Savoo Savings Town

Click on a part of the town to learn how to save!

Holiday Time Savvy Shopping Technique Cars and Fuel Economy Cars and Fuel Economy Home Improvements Reducing grocery bills Back to School Saving on your regular bills, includes utilities Making Money in your spare time savoo town

With costs constantly rising, it can seem impossible to save money. Where do you start? What can you really save and is it worth the effort?

This guide is brought to you by Marc Lockley, the Guardian.co.uk's money-saving writer and Savoo.co.uk

Where do you start?

The importance is to begin; it can feel daunting at times as bills mount however, avoiding the issue won't improve your circumstances. The map above is of the Savoo Savings Town: a community brimming with money-saving ways. After initially visiting the budget-planning centre in the middle, just hover your mouse over a building or area and click on the subject you want to investigate. Each location has a series of tips and ideas to help get you started on your money-saving journey.

What can you save?

Potentially thousands. It's important from the outset to log your savings in a notebook or a document on your computer, watching them grow as you wander through the Savoo Savings Town.

Is it worth it?

Categorically yes. As an example, half an hour spent choosing the right gas and electricity supplier combined with being savvy with your usage could save you in excess of £500. From avoiding impulse buys to simple money-saving techniques, you can transform cash-zapping habits into instant savings.

Create a budget

Knowing where, when and how you use your money puts you back in control of your spend and is the first step in helping you reduce your outgoings, a step that could easily take under an hour.

Gather bank statements, cash receipts, annual and monthly payments you make, along with wage slips, income from self-employment, pension and any benefits you may receive, then fill in a budget planner. This will tell you how your income compares to your outgoings and analyses where you spend.

Whilst you're filling in the outgoings, look for non-essential spends (and be ruthless) that you could immediately cut back or even do without and log them in your notebook. With essentials, are there ways by being canny you could reduce spend? Finally, add up the potential savings, write down the total in your logbook and act upon them. What will saving this amount mean to you? List the benefits. Whenever you need a reminder of why you're doing this, refer back to these points.

Return to the Savoo Savings Town and pick a section that catches your eye, ideally one you feel that you could make instant savings - seeing rapid results helps with motivation.

Holiday time

Taking a break can be just what the doctor ordered; here are some handy hints at keeping costs down whilst still enjoying your holiday.

Booking a break in the UK

There are plenty of low-cost hotels and B&Bs to use as a base when booking breaks away. If one is above the budget you can afford, why not ring to see if they will offer you a discount? There are several reasons that could persuade them to reduce the price.

  1. You are booking 2 or more nights
  2. Being flexible with the dates that you offer
  3. Trading your custom for added value; for example saying you would be happy to book if they offer dinner at a discounted rate
  4. Your party wants more than one room
  5. You avoid school holidays/peak times
  6. Last minute bookings
  7. Casually mentioning better prices/value you have found elsewhere - there's nothing worse than losing business to a competitor.

Visit the negotiation page advising how to gain a discount.

Booking your holiday abroad

Package holidays can offer good value but you may find that organising your own costs less.

When booking flights, check the prices of individual airlines as well as visiting dedicated flight search engines like www.cheapflights.co.uk and http://www.skyscanner.net.

Search for hotels via www.lastminute.com and www.expedia.co.uk; contact the locations yourself, asking them for their best offer and also visit www.booking.com, picking the best value between them all.

Travel insurance is important to have whilst you are abroad. You can compare policies at Comparethemarket.

Hiring a car online is easy with plenty of options available. It is worth checking to see if there are any voucher codes available that will give you a discount.

Holiday extras

So, you've booked the holiday and the time off but what about those added extras? Holiday bits and bobs can zap the budget but planning these elements in advance can save hundreds of pounds.

  1. How are you going to get to the airport? Can a friend take you for you to return the favour another time? Is the train a cheaper option than parking? If you need to park then www.parkatmyhouse.com/uk lists home and business owners who rent out their spaces for a small fee. If you would prefer to park in a dedicated airport park then visit www.holidayextras.com. For best prices it's usually worth booking at least a month in advance.
  2. You can get a better rate of exchange for your currency by shopping around, saving as much as £50 per thousand. Use this great currency finder to establish the best rates.
  3. As soon as you have booked your break, keep an eye out for suncream offers regularly available with retailers offering 3 for 2 or Buy One Get One Free.
  4. Buy your beach book reads online, often saving at least 50%.
  5. Enjoy your own homemade sandwich at the airport rather than paying the high costs in the airport shops.
  6. Discuss travel bundles with your mobile phone provider before you go. Free Internet is available in many shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants abroad so you can keep in contact via email, Skype and Facetime with your Wi-Fi enabled devices. It's important to switch off 'data roaming' on your phone when travelling outside the UK, otherwise you could face extortionate bills on your return.

