Advantages Might save you a couple of quid...
Disadvantages Can be extra work and hassle..!
** NB This is quite a long review..(Turns out I had a lot to say on the subject..)! **
Financially, times are quite hard for lots of households. With this in mind, I've listed some (hopefully) useful pointers for you lovely people, most of which have been tried and tested by myself, some haven't, but I hope you find the advice to be useful.
You'd be surprised how much you will save yearly for making this sacrifice. You don't need to sacrifice your fitness regime however; I recently picked up two fitness DVDs (One of which is by Davina McColl) for the affordable sum of £1 each at a local car boot sale. Also, I know that my local library has a selection of fitness DVDs which are available to borrow for a week at a time, for around 50p or so. Not only is this a great way to support your local library, but if you have a specific fitness DVD in mind and your library happens to have it in stock, it lets you sample it first before you buy it, to make sure you are happy with what is involved therein.There are plenty of other free ways to keep fit whilst you are no longer a Gym member too. If you have a bicycle, consider cycling to work if it's possible. Failing that, consider any journeys where you COULD cycle there and back, instead of taking the car.
Another great way to exercise is to walk whenever possible. Rather obvious, I know, but you'd be amazed at how much walking you can achieve when you are out and about. Why not wear a pedometer the next time you are going to a museum or art gallery to see how those footsteps tally up. And ladies, wear it when you are next visiting your local shopping centre or town centre and you'll be amazed at home much you've walked whilst your mind has been otherwise occupied on looking at shoes, or browsing through sales racks or the like.
Before deciding to open that packet of fresh meat or opting to throw some fresh vegetables together, have a quick browse through your fridge and cupboards to make sure there are no alternative foodstuffs (particularly fresh produce) with an expiry date that is due up, or nearly due up. Unless you have a hankering for something in particular, I'd recommend that you have a quick scan of any salad, meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables, fresh pasta and the like, before deciding what to have for your evening meal. I for one, used to regularly forget about that half tin of soup or beans that would be left-over from the day before, whilst preparing my lunch for the day, and it would undoubtedly end up in the bin half the time! A quick check to see what you have available will no doubt cut out the amount of food waste in your house, and therefore should save you a few quid in the long run.Another clever way of avoiding waste is to freeze any suitable item that has an impending expiration date. Once defrosted, you can cook it (if required) and voila! You've avoided throwing away expensive food.
Similarly, I often buy certain items that have been placed in the "Reduced" section in our local supermarkets and once I've checked their suitability for freezing, take them home rather smugly, knowing that I've got a couple of nights' dinners in the freezer, for a fraction of their original price. This is also particularly useful for buying reduced chicken for my old cat - once cooked and cooled, I divide it into little portions (cat-sized, natch) and freeze it until needed. I then know that I have a few portions of chicken for my old girl, that I've usually secured for around £1.50, which (when you put it into perspective), is less than the cost of three tins of supermarket-own brand cat meat.
I have the luxury of being able to shop around for my weekly shop. I know that this is not possible for many people, particularly if you are working full-time or have a young family, but for me it is very much an active part of my weekly shopping habits. I know I am lucky to have a very large supermarket (Tesco) a few streets away, which I use regularly for things like tinned items and I tend to take advantage of their "Value" brand when doing so. I like a variety of Tesco value branded products and have no problem admitting to this.I also have a co-op supermarket within walking distance, which is generally a bit more expensive than other supermarkets. That said, I pop in every ten days or so to see what special offers they are running at that time. They participate in a lot of Buy one Get one Free offers (BOGOF), and a lot of the time this covers household products like kitchen towel, washing up liquid and detergents. For these items in particular, I tend to find that the special offers available in my local Co-op store are worth finding out about.
There are two other (discounted) supermarkets near to where I live, and each is only a two minute bus ride away. And yes, most of you could walk there and back (thus saving petrol or bus fares), but I have restricted mobility and so for me the bus is the only option. The first supermarket is Lidl, which I'm sure most of you are aware is a discounted store. Whilst I find it to be very basic, it could also be said that it is cheap and cheerful, and I tend to pop there every couple of weeks, for things like cat food, frozen food and bottled items. (Their wine is a favourite of mine!). The second shop is a frozen food shop by the name of Farmfoods. They do sell other items too, but I tend to pop here for things like frozen meals, frozen vegetables and a few other bits and pieces. I'm also a huge fan of their bargain toilet roll (four rolls of quilted paper for a quid), and will pop to this store weekly for this.For me, I notice a HUGE difference by visiting all four shops, although I can appreciate that some of you wouldn't be able to spare the time to do this. I can really see the difference on my bank balance at the end of each month, and if it is possible to try some of these cheaper stores, I'd really recommend giving it a try, if possible.
