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your top tips for money-saving and a more frugal life..

(493 Posts)
amigoingmadhere Sun 19-Aug-12 09:07:12

Right - having until now led a relatively good lifestyle, am about to be single with 3 young dcs and very little money (not going to go into background here as it's depressing and will only get me down on this sunny morning).

Rather than sit here terrified, I would like to gather the collective wisdom of MN to see how I can immediately live a more frugal life and preserve any little money we have for a house and the dcs' future.

So, here's what I can think of to start with:

- get a new Boots card (old one is connected to my stbxh's email account)
- get Tesco clubcard
- get Nectar card
- always scour the internet etc. for vouchers / codes etc. (do this anyway but in a more random way)
- only ever buy presents in sales
- when moving house, try to get as much as possible from charity shops / freecycle etc.
- use library more
- see if Surestart still exists (a while since I used their services)
- start looking for any local free/cheap gym / sports facilities

There must be more that I'm not thinking of.. would be grateful for your ideas! - shopping / cooking / kids' activities / house furnishing etc.
I'm starting afresh on a new and wonderful life.. but it's going to be hard.

thanks smile

OhLimpPricks Sun 19-Aug-12 22:25:28

Try Tesco value baby wash, 25p for 500 ml. Brilliant shower wash for everyone, as it's baby friendly, no no harsh chemicals. DH has psoriasis and excema, and used to buy Sanex at a couple of quid a bottle. He uses Tesco baby wash....

Do your shopping online if you can. You can do your order at the beginning of the week and order things and amend it up to the day before delivery. You won't be tempted to impulse buy, and if you pick your delivery time cleverly it will cost you £3/4 which is less than the cost of petrol/parking/bus fares.

Good luck with everything. What a thoughtful Mum you are, thinking all this through, instead of acting recklessly. What a great lesson in humility for your kids. Something you can't buy.

Freshletticialongjump Sun 19-Aug-12 22:56:18

Mealplan and cook from scratch where possible, always doubling up so you have one for the freezer - cheaper on cooking fuel.
Grow your own veg, but grow the expensive things such as french beans, salad leaves, courgettes.
Buy basic root veg at the market in big bags.
Cook meals which are mostly veg, adding meats in small quantities for flavour. Works well with pasta and risotto dishes.
Bake your own bread.
Use all your leftovers and recycle the rest into eggs via 2 or 3 hens.
Recycle clothes into new items by customising if you have a sewing machine. Works best for the DCs.
Use less than half the washing powder it says on the box.
Go to bed early and get up early - saves loads on heating and lighting in the evening.

mrspink27 Mon 20-Aug-12 07:53:26

Another vote for Sainsbos basics tea bags - DH likes them better than the organic ones!

Also Sainsbos basics dishwasher tabs are fine,and the second cheapest washing up liquid (which I water down!) as are sainsburys washing tabs in a green box.

I use half soda crystals and half softener in the machine and no ill effects noted!

Mrbojangles1 Mon 20-Aug-12 10:41:00

My top tip is buy a tent

We just come back fom euro camp and stayed in a shally cost 670 for a three bed shally for four nights and five days incuding the crossing

We have brought a tent sleeps 10 the same hoilday in france will cost £60 for the crossing and £120 for the four days and five nights bargin

Mrbojangles1 Mon 20-Aug-12 10:43:54

Also can i suggest doing your shopping at night the supermarkets reduce by 10% three times a day you can pick up things next to nothing co-op os fab for this tesco not so much they only mark down by pennies

Littlecherublegs Mon 20-Aug-12 10:44:05

I would second a lot of what has already been said particularly:

- meal planning (I do a plan at the start of the week of meals we're going to have and just buy food what I need)

- ebay (sell unwanted stuff on here)

- shop around for things like home / car insurance, gas / electric etc.

- changed my mobile tariff to Virgin £5 a month for 100 minutes and unlimited texts

- shop at places such as Home Bargains, Jack Fulton, Primark, Aldi, Wilkos, etc.

- buy in bulk where you can (ie. larger packs of cereal, rice, pasta, washing powder, etc)

- find free things for the kids to do - libraries, museums, parks, etc.

yellowraincoat Mon 20-Aug-12 10:45:30

Wow lots of good tips here.

I try to take out cash before I go shopping rather than bunging everything on my debit card. When you have your card, it's so easy to just go "oh I'll just buy this as well" and not think about the cost so much, but when you have a finite amount of cash, you can't do it.

BlueMoon74 Mon 20-Aug-12 10:49:49

Make cakes for people's birthday presents - cost virtually nothing and always gratefully received!

