Making your wages last


Tom Simons

If we had to take a wild guess, we would say that one of the most universally celebrated days would have to be the eagerly anticipated payday. On that day, there are a number of decisions to make in relation to how to spend those hard-earned pennies. Such choices include choosing whether to save money or spend. Many of us end up choosing the latter, some of which might be a necessity such as food, rent, bills etc. however some spending choices are for luxuries. It's this latter category which means all the cash for the month can be used up quite quickly. The most interesting thing to note is that many of us probably spend a large sum of our money whilst actually working! Have you ever sat down and calculated how much it actually costs you to go to work and what you spend money on during working hours? If you find you have an empty wallet quite quickly after payday, you'll find this guide useful as it will outline common spending habits you probably tend to engage in at work. Don't worry, we'll also suggest some alternatives you can try to help you avoid them so that you're on your way to being closer to reaching your financial goals. And if your credit history isn't spot on you can steer clear of those bad credit loans.

Lunch money

Have you ever calculated how much you spend on lunch weekly? If not, it might be something worth doing. If for example, you spend an average of £5 a day on lunch, this sums up to an average of £100 a month if you work 5 days a week. If you take that calculation even further, it rounds up to £1,000 a year. It's possible that many of you spend far more than this in a week eating out generally, which means you're literally eating your way out of money every month. Buying lunch outside on a daily basis is one of the easiest ways to burn out of cash quicker than expected. Perhaps try these cost-effective alternatives so that you can enjoy lunch at work and save money simultaneously.

Packed lunch

One of the easiest ways to avoid spending so much money on lunch would be to try using that extra fifteen minutes you use every morning hitting the snooze button to prepare a packed lunch. That £5 you spend buying a sandwich meal during your lunch break could make you a sandwich every day for the rest of the week. A bonus tip would be to look for special offers from your local supermarket to ensure you save money when buying lunch items for the week as well. Writing out a grocery list before going to the shop will also help prevent overspending.

Packed lunchbox

There are also great apps out there that act as a tool to use when creating that list, as you can compare prices of items from several major supermarkets and determine where the items will be cheapest. If you absolutely must buy lunch outside, try and hunt for a meal deal or look for lunch time specials that pinch your pockets instead of breaking them. To get you started on saving money, there are great sources of inspiration for your packed lunches online.

Cut online shopping whilst at work

Whether it's during a lunch time stroll or a quiet lunch at your desk, you may find that working hours seem to be the most convenient time to shop. This could be because you're bored, in need of a thrill, or tend to window shop in-between working and go a little over-board when adding things to the basket. Whatever the reason, it's a quick way to end up with a low account balance, so here are some suggestions to help you improve your shopping habits.

There are several methods you can try to reduce the temptation to impulse shop and we've listed a few below:

  • Block sites that you spend the most money on
  • Minimising social media while working
  • Opt out of seeing targeted ads on social media in settings
  • Delete shopping apps from your phone
  • Avoid physical shops during lunch breaks
  • Remove your card details from all online shops
  • Unsubscribing from mailing lists of your favourite shops

Most of these suggestions should help you avoid online ads that usually come to tempt you during work hours. As the saying goes, out of sight is out of mind, so if you give these alternatives a go you may escape being a victim of falling for the bait. Overall, finding things aside from shopping to replace your free time at work will save you a lot of money. Catching up with a friend, reading entertainment blogs or just getting a good old snooze in aren't bad ideas.

Cost effective work clothes

Ever been stuck for what to wear to work so end up buying more clothes instead? Unless you're a super-model, your job most likely doesn't offer a clothing budget, so this expense comes most likely comes out of your earnings. Depending on your job, work clothes are often an important aspect of work, so looking professional and presentable is definitely not something you should compromise on. On that note, it's worth considering creating a budget for your work attire to ensure you're spending smart. If not, you might end up spending a large amount of money you make at work on buying clothes to wear to work.

