How to save money… something not all of us think about in our early twenties. I turn 30 in August meaning I’m slowly waving goodbye to my 20’s and about to plough headfirst into a new decade of my life. I’m actually quite looking forward to turning 30 and not really concerned about it anymore, (I’m the last one of some of my friendship groups and I can see it hasn’t made an iota of difference for my friends) and as Jonathan from Queer Eye says ‘I’m gonna own my 3’. But with 30 comes the notion that it’s probably about time I ‘got my life together’ – whatever that means! On reflection, I’ve had a fantastic twenties. I’ve achieved so much, I’ve done quite a lot – been on some nice holidays, lived abroad, worked for myself etc.
But until about the age of 27 – I was really awful with money – I’m still not perfect now but I’ve had to learn how to manage it. I’ve worked since I was 14 meaning I’ve always had my own money but the more money I seemed to make, the more I would spend – even if I didn’t technically have it!
This manifested itself in my early 20’s into a bit of debt to clear off and I wasn’t worried about money-saving – I was just spend, spend, spend!
Fast forward to my late 20’s and I was like ‘right I better do something about this’ and I really had to knuckle down and learn my money and started researching different money-saving tips that would work for me: a twenty-something renter with zero saving and a bit of a spending habit!
So I thought I’d write all the things I’ve learnt down and start with the big one which is how to save money and all the money-saving tips I’ve personally used.
How to Save Money
Anything I can link, I’ll link below – some may be affiliate links – usually, you’ll get something for signing up through my link too but I’ll make those clear. Finally, I’m not a financial advisor so some of these tips may work for you, and others not so much and if you do choose to sign up to anything, make sure you do your own research first!
Taking control of bills
Make yourself a budget (and budget for a 5 week month every month.)
This is the hardest one to manage at first but one of the best ways that you can save money. Always budget for a 5 week month! This way you’ll never be caught short when the month is a little longer than usual! To work out your weekly budget, take your monthly income and minus all your expenditure – bills, subscriptions, commuting costs – the lot. What’s left over is your disposable income for the month. Then, divide that by 5. – voila, your weekly budget! It can take a bit of practice learning how to stick to it but after a while, you begin to learn your limits.
And what about that 5th week when there are only 4 weeks in the month? Well, there are a few options – overpay any debt you have or whack it in your savings! Of course, you could also treat yourself but if you’re serious on the saving, it’s obviously more preferable to try that.
Treat your savings as a bill.
Remember when I said put all your bills aside before you work out your weekly income? That includes a set amount to put away in your savings account. Even if it’s only a nominal amount to start with, it’s better than nothing! Work out what you think you can afford to ‘pay’ your savings account and keep an eye on it each month!
Get yourself a Monzo card
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard of Monzo; the online bank that everybody seems to be signing up to. I’ve had a Monzo for about two years now and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. Not only does it have no fees on transactions you make whilst abroad (and you get a good mid-market conversion rate), it also allows you to break down your spending to see exactly where it’s going, allows you to move money into pots and is super easy to make payments from.
If you’re not signed up to Monzo yet and want to, here’s my sign up link – we both get £5! SIGN UP TO MOZO HERE (affiliate link)
I literally tell everybody I know to get two apps. The first is Monzo, the second is Yolt! If like me you have accounts split across multiple banks you can pull them into one place and further categorise your spending. Yolt goes one step further and offers category-budget management so you can see what’s going on categories such as eating out, shopping, lunch etc.
I know I sound a little sad but it’s honestly one of my favourite apps and probably one of the best money-saving tips I can give you. It seriously changed how I looked at my money and really allowed me to dig down into what I was spending (read: wasting) my money on
Set up a bill account that has rewards turned on.
You could be earning cashback on your household bills just by having them come out of a certain account! Our joint account is with Natwest who offer 2% cashback on most household bills (with a small account fee of £2 per month). We get a small amount back each month without doing anything. We’re allowing it to build up for something like stamp duty.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I have my money split over a few bank accounts to take advantage of the offers they have. There’s nothing wrong with doing this as apparently it doesn’t affect your credit rating as long as you don’t go around setting up a lot of bank accounts in quick succession.
Turn on the save the change feature
There are lots of accounts that have this feature where they’ll round up your everyday spending and deposit the amount into a savings account or pot. Example – if you spend 80p on Tesco on your morning can of Diet Coke, it’ll take that 20p and store it away. This is a really easy way to save money without even noticing!
Transfer credit card debt onto an interest-free card.
Back in my late teens and early 20’s when I got my first credit card I didn’t know the demon it would grow into. If you have had to get a credit card for any reason and you’re now trying to rid yourself of it, make sure you move the balance on an interest-free card so you can really take a chunk out of the total each month instead of paying interest.
