Last year was a tough, tough year for many, many people.
As for millions of others in the UK and around the world, 2020 was a time of financial reset for me and my family.
With a major chunk of my income disappearing almost overnight I had to find new ways of earning more, and new ways of spending less.
I have never been a big spender, but last year I really had to up my frugality game to a whole new level.
As discussed in my recent post by the end of last year we had pretty much rebalanced our books with more diversification of income and much less spending.
Every country will have its own economic circumstances and views on extravagance and frugality will vary accordingly.
My ways of saving are set in the context of middle class Britain and might seem weird, irrelevant or even ridiculous in other countries.
I am hoping that for everyone, everywhere there will be some elements of useful applicability.
Spreadsheets are vital in the financial management of my business, but I had never used them for our personal finances.
I haven't really bothered to closely monitor our family spending for a long time. In fact not since we were students when even buying a KitKat was a big deal.
Although I started watching expenditure more closely through last summer I got jolted into spreadsheet action by this video from Graham Stephan...
Now I am tracking and analysing all our expenditure very closely.
Once you see the breakdown of the numbers onscreen it makes a big difference.
With Amazon and a myriad of online shopping sites at our fingertips, it is all too easy to click the button and buy.
It doesn't quite seem like spending money when you are not handing over cash or swiping a card.
How often do you order something on impulse and then when it arrives it is not quite what you wanted, or doesn't work as well as you thought it would.
And how often is it too much hassle to send back...?
Think long and hard before pressing the Buy button. Maybe purposefully delay the purchase for a couple of days and then see if you still want it.
If you do buy, check out the return mechanism. Will they do courier collection or have you got to hike several miles to a collection point.
Think before you click!
If you've got Prime especially it is so, so easy just to search and buy on Amazon without comparing prices anywhere else.
While Amazon is super convenient it is often not the cheapest.
Search around to compare prices.
For many products on Amazon you might be able to buy directly from a producer's own website.
There are often special offers or newsletter signup discount codes available on the producer websites that will help you get a better deal.
Also the producer will keep more of the profit if you buy direct rather than Jeff Bezos taking a cut.
I didn't used to be much of a haggler - but now I am getting used to it.
And it is saving me a lot !
There are of course only certain things you can haggle on. You probably won't get too far with BT or Tesco (although there are ways with both).
But for some areas it is surprisingly easy - and profitable.
Car breakdown services are super easy. Never accept the renewal price that the AA and RAC give you. Check the best deals available online and then ring them and suggest you will be leaving if they can't match the best price.
It has worked very well for me every time - saving up to £100 on more than one occasion.
Buying heating oil (if you use it) is another easy one. Check out the price available on boilerjuice.com and then call up your local dealer. This tactic usually saves me £30 - £40 every time.
There's nothing as satisfying as a successful haggle !
For the past year we have done all our grocery shopping online.
We now have access in our area to Tesco, Asda and more recently Morrisons.
To get fresh produce we try to do an order every week. It can be tricky to get delivery slots currently but between the three of them we usually get one of them when needed.
However with our 'food frugality' that I will write about in Part 2 we do struggle often to reach the £40 minimum order.
We usually have to buy extra non-perishable supplies to reach the required amount. But this involves spending more than we really need to.
Luckily at present with the current shortages there will inevitably be quite a few items that you have ordered that won't be available on the day of delivery.
If you have ticked the 'Accept Substitutes' option the store will send alternatives.
For any items that you don't need desperately you can just hand back to driver and they will be knocked off your bill. Your £40 required spend is then reduced.
If you do accept the substitutes check your bill carefully. I have noticed Morrisons is now charging the (usually) higher substitute price rather than price matched original price as I believe Tesco and Asda do.
Once you have unpacked everything from your order check it all carefully.
Pay particular attention to the Use By dates on fresh products - have they still got the shelf life offered on the website? If not claim a refund.
Check the fruit and veg - especially the soft items. Are they still all in good condition? They often get battered in transit due to poor packing with tins etc. If they are not in the tip-top condition you would select in-store then claim a refund.
Are any tins badly dented, yoghurt pots split, cakes squashed? Any damage - get a refund.
Of course you should not go over the top and make false refund claims but as a general rule if the products are not in the best condition you would chose in-store then you are entitled to claim a refund.
Why should you accept anything less than perfect condition when you are paying full price?
These are the first five of my top ten saving ideas. I will be back with the other five shortly.
In the meantime I would love to hear your saving tips...
[ image from pixabay.com ]
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