New research by First Direct shows that Britons were more unhappy with their finances in 2011 than in the previous year.
‘Not saving enough’ was people’s biggest financial regret, with 52% of UK adults highlighting this. A third (33%) identified not paying off more of their debts as their biggest financial woe.
Money saving tips for the coming year
Experts recommend that each of us has savings equivalent to at least three months’ salary (ideally six months’) to provide a buffer in the event we’re made redundant or are unable to work.
We’re kicking off 2012 with ten money saving tips to help you get your finances in order. Take these steps, and you should find it a bit easier to build the savings pot you need.
1. Make the most of your ISA allowance
Between April 2011 and April 2012, you’re entitled to save up £10,680 in an Individual Savings Account (ISA). Half of this (£5,340) can be cash.
So, make sure you use up your full cash ISA allowance before you start saving elsewhere. ISA interest cannot be taxed, so you’ll be maximising your savings benefits.
2. Get cashback
If you use a cashback credit card or cashback site, you can make money back every time you buy something.
A cashback card could be right for you if you’re confident you can clear the balance every month (if you don’t, you’ll start being charged interest on the debt).
Alternatively, cashback sites will pay you a small percentage back every time you shop using one.
3. Shop around
Shopping around is one of the most important money saving steps you can take. This applies as much to financial products and utilities as it does to food and clothes shopping.
Comparison sites allow you to compare high street prices with those offered online. And specialist sites (for example, those for petrol or financial products) help you explore specific sectors.
4. Learn to share
Start sharing items and services you would normally pay for individually.
For example, there are now several car sharing websites which help you link up with other travellers to save money on petrol (and cut your carbon footprint).
5. Start swapping
In the same vein, explore initiatives which help you save money by swapping items with others – rather than buying new ones. You could swap clothes, books, tickets and lots of other everyday items.
To find out more, read 10 ways to save by swapping and sharing.
6. Go green
Cutting energy usage in your home will help you save money and the environment. And going green needn’t cost a fortune: There are plenty of free steps you can take to save energy.
Something as simple as fixing reflective foil behind a radiator can make a big difference, as less heat will escape through the wall and more will be bounced back into the room.
Read Go green and save up to £1,000 to find out more.
7. Get a grip on your existing debts
Before you start saving, you need to pay off any existing debts. That’s because the interest you pay on your debts will generally outweigh any interest you earn on your savings.
To cut your monthly interest bill and clear your debts more quickly, considering shifting your credit card debt onto a card offering 0% on balance transfers.
This will give you an interest-free period (up to two years, depending on the card) to get on top of your debt.
For a full guide to getting back into the black, read Pay off your debts in 2012.
8. Squash your food bill
There are several things you can do to cut the price you pay for food and groceries. For example, a slow cooker could prove a great investment, because it will allow you to cook delicious meals from cheaper cuts of meat.
And swapping your shop-bought coffee for a flask could easily save you £2 a day. Read Ways to save on food to find out more.
9. Eat out for less
If you want to treat yourself to a meal out, there are several ways to make it more affordable. Restaurant deals sites like TopTable offer various discounts if you book via them.
And once you have a Tastecard (www.tastecard.co.uk) you can get 50% off at over 5,000 restaurants all over the UK.
10. Make money from your home
Finally, make some extra income by renting out bits of your property.
These days, you can rent out anywhere from your garden or shed to your attic storage or car parking space. Read Make money from your home to find out how.