Do a money makeover

Overhaul your finances & save £1,000s

Taking a day to cut your bills saves many people £1,000s over the year. And unless you earn £100,000s, doing a money makeover can be the next best way of putting some extra aside – something that's really important during this cost of living crisis. So check your bills NOW and see if you can save £100s on broadband, mobiles, food and more by working through your finances one-by-one to ensure you've the best deal on everything.

This guide was originally written by Martin Lewis and is now updated by the MSE Money Team. 

Will it really make a difference?

Have no illusions, a full money makeover will take up to 10 hours, but it'll definitely be worth it (not least to help with the tough times we're living through).

I've challenged you to save £1,000 in a day, but when I regularly did money makeovers for a TV show a few years back, the average saving was a little over £5,000 a year, and this was before I started to say "cut back". Now, suppose that if you did it yourself, you'd do half as well, saving £2,500 (though hopefully you'll do better) – compare that with what you earn.

And remember this saving is without tax. So unless you're paid roughly £4,800 a day (about £1.25m a year), it's likely to be the best-paid day of your year!

What if I don't have the time?

Then make the time. This is incredibly important – especially as we're living through an acute cost of living crisis. However, if you simply can't do that right now and just need a quick MoneySaving hit instead, then shimmy straight along to Step 2: Pain-free savings and you should still manage to gain serious cash.

Can I get someone to do this for me?

Aaaarghhh! People ask this all the time, and I hate this question. Asking it means you've missed the whole point of MoneySaving.

The process doesn't just save you cash, it empowers you to understand how companies will take your cash through ignorance, apathy and inertia. Yet even if that wasn't the case, there aren't any MoneySaving advisers, the service doesn't exist, and even if it did, their cost would eat up much of the gain.

Need help with managing your cash flow?

Check out my Budgeting guide for tips and tricks on how to analyse your finances and control your spending. It also includes a FREE budget planner.

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Step 1: Do you spend more than you earn?

This is vital. Unless you know the answer, you can't work out how militant the savings must be. Standard MoneySaving is about cutting your bills without cutting back; it involves changing your finances, not your life.

Yet if after that you're still spending beyond your means, then there's a major problem and cutting back may be necessary too, meaning lifestyle as well as MoneySaving changes.

Of course those spending less than they earn may only need to free up wasted cash, so it stays in your pocket, not in that of big companies. This is why it's important to know where you stand.

How to find out

There are two ways:

  • The BIG danger signal.

    Are you in debt? If you are, and can't answer the question, "what are your debts from?" – in other words you didn't buy a car or a conservatory, but simply used cards or loans to fill the gap – then this sounds an ear-piercing alarm.

    It means your debt comes from systematically spending more than you earn. If this is the case, no further investigation is needed. I know the answer and you need to skip straight to pain-free savings.
  • Accurately assess your spending.

    If you're not sure where your finances stand, you need to add it all up. The specially-designed budget planner calculates your genuine annual income and then tells you exactly how much more you spend than you earn.

    Most people are shocked by the result. Many who think they're within budget month-by-month aren't when it's done over a year. This is the start point of sorting out your cash, so spend the time to do the budget. 

Step 2: Pain-free savings

The essence is simple. If you can get the same thing by paying less, then do so. Yet it's not only about car insurance and credit cards. Saving money stretches to cutting childcare costs, cheaper contact lenses or checking your council tax bill. It's what is dedicated to.

How to do it

This site has well over 100 detailed MoneySaving guides, each picking the best deals. Below we've deliberately selected some that enable big and easy savings on current outgoings. Check every section (using the tabs at the top of the page) for your specific needs.

Cut your household bills

Gas & electricity
You can cut your energy bills and get cashback on top in minutes. Remember, it's the same gas, same elec, same pipes and safety; only the price & billing processes really change. See if and how much you'll save with my Cheap Energy Club (for now, it's ONLY optimised for dual-fuel monthly Direct Debit price-capped users).
a year
Food shopping
It's not about buying lower quality, but beating the way supermarkets hypnotise us into unnecessarily paying more for premium brands. Full info: Cheaper food shopping.
a year
Council tax
The council tax system in England and Scotland is fundamentally flawed. Many people are in the wrong band. It only takes 10 minutes to check your band.

