How your family could find an extra £100

EXPERTS have estimated that the average British family has £210 disposable income a week, after all bills have been paid. As we watch the purse strings after Christmas, TRACEY SPARLING and JAMES MARSTON find ways to boost your family's disposable income.

Tracey Sparling

EXPERTS have estimated that the average British family has £210 disposable income a week, after all bills have been paid. As we watch the purse strings after Christmas, TRACEY SPARLING and JAMES MARSTON find ways to boost your family's disposable income.

ECONOMIC forecasts for 2008 are gloomy to say the least, and many people are being forced to tighten our belts when it comes to household spending.

Rising taxes and escalating bills are hitting family budgets hard, and only this week The Evening Star highlighted the concern over potential gas and electricity bill increases led by npower.

Sir Stuart Rose, M&S's chief executive, made little effort this week to disguise the pain that the high street is enduring when he said: "It is fair to say we are in for a tough time. The market has woken up to the fact that the economy has caught a cold. There has been a little bit of hope in the market that things are not as bad... but all this is saying is that things are tougher. We are clearly not in a recession, but it is the toughest we have seen in a decade."

Accountants Ernst and Young calculate that the average family has £52 a week left to spend, compared with £56 four years ago. The biggest commitments we have to pay out on are on accommodation, income tax and transport. That figure is based on typical family with two children under the age of 16, with an average-sized repayment mortgage on a 25-year term at the standard variable rate, from monthly wages of £3,790.08.

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That is down from a discretionary budget of £898.54 on a gross income of £3,205.75 in 2003-04.

So we took the example of an Ipswich family of four (two adults and two children under 16), living in a three-bed house with both adults going out work, and two children at school.

Here are some simple ways to save £100 every week:

Make a £2 packed lunch for yourself and your partner to take to work instead of buying shop sandwiches. A Boots meal deal will cost you £2.99 for example, totalling £29.90 a week.

SAVE £9.90

Buy a jar of coffee and milk, instead of using a vending machine for rounds of coffee at work. In one Ipswich office, machine coffee costs 25p a cup, so five rounds a week bought by two adults' cost £10. Buy two jars of instant coffee and two pints of milk instead, for £3.72.

SAVE £6.28

Look out for promotions which give out free energy saving light bulbs.

For example, Suffolk Coastal gave out thousands of bulbs to people who signed up to reduce carbon dioxide to mark World Environment Day last June. These bulbs last up to ten times longer than ordinary light bulbs, and save £5 a year if you have them throughout the house -because they use less electricity but give the same output of light.

SAVE 9p

Change to a water meter. Currently 53 per cent of Anglian Water customers pay for their water through a meter. The majority chose to have a water meter fitted and installing a meter won't cost you a penny - it's free. The average un-metered bill is £417 but the average water bill on metered properties is £299.

Sara Rowland, spokeswoman for Anglian Water said: “Around 70 per cent of our customers can save money with a meter and you only pay for what you use. Having a meter changes people's habits but having a water meter doesn't mean going without, it means that a resource in the driest region of the UK is conserved.”

SAVE £2.27

While paying less for your petrol will save you money, using less petrol helps too.

That doesn't just mean walk to the shops more often.

It is estimated that someone who averages 35 miles per gallon could get 40 mpg by driving better.

Some tips include:

Always fill up the car before the indicator drops to a quarter full tank, only use 'better fuel' if your car can cope, keep your tyres correctly inflated -lower tyre pressure increases the drag on a car meaning you need more fuel, so check the pressures are correct regularly.

Petrol pumps are calibrated by volume, so fill up at night when it's cold and you get a miniscule bit extra.

Always drive in the highest gear possible without labouring the engine, plus think ahead and slow down gradually, rather than heavily braking late. This will increase fuel efficiency by up to 30pc.

De-clutter your car as extra weight means more fuel use.

If your car offers cruise control, be sure to use it on long journeys. It'll help save fuel.

Dirty air filters increase fuel consumption significantly, so check and change filters regularly.

Drive off as soon as you start up and switch off the engine as soon as you reach your destination.

Air conditioning also uses an incredible amount of fuel so make sure it's turned off unless you really need it.

A family driving 15,000 miles a year using the cheapest petrol, would save more than £200. Improving your driving could save you a further £200, reducing your transport spent by £400 a year.

Save £7.70

Change the brand you buy at the supermarket. We've been hypnotised into judging the quality of our food by brand and packaging, be it basic, own brand, mainstream or premium. But you can save money by changing your brand level.

The next time you shop, swap one of everything, to something just one brand level lower.

So if you usually buy mainstream brand tea bags (£2.99 for 240) pick up the supermarket's own brand (£2.19) instead. So swapping 240 teabags, 4 toilet rolls, 1 tube of toothpaste and 4 cans of lager for own brands will make a big difference at the till.

SAVE £5

Scrap the luxuries you don't really need, and review in a month to see if you really miss them.

For example, cancel your satellite TV monthly subscription (£8 a week) and buy a £25 Freeview box instead - which works out at 50p a week.

SAVE £7.50

Cancel the gym subscription (£12) and try jogging or walking round the local park where there's more to see anyway and enjoy the fresh air.

SAVE £12

Give up the fags. Smoking 15 cigarettes a day typically costs around £4. Give up and save £120 a month.

SAVE £30

Give alcohol a break, because the average UK pint or glass of wine costs well over £2. If you currently drink the average of 14 units - six pints or beer or six glasses - of wine a week you could save a lot.

SAVE £12

Tackle your mobile phone bill. Switch from a contract to a pay-as-you-go phone and limit yourself to £10 credit a month, and you can easily save yourself £30 a month.

SAVE £7.50

TOTAL: £100.24 a week saved

Turn off lights and appliances in rooms you're not using.

Read the Evening Star advertisements to find brand new and nearly new bargains.

Pay off your credit card bill to save on interest payments.

When you're rummaging for reduced goodies, the food may have a lot longer shelf life than you assume.

'Use by' Perishable food such as milk, fish and eggs that go off quickly, should be thrown out after this date.

'Best before' It's usually safe to eat food after this date; all it means is that the food will no longer be at its optimum quality.

'Display until' and 'sell by'. These dates are instructions for shop staff to tell them when they should take a product off the shelves. Check the 'use by' and 'best before' dates instead.

Take your carrier bags back to Tesco to get extra points on your loyalty card, which can later be exchanged for Clubcard deals. Green points will be highlighted on Clubcard statements so that customers can clearly see how they are doing their bit for the environment.

Buy your Christmas presents early. Online credit card Egg says last minute buying costs you 39 per cent more than you'd budgeted for. With the average person's bill for Christmas gifts totalling £385, this could bring their final bill to £535 so save £150 by buying now. Plus get extra savings by finding half price goods in the January sales.

Use a shopbot to find the cheapest books, CDs, games and electrical goods. Visit www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopbots.

Remember to use the free minutes on your phone tariff, or swap to a tariff that offers free calls.

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