Holiday money: 6 ways to boost your budget and save in the sun

With weak exchange rates reducing the amount of spending money you’ll get abroad, foreign holidays may just seem a distant dream. But a little forward planning can help make your pound go even further by saving on holiday extras…

1. Bag the Best Exchange Rate

You’ve heard this before, but it’s worth saying again: sort out your currency before your departure date. Currency exchange firms at the airport tend not only to have the worst exchange rates but can also have hefty commission charges too.

BEFORE YOU GO: Use an online comparison service such as MoneySavingExpert’s TravelMoneyMax to track down the best currency deal. If you’re really organised, you could use a prepaid currency card (but check the small print for hidden charges).

2. Avoid a Plastic Meltdown

Foreign usage fees can make using credit and debit cards abroad expensive, adding as much as an extra 2.99% on purchases and 5% on cash withdrawals. Take the right cards and you’ll avoid these fees.

BEFORE YOU GO: Find out more, including which cards have the lowest fees, by using MoneySavingExpert’s Overseas Card Charges Checker.

3. Park Expensive Long-Stay Charges

Again, shopping around can help you cut the cost of airport parking. It’s worth looking for off-site car parks too – most will transport you to and from the airport and some even pick up and drop off your car at the airport.

BEFORE YOU GO: Try Airport Parking Shop to compare deals.

4. Drive Down the Cost of Car Rental

You’ll get the best deals on car hire if you book at least eight weeks before you go – comparison sites (see below) can save you time and effort.

Before signing on the virtual dotted line, make sure you know what’s included in the deal. For example, some car hire firms provide a full tank and ask you to return it empty – this sounds fine in theory, but you’ll probably pay way more than the going rate for your first tank of fuel.

One of the most expensive add-on charges is excess waiver insurance. If you buy this yourself before you go, you’ll save money.

To avoid any disputes over damage to the car, it’s a good idea to take photographs and make a note of any scratches, dents or other signs of damage on the car, then get someone from the rental company to sign it – do the same when you return the car.

BEFORE YOU GO: Try one of these comparison sites to find good rental deals abroad: Carrentals.co.uk, CompareCarHire.co.uk or Kayak

Driving your own car abroad?

Take the time to check your insurance. Some policies limit the number of days you’re covered abroad, or downgrade your cover to third party only. This could cost you dearly if you have a prang while you’re away.

5. Minimise Your Mobile Charges

Thanks to recent mobile roaming price caps, it’ll cost no more than 15p per minute to make a call and 16p per MB of mobile data in any EU country.

EU roaming charges are being phased out, but it’s still possible to run up a hefty mobile bill, especially outside the EU, so check your roaming charges before you go – many mobile operators have roaming bundles that could save you cash.

And if you don’t want to get clobbered at all, switch off data roaming at the airport and find a local hotel or cafe with free Wi-Fi.

6. Protect Yourself Abroad

Whether you’re a thrill seeker or a sun worshipper, travel insurance is essential – no one is immune to unexpected holiday mishaps. So don’t try to save money by missing this off your shopping list, but do shop around for the best deal.

If you’re holidaying in Europe, pack a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). These enable you to access state healthcare free or at a reduced cost in Europe and some insurers insist on them.

BEFORE YOU GO: Apply for an EHIC here and use comparison sites such as Confused.com, GoCompare.com and MoneySuperMarket.com to find the best travel insurance deals.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

Good fun and good value: free and low-cost ideas for the summer holidays

Whether you need to entertain the children/grandchildren or are looking to occupy the whole family on a staycation, here are some ideas that provide lots of entertainment for little money.

No-cost entertainment

Find a festival

From music to food or balloons, there are a lot of festivals and carnivals that provide great entertainment for free – again, MoneySavingExpert.com comes to the rescue here, and Free-events.co.uk also offers a guide to festivals and more.

Inspiration for free

If you’re stuck for ideas, try Visit England‘s things to do pages and select the free or low budget filters ­you’ll find everything from free museums and music to great cycle and walking routes to try. There’s no reason to be bored, even if you’re trying to save money!

