The Essential Guide to Saving Money and Building Wealth in the UK

[Article updated on 18th February 2022]

A plant growing from a glass filled with coins.

In this article, I will tell you:

  • How save money on services you already pay for
  • How to get the best prices for items you want
  • How to make savings passively
  • How to invest money to build wealth
  • How to optimise your spending processes
  • How to optimise your saving processes

I only link to products and services I use myself.

Note: None of this is investment advice, always do your own research.

If you have no money right now…

Read my article The Essential Guide to Generating Some Money the Easy Way, Guaranteed.

Education on Finance

Despite being one of the most important things in life, the subjects of money and investing are barely taught in schools.

Some areas you need to know about are:

  • Inflation (how your money is worth less over time)
  • Compound interest
  • Good vs bad debt
  • Credit rating
  • Credit cards (and rewards)
  • Tax (and how to save/invest efficiently, e.g. pension contributions, ISA’s, etc.)
  • Spending money overseas (e.g. Interbank exchange rate)
  • Stock market investment
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Mortgages
  • Costs of owning a house (capital gains tax, council tax, utilities, etc.)
  • Property investment

Recommended Finance Books

There are a lot of good books, my favourite (which covers everything in a detailed, but easy to read format) is How to Own the World: A Plain English Guide to Thinking Globally and Investing Wisely.

Recommended Finance YouTube Channels

  • Graham Stephan — general finance information with advice on how to build wealth
  • Meet Kevin — stocks, property investment and current financial related news. Has some very good courses
  • Bulls on Wallstreet — trading stocks, focusing on day-trading and swing-trading

Car

Car Insurance

Get insurance cheaper by setting the voluntary excess fee to £700 and then get excess waiver insurance (covering car, house and pet) for about £40 for up to £700.

Use MoneySupermarket for a quick but reliable method to find the cheapest car insurance.

Gap Insurance

I used Direct Gap. Mercedes tried to sell me gap insurance for about £700 is was about a third of the price from Direct Gap and the Mercedes finance person couldn’t see any disadvantage of using this vs the one that Mercedes were offering.

Car Parts

I often find Euro Car Parts to have the best prices.

Car Tyres

Buy tyres from MyTyres and get them fitted from one of their approved fitters. I have found this to be significantly cheaper than buying them in local tyre fitting garages.

Go Electric!

If you’re thinking about getting a new car, consider an electric one.

Electric cars are cheaper to run:

  • Cheaper fuel (electricity)
  • Brake pads (regenerative braking means you use the brake pads a lot less)
  • Servicing (there is a lot less to service and maintain)
  • Engine Oil (there’s no engine, so no engine oil is needed)
  • Less to go wrong — no engine, no exhaust, no cam-belts, etc.
  • Charge from home — so no purchasing of snacks when you’re at petrol stations!

They also hold their value better than non-electric cars.

For more information on electric vehicles, check out Fully Charged and the Electric Vehicle Experience Centre.

Watch me collect my Tesla Model 3.

Computer Hardware and Consumables

Printer Ink

As highlighted in this video, printer ink is overpriced.

You can save money on ink by using 3rd party ink cartridges, using an ecotank printer or using a laser printer.

Computer Software

Computer Games

Never buy games directly from the official game stores or distributers, instead check websites like CDKeys. They sell games at good prices and give you a code, so you can download them straight away.

Domain Names (.com)

I purchase Domain Names at full price from A Small Orange — I have been using them for over 10 years and they have always been reasonably priced, very reliable and their customer service is always great.

After 60 days, you can migrate ownership of .com domains to Cloudflare. From there, you can renew domain names at registry fees, with no markup.

Microsoft

From 2020 Microsoft have changed their main conferences from in-person to virtual. I have registered for these (for free), once the conferences had finished, everyone who registered was given large discounts on Microsoft products. I purchased multiple year’s worth of Office 365 and Xbox Game Pass.

