A summary of my existing money tips, plus a few new ones, including 5 from The Little Spender.
Sorted by category, please jump to the section of most interest to you.
1. Reduce your direct debits and monthly subscriptions.
There is nothing more demoralising than being paid and then seeing most of your money leave your bank account just a few days later. This is the reality for many on modest incomes shackled by expensive direct debits and subscriptions. Yes, certain bills are unavoidable, but if you can afford to pay for things such as your mobile outright, then I would recommend it. There are some great value sim-only plans out there these days. Three, for example, are currently offering a 12 month, sim-only plan with 12gb of data for £10 / month, and you can get £55 cashback via Quidco, meaning it costs just £5.42 / month!
Finally, remember that things like car insurance are cheaper if you pay annually rather than monthly.
Read about reducing the cost of your Netflix and Spotify subscriptions here.
2. Cycle to work and cancel your gym membership.
Until recently, I was that guy who was paying for the gym but almost never going! It wasn’t “money blogger” type behaviour at all. That said, it’s an easy trap to fall into. Cancelling your gym membership feels like you’re giving up on exercise, and it’s nice to know you can go if ever you get the burning desire to work out.
Due to my sedentary office-worker life, I was feeling out of shape, lethargic, and complaining I didn’t have time to go to the gym. Looking back, it seems crazy that I went on like this for as long as I did. All the while, commuting to work on the cramped and depressing Central Line. A few months back, I cancelled my gym membership and switched the tube for a Boris bike. This has saved me over £100 per month! Since making this change, I’ve also got fitter and felt less tired at work.
3. Invest a portion of your savings in the stock market
Please see tip #14 before you invest a penny in the stock market. Investing in stocks is not without risk and investments shouldn’t be made with a view to making a return over the short-term.
Bear in mind that investing in individual stocks can be riskier versus funds since funds invest in a range of companies. However, if you do decide to invest in individual companies, you should do plenty of research (I like to use Simply Wallstreet and the Financial Times) and consider the following:
- Will this company definitely still be around in 10 years i.e. does it have a solid brand and is financially stable?
- Does this company have a moat (meaning a significant strategic advantage that sets it apart from competitors)?
- Look into dollar-cost averaging as an investment strategy- this means investing smaller amounts on a monthly basis to avoid investing a lump sum during a share price dip.
When you have decided to invest in a particular stock or fund then you need to pick the right investment platform to purchase shares with. I am a big fan of Freetrade who offer commission-free investing and have a nice app. The only drawback is they don’t offer as wide a range of stocks as competitors such as Hargreaves Lansdown, who I also use.
4. Consider investing a much smaller portion of your savings in start-ups via Crowdcube.
I’ve invested in a handful of start-ups over the last year or so. It’s too early to say whether any of these have been sage investments because I am unable to sell my shares until these companies either get acquired or float on the stock market. Please note that investing in start-ups is one of the riskiest forms of investment so please take caution! If you’re interested to learn more then read this post.
Making savings here and there can pale into insignificance in comparison to substantially increasing your salary or, at the opposite end of the scale, losing your job. That’s why it would be amiss of me to omit a jobs section from this list.
5. Have a “side hustle” / multiple income streams.
Having a single source of income means you’re at risk if ever that source dries up e.g. you lose your job. This is why having multiple income streams is such a great idea. My “side hustle” is creating content for companies. It doesn’t generate an astronomical amount of money but I can do it from the comfort of my own home, whenever I have some spare time. Read more about how you can do the same here.
6. Stay in a job 2+ years for better job security thanks to employee rights.
Did you know that if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of being dismissed by your employer, you aren’t able to claim unfair dismissal unless you’ve been employed by the organisation for at least 2 years? This is why you should be careful not to hop from one job to the next. Furthermore, and in general, it’s important to be familiar with your employee rights. You can read up on what qualifies as unfair dismissal here. Alternatively, consider joining a trade union who can offer you advice on these sorts of matters if ever you find yourself in this unfortunate circumstance.
7. Negotiate a pay rise.
This one isn’t easy. Nor is it applicable to every job sector, I grant you. But if the company you work for is performing well and you feel a key contributor to the overall performance yet underpaid for the work you do then negotiating a pay rise might be a good move.
