Do you need to know how to live on half your salary? Or maybe you would like to live on half your salary and put the rest of the money away for your future – even in these tough times.
We show you how to live for less by switching to get the best deals and how to cut your costs without compromising on your standard of living.
- Step one: Put half your salary in savings
- Step two: Switch to the best deals
- Step three: Make a list to see how to live on half your salary
- Step four: Now sort out other household bills
- Step five: Spend less but live more
..oh, and by the way…living off half your salary – or at least not spending all of it – is one of the best ways to get rich long-term. See what I have to say about this in the video below….
This is the best and easiest way to save regularly: put the money away before you even see it.
OK, you might not be able to put away half your salary, but even if you could save a bit, do that at the beginning of the month. Here’s how:
- Work out how much you could save f you didn’t spend on too many extras.
- Set up a standing order from your current account to your savings account (and also to pensions and investments, ideally) that goes out at the beginning of the month.
- In other words, you ‘pay yourself first‘, at the same time that you pay your monthly bills (see below for how to save on those) and before you pay the restaurants, bars, holiday companies, clothes stores etc.
- Get used to living on less money than you used to. Actually, you will find this only takes a couple of months. After a while you won’t even notice it and in that time your money will be quietly building up into something quite impressive.
This step is essential if you really want to save money and make it on half your earnings, so take the time to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal on all your utilities, savings and repayments. If not, make sure you switch.
Save as much as you can by switching the following:
If you’re coming up to the end of your fixed-rate arrangement, look around for a new mortgage deal as soon as you can. Take a look at our mortgage comparison and check out this article on how to pay off your mortgage early..
Gas and electricity supplier
Utility bills can take a big chunk of your salary so make sure you switch to a cheaper deal using our free comparison service – the best prices are nearly always online and if you’ve never switched before, you could save at least £200, probably more.
Get in touch with your water supplier and ask if they could assess your home for a water meter. Many homes would pay less with one of these but the Consumer Council for Water has a handy calculator here and they estimate that a single person living alone could save £100 a year by having a meter installed. Also, see how to save money on water bills in this article.
Never simply stick with your old insurer without first seeing if you can find a better price. You can save £100s by switching your car insurance and home insurance. Many of the best deals are available online and according to Confused.com, you could save up to £163 on your car insurance and at least £256 on your home insurance.
Other insurances are worth comparing too. For example, you could save hundreds by sorting out your own mortgage protection insurance here. Mobile phone insurance can be much cheaper if you shop around, as can travel insurance (that’s a big one for savings). And of course pet insurance is increasingly competitive so there are big savings to be made by switching.
If you’re always in credit, you could be missing out on a current account paying interest on the balance. Or, if you often dip into your overdraft, you could be charged way over the odds in fees so it’s vital to get the right current account for your needs.
Look at the various savings options and decide how much to you’re willing to lock away into a savings bond which often have better rates, but with no access to your money. Then keep some in an easy-access account which you can dip into if need be.
Always shop around for the best rates online. There are some amazingly cheap loans around at the moment and it’s worth getting one before the interest rates go up.
You could also consider borrowing from Zopa as an alternative to the usual banks – the rates are often better than the banks as their overheads are lower.
If your credit rating isn’t what you would like it to be, find out here how you could clean it up and get better, cheaper loans.
How much could you save?
Taking all the fixed costs into account and using the above examples could see you save over £2,000 a year! Even if you don’t quite manage to get near that, even saving a quarter of this total would still make a huge difference.
Make a list of all your direct debits and outgoings.
You’ll find it a lot easier to see where to save money and economise if you know where the money’s going.
Don’t forget to include forgotten extras like snacks, rounds of drinks and the odd magazine here and there.
If you don’t know where your money goes each month keep a spending diary for a few weeks and you’ll soon find out! Keeping a spending diary is an excellent way of getting a snapshot of your daily outgoings and seeing where your money’s really going each month.
It’s easy enough to do – all you need is a notepad and pen – or just use a Budget Calculator like this one at the Money Advice Service to give you a quick low-down on your monthly spending. Draw out two columns, one for incomings and one for outgoings.
