IF money is tight, we explain how to save £1,000 before the end of February.
Households across the UK have been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis – but there are ways to cut down costs.
Plus, it's always good to have extra money in the bank for an emergency.
We spoke to money-saving pros at money.co.uk for their best tips to save you cash.
Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk says: "Getting your finances in order is the best way to get your year off to a great start.
"With lockdown continuing to impact many people’s finances, it is even more important to give yourself some breathing room to take control of your spending.
"The good news is that there are numerous ways you can manage your finances to help you save money."
The tips below add up to £1,003.31.
1. Cut your council tax bill – save £181
You could be entitled to a 100% reduction of your council tax bill if you claim certain benefits.
The average yearly council tax bill for Band D properties is £1,817.
As bills are split over ten months, this means some families could save themselves £181 each month if their bill is cut by 100%.
Some households may have instalments in February and March if they moved into the property last year, or if their council tax account was amended during the year.
Other households will pay their council tax over the full 12 months for lower repayments.
Check directly with your local council to see what support it can offer – but the amount will usually depend on your circumstances.
Some councils let you backdate the reduction, but they don't have to do this.
2. Take the Downshift Challenge – save £125
Try swapping branded goods for cheaper alternatives, also known as the Downshift Challenge.
If you like what you’ve tried, then stick to it and MoneySavingExpert says you could save up to £1,500 a year.
On a monthly basis, this works out at around £125.
How to cut the cost of your grocery shop
MONEY.CO.UK has shared some top tips with us to help you keep your supermarket spend down to a minimum.
- Write yourself a list – Only buy items that you need. If it isn't on your list, don't put it in the trolley
- Create a budget – Work out a weekly budget for your food shopping
- Never shop hungry – You are far more likely to buy more food if your tummy is rumbling
- Don't buy pre-chopped veggies or fruit – The extra they'll charge for chopping can be eye watering
- Use social media – Follow your favourite retailers to find out about the latest deals
- Be disloyal – You may want to go to different stores to find the best bargains
- Check the small print – It’s always worth checking the price per kg/lb/litre when comparing offers so you’re making a like for like decision as a bigger box won’t necessarily mean you get more
- Use your loyalty cards – Don’t be afraid to sign up to them all. They all work slightly differently – work out what bonus suits you better and remember to trade in your points for additional rewards
3. Working from home? Get tax-free cash – save £125
If you're working from home, you could be entitled to a tax refund of up to £125.
You could be eligible even if you only worked one day from home during the coronavirus crisis, but the amount you get back depends on your income tax rate.
As part of the help, your tax code is adjusted so you're not paying as much tax.
HMRC launched an online tool in October to help you make a claim.
4. Take advantage of cashback – save £100
Cashback essentially gives you money back for shopping on purchases that you'd be making anyway.
You could also earn money back by signing up to a new phone deal, or even switching your energy supplier.
Two of the most well-known cashback websites are TopCashback and Quidco.
But keep in mind that the cashback isn't paid to you instantly – it usually takes around 30 days once your payment has been confirmed.
The rewards can be anything from 1% to 15% of your original spend.
The Sun previously spoke to one cashback user who made £1,200 across the year by using Quidco.
On a monthly basis, this works out at around £100.
How do cashback websites work?
They promise to earn you money on your shopping – but how do cashback websites work?
- Cashback sites agree offers with retailers which they pass on to customers
- This can vary from a set amount of money off whatever you are buying, or a percentage of the cost of your purchase
- The sums range from pennies for groceries to more than £100 for some mobile or broadband contracts
- You have to make your purchases by clicking through from the cashback site
- Because the sites drive traffic to retailers, they earn money from brands they support
- Membership of most sites is free – although some offer premium subscriptions which you pay more for.
5. Compare supermarket prices – £104.08
Try switching posh shops like Waitrose and M&S for discounter brands like Aldi and Lidl.
Consumer group Which? found the price of 45 items – based on both branded and non-branded goods – cost just £42.67 at Lidl, compared to £68.69 at Waitrose.
This means you save £26.02 per shop at Lidl.
Multiply this by four if you're a weekly shopper, and you'll save £104.08.
Naomi Willis, co-founder of Skint Dad, also recommends keeping an eye on unit prices.
She told The Sun: "Look at the price label when shopping to see the price per unit.
"You may think bulk buying saves you money, but when there is an offer on smaller packs of food, this can trip you up."
6. Cut your credit card interest – save £126
Credit card interest can also be pricey, so it's worth checking if you can switch to a 0% balance transfer card.
As an example, we used this Moneysupermarket calculator to work out that if you owe £500 on your credit card, and you're paying off £20 a month at an interest rate of 18.9% APR, you'd accrue interest of £126.
If you're considering a 0% balance transfer card, make sure you calculate how much you need to pay off each month to pay off all your debt before the interest-free period is up.
The best card currently is from Sainsbury's Bank, with the lender offering an interest-free period of up to 29 months.
Any card or loan application will appear on your credit record, so be careful not to make multiple applications or you could end up damaging your credit score.
Use a tool such as MoneySavingExpert.com's eligibility checkers to check which cards and loans you're likely to be accepted for.
7. Cancel subscriptions – save £52.95
Go through all your subscriptions and work out which ones you can do without.
Think about all your paid-for streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix – both of which have just confirmed price hikes.
Or can you cut back on Amazon Prime and Now TV?
