17 ways to save in 2017
We could all do with a bit of extra cash in our pockets at this time of year, but saving money isn't just for the festive season, it's something we could stand to gain from throughout the year. To give you a head start, AOL has tracked down 17 ways to save money in 2017.
See also: How did this shopper get her entire Christmas meal from Asda for FREE?
1. Don't shop without a list
If you can spare 15 minutes before you start your weekly shop, you can transform the way you shop. Start with a list of meals for the week, then turn this into a shopping list. Finally, put this list into the Mysupermarket app, which will show you the cheapest place to go for your shopping. It's adding 15 minutes each week to the chore - but could save you £50 a week.
2. Don't deviate from the list
The ends of the aisles will try to tempt you to go off-list The supermarkets know we take a while to turn trolleys at the end of the aisle, so they will put 'special offers' there. It's vital to remember that you're not saving money on a special offer unless you were going to buy the item in the first place, so don't be seduced by the 'deal', and don't buy it unless it's on your list.
3. Know the approximate price of the things you buy
The only quick way to know whether a special offer is cheaper than your usual purchase is to know roughly what it usually costs. If it's a struggle to keep it all in mind, why not take a recent receipt so you know what you paid last time?
4. Shop later in the day
Savvy shoppers will always have a look in the yellow sticker section of the supermarkets for bargains. However, the offers depend on when you do your shopping. The vast majority of stores start discounting by 50% around 5pm, so if you can pop in just after that, you should find some good deals. If you want bigger discounts, you could save your shopping for 7pm in Morrisons, 8pm in Sainsbury's and Tesco, and 9pm in Asda, when they break out the 75% off stickers and you could pick up your shopping for pennies. Just make sure you eat before you go.
5. Try the trade-down challenge
If you always buy a brand, trade down to the supermarket's own brand. If you always buy the own brand, trade down to the budget brand or to a discount supermarket. If you don't like the items you have traded to, you can go back to buying the item you have always used, but if you don't notice the difference, you'll have saved a fortune.
6. Be in a hurry
Obviously we don't suggest you barge other shoppers out of the way or snatch things off the shelf without checking the price, but if you slightly increase the speed of your supermarket shop, it will stop you browsing the aisles and being tempted to try something new. One useful trick is to wear headphones playing music with a fast tempo, which will increase the pace at which you shop.
7. Never take a trolley on a top-up shop
There are always times when we have to nip in for something mid-week, but if you only pick up a basket, you will stop yourself grabbing a few things when you're there - and somehow spending £30 on a 'top-up'.
8. Store food sensibly
Don't just bung it in the fridge until it rots. Have a plan for everything you buy. If you don't eat it when you planned, you should still cook it and freeze it, so nothing goes to waste.
9. Have loyalty cards - but don't be loyal
Wherever you shop, eat or generally use services, check whether they offer a loyalty card. Every card will have its perks - from collecting points to offering a birthday freebie, or just a free coffee every-so-often. By collecting loyalty cards for absolutely everywhere you visit, you won't be tempted to favour a particular shop purely because of the points on offer.
10. Embrace voucher apps
Extreme couponers have a file full of vouchers that they have spent days tracking down from all over the internet. If you have the time and energy for this, then great, if you don't, then at the very least get yourself a handful of apps - from vouchercloud to voucher box, and check in any time you are shopping to see what deals are available.
11. Take advantage of deal-hunters
You don't have to be a dedicated deal hunter: you can join a community of deal-hunters instead. They'll track down the bargains for you, so all you need to do is browse through the best. There are plenty out there, including latestdeals.co.uk and hotukdeals.com. The latter has a handy app, which you can use when you're out and about to check deals and vouchers. You can also enter a keyword like Lego or PS4, and you'll get a notification whenever anyone posts a deal featuring your keyword.
12. Get cashback
If you are very disciplined and know you will pay off your credit card every single month, you can get a cashback credit card. Otherwise you can still use cashback apps and websites like Quidco and Topcashback, to get a percentage back on everything you spend.
Loyalty to anything doesn't pay, so be prepared to switch everything at least once a year - from your gas and electricity to your saving account, credit cards and mobile phone deal. Academic studies show that people who haven't switched in the previous three years tend to underestimate how much they could save and overestimate the time and hassle involved, so you could be in for a nice surprise... one that saves you £400 or more.
You don't always have to switch in order to get a better deal. Sometimes you can just call the cancellation department, tell them you have seen a better deal elsewhere, and then wait for them to offer you a deal to persuade you to stay, This works particularly well with media companies, but bear in mind that you have to be prepared to actually leave if they don't come through with a decent deal.
15. Make the easy energy savings
If you pledge to patrol the house, switching off lights, you'll eventually get sick of the effort and give up. Much better to do the easy stuff like installing energy saving lightbulbs, buying energy-efficient appliances like a halogen oven, and installing a master switch for overnight - which turns all the appliances in the room off standby when you go to bed.
16. Check your bills
Nowadays they have all kinds of useful information on them - from whether you could save by switching to another tariff with the same supplier, and whether you are in credit or debt with the company. It's also the best way to discover if there's a mistake on your account and if you're paying too much. Nowadays many of us get our bills electronically, which we are far less likely to check. Make the effort to check your bills: it could be very rewarding.
17. Give up shopping for the person you want to be
... you know that person who eats more fruit and vegetables, slims into those jeans and uses that gym membership. By all means become that person, and then start shopping for them, just don't make the financial commitment first. The world already has too many unworn pairs of jeans and unused gym memberships.