A small amount of effort and the cultivation of simple thrifty habits can pay dividends over time – even if you aren’t in the mood to do those little chores it’s worth pushing on and completing them. Yes, it’s very easy to be tempted by the quick hit that convenience brings, but it tends to cost you more in the end.
Here are a few ideas for things to do today that will save you money and hassle tomorrow, and in the long run.
Floss your teeth every night
How many of us forget to floss every time before brushing? It’s so common to forget to do this, especially when you’re tired after a long day, but it makes a huge difference to your dental health.
About five years ago my dentist asked me ‘Which teeth do you most need to floss?‘ The correct answer to this question turned out to be ‘Only the ones you want to keep,’ which of course scared the bejaysus out of me and kept me on the straight and narrow pretty much ever since. My dentist is a badass, you get a free Jedi mind trick instead of a sugar-free lollipop as you get out of the chair.
Floss is really cheap too. I just buy supermarket or high street chemist own brand waxed floss, stocking up when it’s on 3-for-2 offer, nothing fancy but it does the trick. A low-price investment that greatly reduces the likelihood of gum disease and the need for painful, expensive dental work.
Extra cash to spare? Look for a reasonably-priced electric toothbrush if you don’t own one already. It’s a good investment in your dental health.
Plan your menu for the week
Meal planning means much less food waste, and can bring your grocery bills right down. I find that I spend at least third less on average when I meal plan, compared to buying stuff randomly on an ad hoc basis.
It has a lot of added bonuses on top of the reduced spending, such as: tasty meals to look forward to, the chance to eat a more balanced diet, and reduced prep and cooking time if you’re clever with planning bulk preparation and using up leftovers. It can also stop you reaching for an overpriced takeaway dinner, which is why I usually have a curry or a pizza stashed in the freezer to stave off temptation.
Top tips: Always check your work and social calendars first before making your meal plan, so you can make quick and easy food on nights you’ll be home late and avoid buying in groceries for the nights when you’re going out to eat. Whenever I forget to do this I tend to over-buy, but less is more (even if my hunter-gatherer mind is trying to make me fill the supermarket trolley to the brim). Also, remember to buy in enough for breakfasts and snacks.
Clean your shoes regularly
This one sounds so old fashioned, doesn’t it? However, it helps to extend the life of your shoes by feeding the leather, or adding protection to suede and fabric. The same goes for looking after belts and bags, and a quick clean keeps them fed and looked after.
It also allows you to spot problems such as loose threads, excessive wear or the soles coming unglued, so you can sort them out yourself at the early stages instead of having to take them for repair.
Plus it looks nicer all round, which is helpful if you’re trying to make a good impression at a pitch or an interview. Most people subconsciously check out your shoes, others do it deliberately, and it’s one of those non-verbal cues that can make a difference.
Check your bank & card statements every month
This quick check only takes a couple of minutes for each one, tops, but it can save you from a whole load of pain and trouble in the long run. If your brain says ‘urgh, it’s boring‘, remind yourself of this: while we often don’t worry about wasting money, we *hate* having our money *stolen from us*.
Yep, that’s right, the most important thing to look for here is fraud and theft. Catch it early and you’re more likely to nip it in the bud, hopefully getting your money back and saving your credit rating in the process. Also, banks make random mistakes with payments, and this happens more often than you might think.
It’s also an opportunity to track your spending, look for unused subscriptions you can cancel, and spot other areas where you can cut back your outgoings.
For example, in recent years I’ve caught more than one company continuing to charge me for fuel long after I’ve moved to another supplier, and a phone company charging me for calls and line rental on a phone that no longer even existed. That’s stealing from me! No way should you let them get away with it, and don’t think they’ll eventually automatically refund you – you have to fight to get it back.
Have a regular Make Do & Mend half hour
Once a week, or once a fortnight, set a few minutes aside to do some maintenance or running repairs. Make it a regular event, maybe on a Sunday afternoon or before dinner on a Monday evening, and just get on with stuff. That could be mending or altering clothes, doing some minor repairs around your home, or looking after tech, gadgets, your bike or your car.
It’s also a chance to do some decluttering or recycling, or to start a low key DIY project. A little regular attention keeps your home running smoothly, whether it’s an antivirus upgrade on your computer, mending a fallen hem or topping up the windscreen wash for your car. It can save a lot of hassle, stress and expense over time.
Sort out your insurance
This is the ultimate ‘naaaah, I don’t want to do it‘ task, and the human brain doesn’t like to think about the worst case scenario, full stop. But it’s good to ask ‘what do I have to lose if it all goes wrong?‘
If it’s something that could wipe out your life savings or bankrupt you, or leave your dependents struggling, it’s time to look into getting insured. It’s easy enough to find out which companies have the best reputation for customer service and good value, and to compare offerings from different insurers, so crack on with this chore and then it’s out of the way.
We’ve just saved nearly £800 on our home and contents insurance by switching to another company, so if you’re up for renewal then never accept the first quote from your current insurer.
As with most areas of personal finance you don’t get a loyalty bonus, you get a ‘laziness tax’ instead.
Do you have any chores that you don’t really like to do – but you do them anyway because they save you lots of money and hassle later? Or are there any that you’ve secretly been putting off?