If you've signed up to monthly subscriptions for each of the above, you'll be paying up to £52.95 for most expensive packages – but you can cancel for free.
Disney+ charges £5.99 for monthly customers and you'll pay between £5.99 and £13.99 for Netflix depending on the type of package you have.
Amazon Prime charges £7.99 for monthly customers, while Now TV passes range between £3.99 and £24.98.
Or if you downgrade both your Netflix and Now TV to the cheapest packages, you can save £28.99 each month.
Don't forget about iPhone and Android apps that could also be quietly charging you without you realising it.
8. Apply for insurance payment holidays and policy refunds – save £50
If you're not using your car because of lockdown you may also be able to claim a partial refund on your insurance.
LV= is offering cash grants and car insurance refunds of up to £50 to customers who are struggling financially due to coronavirus.
Admiral has also previously announced it'll give a £25 refund to all of its 4.4million car insurance customers.
Some providers may also offer up to three month repayment holidays if you ask – but keep in mind you'll still accrue interest on this.
Holiday payments should be seen as an extreme measure and only put in place if you really can't pay your bills.
9. Chase refunds for events – save £47.14
Check if you're due any refunds that haven't hit your bank account yet.
This could include things like football season, gig and theatre tickets that can't be used because of the coronavirus pandemic.
You're entitled to refunds on tickets if the event you were going to has been cancelled.
Or if it's been postponed, you should have the option to attend the event at the rescheduled date or receive a refund.
The average price of a big arena gig in the UK is £47.14, according to research from the BBC.
What do you need for a return?
HERE’s what to remember when taking your items back to the store:
- Have proof of purchase: If you want a refund most shops will ask for proof of purchase, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a receipt. It could be any other official record, such as a bank or credit card statement. If you're buying for your loved ones, ask for a gift receipt so they can exchange it if it's not suitable.
- Take the card you paid with: This is particularly important if you want a refund as it's often credited to the debit or credit card you paid with.
- Keep the original packaging: Even if you've removed the item from the packaging, it's always worth taking it along. With some items, such as tech, retailers may refuse a refund if the seal or packaging has been broken.
- Take it back as soon as possible: Within 30 days of purchase you're usually entitled to a refund but after that you'll probably only be able to get an exchange or part refund.
- Check the store's policy: Stores have different policies so check beforehand to make you're sure entitled to a refund.
10. Switch energy providers – save £25
If you're on a pricey standard variable tariff (SVT) deal, you could cut your energy bill by up to £300 a year by switching to a cheaper supplier.
This works out at £25 extra in your wallet each month.
The amount you pay for varies depending on where you live and how much energy you use, so it's worth shopping around to see the latest deals.
Use a comparison site like EnergyHelpline.com or uSwitch.com.
It helps to have the following information when finding a new deal:
- Your postcode
- Name of your existing supplier
- Name of your existing deal and how much you pay
- An up-to-date meter reading
11. Haggle your phone and internet – save £25
If you don't ask, you don't get – and this saying is definitely true when it comes to haggling down your phone and internet bills.
The first step is to check prices elsewhere so you can argue that there are better deals from other providers.
Once you've found cheaper prices, call your provider's customer service line and threaten to leave them unless it lowers your bill.
Of course, this isn't guaranteed to work – and you should be aware of penalty points for leaving if you're still in your contract period.
The Sun has previously helped on couple save £180 per year, or £15 per month, on their mobile bill.
Meanwhile, separate research shows you could save £120 per year, or £10 per month, by haggling with your broadband provider.
12. Switch bank account – save £15
Santander customers can get up to £15 cashback each month on certain bills thanks to the bank's 123 Lite account.
The lender offers 3% cashback on water, 2% on gas, electricity, Santander home insurance and life protection, and 1% on Santander mortgages, phone, broadband, mobile and TV bills and council tax.
Each level of cashback is capped at £5 per month, meaning you can earn £15 per month in total.
MoneySavingExpert recommends the 123 Lite account as one of the best for on-going cashback and says households with medium-to-large bills can earn around £40 to £80 per year on average.
Sadly, there are no cash bank switch offers right now – but it's worth keeping an eye out for new deals.
For example, RSB has paid customers £175 in the past for customers who switch their main account.
13. Get a 0% overdraft – save £14.01
If you're constantly dipping into your overdraft, you're probably racking up expensive interest rates.
But there is help available, as Lloyds, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Santander are currently offering £500 0% interest overdrafts for three months.
You'll need to act quick though, as the deadline for applying for one is January 31.
When we used several overdraft calculators across the major UK banks, the cost of using a £500 arranged overdraft over 30 days ranged from £13.29 to £14.01.
14. Get a free TV licence if you're over 75 – save £13.13
If you're over 75 and you get Pension Credit, you're entitled to a free TV licence – this means a saving of £13.13 for monthly customers.
You can apply via the TV Licensing website.
In 2015 the government stopped funding the free licences for over-75s, handing the responsibility over to the BBC.
Then in August 2020, the BBC announced that only over-75s who get Pension Credit would get a TV licence for free.
It was previously free for all pensioners.
A yearly TV licences costs £157.50.
For more guides, here's how to protect your finances from a double-dip recession.
We've also explained 11 steps for getting out of debt including the best balance transfer 0% credit cards.
It comes as millions of pounds worth of benefits and tax credits are unclaimed every year.
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