top tips to improve your finances

Don’t forget to haggle

Even once you’ve been given an offer by a company, that may not be their cheapest price. If you’ve found a cheaper deal online you can use that as a bargaining tool to bring your quote down. This doesn’t just apply to your energy bill, but also your phone, internet and insurance. 

Before buying anything, see if you can get it for free 

Many people will be wanting to treat themselves to a new sofa or dining table this January. But the good news is that means there will be lots who are getting rid of old ones. 

Often these are put up for grabs on community groups such as Freecycle, Freegle and Gumtree. You can find a whole range of free treasures on there: from record players to washing machines.  It’s also a good way to get rid of yours when you find what you’re looking for. 

If not, buy second-hand rather than new 

Charity shops have been inundated with stock this year as everyone cleared out their attics and wardrobes during lockdown. By purchasing clothes, homeware or books you need from charity shops, not only will you be paying a fraction of the shop price but you will also be giving your money to a good cause.  Some charities, such as Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation, also have online shops.

And sell your old things online 

Getting in all these second-hand items will probably mean you need to get rid of some old ones to make space. You can sell old clothes online on sites such as eBay or apps such as Depop.

There are other specialist sites, including Mazumamobile.com, Music Magpie and Zapper, that will give you money for your old mobile phones, CDs, DVDs and games. eBay is a good one-stop shop to sell almost anything.

Rent out your car or driveway 

More people are ditching public transport for the safety of their own cars and you could make money by offering up your empty driveway as a parking space.

There are a number of apps and websites that allow you to do this, including Kerb, JustPark and Stashbee.  Most allow you to set your own price, although some firms take a cut. The monthly price to rent a parking space in London can be £300 or more. 

You could also lend out your car if you don’t expect to be driving much. This will save you money on fuel and mean that someone else is essentially paying off your running costs.  One car lending app, Turo, calculates that its users earn more than £500 a month renting out their car. Other firms allowing you to do the same include Getaround and Hiyacar.

Compare supermarket prices before filling up your trolley 

Website Latestdeals.co.uk has an app that compares the prices of individual items at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda, Aldi and more. All you have to do is search for the item you want – whether it’s Pringles or paper towels – and compare. 

Look for the yellow stickers

Once you’ve chosen your shop, it helps to know when you can find the best bargains there. All supermarkets offer discounts – often shown via a yellow or another brightly coloured sticker – on items that are close to their sell-by date. 

Different shops release their discounts at different times of day. You can read more about when this is and how the experts play the game here. 

Get an app that helps you to save 

There’s a growing breed of apps designed to help people save more, including Plum and Chip. Banks are getting involved too, with digital lenders Monzo and Starling launching new features to get customers to squirrel more away. 

Plum’s Victor Trokoudes said: “One of our favourite ways to save is by setting yourself a savings challenge. The 52 week challenge is a very simple one to set as a New Years Resolution. Start by putting £1 into your savings pot in the first week, then next week deposit £1 more than you did in the previous week, and repeat this for a year. You’ll be putting aside £52 in the final week of the challenge and you’ll have a total of £1,378 extra over the course of a year.”

Get cashback for shopping online 

Sites such as Quidco or Topcashback give you back a percentage of the money you spend when you shop at their partner retailers. You can get your cashback directly to your bank account, PayPal, or as gift cards. Banks such as Barclays and American Express also offer cashback with some of their products. 

Make your savings grow 

Saving will only be harder if you let the value of your money be eroded by inflation. Most banks offer such poor interest rates at the moment that meaning money in cash means its spending power is actually decreasing with time. 

Instead you could think about growing your money by investing it. This should mean you actually have to put away less in the long-term. You can learn about how to get started investing here. But remember stock markets can go down as well as up.