From cashback apps to bill switching, these are the best money-saving hacks to see you through lockdown
In this guest post, Jess and Alice of savvy-saving Instagram account the Fru-gals share their top tips for making the most of every pound, from virtual car boot sales to budgeting basics.
When we first set up our Instagram account, @the_fru_gals, the first lockdown had just begun and many people were learning to live on tight budgets for the first time. Now, with savings accounts dwindling and patience wearing thin, it’s time to drill down on your finances to make sure that you’re getting maximum value out of every £.
But life is tough enough at the moment without cutting out all joy in the name of frugality! With that in mind, we’ve handpicked these easy-to-action tips that will not only help you save money, but could also bring some joy to gloomy winter days.
If you can learn to find joy in spending consciously and wasting less, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier money mindset!
1. Learn to cook your favourite takeout meals for a fraction of the price
Having a nice dinner to look forward to is one of the simplest ways to brighten up a day. But don’t be tempted to reach for the Deliveroo app; learn how to make your favourites in your own kitchen. From sushi to burgers, Nandos to Wagamama, get practicing now and you’ll be all set to host the first post-lockdown dinner parties!
Top tip: don’t be afraid to make frugal recipe switches. For example, swap chicken breasts for cheaper chicken thighs, use honey instead of maple syrup or bulk out meat dishes with pulses (beans, chickpeas or lentils).
2. Have a proper clear out and sell your unwanted things online
Lockdown weekends provide ample time for you to clear out your unwanted clutter, clothes, old electrical items, fitness gadgets, toys and books. Whether you choose to sell them on eBay, Depop, Facebook Marketplace or even at a virtual car boot sale, these are our top tips for a successful sale:
- Be detailed and honest in your description, including facts like the model number and purchase date, and mention any wear-and-tear
- Include at least three well-lit, clear photos of the item, showing it from all angles
- Use popular keywords in your listing title (brand names, size)
- Pick the correct category for your item, so buyers can find it more easily
- Start and end your listings on a Sunday as that's when people are most likely to make an online purchase
- Check the postage costs BEFORE you list, or risk an expensive surprise that will eat into your profits
3. Get fit for free
Regular exercise is vital for our physical health and mental wellbeing, but keeping fit can come at a price. The average gym membership costs £40 per month and that’s before you factor in the cost of expensive clothing and specialist kit. Since lockdown began, home workouts have exploded in popularity, and more people than ever are enjoying the benefits of getting fit for free. Here are some of our top tips to get you started:
- Choose a form of movement that you enjoy - exercise should feel good and not be a punishment! If you are struggling to find something, think back to what you enjoyed when you were a child.
- Take advantage of the thousands of free classes available on YouTube, Instagram Live and other streaming platforms.
- Set yourself a goal - whether it’s completing Couch to 5k (using the free NHS app) or managing to do a 1 minute headstand, a goal will keep you motivated and give you a warm glow of achievement.
- Resist the temptation to splash out on expensive clothing and fitness trackers! Your old shorts and t-shirt will do the job just as well as a £100 pair of designer leggings, and you don’t need a heart-rate monitor to tell you whether you’ve worked up a sweat!
- Ask friends and family or keep an eye on sites such as FreeCycle for basic equipment like hand weights, yoga mats and skipping ropes. You’ll be surprised how many people have unused equipment they would be happy to loan/ give to you.
4. Make your phone your secret money-saving weapon!
There are so many fantastic apps out there which we use to keep track of our spending and save money on every-day purchases. Here are some of our favourites:
- GreenJinn and CheckoutSmart. These are two of the best cashback apps available. Offers are updated every Monday and include food and drink, toiletries, cleaning products and pet food. To redeem an offer, simply select it on the app, then buy the product in the specified supermarket or online. Next, use the app to photograph your receipt and when it has been approved, you’ll be credited with your cashback either directly into your bank account or via PayPal.
- Monzo. A major appeal of a Monzo account is that it can be entirely managed through your smartphone. It has lots of great features to help you take charge of your money such as saving pots, spending budgets and a salary sorter. Monzo also boasts zero transaction fees, free cash withdrawal abroad, and it's now got a new ‘get paid early’ feature which allows users to be paid their salary or student loan a day early.
- OLIO. We absolutely love this app, which was created to help to tackle the problem of food waste. OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food (and non-food items) can be shared for free. It’s so easy to use; simply browse the listings in your area and ‘request’ anything which takes your fancy! You can then message the lister direct to arrange collection.
5. Budget treat spending
We often justify our splurges by telling ourselves “I’m saving so much money by not going out” and “I deserve a treat to cheer me up”. This may be true, but using those excuses every time you want to buy something can result in some serious over-spending.
If this is a problem for you, try estimating the amount of money that you would spend on going out per month. Allocate half that amount to your savings, and use the rest to spend on takeaways or other treats throughout the month. That way you can still enjoy nice things without any guilt!
6. And finally… compare your bills
Electricity, gas, internet, phone, insurance… if you think that you might be paying too much, now’s the time to compare, switch and save.
When you decide to switch, it is always worth contacting your existing provider first to see if they can offer you a better deal. If not, get yourself onto a comparison website such as MoneySuperMarket or GoCompare.
If you are looking to save money on your energy bills, it’s worth exploring the Money Saving Expert Autoswitch tool. You tell it your priorities (eg, price, service, name you know, green, fixed, exit penalties) and it then compares and picks your top tariff based on that. Then, annually, with just a one-click verification, it auto-switches you to your new top deal, based on those preferences. If you have a Monzo account, also remember that you can earn up to £50 credit if you change energy provider through the app.
So there it is! We hope that this quick guide has given you some new ideas that will help you make more of your money this year. We have over a hundred money-saving tips on our Instagram page (follow @the_fru_gals) where we post content every week. If you have any questions we would be happy to answer them -just message us directly on Instagram!