Remember that frugal thing? Well we're still doing it. It's like I said a while back though - the more it becomes a way of life, the more it becomes difficult to think of things to say about it. It's just what we do. We have relaxed a wee bit on things as time has moved on - although we've always been inclined to "go out and do stuff" even within the constraints of paying off every penny we can against the mortgage - there has always been that quality of life balance, as we recognised from the start that while if you're in debt (by which I mean mortgage, credit cards, overdrafts or loans) then cutting back everything you can is a great way of dealing with it, there's also the risk you end up burning out and saying "sod it" too.
I dipped in to Cass's "Frugal Family" blog recently though, and her "50 ways you can save" post gave me an idea, so here I am, first time in a while for one of these on a Friday...
My "50 ways" are split into sections - centered around things we've done, and how we worked to make our money work as well as we could for those things. Even if you're not scratching around for every penny, we all work hard for our money so it's only right that we should make the most of it.
10 tips for Travel:
We live just a few miles from Stansted airport, so the temptation to whizz off for a long weekend is very much there. Our next trip is a couple of days in Dublin, and was actually a fairly last minute decision, not the best basis on which to keep costs down, but we still did our best!
- Book flights as early as you can, particularly with budget airlines
- Be flexible - our original plan was to hire a car for two days, however we were going to get no change from £65 for this. Instead we've bought travelpasses which should cover us for ALL our travel while we're there and have cost us E10 (no Euro symbol on this keyboard!) each. Bargain!
- Likewise, parking at Stansted was going to be pricey due to the short-notice - but we can park at our local station for the weekend for £5, and the train will cost us about £14 return.
- A hotel a short distance out can save you cash! If you're happy to spend 30 minutes on a bus, train or tram, you can be quids in, particularly in popular destinations
- for foreign trips, plan your spending. We've got one of Martin Lewis' ideal Credit Cards for overseas spending, so we'll be spending as much of what we need to as possible on that, and of course as ever it will be cleared off as soon as we get the bill. (It'll also earn us a little bit of cashback)
- Remember you'll need cash too - and work out how best to get it. Some credit/Debit cards allow you to withdraw free of charge, others make a charge, in which case you may be best to get your holiday money in advance. We'll also be raiding our roadkill pig to round up all the Euros that we've found in the street.
- online research is a lot cheaper than buying guidebooks for where you're going, and you often find snippets that the books miss, too.
- Similarly for general sightseeing info, older guidebooks bought from charity shops are still fine, just don't expect admission charges to places to be the same!
- If the place you're visiting has a great market then make use of it for food for an outdoor or hotel room picnic - it usually works out FAR cheaper than going out for a meal, and can taste every bit as good, or better!
- Pack light to save on baggage charges - I can do a weekend on hand luggage even when I need a full bag of camera gear by packing cleverly into the gaps around my kit, and stashing stuff into pockets. Remember also you can usually carry on an "airport shopping" bag - so a bottle of water bought airside means you can then load other stuff into that same bag.
10 tips to save at home:
- Monitor your electricity & gas use regularly - then if you see a sudden sharp spike you can work out what's caused it before it runs up a big bill
- set reminders on your phone to check you're on the best deal for utilities once a year or so
- Shop around for insurance renewals well in advance of the policies expiring - this reduces the temptation to just let them auto-renew.
- Hoovering regularly maintains carpets in good condition for longer, likewise, clean up spills as soon as they happen!
- Girls, when hair-washing, shampoo twice using just a 10p sized blob at most each time - first time concentrate on the roots, second time, the lengths. The first wash won't lather much, but that's fine, it's still cleaning! (Thanks to my lovely hairdresser friend Kate for this one!)
- putting your shampoo in a dispenser bottle not only looks nicer in your bathroom, but also means you're not so tempted to use too much
- When you think that toothpaste tube is empty, lay it on a flat surface and run your finger up from bottom to top to push up all the paste that's left in the tube
- Don't leave electrical items on standby unless you have to - things like your Sky Box will be a nuisance if you keep turning them off and on again, but TV's, radios and stereos can mostly go off at the switch to get rid of those power-sapping little red lights!
- If you're going away for more than a couple of days, think about what you can do to minimise power drain - the less electrical items left switched on, the safer your home in your absence, too!
- If you have an Economy7 meter, set timers to run things like your dishwasher, washing machine etc overnight (so long as it won't be antisocial to your neighbours to do so!), and use the thermostat on your hot water cylinder to heat that on the cheap rate, too
10 tips for shopping:
- The money mantra - Do I need it, will I use it, can I get it cheaper? - before you buy
- If you decide to buy it, can you go through a cashback site to earn a little something back?
- Look on the High Street, but if they won't price-match to online, don't hesitate to walk away, on big ticket items in particular
- For new electrical appliances, remember to check their energy usage - our new shower costs far less to run than the old one, which has covered the cost of running the new extractor and the heated towel rail
- Cashback credit cards - while they're not as lucrative as they were a couple of years ago, they ARE still out there. Just use them for purchases you'd make anyway, and pay off in full at the end of each month
- one for the photographers - there are a LOT of sites out there selling really good quality, well looked after second hand gear, the likes of MPB Photographic and CameraWorld also offer part-ex deals on the items you're replacing!
- Another one for the photographers - if you're set on buying new for a particular item, there is a cracking dedicated comparison site so you can see where the best UK deals can be had - check out camerapricebuster.co.uk
- A lot of us having things we buy regularly, from habit - but it's those costs that can mount up. A £2.30 latte every working day on your way to the office? That's a cool £500 over a year - now think what you could do with that amount of money.
- For food shopping, write a list, not only does it mean you don't forget things, it also means you get round the store faster as you don't have to keep backtracking!
- Apps/websites like MySupermarket are great if you have the option to shop at several different supermarkets - work out where is cheapest for which items and plan accordingly!
In the kitchen:
- batch cook and never use the oven for just one item!
- If your oven is electric, and your microwave has a combi/convection setting, it'll almost certainly be cheaper to use the micro than heating the main oven.
- Stock-take your fridge regularly to avoid waste
- Remember - slightly over-ripe fruit and some yogurt = a delicious (and expensive to buy) smoothie! Sometimes leftovers can be a delicious treat!
- If you're making a curry, bolognese, stew or chilli, always consider padding it out to make an additional portion or two which can be frozen as a "home made" ready meal.
- a packet of gnocchi in the larder, butter in the fridge and some fresh herbs in pots outside, can help avoid the temptation of a trip to the takeaway because you've got "nothing in for dinner!"
- plan your meals to use up anything you have left over from the previous week
- PLAN YOUR MEALS!! (Seriously, even a rough plan of meals you enjoy and some basic ingredients always to hand can make all the difference)
- keep the kitchen tidy and stay on top of washing up - if it's a nice environment, and you don't have to "clear the decks" before you can do anything, you'll be far more inclined to cook in it - that equals less impromptu takeaways!
- If you can afford it, and enjoy it, plan in a takeaway every so often - this journey is NOT about depriving yourself of everything fun. BUT, give thought to what takeaways you really love, and what you could create at home for just-as-good results - for us it's fish & chips, chip-shop ones are incomparable!
10 tips to boost your savings:
- If you see money on the floor, pick it up. There's no shame in it and it's NOT beneath you. If someone else doesn't want it, you may as well have it!
- When you log in to check your online banking, take any odd pennies from the balance of your current account(s) and transfer them to a dedicated savings account - not enough each time to notice, but it does mount up! At the end of a year use the money for something lovely.
- Each time you manage to make a saving on a utility bill, so your monthly Direct Debit amount drops, set a bank-transfer to send the saving into a savings account. As you make further savings, increase the amount of the transfer accordingly. We currently have £96 a month going to savings just from having done this for a few years!
- Work out a monthly budget and stick to it - if you should have money left over at the end of the month, but you don't, keep a spending diary to work out why!
- Budget to save if you possibly can - if you should have money spare at the end of the month then budget to move it straight to savings before you're tempted to spend it!
- Check what savings accounts your bank offers for day to day savings, but be prepared to look further afield for larger amounts. In any event it makes sense to get the best interest you can. Nationwide currently offers a regular saver account which pays 5% for its first 12 months
- If you use an ISA, keep your eye on its interest rate - rates have dropped across the board since the Personal Savings Allowance was brought in but there are still deals to be had.
- If your current account pays interest, learn when it arrives and as soon as it has, transfer it to savings.
- Pigs rule, OK! Piggy Banks are the coolest thing - so drag that small change out of your purse, wallet or pocket, and go feed a pig!
- If you use TopCashBack or Quidco, and get your cashback paid by BACS, transfer it straight to savings as soon as it hits your account so you see a benefit from your savvy shopping, ratyher than it just getting frittered away!
All of the above are tried and tested by us - I'm not a fan of putting stuff in here that we can't be pretty sure works. Yes there's merits in looking at changing bank, and getting a cash incentive to do so, but we've been with our current account provider for, well, forever, actually, in my case, and we love their customer service and that they are a building society, not a bank. They do accounts that suits us. We have a branch in town where we can see someone if we need to. So we won't be changing, no matter how much cash someone wants to give us. Yes we could get TV, Phone & Broadband cheaper than Sky, but they give us the service we want, for a price we can afford (with regular haggling!) so I won't be urging you to change there, either. A lot of this money saving lark is about finding what works for you, and not being over-influenced by other people's accounts of living on dry bread and water, wearing all your clothes rather than heating the house, and having a cold shower just once a week to save on heating the water. Between you and me, most of them probably aren't practising what they preach, anyway! ;-)