There are so many reasons to stop wasting your cash. Saving for a mortgage, a wedding or your dream holiday? You have debts to clear? Or perhaps you just want to make it to the end of the month without hitting your overdraft or credit cards. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a good starting point!
1. Stop spending! Even relatively small purchases add up. Do you really need it? If you don’t buy it will you care in half an hour?
2. Take a packed lunch to work. If you have access to a kettle, take your own mug and tea or coffee. If you don’t, take a flask.
3. Unless your kids are entitled to free school meals, pack a lunch for them too. Don’t be swayed by expensive individually-packaged mini cheeses, cheesy dippers, etc. Read the ingredients label – you don’t want your kids to eat that rubbish, do you? A sandwich or wrap, some fruit, a yogurt, maybe a piece of home-made cake or a supermarket own brand chocolate biscuit should fill them up. Fill a bottle with squash or water too. I actually buy a sports drink and re-use the bottle 50 times as they seem to leak less than plastic bottles specially designed for the job.
4. I used to have a serious magazine habit. These cost £3-4 a time and are full of the same old stuff each season. They are very bad for the morale and determination of the would be money saver too as they are trying to sell you a lifestyle, usually a very expensive one, where you wear perfect clothes, live in the most beautiful house, drive the best car, etc. Keep your feet on the ground and knock that habit on the head.
5. Ditto newspapers – you can read most of them on-line for free.
6. If you can’t kick the magazine habit, check out your local market. Mine has 3 magazines for £2. They won’t be the latest issue, but as I said before, the same stuff appears each season anyway.
7. Try eating vegetarian food at least a couple of times a week. You really don’t need meat at every meal. Veggie stuff is healthier and cheaper and is as likely to taste really good as anything with meat in it. (I don’t mean just substitute meat for Quorn here. It has its place but isn’t cheap!)
8. Get your house insulated. We managed to get the loft insulated and the wall cavities filled for nothing through a scheme with British Gas a few years ago and it has made a huge difference to how cosy the house feels. Line your curtains and get a heavy door curtain. You don’t want to pay to heat the street.
9. I heard about a woman who has her house so warm she can walk around it in her shorts in January. For those of us with less money and more sense, a warm jumper and cosy slippers mean you can probably turn the thermostat down a tad.
10. Keep a present box, particularly if your kids get invited to lots of parties. When I see a little gift on sale for a couple of pounds I buy it and stick it in the box, then usually have something suitable and don’t have to rush out at the last minute and spend a lot.
11. Cards for occasions such as birthdays are ridiculously expensive. I refuse to pay £3 for one card. If you have kids it is charming to receive a home-made effort from them, or if you are creative yourself you can create beautiful cards for pennies. Not having an artistic bone in my body, I tend to buy them cheaply when I see them – I got 10 pretty decent cards from a trader at a boot sale recently for £2. Of course you can also send an e-card for free!!
12. It seems every child needs a hugely flashy party for every birthday these days involving trips to the zoo, the soft play area, the local pizza place…This can cost you £10-15 a head. Why not stay home and treat the kids to an old fashioned party with pass the parcel, musical statues and jelly and ice cream? It worked for me! My kids and their friends used to enjoy these parties for the novelty value.
13. If you roast a chicken, save the carcass and freeze it. When you have two or three make chicken stock. Just boil them up with an onion, celery and carrots for a few hours. Add a couple of bay leaves and whole pepper corns. Then strain if off and you are ready to go. This makes the best soup.
14. Use the ends of bread for bread pudding.
15. Start your children on proper food early. Encourage them to try different tastes and textures as young as you can. Don’t create fussy eaters or you make an expensive rod for your own back.
16. Use your library service. You can read pretty well any book for free – you can usually order on-line if you can’t find what you want in your local library. You can also rent CDs and DVDs at a small cost. Many local libraries run story time sessions for pre-schoolers too. These are the kinds of services cash-strapped local authorities might be tempted to cut as well, so use it or lose it!
17. Don’t go window shopping ! It will inevitably lead to impulse buying.
18. Sign up for Freecycle or Freegle. You can give away your old stuff, saving you a trip to the waste site, and other people are likely to be giving away things you would treasure. I have given away a load of old green kitchen doors, clothes, old magazines, and more, and been given furniture, curtains, bricks, handbags and books. Check out the Internet to find groups in your area.
19. Get up early and go to boot sales. They are brilliant for bargain clothes, plants and household items. Get there early for the best stuff. Have a clear out and be a seller!
