The credit crunch means we all need to cut down our household expenditure. We’ve come up with 50 easy ways you can save money in your home with these tiny changes to everyday life. Start having a go at just half of them and you’re bound to save a packet.
1. Embrace old-style cleaners
Forking out for ‘miracle’ cleaners that don’t work is a pain. But there’s no need. Have a go with an old-style cleaner instead. White vinegar will unblock sinks, remove limescale and clean your workshops. All you need to do is mix it with a bit of water and a few drops of essential oil to mask the smell. Bicarbonate of soda works on descaling teacups and teapots, gets rid of smells in your fridge and is a great microwave cleaner. Just make a paste with a small amount of water for cleaning – or mix with water and leave to soak for de-scaling. These products are much cheaper than cleaning products.
2. Cheap lick of paint
Save money on sprucing up your house by checking out the ‘oops’ paints at DIY stores such as B&Q. These are paints left over from when the mixer doesn’t quite get the colour right. Some shades are not so nice, but you may find exactly what you’re after for half the price. You may also get lucky and find a really nice shade that is on sale because someone has forgotten to pick it up.
3. Do a mortgage check
Some mortgage providers are loosening up and cutting their rates. Some are even willing to waive the arrangement fees, which makes re-mortgaging even easier. We’ve got a guide to how to re-mortgage your house that will tell you exactly what you need to do. You can make sure you get the cheapest deal by using our free comparison service from independent brokers London and Country. If you don’t find a better deal, save by paying off your mortgage in double-quick time.
4. Put a lid on it!
Never boil water (or heat anything actually) in an uncovered pan. The lid will prevent heat escaping, the water will come to the boil faster and you’ll use less energy. Boil water in a covered pan or a kettle or don’t boil it at all! You can also save energy when cooking by using pressure cookers. These reduce cooking time so you use less energy. Same goes for microwave ovens. If you don’t fancy cooking your meals in the microwave, try part cooking and then finishing meals off on the stove. You can also save energy by never pre-heating the oven unless absolutely necessary. If you need your dish to go into a hot oven (rather than one that is heating up), never pre-heat for more than 10 minutes.
5. Revive your carpets with a quick steam clean
Floors need a revamp? Replacing your carpets can cost a small fortune. However, giving them a good clean can restore them to almost as good as new. At HSS you can hire a professional carpet cleaner for just over £40 per day or around £50 for a weekend. Put some legwork into it and your newly-restored carpet will be looking great for the fraction of the price of a new one.
6. Do your own DIY
Save money by taking a local adult education course in DIY instead of hiring a handyman. They only cost around £100. This is an initial investment but should pay itself off fairly quickly. You’ll get all the skills to fix up your house yourself at no extra cost. You can also use your skills to make more money by helping others out. Take it up a notch and have a go at plumbing courses to save even more. Find your local course on learndirect.
7. Make a clothes shopping list
If you know you’re a bit of a shopaholic this is a really good tip to keep the habit under control. Make a list of all the clothing items you and your family need. Put it in your wallet and keep it there. Then when you are out and do a bit of impromptu shopping, you know exactly what you should be looking for. This way you can say “no” to items you don’t need and stop spending money on stuff you’ve already got.
8. Make as much as you can from your savings
Lots of us are hesitant to put our money in the bank right now, given the recent collapse of the Icelandic banks and other UK banks. But despite the crisis, there are still great deals to be had in banks that are very safe. Bradford & Bingley has been part nationalised so is 100% guaranteed by the Government. They are offering a great deal on their eSavings flexible internet saver which pays 3.1% on amounts between £1 and £2 million.
9. Re-use your old clothes
Make old jeans into draft excluders by cutting the legs off, stuffing them and then sewing up the ends. If you’re more adventurous try making your own snake draft excluder – see how here. You could re-use baby trousers by turning them into shorts for slightly older kids, or use odd socks for puppet making or stuffing to make dog toys. Tights are great for making cress heads, storing onions and bulbs, packing together to make abrasive cleaner for your sink or wrapping around ordinary coat hangers to make them padded ones. If there are any retro jewels, start a dressing-up box for your kids. This will keep them entertained for hours and it’s free.
10. Give yourself a budget
Take control of your spending by sticking to a budget. Make a list of everything you spend on in a week and weed out all the little extras you don’t need. Total up the costs of things you really have to buy and this is your budget. Make sure you can afford this budget and keep a little left over. If you don’t have enough money for this budget, then more things need to go. Do you really need to buy lunch at work? Can you live without that DVD? Make your budget realistic and then stick to it. This should leave you with a little extra every month. You can use this to pay off loans, or make more money by putting it into a savings account. See our full article on making a budget.
