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

(492 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

breathedeeply Mon 20-Aug-12 12:55:29

My friend was left in a similar situation to you thanks to an appalling shit of a husband. She swore by Freecycle for new furniture, kids bikes etc. Also free school meals (her children were 4 and 6), and free prescriptions and dental care. She also acquired a tent (via Freecycle) and had some great holidays (lots of campsites don't make you book in advance so you can check the weather first).
Her biggest expense was running a small beaten up car, but this meant that she could work 16 hours per week and claim working tax credits and child care payments (WTC is worth about £3k per year alone - you should always be better off than on Income Support).
Look at the local leisure centre for discounted swimming and gym membership - most local council give a discount to people on low incomes.
Car boot sales can also be a good supply of toys/clothes/household goods - particularly if you have a vehicle to transport bulky items that stall holders won't want to take home with them.

MorrisZapp Mon 20-Aug-12 13:08:37

Make a 'no gifts' agreement with any friends or family members who you think would be happy to stop shelling out at birthdays and christmas.

TerraNotSoFirma Mon 20-Aug-12 13:09:14

I have got a pay as you go MasterCard from to which I have a standing order for our monthly food and petrol allowance. There is a monthly fee, but I feel it's worth it as I know exactly what I have for food and the money in the main account is just for bills.

I have a spreadsheet for bills, everything is paid by SO or DD. I check my main account online each morning and change the spreadsheet accordingly, moving items from the 'due' to the 'paid' column, and as long as the tota
Of the 'due' columnn is less than the balance of my main account I know we will be okay money-wise, I have not had a bank charge for over a year by doing this. (and the bank used to make a fortune from me in charges)

alemci Mon 20-Aug-12 13:18:49

with the cash back sites can you pay by credit card. I use John Lewis alot to shop but with their credit card?

Takver Mon 20-Aug-12 13:19:59

Absolutely agree with no credit cards - even though we're doing ok now I still won't have one (after too many years earning about 20p an hour starting our business!)

My top tip from those years - account for everything. Have an excel spreadsheet or a big cashbook depending on preference, look at your money coming in per month, and set a monthly budget for each category - bills, transport, food, clothes, medical, etc. If at all possible budget a little bit even if only a fiver for savings so you have an emergency fund.

Then once a week at least go through every receipt in your purse and write down exactly what you've spent in each category. Have a little notebook that you take shopping so that you can write down any small cash purchases where you don't get a receipt.

Check it all off against your bank statement. The aim is that you know where every single penny has gone. If you're going over on some parts of your budget, look where you can cut or alternatively see if you can re-allocate some money from elsewhere.

Personally I prefer to shop using a debit card because it makes this all simpler, but I agree that having a set amount of cash is easier for some people.

Frontpaw Mon 20-Aug-12 13:27:48

Take a good look at your bank statements. See what the DD and SOs are and if they are necessary. If your bank changes a fee, tell them you want to change your account to a free one (unless there is really good benefits you get with it). See how much you spend of 'nothing' and impluse, or things like gym fees that you never use.

Make a spreadsheet of how much you need to spend annually (rent, insurance, car, travel, clothes, school, spending, utilities, food etc) and break it down into monthly amounts so you know roughly how much a month you need.

Insurance etc should be checked every year for better value quotes. I wouldn't change utilities as it seems to be a lot more hassle than its worth - I'm sure others have done this and its been great, but I know a few people who switched from BT and gone back after rotten experiences.

Consider suspending any outgoings - savings, clubs or memberships until you get up and running again.

domesticgodless Mon 20-Aug-12 13:30:43

a lot of great advice here. I am not broke atm (sorry to appear insensitive to others on thread- but am in difficult divorce situation where ex will not settle with me. So I'm trying to save a deposit to buy another house (as I lost ours to him and he won't buy me out, plus I would lose huge amount in legal fees etc). I have been trying to put away as large an amount as I can every month, and due to following a lot of the tricks on here, have started to succeed. I reckon I have saved an extra £100-300 every month due to thriftiness.

The MAIN one in my opinion is to THINK about everything you buy and follow the Martin Lewis mantra: Do you need it? Will you use it? For how long? Also think about how long you will have to work to pay for it! Calculate your £ per hour rate if you work or H works, and think about it... do you really want to work x hours for this object?

