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Tips for a thrifty new year

Christmas can be an expensive business, and if your bank balance is looking less healthy than you'd like it to as we go into 2017, you may be feeling a need to cut back. 

The thought of scrimping and saving can sound miserable, but we've got some suggestions to help you to reduce your family's outgoings without reducing your enjoyment in life. You may find that making a few simple adjustments to the way you spend can lead to substantial savings without the need for any radical lifestyle changes.

Shopping

Supermarket shopping has made it all too easy to spend more than we should. Most of us have been guilty of going to the supermarket to pick up some bread and milk and coming home with a bag full of shopping. If you shop more carefully and follow some of the measures below, you will probably find that you waste less, too.

  • Take a list when you go shopping. If you plan in advance, you're less likely to make impulse purchases of things that you don't need. Don't go food shopping just before lunch either - apparently we buy more
    when we're feeling hungry!
  • Consider using cash rather than your credit or debit card. If you take out a set amount of cash to spend, you will see how quickly it goes. It's far easier to over-spend on a card.
  • Many supermarkets now offer their own brand economy ranges on basic goods, and these are usually far cheaper. Although you may not be prepared to compromise on some items, you may find that other own-brand basics are perfectly adequate.
  • Do check out special offers, but remember there's no point in spending money on something just because it happens to be cheaper than usual if you are unlikely to use it. The same goes for 'buy one, get one free' offers - great on things that won't go off like washing-up liquid or soap, but think carefully before being tempted by these offers on other items.
  • Do you have a supermarket loyalty card? They often offer savings or vouchers, and don't cost anything.
  • Could you do your weekly shop online? It's a good way of ensuring you only buy what you need, and don't get tempted by other items.
  • Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables. If you're buying things that are out of season and imported, they generally cost far more.
  • Use your local market if you have one. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you can save when you go to the local market.
  • Shop around for any larger, pricier goods and check out online prices.
  • Try keeping a note of everything you spend for a few weeks. It will show you where you may be able to make some savings, and it's a good way of ensuring you have a clear idea of where your money goes.
  • Second hand doesn't mean second best. If you haven't before, consider using eBay or Freecycle or the 'used' section on Amazon. Charity shops and jumble sales can be fun, too - this is shopping for vintage, remember!

Children's stuff

One recent study calculated that the cost of having a child from birth to the age of 21 was around £180,000 so there's certainly room to make some savings on the things you buy for your children! Try to think about how much you will use the latest gadgets, equipment or toys before you part with your money - it's all too easy to get carried away buying things that will soon be gathering dust at the back of your cupboards.
  • Have you got friends or relatives who may be willing to pass on clothes or toys that their own children have grown out of? Babies grow so quickly that they are often only in each set of clothes for a matter of weeks, and passing on clothes, toys and equipment is a really good way of saving money.
  • Children's nearly new sales. If you look in your local paper, or on the noticeboards at local shops or community centres, you're likely to find a children's nearly new sale now and again. You can find some fantastic bargains, and you may even want to have a stall yourself and make money selling the toys and clothes your own children have grown out of.
  • Think ahead at sale time. The sales tend to come at the end of the season, but if you think a year ahead you may be able to get some good bargains by working out what size your child will be wearing the following year. This is best for basics - don't buy anything with a logo or theme that they happen to love right now, as the chances are they will have gone off it entirely in a year's time!
  • Take your children to the library. It's easy to overlook your local library, but if you want to encourage your child to read, the library is an ideal place to start. Your child can have a ready supply of different books at no cost, and many libraries now rent DVDs at very reasonable rates, too.
  • Make the most of free days out. Many national museums and galleries don't charge for entry, and they often have activities for small children. Take a packed lunch and you can all enjoy an economical day out.

Around the house

Most of us could probably save energy, and therefore money, by looking at the way we use electricity and gas at home. If you try to adopt a greener approach to your energy use, it can also have a positive effect on your finances.
  • Switch off the lights when you leave a room. The less time lights are on, the more energy - and money - you save.
  • Don't leave the TV, DVD player, computer or other gadgets on standby. They're using electricity all the time even if they aren't actually doing anything, and you will save money by switching all your gadgets off properly.
  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. They are more expensive, but they can last ten times as long as normal light bulbs and some use up to 80% less energy.
  • Could you turn down your thermostat by just one degree, or keep the heating on for an hour less each day? You don't want to feel too cold, and you certainly don't want your baby or toddler to be uncomfortable, but there's no need to be wearing summer clothes in the winter either. Just a little less heat could lead to a significant saving.
  • Think before you use the tumble dryer. They're convenient and they may leave your clothes feeling soft, but some of the less efficient models can cost more than £150 a year to run. Could you consider drying your washing outside if it's not raining - or hanging it up indoors if it is?

Managing the family finances

We've got used to buying now and paying later rather than saving up for
things we want and we tend not to think about budgeting, but managing
the family finances will help your money go further.
  • Look through your bank statement carefully and make sure your direct debits and standing orders are going on things you really want - it's easy to forget to cancel subscriptions for clubs you don't go to, or magazines you no longer read. If you're paying a monthly fee for a gym or health club membership, are you using it enough to justify the expense? Many people join a gym and only go for a few weeks although they carry on paying the fees for months on end. Would you be better off paying to go swimming now and again at a local pool, or taking up running or cycling instead.
  • Try not to use your credit card unless you really have to - save up for things instead.
  • Shop around for household insurance and mortgage offers. You may be surprised how much you can save by doing this, and you can compare rates online.
  • Look at your energy bills. You may be able to save by switching provider as rates can vary considerably.
  • Family holidays can eat into your budget if you aren't careful, but it is quite possible to go away without spending huge sums. You could consider a family camping trip, a holiday camp, or renting a cottage on our own coast rather than a villa overseas. The children will certainly have just as much fun, and swapping airport queues and delays for a relatively short car or train journey can be surprisingly relaxing!

Just for you

Scrimping and saving to make ends meet can start to sound rather miserable, but although using your money more effectively may be a challenge, it shouldn't mean that everything has to be gloomy.
  • When you think you cannot squeeze any more out of your tube of hand or face cream, cut it open across the middle. There should be enough there for quite a few extra applications. Scoop all the contents from the top of the tube into the bottom and you can seal the tube by slipping the top half of the tube over the bottom half.
  • Got to the bottom of your favourite lipstick? Buy a lip brush to get to the rest of the colour and simply paint it on!
  • You can cut back on expensive leg waxes by buying a pack of wax strips. If you follow the instructions, you can do it yourself in about 15 minutes for a fraction of the cost. The wax strips work surprisingly well.
  • If your hair is a single colour, you may want to train your husband or a friend to colour your hair for you. A pack of DIY hair colour costs just a small percentage of what you would pay in the salon.
  • Rather than a night out with other mums, why not try an evening in. You could get everyone to bring a dish to cut down on costs. Maybe consider a clothes swap evening where everyone brings a bag of clothes they don't wear and you all end up with some new outfits at no cost. Or you could spend your girls' night in trying out some of the home-made beauty treatments from this month's feature.
  • If you are going out, look for special offers. Restaurants often have cheap set menus early in the evening or on certain days of the week. You may want to check out offers for cinema or theatre tickets, too.
  • If you don't feel you can justify going out, why not plan an occasional night in with your partner ? Instead of sitting and watching TV, you can cook something special, light some candles and open a bottle of wine.
Remember, spending less may involve some thought, but it doesn't mean you can't have fun!

 

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