A collage of the writer holding bank cn
Collage: Cath Virginia / Photo: Courtesy of Jak Hutchcroft

I Actually Saved Money With Those Viral TikTok Hacks

From cash stuffing to bank switching, what method works best?

How do you save money when you live in a broken system? Answer: It’s fucking hard. And not in a fun-hard way like rock climbing or Metal Gear Solid. Inflation is going up while wages stay the same, meaning most of us are getting poorer, even if we’re working the same job we’ve had for years; millennials are the first generation to be financially worse off than previous ones; Freddo bars are now £75 each, probably. 


Meanwhile, the number of British billionaires has increased by 20 percent since the pandemic. And we’ve got Kirsty Allsopp off the telly telling us that if we gave up Netflix and coffee we’d be able to buy a house. Bleak, isn’t it? 

Saving money can seem about as rare and impossible as a compassionate Tory politician. For TikTok users, though, proactivity is more popular than wallowing. Thus, they’ve taken it upon themselves to share some money-saving tips with the world. From effectively fucking over banks to switching back to cold hard cash, the hashtag #MoneyTok has over 10 billion views on the app, while similar searches including #MoneySavingTips and #Savings with 1.4 billion views each. 

But do they actually work? To find out, I chose five viral money-saving hacks and did each one for a week. Then I then worked out how much I’d save if I did them for a year, for ease of a comparison. 

I actually had a lot of fun doing these by framing these as “little challenges”, but I don’t doubt they’d be harder when done long-term and out of pure desperate necessity. Oh and for the record, although some of these methods force you to categorise things like going to gigs, having beers with friends or buying a coffee as luxuries, I vehemently  disagree. You’re not “bad with money” because you’re broke despite working all hours under-the-sun. It’s not your fault, it’s the system’s. 


1. Cash stuffing

This is one for the oldheads because it’s all about that cash money, baby. With this challenge, you withdraw your income out in cash and separate it into different categories. A general rule of thumb is 50 percent goes to needs, 30 percent to wants and 20 percent for savings.

I’m freelance which means my income fluctuates drastically, but at the moment I make roughly  £375 per week – This means I had £187.50 for essentials and £75 for savings. As for my wants, I got £112.50 in cash from my bank on the Monday and put it into an envelope for the week. (For reference, my average weekly spend on “luxuries” is around £150.)

As for how I actually got on, I knew I had a couple of nights out planned at the weekend, so I spent less than I normally would earlier in the week. I got a few coffees, bought dinner out one day and didn’t go wild, but when Friday came I ran into trouble. After spending £15 on a gig ticket I found myself with a pocketful of notes and coins in a venue that didn’t accept cash. This was well annoying. Luckily my friend bought me drinks and I paid her back from my cash wad afterwards.

I went out for food and a few pints on Saturday evening, too, and come Sunday morning I’d spent all of my “wants” allowance. I ended up helping a friend with her garden all day, and as a thank you she made me lunch. This work/food exchange wasn’t intentional on my part, but it did make me think of ways in which I could help other people in the future and what goodness that might bring my way.


Overall, this was a good way to save cash and limit what I spend, because I could physically see the cash in the envelope disappearing throughout the week. I ended up saving £37.50 by changing my spending habits, on top of the consciously saved £75. It helped me consider my future plans while spending money in the present. The bullshit card-only policies in some places is the only obstacle.

Savings in a year: £5160 
Rating: 3/5

2. Bank Switching for Cash

No, this is not a drill – you can literally get free money for moving banks. I found five banks that offer cash rewards for switching accounts: Natwest, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank all offer £200 and First Direct offers £175. Sadly, as I was already with Natwest, and both Ulster Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland are part of the same banking group, I could only switch banks three times in total.

Although I got free money, the whole thing was a bit of a rigmarole. I had to apply and wait to hear back from them; then fully close my bank account and move everything over to my new account; then close that account and do it all again. It took just over a month to complete the three switches.

Be wary, too. Although banks say doing this won’t affect your credit score, sources elsewhere online say it can – especially if you’re trying to apply for a mortgage or big loan.

Also, there’s small print on each switch deal that says you usually have to deposit a chunk of money into the new account within a certain amount of time (HSBC need £1500 within 60 days, for example) for the switch deal to be triggered. So you have to have that money in the first place, which obviously not everyone does, and if you’re in your overdraft then you have to pay that all off first . 


It’s not a long-term solution and you only get the switch deals once, but if you’ve got the patience, it’s a good one for making a bit of free money and feeling like you’re sticking it to The Man.

