Years ago I purchased an American book on frugality called The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. It feels a bit old fashioned in some ways now – it was written before the Internet took off in the 1990s – but it still has some extremely useful and inspiring money saving tips, as well as some ideas that won’t appeal to anyone but the most zealous scrimper (make your own baby formula springs to mind). I still sit down with it when I feel the panic rising and need some inspiration.
The author says that your expenses will be either essential or optional. A lot of things that we consider essential – mobile phones, satellite TVs, etc – are probably not. I would hate to do without my mobile phone because I like to stay in touch with my kids, so to me that is something I wouldn’t be without. However, I plan to get rid of my Virgin package as soon as my contract with them comes to an end and dig out my old Freeview box. This is definitely not essential and I am really not interested in most of the channels anyway. I have pared them back to the bare minimum for now.
Only you can decide what spending is essential and what is optional in your life, but it is interesting to list all of your expenses and see what you could do without if absolutely necessary. You might find there is a lot!
In the spirit of the Tightwad Gazette, here are some money saving tips off the top of my head:
It may not save masses of money, but if you don’t like strong tea, use the teabag twice.
When you get a present, open it carefully and save the wrapping.
Reuse old envelopes from birthdays or junk mail. I stick a freezer label over the old address and use them again – green as well as frugal.
Scratch cook where you can. Look, I work full time and run a house more or less single-handedly. I don’t have a lot of spare time. Sometimes I cut corners with sauces from jars and packets. However, if I can I cook from scratch and try to make double. For example, you can stretch a pack of mince with lots of tomatoes and veg and you have two lots of Bolognese sauce, one for now and one for the freezer.
If you have any outside space, grown some fruit and veg. Seeds are very cheap, especially if you share with friends. Courgettes are an easy one to start with, in the ground or in a grow bag (I have never had much luck with pots).
Buy clothes from boot sales. I have managed to get many bargains during the season – nice brands like Monsoon and Laura Ashley that I could never afford to buy new – for a pound or two an item. This is recycling at its best, so you can be green as well as frugal once again.
If you have a dishwasher, break the tablet in half. This seems to work just as well as a whole one in my machine.
Forget the tumble dryer. They are so expensive to use. Invest in a couple of good wooden or metal dryers. On a good day get the clothes outside on the line. I notice that Lakeland do an plug in clothes dryer that claims to cost very little to run, which I am considering as an investment. It can get a bit tiresome having clothes drying all over the house and this would speed up the process.
Don’t waste food! Only buy what you need and take a shopping list with you when you shop. Plan your meals too – I found this saved time as well as money. Put leftover bits of veg and mash into small bags in the freezer and use to pad out your soups and casseroles.
If you have time, get your hair cut by the students at your local hairdressing college. I found they take longer but tend to be very careful, and their tutor checks their work. The last time I did this it cost £7.50 for a cut and blow dry!
Look after your teeth – it really is worth keeping them clean. Even NHS dentists are expensive these days.
Drive slower. It might annoy the boy racer behind you but it really does save money on petrol.
Cut back on restaurant, cinema and pub outings. How about hosting a pot luck supper with friends, asking everyone to bring some food and drink? This is a brilliant way of socialising without breaking the bank. Me and Darling Daughter 3 have a regular Monday night movie night, where we put on a DVD – bought from the charity shop, borrowed for free from a friend or rented from the local independent DVD store – and make our own popcorn.
I’m sure you have masses more!