Just before I took a little social media break over Christmas, I popped on to Instagram stories to share my experience of giving myself a bit of a financial overhaul. Prompted by being self-employed, the general economic uncertainty because of the pandemic and hopefully at some point in the next couple of years thinking about our ground floor extension, I thought it was time to face up to my finances and get things in check.
As I explained on stories, I’m an all or nothing person. I can either be spectacularly obsessive and know in the minutest detail all my outgoings and incomings, or I try to pretend that nothing is going out and I’ve really won the EuroMillions. It’s not a terribly healthy money mindset to have.
There have been two times in my life where I’ve really knuckled down and got on top of everything: when we were saving to get married, and when we were saving for a house deposit. Anything that wasn’t cemented to the ground was sold on EBay, leading Pete to worry that he may be next but you know what? Good things happen to those are scrupulous and take control.
Getting brutal with myself this time around and really questioning what I actually need, even down to small amounts, has been so eye opening. How many times do you say to yourself “I’ll see if I can get a cheaper deal” or “I must cancel that contract” and then we don’t. I thought given that it’s a new year and all, now could be a helpful time to share what I found.
Went Sim-Only On Mobile Phone (saved £360 a year)
Goodness me the date of the end of my 2 year contract has been etched on my forehead so I didn’t forget it! When I left my old job at the end of 2018, as a “bloody well done that woman” treat I upgrade my iPhone handset, not thinking too sensibly about the fact I was about to be self-employed and really unsure where my next pay check was coming from. With insurance, I was paying over £60 a month. Yep.
As my contract drew to a close, I called Vodafone to discuss switching to SIM-only which is what Pete advised me to do – my handset is in perfect working order and I don’t want a new one. They said they switch could only be made the day after my contract ended so you can bet at 9am on December 21st I was on the phone. For the first 3 months I will be on £16.50 a month and then it will rise to £30 a month – still expensive compared to some deals but I need unlimited data and the fastest download speed for work and ultimately, I’m still saving £360 a year so I’m pretty happy about that.
Top tip: make a note of when your contract is due to expire so you don’t go a day over. Also check to see if you have an early exit too.
Cancelled Magazine Subscriptions (saved £8 a year)
Now this probably seems like quite small fry but I do believe in that age-old saying “take care of the pennies and the pounds look after themselves”. I had a subscription to Women’s Health which yes, I find interesting to read but I can consume roughly the same content online for free, and I’d just end up flicking through the magazine and then popping it in the recycle bin. Bye bye £8. If magazines are your thing, keep it by all means. Otherwise, you don’t really need it.
Top tip: one of my followers said magazines are available to borrow through local libraries so that could be an alternative option.
Cancelled Gym Membership (saved £300 a year)
Let’s face it, 2020 wasn’t really a good year for gyms. Now. I COMPLETELY understand that exercise is a hugely important area for mental health and I’m not for one second advocating quitting exercise to sit around gorging on food instead. I just found that as only a semi-regular gym goer I wasn’t overly committed and I switched to running outdoors instead, plus the added advantage of having a dog to walk daily makes a huge difference. We’re fortunate to have a building in the garden where we already have a rowing machine, weights and will be moving our exercise bike in there once there’s space.
Top tip: many personal trainers took themselves online in 2020 to host virtual classes at little or no cost. It’s a great way to keep moving even indoors and you can find everything from HIIT to Pilates.
Cancel Hidden Costs (saved £96 a year)
This is my killer that I’m so frustrated by. A few years ago, I signed up to extra Dropbox storage when there wasn’t such great phone or online options. I used to use it regularly enough but over time just never got round to logging in. I was being billed £8 a month, by Apple Itunes, via an unremarkable invoice that came to my junk mail folder in my email. So of course it always slipped my mind. I hadn’t logged in in well over 2 years and yet still, there I was paying for it like a lemon so I cancelled it.
Top tip: beware these hidden charges. We’ve all done int – signed up to a service which is free for 7 days or a month and then you forget to cancel it once you’ve got what you needed.
Cancel Online Membership (saved £132 a year)
A while ago I’d signed up to a brilliant online blogging community, servicing members via an online hub and social media. The truth is though that I can be quite undisciplined and just found that I wasn’t putting enough into it to warrant paying out each month. That’s no indictment of the value of the group rather a criticism of my own way of working
Top tip: make sure you’re really, honestly getting value from the services that you sign up for. If you’re not, be ruthless and cut back
Cancel App Subscriptions (saved £50 a year)
I had two annually renewable subscriptions that I’d signed up for via apps – Calm, a recent purchase at £25 a year from October/November time and a plant ID app that I signed up for last year when I was doing a lot of garden reno work. The problem is that both of these auto-renew and again, I realise that I’m not getting the most out of them so I’ve cancelled both of them which means come next autumn it’s already dealt with
Top tip: you can cancel subscriptions at any time and still have access for the time you’ve paid up for. In both Calm and the plant ID app case, I can still use them until autumn 2021 so it’s not a problem at all to cancel them now.
TOTAL SAVING: £946
It really surprised me how easy it was to make savings when I was very honest and focused about it. There are SO many other tips and tricks, some of which I’ve tried and many of which I haven’t but I just wanted to base this on real life examples of the cuts I’ve made. Of course life isn’t intended to be miserable – Netflix subscription is an absolute must have for example!
While these few steps save you money, you can actually earn money with an empty room. There are many students who are looking for affordable accommodation. If you have an empty room (not being used for any purpose), hosting english language students can add a couple of hundred pounds to your savings.
Since I drafted this post, one of my lovely followers has come forward with some really helpful Covid-relevant information which I wanted to incorporate for any of you who may be working from home. Here’s an excerpt from the government website:
You may be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs if you have to work at home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week. This includes if you have to work from home because of coronavirus (COVID-19).
You cannot claim tax relief if you choose to work from home.
Additional costs include things like heating, metered water bills, home contents insurance, business calls or a new broadband connection. They do not include costs that would stay the same whether you were working at home or in an office, such as mortgage interest, rent or council tax.
You may also be able to claim tax relief on equipment you’ve bought, such as a laptop, chair or mobile phone.
It’s quite straightforward to apply for and well worth it, remember those small savings can really add up over time!
It’s also totally ok to reintroduce expenditures into your life should circumstances change – for example, as and when I go back to work full time, maybe they’ll offer subsidised gym membership and it will be convenient for me to head over in my lunchbreak or after work in which case I’d see it as a non-wasteful cost and be able to afford it too.
The feedback from my stories was that it was really helpful for me to talk about it so openly. Often money and finances are seen as a taboo subject when they really don’t need to be. We’re not taught about these valuable life lessons in school (or certainly I wasn’t in the 90s) and it can be all to easy to slip into financial troubles when it really doesn’t need to be the case.
I hope you’ve found this useful and I’d love to hear your money saving tips – pop a comment below!