Just embrace the new austerity, it might even be fun
Don't let the recession get you down. You can save money but still keep your living standards high, say Chiara Cavaglieria and Julian Knight
Sunday 03 May 2009
It's been called the "new austerity", cutting back and saving money in the teeth of the recession. However, finding ways to cut costs but maintain roughly the same lifestyle is tricky, although not impossible. Now that Individual Savings Account (ISA) limits will rise to £10,200 from April 2010, or from 6 October 2009 for the over-50s, this is the ideal time to start downsizing financially. Here are 10 ways to shrink monthly outgoings and build up that savings cushion.
Ditch the car and join a car club
Drivers can join a car club such as Streetcar, Zipcar and City Car Club to rent pay-as-you-go cars by the hour or day and save as much as £1,920 a year. Car-club members pay an annual fee (typically £25 to £60) and then hourly rates of about £5 or daily rates of between £30 and £60 for cars which can be accessed with special smart cards and PINs. Most clubs also offer monthly package deals which could work out cheaper for drivers needing to rent a car on a regular basis. Petrol costs are charged to the club, and with no car maintenance, insurance or tax to pay, the savings could soon stack up. "Research shows that members can save about £160 a month by joining the pay-as-you-go service that Streetcar offers, avoiding all the fixed costs and hassle of keeping a car on the road," says Brett Akker, co-founder of Streetcar.
Swap broadband for a dongle
Broadband providers will often entice consumers with introductory special offers and freebies, but there is no getting away from the fact that internet access is an expensive luxury. One alternative is to opt for mobile broadband or "dongles" which can be plugged directly into a computer to provide instant access to the internet. As with mobile phones, customers can choose a monthly contract for a fixed amount of data allowance or opt for pay-as-you-go. The cheapest monthly tariff from Orange, for example, costs £9.79 for 1Gb of usage. In contrast, the cheapest broadband option with BT costs £7.98 for the first three months, then £15.65 thereafter. Most dongle deals have a usage limit and providers may charge a hefty fee for going over that limit, so always check the terms and conditions.
Trade skills in your community
Local Exchange Trading Schemes (Lets) bring communities together to exchange skills and favours without having to hand over any money. Each scheme sets its own currency, or "mutual credit", which can be earned and then used to "pay" for other skills. Members use their time and skills to build up enough credit to exchange for the skills of other members. "If you need something done, you can see if it's available on the Lets and save your money for things you really have to spend it on," says Mary Fee, from LETSLinkUK. Domestic skills, from gardening, childminding, ironing or even baking a cake are common, but many groups also exchange specialised skills such as language or music tuition.
SIM-only mobile contracts
With mobile-phone contracts getting longer and pay-as-you-go deals still expensive, SIM-only contracts could offer the perfect solution. With these deals consumers are paying for the SIM card only, not the handset, so will typically get more free minutes and texts than they would with a normal contract. The lowest tariff on Virgin's Liberty SIM, for example, costs £10 a month for 200 free minutes and texts, and O2 offers a £10 tariff for 150 minutes and 200 texts. By far the best thing about a SIM-only deal is that consumers can cancel the contract with just one month's notice.
Grab a beauty bargain
Training salons all over the UK offer free haircuts. Being a guinea pig for hairdressing students may sound a bit scary but trained staff are on hand at all times. Trusted names such as Toni & Guy and Vidal Sassoon offer free haircuts in their training academies, but local hairdressing colleges are also likely to need models to practise on. Other pampering luxuries such as beauty treatments and acupuncture may be offered free at training colleges. The British Acupuncture Council has a list of accredited colleges on its website (www.acupuncture.org.uk).
Downsize your TV package
Monthly subscriptions for satellite packages can make a real dent in the pocket. Even the cheapest Sky package costs £16.50 per month. Consumers can save hundreds of pounds a year by ditching their satellite and opting for Freeview. There are still up to 48 digital channels and 24 radio stations to enjoy but without the pricey subscription fee. Digital televisions come with Freeview already built in or a Freeview box costing from about £20.
Anyone under the age of 26 can see theatre productions free, courtesy of a new Arts Council scheme. Those interested can visit anightlessordinary .org.uk and use the postcode search to find local productions with available tickets. "There are lots of ways to have fun without reaching for your wallet; from working at festivals to listen to bands for free, or getting free tickets to be in the audience of your favourite TV show through sites such as LostinTV.com," says Jasmine Birtles, founder of financial website Moneymagpie.com. ApplauseStore.com and SROAudiences.com also offer free tickets to various television shows, and the BBC releases free tickets for its shows through its website.
Ditch big-brand healthcare
When it comes to health products and medicines many people will always reach for the top brand names, but lots of cheaper manufacturers actually use the same active ingredients. This is particularly true of the more basic medicines such as paracetamol and hay fever treatments. Going online can also cut costs significantly for those who regularly take vitamins; but do make sure you buy from a reputable supplier. Healthspan.co.uk, for example, is a website based in Guernsey which offers tax-free prices and free delivery. Internet shopping for contact lenses on sites such as Getlenses.com and even Tesco Opticians can also reap rewards. At Getlenses, for example, a year's supply of Ciba Vision Focus Dailies costs only £199.65, whilst at Specsavers it costs £234.
Free books and music
Music fans can download a live streaming service such as Spotify on to their computers to access millions of tracks free. It is legal and financed by short adverts every half an hour, or a premium subscription with no advertising can be purchased for £9.99 per month. There are also internet radio stations such as Musicovery.com and Jango.com which allow users to create their own playlist of artists. ReaditSwapit.co.uk offers bookworms the chance to register books they have read and swap them for other people's used books. Members set up their own online library, then contact each other through the site to arrange a swap.
Energy-saving swaps at home
Homeowners who trade in old and inefficient appliances can save both the planet and their purse. "The average home can save £340 a year by being more energy efficient, which makes a real difference to household finances," says Paula Owen from the Energy Saving Trust. Energy-efficient boilers can help homeowners to save a third on their heating bills, and an energy-saving fridge-freezer could cut bills by up to £39 a year.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone 6 queue
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...
Day In a Page
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize