I have mentioned before that money is a little tight around these parts at the moment, since my hubby hasn’t been working full time for a few months now. I realise that looking around me, many people are facing the same or similar circumstances, and there’s a repossessions warehouse near where we live that’s recently acquired more land to build extra units – which can’t bode well for the area, or the economy… or in fact the families affected.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ways of tightening those imaginary belt straps, and realise that I’ve written a lot for others on money saving, but never for myself. So here are some of the money saving ideas we’ve implemented in our home. Part one will focus on ways of reducing your monthly outgoings, while I’ll look at some ways of generating cash from things already in your home in a follow-up post.
I would love to hear some of your own ideas, too – they may help me, or someone else, feel a bit less financial pressure in these tough times.
Depending on just how dire your financial circumstances actually are, you’ve probably already covered the first wave of belt-tightening exercises worth thinking about: you’ve given up your morning cup of coffee from whichever local vendor you support, saving you up to £60 a month on coffee. Then there’s the muffin you’re no longer having, which is saving you another £40 a month.
You’re not slipping a bottle or two of wine into your weekly shop just for the sake of it, and you’ve cut down on evenings out, or imposed a firm spending limit. You’ve probably also reduced how often you go out for dinner, while take-away menus are now recycling fodder and you do your grocery shop with a shopping list and calculator in hand.
So now we’re looking at more hardcore savings, right?
- The first thing to do is take out your bank statements for the last three months, and go through them. Look for anything you don’t recognise. I did that and found a £9.99 a month subscription for an online movie website I hadn’t used in over a year, but was still paying for.
- I also found a payment for home insurance for a house we haven’t lived in for more than a year (despite my having cancelled it). This kind of thing may be refundable, in some circumstances, so look into that. Even if not, it reduces your outgoings going forward, in this case to the tune of £15 a month.
- Make sure to do it for all accounts too, not just your main bank account. For example, I found a credit card we hadn’t used in some months had racked up a bit of money owing again, thanks to payment protection insurance I wasn’t even aware I’d taken out. I cancelled that, and in fact the credit card itself, as it had a way too high an interest rate for my liking.
A morning’s effort saved us almost £30 a month.
- Next, look at your outgoings, such as gas, electricity, water and so on. You can use a website like uSwitch to compare energy prices , home communications, mobile phone packages and insurance prices. According to uSwitch, you could save over £1,000 a year – which is obviously the best case scenario, but still, any saving is good news.
- Groceries represent a huge outgoing for most families, and I’ve been chatting to people recently to find out what they spend on food. The definition of ‘necessities’ varies from family to family, and ‘essentials’ are as changeable as the people who use them, so it’s difficult to set down a one-size-fits-all spending target.For ourselves, if we can keep our shopping to between £60 and £80 a week, I’m happy. Considering that includes things like washing tablets/powder, cleaners and toiletries, it’s a bit of a tough ask at times! That’s for a family of 2 adults and 1 eating child. I’ve had an ask around on Twitter, and with a few exceptions, families like ours do seem to spend the same as us. One family had their bill reduced to £45-odd a week, and another admitted to around £90 a week.
We have found two things that have made a huge difference to our shopping outlay (interestingly, the £45 family do the same things with regard to food!):
- First – getting an organic food box delivered once a week, with all our vegetables for the week. On a rare occasion we might need to top up with some onions, potatoes or similar staples from the supermarket, and because we’re selective fruit eaters, we buy fruit as and when we need it, but for the most part, our weekly food shop now doesn’t include any vegetables.Our organic food delivery is full of locally produced, seasonal vegetables, and we’re often exposed to things we wouldn’t normally have picked off the shelf, which means we’ve discovered wonderful new foods as a result.
Just how is that money saving? Well, the vegetables in those boxes last two weeks, on average. The bagged salads will easily last a week in the fridge. The same thing from the supermarket is generally wilted within a day or two. Vegetable bought from the supermarket rarely last the week. So, our food wastage is significantly reduced and we don’t throw out as much as we did in the past.
Also, because we don’t have to buy new veggies every two to three days, it cuts down on the number of times we head to the supermarket in the first place, meaning I don’t spend the £10 – £15 on spontaneous buys that I used to probably two to three times a week.
- Second – learn to cook what you have, store what you don’t eat, and eat through the kitchen for one week a month. What does that mean? It means prepare the food you have on hand, and learn to create recipes from what’s in your kitchen.This can be really hard at first, and rather hit and miss, especially with new ingredients, but practice makes perfect. When you need three carrots for dinner, chop all six and put the other three in the freezer. (Label it so you don’t defrost the grated swede thinking it’s mashed potato…. Trust me. It’s nowhere near the same thing in a shepherd’s pie!)
One week a month – probably the last week – eat through the kitchen: open up your freezer and see what’s there and work on clearing it out. Look at the tins in the cupboard, the pasta and so on, and eat it all before it goes past it’s best, and you throw it out anyway.
It takes a little planning and a little extra effort, and sometimes imaginative cooking and gracious diners, but saving £60 odd pounds on that last week’s grocery bill is a huge saving at the end of the month.
What have you done around the house to help you save money?
Next time: How to make little pots of money to top you up through the roughest patches.
For great posts and ideas from the Natural Parents Network on money saving, look at the list on this page.