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I have got really fed up at the end of every month having no money left in my bank at all. It does not matter how hard I seem to try, even by having an 'emergency pot' I always end up at the limit of my overdraft and preying for pay day to arrive. I would not mind either, but I earn a good wage...which ultimately makes it more frustrating!
I decided a couple of months ago to try and find ways to save cash. I think that I have become lazy you see, obsessed with everything new and available, I am in fact and ad agency dream, whenever there is a new product or gadget to be had, I am often the first to buy it, which is great...if you do not mind having a shed full of useless gadgets that you then end up selling at a car boot sale years later for twenty pence.
There are lots of obvious ways to save money and some I think are not so obvious. I have prepared a list of twenty ways, which have helped me significantly reduce my outgoings and which have also had other great benefits.
The last one, I think should actually be the first, see what you think as you read them through.
1. Free Wireless internet places - Internet costs a lot of money and I am a heavy user of downloads (thank god for BBCi Player and iTunes!) I always seem to be on the go darting from one place to the next and recently, I have discovered that a number of places provide free wireless access, especially places of interest, (the British Library for example) some major train stations (St. Pancras International has super fast free access) and many pubs, bars and cafes. Instead of having a connection at home 'full time' which in fairness I did not always make the most from, I now take my small and compact Laptop with me and take advantage of downloading for free when I am out and about. Most of the time you simply need to make up a user name and password and be subjected to a few adverts. It is more than worth it to be able to download your favourite programmes or music.
2. Buy one get one free! - Supermarkets are awash with deals designed to entice us in. It is worth taking the time to mooch around a store looking for BOGOF deals. I have been amazed at the range of deals on offer, from paracetomal to pasta; shops seem to have a never ending array of BOGOF deals. I should add to this one also, that it may be worth investing in a freezer to support number 2! Much of our food can be frozen and BOGOF deals lend really well to this kind of money saving idea.
3. Walk don't bus! - I tend to go into London most days and my off peak fare (yes off peak...it is four pounds cheaper!) costs six pounds, which gets me into the centre of London. I used to merrily walk down to the underground and take a tube journey for a couple of pounds to Leicester Square which I proudly boasted only took five minutes. After some searching on www.tfl.gov.uk (the London travel website) I discovered...after many years it must be said, that I could walk to the Leicester Square in fifteen minutes. Since doing this I have reduced my travel bill significantly and also, found a way to get more regular exercise.
4. Shop around! Make the time to visit more than one store; in many previous reviews I have waxed lyrical about the benefits of visiting other stores for many items such as currency and toiletries. Why pay four pounds for something when you can get it at Poundland for a quid! After walking into town (yes that's right, you walk now...no need to pay rip off car park fees) plan an extra bit of time for your shopping, there is after all more to life than one big supermarket. The sense of self worth you will have after doing this, plus the added bonus of being able to share your bargain story with your friends will more than make up for the extra time!
5. Shop out of season - Clothes wise that is! I always spend time with the sale items in my favourite stores. Sure, I may not want to wear shorts in December...but it is only a few months until summer and shorts are shorts right?!? Some other items such as shirts for work never really go out of season, but I am amazed at how cheap supposedly out of season clothing becomes. If you can face the shame of wearing a shirt from the spring collection in autumn, then this is a must.
6. Shop brand choices - Ok..So I thin kit is fair to say that bleach is bleach and toilet roll is toilet roll? I know that there are some brands I would not want to swop for cheaper alternatives, but there are many that I have discovered on my economy drive that are as good quality of some of my favourites. I think it is always a good idea to try the brands in small measures, before you rush out to but 200 packets of bargain soup in a cup. Give them a try in moderation and after a while you will have a good knowledge of the cheaper ranges available.
7. Turn it off! I have recently visited my sister who has a house full of gadgets too. When I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, I was utterly amazed at just how many red lights were on in the living room and kitchen...it was like being at a night club! Turning off at the wall saves loads of cash annually and again, gives you a great sense of 'I am now single handedly saving the planet'.
