January is surely the tightest month of them all, with many of us feeling the pinch after the Christmas expense. If you've made New Year resolutions to get your finances in order and bring down your monthly expenditure, then I've got some handy hints for you.
Switch your energy providers
You've probably heard this time and again, but many of us still haven't changed our gas and electricity companies for the best deals. What's stopping you?
Be an energy shopper and you could save around £200 a year. It really is simple to do, and even if you have switched previously, maybe it's worth looking again? New companies, deals and tarrifs come on the market all the time, so it's a good idea to set up regular calendar reminders to have a quick check on an OFGEM approved comparison site. The first time we did it we saved £70 per quarter on our gas bill alone - I had no idea we were paying so far over the odds.
At this time of the year you may not be spending too much time out in the garden. However, it is worth investing some time to check for any wear and tear or damage that may come back to hit you in the wallet later.
Check your guttering is leak-free and clear of those autumn leaves to keep rainwater flowing properly. Damaged or blocked guttering can easily lead to costly damp problems. Check for dripping outdoor taps - especially if you're on a water meter as this could mean you're literally pouring money down the drain. I recently noticed our downstairs toilet cistern was faulty and water was pouring out of the overflow, both risking damp issues and racking up our water charges. A quick change of a washer has fixed it. If you have any outdoor pipes, it's worth getting them lagged before the cold snap finally arrives to save frozen and burst pipes and a huge bill.
Our four-legged friends come at a price. It had never occurred to me to shop around for cheaper vet care, but it's definitely worth doing. Our old dog had a long-term medical condition which required daily medication and regular blood tests and it was only after asking around I realised we were paying far too much at our local vet. We switched to one of the large chain partnerships and paid around a third of the cost for the same tablets, and they also wanted to see her less frequently for blood tests meaning our bills were hugely reduced. We still got great service, but at a much better price.
For maintenance products like regular worming and flea treatment, consider buying online instead of through your vet as you'll often be able to purchase the same product much cheaper.
Finally, pet insurance is something I'd thoroughly recommend. Again, shop around for the best deal and plan for you, but be sure to carefully check excesses and exclusions. I know some people who don't use insurance, preferring to save money themselves in an 'emergency fund' and while this may be a good option for some animals, I think it very much depends. I mean, your fluffy rabbit is hardly likely to ever see you in the High Court, but a dog however could easily nip someone or run out into the road causing an accident leaving you with massive legal bills.
Staying in is the new going out
It's eye-watering nowadays the cost of a night out. Whether it's rounds of drinks at the bar; a trip to the cinema or a meal in a restaurant, the prices just keep going up and up and for many the household budget won't stretch that far.
It's still important to factor in leisure time, so a £10 supermarket meal deal and an evening with a good box set is a bargain by comparison. Plus there's no taxi fare or babysitting bill to pay! Try renting a DVD from your local library and make homemade popcorn for a fraction of the price of a trip to the multiplex.
If you aren't already, do sign up to a cashback site. By channelling your online purchases through one of the sites, you can earn a percentage back on most things you buy. I typically earn around £500 per year so it's well worth doing.
Most of the sites also have mobile apps too so you can even earn money instore, and some offer cutback if you scan and send them receipts of certain products.
So, how are your monthly finances looking this new year? Do you have any great ideas you'd like to share?
This is a collaborative post.