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Revealed: 12 top budgeting tips

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Written by: Christina Hoghton
16/09/2021
If you'll be hit by the cut to Universal Credit or you just want to better manage your money, these helpful hints could set you on the right financial track

The £20 per week boost to Universal Credit, introduced in April 2020, will come to an end in October.

It was introduced as a temporary measure to help alleviate the financial struggle of the COVID-19 pandemic. But campaigners say that without this extra £80 a month, many families will be driven into poverty.

Financial firm, thinkmoney, has published its top budgeting tips to support those impacted by the cut to save money and budget better.

Top budgeting tips

1) Set up a monthly budget

To budget monthly, you should first work out your total income by adding up your Universal Credit and any other sources of income (e.g. salary). Next, add up all of your bills such as rent and utilities, then subtract this amount from your total income. Finally, work out how much you spend on other costs throughout the month (e.g. travel and food shops) and add this to the budget.

2) Pay your bills on time

Late payment charges vary depending on the supplier you’re with, but you can generally expect to pay at least an extra £5 for every missed payment. If you are struggling to make payments, get in touch with the provider and explain your situation.

3) Apply for a new phone contract in six minutes and save up to £100

To lower your mobile phone bill, take a look at how much data you’re using, as this is the most common reason you’ll be spending more than you should. If you’re well under your data allowance, look for a slightly cheaper deal with less data by using a comparison site. If you’re always going over, you’ll be far better off getting a deal with unlimited data included.

4) Save £310 on gas and electricity

It takes under seven minutes to switch your energy supplier, with the average saving being £310. Comparison sites like Uswitch and Compare the Market let you compare the best deals on gas and electricity bills based on your circumstances, so give them a try when it’s time to change provider. You should also bear in mind that your existing provider might be willing to give you a better deal if you’re thinking of leaving them. So, once you’ve found a deal you like, give them a call and see if they can match or better that deal.

5) Cheaper water bills

Although you can’t switch water providers in the same way as gas, electricity or broadband providers, you could save money on your water bills by fitting a water meter in your home. In England, it’s free to get a water meter fitted, but you might have to pay to have one installed in Scotland. To see if you could be saving money with a water meter, use this calculator from the Consumer Council for Water.

6) Look for discounts

If you’re trying to figure out how to save money quickly, then browsing the many discount websites online is a great place to start. Websites like Wowcher and MyVoucherCodes have loads of great offers on any number of things.

Once you’ve found discount codes for things you’re looking to buy, a good way to boost your emergency savings is to put away the amount you’ve saved by using the discount code. This way, you get the benefit of using the discount code and the money saved won’t be spent on anything else.

7) Look for second-hand items

As exciting as it can be to get a delivery of some brand new clothes or a games console fresh out of the box, getting your stuff second-hand can be a quick and easy way to save money on your purchases. Additionally, lots of websites will provide details on the condition of second-hand items, so you know what to expect.

8) Round up your expenses and save the change

Whenever you buy something, make a note of how much it’d be to round up to the next pound (i.e. if you bought something for £2.80, you’d need 20p to round up). Take all of the money you round up and set it to one side in your savings. Although it might seem small at first, over time, you’ll start building up a formidable savings pot.

9) Save money on your food shop by planning ahead

Shave a little off your shop each week by checking what you’ve already got at home. If you’re looking for a cheap food shop, this is also a good way to plan your meals. Rather than going for something that will require you to buy a whole host of new ingredients, take a look at what’s in the cupboard, fridge, or freezer, and base your meal plans around your existing ingredients.

If you’ve got a list of items you want to buy to make your meals for the week ahead, you can cost up how much the shop will cost online. This way, you can make adjustments if you think your shop is going to end up being too expensive when you come to manage your money using a spreadsheet.

Most supermarkets now do their own brand or cheaper version of essential items too, so buy these where you can!

10) Save money on your food shop by heading to the reduced aisle

Or if you aren’t too fussed about what you’ll be eating in the week ahead, the reduced section could be your best friend when it comes to saving on your shop. Larger supermarkets will often have plenty of reductions on items set to expire, and so you can pick up a few things to last you the week at a fraction of the cost.

11) Grab some supermarket loyalty cards to make serious food shop savings

Signing up for supermarket loyalty cards can take up to 10 minutes, but save you up to £400 across the year. For those who regularly shop at the supermarket but don’t yet have loyalty cards, you could be missing out on a lot of money. You can sign up for a Tesco Clubcard, Morrisons More, Sainsbury’s Nectar, and M&S Sparks card in just 10 minutes.

12) Cut the cost of laundry

Did you know washing at 30 degrees uses 40% less electricity than washing at 40 degrees? And if you add a cup of white vinegar to the drawer, it acts as a natural antibacterial that allows you to still wash at that temperature. Plus, if you were to do washing over six days as opposed to every day, you could save £14 – down from £97.

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