Image Source: Getty
Daring to exist in 2022 is an expensive feat. You — like the rest of us — may have noticed a troubling trend. Everything from your posh coffee to fuel expenses and your heating bills has skyrocketed in price. Your purse strings are getting tighter by the day, and you're not alone. Back in March, 83 percent of adults reported an increase in their cost of living, according to the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey conducted by the UK government. The survey found that British adults were most concerned about the rising costs of fuel, food, gas, and electricity. There's no denying that the cost of living in the UK is rising exponentially — but what is causing this major shift?
"Inflation is at its highest level in three decades, meaning the cost of goods and services has risen dramatically," explains Jenni Hill, finance writer and founder of Can't Swing a Cat. "Unfortunately, many people's wages have remained the same. The most effective way to soften the blow is to increase your income, but if you're unable to do that, cutting back is the next best thing." Of course, finding ways to save money is always a challenge. You may be so stretched financially that you don't know where to begin. While there's no magic wand that will make it easy to manage your cash, there are some small places you can start. In this article, Hill shares six expert money-saving tips that can lower your outgoings.
Set a Reasonable Budget
Before you can start saving money, you need to take a good, hard look at your finances. While many of us fear this task, it's better to go into this with your eyes wide open. "Have a look through your bank statements and money apps to see exactly where your money is going," Hill says. "You may find subscriptions that you completely forgot about and don't use very often. Cancelling these straight away could result in some quick wins and long-lasting savings."
When you've done that, the next step is to start dividing up your income. "Make a note of how much money you make each month versus how much you spend. Next, divide your expenses into categories such as 'bills', 'transport', and 'fun'," she continues. "Once you've added up all your essential living costs, you'll know how much you have left for nonessentials such as new clothes, holidays, or takeaways." Think you can go without any splurges? Think again. "Don't make the mistake of thinking you have to remove all fun expenses from your budget," Hill adds. "Depriving yourself of everything you enjoy won't make the budget manageable or sustainable."
Stop Throwing (Good) Food Away
British households threw out 6.6 million tonnes of food in 2018, according to a report by the charity Waste & Resources Action Programme. While you don't want to eat spoiled groceries, you should make sure you're not throwing out good food. "Thinking of throwing something away because it's out of date? Double-check the packaging first. If the label says 'best before', this means the date is more of a recommendation than an order," Hill explains. "The product might not be as fresh or delicious after this date, but as long as it smells OK and isn't mouldy or mushy, it should be OK to eat."
Freeze Your Leftovers
While we're on the subject of food, here's a quick tip that everyone needs to use. If you happen to make large portions when you're cooking, be sure to freeze the leftovers. Rather than scraping your plate into the bin, use a food storage container and save it. "Made a meal too big to finish in one sitting? Most things can be frozen and enjoyed at a later date," Hill says. "Curries, chillies, and casseroles can often be cooked in bulk quite cheaply and frozen for later." Fill up your freezer and cut back on your shopping bills.
Improve Your Fuel Efficiency
Of course, one of the most worrying price rises is fuel. If you drive, you will know this fact all too well. Chances are, you still need to get from A to B. However, there are ways that you can make your car more fuel efficient and get more miles for your money. "Keep an eye on your tyre pressure, because underinflated tyres can use up more fuel," Hill says. "Also avoid rapid acceleration, harsh braking, and excessive lane changes. These can all have a negative impact on your fuel efficiency. If you drive to work each day, see if there are any colleagues, friends, or neighbours who need a lift and are willing to split the cost of fuel. You might have a neighbour who heads in the same direction each day and would be glad to reduce their fuel bill too."
Socialise in Your Own Home
Eating out or even simply grabbing a coffee is expensive. "If you often visit restaurants and bars with friends, this could be a good time to suggest dinner parties at home instead. Ask everyone to bring a home-made dish and a bottle of wine," Hill suggests. "The cost of living is rising for everyone, so your friends may be looking for ways to save money too." Got one too many hen do weekends coming up? RSVP a big "no" to a couple. "Don't be afraid to say no to expensive events, even if declining the invitation may cause offence," she adds. "You need to put your finances first."
Avoid the Promotions Trap
Finally, if your eyes grow big whenever you see a discount code, here's some news for you. Sales, coupons, and newsletters all have one thing in common: they want you to spend more money. You might think you're getting a deal, but take a moment to consider whether you really want to hit that "buy now" button. "Unsubscribe from newsletters and unfollow social media accounts that tempt you to spend," Hill says. "And remember that voucher codes, coupons, and deals exist to make you spend money rather than save it. When you're trying to save money, getting 10 percent off a pair of jeans you weren't going to buy yesterday isn't a success."