11. Have a ‘use it up’ week
This is where you don’t buy anything new, but make yourself use up the odds and ends of things you have already bought. Whether it’s a half-finished bottle of shampoo or open cereal packets, using everything up will save you money. Start by clearing out your cupboards so you don’t waste anything.
12. Pay less tax with tax credits
The Government give tax credits to people who need help or to supplement their income. It’s a little bit of tax back to help you along. However there are millions of pounds of tax credits left unclaimed every year. This is because people don’t realise they are eligible for them. There are certain rules, but you don’t need to have kids to take advantage. Click here to read our article and see if the Government can give you a little help for a change.
13. Get the best deals
Sticking with the provider you’re with can be the easiest option, but it could also be costing you. Don’t be lazy by sticking with your utility company, bank, phone and broadband provider or insurance firm just because it’s easy. Use our comparison pages to search around for the best deals and save yourself money. You can save significantly with just a little bit of legwork. With budgets tightening you can’t afford not to do it, so check out our comparison pages right away.
14. Batch cooking
Cooking up a big batch of Bolognese sauce is great – mainly because it’s much cheaper to buy the ingredients in bulk. A big pack of meat is much cheaper per kilo, and all the other ingredients will be too. So it will work out cheaper overall despite the bigger initial spend. It’s also great as you can make several meals at one time and then pop extra portions in the freezer. This saves time in the future when all you’ve got to do is defrost a few portions. This works with loads of dishes, including curry, so try it out.
15. Check you’re not paying too much for your mobile phone
There are loads of mobile networks out there and they are all fighting over your business. That means you’ve got the upper hand. The average mobile bill spend is £35-40. If you are paying more than this you shouldn’t be. Get on the phone to your provider and see if you can get a cheaper deal. If they won’t play ball, find a new contract using our free mobile comparison service. You don’t have to spend as much as £35. If you’ve already got a decent phone, the SIM-only tariffs are such good value for money. They’ll get you loads of minutes and texts for as little as £15 a month.
16. Don’t pay for your entertainment7
Have you got Sky? If so, do you actually watch the sky exclusive channels all that often? Do you find yourself actually mostly watching channels you can get through a Freeview box (eg. BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4, E4, Dave, Film4)? You can get a Freeview box for as little as £10. Plus, there’s no monthly fee.
17. Make your home more efficient
Losing heat and electricity is like throwing money away. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average household loses around 50% of the heat generated from inside it. So you’re paying for power you’re not even getting the benefit from. There are easy ways to fix this:
- Block those drafts
20% of the heat lost is through drafts and poor ventilation. So, even small insulating measures like draft excluders, or thicker curtains can really make a difference. Plus you can still get them if you are on a budget. Have a look at our article on how to make your house more energy efficient. You could even get up to £2,700 in grants to help you do it. If you don’t know how efficient your home is, British Gas has a free energy savers report. Just answer some simple questions on their website and they’ll tell you how you can save.
- Turn your heating down
It’s hard to do it when it’s chilly, but turning the thermostat down a few degrees can save loads. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a reduction of just one degree can reduce bills by as much as 10%. It’s clearly worth it. So grab a big wooly jumper and socks and turn down that thermostat – even if it’s only by one degree.
- Switch everything off
We spend £1 billion every year on powering our electrical appliances whilst they are on standby. It’s so easy just to turn them off at the mains and save money. If you don’t trust yourself to remember, there are cheap products on the market that will do it for you. We think the IntelliPanel is great. When you have your computer plugged into the master slot and then switch it off, the panel will switch off the speakers, printer, scanner or anything other connected items you have running. The television set up works the same way. Plug your television into the panel, then when you turn it off your video, games console, DVD player or anything else will be automatically switched off. Click here to see more details.
- Change energy supplier
Competition among energy providers has intensified as more companies have entered the market. In 2003, changing provider saved you around £100 per year; now you’ll save up to £538. Green energy is available to private consumers. A long-term saving is installing a green energy source in your home. Homeowners can apply for a government grant of up to £2,700 to cover some of the costs of installing solar panels, wind turbines or bio-fuels. See Green Energy Grants for more information.
Keep an eye out for new deals that could reduce your costs on our energy comparison pages.
18. Save your hot water!
The average bath uses about twice as much hot water as a five-minute shower. That means it takes twice as much energy to heat the water. We know five minutes isn’t much, but if you’re having a bath every day, then swapping for a few five-minute showers will really reduce your energy bills. If five minutes really isn’t enough, cutting just one minute off your shower can save around 3,300 litres of water per year and around 200 kWh of energy. This is enough energy to make 6,000 cups of tea. You can also save more by turning down the water temperature just a few notches. You can also save energy by only boiling enough water for what you need. 67% of us boil too much, so save energy and only heat as much water as you need.
