Spring clean your outgoing expenses

By Martin Lewis, March 22, 2012

You could be throwing hundreds or thousands of pounds a year away on things that you no longer need, use or value. So with Passover on its way, why not give up wasting your bread as well as eating it. Be a "cancellation hero", do a super-audit and banish bank balance bandits.

1. Don't assume: "I don't do that." Always check

Many unwittingly pay for long-dead items. Take these examples: "I looked through standing orders to find I had paid £16/mth repair insurance for two white goods we had not had for six years." In other words, £1,150 down the pan. And: "We cancelled my sister's gym yesterday. She's been paying £37/mth for a year and half without going." That is £666 gone.

2. Check all direct debits and standing orders

If you bank online, most banks have a page listing all direct debits and standing orders. If not, call or visit a branch and they should be able print it. Scour everything. Google anything you don't recognise. Failing that, ask your bank or card provider.

3. Then check nasty hidden regular payments

Little-known recurring payments are tough to spot. You may have set one up for magazines, telecoms suppliers or websites without realising. It gives them permission to regularly take payments - it just looks like any payment on your statement. Check past months for repetitions.

4. Never give your 'long card number' for regular payments

If it asks for your long credit or debit card number, not bank account details, for a regular payment, it is a recurring payment. These can be hellish to cancel. Even cancelling the card can fail. If you are trapped, first speak to the company, then dispute the transaction with your bank. Recent FSA guidance means banks should help. If not, you can take them to the Financial Ombudsman. Full help at www.moneysavingexpert.com/recurringpayments.

5. "I paid £150 for a 20-minute swim." is it really worth it?

Don't just cancel the things you don't use. As you run through the list, evaluate the real cost of everything you pay for regularly. Gym three times a week at £50 a month, and that is £4 a time. Yet, as one person told me, they went to swim four times a year, making it £150 a visit.

You could be better off paying for posh spa trips. The worst case I heard was someone who paid £1,440 for a year's golf club membership, playing once. That's £80 a hole.

6. Check if you are in contract before cancelling

If so, especially with gyms, cancelling may be a breach. Check the paperwork. Notice may be required, or there may be early cancellation penalties (which can be cheaper than continuing).

7. Don't think: "I've not claimed on my insurance, so it's worthless"

Even for "cancellation heroes" insurance is different, as by definition, you pay hoping you won't need to use it. That doesn't make it good value, but you should think carefully before cancelling.

8. Remember: £10 a month saved = £120 a year

Small savings add up. Even if you do need things, see if you can save cash on them. If you pay for car insurance monthly, beware. It's likely the car insurer has paid the cash upfront for you as a loan and you are repaying at a high APR (more than on a credit card). To cut costs, see www.moneysavingexpert.com/carinsurance.

Many are overpaying for broadband and home phone. Plusnet Value broadband is £6.49 a month plus £25 connection, while Primus line rental is £6.79 a month, less than half BT's standard rate.

If you want gym membership, try free trials, pay-as-you-go passes or no-frills gyms from £10 a month. Full help at www.moneysavingexpert.com/gyms.

9. Haggle, haggle, haggle to save £100s in 5 minutes

Even if you want to stick with the company, a five-minute call and a bit of cheek can save £100s. Haggling works for mobiles, breakdown cover and even gyms. One couple told me they saved £400 on annual gym fees just by making a phone call.

10. Regular payments can mean you pay less

They can help you budget, organise your finances and even bag discounts. For example, pay by regular monthly direct debit for energy and it can cut bills by up to 10 per cent a year. With phones, it can be more than £20 a year, so when it pays, pay regularly.

Last updated: 11:19am, March 23 2012