ISAs were first launched in 1999 as a way to shelter some of your savings and investments from tax. So in honour of their 20th birthday we’ve pulled together 20 tips to help make the most of your money – from simple everyday things you could do straightaway to some more radical money-saving steps.
1. Use your tax-free ISA allowance.
In the 20 years since they launched, the tax-free amount you can save or invest each year has gone up and this tax year you can put in up to a maximum of £20,000 in ISAs. And you can place the full allowance amount in one type of ISA or split it any way you like between a Cash ISA, Investment ISA and Innovative Finance ISA and put up to £4,000 of the allowance in a Lifetime ISA.
You can’t carry any of your ISA allowance forward into the next tax year though so if you don’t use your full allowance by the 5th April each year, you simply lose it.
2. If you’ve got kids, you could use their tax-free ISA allowance too.
Not everyone even realises that their children have their own tax-free Junior ISA allowance. You can invest up to £4,368 in this tax year for any child who is under 18. Money invested in a Junior ISA belongs to the child. It is only them that can withdraw the money when they reach 18.
3. Keep track of your spending.
Tedious we know, but until you really get your head around where your money goes it’s hard to work out how much you could be saving. And when you do tot up a month’s expenses you could be in for a few surprises. That much? On flat whites?
4. Automate your savings.
There’s one very simple way that you could do to add something to your nest egg every month, and that’s to set up automatic payments. Lots of banks offer automatic ‘regular savers’ type accounts or you could set up a monthly payment into an Investment ISA.
5. Pay off expensive debts.
Before you put money into your savings, it’s worth thinking about any outstanding debts. Balances sitting on a high interest credit card could be costing more than you could get back, for example, from a savings account.
6. Set savings goals.
Knowing exactly what you’re saving for could be a great incentive to set some cash aside each month. Whether you’re saving to treat yourself in the future, or perhaps for you firstborn’s wedding or university fund, set achievable goals that you know you can commit to.
7. Plan your weekly shopping.
It’s always easy to overspend when you’re in the supermarket with no real plan for what you need to buy. And it can be even worse if you’ve got kids who are ‘helping’ you choose. Make a list of what you need and stick to it.
8. Cut down your food waste.
If you want to save money you don’t want to end up throwing expensive food away, so keep an eye on ‘use by’ dates – and get creative with leftovers. Sunday’s roast dinner might turn into Monday’s and Tuesday’s packed lunches. This leads neatly to tip 9.
9. Why not revert to a packed lunch?
It’s easy just to nip out at lunchtime to pick up the meal deal, but even £3 a day could add up to around £60 a month. Instead, you could switch out the meal deal and make your own packed lunch a couple of days a week?
10. Check your monthly subscriptions.
You can end up paying for all sorts of stuff with a monthly subscription – music streaming, food deliveries, beauty products, software, and more. Every so often it’s worth going through your bank and credit card statements to double check you’re not still paying for things you’ve stopped using – or thought you had stopped paying for.
11. Switch energy suppliers.
Comparison websites like uswitch.com and confused.com make it quick and easy to compare the available deals so there’s really no excuse not to shop around. You should try check if you’re still getting the best deal at least every couple of years.
12. Boil less water, close your doors, turn down the heating.
Energy costs money, and there are lots of simple little ways you can save. How often do you boil a whole kettle for just one cupful? And why not keep doors shut and turn down radiators in rooms you’re not using?
13. Stop automatic renewals and shop around each year.
We know it’s easy to ignore those insurance renewal notices when they drop through the letterbox, and often people just let them roll over for another year. But taking a few minutes to check that you’re still getting a good deal can be time well spent.
14. Work out for less.
There are more and more great budget gym options available, so if you’ve been paying a high monthly membership for years it could be time to check the alternatives. Pay-as-you-go options could also be worth looking at – especially if you don’t manage go to the gym as often as you would like to, or thought you would.
15. Beware of late night clicking.
The internet is always open and delivery times are getting faster and faster – so impulse buying has never been easier. Before you check out always ask yourself if you really need everything you’ve dropped in your online basket. Another neat trick is to switch off ‘one-click shopping’ options on your mobile, to give you a few extra moments to consider your midnight purchases.
16. Visit your cable or satellite package.
It’s easy to end up paying for movie and sports packages that you hardly ever watch. If you only watch movies from time to time it could work out cheaper to stream them individually. Or what about considering Netflix or Amazon Prime? With more choices now available there could be a package that is cheaper, and more suited, for your needs.
17. Slow down your broadband a bit.
How much speed do you really need? Unless the whole family is constantly downloading movies and games you may not really need that top of the range fibre broadband speed you’re currently paying for.
18. Walk more, drive less.
After housing, transportation is most people’s second biggest expense. For shorter journeys, why not walk? Not only is it cheaper – but it’s healthier and better for the planet.
19. Ditch the car completely.
Depending on where you live it could be that you don’t really need a car of your own at all for your day to day routine. Lots of cities now have communal car clubs and car share schemes as well as public transport that’ll often get you there faster than driving. Car clubs are also available in a lot of cities, where you can pick up and drop off rental cars at convenient locations – great for weekend getaways!
20. Sell your house.
Sounds extreme, but people can end up in houses that are much bigger (and more expensive) than they really need, especially if you have kids who have flown the nest. It’s not for everyone but downsizing could seriously cut your monthly bills (and give you the added bonus of less housework to do).
Stock market investments can go down as well as up and you could get back less than you’ve invested. Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and tax rules could change in the future. Tax-free means the investment grows free from tax, with the exception of any tax we’ve already paid on your behalf (for example on dividends from UK shares).