Boxing Day Deals
1 Set a limit on spending. You have to be rich to make a really grand anti-materialist gesture à la Nigella (Lawson). One year, she told her children that they could only keep one present: the rest were going to a local children’s hospital. An alternative is to declare a budget. I’ve warned my five children that there’s a £50 ceiling for their main present, though Santa may shove some bits and pieces into their stocking. So far they have taken the disappointment well: the budget is sufficient to get a Sainsbury’s cashmere cardigan (£35) or a Zara Basics belted jacket (£49.99). For discounted toys try www.thetoyshop.com, whose star buys section has an electric guitar reduced from £69.99 to £19.99, Baby Born dolls at £17.50, and Playmobil Pirate ships (£19.99). Under-a-tenner ideas include the following: www.cartoonme.com turns photos of your nearest and dearest into hand-drawn cartoons for £3; a Glana four-photo frame from Ikea is £9.99; cushions from TK Maxx cost £9.99; a four-pack of tulip wine glasses at M&S are currently reduced by 30 per cent, to £9.50.
2 Make your own presents. Christmas mornings this year will resound with cries of “Oh, how lovely”, as people swap apple chutney. My sister has already been hard at work with her copy of Pam Corbin’s Preserves (Bloomsbury, £12.99), making raspberry vinegar, pickled shallots and quince-paste membrillo. I’ll go for preserved lemons: easy, cheap and a nice colour on the shelf; I’ve already stocked up on cheap Kilner jars; www.waresofknutsford.co.uk and www.jbconline.co.uk sell them.
3 Let’s keep bookshops in business. If you want to buy someone a book, the answer is not always Amazon. Find the best price for it on www.find-book.co.uk. WH Smith is selling Jamie’s Ministry of Food for £10, while the Guinness Book of World Records is £9 at Asda.
4 Choose useful presents, but don’t go too far. Oxfam shops are stocking some relatively fun ideas that can’t be deemed useless luxuries, including a Hippo Water Saver for £1.99. Placed in your cistern, it will save roughly a third of the water flushed down the loo; if the recipient looks unconvinced when they unwrap it, tell them it’s an item much-loved by Cate Blanchett. The charity also sells notebooks with recycled bright plastic covers bearing a description of what they used to be – cup, box or bag – at just £2.49 a pop. They also have an ingenious wind-up torch (£19.99) which will never need new batteries – an ideal gift for credit-crunched dads.
5 When it comes to lunch, plan ahead. I wish I had. I’ve missed the boat for raising my own turkey in a plastic coop in the back garden: June or July is the time to install a pullet to give it time to fatten up. Having to kill, draw, hang and pluck the bird would be a downside, but if the financial belt has to be tightened still further, it may appeal next year.
6 Serving Christmas pudding to my children has always been a waste of money; this year I’m copying the chocolate version from Nigella’s Christmas (Chatto & Windus, £25) – essentially it’s a normal cake recipe, except that it’s made in a bowl, steamed for an hour and a half, and served draped with chocolate sauce. That will stop the children hiding the heavy fruit version under their spoons once they’ve got the sixpences (5p bits) out. It is also comparatively cheap to make.
7 Waste nothing. Another of the ideas from her Christmas Book (Dorling Kindersley, £16.99) is to pot up cuttings of your best plants. (B&Q sells 23cm terracotta pots for £1.) She decorates labels with glued-on seeds and leaves. Delia’s good at scrimping, too. In Frugal Food (Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99), she recommends using dry cider in place of wine to make coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon – everyone needs a break from turkey – and claims they have turned out “beautifully”. Alternatively, I freeze the dregs in wine bottles for cooking with another time.
8 Go on a booze cruise. Twice a year I head to Calais to stock up as duty on wine in France is 0.02p per bottle, as opposed to £1.46 in the UK. Majestic were the first to offer free Seafrance car ferry trips to customers – alternatively, they give cash back. See www.majesticinfrance.co.uk for details. Oddbins and Sainsbury’s offer similar deals. I went with a girlfriend; between us we spent just over £800 and got £96 back, which paid for the crossing and lunch at Le Channel near the port (four courses €21.50; 0033 32 13 44 230). Majestic’s best cheap blended plonk is Cuvée Richard (white and red) at £1.69. Five years ago, they mostly stocked beer and Liebfraumilch; the range now is much the same as in UK stores.
