We are in that strange time of year when the holidays feel like they were forever ago and yet the winter just will not end. We all have a hard time getting through the start of the year. Many of us are still doing our best to get a hold of our finances again after the spending excesses of the festive period, the weather is cold, wet, and generally depressing, and we have coughs and colds to deal with on top of a workload that never seems to get any lighter.
When things are as difficult as they are right now, it can be very easy to lose control of your budget. Of course, we do more impulse spending when we need to find ways to keep ourselves entertained. Of course, we spend more on our bills when we need to keep the cold weather at bay. And of course, we get into some bad habits when things are generally overwhelming. But the truth of the matter is that we all have reasons to be apprehensive about our budgets in the months ahead. We know that there are rising energy costs that will cause serious difficulties. We know that the price of food in supermarkets is going up and up. And we know that the government is still planning on raising our taxes in the near future.
In short, the cost of living is only going to go up, which means that we are all going to have to get proactive this spring to make sure that we have enough to get by. We have put together a few smart ways that you can save a little extra and make a little more in the months ahead.
Saving: Make A Proper Budget
Most of us know how much we have available to spend every month, and most of us have some idea of how much we have in our bank account at any given time. However, there is a big difference between having a pretty good estimate and knowing exactly what you are working with. If you want to start making more sensible choices this spring and beyond, then the best first step is to sit down and really get to grips with your finances.
Head to your online bank account and look at your transactions from the last few months. Find out exactly how much you are spending each month on essential costs, such as your bills, your food shopping, and your rent. Look at how much you have been spending on leisure and entertainment, as well as treat costs such as drinks out and coffees on the way to work. Knowing where your money is going is the best way to start saving.
Earning: Find Ways To Earn Money At Home
It’s all very well to say “earn cash online” but it can be tricky to know where to start. If you do not have the time to commit to freelancing enough to actually earn some decent money, then there are plenty of ways that you can add some extra cash to your account that are a lot less time intensive. For example, you could look at doing some website testing, or filling out surveys to earn some money. There are plenty of apps and websites that can help you to sell some of your unwanted possessions if you need to clear some space as well as get some cash back. We are all sitting on plenty of impulse purchases made to keep ourselves busy and healthy over the last couple of years, and you may be surprised by how much you can make from them.
One of the most effective ways to earn money online is by utilising refer a friend schemes that are offered by your providers. With Lebara, you could earn up to £50 every time you refer a friend or family member to sign up to their SIM-only phone plans. What’s more, they will get 50% off their first three months of service. To learn more about their international service (which covers 41 countries around the world), their 30-day rolling plans and their network, visit Lebara.com.
Saving: Start Getting Ruthless
When it comes to savings, there are some cuts that are easier to make than others. Without wanting to generalise, these tend to be the smaller costs that we can say goodbye to without worrying about them having too big an impact on our lives. We are talking about deciding that we are going to take a thermos of coffee into work with us instead of buying one on the way in. Similarly, making more of an effort to cook at home instead of eating in restaurants or getting takeaways will help you save a lot in any given month. However, even though things like deciding to wait until you have a bit more cash in your account to make that online purchase will make a difference, you are going to have to get a lot more proactive if you want to see a real impact on your budget.
Refer back to your budget spreadsheet and start with small recurring costs. Once you have addressed those, then it is time to think about those bigger bills. It can be worryingly easy to lose track of direct debits, for example, partly because it can seem like more of a hassle to go through and cancel them. Well, if you are looking to save then you are going to have to navigate some website cancellation pages. For example, streaming services are never that expensive individually, but they certainly add up once you have more than one. Are you really going to the gym or the cinema often enough to justify that monthly fee?
When it comes to bills, we know that it is tricky to switch energy providers right now ahead of the cap being unfrozen, but what about your other providers? Look for better quotes online and don’t be afraid to let them know that you might be thinking about switching to see if they can offer you a better rate.
Earning: Make A Freelance Profile
If you find that you are not bringing in enough money from your day job to get you through every month, then it is time to add a side hustle or some freelance work. Now, it will not surprise you to learn that freelancing is incredibly competitive. The number of freelance and self-employed workers in the UK may have dropped recently, but if you are just starting out then you will have a lot of ground to make up. This is not something you can just dive into with no preparation.
Start by putting together a portfolio of your work. This needs to illustrate what you can do and how much experience you have. Try to make sure that it is not too extensive and that is easily digestible. Think about whether a website would be a useful asset for your profile, or whether a social media presence would be enough. You will need to put together a professional network, so do not be afraid to reach out to colleagues and clients to let them know that you are available for freelance work. You will of course need to use some discretion here and think about whether your current role might preclude you from contacting businesses or people that you currently work with. Be active on social media and show what you have to offer.