If you’re always running out of cash, it’s time you got financially savvy.
By facing up to poor spending habits and setting yourself a budget you’ll find that not only does your money go further but you may even have some left over.
1. You don’t follow a budget
Many of us simply don't pay enough attention to where our paycheques are disappearing to. Adding up all income (after tax) then subtracting how much you spend each month is a good starting point.
Apps such as Mint, Goodbudget and Acorns can help. The key is to set a realistic budget you can stick to.
2. You don’t take out a set amount of cash each week
In an age of cards and phone payments, it’s easy to overspend because no ‘real’ money is exchanging hands.
One way to curb this is to take out a set amount for the week and try not to use your cards – this way you’ll become aware of exactly how much you’re spending and where you can save.
3. You go food shopping on an empty stomach
It’s well known that we’re more likely to buy more food when we’re hungry but, according to the University of Minnesota, hunger is more likely to make us buy other stuff too.
This is because being hungry stimulates our desire to acquire things. So eat before you shop or you’ll be buying more than you need.
Image: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock
4. You buy fresh when frozen is just as good
Frozen food, especially vegetables and healthier items, lasts for longer and is often cheaper than fresh food.
Reduce food waste and your shopping bill by stocking up on products you can freeze.
5. You spend to cheer yourself up
Anywhere between one in 10 and one in 20 of us is a shopping addict, depending on which survey you believe.
Shopping gives a short-term high and provides an escape from depression or anxiety but it can have debilitating consequences on our finances.
Talk to a friend, find an alternative ‘hobby’, or seek help from a doctor or therapist.
6. You pay to get to work when you could walk or cycle
If you drive or use public transport to get to work when you could cycle or even walk you’re not only losing money, you’re missing a perfect opportunity to get fit without shelling out for gym membership.
If the journey is too far, and you work similar hours to a colleague who lives nearby, consider car-pooling to save fuel and money.
7. You buy or rent films when you could use a streaming service
If you watch a lot of films, box sets or documentaries, then switching to a streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime will work out cheaper than buying DVDs or renting films through your TV service provider.
8. You shop online too much
The internet is a fantastic place for finding bargains but we can all have too much of a good thing.
Being able to buy something with a few clicks rather than cold hard cash makes it harder to keep an eye on your spending – and you’re more susceptible to fake reviews, counterfeit goods, hidden costs, or fraud and identity theft.
Limit your shopping online and then only use sites you trust.
9. You don’t take advantage of loyalty schemes
Loyalty cards are everywhere – from coffee shops and supermarkets to airlines.
Accumulated points mean money off and free goods. Yes, the companies are buying your loyalty but if you shop with them regularly anyway, loyalty cards can offer real rewards.
10. You buy branded products rather than the store’s own
This is no secret – stores’ own ranges (often called basic, essential or value) are usually cheaper than branded goods and often taste just as good, as they are often produced in exactly the same way in exactly the same factories.
11. You’ve got the storage space but don’t buy in bulk
Stocking up by bulk-buying non-perishable items can make a real difference to a tight household budget. Taking advantages of offers then storing or freezing the products is a good way to make your money stretch further.
12. You don’t look up offers and discounts online
Provided you only use them for things you needed to buy anyway, you really can save a fortune.
13. You’re haven’t changed your mortgage for a while
It pays to keep an eye on your mortgage deal, especially if it’s coming to an end, the interest rate is changing, or if you’re not tied in.
Sometimes, leaving a mortgage earlier than the term agreed works out cheaper in the long-term even if you have to pay a penalty charge upfront.
14. You’re paying too much for insurance
Motor, house, health, life, pet – these are just some of the insurances we fork out for every month.
They can add up to thousands a year so it’s worth looking for better deals annually. Alternatively, speak to your current provider and ask them for a better deal – you’d be amazed at how far they will go to keep you as a customer.
15. You’re paying too much for your phone
Find a plan to match your real usage – it could be that you’ve outgrown your current one or you don’t use your phone much but your contract cost doesn’t reflect this.
Try going contract-free or tell your provider you’re leaving – they won’t want to lose your custom and will try to keep you. Use free messaging apps like WhatsApp or Viber, or get rid of your call plan and use Skype to make calls.
16. You waste food
Almost every household throws a shocking amount of food away each year, mostly as a result of poor planning.
Make sure your wallet stays full rather than your bin by planning meals, using shopping lists and getting clever with leftovers.
17. You drink or smoke too much
Booze and cigarettes aren't just bad for your health. We're not saying you have to give up completely: moderating your vices will cut your costs, including your insurance bills.
18. You spend too much on luxuries
Sure, you deserve to eat out, take trips, buy clothes, electronics and music, but be aware of how much life’s little luxuries add up.
Have a monthly budget for treats and stick to it. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial can find you huge discounts on everything from clothes to days' out.
19. You pay a fortune for babysitting
If you're a parent, you'll already be painfully aware of how expensive babysitting can be. Instead, join – or create – a babysitting circle.
In return for babysitting others' kids every now and then, you get free childcare and a cheaper night out.