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

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.

Free entertainment

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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

    £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

    Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

    £50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker