How to become a savings legend in your lunch hour when you are working from home

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IF you are working from home, the furthest you need to go for something to eat is your fridge.

That means you have more free time in your lunch hour – and by using it wisely, you can save yourself a whole lot of cash over the course of a year.

Use your lunch hours to save cash to the tune of £2,000

Fundraising executive Clare Elgar, from Southampton, worked out how, to the tune of more than £2,000.

Clare said: “It’s a great habit to get into.

“There are cashback offers, referral links and promo codes to be used.

“I can save for things I enjoy, like travelling.”

Here, Clare reveals how she did it, day by day.

Clare has a five day routine she uses to focus on her savings

Motivation Monday

SET up one of the many great apps that help you grow your savings, such as Plum. Clare loves it because it helps her save in three ways.

First, Plum will “round up” her purchases to the nearest £1 and pop the spare change into her savings account each week.

Clare says: “It is like the modern version of the spare-change piggy bank.”

This month there was 80p from a Tesco shop of £8.20, another 50p from her local coffee shop and 20p from a £3.80 parking fee.

Her weekly round-ups averaged £7.62 – a total of £30.49 in spare change for January.

Second, every four to five days it will analyse Clare’s spending and set aside an amount – an average of £15.12 for her – based on what it thinks she can spare.

Finally, Plum puts aside a set amount – £22 in Clare’s case – each payday.

She says: “It’s a little-and-often savings account for me.”

YEARLY SAVINGS: £1,200

Sharing offers with a friend is often mutually beneficial

Tell-a-friend Tuesday

SHARING is caring, especially when you get something back.

Spend Tuesday lunchtime looking into whether your credit card, energy provider or favourite takeaway app will pay you to spread the word to your friends.

Clare said: “I’m with Bulb for my household energy and have referred two people through my unique link. That’s £100 towards my own energy bills.”

She told her friends about her favourite cashback site (more on those later), TopCashback, and has pocketed around £30 from them signing up.

Some firms give your friend a bonus too.

For example, if you have an American Express Platinum Cashback credit card and refer a friend, you get £30 cashback when they sign up, while they get £25 after the first £1 spent on their card.

YEARLY SAVINGS: £160

Wise Wednesday

SWAP your wisdom for wonga by doing online surveys during lunch for firms such as Curious Cat, Populus Live, Swagbucks or Prolific Academic.

This one’s not a one-off – keep it up all year long to earn big.

Populus Live offers £1 for every 5 minutes, providing the survey is completed correctly.

That’s £12 an hour. If you spend every Wednesday lunch break doing that you’ll earn £624.

Each Swagbucks survey pays in points, which can be redeemed as gift cards.

Clare says: “A few minutes a day so far this week while waiting for the kettle to boil and I’ve got 168 points.

“With 1,360 I can get the £10 Amazon gift card I want.”

YEARLY SAVINGS: £624

Use price comparison sites to keep on top of your spending

Loyalty tax Thursday

HIT back at energy, broadband, phone and insurance firms that take advantage of your loyalty.

Most have better deals for new customers so if you have been with your current company for more than a year, switch now.

Just make sure you won’t be penalised for leaving your current provider.
Start with a comparison site.

Using Confused.com to switch her insurance from Direct Line to eSure netted Clare a £30 saving on the year.

She says: “I also used Go Compare (below) to switch from Tesco to Animal Friends for pet insurance and that saved me about £15 a month.

“I switched from Green Flag to the AA for breakdown cover using Topcashback, which saved me about £80.”

By switching energy suppliers from Southern Electric to Bulb last year, Clare’s monthly bill almost halved, down from £90 to £47.

You can get extra via cashback too, as well as from saving on bills.

YEARLY SAVINGS: £806

Clare uses an app called Plum to round up her spare change

Free cash Friday

HIT back at energy, broadband, phone and insurance firms that take advantage of your loyalty.

Most have better deals for new customers so if you have been with your current company for more than a year, switch now.

Just make sure you won’t be penalised for leaving your current provider.

