12 tips for how to save your pennies

The first months of a year can be tough: our pockets are empty and it feels like a long way to the next payday… Don’t panic – clawing back cash doesn’t have to mean big changes. After all, we all know the old adage: look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves.

Here are twelve simple tips for how to rein in the expenditure and build your bank balance back up. It’s time to have fun being frugal.

Samwise reads up on budgeting in his spare time.

1. Check your statements

It’s not a thrilling way to while away the hours but going through your bank statements will give you a realistic sense of what you’re spending your hard-earned pennies on – and it might throw up a few surprises. It’s easy to make online purchases after a few too many glasses of wine; we can set up direct debits and forget all about them; and ad hoc golf magazine purchases can really add up. See if there’s an obvious area where you can cut back – and be on top of all your outgoings.

2. Cut back on coffees

A takeaway flat white on the way into work might not seem like an extravagance at the time, but if you’re buying a handful every week it can add up to hundreds of pounds annually. Invest in a thermos cup and take your own brew on the way to work. Or if your own concoction won’t cut it, many coffee shops including chains offer a discount if you bring your own cup.

3. Switch energy suppliers

One of the easiest switch-to-save measures is to change energy suppliers. Shop around for the best deal going and you could save hundreds of pounds. The same applies to internet and mobile phone providers. It’s also worth a haggle: ring your current provider to find out whether they can give you a better deal. If you have found some good alternative contracts out there, use them as leverage. Don’t be lazy, do the leg work!

4. Keep warm for less

To keep your heating bill down, put an extra jumper on before turning up the thermostat. Put a chunky duvet on your bed, rugs or carpets on the floors, insulated curtains in the windows and a furry blanket on the sofa. Toasty! It’s also worth going around the house and plugging any drafts under doors, or cracks in the windows, to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.

5. Sell your clutter

Who needs 24 egg cups? If you have stuff you don’t need anymore, get busy on auction websites. There are websites where you can list items for free - it’s a great way to make a little bit of cash whilst clearing your house of clutter.

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6. Car share

Sharing long-distance travel on a commute to work or a journey can cut costs, with the driver getting a contribution to petrol and the passengers saving on pricey rail fares. Do you know anyone living near you who would be keen for the company? If not, websites like Liftshare.com or GoCarShare.com can help, and some companies actually offer workplace car share schemes. And remember, parking can cost an arm and a leg - particularly near a busy event or in the centre of town. Websites like parkonmydrive.com give you access to the residential driveways nearby that are sitting empty. Cheaper than a multi-storey and less corners!

It's worth your while checking your bank statements: we can set up direct debits and forget all about them.

7. Swap ’til you drop

Why buy something if you can get it for free? Users of Swapz.co.uk can register for free and exchange a wide variety of goods and services, from futons to flying lessons. Swishing.com shows you how to organise a clothes swap party with friends.

8. Join a library

You can swap books, but you can also join a local library where you can access hundreds for free. And it isn’t just reading material that’s up for grabs. Most will offer CD and DVD rental too, as well as reading groups, film nights and great rhyme and story sessions for children.

9. Home cinema

Rather than heading to the flicks, bring the silver screen into your own home by finding a suitably large white wall and rigging up a projector. There’s an upfront cost but you’ll soon make that back. (The cost of cinema pick ‘n’ mix alone could get you a small horse.) The Oscar winning films are often available on subscription services – you might just have to wait a year or two to catch up.

10. Make do and mend

Do you know how to darn a sock? If not, it’s time to learn. Upcycling old clothes – rather than splashing out on new items – is a great way to save. Seek out some free online tutorials and learn how to mend, make alterations and even create clothes from scratch. Gok Wan eat your heart out.

11. Bulk up on veggies

A good way to save on your food shop is to cut back on meat and bulk up on the vegetables. It’s worth remembering that loose fruit and veg can be cheaper than those wrapped in plastic and pre-bagged. Think cabbages and cauliflowers! Frozen veg can be cheaper still and popping peas back in the freezer means less wastage.

12. Plan your meals

Planning out meals for the week means you know exactly what you need to buy, and will keep wastage to a minimum. Fewer trips to the supermarket also means fewer opportunities to impulse buy! Cook up some hearty casseroles, stews or soups and take leftovers for lunch to avoid exorbitant sushi purchases.

For more saving tips and advice on how to manage your money, tune in to Money Box.