The current cost of living crisis is already starting to impact on our personal finances. Here are a few ways to help protect against its worst effects and to help you navigate your way through it
Possibly the best place to start is by setting some time aside to see where you are currently with your income and outgoings. It’s often surprising how much is actually going out of your bank account every month once you sit down and add it all up.
It can be daunting facing up to the realities of your finances but even taking the first step of actually figuring out where you are will give you some sense of achievement and purpose.
The first thing to do is to figure out whether you’re earning more than you’re spending, just about breaking even, or sliding into trouble. If you are spending more than you’re earning, the first place to start is to cancel any outgoings that you don’t use or can do without.
Also check what your food cupboards are looking like before you go shopping. Many of us head to the shops without checking what we already have and end up throwing away items in our cupboards that we’ve never used.
Plan a weekly menu
Setting a budget for the week ahead will help you feel more in control and provide you with the ability to save money by using food more sparingly.
You’ll need to plan all the ingredients for each meal so that you can take a list to the supermarket or order it online. Try your best to stick to what’s only on the list as any little extras will soon add up. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a treat, as long as it’s included in the weekly menu.
Vegetables are generally less expensive to buy than meat and you can bulk out a healthy casserole by using more vegetables and less meat. Batch cooking base sauces also means that you can use them for different dishes throughout the week.
Use your freezer
Food wastage costs the average UK household around £700 a year, according to the sustainability charity, Wrap.
If you have a freezer, or better still a chest freezer, you can stock up on meals for weeks and months ahead. Freezing food that’s also approaching its use-by date will also save you from throwing it in the bin.
While most foods are freezable, thawing them may not present them in the form that they were frozen in so you may need to think outside the box when it comes to using them.
Batch cooking and then freezing your meals will also make the most of bulk buying, especially when it comes to things like meat and vegetables.
Savvy shoppers are the ones that head straight for the Reduced Items section in the supermarket, often picking up things that they actually need instead of paying for full price versions.
After the reduced aisle, head to the frozen and tinned aisles next. Goods here tend to be less expensive than their fresh counterparts and are often packed, tinned, or frozen within hours of being picked.
Sell unwanted stuff
If you take a quick look around your home, there is likely to be a range of things that no longer serve you and can be exchanged for cash with someone who needs them more than you do.
Social media marketplaces are a good place to sell a lot of stuff locally, giving you space and funds at the same time.
Walk where you can
The rise of fuel costs is something that can’t be ignored so if possible, walk to places instead of using the car, especially if it’s local. Walking is a lot healthier for starters, plus you’ll be saving on both fuel, and the wear and tear of your vehicle.
It’s perhaps too easy to suggest a blanket ban on eating out, especially since many of our local eateries rely on our custom to keep their doors open.
But you can save money when going out by working with your favourite venues. Join their mailing lists to receive their latest deals. Ordering takeaways directly from your local restaurant can also save you money on the third-party companies that cream off a small profit for organising a delivery.
If you also find that you’ve over-ordered at the restaurant, most venues will be more than happy to provide a doggy bag – giving you leftovers to munch on later.
Buy second hand
Millions of Brits are turning to buying second-hand clothing (Confused.com, 2022) as the cost of living crisis bites into day-to-day living.
Buying second-hand doesn’t just save you money. It helps the environment by reducing the need to create new goods. The fashion industry is notorious for sending unwanted items to landfill sites, in addition to the costs and energy used to create the garments in the first place.
If you have little ones, buying pre-loved toys means that you extend the life of that toy – and provide your youngsters with a good example of recycling.
Second-hand goods can be found in charity shops plus online listings and social media.
Find a new income stream
Converting your knowledge and expertise into an income is a great way of boosting your salary.
If you have any particular skills that are needed locally, why not put them to good use and generate an income from it?
The internet also provides a great way to top up your wages, whether it’s selling goods or services online, or even offering courses in your specialist area. Either way, if you can’t do anything about your outgoings, the only way you’re going to balance it out is to level up your income.
Save on energy bills
In normal times, experts would be recommending that you look around for the best deal when it comes to your energy bills. The problem that we are all facing is the unprecedented rise in costs, with more rises predicted in October.
As a result, most energy companies have withdrawn their special offers, leaving some households in the lurch as we head into autumn.
If you do foresee trouble ahead, it’s always best to contact your energy company as soon as you can so that you can come to some solution.
Around the home, there are actions you can take to help save on your bills – turning off unnecessary lights and appliances is a good start.
Making sure that your house is properly insulated for the winter will also go some way to reducing your reliance on energy. Leaky windows and poor loft insulation are often the main culprits when it comes to higher energy bills.
Save on phone bills
Most of us have mobile phones these days and these can be an expensive drain on our financial resources. With that in mind, it’s worth checking your current deal to see if you’re paying over the odds, and to see if there are any savings to be made.
Phone companies are used to customers haggling as most companies would rather throw in a few goodies or reduce a monthly tariff if it means that you stay loyal to them. Be careful too that you’re not paying over the odds for internet data. Paying for unlimited metering when you mostly use Wifi is a classic example of customers paying through the nose for something that they don’t need.
The technology used in mobile phones also means that in some cases, the specs on some phones come close to matching those of the more expensive, high-end versions.
Finally, check to see if you have any useful perks in your contract, like data rollover.