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10 tips for cutting costs and saving money

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A recent report has revealed that people living in London are struggling to make ends meet. Expensive rent, cost of travel, as well as a rise in food and utility bills, means that the capital is seeing a rise of the Endi - employed with no disposable income.

We decided to ask our readers on Facebook if this was something that affects them, and how they managed their finances and if they thought of themselves as an Endi.

The response was overwhelming, with many of you telling us that they struggle even on very good salaries.

Not only that it appears that this isn't limited to London.

With this in mind we've put together a list of how you can save some extra pennies. We also enlisted the help of money-saving expert Kath Kelly, author of How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day for her tips on what you can do to make your money stretch further.

1. Work out what you don't need to be spending money on

The morning coffee from your favourite artisanal barista, the lunchtime dash to Pret, and the magazine you've picked up on your way home. All of these items are lovely to have but are, essentially, a luxury. You can make your coffee in the office, you can bring your lunch in from home, and magazines are a wonderful luxury.

While we're not suggesting that you never indulge yourself, to start saving money it's a great idea to work out exactly what you could be doing differently and working out what you don't need to spend. And do that you need to make a budget. There are several tools you can use to do this and work out what you're overspending on.

Here are the best we've tried and tested:

Having a realisitic idea of where your money is going every month will help you identify the small costs that could be cut out of your budget. And, as we all know, the first step to great saving is looking after the pennies.

2. How to get your treats for free

"I really missed sitting and having a coffee – you don’t want to feel deprived", says Kath, "make sure you still treat yourself, if you’re thinking of getting a coffee, get a Waitrose card, you don't have to buy anything with it and you can get a free coffee."

Also, if you don't use the internet so much, why not consider just using it at your local library? You'll save on your monthly internet bill and it's free in local council libraries. And when you're at the library you can also read all the glossy magazines you want.

3. Food

According to Kath Kelly, it's now the right time for foraging That's right, free food. "You can go picking blackberries and also cob nuts are very good for this time of year. I’ve got a big bag of cob nuts, which I use for various things such as a crumble topping. They're also very nutritious and you can keep in them for a long time - all you need to do is dry them in the oven. And you don't necessarily need to live in the countryside. Around the edges of Bristol there are lots of green and wild plants. You make things like nettle soup which are freely available are all over the place.

"You can also go mushrooming, although the only mushroom I would pick is a puffball mushroom - it looks like a football. If you want to get some more information on it, then you should look in the library, and also there's a website called Fergus The Forager who is very good. Also, you can ask your neighbours if they’ve got too much or if they grow their own food, why not ask if you can help them out in their garden?"

As for normal shopping, Kath recommends that you go at the end of the day when the bargains come out.

4. Utility and fuel bills

This is difficult as you don't obviously want to put your health at risk or ruin the pipes in your house, but you can cut down on fuel if you really want to.

Kath advocates that everyone should "use less of everything" and the old adage "put an extra jumper on" rings true here. She also says that one January she experimented with using no heating, just surviving on warm jumpers, hot food and hot water bottles. While she doesn't do that anymore, she does say that keeping a house insulated is the way forward, and making sure you have simple things like draft socks, shutting doors and double curtains makes the world of difference.

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council have some brilliant tips on how to keep the cost of fuel down
  • There are also tips on This Is Money on how to save on energy costs such as looking out for free insulation deals
  • Use a fuel comparison website, such as USwitch, to see if you could be saving money on your household bills

5. Transport

"Cycling is the obvious one here," says Kath. "I also hitchhike, which I’ve been fine with, I've even written a book about it called Thumbing Through. Also, if you live in a small-ish town there are free buses that take you to the out-of-town supermarkets, which is very useful when you want to go shopping. If you drive when you're commuting, there are internet sites such as RideShare.com, where you can arrange lifts and share the cost of petrol with more people."

  • Ride Share
  • Cycle Scheme - check with your employer as they might be signed up to the Cycle Scheme which means you can save up to 42% on a bike
  • The Bike To Work scheme is also similar to the above. Again, check with your employer

6. Clothing

Let's face it, we probably all have too many clothes. So why not downsize your wardrobe? There are many ways to do this, you can either sell unwanted items on ebay, if they're still in good condition, or how about trying a clothing swap party. Kath tried this and said it was "a lot of fun, trying on things we didn’t need ourselves. And what everyone had left behind was taken to the charity shop." Basically, this means if you want a new outfit, you don't have to spend any money.

There are many places you can sell or donate unwanted clothes:

  • Buy My Wardrobe is great for selling old designer goods
  • TRAID, which turn clothes waste into funds and resources to reduce the environmental and social impacts, offers a collection service, do you don't have to drag everything there

7. Beauty

We all want to look and smell nice so beauty products are high up on the list of our monthly spends. That said, we don't always have to fork out for the higher end products. Kath says that she regularly buys her products for £1 "and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a generic".

But that doesn't mean she doesn't like to indulge. "For a treat I get samples. If you go in the body shop they’ll always give you a sample for what you’re interested in. That’s a lovely luxury. You go in and ask them if they’ll give you a sample. If you check out online, they often have a samples of new products going on offer, you should make sure you take a look at those too."

8. Shoppers panels

To make a bit of money on the side, which won't take up too much of your time, Kath advises the following:

"There's ebay, of course, to make a bit of extra money but also there are things like shoppers panels, which are usually advertised in shops and libraries. All you normally do is discuss things in a forum setting. Then, for your time, they'll give you some sort of reward, such as vouchers from Sainbury's, or other supermarket and high street brands."

Here, we've rounded-up a list of various shopping panels you can sign up to:

9. Experiments

Many universities run experiments which you can volunteer to be a part of. For example, there are psychology experiments which are non-intrusive, all they want to know is your opinions, you generally don’t have to do anything time-consuming and you'll be rewarded with £5 and £15, although obviously it varies. "It's worth just checking out the university boards, they do it all over the country, and it's usually PHD students looking for people to be in their work," advises Kath.

Current universities advertising experiments:

10. Don't keep track of what you spend

Finally, Kath offers one last bit of advice:

"I don’t think keeping track of your spending is worth while, and it can be quite bleak. If you go out with a small amount of money – make it more fun. See how much you can come back with and get the family involved – see how well they can do in a day. Make it positive rather than negative, think "how well can I do with a little bit" not, "how much can I do without"."

Kath Kelly is the author of the three books, How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day, Thumbing Through: Hitch-hiking tales from my diaries (Kindle), and Square Meals for Tough Times (Kindle)

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