With Lent upon us, even the non-religious amongst us will think of something that we can perhaps give up for Easter. Usually, we pick something to do with our diet — sweet treats and alcohol are often the most popular things to give up.
But what about our finances? There are undoubtedly expenditures within your monthly budget that could benefit a bit of a trim. Here are five to target. If you find it easy to do without even one of these and decide to extend the fast indefinitely, who knows how much you might end up saving.
Dining out and takeaways
For some these are a special treat to be enjoyed once in a while. For others, it might be that you have got into a habit of a weekly meal out or a takeaway, or even more than that. If you are part of a family of four, these meals could be setting you back around £100 a time. And if you are having them regularly, ask yourself if they are really still a treat, which a meal out ought to be.
Try this alternative. Set a budget of, say £30, to buy a really nice meal from a supermarket or, even better, a local farm shop, that you love. You will be surprised at what you can buy for that amount, such as a good joint of meat with locally-grown vegetables, and also you might even find ways to make the cooking process as easy as possible – why have roast potatoes when jacket potatoes or new potatoes are easier (and slightly healthier). If the weather is good, why not simply buy some items for a picnic which will require even less effort. If you save £70 a week over six weeks, that’s £420 towards a family weekend away – far more memorable than a month of Sunday roasts in a pub.
Another month, another bank statement and like many of us, you will see the direct debit for that popular TV streaming service fly out. Ask yourself this, when did you last watch something on Netflix or NOW TV and could you have found an alternative programme to watch on BBC iPlayer or any of the other free-to-view channel catch up services. It’s not just ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 that have these. UK Play features a lot of new and classic shows from channels like Dave and Yesterday. Have a look around and the chances are you will have been watching something on paid for platforms that you could have watched for free elsewhere.
The best way is to take the plunge and cancel it. Two lots of £8 over the Lent period may not be that much but if you subscribe to more than one TV service, over a year this will add up. And if you subscribe to the big daddy of them all – Sky – well, some of their packages can creep up towards £100 a month if your initial deal has elapsed. At the very least, contact them to renegotiate by saying that you’ll leave them otherwise. Or switch completely to NOW TV, their alternative service which offers much of the same content on a monthly no-contract basis, albeit without the fancy technology like SkyQ. But think of what leaving them completely might save over a year – potentially, over £1k could easily buy you a whole family holiday!
Cut your car use
This isn’t about attempting the impossible and using all manner of willpower to start cycling to work every day instead of using the car – although if it is possible, then you really are onto a winner… But rather, there is much to be gained by looking at your daily car use to see whether you could cut your petrol costs. There might be one meeting in your schedule that could just as easily be carried out over an online video conference service like Skype or Zoom, rather than having to make a two hour round trip. If you are doing a club run for the kids every week, maybe it is a case of contacting other parents and getting a rota going. It’s also combining two trips out, such as remembering to nip into the supermarket en route home after work, rather than making a special outing on a precious Saturday morning — or ordering your weekly shop online. If you put your mind to it, there are probably many ways you can ‘car fast’ without affecting your everyday life. In fact you stand to gain precious time while you also help to combat global warming.
Clothes shopping ban
Some of us allocate money every month to refresh our wardrobe and this can be particularly good for business and in improving how we feel. But is it really necessary? How many times have you been in a supermarket and, on a whim, grabbed a pair of smart trousers or shoes from a sale rack without thinking how much you actually need them? Meanwhile, at home there is all manner of outfits and accessories fighting for space in your wardrobe and drawers. So for Lent, why not resist those bargains and put aside some time to have a proper clear out of your clothes, working out which things you are likely to wear and which you can never see yourself wanting to wear again. A much-loved tip from popular ‘Tidying Expert’ Marie Kondo is to only keep items that “spark joy”. This is helpful as you will undoubtedly find some items that you still adore but that maybe a bit worn, but which you love and are reluctant to throw out. There will undoubtedly be items that have just been pushed to the back of the storage space and just need a bit of TLC. You will also find items that are brand new, unworn and still have the shop labels on, proof if it were needed that this process could potentially save you hundreds of pounds in a matter of weeks.
When we think of being generous in our gift giving, it may involve spending £20 or £30 here for a friend or relative’s birthday, or even another occasion that we mark in a similar way. If the Lent period represents a birthday-heavy period of your life, then you could be going through a small fortune. So why not set yourself a challenge. Think of other ways that you can be generous to your friends at their special time of year. Invite them over for a meal – it needn’t cost that much more for an extra portion or two of what you were going to cook anyway. Find a meaningful gift that you can make for next-to-nothing – it could be baking and icing biscuits for someone’s anniversary or printing out some old photos and putting them in an annotated album. This takes a bit of time but a true friend will recognise it as something more precious and meaningful than a random CD or item of clothing that will soon get forgotten about and put away with all the other gifts you have spent money on over the years.