Asking your employer for more money can be uncomfortable but you may be able to get a good result if you prepare correctly. If you feel you are an asset to the organisation you work for and are happy with almost every aspect of your job except your salary, then going down this route makes sense. I would advise the following steps:
- Start by asking yourself how much more you think you should be getting paid. Striking the balance between ambitious and realistic can be difficult so do your research and speak with friends.
- Take into consideration who your manager is. Beyond their personality traits and the extent to which you get on with them, consider whether they would have the authority to grant your payrise without in turn having to speak to their own manager.
- Play out the conversation in your head and put yourself in your manager’s shoes. Are you able to put forward a solid argument for why you feel you should be paid more?
- Decide whether you are prepared to give your manager an ultimatum or not. To support this, it can be a very good idea to apply for jobs and go into the negotiation with a job offer in your back pocket.
Few people want to talk about, or even think about their pension. However, the data suggests we really need to change our mindset here and start saving for our retirement. I’ve included three tips on this topic below.
8. Contribute to a pension.
Only 53% of people are actively contributing to a pension (source: ONS, 2018 data). Whilst this may be a stepped improvement versus previous years (thanks to the auto-enrolment regulations introduced in 2012 and enforced since 2017), the fact that 47% of individuals of pension-contributing age aren’t paying in is worrying.
The state pension of £175 per week is not enough to live off. This is why it’s important to not be short-sighted and prepare for the future. “I might be dead tomorrow” is not a good mindset. Instead, plan for a comfortable and enjoyable retirement.
The younger you are when you start making pension contributions, the better. This is thanks to the compounding effect of interest that you will earn on your pension savings over the years.
9. If employed (PAYE), leverage employer pension contributions to the max.
Did you know that your employer must, by law, match your pension contributions up to 3%? That’s why it makes so much sense to contribute a minimum of 3% to your pension.
Let’s look at an example of someone called Alfie. Alfie’s aged 25, earning £28k. Alfie contributes 3% of his gross salary to his pension, which means he is putting in £840 a year (£168 of which is tax relief at 20%). Alfie’s employer must match this payment meaning, in total, Aflie is putting away £1,680 in a single year. Alfie aims to retire at 66, and expects to earn around 5% interest on his pension savings each year. This means Aflie’s 2020 contribution will be worth £12,995 by the time he retires.
10. Consolidate pension pots
Over the course of your career, you will most likely work for numerous different organisations, and accumulate a number of pension pots across different providers in the process. I would highly advise you consolidate your pension pots to avoid the risk of forgetting about one. This will also make managing your pension a lot easier. Read more on how to do consolidate your pension, as well as learn about SIPPs here.
Buying my first property was still the best financial decision I’ve made to date. I sold it a couple of years later and, thanks to a few home improvements and the area it was in, the property increased 23% in value during this short period. That’s why I had to include a property section in my Momentous 25 Money Tips! I was also able to maximise my profit by paying just £350 for an estate agent, far cheaper than even Purple Bricks can offer.
11. Buy a property
Effectively paying someone else’s mortgage, they say renting is like throwing money down the drain. Due to a chronic shortage of homes in the UK, house prices only go up over the long-term. This is why buying a property (if you don’t already own your home) can be such a good idea! Repayment mortgages allow you to pay off your mortgage principle (the actual loaned amount) over a term that is comfortable for you (25-35 years being typical). Meanwhile, the value of your property is likely to increase each year.
I have an entire end-to-end guide on purchasing a property you may find useful.
12. First-time buyer? Leverage government schemes like Help to Buy and the Lifetime ISA
I am a HUGE fan of both the Lifetime ISA and the Help to Buy scheme. My girlfriend and I recently purchased a property and used both of these. Not being a first-time buyer anymore, I was unable to use a LISA but my girlfriend successfully used her £2,000 free LISA bonus. Using the Help to Buy scheme, we also received a £67k loan from the government, interest-free for 5 years. This afforded us a much lower interest rate on our mortgage. For more information on mortgage interest rates, see money tip #14, below.
13. Keep an eye on the value of your property to lower your mortgage
Your mortgage’s interest rate is dependant, amongst other things, on the loan to value ratio. Put simply, this means the bigger your mortgage relative to the value of your property, the higher your interest rate will be. Property prices can change over time. Typically your home increases in value over the years, in line broader property market. You may also have made home improvements, increasing the value of your property further. It’s important that your mortgage lender has an accurate valuation for your property so that you’re paying the right interest rate. Read more here.
