So, if you saw my last post about the Aviva Financial Personality Tool, you’ll know that we recently reached our maternity savings target. Aviva have asked me to share some of my #SaveSmarter tips as part of their campaign to get Britain saving smarter. And we’ve been saving essentially since we first found out, back around August time last year. So I’m hoping I have some experience!
During the past nine months, we have had a lot going on financially. Not only with saving, but the house too. We underwent a huge house renovation, and while a lot of that was paid with equity that we gained by remortgaging our house, there was still a lot of extra money to be found.
Our mortgage repayments went up as a result – something we were prepared for admittedly – and we still had the decorating side of things to think about. And then, not forgetting the emergencies – like our radiator exploding, or our roof leaking into three separate rooms in the house.
But we have managed it all, with a bit of time to spare, so these are my tips, not only for saving money, in the sense of cutting back, but also putting a bit away each month too.
It’s an obvious one really. But it’s difficult to know what you can afford to put aside, unless you have an accurate idea of what is coming in and going out of your household every month. For that reason, drawing up a simple budget in a spreadsheet to track everything is very useful not just in saving, but also in preparing for large bills or emergencies that might be on their way.
We add in everything we can think of, from food, to petrol, to entertainment and allowances for hobbies or Bill. We obviously know our guaranteed income and we work strictly to it. We have our own spreadsheet that we made up – we actually use Google Docs, as we can access them on the go and also edit them in real-time, which we found really handy. I can even see Mark type in a change, which is cool if anything! Aviva has a budget planner tool, though, which you might find really useful.
Everywhere you look there are discounts available – for food shopping with points cards and loyalty schemes, or hobbies with or BOGOF vouchers for theme parks on cereal packets, or voucher codes websites. With a few hours’ work researching and cutting things out of newspapers, you could save significant sums from your monthly household expenditure, especially on food and toiletries. It sounds a bit geeky, but this saves me so much money! I’ve also worked out that switching up where I shop helps a bit too, as my supermarkets notice when I have stopped shopping for a while and send me bigger discount vouchers. Sainsbury’s are especially good at this!
If you have a room in your home which you use for storage, it makes sense to bulk-buy items such as toilet paper, soap or canned foods, and over the course of the year this could amount to a lot of money saved.
This may seem a bit bizarre, but I often buy meat from Muscle Foods and I portion it all up and freeze it, so we have lots of meat, at a great price, that will last us a long time.
Up until now, Mark and I both work full-time in Manchester – at the same place in fact! And it’s so tempting to nip out and grab something to eat from the Northern Quarter, but you are likely to throw money down the drain really quickly.
Even if you nip out to the local shop every day for your lunch, then you can quite easily spend around £25-30 in the working week, which mounts up over a month. Massive savings can be made by spending a short time every morning preparing a sandwich, adding in some fruit or yoghurt too, and refilling a water bottle at work.
If you don’t have the time, perhaps your office has a canteen, or a kitchen, with a microwave so you can make extra pasta for dinner and then reheat the leftovers for lunch next day. We do this a lot and it saves us so much money, and it also tends to be much nicer than what I’d buy elsewhere. Plus, it stops me from buying treats too, which tightens the waistline as well as your purse!
I meal plan. I do. It might seem like a faff to begin with, but it works! I prepare a week’s meal plan so I know exactly what items I need, and I also can get creative by thinking of how I can split things like a pack of mince, for example. Can I stretch it to two different meals for all of us if I think about it?
Another good tip is never to go to a supermarket hungry, as that leads to impulse purchases of costly and unhealthy snack foods. I am a sucker for this – I go in for bread and I end up buying a family-sized bar of chocolate, some Pringles and goodness knows what else.
Also – I always keep a stock of reusable bags next to the front door or in the car, as plastic bag charges can rob you blind if you don’t watch out for it. I also keep a spare plastic bag in my handbag, so if I grab something on the walk to work, or on the way home, I can carry it back.
But, you can dodge all of this by shopping online, which is usually what I do. I can do this from the comfort of my sofa and it helps me stick to a plan and see the cost as I go, which I like. I can also compare prices and make choices I wouldn’t normally make as I’d be in a rush, trying to speed around a shop with a three year-old.
This one might sound counterproductive as it costs, but we’ve done some home improvements recently and we are noticing a difference. Out went our old boiler – which seemed older than we were – and now we have a combi boiler with a portable thermostat. This makes our energy use so much more efficient, and the digital thermostat means our temperature is more accurate, as are the times of day our heating is. We also had our extension properly insulated and our whole house is warmer now as a result.
This is a cost, I admit, but there are other things you can do right now, regardless of upgrading your house – take a shower instead of a bath, or turn off lights when you leave a room, and you’ll save several pounds every month. If you don’t yet have a water meter installed, ask your provider for more information – it doesn’t cost anything to install and it allows you to get an accurate idea of what you’re using, so you don’t overpay. We have one of these and it works really well for us.
This one was a big one for us. After a year of paying my mortgage and bills as a single parent on one wage, having Mark join our family meant I had some spare money again. It was amazing! I was able to treat myself and my family. But this has been cut back a lot over the last few months. I’ve stopped buying clothes, I’ve worked hard to find budget versions of my favourite beauty favourites, I’ve prioritised. And maybe it has been easier while being pregnant – I don’t drink or go out much after all – but I’m really proud of what we have achieved. And hopefully this planning will pay-off as of next Friday, when I finish work, and we can live life a bit more comfortably, and enjoy our time as a family.
Anyway, have a go of the Aviva Financially Personality Tool and check out their tricks and tips, and
see how you go!
Have you any tips to add?