Apocalyptic rain warnings, moaning about Tube disruption, planning which controversial topical figure you’ll dress up as for Halloween…
It can only mean one thing. Autumn is well and truly here! So it’s time for some well-judged Autumn Cash Hacks.
Summer is a strange time when norms, rules and timetables go out of the window. Like everybody else, I made hay while the sun shone (well, I didn’t actually make hay, but I took a mini break from the blog while also fitting in some interesting speaking and media engagements (LINK TO NEWSLETTER)
Yes, yes, it all feels magical and liberating, but it’s also – how can I put this – somewhat challenging for our finances. We feel the pressure to make the most of the sunshine, Bank holidays, shorter nights and longer drinks menus. We go out more, we take more holidays, plan more exciting excursions and (probably) drink a bit more alcohol on weeknights than we really should…before we know it, our bank balance AND livers are crying out for a rest.
That’s what makes autumn such a glorious and necessary counterpoint to the daunting freedom of summer. We all suddenly switch into ‘back to school’ mode. We knuckle down and get on with our busy schedules, knowing how quickly the leaves will turn and the thermometer will plummet. Before we know it, Christmas will be here, with all the socializing and costs THAT brings. Autumn provides a wonderful, soothing respite from those pressures, a time to reset the dial and concentrate on ourselves.
That’s why you see so many progressive movements now cluster around the Autumn months, like Oxfam’s Second Hand September and Stoptober. Forget January! Far too dark and miserable. But Autumn is just about palatable enough for most of us to make some changes. And that means upgrading your finances as well as your health, eco credentials and overall wellbeing (because folks, if you haven’t learned that all four are totally interconnected by now…)
With all that in mind, I was pleased to team up with Zipcar for their latest Autumn campaign, as I was planning to write about how to make some financial changes this season that will hopefully last. After the heightened holiday costs of the summer, it makes a lot of sense to opt for cheaper trips out of the city by car at the weekend instead. I’m looking to taking Zipcar out for a drive during a much-needed break in my packed Autumn schedule. Watch this space…
In the meantime, I’ve thought very carefully about the following tips so they’re not the usual clichéd moneysaving ideas you see everywhere (give up the gym membership! Why hadn’t I thought of that before?) Yes, some of them might seem a tad familiar but I’ve tried to frame them differently so you can start to think less about sacrifices, more about better choices.
So here are my top ten Autumn cash hacks, sponsored by Zipcar.
1. Set aside budgeting time
The secret to better budgeting? Make time for it. Schedule a proper bank audit twice a month: Saturday morning is a good time for most (especially if it’s rainy!)
Go through every item you’ve bought over the two weeks and you’ll start noticing regular patterns – e.g. wine o’clock!
Start categorizing your payments. If you still get printed bank statements, get out your fave stationery and colour code your expenses. The beauty about this approach is that you can name and customize your spending categories. Even if you check your statements online, it can still help to write down what you’re spending in each area – unless you have digital budgeting tools that will do that for you. Look into these if you haven’t already.
Set helpful reminders on your phone to rein in those OTT moments. For instance, at 9.30pm on a Friday night, you could trigger a reminder on your phone to tell you: “I know you’re having a good time but you have a whole day ahead of you tomorrow and oh, by the way, you’ve only got £10 left on your drinking tab this weekend and you’ll probably want to get on the housing ladder sometime this millennium. Save the rest for tomorrow.”
Getting into the habit of checking your accounts regularly will also help you to spot direct debits you no longer use, duplicate payments and even fraud.
2. Save with railcards
If you’re aged 26 – 30 years old, you can save money on journeys with a “millennial railcard”, which cuts a third off standard anytime, standard off-peak and advance fares. You can also load the discount onto an Oyster card to save a third on single off-peak journeys across the whole London Underground network. Just make sure you have the app downloaded from the cloud on your phone when you need it. A good hack is to get the card a day before your birthday, as it only lasts a year. So on the eve of your 30th birthday, you can make the card last as long as possible before – sniff – you’re no longer considered a proper millennial.
3. Cut back vices for a good cause
You don’t have to be a smoker to benefit from your own Stoptober: you could also press the pause button on things like alcohol or takeaways and meals out to save money. Telling others will help you to be accountable – try asking them to sponsor you for a cause close to your heart.
