I’m thinking that for now at least this will be my final Frugal Friday post for a while - a fair amount of the information from previous (pre-C-19) posts in the series will still be relevant should you be looking for more ideas, tricks and tips, so do read back. This week though I’ll wrap things up with some “small things” you might think about doing if money is right at the moment, or indeed simply if you want to maximise the savings you might be making while your social life is on hold.
1) Waste nothing! This applies first and foremost to food - but more generally as well. In the kitchen though, do a little stock-take every few days and ensure that you stay aware of anything that needs using. Bread is one of the most commonly thrown away foods in the U.K., which always strikes me as crazy! When we make a loaf for sandwiches it does 2 days lunches for the pair of us, and then MrEH slices the remainder of the loaf and pops it in the freezer before it has a chance to go stale - thus ensuring that we have sliced bread ready for toast for weekend breakfasts. If your bread has passed that point and moved on towards properly stale then you can chop it into cubes to make croutons for use with soup or in warm salads, just fry the cubes in a little oil, tossing them around so they brown evenly. You can also purposely leave a slice out to go fully stale and then blitz it into breadcrumbs which freeze brilliantly for use as a crunchy topping macaroni cheese, fish pies etc, or for coating meat or fish before cooking. If any fruit or veg does go past the point of being useable for anything then at least make sure you feed it into your compost bin - that way it’s not completely wasted.
2) Make use of what you have! Again, first looking at food here - a week here and there where you make the majority of your meals from the existing contents of your fridge, freezer and cupboards can do Wonders for your bank balance! In the past few weeks we have had some delicious meals that have been made from “back of the cupboard” staples - Tuesday night’s macaroni & cauliflower cheese being a delicious example! If you need inspiration for meals like this then Jack Monroe’s books are excellent.
3) Make use of what you have - part 2! Time for another stock take - this time of books, DVD’s and CD’s - remind yourself of all the things you already have that you are happy to re-read, watch or listen to again, rather than feeling that you need to buy new. Maybe have a themed film night once a week, or listen your way through all the albums from your favourite band in chronological order. Also clothes - it’s the time of year when if you have space you might want to put away winter-specific items (I don’t have a lot of space to do this but still store away winter running kit and long sleeved tops in plastic boxes in the bottom of my wardrobe) and sort through your summery stuff to remind yourself what you have. If you have clothes that you usually save just for holidays, then op maybe this is the year to bring them out for more general wear too - I think few of us will be fortunate to get any sort of summer holiday this year!
4). Challenge yourself! Aim to make one positive change every few days to take control of your finances. That might be ringing your TV or mobile phone provider to haggle your costs down, batch cooking to save on the costs of running your oven, checking your bank accounts for any direct debits that you no longer want to be paying, or doing a comparison to see if you can get your gas or electricity a bit cheaper. Anything you can save is a bonus - if you have seen income fall thanks to the virus then those savings might help make ends meet, and if not then maybe start to stash it away against a nice treat when things get back to normal again?
5) Have a read through the MSE (MoneySavingExpert) website and get some more ideas of ways to save - from getting cashback in routine purchases, thorough to planning car insurance renewals with military precision to get the best price possible for your cover, there is heaps of brilliant information there - and founder Martin Lewis and his team have been working his socks off for the last few weeks making sure that all the information you might want on the COVID-19 situation is there too. If you are working from home then be sure to look up the information about the money you can claim back against tax for doing so too - only a small a,isn’t, but worth having!
6) Borrow or barter? If there is something that you need currently, why not see if a local friend, family member or neighbour can lend it to you? Just remember to maintain your social distancing while you collect - but you are allowed to do this. And if you and a neighbour are both baking, why not get your heads together and share the spoils? I provided the mixed spice a friend was short of for a recipe in the week, and in return we got a couple of slices of delicious fruit tea bread - when I make scones later today a couple will be popped to her door. We’ve also been exchanging jigsaws with neighbours - far more cost effective than stalking eBay for different ones to do.
Those are just some starting ideas for you - I bet there are plenty more you can think of too. Although a lot of us are probably spending more in some areas at the moment that doesn’t mean we have to spend more across the board. Making your moneysaving a challenge, almost a game, can make it feel that much easier too - things like storecupboard challenges for meal planning can involve the entire family in working out what will go with what - and sometimes coming up with strange combinations that turn out to be family favourites!
Good luck with finding a way through the remaining period of lockdown, furlough, working from home or whatever your personal situation is.