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2012 was an unforgiving year for many. The economy failed to make any major bounds forward meaning businesses continued to struggle, and this was passed onto the consumer.

For many people the idea of saving would have been ever-present, but the reality of being able to achieve any sort of sizable monthly contributions to the piggy bank, much further away. Now that we are in January and Christmas is over, the country is recovering from the big spend, and while the average household spending on presents was estimated to be down from £865 in 2011 to £835, this still represents a significant outlay.

The worry for many in the build up to Christmas was how they were going to afford this, and there were those who turned to payday loan companies, some of which offered extended payback periods. Others simply used what they had at their disposal, and there will be many who are now waiting eagerly for their next pay cheque, while using what is left to get by. However there will also have been those who prepared for Christmas over the course of the year, putting money aside regularly in anticipation.

Saving for some will have been easier than others, but really everyone should try to save something on a regular basis in 2013. This doesn’t have to be with next Christmas in mind by any means, and there are a thousand different things to save for. More important than anything though is saving for the unknown. You never know when you might be in a situation where access to a lump sum that you do not have to pay interest on and do not have to wait to gain access to might be crucial.

So here are five tips to help you save money over the next 12 months, allowing you to place what you don’t spend to one side, giving you a boost to your savings pot.

1. Be wise at the Supermarket

There is no avoiding the supermarket, it is somewhere that we go on a regular basis and will be a source of great expenditure over the course of the year. Here are a few tips that will help you to spend less when you do your grocery shopping:

• Limit your visits – This comes from preparation. It is important that when you go shopping you know exactly what you need. Preparing a list and sticking to it will make sure that you are not running back to the supermarket the following day to get those things you forgot. If you do end up going back you will undoubtedly leave with more than you went in for as supermarkets are designed to sell, and this will leave you spending more than you have would otherwise.

• Shop online – This is a great alternative to going in to the store. There are no smells or other enticing sensory temptations that will make you pick up more of those items you don’t really need, and this will save you money. You could also save on fuel if you drive to the shops normally.

• Shop alone if possible – Shopping with the kids is the biggest mistake as they will constantly ask for items you had no desire to buy before you entered the store. Leave them at home and save money!

• Don’t be brand loyal – You know what you need, but you don’t always have to get the same brand. Buying items that are on offer as well as those that are own brand will save you a fortune over the course of a year, instead of buying the more expensive branded products

• Hungry? Eat first! – This is something that you might not consider, but if you go shopping when you’re hungry you will spend more.

2. Avoid Credit cards

Credit cards make it surprisingly easy for you to get into debt, and that can be a viscous circle. If possible you should avoid using them for expensive purchases. Because of the interest rates they carry, they will end up costing you more than you borrowed, and this will mount up if you fail to pay off the balance. You should not use a credit card if you are unable to pay it off within one month; that is the general rule.

3. Review your Energy

Making sure you have the best deal in place when it comes to household energy is important. The price of energy is constantly changing and keeping ahead of the game could save you over £150 per year. The best way to save money on energy is to have the same supplier operate both your gas and electricity and to manage your policy online. Paying by Direct Debit could also help to lower your premium. So shop around and make sure you are getting the best deal possible.

4. Weigh up Insurance Polices

Again, car insurance is something that we are all required to have in place provided we want to be able to drive on the road. However there are a vast variety of companies out there, so don’t simply settle for your renewal price. Using price comparison websites to find the best deal could save you hundreds of pounds, and paying your premium in one go rather than monthly will also cost you less. If you are female it is very likely that your car insurance renewal will be higher than last year, as a gender directive which came into force in December now means you must pay the same as men. Again, though it is important to do your shopping around. There will be some companies who have increased prices less than others, and reviewing the market will probably find you a better deal.

Insurance doesn’t stop with your car though. Think about everything you have that is insured, and then ask yourself whether you need the insurance in place. So many people have insurance policies that are effectively doing the same thing as another one they have, or policies they simply don’t need. Again for any other insurance policies you have, that after consideration you decide you do need, there is no harm in doing some research to see if there is a better deal out there.

5. Review your Mortgage

If you own a home then this is more than likely your greatest monthly outgoing. You need to ensure that you are getting the best deal possible on your mortgage. Because the amounts borrowed for a mortgage are usually so large, even the smallest change in the interest rate can make a massive difference to how much you end up paying back.

So whether you are looking to remortgage, or are about to become a first time buyer, make sure you consider the wider market and look for a deal with the lowest rate possible.

After making these changes you may find that there is a little more spare money available every month. Opening a savings account that pays a decent level of interest is important, rather than just adding another low interest current account from which you will see very little financial reward.

Again there are plenty of options, and shopping around will help you to make the best choice. Opening an ISA will help you to commit to longer term saving, and could discourage you from drawing out money, so this is recommended. But make sure that if you have over the annual ISA allowance to put away (£5,640 for cash ISA’s, and £11,280 for Stocks and Shares) you do so before 5th April, as this will mean you can further add to your savings after this date.

If you are looking to start saving and are unsure of your options, or are simply looking for tips on how to save, contact one of our advisors and we will get back to you within 60 minutes with an answer to put you on the right track.

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