9 While in Calais, go to a hypermarket. There’s a choice: Auchan and Carrefour, as well as Sainsbury’s. Even with the dire euro exchange rate, there are some good buys: check online at www.auchancalais.com and www.carrefour-calais.com. I load up with cheeses, pâtés, olive oil, apricot jam, tomato concentrate, mustard, vinegar, coffee, madeleines, powdered hazelnuts (good for meringues), lardons, jambon cru fumé, circles of ready-rolled pastry (why can’t you buy them here?), oysters, fresh yeast and tins of Bonduelle peas. Recent best-buys were a giant (32cm) Le Creuset-style cast iron casserole for €55.45, a salmon-sized (60cm) fish kettle for €29.95, and six one-litre preserving jars for €10.92. NB: diesel is still cheaper in France but unleaded isn’t – and I wished I’d bought petrol before going to the supermarket because the Auchan pump gave me a €5-off voucher.
10 Talking of money-off vouchers, dedicated discount hunters can chase up the best deals by going to www.myvouchercodes.co.uk. Yesterday, they were showing 15 per cent off first orders over £25 from Littlewoods and 20 per cent off clothes from Asos.
11 The best gifts can be free. Famously thrifty pensioner Gay Cossins once asked each of her children for “just one hour of your time”. Each of them agreed to do a job for her , such as clearing out her food cupboard and helping her sort her wardrobe. A pledge to clean someone’s car would be similar gift. Get tickets for a favourite BBC show from www.bbc.co.uk/tickets (sadly, under-18s can’t go to Top Gear); ask for free samples when buying something from a cosmetics counter (they make great stocking fillers); or give away some of your treasures. I was thrilled when my sister gave me a dress she no longer wears.
12 Give presents that will provide hours of pleasure… How about “three-for-two” paperbacks this year? A more extravagant option that should ensure warm feelings all year is a subscription to a favourite magazine; cheap deals are available from www.discountpublications.co.uk (eg, National Geographic for a year for £29) or www.qualitymagazines.co.uk (eg, Harpers Bazaar for £24.99). A bottle of perfume lasts for ages, and you can get it cheap from www.fragrancedirect.co.uk or halfpriceperfumes.co.uk . Find discount make-up at www.feelunique.com.
13… or gifts that support a good cause. Chit Chat is a double CD of interviews conducted for a talking newspaper for the blind, with old favourites (living and dead) including Peter Ustinov, Yehudi Menuhin and Spike Milligan. All proceeds go to Fight for Sight Eye Research (£10 inc p&p from Wienerworld, 020 8206 1177, www.wienerworld.com ).
14 Don’t forget the jokes. The most memorable presents are often the cheap, silly ones like Smiffy’s extendable fork for pinching food from others’ plates (£4.50 from many joke shops, including www.the-joke-shop.com). Hawkin’s Bazaar (www.hawkin.com, 0844 5734000) has Gelli Baff (£4.99) which turns bath water into coloured goo (and then back into bath water). Another cheap bath joy is a glowing LED “glow in the duck” (£4.79) from crazyaboutgadgets.com; they also sell reindeer mugs with noses that light-up when you put a hot drink in them (£5.59).
15 Share the cost of Christmas by gathering as many members of the family together as you can. Each person can provide one element – the turkey, booze, puddings, etc. You could also set up a Secret Santa scheme. Each person buys a gift for one other person, chosen by ballot, spending to an agreed limit. Alternatively, make opening cheap treats more fun by putting them, wrapped, into a festively-decorated dustbin filled with shredded newspaper and turning present-giving into a Lucky Dip.
