Tag Archives: Saving Money

Should you ever buy branded groceries?

I quite enjoy the adverts on TV for Aldi, where they compare an expensive brand of coffee, tea or whatever with their own version. The message is that theirs is just as good, but cheaper!

When I initially started trying to save money on my grocery shopping the first thing I did was dump the brands wherever I could. I tried all of the supermarket basics first. Some we liked and some we didn’t. Value/Smart Price baked beans were a definite no-no, unless included in a veggie stew. Loo rolls didn’t last as long but were worth buying as they were so much cheaper. Value bacon may not look as good but it tastes pretty similar. The kids ate the biscuits even if they didn’t arrive in fancy packaging. I now wouldn’t dream of buying anything other than a basic fruit juice either.

Where we didn’t enjoy the basic products, I moved up to supermarket own brand. Most we liked, but occasionally we still resorted to a branded product.

With the advent of the discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, the situation has improved even more. Most of their own products are very good quality and as cheap or even cheaper than the old style shop own brands. I have found them to be better overall. 

I might consider something from a range such as a Tesco Finest if it is on offer but I have found some of these are disappointing. I think they are a marketing ploy and another way to squeeze a bit more money out of their customers. 

Generally speaking if I buy a brand it is because 1. I really like it more than the alternatives (such as my Millicano coffee mentioned in yesterday’s blog post) or 2. It is a really good price. I don’t need to pay for a company’s expensive branding – they pay marketing people a lot of money to work out how to make us spend our wages. I bet at least half the time if people did a blind test to decide which product was branded and which was a supermarket’s own brand they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So, if you really want to save money on your groceries chuck out the brands and try some supermarket own labels!

Twenty+ purchases that will actually save you money

I know I tend to encourage people towards frugality and NOT buying things, but I was looking around for some new hairdressing scissors and it got me thinking about other purchases I have made that have saved me money in the long run.

Because I save about £30 each time I don’t go to the hairdresser, this can be first on the list, although they are in no particular order:

Hairdressing scissors – and clippers for short hair. Mr S hasn’t let me cut his yet but he might, in which case I will invest in some clippers to go alongside the scissors.

Bread maker. You can buy cheap bread, but if you like it fresh and crusty it is cheaper to make it yourself. Plus you can make dough for pizza. Ok, lots of you will say you make bread without a bread maker but if you are super busy they save time as well as money.

A freezer. This offers so many moneysaving possibilities. You can batch cook or just save left overs to eat instead of ready meals, you can freeze bones for making stock, you can make big batches of soup to freeze for lunches, you can buy yellow sticker reduced items and store them, you can buy gluts of fruit and veg cheaply in season and preserve it. I could go on.

Tightwad Gazette. I know I have mentioned this book a lot of late but it is so inspiring! Available here: The Complete Tightwad Gazette

A slow cooker. These cost so little to run and are a good way to use cheaper cuts of meat to cook them very slowly until tender. You can make things like porridge and rice pudding in them too.

Heated airer. I got mine from Aldi but Lakeland do a better one I think. Tumble dryers are expensive to run and these are a good alternative. If you can’t afford a heated one then just an airer – try to site it near a radiator or wood burner.

Car-washing stuff. Buying a sponge and bucket and using a squirt of soap can save you £10-15 a time if you usually pay to wash your car.

A spade and some seeds. If you have room for a veg patch and can grow your own you can save loads of money (growing your own is another good reason for having a freezer).

A drill and basic toolbox. Learn a few DIY skills -these really can save thousands.

Some decent cookbooks. Frugal Food by Delia Smith, A Girl Called Jack and Save With Jamie are three of my go to books for budget recipes. If you can’t cook you will spend vast amounts on convenience food and takeaways.

Freeview box. Although you can beat the cost down, Virgin, Sky, etc are still expensive. You can pause, rewind and record with the newer boxes too. Combine this with Netflix and you probably have all you need.

A tent. Think you can’t afford to go on holiday? Invest in a tent and some camping gear. There are some great value family breaks to be had under canvas and kids love camping.

Bicycle. Still a super cheap and reliable mode of transport.

Food processor. I use mine mainly to liquidise soups and bake cakes, both of which save money.

Pet insurance. Ok, you could do without and save money, but vets costs are astronomical. If your pet needs ongoing medical care you will wish you had insurance.

Low energy light bulbs. They last a long time and cost less to run.