Savings in a year: £575
Rating: 2/5

3. The 100 Envelope Challenge

Local window cleaners and drug dealers to the front, this is another cash-based challenge. This one requires somewhere safe to store a lot of cash and the will to submit to the gods of randomness.

First, you label 100 envelopes with numbers one to 100. Then, shuffle them all up and leave them in a drawer or box. Twice a week, you pick an envelope and you put the same amount of money as the number into that envelope. When I did it I got 57 on Wednesday and number 96 on Sunday, so I saved £153. 

It’s quite a good method, and I imagine it keeps you focused on saving money every week, but it relies on you making enough money to be able to put quite large amounts of money aside each week. One week it could be just £3, but the next it might be as much as £199. If you did this for 50 weeks (AKA you got through all the envelopes at two per week) then you’d save £5,050. 

To be honest, though, if I was to do this challenge long term I’d tweak it to make it work with my fluctuating income. On some weeks I’d only select one envelope, for example. Also, withdrawing cash twice a week might get annoying, so you could do this online by using a number randomiser and then transferring that amount of cash into a separate savings account.


Savings in a year: £5050
Rating: 2/5

4. Rounding Up

A lot of banks now offer the option to set “Round Ups” on your account. This means that when you buy something for £1.20, it’ll automatically round it up to £2 and drop that 80p into a separate saving pot within your account. Doing this for the week meant that coffees were costing me £4 and pints £7, which made me wince whenever I noticed. But at the end of the week I’d saved £28.68 without even trying. The good thing about this is that software is doing the saving for you, and if you’re really in dire straits then you can just access that savings pot at any time.

Savings in a year: £1491.36
Rating: 4/5

5. No Spend Challenge

 I thought I’d round off this saga with the most challenging, but potentially most fun, money-saving hack of them all – the No Spend Challenge. It’s pretty self-explanatory: Apart from essentials (like groceries, rent, bills and essential travel) I try to not spend anything for a week. 

To be clear, that doesn’t mean moping about your house all week, feeling sorry for yourself and thinking about everything you can’t afford to do. I decided to fill my week with as many free events as I could.

Three caveats, though: 

  1. I live in Brighton which has a lot of cultural things happening, from gigs to exhibitions to workshops. It’s also small enough so that I can walk everywhere easily and I live in the town centre.
  2. As a freelancer I usually work from home or in the library so don’t spend any money on commuting.
  3. I’m socially confident and I generally enjoy being in new situations, talking to strangers and making new friends.


On Sunday evening I spent £81.13 on groceries for the week ahead (I treated myself to some fancy bits knowing I’d be eating every meal at home) and then I froze my bank card via my banking app.

I worked from the library with a packed lunch and homemade coffee in a flask during the weekdays, and it turns out there are loads of free things to do in my local area. Throughout the seven days, I went to a day of seminars about happiness, a retro games tournament, a breath-work session, a comedy night, a sound therapy session, a collage-making workshop, three art exhibitions (they even had free beers), a film screening, a salsa dance class and on a hike with a bunch of strangers. I had to break the challenge after the hike to get the £2.50 train back home from the destination we reached. (Okay, I also bought some chips.)

I spent a total of £88.28 for the whole week on groceries, train fare and the chips. This was helpful for me to realise I don’t need to always spend money to have new and enriching experiences, to meet people and have fun. It also broke me out of my regular routines, which felt like a good thing. Of course, it’d be too difficult to do this every week, but I reckon one week per month is pretty feasible. 

Savings over a year: £1800 (with my specific salary)
Rating: 4/5

But before I go and book a one-way ticket to Mauritius with all the P I’ve saved, I think it’s only right to leave you with some honourable mentions that might help you save a bit of cash.

  • The Too Good To Go app notifies you about cheap food available from nearby cafes and supermarkets before they throw it away. 
  • BorrowBox lets you rent audiobooks and eBooks for free from your local library. (Every little helps right?)
  • The £25 a month Pret A Manger subscription allows you to have up to five coffees or smoothies per day. You can even sneakily share this subscription with a mate because who really needs five coffees every day? Also, if you’re self-employed like me, you can sit and work there all day. 
  • If you live near an Odeon cinema, there’s the £14.99 myLIMITLESS Odeon subscription which allows you to see as many films as you want in a month. This is great considering one film usually costs around the same and it’s another good one to share with a friend – as long as you don’t mind going to the cinema separately. 
  • Lastly, and perhaps the most useful of them all, you could buy a ride-on lawnmower from a company called Mountfield and inexplicably get £200 cashback. The cheapest mower costs just over two grand. One second, let me get my calculator out again…