society account
With a plethora of accounts to choose from, picking the right one can feel overwhelming. Instant access accounts allow money to be withdrawn free of charge when necessary. However, if a parent gifts money to a child and more than £100 gross interest is accrued in a tax year, it’s usually taxed as though it belongs to the adult. So, if you want to find a tax-free way to save for your child, a Junior Individual Savings Account (Junior ISA) will be better. With an ISA, the child typically can only withdraw the money when they’re 18 – and the money belongs solely to them.
2. Match their savings
For every £1 that your child saves, offer to put the same into their account. This way, they’ll feel incentivised to save and see saving as a team effort.
3. Get them to write a list of toys they really want
This wish list can then be something they save for, item by item. Knowing that each 50p they save gets them a step closer to that coveted doll for instance, will help encourage them to save for long-term goals.
4. Saving isn’t very exciting for kids, so try to inject some fun into the process
Head to the shops and let the children choose their own piggy banks. This way, they’ll be more likely to pop that £2 coin from Grandma in a safe place, than lose it somewhere in their bedroom.
5. Give them and an incentive to help out around the house
For every week that they keep their room tidy, award them a star sticker (which equates to 50p); this will help them to understand that money is valuable and is earned.
‘I grew up with a Calvinist work ethic. I started working at 14, taking a Saturday job at high street shop Chelsea Girl (now River Island), where I earned 25p an hour!’