Microsoft Office Family is a great deal — you get 6 licences of Microsoft Office and 6x 1TB cloud storage in Microsoft OneDrive.

Food

Home

With Crypto.com I get 5% off a number of supermarkets in the form of digital gift cards. The supermarkets can change, but at the time of writing they include Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco.

Home Take-Aways

With Crypto.com I get 10% off a number of deliveries in the form of digital gift cards. The delivery companies can change, but at the time of writing they include Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats.

Out and About

With Crypto.com I get 10% off cafe’s and pubs in the form of digital gift cards. The delivery companies can change, but at the time of writing they include Cafe Nero, Costa, Starbucks and a number of large pub chains.

Restaurants

With a Taste Card I get 50% off all food. It has an annual subscription, but there are always offers around to get it at a much discounted rate, although even at full-price it pays for itself after a few meals.

With Crypto.com I get up to 10% off a number of restaurants in the form of digital gift cards. The restaurants can change, but at the time of writing they include All Bar One, Crown Carveries, Ember Inns, Farmhouse Inns, Fayre & Square, Flaming Grill, Greene King, Loch Fyne, Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Express, Pizza Hut, The Restaurant Card (Cafe Rouge, Las Iguanas, Bella Italia), Toby Carvery, Wagamama.

With a Yonda card (free) I get up to 8% off food and drink at a number of restaurants. It’s a pre-paid debit card and you get cashback towards your next use of the card — so save £10 on one meal and you get the money off the next meal (or other item/service that you can buy with the card).

Where possible, I combine the Taste Card and Crypto.com gift cards or Yonda card, to get up to 60% off the meal.

Groceries

Buy in Bulk

It is cheaper to buy items in bulk. Items I bulk-buy include:

  • Carpet cleaner
  • Deodorant
  • Dishwasher salt
  • Hand soap
  • Kitchen paper
  • Razor blades
  • Shampoo
  • Shower gel
  • Surface cleaner
  • Toilet paper
  • Washing machine capsules

I usually buy these items from Amazon or Groupon.

Cards and Rewards

With Crypto.com I get 5% off a number of supermarkets in the form of digital gift cards. The supermarkets can change, but at the time of writing they include Asda, Sainsburys and Tesco.

Most supermarkets have reward cards or apps — use these to save money as you purchase or collect reward points that you can spend later (for money off items in the store or other places, such as with Tesco Clubcard).

Some supermarkets (e.g. Sainsbury’s and Tesco) provide credit cards, where you earn reward points as you spend anywhere and additional reward points if you spend in-store

Subscription Stores

I have found Costco to be cost-efficient. Their prices are usually cheaper than supermarkets. For some products they only provide larger quantities (e.g. larger jars of jam or you have to buy 3 bottles of tomato sauce). They were especially good when I had babies as nappies, wet-wipes, etc. are all expensive. Note that there is an annual membership fee of £33.60 for 2 people, so you need to make this back (and then some) before it becomes worth shopping there. Another negative I found was that the stock they have can vary week by week — so one week they might have a brand of yoghurt or cereal you like, but you might not see them again for several weeks.

I was a member for a few years and it was good, but I haven’t resubscribed because now without the need for baby products the amount of ‘savings’ I get has decreased, plus it is additional hassle to visit Costco as well as my usual supermarket.

Home

Batteries

If you use rechargeable batteries, you will quickly save money, whilst helping the environment, a win-win. I recommend high-capacity batteries.

Links to products on Amazon:

Coffee Machine

Don’t pay lots of money for mediocre coffee and poor service from Costa, Starbucks, etc. Buy a coffee machine and a flask, then make it at home. Or make iced coffee, or cold tea.

Estate Agents

When buying or selling a house, always negotiate the estate agent fees!

House-Hack

Consider house-hacking your first home.

This is a method where you buy a house with the intention of living in it and renting out spare bedrooms (following this method you might buy a house with more bedrooms than you may have otherwise).