20. Give up smoking. Or at least cut down. You are literally burning money.
21. Try one of the budget supermarkets, like Aldi or Lidl. They save you money because they don’t have such a huge choice of items and so there isn’t so much temptation, plus some items are so much cheaper you wonder how they make any money. I save £25 to £30 a week when I shop there. Don’t forget to take your own shopping bags.
22. Save petrol. Walk when you can, drive carefully. When you drive like a boy racer you use more fuel.
23. If you are going on a long journey, fill up your car at a supermarket petrol station. Don’t get caught by motorway petrol outlets – they are always dearer.
24. Likewise, take plenty of food and a flask. Stop at the motorway service stations for a rest and to use the toilets, but don’t get sucked into buying their food at extortionate prices.
25. Instead of meeting in the pub or expensive restaurants, host a pot luck supper. Everybody brings a dish and something to drink. In my experience you end up with fabulous food and relaxed company. No one has been slaving over a hot stove all day nor is anybody worrying about the bill.
26. If you don’t have a freezer, then get one! It doesn’t need to be new and you might even find one on Freecycle. Don’t thrown leftovers away, freeze them. Bits of pieces of meat and veg can be turned into soups, added to casseroles or made into pie filling. If you see meat or fish on offer, stock up and freeze. For me, freezing the glut I grow in the garden is essential, giving me free fruit and veg up to Christmas and beyond.
27. Never go shopping on an empty stomach and always take a list (and stick to it!!)
28. Plan your meals for the week. Breakfast and lunch plans tend to be fairly loose, but I always know what we are having for dinner. This means we don’t waste food, we aren’t tempted by takeaways because we haven’t got anything in and I can prepare in advance so save time too.
29. Make a compost heap in your garden. If you can get hold of free pallets, you can make the perfect heap. Have a look on the Internet for instructions.
30. Teach your family members about saving electricity – if you aren’t in the room, you don’t need a light on or the TV! When you leave the room, turn off the lights!
31. Reuse envelopes. Open your mail carefully with a knife, and use a freezer label to cover over your address and to write the new one on.
32. Likewise, open presents carefully and save the wrapping paper.
33. Instead of going shopping at the weekend, go for a walk. We are fortunate to have a huge network of public rights of way pretty much everywhere. The Internet will show you the way. If you want to get fit and lose weight, there are a variety of phone apps to help you. Try www.MapMyWalk.com.
34. Educate yourself for free! You might improve your career prospects. www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses lists courses from top universities, but if you type ‘free courses’ into the search engine you will find many more.
35. Use your slow cooker. If you haven’t got one, look out for a second-hand one. Cheap cuts of meat taste just as good as expensive cuts if you slow cook them.
36. Plan for annual expenses: we know that Christmas, birthdays, the MOT, car tax and the car service will come along every year, so put money by and you won’t have to load up the credit card.
37. Use vinegar for cleaning your furniture. I dilute it 50/50 with water in an old spray bottle and use it on windows and mirrors too. Old cotton tea towels leave a smear free surface.
38. Learn to sew, even if only to turn up a hem or sew on a button.
39. There are many channels on satellite TV and most of us watch about 10 of them. Get a Freeview box instead.
40. Have a ‘cinema night’. Borrow a DVD from the library or watch a film you have recorded. Pop some corn. Easy.
41. If you have a good market in your town, you are lucky. Use it to buy your fruit and veg – it will be cheaper than the supermarket.
42. Baby food is just mushed up adult food. Make your own.
43. Before you throw something away because it is broken, think whether you can repair it yourself. We used bathroom sealant to repair a watering can, and gaffer tape on a leaky hose.
44. Learn to cut your children’s hair – you can get books on this subject and there are You Tube videos giving step by step instructions. Or let it grow (this may be easier with girls).
45. Make muffins from those brown bananas and freeze them for lunch boxes.
46. Get your hair cut or coloured by the junior or at the local hair and beauty college. Much cheaper than salon prices although it may take a bit longer.
47. Even cheaper: colour your hair yourself. Invest in a hairdresser’s bowl and brush and mix up half of a box of hair colour to do your roots. You can save the other half for next time as long as you don’t mix it.
48. Avoid using the tumble dryer – they eat money. Invest in a couple of dryers instead.
49. Grow plants from seeds. Flowers, herbs and veg – they cost pennies this way.
50. If you want a solid piece of furniture at a good price try an old fashioned auction, charity furniture shop or Ebay. Get creative and make it your own with paint or stencils. Much nicer than something cheap and mass produced.