So, you find yourself wanting to save a bit more money to bring that FIRE goal ever closer, but between your income and your expenses it only a little wiggle room for savings? This is the exact situation I and many of us face, but all is not lost. I'm going to go through a few things that you can cut back on in your expenses so that you can squeeze every single pound out of your income and fill your savings pots instead of your service provider's pockets. There are various aspects of your life that you can re-evaluate to cut down on your expenses; household utilities, entertainment, food, technology, Childcare, Insurance you get the idea...
Using some of these tips below I have saved hundreds on my monthly outgoings. With two dependants I am still able to maintain a savings rate of 59% (which for my income I think is pretty impressive). Don't just take my word for it, try it yourself...
Utilities, Energy & Heating 🏡
So you want to know how to cut down your utility bills? We all know that they are up there with some of the highest expenses we have to fork out for as grown-ups. There's no denying that changing your provider isn't something we look forward to doing but I can almost guarantee you are likely overpaying for them. The easiest way to find out if you're overpaying is to use a comparison tool like 'Energy Compare'. I'll breakdown the different utilities with tips on how to save on each of them.
1. Gas Bill 🛢️
Use a comparison website like 'Energy Compare', avoid promotions that offer a new-comers discount. Find a deal that has a fixed rate for the term, this ensures that your price doesn't go up partway through your contract which sometimes catches people out. I currently have my gas and electricity with Octopus and I can't recommend them enough, they're cheap, eco-friendly, and great customer service. If you want to get a £50 credit to your account you can use my Refer a friend link. Another that I have heard great things about is 'Bulb' although I cannot say first hand.
Turn your thermostat down, just one degree makes a huge difference (just 1°C - this could cut 10% off your heating bill).
2. Electricity Bill ⚡
As with gas, use a comparison website like 'Energy Compare', avoid promotions that offer a new-comers discount. Find a deal that has a fixed rate for the term, this ensures that your price doesn't go up partway through your contract which sometimes catches people out. Once again, look at Octopus and Bulb as possible providers for their good prices and fixed rates. If you want to get a £50 credit to your account you can use my Refer a friend link.
3. Water Bill 💧
Use a calculator to find out if it may be cheaper for you to get a water-meter instead of a fixed tariff (not always cheaper. If your supplier cannot provide a meter then you can look at getting an 'Assessed Charge' Survey, this is where they base your rate depending on various factors such as the number of bedrooms in your home and occupants living in the property. Normally, the charge will only apply if it is lower than the unmeasured bill you would otherwise pay.
If you live alone and your water supplier cannot fit a water-meter then you can apply for a single occupancy discount. contact your supplier for more information.
If no surface water from your property enters a public sewer then you may qualify for a reduction in your sewerage charge (‘surface water drainage rebate’).
You should apply to your company providing evidence that none of your surface water enters the public sewer. Your company should explain the kind of evidence that it would need to see. They will check whether you qualify and if you do:
- you will not be charged for surface water drainage on future bills
- some of the amount you paid previously may be refunded
Take showers, not baths, turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth or brush in the shower, fix leaks.
4. Energy Saving (Bulbs/Meters) 💡
Most energy providers will supply you with a free smart meter, although the meter itself may not save you money per say; it will make sure that you are not overpaying for your Gas and Electric because your supply knows exactly what you are using. The main factor with this that will help you save money is that you can see just exactly how much you're using and it can help you narrow down appliances that are using excessive amounts of energy.
Look into replacing your bulbs with energy-efficient ones, while it may be expensive in the short term, it is said that you will recover the cost after just two months and then an annual saving of up to ~£20. Oh, and they also last way longer!
5. Broadband 🌐
It doesn't pay to be loyal these days, I would recommend taking advantage of "new customer only" deals as these normally save you a huge amount for your first contract. When your contract ends you can try and haggle with your current provider which can sometimes work but inevitably you may need to look at moving your custom elsewhere.
Entertainment & Luxuries ⛱️
1. Streaming Services 📺
Now probably isn't the best time for this what with lockdown and all but we're all a sucker for the streaming services, at least I'm guilty of it anyway. They soon add up... Spotify, Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video. By no means get rid of them all because there is no denying that you have to have some entertainment in life but see if you can sacrifice one or two of these. Just for example sake, if you have all of these and cancelled them all you would save ~£384 a year.
Take advantage of family/group plans for your services if they have them!
2. Gym 💪
Just go for a run outside and pick up some big rocks... No, but really, I can't comment on this because I get free gym access through work but I have heard that gym memberships at some of the 'Premium' clubs are huge, see if you can find a cheaper alternative "Indie" gym. There are some better known cheaper gyms that you could look to switch to, such as: Anytime Fitness, Puregym, The Gym Group.
3. Television Licence 📡
If you don't use your TV, i recommend cancelling your TV licence. This can save you £157.50 a year.
You can cancel your licence and may be eligible for a refund if, before your licence expires, you won't be:
- watching or recording any programmes as they’re being shown on TV, on any channel, or
- watching or streaming programmes live on an online TV service (such as ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, Sky Go, etc.), or
- downloading or watching any BBC programmes on iPlayer.
See more information here.