Over the course of a week write down everything you spend, so you know where that money’s ending up. MoneyMagpie’s guide will show you how. Don’t put it off – start doing it tonight.
Now that the fixed costs are out of the way, turn your attention to any other bills taking a chunk out of your monthly pay packet. Remember that, more often than not, cutting costs is simply about being aware of exactly what you spend and then making little changes for big savings.
At the supermarket
First of all, make sure you shop at the right supermarket for you – and remember this is all about comparing the price for the food that you buy. Use the fantastic MySupermarket to do your shopping then see which supermarket offers the best price – you could save an impressive 30% a year. If your annual shopping bill works out to around £3,640 (£70 a week), that’s £1,092 off your bill!
Shopping online is often a better way to buy; although you’ll pay around £5 for delivery, you won’t be as tempted by the sneaky supermarket tricks to buy more than you need so you can stick to your shopping list.
Whatever happens, you’ll need to eat but going veggie is one of the quickest ways of halving your supermarket bill. Here are some more ideas for cutting down even further.
- Remember to always buy your fruit and veg unpackaged – it’s nearly always cheaper that way. Shop at street markets if you can. On average their produce costs 30% less than that of the big supermarkets.
- Try replacing one of your staple meals with a vegetable-based alternative once or twice a week. For example try a vegetable lasagne instead of a beef-based one, and for a pasta dish make lentil and red pepper sauce instead of mince. Find vegetarian recipes here and check the MoneyMagpie guide to feeding your family for less. If you’re worried about your protein intake remember that the average adult only needs between 45 and 55.5 grams of protein per day. A 50g beef burger contains 10.2g of protein, whereas an average serving of kidney beans (160g cooked) contains 12.4g. So you won’t be malnourished but you will save a lot by cutting your meat and boosting your veg intake.
- Bulk out meals with rice and bread – risotto, for example, is very filling. For all your foodstuffs, try buying in bulk from the cheaper supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi.
- Keep it fresh. To make sure you don’t let your vegetables go off, try keeping them in handy ‘stayfresh’ bags like these ones from Lakeland.
- Grow your own. Growing your own vegetables will save you money in the supermarket and give you food that actually tastes like food. You don’t need much space to grow your own tomatoes, for example. Take a look at our article here for more on growing your own produce.
- Swap produce. If you’ve got several gardening friends, try a harvest produce swap in the summer. Many gardeners have something that produces more than they need. Bring your surplus and swap for what you didn’t grow.
- Use it don’t throw it. And instead of binning your leftovers, make use of them in soups, casseroles and stews. Vegetable leftovers can be thrown in a wok with some soy sauce and chilli sauce for a very easy stir-fry. Yum! Read all about preventing waste at Love Food Hate Waste.
more food tips
- Cook in bulk where possible, (it’s cheaper) and freeze what’s left over in individual portions. These can be taken to work for a tasty lunchtime alternative to expensive sandwiches or used as ‘fast food’ when you come home in the evening. Here’s more information on buying in bulk to save money.
- Try organising a ‘food swap’ party. This is a party where, based on pre-established guidelines, all guests provide multiple portions of food items, and each guest takes home a number of different items made by others. This way you can try foods and recipes you might not be familiar with or have thought of, and in return save time and money by making a large quantity of one item (but get the benefits of coming away with a variety of dishes and foods!).
- Get food for free. There are a few ways you can get free food and we have a few in this article. You’ll be surprised what you can get!
The great coffee rip-off
For many of us, if we added up how much we spent over a year on skinny lattes we’d probably need an extra-strong espresso just to pick ourselves off the floor. If you buy one on the way to work every day it’ll set you back about £500 over the year. Think what you could spend with that!
Bring a jar of instant coffee to the office instead, or club together with your work colleagues for shared supplies. If you prefer the fresh stuff, make some at home and bring in a flask to keep it by your desk.