19. Go for own brands
Own brands are the key to big household savings. You might be attached to your favourite names, but own brands are cheaper. They are also often really good quality. If you aren’t sure, just try them out. We’re not just talking food either – own brand cosmetics are much cheaper too. Boots‘ own-brand shower gel starts from just 99p. However, the cheapest branded product is £1.49. That’s a 34% saving. The same goes for medication – a 16 pack of Nurofen tablets costs £1.48 at Boots. However, the generic Ibuprofen (which is pharmaceutically the exact same thing, just unbranded) is only 16p for 16 tablets. That’s 76% less for exactly the same product.
20. Sort out all your insurance
You should always be checking to see if you can get a better deal on your insurance. With road tax on the rise, reducing your car insurance costs are a must. Lots of companies are also offering 12 months home insurance for the price of nine, or 25% off when you buy online. Click here to compare home insurance premiums.
21. Get rid of the tumble dryer
Tumble dryers are one of the most power hungry appliances in the home. They take twice as much power to dry your clothes as they do to wash them. According to the Energy Saving Trust, only 35% of us have a tumble dryer. Those who don’t are already ahead in the energy saving race. Those who do can save easily by ditching the tumble dryer altogether. Or if you are really attached, try spin drying your clothes before putting them in the tumble dryer. This way they won’t take as long to dry in the tumble dryer. You can also dry your clothes outside or on radiators and then just finish them off in the tumble dryer.
If you can’t give up the dryer make sure you keep your clothes dryer’s lint screen clean and its outside exhaust free of obstructions. Clean the lint screen after each load of laundry and check the exhaust regularly. A lint screen in need of cleaning and a clogged exhaust can lengthen drying time and increase the amount of energy used.
Another alternative to the tumble dryer is the brilliant Dry-Soon heated towel airer from Lakeland. It costs less than 5p an hour to run and will dry up to 15 kg of washing in around three hours. Jasmine has one and says she can’t do without it!
22. Get supermarket savvy
Keeping your wits about you when shopping can save you money. Look at the price per unit (usually per grams or kgs) to compare prices. Buying bulk often means you get more for your money. Buying own-brand food is also cheaper. If you are reluctant, try it at least once. You’ll probably find own brands are equally as good. mySupermarket will do all the price comparison work for you. Go online and choose from Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose. Then select items from your list as normal. Once you’ve totalled everything up, the website will tell you what items you can swap to save money. It will also tell you how cheap you can get your shop at the other supermarkets. If one is cheaper, then consider switching and saving money. Click here to go to mySupermarket and see how it works.
23. Plan your weekly menu
Even if you’re not a budding chef, planning meals is a great idea. Knowing exactly what you need helps focus your shopping list. It also means that you only have to shop once a week. This avoids any temptation if you have to pop to the shops to get a missing ingredient. You’ll have everything to hand and mealtimes will become a breeze.
24. Use your computer as a TV
Instead of buying extra TVs, use screens you’ve already got. The major television channels now let you watch their programmes online, so if you have a computer in a room you don’t really need an extra TV in there. You can also buy a television aerial that plugs into the USB port on your computer – have a look on Amazon for some examples. These cost less than £20, much cheaper than buying a whole new television.
25. Buy seasonal fruit and veg
It’s no longer trendy to eat peaches in the middle of winter. It’s bad for the environment to ship them here from hotter destinations. Plus it means they cost more. Try buying seasonally – root vegetables like carrots and swede are winter vegetables and are grown in the UK. You can also get squashes, cabbage and broccoli in winter. Blueberries and blackcurrants are also autumn/winter fruits, so steer clear of those cherries. You’ll save money and you’re helping British producers.
26. Winter woolies
We’re not talking outside. Wearing your winter woolies indoors can save you big bucks. The human body gives off heat at about 390 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per hour for a man and around 330 BTUs for a woman. Wearing closely-woven fabrics can help you retain an extra half degree in warmth and a light long-sleeved sweater is another two degrees. Go for a big woolly jumper or hoody and you can gain up to 3.7 degrees more. Plus the air between the layers serves as insulation to keep more body heat in. What this all means is, you can turn the thermostat down and save money. So don’t walk around your house in a T-shirt and shorts in the winter if you need to turn up the heat to do it. Layer up just a bit so you can turn the heat down.