Low-cost entertainment

Vouchers add value

MoneySavingExpert.com always offers a good selection of deals/vouchers for activities, meals, travel and days out, so check these out for inspiration! Websites such as Groupon and MyVoucherCodes offer or publicise discounts on anything from local attractions to 2-for-1 pizzas – you’ll have to put up with a load of emails but it can be worth it for the deals.

Kids get sporty (or crafty)

Check out your local leisure centre – they usually offer a wide variety of summer courses and activity days for children, from arts and crafts to specific sports, that don’t cost much. Find your local sports facilities through local.direct.gov.uk.

Lidl and the FA have combined forces to offer football coaching sessions for 5-11 year olds of all abilities this summer, which are accessible for a small fee.

Big screen, small cost

Vue, Odeon and Cineworld cinema chains put on a special kids’ film screening at discounted prices every morning through the holidays – it’s worth checking other local cinemas to find out if they do a similar offer, too. Find your local cinema.

Good value entertainment

Fun for all ages

National Trust or English Heritage family membership is a bigger outlay – £126.00 for the National Trust and £105 for English Heritage – but can very quickly pay for itself if you make good use of it. Both offer lots of locations, plus special events and activities for children throughout the summer – check to see which has the most properties in your area. Membership of a local attraction such as a zoo or adventure park can also be a good investment if you can go regularly.

The content of this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. We do not offer financial advice. If you’re unsure as to the suitability of a product you should seek advice from a Financial Adviser. You may have to pay for this advice.

5 Ways to Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring is the perfect time to get your finances spruced up for the months ahead. Whether your savings goals are looking a little worse for wear or you just want to get on top of monthly spending habits, our 5 top tips can help you on your way.

1. Plan ahead

Venturing out in the nice weather on days out with the kids or for long weekends away with friends can be costly but being internet savvy can save you more than a pretty penny. Check to see if there are promo codes online or better yet call directly, whether its accommodation, travel or park entry fees – there are usually gems to be found.

2. Alternative transport

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), public transport costs account for our highest weekly outgoings – taking up a huge 14.1% of our income. Although it may not be an option for everyone, changing up your daily commute can help save money. Cycling, walking or even running to or from work could be an option, and for longer journeys car sharing is another great way to save on fuel.

3. Set a budget and stick to it

A budget can help you control your spending and show you where you need to make improvements. Helping you to think about money a little bit harder so that you can reach those sought-after financial goals. The key is to make sure you don’t spend what you don’t have; credit cards and overdrafts can give us a distorted view of how much money we actually have.

4. Don’t add to current debt

Once you’ve got your budget in place, it can help you identify ways to reduce your outgoings so that you free up some money to help you start saving or to help you clear existing debt instead of adding to it. A good place to start is by looking at your direct debits and decide if you could live without them, like gym memberships or online streaming services. The money saved will add up over time and can be put towards something much more worthwhile.

5. Make your money work its hardest

No matter what your savings goals are, finding the most suitable products to meet them, is key. There are lots of different saving vehicles out there, each suited depending on who you’re saving for, the length of time you’d like to save, your risk appetite and whether you need access to your money.

Here at Foresters Friendly Society we have a range of affordable saving and investment products to help you save for your or your child’s future. Take a look here to find out more.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

6 simple and practical ways to save money in 2019

With the January blues behind us, and a brand new year ahead to start afresh with our financial planning, there’s no better time than the present to start saving money! Follow these 6 simple tips to identify where you can save money and how you can make those savings work harder for you:

1. Create a personal survival budget

Make a spreadsheet showing all your essential monthly expenditure. It should include items like mortgage/rent, rates, utility bills, travel and car maintenance costs, credit card payments, plus essentials like clothing and food. Your completed sheet will tell you the minimum income you need to survive each month. See how to create a savings budget that works for you.

2. Spring clean your current account

Are you guilty of joining the gym and never going? Do you have a magazine subscription but never actually get round to reading it? Are you paying a direct debit for a service you no longer need? A quick glance over your monthly outgoings can flag any subscriptions or direct debits you no longer require. If you bank online you can usually stop these unnecessary payments with the click of a button.

