With the cost of living rising steadily and many young people still studying or working in low-paid, part-time or entry level jobs, finding ways to keep those living costs down makes a lot of sense.
Housing costs take a far higher percentage of a young adult’s income than they once did, which means there is less left for utility bills, transport costs, food, clothing and entertainment.
It’s no wonder those who are also trying to save for a car, a flat or house deposit or a wedding may be filled with despair.
When there’s little chance of an increase in wages or other forms of income, e.g. student loan, the only way young people can stretch their money is to keep costs as low as possible.
The cheapest option is to live with parents or other relatives; however, this is not possible for everyone, including students and care leavers.
For renters, it’s usually more expensive to rent privately although house shares may be an option. Social housing is usually cheaper and more secure. Do not assume an entitlement to housing benefit as 18-21 year olds have no automatic entitlement to the housing costs element of Universal Credit (and very few 16-17 year olds can claim Universal Credit at all).
Some people are not counted for council tax purposes, e.g. students, student nurses and apprentices, and single-person households have their bills reduced by 25%. Citizens Advice has more information.
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has a reduced tariff to help households with a combined income of under £15,000 per year.
It’s possible to reduce all other utility bills, including gas, electric, insurance, internet and telephone, simply by shopping around and comparing prices. Use comparison sites like Which? Switch and the Cheap Energy Club (gas and electric), Go Compare (insurance) and Compare the Market to find the best deals.
Most young people rely on public transport to get around.
Where travel plans are concerned, the key to cutting costs is to plan ahead and shop around. Flight prices vary dramatically depending on airport, carrier and time/date of travel (with school holidays the most expensive).
Coach and railway fares tend to be cheaper the farther ahead you book. Look out for discounts for under 25s, often in conjunction with a bus or railcard.
Insurance can be expensive for young drivers but comparison sites will help you get the best deal.
With food costs rising and shopping habits changing, it’s not surprising many young people overspend on food. Here are some ways to keep the food bills down:
- avoid shopping every day – aim for once or twice a week
- eat before shopping – hunger leads to impulse buys
- plan meals for the week ahead
- write a list and stick to it
- use familiar stores – searching for items leads to impulse buys
- buy own brands instead of big brand names
- only bulk buy if the food will be used (or shared with friends)
- go shopping late in the day when fresh foods are often reduced
- use cash – there’s less chance of going over budget.
- take a packed lunch to college or work
- buy snacks in multi-packs to reduce the unit cost
- cook meals from scratch and freeze portions for future use
- plan meals to avoid wasting fresh foods
- check the fridge/freezer/cupboards before going to the shops
- check use by and expiry dates to avoid waste
- try out new foods and recipes – vegetarian meals can work out cheaper and are just as tasty.
Love Food Hate Waste has lots of recipes and ideas for reducing food waste.
Cooking on a Bootstrap and Student Recipes have low-cost recipes.
Everyone needs a treat now and then (perhaps to celebrate a birthday) and it needn’t cost the earth.
It’s generally cheaper to eat out at lunchtime or early evening. For dinner dates, look out for special offers, including kids eat free deals and vouchers. Drinks can be expensive so if money’s tight stick to tap water (licensed establishments must provide tap water to paying customers).
Save the Student has tips for eating out on a budget, or check Groupon to purchase discount vouchers.
Other cost-cutting ideas
The best way of keeping costs down is to stop spending unnecessarily, especially in the sales; something is only a bargain if it will be worn or used. Moneysaving Expert recommends using money mantras to curb impulse buying.
For planned purchases, always shop around for the best price or service. Wherever possible, click through using free cash back websites.
Money Saving Expert has moneysaving tips for under 25s with additional ideas for students.