27. Clear out your junk
You could have hundreds of pounds worth of unused stuff lying around in your house. All you’ve got to do is gather up all the old junk that you don’t need and sell it off at a car boot sale. Have a look at our article to get some tips on how to make the most profit from a car boot sale. Alternatively, you can try selling them on eBay.
28. Grow your own fruit and veg
According to the Office for National Statistics, food prices are up 12% and set to rise even more. Growing your own fruit and veg is a way to reduce your food spend. The seeds cost as little as £1. You don’t need a garden to grow stuff either – get things growing on your windowsills, balcony or just in the kitchen. You can even make money by selling on any extra plants. Read our article on growing your own veg, or find out how to propagate seedlings here.
29. Charity shops are treasure troves
According to Oxfam, their sales are already up more than 7% on last year. They also expect them to rise as much as 20%. Loads of clever clogs are already rooting around for bargains in charity shops so get in on the game. The best places to shop are in affluent areas. You’ve got a better chance of getting good quality picks where people have enough money to throw them away. You can get clothes, toys, books and music from charity shops. It takes a bit of effort, but don’t be put off. There are some real bargains waiting to be found. Plus, buying from charity shops means your money is helping someone else. Get the real finds by making friends with the staff and persuading them to give you a ring when any good stuff comes in.
30. Ditch the bottled water
Some bottled water is more expensive per litre than petrol. If you could get free petrol, would you continue to spend so much on it? We didn’t think so. Britain is lucky enough to have some of the cleanest tap water in the world. It’s perfectly safe to drink. So steer clear of the bottled water and save money.
31. Drain power
Don’t throw away a ketchup bottle with the dregs left in the bottom. Save money by draining it into the new bottle. This works for most condiments and it can be a bit of fun for the kids to get the bottles balancing. You can also re-use the sunflower oil used for deep frying. Just drain it into a jar using a funnel and a piece of kitchen towel for a filter. This will clear out everything that isn’t oil. You can do this at least once, maybe even twice. Other handy saving tips are to snap dishwasher tablets in half, water down beauty products, mix value products with more expensive stuff, turn stale bread into breadcrumbs and use scissors for cutting open old toothpaste tubes so you get everything out.
32. Make the most of supermarket offers
Usually we say be wary of supermarket offers. But if they are good, you should get the most from them. The ultimate offers are buy one get one free. If something you like and use frequently is on a two-for-one deal then pick up a load of them. Then you can store them and use them when you want. It does mean a bigger initial spend, but you are saving 50% on each item. So spend a bit more initially and you won’t have to spend any more on that item for a while. But watch out, this doesn’t work for perishables, unless you’ve got a big freezer.
33. Use your local library
Give up buying expensive DVDs, CDs or books. Your local library will let you rent them for a small fee or for nothing. It is free to register at all local libraries and prices for DVD rental are usually more than 50% cheaper than from your local Blockbuster. Plus if you want to keep it for a bit longer, you can often just renew the item online, rather than paying hefty late fees. You can also take out cookery books or hardback memoirs for free that would cost in excess of £10 to buy. Libraries also offer free internet facilities. You can find your nearest facility on your local council’s website.
34. Say no to packaging
Items that are pre-packaged are more expensive. This is because you have to pay, not just for the packaging but for the person who put it in the packet. Buying loose is cheaper and produces a lot less waste. You can also choose exactly how many items you want, rather than paying for items you don’t need. See our article on saving money on your food shopping without losing quality for more tips.
35. Don’t gamble away your riches
Gambling might make you think of casinos or betting shops. But it includes scratchcards and a weekly flutter on the lottery. You are more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to win the lottery. It’s better to put that weekly couple of pounds into a high-interest savings account and make it your Christmas kitty.
36. Drink less
We know, we’re taking away all your fun. But if you get through a bottle of wine a night or have a couple of pints after work it all adds up, especially as the price of alcohol is rising. Cutting down to just one pint instead of two after work can save you almost £20 a week. One bottle of wine every other night, instead of every night will save at least £10. Need to save some money quick? Try going teetotal…
37. Make your own fun
There are loads of ways to entertain the kids in the home for very little or even for free. Recycle old paper by letting them draw and make collages on the other side. Make anything you can out of leftover packaging. Add a little glue and paint to some cut-up cereal boxes and they can create some great 3D pictures. Make your own ice lollies and sweet treats. It’s fun and a lot cheaper than buying them in the supermarket.
38. Don’t spend more for the garden
Almost everything you need for the garden can be had from household products and waste. Don’t buy new garden pots – re-use old colanders, teapots, or even old terracotta chimneys you find lying around. Great compost can be made from vegetable leftovers from your kitchen. You can also make your own weedkillers from washing up liquid, water and vinegar.
