Monday, 20 June 2011

My Money Saving Tips and Tricks

After reading Siobhan's excellent post on how she's been saving money in the run up to buying her first home, I was inspired to jot down my own money savings tips. At the moment I'm not saving for anything in particular, but as a part-time worker/ part-time student living in pricey London, my budget is always pretty tight. Here's my tips for saving a few extra pennies.

* Bake your own sweet treats. I’ll admit, you can buy cakes and biscuits dirt cheap these days. But if, like me, you’re sometimes alarmed by the worryingly long list of unrecognizable ingredients on the packet (Sorbitol, Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids, Dicalcium Phosphate, anyone?), why not make your own treats you can trust? It needn’t be expensive either – a simple, filling raisin flapjack recipe will cost you about £1.80 for around 10 pieces, or 18p a flapjack. Not bad, huh? And only 5 ingredients (that you don’t need the internet to identify).

* Grow your own herbs from seed. Or buy a ready-grown plant, repot into a bigger pot and give it some feed and love, and it should keep on growing happily. Beats uber pricey fresh cut herbs supermarket herbs, and brightens up the kitchen to boot.

* Make gardening cheaper. Gardening can be an expensive habit, especially in your first year of growing stuff. You can save money a few ways:
1. Make your own compost. Start a compost heap, or get a wormery. Local councils will often give residents a sizeable discount on the RRP, so it’s worth investigating. Last year I got my £55 wormery for £5 through Tower Hamlets council. Why not check out what’s on offer in your area?
2. Make your own bio-degradable seed pots out of newspaper. 
3. Save your own seed, or attend a seed-swap.
4. Grow chilli plants. These are easily the most useful thing I’ve grown this year. Before, I often ended up forgetting about that un-finished packet of fresh chillis until they’d started to mould! Now, when I want a chilli, I just pick one straight off the plant. I’ve found cayenne particularly fruitful to grow. They aren’t tricky at all – just give them some sunshine, water and a decent sized pot and they’ll be happy. Note: when indoors, I had to pollinate my chilli flowers with a finger as no fruits were growing - worth remembering!

* Take your own lunch to work. If you’re trying to save money, you’re probably already doing this, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. And while I like sandwiches as much as the next girl, there are so many other packed-lunch ideas to try too: cous cous, hearty salads, pasta dishes, dahl, potato salad, leftover curries, tagines and rice dishes, hummous with crudités and pitta bread, topped oatcakes. Take a look at the recipes page for a bit of inspiration. Also, for a healthy snack, why not buy a big bag of raw nuts, and a big bag of dried fruit, mix them together, and pack a little Tupperware tub each day. Saves a ton on the little packets you find in shops for £1 upwards.

* Get a re-usable water bottle, or just keep a disposable one next time you buy one, and re-fill it. Bottled water is a con in my book, and I feel like a mug every time I’ve forgotten my bottle and need to buy one. Don’t forget to throw in with your washing up at the end of the day.

* Take advantage of loyalty cards. Unless you’re paranoid about supermarkets knowing what’s in your basket. Although the targeted vouchers freak me out sometimes (wine, check, cheese, check), those points can add up. For me, I’ve found my Tesco card and Boots card actually give me some kind of return, even if it’s only a couple of quid every few months. Superdrug has just bought out a similar scheme too, and the card has a MIRROR on it. Fancy.

* Save money on travel. Cycle if you want, or if you’re too chicken (like me) why not try walking? It takes me about an hour and a quarter to walk home from work, which I try to do four times a week when it’s not raining. This might sound like a lot, but when the sun is shining and you’re listening to music or chatting on the phone, it really does fly by. There’s also something a bit meditative about walking for a chunk of time (perhaps cyclists get this too?) that I find really refreshing. Plus, free workout! If you need to get public transport, look for any discounts that might be available to you. In London, if you have a 16-25 Rail Card, you can ‘link’ it to your Oyster card and get 1/3 off all your off-peak over/underground journeys, which is pretty neat (zone 1-2 journey becomes £1.25 instead of £1.80). Look out for deals in other cities too – I know in Nottingham for example you can get bus and tram passes that give you quite a saving on the usual pay-as-you-go fare.

* Join your local library. Libraries are a great free resource, and often under-appreciated. I’ve just joined at Hackney Central Library and was surprised by its size. I read too many books to buy them all, even second-hand, so this is a perfect way of supplementing my reading addiction. You could also join this national book swap

* Go veggie, even just some of the time. Vegetarians and vegans reading this will probably already know that cutting out meat can save a wad of money from your food shop. If you love meat, why not just reduce your meat intake a bit (like Meat-free Mondays), and use what you do buy more economically (for example, buy a whole chicken and use it in several meals, rather than buying overpriced chicken breasts).

* Have a go at making your own beauty products. I tried an D.I.Y hot cloth facial recently and was very impressed. I've heard sugar and lemon juice makes a great home-made body scrub, and oats and water make a great exfoliating face mask.

* Save money on your electricity and gas bills. Good for your wallet and for the environment too. A couple of good tips:

1. Just boil as much water as you need, and if you’re stood by the kettle, flick it off as soon as you see it has boiled – the kettle will keep going for several seconds after this point, costing you money.
2. Put lids on saucepans when cooking – you can use a lower heat, and things cook more quickly.
3. When using the oven, don’t heat it up then leave the door open for ages when you place food into it – you can let 50% of the heat out this way! Ditto for fridges and freezers, but with cold.
4. Wash clothes at 30 degrees. Buy a detergent that works well at a lower heat - it saves energy and your clothes will thank you for it.
5. In winter, put up thicker curtains or line the ones you’ve got, to stop warmth escaping. Likewise put up door curtains and cover drafty post slots.
6. Also in winter, where radiators are on external walls, line the wall behind the radiator with kitchen foil with shiny side facing you. This will reflect heat back into the room that is normal lost through the wall.

Got any other tips for saving a bit of cash? I’d love to hear them.


  1. Great tips there. I'm completely with you on the water thing although I would say be careful about reusing a mineral water bottle too often as the plastic begins to leach nasty stuff after a while. Much better to invest in a water bottle. I've also just started growing veg so I like the idea of a seed swap!

  2. This is such a great list! Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. Great list Jess. I just got a superdrug card too. Can't believe it took them that long to get one!! x

  4. Give up dry cleaning as much as possible. Saves a fortune. The only thing I've found that you can't wash really confidently without fear of shrinkage is viscose or viscose mixes; and items like tailored jackets and coats. But I wash all woolen goods, including pleated skirts, mostly on the wool cycle and also by hand. As long as you do it gently and on a low temperature, its fine.


Thanks for your thoughts. I really enjoy reading them and will always pop over to your own space on the web for a visit :)

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