3. Sell unwanted gifts and possessions

Raise cash by selling unwanted items from around your home. Take advantage of online marketplaces like eBay, Preloved and Facebook, as well as specialist sites for second-hand CDs, DVDs and books. There’s a huge trend for upcycling furniture at the moment, so before you take that table to the tip, why not try selling it online or at a car boot sale. Remember, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

4. Write a weekly food menu and order online

Get organised and minimise food waste by downloading and filling in an online meal planner. Try to do some batch cooking and freeze meals ready for evenings when you’re short on time. Once you have your plan, try shopping online and take advantage of low cost or free delivery slots. You’ll avoid impulse buys and those “Please can I have…” moments with the kids in the supermarket.

5. Set up a monthly standing order to a savings account

This is a fantastic way to cover the cost of your annual family holiday or save for a big purchase without knowing you’re doing it. A standing order will ensure you don’t miss the money and you’ll be surprised how quickly your savings mount up.

6. Take advantage of tax efficient savings such as ISAs

Every UK taxpayer has an annual tax-free savings allowance, currently £20,000 for 2018/19, meaning you can save up to this amount and not pay tax on any interest you gain. There are two types of ISA available – Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs. You can save your full tax-free allowance in one of these types, or split it between them, however you cannot roll-over any unused allowance into the next tax year. That means if you don’t use it, you lose it! So when you’ve finished selling all your unwanted gifts, cancelled unused subscriptions and saved money on your food shop, you could put that extra cash in an ISA!

For more information or to request an information pack about Foresters Friendly’s Stocks & Shares ISA, click here or apply online today for a Foresters Stocks & Shares ISA.

Please note that tax rules may change in the future and depend on your individual circumstances.

The content of this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. We do not offer financial advice. If you’re unsure as to the suitability of a product you should seek advice from a Financial Adviser. You may have to pay for this advice.

5 Ways to Make a Little Extra Cash for Christmas This Year

The average household spent £821 on Christmas in 2017, according to figures from VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research. As it comes around again (that time already?), it’s time to set yourself a budget so you’re not tempted to raid your savings or get into debt. If your budget is looking tight, here are some ideas to boost your income.

1. Online surveys

Fill out an online survey and get paid for it – it’s as simple as that. Research companies are constantly on the lookout for people of all ages to answer surveys and test new products.

How to get started

Do your research first – some sites are better than others – don’t pay to join a site and it’s a good idea to set up a separate email account so you don’t get flooded with spam. Trusted sites include Ipsos, valued opinions, mysurvey – there are plenty of others too.

How much?

This isn’t a big earner by any means, but it’s easy to do in your spare time and a few hours a week could certainly fund some gifts. For a few minutes of form filling you generally earn anything from 10p to £2 (or reward tokens, often for Amazon – which are good for gifts!).

And what about…

Face-to-face market research pays more than online surveys because it involves more time and often takes place in the company’s office – contact local market/consumer research companies to find out more.

2. Put your skills to work

Most of us can offer a useful service that other people will pay for – dog walking, car valeting, ironing, gardening, baby/pet sitting – the list goes on.

How to get started

Either join an agency or advertise locally – check how much other services in your area are charging.

How much?

This depends on what you are doing and your area – for example, dog walkers charge anywhere from £8-£15/hour depending on where you live – the average is about £10/hour. Ironing varies as some people charge per item or by weight, but anywhere from £5-£12/hour is a typical rate.

3. Be a mystery shopper

If you enjoy shopping or fancy a little cloak and dagger assignment, this will be right up your (high) street. Retailers pay people to visit their stores and check that customer service or the quality of goods is up to standard – mystery shoppers are given an ‘assignment’, and are expected to complete it and submit a report within a specific timeframe.

How to get started

This is run through agencies such as MarketForce and GBW, though there are plenty more. Check out the websites to find out if you are eligible and how to sign up.

How much?

This depends on the agency – some pay in gift vouchers or free items from the shop, others pay anything from £5 to £30 cash.

4. Rent out your car parking space

If you don’t use your garage, drive or other off-street parking space, you could rent it out if you live near a transport hub or in an urban area.