39. Use 75% less washing powder
Among other genius inventions, Lakeland have come up with Dolly Washer balls. You pop them in your washing machine with your wash. They then use their scrubbing power to clean your clothes up reducing the need for so much detergent. This saves you money and there is less detergent residue on your clothes afterwards. Great!
40. Only run full washing machines and dishwashers
We know you’re not supposed to overfill them, but running them half-empty defeats the purpose. Both dishwashers and washing machines use the same amount of water and heat, no matter how full they are. Get your money’s worth by filling them up as much as you can before they are overfull and won’t work properly. This will save you money in the long run and it’s better for the planet.
41. Make sure you’re signed up to your supermarket loyalty scheme
You’ve got to get the most out of your shopping fidelity points, offered by the likes of Tesco (Clubcard) and Sainsbury’s (Nectar). But before you get the most out of them, you’ve got to get them. Sign up for the card your supermarket offers and start earning points ASAP. If they don’t have a loyalty scheme (like Asda, Lidl and Aldi), don’t worry about changing supermarket – as long as you are getting cheaper prices, it’s probably worth sticking with the supermarket you know and love.
42. Buy household items in bulk
Buy toilet paper, detergent and other household items in bulk from a wholesale supermarket, or from your regular supermarket when there is a special offer. Try specialist stores for cheaper prices. You may think Wilkinson is bit grotty, but they have super-cheap toiletries and household items.
43. Keep your freezer stocked
Freezers work far more efficiently when they are frost free and full up. If you don’t have enough to fill up your freezer, fill the gaps with ice cube trays. You can use the traditional trays or just fill old takeaway tubs with water. The little cubes are great for drinks all year round. The bigger ice cubes are great for putting in an ice-cooler full of drinks in the summer.
44. Don’t shell out for new furniture
Give old chests of drawers, wardrobes and covers a new look instead of replacing them. All you need is a lick of paint and a new inexpensive handle. They will really change the look of your furniture without changing the look of your bank account for the worse.
45. Go electronic
Direct debits and electronic statements can save you money. Paper bills now incur extra charges from some services. Mobile phones are a prime example, with companies charging up to £3 more for a paper itemised bill. These bills are often available online free of charge. So if you really need one on paper, you can just print it off. The same goes for direct debits. Sky will charge you £4 extra a month if you don’t want to direct debit. This is because the process of sending you a letter to request payment and then waiting for it costs them money. Payments can always be queried, even after they’ve been paid. So embrace the direct debit and save some cash.
46. Never throw fabric or towels away
Fabric and towels are some of the easiest things to recycle. Old curtains can be made into seat and cushion covers, table cloths, new clothes and even just tea towels and cleaning rags. All you need for new upholstery is a good staple gun and for the rest, a sewing machine or some time for hand sewing. If your towels are going a bit grey, bring them back to life by dyeing them a new colour. Thinner towels are great for drying hair or taking to the swimming pool when you don’t have much room in your bag. You can also use them for stuffing draft excluders or making toys for your animals to play with. The possibilities are endless and all free.
47. Check your council tax band
When the council tax system was put in place in the early 1990s, houses were put into bands from A-H according to their value. The valuations were done in 1991 and so are not necessarily accurate. Your house could have been worth more then than it is now, especially considering the drop in house prices. This could mean you are paying more than you should be. To check if you are paying too much, see what your neighbours are paying at GOV.UK. If you don’t know how much your house is now worth, you can check out the prices at which similar houses have sold on Nethouseprices or OurProperty.co.uk.
48. Less dust, more heat
Make sure you bust the dust on your radiator surfaces. Dust and grime seriously impede the flow of heat in your house. So make sure there is no dirt on your radiators so you don’t spend money heating it up.
49. Get rid of the ready meals
Even if you think you can’t cook, there’s no excuses for ready meals if you’re trying to save money. They’ve got extra additives and preservatives that you can’t control. Plus they are far more expensive than it would be to make the same dish yourself. Cooking is not hard, you just need simple recipes and basic ingredients. You can also try ditching the weekly takeaway. Cut back and save money by making it a monthly treat. It should make the kids appreciate it more, plus there are loads of fun takeaway-like foods you can make at home for a fraction of the price.
50. Keep track of your finances
Always check your receipts, bank statements and bills. You never know who has got hold of your details. So you need to keep tabs on what is going out and coming in. This way if anything is amiss, you’ll be on it like a flash, saving time and money. And of course, always read the small print!