Saving is likely to be one of the last things on many people’s minds during these troubling times.
Many of us are struggling to cover soaring living costs at the moment, so trying to squirrel away cash at this time may well be near the bottom of the priority list.
However, with so much uncertainty about how things will unfold in the months to come, if at all possible, it makes sense to try and prepare for financially tough times ahead.
Here, we explain how you might be able to find spare cash to save even though your budget already feels under strain.
How much money should you have in an emergency fund?
Experts recommend three to six months’ worth of income as the ideal amount to set aside, but for most people that will seem an impossible feat.
Even if you know there’s no way you’ll be able to afford to put this much away, the golden rule is that it’s better to try to save something rather than nothing, so that at least you have a bit of money to fall back on should you need it. Here are five ways to start building your emergency fund.
Review your outgoings
If you’re finding it hard to save, see if you can make cutbacks to free up some spare cash.
For instance, two-fifths of us continue to pay for subscriptions we don’t use, worth £21 a month, according to research by cashback website Topcashback. So take a thorough look at your bank statements and highlight any direct debits leaving your account you’re unaware of, or subscriptions you no longer require.
Chances are that you’ll find at least one outgoing that slips through the net each month which you don’t make full use of – whether it’s streaming services, online newspapers, gym memberships or magazine subscriptions. If you’ve paid up-front for a subscription, you should be entitled to a refund on a pro-rata basis for any months remaining of the subscription period. Find out more in our article Are you losing money on subscriptions you don’t need?
The key part? Keep a tally of how much you can cut back, and set up a standing order to move that money into a savings account each month.
Make sure you include your financial products in your audit. For example, could you cut your monthly mortgage payments by remortgaging, or save on your car insurance by shopping around?
Read our article How to save money to find out other ways you might be able to save.
How to secure your emergency fund
It’s easy to think you’re not going to be able to afford to save anything if you’re on a tight budget. But there is great value in simply building a healthy savings habit, so that when you do have more income coming in, you’ll be used to putting money away regularly.
One way to get the ball rolling is to go try the good, old-fashioned way of sticking physical cash into a money box.
Whether it’s popping pound coins into a jar or filing away your £5 notes, any amount is a good start – just make sure that you deposit anything you’ve saved into a savings account every month so that you earn interest on it.
When can you park your emergency fund?
Savings rates are changing almost daily as a result of several increases in the Bank of England recent base rate in recent months.
If you are interested in opening a savings account but don’t know where to begin, we have a few articles outlining how different types of account work and listing some of the best options on the market, updated every week. For example, Best cash ISA rates – which cash ISAs pay the most interest? details the cash ISAs with the highest interest rates currently available. Fixed rate savings bonds explained and Best instant access savings accounts do the same with fixed rate bonds and instant access savings accounts respectively.
Regular savings accounts, which usually have a one-year term, often pay the highest returns, and require you to pay in a minimum amount each month. For example, Natwest’s Digital Regular Saver account pays 6.17% annual interest. You can pay in from as little as £1 a month, up to £150, and it is an easy access account.
It’s also worth checking with your bank to see if they offer current account holders a linked regular savings account first, as these typically pay the highest rates of interest. If you have a Nationwide current account, for example, you’ll be eligible to open a Regular Saver account paying a massive 8% annual interest before tax on monthly payments between £0 and £200. You can find other best buy regular savings accounts in our guide What are the best regular savings accounts?
Get smart about saving
Most adults in the UK check their smartphones 33 times a day, with more than two hours spent mindlessly scrolling and tapping.
Chip, for example, uses artificial intelligence to work out how much you can afford to save by analysing your spending behaviour. Every few days, it automatically transfers money into a Chip account that you’re required to open when you sign up.
There’s no need to worry about your data – your login details are protected using 256-bit encryption, which is considered highly secure. The downside is that you don’t currently earn interest on the money saved via the app. Your money is stored as ‘e-money’ with a retail bank (currently Barclays) and is ring-fenced so that it’s not used for any trading activities. You can withdraw your money at any time.
It’s more important than ever to track down the best possible deals on everything you buy so that hopefully you’ll be able to save money that you can then direct into your emergency fund.
Although most of us will be reining in our spending during this difficult time, there are necessities we’ll always have to buy, such as food and household products.
Fortunately, when it comes to tracking down the best prices, there are plenty of websites which will do the hard work on your behalf. For example, Pricerunner.com enables you to hunt down the best prices on things you need to buy by comparing and listing over 1.6 million products from over 4,000 retailers. The cheapest price is listed first, and as the site is independent, you’ll have peace of mind that retailers can’t influence which products you’re shown. Another site, Kelkoo.co.uk, performs similar research on thousands of products, and claims to save shoppers an average of 15% on their purchases by helping find the lowest prices.
When you know what you want to buy online, always check to see if there is a discount voucher available which can get you money off your purchases too. Sites where you can see current voucher codes include Vouchercodes.co.uk and Groupon.co.uk. Simply enter the name of the retailer you’re buying from and these sites will let you know if there are any discounts available. You should also see if you can earn cashback on your spending via sites such as Quidco.com and Topcashback.co.uk.
Selling items you no longer need can be a great way to generate cash for your emergency savings fund. Whilst you won’t be able to do this at a boot sale for the time being, there are plenty of websites which allow you to send off unwanted items. They then deposit payment for these items straight into your bank account.
Have a look around your home and make a pile of things you no longer need. For example, have you got any electrical gadgets such as iPods, digital cameras or laptops sitting gathering dust? If so, you can sell them via websites including Cashinyourgadgets.co.uk, Gadgetmill.co.uk and Gadgets2cash.com. You simply enter the make and model of the gadget and if you’re happy with the price, you can send it by freepost.
You can read our full guide to find out more ways to Make cash from your clutter.
Don’t worry if the amounts you’re able to put away during this difficult time seem small. Every little bit helps and even if you can only afford to save a small amount regularly, having any kind of buffer in place can provide valuable peace of mind.
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