WITH the cost of living spiralling, mortgage rates and rent increasing and the energy bill crisis hitting households hard, times are tough right now.
Which means we all need to be careful with money, and make savings wherever we can.
Mum-of-one Francesca Henry, 33, runs The Money Fox, and shares her cost-cutting tips on her Instagram page.
She knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle with money.
She says: “I’ve always been decent with saving until I had my daughter, now 11, and was on maternity leave.
“I really struggled with the low income and found myself getting into debt, despite doing my best to budget.
“I did end up leaving my job as the childcare costs were going to be more than my wage.
“I found a job where I could work from home in the evenings, but it wasn’t well paid.
“It ended up with me barely eating during this period, as my priority was feeding my daughter, and I didn’t have enough for the two of us.”
Here, Francesca shares how she successfully reversed her bad fortune to live debt-free, with her top tips to make some serious savings on your household bills…
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While on a low income, Francesca needed to track every single bit of penny to avoid spiralling into debt.
Francesca says: “Write out all of your bills and spending – you’ll need to go back through last month’s bank statements and add it all up so that you have your real numbers for each category.
“Once you have all of these, it’s time to go through each line and see where you can cut back.
“Ring up your suppliers and see if they can reduce your bills at all.
“Ring your lenders and see if they can reduce your interest rate.
“It helps to start with the ‘big’ costs, as these will make the most difference to your bottom line.”
Quids in with cashback
Francesca recommends always using cashback when you are buying something online.
She says: “There are sites such as Honey, Quidco, Topcashback – you are essentially getting money back on something you are buying anyway, with little effort – it’s a win-win!
“Even if you don’t buy a lot online, it’s worth doing for things like your car insurance renewal.
“The amount of cashback that you can get varies, but you can easily get back hundreds of pounds throughout the year.
“Another great tip is to use a browser extension called Honey, which will pop up automatically when you are checking out online, and it will run through any available coupon codes for you.”
Avoid that sinking feeling
Setting up sinking funds is one of the best ways to stay on top of your finances and not have to reach for the credit card in an emergency.
Francesca says: “This is where you figure out how much you need, for example £300 for car insurance, and divide it by the amount of months you have to save – this will give you the monthly savings you need to make.
“For example with the £300 to save, if you have 10 months until it’s due, this would be £30 a month saving.”
Also, you can threaten to cancel your TV or internet package to see if they offer you any deals to try and make you stay.
Francesca says: “There are certain discounts that they only have access to if you are cancelling, as they want to make sure you stay with them, even if it’s for less money.
“Look on price comparison sites to see if you can find something better elsewhere.
“If you do switch, make sure you use a cashback site.
“When I switched my TV package, I got a free item which I later sold on for £100.
“I cancelled a subscription to a newspaper recently, and they offered me 90 per cent off to stay.
“If you are nervous about calling up, a lot of sites have online chat options – I have used this before when I was with Sky, to save hundreds off my bill.”
Free phone bill
When it comes to your phone, look into getting a SIM only contract as you can get some for under £10 per month.
Francesca says: “If you combine that with the Airtime Rewards app, you could potentially have a £0 phone bill.
“Airtime Rewards is a great cashback app that I’ve been using for a while to get money off my phone bill – I often don’t pay anything at all some months due to this app!
“You just need to link your card and it will automatically register when you have spent money at a retailer that does cashback through them.
“Your cashback will accumulate until you can cash out – but this money goes directly on your phone bill, so you can get money off your phone bill.
“You can also send the money to other people if you want to reduce their bills, for example your partner or children.”
Finally, make sure you get a loyalty card for the shops you use regularly.
Francesca says: “Register your Tesco clubcard to your account if you are with Tesco mobile, as you get a point for every £1 spent on your bill.
“In Esso petrol stations with Tesco shops you can get clubcard points here too.
“With Sainsbury’s Nectar cards there are other sites you can add your Nectar card to, to get points, such as eBay and Argos.”