Still have a life on a budget - any ideas?

(24 Posts)
ifonly4 Wed 18-Jan-17 14:50:55

Can anyone give me ideas for nice meals/day trips on a budget, best shops for cheap clothes (we can make do with most things a bit longer but some things will need replacing) and ideas for generally cutting back that aren't obvious. Even tiny things that'll save a few pence would be great as it'll all help.

We're coming out of our gas/electric contract so I think we can save a little there. Insurance was reviewed last year. Mortgage on a fixed rate and not worth swapping. ie I think most of the obvious cut backs are covered.

Everything was good this time last week and we booked a holiday abroad we'd been saving up ages for. One of our vets isn't well and we know our car won't get through the MOT but that was all covered. Out of the blue it looks as if we could suddenly have a couple of major expenses and I don't know how we'll manage these. I know cutting back won't cover these expenses but we won't to keep it manageable with savings we have.

OP’s posts: |
BackforGood Wed 18-Jan-17 22:57:09

That's quite a range of questions smile

Clothes, obviously charity shops - you can get tremendous bargains. That said, if this is a short term issue (you said last week all was fine) then you don't actually usually need to buy clothes for several months.

Meals - if you are on Facebook, search for 'Feed you Family for £20 a week' - lots of ideas on there. I've seen a lot of people recommend a blog (I think) called 'A Girl name Jack' too.
How many are you feeding? What do you normally spend ? Where do you shop ?
I thought I was quite frugal in Sainsburys, but when I switched to Aldi, my bill dropped by up to 1/3, regularly, week on week.

Day trips - it will depend on where you are in the country / what stage of life you are at, but, like clothes, you don't actually need day trips - you can tell yourself you have swapped them for your week in the sun this year.

One thing that always surprises me is how much cash people spend, out and about - buying a coffee or a can of pop when out, rather than taking a flask.... buying lunch at work rather than taking sandwiches or soup or some leftovers etc.

You need to spend a couple of weeks writing down exactly what you spend, even if it is "just a couple of quid", then you will see where your money goes.

notagiraffe Wed 18-Jan-17 23:10:24

The tip I was given when I was paying off student debt was: keep a small percentage of income for fun each week. In those days they recommended 5% but living was cheaper then sad Now it may be more like 3%. But it's a set amount you have ring-fenced to have fun with. Even if it's just £10 a week, you can use that to take DC swimming or to the cheap Saturday morning cinema, or buy a pizza to share, or loads of fancy stuff for baking, or Poundland spree for crafting, Make a fuss with DC of choosing what you want to spend your fun money on each week, so the treat registers. And vary it.
Also, do as many free things as you can. Go into town to watch good buskers, carnivals, boat races etc. Visit museums and galleries if you have any nearby, or go for walks in the woods to build dens, spot wildlife tracks, make mud slides.
Try to keep £10 aside each week for fun with your DP too. Take turns to buy a video or a bottle of sparkling wine or a drink in a pub where a band is playing.
Sign up for freebie entertainment sites - things like TV audiences and film previewing - they only come up occasionally but when they do, it's fun.

Have lots of free fun - use local libraries to borrow books, CDs and music. Have games nights with DC. Make your own popcorn and play board games or card games or charades. Make family videos etc. There are so many ways to have fun and be happy without shelling out loads of money.

When DC were small DH lost his job and things were tight for a few years. Now we're fine, and I really enjoy doing stuff we couldn't then - like going to theatre, restaurants and gigs and having weekends away. But we had a brilliant time in those years. There's not much I'd do differently as all the free fun was the best fun anyway.

ifonly4 Thu 19-Jan-17 10:37:11

Thanks for your replies - sorry for so many questions - my mind is everywhere and I'm worried about worst case scenario.

I will check out charity shops (when I really need to) - I bought nothing for DD last summer and I felt like my summer clothes were old, tatty, faded last year - might just have to put up with them for a bit longer.

I tend to shop in Tesco (and the odd few things in Lidl) as they're near us. Any other shop would mean a 15 min and cost of petrol. I'm pretty good at keeping food costs down - approx £50 a week (for 3) on top of which I buy toiletries, cleaning products when I'm out and know they'll, be cheaper

We're obviously going to try and be careful, but will note what we spend money on - this week hopefully food, petrol, £1 something DD needed at school and the vet.

The holiday is going to be our real treat this year, but it'll seem a bit dull if we don't have a change of scenery every now and again - it's just a case of thinking what we can do.

I love books so will certainly check out the library. I'm going to start recording films more, so we can maybe have a movie night when there's nothing on.

OP’s posts: |
confusedofengland Thu 19-Jan-17 14:45:05

It's a bit cliché, but there are lots of days out you can do for free or very cheaply. Depending on the time of year & where you are, there are woods, beaches & parks for free or just parking. They may run events or you can do seasonal things. Last year we went for a woodland walk when the bluebells appeared, visited reindeer in a country park, saw wild seals on a beach (Norfolk), paddled in brooks, as well as the usual swings/slides etc. We took drinks & a snack or packed lunch with us, often including a sweetie or other treat from the stash we have at home (from when DC at school hand out sweets on their birthdays).