How to get started

Just register with a site such as yourparkingspace or justpark and follow the instructions – some sites will enable you to see what others in your area are charging. You’ll need to check your insurance gives you appropriate cover and set up a contract first.

How much?

It depends on your area, but yourparkingspace reckons you could earn from £40 up to £350 per month, depending on your area.
And what about…

In some areas storage space is at a premium, so you could rent out space. And if you have a spare room, you could always rent that out…

5. Host product parties

If you’re the sociable type, hosting a product party could be right up your street, as it won’t feel like work! Books, kitchenware, jewellery, cosmetics and toiletries – there are plenty of options to choose from – and it makes sense in the run-up to Christmas as people are shopping for gifts.

How to get started

The most important thing is to find a company you like that offers direct selling opportunities through parties – you’ll be more successful if you’re selling products you genuinely like.

How much?

It’s commission-based, so what you earn depends on how much you sell. It usually involves an outlay at the beginning to cover set-up costs.

For loads more ideas, try MoneySavingExpert or Moneymagpie.

Please Note: Any sources of extra income should be declared to HMRC.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

Avoid Christmas Shopping Panic – Read Our Top Tips

Don’t panic if you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet – there’s still time for you to hunt down bargains with our handy tips.

1. Make a list

However tempting it is to simply rush out and grab whatever takes your fancy, taking the time to make a list – and stick to it – can help avoid impulse buys. Research shows that impulse buying occurs when shoppers are feeling stressed, angry, guilty or bored – in fact, all the emotions we can feel when panic shopping for Christmas gifts!

2. Find cheap prices instantly

It can take a long time to hunt for the best bargains online, so try using Money Saving Expert’s handy shopbot, which will do all the hunting for you. If you’re planning on shopping on Amazon.co.uk this year, you can also try using Money Saving Expert’s Amazon discount-finder tool to find reduced prices on a range of products.

3. Click & Collect

Cut down on delivery waiting times and costs as well by using click and collect services. Amazon offer deliveries to pickup locations across the country, while eBay’s Click & Collect service is free on millions of items.

4. Local collection

There are many, often unseen, items on eBay sold for collection only, and this means that they have fewer bids and usually sell for lower prices. Simply enter your postcode, specify how far you want to travel and look at what’s on offer.

5. Outlet shopping

Driving to an outlet store is often a good way to bag a bargain, but many shops are now offering online outlets stores as well. Take a look at the Money Saving Expert discount finder.

6. Loyalty points

If you’ve saved up any loyalty points at supermarkets throughout the year, now may be the ideal time to use them for gift shopping. You may even benefit from boosted or double point offers too!

7. Wait for the sales?

If you’re planning on buying a big item for the family over Christmas – a TV or games console for example – it may be worth waiting for the January sales and giving some smaller gifts, keeping the big surprise to kickstart the new year!

8. Low price perfumes

If you’re buying perfumes or aftershaves as gifts, look online for some great bargains. A good tip is buying unboxed products from online sellers, which are often sold for a fraction of the price. Yes, they come without their box, but they can still be presented as attractive gifts with a gift box and some ribbon. See moneysavingexpert.com for more advice.

9. Earn while you spend

Using a cashback credit card can make you money as well as protecting your purchases! Ensure that you have set up a direct debit to pay off the amount in full every month so that you don’t accrue interest on your payments. You can also use sites like www.quidco.com, or www.topcashback.co.uk to get money back when you purchase online.

Happy Christmas shopping!

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

Save up to £550 more per year with a savings goal

How to Save Money Effectively

Did you know that if you have a savings goal, it could help you save up to £550 more a year?

We all dream about wanting more in life – it’s part of the human condition. The good news is, with a bit of effort and a strategic approach to saving, these dreams could become a reality.

Working out an effective savings strategy is an important part of how to save money. It may sound like a lot of effort, but it needn’t be – put simply, it’s about looking at what you want to achieve and setting yourself realistic targets. Here’s how to do it in four easy steps.

Step 1: Set savings goals

Those who have savings goals save faster – up to £550 a year more than those who don’t, according to the Money Advice Service. Establish what your short, mid and long-term personal financial goals are. Are you saving up for a new TV or a holiday, or do you want to put enough away for retirement or a child’s university fees?

