A tight budget can be difficult to work around, particularly with birthdays cropping up each month and special events coming your way. There are some items you may continue to buy that might not be necessary, so it’s worth looking into what you need and what you don’t. Before you make the decision to cut things out or budget for items that aren’t essential, it’s worth creating a spreadsheet to cover your outgoings.
There are plenty of easy budget sheets that you can download online. These can track everything from how much you spend on your food shops to direct debits, standing orders and what you can budget for clothes and activities. Once you’ve written down what you spend, it’s easier to decide what you need and then what isn’t vital.
With our budget guide, you should gain a greater understanding on how to save money in the UK when you have a tight budget.
1. Prioritise your TV habits
Ten years ago, watching TV was simple. You had a licence for it and you could choose from Freeview or use a provider and pay for additional channels such as MTV, Disney Channel and Sky Sports. However, the way we consume TV content has changed drastically with the rise of Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime.
As a result of these new trends, many people pay for a lot more than what they need. Instead of paying for multiple programmes, consider what you use the most, what is essential to keep, and what you can cut out. Each provider costs around £5-10 a month, so if you’re paying for multiple, you’ll notice a large reduction. For example, if you’re paying for a TV licence, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV, but you only watch Netflix, cutting others out will save you up to £329.76 per year.
2. Adjust how much you spend on food
One of the biggest spending cuts you could consider is to adjust how often you eat out. Whether that’s going for meals, picking up fast food or heading out for coffee, eating out can easily take up a lot of your finances. If you don’t want to stop entirely, that’s fine – just work it into your budget. If you go out once a week, drop it down to once a fortnight or even once a month and you’ll quickly see the benefits.
It’s also a good idea to rethink your weekly grocery shopping habits. Make it a habit to shop around for the best deals. Aldi may be a better choice for fruit and veg when it comes to price but you may prefer to grab the three for £10 on meat deal at Morrisons.
Swapping brand names to own brand varieties is another simple way of shaving some pounds off your big food shop. As well as food, do this to also save on other essentials around your home such as toilet roll and body wash. There are perfectly good products which are more affordable and swapping to these can make a substantial difference to your monthly spending.
3. Clear out your wardrobe
With the help of Facebook and Depop, it’s never been easier to buy and sell your clothes online. People often sell their old items at an affordable price, so you can still keep up with the latest trends but get something new at a fraction of the original price.
You can also make some money on these types of sites. You’ll be surprised at what you can also get rid of when you put your mind to it. Really consider how often you wear something and whether it’s worth keeping or not. If you haven’t worn it in the last six months, it’s likely you’re not going to – so sell it and pop the cash into your savings.
4. Switch to cash
One of the best money-saving tips has to be switching to cash for your daily outgoings. If you budget yourself a certain amount a week in spending money, take it out instead of keeping it in your bank account.
With contactless and Apple Pay, it’s far too easy to spend money without feeling like you’re splashing the cash. Instead of using your bank card, keep your money for the week in your purse, that way you can be reminded of how much you’ll have left just before you spend it. Whereas with your bank card, you can stay in the dark and keep spending until you have nothing left.
It’s also worth keeping cash aside for the food shop too, while it’ll prove to be beneficial to have it for your own spending, it’ll ensure you won’t go over your food limit. If you do have money left over after the food shop, it’s worth putting it into a savings account so you can keep building up your emergency fund.
5. Join a bank with a rewards scheme
Many banks offer perks if you choose to create an account with them. For example, Barclays offer their Blue Rewards scheme for people who set up Direct Debits with them. This scheme means that not only could you get £7 per month for using the account, but the bank will give you £3.50 for each of the first two Direct Debits you pay. This may not sound like much, but when you’re saving while on a tight budget every extra pound and penny helps.
Barclays also has a cashback scheme set up with a number of online stores, enabling you to get a discount at a number of places.
6. Socialise at home
An evening in can often be better than spending a lot of money on a night out. Instead of going out for an expensive meal with your friends, it could be worth pooling money together and buying food and drink for the evening. Your monthly budget can be torpedoed by one night out, so it’s worth trying to keep your social time as low-cost as possible.
