With winter upon us, many are facing the tough challenge of managing our finances. Heating costs are on the rise, food prices are going up, and the overall cost of living is increasing.
To top it all off, it’s a costly season for many, with Christmas, Diwali, and Hanukkah around the corner. From hosting large meals, to buying decorations and gifts for family, friends, teachers, or healthcare workers who help us, it can really add up. We might be ordering more takeaways as hibernation mode sets in. And bad weather might force us to take taxis over public transport.
Not to mention the temptation of Black Friday sales creeping up, encouraging us to spend more than we can afford.
Today as we kick off Talk Money Week, we're taking a moment to consider how we can make the most of our finances as carers in winter. By shopping around, and planning ahead, we can hopefully enjoy a less stressful season.
Making Black Friday work for carers
Black Friday, the fourth Friday in November, is a huge annual shopping event. It offers deals on a wide range of products, including caregiving equipment, such as mobility aids or useful tech, and can last for up to a week in some stores.
While it's tempting to buy things we don't really need, Black Friday is also a chance for us to get great deals and save money on things we were planning to buy anyway.
This could be something like a new vacuum cleaner, or a replacement mattress.
Black Friday is also a good time to think about getting helpful technologies or devices that make caring tasks easier.
For example, many in our carer’s community find home assistants like Amazon Alexa really useful. It's voice-controlled and hands-free, so it can help with things like making shopping lists, reading recipes, playing music, controlling lights and heating, or even notifying us if the person we care for needs help.
With festive events such as Hanukkah and Christmas coming up, Black Friday deals can also be used to buy gifts for our loved ones, including the person we're caring for. This can help with the cost of the festive season, and starting our shopping early means we can spread out the expense.
If we’re not sure what gifts to get, our Christmas shopping guide covers ideas and inspiration.
Where are the best places to get Black Friday deals for carers?
Excited to dive into the sales? While most retailers keep their specific deals under wraps until the big day, we've looked at last year's offers to give an idea of what to expect.
We've provided links to these retailers so we can subscribe to their newsletters and be among the first to hear about the best deals.
Mobility Smart typically offers discounts of up to 50% on essential items like wheelchairs, walking aids, and mobility scooters. This is a great opportunity to save significantly on the usually expensive disability aids.
Likewise, Complete Care Shop have previously slashed their prices with 40% off selected mobility aids, equipment and accessories.
Boots usually has deals on beauty, health, and self-care, with up to 50% off a variety of products. It’s also worth signing-up to their Boots card to collect money saving points.
Argos is known for discounts on a wide range of items, so we're likely to find savings on just about anything we can think of.
If we're in the market for tech, Currys is expected to offer fantastic savings, including up to £300 off items like wireless earbuds, iPads, and iPad minis.
How can I avoid overspending on Black Friday?
If we jump into Black Friday without a plan, we could easily end up buying a bunch of things we don't actually need and running up a debt we can't handle. Plus, returning them is just as time-consuming.
To stay on top of our spending, it's a good idea to make a list of the things we truly need and mark them off as we shop. This keeps us focused and prevents us from buying stuff on a whim. Setting a budget and comparing prices at different stores can also help us get the best deals on the things we're looking for.
Overspending on Black Friday can sometimes happen because we're trying to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. If we think impulse spending is a challenge for us, take a look at our guide on how to recognise impulse spending and manage it before the sales start. Unsubscribing from emails from shops we know will tempt us could help to manage that spending impulse.
It's also perfectly okay to decide to ignore the whole Black Friday thing too. It's important to make the choices that best support our emotional wellbeing, and not just our finances.
14 easy ways to save money during winter
Despite the ongoing high prices, there are practical ways to make our money go further this winter. From budget setting, to Christmas gift buying, try these tips for saving money during an expensive season:
1. Bulk buy our essentials (only if we need them)
When we purchase items in large quantities, especially during sales, we can save a significant amount of money over the year. Products like pasta, rice, non-perishable foods, household cleaning items, and even toilet paper are great for bulk buying.
Consider switching to budget-friendly stores like Costco or Lidl, which offer products in larger quantities at lower prices compared to regular supermarkets. If we are not able to get a Costco membership, perhaps we can ask a friend or family member that does to help.
If we’re planning to purchase gifts for paid carers, bulk buying and then dividing the gifts can be a smart way to cut costs.
“I’ve started buying large bags of dried beans and pulses. I have to soak them, but they save me money over all!” - A carer from our community
For more ideas, check out our guide (full of carer’s tips) on how to save on the weekly shop.
2. Set a budget using banking apps
One of the smartest ways we can save money is by sticking to a budget. Digital banks like Monzo and Revolut provide useful features that make saving money easy. We can simply apply for a card online and it’ll be posted to us.
In addition to monitoring our spending, they offer a 'Round-Up' tool that automatically rounds up purchases to the nearest pound and saves the extra change in a designated savings pot. This helps us build up savings with little effort. We can also set daily, weekly or monthly spending caps to make sure we don’t overspend.
We have lots of additional ideas on setting a budget using banking apps in our guide to stopping and spotting impulse spending.
