A guide to saving by a broke lass

Saving moneyI’m perpetually skint. Ever since leaving my job due to my disability, I found it so hard to save money.  I spent time making a few changes to the way I managed my finances and I thought maybe it might help someone else.

So here you go – a little bit different from my usual content on here, but if you find any tips that help, let me know. Similarly, if you have any good money saving tips you want to share, leave a comment!

Bank Account Switching

This is the first thing I did.  I’ve banked with my previous place for decades. With no reward really! Hardly any interest on the measly credit balance I kept.  Decent customer service, but no real reason to stay with them.  So I started looking into alternatives, and noticed you can get a reward in the region of £100-£150 for switching banks by using their easy switch service.  Not just that, but a few accounts are offering better interest rates than my previous provider, and some do monthly rewards (around £5) for keeping a credit balance, or using contactless payments. Winner!

I didn’t come across any problems switching. In fact, the account opening was done online in less than 10 minutes, and the switch took place within 2 weeks. I didn’t have to do a thing. All my direct debits were just there, and taken as usual, and my balance transferred automatically. Far less stressful than it used to be.

Here’s a few accounts that I found that do rewards for switching – get that dough!

First Direct: give you £100 when you deposit £1000 within 3 months of your switch.

Co-Op give you £125 AND £25 to charity (good feels!) within 45 days of switching to them. They also have a rewards scheme that you can sign up to, to get another £5.50 per month.

Halifax will give you £75 in 7 working days of your switch, and £3 per month when you pay in more than £750 (it used to be a fiver, but they do allow a fee-free £50 overdraft buffer, which is handy).

Broke lass tip: if you struggle to meet the minimum pay-in requirements for the accounts, there is nothing to say you can’t pay the money in and withdraw it the same day.

Actual Savings

This is the hardest thing for me nowadays.  I’ve found that the best way for me to save, is to set up a standing order online and just take that money from my current account into my ISA – which makes me want to cry a bit, but will be worth it in the end.

My favourite little savings trick is by TSB – their Classic Plus Account lets you activate a ‘Save the Change’ function, which rounds up your debit card payments to the nearest £1, and put that difference into a savings account, so those £1.75 espressos become 25p savings each time.

I managed to accumulate £19 (0.3%  gross interest rate on this) in a month. It’s way more than I expected, and I genuinely didn’t notice the odds and ends going out to my savings. Long-term, I hope it’ll make a substantial difference.

ISA’s, tax free savings accounts with a personal limit each year, are useful for long-term savings. There’s so many different ones to pick from though, it can be head spinning. ‘Standard’ ones from your bank can pay between 1.5% and 3% interest – but this is really not fantastic.  Some current accounts have better rates, so just keep your eyes peeled for this. There’s other types of account too, so it’s worth searching around for where you can place your money for best return. And it’s always better to pay off your credit cards, loans and overdrafts first – otherwise you’re just paying out interest at a higher rate than you’re saving it elsewhere.

Bills, bills, bills

It’s all well and good looking at savings, but you’ve got to have some money to actually save first, right?  What I did this year is go tough on bills. I spent (a probably inordinate amount of) time online, using comparison sites and searching for better deals on my gas and electricity bills; car insurance; home insurance; TV, broadband and phone; and mobile phone.

It didn’t just take five minutes. I won’t lie to you. But it did save me quite a few pennies.

Broke lass tip: check comparison sites for the best deals, but then purchase your deal via a cashback site! This way you can get anything from a couple of quid, to bigger payouts like £150 for switching broadband and tv providers. It is SO worth doing this. I’ve pulled in a lot of savings this way, and it’s brilliant to get paid for saving money. Smug feelings all round.

The sites I use are Quidco and Top Cashback (these are my affiliate links, so I get a little something if you sign up via them, and you get a little something too! So thank you if you use them).

Easy things you can do to reduce your bills:

Haggle: if it’s time to upgrade your mobile, or you’re coming to the end of your Sky or Virgin Media (etc) contract, then call them, say you’re thinking of leaving (research the competitions ‘new customer’ offers, so you know what you’re aiming for) and just be honest that you want to pay less. Most people in customer retentions really want to keep your business, so will work with you to give you the best deal.  My Sky bill went from over £50 to £25. So it’s definitely worth the phone call!

Check what you need: easy to do again, but check that you’re only paying for what you need.  Do you need a pay monthly mobile contract when yours is up for renewal?  Can your mobile last another year? If so, look at switching to a sim-only tariff – it’s so much cheaper, and you can always put that savings into a special account to save up for a new mobile phone when yours is ready for the recycling (on that note, don’t forget to recycle your phone for cash! I use O2’s recycling scheme and have always got more than £100 for my old handsets).

This principal sort of works for broadband and TV too. I think a lot of people pay their subscription without thinking too much about if it’s really worth it.  For me, it wasn’t. I did a little audit of what I watched on ‘live’ TV, and it was basically 2 programmes a week, plus the news! Definitely not worth paying £38 for the Sky package I was on. So I called them up, cancelled the TV element of my subscription; kept the broadband (and phone, which does annoy me as it NEVER gets used), and now I have the free Sky channels via my Sky+ box – which are similar to Freeview. I also pay for Now TV when I want to watch something like Game of Thrones (and it’s less than £10 a month), and Netflix at £5.99.  The good thing about these, is I can cancel and resubscribe each month. So if I’m not going to have time to watch, I don’t have to pay. And on those occasions, that cash goes straight into my savings.

The same applies to insurance. Don’t over-insure your home contents (similarly, don’t under-insure!). It did take me a fair while to do this, but I catalogued every ‘big’ piece of furniture or expensive item in my house and a rough note of what they’d cost me to replace as new. Admittedly, it was far more than I thought it would be. But this spreadsheet I created, with my full geek on, has given me a good reference to what my insurance needs to be. It’s also nice to have in case I ever need to know purchase dates, or model details – yep, I went that far. I did say it took a while!

Other Stuff

I’m probably preaching to the choir, if you’ve made it this far down this massive post, but grocery shopping is the one to watch.  Shop around!  I get essentials from Aldi, and then go to Waitrose for other stuff – as they’re not that expensive for their essentials range, and I pretty much always get vouchers from their MyWaitrose scheme. This month it was £9 off a £60 spend, so I stocked those cupboards!

It’s worth shopping online to get initial offers. Ocado, Tesco and Sainsbury usually do really good ‘first shop’ online offers. With £20+ off your initial shop.

I also love going to our local markets. Leeds Kirkgate is massive, and has everything you could want – some of it is really affordable, and the quality is fantastic. Our local farmers markets are nice too, but they do tend to cost more.

 

With these methods, I’ve managed to save more than I have in years. It can be extremely difficult when your income is dramatically reduced. And I know that compared to a lot of people, I am privileged to be able to be in the position I am, to search around for deals, and have a little left over to save. If you are struggling, then there is help available. Citizens Advice is a good place to start. They can signpost you to lots of different support, and agencies who are able to help. Don’t try and wade through it all alone.

Thanks for reading this. I know it’s a departure from what I usually talk about, but if even one person finds a little help here, then I’ll be happy.  Normal service will resume shortly!

 

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2 Comments

  1. August 15, 2017 / 5:04 pm

    I just set up ‘Save the Change’ on my TSB account after reading about it here – it’s such a neat little idea! Thanks very much for the info and all your other top money saving tips! x

    • August 16, 2017 / 1:26 pm

      I love it Kel! Checked this morning and I’m on £20 now already. Such a good thing and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard about it til a few months ago. Hope you’re good! Xx