Since giving up my job to become a stay at home mum, our income has reduced significantly. We sat down and worked it out carefully and knew that we could afford to do it. We would just have to make some adjustments and cut out all the things we used to shamelessly waste money on.
Having 2 good incomes and no children makes it very easy to become frivolous with money and after all those years of not really thinking about what we were spending, it is a shock to the system to have to budget and cut costs.
But being at home with our girls is more than worth sacrificing a salary and a few fancy dinners out for!
I am now becoming a demon at trying to save pennies and get something for nothing – or as little as I can possibly pay.
Money saving tips
1. Meal Plan – One of my biggest ways of saving cash is by meal planning. I sit down on a Sunday night and work out my dinner menu for the week ahead. I check my cupboards, fridge and freezer and then write out my menu on my kitchen blackboard. I then write a list of any extra items I might need to complete my menu and I’ll go out on Monday and get them. Meal planning has saved me both in money and in wastage. We have minimal food wastage now.
2. Always take a list to the supermarket and STICK to it! Supermarkets bank on us all impulse buying, we all know the tricks of lovely bread smells, careful product placement of chocolate etc. Write your list of everything you need and buy only those things, resist the temptation to buy anything else – unless it is a proper bargain and something you actually want and need. For example, I bulk buy washing powder. The supermarket sell a huge 80 wash non bio powder for £10 every few months, it is normally £20. So even if I haven’t run out and I see the £10 offer, I always buy the powder. It will never go to waste.
3. Do a brand swap. I am a bit of a brand name sucker and there are some products – baked beans for example, where I will still only buy the brand name. However, everyday things like dried pasta does not need to be a fancy brand. I can taste no difference in a branded Penne pasta and a supermarket economy bag. I buy the economy pasta for 25p a bag instead of £1.20. I do the same with things like rice and tinned tomatoes. In fresh fruit and veg, I buy economy mushrooms, they are half the price of regular closed cap mushrooms and the only difference is that they are a bigger mixture of sizes. Look around, there are loads of things that you can swap and save yourself pounds.
4. Be wary of Bogofs and 3 for 2 deals. They again are not always what they seem. An example of this is baby wipes. My regular wipes were on offer buy one get one free, however the regular 4 pack was 10p cheaper than the “great” bogof! It is best to check the shelf label and see what the individual unit price is. This works well with the nappy deals, check the shelf ticket and see what the price per nappy is before you jump on the “deal”.
5. Avoid – Try and avoid your local convenience store. Yes they are handy and yes you just need a couple of things. But almost inevitably you will spend more and buy more than you ever intended, when you walk through those doors. They are of course more expensive than supermarkets to begin with, couple that with the fact that you will buy things you never intended and before you know it you’ve spent £20-£30
6. Store cupboard – Build yourself up a store cupboard of basic meal making items. For example I always have loads of dried pasta, rice, frozen peas and sweetcorn, tinned tomatoes and minced beef. All these things are cheap, but ensure you always have a meal that can be put together easily.
7. Buy a slow cooker. Seriously, they are a wonderful piece of kitchen equipment. You can make any number of delicious meals, using cheaper cuts of meat and tons of veggies. I make soups, stews, casseroles, curries even chilli and bolognese in mine. They are versatile enough to cook whole cuts of meat too. I have cooked whole chickens, beef and pork joints really successfully in mine. If your budget allows, buy a rice cooker too, again for me this is a must have kitchen item. I cook rice and pasta in mine, they are so simple Breville and they were very keenly priced, they work superbly well, but best of all they are simple plug and go appliances – no technical skill required! http://www.breville.co.uk/products/slow-cookers.html
8. Change your light bulbs. I know there is a lot of debate about energy saver bulbs, but I am certain that we are in no way using quite the same amount of electricity. I managed to bulk buy a huge selection of energy savers in b&q. They had one of those clear out sales and in a big basket where stacks of energy savers. I bought enough to change every light that can take one and a few spares. So keep a look out in your local hardware store and if you see them on offer snap them up.
9. Turn off unused lights and don’t leave things on standby. It really does make a difference. My electricity bill has not dropped hugely, but it has dropped and every penny saved is more money in our bank account. I have stopped setting the clock on my microwave and now switch it off at the plug at night. Why let that tiny digital clock burn your power. I don’t even miss the clock now. When your mobile phone is fully charged, switch off the charger.
10. Use Freecycle. If you need something and you don’t mind it being 2nd hand, try Freecycle first. I wanted some apple crates to use as planters and some wooden raised beds. I got them all completely free of charge and in brilliant condition on Freecycle. I have also listed a few things that I wanted rid of on there and managed to clear out some stuff that I would have had to pay to get the council to collect them.
11. Invest in some chickens!! ha ha, seriously though, they have been a great investment for us, they lay every day. We have 21 fresh free range eggs a week, with the yellowest yolks I’ve ever seen. I am saving about £2 a week on eggs. A tiny amount, I know, but we have got 3 great fun little pets who are easy to keep and who earn their keep. I now bake much more than I used to – which also saves us money and still allows us yummy treats. Honestly, once you taste your own eggs, you will never want shop bought again. You can literally have a boiled egg a few minutes after it’s been laid. They don’t come much fresher than that.
12. GYO – Grow your Own. We are fortunate that our house had an already established small orchard with apples, cherries, raspberries, blackcurrants and rhubarb. However, I decided this year in an attempt to save some money and also for the fun and experience for my toddler that we would grow some veggies. We are currently cultivating lettuce, mixed salad leaves, onions, cauliflower, broccoli and a variety of herbs. There is something enormously satisfying about eating your own vegetables and of course they taste a million times better than any shop bought veg.