Agree, avoid shops- especially the pretty ones with tempting displays! It's all a big con :D. Clothes are a real money pit- especially 'pretty' or 'special' stuff you don't intend for everyday wear. I could weep over the unused dresses I have sold on ebay for 1% of cost price after wearing once, if that :D

Forget 'prettiness' in general. Cultivate a natural look, less makeup, less high maintenance. You might feel refreshingly 'free' too and have more time for things you really want to do. Review wardrobe regularly and dig out stuff you haven't worn for a while. Create 'ebay pile' of stuff you KNOW you won't wear again and do a sell-off every 3 months or so.

Also forget domestic prettiness. Your house need only be comfortable not shiny and filled with pretty things! Save that for when you feel really flush, whenever that is!

Shorten showers and reduce baths to minimum.

Check for cheapest petrol in your area.

Plan for your little treats. Mine are the odd plant, and M and S soup which i adore. I am going to try the 'shop later' trick today and hope I can find some reduced :D

another interesting idea to try if you have the time is to put any credit balance you have into savings as far as possible, which provide you with interest, unlike current accounts where your money loses value as the banks don't give any interest on it. This takes organisation though and isn't worthwhile if you have a very tight monthly budget.

jenduck Mon 20-Aug-12 13:33:36

Agree with so many of these, especially shopping late at night for reduced-price groceries, using Topcashback & drinking Sainsbury's basics tea (their cornflakes for about 30p/large pack & instant coffee for about 70p/bag are also pretty good IMHO)

Also, if you have a few spare minutes now & again, sign up to online survey sites & you can earn vouchers for supermarkets/Amazon or cash. You also often get to test products for free - I haven't paid for laundry detergent since last year or nappies since June thanks to these!

domesticgodless Mon 20-Aug-12 13:37:54

oh another general thing: if you are a bit overweight (as I was before I started going frugal) you can treat frugality as a sort of diet! (Please ignore if already thin or struggling to put food on table sad) We mostly eat more than we need in this country. I know I was. I now avoid food 'treats' and downgraded my treat to the odd nice cup of decaff coffee. We don't generally need all this food we stuff the house with and a lot of it goes to waste or ends up on the hips....

BornToFolk Mon 20-Aug-12 13:46:36

Use Savers, Wilkos and the pound shop for your toiletries rather than Boots. especially for the basic stuff. I found E45 Kids lotion in Savers that was about half the price it was in Boots, Wilkos had a two pack of kids' toothbrushes for about 80p.

Sign up for Quidco (or another cash back site, I just use Quidco!) and do as much of your shopping on line if you can. If I want anything from Debenhams, for example, I buy it online to get the cashback (and frequently other offers too) then get it delivered to store. This works really well for me as I work in town so can pop in at lunchtime to collect.

The most important thing though is to budget and look at your major expenses and see what savings can be made. Shop around for your insurance etc. You mention moving house - if you are buying, do you use an independent mortgage advisor? Mine is brilliant. I'm remortaging at the moment (split up with my ex...) and he's been great at finding me the best deal. And I pay him zlich - his fee comes from the mortgage company. I'd never be able to find such a good deal by myself.

As you are newly single, tell the council as soon as possible so you get the single person reduction on your council tax.

BoerWarKids Mon 20-Aug-12 13:49:06

I don't buy fabric conditioner. I think it's a marketing con and you don't need it! It's actually bad for towels.

I got rid of my Boots Advantage card. Yes you get points but everything they sell can be bought cheaper elsewhere.

Bickleighbabe Mon 20-Aug-12 14:00:51

I would recommend buying and using a pressure cooker. Invest in the best you can afford, it will recoup it's cost in months. Cook a whole chicken in 30 minutes (instead of roasting for 11/2 hours!), use to cook pulses in 10 minutes, lentils, black beans etc, much cheaper than buying in tins, rice pudding takes 12 minutes instead of 2 hours! You can do fantastic filling stews and soups in no time at all saving fuel and because it's cooked under pressure steam, all the goodness is contained. You will wonder how you lived without one!
If you do have a garden, easy veg such a broad beans and runner beans will supply fresh greens. They don't tend to suffer from too many pests and you can buy heavy croppers.
A frugal life doesn't mean a rubbish life, it's very rewarding, good luck

nipitinthebud Mon 20-Aug-12 14:13:51

Quidco is good for online shopping and it does mount up when you're buying bigger items. I also have an Opus Mastercard (although probably agree with everyone about it being easier to not have a credit card at all) which gives 3% cashback. You have to be quite strict in that you don't use it as a 'credit' card but pay off each month. But again the cashback (and it is proper cash not vouchers, Quidco again is cash not vouchers too) it can add up over the course of time.