Start with a comparison site. Using Confused.com to switch her insurance from Direct Line to eSure netted Clare a £30 saving on the year.

She says: “I also used Go Compare (below) to switch from Tesco to Animal Friends for pet insurance and that saved me about £15 a month.

“I switched from Green Flag to the AA for breakdown cover using Topcashback, which saved me about £80.”

By switching energy suppliers from Southern Electric to Bulb last year, Clare’s monthly bill almost halved, down from £90 to £47.

You can get extra via cashback too, as well as from saving on bills.

YEARLY SAVINGS: £806

Bit changes

TWO in five investors in Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are women.

They make up up 41.6 per cent of buyers, according to a survey.

Women make up two-thirds of Brit investors in Bitcoin

Blair Halliday, Head of UK at Gemini, said: “The persistent view of the crypto investor is single and male.

“This new data demonstrates an increasingly diverse base engaging with crypto, and indicates how the market is likely to evolve over the longer term.”

But crypto trading is still risky – despite Bitcoin hitting headlines for huge jumps in value.

Money makeover

MATTHEW Summers is on a salary of £40,000 and wants to save more.

The 34-year-old annuity specialist from Peterborough says: “It’s really hard to know how, or where, to save with interest rates so low.

“Eventually, I’d like to buy with my partner but need to save a lump sum first. The focus for now is putting money away.”

Matthew currently saves £300 a month but hopes to increase that amount.

Matthew Summers wants to learn more about how to save his money

He has built up £3,000 in a fixed-rate bond at 2.25 per cent and £2,600 in a general savings account, both with HSBC.

He also has £1,200 in National Savings and Investments (NS&I) Premium Bonds.

But he has hefty outgoings. He pays £860 a month in rent, and he’s still paying off a mortgage with his ex-partner.

His share amounts to £170 a month for a 25-year £93,000 repayment mortgage on a variable rate of 3.59 per cent with HSBC.

“The initial fixed-rate deal expired ages ago,” he says.

They bought the three-bed house in 2009 for £150,000 and it is now worth about £230,000. But he isn’t able to sell it at the moment.

He also pays £480 a month in child maintenance and adds: “I’m in a better financial position than I was, as I don’t have any credit card debt.”

However, he does pay £290 a month for a £12,500 car loan with Oodle Car Finance at 2.5 per cent, with more than four years left to run.

He also has £800 worth of individual shares with investment platform Trading 212, across 26 companies.

He says: “I like to dabble in investing – they include start-ups and mining companies.”

Advice from Andrew Hagger, personal finance expert at moneycomms.co.uk

MATTHEW is sensible to focus on building his savings balance.

His monthly take-home pay is around £2,600, and his existing commitments amount to about £1,800.

So, with no credit card debt to worry about, there’s no reason why he can’t increase the amount he saves a month to £500.

He should consider switching his energy provider and his car insurance using a price comparison service, such as Uswitch. This could free some valuable extra funds.

Low interest rates are frustrating, but it shouldn’t be a reason not to put money aside each month.

The only way Matthew has a chance of getting a better return is by taking more risk, investing in the stock market.

But he will be lucky if he can get just 0.7 per cent for a one-year fixed-rate bond when his current one ends.

So I suggest he puts the money into Premium Bonds. The average return is approximately one per cent, although this isn’t guaranteed. But his money is safe, and he can withdraw if needed.

Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen

Coupon Queen Maddy Tooke has five online freebies to share

MY top five freebies this week:

1) Free online edition of February’s GoodHomes magazine to make up for the cancelled Ideal Home Show. Access yours at bit.ly/goodhomesfeb.

2) New topcashback.co.uk members get a free £10 to spend at Superdrug. Be quick – there’s 5,000 chances only. See bit.ly/topcashbacksuperdrug.

3) Free job courses with LinkedIn Learning at bit.ly/linkedincourses10.

4) Ten free Lockdown Country Activity Packs from TripAbroad to keep children entertained during lockdown. Sign up at bit.ly/tripabroad10.

5) Free kids’ craft guides from Hobbycraft at bit.ly/hobbycraftschool.