The situation only changed bizarrely after getting a bit of a pay rise. When I had more money at my disposal I decided that I could better my financial situation. I realised I could get more value out of what I was paying for. Thus I re-evaluated every single cost in my life, and also every single possession. I was amazed at how much I saved, and also how much I can continue to save without any sacrifices in life. Saving money can be a godsend.
For years, I threw away a good percentage of the food I bought. It wasn’t just fresh food either, though that accounted for most of the waste. Sometimes, jars would sit in a cupboard for so long they went past their expiry date. They slowly gathered dust. I knew that I was spending too much money on food. I was buying what I wanted each day rather than using what I already had. It took a while for me to change my ways. Eventually I went through everything I had in my cupboards and shaped my meals around what I had. I did it until the cupboard was bare – it saved me over a hundred pounds. I now freeze more too, something I should have always done. But which has become more prevalent when I realised just how much could be frozen (herbs for example – add some olive oil to them before freezing, then place in ice cube trays). Buying some vegetables ready-frozen also helped cut down on waste dramatically.
Another area that I neglected for many years. I always readily accepted whatever I was charged for electricity by my energy provider, even when the excuses were rolled out for price increases. Eventually it dawned on me that like anything else, be it broadband provider or mobile phone supplier, it makes perfect sense to shop around.
By using MoneySavingExpert.com’s energy saving tool, I managed to save £240 a year on my energy bills. The website is also paying me £30 for switching. There are also many schemes available to assist people with bills and I have written at length here about the many ways you might be able to reduce your energy bills.
Remember also when looking at reducing energy costs to consider loft insulation. It is often free via government schemes – check to see if there are any schemes in your area at the moment.
A useful tool for getting better deals with many of your providers is to threaten to cancel and go to a competitor. It almost always works. If it backfires, you need to give a cancellation notice anyway, so it can be undone. It has always annoyed me that new customers seem to get better deals than existing ones. The way round this is to phone your providers and say you are leaving. Suddenly, offers will mysteriously open up to you. I phoned up my cable provider and asked to be put through to their cancellation department. I stated that their charges were too high nowadays, and that a rival provider could save me £400 a year. The truth was that some of their introductory offers were of little interest to me.
I ended up staying with my provider after I was offered my existing package at half-price for six months. I had instantly knocked £250 off my bills, subject to signing up for another year. Every year, when that period has elapsed, I repeat the process. The same can be done for your mobile phone provider – these companies really don’t want to lose any business however small. Especially those that have been with them for many years. Even swapping your bank account can result in cash rewards (Halifax for example).
Some of us hoard, but even those that don’t will have items lying around the house that haven’t been touched for years. Rather than leave endless items to slowly rot away, it could be worth checking online if they are of any value. I helped my dad sell old vinyl records for hundreds of pounds on a certain well-known auction site. I myself sold my old phone and tablet on one of the many sites that pay for such items, netting me £120. Through the years, I’ve sold pretty much everything to raise funds. From unused fish tanks to video consoles to games I no longer played. Sell a few things and it all adds up.
It can be time-consuming with small rewards, but again funds can build up nicely over time. Various companies offer payment for people who will complete online surveys. Payments are sent on completion ranging from pennies to a few pounds, depending on length and the company involved. Usually money can be withdrawn once a certain amount is reached, or can be exchanged for vouchers or the like. See here for more details. Alternatively, do market research in person. I recently spent two hours in a room with a few others answering questions on bookmakers, for £60. This was well worth two hours of a midweek evening to boost the bank balance. Panelbase, Valued Opinions, and Toluna are amongst the bigger agencies if you prefer to go direct to their sites.
There are a wealth of offers out there every day that can help you save money. Some examples: Join supermarket sites online and the first home-delivered shop will normally come with a good monetary discount that will easily outweigh the delivery charge. Sign up to hotukdeals.com and see all the best offers in stores and online in one convenient location.
If you ever plan to buy something from a specific website, then google the name of the store plus the word voucher. Thus you can see if there are any money-off vouchers out there at the time. Especially if you haven’t used the site before. Also utilise price comparison websites.
If you’re interested in testing new products before they are launched – from food to the latest technology – you can get paid for giving your opinion on them. Rewards come in the form of either a cash payment or gift vouchers. Yyou should be told in advance how much you’ll receive. There are a number of websites online that you can sign up to, for example paidproducttesting.co.uk. Mobile phone network operator O2 is currently letting people order up to 500 pay-as-you-go Sim cards free of charge. You can distribute them however you like, and each time a Sim is topped up for the first time you earn £5 – that’s a potential earning of £2,500. Visit O2startrader.co.uk for more information.
Another obvious choice perhaps, but many people don’t take full advantage of loyalty cards. Everywhere has them now, and points build up slowly, but over time can produce a nice little bonus. What’s more, some places such as major supermarkets will let you double your points. They then let you exchange them for various items from their catalogue, air miles and much more.
Few realise what a money-spinner your own home can be. Personally I have a garage not in use and reside close to a tram station, so could easily rent it out to a commuter for a modest fee (if I ever get round to clearing it out). Many people rent out their driveways. A select few have even rented out their homes for film shoots or adverts. See sites like AmazingSpace for more. If you live close to a sporting or festival venue, you could cash in by renting your home out to fans or even participants. The rates for Wimbledon would make your eyes water!
An option that won’t be for everyone, but it can be quite lucrative. According to the government’s Rent-a-Room scheme, you could earn up to £4,250 a year tax-free by getting a lodger. You can register your room for free on sites such as Easyroommate and Spareroom. Your spare room will need to be furnished and you’ll need to get a tenancy agreement in place.
If you don’t mind an early weekend start, then this is a good way of getting rid of unwanted items. The last time I did one of these, I made a handy £80 selling items I no longer used. Most of the items wouldn’t have been sellable online (CDs and books don’t really fetch much on auction sites). As mentioned earlier. if you want to sell such items from the comfort of your own home, then sites such as Magic Magpie will take your old electronic items – I have just been quoted £140 for my old HTC phone, very old Xbox 360 and Samsung tablet, all items I will never touch again.
There are many other ways to make a few pennies on the side. For more details, Which? has a list of 50 ways to make money.
You may also be interested in reading this article for 76 easy things to do to save money each month.