Aldi and Lidl are great. Lidl washing liquid is Good Housekeeping recommended and very good and cheap. I reckon Lidl fruit and veg is actually better than Waitrose and their ham is lovely (not sausages though - bit of a trial and error approach sometimes). You can check on the Lidl website for best deals for things in your local Lidl (food and non-food items). But agree about late in the day shopping. In my local Waitrose Ive noticed they knock stuff waaay down - seems to be after 5pm on a certain day of the week, maybe to coincide with a delivery (ours is wed)? e.g. Maris Piper pots 19p!

Cut the ends of tubes so that you can squeeze out the very last bit.

If you're crafty you could get some books out of the library or scour some craft blogs/websites for things that you can make as Xmas/birthday presents for your DC (or friends/family). You can use remnants of old clothes as a base and then look out in fabric stores (or markets) for little bits to brighten something up.

Your local leisure centre will probably have a gym (or local university/college). Cheaper than a private gym, but still fairly costly. Running might be a better option....a good pair of trainers and you're off!

Good Luck and I hope things work out!

Pinot Mon 20-Aug-12 14:23:43

Great thread.

Best of luck, OP.

shieldbug Mon 20-Aug-12 14:24:14

Try taking out a sum of money at the beginning of the week for groceries/household stuff and then you can easily see how much of your budget you've got left. If you pay by cards its too easy to lose track. That alone has saved me loads.

I recommend a slow-cooker as it uses very little electricity to run and is also convenient to set up in the morning then leave during the day. I think you can get them relatively cheaply online through supermarkets. Mine is a secondhand one and is great.

Oh yes, and a steamer is great for saving on cooking costs as you can stack them and cook lots of veggies at the same time on one ring. Much better for retaining vitamins too.

Home made fudge/ toffee or biscuits etc can be a nice present (or part of a present).

Depending on your situation, try not using a car/ cutting right back-keeps you fit and saves a bucket. I don't drive and so ds and I walk everywhere- can be inconvenient sometimes, but actually it's much more fun. We have fantastic conversations walking together.

Good luck op

topbannana Mon 20-Aug-12 14:34:39

I thought of a couple more, having read some of the previous posts smile
- We love flowers but find them very expensive. I now use old jam jars and decorate them with a bit of raffia and a button or similar and fill them with wild flowers (just ordinary hedgerow flowers, not rare meadow species!) They are bright, seasonal and free. In fact DM is receiving a jar when we visit next weekend. She will love the thought and place them proudly on her windowsill, DSDad on the other hand will be hmm but hes a different story!
- DS(8) is a bit of a foodie and proclaimed his best birthday present last year was a box full of cookies (homemade) hot chocolate (very posh one as its his favourite treat) some soft fruit, expensive cereal that I am too mean to buy normally etc. I also buy Christmas presents like a new lunchbox, trainers etc. all stuff that he needs but has yet to work out that I would have to buy anyway!
- Always bake cakes, biscuits etc as gifts. Wrap nicely and pop a handwritten label on and most people (DSDad excluded!) will be thrilled at your effort and thought.

MamaMary Mon 20-Aug-12 15:06:11

Great tips on here. Sometimes it's just a matter of spending a lot of time shopping around - seeing what's cheaper in Poundland, Iceland, Lidl, etc. It'll be different things in different places. It's a pain having to spend so much time doing this when you're used to going to one big place (e..g Tescos) and bunging everything in. But in the long run it'll get easier as you get savvier.

