Times are tough and households all over Britain are tightening their belts. Whatever income bracket you fall into, the chances are that you’ll want to cut down your costs and minimise your taxes. Here are 101 ways to do just that.
1. Take control of your budget. Decide what has to be paid and calculate how much you have to spend in the week ahead.
2. Keep a record of your spending. It helps to see where you can save.
3. Think about everything you’ve thrown away in the past year. Then ask yourself why you bought it. It’s a helpful guide for future spending.
4. Save money on insurance by shopping around for the best deals, and only pay for the level of cover you need.
5. If you’re nearing the end of a fixed-rate mortgage contract, you can save money by re-mortgaging at a better rate. Prioritise your debt. If you have multiple loans or credit cards, pay off the ones with the higher interest rates first.
6. Get rid of your current account package: you could be paying your bank as much as £300 a year for additional services you could buy much more cheaply elsewhere.
7. Shop around for credit cards. You can make significant savings by choosing the right ones and working out the best borrowing cycle on them to avoid as much interest as possible.
8. Better still; don’t use your credit cards. Using cash whenever possible will avoid interest and give you more sense of control over your spending.
9. Mortgage interest rates are usually lower than those for personal loans. So think about extending your mortgage rather than taking a new loan.
10. Keep an emergency fund, to avoid taking out loans at high interest to cover unanticipated situations.
11. Regularly review the interest you’re getting on your savings. If you can do with a different bank or building society, move your account there.
12. Go green at home. Insulating your roof and your walls could pay for itself in a year or two with the savings in winter heating.
13. Install smart electricity and gas meters. They have the potential to save you well over £100 a year.
14. Save money by moving to metered water. The meter is usually free and most companies will allow you to move back to fixed charges if your bills rise.
15. Even the smallest garden or balcony can grow a surprising amount of vegetables and you’ll be amazed how much you can save at the supermarket.
16. Consolidate your communication costs. Most providers will now sell you a package deal of television, phone and internet at a discounted price.
17. Are you paying for digital TV channels that you don’t watch? Change to a mix that only includes the channels you really want.
18. Do you still need a landline telephone? You probably use it only rarely and you can save money by cancelling it.
19. Are you using all the included minutes in your mobile phone plan? If not, you can cut costs by moving to a cheaper option.
20. Forget about telephone directory enquiries. Google is free!
21. Use rechargeable batteries. They pay for themselves in just five cycles.
22. Turn off electrical appliances, such as televisions and computers, at the wall when they’re not in use.
23. Install energy efficient light bulbs.
24. In winter, turn your heating thermostat down one degree. It could cut your heating bill by 10%.
25. Wear a sweater and turn the heating off.
26. Are your gas and electricity suppliers giving you the best prices? Shopping around could save you hundreds of pounds a year.
27. Shutters on your windows will keep the heat in during winter and save on heating.
28. Are you eligible for assistance under the Home Energy Savings Programme? This could bring you savings on power bills.
29. Get a more energy efficient boiler. You could save as much as 40% of the power you now use for heating water.
30. Another way to save money on power or gas bills is to double glaze your windows. This can cut heat loss by half.
31. Save money on insurance – household and car – by shopping around different companies. Make sure you only pay for as much cover as you need.
32. Pay your insurance premium annually if at all possible. You’ll save a considerable amount by avoiding the higher monthly payments.
33. Cut the amount of toothpaste you use by half. You only need a small amount and the family savings will add up over a year.
34. Take care of your teeth by brushing and flossing regularly, you’ll save a lot of money on dentist bills.
35. Take care of your health with exercise and healthy eating to cut down on doctors’ bills.
36. If you need medications, ask your doctor to prescribe generic drugs and avoid paying for fancy packaging.
37. Instead of buying bottled water, buy a filter and attach it to your tap. Most of the bottled water on sale today comes from a tap just like your own.
38. Stop buying expensive brand-name cleaning products. Vinegar, baking soda, yellow soap and peppermint oil will do it all just as well at a fraction of the cost.