"Create a budget for your work attire"
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A measure you can take to slash this expense, is to consider high quality buys instead of low quality cheaper spends. For example, if you tend to wear black trousers or skirts to work every day, perhaps buy one or two expensive pair of trousers that will last for years to come instead of spending money on a new pair every month. You'll find it may work out cheaper.

Work clothes can be expensive especially if you're in an office type job, so it would also be a good idea to try and do seasonal shopping and target major sales periods. As you probably already know, you will get good quality things at a far cheaper price.

Ultimately, try to be content and work with what you have. It's not about the quantity of clothes you have, but rather about buying key items that you can mix and match.

work clothes wardrobe

Optimise bill payments

More of our money than we would like goes to paying bills, and sometimes these bills are ones we could have avoided. Paying your bills should be the first thing you do with your wages, but buying things that make us happy tends to be more exciting. Sometimes we get carried away doing some of the things mentioned above and by the time we remember the bills we have to pay, we don't have enough. That's if we have any money left at all. To avoid your hard-earned money going towards paying interest and late payment fees on bills, store cards or loans, you might want to consider making it a priority to pay those first. Here are ways you might be able to avoid extra expenses by paying bills on time.

There are several useful apps available to help you pay bills on time. There's also the option of setting up direct debits or setting reminders on your smartphones.

Ditch the credit card

One of the most annoying things has got to be leaving your card at home on accident, but it is also a saving grace when it comes to cutting down on spending. Deliberately leaving your card at home will eliminate your ability to impulse spend while you're at work. There are a few alternatives you can try so that you still have money for your necessary spends, but don't overspend.

Leaving your card at home is a great way to discipline yourself into budgeting. To help with necessary spends, you can take out a certain amount of cash every week. Be sure to list out and calculate your weekly expenses and take out that amount in cash. You can also include a small amount solely for the purpose of treating yourself and emergency spends in that figure. Make an effort to only take the amount of cash you will need to spend for the day out on a daily basis to avoid spending your weekly balance in one go.

If you're one of those people who are able to make payments using your phones, consider deactivating that service so you're literally left with no alternative ways of spending, especially when you find yourself window shopping.

Save on transport

Transportation, like work clothes is something that you can't avoid unless you're one of the lucky ones working from home. You're probably wondering how then you're supposed to save money in this area if it's essential to you getting to work every day. There are a few tips you could take on board if you use public transport, and a few hacks you can try if you drive.

For those of you who didn't know, with travel firms, the more frequently you buy, the more discounts you're able to get. Below are a few alternatives that might come in handy.

In London and other major cities, try taking advantage of the daily and weekly cap if you're a pay-as-you-go contactless user so that you never pay more than a daily or weekly travelcard fare. This means once you've reached your daily or weekly cap amount, you won't be charged for any additional journeys made within those zones. Ensure you use the same card all day/week and tap in and out.

Consider cutting costs by buying annual or monthly travel cards instead of weekly ones if you can afford it as it works out cheaper. If you can, avoid buying daily tickets as it can work out more expensive especially if you commute during peak period as this often costs more. In London and elsewhere Save more by using a contactless card instead of paper travelcards as they are more expensive. If you really want to be organised with your spending, try paying for your travel upfront as soon as you get paid, alongside your bills.


Making a conscious effort to stop these spending habits at work and implementing the alternatives might take you a few steps closer to saving more of your wages than you spend and eliminating a lot of your money stress. The money you save can be used to achieve different financial goals whether it's a holiday, saving towards a car, starting a business, or simply having enough to last you the whole month, without the need to turn to payday loans.

If all else fails, there is the alternative of taking out a payday loan to bridge the gap, but remember that payday loans aren't a long-term solution to money management. Downloading free apps to track your spending may also help in your quest to try and stay focused. If you need more ideas on apps to help why not head over to the Citizens Advice website.

Remember that any borrowing to cover costs might not always be sustainable, why not check out our Responsible Lending page.