Five ways to get your spending back on track this September
I can’t be the only forty-something that still gets that “Back to School” feeling when September rolls around.
As a kid, the crisp pages of new notebooks, the thrill of carefully choosing a new colourful pencil case, and the smell that wafted out of that new box of pencils always gave me the feeling of a fresh start.
But now, as I send my own child off to Year Four, I still see the new school year as a great chance to have a reset. After weeks of the summer holiday, I’m eager to get back into a routine and get my budget back on track.
Over August, I’ve seen my spending increase as I try to jam into the last six weeks all the fun activities my daughter missed out on during lockdown. But now it’s time to reign it in.
So, as the new term starts, it’s time to go back to basics.
Here’s how I’m going to do it.
Start by signing up for a cashback website
Sign up for a cashback service and you can get paid when you sign up for new contracts.
Websites such as Quidco.com and Topcashback.co.uk list retailers that pay them commission when shoppers click through to them.
In turn, the website rebates some commission to the consumer.
The cashback can soon add up - Quidco reports their members rake in an average of £300.
Since I signed up to Quidco back in 2008, I've made more than £1,900. So take it from me, it’s definitely worth doing.
We explain how these sites work if you want to find out more.
It’s free money, seriously. Sign up and thank me later.
Research shows that the psychological effect of knowing that others are paying less than you can spur you on to change your own spending habits
The only time comparing yourself to others is a good thing
My motto is normally: “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but when it comes to your household bills, I make an exception.
Research shows that the psychological effect of knowing that others are paying less than you can spur you on to change your own spending habits.
And knowing what your neighbours are spending on insurance, energy and broadband bills could save you hundreds of pounds a year.
Simply enter your postcode on the Neighbourhood Bills Calculator to find typical prices local to you so you know if you’re overpaying.
Haggle on home entertainment
Have you thought about the last time that you used your landline? My guess is, that it’s been a while – and you’re not the only one.
Research from Compare the Market found that a third of households have an unused landline, with many of us only having the service because our broadband package requires it.
Ofcom analysis shows that residential line rental prices range from between £10 and £20 a month, depending on the provider - meaning we're forking out £240 a year towards a service we never use. Ouch.
Phone line rental, broadband and TV customers are also often hit with price hikes, but that doesn’t mean that you should pay over the odds for your home entertainment package.
Get a cheaper deal by haggling with your service provider.
To get started, call your provider’s retention department and tell them you are thinking of leaving.
Do your research in advance and check competitor offers through Compare the Market so that you know what you could get elsewhere.
Use key negotiation phrases such as: “I’m paying too much for my current package”, “a competitor offers a similar deal, but for less” or “I'm leaving”.
Choose your timing wisely because you might need extra time to make your case successfully. Avoid peak periods, such as Mondays, lunch hours and weekends, as the operator may be busy with a long line of callers.
Streaming is the way forward
If you’re fed up with paying a small fortune for Sky each month, why not look at streaming your favourite channels with Now TV for as little as £9.99 a month?
With this on-demand service, you can watch the latest movies, TV, live sports, and kids’ entertainment on your television or tablet. But unlike satellite companies - which require you to lock yourself into a 12-month contract and impose penalties if you pull out before it expires - you can cancel at the end of any month.
Now TV can be streamed on your computer, tablet, Apple TV, and games consoles like PS4 or Xbox through downloading an app, or you can get a special NOW TV box.
With that, you can then sign up for a NOW TV pass to access things when you want. There are currently four passes available for Now TV: Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Kids and Sky Sports.
These are available for subscription periods as short as one day (for Sky Sports), or as long as a month.
Buying Sky Sports by the day means, for instance, you only pay for the games you want to see.
Bear in mind that any monthly subscriptions will auto-renew, so set a date in your diary if you don’t want to incur a charge the following month.
You can add more to your savings by sharing streaming subscriptions (and any charges) with friends. Read more in this in our article about subscription sharing.
For instance, one of you could pay the monthly charge for Netflix, while the other foots the bills for NowTV, and it’s all above board.
Say no to insurance auto-renewals
While it may seem obvious, shopping around for insurance can save you a fortune.
Never just accept the renewal quote you are offered as it’s always worth getting quotes from rival insurers. Use a price comparison site such as comparethemarket.com to compare multiple insurers in one go.
But keep in mind that the cheapest policy may not be the most appropriate as the level of cover will vary.
Another easy way to reduce costs is to pay your premium upfront.
Don't be tempted to pay for any type of insurance monthly because it appears to be cheaper or more manageable.
3 things to do right now...
Try the 50/30/20 flexible approach to budgeting: 50% of your take home pay goes on essentials, 30% goes towards fun and 20% goes to the saving. If this split doesn’t work for you when money is tight, you can adjust the ratios as you go.
A lot of people say they can’t save because they don’t have any cash left at the end of the month so pay some money into a savings account each month when you pay your bills.
Download a money management app which analyses your spending.
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Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.