Here are some general tips I have picked up along the way on my quest to stop spending so much money (and get out of debt). I’m 26 this month and I have to admit that until fairly recently I have always lived beyond my means and had to borrow money (be it from family or from the bank), ever since I was a teenager, and throughout my student days and working life. If I can change my ways then anyone can! These are just some general rules and tips; for more specific tips on where to save money and great money-saving products, keep checking back for new posts! This is a list of a few things that have helped me…
- Pennies Equal Pounds. That sounds painfully obvious but I never fully appreciated the true meaning of this until recently. I always had the attitude of ‘What difference is a few pence going to make?’ but once you start to work out what you’re spending money on in terms of how much it costs per year, you realise just how much a few pence can add up to. For example, I went through a phase of buying an Iced Finger from Greggs every weekday for a few months. I thought ‘it’s only 40p, what harm will it do?’ but if I’d carried on doing that, it would have added up to £104 a year! Once I started to work out the cost of my regular, unnecessary, purchases in terms of weekly and yearly costs (no calculator necessary, just work out the weekly cost and multiply by 50 if you want to estimate it), it was a lot easier to give them up. As if I want to spend £104 a year on iced fingers! You can also apply this to your supermarket items easily. If you are reluctant to go to a lower cost supermarket/go for the value ranges of products, try to do just one cheap food shop, see how much you saved compared to your normal food shop and times that by 52. Then think of all the things you could do with that money you’d save (holiday, nice meals out, etc.) and suddenly sticking to the higher end products/shops seems a lot less worth it!
- You can still get that shopping buzz while saving money. As a lifelong shopaholic, my biggest barrier to becoming frugal was the fact I love shopping and can’t seem to stop myself buying things! That hasn’t gone away (some habits are harder to shake than others), but now I get a buzz from finding a great bargain instead!
- For the most part I try to avoid buying non-essential items for myself now (though I do slip up now and again). But there is always that desire to go shopping, so now I scour £1 shops, charity shops, TK Maxx etc. for bargainous birthday (and even Christmas) presents. I still get that happy shopping feeling and by hunting for presents so far in advance I can make sure I find something really special (because it takes a bit of time to find a good present in a £1 shop)!
- Stop shopping at Sainsbury’s, Tesco (or even M&S and Waitrose) and shop at Lidl, Asda, Iceland, Aldi, £1 shops etc. Just give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose. I was reluctant myself but since I tried it I’ve never looked back. I used to be a bit snobbish about shopping in these places but then I thought “I’m in a fairly low paid job and in debt, it’s a bit rich coming from me”! I will be writing some blog-posts about which of these shops are best for different types of products (e.g. £1 shops are great for finding branded household cleaning products for a fraction of the cost, but pretty useless for food!). I’ll also be writing reviews of the best own brand products I’ve come across (and the worst).
- Sometimes it really pays to do a few quick sums! If you use public transport to travel to work, look into monthly or even yearly travel passes rather than weekly ones. This sounds obvious but it is not always clear that a monthly pass will save us much money (especially with buses) so we tend not to bother. In my area it is £12.50 for a weekly pass or £46 for a monthly pass. I used to think ‘I can’t be bothered, I’d hardly save any money’ but I was failing to take full account of the fact months are not 4 weeks long. As soon as I worked it out properly I realised that the monthly cost of buying weekly passes is actually £54.17, meaning switching to a monthly pass would save me £8.17 a month, which is £98 a year! I’m kicking myself that I didn’t switch years ago! Was avoiding the ‘hassle’ of signing up to a bus pass online, which took me all of 5 minutes, worth losing £98 a year for? No it was not! It just shows how valuable doing a bit of simple maths can be. I never would have realised how much money I was wasting if I hadn’t!
I could probably go on for hours talking about this topic, so I’ll stop for now (I may do a second part to this post in a few weeks/months, once you have all recovered from reading this essay of a post!). I hope that some of you have found this helpful! Next time I’ll be listing my Top 10 frivolous to frugal product switches!