If you can overpay your credit card, even if it’s only by a couple of quid a month, it can make a huge difference to how quickly you’ll get it paid off. I used the Barclaycard Repayment Calculator to work out how long it was going to take me to pay off my balance. It can be a bit eye-opening to see how long it’s going to take you to pay off with just your minimum payment but also really motivating to see how much overpaying by a couple of extra quid a month shaves off your repayment amount!
You don’t need to be a Barclaycard customer to use it – you just pop in the balance and your current interest rate and it does the hard work for you.
How to save money on food
Make your own lunches
When I first got Yolt and moved to London I couldn’t believe just how much I was spending on lunch! I set a budget for it and went over it EVERY month. Finally a few months ago I said enough was enough and started to try and make my own. I started off small with just twice a week but it didn’t make that much difference so a few weeks ago I went the whole hog and started taking my own lunch 4 or 5 days a week! It’s had the desired effect and now I can see how much money it’s leaving over from my weekly budget!
Money-saving tip: If you can use leftovers as your lunch then it’s more money saved!
Change your supermarket to Aldi/Lidl
I remember back in the school playground there was a bit of a stigma attached to shopping at Aldi; it was used as a bit of an insult and shopping there was sneered out. Oh how foolish we all were because now it’s my favourite supermarket to shop at. If you’ve yet to make the switch from the Tesco’s of the world, I urge you to try Aldi and/or Lidl. Granted you can’t get EVERYTHING you can in the big 4, but the quality and price of what you can get make the jump worth it. The trick is to go in with a list and the first time you go in just take your time, have a mooch. You’ll recognise their version of branded items as the packaging is remarkably similar – the price, however, is not and you can save so much money on your supermarket shop!
If you can’t swap to Aldi or Lidl, switch to own branded items where possible!
The rumour that when you buy a branded item you’re paying for the packaging is true! Some own branded items are made on behalf of the supermarkets by some of the same factories that make the branded ones. Now I’ll admit I can’t let go of some of my branded items (beans) but others like cheddar cheese, I switched out for supermarket own a long time ago. If you really are serious on money-saving, cutting your supermarket bill is an easy one to manage and master in your 20’s.
Meal plan and go with a list.
We’ve all done it; been into a supermarket and been sucked in by end of aisle deals and buy one get one frees. Meal planning is a sure-fire way to make sure you’re only buying what you need. It can be a bit of a chore in the first instance but it can stop those impulse buys. It only takes me around 15 minutes a week to plan out meals. I do it on one of my morning commutes the week before. Check your diary, see when you’re going to be eating at home and don’t forget to add your lunch items on (remember point 7!)
Don’t food shop hungry
Nothing much to say here other than don’t do it. Your body cravings will kick in and you’ll end up putting extra in your basket!
Cut out your morning coffee
If you’re a big coffee drinker this one can be the hardest to cut out. But think about it like this, if you’re grabbing your daily morning Starbucks 5 days a week, you’re spending £3 a day before you’ve even got to your desk! If this includes food too it will be even more! Consider getting a box of cereal to leave on your desk and some good quality coffee you can make at home or at the office. Invest in a travel mug if you want to take it on the go!
It doesn’t just have to be a morning coffee. My vice was a can of coke and a chocolate croissant. Not only bad for my teeth but bad for my purse too. £2 a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month = £40 and then I was getting lunch on top – ouch!
1 week rule
You may have heard of different variations of the one week rule. If I see something I really want, I now wait at least a week before I purchase it. This gives me time to consider the purchase, or what is more likely, forget about it. If I’m still thinking about something at least a week after first seeing it, I’ll give myself permission to buy it. Usually what happens though is after about 7 days, I’ve forgot about it.
This method has really helped me cut down my impulse buying. I use to need 10 days but as I’ve got a bit more thrifty, 7 is about enough now – unless it’s an expensive purchase which I try to be more considered about.
Always buy online through cashback websites
You should NEVER think about buying something online without checking if you’re eligible for cashback or not. Cashback websites such as TopCashback or Quidco can help you claw back £100’s of pounds a year (depending on how often you’re shopping online.
Most of my online transactions are usually travel-related – flights, trains, holidays etc and most airlines, hotel bookers and travel providers have a cashback scheme available. I’ve gotten over £100 back after booking previous Disney holidays through cashback websites and flights usually bring in £10-15 per person in cashback depending on the cost.
Sign up though my link for TopCashback -we both get a reward!(affiliate link)
Sign up through my link for Quidco – we both get a reward (affiliate link)
Also don’t forget to check who has the better rate out of the two – companies will offer them exclusive higher rates every so often but never together!
Check if your work has any extra benefit reward schemes
My work (and my previous job) had extra reward schemes as part of their benefits package. This is usually an external site that you can sign up to with your work email address to get things such as cashback, big discounts on gift cards and discounts on products.
