With household budgets tight, it’s a good time to look at any outgoings you could trim back on, writes Vicky Shaw.
A household budget can be like a leaky bucket of water. Things may appear okay on the surface but perhaps there are some holes you hadn’t noticed, which are allowing the precious contents to escape.
And with many people’s finances under additional pressure right now, it’s a crucial time to go through your outgoings to check if any money is ‘leaking’ out unnecessarily.
For some ideas on where you could start plugging gaps in your finances, here, Andy Barr, co-founder of online price-tracking website Alertr.co.uk, highlights 10 outgoings that you may spending more money on than you need to…
1. Gym membership
Exercise is important, but many people may be still spending money on subscriptions to a gym that they rarely, if ever, set foot in even before lockdown started.
Calculate how many times you were going to the gym every month when it was still open, and work out how much you were paying per session. Even if your monthly gym membership payments have been paused for now, you may find it works out cheaper to pay for the gym on a one-off annual basis when it re-opens, or cancel altogether if you were hardly going at all.
There are also many home workout options online, many of which are free. Your regular gym may also be offering a monthly subscription to home workouts on its app, which could be cheaper than your usual gym routine.
2. Gas and electricity bills
It’s easy to set your bills up when you move home and then forget them. But if you don’t check every few months to see what else is on the market, you could be overpaying – particularly as many people are now working from home and may be using more electricity than usual.
Some websites can help take the hassle out of switching provider for you – such as Look After My Bills and MoneySavingExpert.com’s Cheap Energy Club.
3. Broadband and TV packages
Be sure to check comparison sites regularly, and talk to your provider once your contract is up, rather than just renewing.
With cinemas and theatres currently off limits, many people have ramped up the number of subscriptions they are paying for during the lockdown. But do you really need them all? Even if you do, you may be able to share the cost of the account with a family member, to save money.
5. Online shopping
Shopping online has been a great comfort to many people who have been stuck inside, but there’s a risk of paying more than you need to. Prices of clothing, electronics and other such items fluctuate frequently. Websites such as Alertr can notify people when a product they are interested in falls in price.
6. New clothes
With fewer occasions to wear a new outfit, you may be buying less clothing anyway. But you could try saving money by buying second hand, or even ‘shop your wardrobe’ by putting items of clothing together in a way you haven’t done previously, to create a new outfit.
There may even be items lurking in your wardrobe which still have the shop tags on them, so now’s the time to snip them off and wear them.
Whether it be car insurance, life insurance or anything else, if you are not regularly checking the alternatives to see if there is anything cheaper, you could be losing out.
If you find a cheaper deal, get in contact with your current provider, as they may well lower their prices. You may also find, for example, that you’re using your car much less than normal. Check with your insurer to see if there’s any way this can bring down the cost of your premium.
Takeaway food is a comfort during these tough times, but you could be paying more than necessary. Consider making your own, but if you have a real desire for something that wasn’t made in your own kitchen then shop around and see what vouchers and deals are available, as you might find you can get money off on your meal.
9. Branded items
Groceries, and particularly medicines, can be much more expensive when buying in stores if they’re branded. So if you can forego buying a big name you will be saving yourself several pennies, which will soon add up.
If you’re not using your season ticket at the moment because you’re no longer commuting, consider claiming back the money for the unused portion of your ticket.
20 CELEBRITY TOP TIPS TO SAVE ENERGY
As many people have been spending more time at home than ever before, it’s inevitable some will have used up more household energy than normal.
So if in recent weeks you’ve swapped the desk in your office for a kitchen worktop, dining table or anywhere else in the home where you can set up a laptop, you may find your bills have increased when they next land on the doormat or in your inbox.
Smart Energy GB, which works to raise awareness about smart meters, has been asking a host of famous faces – including Rebecca Adlington, Helen Skelton, Chris Packham, Lisa Faulkner and Mark Watson – to share their tips for saving energy.
Here’s a selection of the energy-saving tips they’ve compiled, to help people at home keep their bills down…
1. Try making some cakes in the microwave, rather than the oven.
2. Make ‘energy free’ time a part of your day – leave the TV off and do a jigsaw or read a book.
3. Turn lights off in rooms that aren’t being used.
4. If you have a smart meter, use it to keep track of your energy and identify where you might be able to cut down your consumption.
5. Put a jumper on instead of turning up the heating or even keep warm by dancing and exercising.
6. Let your hair dry naturally rather than blow-drying.
7. Set up your workspace near a window to make the most of natural light so you don’t need a light on.
8. Clean the back of your fridge to make it more energy efficient.
9. Clean the backs of radiators to help heat flow freely.
10. Batch-cook your meals.
11. Use the right sized pan for the contents, to avoid heat loss or increased cooking time.
12. Write a note on your recipe so you don’t forget to turn the extractor fan off.
13. Don’t charge devices for longer than needed.
14. Let your washing dry naturally instead of using a tumble dryer.
15. Try washing clothes at a cooler temperature.
16. Spend one minute less in the shower.
17. Only boil as much water as you need when making a hot drink.
18. Defrost your freezer.
19. Bleed your radiators to free them of any trapped air so they work more efficiently.
20. Do bigger clothes washes rather than lots of small ones.
Financial fact: Interest-free overdraft buffers of £500 have now been applied to more than 27 million personal current accounts – both in response to customers asking for it and buffers being put in place automatically.
That’s according to figures from trade association UK Finance, showing the roll-out so far of measures to help support households whose finances have been affected by coronavirus.
SURGE IN INSURANCE CLAIMS RELATED TO GARDEN FIRES
An insurer has seen a surge in claims related to garden fires during the lockdown. David Fowkes, head of household underwriting at Admiral, says: “We’ve definitely seen a recent spike in the number of fire claims related to barbecues, bonfires and the burning of garden waste since lockdown began. Our data shows that garden-related fire claims accounted for almost two-fifths (39 per cent) of all fire claims from the end of March to the end of April.”
PENSION CREDIT CLAIMANTS CAN NOW APPLY ONLINE
Pensioners are now able to apply for Pension Credit online – to help those who are self-isolating or shielding during the coronavirus pandemic – the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said.
Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit for people who have reached state pension age. The online claim option supports existing methods of applying for Pension Credit by telephone or post. More information is available at gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claim.
MORE THAN HALF SAY THEY’VE ‘SAVED SOME MONEY DURING LOCKDOWN’
More than half (58 per cent) of people have managed to save some cash during the lockdown, according to money.co.uk.
Eating and drinking out and travel to work or on holiday are the biggest costs to be cut, the research found. The lack of opportunities to window shop has led to more than one in 10 (13 per cent) saying their biggest saving has been on clothing and accessory shopping.