Guest blog – John Baird – if finances are tight, here are twenty ways to save money

5th June 2014

Whether you have specific financial goals in mind or you are aiming to reduce your personal debts, there is almost always a good reason to rein in your spending and to think more carefully about how you might make savings.

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Below are 20 simple ways that we might all save ourselves some money and start putting our hard-earned cash to better use.

1 – Get organized

Getting organized in our everyday lives and in the ways that we plan for the future is very often crucial to more effective financial management. If you don’t know what funds are coming in and where your money is going out each month then it can be incredibly difficult to make any real progress in getting to grips with your personal finances.

2 – Scrutinize your spending

For many of us, even the thought of looking in detail through an itemized list of financial transactions can be enough to send us into a cold sweat. But if you really want to turnaround your financial position, escape debts or save more regularly then you simply have to front up to what’s really going on with your money.

3 – Be ready to take tough decisions

Profligate spending usually has a few root causes and if you’re struggling to save it is worth reassessing where your money is effectively being wasted. This might mean cutting out certain spending habits that you’ll be sad to see go but which might make all the difference in improving your finances in the longer term.

4 – Learn to say ‘no’

Whether as an individual, a parent, a family member or a friend, there are times in life when you are better off saying ‘no’ than just going with the flow and giving other people what they want. Being persuaded into spending money you could otherwise be saving is no great crime but if you are serious about cutting costs then you should be ready to risk hurting a few people’s feelings along the way.

5 – Cut out expendable vices

The health issues associated with regular smoking and drinking are well documented and the potential savings that come along with quitting or cutting down tend to be seen as secondary concerns and rightly so. However, if you can channel a desire to save money in a way that helps you maintain the motivation to stop smoking of drinking alcohol on a regular basis then all the better.

6 – Use your skills to make extra money

Not all of us have skills we could make extra money from but if you are a mean guitar player or you speak a second language then you might be able to raise extra cash by teaching others to do the same.

7 – Sell some of the stuff you don’t want or need

Selling clothes, toys, sports equipment and anything else you might have lying around the house might seem like rather more trouble than it’s worth. But, you might also be surprised at just how much money you can make by selling a random assortment of stuff you haven’t used for years. These days, there are no shortage of websites designed to help you find buyers for even the most bizarre items. So, with some research and a little effort, you can easily make yourself a few hundred dollars and quite possibly a whole lot more.

8 – List what you need before you go shopping

The best laid plans of mice and men do often go awry. But if you list what you need from the supermarket before setting off you stand a much better chance of coming home without having spent way more than you needed to.

9 – Find out if you can save money on your fuel bills

Utilities bills often rise relatively sharply without consumers being made aware or realising that they could be saving money by switching their supplier. The energy industry is a competitive one and it is worth checking whether you might be able to save money by looking elsewhere. Even what might seem like meagre savings on a monthly basis can add up to considerable sums over the course of a year or more.

10 – Overpay on your mortgage

This option isn’t open to everyone of course and if you’re already up to your neck in debt then the idea of overpaying on your mortgage is unlikely to appeal. But, if you are aiming to save for retirement or for the future more generally, then taking the fastest route to a mortgage free financial scenario can save you very significant sums of money in the longer term.

11 – Consider different mortgage deals

Mortgage deals can often involve being locked-in for a period of time to a particular package but when an arrangement is due to expire it is very important to look around for the best possible option available. Mortgage payments are always likely to make up a sizable portion of your monthly outgoings, so any opportunity to see that figure fall from year to year can make a big difference to your financial flexibility.

12 – Use a pay-as-you-go cell phone

If you’re a very regular user of your cell phone then you should make sure you are on a contract that reflects your usage patterns and does not mean you’re wasting money. Or, if you rarely use your cell phone, then you can save significant sums over the course of a year by buying a simple handset and using it on a pay-as-you-go basis.

13 – Shop for clothes online

You’ll need to buy clothes even when you’re aiming to cut your costs and save money where you can but there is no sense in spending more than is necessary. Rather than heading straight for your nearest designer stores, go online and track down retailers who sell the best of their fashions through ecommerce channels. Because they don’t have to rent space in your local mall, online retailers can pass on their savings to customers and provide quality goods at very competitive prices.

14 – Cancel unnecessary contracts

Whether you’re running a business or looking to whip your own finances into better shape, it is important to cancel any unnecessary contracts you still find yourself involved with. You may have certain obligations to fulfil on the basis of a given contract but if you just keep forgetting to cancel your unused gym membership, for example, then the sooner you squash it the better.

15 – Eat better

This one might seem counterintuitive but the fact is that the most unhealthy foods and meal options out there tend also to be among the most expensive. By making more meals from simple, healthier foods, you’ll find that your grocery shops go a lot further and you can save considerable sums even on a weekly or a monthly basis.

16 – Make your own lunches

Packing your own homemade lunches when you go to work each day can be a real money saver. It is very easy to slip into the habit of spending ten dollars here and ten dollars there on a bite to eat after a tough morning’s work, so making your own meals ahead of time helps keep that money in your pocket.

17 – Take up less expensive hobbies

Without relieving yourself of every enjoyment in life, switching some of your more expensive hobbies for others that cost very little can help you mix up your pastimes and save some money in the process.

18 – Take advantage of sales

Taking advantage of sales can be a good way to save money on gifts for our friends and family, the costs of which can often mount up if they’re purchased in too much of a hurry. The danger of course is that you end up spending more money than you otherwise might’ve because the bargains prove that little bit more irresistible than you imagined. So it’s a fine line but if you manage to show sufficient discipline in the process then taking advantage of seasonal sales at your favourite retailers can be a useful and worthwhile money saver.

19 – Be honest with yourself about what you really need

When you are aiming to save money or get out of debts quickly, there is the potential to view the process of cutting back on your outgoings as an extreme undertaking. You might even find yourself convinced that the whole idea is just too much to bear but with the right approach, there is no need to suddenly start living a Spartan existence. The key is to focus on doing away with what you don’t really need or even particularly want in your life and finding new ways to maximise the benefits of money you will always need to spend.

20 – Revel in small victories

Tackling issues around debt or saving more concertedly for the future can be a significant challenge for any of us, particularly if we haven’t really paid the issue too much attention in the past and our bad habits generally have the better of us. So it is important to revel in a sense of satisfaction when you reach any targets you’ve set for yourself, whether they are small scale and relate only to a few dollars, or they are more overarching and could make a big difference to your financial future.

John Baird has been involved in personal insolvency and finance since the turn of the century and specialises in advising Scots in financial distress. He offers this support though the website Scotland Debt Solutions. You can also reach him here on Google+.

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2 thoughts on “Guest blog – John Baird – if finances are tight, here are twenty ways to save money”

  1. gmelatur says:

    This is indeed a very comprehensive, well thought-out list.
    Thanks a ton, John!

  2. Riya Jain says:

    Your blog is very informative.Thanks for sharing information.

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