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Martin Lewis: Top ten tips to stop wasting cash
This may sound crazy, but stick with me. It’s possible you’re throwing hundreds or thousands of pounds a year away on things that you no longer need, use or value – be it gym membership, old insurance, bank account fees or more.
We’re in the midst of Lent, so it’s the perfect time to stop. Even if you don’t celebrate it, in my book it’s always time to stop wasting cash. So be a Cancellation Hero, do a super-audit and banish bank balance bandits.
1. Don't assume "I don't do that". Always check
Many unwittingly pay for long-dead items. Take these examples from Radio 2 or that have been tweeted to me (@martinslewis): “I looked through standing orders to find I'd paid £16/mth repair insurance for two white goods we'd not had for SIX YEARS." In other words, £1,150 down the pan.
"We cancelled my sister's gym yesterday. She's been paying £37/mth for a year and half without going." That’s a devilish £666 gone.
2. First, speedily check all direct debits & standing orders
If you bank online, most have a page listing all direct debits and standing orders. If not, call or visit a branch and they should be able print it. Scour everything. Google anything you don’t recognise. Failing that, ask your bank or card provider.
3. Then check nasty HIDDEN regular payments
Little-known recurring payments are tough to spot. You may've set one up (see below) for magazines, telecoms suppliers or websites (it’s especially common with adult websites) without realising. It gives them permission to regularly take payments – it just looks like any payment on your statement. Check past months for repetitions.
4. Never give your 'long card number' for regular payments
If it asks for your long credit or debit card number, not bank account details, for a regular payment, it's a recurring payment. These can be hellish to cancel. Even cancelling the card can fail. If you're trapped, first speak to the company, then dispute the transaction with your bank. Recent FSA guidance means banks should help – if not, you can take them to the Financial Ombudsman. Full help at moneysavingexpert.com/recurringpayments
5."I paid £150 for a 20-minute swim.” Is it really worth it?
Don’t just cancel the things you don’t use. As you run through the list, evaluate the real cost of everything you pay for regularly. Gym three times a week at £50 a month, and that’s £4 a time. Yet, as one person told me, they went to swim four times a year, making it £150 a visit. You could be better off paying for posh spa trips. Worst case I’ve heard was someone who paid £1,440 for a year’s golf club membership, playing once. That’s £80 a hole!
6. Check if you're in contract before cancelling
If so, especially with gyms, cancelling may be a breach – check the paperwork. Notice may be required, or there may be early cancellation penalties (which can be cheaper than continuing).
7. Don't think "I've not claimed on my insurance, so it's worthless"
Even for cancellation heroes insurance is different, as by definition, you pay hoping you won't need use it. That doesn't make it good value, but think carefully before cancelling.
8. Remember: £10 a month saved = £120 a year
Small savings add up. Even if you do need things, see if you can save cash on them.
If you pay for car insurance monthly, beware. It’s likely the car insurer has paid the cash upfront for you as a loan and you’re repaying at a high APR (more even than on a credit card). To cut costs, see moneysavingexpert.com/carinsurance Many are overpaying for broadband and home phone. Plusnet Value broadband is £6.49 a month plus £25 connection, while Primus line rental is £6.79 a month, less than half BT’s standard rate.
9. Haggle, haggle, haggle to save £100s in 5 minutes
Even if you want to stick with the company, a five-minute call and a bit of cheek can save £100s.
My twitter follower StumpyIan’s message says it all. "Threatened to leave Sky yesterday, said I couldn't afford it. They halved my monthly bill!"
Haggling works for mobiles, breakdown cover and even gyms. One couple told me they saved £400 on annual gym fees just by making a phone call.
10. Regular payments can mean you pay less
Not all regular payments are bad. They can help you budget, organise your finances and even bag discounts. For example, pay by regular monthly direct debit for energy and it can cut bills by up to 10% a year, typically £100+. With phones, it can be more than £20 a year, so when it pays, pay regularly.
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