4. Batch and slow cook
As the weather gets cooler, invest in a slow cooker to rustle up hearty but low-cost meals like stews, pasta Bolognese, curries and chilli con carne. Bonus points for using cheaper cuts of meat and leftovers! Batch cook at the weekend or quickly fry up your ingredients in the morning and chuck them in the slow cooker to cook on a low heat while you’re at work. Voila: an instant meal waiting for you when you get home.
5. Reuse, refill
When was the last time you really savoured a latte? Most of us buy coffee because we’re in the habit or it’s just…there. Rediscover the novelty – and pleasure – of coffee by making it less of a crutch and more of a treat. Even if you buy two fewer coffees each week, that’s a saving of around £20 a month – or £60 extra by the end of the year. At the very least, take a reusable cup wherever you go – you can save approximately 50p in most coffee shop chains this way, and it’s so much better for the environment too. Opting for filter coffee as opposed to more expensive lattes will help make further savings too.
6. Raid your wardrobe
We all have clothes at the back of the wardrobe we’ve forgotten about. Ditch fast fashion and challenge yourself to wear what you already have for two months rather than buying anything new. You can ‘winterise’ a lot of summery outfits with tights and your local dry cleaners might even be able to perform simple, cheap alterations for gear that’s not quite right. If you really do need a few wardrobe updates, comb the charity shops in posh areas.
7. Get back to beauty basics
My rule when it comes to skincare and make-up products? One in, one out. There’s a galaxy of cosmetics and beauty products out there but do you use up the products you already have? This also forces you to face up to any mistakes and stick to what works. Over the years, I have realized that less really is more when it comes to how you present yourself. You may not want to economise on everything but so many things like cotton buds, facial wipes, soap, cleanser and lip balm are rarely improved by being more expensive. Those kind of basics can be easily bought from the likes of Savers but if you do need to stock up from Boots or Superdrug, make sure you have both their loyalty cards. I’ve recently discovered the Boots Advantage Card App, which has loads of extra offers, competitions and points you can load onto your card to maximize your savings.
Setting aside time each day where you don’t look at a screen isn’t just good for your mental health: it works wonders for your bank balance too. Instagram accounts are becoming heavily monetised, with one-click purchases through ads making it harder and harder to distance yourself from shopping temptations. I got around this (and other!) problems by deleting my Instagram account (more on that soon) but you don’t have to be that extreme if you really don’t want to (I know, I know, Instagram can be good for some things…) It now actually provides a tool to let you see how long you spend on it and there are lots of website and app blockers now available. The more time you spend off your phone, the more productive and confident you’ll be – which ultimately reduces boredom buying or pick-me-up splurges. Set aside phone-free zones in your week: obvious times include post-9pm (when you should be trying to relax and unwind) and communal occasions like dinner with flatmates or friends, but you could even try buying a separate alarm from your phone and charging it outside your bedroom so it’s NOT the first thing you check in the morning. Resolve to have your shower, breakfast and morning run/yoga session BEFORE you let the world’s madness encroach in on you.
9. Car share!
Zipcar is the UK’s largest car sharing service, and has 3,000 cars usually just around the corner from you. Once you join online, it takes just a few taps on the app to access to one of their cars or vans – you can even drive some of them one way in London. And they’re reasonable too: they pay for fuel, insurance and things like congestion charge, and you can get about from £3/hour or 29p/minute, depending on the car. For those wanting an environmentally friendly option, Zipcar’s 325 electric vehicles are the way forward, and the charging is all done for you. You can also use Zipcar to do one way “flex” journeys across the city – very handy.
10. Upcycle, upcycle, upcycle!
We’re all becoming aware of fast fashion – but what about instant interiors? I’ve started making some updates to my place after 8 years of minimal investment in home decor but I’m struck by how much stuff out there is both flimsy and very expensive. But you can reduce the strain on the environment and your finances by upcycling items others have taken to junk markets or charity shops. This may seem daunting at first but think of all those helpful videos online with instructions on how to strip and varnish wood, give furniture a new lick of paint or customise with a fresh design. Get crafty: check out Pinterest for inspiration and you could end up with a unique piece that is the envy of your friends (and followers!)
And to show I practice what I preach, here’s a cheap second-hand cupboard I upcycled earlier!
N.B. This post was sponsored – in case it wasn’t bleedingly obvious! – by Zipcar as part of a wider Autumn campaign that I’m fronting. Selected partnerships like this are a great fit with the moneysaving and moneybuilding ethos of this blog and help to subsidise YMB’s important work in championing and spreading financial savviness. I hope you got something from my tips – let me below or on Twitter (@ionayoungmoney) if you’re making any Autumn money resolutions!