It’s a tall order to save any cash at this time of year. With research showing more and more of us emptying out our savings to turning to insanely expensive “payday loan” outfits to cover the cost of Christmas, it’s a great time to try out a few new ideas. Here are some cost-killing strategies people are trying out around the UK.

Stop making it easy on yourself.

One of the reasons we’re all spending too much is that it’s being made too easy. A quick wave of a card in the general direction of a retailer’s machine and we’re away with our new purchase. If you’re old enough to remember when cash machines were a pretty cool new idea, then you probably remember what a pain it could be to “impulse-buy” things before them. Today, we’re starting to drift away from cash altogether. Honestly, even writing cheques feels like what the dinosaurs must’ve done before the cavemen came along and invented that little slidey machine that took a carbon impression of your bank card.

The point is, stop taking the easy route and re-learn to appreciate cold, hard cash while it’s still around. Some places don’t even accept it these days – and if you’re trying to clamp down on your unnecessary spending, that’s actually a good thing. After all, you can’t email a tenner to Amazon.

Transport costs getting out of control? On your bike!

If all you’re transporting is yourself, do you really need to fire up the car? Hopping on a bicycle can be great for your health – plus, if you’re using it to hit the local shops (using cash only, remember?), you know you’ll only be buying a sensible amount.

If you don’t have far to travel for work, a bike still be a good option. For one thing, it’ll still count for the travel expenses you’ll be claiming in your yearly tax rebate. The Approved Mileage Allowance Payment rate for bikes is only 20p a mile, of course. Even so, with transport being the single largest expense for UK households at a crazy-sounding £80.80 a week on average, that rate starts to look a lot more appealing.

Don’t forget the humble penny jar.

Okay, so it doesn’t have to be a literal jar – but there’s an interesting experiment here that’s well worth considering. The basic idea is to save just 1p on day 1 of the year, then 2p the next and so on. On the last day of a typical year, if you’ve kept it up, you’ll save £3.65 - and that jam jar will have proven woefully inadequate to the task of storing the whopping £667.95 you’ll have saved overall! Better yet, 2020’s a leap year, giving you an actual total of £671.61!

If you’re super-ambitious, why not try the same experiment in Hard Mode? Just save £1 in the first week of the year, building up to £52 in the last. That’s an amazing £1,378 over the year!

Dump it all on the same credit card.

What? Are we insane? Didn’t we just specifically tell you to avoid doing exactly this? Well, the thing is, it’s not always that simple to keep your credit card locked away (although we’ve actually heard of people literally freezing them in blocks of ice to make sure they have to think about every purchase). If you find yourself needing to lean on credit, make sure you’re getting the best out of the deal. Obviously, you should already be checking out the best rates, and transferring your balances when the grass is greener elsewhere. On top of that, though, you should give some thought to the “perks” your cards offer. Are you getting money off air travel with your purchases? Are you making the most of the freebies and “cash back” offers that come with your Amazon Reward card? You’re still better off steering clear altogether, but if you’re stuck depending on credit cards anyway, then you owe it to yourself to get the most from them. Just remember to pay it all off as soon as you can – preferably before the interest kicks in.

Claim your tax rebates!

Obviously, you knew this was coming. The absolute best way to save your cash is to make sure you never lose more than you owe to HMRC. Depending on the work you do and what you’re spending to do it, you can claim back tax on some of the essential costs you’re covering from your own pocket. There’s never a good reason to miss out on the refunds you’re owed, but it takes an expert to make the most of your claim. For tax refunds done right, talk to RIFT.

RIFT are the UK's leading tax rebate and tax return experts.  Think you might be owed cash back? Find out for free using our tax rebate calculator. It will give you an instant estimate of how much your rebate could be.