The presenter of Superscrimpers (Channel 4) has a month by month guide to how you can aim to save £1,000 over the year.
While it’s still fresh in your mind, buy a notebook and record, accurately, how much you spent on Christmas. Saving money takes time and effort; to get the £1,000 back in your bank account, you’re going to have to work for it.
Pay £100 less this year on your debt. Make an inventory of everything you owe, including all your credit cards, in order of interest charged.
Jan, an airport worker who featured in the first series of SuperScrimpers, had five credit cards with variable levels of interest, and although she paid back more than the minimum each month, she did so to the card she “felt most guilty about using”. You need to be a bit more scientific than that; if you are even a half-reasonable credit risk, there will be zero per cent offers out there, and also ones at about six per cent. That’s a huge saving on rates that can be as high as 30 per cent.
Reputable high street banks also offer loans to pay off credit cards, and I doubt they will charge more than ten per cent. Compare offers at moneysupermarket.com/credit-cards.
James, the cameraman in series one, saved several hundred pounds by doing this.
Pay £100 less this year on the combination of TV/telephone/ internet access. Consider restricting your TV subscription to the school holidays, or bundling all three together and moving to the cheapest offer. And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to your existing provider and ask for a better deal.
If you have savings, challenge yourself to make £100 more from them than you did last year. Difficult in this interest-rate climate, but think about starting a Children’s ISA for a child, grandchild or godchild, which you can do not only with cash but also with a basic stock- market investment.
Find a savings product that is easy to understand and buy and that gives you access to the stock market on a straightforward basis (ie, no fancy bells and whistles that not even the financial engineers themselves understand). I save into Fundsmith, and it offers an ISA and a Junior ISA option, too. More information at www.fundsmith.co.uk.
Easter is this month, and the first long school holiday. Spend £100 less on entertaining the kids. You will be astonished at how much is still available for free – when did you last visit your local library? There is a lot more there than books – DVDs, games, classes.
Plus, lots of really interesting places are completely free – I plan to take my sons, aka the Cost Centres, to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Check whether you are on the best mobile phone tariff – 75 per cent of us are paying too much. Analyse your bill using the same software the phone companies use at the comparison site mobilife.com and see what the best deal you could get is.
Save £100 getting things done in the house or garden. Always wanted that shelf put up or bed weeded? Barter will be the new currency in the flatlining economy.
Men, how about swapping odd jobs for ironing? Try swapz.co.uk.
Check your credit rating; do this annually and make sure there are no errors. One place you can do this is experian.co.uk
, and it only costs £2. If companies are holding wrong information, or even partial information, you will be paying more for credit than you need to.
Spend £100 less on going on holiday. Stay at home instead of going abroad, and think of swapping houses to save on accommodation. Have a look at homelink.org.uk.
Challenge yourself to earn at least £100 extra this year. One way is to let out a room to students – did you know you can earn up to £4,250 from renting out a room in your house without having to pay tax on it? If you live near a university or college, get in touch with their housing department.
Get £100 back from your energy provider. Do you pay your bills by direct debit? Then over the summer you will probably have built up credit. Phone with your meter reading and, if they owe you more than £100, ask for your money back. When we filmed an item like this for SuperScrimpers, my make-up artist was hovering nearby. A week later, she admitted that she had gone home and checked and found she was £1,000 in credit! I called the energy company and got £650 credited to her account and her direct debit reduced by £20 a month.
Save £100 a year on your car insurance. Is your partner considered less of a liability than you are? If you are insuring a child to drive a car, and have older children living with you, add them to the policy (and you, too) and see the premiums fall.
Christmas is here again. Look back to page one of your notebook. What did you spend last year? Cut it by £100. If by the end of the year you have not saved £1,000, you will at least be more financially literate – a goal for everyone, especially women.
This is an edited version of an article in the issue of Radio Times magazine published 17 January