For a good many years now MrEH and I have been volunteering at a large national Beer Festival run by the Campaign for Real Ale in London. It takes up a full week of our time each summer, and life without it is almost unimaginable! We stay with a London based friend (who also works at the festival) and, as volunteers, the Campaign provides us each with a voucher for breakfast each day we are working, and pays for a taxi to get home at the end of each night. There is also a subsidised staff canteen for other meals, or we can use a staff discount at the food stalls in the festival. All lovely, but in spite of this it's easy for costs to mount up - two meals a day to pay for, plus travel from our friends to the festival each day, and travel from Home to London and back at the start and finish....add to that the fact that, being self-employed, working at the festival at all means losing a weeks pay, savings were needed! Last year I decided to dissect the whole experience and see where savings could be made.
Travel: To and from London. Living where we do, we get little change out of £12 -£15 each per journey by the time bus fares and tube fares are taken into account. Two of us, each way.....and the return trip done at least twice per festival - quite a steep bill before we even start! The answer was to take our friend up on two oft-made offers - firstly, to stay an extra few days with her, and secondly, to bring the car across and pop it in her large garage for the duration. Far less costly than all those trips on public transport!
Travel: From our friends house in South West London to the festival venue. There are two options for this - Tube or Overground trains, the overground being the slightly cheaper of the two, although also slightly slower. A simple matter though to check the train times in advance and ensure we were at the station in time.
Food: The campaign's "breakfast" voucher is actually accepted as payment for any meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner, and the staff food is extremely good, and not as unhealthy as it used to be back when we first started volunteering. Whilst a cooked breakfast is nice, it makes far more sense economically to use the voucher for an evening meal. Breakfast was easily dealt with by investing in a packet of cereal - and a plastic bowl. I eat my cereal dry so no need to worry about milk, and Juice, tea & coffee is provided free of charge to all staff. Lunch was slightly more of a challenge, until we spotted the supermarket just along the road from the station - simple enough to pop in there in the morning and buy some bread or rolls, and cheese sandwich fillings. A multipack of crisps and some fresh fruit, and we were sorted - at a fraction of the cost of a meal at the staff canteen, and less calories than eating from most of the festival stalls! With a cooked evening meal using a meal voucher we ate well all week and never felt as though we were missing out in any way
I wondered in advance if taking these measures might make me feel somehow hard done by, but when I worked through my priorities I realised that actually, if I had some money to spend, I would rather spend it on a night out with the team prior to the festival opening to the public than on purchasing food at times when more cost-effective versions were available. A slightly longer journey on the train in the morning was actually more pleasant than a shorter one crammed into the Tube with the commuters, and being based in London throughout rather than just when the festival was actually open to the public was actually easier - and more fun!