20 ways to cut the cost of living
1 SWITCH CREDIT CARDS
Why pay 20 per cent interest on your credit card debt when you could move the balance to a new card and pay no interest at all for a while? The reason everyone is talking about this is that it is one of the speediest ways to save money. Companies aim to seduce new customers with low or even no interest for a set period, in the hope that we will be too lazy to move on to another zero per cent interest offer when the first deal comes to an end - so don’t be. Visit www.moneysupermarket.com, which lists all the introductory offers available. Top of their list as we go to print is MBNA Platinum Plus, which is offering zero per cent on transferred balances for nine months, and a rate of 14.9 per cent after that.
2 GET AN AGENT
A dress agent that is, because the cruellest irony about designer womenswear is that, after making a dazzling impression in your 500 Julien MacDonald number, you’re not allowed to wear it again for fear of looking tired, unimaginative or just plain tight. But never fear, a dress agency is near. These genius establishments allow you to sell your glad rags to others in the same quandary: simply take along your posh frock, set a minimum price (from which the boss takes commission) and then wait for someone to come along and take it off your hands. While you’re there, you can do the same and re-stock your wardrobe for a fraction of the retail price. So, fill those bin bags and trot down to New 2 on St Stephen’s Street, Edinburgh: Tel 0131-226 1222. And you thought eBay was a breakthrough?
3 CUT IT OUT
With a wash, trim and full head of highlights costing upwards of 50 - at a conservative estimate - a woman’s crowning glory can also be her financial ruination. So, forgo the salon’s leading stylist and give a trainee a chance. This is a particularly attractive option if you have long, straight hair and all you need is a line cut across the bottom - which always feels like a rip-off at 30. Most salons run trainee sessions where qualified stylists keep a close eye on scissor-wielding apprentices. Toni & Guy on George Street, Edinburgh, charge only 10 for a coiffure by a trainee if you can make it down there on Thursday mornings. Tel 0131-220 5425.
4 DIRECT DEBIT IT
Aside from saving you time, paying your bills through direct debit could save you anything from 130 to 170 a year, as many companies - especially utilities - offer bonuses to customers who commit to paying in this way. Direct debits also mean you will never again be fined for not paying your credit cards on time - or pay the needless interest charges that can accrue on late payments.
5 GET A FREE MAKEOVER
If you dream of a Trinny and Susannah-style makeover, but don’t want to pay for a style consultant, take advantage of the personal shoppers who are employed by most department stores. You are under no obligation to buy anything - just take their advice about what styles suit you, then nip to your local bargain-basement store to rework your look. While you are in the department store, book a free makeover at the cosmetic counter - especially if you are planning a big night-out. While this should leave you dewy fresh, you will have to be pretty hard-nosed to walk out without buying so much as a lipstick. But you know you can do it.
6 GET INFORMED
Information is power, especially when it comes to value for money. And we are not talking about the marketing men’s slogans. The Which? consumer guides compare the same product by different manufacturers, offering impartial information to help you work out which product meets your needs and your budget. This can save you endless shoe leather and the risk of falling victim to a persuasive sales assistant selling something you don’t really want. So, check the guides out on www.which.co.uk.
7 COLLECT DISCOUNTS
This one is easy. Sign up to the website www.sendmediscounts.co.uk which informs you of discounts currently available on a whole range of products, and will send you up-to-date money-off vouchers and details of offers available at stores and websites - including Amazon, Comet, Debenhams, John Lewis, and Marks & Spencer.
8 BUY IN BULK
You can save yourself at least a few pounds every month by buying basic household goods in the biggest packs available - be that rice, multipacks of baked beans or loo roll. But why not pool your economic resources by logging on to www.letsbuyit.com, which brings consumers together to buy in bulk, allowing individuals to capitalise on the resultant savings. As its website explains: "LetsBuyIt.com has well over a million members and this enables us to approach top-tier suppliers and negotiate the very best prices and customer service on your behalf. Imagine a million of you going into a shop and asking for a million plasma TVs. As a group you’ll obviously get a much bigger discount than any single shopper on their own."
Boring, but vital if you are to avoid charges incurred by unplanned overdrafts or credit cards you cannot afford to pay off. As a general guide, it’s sensible to spend 50 per cent of your income on what you need, 30 per cent on what you want, and put the rest into savings, but working out the detail can be tricky. Thankfully, the money institutions are only too happy to do this for us, so why not check out the Prudential at www.thepru.co.uk, and fill in their budget planner?
