Updated 20 September 2021
Saving is something that many of us find challenging, but the good news is that a few small changes can quickly start having big effects. If you are looking to clear your debts, save up for a dream holiday or just have a bit more money to play with each month, these budgeting tips will help you control your expenses and maximise your income.
Budgeting is a skill that we all have to learn at some point. Most of us do this by trial and error when becoming financially independent, but taking a more structured approach can help boost your monthly finances and take care of debts. There is no getting around the fact that modern life can get expensive, especially for those that like to treat themselves to the finer things, socialise, dine out or jet to far-off places for a holiday. With some basic budgeting, it is possible to do the things you love without worrying that you are spending beyond your means.
People often think that saving more each month or implementing a budget means making significant changes. But the opposite is often true. Making a few relatively minor changes can have a considerable impact on your financial position, improve your wellbeing and open up a whole range of new opportunities.
Here are our top tips for trimming your expenses, boosting your savings and getting the most from your money.
First things first, you need to have an accurate picture of your finances. Then, it’s time to set up a spreadsheet and start listing all your regular expenditures. Start with regular bills, rent or mortgage payments and then add any debts and your spending on food and other essentials. This is your baseline and is how much you need to have in your account each month.
The remaining money is, in theory, your disposable income. You can choose to break down your spending into categories like travel, hobbies and socialising if you want to get an even clearer picture of your spending habits. Or you can transfer it all to a separate account to make sure you don’t overspend. Either way, knowing exactly how much spending money you have each month is crucial to seeing how much it is feasible for you to save.
Once you can see exactly where your money is going, you can start finding ways to cut your spending. Again, there are lots of potential options here, including:
Cancelling unused or unnecessary direct debits or subscriptions like gym memberships – lots of them renew automatically without your input
Reducing your purchases on luxuries (such as committing to make your morning coffee at home instead of getting a takeaway)
Deciding to only eat out or get a takeaway once a month
These and other small tweaks can instantly result in saving a good chunk of additional money each month.
The best plans don’t try to do it all. Instead, they focus on a couple of clear and achievable goals. We would recommend having one short-term and one long-term goal at a time.
Your short-term financial goal may be something like:
Setting up an emergency fund (usually classed as enough to cover all of your essential expenses for a few months)
Something related to a hobby like a new bike or games console
For longer-term goals, people mainly focus on saving for their first house and retirement, but things like establishing a fund for your child’s education also qualify.
With the ball well and truly rolling, you may already be seeing some early success. But don’t be tempted to stop here. There is lots more that you can do.
Most of us don’t like dealing with bills. This is why many of us end up paying more than we need to. Luckily price comparison websites make the process of swapping energy, insurance or wifi suppliers much simpler than it used to be. You will likely find introductory offers for new customers that will let you save some extra cash each month.
You may be entitled to tax reliefs or benefits that you are not using. There are many obscure tax reliefs available out there, including the marriage allowance, tax-free childcare, rent-a-room relief and many others. You may be able to reduce your annual income tax bill and save yourself a good chunk of change.
On the savings side, your personal savings allowance can help reduce your interest payments. It is currently £1,000 for basic-rate taxpayers and £500 for those at the higher rate.
If you have a few different pools of debt, combining them all may make your life easier and help you pay less in interest. There are two main ways to do this. Firstly, you can take out a new loan and use it to pay off your existing debts. You will now only have one payment (and interest) to worry about.
Alternatively, you can look at 0% transfer credit deals. This means that you won’t be charged any interest on transferred debts for a set period. This can be a great way to start hammering away at any debts you are trying to get rid of.
There are lots of small changes you can make to save a bit more cash at the till including:
Don’t overlook supermarket own brands
Utilise rewards cards to earn while you spend
Explore buying staples like rice in bulk
This is an extension of the point above. Starting to make more of your meals from scratch can not only have a positive impact on your health but can reduce your monthly food spend by quite a lot. The mark up on pre-made sauces and ready meals is relatively high. You can make a large amount of great, fresh tomato sauce for the equivalent of a couple of pence per serving.
Having a budget and savings goals doesn’t mean an end to treating yourself to a nice meal now and then. But there are some ways you can be a bit savvier about it:
it is often cheaper to order directly from the restaurant rather than through an app or delivery service
there are lots of sites that offer vouchers from some of the most popular restaurants
make sure to ask for tap water (it’s free) instead of bottled water
some chain restaurants offer clubs where you can get access to deals – if you have an absolute fave, this can be a real game-changer
bringing your own alcohol (if allowed, of course) can slash your final bill
Cars are expensive to run and maintain, so it makes sense to try and limit your car use. Cycle to work schemes are a great way to get yourself a decent bike without having to shell out hundreds of pounds upfront. And you could gain some great mental and physical benefits by peddling more, too.
Heating and electricity are essential expenses, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with large bills. There is a range of ways you can boost your energy efficiency and potentially lower your costs:
turn down your heating and wear a jumper inside during the colder months
invest in some insulation – up to a third of your house’s heat could be seeping through your roof otherwise
install a smart meter and start monitoring your energy use
use draught excluder strips or foam rollers to deal with any gaps around windows, doors or pipework
Once you know how much you will save each money, it’s time to lock it in and take it out of your hands. Set up an automatic transfer from your current account to your saving account every month so that it happens without you needing to do anything. Then you just get on with your life in the knowledge that your savings are growing month by month.
Saving money doesn’t have to mean giving up everything you enjoy doing. These tips can help you make big changes to your financial situation. If you want to go even further, Unbiased can match you to an adviser who can help you make your financial dreams a reality.
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