As some of you will be aware, there are a lot of survey websites out there that can earn you a few pennies, (globaltestmarket is quite good) if you have the time to spare, although this requires a lot of patience and dedication to reap any rewards that are half decent, in my experience at least! In addition, review sites like dooyoo and ciao.co.uk offer good incentives for submitting reviews on products and services that we have experienced. Whilst none of these will make us millionaires within a few months, they are a handy tool for creating a little extra income, if you can afford to dedicate the time and effort required.
When you are having a clear-out and thinking of discarding some unwanted items, consider whether the items can be resold rather than just ditched. There are several ways to do this, including several online options.One of the best ways to collect all your clutter and try to sell it all in one go is to hold a car boot sale, if there is one close held locally. Even if you only get a maximum of one pound per item on your table, you will be surprised at how this adds up towards the end of your sale. Plus, if it was things that you were going to throw out, then all monies made are a huge bonus as you'd obviously have earned nothing for the items ending up on the scrap heap!! I have actually done a smallish boot sale without a car on one occasion (I had one crate of smallish items, one pull-along suitcase with clothes and books, and two black bags full of softer items - like soft toys and the like - all of which were easily manageable by myself and my friend). So you shouldn't necessarily be put off if you've no car to speak of!
There are several websites that are useful tools when trying to sell your unwanted goods. There is of course, the ever-popular 'Ebay' which, for those of you who don't know, is a website that enables you to list details of any unwanted goods. I regularly use Ebay for the resale of things like unwanted DVDs and CDs. Whilst I do not make a large amount of money by doing so, I tend to think of it as 'money for things I was going to bin', so I'm happy to receive whatever I get for my sales.For music CDs, it might also be worth checking out Musicmagpie.co.uk (I have written a review on this website on dooyoo). They have the facility to give you an online quote for unwanted CDs, and if you choose to accept, they send you out free postage labels, so it won't cost you a penny to send your discs off. They will then send you out a cheque for the value of your order. There are several other websites that will allow you to list your unwanted items - Amazon for example, so it's worth shopping around if you have the time, to see which one will offer you the best price.
There are several other items that can be sold online, for example, unwanted mobile phone handsets, can be cashed in for money. There are a few websites that do this, but before looking elsewhere, I'd suggest that you check out Envirophone. I recently sold an old Nokia handset, which I have to admit didn't work very well, and was delighted to receive the sum of £29 for it. Not bad!In addition, unwanted books can be listed on greenmetropolis.co.uk, but be prepared to have a bit of a wait for a sale to take place, if at all! Not had much success with this particular one, but there might be other similar websites that I'm not aware of.
There are of course, other ways to sell more expensive or larger items. Why not take out an advertisement in a local paper? Bear in mind though, that if it is expensive to do so, then it might not be worth your while. - There's not much point in paying 12 quid for advertising a portable TV you are selling for a tenner! In addition, my local Tesco store has a notice board (as do two of my local shops) where you can take out a notice for a few pounds, by writing down details of your item and how much you are selling it for. You then just add your telephone number, and with a bit of luck you will be successful and a sale will take place.All of these points are obviously only relative to items that are in good condition or are re-sellable. If some of your things are a bit 'past their best' then it probably is best to just hand them into a charity shop or recycle them some other way. Always consider whether that junk you want rid of is worth a few quid though, before you chuck it out with the rest of your rubbish.
I have managed to save around £20 per quarter by switching to online billing with my current Gas provider. I kept the same account number, can still pay using the same method (swipe card) and have the same meter, provided by the same company. The only difference is that I now have to check my bills online as they no longer get sent out to me. This is something that I am not bothered about in the slightest, and quite frankly, I'd rather have the extra few quid in my household income every quarter!This is the only utility I personally have changed, but I have read countless reviews and posts on forums online by lots of people who have managed to save a good deal of cash by changing provider. It also seems to be the case that a lot of companies, when they hear you are planning to leave them, will instantly do everything they can to keep you as their customer, and of course, the first thing that they will (usually) try is to reduce some of your costs. This means that you may end up paying less for services you already receive, which is fantastic if you can achieve it. With the country in the grips of a credit crunch, it appears that a lot of big companies are fretting, and desperately need to keep your custom, which of course, leaves you in a better-than-usual position to haggle a little bit!
My online sources tell me that some of the companies that appear to be the best ones to haggle with (or threaten, if you like!!) are Sky, Virgin Media and BT. This should not be taken as gospel; I am only passing on what I have heard, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't shoot this little messenger if you are unsuccessful! ;-)
If you usually buy your lunch whilst at work, consider taking your own. I'd estimate that your average cheese sandwich costs around £3, a bottle of pop or a standard coffee costs around £2, and a packet of crisps is say 60p. Add that up over your working week. Next, work out what you spend monthly and finally, yearly. Shocked? >:-oIt's the easiest thing in the world to make your lunch up in the morning before you leave for work. Or, if that's not for you, why not prepare something the night before? Or, you can easily take leftovers (pasta is great for this) from your evening meal to work and reheat them if required, and of course, if you have a microwave or cooker at your workplace! Failing that you can always take something else. And yes, I know how boring those soggy cheese sarnies can get after a while, but try and use your imagination!