Step 2: What’s your priority?

Next, rank your goals in order of importance and think about how long you’ll need to be saving for them. Sometimes it helps to set an actual date for this, especially for shorter-term goals – then you have something tangible to work towards.

Step 3: Find the right savings plan

Now you’ve established what you want to save for, it’s time to think about what savings plan might be best for you. Important things to bear in mind here are:

  • Will you want to add regular payments to your savings?
  • How quickly would you like your money back?
  • How much do you hope to save?
  • Can you afford to accept some risk, which could result in a higher (or lower) return?
  • Do you have a lump sum to invest?

Step 4: Tips for success

  • Whatever your savings plans, it’s a good idea to have an emergency fund in place that you can access if you need to.
  • Pay off any debts as quickly as you can, as these will be incurring interest.
  • Write down your expenditure every day, or every week, for four to six weeks to find out where your money goes and where you can make savings. If you do this at the end of a month, you’re more likely to miss something.
  • Be realistic – if you can’t realistically meet your goals, you’ll get disheartened and you’re more likely to give up completely.

Now you have read these ‘how to save money tips’, go and work out those goals!

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

You should also be aware that in some investment conditions and depending on the savings product you have chosen, you may get back less than you have paid in.

Source: Money Advice Service – accessed January 2017

12 easy ways to save money

Simple savings tips for every month, to help you make 2019 the year you spend less and save more.

January: Clear the decks

If you need to make some room for all those Christmas gifts and sale purchases, decluttering is a frugal win-win. ebay, car boot sales and local Facebook marketplaces are all good places to sell your things.

Saving: Will depend on what you have to sell. For example, if you’re clearing out old DVDs and CDs you could earn around 15p-£1 per item.

February: Learn to share

Become part of the ‘sharing economy’, on whatever scale you like. Join forces with your neighbours to swap babysitting services, join a carshare scheme or host a ‘swishing’ party, where guests bring a range of items to swap around. There’s a big market out there…

Saving: At the very least, you could save around £7 per hour on babysitting costs.

March: It’s time to pack up

If you buy your lunch it can easily cost around £5 per day, which really adds up over the course of a year. If the idea of a cheese sandwich every day doesn’t fill you with joy, there is lots of inspiration for cheap, easy packed lunches online – you could try easy pasta salads, inventive wraps and simple soups to name a few!

Saving: Hundreds of pounds over a year, and cutting out the odd treat can be great for your savings habits, see our guide

April: Drop your shop costs

Make this the month you reduce those hefty grocery bills: try shopping at discount supermarkets such as Aldi or Lidl, or use mysupermarket.com to find out where you can get your groceries at the best price. Always have a shopping list and try Martin Lewis’ downshift challenge – try dropping a brand level on everything you buy and see if you can really taste the difference.

Saving: Mysupermarket.co.uk claims to save shoppers up to 30% on every shop. While downshifting from branded products could save over £1,400 on a £70 weekly shop across the course of a year

May: Salad days

Those packets of herbs and salads can really add up – instead, buy a few packets of seeds, stick them in some compost and you can have tasty salad and herbs for a fraction of the price. They’re dead easy to grow, even in a window box if necessary, and you can plant them straight into pots outside from May.

Saving: A packet of herbs cost around 70p, a bag of salad up to £1.50 each time.

June: Before you hit the summer sales…

If you find yourself about to buy something on impulse, stop! Ask yourself if you really need it and how much you would actually use/wear it. Give yourself 10 seconds before deciding whether you are going to buy it or not. For bigger purchases, use the 30-day rule: after this time, you may find the urge to buy isn’t there any more, and if it is, you’ll have a better perspective on its cost.

Saving: Depends how much of an impulse buyer you are…

July: Still convinced you need it? Then buy it cheaper

There is rarely a need to pay full price for anything. Could you buy it secondhand on eBay, swap it for something you don’t need on a site like Swapz? If not, shop around for the cheapest deal using a comparison site such as Pricerunner, try discounted outlet shops, use vouchers – just don’t pay full price!

Saving: Anything from a few pounds to hundreds of pounds.