10 SAVE ENERGY
There are ways to save your cash and the environment at the same time, such as energy-saving light bulbs.
Cost at the local supermarket: 4:99; saving per year on bills: 7; the ability to tell Vera the vegan where to go next time she pops in to bang on about the environment: Priceless.
11 GO DESIGNER
Take a trip to a designer outlet, we mean. Discount shopping villages such as McArthur Glen, off the M8 near Livingston, or Gretna Gateway Village, off the A74, have got goodies galore from shops like LK Bennet and Ralph Lauren. But be warned: once you’ve bought a pair of 400 boots for 129, you’ll realise that it’s not only the kids in South-East Asia who are often being ripped off by our retail sector.
12 COMPARE UTILITIES
Check out the review site www.uswitch.co.uk which allows you to compare utility company charges and find the best deal. You might find you can save money by getting gas and electricity from the same supplier. Yes, we know it’s boring, but we need to save every penny we can.
13 BE NATURALLY CLEAN
Rather than buying stocks of Flash, Mr Muscle or Pledge, use what you’ve got in your larder to keep your home clean. Lemon juice and warm water is a great alternative to bleach, baking soda will clean your carpets, and white wine vinegar works a treat on windows and mirrors.
14 BE AN EARLY BIRD
When the budget airlines say: "We’ve got flights for 99p!", they usually mean: "if you call between 9am and 9.01am on a Wednesday morning and are willing to sit in the back two rows". But why not do it? The earlier you book these flights, the higher your chances of securing the cheapest tickets, ensuring you really do get a bargain break.
15 GET SUPERMARKET CHIC
Supermarket fashion is no longer all about overalls and hairnets. Most of the big guys are turning round designer styles for a fraction of the cost, and there’s no longer any shame in getting your underwear or basic items from Tesco or George at Asda. With bras for around a fiver a time, you’d be hard-pushed to find a better buy, and given that anyone who sees them really shouldn’t care, it’s an obvious area in which to make savings.
16 START A CHRISTMAS CLUB
It sounds a like something from post-war austerity years, but you can boost your resolve to save with a bit of camaraderie from friends or colleagues, by starting a Christmas kitty. Each week put 5 in an envelope, and up this to 10 on pay day. Make sure that one very reliable person keeps it under lock and key, or banks it weekly. Come December, you’ll get 300 back to spend on presents, parties and, most importantly, booze. You would be astonished at the number of corporate workers who are secretly squirrelling away like this.
17 DON’T TRY TO BUY BEAUTY
If you love expensive cosmetics, try interspersing your extravagance with cheaper alternatives. Every second time you buy moisturiser, opt for Nivea rather than Creme de la Mer, and instead of that monthly facial, pamper yourself at home instead. Ready-made face masks like Jo Malone’s White Nectarine and Honey are marvellous salon alternatives, otherwise create your own with some avocado, honey and orange juice.
18 GET UP EARLY
Your waistline isn’t the only thing to be damaged by breakfast on the run, so get up half an hour earlier and down some tea and toast before you leave the house in the morning. At around 1.50 a cup, one helping of kiosk coffee a day will cost you about 7.50 a week or 30 a month. This is a nice chunk to stuff in a savings account every month.
19 TRAMP CHIC
It’s one thing looking a mess because you can’t afford any new clothes, but quite another if you turn your disarray into a fashion statement. "Tramp chic" is the latest trend to be adopted by celebrities - as worn by Chris Evans and Helena Bonham Carter, above, recently. Quite simply, if you sport old, worn and mismatched clothes all the time, before you know it this will be your signature style. You probably have bin-liners full of the stuff in the attic. If your friends start sniggering just yawn, and tell them you pity those yet to discover the ethical enlightenment of the post-consumer age.
20 OPEN A SAVINGS ACCOUNT
To make sure you don’t blow your new savings, now is the time to open a savings account. Interest rates aren’t what they used to be, but you can still make your money grow. Check out www.about-savings-accounts.co.uk for a list of the best deals available on the high street. As we go to press, top of this site’s list is the Abbey’s online esaver account with an AER of 5.15 per cent.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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