Invest the money you save and then you have more options:

  1. Continue to invest your money (e.g. in stocks)
  2. Fully rent out your first house and house-hack a second house
  3. Fully rent out your first house and purchase a second house to flip (i.e. buy an undervalued house and smarten it up then rent it out)
  4. Fully rent out your first house, purchase a second house to live in and invest in stocks

Gas and Electricity

I have been using Switchd since 2018 to manage my gas and electricity requirements. They find the best prices and switch providers automatically — saving me time and money. Get 6 months free premium service with my referral link. Check out my video on it:

Go Green

If you are planning to stay in your house for several years, consider getting solar panels, a home battery, ground source heat pumps, etc. These are cost-effective over time.

Switchd have a ‘MakeMyHouseGreen’ feature, where they guide you through a process where you tell them the size of your house, roof, garden, etc. and your requirements. They will then e-mail you a quote with multiple payment and product options, where you can see how long it will take you to break even on your investment and your projected long-term savings.

Home Insurance

Get insurance cheaper by setting the voluntary excess fee to £700 and then get excess waiver insurance (covering car, house and pet) for about £40 for up to £700.

Mortgage

Check regularly if you can get a better mortgage rate than you are now — even it if means paying the exit fee.

Don’t make overpayments your mortgage if you have money available, invest it instead.

Media

Amazon Prime Video

This is included with an Amazon Prime subscription.

If you’re a student, you can get a free trial of Amazon Prime for 6 months, then £3.99 per month thereafter.

You can get this for free with a pre-paid Visa Debit card from Crypto.com (see my article).

Netflix

You can get this for free with a pre-paid Visa Debit card from Crypto.com (see my article).

Spotify

Get Spotify Premium for free with a pre-paid Visa Debit card from Crypto.com (see my article).

You can also get it with some other offers, e.g. mobile phone contracts.

Mobile Phone Contract

I have been using mobiles.co.uk for several years for phones. They have continued to be the cheapest solution, the only disadvantage is that every 2 months you have to submit your phone contract invoice and they then send you a cashback cheque (which I then submit via my banking app).

Airtime Rewards

Sign up to Airtime Rewards with code N4RRA9A4 to receive credit. Get cashback against your mobile phone bill when you passively spend on your debit/credit card.

Shopping

My workflow for shopping online is:

I provide details on all these services in this article below.

Discounts

When purchasing online, use web browser plugins to make finding deals easy.

I use:

All of these either notify you of the best code to use at checkout, let you know if you can save money by using their referral link, or if it’s cheaper on Amazon.

Amazon

If you’re a student, you can get a free trial of Amazon Prime for 6 months, then £3.99 per month thereafter.

With Amazon Prime, you get access to exclusive discounts.

The customer service is excellent and their returns process is easy.

Use these web browser plugins:

  • Keepa. This embeds a price history graph in the Amazon product pages, so you can see what the item sold for over the past 3 months. You can also set up alerts so you get notified when the item drops below your preferred price
  • Amazon Assistant. This displays the Amazon price when you shop for items on other websites. You can also use it to quickly add items to your Amazon wishlists

Add items you are considering to lists — you will be alerted when they are on discount

Look at warehouse deals. I got a Synology server at over £100 discount just because the box was damaged. The packaging hadn’t even been opened.

Beware of ‘dropshippers’ who list items on Amazon, but source and deliver direct from other shops, pocketing the difference in price from what they charge you and what they pay at another shop.

Amazon Subscribe and Save

Amazon Subscribe and Save lets you set up a subscription for items to be delivered to you on a regular basis, for up to 15% off if you have 5 items delivered at a time. If you don’t need 5 items in a particular month, you can often save money by ordering some cheap items (e.g. bubble bath or soap) to bring the order up to 5.

Insurance — Car/House/Pet

Get insurance cheaper by setting the voluntary excess fee to £700 and then get excess waiver insurance (covering car, house and pet) for about £40 for up to £700.