Radiator foil, Thermal curtain linings, Polystyrene backed wallpaper. If you insulate and keep out the draughts you can turn the heating down.

Soup carrier/ lunchbox. A leakproof, airtight container is essential for moneysaving work or school lunches.

Reusable carrier bags. You only save 5p a time by not buying a bag at the till but every little helps and it’s good for the environment too.

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. If you buy these in quantity you can clean pretty much your whole house. You save money and don’t live in a smog of nasty chemicals.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, more a starting point. As ever, of you do make any purchases, shop around to get the best quality for your money and buy secondhand where you can.

What would you add to the list?

Why are you always broke?

‘I don’t know, I hardly buy anything!’

Some people are broke because they genuinely have very little money coming in each month. Maybe they live on benefits or have to support a large family on the minimum wage. However, in my experience there are many people out there who claim they have no money and can’t save who have decent jobs and salaries.

I knew a woman who lived in a large house with two family cars and sent her children to private school. She told me she never had any money and they were struggling. The pleas of poverty did not ring true, even when she once had the debt collectors at her door. It doesn’t take a genius to see that her lifestyle was too extravagant for what would to many of have been a fantastic income! She was more concerned about keeping up appearances than she was about the state of her bank balance. 

So, before you say your money never lasts and you have no savings ask yourself these questions:

Could your accommodation be cheaper? This is likely to be your biggest monthly expense. If you have over extended yourself buying or renting it will hurt. Could you move to more modest accommodation or rent a room out?

Can you travel more cheaply? Cars are a huge expense. If you have more than one car consider whether at least one of you could take public transport instead. If there is only you, could you downgrade to a motor scooter or cycle?

Could you holiday more cheaply? I hesitate to say give up on holidays, although many people do enjoy the odd ‘staycation’. However, if you go skiiing every winter and to Disneyland each summer you will need a very full wallet.  Could you invest in a tent for some cheaper camping holidays instead? Some of our most enjoyable family vacations have been under canvas.

Do you smoke? I have little sympathy for people who literally burn money whilst putting their good health at risk. Nuff said!

Do you insist on buying everything new? From clothes to furniture, whatever you need you can almost certainly buy secondhand if you really want to save money. And reusing can help save the planet!

How much do you spend in pubs/restaurants/cinemas/theatres each month? If you are in the pub three times a week your bank balance will feel the strain. 

Do you enjoy a regular takeaway? How much would you save if you knocked this habit on the head and cooked from scratch instead? Even if you don’t waste money on takeouts, do you use a lot of convenience food?

Do you love a brand name? If you can wean yourself off designer clothing (or at least buy it secondhand) you will save yourself a packet. When you are in the supermarket, try some supermarket own brands – the big names make you pay for all of their advertising and fancy packaging. 

Do you have too many clothes? If you buy a new outfit every time you go out the answer will be yes. 

How much does it cost you to look that great? There are so many ways to waste money on hair care and beauty products and treatments, but if you are short of cash you probably don’t need to get hair extensions or your nails done every month and could knock the designer perfumes and makeup on the head in favour of some cheaper versions. 

How often do you use your expensive gym membership? If you don’t use it then cancel it ASAP! If you are a gym bunny and there every night then good for you, but could you get it cheaper elsewhere?

Do you have hundreds of TV channels you never watch? You could save a lot by switching to a cheaper package or cancelling it altogether and investing in a Freeview box.

They are obvious questions really but people are very good at sticking their heads in the sand. Don’t be an ostrich. If you live from pay cheque to pay cheque and have no savings but you walk around in designer gear then you only have yourself to blame! 

Counting out the pennies

I have been completely useless at the penny challenge. I don’t find it a convenient way to save money systematically at all. I don’t remember to put the pennies in or, if I do, I don’t have the cash available. It is far easier for me to simply transfer money from my current account into my savings when I get paid, so that is what I am focussing on doing. 

We have been throwing our coppers in a jar in a less organised way, however, and today I took about half of them to Asda to use their Coin Star counting machine. You just feed them in and get a voucher out to take to the tills. It’s not free though -there is a 10% charge – but it saves having to count them up and finding time to get to the bank. I had almost £15 worth today and I think there is more silver in the next lot so I expect at least £20 when I take that in. I will put it towards this week’s shop!