I buy my Cineworld card though this scheme every year with a saving of about £70 a year. If you’re thinking of getting a Cineworld card, sign up with my code here (we both get a month’s free cinema):
Sign up for loyalty cards
Loyalty cards can be a great way to start making savings towards future purchases or picking up some free products later on down the line. Currently, in my purse I have cards for Tesco, Boots, Benefit, Nandos, Hotel Chocolate, Debenhams and Tortilla. Some schemes are better than others. I think my most used are my Tesco Clubcard – I have the points turned into Virgin Frequent Flyer Miles, Benefit – I get a free brow wax a few times a year and my Nando’s card – Hello free chicken!
Money-saving tip: Yes these cards are great but turn off the emails and the push notifications they send you. Yes, you may get notified every so ofter about double points but they can also encourage you to buy things you don’t even need.
Shop your wardrobe
Back in January of this year, I set myself a task to not buy any new clothes for three months. I challenged myself to create unique outfits every day and was successful – a sheer testimony to the number of clothes in my wardrobe! If you have a fair few clothes hiding away in draws and at the back of your wardrobe, dig them out and show them some love. When you find old favourites, it’s like getting a brand new outfit – except you haven’t paid for it!
Sell your unwanted stuff on eBay, Depop and at car boots
Time to declutter and get the stuff you no longer need on eBay and Depop. If it’s not valuable enough for online selling, consider doing a car boot when the weather is good and getting rid of large quality of low-value items – very little helps after all!
There are also services such as Music Magpie that you can send off your old DVD’s and CD’s to because let’s be honest, we’re streaming everything these days. It took me a while to part with some of my favourite films and I eventually let them go but I did hold onto my favourite TV boxsets – you never know when they’re going to come in handy!
Join your local library
I’ll be completely honest, this is a new discovery for me. I didn’t join a library until I moved to London but the facilities down here are so good I decided to build it into my routine and so far it’s stuck. Now when I want to read a specific book, I get it from my library. It stops me spending money on a book I’m only going to read once, stops me cluttering up my bookshelves and ensures local services are used meaning they’re hopefully more likely to stick around.
On the flip side of this, I did also donate a few books to my library when having a clear-out. If you can consider this option, I know that your local library (especially smaller ones) will appreciate it.
Buy toiletries when they’re on offer or buy household essentials in bulk
I’ve been using the same deodorant for at least 6 years. It’s the only one that works for me even though I must have tried a good thirty or so! It’s frequently on offer in Boots and when it is, I snap up two or three of them. I don’t normally advocate over buying of products but I know eventually I’ll use this. It also means I never get caught short if I run out and have to buy it at full price.
With other household essentials such as toilet roll, buying 20 rolls is always more cost-effective than buying just 4. Yes, the outlay is greater in the first instance, but in the long run, you’ll have saved money.
Join Facebook Deals groups
This is also a new one for me. Recently I joined lots of money-saving tips groups on Facebook as they are full of people with lots of handy tips on how to save money. I’ll leave my favourites here:
How to save money on entertainment
Make gifts for Birthdays/Christmas
If money is tight or you’re just really trying to watch your spending, consider handmade gifts around Christmas and for Birthdays. Last Christmas, I didn’t buy any Xmas chocolates for anybody and instead baked lots of gingerbread to give as gifts. I think I saved myself about £30 over the Xmas period which was then used for food, and those extra Christmas nights out. Anything I can do to take the strain off my finances at Christmas is always welcome – plus it’s really fun going through the creative process of making the gingerbread (my decorations were better than Adam’s… obviously!).
We all love popping into Clintons to browse their aisles but the reality is, is that there are cheaper places to go for cards. Most people’s cards make it into the recycling after the event so why overpay for them? Check out supermarkets and the Card Factory to make your money go further and save money.
Get a cinema card and take your own snacks to the cinema
Now this one might not make a lot of sense because you’re spending a big chunk of money in advance but getting a Cineworld card is one of the best things I’ve done. I’ve had a card since 2015 and when things are a bit tight before payday, Adam and I just take ourselves off the cinema. Having the cards mean we’re not housebound because we don’t have any money.
Our Cineworld cards offer us 25% off food and drinks also (we have black cards because we’ve had our membership over a year- the red ones offer 10%) but don’t get sucked in and buy something every time you go. If you do need snacks for the cinema, pick them up at the supermarket beforehand or take a reusable bottle filled with squash.
If you are thinking about signing up for a Cineworld Unlimited card, here’s my refer a friend code for one month of free cinema:
Use Voucher Code websites when you eat out
If you’re super serious about money-saving I don’t recommend eating out too often but hey, we’re all human and deserve a treat every now and then. Download some of the voucher apps to see if anywhere has any great deals on before you make your decision!