3. Save on gifts and celebrations
Buying presents can be one of the most expensive parts of the winter season. From DIY gifts to last-minute ideas, we have plenty of cost-effective suggestions from our community in our carers' guide to gift buying.
For tips on how to celebrate Hannukah on a budget, this article by the Independent might be helpful.
4. Access financial support
As carers, we may be eligible for various benefits and discounts that can make everyday living more affordable. Use the handy Mobilise financial checklist to make sure we’re not missing out on any financial help.
There are also lots of exclusive discounts available for carers in the UK, from money off days out to cheaper transport.
5. Think ahead by meal prepping for the week
Something our future selves will most likely thank us for - meal prepping! Preparing large batches of hearty winter meals is a smart way to reduce stress and save money. We can freeze the leftovers and have a quick midweek meal ready to go.
6. Sell unwanted items
We can make some extra cash by selling unwanted clothes and furniture on second-hand websites like Vinted, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. Listing an item is easy and can be done on a smartphone in less than two minutes.
Likewise, Ziffit is another easy way to sell books, DVDs, CDs and games. Simply scan the barcodes on the accompanying app and pop the items in the post in return for cash.
Plus, for those of us who are a My John Lewis member, we can get £5 off a fashion or homeware purchase of £20 or more when we bring in five or more items of pre-loved clothing to any of their fashion counters.
7. Check if we can switch mobile and broadband providers
Many of us are paying more than we need to for our phone and internet services. Negotiating with our service provider at the end of our contract can often result in a better deal.
Websites like moneysavingexpert.com can assist us in comparing the best mobile and broadband deals currently available. They can also help save for car and home insurance.
If we're receiving benefits such as Universal Credit or Pension Credit, we might even qualify for social tariffs. These are lower-cost broadband and phone packages compared to regular rates. Some providers call them 'essential' or 'basic' broadband packages. We can contact our provider to check if they offer these tariffs and what we need to do to be eligible.
8. Check local fuel prices
Given that many household budgets are already stretched, it's become even more important for us to reduce our weekly fuel bills. To find the cheapest fuel nearby, check out websites like petrolprices.com or use the fuel price lookup feature in some navigation apps. This can help us to save money on the daily drive.
9. Change our household habits
Making little changes in our daily routine can help us save a lot of money. For instance, washing our clothes at 30 degrees Celsius instead of 40 can cut our energy use by about 40%. Similarly, lowering our thermostat by just one degree can save us money over the year.
For more ideas on how to reduce energy bills, check out our guide to living costs.
Simply swapping out how much we use the oven with an air fryer can save us not only more time but money in the long run.
“Save up for an air fryer, they are excellent value, and you can buy them really cheap. Cooking in them is a fraction of the cost of using an oven. Don't forget the good old microwave either, a lot of different foods can be cooked in them.” - A carer from our community
We don’t have to stop at swapping to more energy-efficient appliances. How about swapping disposable paper towels for fabric towels for cleaning too?
10. Make good use of food waste
Many community-focused apps are designed to help users save unsold, but perfectly good, food from being thrown away. One app we like is Too Good To Go. With this app, we can buy and pick up food from local cafes, supermarkets, and restaurants at about a third of the usual price.
It's a great way to reduce food waste and enjoy affordable meals while supporting our local community.
11. Make use of cashback sites
Cashback websites give us a little bit of money back every time we buy something online. Well-known sites like Quidco and TopCashback offer cashback on many things, like mobile phones, car insurance, clothing, and gifts.
To get the cashback, we just need to visit the store's website by clicking on the link from the cashback site instead of going there directly. When we buy something, the store gives a small part of the money back to us as a reward.
“I use Quidco for most of my purchases throughout the year. This means I have almost £200 ready in my account to put towards Christmas” - A carer from our community
12. Trade in old tech
Many of us have old phones and computers lying around at home. At Currys, we can trade in our old tech in-store. If it meets their requirements, they'll give us a gift card right there. It's a simple way to clear out our old gadgets and put them to good use.
13. Don’t forget supermarket loyalty cards
When we sign up for a supermarket loyalty program, we earn points as we shop. These points can be used for future food shops, or we can apply them to partner brands to cover the cost of dining out or holidays.
Usually, these points offer better value when used for partner discounts rather than reinvesting in the store, so it's a good idea for us to explore the available offers.
And, to make things easier, we can save our loyalty cards on our phones, so we don't have to carry around a bunch of physical cards.
14. Cancel or pause unwanted subscriptions
During lockdown, many of may have leaned on subscriptions for entertainment and services. However, we may well still be paying monthly fees for things we no longer use.
It's a good idea to review our recent bank statement to see what we're subscribed to. If we're not using a service, it's best to cancel or pause it.
15. Invest in a portable heater
In the colder months, think about using an electric heater to warm up specific areas in the home instead of heating the whole house. This can be a cost-effective way to save money on our heating bills.
Just put the electric heater in the room we spend the most time in, and make sure to keep the doors closed to keep the warmth contained.
Winter can be a very expensive time of year, but we hope that there are some helpful tips here to make the season less stressful.
Did we miss anything? Share your budget-friendly tips over at the Mobilise hub. A free space to connect and chat with others who are also caring for loved ones.