16 Wrapping is another money guzzler but there are alternatives to expensive sheets and ridiculously short rolls. Use up left-over bits of wallpaper – not only is it decorative, it doesn’t rip when children inspect what’s under the tree. Alternatively, you can get a 300m roll of brown paper from www.rajapack.co.uk for £19.59. I go to my local wholesale flower market for big florists’ packs of tissue paper but you can get 240 sheets for £6.99 from floristsuppliesuk.com. From the same source you can get 250 yards of thin curling ribbon for £0.75, and various kinds of fancy cellophane (from £10.56 for 120m). Add a touch of gold: a can of spray paint (£4.99 from www.londongraphics.co.uk) will jazz up everything from twigs and pine cones to walnuts and apples.
17 Cheap lights work out expensive: once one bulb goes the whole lot is useless. This year I’ve invested £69.99 in 10m (100 bulbs) of heavy-duty LED lights that won’t give up on me and are cheap to run (0845 370 0333, www.xmasdirect.co.uk). Make your home twinkle with 8-hour nightlights (£6.16 for 100 from www.klaremont.com).
Lowering Take Away Food Bills
Take Away Devils! Part 1
Eating out, takeaway restaurant meals, dining out, take-away, delivery… whatever you want to call it, not preparing your own food is the #1, top, chief, primary, far and away most commonly cited roadblock to frugality. Without fail, this is the most frequent question I get from readers. Without deviation, this is cited as the largest area for budgetary improvement. And without alteration, this is the toughest thing for people to modify in their quest for saving money. And I feel this pain keenly–it was the most challenging thing for people to give up as well! What is it about food prepared by other people????!!!!
I’m going to repeat out an old adage here that food is a necessity, but expensive food is not. And while endless reems devoted reams of the internet on how to shop for groceries efficiently and frugally, eliminating takeaway and dining out is BY FAR the most significant impact you can have on your food-related budget. We all know that eating out is a raw deal, but we do it anyway because it’s easy and it’s tasty. I don’t deny that.
But I do challenge you to consider if all the money that gets eaten up every month by take-out is truly worth it to you in the end. It’s not facilitating your longterm goals (financial or health-wise) and it’s not a productive use of your hard-earned pounds. if you’re not sure how much you spend on such culinary conveniences each month, then it’s time to start tracking your expenses, whichever way you find easiest (apps,paper,excel,etc).
Before we get to the suggestions, I must highlight that the #1 reason cited for eating out is a failure to plan ahead.How Readers Avoid Eating Out/Getting Take-Out
Cook a large batch and freeze it!
Sonia says it’s about planning ahead and having a low barrier to entry, “Make sure you have enough ready-to-cook-in-a-short0time food at hand, whether at work or home. [My husband] takes fruit and yoghurt [to work] and occasionally a treat of some kind such as a small chocolate. He takes trail mix/nuts, sandwiches, a whole bag of food and virtually never hits up the vending machine or the local takeaways… and probably eats more healthily and far, far more cheaply as a result. It’s a mind set and a habit. The key thing is it must be easy and quick at the time you want it, there must be a very low barrier to entry or you’re sunk!”
Pat shared, “I’m a really good cook, and very picky about what I eat. I’ll only eat out of it’s something better than I could make myself, or as a specific social evening, friends visiting from out of town for example. My mom and I were reminiscing the other day about how in first grade I tried the school lunch on day one, packed my lunch on day two, and never looked back!!
Roy says, “With a baby in the mix, I’ve had to scale back my cooking time and focus on getting food ready fast! So, no homemade pizza dough for awhile. Frozen veggies have been surprisingly helpful, and not just for blending into baby food. I never thought saving a few minutes of washing and chopping would matter, but for now it does! We also always keep some combo of canned black beans, wheat tortillas, salsa and cheese around. Everything but the salsa goes in the freezer and that could too, so it’s always there for us. Add some veggies and it’s insta-dinner, flavorful and pretty healthy as we go light on the cheese.”
Best of Black Friday deals
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By now you’ve probably heard the message that switching can save you money hundreds of times. But still some people get put off, thinking it’ll be too much hassle and too complicated. But is it?
A survey by comparison site GoCompare has looked at just how easy people find switching, and found home and car insurance the easiest to change, with more than 80% of adults who have switched saying it was easy.
Switching your banking accounts – whether credit card, current account or savings account – were viewed as almost as easy, with around 75% saying it was simple to switch. Positive comments about changing gas and electricity were about the same.
