This blog post forms part of my entry into the “Are you the UK’s Smartest shopper” competition sponsored by Savoo. Please do leave comments and feedback on this post, and share it with your friends using all the social media buttons at your disposal. If you decide to enter the competition yourself, please link your blog post on here with a comment at the bottom, and I will come and support you too.
I first met the Savoo guys last year. They wanted me to do a bit of marketing for them on Motivating Mum, and to bounce some ideas off me. In return, they signed me up as a Savoo Deal Pro,and took me off to New York, to the savings.com conference – a trip which really changed my life.
Let me just paint a picture of where I started from – my husband works in the City, and I was also an accountant before children. We were used to buying what we wanted – I wouldn’t say we were extravagant, but neither did we scrimp. When I gave up work it was a bit of an eye opener that our income reduced by half while the family members increased, but I made a few basic adjustments and we got by.
The reduction in City bonuses, coupled with the increase in expenses for children as they get older, start school and take up expensive hobbies, has slowly crept up on us. Our budget is being squeezed at both ends. Now suddenly, I am having to make some choices – should we take a family holiday this year? And just how many pairs of new shoes do I need?
My trip to the SaveUp conference was a real wake up call. We heard stories of women on the breadline, saving money to pay for life-saving surgery, or to repair a house damaged beyond habitation and not insured. We heard from business people whose business had failed taking them from £200,000 a year to the benefits queue. The common thread is that all of these people had been able to turn their lives around through adopting basic money saving techniques.
The realisation hit me like a thunderbolt. If these people with real hardships and family disaster were able to turn themselves around, then it was time that little spoiled me got off her prim backside and did something about our family finances. It struck me, I am the Mum – I am the centre of this family and the keeper of the purse-strings. I have to do what I can because if I don’t then who will?
I brought a whole load of ideas back from New York and developed some techniques specifically for the UK. I’ve been playing around for the last year, finding money saving methods that suit me.
What I have discovered, is that it is possible to make regular and substantial savings on things that I buy, whilst sacrificing very little in terms of quantity or quality of what we are eating, wearing or doing. I don’t spend huge amounts of time on it – at the end of the day I am running several small businesses and a home, so my free time is limited. But it is very gratifying to see how much I have changed my extravagant habits, and saved some considerable sums along the way.
I know there is more that I could do if I needed to or wanted to. I know that people get by on a lot less than we spend, and I’m well aware that some of the things I have maintained in our new cut-down lifestyle would be considered extravagances by others. But I am happy that we are living a lifestyle that still feels comfortable and happy, and I am not spending all of my life penny pinching.
I’m also really enjoying sharing what I do with others. I have blogged at length on this subject and I am finding that people want to read about it. We all love the extreme couponing show, it’s funny and a bit mad, but what people want to know is can I do a bit of couponing and save a bit of money, without getting obsessed, and without giving up all the little extras that make life special. My experience over the past year says –
“Yes you can, and I can show you how”
These are the top things that I have done over the past year that have contributed to my savings:
- I switched my utilities, mobile phone, broadband, car insurance, home insurance and pet insurance to cheaper deals. I found the deals using price comparison sites and services like Which to compare prices and value for money between the service providers.
- I now do my shopping across the main online retailers and do not stay loyal to any one. I keep tabs on the prices I pay for things that we like to eat and I follow the offers, stockpiling goods when they are at a special price.
- I make full use of loyalty cards, Nectar, Tesco Points, Boots advantage, and also a cashback card from Utilities Warehouse . I cut coupons whenI find them (I don’t obsess about this) and stack them together with Nectar points and the cashback card to produce great savings when I shop.
- I shop for Christmas and birthday gifts throughout the year, looking out for deals on Groupon etc. I have a list of all the family members I buy gifts for and I know what they like. Last year we also did some home made gifts which went down a storm.
- I don’t have the latest gadgets. I will get an iPhone 4 in the week that the iPhone 5 comes out. I’ve wanted one for ages but I am happy to wait for the price reduction, as my iPhone 3 is still working just fine.
But my biggest savings tip of all is just the most boring one. –
To Save Money, Don’t Go Shopping
I ‘shop’ a lot less now. I buy things I need and much fewer things I just fancied because they were there. Shops are designed to suck us in, but I’m just not doing it any more – like a smoker who needs to avoid bars, I am doing my best to just keep out of the shops.
Has this changed my life – yes definitely. OK my life was not so bad before, but now I have less guilt, less worry and can feel ten times better about myself. Plus we were able to afford to go on holiday for two weeks of unrestrained extravagance this year.
And that, in the end, is what it is all about.
By Debbie O’Connor