The great sandwich rip-off
The average price for a daytime sandwich-based lunch is £5-6. Instead of buying on the high street, try making your own the night before (so you’re not in a mad rush in the morning).
If you fancy some salad with your main filling add that in the morning so it doesn’t go all mushy in the sandwich overnight. For a good, hot lunch try preparing soups and stews, freezing them in individual portions and then taking them to work.
Eat out for less
Now’s a great time to get meals out for less. For a start, OpenTable regularly offers 50%-off deals if you book a table online with them. For diners in Scotland and other parts of the UK, 5pm always has special offers. And Lastminute.com often has good restaurant deals, many of which are up to 50% off the a la carte menu.
Make sure you’re signed up to our free weekly newsletter as we often send out the latest restaurant deals and vouchers.
There are lots of other ways of getting food out on the cheap:
- Eat out for free by being a mystery shopper. All you have to do is have a meal at one of the chosen restaurants then write a little something about your experience online. Find out more by reading our article on mystery shopping.
- Drink water. You can save a fortune on restaurant bills by not ordering wine – so try giving it a miss next time. Also, do you really need that bruschetta starter when you’re having spag bol for your mains? Omitting wine and the starter can knock up to 30% off your bill.
TV, broadband and mobile phone bills
The best way to cut down on these expenses is to get rid of them. Seriously, how much do you really watch TV? How much more would you get done if you just stopped, got rid of it and went out and had a life? It’s worth considering, particularly if you’re on an expensive satellite package.
Even the mobile isn’t as indispensable as you might think. We used to get along fine without them. If you really want to be contactable all the time, why not try pay-as-you-go? People can call you but you can keep your spending under control – and you’ll probably still get free minutes and texts as long as you top up just once a month.
Other ways to cut back are:
- Haggle for a better deal: Cable and satellite companies are experts at offering a great initial package, then slowly upping the monthly subscription fee every month. Solution? Phone up and ask for the cancellation department. In a panic they will start making you offers, and this is where your bartering skills will come in handy. It’s the same story with your mobile phone provider. No matter what your tariff, if you phone up and say you want to switch suppliers you’ll always get a better deal. Job done. See our article How to haggle on the high street for more great bartering tips.
- Ditch the satellite package: Do you really need hundreds of channels you never watch and a handful of channels you watch just for the sake of it? If you can’t quit the telly completely, scale down to a Freeview box from a host of retailers including Tesco, Amazon.co.uk, Argos and Currys and you could save hundreds of pounds a year.
- Bundle: If you don’t want to ditch the TV package, try and combine your TV, phone and internet provider if possible. Simply use this free Broadband Choices comparison tool. Enter your postcode and select Broadband, Home phone and Digital TV for a list of the cheapest bundles available in your area.
- Go SIM-only or PAYG: For mobile phones, there’s a bewildering array of options out there now and if you take the time to look around you can find a cheaper tariff. If you’re not bothered about having the latest handsets, try a PAYG phone, or a SIM-only contract which gives you a set monthly deal but allows you to cancel with 30 days’ notice. Check our guide to set you on the right path.
- VOIP: Also, try VOIP packages such as Skype which allow you to use your internet connection to make cheap phone calls. See our article for more details. For landlines, try using resellers like 1899.com, 18866.com and 18185.com. These predial numbers offer cheaper calls.
If the soaring price of petrol is eating into your wages, check out our tips for motorists:
- Leave the car at home for shorter journeys. Fuel consumption is disproportionately higher on shorter trips and using a bicycle may just get you fitter too. For driving, as any instructor will tell you, braking less harshly and driving in a higher gear is more fuel efficient and creates less wear and tear. Remember it’s cheaper to replace worn brake pads than a worn gearbox – or engine.
- Haggle – big time! The second-hand car market is now incredibly cheap with sites such as Car Supermarkets and CarShop. If you decide to buy privately, be prepared to haggle and come pre-armed with a checklist. Just make sure that if your knowledge isn’t up to scratch you take someone with you who really knows their motors. For advice on buying and selling check the RAC’s advice page.