Also, keep a birthday box on the go - when you see stuff that is cheap that could do for someone (doesn't matter who!) buy it and store. Ditto for Christmas presents.

Asda smartprice washing powder is fab.

Third for Sainsburys cheap tea!

Sainsburys cheap toilet paper too.

Always buy loose produce, not bagged. Much, much cheaper.

Buy bread for 10p and freeze. Make up the kids packed lunches out of frozen bread - it will have defrosted by lunchtime.

Declutter your house and do a car boot (I made £300 doing this selling tat I thought no one would want!)

FireOverBabylon Mon 20-Aug-12 10:59:23

You don't say how old your DC are but remember that as they get to school age, they'll be eligible for free school meals then you'll only have to provide a "beans on toast" style snack in the evening.

If you get a tent for holidays, look on eBay, particularly in autumn, as people sell off kits when they realise the weather camping's not for them.

If you go supermarket food shopping, try not to take the DC with you, if there is anyone else who could have them for you, as it reduces the impulse buys. Also, buy fruit / veg from markets as they're loads cheaper and riper than supermarkets. Don't discount places like Farm Foods for frozen food. They have lots of ready meals but also loads of different cheap frozen veg - spinach, swede etc and usually have offers on Hovis bread.

Agree with Littlecherublegs about shopping in HomeBargains, their "£3 odd for 12 rolls" loo roll is fab as are the tissues in the navy blue boxes. They don't feel cheap at all.

freakydeaky Mon 20-Aug-12 11:03:50

If you're able to factor in a small treat now and then, and you wear perfume, Lidl does a perfume that smells exactly like Coco Mademoiselle. Even my DD, who's an absolute Chanel addict, is fooled!

Wishing you all the best in your new and wonderful life! smile

I'd second decluttering your house and really look at ways to use things up.

For example, old birthday gifts of hand cream - perfectly good as body lotion, 'posh' shower gel/bath soaks - don't save for a special occasion but use it up as everyday showergel rather than having to buy stuff. Can use this approach with lots of cleaning products as well. I remember saving loads in boots purchases and I seemed to keep going for ages, when in the past I'd have been buying the latest thing I'd seen in boots! (Avoid magazines!!!!)

Similarly food cupboard - use up things that have been in the cupboard for ages as the basis of a meal.

Once you are clear of clutter - then shop smart (lots of tips already on here about that) to only buy what you really need, go for practicality rather than brand and if its something you do need - get the best price you can for it by buying in a cheap shop or in bulk.

With regard to clothes, have a think about how to mix and match what you have to give it a new lease of life - or at least use it as a guide to get some 'key' items that can be used with majority of your wardrobe. Use scarves/accessories to make an outfit feel new/up to date. Look after your shoes/bags to keep them nice and usable for longer. The idea is to not shop, and if you do its for just the odd item rather than complete outfits.

EasyToEatTiger Mon 20-Aug-12 11:04:29

Don't use a credit card, and DO use cash as much as possible. When it's gone, it's gone, and it's easy to see where you are. It is hard work and a bit of a pain. Also, unless you absolutely need them, second-hand clothes and hand-me-downs are fab. I wouldn't want to wear a stranger's knickers but knicker-buying shouldn't break the bank

Don't go food shopping when you are hungry. It will cut hugely down on impuse buying (and buying of chocolate/crisps!).

Are you paying for Sky/a TV broadband package? check out getting a satellite dish and decoder box for the free to view channels. I have the Beeb, C4, E4, More4 etc, the dish and box were about £100 and my uncle put the dish up for me for nothing. Only TV cost now is the licence fee, saves me about £50 per month.

My smartphone package has unlimited data, so I can connect my phone to the laptop and go online that way - so no additional broadband charge.

Have you any skills you can use to earn money at home? My aunt does cakes, it only pays her minimum wage - but she can do it at home (so no childcare) so really she's earning minimum wage plus what childcare would cost.

boredandrestless Mon 20-Aug-12 11:17:02

I love saisbury's basic tea bags too - am often singing their praises on here under various names! grin I drink a lot of tea so it saves me a fortune.

Lots of good tips.

I think my main focus is on a life less revolved around 'stuff'. I'm not a material person anyway, but asking myself if I really truly need something helps to keep outgoings down. Don't go completely without any little pleasures as you'll crack, little treats keep you going and they don't have to break the bank. smile

boredandrestless Mon 20-Aug-12 11:18:54

Google billmonitor.

I have just used them and halved the cost of my contract, and I was only on a cheap one to begin with! It looks at how you use your phone and then finds you the best deals to match your needs. It emails you again when your current contract is coming to an end too to remind you that you can switch to a better deal.