I am still spending very little on anything except essentials so February is proving another extremely frugal month. The emergency and birthday/ Christmas/holiday funds are a bit less empty. It hasn’t been quite no spend month but it has been low spend. I did buy a new electric kettle in B&M as our lodger was struggling with the stove kettle. Too strange and old-fashioned!

Are you saving pennies? What are you saving for?

Cutting my own hair

I am getting so into this no spending lark I couldn’t quite face booking myself in for a £30 cut and blow dry. I haven’t even been that happy with my last couple of haircuts. But my locks were looking a little lank and frizzy so I thought I might have a little snip myself. After all, I have witnessed many haircuts over the years. I have watched how my layers have been cut by pulling sections of hair up and cutting them straight across. I always cut my own fringe as hairdressers tend to take it too short.  How hard could it be?

I had a look at some of the many tutorials on You Tube and decided not very, especially if you have long hair and want to add a few layers. Mine isn’t that long so is perhaps a little more complicated. I decided to divide it into four sections with a fifth section at the top of my head where the shortest layers are. I pulled this section up towards the ceiling and cut an inch off. I took the side sections and pulled them horizontal and took an inch off those too, then pulled the back sections out and up on the diagonal and snipped those. 

I was cautious as it was the first time I had attempted to be my own hairdresser but it seems to have turned out OK so I will take a bit more off next time 😄. At least the dry ends are off!

Anyone else cut their own hair?

We got our new (to us) freebie sofa yesterday. It needs a throw but is really comfortable. I also got a call back from the British Heart Foundation to say they can collect my old one after all on Wednesday. Until then our sitting room looks a bit like a furniture shop but we will cope! 

How about you? Any good freebies? Have a good Sunday everyone.

Frugal Fran vs. Spendthrift Sue – which are you?

I had a bit of fun with this last night. Which are you most like – Frugal Fran or Spendthrift Sue? I am going to guess that, as you are reading my blog, you are all Frugal Frans!

I am always amazed at how much money my friends and colleagues appear to waste during the course of a working day whilst also complaining about how little spare cash they have. It is fine to spend money like Sue if you have plenty to spare. Personally, I would be in trouble pretty quickly if I lived like that. I certainly wouldn’t be able to put anything aside for savings.

It takes a little more time and effort to be a Frugal Fran, but I feel it is worthwhile. More money in the bank and less anxiety about your finances! See you tomorrow.

 

Spendthrift Sue

 

 

Frugal Fran

Is very organised and puts the laundry on before leaving for work. Uses a brand name laundry liquid as she likes the TV ad (8 pence a wash) Is very organised and puts the laundry on before leaving for work. She uses the supermarket own laundry liquid as it is cheaper (3 pence a wash). She spends 15 minutes chopping  up some beef and veggies to put in the slow cooker
Buys a coffee and breakfast muffin on the way to work (about £5) Has a bowl of porridge and cuppa at home before she leaves for work (about £1)
Gets tea and biscuits in the staff canteen

(c£1.50)

Keeps a pack of biscuits in her drawer for when she needs a snack and takes her own teabags and mug to work (a cuppa and 2 biscuits: about 35p)
Buys a meal deal at lunch – sandwich, fruit and crisps (£3.50) Has a packed lunch she made at home the evening before – sandwich, fruit and crisps (£1)
Gets a chocolate bar from the vending machine in the afternoon (80p) Keeps a pack of biscuits in her drawer for when she needs a snack (10p)
Feels really tired when she gets home and orders in a takeaway pizza (£14) Feels really tired when she gets home and is so happy to smell her slow cooker meal as she walks through the door £2.50)
Gets the laundry out of the washer and puts it in the dryer (30p) Gets the laundry out of the washer and hangs it on the airer FREE
Perks up a bit and agrees to meet her friends in the pub (£15) Perks up a bit and invites her friend round to share a bottle of wine (£6)
 
Total spend: £40.18 Total spend: £10.98

 

Haggling down the cost of your utilities 

I was listening to Chris Evans on the radio recently and he was relating the story of a woman who spent two hours on the phone to her utility companies threatening to leave and negotiating a better price with each. She eventually saved herself £2000! That is a good use of two hours of anybody’s time 😀.

I have never actually done them all in one go but I do shop around every time something is due for renewal, such as car and house insurance, to get a good price. However, I read reviews and if people are complaining about them I look elsewhere.

