I read about the moneysupermarket.com ’30 ways to save £1′ challenge both on Robyn’s blog and Mean Queen’s. I don’t normally join in with stuff like this, but I’m going to this time, because, quite frankly, the last few months have been a bit spendy and I could do with reminding myself of some ways to save… They’re offering £30 for the first 500 people to submit 30 money saving tips, so if you have a blog, join in yourself!
My challenge isn’t thinking of 30 ways to save £1, it’s thinking of 30 ways to save £1 that aren’t just what everyone else wrote… So here are 30 things I do now, or have done in the past and probably should revive.
1. Don’t clean very much. You might think I’m joking (actually, if you know me well, you won’t), but really, however much you clean, you might not need all those different bottles of chemicals under the sink. The only things I use regularly are (supermarket own ‘green’) washing up liquid, and a squirty bottle with water, washing soda and lavender oil in. I’ve got some upholstery/carpet cleaner, and some very cheap cream cleaner stuff, but they don’t get used often. The loo gets a quick squirt of the cheap bubble bath that tops up the handwash on the sink.
2. Make cleaning cloths. If you like knitting, knitting your own cotton dishcloths is simple and fun (just don’t get carried away with fancy patterns – plain knitting with bigger needles means they dry much faster). I’ve also cut up and hemmed old towels – I cut them with pinking shears so the hems only needed folding over once and don’t fray. These are great for general cleaning and also dry quickly.
3. Learn how to fix things. I can’t fix everything, but I’ve sewed up holes in cushion covers, lined our living room curtains, and repaired a giant hole in the mattress. I can fix many things that go wrong on a bike myself, and I’m slowly learning with small things on the car (fitting light bulbs, changing tyres, and we even put the exhaust back on ourselves when it fell off last week). If you don’t want to fix things yourself, see if someone else will – some lovely folk have recently set up a Repair Cafe here and will fix things for free!
4. Batch cook rice and beans. While I’d love to be able to freeze leftovers, the truth is we usually just eat them. But while I’m making tea, I can cook a giant pan of rice to store in bags in the freezer. If I’m at home alone one evening, I cook a big pan of dried mung beans, or aduki beans. That means dinner after work can take 10 minutes, and if the only veg I have is onions and frozen peas (this happens surprisingly often), I can still knock up a decent meal.
5. Take lunch to work. I know everyone says this, and I’ve spent plenty of time ignoring it myself. But it works. However, it only works if it’s easy, and that’s where I’ve fallen down in the past. What I’ve learned is: (a) a sandwich can just consist of bread and cheese – no giant hand will come from the sky to admonish me for not eating salad (b) I’m likely to eat any sweet things I take with me as soon as I get to work, and will probably still end up buying something else mid afternoon. This doesn’t mean I have to give up packed lunches altogether. Spending 80p on a chocolate bar is much better than £5 on lunch.
6. Take a flask. Even a small flask on a long train journey saves me buying at least one cup of tea. And it’s more fun to drink from a flask.
7. Make bread. We have a breadmaker, and it takes no time at all to make a loaf. I’ve fallen out of the habit a bit lately, but made one today and remembered just how nice it is.
In the garden
8. Use loo roll tubes for planting seeds. Plentiful, free, and rot away into the garden when planted. What more could you want? I usually put mine in those plastic tubs mushrooms sometimes come in.
9. Make compost. I have a small garden, and a relatively small compost bin, but it eats all our household food scraps, plus most garden green waste, and turns it into lovely compost. And it provides a stylish home for the local woodlouse population.
10. Buy ‘green waste’ compost from the council. Not all do this, but ours does, and you can buy it for £2 for a giant bag – if you go and bag it up yourself. Round here, you can only do this during the week, but since I now have Fridays off that’s not a problem. It’s got a few too many sticks in to use for seeds, but for raised beds or general topping up of the garden, it’s half the price of peat free stuff from the garden centre.
11. Look out for free stuff. People are always getting rid of plantpots, big tubs, garden chairs… What can you give a good home to?
12. Grow veg. I’m not great at this, and sometimes I think people can be put off by only being able to grow a little bit of veg, thinking it won’t make a difference. Actually, it will. Any day you can wander outside and harvest even one courgette, or a handful of salad leaves, is a day you won’t go wandering to the shops ‘just for something for tea’ and come out having spent £10.
13. Grow herbs. I love growing herbs. They need very little attention, look nice and smell lovely, and fill up lots of gaping holes in the garden. In the last few years I’ve dried rosemary and sage which have lasted all through the winter – and because I’ve always got those two on hand, I’ve not bought any other dried herbs either. We also grow fennel, lemon balm and peppermint for tea, and this year I’m planning to try chamomile too.
Getting ready (toiletries and clothes)
14. Go on a toiletries purge. Reconsider what toiletries you actually need. For me, necessary things are shampoo and conditioner, soap, face and body moisturiser, and deodorant. Oh, and suncream in the summer. I’m not saying don’t use anything else, but if you’re trying to save, think what you could reclassify as a ‘luxury’.