Oh yes, I agree with Tiger about not using a credit card - in fact, unless you have the willpower to pay it off and put it in a drawer and only use it for dire emergencies, I'd get rid of it altogether.

I had a card that they stopped providing (i.e. withdrew the product) so I had to pay it off and couldn't spend any more on it while I was paying it off. Saved me a fortune and I haven't needed it since (it's gone about 3 years).

topbannana Mon 20-Aug-12 11:36:18

What fluffycloud says is true, actually being in control of your finances is quite liberating and I really feel like a grown up at last!! and you suddenly find yourself amazed at the money you wasted in the past.
Anyway here are mine:
- Unless clothes are really dirty, use half the amount of powder/ liquid it says on the bottle.
- Buy fruit and veg if nothing else in Lidl/ Aldi. I specifically visit Lidl on a Friday (before my big Tesco shop) for this and spend around £15 for a week. In Tesco it is double that
- Think of bulking meals out. Eg. we can often make a meal last 2 days by putting extra veg, potatoes or bread with it
- Use the library. They often have free courses and workshops over the holidays for kids as well.
- Use e-Bay for clothes. I often buy DS designer(ish!) clothes as I know they have a good resale value on e-Bay. Bundles of clothes also seem good value if you can find some that are near enough to pick up in person.
- Bake cakes, flapjacks etc. Once you have laid out for the basic ingredients it is cheaper and often healthier too.
- Never use cartons of drink, always take water bottles when you go out.
- Plan your meals, use scraps wisely rather than throw them away, and hang around the supermarkets at closing time

It seems depressing but it quickly becomes a way of life.. After a particularly harrowing period in our lives where we sometimes did not know where the next meal was coming from, things have taken a turn for the better for us. I still stick fairly rigidly to my thrifty ways though and cannot imagine going back to my old habits. If nothing else, it is an eye-opener smile

gallifrey Mon 20-Aug-12 11:48:09

Tesco Value fabric conditioner is great, smells really lovely and is only 80p for 2l bottle smile

PoohBearsHole Mon 20-Aug-12 12:10:31

It is probably very basic but:

check your bank accounts for any odd d/d - found out we were paying for a magazine that we hadn't changed the address on shock

sometimes if you have a bank account clear out then this can help

Also talk to your bank re overdraght facility - DON'T use it, however if it is in place it can save a great deal of financial kerfuffle if rent/mortgage comes out a day before money goes in, it is also worth checking these dates and setting them up so that they all fall on the right days iyswim

clear out anything that you really don't need, clear it out and ebay it but wait for a free weekend, if won't really matter then if it doesn't sell but you can get the price you want for it. (Old kids stuff etc I managed to accrue £200 over the summer so it is helpful!)

Make sure with the club cards that you take advantage of the point swaps - so xmas tesco usually do a double up the vouchers (£5 gives you £10 etc to spend on toys) managed to get all xmas gifts this way last year.

If you have a car check out here and if the cheapest one is a supermarket then use them and make sure you get the points!

Mrbojangles1 Mon 20-Aug-12 12:14:22

Most cinemas have a kids club which is £1.50 on saturday and sunday mornings

Badvoc Mon 20-Aug-12 12:16:27

Second e bay for clothes...had some lovely stuff for the dc
Also Aldo for cleaning stuff...much cheaper and it's all been endorsed by good housekeeping or which!
Co op branded washing stuff is good too albeit a bit costlier.
I do shop online and find a monthly pass means I inky pay £2.99 per month for my groceries to be delivered which saved a lot over the months...

lisianthus Mon 20-Aug-12 12:17:24

Great topic OP- really helpful for lots of us.

Another vote for not having a credit card. I don't have one either.

Don't just shop around on price comparison sites for electricity, gas, phone and insurance now, make it an ongoing thing and do it every six months.

Organisation is your friend. It's not just meal planning, you can do it with most aspects of your life. Clothes, for instance, are something you don't need stacks of if you plan for what you need. Buy dried beans rather than tinned ones and plan to soak them the night before.

Be ruthless about looking after what you have. I found that making Friday nights non-negotiable shoe polishing night extended the life of shoes by at least double. Sew on buttons as soon as you notice they are getting loose, if you notice a small hole in clothes, stitch it up before it becomes a large hole. Reinforce the knees of your children's trousers on the inside before holes appear.

