Saving: It's a principle at stake here
Buy clothes and presents in the sales
So you need a new suit and the one you like comes in at a cool £300. Wait! The chances are that you can pick it up in the sale – and there's always a sale just around the corner – for £150. The same applies for birthday and Christmas presents. Buy in bulk in the sales and you not only save money, but you enjoy stress-free pre-Christmases and no last-minute birthday worries.
The Christmas lottery
Instead of trying to buy a present for every relative in your family, consider getting together beforehand and picking one name from the hat. You then buy one thoughtful gift for that one person rather than attempting to please everyone at considerable cost. Everyone gets a present, everyone saves money.
The National Lottery – it won't be you!
The odds of winning the Lotto jackpot are stacked 14m to 1 against each ticket. Some highly organised syndicates buy 14,000 tickets a week, which reduces the odds to 1,000 to 1 - but that's no guarantee of a win. For the rest of us, the difference to the odds between buying, say, 10 tickets and one is so insignificant that you should limit yourself to the one and save the extra money in a Cash mini Isa. (Individual Savings Account, a no TAX savings incentive by the UK gov’t.)
Use your Isa allowances
If you're not already aware, you can save up to £3,000 a year in a tax-free savings account called an Isa (for the more financially savvy there's also a stocks and shares Isa). It means you don't pay any tax on the interest accrued so, if you have spare cash in your current account, this is the difference between earning next to no interest and up to £150 a year.
Claim your benefits and tax credits
There was once a certain stigma in Britain attached to claiming benefits. Well, not any more. The Government has put benefits at the heart of the family budget and it's your money so make sure you're claiming it. That includes Child Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and other employee-related tax benefits.
How saving £50 a month now can save you £120 next year
Do you pay your insurance premiums by monthly instalments? If you do, then consider this: you are probably being charged a premium of between 15% and 20% for the privilege. In other words, if your home and car insurance bill for the year is £600, you're paying up to £120 a year in interest by paying monthly. If you are in a position this year to save up for next year's premiums in advance, you can save money by paying the whole lot in one go.
Do you need all those TV channels?
Britain is switching to digital-only television and time is running out for you to choose your new digital TV provider. The choice is already bewildering and with telephone-based services now being launched it's going to get more complicated. Packages range from full the monty, including every sports and movie channel costing around £50 a month, down to Freeview, which is free. Choose wisely.
Bin the ready meals
If TV chefs such as Ainsley Harriott can knock up a meal from a bag of random groceries including an aubergine and a packet of sultanas – so can you. Ready meals may be convenient, but preparing your own food saves money. A visit to your library will reveal scores of books dedicated to cooking proper meals in minutes.
Take up a money-saving hobby
Hobbies not only open your mind to new experiences but they also take up your time – important if you would otherwise spend it in the pub drinking away your hard-earned money. If a painting takes 20 hours to complete, and you normally get through a pint an hour. That's a saving of a least 40 quid a picture. Think about it. Get painting. Go fishing.
Avoid the payment protection racket
Banks and other lenders are selling expensive insurance policies to cover loan repayments to people who don't need it. Don't be a victim of the hard-sell.
Avoid extended warranties
Electrical goods are more reliable than ever. If your new radio won't last three years perhaps it's not worth buying in the first place. Think about it: how many times has your fridge broken down in the last five years? And do you really need the hassle of claiming for repairs to a £15 toaster?
The internet is gradually taking over. Online grocery shopping is getting better all the time and there are plenty of comparison websites to help find the best prices for bigger items. Give it a try, unless of course you like fighting your way through supermarket crowds.
The Citizen's Advice Bureau is your friend
If your debts are out of control please seek help immediately from your local CAB – their advisers can help you work out a sensible strategy to get you back on your feet.
Saving: It could save your life
Have you done your Christmas Shopping yet? Amazon's Christmas Sale is now on.
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