From Spending to Saving is looking for money saving tips, so here are some ideas on how to reduce the cost of living today and prepare for tomorrow.
Stop and think "Do I really need that?" when you are about to buy something non-essential such as a coffee in Starbuck's or a glossy magazine. It's these little impromptu purchases that can really add up day to day. Instead, you can find alternatives so you don't need to feel in any way cheated by not buying those things. Why not make your own morning coffee in an insulated cup to take to work? You could also follow a glossy mag's feed on Twitter to catch up with all the celebrity gossip.
Take a packed lunch instead of eating out. It is so much cheaper and will probably be a healthier option to the usual fast food outlets.
Look out for competitions that are free to enter and have a go. It is not only a fun hobby, you could end up winning some great prizes. Check out Facebook, blogs and Twitter for current competitions and give it a go!
Don't let your grocery shopping get out of hand. The price of food and household essentials has rocketed, but there are ways to save.
1: Do regular cupboard / fridge /freezer stock takes. If you are anything like me, you will stock up with things when they are 2 for 1 or on special offer and put them in a cupboard and forget about them. Knowing what is hidden in the back of the fridge or shelves means you can shop more efficiently. Don't buy more pasta sauce this week if you already have three jars in the cupboard!
2: Buy things you need to make planned meals for the week ahead taking into asccount what you already have in stock. Combining this with using things you already have in your cupboards is a very economical way to shop and stops things going out of date and needing to be thrown away.
3: Have some good "use up" recipes for when you have perishables that need using up. This is a Slow Cooker recipe that I use when I have veggies that need using up. Any combination of root vegetables will do making a wholesome, healthy meal along with a few store cupboard essentials.
Vegetable Stew with Herby Cobbler
4 sliced carrots
1 small chopped swede
2 chopped sweet potatoes
2 chopped potatoes
2 sliced red onions
1 leek sliced
1 parsnip chopped
2 crushed cloves of garlic
carton of tomato passata
1/4 pint boiling water
1 teaspoon of Italian herbs
1 veggie stock cube
8 oz flour
4 oz margarine
1 teaspoon of Italian herbs
milk to form a dough
Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker for about 5 hours. Make the cobbler by rubbing the fat and flour together. Add herbs then make to a stiff dough using milk. Roll to an inch thick and cut out rounds using a small cookie cutter. Arrange on top and then finish off in the oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.
4: Have a "If it's gone it's gone!" policy with kids. If they eat all the food they like on day one then they will have to go without until the next grocery shop. There will be no top-up shopping for goodies! They soon learn to pace themselves and you avoid getting into the habit of doing costly and unnecessary mid-week shopping trips.
5: Forget big brands and give own labels a try. The quality is comparable but the difference in price is shocking! Also look in pound shops for brands being sold at their discounted price. This is great for toiletries, cleaning and laundry products.
Keep an eye on how much you pay to utility suppliers each month. Check online to see if you could save money by switching supplier. Websites such as MSE can offer good advice on if and when to switch.
Also review your Sky or Cable TV Subscription. If you find you are only watching a few channels and not getting good value from your package, then scale it down. If you are paying for movies but not watching them, then take that off your subscription and save a few quid each month.
Car, Home and Life Insurance renewals can be a big drain on resources. Never just renew your policies. Always shop around for cheaper quotes, discounts or buy through a cash-back website such as Groupon.
Christmas and Birthdays can prove very expensive, but they don't have to be. I would personally never get myself into debt to buy all the latest 'must-haves' for my kids. They don't really need them and these things usually end up being five minute wonders anyway. Instead, I buy things throughout the year when I see them on offer in the shops or online and spread the cost. Using points on loyalty cards means I can get some things for free. I use my year's Boot's Advantage points to get perfume for my eldest daughter. Planning ahead is the key to budgeting for special occasions which makes it easier to save up or spread the cost.
Parties don't have to be elaborate. More and more parents feel the need to host parties that cost a fortune, when all the kids really need is some space to let off steam, some simple food and drink and the attention of some grown-ups!
Every year I use my Tesco Clubcard points to buy Merlin Annual Passes for the family. They give us access to all the Merlin attractions: Alton Towers, Chessington, Thorpe Park, Sea Life Centres, Legoland, Madame Tussaud's, London Eye and The Dungeons etc. This saves us a fortune over the year and allows us to do days out without having to worry about the entrance costs.
For a budget UK holiday, look out for super cheap advanced booking hotel rates and plan a road trip around the Merlin attractions using your Annual Pass. Book a room for each night in a different venue and spend the days exploring some of the UK's best attractions.
Have an annual sit down discussion with the family to work out ways of cutting costs. It's a great way of taking all your outgoings into account and work out ways that you can trim down expenditure as a family. Involving the kids helps teach them about finances and the cost of living and gives them some financial responsibility, which are invaluable life lessons.
Have a financial MOT with an expert. Make sure that any financial products you have are appropriate to your circumstances and working best for you. Money is a complicated business and sometimes a little financial advice can save you a small fortune in the long run.
Whichoffshore (the sponsor of this competition) is a company offering Offshore Pensions among its financial products. These offer some quite attractive features such as giving you the ability to pay into the fund by credit card or standing order; increase or decrease payments; make adhoc payments and withdraw funds midway through the plan. This makes it a very flexible way of preparing for the future, which may be a more appropriate method of reaching long term financial goals for ex-pats.
When each of my children were born, we opened them a bank account. Any extra cash they had left over from birthdays etc was put into their savings. Over the years, this cash has built up and has already proved invaluable to the older children when they left home to go to university or to put towards their first car. Introducing children to the concept of saving at a young age forms good habits which will (hopefully) last a lifetime.