14. Always have a rainy day (emergency) fund
As someone who has found themselves of being in the unfortunate position of being unemployed on a couple of occasions, I speak with experience when I say having an emergency fund is vital. Depending on what sector you work in, it can take a few months to find a new job. I would advise keeping an emergency fund that can tie you over for at least 3 months should you find yourself without a job.
15. Use apps like Chip or Plum to save consistently and passively
It can be difficult to get into the habit of putting money to one side. Banks like Monzo offer pots and a useful salary sorter feature for this very purpose. But it can be far too easy and tempting to move the money back to your current account. That’s why I like apps like Chip that help me save without me having to do anything. Chip moves my money in a separate account and app which I rarely open, reducing the temptation to take money out. Read how these apps work here.
16. Use cashback websites like Quidco
To date, I’ve earnt over £1,000 using Quidco. Earnt from things like changing utility supplier or shopping online. It’s so easy, I really don’t understand why everyone isn’t yet using cashback websites. If you’re unsure what cashback is, and how it works, see here.
17. Use cashback or reward credit cards
Perhaps the retailer you’re purchasing from isn’t on Quidco or you’re being all retro and making a purchase in a real store, can you still get cashback? The answer is yes if you own a cashback credit card.
When it eventually launches in the UK, the Apple card may well trump any other cashback credit card on the market. Meanwhile, I think American Express cards, like the Amex Gold Card, offer the best range of points (very similar to cashback but only redeemable across certain retailers) and benefits. However, Amex isn’t acceptable by every vendor, due to their high processing fees, and it’s also not compatible with Curve (see my next tip #18 for details).
18. Combine your debit or credit card with Curve
You may not be familiar with Curve card. In short, Curve offers users a range of benefits and you can combine it with rewards cards like the Virgin Atlantic Rewards Card too. To learn more about how Curve works, why not read this post where I take a closer look at this new fintech offering.
19. Switch supermarket to Aldi or Lidl
Having lived in London for the last 7 years, I never lived close to an Aldi or Lidl and hence never shopped there. We recently moved outside of London and have started shopping at Aldi. It is staggering how much cheaper their food is versus Tesco and the Co-op, the supermarkets we used to shop in. Aldi offer a lot of their own brands that are imitations originals e.g. Jaffa Cakes, Mini Cheddars, etc. typically for around half the price! The quality is good and proves there is no need to be a snob when it comes to which supermarket you shop at!
20. Search for coupon codes
This one is pretty obvious and I imagine most people do this already. But it can take a while to find a valid coupon- the internet is full of expired and bogus voucher codes! I have recently started using a free Google Chrome Extension called Pouch. Pouch searches and automatically applies valid coupons (if there are any available) into the checkout at the click of a button, saving you a lot of time and effort.
21. Learn some DIY
Not everyone feels confident doing DIY- I understand that. But it’s never too late to learn! About a year ago, I completed a tiling course. Costing £70, and completed in a single evening, I walked out feeling like, whilst I probably still couldn’t tile an entire bathroom, I could probably manage something simple like a splashback. Recently, I finally got to put my tiling skills to some use. I spent £100 on tiles, adhesive / grout, and tiled my kitchen’s splashback (luckily I was able to borrow a tile cutter). Including the cost of my course, that brings my total outlay to £170. Hiring a tradesman would have cost £600-800, meaning I saved at least £400 doing it myself!
22. Sell your unused stuff on ebay
First thing I ever sold on eBay was my old clarinet, which was just gathering dust under my bed. It was 2009 and this popular online marketplace was really easy to use even back then. Fast forward more than a decade, their mobile app now makes it even easier! That said, there are still some tips you can follow to maximise your eBay earnings.
Beyond the obvious ones like take high-quality photos, and write solid descriptions, my top tip is to list a “buy now” price, rather than go down the bidding route. In my experience, this saves a lot of faffing around. You can easily get a feel for how much your item is worth by looking at the prices of similar items on sale. If your item doesn’t sell first time around then you can always relist it.
23. Airbnb your spare bedroom
Admittedly, I’ve not tried this one yet. Only very recently did we move and now have a spare bedroom for the first time ever! I have, however, used Airbnb as a guest many times over, both in the UK and abroad. So I thought I would share my thoughts based on my experience as a guest and will update this post once I’ve hosted for the first time!