- Nearly new. If you really feel you need a new set of wheels and second-hand won’t do, go for a ‘nearly new’ instead of brand-new car. The main reason is the depreciation. A brand-new vehicle will lose 50% of its value after just two years. Take a look at these free car guides to get an idea of the sort of nearly new car you would like.
- Try visiting a franchise dealer (one attached to a big manufacturer) as the warranties they offer are as good as those on new cars. And you can even haggle here! Remember the dealers are having a hard time and if you don’t ask you don’t get. If they won’t budge on price, focus on the warranty or just go elsewhere.
- Rent. How about getting rid of your car totally and just renting one when you need it for shopping trips or visits? Zipcar will let you hire a car from £5 an hour, and this includes comprehensive insurance and 40 free miles a day. It costs £59.50 to join but if you’re an infrequent driver this will certainly save you money. Another car club where you can rent vehicles by the hour is City Car Club.
- Share. Or how about taking the passenger seat? By sharing a journey with someone going your way you’ll cut your transport costs as well as doing the environment a favour. Register with a car-sharing or ‘car-pooling’ scheme. They’re free to join and can match your route with drivers going your way. For more information go to Liftshare.
You REALLY don’t have to reduce your standard of living just by spending less. In fact, in many ways you can actually have more of a life by thinking about what you really love and spending cleverly on those things.
This is where the pounds usually mount up. So get really clever and keep your looks as sleek as ever on half the price:
- Free consultation. If you want a new hairstyle, go to the free consultations that many expensive salons offer. Once you’ve worked out with them what you want, go to a cheaper place and describe it to them instead. Toni & Guy offer a free hair consultation service at most of their branches.
- Students. You could also try phoning your local hairdressing academies or colleges – they need models to practice on and they’re usually free. Take a quick look on Gumtree too, to see if anyone’s looking for hair models. Vidal Sassoon and Toni & Guy also offer free hair cuts (and mega cheap highlights) at their training centres. Just be prepared to have a student cutting your hair (and taking a long time).
- Free beauty. For free beauty products, visit Clicks Research. You get to try, review and keep new hand creams, moisturisers, cleaning products, children’s products and all sorts of other goodies.
- eBay it. For clothes that are beyond your budget, make a note of the exact style and size when you try it on, and then search on eBay for it.
- Haggle on the high street. If you prefer real shops, try visiting the smaller, independent shops where you’ll often have a lot of scope for haggling. Check MoneyMagpie’s guide to getting real rewards from your haggling.
- Swap it. Fancy getting something you love in exchange for an outfit you’re bored with? Why not join a ‘swap shop’ website like BigWardrobe? you can advertise your unwanted items on your own shop and other members can offer you cash or their clothes in exchange. Or, try dyeing or altering clothes to jazz them up.
If you’re driving to the gym so you can jog on the treadmill, you probably need to re-examine your lifestyle! But if you want to live on half your salary while still getting, or staying, fit, there are solutions.
- Run upstairs. If you have a flight of stairs at home, a block or a park to jog around and a perhaps an exercise ball and some weights at home, you could get as good a workout as you got on the treadmill and the fixed-weight machines.
- Walk don’t bus it. If your bus or car journey is a particularly short one, consider taking up walking or cycling to work. As well as getting fit you’ll also save on transport costs.
- Kung Fu. If you prefer the camaraderie you get with fellow gym-goers, consider taking up a martial art. The classes generally work out much cheaper than gym memberships, plus you have lots of fellow kickers and punchers to encourage you along the way. You can find your nearest martial arts club through the different national associations: including kickboxing, jujitsu, judo and UK martial arts clubs. A typical martial arts school such as kickboxing, kung-fu or jujitsu charges about £25 a year for insurance and then £3 to £8 per session, sometimes less if you pay for lessons in bulk. Mix in one or two lessons a week with a home workout and park jog and you’ll save big on gym fees.
