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16 ways to save in 2016

AOL Money UK AOL Money UK 4/01/2016 Sarah Coles
Silhouette young woman jumping on the sea and 2016 years while celebrating new year © Provided by AOL Inc. Silhouette young woman jumping on the sea and 2016 years while celebrating new year

Christmas has all sorts of things going for it, but from a financial perspective it's a complete nightmare. At this time of year, even those who saved all year for the big day are feeling the pain, while the vast majority of people are nursing one hell of a financial hangover. It's why this is a great time of year to think about creative ways to save money. We've found 16 ways to cut your costs in 2016.

1. Wear headphones

In the supermarket you need to be able to overcome all the tricks the retailers use to get you to spend more. This means looking higher and lower on the shelf to spot the cheaper items, ignoring the smell of baking bread, and resisting the temptation to pick up any of the 'special offers' in the lobby. In short - making a list and sticking to it.

One of the lesser-known tricks is to wear headphones, and listen to music with a fast beat. This will speed up the pace of your shopping, and means you're likely to browse less and buy less.

2. Try one new thing a week

In the supermarket, trade down one branded item to an own-brand every week (or an own-brand to a discount brand). If you don't like it, go back to what you were buying, but if you don't notice the difference, it'll mean saving money every week. Once you get into the swing of this, take the time one week to trade down to a discount supermarket and see whether it works for you.

3. Have a wallet full of loyalty cards

The purpose of loyalty cards is to get you to shop in one place every time - regardless of the cheapest option. If you have a loyalty card for absolutely everywhere that offers one, then you can always shop wherever is cheapest - without missing out on loyalty points. Of course, the proviso here is that you remember to use the points before they expire - or the whole exercise is a waste.

4. Give meat-free Monday a go

It's not going to work for everyone, but try one day a week without meat. There are plenty of household classics that don't contain meat anyway - from macaroni cheese to a baked potato with beans and cheese. You will see your shopping bills come down, and may even lose weight into the bargain.

5. Prepare properly

Before you hit the shops, you need to check the cupboards, plan your meals for the week and make a list. The best results come from plugging that list into Mysupermarket and checking the cheapest place to do your shopping that week.

If you are really committed to the process, you can split your shopping into chunks and buy everything where it is cheapest - to save a small fortune. If you don't have time for this you can still save substantially by doing all your shopping in the supermarket that's cheapest overall.

6. Learn the approximate price of food you buy regularly

The best way to be able to compare prices easily on the go - and weigh up deals on offer - is to have an idea of what usually constitutes good value for an item. If you can't remember numbers terribly easily, make a list and keep it with you.

7. Learn to love your freezer

The common advice is to cook large batches of meals like lasagna and shepherd's pie, and freeze them for cut-price ready meals whenever you're in a hurry. This is excellent advice and still stands.

However, it's not the only way your freezer can save you cash. Check the supermarket aisle for fresh produce that's reduced - and search the bakery for reductions. If it's something that freezes, you can keep it until you have a sensible plan to use it.

You should also check your own fridge regularly for items that look set to expire, and freeze them if you aren't gong to get around to using them.

8. Stop throwing food away

We throw away about 24 meals worth of food every month - about a fifth of everything we buy. The top three most ditched items are bread potatoes and milk. This is crazy given that bread and milk freeze so well, and that even if the bread is past its best, you can blitz it up to make breadcrumbs to top pies and coat anything you plan to fry.

Potatoes - and indeed any other vegetables should be kept for 'soup day' - where any wobbly veg can become a free lunch with the addition of a stock cube or two.

9. Take your 'inner mum' everywhere with you

That small voice needs to constantly be asking 'Do you need it?' 'Will you use it?' 'Can you afford it?' And 'Why do you want it?' Only if you can successfully answer a barrage of questions from your 'inner mum' will you know you should buy it.

10. Get cashback

You can shop using a cashback website, or consider a cashback credit card (as long as you can guarantee you will pay it off on time and in full every month). You can even sign up to cashback sites that donate any of the money made to charity. However you decide to do it, it makes sense not to turn down what is essentially free money.

11. Cut energy use creatively

We've all heard the energy-efficiency messages enough times to know we should be blocking draughts, checking we have enough insulation, only boiling as much water as we need and turning the thermostat down.

There are more unusual options too, including removing excess bulbs (especially in fittings with numerous bulbs), buying a halogen oven (which uses 75% less electricity than a conventional electric oven), boiling the kettle once a day (and filling a thermos with hot water to use though out the day) or taking a 'Navy shower', where you turn the water off while you use the soap, and only have it running when you're rinsing.

12. Haggle with suppliers

Not only should you shop around for the cheapest energy, phone and media package, but you should also take the time to speak to companies about getting a better deal. You can save over £100 a year just by asking to speak to someone about leaving, and then pushing them for a better deal.

13. Be realistic

When you choose any package - whether its the number of minutes on your phone contract, or the amount of data, think very carefully about how much you will use. You can save by cutting back, but you can save even more by getting it right and never having to pay for extra again.

14 Check your bills

Make sure everything from your tax bill to your phone bill is right. You'll be surprised how much mistakes are costing you.

15. Plan your treats carefully

Of course giving them up entirely will save you more, but if you need treats to look forward to, then a bit of planning goes a long way. If you want to visit a restaurant once a month, for example, you can check online for vouchers offering two for one deals.

Alternatively, you can swap your Tesco vouchers for restaurant vouchers worth up to four times as much. If you buy carefully (avoid starters and expensive desserts, and drink water or bottomless sodas), two of you can eat out for as little as £7.50.

16. Drive more efficiently

Less dramatic acceleration and braking will use less fuel, and be kinder on the car too. You should check your tyre pressures are at the recommended level - which uses less fuel. Turn the air conditioning off whenever you can - as it can save anything up to 20% of your fuel consumption. Also think about anything you regularly lug around in the boot, and whether you really need to fill the tank entirely each time - as it takes extra fuel to carry a full tank around.

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