Fluffycloudland77 Thu 19-Jan-17 20:36:59

What kind of things do you want to do cheaply?.

daisydalrymple Thu 19-Jan-17 20:51:30

Try eBay for clothes bundles, you can pick up some bargains if you're prepared to look through lots of pictures! Especially now, people still list summer stuff, even though it doesn't sell well this time of year, so you may find some good quality stuff, but as I say, be prepared to trawl through stuff!!

Also every year there's usually a MN thread on stuff to do in the summer holidays, if you have a search you might find some of the old ones. There's usually some great suggestions on them.


throwingpebbles Thu 19-Jan-17 20:58:00

Saving up vouchers (but don't every spend money because of the voucher rewards!)
- tesco etc vouchers : day trips/meals out /cinema
- our credit card gives "love to shop" vouchers - we pay it off in full each month then get some vouchers we can use to buy bits with - the last lot replaced our Hoover!
- use cashback sites like top cashback to get a bit of cash back if you are making an online purchase

throwingpebbles Thu 19-Jan-17 20:59:24

Follow lots of local sites on Facebook/ Twitter - there are loads of free festivals and other events on over the summer near me .

BackforGood Thu 19-Jan-17 21:00:46

How old is your dc?
It will make a difference to what (s)he might like to do

LiveLifeWithPassion Thu 19-Jan-17 21:29:39

I actually think it's really important to get out and get a change of scenery as much as possible. It just does everyone a world of good even if it's just a walk.
There are already loads of good ideas here.
Look in your council websites. Ours often run events and activities for adults and children.
Make use of any stuff you do have like bikes and tennis racquets.
Frisbees and kites can be very cheap from pound shops and are a lot of fun.
If you do want to spend a bit, look out for coach deals to cities or get a family and friends railcard with tesco vouchers and get cheap train fares.

ifonly4 Fri 20-Jan-17 14:39:42

Thanks for your replies everyone. I know I'll need to get out, I don't want this year to be just about work and money worries - you have to live.

DD is a teenager so likes socialising with friends and doing fun things. Luckily though she likes scenery, architecture so wouldn't be board with a walk.

After essential bills, cost of maintenance on house (which is the thing which has thrown us as one could be extortionate if patch ups don't work), whatever it costs to get car through MOT, vets bills, I worked out roughly what we should have on average left over each month and know it'll soon go after food, petrol, presents, bits and pieces each month. Any saving will help make it go further.

confused - a walk near bluebells sounds lovely - that would just cost petrol

throwing - we do shop at Tescos so their vouchers might be useful for treats out - I have a special birthday coming up so it would be nice to eat out then - I don't mind if it's a pizza on Clubcard vouchers.

I'll look into all your other suggestions and see what we can find that works for us.

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FlyingSomewhere Sat 21-Jan-17 08:14:08

The most obvious one you missed and most people miss, is that you need to define to yourself (or redefine) what you need to enjoy Life. It absolutely do not have to cost much, if any money.

Thinking of my own life, I love good classic movies (gotten for free online), surfing and rock climbing (free, after initial equipment purchase - 2nd hand), playing tennis (free courts where I live), mountain biking (free - as above, after outlay), hiking (free), weekend trips camping (get free fuel through work so just whatever food I buy whilst out - minimal). Golf, free down the local municipal course on Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons. Reading, free books down library or online.

And a few more things. Sometimes weeks go buy where I spend no money other than buying essentials. I don't even notice it. It's habit.

If my life had to be enjoyed going out for meals, drinks, movies, coffee and all the other trappings people think they need to 'live', then maybe I'd be posting here too for ideas.

So nothing specific, but it might be an idea to reflect on your current lifestyle (you mention constant money worries) that prompted you to make this thread in the first place.

Good luck with the changes smile

MaverickSnoopy Sat 21-Jan-17 10:24:10

I have a list printed and stuck inside kitchen cupboard for ideas for days out and things to do at home. I'm sleep deprived and ideas are not forthcoming so this way I can refer to the list which is split into - at home / garden / free days out / cheap days out / mid cost / expensive. My ideas with two littlens won't be relevant to you but as an example. At home: movie afternoon, painting, drawing, indoor picnic, baking. Free days out: fly a kite, library, park, winter picnic (jackets in tinfoil, flask of soup etc). Cheap days out: swimming, soft play, museum, pick your own. I took to google to help compile my list and find it really helpful.

For clothes for a teen I suggest charity shops, eBay and tkmaxx. Get the best quality you can for your money. When DD was boring she had a few nice pieces and it was bulked out with cheap stuff but it doesn't wash and wear well so now I just buy better quality but less of it.

Suggest the library for recipe books about cheap meals, jack monroe and save with Jamie are both good (although you need to cherry pick from the latter as JO doesn't understand cooking on a budget, there are however still some valuable and cheap recipes in there).