Even if you don’t have a garden or you’re not particularly green fingered, I’d still encourage you to give it a go. I didn’t relish the thought of digging and creating a vegetable garden, I simply don’t have the time nor the energy anymore! So I decided to create raised veg beds. You can buy flat packed kits, however, these are expensive and in my opinion defeat the purpose of saving money. If you are or have access to someone handy then you could buy some inexpensive wood or better still get hold of some reclaimed wood and make your own. Neither of us are particularly good at joinery, so I utilised some pallets that we had. It is really very simple and would fit in small garden or yard, even on a balcony or terrace.
Turn the pallet over so that the slatted side is on the ground. Tack or staple some plant liner or weed stopping fabric into the inside of the pallet, not forgetting to make a few drainage holes. Fill the inside up with a good veg growing compost and plant your veggies of choice.
If you want to grow carrots you will have to stack 2 pallets removing the slats off the top one of course. Carrots need more depth than one pallet gives. One pallet depth is plenty though for cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, onions, leeks, spring onions and any other shallower rooting veg.
I have so far created 3 of these beds and the total cost including vegetables has been £23. Some of my vegetables I grew from seed, others from small plug plants from the garden centre.
Even if you don’t have space for a pallet bed, there are loads of these veg that will grow in a tub or even a bucket. Herbs will grow happily on a sunny windowsill. These are a couple of pictures of 2 of mine to give you an idea of how they turn out. I am going to add a lick of wood stain, just to make them a little more attractive.
This unfortunately is a little more difficult. However, there are ways of making money and items that are relatively easy to achieve.
1. Sell your unwanted items. Honestly the saying is true “one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure”. I have been amazed by the things I have sold and how much money I have made from selling them. You can use eBay (especially if they have a free listings weekend to save you paying the fees) Gumtree is completely free to advertise on and of course it’s cash on collection, so the chances of complaints afterwards are much less than with eBay.
2. Recycle your old mobile phones. Another surprising money spinner for me. If you do a price comparison checker, it will tell you the recycling companies that are offering the best prices. My advice though is that before you do it, look up the handsets you are recycling on eBay first. You might be surprised at the demand for that handset and could end up with more money in your pocket than by using a recycling company.
3. Sell your unwanted books. There are a few online book buying sites out there. It is a little time consuming because you have to list your books by IBSN. I have successfully used Greenmetropolis. They list your book and if it sells they notify you and then pay you once the book is sent. All of them have pros and cons, so research all the companies and decide which one offers you the best and most convenient choice.
4. Complete online surveys. These actually do pay. Again research them all as they all offer different incentives and payment methods. I have made approximately £70 in four months of completing these surveys. Not huge sums of money, you won’t make huge sums, but it all counts towards your household income. Be warned some surveys can be long winded and dull, some of the questions don’t provide enough scope for the accurate answers and sometimes the monetary reward is paltry for the length of time you spent on the survey. It is however, genuine cash or you can have Amazon, Argos and various other high street vouchers instead of cash.
5. Not strictly cash – although some prizes are for cash. Start completing online competitions, there are various sites like loquax or the prizefinder who list almost every competition that is currently live. They list them by closing date and link you straight to the company holding the competition. Since January I have won 2 x stair gates, a baby bathing kit, a steam steriliser, a magazine subscription for the cBeebies magazine and a £20 John Lewis voucher. So far none of my wins have been a big one, but it is a real buzz to win, especially if it is a prize that you can actually make use of and is an item you might need. Now you don’t have to spend money buying it.
6. Sign up to freebie sites. I have had lots of free samples, some of which are full size. I got asked to be a product tester for Johnson’s nappy cream and they sent me 2 full size bottles to use. All I had to do was fill out a short questionnaire at the end of the test period. There are tons of freebie site. For example Magic Freebies and Freestuff.
7. Sign up for a cash back site. I personally use www.TopCashBack.co.uk and find them totally reliable. It is free to sign up and when you shop online, you use a link to the shop you are buying from and this triggers your cash back reward. It all goes into your TopCashBack account and you can see how much money you are accumulating. I have used it since November last year and my cash back earnigns are really building up. I plan to keep building this to use for Christmas. Sites like Myvouchercodes, also list codes for discounts/free delivery. So they are worth a look too.
8. Use deal checker sites like Hotdeals. They list all the money saving deals that shoppers have found throughout the UK and online. I have snapped up lots of bargains by having a quick check everyday.
9. Cravendale Milk have a Facebook page and for a few months they were running Free Milk Fridays, bhy liking their page you could enter a random draw to receive a voucher for a free 1ltr carton of Cravendale Milk. This promotion has ended for now, but it’s worth liking their page, because they have other promotions in the pipeline. Free Milk Friday was so poular, I’m sure they will bring it back too. The page has lots of fun little facts and photos about milk and actually has a huge following/community https://www.facebook.com/#!/Cravendale
10. If you have a talent or skill, utilise it, do something with it in your spare time that could earn you money. I was always quite into arts and crafts and I am about to embark on a business trip of cutting, sewing and finishing off various keepsakes. I have only toyed with it for the past few weeks, as I don’t get a minute during the day to invest in this. I am determined though to get started properly and make and try to sell some of my arts and crafts. When it comes to selling your items, you could create an Etsy shop or use eBay. Etsy shops are free and have a brilliant support community to seek advice from and who will help promote your store. Again, I don’t expect to earn a fortune, but some earnings would be great and would be added to my Christmas piggy bank. I will keep you posted on my progress, with pictures of course.
So these for now are my top money saving/making tips. I will add more as I discover them on this journey. Please feel free to leave a comment with your top tip and if it’s a great idea, I will incorporate it into my Blog. With your permission and an acknowledgement to you of course!