In the second of a series of 3 articles about the cost of living crisis, our Debt Recovery Manager Jo Purdy explores some useful hints and tips to minimise our out goings whilst we look forward to better times ahead. She concludes that are there some green shoots of optimism when it comes to household finances and a slow but definite start to shifting away from the concept for some of 'surviving and not thriving.'
It seems to be everywhere - you can't turn on the TV, look at a newspaper or listen to the radio without news of the cost-of-living crisis. With inflation reaching a 40 year high in the past year, we're all looking for ways to cut costs.
For lots of people, the changes of the past few years have left them living a life which looks different to the hopes and expectations they once had. We are starting to see some green shoots when it comes to household finances but the cost of living is still a concern for most people so
here are some useful hints and tips which may help households get through in this current climate.
1. How to save money on groceries:
It's still surprising when you get to the checkout and realise that your weekly shop - the same items you bought last week - have just gone up again. Make sure you are using every trick in the book to minimise the impact of increasing grocery costs.
● Buy own brands
Who doesn't pick up some own brands these days, and do take a fresh look at your shopping basket, are there items you could switch out and save money on? It can be fun to do your own experimenting and if your family don't notice then that's an easy switch!
● Use loyalty card points
Earn points for every pound spent in some of the UK's largest supermarkets and it doesn't take long for money to rack up which can spread the costs of events like birthdays and Christmas. Download apps to make your life super easy!
● Organise your fridge and freezer
Check your fridge and cupboards before you do your grocery shopping. Keeping them well organised will also help you see and use what you've got before it goes bad. Making good use of the food you've bought and minimising the amount you throw away because it's gone off before you've used it, will also save you tangible amounts of money.
Being freezer savvy too by batch cooking meals, freezing leftovers and buying from the discount aisle and popping things in your freezer for another time will all help to reduce your spend.
2. How to save on your energy bill:
There has been some government support which has taken some of the sting out of the cost of keeping warm and as we head towards the colder weather again it's a good idea to review and if possible, make some changes to help keep the costs down. Scottish Gas also announced just this week that energy tariffs will be going down from 1st October 2023. However, there are a few things we can look at to help keep costs down in addition to these measures.
● Switch off devices when you go to bed
Research shows that a high proportion of our energy usage comes from 'vampire devices' and these gadgets use up a significant amount of energy whist they're on standby. Adopt a bedtime routine to switch off any devices on standby such as your TV, PC, and any switches which don’t need to be on.
● Boost your home's energy efficiency
Take care of any draughts. Plugging gaps around doors, letter boxes, windows and floorboards isn’t expensive and can make a huge difference. Whilst it might be a bit of cost upfront, insulating your loft is a good way to save money and it won't take long to recoup any lost energy charges.
3. How to save money on fuel:
While an increase in fuel prices is unavoidable, there are small things you can do to make the fuel you buy go further.
● Drive slower!
Currently not difficult in Edinburgh or Glasgow given the number of roadworks! Reducing your speed from 70mph to 60 mph on the motorway could save you to up to 25% in fuel. Trying to drive more smoothly, with less hard accelerating or breaking, will mean that your engine doesn’t have to work as hard, using less fuel as a result.
● Lighten the load
Don't use your boot for storage as you could be increasing the amount of fuel your car uses.
● Track down your cheapest local fuel
Get into the habit of checking the prices on the board at all of the petrol stations on your usual runs and make sure you fill up at the cheapest that day. Over time, say a 6 month period, you should see a significant amount change in your purse!
4. How to save on public transport:
If you don't drive, chances are you use some form of public transport. There are a number of actions you can take to help keep the costs down.
● Pick up a railcard
If you are using a train, tram, or bus regularly it's probably worth getting a railcard as this will spread cost of regular travel.
● Travelling outside peak times
Are you able to agree with your boss that you can travel to and from work during off peak times?
● Are you able to cycle or scoot to work?
Most employers are keen to support cycling to work through the Government 'cycle to work' scheme whereby there is assistance for an employee to purchase a bike with a tax break and a plan to pay the costs of the bike over a few months. Employers also have bicycle racks for safe storage for your bike whilst you're in the office. A win - win, combining health and fitness with travel!
5. Selling or exchanging things you no longer need:
Do you have any clothes, shoes, books, kid's toys etc that you no longer need or want? You could try selling them.
● Selling online
Online, though popular sites such a Vinted which is cheap and easy and supports the growing UK circular economy. Become your own business owner for a while and boost your savings as the cash comes rolling in!
● Pop up shops, festivals or at an exchange
Look out for events such as the Edinburgh Free Festival held annually in June whereby you can set up your own pop-up shop to sell your unwanted goods. There are regular school uniform exchanges or why not set up an exchange event with your friends or neighbourhood.
● Recycling - Sell your old loo roll tubes
Whether it's for arts and craft, gardening or as toys for furry pets, they have many uses, and some eBay entrepreneurs are selling these for up to 10p each. A new form of recycling perhaps and it might be best to get in quick before the bubble bursts!
6. Have a no spend day:
Factoring a no spend day into your week can cut down your overall spending. It's not about doing without essentials such as food and toiletries for the day but instead planning your week so that you make some changes for a day such as walking to work instead of taking the bus and taking a packed lunch to work instead of buying something in a shop.
7. Prepare for a holiday or event in 2024:
Yes really! Whilst it might seem like a dream to have a holiday as everything in on the increase now with careful planning this can be achievable.
Shop around and see if there's an option of booking a holiday with an initial deposit followed by affordable weekly or monthly instalments. Under the right conditions you could plan to book for something in late 2024 outside the popular peak times. Any regular money you get through online sales such as Vinted squirrel away into a savings account and use this money to make the regular weekly or monthly payments towards your holiday. Of course, it does take a little bit of effort to get your items online and discipline to commit to your monthly payments but just think how good it will feel to have a few days away in the sun or spending time on a lovely event day closer to home with family and friends in a few months' time!
Fingers crossed things are looking more positive for household finances and consumers are a step closer to a more settled and prosperous 2024.
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