Updated 13 March 2018
With interest rates so low right now, your savings may be starting to look distinctly flat. But you can still beat inflation with some money-inflating tricks of your own.
If you find that whenever you check your savings you get a sinking feeling, then the chances are you’ve got a savings leak. Low interest can make you less inclined to store money away, so you end up spending it instead – and your savings get flatter and flatter. Well, now it’s time to fix that puncture.
Locating the biggest leaks should be easy enough. Here are your most likely culprits.
‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch.’ That’s funny, because many workers behave as if there is. A report last year found that around a third of people tend not to include their lunch money in their weekly budget, as if lunch somehow didn’t count. More alarmingly, the same report (for Visa Contactless) found that people were spending more than £10 a day on lunch combined with coffee, snacks and other sundries – totalling an average £2,541 of ‘invisible’ spending in a year. Make your own sandwiches and bring your own coffee and you could save at least an extra grand a year.
Bottled water costs on average 500 times more than tap water, according to tapwater.org. You could pour up to £25,000 down the drain in your lifetime… or you could carry a refillable bottle around with you instead.
We Brits will cling onto our holidays tooth and nail, and it’s one of the last things we’ll cut back on. However, it’s very easy to spend much more than you planned for. A single week’s holiday in Spain for a family of four, with half board and very modest spending, requires around £500 of pocket money… but as soon as you think ‘We’re on holiday!’ the normal rules tend to go out of the window. Make a realistic spending plan and stick to it.
Esme is the envy of her circle of friends, because she’s always the best dressed among them. They wonder how she can afford it on her salary, not realising that many of her designer outfits cost her under £20. Her secret is that she regularly trawls the charity shops in her area, knowing how many in her neighbourhood have money, taste… and an over-fondness for eating out. Esme continues to be amazed at what she saves, while supporting good causes at the same time.
Another top tip Esme discovered by accident. Away for two days on a work excursion, she left her credit and cash cards at home beside the toaster and had just £28 in cash to tide her over. Forced to watch every penny, she realised how often she bought little things on impulse, knowing she had a magic card that could refill her purse on demand. The experience reminded her of her student days, when she would make £30 last all week. That made it easier, and now she has a ‘no cards day’ once a fortnight.
Your car is one of the biggest drains on your income, particularly when you’re young. Do what you can to save on your insurance – it can sometimes help to add another person to your policy if they have proved themselves to be a safe driver. Otherwise, just using your car less can make a massive difference: less refuelling, fewer parking fees (and fines), lower wear and tear on the car. And if you walk or cycle more, you might even be able to cancel your gym membership.
See above. Or if you don’t want to cancel yet, switch to a monthly pay-as-you-go so you’re not locked in.
Time to get pumped!
Remember, you now have a £1,000 tax-free allowance on savings interest if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer (£500 if you’re higher rate) which means that for most people, ordinary savings accounts are almost as good as ISAs at the moment – and may give you even higher interest.
Now you’re saving money every month, put that leftover cash into a regular savings account. You can get up to 6 per cent interest on some of them. See, now you’re interested.
For more tips on saving and investing, talk to a financial adviser – the first meeting is usually free. Find one near you using our smart postcode search.