£100 - £400
a year (and backdated payout of £1,000s)

Home phone & broadband
There's no need to pay more than £20/mth for home phone and broadband combined. Full info: Cheap broadband.

a year

Childcare costs
There's £1,000s of hidden free cash for childcare. Whether it's tax-free childcare, or free summer holiday activities, the savings are huge. Read more: Cut childcare costs.

Up to 
per child per year

Cut boiler cover costs
Don't assume you need to get boiler cover from the same company that supplies your gas and electricity. Standalone providers can be cheaper: Cheapest boiler cover.

a year

Should you use a water meter?
If you've more or the same number of bedrooms in your house as people, you're probably better off with a water meter. Read how to cut your water bills.

a year

Cut your digital TV costs
A simple phone call and the right haggling technique could halve your bill. Read Sky and Virgin TV cost-cutting.

a year

Cancel direct debits
Many waste £1,000s a year paying for things they don't need. So whether it's mags, gyms, dating sites or pay-TV, get tough and cut 'em down: Cancel your direct debits.

Up to 
a year

Cut the cost of your debts

Existing credit card debts
Simply shift the debt to a new card at the cheapest possible rate. Full how to: Balance transfers.
a year per £1,000 debt
Rising mortgage rates mean it's more important than ever to make sure you're on the best deal possible. Read my Remortgage guide and Cheap mortgage finding.
a year per 1% rate decreased per £150,000 owed
Existing loans
Cutting existing loan costs is more difficult than credit cards, but it's still possible. Read a full how to in Existing loan cost-cutting.
If it's possible, over the life of the loan
Beware paying minimum repayments
Credit card minimum repayments are a trap to keep you permanently in debt. It's possible to escape this trap even if you can't pay more. Full info: Credit card minimum repayments.
Up to 
by the time the debt is totally cleared
Pay off your debts with savings
Almost everyone with debts and savings is wasting a fortune. Pay off the debts and save big. Read how this works in Repay debts or save?
Up to 
per year per £1,000 of debts

Cut your personal bills

Haggle down mobile bills
There's fierce competition in the mobile marketplace. Push the right buttons to stamp down the cost. Find out how to haggle down your phone bill and cut mobile phone costs.
a year
Best bank accounts
You can get a switch bonus, up to 7% in interest or up to 1% cashback. Top picks in Best bank accounts.
Cheaper prescriptions & medicines
If you need regular prescriptions, consider an annual prescription prepayment certificate. Plus don't buy branded medicine, identical products are available at a fraction of the cost. See Cheap prescriptions & medicines.
a year
Boost savings interest
Never assume all banks are the same. The difference in the interest paid out is huge. Find how to boost rates: Top savings & Top cash ISAs.
per year per £1,000 saved
Cheap petrol & diesel
It's possible to cut your annual petrol/diesel bill, possibly even saving £100s. Find the cheapest petrol station near you in seconds and use speedy, pain-free ways to make your car and driving more efficient. Full how to: Cheap petrol.
Savings of
a year are possible
Slash train fares
The train ticket system is complex, but play it right and there are loopholes you can exploit to save: Cheapest train fares.
Up to 
a year

Cut your insurance costs

Car insurance
It's possible to easily cut car insurance costs. Don't think "it's not time to renew now" – you can still ditch, switch and save. Top comparisons and tricks to save: Cheap car insurance.
on existing policy
Home insurance
Like car insurance, you can ditch, switch and save at any time. Using the full system you can sometimes get building and contents insurance for under £100 a year. Find out how in Cheap home insurance.
on existing policy
Breakdown cover
Forget the big boys. Similar cover, with full service and just as quick call-out times, is available for a quarter of the cost. Find our top pick policies in Cheapest roadside assistance.
Up to £100
a year on full service policies
Life insurance (level term)
Many people rightly get life insurance to protect their loved ones. Sadly banks take advantage and often charge twice as much as needed. Ditch, switch & save with cheaper providers for the same cover. Read Cheapest life insurance.
during the life of the policy
Mortgage life insurance
If you got life insurance from your mortgage lender to protect your home, you're paying massively over the odds! Find how to save in Mortgage life insurance.
during the life of the policy

