Here are some of the things I've been doing to save money and that you can cash in on, quite literally, too. Many are also very green, so you can keep more money in your pockets and reduce your impact on the planet at the same time. Who could ask for more?=)
*Look into changing your energy supplier, if you haven't already done so. Dual-fuel, on-line monthly payment schemes tend to be quite a lot cheaper than quarterly billing from two suppliers. Sites like USwitch and Money Supermarket can help find, not only cheaper home energy, but also insurances, mobile packages, internet deals and so on. You could save enough for a nice holiday with these!!
*Cut down on energy usage itself. It's amazing, but people still leave lights on in un-used rooms and have radiators belting out heat in guest bedrooms. Turn off what you don't need. Simple, but it can save a fair bit. Also, keep your heating thermostat at around 18C, not up in the 20s. Put on an extra wooly if you're cold, we don't need to heat our homes so much that we can walk around in T-shirts in December and need to open the windows!! Some do...
*Other ideas are to have the water heater set only for when you need it, not constantly topping up all day, using oil-filled radiator as auxilliary heaters rather than fan heaters, which use a lot more juice and cooking with the pan lids on - you can often turn the gas much lower that way. Turn off all appliances that aren't in use and don't leave device chargers plugged in. Little things that add up in time.
*Look into any free or subsidised insulation schemes that may be on offer in your area. Our local council does a scheme for private tenants and home-owners, not just council tenants, so there may be something near you too. If you rent your place, see if you can get your landlord to help out with, or even totally cover the costs of heat preserving improvements. Ours has had a quote for a more efficient boiler....
*Never use a dishwasher or a tumble dryer if you can at all avoid it. They guzzle electricity, esp. dryers, and you can wash up far faster (and probably better) than the machine can. Also, wash at low temperatures and use the shorter cycles where you can. Don't buy those new liquid capsule things, they're not good value. Tablets are cheaper. Powder I can't comment on. Another thing is make sure you're using the right amount of detergent etc for your machine and load, then try to shave a bit off the recommended amount.
*A clean and tidy home not only looks better and is less stressful for you, but can also mean that you feel less redecorating is needed. For instance, many things can be just well cleaned instead of re-painted. Good domestic hygiene also contributes to good health and with prescription charges ringing in at over £7 per item these days, that's another saving.
*Try natural alternatives to the many cleaning products you might otherwise buy. I hear that one part white vinegar to two parts water makes an effective, cheap and green window cleaner. You could mix it up and keep it in the spray bottle your last bought product came in. Do a websearch for other ideas. Also, just get one or two general products and use them sparingly. We really don't need the absolute arsenal of specific use cleaners. It's a waste of money buying them and a waste of space storing them. Use up what you have then simplify.
Personal Care and Clothing
*Learn to mend. Lots of people just throw things out that could easily be mended and put back into service. Ditto with stain removal. As our mothers and grandmothers did during the war(s): Make do and mend.
*In a similar spirit, learn to make simple alterations so as to make clothes go further and to take advantage of bargains that aren't quite right for you as bought. For instance, there are some lovely, low priced blouses around, but they are also low in terms of the top button! Check there's a spare button, then sew it on at the level you want it to be, sewing a press stud in place behind it. No-one will know you've altered it and you'll be decent - unlike many women these days. No, top buttons on or below bra level are not decent!
*Make use of secondhand and charity shops, both to give away your surplus possessions and to source the things you need. If you want good quality stuff, look for shops in relatively affluent areas. I got 3 Laura Ashley dresses from charity shops in better off areas of Leeds for a small fraction of their original cost.
*See what others have that you can use. Maybe even have a swap session with like-minded friends. My mum has been bought toiletries for Christmas for years on end and she rarely uses them. I noticed them piling up at her place so asked if there was anything she needed my help in using up. She gave me 4 items straight away and I've been glad to save the £10-15 I would have needed to buy them new.=) She was also able to give me some spare thermal undies (which she got free from a local charity group helping seniors with practical things), cosy socks and some pyjamas. Saved a packet on things I can really use.
*Buy Supermarket own brands. I've been amazed at how good quality some of them are. For example, I used to always get a certain hair conditioner for around £4 per bottle, but I neither know where to get it here, nor can really afford it at the mo, so I decided to trial one of Morrison's own and it's really good! Only £1 too and right now they're doing a 4 for £3 offer on shower gels etc. Same goes for domestic products. Even eco-friendly ranges are available in some supermarkets' own labels and can be about half the price of big names. The only thing I won't compromise on is Kleenex tissues and that's still a bargain as they're often cheaper than a box of own label 'balm' tissues and FAR better quality.=)
*Do you really NEED an item, or do you just want it? Sometimes we need to distinguish between the two and act on it. I find that, if I take a few minutes to wander around after being certain I'm going to buy something, the urge to buy it goes away and I'm happy to leave the shop without it. Can you try that?
*Have a good look at what you already have in stock and plan to use that up. During just over a year before we went to Taiwan, I used up over 100 personal care items, some of which had been hanging around for many years. I'm guessing that you have at least a few dozen yourself too. Don't forget that you can adapt the usage. For instance, bubble bath can be used as shower gel and if there's a product you were disappointed with, try to either find another use for it, pass it on or alternate using it with a better product. I used hair conditioners that weren't really rich enough up as pre-wash treatments and hand creams etc that I didn't like as body lotions - didn't matter so much on my legs!! I must have saved a couple of hundred pounds and cut down on stuff to store and move at the same time.
Crafts, Hobbies and Free Time
*Make heavy use of the public library. Many have on-line catalogues that you can access from home and you can even reserve items to be collected from your local branch. All this is free too! You can borrow books, CDs, DVDs and sometimes even toys!
*Use what you have. Many stitchers and paper crafters have the most ENORMOUS stashes. Honestly, there must be multi-thousands of pounds worth of art and craft materials just taking up room on people shelves whilst they go and buy yet more! If you aren't going to use it, try selling it, swapping it or giving it away to someone who will. If you can use it, then try to incorporate something you already own into your project instead of going out and buying that ideal item that you'll only use a tiny bit of and then leave to gather dust with the rest. You know it makes sense...(but it isn't as much fun as stash shopping, I know!)
*There are still some 'use up/complete x items before I buy more' challenges around. Find one that's suitable and join in. If you can't find one, then design one yourself, announce it on your blog and invite others to join you. Think it through well first though.
*Want to learn a new skill but can't afford a class? Try advertising a skills exchange. I'm going to try this with getting viola lessons started again - I'll put up a poster in the Music Dept at the local university for a viola student to teach me in exchange for Mandarin Chinese lessons. What skills do you have that you could offer? A French friend and I are about to start a language exchange this afternoon. She'll help me re-learn French and I'll help her develop her Mandarin. Free personal tuition for us both.
*Who says you have to put on an expensive spread when you entertain? Have a 'bring a bowl' party, or just have a few guests 'round for afternoon tea. If you do this for about 4pm on a Sunday, you can pick up bargain fresh cakes at your local supermarket just before your guests arrive too.=)
*Cost free fun includes going for walks, playing in the park, board games, crafts, putting on little plays, musical evenings where guests show their skills and SO many more ideas. They're so much more fun than things that cost money and prevent you from communicating and relationship building with your friends and family too.
This one deserves a post all of its own, so look out for one....sometime!
Finishing up some older projects
5 weeks ago