Communications such as broadband, mobile phones and landlines didn’t fare as well, with under 70% feeling it was easy, while mortgages were viewed the most difficult. However, more than half (61%) still said it was easy.
The difficulties with switching
For those that struggled, the survey found a third of people thought it took too long to switch. A quarter also found the process too complicated.
How to switch
The process is different for what you’re trying to switch.
For most, including insurance, credit cards, energy and telecoms, it’s well worth using a comparison site. You’ll be able to filter by the different deals and find what works best for you.
You rarely need to tell your old provider you’re leaving them, but it’s important to check. Some, including insurance policies, may auto-renew if you don’t cancel.
Others, such as most phone and broadband switches, and all energy changes, will talk to your old supplier on your behalf.
Either way it’s worth checking your final bill. It’s possible you could be owed money by your old account and it’s not always sent back to you unless you chase them.
Current accounts are
slightly different as you can have more than one account at any time. To take advantage of switching offers you need to make sure your new bank is part of the switching service which guarantees payments will be automatically transferred. You’ll also need to tick a box that says you agree to fully close your old account.
If you want to switch your mortgage, pay attention to the fees and charges with both your old and new lender. You might find it’s actually more expensive to move once these are taken into account. It’s worth talking to a mortgage adviser to help find the best deal for you.
Change your shopping habits
Stop making shopping mistakes! Here are six top tips for smart shoppers.
Spontaneity is all very well in action heroes but when it comes to shopping, it’s a big no-no. Plan your meals, make a list and stick to it. Supermarkets are dab hands at tempting you with tasty treats.
Buy in bulk. Dedicate one monthly shop to dried foods, cans and bottles. Keep your eyes peeled for mega-packs, which are usually far cheaper per hundred grams than small packs. This can save you up to 50%.
Offers, offers, offers! The buy-one-get-one-frees may sound like a bargain, but make sure they are actually cheaper than other brands. Beware the ‘end of the aisle’ specials, which may not be great value. The trick with these is to ask yourself one simple question – Do you really need it? Well do you?
Shop around! When it comes to shopping, loyalty can be overrated. You can’t rely on one single shop to sell every type of product at the best value. For your fresh weekly shop try markets, butchers and local shops, which can offer great value.
Throw shop etiquette to the wind and bring along a calculator. Or, use the one on your phone. Without a calculator labels can be confusing, making it nigh-on impossible to compare price per hundred grams. Premium brands of tea can be twenty times as expensive as cheap ones. So this tip can save you 95%.
This may sound unexpected, but don’t always buy the cheapest product. Some things cost more for good reason. Buy sausages and burgers with plenty of meat rather than fat, gristle and who-knowswhat. They’re probably better for you, cost just a little more and you don’t have to eat five of them to feel full.
This is a useful site to help you
Money Tips for Young Adults
The world may be your oyster, but money still makes the world go round. So, whilst there’s more to life than finances, getting to grips with saving cash is essential for all young adults. Whether you’re saving for a new car, trying to get the deposit for your first house, or simply want to grow your nest egg, explore our six money saving tips for millennials.
Always Prioritise Debt
Regardless of why you’re trying to save money, it’s important to realise that paying off debt needs to come first. The reason for this is that debt accrues interest whilst it remains unpaid – quite often, you’re left paying off only the fees, and your debt sits unresolved as this interest piles up.
If you’re in a situation like this, consider moving your debt to a 0% balance transfer credit card. This could cut hundreds – or even thousands – of pounds off the cost of existing borrowing, making it easier for you to rid yourself of debt itself. Once you’ve done this, you can then start saving.
Make Saving Routine
It’s easy to say you’re going to put some money into a savings account each month, but how many of us really stick to this financial pledge? Rather than just adding small amounts to your nest egg, commit to saving a set percentage of your income every month.
The amount that you can afford to save will depend on your individual circumstances – including how much you earn, any debts you may have, and your living arrangements. Don’t aim to save so much that you’ll leave yourself short for the month. Instead, figure out your monthly essential spends – such as your rent and bills – and put aside a percentage of the money which remains. Again, don’t put all of this away: budgeting isn’t an exact science, so it’s useful to keep some additional money handy in case you’ve miscalculated things!