One thing I don’t intend to change is my energy provider, Good Energy. I switched to them after a horrific experience with First Utility, who tried to overcharge me by thousands. Their levels of customer service when I tried to get it sorted were appalling. Never again! Good Energy charges reasonable prices, produces all its energy from renewable sources and its customer service is the best I have ever experienced. I’m going nowhere! Sometimes the cheapest sounding deal isn’t worth it. I really recommend this company and, no, they haven’t paid me to say that! 

A year ago my water company offered me a great deal on emergency plumbing insurance, £6.50 for the whole year. At that price, why not? Last week I got a renewal letter and the price was £96.48 for the year, £8.04 a month. I didn’t think I needed this, so rang to cancel. I was then offered a reduced price of £75 for the year. When I refused again this went down to £55 for the year, or £45 if I had a £50 excess. The poor salesman had his work cut out with me and finally accepted I was cancelling. It did make me think though! Never accept the first price you are given!

Have you saved money by haggling down the price of your bills? 

Are you an extreme moneysaver?

I found an article on Twitter yesterday, which made me smile. It was called ’60+ extreme things people have done to save money’.  

Some of them were a bit crazy, like  making your own reusable toilet paper, shaving your head to save money on haircuts and hair products, going through your neighbours’ rubbish for coupons and giving your child a new toilet seat for their birthday. 

But others were quite sensible and I do some of them (or I know people who do them) – cutting out cable and all other forms of paid tv, cutting your own hair, limiting the amount of stuff you have, hanging blankets over doors and windows to stop drafts, going to bed early with a hot water bottle to save on heat and flushing the toilet less to save on water (the saying being ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’!!

The link is here if you fancy reading it.

I have saved a bit of money myself today, buying my poor old cat’s prescription meds online. My old vet used to charge me £100 for 100 tablets and was sniffy and obstructive about giving me the prescription (charging £12). I changed vets and my new one is much more obliging. They charge £80 for the same tablets but gave me the prescription with no quibbling, charging me £7.50 for this. I then went online and got the tablets at £54 for 100. That’s more like it!

I make a point of saving money wherever I can. It all adds up. The site I use is www.vetuk.co.uk. They seem very efficient and I have used them a few times now. 

I’m not an extreme money saver though. I like to think I am just enthusiastic!

The working worried 

I heard on the news yesterday that 19% of British workers admit to losing sleep over money worries. I know how this feels -that gnawing anxiety that there are bills to be paid but there isn’t enough money coming in. The report said that the 18-24 year old age group were worrying the most. Having three daughters in that age category I totally understand. It’s hard to get a job that pays enough to afford a rented box to live in, let alone save any money for a contingency fund or to get a foot on the housing ladder. And the report was only talking about working people. Lord knows how anxious it makes people when they are unemployed.  It’s tough out there!

It helps me to know I can stay in control if I make a big effort and I am disciplined but sometimes it wears me down and I get anxious too. 

We are still eating mainly what we have in the larder. I wanted to use some of the paella rice so I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Save With Jamie. It was supposed to be chicken and chorizo with prawns but I made it more frugal by cutting out the chicken and using pepperoni instead of chorizo as I had some leftover from the chicken tray bake I made the other day. 

Jamie’s recipe is here.

We have snow predicted for the next couple of days in the east of England. I hope it doesn’t arrive! Last time we had snow it took two hours to do the half hour journey to work. 

I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are and not losing sleep over money. 

A cheap packed lunch 

I can’t believe I am still using up various cheeses from Christmas. It is quite nice to have a bit of Brie in my sandwich at work as I wouldn’t usually buy it except as a treat. 

Every day I take a pot of home made soup, half a bake-at-home baguette filled with whatever needs using or sometimes just butter, and some fruit. The baguettes are really cheap from Aldi – they cost 45p for two and I only have half. So my lunch costs about 11p for the bread,the soup is made with mostly home grown veg so is probably only around 10p a cup and a couple of pieces of fruit – 50p? With a bit of cheese let’s say approximately 70-80p for a very nice satisfying packed lunch. Not bad I think for my low spend January! 

I have some chocolate rice cakes if I need an afternoon snack. Theses are sooooo nice! They cost 95p for four, so my treat is a little cheaper Han anything from the vending machine at 80p an item. Lower in calories too at only 93 per bar.

I could spend £3 on a sandwich from the shop, 60p for a bag of crisps, £2 for a coffee and get an 80p chocolate bar – £5-6 a day? Over £1000 a year? Nah, don’t think so …