I would get rid of your Boots Advantage Card tbh. Yes you get points but Boots is very expensive and you can get toiletries, nappies, etc. much cheaper elsewhere. (if your DC are still in nappies, Lidl are the best I've found).

thefirstmrsrochester Mon 20-Aug-12 15:07:39

Costco can be great at times but shopping there requires massive self control and restraint. At the moment they have 2 chickens for £5.49 - one fed my family of 5 with leftovers. And tasted brilliant. The carcass is in the freezer along with the leftover veg ready to be made into soup. Also from there, big jug of rice - £3.49, 100 adult servings. It's brilliant to cook & no wastage due to blinking bags ripping.
Asda are also fab for markdowns of chickens, joints etc. I filled my freezer for under £20 one day - chickens, pork joints, lamb, beef.....ds1 actually complained about getting French trimmed rack of lamb again! You need to know what time the shops near you mark down at.
My dc love old fashioned puddings like angel delight and jelly with some (just to go soft) fruit chucked in.
For clothes, toys & toiletries, our local boys brigade sale comes up trumps every time. I've had premium brand tops, jeans & hoodies for my boys - hollister etc. and Avon & virgin vie products which had been donated.
Even a Yamaha electric piano ......the less said about that the better. Church sales are fab also.
Morrisons did, in spring, plug plants - lettuce etc. £1 or £2 for 6 plants. Some of these kept us going all summer (and great fun for kids).
Oh, and did I say church & bb sales for kids toys?

lisianthus Mon 20-Aug-12 15:18:14

Nice point on the pressure cooker Bickleighbabe. They are ace. My mum has one and I am very envious!

BoffinMum Mon 20-Aug-12 16:27:47

You might care to look on my MN-approved blog, which has a lot of advice for frugal living. Have a good rummage through past posts and I am sure you will find help there.

Austerity Housekeeping

My top tips at the moment are:

1. Do your Christmas shopping now, in the summer sales.
2. Shop at Aldi or Lidl (I am a big fan).
3. Spend an hour a day surfing Money Saving Expert, HotUKdeals and so on for coupons and bargains (you have to act promptly otherwise the deal will have finished if it is a good one).
4. Forage blackberries, sloes, apples, pears and so on now, jam/freeze them and keep them for treats for later in the year when the weather is bad and you are feeling a bit poor. It is hard to suffer when eating home made blackberry and apple crumble or having a bit of apple and sloe jelly with some roast pork.
5. You can feel as though you are having a very comfortable lifestyle indeed if you do the cinema kids club as Mrbojangles mentioned (take your own popcorn/pick and mix/cartons of drink) as well as going for a weekly swim with the kids, and this is inexpensive.
6. Some local churches have great parent and child groups that organise cheap outings, social events and so on. You don't have to belong to the religion concerned a lot of the time, as long as you show willing helping with fetes and fundraisers from time to time.

Minimammoth Mon 20-Aug-12 16:47:44

Sorry have not read whole thread blush so this may have been covered. Use low energy lightbulbs, switch appliances off between uses and overnight. Turn heating down and wear an extra jumper. fit timers to Emerson heater, and other heaters if you use them.
Find interesting ways to use left overs.

mumzy Mon 20-Aug-12 17:01:58

I've found car boot sales to be a good source of cheap good quality household goods, clothes, toys. Our school asks for donations of used school uniforms which they sell off very cheaply to parents to raise funds for the school. If your school doesn't already do this suggest they do as it benefits everyone.

yellowraincoat Mon 20-Aug-12 17:09:33

Lot of recommendations to sell on ebay here, but remember to check ebay before you buy anywhere else as well.

I used to buy earplugs in Boots - 3 pairs for £4. I now buy them on ebay - better quality earplugs as well - 40 pairs for £3. Unbelievable. Everything like cosmetics, stuff for the house is far far cheaper on there. Obviously it only tends to make sense for stuff that doesn't weigh much.

Corygal Mon 20-Aug-12 17:14:18

Use Poundland for cleaning products for self, family and home. It's miles cheaper, and, in the words of Vogue's beauty experts, 'anything you wash off shouldn't be expensive'.

Make cheap recipes. There is no cost-to-deliciousness ratio for most food.

Use your freezer to store reduced bargain buys. Mine is crammed with sausages at 30p and a massive roast lamb I got for 3 quid.

Buy snacks at poundshop and take with on outings - popcorn for cinema, cokes and mini cheddars etc - so you won't feel deprived.

Car boots are way cheaper than ebay and wayway cheaper than charity shops. I've never got anythng off freecyle, by the way.

Ignore shops like John Lewis and Debenhams - buy the same stock in TK Maxx.

Once you've started economising, you'll actually get off on it a bit and not want to go back.

SrirachaGirl Mon 20-Aug-12 17:17:26

Running is free, flexible and the best fitness there is. It's also easy to do in short chunks of time. Add in a few push-ups, sit-ups and stretches at home when you're finished and you're done smile.

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