August: Bottle it up

OK, it might be hot but why not fill up a reusable bottle with tap water rather than spending money on bottled water or soft drinks? Not only is it healthy, it’s better for the environment too.

Saving: Campaign group Tapwater.org claims we spend an average £25,000 on bottled water and soft drinks in our lifetime.

September: Save your energy

It sounds like a lot of hassle, but there are so many comparison sites available that it really doesn’t take long to find out if you could pay less for your utility bills. Try using sites such as uSwitch.com and switch.which.co.uk, or simply type ‘switch energy supplier’ into your search engine.

Saving: uSwitch reports savings of up to £491 a year.

October: Banish the booze

Take part in the increasingly popular Go Sober for October or Stoptober campaigns and you could boost your savings as well as your health, by investing all the money you’d normally spend on alcohol or cigarettes.

Saving: The average household spends £16.10 a week on alcohol at home and while out – that’s a whopping £64.40 a month. Stop the average £5.20 daily spend on smoking you could save around £1,872 per year!

November: Budget Time

While Philip Hammond is doing his thing, you can do yours too. Working out where your money goes every month is a fundamental step towards saving. Keep a spending diary, check your bills and work out what your ‘necessities’ spend is each month. Then take a portion of what is left after the essentials and put it into your savings as soon as you get paid.

Saving: Depends on income and expenditure. Find out how to draw up a budget with our blog.

December: Seasonal spending

The cheapest time to buy Christmas cards, wrapping paper and decorations is at the end of December – hit the shops then and you can shave a significant amount off next year’s seasonal spend. Do the same with every annual event – buy next year’s Halloween costumes and decorations on 1 November, for example, and you’ll be quids in.

Saving: You’ll often be able to buy items at half price.

Did you know that simply setting a savings goal could save you up to an extra £550 per year? Find out how.

The content of this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. We do not offer financial advice. If you’re unsure as to the suitability of a product you should seek advice from a Financial Adviser. You may have to pay for this advice.

How to save money at Christmas

12 days of Christmas savings

At this expensive time of year, find out how you can save money on your Christmas shopping with our 12 money saving tips.

1. Make a list (and check it twice)

Last-minute impulse buys are often the most costly, so it pays to plan ahead, decide what you’re buying for everyone in advance – and stick to your list.

2. Don’t buy for everyone

While we’re on the subject of lists, can you reduce yours? Try suggesting a kids only present rule or do Secret Santa with your family, where everyone picks a name from a hat and only buys for that one person – that way everyone gets a nice present but it doesn’t cost the earth.

3. Be a discount detective

Don’t even think about buying anything before shopping around for the best deal! From online discount codes to price-comparison websites, there are plenty of ways to track down the lowest price tag for your purchase. Try looking at comparison sites such as Google Shopping or PriceRunner, or Money Saving Expert for deals and vouchers, to see if you can buy it for less.

4. Purse-friendly perfumes

There are easy ways to slash the cost of smellies. Type ‘unboxed perfumes’ into your search engine and you can find retailers that sell perfume and aftershave at knockdown prices – just pop it into a gift box and tie a ribbon round it.

5. Designer brands for discount prices

If you can’t compromise on designer brands, it’s all about where you buy them. Look for outlet or clearance stores online, or visit an out-of-town discount outlet where you can bag big-name bargains for a fraction of the original price – coach operators often offer Christmas shopping excursions to these outlets.

6. Use your points for presents

Have you checked your loyalty cards recently? Now could be the time to use the points you’ve earned, particularly if there are schemes that increase their face value such as Tesco’s ‘Clubcard Boost’ and Sainsbury’s Nectar ‘double-up’ promos.

7. Earn as you spend

If you use a cashback credit card or shop online through a site such as TopCashback or Quidco, you can get cash or vouchers back as you spend. If you choose the cashback credit card option, don’t forget to make sure you pay off the amount in full every month so that you don’t accrue interest on your payments.

8. Swap shop

Hands up, who has unwanted gifts stashed away? Why not organise a get-together with friends to exchange these and put them to good use. The flowery shower collection that isn’t your thing could be perfect for your friend’s aunt!