39. Make a list before you go shopping. Then only buy what’s on the list. This will help control your budget.
40. When you come home from shopping, review your purchases. See where you can save money next time.
41. Plan your eating for the week. You’ll save a lot by not going to the corner store to buy ingredients for a last minute menu idea.
42. The average UK household throws out £420 worth of edible food each year. Rationalise your shopping and cooking.
43. When you get to the supermarket, avoid the big name brands and buy own brand products. They’re the same product in a different package and you’ll save a lot of money.
44. Buy clothes at end-of-season sales. They’ll be marked down to as low as twenty per cent of the new season price.
45. Use only half as much laundry detergent as the manufacturers recommend: they want you to run out soon and buy more.
46. Wait until you have a full load before running your washing machine. The less often you run it the more you’ll save.
47. Modern washing machines and modern detergents wash effectively in cold water. You’ll save on power bills by not heating the water.
48. Sell your clothes dryer. You’ll save on power and you’ll save on clothes too, because they’ll last longer.
49. Do you really need to buy a newspaper every day? You can read most of them online, free. This can be a massive saving over a year, and you won’t have all that messy ink on your hands.
50. Stop paying supermarket mark-ups on fruit and vegetables. You can save money buying fresher, locally grown produce at your local market.
51. Familiarise yourself with one of the supermarket comparison sites available online. They’ll help you save by finding the lowest prices on grocery items.
52. Use loyalty cards for discounts in big chains. Many of these can yield substantial savings over time.
53. Buy second hand. The price of cars, furniture and white goods drops drastically the minute they leave the showroom. You can make substantial savings on goods that are in as-new condition.
54. Look for the low energy logo when you buy white goods. They really do use less power and that means you save on power bills.
55. Bake your own bread. A loaf that costs £1.50 to buy will cost you 40p to make and take about ten minutes actual work time, even less if you invest £80 in a breadmaker.
56. Try your hand at DIY. There are a hundred household maintenance tasks that can be done with very little skill. And there are a hundred sites online that will give you step-by-step instructions. You’ll save yourself a lot of money.
57. Are you a gym bunny? Instead of driving to the gym and paying for a cardio class, go running or jogging. You’ll not only save the gym fees, but the petrol you use to get there.
58. If you shop online, learn to find and use discount codes. Sure, they’re a marketing gimmick, but you’ll be able to get up to 10% off many online products.
59. Don’t hesitate to return faulty goods for a refund. Knowing your rights in this area can save you wasting money on products that aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.
60. Resist the commercial feeding frenzy as the holiday season approaches. You can save hundreds of pounds and months of financial misery by drawing up a Christmas budget and sticking to it.
61. Delay major purchases. When you think about buying something inessential, wait for a month and then decide whether you really want it. This personal cooling off period may save you from major expenditure.
62. Ask for discounts on big-ticket items. Times are tough for retailers too. The chances are that, faced with the choice between no sale and a discounted sale, they’ll go for the discount.
63. Learn to distinguish between needing something and wanting it. The difference can be a substantial saving.
64. Entertain at home instead of going out. It will cost you about the same to entertain eight people as would dinner and drinks for two in a restaurant. And those other three couples will reciprocate, meaning three virtually free nights out in the weeks ahead.
65. Minimise car use by planning to do several errands on a single trip. You’ll save on fuel bills.
66. Even better, limit the use of your car altogether. Walk wherever possible. You’ll save money and feel better.
67. Check out your local public transport. It may be just as convenient as driving, and almost certainly cheaper, particularly if you would have to pay for parking.
68. Shop around for fuel. There are sties online that will locate the cheapest fuel in your neighbourhood.
69. Did you know that driving at 70 mph uses nearly fifteen per cent more fuel than driving at 50 mph? Keep the speed down and save. You could save on speeding fines as well!
70. Don’t use your car boot for storage: driving all the extra weight around will significantly increase your fuel usage.
