Practical Ways to Save Money and Reduce Debt
Updated: 9th July, 2019 – Added points 24 and 25.
When you start prepping it is easy to see that it is often not cheap. This is why I believe that we need to look at ways in which we can minimize our expenses.
While there are many guides out there that will tell you how to save money, some of those suggestions just aren’t really practical.
- 1 How Much do You Owe
- 2 Prioritise Your Debts
- 3 Shifting Debt
- 4 1. Get Freebies Where Possible
- 5 2. Buy Past ‘Best Before’ Dates
- 6 3. Do Your Food Shopping in the Evening
- 7 4. Legally Buy Stolen Goods
- 8 5. Get Cashback
- 9 6. The 1p Cheallenge
- 10 7. Avoid Costs of Premium Rate Numbers
- 11 8. Get Top-Selling Apps & Games for Free from Amazon
- 12 9. Get Everything for Five Pounds
- 13 10. Amazon Warehouse
- 14 11. Price Compare
- 15 12. Discount Gift Cards
- 16 13. Get Free Furniture
- 17 14. Go Own-Label
- 18 15. Get Paid to Commute
- 19 16. Freebies from Bartering
- 20 17. Grow Your Own Food
- 21 18. Cancel Unused Memberships
- 22 19. Declutter
- 23 20. Don’t be Scared of Leftovers
- 24 21. Take Your Own Lunch Rather than Eating Out
- 25 22. Learn to Fix Things
- 26 23. Start an Emergency Fund
- 27 24. Turn Your Hobby Into a Business
- 28 25. Take Advantage of Free and Discounted Days
- 29 Final Thoughts
How Much do You Owe
Before you can start to try and get out of debt, you first need to know exactly how much you owe. Be honest with yourself here and make a list of all the money that you owe, who you owe it to, and the interest rate. Add it all up and don’t worry if it is a lot, you need to be honest.
Prioritise Your Debts
Once you know how much you owe, it is time to prioritise those debts. Go back through your list and break the debts up in to two categories; priority and non-priority. Your priority debts are those that have serious consequences for not paying such as home repossession, bailiffs at your door or even imprisonment. These kinds of debts include:
- Mortgage, rent, or loans secured against your home
- Gas and electricity bills
- Court fines
- Child maintenance
- Council tax
- Hire purchase agreements for essential items
- Income tax, national insurance and VAT
- TV licence
Non-priority debts being everything else such as:
- Credit card debts
- Payday loans
- Bank or building society loans
- Catalogue or store card debts
- Money borrowed from friends
- Water bill
When it comes to your non-priority debts like credit cards and loans, it’s often a good idea to start paying off your most expensive debts first (the ones with the highest interest rates).
Shifting your debts around is mainly about decreasing the cost of your debts, however it can also help if you put all your debts in one or two places, so that you can concentrate on paying it off.
If you have a decent credit score, then you might be able to to save money by moving your credit card debt onto a balance transfer credit card with a 0% interest deal.
If you do decide to go down this route, it’s worth paying close attention to the length of the offer period and the card’s terms and conditions to avoid any surprise fees and charges.
If you can’t get a 0% deal, it might be worth contacting your current card provider(s) to see if there are lower interest rate options available on any of your existing cards. You could also ask for your limit to be increased on your cards with the lowest interest. You can then move your more expensive debt onto the lower interest rate cards.
Store cards are like credit cards, but can be used only in a specific store. Although they can offer discounts and deals, they may also have higher interest rates than some credit cards. It’s always worth checking the interest rate (APR) carefully before you use one to borrow.
You may also want to consider if you can afford to pay it off in full every month – if you can’t you could end up with a very expensive bill at the end of the month. If you have an existing balance on a store card, you can usually transfer it just like a normal credit card balance.
If you’re paying a large amount of interest on a loan, see if you can find a cheaper loan to pay it off.
If your loan is for under £3,000, you could save money by using a card called a ‘money transfer’ card with a lower interest rate. These credit cards pay money straight into your current account, which you can use to pay off your loan. Then you owe the card instead.
Make sure you work out whether it’s cheaper to use new borrowing rather than just continuing to repay your loan.
We want to give you a list of practical ways to save money and reduce debt that can easily be implemented into your life today.
1. Get Freebies Where Possible
There are lots of different websites out there offering freebies and lots of companies will offer free stuff as it is all promotion for them. Check out this post from Save The Student that gives a list of freebies with a total of over £200.
Also be sure to check out this post from Money Saving Expert that will show you some big freebies that you can take advantage of.
One website that I do want to share is Latest Free Stuff which covers freebies in just about every area you can imagine from arts and crafts, to fashion, to household stuff and everything in between. The great thing about this website is that it doesn’t just cover coupons for freebies but also lists competitions, apps, etc. There will always be some great freebies up for grabs if you look around.
2. Buy Past ‘Best Before’ Dates
You need to understand that there is a difference between ‘Use By‘ dates and ‘Best Before‘ dates. Best Before dates are soley recommendations about the food quality, and not the food safety.
Here in the UK we have a great website available to us called ‘Approved Food‘ which can help you cash in on this. How? They legally sell groceries close to – or past – their best before date that are still safe to consume. We have trialed these a few times and to be honest, we have never noticed any difference in taste or quality.
They sell almost anything that you would usually find in your local supermarket, including fruit & veg, toilet roll & cupboard essentials. They don’t sell meat or dairy products though. Not all of the items are past their best before date, most were well within.
3. Do Your Food Shopping in the Evening
After about 6pm, most supermarkets start heavily reducing prices on the items that they need to shift by the end of the day. This helps if you are a little bit flexible on brands as you could pick up something of equal quality but for pennies!
4. Legally Buy Stolen Goods
I’m not talking about buying stolen goods off the local drug dealer, i’m talking about buying stolen goods straight from the police. Okay, I know what you’re thinking but it’s completely legal, stay with me.
These guys are not dodgy cops, we are of course talking about police auctions. Here, the police auction off items they’ve retrieved from thieves when no owner has been found and they donate the cash to charity.
There are generally three ways in which the police will sell this stuff on but as it is usually collection only, you will want to find something close to you. They use:
- Bumblebee Auctions – an eBay-style site which features stolen goods listed by police forces across England and Wales.
- Official Police eBay Stores – some forces have now set up their own eBay shops. We found a number of police forces linking to official eBay shops, including Cheshire Police, Nottinghamshire Police, Leicestershire Police, Sussex Police, Thames Valley Police and Devon and Cornwall Police.
- Auction Houses – You will need to attend these in person but some police forces also sell the goods via auction houses. You will have to find an auction near you although some police forces give this information on their websites. However, if you search online for police auctions in your area (eg, ‘police auction Manchester‘), you should be able to find if there’s an auction house that sells goods on behalf of police. As an example, Greater Manchester Police lists three auction houses on its website: Central Auction Rooms of Rochdale, Charles Taylor Auctioneers & Valuers and Simon Charles Auctioneers & Valuers. Northumbria Police says it uses Boldon Auction Galleries, while West Midlands Police uses Aston’s Auctioneers & Valuers.
5. Get Cashback
By learning how to use cashback sites, you can get some of your money back each time you purchase online. Topcashback, Quidco and Swagbucks are three of the leading sites that are worth joining, and they cover almost every online retailer between them.
But it’s not just online shopping that offers cashback. Free food (and occasionally some cleaning products and pet food, too) can be nabbed through supermarket cashback apps such as Shopmium, CheckoutSmart, Quidco Clicksnap and GreenJinn.
6. The 1p Cheallenge
If taking 10% off all incoming funds sounds like too big a commitment for you, give the 1p savings challenge a go. The premise is simple: on day one, you save 1p. On day two, you save 2p. On day three, 3p (and so on). After 365 days have passed, you’ll have saved over £650!
7. Avoid Costs of Premium Rate Numbers
I am sure we can all agree on one thing, premium rate phone numbers are a complete rip-off. Calling 084 and 087 numbers are the worst and even on an inclusive call plan, they can cost up to 60p a minute. You can avoid these nasty numbers and find a cheaper alternative at saynoto0870 or download WeQ4U which will also call you back once you’re connected instead of you staying on hold.
8. Get Top-Selling Apps & Games for Free from Amazon
Amazon is not just about taking your money but can also save you a lot of money too. Most tablet, phone and PC platforms offer free or freemium games, but Amazon’s gone even further and banked a load of premium apps in its Underground service, which offers them all for free. Yes Free! No more paying for those top-selling apps and games. Just head over to Amazon UK or Amazon US.
9. Get Everything for Five Pounds
The name ‘Everything5pounds‘ sums up exactly what this company is all about. They sell everything from homeware and toys to clothing for – you guessed it – £5. Before you dismiss the idea totally, know that a lot of their stock is high-street quality.
