In June 2017 I committed myself to a year-long lease on a flat in London with barely enough income to make the rent. I had my fingers crossed that my internship would turn into a job but had three months to last before I would earn a decent income. Once my rent, bills and travel had been paid I was left with £60 a month, and that’s not a lot when you need to buy food and also try to maintain some sort of social life in London.
As I calculated and re-calculated my weekly predicted expenditure it was clear that there was little room for any extras and I would have to make some cutbacks in order to stay out of my overdraft.
People need to save money for a variety of reasons; so whether it’s a change in your circumstances or you’re putting the pennies aside for your dream holiday in the Maldives these six tips will help you get there.
No more take out
This might seem a bit obvious but takeaway food and drink adds a significant amount of money to your weekly expenditure. For me, it was my almost daily Venti Soy Latte from Starbucks that had been adding a hefty £15 to my weekly outgoings. That’s £15 instantly saved towards your holiday or that you can re-purpose for more pressing needs such as bills or rent. In addition to coffee, I stopped all takeaways and always brought my own lunch to work saving me roughly an additional £25 a week.
Whilst working out what I had to live on I realised I couldn’t afford to get the tube to work. With a peak time return fair coming in at £5.80 (Zone 1-2) I could save £2.80 every day by taking the bus. It may have taken 25 minutes longer but by the end of the working week, I had £14 in my pocket. Other methods of transport to consider are cycling and walking if the conditions are safe and the distance manageable.
Utilise Charity Shopping
Shopping has always been something I really enjoy and although my internship was only to last three months I still found myself wanting some retail therapy (not to mention we were transitioning into summer and I desperately needed some work appropriate summer clothes). I switched up my usual high street favourites for charity shops and found some serious bargains whilst helping some good causes. There’s a misconception that charity shops are full of old-ladies clothes but these days they’re run as businesses and you’ll find some high-end brands at a fraction of the cost. It’s also pretty fun looking through the racks of clothes, you’re never quite sure what you will find.
Always look for a discount code
Sometimes the latest deals aren’t always easy to find. If you know you’re going to the cinema or have been invited out to dinner check online for a discount code first. Sometimes there’ll be promotions running that require you to print off a code in advance in order to be redeemed at the checkout, don’t get caught out and do this ahead. I got free pizza at Pizza Express and also free coffee at Costa just by googling their latest deals. You can be both broad or specific with your searches, try ‘free in London’ for a more broad search or something more specific like ‘bike deals‘ if you know the area you’re looking for a deal in. Also, always be on the look-out for a freebie websites to get your hands on some completely free stuff. Sometimes it really is as simple as googling ‘free stuff UK’.
Be clever with your cooking
With £60 a month left to feed myself and cover any additional expenses I needed to get creative in the kitchen. I did one £40 online shop a month and stocked up on tinned tomatoes, beans, rice, pasta, lentils and other cheap but filling and healthy foods. This left me with £20 for any unexpected extras. I realised that fresh fruit and vegetables could often be pricey and didn’t last too long so I switched to a big bag of mixed frozen veg to get in some of my 5 a day. I made a lot of pasta, ate a lot of rice and learnt how to cook creatively with spices to add a different twist to everyday dinners. Meat was almost entirely off the menu as I couldn’t afford it, the only exception was bacon which lasted well in the fridge and added great flavour to almost everything I cooked. Don’t shy away from the ‘value’ and ‘basics’ brands, 99% of the time you won’t tell the difference, I swapped all my tins to the value brands, purchased value rice, and used the spare change to be able to buy my gluten-free pasta which comes in at a premium.
Look at your monthly subscriptions
Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime – I’m sorry but we’re taking a break. It’s easy to forget about subscription services as they just subtly take your money each month. Have a look at what direct debits you have set up and consider what you can cut back on. Also, take a look at your phone contract, I rang up my provider and cut my tariff from £25 to £15 by paying for what I actually use rather than what I thought I needed. Another bill I didn’t need to pay was my TV licence, be very careful with this one! If you watch BBC AT ALL including the Iplayer you need a TV license. I don’t have a TV in my flat and decided to log out of BBC Iplayer until such a time as I could afford this monthly expense. I contacted the people asking me to purchase a license and declared that I didn’t need one for a period of six months. Be prepared to have someone come and inspect your property and be honest or risk a hefty fine.
By implementing these six tips I kept my head above water for three months and was thankfully offered the job. It wasn’t always easy and I often had to remind myself it would be worth it in the end. Even now I still stick to these six rule (though there’s definitely the odd Starbucks and takeaway in there) except now the money I save goes into a savings account for that holiday in the Maldives!
What are your money saving ideas? Let me know in the comments!