Seven easy ways to cut your living costs
Many of us spend more than we could each month. Here are seven ways to detox your finances, cut your outgoings and make sure you're richer this month!
I'm a bit of a hypocrite.
I know exactly what I should be doing with my money every month - all eminently sensible things like paying off my entire credit card balance, paying into my pension, putting any spare cash left after bills into a savings account, all that stuff.
But despite my best intentions, I have a history of falling a little short.
However, now I have a son, I can't afford to be so frivolous anymore. Here's how I'm getting my act together - and how you can too.
Step 1 - Budgeting
The ONLY place to start!
Sit down, go through all your documents and work out what exactly how much is coming in, how much is going out - and where it's going.
For a really brilliant guide on how to get started with your own budget, have a look at How to budget in five simple steps.
Step 2 - Staying in is the new going out
I love a good night out as much as the next bloke, but the odd sacrifice in this regard is saving me loads.
The first thing to go out of the window has been nights down the pub with my mates. We are all in the same boat, so instead go over each other's homes for nights of poker and video games, bringing our own drinks - when I get the night off from changing nappies is, that is.
Related how-to guide
Learn how to successfully squeeze your budget.See the guide
And romantic nights in are easy on a budget - I've been signed up to LOVEFiLM for a while now, and am a massive fan - who needs to fork out for cinema tickets, when I can get four films a month for less than £9?
It does mean I have to sit through a few chick flicks though...
I've also been following the tips in our lovemoney.com how to guide - Cut the cost of going out. Why not give them a try?
Step 3 - Become a voucher obsessive
Members of my family have always been pretty good at this, but that particular gene seemed to have passed me by. Until now!
From everything from my weekly shop, to the odd night out as a treat with my wife, discount vouchers are my new best friends. Yes they can be a bit restrictive, which is a bit of a pain, but time it right and watch your monthly outgoings plummet!
My first stop is of course lovemoney.com's own weekly Frugal Food round up and Frugal Friday every Friday, but sites like vouchercodes.co.uk, myvouchercodes.co.uk and HotUKDeals are right up the top of my web favourites list. Give them a try - you won't regret it.
Step 4 - Food, glorious food!
Food is one of the things we all spend a fair chunk of our wages on each month - but it's also one area where you can make tons of savings.
First of all, always make a list! If you go food shopping without a list of what you need - or even worse, go on an empty stomach - you are guaranteed to shell out more than you should. The only times I deviate from my list are if I see special offers I can stock up on.
It's not just at this stage where you can save money on food though. You can also save a fortune on lunches for work.
If you cook just a little bit extra when making your dinner, you can then use the leftovers for lunch the next day. In fact, buying lunch at all has gone completely out the window - why pay £4-£5 for a sandwich in town, when I can make one for pennies at home? Read Have a posh packed lunch on a budget for some tips.
We have even started growing our own vegetables, though judging by the size of the carrots we have produced thus far, Tesco's vegetable section is safe from competition for now.
Once again, we have a how to guide on cutting your food bills, full of amazing tips, so be sure to have a read!
Step 5 - Bills, bills, bills
Bills are a fact of life, but getting organised on this front is also saving me money.
The first commandment of lovemoney.com might as well be "Thou shalt shop around", and that's exactly what we've done with our essentials.
Rachel Robson reveals how much you can save if you pay your bills by direct debit.
We've cut the cost of our electricity and gas bills by not only finding a better deal (which you can do by using our price comparison feature), but also by paying by direct debit, thereby securing an extra discount. We did the same with our broadband and landline costs.
Step 6 - Out with credit card debt
I got my first credit card a couple of years ago in order to build up a credit rating to help me when the time came to apply for a mortgage. And while it helped no end in that respect, I now have about £800 debt sitting on that card.
So my best bet is to transfer that debt onto a 0% balance transfer credit card to avoid paying interest on it.
The best card in the market is the Barclaycard Platinum Credit Card which offers a fanastic 20 months interest free on all balance transfers! (Note, there's a 3.2% fee.)
And if I need to make any important purchases, I could use the M&S Credit Card which offers 0% on purchases for 15 months.
Step 7 - Saving up for a rainy day
It's one thing saving those pennies every month, but I also want to get a decent return on them.
There are some amazing savings bonds out there at the moment, but for now I want to be able to easily get my hands on the money. I reckon the best option is the ING Direct Saving Account, an instant access savings account which is fixed at 3% for 12 months.
However, the rate reverts to ING's standard variable rate in a year's time (currently a paltry 0.5%), so unless base rate starts moving upwards sharpish I'll have to move my savings again in 12 months.
You can read more about the best savings accounts in 3pm on a Tuesday is the time to save!
Now, those are just the steps I'm taking, but I have no doubt that you all have your own tips for how you are cutting your living costs. Why not share them with your fellow readers via the comments box below?
This is a classic article that has been updated for 2011.