Every bit of content I’ve seen on my timeline today has included some element of spending, and while I am of course going to reference the said word, I am instead going to be focusing of saving money. When I use the word save I’m not necessarily meaning the money is going into savings, many of us aren’t able to do that right now, but I’m talking about saving it from being spent on things that may be unnecessary or allowing it to be spent elsewhere due to finding ways to reduce costs on some items.
I’m not going to go in too hard on complex money talk, I’ll leave Martin Lewis to that, but I just wanted to share some of the very small things you can do that make a difference.
This time of year the emphasis is on buying and giving, which can but an extra layer of stress on top for people already trying but failing to make ends meet, or those who only just about managing to stop those angry stamped letters arriving in abundance.
I told my friends I won’t be doing Christmas cards this year. If I was I’d either make my own or try and buy some charity cards so that I would be doing some good in the process. Despite receiving cards from people already, I don’t feel that guilty about opting out as I figure it’s a good move environmentally, and I think time spent writing them is better spent continuing to plug away with my various work ventures to try and increase the money coming in and change my situation. If you do feel a tad guilty for removing yourself from this festive activity though, you could send out a gif via your Whatsapp groups, send some e-cards, or create your own DIY card in pages and send to your nearest and dearest inbox’s. Sure it’s not quite the same as the tangible version that arrives in the post with a festive stamp, but it shows you’re still wishing them well this Christmas.
Have you got lots of Christmas get-together’s that involve eating out? If possible book ahead and go for a set menu so you know exactly what you have to budget for. If this isn’t an option make clear in the planning stages with friends that you’re on a budget so there won’t be any awkwardness about whether the bill is split evenly or whether you just pay for what you ordered. I don’t want to be noticeably tight when I’m out so rather than opt out of having one of the courses, I’ll just order tap water so I’m saving lots of money that would have gone on drinks. I’ve always found it rather depressing thinking about spending lots of cash on something that is swallowed in a few minutes and ends up in your toilet bowl a few minutes after that anyway. You could also choose to have a starter as your main dish to save a few pennies. Most restaurants offer up huge portions and a starter with a dessert is usually more than enough to satisfy the belly. Check out sites like Voucher Codes too for any deals, as many of the high street chains like Pizza Express, Prezzo etc often have really great deals for groups. When things have been too tight for me to go, but I haven’t wanted to miss out on the getting together aspect of the night, I’ve eaten at home and just grabbed a light bite while I’m there so I can still feel part of it but not feel stressed about the money I’m spending on food. Some food establishment have special nights with themes and reduced rates too, so keep an eye out for those. In my art college days I used to love Curry Club at Wetherspoons.
It’s obvious I know, but a trip to Whole Foods or the local farm shop is going to be more expensive than a supermarket. If you had all the time in the world you’d do research and work out what products are cheapest where, but we don’t have time to do loads of different food shops a week, we’re already barely finding time to schedule in meals or life admin. So the easiest thing to do is pick a supermarket where most of the stuff that tends to be on your list is at a good price, whether that be ALDI, Lidls, Asda etc. You can use websites like www.mysupermarket.co.uk to compare products costs in different supermarkets if you don’t want to manually research them all. There’s always a section that has discounted products, things close to the sell by date, or with damaged packaging, which we always make sure we have a good rummage through. It’s unsurprisingly a bit of a hotspot, so expect to have to a wait to get a good viewing of what’s on offer, but it’s worth hovering a bit to have a look. Also if possible buy in bulk, particularly if it isn’t perishable. When I was at uni I used to buy sacks of rice and pasta as they were far cheaper that buying little packets. Same with things like toilet rolls – if you’ve got space to store them buy the big packets (do the maths to check this as sometimes they try to catch you out, but on the whole you save a few pounds buying in large numbers). Also look for any 3 for 2 type offers too. My Dad is an absolute fiend at this and actually finds a huge rush in telling us about the amazing deals he’s found. If you have kids you want to keep entertained make it into a game they have to do when you’re shopping. It will hopefully stop them from screaming the place down or saying something very un-PC to a stranger.
Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry, you’ll start just ‘popping’ in a few extra items into that basket or trolley – usually those snacky and indulgent things that you can really cope without (biscuits and fizzy laces in my case). Try and write a list beforehand and challenge yourself to stick to that list – only veer away if you spot a deal that makes sense for your usual home habits.
Depending on where you shop trying and use the ‘Nectar’ style cards and build up points every time you shop. You never know when those points will come in handy in the future. Also keep an eye on magazines and newspapers for any coupons that may give you further reductions on items in store. In terms of hobbies Coupon-ing is a fantastic one for those looking to live a frugal life.
Don’t forget opting for Supermarket own brands instead of the more well known ones too.
When I was at university my friend Nat and I loved charity shop shopping. We loved the thrill of finding a style gem from rooting through the rails of shop filled with unknown and unpredictable goods with their own mystery history. It even became a bit competitive, both trying to find the coolest or most unique fashion bargain.
As a blogger it’s obviously more necessary I wear current clothes or brands that are taggable on Instagram, so that readers and viewers can buy them too, but there are still ways I reduce my spending. I tend to only allow myself to shop online during sales now, and even then I give myself a total amount I’m allowed to spend. Knowing that my will power isn’t great when faced with beautiful clothes, I hardly ever go on shop sites just to see what’s on there or to ‘window shop’ (or whatever the internet equivalent is), because I know what it will lead to. At the beginning of each season, I suggest you write a list of things you think you want for A/W. That might be one statement/smart coat, a more casual everyday coat, a baker boy hat, going out boots, flat day boots, a bright knit jumper, some jeans that fit with the current shape trend and a party outfit….etc. IF and I say IF again for emphasis, you have will power, don’t allow yourself to buy anything that isn’t on that ‘must-have’ list.
We all have those items in our wardrobes that we bought on a whim but never ended up wearing. The trend pieces we thought would suit us but made us look all kinds of awkward. The pieces we bought, hated, but couldn’t be bothered to send back because of the level of faff. The stuff that no longer fits because we’ve been food shopping when hungry a few too many times.
Get your girls together and have a swishing party. Swap items amongst you so you all end up getting rid of something that’s offering you nothing and so that you come home with something that will get regular wear or give joy.
Obviously this one is reliant on compatible body shapes, shared taste in fashion, and having a relationship that will stand the test of time (and the particularly tense festival period – who doesn’t fall out over a board game taken too seriously), but Si and I have started to buy things together or share new clothes. I’m not using this blog post to tell you guys that Si enjoys wearing my body con dresses, but items like oversized boyfriend fit denim jackets, layering coloured hoodies, merch tees and flannel shirts, have become items that we only buy one of to save some money. Obviously there’s the odd occasion where we will have to fight it out when we both one to wear a certain item out, but on the whole it’s been working quite well.
If you have a style that isn’t overly led by current trends you will find you’ll be able to return to a lot of pieces year on year. I try to avoids fads where possible, or any very current looks that seem to be gimmicky, or have limited staying power because they are so standout that people will likely tire of them. For a winter coat, which is often one of the more expensive purchases you can make in the fashion calendar, I often go for one that is a shape, colour, style, that is nodded to every time A/W comes around…whether that be Military, a dramatic long wool coat in a neutral shade, houndstooth, a parka, a trench….you get the idea. The forever pieces that never date. The heritage or classic looks. Even if you want to replace it they’ll be easy to sell because they will always look great and always be relevant. They also appeal to all ages.
If there’s something in particular you are on the lookout for have a quick search in apps like Depop in case someone is selling and unwanted gift or regretted purchases for cheaper than the retail price.
Wearing: H&M Coat, Trousers and Jumper. Primark Boots.
When I bought my coat I got a further 10% off by signing up to the H&M Club, which was something I did very quickly on my phone when I was in the queue at the checkout. As long as you don’t use these sorts of store cards like credit cards and hike up huge bills due to extortionate interest levels, they can be useful for discounts and rewards here and there. Just make sure you use it in the right way and read any small prints.