Stay On Track
An unchecked bank account after a month of unmonitored spending can lead to a very dangerous financial situation. From phone bills to the odd coffee out, all spends add up quickly. But that paralysing cocktail of anxiety and dread as you peer at your bank balance can be easily avoided. How? Simply by staying on track.
This involves budgeting, which is useful because it helps you to stay on track of your money before you burn through it! Make a note of all incoming and outgoing cash – no matter how small the amount – so that you are aware of how much money you’ve got to work with each and every day of the month.
Plan For The Unexpected
Saving money is financially proactive but, unless you’re saving it simply to grow your nest egg, the likelihood is that you’ll spend the money once you reach your predetermined goal. Whilst doing so is acceptable (after all, if you’ve saved hard for a new TV, you want that new TV!), it’s important to understand that leaving money saved in the bank is both sensible and essential.
The reason for this is that finances, like many things in life, are unpredictable. Whether you get hit with un unexpected bill in the post or are suddenly made redundant, being left in a vulnerable financial situation can be exceptionally worrying. To help safeguard yourself against such scenarios, consider setting up an emergency fund.
This saved money will come in useful should you ever fall on hard financial times! You can still save for other things – just make sure to leave your emergency savings as a backup rather than spending them on your next luxury buy.
We humans have a knack for complicating the simplest of ideas. Our lives are filled with shortcuts that aren’t short, tips and tricks that trip us up, and helpful hints that are anything but. The same is true when it comes to frugality. Let’s scrap all the circular talk and bottom-line it. Here are the only six rules of frugal living you need to know.
1. Know Your Money
By whatever means necessary, become ridiculously well-acquainted with how much you earn, how much you spend, and where every dollar goes. It’s the foundation of frugal living. Without this baseline knowledge, successful budgeting and saving will always be out of reach.
2. Live Below Your Means
Living within your means is a great start, but living below your means is where the real magic happens. The surplus it generates is the capital for saving and investing and the fuel behind long-term wealth building. If you’re unable to run a surplus a majority of the time — either by cutting expenses or growing your income — you’ll never get ahead of the game.
3. Know the Difference Between Spending and Investing
Spending and investing might feel like the same thing, but they’re completely different animals.
Investing is the outlay of cash in exchange for a tangible asset (think job training, a primary residence, or shares in a mutual fund). Spending, on the other hand, is the outlay of cash for something that will likely depreciate in value and not provide any long-term benefit (think dinners out or a new summer wardrobe).
Being frugal doesn’t mean you always have choose investing over spending (after all, spending is part of living), but it does require that you understand the difference and know how to put your income to work a majority of the time.
4. Buy for Quality
Frugality isn’t about always buying the cheapest product; it’s about diligently seeking out the best value. Sometimes that means choosing quality over price. A pair of shoes that cost £20 might seem like a great deal, but they’re not if you have to replace them every three months. A £75 pair that will last two or three years will be a far better value in the long run.
5. Avoid Consumer Debt
Frugal folks know it: Interest on consumer debt is a tax people pay for living beyond their means. And while a credit card can save the day from time-to-time, embracing easy credit as a way to pad your lifestyle can have disastrous consequences. Interest and other charges will bleed your budget and choke your chances at real financial security.
6. Know the Difference Between a Want and a Need
As I write this, there are throngs of advertisers plotting new ways to help consumers confuse wants and needs. It’s big business. In reality, our needs are fairly straightforward (nourishing food, secure shelter, good healthcare, etc.).
But what about that self-cleaning, solar-powered, lavender-infused kitty litter box that you can control with your smartphone? What sort of primitive existence would you be reduced to without this life-changing gadget?
Let’s face it: Being able to distinguish what we want from what we need is a prerequisite for making wise buying decisions. If you can’t master this skill, your needs will be endless and your paycheck will never keep up.
Here’s the curious thing: Today, when we talk about the rules of frugal living, aren’t we really talking about basic financial literacy? It seems over the past couple of generations, common fiscal sense has been reframed as an extreme lifestyle. Maybe it’s time to change the conversation about saving and managing money — and make frugal living a far more fundamental skill.