January is the perfect time to banish bad financial habits and get clever with your cash.
Here the Money Mail team gives its top tips for how to save — and make — money in 2019.
1 Gather all your paperwork and make a note of every important financial anniversary in a diary.
This includes your home and car policy renewal dates, vehicle tax, MoT, breakdown cover, TV licence, fixed-rate savings accounts, mortgage, energy tariff and broadband deals. It means you’ll never miss a deadline or pay over the odds for anything.
2 Stick up for yourself. Don’t be afraid of complaining if you feel you have been wronged. You never know, you might get a voucher or your money back.
If you have received good service, it can also pay to praise companies. Some firms send customers a voucher or free gift as a thank-you for the positive feedback.
3 Be smart at the super-market. Visit after 5pm and follow the staff member carrying the re-pricing machine. You can pick up anything from good-quality pork chops to canned goods for pennies.
And always read receipts at the checkout to be sure special offers such as three-for-twos and discounts have been applied. Too often the price programmed in at the till doesn’t match that shown on the shelf.
4 Get a collapsible reusable cup to take to your favourite coffee shop for a discount. Pret A Manger offers 50p off, for example, while at Starbucks you’ll get 25p off. You can get a reusable cup for £1 at Starbucks which means you will make your money back in no time — and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment.
5 Check you are not paying twice for the same insurance. Many bank accounts offer free travel, mobile phone and breakdown cover.
Home insurance policies also often cover items outside the house. Be sure your spouse and children aren’t paying for separate cover when they are protected under your policy.
6 Avoid wasting money on branded everyday medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and antihistamines. Just because the tablets come in a shiny box does not mean they will work better.
For example, at Morrisons, own-brand ibuprofen will set you back 40p for 16 tablets, or 2.5p a tablet. A 16-pack of Nurofen costs £2 — 12.5p per pill.
7 If you need to ring a financial company such as your energy supplier or home insurer, record the phone call. It could be useful evidence if you later need to resolve a dispute.
You can download free apps on most smartphones such as Call Recorder. You can also buy gadgets to record calls on a landline.
The Ultradisk voice recorder has adapters for a phone and costs around £35. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) says it is not illegal for individuals to tape conversations if the recording is for their own use.
8 Get a free will. March is ‘free wills month’, which means anyone over 55 can have their existing will updated or a new one written without charge. Check which solicitors are participating in the event online at freewills month.org.uk.
March is ‘free wills month’, which means anyone over 55 can have their existing will updated or a new one written without charge
9 If you have to buy, wash, repair or replace a work uniform, such as nurse’s tunic, you may be entitled to claim tax relief for the past four years of expenses. This could work out at up to £24 a year.
Check what other benefits you may be entitled to online at gov.uk/benefits-calculators or call Citizens Advice on 03444 111 444.
10 Always check the use-by dates on money-off vouchers. It’s so frustrating to get to the check out and discover they ran out a few days previously.
Websites such as www.voucher codes.co.uk will help you find the latest offers. And sign up for weekly money-saving newsletters with sites such as moneysaving expert.com.
11 Review your direct debit payments. Axe any unused subscriptions and consider switching expensive gym memberships for cheap fitness classes at your local leisure centre.
For an added incentive, work out how much cancelling the monthly payment could save over the course of a year.
Paying £7.99 a month for film streaming service Netflix, for example, might not seem a lot but that’s nearly £100 a year.
12 Keep receipts on bouquets that promise flowers will remain fresh for a minimum period. It means that if your flowers fade prematurely, you can complain and demand either a refund or a new bouquet.
13 Make loyalty pay. Many traditional stores now use loyalty cards to keep customers coming back. Waterstones, Tesco and Boots are among the household names to offer money-off rewards in exchange for loyalty points.
If you enjoy a coffee out, get it from the same shop. Most coffee shops offer free drinks to loyal customers once you’ve collected enough stamps. Caffe Nero offers a free drink for every nine loyalty stamps collected.
14 When HM Revenue & Customs sends you a tax code, check it carefully. If it’s wrong you could be paying too much tax. Or if you are paying too little you could be hit with a shock bill later on.
Pensioners and those with incomes from multiple sources are most at risk of being caught out. For help visit gov.uk/tax-codes or call 0300 200 3300.
15 Switch your savings away from the big banks. Major High Street names pay as little as 0.15 per cent on easy-access accounts and Isas.
By comparison, Goldman Sachs’s Marcus account pays 1.5 per cent — an extra £13.50 a year in interest on each £1,000 you save. Up to £85,000 of your money is protected by the Financial Compensation Scheme as usual.
16 Shop in the world food aisle found at most large supermarkets.
Bags of herbs and spices are often far cheaper there than the glass jars of seasoning that sit with the condiments.
At Tesco, for example, a 50g jar of hot chilli powder costs 85p or 17p/10g. Yet a 300g bag of East End extra hot chilli powder costs £1.75, or 5.8p/10g.
Look out for cheap nuts, sauce and snacks too.
17 Join your local library and read as much as you like for free. You can also borrow DVDs — usually for a small fee of around £1. Just be sure to return books on time to avoid a fee .Some also run free storytime events for children.
