First of all, apologies for the prolonged absence. Long, boring, story made short? Connection issues. Sorted now. Good to be back.
Anyway… I’m skint. Chances are, so are you. It’s a recession, and while the economics spods may tell you it’s over because that nebulous and barely understood thing called The Economy grew by a quarter of a percentage point, times are going to be pretty tight for those of us not suckling from the teat of the banking industry for some time yet. With that in mind I’m compiling a list of real world money-saving tips for those on the kind of budgets where switching energy suppliers isn’t really a practical option. The kind of people who can’t do that because the pre-payment scheme you’re on is always slightly in arrears and you won’t be able to pay the £50 or £60 shortfall from the last bill when the switch takes place. We’re a surprisingly large demographic, we’re just not that vocal because admitting to being poor, not cutting back on M&S ready prepared crab on the half shell poor, but actual honest to goodness poor, is something of a social stigma these days. I’m posting about not wasting money, so I’d best stop doing the same with words. Here’s the list.
1. Stop buying fancy toilet paper. I can’t emphasise this one enough. Without being too specific, we all know what it’s being used for. Why is that everyday necessity worth £2.38 per pack of four? Is your bottom really so sensitive and easily offended that it needs pampering with herb infused paper? Chances are, the answer is no. Own brand stuff is more than good enough for purpose. Your arse isn’t starring in a L’Oreal commercial, so therefore isn’t worth it.
2. Baked beans really are all the same. Shush! Yes they are. I know it and deep down, you know it too. Beanz does not meanz Heinz. It means cheap filler so you can put a bit less of that costly meat product onto the plate. Own brand alternatives are often literally half the price of the leading brands. Would you pay £600 pounds for something that’s identical to an item costing only £300? Then why do it with something costing £0.60 over something costing £0.30? Small savings mount up quickly, especially on items that get purchased a couple of times a week.
3. A biscuit is a biscuit. Accept the fact that a branded custard cream costing £1.10 a pack, tastes much the same as a saver branded custard cream costing £0.45-55 a pack, depending on where you shop. What’s more, putting all your biscuits into a barrel will prevent choosy friends or judgemental in-laws from turning their nose up at the sight of the unattractive packaging. Without the packaging to tell people which one is the fancier, a branded Bourbon biscuit tastes no different from a cheap one.
4. The television is not your friend. I know, it comforts you in times of stress. It gives you the latest instalments of your favourite shows. What it doesn’t do is tell you anything useful about living your life. Adverts are shiny things, intended to trick the weak willed into buying things they can’t afford and telly chefs have no concept of a low income life. Feeding a family of four for a fiver is not economically sound when your entire weekly shopping budget is £20. The next time a telly chef tries to make you feel like a bad parent for feeding your child a Turkey Twizzler, hunt them down and poke them with a sharp stick. Really hard. In their posh, mockney genitals. If you’re genuinely worried about the damage a chicken nugget is doing to your 5 year old’s arteries, then 1. Get a grip. They’re 5 years old! Children of that age are not in a high risk group for cholesterol problems, and 2. Put them in the garden with a football, a bit of running around will soon burn off those calories.
5. Get re-acquainted with your DVD collection. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that the big supermarket chains are selling the latest blockbuster for £8.99. I want a copy of it too. But you know what? You’ve got some really excellent films on that shelf already and you haven’t watched some of them in years. Don’t pretend you haven’t already got good films, you wouldn’t have bought them if they weren’t good films, would you? You know your taste is impeccable, since you only buy the good stuff that you enjoy. Enjoy it again. English Literature snobs will tell you that you need to read the classics three times to absorb all of their meaning and nuances. Exactly the same thing applies to Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo.
6. Learn to cook properly. I’m not kidding. Not that fancy gubbins you’ll see on telly with chicken breast fillets wrapped in prosciutto, that’s no use to people in our situation, is it? I’m on about real cooking, not showing off for dinner party guests. Soups, stews, casseroles. You know, the kind of thing that gets prepared for not much money and, most importantly, lasts for more than one sitting. Everyone likes to brag about how Bohemian they are, by eating last night’s take-away leftovers for breakfast. Stop buying take-aways and cook something that lasts for several days, in large enough bulk to spread over several days. Which leads into…
7. Frozen meats and vegetables are OK. No really, they are. Put aside your silly notions and snobbery. It really is OK to use them, especially in soups, stews and casseroles. You already knew you could save a bundle by buying frozen chicken portions for about £3 for a bag containing 10 of the things, rather than the fresh ones for £2.50 for four. I’m just letting you know it’s OK to do it. When meat is cooked slowly, even the cheapest cuts are delicious.
8. Bland cereals should not cost as much as ones with honey or sugar on them. Accept that fact, deal with it and move on. If you’re paying more than two quid for individually bagged portions of porridge in batches of ten, rather than 80 pence or so for a 2.5kg bag of porridge oats that will provide your breakfast everyday for a month, you may be beyond help. The same thing applies to the eaters of muesli and corn flakes. There’s no good reason for paying a lot of money for those items.
9. Learn to shop properly. What’s that you say? You already know how to shop? It’s just a case of putting things into a basket or trolley and handing over money? HA! That kind of thinking is what put you in a situation to be reading this list and me in a situation where I need to remind myself of it by writing it all down. Certain shops sell things at massive discounts. Those discount shops where everything miraculously costs a pound often have stock of decent quality teabags, coffee or toilet rolls for a pound. That’s right, a pound. Instead of buying everything from one place because it’s convenient to do so, shop around a bit. If like me, you’re needing to implement the advice on this list, then convenience is a luxury, not a necessity. Shopping around for bargains is a good habit to form and one which will end up saving you a lot of money over time.
10. Stop buying crap you don’t need. I’m not saying don’t buy anything that isn’t essential to your everyday survival. A life without pleasure is a life barely worth living. I mean stop buying the stuff that isn’t essential to a basic but acceptable standard of living. Most people like cake, but why does it have to be the brand named lemon slices? Buy an own brand sponge cake instead. Do you honestly need that football, T.V. listings or gossip magazine? You obviously have web access, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Go to a sports or showbiz gossip site instead. Lord knows, there are plenty of them. Think before you spend, is what I’m saying. You’d be amazed how much stuff you can cut out of your weekly spend without really missing it.
Implementing the tips above can save you at least a tenner a week, easily. There are those who think that saving a tenner is neither here nor there, but that’s not the audience I’m aiming this article at. I’m aiming at the people for whom a tenner is the difference between sink and swim. There’s more of us than you think and if you aren’t one of us, you probably know someone who is, but is embarrassed to admit it publicly.