When I hit my personal downturn in circumstances, I cleared out a cupboard and used some of my very precious small savings pool at my local Chinese superstore, buying things such as 5 kilo sacks of rice, dried chickpeas, dried beans and flour, a 5 litre bottle of sunflower oil, 5 kg sack of sugar, catering size clingfilm, 5 litres of vinegar, a 5 kg sack of bicarb and 2 kg of pasta, then (and this is pretty crucial) reducing the amount I spent on groceries each week to account for the savings I made so they weren't "lost" and I was able to replace each of the bulk goods when they ran out. I also bought a cheap breadmaker (ebay!) and save a bundle making my own bread. This way we still eat excellent quality bread but pay pennies for it. I am starting to learn to bake sourdough bread without the machine, but it's still as heavy as a brick and I don't want to feel deprived of good bread, so the breadmaker still sees lots of use!

Reduce the amount of meat you eat, and plan your meal around the carb in the meal instead of the meat. This means meals are just as filling but much cheaper. For example, have one meal where the main ingredient is potatoes (such as jacket potatoes or shepherd's pie), one rice meal, one chickpea meal, one quinoa meal, one meal with beans each week. Use meat is a flavouring, and schedule several meals without meat.

I make my own soaps with cheap bulk olive oil and instead of buying a lot of expensive cleaning products, use vinegar and bicarb. I bought 5 litres of cheap (horrible!) vinegar at the Chinese supermarket for £1.50, then fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water. It's as good as any commercial all-purpose kitchen or bathroom spray. If you buy some lemon or lavender oil and add a few drops, your house won't smell of vinegar.

Before you do your budget each week, put a small amount of money, even if it's £2, aside, somewhere you can't touch it. When you have very little, an emergency fund is crucial. Take this money out FIRST so you don't think of it as a deduction, the idea is to pretend that your income is smaller. It is much easier to save that way, as otherwise you will be trying to save out of "leftover" income which is impossible if there is nothing left over.

This technique works the same way with leftover food. If, BEFORE serving up, you take a portion of food out of your main meal to form the next day's lunch, you are far more likely to get two meals out of it than if you just serve up a meal and then see what is left afterwards for the next day.

Finally, be careful of false economies. Try to plan ahead for when things wear out, so you don't fall into the buy cheap buy twice pitfall. With me, I tried to save money growing my own vegies on my balcony, but after spending money on potting mix, seeds, etc etc etc, I lost my whole crop of EVERYTHING to bugs and aphids. It was heartbreaking. Sometimes it's cheaper to just buy vegetables from Lidl. I have given up on gardening except for bay leaves.

Rezolution Mon 20-Aug-12 12:22:02

Have been very hard up myself in the past, so I feel your pain.
Dry your clothes outside on the line (if you do not have one, then rig one up cheaply from Wilkinsons) Tumble dryers cost a lot to run.
All your cleaning products (in fact anything you are not going to eat or drink) can be the cheapest available.
Do not eat out. Take sandwiches/snacks for the DCs, particularly when out and about.
Don't be too proud - free handmedowns from relatives/friends can be a big help.
If you have a spare room get a lodger. In fact, get anything that brings in a few pounds more each week. What skills do you offer? Can you offer any kind of service to neighbours or friends? Maybe you could babysit for someone even while you are looking after your own DCs?
You idea of getting Tesco and Boots and Nectar cards is OK but don't go spending loads of money just to clock up the points. Your aim is to spend as little as possible, remember
Keep your chin up! See this as an opportunity, not a crisis.

BlameThePixies Mon 20-Aug-12 12:23:57

Go to Money Saving Expert and sign up for the weekly email - lots of info of current deals, and the main site tells you how to save money in almost every area of life!

Try to only carry cash - plan when you need to make purchases on your card and leave it at home the rest of the time. Money means more when you're handing over cash, as plastic doesn't seem so real.

Get organised so there is less need for last minute spending - obv meal plans, but a birthday planner works well, my sis buys bd cards (and presents) in bulk in sales and writes them all out in advance so they can be posted 2nd class and still arrive in time. She keeps a birthday book and plans presents for BDs and Xmas so that she doesn't accidentally double buy, which is easily done when you buy in sales far in advance.

Try to get the kids onside with budgeting now, they need to understand what money means, it's so much harder to budget when they're pressuring you to spend.
My mum made sure we didn't expect things to be bought on a whim - we weren't allowed to ask for things when we were out and about.

Good luck with your fresh start!

GreenEggsAndNichts Mon 20-Aug-12 12:42:11

If you can do so, try shopping around 7pm, as that's when supermarkets have deep discounts on food which is on the date. I buy a lot of our meat from Morrisons that way. If I'm not going to use it that day, I freeze it to use later.

I love Aldi and will swear up and down that anything they have is going to be better than the Value or regulare store brand at either Tesco or Asda. Hell, they're better than most name brands in a lot of things.

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