06 February 2015

7 savvy eating habits to help top up your ISA

There’s just over a month to go until the ISA deadline on April 5 to end the 2014/15 ISA season, and thanks to the changes to ISAs introduced over the summer, you’re able to save more than ever, tax-free. The good news is that your ISA allowance is now £15,000 and, unlike previous years, you can put this full amount into savings in the form of a cash ISA, and pay no tax on the interest that money earns. But, your ISA allowance still doesn’t carry over from one year to the next. So if you don’t manage to save your full allowance into an ISA by the April 5 deadline, the left-over allowance, and the tax-free opportunity it represents, is lost.

So how can you take a bite out of your monthly spending to help boost your ISA allowance over the next few weeks? When it comes to savings that can make a difference to your bank balance quickly, there’s no better place to look than the items you spend money on every single day: food and drink.

Here are seven tweaks to your eating and drinking routine that could quickly help to fill out your savings this month – and bulk up your ISA ahead of deadline day.

On the way to work: give the coffee kiosk a miss

A fancy morning coffee with a croissant is a part of the daily working routine – but those Lattés and Americanos soon add up. Prices of coffee from London coffee shops (shown by a Which? survey) showed that bringing your own flask of coffee and some slices of toast from home could save you £52 in just a month.

Lunchtime: bring your sandwiches from home

Nipping out at lunchtime for a gourmet sandwich, drink and packet of crisps doesn’t feel like a luxury, but it’s a cost that you can easily cut out. Make your own sandwiches and bulk buy your crisps as well and you could save another £75 over four weeks. You’ll save even more if you refill a bottle of water from the tap. Britain has fallen in love with bottled water to the extent that activist group, tapwater.org reckons we each spend around £25,000 on it during our lifetime. If you’re drinking two litres of mineral water a day, then switching to tap water could save you £30 a month1, and more if you’re buying most of your mineral water from sandwich stores.

Making weekend plans: find your inner chef

The average cost of a three-course dinner for two in a restaurant, without wine, comes in at £40.822. On the other hand, you could buy ingredients from a supermarket or local store and knock up a steak dinner for two at home (fillet steaks, potatoes and mange tout peas) for around a third the cost. Try inviting your nearest and dearest round to sample your culinary skills, rather than heading out for a fancy meal. If you’re accustomed to eating out every week, then creating your own fine dining experience will likely save you more than £100 during the month.

After work: resist that extra glass of wine

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average UK household spends £15.20 every week on booze3, so cutting your drinking by half for a month is likely to save you over £30. For many people, those savings could be larger still – especially if you do much of your drinking down the pub. The Good Pub Guide lists typical prices for a pint of beer at around £34. Cutting out just three pub pints each week will save a further £38 a month. 

Dinner and a movie? Create your own takeaways

If your weekly routine involves a takeaway pizza in front of the latest film, then turning your kitchen into a pizzeria could add up to more savings on your food bill. Switching from home delivery pizza to a ready-made supermarket equivalent is likely to save over £32 a month5. Making your own pizza base (from flour, water, olive oil and yeast) and adding toppings6 could save you even more. If you’re a fan of Indian, try buying cook-your-own curry pastes and ingredients and stirring up your own dishes at home to produce similar savings.

Before bed: plan for tomorrow using your leftovers

Using up any accidental leftovers is a great way to save cash. Many meals taste even better as lunch the next day – but you can get more creative with your leftovers as well. Excess vegetables can be used for omelettes, soups, stews, pies and quiches (they’re great for home-made pizza toppings as well); leftover chilli, casserole or stew works well as a jacket potato filling to take to work as an alternative to a sandwich. Just remember to cool leftovers as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 minutes, then cover and refrigerate. Use within two days, always reheat until steaming hot, and only reheat once. Making your food go a little further this way for a few weeks could save you over £407.

At the weekend: cut down on supermarket trips

Over the next month, the average UK household will spend £60 on food8 that they end up throwing in the bin. The more you throw away, the more you need to buy – and the more shopping trips you end up taking in the month. The good news is, it can be easier than you think to cut this waste down: setting your fridge to the right temperature and organising it by use-by dates to make sure everything keeps long enough to be eaten; freezing any meat or fish that you are unlikely to use in time, so that it can be thawed and cooked later (you’ll need to do so within 24 hours of defrosting); keeping food in its packaging and storing fruit and vegetables the right way. Try buying in bulk and planning several weeks of meals so you’re not driving back and forth to the supermarket. You'll find plenty of great ideas for making better use of your food at lovefoodhatewaste.com.

So how much could you save by smart eating and drinking?

Every person's eating habits are different – but stick to all of these frugal food and drink ideas throughout March and it's feasible that you could be around £400 better off by the end of the month. That's quite a return on four weeks of savvy eating and drinking – and a handy way to help make the most of your ISA allowance.

How Nationwide can help

When you save into a Nationwide cash ISA and are registered for online banking, you can use the Internet Bank to keep track of the progress you’re making. And if you’ve downloaded our Mobile Banking app, the Impulse Saver feature lets you transfer money instantly from your current account, if you have extra funds left over at the end of the month (lets you transfer funds up to your annual ISA allowance).

If you haven’t yet opened an ISA for this tax year, then it’s not too late. Find out more about Nationwide's cash ISAs.

If you opened an ISA before the changes were introduced in July 2014, then you can still get access to the full £15,000 ISA allowance for this year. If you opened an ISA with another provider and would like to transfer to a Nationwide ISA, you can do this too.

You need to be a UK resident age 16+ to save in an adult cash ISA.

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