Sell Items

Sell items you don’t need — claim the space and get some cash to invest.

Books, Films, Music, Computer Games

Sell these via WeBuyBooks — it’s really quick and easy.

Similar services are available, but from what I’ve read, this is the best and it’s the only one I’ve used. They only accepted about 20% of the items I scanned with their app and the prices offered weren’t great, but the process was good and they were only collecting dust, so some money was better than nothing.

Everything Else

eBay is my preferred method of selling items. They do take a large cut of the profit, but the process is easy. I have tried selling on places like Facebook, but have had far fewer issues (like silly questions and timewasters) using ebay.

Student Card

Anybody can get a student card, you don’t need to be a student and there is no age limit. Simply go to their sign-up page and select ‘Learn Direct’ as your place of learning.

It costs £24.99 for 3 years, but more than pays for itself if you shop at Co-op (10% savings), visit the cinema, etc.

Investing

There are two terms you need to know when investing:

Dollar Cost Averaging

Every time you get some money (e.g. monthly salary), place some of this into your investments (e.g. stocks, Cryptocurrency, etc.). Don’t worry about price fluctuations, as long as you have confidence (though your own research) that the value of the investments will go up over time. Don’t worry about short-term peaks and troughs.

Compound Interest

Re-investment of interest earned can lead to big gains over time. Use this compound interest calculator to see how much you will earn over time — consider an initial deposit of <your choice> at 8% interest per year (a conservative value for the S&P 500 index) over 20 years.

Stocks and Shares ISA

There’s a well-known saying ‘Time in the market is better than timing the market’. This means, don’t try to time the highs and lows of the markets, it’s better to pick stocks or indexes (a collection of stocks) and invest in them on a regular basis.

Put up to £20,000 per financial year (April to March) into a stocks and shares ISA for tax free savings.

I use the Trading212 ISA account — sign up and get a free share. I auto-invest each month into this set of stocks as I think they have a good long-term potential.

Stocks

The ETF ‘Vanguard S&P 500 ETF’ covers the top 500 companies in the USA, which historically gives about 8% APR and is a low-risk investment. I invest in this, as well as a number of other stocks that I think will provide higher gains in the short or long term.

Stockbrokers I use:

  • Register with Trading212 and fund your account with at least £1 to receive a free share
  • Register with Freetrade and fund your account with at least £2 to receive a free share
  • Register with Interactive Brokers to receive a free share
  • Register with Stake and fund your account with at least £50 to receive a free share

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies have been around for a while and are here to stay. I really like Crypto.com because it has the best pre-paid Visa debit card of any cryptocurrency service, they have many other services I like (and use), they are pioneering in many areas and they have their own decentralised blockchains.

Check out my website SelfCrypto and my articles on Crypto.com:

Banking

I use Barclays Bank, simply because they came to my school when I was 12 and offered bank accounts! I’ve stuck with them because I haven’t found a better bank for my requirements. I also (by chance, not intention) worked for Barclays Bank from 1999–2005.

I’ve also had a bank account with BNP Paribas for around 15 years whilst I had a property in Nice, France.

When choosing a bank the decisions should include:

  1. Are they protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)?
  2. Do they have a good website and phone app, money management?
  3. Can I pay in cheques via a phone app?
  4. Can I pay in money at a local branch?
  5. Do they have people I can talk to — in-store and online?