9. Cut your festive food bill

The cost of food and drink can really mount up if you’re entertaining. Try discounted supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi for party food and, if you’re doing a big shop, check your list with a supermarket comparison site such as mysupermarket.com first.

10. IOUs

Older children and adults may be perfectly happy to open an IOU that promises them something special in the sales – after all, why buy that new games console when it will be much cheaper the day after Christmas?

11. The personal touch

Sometimes it means more to give your time, and it makes for a personal present with a difference. You could make some festive ‘gift cheques’ using coloured card and glitter pens, offering anything from ‘I’ll teach you how to knit’ or ‘I’ll babysit for you’ to fixing a date for a favourite walk together.

12. Start planning for next year

It’s probably the last thing you want to hear, but you can save loads by picking up bargains on cards, wrapping paper and decorations just after Christmas. You could maybe even pick up a few presents for next year…

Plan for the year ahead by creating your own savings strategy. According to the Money Advice Service, you could save an additional £550 per year! Find out more.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.

Time is money! Don’t pay for a last-minute lifestyle…

We’ve all done it – paid express delivery for a late birthday gift or top whack for travel money because we’ve run out of time. But a bit of forward planning could save you a lot of stress, time and money…

Take out the guesswork

Setting up automatic bank payments for your bills and credit cards, can help to prevent the worry about late payment charges, additional interest or reconnection fees.

Make the most of your diary!

Dentists and other professionals can often charge for missed appointments, and you don’t want to accidentally let your home or car insurance lapse or automatically renew. So, make sure you enter ALL important dates in your smartphone or diary to help keep track and keep an eye out for any important insurance renewal information. Adding reminders will even give you time to plan ahead, particularly when it comes to special birthdays and anniversaries too.

All present and correct

Try to pick up suitable presents as you spot them throughout the year. Canny planners even buy a selection of birthday cards in bulk once a year, so they’re never caught short! Some online stores give discounts for a bulk purchase, so you could be quids in! Stocking up on Christmas cards and wrapping paper in the January sales can save you from forking out the full price later in the year too.

Travel savvy

If you need foreign currency, don’t leave it till the day you leave! Currency converters at airports charge a premium because they know you have no other option. Shop around early to avoid unnecessary charges, commission and poor rates of exchange. Money Supermarket has some useful tips.

Shop-wise

Have you ever been missing a key ingredient for your dinner party? Buying at the corner shop is usually more expensive. Instead, try to keep a shopping list on your fridge door so you can add items as soon as you run out. If you’d also like to keep an eye out for sales in your favourite stores, why not sign up to their email lists for news of promotions, discounts and deals on free shipping.

Annually only

A recent FCA report found that paying for your car or home insurance premium in monthly instalments could in some cases add up to 75% more in interest charges. Why not save money and pay your annual premium all in one go?

Get ahead of the game

If you still need help, here are some of the latest digital tools to help keep your budget on track:

  • Try a free digital assistant such as Google Now to keep track of birthdays and important dates. Alternatively, the 24me app auto-generates reminders so you’ll never miss an appointment, or forget to pay a bill. It also syncs with Facebook to send birthday messages to your friends in case it slips your mind!
  • Shoptagr is a Chrome browser extension that lets you ‘pin’ an online item, in your preferred colour and size, and alerts you when it’s on sale. The ShopStyle and Shop It To Me apps provide a similar function, while the GiftFinder app (from NotOnTheHighStreet.com) lets you create your own folders according to occasion or person.
  • Trainline’s ticket alert system emails you as soon as cheap advance tickets for a specific journey come on sale. Generally, the earlier you buy, the bigger the discount – up to 80% on some routes.

But if you struggle to change the habits of a lifetime, don’t despair. Buying late sometimes pays! Lastminute.com, for example, has last-minute offers for hotels, flights, spa/city breaks, theatre tickets and experiences.

And where can you squirrel away those savings?

Foresters Friendly Society offers a range of savings options which may suit your needs, depending on how much you want to save and how long you want to save for.

To find out more about them click here.

Source: The Guardian – Direct Debit Increases Insurance Payments, FCA finds.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.