January is the perfect time to banish bad financial habits and get clever with your cash.
Here the Money Mail team gives its top tips for how to save — and make — money in 2019.
1 Gather all your paperwork and make a note of every important financial anniversary in a diary.
This includes your home and car policy renewal dates, vehicle tax, MoT, breakdown cover, TV licence, fixed-rate savings accounts, mortgage, energy tariff and broadband deals. It means you’ll never miss a deadline or pay over the odds for anything.
2 Stick up for yourself. Don’t be afraid of complaining if you feel you have been wronged. You never know, you might get a voucher or your money back.
If you have received good service, it can also pay to praise companies. Some firms send customers a voucher or free gift as a thank-you for the positive feedback.
3 Be smart at the super-market. Visit after 5pm and follow the staff member carrying the re-pricing machine. You can pick up anything from good-quality pork chops to canned goods for pennies.
And always read receipts at the checkout to be sure special offers such as three-for-twos and discounts have been applied. Too often the price programmed in at the till doesn’t match that shown on the shelf.
4 Get a collapsible reusable cup to take to your favourite coffee shop for a discount. Pret A Manger offers 50p off, for example, while at Starbucks you’ll get 25p off. You can get a reusable cup for £1 at Starbucks which means you will make your money back in no time — and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment.
5 Check you are not paying twice for the same insurance. Many bank accounts offer free travel, mobile phone and breakdown cover.
Home insurance policies also often cover items outside the house. Be sure your spouse and children aren’t paying for separate cover when they are protected under your policy.
6 Avoid wasting money on branded everyday medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and antihistamines. Just because the tablets come in a shiny box does not mean they will work better.
For example, at Morrisons, own-brand ibuprofen will set you back 40p for 16 tablets, or 2.5p a tablet. A 16-pack of Nurofen costs £2 — 12.5p per pill.
7 If you need to ring a financial company such as your energy supplier or home insurer, record the phone call. It could be useful evidence if you later need to resolve a dispute.
You can download free apps on most smartphones such as Call Recorder. You can also buy gadgets to record calls on a landline.
The Ultradisk voice recorder has adapters for a phone and costs around £35. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) says it is not illegal for individuals to tape conversations if the recording is for their own use.
8 Get a free will. March is ‘free wills month’, which means anyone over 55 can have their existing will updated or a new one written without charge. Check which solicitors are participating in the event online at freewills month.org.uk.
March is ‘free wills month’, which means anyone over 55 can have their existing will updated or a new one written without charge
9 If you have to buy, wash, repair or replace a work uniform, such as nurse’s tunic, you may be entitled to claim tax relief for the past four years of expenses. This could work out at up to £24 a year.
Check what other benefits you may be entitled to online at gov.uk/benefits-calculators or call Citizens Advice on 03444 111 444.
10 Always check the use-by dates on money-off vouchers. It’s so frustrating to get to the check out and discover they ran out a few days previously.
Websites such as www.voucher codes.co.uk will help you find the latest offers. And sign up for weekly money-saving newsletters with sites such as moneysaving expert.com.
11 Review your direct debit payments. Axe any unused subscriptions and consider switching expensive gym memberships for cheap fitness classes at your local leisure centre.
For an added incentive, work out how much cancelling the monthly payment could save over the course of a year.
Paying £7.99 a month for film streaming service Netflix, for example, might not seem a lot but that’s nearly £100 a year.
12 Keep receipts on bouquets that promise flowers will remain fresh for a minimum period. It means that if your flowers fade prematurely, you can complain and demand either a refund or a new bouquet.
13 Make loyalty pay. Many traditional stores now use loyalty cards to keep customers coming back. Waterstones, Tesco and Boots are among the household names to offer money-off rewards in exchange for loyalty points.
If you enjoy a coffee out, get it from the same shop. Most coffee shops offer free drinks to loyal customers once you’ve collected enough stamps. Caffe Nero offers a free drink for every nine loyalty stamps collected.
14 When HM Revenue & Customs sends you a tax code, check it carefully. If it’s wrong you could be paying too much tax. Or if you are paying too little you could be hit with a shock bill later on.
Pensioners and those with incomes from multiple sources are most at risk of being caught out. For help visit gov.uk/tax-codes or call 0300 200 3300.
15 Switch your savings away from the big banks. Major High Street names pay as little as 0.15 per cent on easy-access accounts and Isas.
By comparison, Goldman Sachs’s Marcus account pays 1.5 per cent — an extra £13.50 a year in interest on each £1,000 you save. Up to £85,000 of your money is protected by the Financial Compensation Scheme as usual.
16 Shop in the world food aisle found at most large supermarkets.
Bags of herbs and spices are often far cheaper there than the glass jars of seasoning that sit with the condiments.
At Tesco, for example, a 50g jar of hot chilli powder costs 85p or 17p/10g. Yet a 300g bag of East End extra hot chilli powder costs £1.75, or 5.8p/10g.
Look out for cheap nuts, sauce and snacks too.
17 Join your local library and read as much as you like for free. You can also borrow DVDs — usually for a small fee of around £1. Just be