Answers:

  1. Most banks are, but do check
  2. This is very important — many banks have websites and apps that are frustrating to use
  3. I sometimes get checks from the HMRC, mobile phone provides (cashback redemption) and other service providers. Being able to scan and submit them from my phone makes it easy
  4. Barclays Bank don’t have any branches near me. They allow submission at Post Offices (including ones in shops), but I don’t like to use Post Offices as they are also inconvenient to get to and there are often queues. I opened an account at the Metro Bank as it’s next to the Waitrose I go to (for food shopping) most weeks — I use it purely to pay in cash I receive from things like selling items on Facebook Marketplace
  5. It is good to be able to talk to a person if you want advice or options on a mortgage/savings/pensions/money management, etc. With Barclays, I have discussed mortgages with them on multiple occasions — in person and over the phone. Once I video-called them, which was useful as I was able to show them a form that I needed help with

Payment Process

My payment process is:

  1. Pay with a Curve card (the steps below are done passively)
  2. Payment is taken from a Crypto.com card (or Barclaycard if the Curve ‘Anti-Embarrassment’ feature is invoked)
  3. I receive cashback from Crypto.com (or reward points from Barclaycard)
  4. I also receive 1% cashback from Curve (from the ‘referrals feature)
  5. If applicable, I also receive cashback from Curve (from the ‘Rewards’ feature)
  6. If applicable, I also receive cashback from other companies linked to my Curve card (see my article 5 UK Debit/Credit Card Purchase Passive Reward Schemes — No Investment Needed)

The Curve card maps to my existing debit and credit cards, providing additional security, functionality and rewards. Check out my article on Curve.

I always use methods of payment that provide a reward (cashback or points). See my article on the Crypto.com cards.

I get additional passive cashback from some retailers — see my article 5 UK Debit/Credit Card Purchase Passive Reward Schemes — No Investment Needed.

Later, I invest the cashback I’ve gained into stock or cryptocurrency DeFi staking.

I use an assortment of cards, explained below.

Debit Card

You will get a debit card with your bank account. When used, money will be withdrawn directly from your bank account. You are unlikely to get any rewards (e.g. points or cashback) for using this, but it is good to have as a ‘backup’ method of payment.

Credit Card (for regular use)

Find a credit card that gives rewards. Pre-COVID 19 I spent a lot of time in hotels for work, so I have a Barclaycard that provides points on Hilton Hotel stays.

Set up a direct debit to automatically pay off your credit card in full.

Owning and using a credit card is a good way to earn rewards and gain and maintain a good credit rating.

Credit Card (0% interest)

You can get a credit card with 0% interest on balance transfers or purchases for a period (e.g. 18 months). Set up direct debit to pay off the minimum amount each month, then pay off the full amount at the end of the 0% term.

This helps achieve and maintain a good credit rating.

Put the money you’re ‘holding’, into a stocks ISA (e.g. S&P 500 index) to make money. This is known as ‘good debt’ as you are making money from your current debt. When using this method, ensure that you have additional funds available (e.g. salary) for if the stock market takes a plunge and/or use stop losses to protect yourself.

Curve Card

See my article on Curve.

Curve is a debit Mastercard that maps to any of your other debit or credit cards, via an app. This provides many advantages:

  • Curve Customer Protection, up to £100,000 (the Crypto.com card currently doesn’t offer any protection other than standard VISA customer protection)
  • Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay support, so you can use your Crypto.com from your phones and watches
  • No need to carry your Crypto.com card, just carry your Curve card (which can also be used as a virtual card for any other of your debit or credit cards). This results in a thinner wallet and less hassle if your wallet gets lost or stolen
  • The ability to activate/disable your card from the app (in the event that you lose your Curve card)
  • Anti-embarrassment mode — if paying with your CRO card fails for any reason (e.g. lack of funds), the Curve Card will automatically try a defined backup card (I have set mine up to be a Barclaycard Credit card)
  • The ability to ‘go back in time’ 30 days and switch payments from one card to another, up to £5,000
  • Advanced spend tracking
  • Only 1 PIN to remember

Watch my review of Curve:

Crypto.com Card

I have the Jade Green pre-paid Visa debit card from Crypto.com. This gives me 3% on (almost) all spend, free Spotify, free Netflix, airport LoungePass, 10% interest on my stake and some other benefits.

For information, see my article The Essential Guide to the Visa Debit Card from Crypto.com.

