The majority of us, in the Western world, are profligate with our spending. We have so much choice as consumers and are constantly bombarded by advertising imploring us to buy the latest must-have accessory to increase our sense of wellbeing and to keep up with the Joneses. We also live in a time when there is perhaps greater financial uncertainty than anytime in living memory, with low job security and reduced state pensions meaning that the onus is squarely on our own shoulders to ensure that we take the steps necessary to safeguard our futures and those of our loved ones. A key component of this is to become better at saving money.
The first step on the road to financial enlightenment is to be conscious of our spending patterns. Knowing what you are spending your hard-earned money on will help you to identify where you can effect cost savings. Become friendly with your bank statements and group your spending into spend categories, such as groceries, utility bills, mortgage/rent, car/petrol, and entertainment.
Having identified what you are currently spending your money on, you will be much better positioned to unearth cost savings. There will be literally hundreds of opportunities to reduce your monthly costs but it’s usually sensible to focus first upon the categories that comprise your biggest regular costs.
Travel is often a big ticket monthly expenditure item and can provide great scope for cost cutting. Here are some things to consider:
– If your household run two cars, consider whether you can make do just with one?
– If you commute to work, consider walking or cycling if these are feasible
– Or perhaps you can you take part in a car share scheme?
– Can you work from home? Some employers are flexible to such requests, depending on the nature of your employment.
– Switch to a more fuel-efficient car.
– Shop around for your petrol to ensure you’re getting value for money.
– If you use public transport, make sure you benefit from discount ticket options, such as weekly or monthly passes
We all need food and drink in order to survive and thrive. However, it can eat up (if you’ll excuse the pun) a big chunk of our monthly budgets, so it’s good to find ways of reducing the cost. Some options include:
– Bring sandwiches to work rather than buying sandwiches from a shop or buying a meal from the work canteen.
– Cut down on the number of takeaway meals that you buy and the number of times that you eat out in restaurants. Cooking your own meals will be much cheaper and may also be healthier.
– Buy in bulk and make full use of your freezer to benefit from discount price options, such as “two for the price of three” deals.
– Buy from low cost supermarkets and/or buy own brand labels. The quality is often just as good and you will be left with more change in your pocket.
Many of us have a lot of regular bills and may dread the sound of them dropping through the letter box each month. Some of the typical regular bills that households incur include:
– Satellite TV subscriptions
– Gym membership
There are various things that you can do to reduce the onerous affect of such bills, including:
– Compare prices and switch to lower cost providers if your current provider isn’t providing a competitive deal
– Pay by monthly direct debit rather than check. Many companies offer discounts for this as they have lower handling costs and more certainty of getting paid promptly.
– Consider combining your phone and Internet deals to benefit from discount offers
– Consider combining your gas and electricity deals to benefit from discount offers
– Reduce usage where this can be done without hurting your health or comfort. For example, make sure you switch off lights when not using them and fit energy-efficient bulbs. Similarly, don’t leave your heating on in the height of summer.
– With things such as gym memberships and satellite TV subscriptions, consider whether you get enough use from them to merit the cost. If not, then ditch them to realize an immediate cost saving.
For those who have a mortgage, the mortgage payment may often be the single biggest cost each month and can restrict the amount of money that you have left over to put into savings accounts or investment options. It’s vital, therefore, that you check that you’re getting a competitive rate. If not, then consider switching to a lower cost deal although make sure you look into any costs that are associated with switching to another provider. Even a 1% reduction in your mortgage interest rate can deliver huge cost savings over the term of the mortgage.
Making cost saving an integral part of your daily life:
I’ve touched upon a few ways in which you may be able to deliver quick and easy cost savings. However, this has only really scratched the surface of all the opportunities that are out there. The people who become truly successful at saving money are those who instinctively look for ways to minimize cost with every transaction. Of course, this won’t come easily to everyone but each time that you take the time to consider the cost savings options will help to reinforce the importance of being more frugal in your spending. It may be a case of baby steps to begin with but everyone has it in themselves to achieve real cost savings and many of the efficiencies are really fairly simple when we take the time to ponder them.