2022 starts for many of us with the thud of the credit card statement from Christmas spends hitting the door mat. Added to this is the rising costs of the essentials that WE HAVE to buy - 2022 is going to be tough on the budget. So I’m here to guide you through the year with money savings tips and tricks to stretch those budgets even further.
For this first post of 2022, I’m starting with the BIG THREE: food, energy bills and fuel. These costs have gone up significantly during 2021 and they will continue to rise. They are all linked and trace back to scarcity of resources, namely gas and oil, otherwise known as fossil fuels. As the cost of these resources increase it impacts on the things that we must buy to live.
Food costs are rising. It’s costing more to grow, produce, transport and package, so these costs are passed onto us, the consumer.
However, there are many ways to cut back on the costs of food. And the good news is, most of these are good for the planet as well as your bank balance.
Spending diaries & honesty with food spending
Start here: with honesty. How much do you spend on food per week? Keep a spending diary and track it for a few weeks to understand your spending habits and then budget to cut back.
I have been keeping a spending diary since the beginning of the 2020 lockdown to understand all of my spending, and food is always a big spend. Include in here all food related spends, so groceries, big shops, top-up shops, bottle of milk type shops, plus eating out, takeaways, the off lunch out, coffees.
I spend on average £160 EACH WEEK on food related purchases - more on eating out/takeaways than groceries. This is quite shocking and needs to reduce. I can absolutely reduce £640 a month down to £500, saving myself £140.
Set a realistic goal for your food budget that you will stick to and that will also save you money.
Meal Planning Tricks
This one REALLY works. Having a meal plan for the week will save you money on your weekly shop, cut down on food waste, and will reduce your reliance on panic buying or takeaways when there is nothing in the fridge. Just grab a piece of paper (or a notebook) and meal plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. Account for any evening/lunch events, and plan accordingly.
Use your favourite cookbooks for inspiration. Here are a few that I use and love:
Hob by Amy Sheppard
Table Manners by Jessie & Lennie Ware
Tin Can Cook by Jack Monroe
Feed Your Family for £20 a week by Lorna Cooper
Write your shopping list and THEN go through your cupboards and freezer to check for what you already have that’s on your list. Go shop, and if you really want to save money head to Aldi or Lidl. I love Aldi, it has saved me SO MUCH money over the last few years that I switched away from Tesco. Just avoid that middle aisle!!
Using a slow cooker is such a tasty dinner option, perfect for cold days and super cheap to use energy- wise. Just pop all the ingredients in for a stew, hot pot or, curry in the morning and leave it to cook all day. No effort in the evening when you are tired, just a beautiful warming and healthy dinner ready as you pile into after a busy day.
Eat more vegetables for healthiery eating on a budget
Vegetarian food is cheaper than meat. Try some beautiful recipes with vegetables as the star of the show. Cauliflower, aubergines, mushrooms, artichokes are all robust vegetables that can be turned into incredible main courses.
If turning veggie isn’t your thing, then maybe eat vegetarian for half the week and meat for the rest of the week. This will save you money - and the health benefits are huge.
After mortgage, council tax and food spend comes energy for me as the next most expensive monthly bill. Energy bills have been constantly in the news since September 2021, when the wholesale price of energy jumped up hugely. The government energy price cap went up to £1,277 in Oct 2021, curbing our bills for the moment, but there is another price cap change in April 2022, and this is expected to go up by a lot.
We can’t control energy prices, BUT how much energy we use is 100% within our control. A smart meter will help you to understand and monitor energy usage. Most energy suppliers will fit one for free, so check your if supplier is one.
Here are my top tips to use MUCH less energy and save money on your bills:
Turn the thermostat down by 1 degree. If 21 degrees is your preferred temperature, reduce it to 20 degrees.
Switch to low energy light bulbs.
Use the tumble dryer less/get rid of it and invest in a heated clothes dryer rail. Each tumble dryer cycle was costing me £1.
Use the slow cooker rather than microwave, oven or induction hob.
Let your hair dry naturally - hair dryers are greedy with energy usage.
Boil your kettle only with water for one cup, or for the number you are making.
Switch off all appliances that are left on standby.
Shower for four/five minutes only, use a shower timer.
Switch off lights in rooms not being used. Nag your children to do the same.
Unplug phones, tablets and laptops once fully charged.
Switch radiators off in the rooms that you don’t use. Keep doors shut.
Pull curtains shut to help insulate a room.
Use draft excluders (a pair of tights stuffed with old clothes will suffice).
Insulate your loft.
it goes without saying - layer up with blankets, layers, woolly socks and hot water bottles to keep you warm.
And then finally for part three of operation save money for 2022 we have fuel costs. I drive around 800 miles per month (mainly football mum miles), costing around £90 in unleaded fuel. I drive a hybrid car, which means it’s part self-charging electric and part fuel, which cuts the costs dramatically.
Here are some top tips to save money on fuel usage.
Use Apps to find the cheapest Petrol Station
Use apps to check the price of fuel when out and about. Petrol Prices – Free UK Petrol Station Comparison is the app I use. Turns out Sainsburys is 1p cheaper than Tesco per litre near to my house! This is worth it when you are motorway driving as a short detour into a town will often save you 10-20p per litre. Motorway stations are the worst for high fuel costs.
Choose your route carefully and avoid traffic
Navigate AROUND the congestion zone in London and check traffic before bothering with toll roads like M6 – time saved is often minimal and not worth the cost. If you can, drive when the roads are quieter. Being stuck in traffic wastes money as your car is burning fuel but not moving. It’s also better for the environment - traffic-free journeys are around three times less polluting than those with traffic!
Cut the coffee stops
Buy a decent flask and take your own brew on the road, This will save money for all those times when you need to stop for a cup of tea or coffee.
Do basic checks before you set off
Ensure your tyres are set at the correct pressure and have the minimum tread. Tyres that are below the recommended pressure will affect your fuel consumption and handling of your vehicle. The lifespan of your tyres will also be affected, which will hit you in the pocket when you must replace them. You can get air free at various petrol stations, so find the one closest to you or on a journey you regularly take.
Keep your speed down on your journeys by car
You will get the best fuel consumption if you keep your speed at 55 – 65mph and change gears below 3,000 rpm. Driving at 80mph will use at least 10% more fuel than driving at 70mph and it won’t make much difference to your arrival time.
Keep your boot light and don’t use a roof rack
Don’t carry any unnecessary weight in your car. Every extra 50kg will add about 2% to your fuel consumption. A roof rack or roof bars will add to the drag on your vehicle as well and can affect your fuel consumption by up to 10%.
There are so many tips here to save you hundreds over the year, choose your favourites and go save!
Lynn Beattie is a Personal Finance Expert and Founder of Mrs Mummypenny, follow her on Instagram @mrsmummypennyUK