Eat in with your mates
Eating out can get expensive but it can also limit the time you can spend with your friends without having to spend more money (we usually get tables in restaurants for 2 hours and if we want to keep on gossiping, we usually move to a bar where the drinks keep flowing and more money is spent!). By entertaining at home, there’s no time limit and can work out to be much cheaper. Either take it in turns to host or if one person has ‘the entertaining space’, everybody can bring something different to cover nibbles, mains, desserts and drinks.
I host a Christmas shindig every year at our flat and all my friends bring a dish or drinks. It’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition and I can honestly say it’s one of my favourites (and it doesn’t break the bank!)
This one is for all the people who are paying a monthly gym membership but are never going… CANCEL IT! This is the perfect time to save money. You’re not going to magically start going and summer is the one time of year you can take advantage of exercising in the great outdoors. Find a local running route or park!
Save money on travel
If eligible, get a railcard – it works on the tube too!
This year, the rail industry introduced the 26-30 railcard which saves you up to 30% on rail travel. What some people don’t know, is that it also works on the tube. Just ask a member of TFL staff to add your railcard to your oyster. The railcard costs £30 a year and I made that back in the first 3 months on tubes alone!
Walk to work
I love to take advantage of the beautiful weather in summer and walk home at least once a week, although I usually aim to do it two to three times. Not only does this save me on commuting costs but also gives me a good work out – see getting rid of that gym membership wasn’t a bad idea after all!
Save money on your home and bills
Look at your subscriptions
Admit it to yourself, you don’t need Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky (or Now TV), Audible and Spotify. If you’re looking at how to save money, cutting down on your least used subscriptions can save you a fair amount each month. As we have Sky, I decided to get rid of my Netflix subscription. You can always restart it if there’s something you really want to watch *cough Drag Race cough*
Do you need a TV license?
A controversial one, but if you’re only watching Netflix or catch up (not including BBC services) do you need a TV License? Check out the rules and what you have to do to prove you don’t need one here: ‘Do I need a TV license?’ Could be a great way for you to save money.
Don’t upgrade your phone to save money
When your phone is due an upgrade, if it’s in useable condition – don’t take the upgrade and switch to a sim only plan. You can save an absolute fortune on your phone bill. My old phone contract was £60 a month – sim only is £20 a month on a 12-month contract. That is a ridiculous saving to be had.
Money-saving tip: If you do need to upgrade your phone, take a look at the Apple Finance plans with a sim only sim and see if it works out cheaper (it usually includes Apple Care too!)
Stay on top of your bills
Especially the electric and the water bill. If you find yourself constantly coming in under your direct debit amount, charge the direct debit to reflect the amount. Likewise, if your bills are more than your direct debit, rase it! Raising the amount you pay by a few pounds each month means that you won’t have a big bill creep up on you.
Don’t forget, if you’re living on your own, most councils let you claim a single person occupancy which gives you 25% off our council tax bill. If it’s easier for your budgeting, you can usually spread your council tax out over 12 months instead of 10. Or you might want to stick to 10 and use the 2 months off to put into your savings.
Turn your heating and the lights off
Not to sound like Mama Ruff but turning the lights off when you’re not in a room is a surefire way to decrease your electric bill. Combine it with turning off items at the plug so they’re not on standby, only boiling the kettle when you need it, not leaving the tap running whilst you’re brushing your teeth and putting a jumper on when you’re cold instead of reaching for the heating then there are penny’s to be saved!
If you wear a uniform to work make sure you’re claiming your ‘uniform tax allowance’
And if you’ve been doing it for the last five years, you can even get a rebate.
GET IT. If anything happens you’ll be glad you’ve invested a couple of quid each month to protect your belongings. If you had a fire tomorrow would you comfortably be able to replace everything? If the answer is no, you definitely need home insurance. It’s not just your big electrical items you need to think about, but everything you can see around you.
What to do with extra money
If you happen to come into any extra money from any of the tips above or other methods – rebates etc, you need to decide what’s best to do with it. Most people will tell you to pay it off a credit card before adding it to your savings as the interest rates are higher on your card.
I disagree slightly and I say in the first instance, split it between the two until, and ONLY until you have a comfortable amount in your savings account. For me, that’s two months wages but for you, that could be £200 or £2000. I like to think of it as my safety blanket if I was made redundant tomorrow! After that, I pay all of it off my credit cards – no exceptions! Money-saving tips are all very personal and it’s best to do what is right for you.
This may seem like backward logic but it stops me from having to use the card again. It gets tucked away in a drawer and never really comes out. It also helps you to get used to not just pulling out the credit card to solve your problems.
So those are my top tips on how to save money before turning 30. Combined they’ve helped me get smarter with my money and made it work harder for me. One thing I cannot personally comment on here is if you’re a homeowner, there are also so many ways to make your home more efficient that could save money.
If you have any tips on how to save money, leave them below and let’s help all of us get better with our coin!