chicken-1536439_640We hate to be the ones to say it, but now probably really is a good time to start watching your pennies in readiness for Christmas. We know it’s in December but for those who are paid monthly it’s 4 or 5 pay packets away (depending on exactly when you get paid). Looked at from that perspective, it makes sense to start saving now, even though (hopefully) it’ll be some time before the carols start playing. To help you get started, here are 6 really obvious ways to save money.

Cull regular expenses you only use occasionally (or never).

Gym memberships are the obvious example of this. While pay-as-you-go rates can work out more expensive for those who go to the gym several times a week, for those who go less often, they can actually work out cheaper, plus there are lots of other ways to exercise both indoors and outdoors, without the need to pay regular fees – even for those who live in shared accommodation and studios. Subscriptions are another category to check, magazines, online entertainment sites, food parcels, if you’re not getting full use out of them, then unsubscribe.

Eat more home-cooked food

Eating out can be fun, but meals out, take-aways and ready-meals all cost more than food prepared at home. Even buying ready-to-use ingredients such as jars of pasta sauce generally costs more than buying the ingredients and making them yourself. We appreciate that if you don’t like cooking it can be a chore to come in tired after work and then have to make yourself something for dinner and then prepare a packed lunch for the next day (or do it in the morning when you’d rather be in bed) but you can break yourself in gently. Even if you start by only cooking at the weekends, freezing a couple of portions and making one packed lunch for Monday, you’ll still be starting to save the pennies and as you get better at cooking and managing shopping, you may find you can do more than you thought.

Learn to ignore food packaging and to look at ingredients instead

Premium food brands with high-quality, attractive packaging may indeed be worth the extra money – or they may not. A look at the ingredients should give you a good idea as to whether or not the higher price is justified. For basic items you may well find that supermarket own brands and such like are every bit as good as their more expensive counterparts.

Use up what you have before you buy the same or a similar item

If you have a drawer full of T-shirts, you don’t actually need any more no matter how good they look or what a good price they are. If you’re a (paper) notebook lover and you already have a stack of them, you don’t need any more, even if they’re on special offer. Basically if you already have a stock of something, whatever it is, use it up first before you buy any more.

Be suspicious of special offers

Some special offers can be very good value, but some simply tempt us to spend money on items we would otherwise have ignored. It doesn’t matter how cheap something is or what a good discount it is, if you don’t really want it and won’t actually use it or are only using it because you’ve bought it, then it’s probably a waste of money.

Learn to love pre-loved

New may be nice but pre-loved can be much more prudent financially speaking. In particular, if you know you don’t actually need to very latest model of phone/tablet/other consumer electronics item, then you can potentially make meaningful savings by going for a refurbished “last generation” item.