Food & Shopping 🛒
1. Shop somewhere else 🏪
I can't stress enough how much of a difference to your food shop cost it can make just shopping somewhere else. I have friends that shop at Tesco and it makes me cringe at how much it costs them just to get a few items. If you don't already, I strongly suggest you try shopping somewhere like Aldi or Lidl. Personally, I shop at Lidl, they have everything you could ever want, at great prices but for the love of god avoid the middle aisle. I have left that shop with things I didn't even know I needed sometimes. Even better, if you can shop locally at the market or the butchers, sometimes you can get some really great deals and the produce is as fresh as it gets.
2. Buy own-brand products 🥫
If you're already shopping somewhere like Lidl or Aldi then this probably isn't much of a challenge but if you really can't bring yourself to start shopping elsewhere then at the very least buy own-brand products. Most of the time you cannot tell the difference other than the fact you pay a mark-up for the fancy brand.
3. Buy In bulk 🛍️
Only applies to some things of course, but the main ones this applies to are things that keep for a long time. Such as pasta, rice, and potatoes. If you know that you're going to have to buy the same thing next week then it normally just makes sense to buy the larger quantity.
4. Bulk cook 🍳
Much like buying in bulk, cooking in bulk is a great way to save money too. You buy the items in bulk and at a lower rate which in turn allows you to cook a larger quantity. You can then refrigerate the meals for the rest of the week or freeze for another time. It's ideal to have a few meals in the freezer for those times when you really cannot be bothered to cook and are tempted to get a cheeky takeaway, this way you have something ready for one of those kinda days.
5. Meal plan/Shopping list 📜
I recommend going shopping with a list and sticking to it. This way you get exactly what you need and no more. Ideal for when you see something in the middle aisle of Lidl that you definitely don't need but want even though you have never heard of one before. It also helps to make a meal plan, ideally for the month but at the very least for the week, this helps ensure that you are buying all the ingredients you need in one shop.
6. Loyalty Cards 💳
Save money on your shopping, earn rewards and other benefits by taking advantage of your chosen supermarkets loyalty card program if they have one.
7. Cashback Schemes 💰🔙
If you were already going to buy something anyway, then you might as well take advantage of a cashback scheme. Main main principle is you sign up to one of these schemes (Topcashback, quidco, etc) and visit the product page through their site so that they can register your purchase. After this you can then receive a small percentage back from the commission that the cashback website earnt for the referral of the purchase.
1. SIM Only deals 📱
You may find yourself spending around £60 on your phone contract, Over a 2-year contract, you could find yourself spending nearly £1.5k! Although you can't commonly leave your contract once started. I would recommend looking at SIM-only deals when nearing the end of your contract. There are a couple that I recommend, I use SMARTY (a subsidiary of Three UK) which you can join and get a free month here but Voxi is also another good option. When your contract ends you can try and haggle with your current provider which can sometimes work but inevitably you may need to look at moving your custom elsewhere.
Tax, Childcare & Entitlements 👶
1. Tax-Free Childcare 🧑🍼
Saving the best till last because we all know how expensive the dreaded childcare costs can be. If you are able to, you could ask a friend or family member to help out for one day a week or something. Just one day off a week throughout the month could save you £160. That being said, we don't all have the luxury of having friends or family around to help out. The government a scheme where you get Tax-Free Childcare, you’ll set up an online childcare account for your child. For every £8 you pay into this account, the government will pay in £2 to use to pay your provider. You can see if you are eligible here.
2. 30 hours free childcare 🧑🍼
Likewise, with the tax-free childcare, you can get 30 hours of free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time). You can see if you are eligible here.
3. Working from home tax relief 👨💻
Even if you have only worked a single day from home during the lockdown then you can claim expenses for the entire year.
You can either claim tax relief on:
- £6 a week from 6 April 2020 (for previous tax years the rate is £4 a week) - you will not need to keep evidence of your extra costs.
- the exact amount of extra costs you’ve incurred above the weekly amount - you’ll need evidence such as receipts, bills, or contracts.
Tax relief for the full tax year will be worth either £60 or £125, depending on the rate of income tax you pay.
You have to of been make to work from home is the only caveat that I can see but it is worth checking the criteria for yourself here.
4. Council Tax 🏛️
If you are the only adult who lives in your home, you can get a 25% discount on your Council Tax bill. You will need to tell your council that you are the only adult living in your home and apply for the discount.
You can challenge your band if you have been paying Council Tax on your property for less than 6 months. If you think that similar houses in the immediate surrounding may be paying less council tax than you (you can check here)
then you can appeal your band to get it changed to one that better reflects the value of your property.
5. Marriage Allowance 💍
Marriage Allowance lets you transfer £1,250 of your Personal Allowance to your husband, wife or civil partner.
To benefit as a couple, you (as the lower earner) must normally have an income below your Personal Allowance - this is usually £12,500.
You can calculate how much tax you could save as a couple. You should call the Income Tax helpline instead if you receive other income such as dividends, savings or benefits from your job. You can also call if you do not know what your taxable income is.
6. Help to Save 💸
Help to Save is a type of savings account. It allows certain people entitled to Working Tax Credit or receiving Universal Credit to get a bonus of 50p for every £1 they save over 4 years.
Help to Save is backed by the government so all savings in the scheme are secure. Find out more about it here.
7. Benefits & Support 🧮
For any other allowances or social benefits then you kind find out your eligibility using one of the following calculators.
I think that I have covered everything, but If I've missed anything or you would like to share some of your tips and secrets then I would love to hear about them. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information I recommend reading:
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as always, thanks for reading.
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