Watford resident, Jacqui Bryson, delves into ways to reduce the pain your bank balance is currently experiencing...
Here we are, full of resolve and good intentions. We’ve signed up for the January Dryathlon®, joined the gym and banished sweets from our lives. 2014 will see us get fit, slim and healthy!
So why, somewhere around the second or third week of January, can most of us be found slumped on the sofa, head in hands washing down a family sized chocolate bar with copious amounts of wine? Bills, that’s what it is. Not simply a lack of resolve or willpower, but those pesky bills, bank and credit card statements that land on the mat just when Christmas feels like a long time ago already, but payday is way beyond the visible horizon.
So here are a few New Year’s Resolutions that might just ease the pressure today, and ensure that this time next year, Christmas doesn’t hit your wallet as hard as it hits your waistline.
Instantly reduce your credit card debt
Generosity knows no bounds when it’s as simple as handing over a small square of plastic. Only when the bill arrives with those sky high interest rates, right there in black and white, does realisation dawn.
The solution could be a balance transfer. Most providers offer a 0% interest free period on balance transfers from anything up to 30 months! Bear in mind the longer the interest free period the higher the transfer fee is likely to be, so if you can pay off the debt within say, 12 months, go for a lower term which will generally carry a proportionately lower fee.
Cut your heating costs
There’s been a huge amount of talk about fuel charges over recent months, as energy providers seem to have been allowed to increase their charges at will, and blind us with science in the form of complicated rates and tariffs.
Fortunately the Government have finally stepped in and introduced measures to cut the average bill by around £50 through changes to green levies, and have instructed the energy companies to not only simplify tariffs as of 1st January, but from 31st March suppliers must inform customers of the cheapest available tariff, and how much it could save them.
With these issues currently being high on the public agenda, now is as good a time as any to do your research and switch to a better deal. There are independent comparison websites that will do much of the work for you, and you will almost certainly save a tidy sum.
Don’t let money go down the drain
Speaking from personal experience, a year or so ago my annual water bill crept to well over £50 a month. I was living alone and my consumption consisted of a quick daily shower, twice weekly use of the washing machine and dishwasher, jet washing the patio annually and copious amounts of tea and coffee! Making the switch to a water meter reduced my monthly bill to just £13.
Since then my daughter has returned home (flipping boomerang kids!) and the washing machine is used almost daily, as is the dishwasher, and she is partial to a good long soak in the bath. So my monthly water bills are now just under £17… still a massive saving.
The general rule of thumb is that if there are more bedrooms than people in the house, you will save money on a metered system. Plus, if you should switch and find you’re not making a saving you can revert back to unmetered bills within the first twelve months of switching.
Claim your rewards
Another personal experience. A couple of months ago my bank introduced a cashback scheme. Now I’d heard of these but never really looked into it, sounded a bit complicated to me. However, in December alone I have earned over £25 cashback, simply by using my bank card in stores that I would have used anyway, although in one instance instead of going to my ‘usual’ DIY store I went to another, comparable store, and earned 10% on my purchases.
If you have a store points card, use it every time. And don’t ignore the letters they send you, which will not only contain extra points and special offers, but because your shopping is monitored via the card, the offers will be based directly on your previous spending habits. Save those points up and your next Christmas dinner will be well and truly covered!
There are literally dozens of ways to save money on your weekly shop. By far the most effective is shopping just after you’ve eaten! No impulse buys! Take a shopping list and stick to it.
Secondly, don’t get sucked in by slick advertising. ‘Healthy’ ready meals, or ‘Finest’ foods are on the whole no healthier or indeed finer than those you can make from scratch, at a fraction of the cost, and without additives, preservatives or artificial fat/sugar/flavour alternatives.
Try the downgrading system, particularly good for store cupboard staples like sugar, flour etc, and basic tinned goods such as beans, tomatoes, tinned vegetables and the like. If you automatically go for the branded option, skip that and try the supermarkets own brand. There is often so little difference the family will never know unless they see the packaging! From there, try out the ‘basics’ range most supermarkets now offer. It won’t work for everything you buy, but I guarantee a significant number of switches will go totally unnoticed.
Buy one, get one free! Why oh why can’t they just halve the price? But they don’t, so there are a few rules to be followed.
1. If it’s perishable and won’t freeze – don’t buy it
2. If you wouldn’t buy it if it wasn’t on a BOGOF – don’t buy it
3. If it’s junk food – don’t buy it
4. If it’s not on your shopping list – don’t buy it
If you can shop with a friend or family member prepared to share these offers then you both win, but only if you both want the same goods!
I’m not a fan of online grocery shopping; on the whole I’m one of those relatively rare breeds who actually enjoys mooching round the supermarket! However, it is worth shopping online with all the major supermarkets at least once. This is because each of them offer a saving on your first online shop with them. Offers vary and often come through the letterbox as ‘junk’ mail, but you can save on average at least £10 on a £50, and sometimes much more. And there’s no obligation to make any further online purchases – it’s just free food!
Cutting coupons, knowing what time of day your local supermarket reduces it’s ‘use by’ goods, trying what are now excellent ‘budget’ supermarkets giving the big four a run for their money – if you’re supermarket savvy there are huge savings to be made.
Save money right here!
You can make some fantastic savings right here at thebestof Watford. Right now DB's Service & Tuning in Bushey is offering a winter vehicle check, which includes tyres, battery, brakes lights and wipers absolutely FREE.
Shamma Dry Cleaners is offering big savings on ladies and gents business suit dry cleaning. Bring in one suit and get 10% discount, or two or more for a massive 15% discount.
And if you are in business, or a budding entrepreneur you can save at Watford’s favourite networking event, Coffee with Cream. These thebestof Watford monthly events at Vicarage Road Stadium provide invaluable help and support for local businesses and are now available at 50% off the cost of 10 meetings.
And U.D Hair & Beauty Salon offer a 10% discount for ALL employees at Croxley Business Park. Conveniently situated on the Business Park themselves U.D Salon’s friendly professional staff offer an extensive range of hair and beauty services.
Indeed, here at thebestof Watford our local businesses try to work together and with the community to ensure everybody gets the best value for the best service. Keep track on our Offers page and you will see a full range of ever changing deals designed to make your money go further.
Click here to view our current offers.
So, although you may have succumbed to the left over Christmas cake, and felt obliged to polish off the remaining Baileys, it’s a long time ‘til next Christmas, and maybe next year won’t be quite as painful on your waistline OR your wallet!