When it’s time to tighten your belt, you still need to be able to breathe… Day to day living expenses don’t go away even when we’re watching our money, so check out our tips to live well for less from breakfast through to bedtime to help you beat the recession blues.
1 Start the day as you mean to go on
Breakfast is known as the most important meal of the day for good reason. Shop-bought cereals are often full of sugar – and don’t come cheap. Try making them healthier and stretch for longer by mixing in cold porridge oats. Parentsforhealth.org suggests making your own muesli using, “300g dried fruit (eg apricots, raisins, cranberries, 200g nuts (eg walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds), 200g cereal (eg wheat flakes, barley flakes, rye flakes) 10 tbsp of seeds (eg sunflower seed, linseed, pumpkin seed) All these quantities are guidelines – add more or less of your favourite ingredients. Don’t be afraid to experiment.” Or treat yourself to a big breakfast out. Many Toby Carvery restaurants across the UK are offering the ‘fuller English’ for £3.99 – help yourself to as many pork sausages, eggs, bacon rashers beans, potato rosti and tomatoes as you want. Or try the handmade potato, gammon and cheese hash.
2 Stay fit
You’ll feel better and it needn’t cost the earth. Local authority-run leisure centres offer classes and gym memberships at reasonable costs and now’s a great time to start before the New Year rush. You can even get a referral from your GP if you have certain health or weight issues.
Or swap Nectar (from Sainsbury’s, Ebay and BP) points for swimming vouchers and take the family for a splash. See nectar.com for a list of pools across the country.
3 Travel well
Think through your day and work out where you can make economies. Get on some running shoes or that old bike and save money on all or part of your commute. Check out Megabus for coach and rail travel, plus train discount cards. Search online for cheaper car parks before a day out. Check which supermarkets are running discounts on petrol and search prices at petrol stations in your area with updates from petrolprices.com.
4 Don’t pay too much to park
If you park near a station or workplace or even for airport parking, check out www.parkatmyhouse.com and similar websites. It’s never worth getting a parking fine but if you do get one and you think it’s unfair then ALWAYS appeal. Around 50% of appeals to council-run parking departments are refunded.
5 Get cashback on your shopping
Whether you’re shopping from your desk or doing a big shop, you can save 10% on many purchases using cashback schemes. Monitor cashback offers on prepaid cards closely and do shop around. Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert advises that “cashback websites pay you when you click through them, go to retailers or product providers and spend. You can make £100s a year using them correctly.” Quidco and TopCashback are among the best known.
6 Lunch (and dinner) Help your pocket and plan your meals
It saves time, energy and money – and most stuff freezes or keeps if you suddenly desire something different. Keep track of your store cupboard, fridge and freezer stocks and try meal planning websites and apps such as Love Food Hate Waste which helps you forecast portion size and day-to-day meals and buy only what you need. It says it can save a four-person family up to £430 per year.
7 Make the most of your work benefits
Does your company offer private health or other benefits that could help you? By law, for the past year, most employees over the age of 22 will have been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension if not already enrolled in a scheme. Even if you’re not eligible, you may be able to opt in and make the most of your employer paying contributions.
On a more fun level, your work may offer discounts with partner firms so check these out. John Lewis employees get a 25% discount in store and at Waitrose for everyone in the household of the employee, so you know where to steer your teenager towards for their first Saturday job.
8 Keep the bills down
Household energy and water bills are a soaring expense. It may sound obvious but turn off the lights when you leave a room, keep the heating down a notch and wear an extra layer (it’s better for your skin this way) and check you’re not paying to heat the outdoors through draughty areas and non-insulated lofts.
9 Entertain yourself
Do you really need that expensive Sky subscription? If it’s important to you –- and it stops you going out and spending more, then fair enough. Providers are out for your business so check you are getting the best deal for your TV, broadband and mobile. Monitor your usage and check you aren’t paying for channels you don’t need. If you can, ditch the monthly payments and watch sports games online or swap DVD television series boxsets with friends.
10 And so to bed
A good night’s sleep can help the way you look, feel and cope with life. Keep your bedroom cool and well-aired, invest in the best bedding you can afford and try a sleep monitoring app if you’re still not getting enough shut-eye. As Lifehacker.com says: “Getting jolted awake by your alarm in the middle of a great dream is a drag. The Sleep Cycle app [for iPhone] watches your sleep habits from your nightstand in order to help wake you up at the best possible time of the morning. Sleep As Android is (as the name implies) Android only, but it does a great job of watching your sleep cycles. The app even pays attention to the sound in the room while you’re sleeping to catch you snoring, record you talking in your sleep if that’s a problem you have, or help you diagnose sleep illnesses you might not otherwise know about, like sleep apnea.” You can buy similar apps for Android and Windows devices so get downloading and improve your sleep. Night, night.
Jessica Bourne enjoys exploring the ways readers can balance their budgets in their day-to-day living.