Do you know anyone with a Costco card? If you can afford the outlay then you'll save money bulk buying. We get things like washing powder, toilet paper (40 rolls for £10), tea, coffee, beans and it saves us loads!

British Gas have an electric free day at the weekend if you sign up to it. Not sure about other suppliers.

everdene Sat 21-Jan-17 10:32:24

Some great ideas here! I also want to recommend YNAB, it's a budgeting app that helped DH and I.

We will be getting back into it soon as I'm about to go on maternity leave so money will be very tight.

Tigerblue Sat 21-Jan-17 11:19:58

Have a look at my post under credit crunch - Any tips - the little things that save you money. The savings may only be small but the ones that work for you could help you save a few pennies.

chanie44 Sat 21-Jan-17 18:31:46

Clothes - I realise this isn't possible for everyone, but I buy a season ahead in the sales for the children.
The Sainsburys 25% off events is great for underwear etc and the events are regular, so buy just before they are needed.

Trips out - many cinemas do 10am screenings of children's films for £2.
English heritage/national trust membership is good value for the year.
We take a picnic when we go out, so we don't have to pay for food. I try and get food that we will all enjoy, so isn't just soggy sandwiches. We normally let the children have an ice cream etc, but that's cheaper than us all eating out.
I make up 'party bags' to keep the children entertained in the car after a long trip out. It's normally left overs from parties like sweets, a small toy. This helps them stop moaning for expensive gift shops.

I have a book called the takeaway secret, where the author recreates favourite takeaway foods. Me and OH enjoy trying them on Saturday nights.

Although we do our main food shop in Lidl, greengrocers can be better for fruit and veg. My local market is cheaper and the quality is better.

We take packed lunches to work. I'll occasionally have lunch out, but not often. We also buy multi packs of drinks so we aren't using expensive shops.

notagiraffe Sun 22-Jan-17 13:46:57

Flying somewhere - I think it's a question of values. Your interests don't cost any less than those of someone who enjoys cafes. You just don't notice the expense because it's of value to you. A lot of the things you've said are free have a massive initial outlay. A decent mountain bike, tennis racquet, surfboard, hiking boots, waterproof clothes, camping equipment - even if all bought second hand would run to ££££ in the UK. I love hiking and cycling but the rest of the money some people would spend on kit that lasts forever, I'd far rather spend on theatre tickets and gigs to see favourite actors and bands live than have a house full of expensive equipment that enables me to have 'free' days out.

Madmog Mon 23-Jan-17 14:42:33

When money has been tight, we've enjoyed a local walk or bike ride and then coming back for hot chocolate as a treat, maybe playing a family game and having a chocolate/biscuit treat. It costs very little and is simple, but makes a nice change. Search online for parks/walks somewhere different - other than petrol and the cost of lunch/snacks (which you'd have anyway) it's free.

Setting a weekly budget for things like food and petrol - the cost of which can soon mount up, ie if you're getting near to the limit, do you really need those items/what have you got at home which would be okay instead. much for food.

Don't buy something unless you really need it or you're buying a few grocery items because they're on offer which you'll use over the forthcoming weeks.

If you need clothes, check out charity shops and sale items first. Peacocks and Primark are fairly cheap - I prefer Peacocks as they fit us all better.

Find out what works for you and make yourself stick to it - after a few months hopefully some things will be second nature.

ifonly4 Wed 25-Jan-17 14:57:38

A big thank you to everyone that replied.

I've found a couple of country walks that might be nice, so that'll just cost us petrol and sandwiches/snacks - we'll take our own.

I work in town and avoided the shops afterwards, except Wilko as they sell cat food cheaper and bought some toothbrushes as they were a good price. I haven't done my exercise class this week so saved £5 - I will keep it up but maybe not go quite so often. Also, I plan to go the library instead of buying a new book. We're really trying to keep an eye on food spending as well.

It won't be so easy when I start thinking about clothes DD needs and we want treats, but we're really going to look for the cheaper options as suggested. We have some Tescos clubcard vouchers so might use some for a meal out over half term.

OP’s posts: |
mrsenasharples Thu 26-Jan-17 21:38:42

Definitely agree with the walk then coming home for hot choc and/or cake. Last week I picked up some reduced scones (29p for 6). Stuck them in the freezer then dug them out when we got back from a walk. Felt like a treat...

Also, agree with trawling the charity shops and eBay. I always manage to find amazing bargains. We spend very little on the essentials.

LiveLifeWithPassion Thu 26-Jan-17 23:00:59

You can download books and audiobooks free from your library. You just need an overdrive app and your library card and pin.

Instead of paying for exercise classes, you can go running or cycling if you already have a bike. There are loads of free exercise videos on YouTube or buy a DVD for the price of one class. Of course, you don't get the social aspect.

Comfortzone Thu 26-Jan-17 23:30:27

Try having as many no spend days in the week as possible, leave bank cards at home take out cash for the week and stick to it. Retraining your brain to think differently...hard but just takes practice to stay away from the shops

Comfortzone Thu 26-Jan-17 23:37:53

Then whatever extra you have in account at day of next payday put it away in savings

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