15. Make toiletries. I’ve made soap, face scrub, beeswax moisturiser, and a failed attempt at shampoo. The beeswax moisturiser is lovely on heels and elbows and hands, and while I wouldn’t normally buy face scrub, it’s a really nice addition. We use my soap most of the time in the shower, and I also grate it and mix with washing soda for washing clothes.
16. Make sanitary towels. I know, some of you will be turning away in disgust, but there’s really no need to be so squeamish! I don’t use these all the time, but if I’m at home all day they’re great, and you can be far more adventurous than I am. Just soak overnight then rinse before slinging in the washing machine (in a mesh bag). Simple.
17. Buy clothes in charity shops, but remember to still be discerning. I’ve fallen into the trap of buying things that are just ‘alright’ because they’re cheap – they still languish at the back of the wardrobe not being worn. Remember, it’s only a bargain if you were going to buy it anyway!
18. Have shoes or boots reheeled. Round here it costs £8, and £16 to have them fully resoled. If you think your favourite boots are completely worn out, it’s worth checking with the shop – they can do wonders to fix them up again.
19. Don’t buy last minute gifts. If you see things people might like throughout the year, buy them and stash them away. That’ll save the last minute ‘I have no idea what to buy!’ panic that so often (for me, anyway), ends with unsatisfactory or expensive presents.
20. Make presents and cards. I made every present I gave one Christmas, but that was quite difficult and time consuming. But cards can be expensive, and are easy to make by getting a stack of your own photos printed (online they can be as little as 1p each) and sticking them onto folded card.
Banking and bills
21. Keep an eye on the bank account. An obvious one, but I know my bank account can behave very peskily indeed if I don’t keep an eye on it. Just this week, in fact, I had a letter saying I’d gone overdrawn after I’d not checked it for a couple of weeks. If I’d watched it more closely, that wouldn’t have happened.
22. Compare prices for bills. I’ve put this in because I know you’re meant to do it, but I find it SO tedious (see this post about me changing our house insurance) that sometimes I don’t bother. However, a few tedious hours looking for new house insurance saved us £600. That’s quite a lot.
23. Enjoy free stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time doing voluntary work in the past, and had lots of fun with some very lovely people, all for nothing (sometimes with a free lunch too!). Book clubs are usually free, so is wandering about the countryside or the local park (preferably with a picnic). There are plenty of money off vouchers for meals these days too.
24. Make your own entertainment. We often pop to a friend’s house for a cup of tea – even if we take biscuits it’s cheaper than us all piling to a cafe (although I do that often enough too…). Film nights, music nights, craft evenings, make-your-own pizza evenings, or just nattering-on-the-sofa evenings
25. Pick cafes carefully. Round hear you can pay anything from £1 to £2.50 for a cup of tea in a cafe, plus 80p to £3 for a cake. I don’t always go to the cheapest place, but that’s a difference of up to £3.70 (the cakes are often nicer in the cheaper places too).
26. Volunteer at events. Music festivals often need stewards and litter pickers – yes you’ll have to work a few shifts, but you generally get a free ticket, separate camping field (with cleaner toilets) and sometimes even free food. If campaigning is more your thing, some organisations take volunteers too – I once collected signatures for Oxfam petitions at Glastonbury, right in front of the main stage. Volunteering at smaller local events will usually get you a free ticket (and sometimes a free pint or dinner) too.
27. Get to the library. I can’t tell you how much I love libraries. I’m lucky enough to have two within 15 minutes walk, and a bigger one in town, plus another where I work. I can lose myself for hours in a library, wandering around, picking up anything I fancy. My local one also does dvds for £1 a week. Now you can renew things online, I never (well, hardly ever…) get fines.
28. Walk more. Something I need to remember myself… I travel to my office at least twice a week, and each day I can spend up to £6 in bus fares. Walking just two of those four journeys could save me £6 a week, which adds up. Even walking one journey each time would save me £12-15 a month. It doesn’t take much longer to walk either once you’ve accounted for traffic.
29. Get a folding bike. Ok, folding bikes are expensive and you wouldn’t recoup your money any time soon. But I’ve had mine about 12 years now, and I love it. When I take it to work I can save three of those four bus journeys (all four if I was willing to cycle three miles solidly uphill at the end of the day, which I’m not).
30. Join the local LETS scheme. Some places have these, others have something similar. Yes, you’ll have to put some time in to do things for others, but you could potentially get help in your garden, or a dog sitter, or music lessons, or a massage, without laying out any actual money at all.
31. Learn how to sew. I’m not brilliant at sewing, but I can repair holes in things, sew on buttons, I can make simple skirts (see here, here and here), and I can knock up a straightforward tote bag in an hour (see here and here, handy for last minute presents, or for the straightforward pleasure of having something ‘new’ without having to buy it). I’d love to learn to make more clothes (although I’m not convinced that always saves money, not if you usually buy in charity shops).
So there we are! Thirty ways I’ve saved (at least) £1 in the past (actually 31 – it seems I originally had two number 15s…). How do you save £1? I bet there are things you do that you don’t even think about any more. Have you joined in this challenge yourself?