The big squeeze is on. Household income has been under pressure for years now as a result of higher prices, sluggish pay rises, and spending cuts. Unfortunately, according to The Resolution Foundation, none of these things are set to change any time soon. We can expect to feel the pain for years to come, so we need to take control of our own financial destiny.
Fortunately there are things we can all do to ease the pain. There are clever ways to save thousands of pounds in household spending, and boost income by anything up to £10,000 – so that anyone can beat the big squeeze.
The first step in any cost-cutting drive is to work out where you are right now. The best way to do that is by drawing up a budget. Our free budget planner will help you quickly and easily find out how much you spend, on what, and when. At the same time you’ll be able to see how much cash you have coming in, and whether you are making ends meet.
Check out our guide to drawing up a budget.
The budget will reveal any areas where you are spending too much. It will also show just how much is being syphoned off to pay bills. Tackling both areas can easily save you thousands of pounds.
Everything from utilities to media and your mobile phone will make a big dent in your monthly income, and you’re gaining absolutely nothing from paying over the odds for any of them. If you do nothing else, make sure you check you’re not paying through the nose in the areas below:
1. Energy bills
According to Ofcom, the average dual fuel gas and electricity bill is £1,142 a year. The cheapest dual fuel tariff, meanwhile is around £850 a year. If you haven’t switched energy companies for a while, you could save substantially.
The good news is that comparison tools like ours make the process quick and straightforward, so it’s an easy way to save £300 a year or more
Potential saving: £300
2. Car insurance
Car insurers will bump up your premiums every year, so by shopping around, you could save serious cash. If you have rolled your deal over for a year or more, you could save up to £200. Try our quick and easy comparison tool to see what you could save.
Potential saving: £200
3. Life insurance
This is another area where many people are paying over the odds. Buying your policy through a reputable comparison site could easily save you thousands of pounds. If you’re not sure whether or not you need life insurance, read our quick guide.
Use our life insurance comparison service provided by QuoteZone. It’s possible to save between £100 and £200 a year by finding a more competitive deal.
4. mobile phone
If you have had your phone for a year or more, the chances are that you’re paying over the odds. Contracts are designed to pay off the cost of the handset throughout the period of the contract. It means that if you keep the phone after the contract expires, you’re paying for a phone you have already covered the cost of. If you’re prepared to keep your phone for a bit longer, you can then switch to a SIM only deal, which can save you £30 a month. If you want to keep upgrading your phone, it’s worth comparing mobile contracts for the best deal.
Potential saving: £360 a year
5. media and broadband
It’s worth revisiting how much of your media and broadband you are using. Are you using your broadband enough to justify paying more for higher speeds? Are you watching all the TV channels you are paying for? Would you be better off with a cheaper on-demand streaming service? As the cost of these packages has risen, and the number of alternatives has proliferated, you could easily stand to save by switching. You can compare broadband deals here.
Potential saving: £200+ a year
The average family spends £220 a month on food. If you are spending way above this, there are a few steps to help you save cash. The shop needs to start with a meal planner, then a shopping list of things you need to make those meals. Finally, input this shopping list into MySupermarket: a free supermarket price comparison tool, to see where your weekly shop will be cheapest. It can save up to 35% off the average shopping bill, which amounts to nearly £1,000 over the course of one year.
It’s also worth checking out our guide to cheaper supermarket shopping.
Potential saving: around £1,000 a year
Make sure you’re not missing out on benefits or tax credits
There may be all sorts of benefit cuts coming into action right now – but you may well be entitled to support that you aren’t claiming – from pension credit to assistance for carers
Use the EntitledTo benefits checker to find out whether you’re eligible for any benefits. It only takes two ticks to use.
Potential gain: anything from £100s to £1,000s
Track down your unclaimed money
We’re not talking about the change that’s fallen down the back of your sofa. There’s over 15 billion pounds lying unclaimed in Britain’s banks and building societies – that’s an average of £312 for every adult in Britain.
Many of us have savings accounts, insurance policies, shares or pension schemes that we’ve lost track of or forgotten about. Luckily, you can track down your lost accounts for free with Mylostaccount to see if you have any old accounts lying dormant.
Potential gain: the average claim is £90
Get £100 or more by switching your bank account
Banks are competing for your current account business, and are offering some attractive incentives to get you to sign up with them. The deals change all the time, but some of the deals can be for as much as £125 cash in return for a switch. Others will offer additional monthly payments when you stay too.
Check out our comparisons tool to see what you could gain by making a switch.
Potential gain: £125
If you’ve got space to spare, you could make money from it by renting it out for thousands of (tax-free) pounds a year. Websites like SpareRoom or Easyroommates make this process straightforward.
You could even list your whole house for a time, through sites like Airbnb. If you’re planning to be away on holiday for a few weeks, you can list your home out while you’re away, and help pay for your break.
Another possibility is renting out your driveway (for up to £500 a month) if you live in an area where parking places are scarce. See our article on renting for further details.
Potential gain: up to £7,500 a year (tax free in 2017/18) for renting out a room
Potential gain: up to £6,000 a year for renting out your driveway through Parklet or JustPark (depending on your location)
An easy way to get a bit of cash is to fill in paid online surveys. There are a huge number of these available online, including Yougov, MintVine, Liquid Opinions, Rewards TV UK and iPoll. Normal pay rates for completing a survey can be anything from 50p to £10 – typically, the longer the survey, the higher the reward. Most surveys are fairly short and don’t take much time to complete. You can check out our guide to taking paid surveys.
Another trick to try is the job spotter app from Indeed. You just download the app, and when you spot local offline job adverts in shop windows, or in bars and restaurants, you just snap it and upload it to the app. If you’re the first to spot it, you’ll get up to 80p in points which you can swap for money to spend at Amazon.
Potential gain: Potentially over £100 a year
There are plenty of ways to make cash in your spare time. If you have a few hours to spare, check out our guide to profiting from your down time. If you’re a student, we have a specialist guide to profiting from your spare time too.
Potential gain: £1,000s per year
Why not get rid of unwanted household goods (from clothes to electronics) by selling them online. eBay is the most common option, and plenty of people make hundreds of pounds a year selling stuff on the site. However, there are alternatives. If you’re selling old clothes, or anything with vintage appeal, you can try Preloved. Meanwhile, if you’re the type of person who has piles of old, unread books Green Metropolis is a handy way to make cash.
If you have an old mobile phone, you may be surprised what you can make from it. Moneymagpie has its very own Mobile Phone Recycling Tool – just click on the make and model of your phone and see which company will give you the best price for it.
Potential gain: £500 or more
If you’re shopping online, it’s definitely worth checking out cashback sites. They give you money back on products you buy through them (retailers pay them to promote their products, and they pass on some of this money as savings to you).
Potential gain: £200 or more