10. Amazon Warehouse
Amazon have hit our second spot on the list of practical ways to save money and reduce debt, this time with the Amazon Warehouse. What they offer changes often but you can get almost anything for less. The items themselves are generally returns but you’ll still get the same guarantees about stuff working properly (or your money back if not). You can check out the Amazon Warehouse UK or the Amazon Warehouse US.
11. Price Compare
Another great way of saving money is by comparing the cost of your groceries at a website such as mySupermarket. This site stacks up the prices of big-name retailers to reveal who’s the cheapest on each item, and reckons it can save you around 30% on each trip.
12. Discount Gift Cards
I am sure you have been given a gift card at some point in time for somewhere that you never actually shop. You’re not alone. The good news is that people are willing to flog these gift cards for less than their actual worth.
Zeek is probably the main marketplace for buying and selling gift cards, with vouchers for some shops available with discounts as big as 20%. Obviously this won’t save you money if you’re impulse buying, but if there’s a shop you use all the time, or you’re planning to make a big purchase (like electronics), this is a great way to cut costs!
13. Get Free Furniture
It’s usually worth sticking to furnished rental properties to avoid shelling out for (and carting around!) bulky furniture and appliances. But if it’s unavoidable, or you want to make an addition, freecycling is your go-to.
14. Go Own-Label
Own-label goods is often no different than the fancy packaged and overpriced stuff. It can be true for everything from aspirin to coffee at the supermarket, and downshifting from the well known brands to own-label goods also works for substituting overpriced designer clothes for high-street brands.
15. Get Paid to Commute
If it’s a journey you’d be making anyway, recoup the cost of your fare by playing postie while you’re at it. Search for deliveries that need to be made on the Nimber website and, if there’s one you can drop-off, you’ll get the fee (Nimber even cover the cost of parcel insurance). If you can walk or cycle the route you could even turn a profit!
16. Freebies from Bartering
Bartering is a bit like haggling, but with less cash involved. If there’s something you have, can do or are qualified in, you could swap your time, stuff or services for things you need. It works best with small traders or personal swaps, and could include things like free gym entry in exchange for promoting them on social media, or creating artwork for a local restaurant in return for a meal out.
17. Grow Your Own Food
Instead of buying your veg from the supermarket, why not grow your own. It doesn’t matter how much space you have and if you don’t have ground but have an empty wall, give vertical gardening a try.
18. Cancel Unused Memberships
Many people are paying membership fees for clubs that they hardly, if ever at all use. This could be a gym membership or a country club membership. Write down everywhere your money is going and cancel any memberships that you just don’t use. Remember, you can always renew the membership at a later date if it turns out that you actually do miss it.
Take a walk around your house and go into every room and go through every single item in it. First item, Do you need it? Do you use it? Second item, Do you need it? Do you use it? and so on. This may be a difficult one for some people that don’t like to let things go but if you haven’t used an item for at least six months then you probably don’t really need it.
20. Don’t be Scared of Leftovers
Many people feel as if leftovers are just inferior rehashes of regular meals. Many of my friends would never even think of eating anything that wasn’t dished out the first time round. However, there’s nothing cheaper than eating leftovers, and with a few techniques for making leftovers tasty, you can often end up with something surprising and quite delicious on the other end.
21. Take Your Own Lunch Rather than Eating Out
Instead of going out to eat at work every day, take your own lunch with you. It doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day to prepare these meals at home but can save you a lot of money in the process. Your co-workers may not understand your desire to save money, but that’s their problem.
22. Learn to Fix Things
It used to be a lot harder to find out how to fix everyday items than it is nowadays. Websites such as iFixit offer a bunch of free online tutorials and videos that will show you how to fix almost anything from your toaster and iron to your vehicles.
23. Start an Emergency Fund
It can make all the difference. Low-income families with at least £300 in an emergency fund are better off financially than moderate-income families with less saved up. Learn more about emergency funds here.
24. Turn Your Hobby Into a Business
A fun way of earning a little extra money to put towards paying off your debts is to actually make some money from your hobbies by turning it into a business. You have lots of options here but it depends on what your hobby actually is. You could tutor people or if you make physical goods, consider selling them on a site such as Etsy or Amazon.
25. Take Advantage of Free and Discounted Days
You may be surprised at just how many parks and visitor attractions such as museums and national parks have certain days throughout the year where they offer free or discounted admission. Keep an eye out for these days and take advantage of them.
This list is by no means exhaustive. This is only 23 options out of hundreds, if not thousands of ways that you could save money and reduce debt. Want to add to the list? Let us hear your thoughts on Twitter and we will get them added.
Related: 36 Ways to Save Money on Food