When you order online you want the item to turn up as quick as possible because you’re excited to wear it, but if there’s no real urgency consider picking the cheapest postage option that will take a bit longer to ship it out to you. It’s amazing how little outgoings like this add up.
If you are a blogger apply for Rewardstyle or similar. If you post outfit pictures often (importantly items that are still currently in stock online) then you could be earning a nice percentage from people clicking the link and buy from the linked stock. You also get a percentage of whatever they put in the basket, not just the item you linked. I am yet to make even 1p from this, but some of my fashion blogger friends virtually live of this alone.
There’s obviously lots of great activities you can do that cost absolutely nothing, the internet is awash with blog posts outlining the free things you can in (insert location). Sadly I’m too ancient to qualify for Young Person’s well…. anything, and I’m even out of the running for the the new fangled Millennial railcard, but it’s obvious that if you fit the criteria you should make sure you are saving money on travel/tickets where possible – same goes for seniors or those who are registered Disabled. If you can book long distance train tickets ahead of time, you save a huge amount doing so too. Sadly will my last minute lifestyle this is rarely an option for me.
Most of my best friends are mothers and they rely on their Merlin Cards for allowing them to occupy their kids over break from schools and nursery. They’re a absolute saviour to their sanity. If you know you are going to go the these leisure destinations often you’ll pay it off in no time and save the family lots of money. This card cover Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester, Legoland Windsor Resort, Coca Cola London Eye, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life, Blackpool Tower, The Dungeons, Thorpe Park Resorts, Warwick Castle, Jurassic Skyline, weymouth Sea life Adventure Park, Dreamworks Tours: Shreks Adventure – as you can see that’s a lot of ways to keep the kiddies entertained. Let’s be honest we’d all have a ruddy good time at these places too, so lets not discriminate.
I grew up being dragged to National Trust houses, it was inevitable that I would end up choosing to do it as adult, after-all everything else that my mum says/did/has, that I always thought was rubbish or lame as a kid, I’ve ended up doing and loving. God, it’s so very annoying when your parents are right. And you really do turn into your mother it would seem.
If you are flexible on the days you go some places also have days where they offer reductions, but you should also look at the costs of transport to get to the activity. Does the car park you park at have a time of day or day of the week where it’s free to park? Could you avoid going at rush hour so that you get the cheaper train fair ( I often try to push for this with work commitments),
There also leaflets at trains stations which often have vouchers to a number of leisure/entertainment destinations, so have a flick through their before you hop on the train or drive to your chosen place of fun, as you may be able to get some free tickets.
There’s also a Group-save option when it comes to train tickets, so if there’s three of you who are going to stick together the whole day in London you can reduce your travel costs.
If you are a film-nut like me it’s worth signing up to the Odeon cinema club too. I went to the cinema completely free the other after cashing in some of my points, and that felt pretty great!
When buying things like Imodium, paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Cystitis …basically anything you don’t need a prescription for and can get on shelves rather than behind the counter, it is not necessary to buy the well known branded versions. I saved £4 opting for Sainsbury’s own Cystitis medicine instead of the recognisable brand this week. I checked with the pharmacist that it would be just as effective and potent, and she told me the ingredients are exactly the same. Seeing something familiar gives us confidence, we have more belief it will work, but the reality is you are paying for the name, the marketing and fancy packaging.
Sounds obvious but go NHS where possible. Due to a busy schedule this week, one that didn’t allow time to go to the doctors, I used the PUSH Doctor APP to have a consultation over Skype. The appointment cost £20, the prescription added another £8 to the bill. When I went to pick up the medicine it was a further £8 because it was considered a private prescription.If you use this app it could be cheaper for people to use the monthly subscription fee. This not only waves the prescription fees but you’re also not charged if your consultation goes over 10 minutes.This will be beneficial for people who would like regular contact with their doctor but are stretched for time like I often are.
