Whenever an unexpectedly large gas bill arrives, or we really just need a holiday, we look to our savings pot - or treat ourselves to a meal after a long working week. It's by no means huge (and let's not go into pensions, I haven't thought that far ahead) but it really helps. So I thought I'd dedicate this post to a few tips on how I do it (on a 1-5 scale of difficulty).
1. SAVE £100 A MONTH
Difficulty rating: 5
This is a hard one. I never used to have £100 left at the end of the month. But that's where I was going wrong - you need to put it away at the beginning. That way you never knew you had it. It actually works better now I transfer to my husband's savings,rather than mine (he is far better with money than me) - then I can't transfer it back like I used to! We started it for our wedding as we really needed the money and afterwards, as we realised we could afford it, we just kept it going.
2. DO A CARBOOT SALE
Difficulty rating: 4
I'm not saying make it a regular thing, but I do them a couple of times a year and it's so good to sell your old clutter and make cash at the same time. Our last carboot sale paid our gas bill, a bit of holiday spending money and a dinner at Chotto Matte. And it was all things I was throwing out anyway - old clothes, household items etc. In London, I do the Battersea one (as it starts at lunchtime!), but I've also heard the Pimlico and Chiswick ones are equally good. For Pimlico you don't actually need a car, either - and Battersea you can turn up with a case and hire a table there. Battersea's site actually have a page on tips for doing your first time carboot here.
3. STOP BUYING COFFEE
Difficulty rating: 4
Sorry, another difficult one! I have found this easier since being freelance, as it is too much effort to leave the house just for a decent cup of coffee. But it could save you at least £50/£60 a month. Try for one month and see how you feel (and DON'T swap it for a juice!).
4. MAKE YOUR OWN LUNCH
Difficulty rating: 3
If you work in an office, this is more difficult (especially after a long day at work) but a sacrifice worth making - I used to work really long hours and still made it work as I would rather spend money on shoes! A quick dash to Pret or M&S costs at least £5 every time, whereas working this into your weekly shop and where possible using leftovers can save you loads. I plan my meals every week so we have no waste (we even have a calendar so we know who is in and what they need to cook for the next day!). So when filling it out, I just factor in lunches and make meals for 4 people in the evenings and spread it across the week. Great ones for leftovers are: chilli con carne, meatballs, roast chicken on the weekends, butter bean stews and risottos. It doesn't cost much more to make more portions and saves you so much in the long run. You'll just need to stock up on good tupperware!
5. CHANGE YOUR GYM MEMBERSHIP
Difficulty rating: 2
This is easy for me to say, as I have actually never been able to afford gym membership. If you just use your gym for a run, run outside for free. Just use it for classes? Try signing up to the classes alone somewhere else. Or if you need the gym, try the Pay As You Go option, a lot of gyms are signed up to this now - so you can buy 60 day and 90 day passes (especially good if you're on holiday or know you won't be around for a while). Time to make it work for you.
6. SELL YOUR CDS/DVDS
Difficulty rating: 1
Okay so it's not a big money earner, but every little helps. Our cd player has finally died and we now have wireless speakers - dare we say we no longer need CDs? We have drawers and drawers of them, and as much as it pains me to say goodbye to them (not to mention transferring all the music over), I am much more excited at the prospect of clearing all that drawer space and gaining a bit of money at the same time. I use Music Magpie as they are easy to use, and doesn't cost you anything to send your items.
7. TRY ONE MONTH OF NOT GOING OUT ON THE WEEKEND
Difficulty rating: 2
This is probably harder with kids! I used to work full-time and blog on my weekends, so spent a lot of time in on the weekends - and this really helped me pay off my credit card, without even realising it. Going out for brunch, shopping with friends and dinners out can all really add up on the weekend. I'm not saying cancel all plans ever, and maybe see a few friends in the week for a more frugal dinner. But if you agree not to make plans for one month, just watch movies or go for walks (or equivalent) instead, it will surprise you how much money you have at the end of the month. Plus you'll have got SO much life admin done.
I hope they help! I do all of the above and find it really useful - and I feel less guilty when buying clothes. Do you have any money saving tips (which are not 'buy less clothes'!)?