We live in a consumerist age, bombarded virtually every waking hour with marketing material designed to make us want the shiniest gadget, the fastest car, the fanciest meal or the latest fashion.
These are the trials of modern living and things that our parents or grandparents – brought up in an age of frugality – rarely faced. Many financial experts agree that the power of marketing and advertising have made us forget how to live well but frugally and resulted in the highest levels of personal debt in our history.
For individuals, the effects of not being able to control spending can be catastrophic: out-of-control debt, maxed out credit cards, defaults, County Court Judgements (CCJs) and the anxiety that comes with not being in control.
Yet, it is possible to live a good life while still being frugal by following some pretty simple rules. If you live frugally, then you’ll be much more likely to keep both your spending and your debts under control. And if you can keep your debt under control, it will release more money for the things that are important in life.
Watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves
A phrase that was once familiar to our grandparents – but has recently fallen out of common usage. It contains an important wisdom: when you learn how to save money on small things, you will be surprised at the effect this has on your finances after a week, a month or a year. Most of us are unaware of the amount of money that flows out of our accounts on all the habits we have picked up.
How much do you spend each day on the latte from the coffee shop? Do you think about how much water you need to put in the kettle before you boil it? Just because it’s on a timer doesn’t mean that the central heating needs to be on when it’s unseasonably warm outside. Do you always leave the TV on standby when nobody is watching it and are you aware that this constant trickle of wasted electricity mounts up over the course of a year and can add £20 or £30 to your bill?
Consider making a flask of coffee before you leave for work. Just put a mug’s worth of water in the kettle instead of filling it when it’s only you drinking tea. Turn off the heating. Switch the TV off at the wall. None of these things will impact on your standard of living in any way but they will, over time, save you a tidy sum. And the best thing is… nobody will notice anything different.
Learn to budget
If it feels like your finances are out of control then it’s a fair bet that they are.
No company would be able to exist without setting a budget and sticking to it – cash flow would quickly prove impossible and the debts would mount up leading to severe difficulties or liquidation.
Why do we run our households differently? What makes us ignore our income and outgoings, preferring instead to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that none of it is really happening and the good ship continues to sail through calm waters?
When you first learn to set a household budget, the process can be frustrating, boring and time-consuming but once it is set up, it’s simple to keep on top of things and know – every day – where you are financially.
If you know how to use spreadsheet software, then this is the simplest way to set a budget and to monitor your financial situation. List all of your outgoings – from the mortgage right down to how much you plan to spend on little treats each week. Then put in your income in another column and deduct outgoings from that.
If the cell with the total is red with a minus sign next to it, then you know you’ve got a problem and need to adjust on the non-essentials. Set individual budgets for groceries, going out, coffees, lunches… everything. Be completely honest about where you spend money, keep your receipts and bring the budget up to date at the end of every day.
If you do this, you will get your finances back in order quickly because it will be obvious where you can and should cut back.
How is getting fit going to save you money? Pretty simple: once you get off the sofa and start taking some exercise, it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t need to fuel up on quite so much expensive, high-salt and high-sugar foods and you’ll be more inclined to walk, cycle or jog to places close by instead of jumping in the car.
Getting fit and staying that way is a discipline that can be learned by almost anyone. And disciplined people are more likely to keep on top of their finances than those who aren’t.
Physical activity is also proven to ward off depression or periods of low mood – those periods in our lives when we are suffering from poor self esteem and when we are more vulnerable to advertising. Those times when we use retail therapy to cheer ourselves up and hang the consequences.
Prepare your own food
Another tip that can benefit our health and our bank accounts at the same time… By buying fresh and raw ingredients and preparing healthy meals from them, not only will you inevitably save money on all those ready meals but you will also be cutting down on refined sugars, excess salts and the trans fats that are increasingly being shown to increase the chances of developing major diseases.
If you have a local farm shop, try it. The fruit and vegetables are likely to be more local, fresher and cheaper than those you find in the supermarket. Buy specific cuts of meat from the counter or butcher rather than pre-wrapped joints. They will be cheaper.
Cooking doesn’t need to be elaborate: most excellent and nutritious meals can be prepared in under 30 minutes saving you both time and money.
Article provided by Solution Loans, a technology-led finance broker specialising in a providing expert advice alongside a broad range of financial products – with the aim of helping clients find the most suitable types of credit