71. You can also save money on fuel by keeping tyres properly inflated. Underinflated tyres can decrease your miles per gallon by as much as 10%.
72. Your car air conditioner runs on petrol too. You’ll save on fuel by turning it off when you don’t need it. Opening a window works just as well.
73. Car sharing can make a huge difference to your transport costs. You’ll save on fuel; you’ll save on wear and tear and you’ll even cut down your carbon footprint. Average annual savings here are about £1,000.
74. Instead of buying books, borrow them from a library. It’s cheaper and you won’t have to dust them.
75. If your profession is one which can be operated online, think about working from home. Many firms are happy to hire online employees because of the saving in overheads, and you save plenty on transport and cappuccinos.
76. You can make big savings on holidays by using the internet. You can find bargains online that won’t be available in tourist agencies.
77. Beware of no-frills airlines: their additional charges may bring the cost up as high as or higher than the national flag carriers if you don’t read the fine print.
78. Don’t pay full price for train tickets within the UK. Check the train company sites for promotions that can save you a lot of money.
79. Book early for holidays: that’s when you’ll find the bargains.
80. Don’t use a credit card abroad, instead use a debit card – you’ll pay much less in charges.
81. Make sure you’re using the right tax code. You’ll find the tax code allocated by HMRC on your payslip, but sometimes that code may be incorrect. If your code is wrong, you could be paying too much tax – or too little, in which case you’re in for a nasty surprise at the end of the tax year.
82. Find out if you’re eligible for a deduction on your Council Tax bill. If you live alone, you’re eligible for a 25% deduction. Because this is based on the number of people for whom the house is the primary residence, you may also be eligible to a discount if this doesn’t apply to anyone living there.
83. Make sure you claim all he expenses you’re entitled to. The rules for expenses are pretty convoluted but, if you understand the underlying principle you’ll be on the way to getting it sorted. That principle is that if expenditure is required solely for the generation of income, it’s an allowable expense.
84. Find out what allowances you are entitled to. You may not be claiming such items as the mileage allowance for using your car for business. Some of these can make a big difference to your tax bill.
85. If you own property which generates income and you have a non-working spouse, put the property into their name. They’ll qualify for a personal allowance and this could save thousands in tax each year.
86. Don’t procrastinate. Missing the deadline for submitting your self assessment will cost you £100.
87. Maximise your pension contributions. The extra you pay into your pension will be deductible from your taxable income.
88. Take advantage of the maximum £10,680 ISA allowance for a tax break on your savings.
89. If you have children, set up a trust fund saving account for them because you won’t pay income tax or capital gains tax on it.
90. If you don’t pay income tax, make sure that you’re not having tax deducted from the interest on your savings.
91. Keep comprehensive records so that you can include all expenses when it’s time to fill in your self assessment return.
92. Check your National Insurance payments. You may be overcharged in some situations, particularly if you have a job and your own business on the side.
93. Sign up for Cyclescheme, in which your employer buys you a bike and then deducts the price from your wages over the following year. Because you pay no tax on the repayments, you’ll end up getting the bike for about half price.
94. Charity begins at home, but it ends at tax time. Keep records of charitable donations and claim them as deductions.
95. If you’re facing a divorce and the handing over of assets, ensure that the transfer is complete before the end of the tax year in which you separate. In that way you avoid the risk of paying capital gains tax.
96. If you’re not facing divorce, think about putting all your assets in joint names. This is the way to take maximum advantage of both your personal allowances.
97. Child care costs provided by your employer are eligible for an exemption of up to £55 per week. Make sure you claim it.
98. Claim for a work room at home. You can claim back part of your power and telephone bills and even a proportion of mortgage interest or rent if you use the room for work.
99. You can put a room to work for you by taking a lodger. You can receive up to £4,250 tax free rent per year.
100. If your employer pays you less than the statutory rate for using your own vehicle for business purposes, you are entitled to claim a deduction on the balance in your tax return.
101. Do your own search online for even more ways to save money and minimize your tax.