Some great alternatives are: Tinned or home made soup in a flask, pasta (cold) with tuna or salmon flaked through it, a Tupperware box filled with mixed salad, cold meat and coleslaw, or if you have a toaster available in your workplace, why not take some bread (to be toasted later) and fill your thermos with some hot beans or spaghetti hoops? Easy peasy! :-DThere's just no REAL excuse for buying your lunch every day, particularly if you are trying to cut-back on your spending. It should be one of the first sacrifices you make, and you'll really feel the difference in your pocket at the end of the month!
The last few points I want to make are about shopping. I know I've already mentioned shopping around at various supermarkets but I feel that there are a lot of useful tips that I can pass on about this particular subject. Of course some of you will already know of them, and that's great, but if I can pass on these (albeit miniscule) pearls of wisdom to another person and help them out then that'll be just grand! :-DOk, first and foremost I'm going to suggest that instead of buying that "Dolmio" pasta sauce or that "Andrex" toilet roll, you consider what alternatives are available in the supermarket aisle. Have you even TRIED Asda's own toilet roll or Tesco's own-make pasta sauce? The amount of people I know who look down their nose at this sort of shopping is laughable. As you will all know by now, I regularly downgrade a brand (and also buy several BASIC-brand products) as well as shopping in several discount supermarkets, and yes, I would admit to some own-brand products being a bit below-par but when it comes to things like say tinned tomatoes, which in my case are only ever added to a pot of home-cooking alongside several herbs and other ingredients, who will even know the difference in the final product? So, next time you are looking to buy a particular branded product, consider a cheaper brand. If you have never done this before, then you'll be surprised at the good quality of most of them.
Another great tip is to NEVER EVER go and do your food shopping on an empty stomach. The difference this makes to my other half is unbelievable! If I don't feed him before we set off to Asda or wherever, he ends up shoving cakes and biccies and all sorts of crisps and snacks into the blooming shopping trolley! Tsk! Whilst I personally am not affected, I know of several people who are guilty of this habit, so I'd suggest that you have a piece of fruit, or a sandwich, ANYTHING really, before you head off, otherwise you'll possibly succumb to all the delicious-looking junk food on offer!A friend of mine, Caz, is rather overweight and by her own admission has very limited willpower, although she is currently doing extremely well with her goal to loose a few stone. I am telling you this in case any of you lovely readers are in a similar position and can't resist popping some delicious-looking cakes or snacks into your trolley when you do your food shopping. Doing the weekly shop was one of the worst times for Caz, and it ended up being some sort of guilt-ridden nightmarish event in which she would impulse buy cakes and desserts then feel so bad when she got home with them that she'd be in tears.
How did she overcome it? By the use of the marvellous invention that is the internet, of course! By doing her weekly shop online, she can focus on the things she SHOULD be eating, and isn't distracted by sweeties, cakes, crisps or whatever. Instead she can concentrate on her weight-watchers meals, and her salads, by going to the online shopping "aisles", selecting what she wants, paying for it and voila! It's delivered to her door and the temptation is removed, temporarily at least.A super way of saving a few pence at the check-out is to use money saving coupons and vouchers. I am aware that there are several websites online that will give you the ability to print off vouchers for certain items to present to your cashier when you are doing your shop. I also cut out coupons from magazines and newspapers and keep them in my purse so that I can check out the products when I am next in store. In stores like Tesco and Asda, there are in-store magazines that are quite often located near the exit door and are free for the taking. More often that not, said magazines contain a couple of vouchers for a 'half price this' or '25p off that'. Beware though! Don't be fooled into buying the item JUST because you have a voucher - only buy it if it is a product you would normally buy. Otherwise it's just false economy.
I have been told in the past that certain supermarkets will take the coupons at the checkout whether you are buying the product or not, but have never tried this myself. Just thought I'd mention it in case you wanted to try it!It's important that we all know and recognise that supermarket chains are not our friends. They are evil, money-making schemers, who want to prey on us and are constantly thinking up new ways in which they can catch us out, and make us part with our hard-earned pennies. It is important that you know this, and are not fooled into thinking that the supermarket chain of your choice is doing a great job at reducing costs and have your best interests at heart. Believe me, they don't!
Sorry that this review is rather long - I guess I had much more to say on this subject than I originally anticipated. If you have read to the very end, then well done, and thank you! I hope that I've passed on something useful to you.
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