Our mission at Money Dashboard is to help people from all walks of life be happier and more successful by mastering their money. That's why we've trawled the internet for the wisest bloggers out there and have brought them together as our very own Money Maestros. So if you want to turn over a new leaf this month, then read on.
We've curated their smartest pieces of advice, added a few thoughts of our own and turned them into a series of straight-talking money-saving tips. As well as adopting the advice in these tips, you can be good with money by downloading our free budgeting app and see exactly where you're overspending.
Make money while you shop
Earn money every time you spend on groceries, electricals or new clothes by joining cashback sites like Quidco. Money Maestro Lisa of Empty Pocket Guide has already made £500 by shopping through them, proving their money-making potential. You could also sign up to a mystery shopper service, and get paid for your feedback on your experiences. If you prefer to stick to traditional discounts, join members only sites for huge flash sales – just be wary of making impulse purchases.
Recycle bulky items
Getting rid of furniture, appliances or other bulky belongings doesn’t have to be expensive. If it's your car that's got to go, try Giveacar; it collects and recycles vehicles for free, donating the proceeds from the scrap to charities. Money Maestro Miss Thrifty recommends Shiply if you're sending the item on to a new home; it connects you with transport companies offering discounted rates on routes they're already using. This one isn't free, but you could still save up to 75%.
Maximise holiday spending money
Before heading to your holiday hot spot, compare currency rates to make sure you're getting the most from your money. Money Maestro Mummy Money Matters keeps an eye on the best ones, giving you a point of reference when you're exchanging currency. If you're having your money delivered, remember to factor that cost into your final decision, as it could eat into any potential savings.
Withdrawing money while abroad
If you need to withdraw from cash machines while abroad, the ATM provider often won’t give you the most favourable exchange rate and will add a service charge on top of what you take out - likely around 1% of the withdrawal but sometimes more.
To minimise costs it usually makes sense to withdraw in the local currency and take out enough to last you for at least a few days so that you’re not subject to those charges repeatedly. If you bank with a modern challenger bank like Monzo or Starling Bank it can also make sense to pay for things with your card where possible as you shouldn’t be charged for doing so and can keep cash withdrawals to a minimum. Be sure to check the terms of your account to see what makes more financial sense for you.
Sell unwanted possessions online
De-clutter and boost your bank balance this winter by selling unwanted items online. Old gadgets and clothes you never wear can easily be converted into cash using sites like eBay. You can often make more by selling privately than using trade-in sites – just be sure to keep track of your postage and packaging costs. As Money Maestro Skint in the City says, the first sell is the hardest, but once you’ve got going you’ll soon feel the benefits.
Get fit for free
In 2011 we wasted £37m on gym memberships we never used. But exercising needn't cost an arm and a leg; there are plenty of ways you can get fit for free. The Empty Pocket Guide has found a whole bunch of free running clubs, classes and trial sessions. These give you the opportunity to try out different types of workout before committing so you won't put money into something you don't enjoy.
Look out for leisure time deals
If you eat out regularly, you can save in the long-term by investing up front in a restaurant discount card. If you're a film buff, follow The Empty Pocket Guide's lead and plan outings around the best cinema deals in your local area. Memberships can be better value than one-off tickets, but make sure you'll go enough to justify it. It's easy with our budget planner, which automatically categorises leisure spending.
Get supermarket savvy
Food shops use loads of tactics to get us to spend more, but you can always use some tricks of your own. For example, as The Student Blogger says, night time supermarket shoppers can get more bang for their buck by picking up reductions. Miss Thrifty recommends trying out own brand foods to find ones you could substitute for pricier branded products. Our budgeting tool automatically categorises supermarket spend, so you can see exactly how much these new habits are saving you.
Save money on your commute
When it comes to budgeting your commute, getting the train doesn't have to be a financial drain. If you're under the age of 30, remember to register for a Railcard so you can save 1/3 on journeys across the UK for only £30. According to the official Railcard website, users save an average of £125 a year, so that leaves you with a tidy saving on your train fares.
If you commute by car, take note of The Diary of a Frugal Family's fuel-efficient driving tips, which include dropping your speed on motorways by 10mph (you'll use around 10% less fuel).
Make food go further
Padding out your food shop with homegrown veg and herbs like The Student Blogger could save you around £200 over the course of a year. You can also make your food go further by getting creative with leftovers, like The Diary of Frugal Family. We waste £12bn a year by throwing out food, so there are serious savings to be had.
Reduce your mobile bills
According to Iona's Young Money Blog, 60% of Apple and HTC handset owners go over their contracts, and smartphone users in general are most likely to overspend. But it's easy to save money by keeping tabs on your minutes, using WiFi where possible and checking data usage with an app like 3G Watchdog. Mobile networks often try to sell you more data if you're going over your allowance but these simple changes might mean you won't need to buy any extra.
Get more from your utilities bills
Saving on energy bills isn't just a case of finding the cheapest provider; it's a case of changing household habits. Money Maestro Miss Thrifty has plenty of clever, practical tips like sticking tin foil behind radiators to reflect heat back into the room, while Iona's Young Money Blog suggests turning your washing machine down from 40°C to 30°C. This one small change could reduce the amount of energy you use to do laundry by 40%.
Take a trip to discount shops
Treat yourself to a new purchase without blowing your budget by visiting out-of-town discount stores. Savvy Annie recommends factory outlets selling big names like Cath Kidston as a great way to pick up reduced price products all year round. Rather than just go for a browse, head to these stores with specific purchases in mind to avoid impulse buys. If you don't fancy the drive, look out for online-specific discount stores like Yoox.
Work out your spending priorities
Avoid the panic of unpaid bills by putting your purchases for the month in priority order. Iona's Young Money Blog suggests paying expenses like rent as soon as possible, so you can see how much disposable income you've got left. If you pay your bills via direct debit partway through the month, you could set the money aside in an easy access savings account. You can also use our free budgeting app to see how much you'll have after making those payments.
Think outside the tech box
Tech-enthusiasts don't have to spend big bucks to get the latest gadgets. Groupon regularly offers savings on electronics, and there's always the likes of Gumtree if you don't mind buying second-hand. Do your homework when shopping on online marketplaces though, as it could cost extra in the long-term if your new phone comes without a warranty. You could also look beyond the standard brands, like Savvy Annie who hunts down great, affordable alternatives to the priciest ones.
Pay off more than the minimum
Whether it's your overdraft or your mortgage, it's always good practice to pay off more than the minimum balance whenever possible. As The Diary of Frugal Family points out, contributing just £50 extra a month could mean hanging on to thousands of pounds, while significantly reducing your payment term. You can use our app to figure out how much more you can afford to pay back, and see how much it'll save you in the long-term.