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Written by: Martin Shaw
At a time when jobs are under threat and money may be more of a worry, there are still ways to save for the future, even if your salary or disposable cash is on the modest side.

Times are tough for many people and saving money may be way down the list of priorities.

However, some will have cash languishing in a current or savings account where they’ll actually be losing money due to historically low interest rates and the eroding effect of inflation.

It’s important to pay down debt, of course. But even if you’ve just got a bit of spare cash, it’s worth exploring all your options.

You could consider putting your cash in savings products offered by friendly societies, which offer low minimum investments and often good returns – plus you may get a free gift for opening an account.

Although the current landscape is challenging, it’s always a good idea to save whatever you can to build up a financial buffer in case there’s further turbulence on the horizon. Speak to a financial adviser first though, if you’re not sure what the right option is.

If you’ve some spare cash to save – even if it’s a small amount – here are some tips to help make it work for you:

1) Rewards for opening accounts: you can get gift vouchers and other freebies, for example you can get a £45 My Rewards card when you start investing with Scottish Friendly, a Love2Shop voucher worth up to £50 with Shepherds Friendly or a Marks & Spencer gift card with Foresters Friendly.

2) Low minimum investments: some banks have a minimum of £100 regular investment (Lloyds) to open a stocks and shares ISA but there are others, such as mutuals and friendly societies that you can start saving with from as little as £10 per month.

3) Try different options like with-profits funds, which can help in volatile markets. With-profits funds invest in a wide range of assets, including bonds, gilts and property – not just the stock market – and that diversity helps offset market falls.

An annual bonus is added, and can’t then be taken away. When the product matures, the provider may pay a terminal bonus in addition to the annual ones. The with-profits product may feature a guarantee, meaning that at the end of the term, or on death before maturity, a specified sum will be payable.

4) Don’t have spare cash sitting in a savings account: the current levels of easy access accounts are all paying 0.1% or less, and cash ISAs are only a little better, which means that as inflation rises the real value of your money may be falling. The key is to make sure you are diversified across a range of different sectors to spread the risk.

5) Saving little and often for the long term: the younger you are the more risk you can consider as potentially you can keep it in there for longer. Just don’t overstretch yourself, and try to avoid being in a position where you need to withdraw the money soon after investing.

Martin Shaw is chief executive at the Association of Financial Mutuals

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