Amaya Lopez presents a self-help guide to staying financially afloat in leaner times
There's no denying it - we are all tightening our belts as we start to feel the pinch of the downturn in the economy. Why, even the Queen is feeling the credit crunch - caviar for the corgis is now off the menu. So, before we all start floundering in a sea of recession, it's time to take heed of this self-help guide to make sure we go boom rather than bust…
Make yourself indispensable
Okay, so nobody is irreplaceable in the workplace, but you can jolly well try your darndest to make yourself 95% indispensable. At the risk of irritating your colleagues, always keep one step ahead, be early for work, organised, helpful and enthusiastic. And, most importantly, never whinge.
Keep your eyes and ears open - and your nostrils
Some people swear you can smell the whiff of redundancies weeks before they're executed. Try to ascertain whether your job is in danger, and if you think it might be, start sniffing around for a new one, remembering to be as discreet as possible. Unless you've been working in the company so long that you are practically part of the furniture, of course - you may be due a huge redundancy payment you can retire on, so study your contract carefully and weigh everything up.
Prepare yourself mentally for a terrible pay rise
The bad news is that employers won't be willing to pay out more than the minimum they can get away with when profit margins are extra tight. There is not much you can do except grin and bear it while you look for a new job, presuming there are any. If you complain too much, the danger is you'll find yourself on the redundancy hit-list.
Try to avoid taking out a giant mortgage
Common sense really, but apart from saddling yourself with a huge millstone around your neck for the next 90 years, the size of stamp duty alone (enough to fund a small South American country for an entire year) is likely to cripple your finances beyond repair. If you have a huge mortgage already, it may be time to “downsize” (in other words, swap your manor for a broom cupboard).
Take sandwiches into work
Let your colleagues mock your thrifty ways as you tuck into your pungent egg mayo. You'll be the one laughing all the way to the bank. Taking a packed lunch into work every day saves huge amounts of cash. Just think what an average sandwich, drink and piece of fruit will set you back these days at your local supermarket, let alone in a fancy alfresco cafe serving paninis and ciabattas.
Cycle or walk to work
That's right - ditch the car, the bus, the train or the tube and get those boots to do the walking/pedalling. With the price of petrol soaring until the next invasion of a developing-world, oil-rich nation, you can start tapping your bottom in that saucy, Asda-style way, safe in the knowledge you're saving squillions. You'll be fitter, healthier and able to boast about your planet-saving antics to all and sundry. What have you got to lose?
Cut down on after-work drinks
Unless the company's paying, of course. All those leaving dos and birthdays really mount up, especially when everybody ends up staggering for a quick curry afterwards. Try to pick and choose the ones you'd really enjoy, and sometimes restrict yourself to a quick drink (rather than 10) before heading home. Just think what wonders this will do for your wallet - and for your waistline.
Learn some shopping savvy
Most of us, whether we like shopping or not, spend far too much on clothes. Just two or three choice suits or smart separates for work, artfully combined with different shirts or tops, are enough - and now is the time to scour the sales for good-quality bargains. Remember: less is more (in all senses of the word). And if you must have regular retail therapy, choose your work clothes wisely so you can spend your money on your “leisure clothes” for your real life - away from work.
Opt for a cheaper type of holiday
Okay, so camping in Wales doesn't have quite the same instant appeal as a week in Antigua but, hey, just think of the money you'll save! And the fact that they speak a different lingo will enhance the illusion that you're abroad. Even better, you can lie in your tent as the rain drums incessantly on the roof, imagining you're in a tropical downpour. Magic.
If you can't bear scrimping and have always lived above your means, there's only one thing for it - emigrate. If you own a property, you can rent it out to cover the mortgage and Bob's your uncle - pack your bags and travel the world. Those of you with a family in tow will have a trickier time of it of course, but you can opt to relocate to a country where they're not feeling the credit crunch yet… like, erm, Bikini Atoll.