Guest post: Money expert, Hilary Osborne shares her tips on stretching your money
Since graduating from Oxford University, HilaryÂ Osborne has spent most of her career writing about money and what the best ways are to spend and save it. Having worked at What Money, What Investment and at the Guardian for the last seven years there are few more qualified to advise on how to get the most from your precious pennies.
It’s been a tough few years on our wallets, with rising prices for food and energy putting a squeeze on household budgets. Most of us are looking for any chance we can to save. If you’ve already done some of the big things â€“ switching energy providers, reducing the miles you drive where you can, and making sure you’re not paying over the odds for any borrowing you are doing, it’s time to consider a few smaller savings. After all, the pennies can quickly add up.
Here are five ways to make your money go a little bit further:
Buy in bulk
Most things at the supermarket are better value if you buy a larger pack. This isn’t always the case – check the unit price on the shelf to make sure before you put it in your basket â€“ and it will only save you cash if you are going to use everything before the use-by date. When it comes to cleaning products, you might be able to get better deals if you go online or to a cash and carry, where large packs are often available.
Â Buy with a friend
Two wallets are sometimes better than one. If you want to buy in bulk but can’t store the items, or do not need them all, you can still get the savings by finding a friend who wants the same items and splitting the cost. Shopping with a friend in the supermarket can help you cut fuel costs, while shopping online together allows you to split the delivery cost where there is a fixed price.
Have a list
The best way to avoid buying things you don’t need â€“ and to be prepared for bargains. Taking a shopping list to the supermarket can help you avoid buying things you already have at home, and will mean you get everything you do need so you don’t end up doing top-up shops during the week.
Having a long-term list of things you need for your home or wardrobe can be useful too â€“ as soon as you see a sale you can make a beeline for the things you want. If your list also includes their usual price you can tell straight away if it’s a good deal.
Have a present cupboard
Snapping up gifts for people in advance of their birthdays or Christmas when you see them in sales can mean saving money, or getting a better present for your budget, but it can be easy to put things away and forget that you’ve bought them. Find somewhere to keep all of the things you buy in advance. If you have kids and often need to buy things for their friends’ birthdays it can be useful to have a couple of pre-bought things to pick from so you don’t find yourself dashing round in search of a present at the last minute. (And if you are not adverse to re-gifting, you can add anything you have been given that you do not want.)
Know what size you are
There’s nothing more frustrating than buying something and then discovering it doesn’t fit â€“ and it can cost money if you get it wrong. If you’re buying in a sale at some retailers, you won’t be able to get a refund, while if you shop online you will pay a delivery cost and the price of returning the goods. Dress sizes vary from retailer to retailer, but most will show what measurements they are made for on their website. Get measured so you know what you are looking for and can reduce your chances of buying the wrong thing.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of spotting a bargain, and with a bit of forward planning you make a good deal even better. These are some of my tips for making your money go a bit further without making compromises â€“ what are yours?