7. Look out for discounts on entertainment
Particularly when it comes to young children, don’t spend too much on entertainment. For the most part, children would rather have your attention than expensive activities. Alternatively, if you do want to take your children to big entertainment centres, look online for discount codes – because you’ll always find them somewhere.
Keep an eye out for vouchers and discount codes on the back of cereal boxes or hand washes. If you’d usually budget for a day out somewhere, you’d be surprised how much money you can save with these 2:4:1 vouchers.
8. Look into clearing some debts
It’s difficult to try and save money when many of your finances are going straight onto a credit card to pay off debt. Instead of focusing on saving your money, work on paying off your debt first.
Once you’re not paying off any monthly debts, you’ll be surprised at how much extra cashflow you have. Not only will it help you control your finances going forward, but it’ll also boost your credit score which will prove to be beneficial in the future.
9. Cancel memberships you don’t use
We’ve all been there, you don’t want to cancel your expensive gym membership because you’re adamant that when you’re free in three weeks you’ll go. If you still plan to attempt getting to the gym, great! But perhaps consider going to a cheaper gym, particularly if you don’t use it often.
Most importantly, don’t sign up for a membership for 12 months if you don’t use it – you may think you’re saving £5 a month, but you’re actually spending £50. If you’re trying to get fit, save the cash and go for a run in the morning or purchase some weights and work out at home. You’ll find you have extra money – which you can then split between a healthier food shop and putting some back in the bank. Every little helps!
10. Learn when to shop
Sounds simple? Many people have got the knack of this, but some haven’t truly mastered it yet. The two best times to do your Christmas shopping are the January sales and Black Friday. It may be difficult to decide what to buy for people that early, but you’ll definitely be able to get a couple of good gifts.
Black Friday is more beneficial for those expensive gifts that come around the Christmas season, particularly electricals and the like which are usually more pricey. Shopping at the right time will ensure that Christmas doesn’t break the bank.
11. Swap expensive cosmetics for dupes
Cosmetics are often pricey, whether that’s makeup, skincare, haircare and even perfumes. Many companies have brought out dupes of items, or created alternatives which are just as good.
Most popular products will have a cheaper alternative and it’s worth giving it a test to see if it works for you. Paying £30 for a foundation when you can find one that’s just as good for £7.99 will save you a large sum every couple of months and that money can be put away into your savings account for the future.
12. Adjust your phone bill
Check your plan for your mobile phone because you may be paying for a lot more that mobile data than you actually need. If you log into your profile, you’ll be able to see how much data you use per month and if you use substantially less than what you pay for, make the adjustment.
You can often find a good deal, particularly if you’re on a sim only contract rather than paying for your phone and sim at the same time. Lowering your phone bill will make a small change to your finances, but you may see the difference quite early on.
13. Arrange lunch dates instead of dinner dates
If you are someone who likes going out for meals, be smart about it. Not only will you find most chain restaurants do deals on VoucherCloud or the Taste Card, but if you go out for lunch, it’ll often be cheaper. Most places do a lunchtime menu, find somewhere that adheres to the guidelines and have your social catch-ups there. Although you’re still going out for a nice meal, it’ll be substantially cheaper and your wallet will thank you for it.
14. Remember, you can still treat yourself
There is a common misconception that when you’re saving money, it means you can’t treat yourself. Work out how much you can spend on say clothes per month and consider what counts as a necessity. Discounts can be found all over the internet, look for the perfect one for you and compare it with other websites before you order your items.
Keep an eye out for the end of the month, many companies will do a payday discount code, so wait for that and take advantage. The same goes for cosmetics or games, a lot of places will do discounts, but it’s worth avoiding buying something when it’s brand new. There is usually a premium for buying something when it first comes out, while waiting a few months will bring discounts and promotions.
Ready to make some savings and put the money away for the things that really matter? Take on these tips and save some extra cash even if you’re on a budget.