Savvy Shopper's technique

Following the savvy shopper's technique can save you a fortune when looking to purchase products. Most shops promote their own price, often showing how it is favourable compared to the Recommended Retail Price (RRP). However, you can see as much as a 50% difference between retailers' prices for the same item so it's worth shopping around.

  1. We often impulsively buy and, although the initial purchase makes us happy, we may regret our decision later on realising the money could have been better used elsewhere. Whether it's your cappuccino, computer or state-of-the art mobile phone, ask yourself four questions:
    a. Do I really need this?
    b. Does it fall within my budget?
    c. Is there a cheaper alternative?
    d. Can I get it cheaper elsewhere?
    If you then decide not to buy the product, list the saving you made in your notebook.
  2. Use a search engine to find best prices. Make sure you input the exact name of the product, looking at the outlets mentioned. In Google's case they have a 'shopping' tab to make comparing prices easier.
  3. Check voucher code sites like Savoo.co.uk to see if they are offering a code that discounts a product further. It's just a matter of entering the code to gain your money off.
  4. Visit cash-back sites like TopCashback.co.uk that offer a cash return for shopping with certain retailers.
  5. When out shopping, it's always worth using your negotiation skills, mentioning the best prices you have found elsewhere.
  6. If the retailer you choose belongs to a loyalty card scheme, collect the points as these will help fund future purchases.

Saving on your regular bills

Monthly and annual bills eat away at your finances. However, it's great to open up your bank statements to find that, by dedicating half an hour of your time, you've managed to regularly reduce them. In most instances there is huge competition for your pound and, by following some simple research techniques combined with negotiation skills, you can often find a better deal.

Gas and Electricity bills

Sites similar to Energy Helpline help you establish the best gas and electricity deals. Filling in your details online will take minutes if you have your current bills to hand; you could save £300 so it's worth the time invested. Many suppliers offer a discount if you pay by monthly direct debit and it's often cheaper to order online.

After ensuring you are on the best deal, learn how to reduce your bills further by visiting the Utility Bills page.

Communication bills and media packages: Phone, broadband and TV

This sector is notorious for offering discounts to new or existing customers, with people reporting savings of up to 50%, especially if it stops you from signing up to another supplier. It's worth giving the company a call to see if you can negotiate a better price; click here for some specific advice on getting the best discount for your bundled package. All you need is half an hour's groundwork and you could potentially save several hundred pounds. A vast proportion of that groundwork can be done by using a price comparison site. If you are currently with a supplier, check if you are out of contract - a perfect time to ask for a better deal.

The same goes for mobile phone packages. Whether it's a contract with phone, pay as you go or a sim-only deal, visit a comparison site, plug in your details and choose the best deal for you.

Homes, contents and car insurance

Buyer apathy is rife when it comes to insurances, as many customers just renew their policies with little thought. But policy costs can change significantly year on year so it's worth shopping around to take advantage of great offers, especially with companies incentivising you with 'new joiner' prices. Take a look at a multitude of quotes online as well as doing your own research on others. Often it's cheaper to buy online than over the phone as it saves on administration costs.

Other ways to get cheaper quotes on your insurance are:

Motors
  1. Increase the voluntary excess.
  2. Use your car less - lower mileage tends to mean lower prices.
  3. If you have a garage, park the car in it and let the insurers know.
  4. Only put people on the insurance who will use the vehicle; however, in many cases prices are lower with a spouse on the policy.
  5. Obtain other quotes and, if cheaper, tell your preferred supplier as they may price match/improve.
Home insurance
  1. Think before you claim. Sometimes the premium charged after you claim negates the benefit
  2. Install approved quality locks (including windows) and have an alarm that's regularly serviced
  3. Increase the excess
  4. Ask for money off, quoting competitors' better prices/offers
  5. If you're at home for most of the day, tell the insurance company; it often lowers the premium
  6. Join your neighbourhood watch scheme if you have one; you may be given a discount on your insurance.
Emergency recovery for your vehicle

Search the Internet by inputting "breakdown cover" and plenty of options pop up. Whether it's a new policy or your current one is expiring, always look at several companies' prices before committing, pitching one against the other, asking them what is the best price they will offer.

Utility Bills

Fuel poverty (when a household needs to spend 10% or more of its income on fuel) affects many UK households. However, bills can be kept to a minimum by following some simple energy saving tips.