As a guest, the main things I look for are price, good quality photos, and 5-star reviews. A clutter-free, clean room with perhaps a desk and tv is a good starting point. Relative privacy, e.g. access to my own bathroom, is advantageous. Beyond that, in my experience, good Airbnb hosts are good communicators and aren’t too overbearing. For example, if I’ve arrived late in the evening I don’t necessarily want to sit down for half an hour and discuss where the best local pubs and cafes are located!
24. Improve / protect your credit score
Keeping your credit score healthy is really important because you might not be able to get a mortgage or credit card without a good credit score. In short, your credit score reflects how reliable you’ve been in the past at paying your bills and repaying credit.
Missing a payment for anything from a mobile phone contract to a loan is likely to have a detrimental effect on your credit score. Perversely, not having ever taken out a line of credit, e.g. owning and paying off a credit card, can limit your credit score too.
There are a range of websites where you can check your credit score, my personal favourite being Experian. If you discover your credit score isn’t “good” then you can build it back up over time. One method of doing this is applying for a credit card that accepts applicants with lower credit scores (such as Aquacard) and ensuring you pay it back in full each month.
Finally, and as a side note, those who bank with Monzo will soon be able to see their credit score within their Monzo app too- which is pretty cool!
25. Switch utility provider
Have you noticed energy and internet providers often offer an attractive introductory offer for the first 12 months and then switch you over to more expensive tariff? I am a big fan of Uswitch for comparing utility companies and facilitating the switching process when moving from your existing provider to a new one. Over the last few years, I’ve saved hundreds of pounds switching provider via Uswitch.
Using Uswitch is, as fas I know, the best way to get the cheapest possible deal. However, it does require you to stay on top of things and manually make the change. For those who are very busy and or a little unorganised, Look After My Bills may be a better option. I have never used them myself but I watched their pitch on Dragon’s Den and they claim to be able to automatically move you onto the cheapest provider. Note: they do take a commission so that’s why Uswitch is the best method (providing you remember to move away from your existing provider when their introductory offer is expiring).
The following five tips are brought to you by The Little Spender, who recently returned from 6 months travelling around South America. Bekki worked hard to save and plan her trip and shares her top 5 tips below.
You’ve worked hard all year, so now it’s time to reward yourself with some time off. Whether you prefer two weeks by a beach, or a couple of days exploring new cities, there’s no denying that the cost of holidays can soon add up. Travelling is one of my main passions, and a huge portion of my short-term savings are spent on going away. So how do I keep costs down?
26. Do your research
My first tip to keeping costs down is to thoroughly research your destination. Is there good local transport, or will you have to pay for car hire? Are the nearby restaurants affordable? How much does a pint of beer cost? Understanding these factors will help you decide on a destination that is best for your budget, will help you estimate how much spending money you’ll need, and will reduce any costly surprises!
27. Don’t risk it- get travel insurance!
Before you book anything, make sure you have travel insurance. This may sound like an obvious tip, but not having a comprehensive insurance policy could cost you thousands if something were to go wrong. I find that annual policies are more economical, and reduce the chance of you forgetting to buy before your holiday!
28. Check hotels across a variety of booking websites
When you’ve decided on a destination and have your insurance sorted, you then have the timely task of finding a suitable hotel. You may always book with the same holiday company, but it pays to compare prices across all sites. If you find a hotel or apartment that you like, chances are they will also be advertised on another holiday companies’ website. Look out for any special promotions, loyalty discounts, or added extras that can help you save a bit of cash. Check any cashback sites, and book through them to cut costs further.
29. Breakfast options
Choosing accommodation that has either breakfast included, or the option to cook your own food can be a huge cost saver. Even choosing a room that has a small fridge can reduce the amount of spending money you’ll need. Buying 6 beers from a local shop may cost half the price of going to a nearby bar.
30. Do you really need to check-in luggage?
Depending on the length of your travels, consider whether you can save money by only taking carry-on luggage. Some airlines charge a huge fee for extra luggage – I’ve seen the prices of flights double when you add a bag onto your booking. I also find that the bigger my bag, the higher the urge to fill it with new holiday clothes is, thus I end up spending even more money.