Jurg Widmer Probst on the struggles of saving money and how to cut lifestyle costs to boost your personal finances.

Saving money is difficult enough for many people at the best of times. During a global pandemic it’s even more of a daunting task, yet more important than ever. Sometimes even planning how to cut lifestyle costs can seem too much of a challenge. However, there are many ways to cut lifestyle costs in small ways every day that add up to a significant whole.

How to cut lifestyle costs by starting new habits

Personal finance management is often described as a habit. And with all habits, it needs time to bed in. If you’re switching the way you look at your personal finances in the wake of lockdown and the pandemic, then begin by consciously changing daily habits.

Across the UK and around the world, people are tightening their belts in lots of ways as they deal with the financial costs of pandemic so far. Simple daily lifestyle changes will have long-term benefits on personal savings. Here are some tips and tricks to cut these everyday costs. You may be surprised how much they improve your finances.

  1. Set a clear savings goal

Review all of your finances and write down a clear savings goal. Every change you make to your spending habits will contribute towards that end goal. This will help to remind you of why you’re making these lifestyle changes and encourage you to continue. Think of every spending decision in terms of how it relates to your overarching goal, whether it’s saving for a deposit, retirement or simply cutting costs to make life easier.

  1. Ditch subscriptions you don’t need

Take a look at your direct debits and standing orders. The chances are you have various subscriptions going out every month that you’ve forgotten about. These could be for a gym membership you can’t use right now, or a phone plan that’s fallen off your radar.

Clean out any direct debits and payment plans you don’t need. Check your PayPal subscriptions and any other online payment sources too.

  1. Don’t pay for things you can get free

TV and entertainment subscriptions are a great start. If you have satellite TV, consider whether it would be cheaper to switch to one subscription, such as Netflix. Or, if you find you have a number of entertainment subscriptions on the go, consider dropping some or all of them.

Utilise DVD boxsets you already own, try searching online for free platforms or work with your family to get the most out of your Netflix account. One account can have a number of people using it, so get together with friends or family to see if you can split the cost.

If none of this works for you, simply stick to the basic channels for free. Add in the radio and a free to use music streaming app and you have plenty of entertainment available for no extra charge.

  1. Cut the cost of your hobbies

Depending on how you spend your free time, it may be possible to save money on hobbies. For example, if you usually go to the gym or sign up for online training, try switching to exercising outdoors for free. There are plenty of programmes online available to try for free.

YouTube videos and some exercise apps also offer free sessions. Failing that, download a running app, such as Strava, and create your own training plan. Switch to walking, hiking, jogging or yoga. Create a HITT plan to do at home. The point is exercise does not have to cost extra money, and you could save by planning different ways to stay healthy.

Learning something new also doesn’t have to cost much. Join a library and take advantage of their reference section. Many public libraries are beginning to open up after lockdown, but even if you can’t go in person, you will find their catalogues available online.

  1. Organise your current and savings accounts

Ensure you have one savings account with no credit or debit card attached to it. This will mean to use money from the account you’d have to transfer it into your current account, creating an extra barrier. Deposit a certain percentage of your income directly into the account every month so you don’t have to do it manually. Even if this is a relatively small amount, you’ll quickly find you don’t miss it and it adds up. 

  1. Shop around for better deals

This does take time, and often needs a shift of mindset if you are attached to particular brands and shops. However, there are so many deals available online and at alternative merchants for everything from food to clothes and furniture. Broaden your palate and take advantage of offers on foods you may not normally buy, try shopping at different stores and see how much money you can save.

  1. Buy good quality items once

Don’t confuse saving money with buying cheap products. It’s a false economy and will lead to you replacing the product more often. Buy good quality clothes, shoes, furniture and products and you won’t have to spend more to replace them. It’s also easier to mend, fix and repair high quality goods, which extends their life and saves money in the long-term. You can find all kinds of help and advice on repairing, repurposing and recycling just about everything online and on sites like YouTube.

  1. Create a budget planner

Do it the old-fashioned way and write down your income and expenditure. While there are plenty of programmes available online to do this, there’s something about manually recording figures that helps to cement them in the mindset. When you can clearly see the state of your finances, whether good or bad, you are in a much better position to learn new spending habits.

If you’d rather use an online tool, check out these free apps available to help you manage your finances.

  1. Save 5% of your income every month

Official Government advice is to save 5% of your monthly income if you can. Of course, the more that can be saved, the better but for many people 5% is thought to be more achievable.