Check if you're missing out on extra cash

Can you boost your income?
There are lots of ways to add to your income; whether it's home-working, using the web to profit or getting paid for your opinion. Read more: Boost your income.
Up to 
a year
10-minute benefit check-up
Anyone with family income under £40,000 should check, though some families with high rent earning up to £50,000 may be entitled (we're not saying you'll definitely get anything, just that it's worth a check). Full info in Benefits check-up.
If eligible, you could get 
£1,000s a year
Get paid to spend
Stop using debit cards, cash and cheques for spending and use a cashback credit card – you get paid each time you spend. Very profitable as long as you always pay the card off in full. Top pick cards in Best cashback cards.
a year extra cash
Tax rebate for uniform wearers
Employees who wear a uniform, who wash, repair or replace it may be able to reclaim tax of £12 to £74 a year – even up to £400 for some professions. You can claim back a rebate for up to the past five years. Full reclaim info in Uniform tax rebates.
a year extra cash
Will the Government give you a loan to pay your mortgage interest?
If you're struggling to repay your mortgage, and have savings under £16,000, you may be eligible for state help to make the interest payments (plus other, more severe, help). Do you qualify for Mortgage arrears help?
If appropriate, you could get £1,000s
Have you overpaid £1,000s in tax?
There have been millions of mistakes with tax codes, meaning a huge chunk of UK population has paid too much (or too little) tax. We've built a unique checker to help work out if you're owed. Check here: Tax Code Calculator.
The biggest we've heard is £6,000!
Grant grabbing
There are £1,000s of unclaimed grants out there for energy efficiency, homes, businesses and study. Find energy grants or education grants.

Up to 



Flog it!
A raft of tactics to help you to list auctions effectively and smash down eBay fees. Plus list automatically, profit from bizarre items you thought wouldn't sell and much more. Read our eBay selling tricks.
Bank charges. Have you had charges and been in hardship?
If during the past six years you've been hit with bank charges and are in financial hardship, you can ask for them back. How to, and who qualifies, in Bank charges reclaiming.
Up to 
depending on your charges
Get lost Tesco Clubcard vouchers back
If you've ever lost or misplaced vouchers you can access the codes online for instant redemption, or get the vouchers reissued. Some MoneySavers have found over £100 of vouchers they didn't know they had. Read how you can get back lost Tesco vouchers.
Up to 
Did you have a fee-charging bank account?
If you couldn't use the insurance that came with your packaged account, for instance because you were too old, or you were told you had to have the account, you may have been mis-sold. Check and find how to reclaim in Packaged account fees.
Up to 
depending on your charges
Reclaim forgotten cash
It's never been easier to get your money, or that of deceased relatives, from old bank accounts, pensions, life assurance and investments. Just click on some websites, fill in your details, and it should come to you. Track old money down in Reclaim forgotten cash.
Some have found 

Did you save big? Please report your savings in the money makeover discussion.

Step 3: Still spend more than you earn?

Now you've done all the main pain-free savings, your new expected monthly outgoings should be significantly lower. What to do next depends on you.

Were you already spending within your means?

If so, you should now have more money to spend, save or repay debts. However, remember things change, so you need to keep on top of your finances. Today's best deal isn't necessarily going to be tomorrow's.

Ensure you get the free weekly MoneySaving email, which includes any changes and new top deals to help you save even more.

Yet even though you're now spending within your means; you may still be in debt or wanting to quickly save for something specific. In that case, some of the techniques in Step 4: Painful savings may still be useful.

Were you spending more than you earned before?

I now need to know if you've brought your spending under control. This again means calculating an accurate answer based on your new expenditure levels. If you did the budget planner earlier, all you need to do is change the values for areas where you've made savings. If not, then it's time to start the budget planner process.

You may consider this to be a bit unnecessary, after all you've done the savings, so do you really need an accurate answer? My response is an unrelenting yes, and as I explain in many other places on the site, the reason is because of what's called a "debt spiral"; one of the nastiest, most unrelenting, life-destroying, financial problems you can have.

You may feel this is over-dramatic. Yet when there's no money left, you can't borrow more, and the creditors are asking for money back which you've no ability to repay, it touches every element of your life. The danger is what's called a 'debt spiral'. It works like this:

All this means I need to know whether you still spend more than you earn, which means filling in the budget planner. If it says you're now spending within your means... hoorah! Though you may still be in debt or wanting to save for something specific, so you may still find some of the painful savings below useful.

Alternatively, you may consider the job is done. Yet even in that case, remember things change, you need to keep on top of your finances. Today's best deal isn't necessarily tomorrow's.

Yet if you're still spending more than you earn, there is no option – you need to rein in your expenditure, so keep reading.

Step 4: Painful savings

These are changes that involve curtailing or changing elements of your lifestyle. It sounds horrid, but actually it can be easier than you think. Small changes on things you do regularly, for example cutting from two takeaways a week to one, can save you £250 a year.

The place to start is the Stop spending guide, which is specifically designed to challenge your spending impulses and includes The Demotivator: a tool to stop you spending what you can't afford. Yet it's all about asking yourself the right questions.

Do you really need all your Sky TV channels? Can you make food rather than get takeaways? Could you make your sandwiches for lunch? Do you need the weekly celeb gossip magazine? Do you need a car – could you sell it? Can you get a second job?

It's actually about asking two questions for every element of your life: Do I need it? Even if I do need it, can I still satisfy the need, even though it mightn't be as good, in a cheaper way?

Seek help from other people in a similar boat

There are two sections of the site's forum where you can seek help and suggestions from others on cutting back.

  • Debt-Free Wannabe

    This forum board is dedicated to paying back debt, many people have already turned around huge deficits to pay back all they owe. As such the regulars in there have redefined the term "necessity"; for them it isn't the creature comforts we all need, but the bare minimum requirements.

    So go into Debt-Free Wannabe and post your 'Statement of Affairs' detailing everything you spend money on and how much (without giving away any personal details), and then be prepared to have your habits torn apart, but all in a constructive way to cut your outgoings.
  • MoneySaving Old-Style

    This forum board has its own philosophy, separate to the rest of the site, all about thrift. Rather than just saving money, it's about cutting back, being less consumerist and more environmentally-friendly by making, cooking and growing things rather than buying them.

    If you want to know how to clean your house using only white vinegar, get stains out without Stain Devil, cook for a family of four for under £15 a week, make your own clothes, then MoneySaving Old-Style is for you. There's also the Thrifty Ways for Modern Days book (all proceeds to charity) based solely on the wisdom of this board.

What if all these cut backs still aren't enough?

Many people think they've cut back on everything, but there are still little things that could go. As the Demotivator shows, over time, the little things add up.

If things are so serious, it's very likely you're also in significant debt. If that's the case and you can't afford to make even the minimum repayments on your standard outgoings, then you urgently need to take action. A range of non-profit debt counselling agencies can help you. For more on this, read Debt problems – what to do and where to get help.

Piggybank budgeting

Budgeting isn't just a way of calculating your expenditure, it's also a way of controlling it. One of the ways to do this is to start living with a philosophy that says "what can I afford to do?" rather than "how can I do what I want for less?"

To help with this I've designed a special 'piggybank budgeting' technique, which helps you easily allocate and manage your money, a detailed explanation is in the Piggybank budgeting section of the main budgeting guide.

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