Forget the penny-pinching ideas and save big in 2010.
Get the little things right and the big things will take care of themselves. Well, that's one attitude, but it's not mine for for this article! Today I'm going to look at five ways we can save a lot of money very easily.
1. Cut out the middleman
Save £3,525 in wasted fees to estate agents by cutting them out altogether. That's how much you'll save on a £150,000 property if you pay a standard 2% + VAT.
You could start by visiting Tepilo, a free website set up by Sarah Beeny, where you can list your property for free. It's gaining ever more press, which means it'll be receiving more and more views from potential buyers. Renters can also use the website. You can watch lovemoney.com's very own Ed Bowsher interview Sarah Beeny about it here.
Watch out for Google Property next year too. The successful dot.com is likely to move into the online property-search market next year to let anyone - estate agents and individual homesellers alike - list their properties for free, which you'll be able to find easily using Google Maps. The service is already available in Australia, so take a look. It may be a while before individuals learn to list their properties though, as my quick peak at Google Oz shows more estate agents registering properties so far.
2. Search for a bigger retirement income
When you retire, most people opt for buying an 'annuity', which is a guaranteed monthly income till you die that is sometimes linked to inflation. If you go for an annuity, you can save 20% or more by shopping around.
Looking at some basic quotes (your quote will depend on your age, habits, health and any options you choose to vary in the policy) I see you might get £7,500 per year in income if you have £100,000 of retirement savings to cash in - but only if you shop around. If you don't shop around, your pension provider may offer you just £6,000. That's £1,500 less per year and, if you live twenty years, that's £30,000 lost!
A simple search will help you find websites where you can compare annuities, like this. Do please consider alternatives to pensions and annuities for your retirement savings, as they have many weaknesses! Jane Baker wrote up her take in that debate in this article.
3. Use your allowances
Taxpayers automatically have 20% deducted from the interest they earn in their savings accounts, but cash ISAs allow you to save without paying tax. A cash ISA is simply a tax-free savings account. If you use your allowance every year for a few years, you can really rack up the benefits in taxes on a lot of savings!
This is the same when investing in a share ISA. You legally avoid capital gains tax on big gains and income tax on 'dividends' - profits that companies pay to shareholders as bonuses.
Tax dodging is not all about ISAs. You can transfer part of your assets to your spouse and save on capital gains tax when selling them, as this effectively doubles your capital gains-tax allowance.
Wills, trusts and estate planning can save you a fortune. Which? updates its book on passing on your inheritance every year, so keep an eye out for that after the next Budget Day. Also, you can give up to £3,000 per year tax free to an individual or trust of your choice, and you can carry over the previous year's allowance to this year. Your spouse can too, making it £12,000 you can gift now if you didn't use last year's allowance! Each parent can gift £5,000 to their children tax free for their wedding, grandparents can give £2,500 and others can give £1,000. Read more on inheritance tax-free gifts here.
You can use Child Trust Funds to save or invest for your children tax-free. If you don't want them to be able to get the cash and blow it all at 18, consider using a SIPP - a self-invested personal pension. With these, you can invest for your children till they're 55. Over such a long time, even modest investments can grow by extraordinary proportions.
Workers and families in the UK may also benefit from tax credits. These aren't free handouts but a re-distribution of taxes. Check whether you're entitled to benefits.
4. Get upgrades
Save more than £600 this year alone. Here's how:
The AA's comprehensive, quarterly review of car insurance prices shows that on average we'll save £300 if we shop around instead of stick with the same insurer.
The same review finds that we save more than £100 on home contents and buildings insurance if we shop around.
I estimate the savings for buying life insurance today compared to one year ago to be 13%. Prices have been falling for years, but they may soon rise again if you don't lock in a price now. Many smokers, for example, could easily save £4 a month. Don't sniff at an extra £50 a year (OK, £48) because you'd pick up a £50 note in the street if you saw it!
If you stick with your old gas and electricity tariff, it will end up costing you in the long run. The average savings quote from our energy tool is £215. Most people's estimated savings are at least £100.
5. Cut your petrol costs
You can save 4p per litre in many areas by going to the cheapest petrol station instead of the most expensive. If you save just 2p, that's £240 per year for anyone driving 12,000 miles per year.
You could keep track of your savings and build them up for next Christmas. Maybe that is penny-pinching, but it won't feel like it at the end of the year! You can find the cheapest petrol station in your area or in areas you're driving to easily using Petrolprices.
Get help from lovemoney.com
Want some more tips on saving big?
First, adopt this goal: Buy a car for less
Next, watch this video: How to slash the cost of your mortgage payments
And finally, why not have a wander over to Q&A and ask other lovemoney.com members for hints and tips about what worked best for them?
Earn up to 3% AER tax free with a cash ISA from lovemoney.com
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