Updated: 21 April 2021
While the lockdowns of the last 13 months have offered a fair amount of gloom, there have been a few surprising benefits along the way – one of which being that many people have been able to save more money.
Altogether £14.8 billion was added to easy access savings in February this year (making an eye-popping 0.01% interest on average – wow), and £7.1 billion was added to current accounts. In fact, during the crisis, a record £169.8 billion was poured into savings and current accounts, up 185% from the previous 12 months.
So, if you’re one of the savers, let’s take a look at how you can keep some of those good habits going, while still enjoying your new found freedom and getting out to support small and independent businesses.
I always point to the mantra ‘pay yourself first’ as the very best way to develop a nice fat savings pot. Use the standing order function in your bank account to set up monthly payments into savings and investments at the beginning of the month, before you spend with shops, bars and restaurants.
Given the changing situation at the moment, spend a moment to work out roughly how much, on average, you have managed to save each month over the last year. Take that figure and halve it. Then set up monthly standing orders to that value of that half that will go into savings, pensions and investments. If that still looks like too much, just work out what you honestly think you could forego and set up the payments as regular savings.
The rest is your budget for the month.
We’ve all been missing going to restaurants and cafes, and they’ve been missing us too! Eating out is high on everyone’s post-lockdown to-do list, but there are still ways to keep costs down.
Socialising is usually the main thing we crave, so you could agree beforehand on a ‘main course’ only policy or ‘no wine’, or even dessert-only – whatever floats your boat. This could allow you to do more trips out without racking up the bills.
You can also make use of cut-price deals on offers sites like Travelzoo.com, Lastminute.com and Groupon.com. They can range from everyday restaurants to high-end meals, so see what bargains you can get.
Again many of us will be desperate to get to a salon or barbers to sort out some unloved lockdown hair, and giving them our support is really important after recent months. Looking beyond that, it’s good to think about finding a balance between what you can get done at home and when you need to splash out.
For example, I’ve realised I don’t need to get my hair blow-dried anywhere near as often as I used to. It’s also worth paying for a good cut that can last much longer and necessitate less work. There are many products around that can cut down on hair treatments, such as Olaplex (buy it at places like Lookfantastic.co.uk) and toners like Nutri Color that can help freshen up hair in between salon visits.
Same with beauty treatments. We can do our own nails, slap on home face masks and shape eyebrows. Going forward it’s worth keeping that going for at least half the time, then giving yourself a treat every now and then.
Many of us have been indulging in lockdown, but now things are reopening it’s time for good habits again. A good approach is to find the nearest low-cost supermarket and bulk up each week on necessities, then look for local small businesses to give yourself a few treats here and there.
In fact if you’re going back to the office, even a couple of days a week, it can be worth having groceries delivered to cut down on wasted time shopping and also prevent you from being tempted by goodies on display.
Speaking of deliveries, it’s worth looking at Approved Food for very well-priced basics, and a few out of season favourites, that you can order online.
Over lockdown we learned that we didn’t need half the clothes we normally store in our bulging wardrobes. So go for quality not quantity, cut and style rather than fashion. Again it’s worth paying over the odds for something that is timeless, well-made and well-fitting.
If shopping is a hobby, set yourself a budget or maximum number of items in your wardrobe. Then you can still go out and shop, but your spending won’t get out of hand.
Don’t forget, with lockdown and the usual Christmas and Easter clear-outs, there will be loads of potentially top-grade items hitting charity shops too. Make a point of browsing your local ones – you’ll be supporting a good cause too!
Going forward the mantra for our lives has to be “more quality, less quantity”. Not always easy to achieve in a busy working life, but possible.
So fewer but better holidays (including perhaps camping or staying with family), good, lasting furniture and less general plastic junk around the house. You’ll get to go out and enjoy the things you’ve missed and show small businesses some love. Meanwhile, your savings pots will grow as, almost without noticing it, you make larger and larger savings each month!
Jasmine Birtles is founder of MoneyMagpie.com and a TV and radio personality.
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