- Exercise bands. An alternative way to work out without a gym is to grab some exercise bands. Similar to the ones used by physiotherapists to help with their clients’ rehabilitation, they’re cheap, light, compact, can be used for a vast range of exercises and can be folded up into a tiny bag. They cost £30 for a set and come with a home exercise guide. Don’t forget that there are still ways to exercise for nothing – Read all about cutting the cost of your gym membership here.
You needn’t necessarily give up your annual break just because you need to live on half your salary. But do consider better value options:
- House swapping. For a great-value holiday try house swapping so you don’t have to pay for accommodation. If, for example, you live in or near an historic British town, there may be a similar person or family in Miami looking to stay there. If you both agree, why not swap houses for a few weeks? To make sure you get this just right, have a look at our guide to house swapping with links to good agencies.
- Downsize to a hostel. If you do stay in a hotel consider downsizing a little and try a youth hostel. You don’t need to be a student, or even under 30, and many have private rooms which are virtually three-star standard and yet cost less than the hotel equivalent. Staying in an eight or 12-bed dorm will obviously cost less still. Try looking at Hostelling International, Hostel World or Hostel Bookers. Green Tortoise in the USA have particularly good-quality hostels.
- Save on holiday. Remember to save money while you’re on your holiday itself. We’ve got loads more ideas for cheap and even free holidays and travel in our 50 ideas for holiday savings article here.
You can still find room for having a good time on half your salary. Try these ideas for better-value entertainment.
Concerts and theatre
- For concerts try contacting the venue before going through agents. Often the venue will sell tickets cheaper. You may have to travel there in person, but that could save you postage and packaging.
- Try the website of your favourite band as well as their fan websites. They often have special promotions that aren’t available elsewhere. For the relatively low cost of becoming a member, you could make bigger savings on their concert tickets.
- Check the booking fees. If you do go through an agent make sure you compare the prices of several, as some charge bigger booking fees than others. Try TheatreMonkey, TicketMaster, SeeTickets, TicketWeb and StarGreen.
- For the theatre, check Lastminute.com as they often have cheap tickets for shows several days in advance.
- If you wait until the day of the performance you can get standby tickets at the venue if you’re willing to take the gamble. Many theatres keep aside a set number of seats for the day’s shows at a discount. Or how about trying some fringe performances, amateur dramatics or pub theatre? You can have an enjoyable, yet cheap night out, and remember some of the biggest and best acts started out this way.
- If you’re going to London, remember that if you buy a train ticket through National Rail you can get 2-for-1 offers at many London attractions. The trick is to buy the cheapest ticket available (say just a few pounds for a single that you don’t even have to use) and you will still be quids in when you save on over 100 attractions like theatres, exhibitions, gardens and tours.
- Read our article for more ideas on how to get cheap tickets to plays and concerts.
Alternatives to a night out
A Saturday night out can be an expensive affair, especially when you factor in the food, drinks, transport and entry fees. It’s usually the alcohol that pushes up the cost. Try these ideas for having fun with your friends at a better price.
- Apply on the BBC website for free tickets to tour and live events, new music with promotional events, or be in the audience of your favourite TV show. Another great site is Lost In TV where you can apply for tickets to other TV network shows like The Apprentice: You’re Fired and The Cube. Add yourself to their mailing list to receive updates on any new dates of upcoming shows.
- Organise an ‘alternative’ party. Stay at home and ask friends to bring a dessert they’ve made which you can all share. Or get board games out and have a traditional evening of Scrabble, Monopoly and Twister!
- Go to a dance class. There are dance classes to suit everyone, from salsa to jive, from line dancing to hip hop. And many classes have a discount or don’t charge at all for the first lesson. For classes in your area, try Dance Schools UK.
- Join a book club. Indulge your interest in a particular genre, author or just literature as a whole. It’s a great chance to meet like-minded people and swap ideas. There are clubs to suit all tastes. Check Gumtree and your local papers to find out about groups that suit you.
- If you do decide to hit the town, try alternating alcoholic and soft drinks to cut down on your expenses, or better still stay off the booze altogether and go to a cheap ‘fringe’ comedy night. Avoid nightclub entry fees by turning up before the charges kick in and organise a designated driver to get you home. See our article for more ideas for cheap entertainment.
