Having lived for 3 years with a (very) part time job and a (very) tiny business I’ve learned a lot about saving money. Now that I’m earning a bit more, I can reflect on how I got through all that without struggling with the rent or my food bill. Here’s a few of my top tips. Any of these points will help you save in the short term, for me it is more of a life style that I’ve conditioned myself into, I guess out of necessity after being poor for so long!
1. Plan Your Meals
An obvious one, always make a shopping list before going to the supermarket. Making a weekly plan for your dinners means you won’t buy anything extra that won’t get used. Keep your cupboards well stocked with staples like pasta and rice and have a couple of meals using these each week. Having 2 or 3 really cheap meals like a simple pasta bake or chilli can really keep your weekly food bill down.
My partner is the cook in our house which suits me fine because I hate it! We make a meal plan each week and then make a shopping list based on it. We then pretty much stick to the list exactly when we do the shopping. Our average weekly spend is probably about £40 for everything, £20 each.
2. Pack Your Lunch.
This one is SO IMPORTANT if you are trying to save money. If you work full time and buy lunch every day you are basically throwing hundreds of pounds away. I could also rant forever about people who buy a £3 cup of coffee or tea on their way to work every single day. I’m sure most offices and places of work have a kettle and a fridge at the very least. Buy some teabags! For £3 you can get like 250! 250 cups of tea!!! Jesus!
I have been working 6 months at a job 3 days a week and have only bought lunch maybe 3 or 4 times when I either had nothing at home to take in, or I fancied a treat. Most weeks I take in a home made chicken wrap with salad and a piece of fruit or packet of crisps. I also buy breakfast bars when they are on offer and keep them in my desk for emergency snacking. Doesn’t sound too bad does it?
3. Ask Yourself Twice
“Do I really need it?” This is a BIG one. I heard a statistic on the radio that 70% of the British public list shopping as their favourite hobby. I’m sure that’s not true, I can’t find a source for it anywhere. Anyway my point is not that huge percentage but the language used. If you think shopping is a “hobby”, it will be incredibly easy to buy shit you don’t need, so get out of that mindset right now.
Talking specifically about clothes shopping, I only buy on two occasions throughout each year. One: January sales. I go through my favourite shops online and see if there’s anything nice out there, that I need. Doing this just once a year makes it feel like a real treat! Two: A genuine need to replace something. I bought new plimsoles only when my old pair started to get holes in the canvas. My old skinny jeans became a little too skinny because I’m not 20 anymore, I bought a new pair that actually fit me. This way I don’t end up with shit I don’t need or will never wear, simple!
Cosmetic stuff can also be a drain on your bank account. Less is more. Buy just a few good quality “essential” items and make them last as long as you can before replacing them.
4. Drink Less
In case you hadn’t realised, alcohol is pretty expensive.
Since the start of this year I’ve actually given up alcohol altogether, which has made me realise how much money can actually be saved by cutting it out. Anyway this one is self explanatory. Drink less, save some money.
5. Shop Around
When it comes to making big purchases, looking at what’s out there is really important! Being the massive cheapskate that I am, I have come to learn that the cheapest is usually not the best. I was really pleased with myself after buying a £10 toaster only to get it home and realised what a piece of crap it was. I have yet to get a slice of bread which is not burnt in some places. It is always a good idea to do some research, look at reviews, and take some time over deciding what your best option would be. The internet makes all of this much easier!
6. Don’t Waste
This is where that shopping list from number 1 comes in handy. The more you stick to your list the less food you will waste. It takes a bit of practice but after a while you get to know how much perishable stuff you get through in a week. The aim is to eat all of it and avoid ending up with sour milk, mouldy bread or shrivelled lettuce leaves in the back of the fridge. Freezing things is the obvious way around this, but if like me you have tiny freezer the size of a shoe box, you need to keep an eye on it!
7. Don’t buy Brands
Another food one that’s super easy. Supermarkets own branded products are often way cheaper than other brands and the quality is no different, the more items you can replace with “own” branded goods, the more you’ll save. The majority of our weekly shop is supermarket own brand, but there are exceptions like tea, of course!
8. Go Veggie
This is one for the meat eaters out there. First of all, I don’t mean you have to become vegetarian! I’m not vegetarian myself, but my partner is and since living with him I have cut down on the amount of meat I eat drastically, just as a matter of course, and that whole hating cooking thing. I used to have meat with every meal, now it’s only about 1 in 4, and I’ve definitely noticed a reduction in my food bills as a result. So it saves you money, is healthier, and better for the environment. Save the bacon for special occasions.
9. Sell Your Stuff
I have been through phases of listing hundreds of items on Ebay and really its pretty tiring, boring, and not particularly profitable. However if you have bigger, more expensive items that you want to get rid of, consider somewhere like Ebay or Gumtree before taking it to the charity shop or dump. If you can get some decent cash for it, its probably worth the effort.
10. Don’t Punish Yourself
Ok… this isn’t really a tip. I have lived extremely poorly on occasion in the past 3 years and its not pleasant. But now that I do have more cash I can relax a bit more about my spending and so I do go for meal out now and again, go to the cinema, and down the pub. Doing these more expensive activities less often sounds dull, but try to see it this way – it makes them far more enjoyable and rewarding, and you will feel like its a special occasion whenever you do it!
Last month we went to the Lake District, and in Keswick at Derwent Water I found (as well as a brilliant pencil shop, of course!) a great book shop where I stocked up on beautiful Bartholomew maps, including North Wales, Mid Wales, Suffolk and Exmoor.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a serious obsession with recycling, and I hate throwing things away that could instead be reused in some way.
It has worked its way into some of my products such as the notebooks made completely of up-cycled paper and old maps, and earrings which are mostly second hand fabric and leftover scraps. But the scrap fabric has always bugged me as there are always pieces left that are too small to use and it cannot simply be recycled with my other household stuff.
So! I’ve tried tearing it into tiny bits and mixing it with quilt wadding (bought years ago and never used, its made from recycled plastic bottles, how awesome is that!?) to make stuffing for pin cushions.
In trying to use up all of my fabric collection, one thing I seem to accumilate is printed fabric that can’t really be used for any of my normal projects. I always embroider onto plain fabric, and I find that the best prints for earrings are very small detail repeat patterns. So fabrics like these gorgeous old Ivana Helsinki swatches I picked up over in Finland don’t really have a purpose!
So over the years I have been accumilating a LOT of craft supplies because I can’t refuse any offers of free materials even if I have NO idea when or how I’ll be using them. And when people find out you’re a ‘crafter’ of some description they tend to say “oh well you can have all this crap then, I’m sure you’ll find a use for it!” This is FINE by the way and if you do have a lot of crafty things that you don’t know what to do with, chances are I will still take it off your hands!
A de-stash is a crafty term for selling all this stuff in a big online sale, and that’s what I’m doing. Over in my Shop right now you can buy sequins, beads and tapestry wool as well as a few other random bits, for rediculously low prices.
These tapestry threads are as far as I know, 100% wool and Anchor brand though they were all messed up together when my Nan (an avid tapestry…er? Tapesteur? Tapestry-maker!) gave them to me. I’ve kept a few of the shorter bits for packaging but the rest are up for grabs, it was great fun making up names for all the different shades, though I tried not to get too creative….
I’ve been accumilating sequins for years with no real plan as to what for, I use navy, black and red in embroidery sometimes but thats about it. So I’m selling the standard cup shaped sequins and other shapes in small numbers too.