I put all ‘CRO’ cashback into DeFi, which gives a high APR (13% APR as of 29/11/2021). See my DeFi article.

Yonda Card

With a Yonda card (free) I get up to 8% off food and drink at a number of restaurants. It’s a pre-paid debit card and you get cashback towards your next use of the card — so save £10 on one meal and you get the money off the next meal (or other item/service that you can buy with the card).

Gift Cards

Crypto.com allows you to buy e-gift cards at discount. They include supermarkets, take away delivery services, restaurants, cafes, pubs, high-street shops, jewelers, holiday companies, etc.

Cash

You should only use cash when necessary, because you won’t get any rewards from using it. Keep some £20 notes and £1 coins around for emergencies. I have encountered times when petrol stations, shops restaurants were not able to accept anything other than cash.

International Money Transfer

I had a rental apartment in Nice, France for 15 years. I found Wise (get a free international transfer of up to £500 with my link) to be the cheapest and easiest method for transferring money between the UK and France

Children

Savings

If you or your partner don’t already have an ISA, you could set up a Trading 212 account and place your child’s money in there. You can contribute up to £20,000 each financial year for tax free savings. The ETF ‘Vanguard S&P 500 ETF’ covers the top 500 companies in the USA, which historically gives about 9% APR and is a low-risk investment.

Cash Card

HyperJar offer pre-paid Visa debit cards for children aged 6–16. It’s the best service of its type that I have found in the UK, because it’s completely free and the app is excellent. It makes it easy for me to educate and manage my children’s spending.

University

I did a 4 year sandwich course at University, where the 3rd year was spent (with pay) at Barclays Bank PLC. During this year, they offered me a job, so I had a guaranteed job to go into after completing my 4th year. Also, this was before the days of a £9,000 fee to attend and I lived 2 miles away from the University, at my parents' house.

These days, the risk of leaving University with a large amount of debt is very real. I would question the need to attend University — does it make sense for your chosen career path? Could you learn the skills you need from YouTube (for free), from paid online courses and/or on the job?

‘Old Age’ Items

Pension

Matched contributions:

If your company matches your pension contributions, consider taking advantage of this.

PensionBee:

I subscribed to PensionBee and got them to consolidate the 4 pensions I had (from current and previous employers) into 1 — it was very easy to do. They allow you to easily manage your pensions, ensuring you have the plan that best suits your requirements (risk level, environment friendly, etc.). Their costs are transparent and reasonable. Their website and mobile apps are clear and easy to use.

Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP):

The advantage of a SIPP is you have full control over how your money is utilised, the disadvantage is that you have to manage it yourself. If you prefer a hands-off approach, then a company like PensionBee will be a better option.

When Freetrade released a SIPP in 2021 I moved my pension to it (from PensionBee). Freetrade charge £9.99 per month (which is cheaper than the managed solutions at PensionBee).

Will

Beyond Life (save £30 with my link) are a very easy to use, inexpensive will writing service. For an ongoing fee of £10 per year, you can update your will at any time.

General Rules

  • Always use methods of payment that will give you a reward (cashback or points)
  • Invest a portion of your salary into an asset that will appreciate over time (e.g. stocks)
  • Always shop for deals before you buy items
  • Compare items by the price per kilogram, price per litre, etc. A small bottle of drink often costs a lot more than a large bottle of drink when you compare by the cost per litre. Sometimes (when on discount) the smaller items can cost less than the larger items so always compare them
  • Buy good quality items — these generally last longer, produce better results and provide you with a ‘feel-good’ factor
  • Invest in yourself (courses, healthy food, health, sport, experiences)
  • Where possible, buy items that will gain value or not depreciate (e.g. a Porsche will depreciate slower than a Volkswagen)
  • Pay with finance if you will earn more by having the capital earning interest
  • Live within your means — and have 12+ months money in reserve to pay for your living costs in case anything unexpected happens (like COVID)

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