Gas and Electricity
  1. Wear an extra set of clothing to keep comfortably warm and either lower the thermostat or turn off the heating altogether for a period of time.
  2. When the sun goes down, close the curtains to keep the warmth inside.
  3. It's worth investing in loft insulation as it can save you hundreds of pounds a year on heating bills. Check with your supplier, as you may be eligible for free insulation.
  4. Inserting foil behind radiators reflects heat back into the room, generating significant amounts of warmth. You can use standard kitchen foil or purchase specially designed radiator foil from most large DIY stores.
  5. Lighting accounts for around 15% of the electricity bill. Make it a habit to turn off lights when not using a room. If you have dimmers, don't have them on full power. When replacing light bulbs, consider energy saving ones as, according to Which? each bulb could reduce your electricity bill by around £2.50 per year.
  6. Attaching draft excluders to windows or doors prevents cold air entering the room.
  7. Whether boiling a kettle or using hot water for a bath or shower, only heat what's necessary.
  8. Turn off electrical items rather than having them on standby.
  9. Regulate the temperature of your fridge and freezer making sure you don't have it on too high.
Check benefit entitlement

If you were born on or before 5 July 1951 you may be eligible for some tax-free help with the Winter Fuel Payment. If you receive certain benefits, in exceptionally cold weather there is also the Cold Weather Payment, giving you £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather.

Water Bills

Installing a water meter may help to lower bills; read this guide designed to help you reduce your consumption.

If you live alone and your property cannot have a water meter installed, for example in a block of flats, speak to your supplier and ask them for a water consumption assessment. See how the quote compares to your current flat-rate bill. This is known as an 'assessed household charge'.

Check whether your drainpipes take rain water from your roof and they're not connected to the sewerage system as, if they're not, you may be entitled to between £17 and £50 a year off.

Back to School

Kitting out kids for school can be costly but, with a few helpful tips, you can avoid unnecessary spending, saving a small fortune.

  1. Write a kit list, splitting it into 'must have' and 'like to have', asking yourself the savvy shopper's questions.
  2. Check with friends and family to see if they have any of your listed items that they no longer need.
  3. Set up a 'swap club' with other parents.
  4. Search your house seeing how many pencils, rubbers, rulers and sharpeners are lying around or hidden in drawers. Whatever stationery is needed after that, pound shops often have good stock.
  5. Shop in a group - bulk purchasing often reaps rewards.
  6. Unless your school insists on a specific uniform, many supermarkets stock trousers, skirts, blouses, shirts and coats. Large discount sports chains are a favourite for cheap PE kit. Remember to account for their growth spurts and check online first to see if you can get your items cheaper.
  7. Shop around for some of the more expensive items like calculators and textbooks as these can vary massively in price. Online shopping often reaps financial rewards.
  8. Don't wait until August to purchase. 'End of season sales' (often held in June/July) can bring out the bargains but be aware that sale stock often runs out quickly.
  9. If your child is using a computer at home and needs desktop publishing software you can get a free download at www.openoffice.org.
  10. Your children may be entitled to free school meals. To find out whether they qualify visit the Direct Gov website. You may also be eligible for support with clothing but you need to contact your local authority for more information as policies vary.

Cars and fuel economy

Cars are expensive to buy, run and service, with bills quickly mounting up. Firstly, it's worth considering if you need your own car. If the answer's yes, how can you bring the costs down?

Do you need to own a car?

If you drive less than 6,000 miles annually then joining a Car Club may be a cheaper alternative, assuming you have one in your area. The cars are parked locally and bookings can often be taken at the last minute. You hire the car for the amount of time you need; this can be hourly. Examples of clubs include www.zipcar.co.uk and www.citycarclub.co.uk

Saving on fuel

A quick and simple way to save money is to be more economical with your fuel. Here are some fuel-saving ways:

  1. Prices can vary significantly between garages. Check up-to-date local prices at www.petrolprices.com. Coincide the visit when you're passing as going out of your way to stations wastes fuel.
  2. Unnecessary weight and resistance are both fuel zappers. Avoid filling the tank to the brim, only have what you need in the boot and take the roof rack off when not in use.
  3. Use cash-back credit cards to purchase fuel gaining you a percentage back, as long as you settle the bill within the interest free period. If the garage is part of a loyalty card scheme, make sure you claim the points.
  4. Driving at around 2000rpm for a diesel and 2500rpm for a petrol car on clear sections of major roads will gain you extra miles from your tank.
  5. Avoid rapid acceleration and unnecessary sharp breaking by looking ahead and predicting distances to stopping points and obstacles. If you're going to be stationary for more than a few minutes then switch the engine off.
  6. Check tyre pressures regularly. Having the correct inflation pressure in your vehicle's tyres optimises the performance and increases your personal safety when driving.
  7. Plan your route in advance; avoiding unnecessary detours means less mileage.
  8. Minimalise the use of heating and air conditioning as these increase fuel consumption.
  9. Cold starts use more fuel so avoid using the car on short journeys. Walk or take the bus/train if it works out cheaper.
  10. It's important to drive safely so don't implement any of these ideas if they cause danger to you, your passengers or others.

