Make your money work for you!

By Rosalind Kent

rosalind2.jpgThere are certain things that you just can't help spending money on, even when trying to tighten your belt during the credit crunch. Increasingly it feels like your spending is spiralling, usually on things that appear to be out of your control. Things like food and petrol are inevitable costs, but there are ways of dealing with these in an intelligent and effective way that will mean you can make the most out of your money!

Whilst the costs of essentials can’t be avoided, a little time, effort and planning can make sure that you are getting the best possible deal. Petrol is a particular problem area, as over recent months the price of petrol is rising every time you drive past a station – going up faster in the UK than in the rest of Europe. For those of us who rely on the car, those rising prices can fill you with dread. But, just by making a few changes to the way you drive, and by planning you trips carefully, you can help to minimise these costs. Minor changes to your vehicle can increase your car’s efficiency. Keep an eye on your tyre pressure (low pressure increases drag on the car and uses more fuel), de-clutter your car so you are not carrying unnecessary weight, don’t fill up completely at the pump (petrol weighs a lot!) and only use air conditioning when necessary as it uses up an awful lot of fuel. Also try not to over-rev the engine, and always get into the correct gear to minimise excessive use of fuel. These all seem like small things, but if you make an effort to do them all you really can save substantially on fuel costs.

When buying fuel find the best place to fill up by going to the free website: www.petrolprices.com. They will send you regular updates on where to find the cheapest petrol in your area. If you are taking a long trip you can check out the prices of petrol stations all along your route and plan to stop at all the best ones. Remember as well that certain stations are affiliated with loyalty plans, like Nectar cards, and all these points can add up to decent rewards, so are worth collecting.

Food shopping is another essential, but you can save a fortune with a bit of know-    how. The time of day you choose to do your shopping can help you to pick up the bargains. If you have the flexibility to shop outside usual hours, then you should take advantage of it. Huge reductions are made as the day goes on, the first reductions tend to appear at around 10am, and if you can shop after 7pm you can pick up some huge reductions as prices are cut by 75% or more!

Large amounts of money can also be saved from trying to replace some of your premium branded items with the supermarkets own value range. Try it with a few products; if you can’t tell the difference then keep buying them! Examples that I have tried and stuck with are value cheese, orange juice and yoghurts. Other things, like     baked beans and value chicken, I do not! It is all down to personal choice.

Sign up to store loyalty cards – they cost you nothing and you can reap some great rewards if you use them properly. A good example is the Tesco Clubcard. You collect points in store, double points if you use a Tesco credit card to pay for your     shopping, and receive vouchers a few times a year. These vouchers can be used to pay for goods in store, but it is much more lucrative to use them to buy rewards such as     package holidays abroad, or days out. They are worth FOUR TIMES their value when used against these deals and you can enjoy savings of literally hundreds of pounds off holidays and services.

Rosalind Kent -Freelance Writer (www.rosalindkent.wordpress.com)