I am the person who is irresponsible with money, the person that never checks prices as she goes around the supermarket and I am the person that leaves her bills until the very last moment before paying them. I think we can safely say that I don't think about economising because I am worried about missing out on the better things in life. That was until I had a really good think over Christmas about the amount we were spending and that we can cut back. It's not good for Tilly to see me wasting money like this because I had bought the older kids up to be savvy and money conscious.
So, new year – new ideas! It was time to stop and do something about our spending. I spoke to Tilly about how much we were spending and I got her on board with some money saving, she was excited about the challenge and actually stuck to it really well. My biggest money spend is on food, this was proved over Christmas when I bought enough food for 6 people when there were only three of us at home.
I had got into the habit of paying for Tilly to have school dinners because I couldn't get my act together to make a packed lunch, so the first thing we decided was to have school dinners once a week. Each school dinner costs £2.30, so it was costing £11.50 a week! You don't notice it if you send the money in every couple of days like I was doing but over a month it equated to £46. That's the equivalent of a weeks shopping bill or a day out somewhere. Now we spend £9.20 a month on school dinners. You can put a packed lunch together for a child for about 75p or £1.
We never did a supermarket shop, I couldn't bear being in a supermarket looking at different foods, comparing prices, pre-planning meals. Instead, I would shop in the corner shop as and when I needed it. Not only is this expensive, its also unhealthy as I would grab a pizza or a meal in a box, then you get chocolate and crisps and before you know it you have spent a tenner on utter rubbish. So now we go to the supermarket, I think about what I am going to cook and how I can make meals with foods that will fill us up and be healthy. We started to buy more fresh veg and are enjoying casseroles, you can buy veg from the supermarket extremely cheaply and as there are only two of us at home, we can get about 4 days worth of meals out of a mixture of veg bags. Making small changes like swapping huge jars of sauces with sachets that made up a sauce was a huge money saver. I always wasted half a jar because I thought they tasted better – I was wrong!t
I started to think about portion control – I am used to cooking for a big family but now it is only me and Tilly and I was still buying too much food, so I would cook it and eat it. Now if I buy a packet of meat, I split it in half and freeze half of the pack and use half for cooking. We are also bulking casseroles out with lentils and barley, this ensures that the family still gets the vitamins and minerals in their food even if you don't add meat.
I have stopped being a food snob and I have started shopping for yellow stickers, these are foods that are on their sell-by date. These can be bought and frozen until you want to eat them. There is nothing wrong with this food and a lot of people shop like this on a regular basis. You do get people trying to push you out of the way for the bargains and it can be an unpleasant experience, but it really is worth doing it. Only buy food that you will eat that day (or the following) or that you can freeze, otherwise, it isn't a bargain.
We have cut down on the number of taxis that we were using, this was partly due to the fact that I had a bad leg until the middle of January, but even Tilly was happy to walk more and even asked to cut down the buses that we use. This saves a lot of money because all thought these are little sums, they all add up and it is a shock to realise that you're spending nearly £200 on public transport and taxis a month. We have got this down to £80 (costs getting to work, it was £120, but I cut down a day at work. And one taxi a week costing £4.30 and £4 for bus fares a week. This has saved us about £80 a month – this is a HUGE saving.
I have been paying bills on time, normally I leave them until last minute and I find myself being lumbered with £10 charges from Talk Talk and £3 charges from 02. I won't actually see the benefit of this until February, but it's nice to know that I am ahead on next months money saving. Also switching lights off when you don't need them and switching the TV off completely saves some money on the electric. Every little bit is helping to save some money.
So although we have had to be disciplined and savvy this month, we have managed to not actually go without anything. It hasn't been easy and one week I seemed to struggle to make ends meet with all the bills coming in at the same time, but we managed it. We managed to save nearly £150! So as we had done so well, we booked a weekend away. But keeping in with the money saving, we managed to book flights to Denmark for £30 for Tilly and I and the hotel was £65. This was such a good price and is cheaper than a weekend in London. We travelled on the cheap and took snacks out with us, We took porridge pots to the airport for breakfast to avoid paying extortionate airport foods. It was an amazing experience for Tilly and something that I couldn't have afforded to do if I hadn't been so savvy with my spending this month. Now that I know I can save money and still live an almost better quality of life than we were living previously, I am not in a hurry to give it all up. Its payday on Friday and I am going to reset my savings, think of more ways of making cuts and reap the benefits again.
My friends and family were behind me with this and offered all sorts of advice on how to save money, they were full of ideas about how to save cash from telling me to use store loyalty cards to helping me to use coupons and showing me special offers. I never bothered with loyalty cards before apart from Superdrug, and that's only because I work there, but in a month of careful shopping, I managed to save over £4 on my supermarket loyalty card. Over a year I can potentially save £48 towards my Christmas food shop. Ask friends for advice on how to save money and make cutbacks, without having to go without. Take advice online from websites, because they are all there to help you.
Who is going to join us next month to see how much we can save? I would love to hear how you save money and what changes you could make to save more money.
This was a collaborative post with Scottish Friendly