I used to be great at saving. Every month I’d put 10% of any income into a savings account to use for emergencies like the car breaking down or needing a new washing machine. The last year or 2 haven’t been the easiest though. The emergency fund has gone and every penny is needed to live off.
So how do you save when you’ve nothing to spare?
Well the first thing I’d suggest is looking at where your money actually goes. Keep a spending journal, even just for a week, and see where you could make cutbacks. The common example you see in articles about saving is to stop buying that Starbucks coffee on the way to work but it’s been a while since I could spend £3+ on a cup of coffee without having a panic attack!
I do like to treat myself to a take away once a month, usually Chinese if given the choice. This (when there are usually 3 of us eating) is rarely less than £30. So I had to find an alternative that we all liked and would fool me into thinking I’d had my treat! I came up with a really simple recipe I call ‘Sticky Chicken’ and now we can have an enjoyable meal that takes minutes to prepare and costs less than £10 (so still a treat on the scale of cheap eats!).
I would also buy a bag of sweets or a bar of chocolate to have while watching the TV most nights. I actually added up how much I spent in a month and could have cried when I saw it was almost £50! Now I try to cut down on the sweets but when I absolutely crave something bad for me, I make a batch of fudge or honeycomb. Both are so sickly that I can’t eat much and my sweet tooth goes away again. Both my pocket and my waistline are grateful!
But you have to buy some stuff, right? There are things I won’t buy second hand – kids shoes & underwear spring to mind – but most other stuff I would rather buy quality used than buy cheap and buy twice. I’ve also got quite adept at repairing things instead of throwing them away, although some things are beyond my capabilities… like the lawn mower last summer. When it broke I was penniless and was considering the awful thought of having to do it all with shears. Then I saw my neighbour pulling hers out of the shed so I offered to cut her grass if she lent me her mower to do mine. She thought it was a great idea and it saved me a fortune! The arrangement lasted all summer and I’m hoping will carry on this year.
Have a look at where you spend money without thinking about it. Can it be cut out completely (like reading a newspaper online instead of buying one) or cut back, like I have with the Chinese? When you are really tempted to splurge then think about your dream – I have a photo of a tiny caravan in my purse so I see it when I go to pay. Believe it or not it has made me put something back more than once!
Once you have done the above exercise you might be surprised to see your money go just a little further and ‘just a little’ can be enough to take some pressure off.
But is this actually ‘saving’?
The short answer is no; cutting back is not the same as saving. Like the ex-smoker who vows to put £10 in the jar for every pack they would have bought, the money gets eaten up elsewhere and you see little financial benefit! So how get some pennies in the pot?
I started by doing exactly that. I put pennies in a pot (actually a big glass bottle and I counted 2p’s and 5p’s the same) It might only be £100 a year but you don’t notice it going and it’s £100 closer to your dream becoming a reality. I also stopped spending £2 coins. I don’t use a lot of cash so don’t get that many passing through but, when I’m given one, I try to keep it in another savings pot. Again it’s usually such a small amount and happens so infrequently that you don’t really notice it going but it will add up over the year.
So I’ve decided to dedicate any money actually saved by these methods towards my fund. The pennies will be counted up at the end of a year but the £2’s will be raided if I need them to progress with the project – like buying bargain supplies etc.
Let me know in the comments if you have any great money saving tips that I can use or if you’ve found any of my methods useful 🙂