Ah January, the month we all set good intentions. We start diets, we read about money saving challenges, we promise periods of ‘no spend’. Great resolutions but let’s be real, they often aren’t realistic and by Fuck It February it’s all gone to shit. It’s hard to commit to so many of the things we promise ourselves, and it’s even harder to break habits that are ingrained in our day to day lives.
The other problem with January is that it follows December which is a notoriously expensive month even if you do consciously try to simplify your Christmas celebrations. Sales are everywhere, messages of buy, buy, buy and spend spend spend, even when it’s money you don’t really have. Focusing on a simplified Christmas helped us to keep the cost down last month, but like everyone I still want to treat my loved ones to things, enjoy days out and not have to worry constantly about my bank balance.
An easy way to increase the money you have to spend on things like that, or to ease the financial strain you might be feeling throughout the year is to decrease your outgoings. Less money going out of your account = more left in at the end of the month, either to spend on something else or to pop into your savings for emergencies or a rainy day. So this month I asked some blogger friends for some of their top tips on reducing household bills and easing financial pressure, and I’m going to share them with you today.
Make Sure You’re Getting the Best Deals
Use Comparison Websites
So many of us are blindly paying for the same package we have been for the last 2 years or more, totally oblivious to all the better (cheaper) ones out there! Previously it would’ve taken a few hours of research, getting quotes from various companies and working out which was the best deal, but now price comparison websites have done all the hard work for us. There are comparison websites out there now for most household bills – Broadband, insurance, TV packages, etc and comparing different deals and searching for the best package at the best price is a brilliant way to decrease your bills fast. Potentially you could save yourself a lot of money in just a few minutes.
Rachel from From Rachel Claire recommends doing the same for your gas and electric bills, and uses price comparison sites regularly to make sure she’s got the best deal. Pete from Household Money Saving told me to never let a contract renew, whether it’s utilities or insurance. He says you should always negotiate a better deal with your current supplier and check for cheaper options elsewhere.
Use Cashback Sites
Once you’ve found a great deal check out a few cashback sites before making the switch. Nicola from Mummy to Dex uses sites like Topcashback to get an extra boost on top of the saving you’re making by changing supplier.
Renegotiate With Current Suppliers
Something I do make a habit of doing regularly is calling Sky and threatening to leave, because I always find they manage to find a new deal or special offer to give me if I stay. Renegotiating with your current suppliers is usually a pretty quick way to save a few £££s, and as most companies prioritise retaining their customers it’s always worth asking if they’ll match any cheaper offers you’ve found elsewhere. Erica from The Incidental Parent recommends doing this will all of your providers yearly to get a reduction on your bill, and she says never accept their first offer!
Consider Cheaper Options
Some bills – water, electricity, etc are essential and somewhat unavoidable, but are some of us paying for things we don’t really need? Lyndsey from Me, Him, The Dog and a Baby and Frances from Whinge Whinge Wine recommend ditching your TV package completely in favour of cheaper alternatives like Now TV or Amazon Prime, or using free services like BBC iPlayer and other free apps.
Hannah from Thriftyish offers a good reminder too – if you aren’t watching live TV or BBC iPlayer then you don’t need a TV licence, so that could be an annual saving of £145!
Save on Your Shopping
The food shop is a major monthly expense for us, and I’m terrible for popping to the supermarket several times during one week and spending money on things we didn’t really need. Meal planning, and writing your shopping list accordingly is a brilliant way to reduce your supermarket spending, and it should also help reduce food waste. Hayley from Devon Mama recommends checking your cupboard contents before you shop too, to make sure you’re only buying things that you need.
Remember that some meals can be stretched across several nights if you plan well. Liberty from Liberty on the Lighter Side makes dishes like roast chicken or bolognese cover more than one meal by reserving how much she needs before letting everyone help themselves to what’s in the pot.
Try ‘downgrading’ the next time you do a food shop. If you usually get the brand name version of something try the supermarket own brand instead. Abi from Something About Baby says she often finds that they taste the same, but the difference in price can be amazing!
Look for the Yellow Stickers
Something I learnt from my sister many many years ago is to look out for the yellow sticker items while doing a supermarket shop. Sometimes called ‘whoopsies’ these items are often drastically reduced due to being close to their use by date, or because their packaging is damaged. These items are often perfect for throwing in the freezer, either as they are or cooked into a dish that can be frozen and eaten at a later date. Consider using slightly past its best veg for things like stews and soups, or freeze fruit to be used in smoothies or crumbles later on. Alice from Living With A Jude recommends shopping on a Sunday afternoon for the best yellow sticker deals.
Make Use of Loyalty Cards and Vouchers
Lots of shops have loyalty card schemes like the Tesco Clubcard, Sainsbury’s Nectar Card, Boots Advantage Card, etc, and these can really help you reduce your monthly food bill. Many of the schemes send you personalised vouchers so factor these into your meal plans and make the most of the extra discounts, and you can use the points you accumulate on special treats. We’ve been saving up our Clubcard points for a while now and almost have enough for 2 Legoland season tickets! Mandi from Big Family Budgeting recommends using loyalty cards every time you shop or buy petrol so you reap all the benefits.
Victoria has a great list of places to check for vouchers and cashback offers in her post on getting more money out of every supermarket shop.
Grow Your Own
Consider starting a small vegetable patch somewhere if you have the room. Gardening is a brilliant activity for kids as it teaches them so many valuable skills, and being able to harvest fruit and veg straight from the garden will definitely save you some money. Plus it always tastes better when you’ve grown it yourself! Consider other ways to become more self sufficient too, like making things or repairing them instead of buying new.
Reduce Your Utility Usage
Put on a Jumper
Hannah from Hi Baby Blog says she always reaches for another layer before turning on the heating, to keep her utility bills down. Try putting on a jumper if you’re chilly, and if you’re still cold after an hour then consider turning your heating up.
Turn Everything Off
I’m so guilty of leaving things like the TV, radio and microwave on standby, but this is still using electricity – and it all adds up! Katie from Mum of 2.5 turns everything off at the plug including her kettle and toaster, and says it all helps save in the long run.
Make Use of Timers/Delayed Start
Electricity is cheaper overnight on lots of tariffs, so Jaymee from The Mum Diaries makes sure to do things like her laundry at night. Our washing machine has a delayed start function, meaning I can set it at any time to start once the overnight price begins. Consider leaving things to charge overnight too, to make the most of the cheaper tariff.
Swap to LED Bulbs
Hayley from Miss Manypennies says that you can save up to £11 per bulb a year by switching over to LED bulbs. When you add up all the bulbs you have in your home that could equal a huge annual saving!
And there you go! 13 fairly easy ways to hopefully make big savings over the next few months. Whether you use the extra money for something special, or you put it aside for a rainy day, I hope that these simple tips help you save a few extra pennies this year.