8. Brick in the cistern! Short but sweet this one! If you are on a water metre a brick in your toilet cistern reduces the amount of water per flush! We were taught this at school and although the savings may be small, it is a great way to get the green buzz also!
9. Get a dongle - A much cheaper way to surf the internet and it ties in nicely with my earlier money saving tips. I am able to control how much I spend and how long I surf. I know that no one else has access to my connection other than me and it also gives me greater flexibility.
10. Freeview - This one ties in nicely with number nine too. I used to spend almost eighty pounds a month on internet and TV services..Almost a thousand pounds a year! I went to Tesco and purchased a 'Freeview' box and yes ok...I do not get a couple of my favourite channels, but much of that content is available online and I am more than managing at the moment!
11. Megabus it! - This is an absolute gem of a website. I am a regular traveller to the Midlands as many of my family live there. A return ticket can cost me up wards of thirty five pounds. I recently tried Megabus for the journey and was amazed to get a return ticket for £10.70! It is a ticketless journey, for which you need a code. After having used it once, I must admit to being hooked and really enjoy travelling for such a low fare.
12. Buy a cup that lasts for your journey - This is a really frugal tip, but one that amazed me. I used to buy a latte every morning on the way to work, for £2.80. When I worked out I was spending approximately £500 a year on this I almost fainted!!! I now have a travel cup and make my drink before I leave the house. I buy a good quality fresh coffee too; again, there would be little point in skimping as it would make me yearn for my take out again. I almost enjoy the sense of satisfaction I get with this one and it makes my train smell nice.
13. Read the papers...online - Apart from the free papers available at stations, I now only read the papers online. I read three or four of them daily and it costs me nothing where as before I could easily spend £1.50 a day on them.
14. Haggle! I was with a friend recently who was buying a new camera. We went into the store, which was kind of quiet for that time of day and found the camera we really wanted. Hmmmmm...It was £200. Instead of saying that we would buy it we asked about the best price they would take for cash. You could see initially, the assistant was a bit shocked we had asked and she then went and asked the manager. She said that she was not able to reduce the price...but she could throw in a case and a memory card (total cost £20) to sweeten the deal! Never be afraid to ask for money off the price, particularly in the current market.
15. Energy saving bulbs - Again a short but sweet one. Energy saving bulbs are a must and save money over a long period of time.
16. Shop with friends...split the bargains! So what if you have a small pad and not enough room to store all of the BOGOF bargains? Well then, why not choose to go shopping with a friend! If you and a friend take full advantage of the BOGOF bargains, you can then split the bill at the till. I have been amazed at how much I have saved on really good quality brands by insisting that various friends come shopping with me. We also have a great laugh when we shop too which brightens up the day!
17. Why join a gym? - My gym membership was nearly seventy pounds a month. I used to run, do some weights and then have a shower. Three months ago I gave my notice and left the gym and now get up early most mornings for a run instead. I must say this has been one of my favourite money saving tips as I have seen far more of my local area than ever before and also enjoy the early morning fresh air, it really does set me up for the day.
18. Do you really need that DVD right now or could you wait a few months? - I used to get New Release fever for DVDs. I would run along the aisles at the supermarket searching them out and buying all the new releases for up to seventeen pounds. Recently however, I noticed that films just a few months old were half the price! I decided that as I had waited a few months...waiting a few more would not hurt. You will be amazed at how quickly prices drop after all of the initial hype!
19. Leave the card at home! - This is a mega important one. I only ever take enough cash when I go shopping to get what I want. How many times have you gone into a supermarket for a load of bread and spent thirty pounds! Planning ahead is definitely a brilliant way to avoid spending money on things you just really do not need... beware the fake bargain!
20. Don't be too strict, it won't work! - The most important one I actually think. There is no point living the life of a monk to save a few quid. It will ultimately make you miserable and not enjoy the savings you make. The great thing about being able to save money is being able to tell your friends I think. We all love sharing our money saving tips together, over a bottle of wine (sought out in the supermarket as a bargain obviously!) You need to give yourself a break now and again.
I think my tips lead to a good balance and am confident that they can be adapted and adopted by many people. I have made some major savings in the last year, yet still have a great lifestyle!