While it was necessary for me on this occasion, when possible I’ll put up for sitting in the waiting room or calling the doctors every few minutes to try and get an appointment with my GP.
If you know you spend a lot on prescriptions over the year it may be worth looking into getting a PPC (prescription prepayment certificates) which could reduce the amount you spend in a year. It will involve a bit of math and predicting the future to workout whether it’s worthwhile, but for some of you this may be very clearly a sensible thing to apply for.
Other CFS’ers if you buy pain remedy’s like Epsom Bath Salts, do buy in bulk and shop around, prices vary HUGELY. I went to a well known high street health store and spent a fortune on Epsom bath salts (around £15 for a small cylinder) and they were gone within the week. Amazon do some good deals for larger quantities. Amazon also do great deals on supplements too. I buy my b12, Vitamin D and Magnesium from there.
Wearing: New Look Jumper, Bershka Trouser, Primark Beanie
Recently I looked into getting my website refreshed as well as migrating to dreaded WordPress. I emailed some fantastically talented web designers to gain some quotes. I knew it would be expensive but had no idea quite how much it costs to get a website similarly unique and professional as some of my fave bloggers. It wasn’t going to be possible for me in my current financial position. But I didn’t lose hope of a web refresh remembering that I’d had such a great experience with Pipdig when turning my basic blogspot into a more luxe user friendly version of it’s former self. For a very reasonable price Phil took care of all the mind boggling migration stuff which would have undoubtedly caused by ickle brain to explode if I had attempted it. He also told me of all the widgets I could activate to my new WordPress which would add all the elements I was looking in an effort to enhance my blog. You don’t get a completely bespoke site at the end of it, but you can get one that’s pretty slick looking, as well as user friendly. You could also look at the likes of Squarespace and Wix if you can’t quite afford the big guns yet, and if you struggle on a few teenie tiny tweaks or glitches I’m sure you can call on some tech savvy mates to help for no charge.
Another nice idea is skill swapping. Perhaps you need some photos done but can’t afford to pay a photographer, and perhaps that photographer is looking for someone to help them edit a video, or maybe wants some prints for their walls – well why not do a little swap. I don’t think you should ask people for anything free of charge, it’s hard enough to make ends meet in the creative world and it’s not fair to put people in an awkward position where they have to argue why they deserve to be paid. However, if there’s a way that a transaction can mutually beneficial then that’s awesome. I’ve been offered free tattoos in return for an interview for example. It’s lovely seeing illustrators and artists regularly swapping prints too.
When it comes to my artwork I save some money in production by giving my own paper to the printers which I get in the sale from my local art shop. If I were to use the paper at the prints the cost per print would be much higher and I’d be forced to charge my customers more, I also buy my envelopes in bulk which is considerably cheaper.
So that’s just a few ways I save money, although I could still be a LOT better. I’m sure most of them are pretty obvious and some of you are cursing wasting your time reading this, but hopefully one or two of you might have been reminded of some very easy ways to curb your spending or save a few much needed pennies.
Lastly I just wanted to remind you all that Christmas really isn’t all about the presents, despite what all the gift guides and adverts may tell you, so please don’t fret if you are unable to splash out this year. There’s plenty of other ways to let the special people in your life know they are loved and a beautiful festive atmosphere can be created with the bare minimum. Laughter is free after-all.
I don’t want anyone to feel shame for not being able to shower people in possessions this Xmas, be honest about your situation and the people that matter will understand. Promise. Also, someone once pointed out to me that sometimes getting someone nothing can be the kindest thing you can because then they don’t feel that pressure to get something for you back (something they can afford or shouldn’t spend their money on). Even though you don’t need or expect something in return, even tell them so, and only want to give out of kindness, so many people won’t feel happy or right about not returning the favour. You could remove this stress from their festive period by doing nothing. Something to think about.
Let’s help each other out. Let’s start an amazing thread in the comments with more money saving tips and ideas.
Wearing: Primark Jumper, Bershka Trouser.