Home improvements

DIY guides

Calling in an expert to fix minor problems can be financially draining - there are often many jobs that we could do ourselves, saving cash if we only knew how.

Wickes offer DIY videos showing how to make many improvements, ranging from insulating lofts to replacing radiators with putting up fences in between. They also offer several good idea guides including home decorating and gardening tips.

B&Q also help the DIY enthusiast with How-to guides as well as plenty of videos on their YouTube channel. They also run 'You can do it' classes on a number of subjects with courses ranging from 2-4 hours and prices starting at £10

If you fancy trying to lay wallpaper or want to know how to replace a tap or washer, Channel 4 have a dedicated page to all things DIY.

Tool hire

Sometimes the necessary tools are too expensive to buy but, before you hire items, why not ask neighbours or friends if they have them. Alternatively, visit Streetbank as there may be someone registered in your area with what you need.

If in doubt call the experts

Be aware of your limits; there are many jobs that require you to call in an expert as you may cause more damage (or danger to you or others) tackling them yourself. However, you can reduce the costs by hiring a tradesmen for a good price.

Making money in your spare time

Supplementing your income with jobs that you can do in your spare time helps to pay the bills. Below are some easy ways to add money to your bank account.

  1. De-clutter your house and create money by selling your unwanted goods on eBay or other auction sites. Read here for some top eBay selling tips.
  2. Do you fancy eating a meal, having a drink and getting paid? Then you may be able to do a mystery shop in your lunch hour. GFK are one of many companies looking for mystery shoppers.
  3. If you have a spare room, consider hosting a student from abroad. One such site is Interstudies.
  4. The government runs a scheme that lets you earn up to £4,250 per year tax-free from letting out furnished accommodation in your home.
  5. Download the Field Agent App if you have an iPhone, earning money when you are out and about, providing companies intelligence about their brand or product.
  6. Car boot sales can help raise some much needed cash; for some tips, read this article on making money at a car boot sale.
  7. If you have a talent for something then why not get paid for it in your spare time? Whether you can create a Word Press website or write a powerful sales letter, there could be an opportunity for you via People Per Hour.
  8. Get paid to give your opinion on products and brands with market research companies like Saros.
  9. Do you have an empty garage or parking in your garden? Why not rent the space out via Parkatmyhouse.com
  10. A dab hand at putting together flat packed furniture, great at ironing or got green fingers? Then advertise your talents in a local shop window.

Reducing grocery bills

Learning to become a savvy grocery shopper is hugely beneficial: observing prices of your regular purchases, avoiding them when they are overpriced and snapping them up when a bargain. Many stores entice you with fantastic '2 for 1' or half price offers, only to raise the price the following week. Savvy shoppers realise this and, when the price goes up, they swap to a competing store whose turn it is to promote the special offers - making significant savings on their shopping basket.

More savings can be made by following some simple steps to further reduce your bills.

  1. Plan a shopping and menu list, buying only the items needed. Sometimes if a product's price is exceptionally high, for example if it's out of season or there is low supply, then switch to a cheaper alternative.
  2. List non-perishable items and household products that require regular purchase and buy these in bulk when on special offer.
  3. Shopping on a full stomach reduces the temptation to buy unnecessary items.
  4. Visiting stores in pairs enables you to take advantage of special bulk offers, splitting the savings. Whether this is Buy One Get One Free or even a larger pack of rice that you can halve and bag separately later.
  5. Shopping at the end of the day means you can look in the 'reduced section' for extra value. You may be able to freeze some of the items if you aren't using them immediately.
  6. Be savvy with your purchases, getting them to last over several meals. For example a large chicken could last for a roast dinner, curry the next day and perhaps broth for later. Equally, buying in bulk often means lower prices so cook a double portion and freeze the excess to eat another day.
  7. Take advantage of all discount vouchers and use loyalty cards where applicable, accumulating points to help pay for future shops.
  8. 'Down-brand' - buy a cheaper brand or try the supermarket's own. This helps reduce bills, as can changing to a more affordable supermarket.
  9. Visit Mysupermarket; they compare many of the major supermarkets' latest prices, telling you which one offers the cheapest basket for your purchases.
  10. Try your local fruit and vegetable stall - you may find they offer the best value for certain products.

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