Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Year Resolutions 2014 - Number 4 - Save some pennies

You know the old saying "look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves"? Right, so this is my resolution number 4.

In my younger years, I had no money worries. Now, what I mean by this is that I had no money, but I didn't worry about it. Not at all. When I hit 30, life changed for me, but not because I had reached a year starting with 3. No, my whole life got turned upside down, so I took it as an opportunity and kind of reinvented myself. The time had come to take responsibility.

I took stock, and realised I had racked up a substantial debt without really paying attention to it as it was spread across a loan, store cards, overdrafts and credit cards, none of which on its own was a large debt, but collectively, should have set alarm bells off way before I paid attention. Cue several years of working my way up into better jobs, paying it off.

Since then I have become very keen on using loyalty schemes, bonus points events with the likes of Tesco Clubcard, Sainsburys & nectar, co-op loyalty and am much more careful, and avoid running up debt. I try to save for things like holidays, and put a little aside for christmas each month and so on. This isn't always the most cost effective system though, as if you are paying more for your shopping than elsewhere just because of a loyalty scheme, you would probably be better off spending elsewhere.

Likewise, I have never been the type to shop around for things like home insurance, car insurance etc.. I have just let them renew, usually at quite an increase in cost! So my resolution this year is to be more savvy and save some pennies. Starting with my car insurance which renews this month. That's first on the list. Then I am going to actually start paying attention to the costs of individual items. I tend to just go for what's on offer with bread, meat and so on. But if you asked me how much the average pack of sausages cost, or how much the average block of cheese costs I wouldn't have a clue. Why? Because I look for the products I always buy and just have a resigned acceptance of how much it costs.

Last week however, I read an article on comparing own supermarket brands to branded items in a taste test. I think something like 80% of people couldn't tell the difference!! I think the term is down branding. So for instance, if you usually buy mcvities chocolate digestives, buy the supermarkets own. If you already buy the supermarkets own range, go for the no frills range. Certain things I do think are different - coffee for one - boy can you tell on that! But other things - milk, bread, cheese, bakery items, frozen veg, beans - honestly once part of a meal will not be any different, and you could save big time if you look at the reduction over the year.

I also want to start looking at where else I can save - the utility companies for instance are notorious for price hikes, but how many of us look at the alternatives? I certainly don't, but I certainly am going to!! Even if I only end up with a price fix for a period, at least you know where you are then. Other things you can save on if you pay in one go, or pay off early - quite a lot of products give you a discount for not needing credit. Another thing to investigate further.

I like to enter competitions, and I have some luck with this, but obviously you can't bank on winning anything as its too unpredictable. What it has given me though is a lot of emails from places such as Groupon, Superssavvy, Be addictive, Living Social Deals and loads more, as well as being on the email lists for hundreds of companies. Things the way they are right now in the economy, companies are crying out for customers and regularly offer discounts. I have never paid much attention to them, but over the last few days I have done, and if you can take the time to look at what is on offer, there are big savings to be made. This is next on my to do list.

Likewise, I am going to be more mindful of driving. Particularly, when I de-ice, de-mist, then get in my car to drive all of 2 minutes to get a paper, or a bottle of wine or milk. I shall instead walk - which is more in keeping with my other resolutions of losing weight, getting fit and moving more!!

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