Save money and still give fab presents with these ideas:
For family members
- Create photos, calendars or collages. Relatives will love well-presented picture stories of you and the kids, or a calendar of your growing family. You can order pictures from websites like Snapfish, which is currently offering 50 free prints to new customers, or create a collage yourself.
- Frame your kids’ art. This makes a good present for grandparents or a doting aunt or uncle. It also helps solves the problem of where to store all your kids’ school material.
- Bake a little something. Homemade cakes, muffins and cookies are always popular, so try including the recipe as well. Use delicate paper to wrap them individually, put them in a shiny tin and wrap with ribbon.
For wedding presents
- Why not get your friends a quirky but personal small present? A personalised gift will be remembered better than a set of glasses from a list.
- A book on a favourite topic of theirs, personally inscribed by you in, say, calligraphy is a nice touch. If you can’t do calligraphy, use rub-on letters you can get from WHSmith. A small photo album recording your friendship will also make a memorable present.
- Think about what kind of wedding they have planned and create something based on that. If it’s a church do, frame one of the readings.
- For a registry office ceremony, frame the poem recited. Think about their past. If you and the groom have enjoyed your golfing trips (for example), make a scrapbook of a great outing you had together; or a special holiday you had with the bride. Find out more about scrapbooking here.
- Think about their future. Ask a vintner for a bottle of wine that will be at its best in ten years’ time and tie a note to it saying it’s to be enjoyed on their tenth wedding anniversary!
- Newlyweds often have to cut back on their nights out. Why not create a package for a romantic night in for them? Put together a package including a DVD of a romantic comedy or their favourite film, a blanket to snuggle under, some microwave popcorn and a big bowl to serve it in. For more great, low-cost gift ideas see this article.
Use your work connections
We often forget to use our own connections to our advantage.
- Does your work offer corporate discounts for anything?
- If you don’t ask, you won’t know! If your place of work manufactures, sells or distributes anything, from cakes to electronic goods, they may have a corporate discount.
- Or maybe you can get vouchers to use at partner organisations.
- Think creatively about your place of work. Even if you find your IT department dull, remember that your computer-obsessed niece may love a tour of the computer server rooms and seeing all the latest gizmos.
Pool your resources
None of us really need another scented candle or coffee mug. But a really great gift may be beyond your means.
So now’s the time to pool resources with friends. If you all chip in you can get your friend that designer purse, latest electronic gadget or fancy spa trip they’ve always wanted. Make sure everyone knows the plan in advance so they can make appropriate shopping plans.
Give your time
How many gifts that you’ve received through the years do you remember? Probably only a handful. It’s the trips, outings, happiness and shared experiences that stay longest in our minds.
- Give children a special day out. If they live in the city then a trip to the countryside or beach will make for a memorable present; to your train-obsessed nephew Clapham Junction or a big train station would be an exciting trip.
- Give friends with kids coupons for nights when you’ll babysit for them; offer to throw a party and run the BBQ for someone without a garden for their birthday; think of other tasks you wouldn’t mind doing that your friends would appreciate – a manicure, laundry, doing the school run for them or sprucing up their garden.
- If you have skills of your own why not offer your help for free? You might have some IT talents that you could use to create a website for someone. If you play the guitar you could offer a few free lessons and a book of songs to get them started.
- Think about any favours you can call in from your friends and colleagues – maybe you know a hairdresser, a dance or music teacher or someone who runs evening classes. A free session would make a very cool – and unexpected – present for someone.
If all else fails, yes you can recycle your unwanted presents and pass them on. The key is in the presentation. Whereas a book really must look brand new, ceramics, pottery, vases and the like can be spruced up with paint, etching and personalised messages.
Ooh, and don’t forget, you can make a bit of extra money to supplement your savings. Take a look at 10 easy ways to make quick cash – it’s one of our most popular articles, so go and see what all the fuss is about.
Stunned by the sheer volume of ideas on how to live for less? Have some yourself? Tell us about them on our Facebook page.