Libraries usually stock new releases and bestsellers. Membership of some libraries can also now include access to e-books and magazines online.
Join your local library and read as much as you like for free. You can also borrow DVDs — usually for a small fee of around £1
18 Set up a direct debit for savings to leave your account as soon as your salary or pension lands each month.
It is much easier to know from the start of the month how much you have to live off. To squirrel away a bit extra, try a savings app — such as Moneybox — that rounds up your spending to the nearest pound. For example if a coffee costs £2.40 the app will round the purchase up to £3 and invest the 60p for you.
19 Never make an online purchase without checking if you can get cashback with sites such as Quidco and TopCashback.
These sites reward you with cash from the commission they earn for directing you to certain brands and retailers. Set your favourite cashback website as your home page so you don’t forget. It’s free money, after all.
20 Rent out unused car parking spaces using websites such as JustPark, Your Parking Space or Park On My Drive.
The most sought-after spaces are near airports, railway stations, football stadiums and city centres. For example, you could make £10 a day by renting out a garage near Bristol Airport.
Commission charges vary from free, with the tenant paying a fee, up to 20 per cent.
21 Use your marriage allowance. If you are a non-taxpayer and your husband, wife or civil partner is a basic-rate earner you can transfer £1,190 of your £11,850 personal allowance to them for this tax year. This will save them £238 in tax.
You can also backdate a claim to April 2015, so may be entitled to more than £700. Find out more at gov.uk/marriage-allowance.
22 Cut your energy bills by carrying out simple DIY draught-proofing at home. Paying a professional to do it would cost around £200 and save you up to £35 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
But even investing in a £16 ‘Ralph The Schnauzer Draught Excluder’ from dunelm.com will help bring your energy bills down. Visit energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 020 7222 0101 for more tips.
23 If you’ve reached 60 years of age be sure to take advantage of the extra discounts on offer.
At the National Trust, over 60s who have been members for at least five of the last ten years are eligible for a 25 per cent discount.
The National Rail and ScotRail Senior Railcard gives you a third off rail fares. Even Boots has an over 60s club, where shoppers will earn ten Advantage Card points for every £1 they spend on Boots-branded items, compared to the usual four.
24 Get the right credit card. If you need breathing space to clear old debt, move it on to a 0 per cent balance transfer card.
Santander is currently offering a fee-free deal with 27 months at 0 per cent.
If you are looking to spread the cost of an expensive purchase get a 0 per cent card for spending — the Post Office has a 28-month deal available.
Or try a cashback credit card that pays you to shop, such as the Amex Platinum Everyday, which offers 5 per cent for the first three months, then 0.5 per cent. Just be sure to clear your balance in full each month or any interest you pay will outweigh what you earn.
Time to switch? There is currently a £150-a-year difference between the cheapest one-year fix with energy minnow Avro and the new dual-fuel price cap of £1,137
25 Check local groups for bargains. If you are online, enter your location into Facebook or local trading website Shpock to find people selling items near you.
Or try websites such as Freecycle and Freegle, where people give away goods for free if you can collect them. Never send money via bank transfer, as you will have no protection if something goes wrong. Either pay in cash when you collect or via PayPal, which means the seller won’t see your card details.
26 Switch your energy provider. There is currently a £150-a-year difference between the cheapest one-year fix with energy minnow Avro and the new dual-fuel price cap of £1,137.
If you cannot face the hassle, try a free auto-switching service such as Look After My Bills, Weflip or The Labrador, which will scour the market for you. You may not get the very best deal this way but you will still pay far less than you would if you languished on your supplier’s standard tariff.
27 Haggle with your insurer. Never accept a renewal quote for the likes of home, car and breakdown cover without shopping around first.
Check comparison sites such as GoCompare and Compare The Market for a cheaper quote. Then call your insurer and bargain for a better deal. It could save you hundreds of pounds a year.
Remember that not all insurers appear on these sites — Direct Line, for example, doesn’t — so you may need to call them to check you’re not missing out.
28 Invest in a slow cooker. Cooking accounts for about 4 per cent of the average gas and electricity bill, and slow cookers use up around the same amount of energy as a traditional light bulb.
They also use around a third of the energy as an eletric oven, and can cost as little as £10 from Asda.
29 Never pay full price for tickets. With Compare The Market’s Meerkat Movies, you can get 2 for 1 tickets every Tuesday and Wednesday for a year if you use the site. You only need to spend a pound or two on a single-trip travel insurance policy to qualify.
Vue offers cheap tickets on Mondays, while Vodafone offers its customers a two for £7 deal.
Meanwhile, some West End theatre shows such as Hamilton and Maltilda run free-to-enter online ticket lotteries where seats often worth more than £100 go for as little as £10.
Try luckyseat.com/hamiltonlondon/ or uk.matildathe musical. com/lottery
30 Try the 1p savings challenge. Put aside 1p at the start of the year and then add 1p to that amount every day.
So save 1p on the first day, then 2p, then 3p and so on. If you start the challenge on January 1 and keep it up, you’ll have saved nearly £700 by December 31, according to research by investment firm A.J. Bell.
- Send in your best money saving and money making tips for the New Year. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Money Mail, 2 Derry Street, Northcliffe House, London, W8 5TT.