Extreme money-saving is almost a sport (and potentially a friendless one at that!) but here are some of my personal #tightass hacks – how many do you share?
Let’s get one thing straight – NOBODY likes a tightass. Quietly skulking out of the pub before your round, slipping to the “toilet” when the restaurant bill arrives or even asking your friends to pay to attend your wedding…these are the actions of a world-class dickhead, to put no finer point on it.
I’m *not* wildly keen on extreme money-saving because scrimping and cutting back will only get you so far. If you’re not on top of savings, investments and the other ‘biggies’ of personal finance, all that effort will ultimately be in vain.
Extreme money-saving is essentially dolls house finance. It’s a neat hobby and – to be fair – one that causes little harm. And like dolls houses, extreme money-saving hacks are very far removed from the real world.
And the people you love won’t thank you for it. The bargain loo paper that really ought to belong in the DIY section, because you feel like you’re sanding your behind every time you go, will not win you the award for Housemate of the Year.
But “every little helps”, I hear you cry. Up to a point. And that point is when the effort and time you put into extreme money-saving far outweighs any financial gain. Spending all afternoon traipsing around the shops or trawling online to save £10 is frankly bonkers.
That’s why the Young Money blog has never been into SEO-friendly, mass market guides on extreme money-saving. Chances are you’ve heard it all before, the people telling you barely follow the golden rules themselves – financial journalists are NOTORIOUS for failing to practice what they preach – and you’ll get into the groove for all of two days before you conk out, exhausted from the pointless exertion.
So I’m going to save you some time, but maybe also some money, by sharing some of the *honest* micro-strategies I use in my daily life. I’m doing this in honour of Chris Budd and my friends over at the Financial Wellbeing Podcast, a brilliant show I appeared on a few years back and run by REAL financial experts (Chris is a very respected financial adviser).
To celebrate their 50th podcast episode, they have been asking previous guests for their best tightass tips. I share my full list with you, reader, in exchange for two assurances – 1) you won’t laugh at me (too much) and b) you don’t take the below tips as universally applicable. Some might strike you as helpful, others may seem totally crazy. Either way, I share them in the hope they’re helpful, thought-provoking and assure you that I am not some money-saving machine but just trying to find the right balance between resourceful and relaxed. Like we all are!
1. I AM THE TUBE DESTROYER
This is me, approaching my make-up bag
I cut up tubes to get the very last bit of toothpaste/cream/gel out. I have a miraculous but ridiculously expensive concealer – around the £20 mark – that runs out far too quickly for my liking. So I get a hacksaw (!) to cut the otherwise impenetrable plastic case and get the last bits out, which is enough for four or five more applications. TAKE THAT, NARS!
2. One in, one out
I commit to using whatever I have bought – even if it’s a bit shit – so I minimise the amount I buy and force myself to think much more carefully about purchases in future. Don’t get me wrong – if it causes an allergic reaction or makes me ill, I chuck it (I’m not a masochist) but I find that being a bit more minimalistic in my spending mindset causes less clutter, all ways round, and gives my bank account a breather.
3. Card up!
This isn’t my handbag. Wish it was tho.
I have acquired quite an impressive collection of loyalty cards – 9 or 10, by my reckoning – and am trying to take advantage of them wherever I can. There was a time when I would hit up Boots and spend silly money without an advantage card. What. Was. I. Thinking. Well, that’s in the past baby. I’m even getting my free cup of coffee and newspaper from my local mini Waitrose…when I can remember. I have also presented my brother and dad with copies of my card (when available) so they can amp up my points.
4. I shop in the wardrobe at my Mum’s house
If it’s good enough for this dapper gent, it’s good enough for me
Tinie Tempah was kind enough to tell us in his song “Pass Out” that he keeps some of his clothes at his aunt’s house. Mate, join the club. I actually keep most of my wardrobe at my parent’s house in Edinburgh. I have a pretty small flat in London so it saves me money on storage. When I go back to visit my folks, I bring back and take some new gear with me. I’m fortunate enough to have stayed the same size over the past fifteen years (don’t hate me, I’m sure my metabolism will start letting me down at some point!) So I have spent a minimal amount on new clothes over the past decade (though my nearest and dearest might disagree with my definition of “minimal”). I try to shop in the wardrobe too and look for inspo on Pinterest etc to see if I can breath new life into older clothes. What has really struck me is how circular fashion is – nearly all the things I have bought that have passed out of “fashion” have come back. But I have also refined my tastes so that I’m no longer buying neon green snakeskin trousers (actually, what am I talking about, I never did that in the first place).
Another thing that has changed is my overall attitude towards fast fashion. I used to be Primark and Topshop fodder but now, I try to “invest” in new clothing I buy. That doesn’t always mean more expensive (though sometimes that might be the case – e.g. I won’t buy non-wool jumpers now just because they’re cheaper). Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, but I also strongly believe fashion (as the second biggest polluter on the planet) needs to be forced to be more responsible and sustainable. If we all bought less and better, and wore it for longer, we could make a big difference. Lecture over.
5. Ready steady cook (old school telly reference alert!)
Ah, the nostalgia
I often look at what’s already in my kitchen and go “hmmm, what can I make today?” I won’t lie, this has occasionally resulted in some seriously freaky dishes that my poor brother has had to endure (sorry Matt) but on the whole, I have surprised myself at what’s possible. Okay, so you need a decent store cupboard to make this work – one mouldy onion and some sad looking baked beans does not a meal make. But if you stock up (economically) on basics like beans, rice, pasta, seeds, oats, dried fruit, herbs and spices, you’re halfway to making a decent meal from very little.
I also have become a big fan of tinned fish and veggies, though I try not to have these all the time because I’m aware fresh fish and vegetables are better for me. But taking a resourceful approach to cooking is a massive, meaningful way you can save in the long-term. That way, you can streamline the number of fresh ingredients you have to buy. For any leftovers or food nearing its use-by-date (NOT its best-by-date!), I am trying to force myself to freeze, freeze, freeze.
6. The Iona-patented “savings tax”
The Bostonians paying the exciseman, by Philip Dawe…you don’t have to go this far with yourself, don’t worry!
Every time I earn money, I instantly put some of it into my savings – even if it’s only £20. This technique works for almost everyone but it’s particularly good if you’re a freelancer like moi who doesn’t always know where the next payday will occur and needs to build up a buffer. Think of it as a necessary tax you have to pay – almost imagine a version of yourself as a stern tax inspector wagging the finger at you. It takes the choice and thinking out of it. Although now I have written down that weird role play, I wish I hadn’t.
I can honestly say that charging myself savings tax has helped me build up five figure savings over the years and allowed me to start investing, even when I was earning a comparatively low figure. It was tough in the beginning but if you push through the pain barrier, it will end up a completely mindless habit. And for once, that’s a good thing!
7. I am a serial current account flirt
I’ve been with HSBC. I got serious for a while with the Co-op. Now I’m going steady with TSB, but I’m not sure it will last.
When it comes to my current account, I am proud to say I am non-committal. I am always looking around to see if I can do better. People who have this mindset used to be described in the financial media as “rate tarts” but that don’t look so PC in 2019, so I’ll just say that I’m always keeping my options open. It has become totally imperative now that savings rates have hit the floor and I reckon I’ve earned way more from welcome cash bungs (£150 here, £100 there) than I would have done by switching my savings. It’s less of a faff than it used to be (though the process could still be easier) and I was gobsmacked at how quickly I could open a secondary account with Starling last year – yes, I’ve gone polyamorous! When it comes to current accounts, lifelong monogamy is overrated. Hopefully challenger banks will do more to give the high street names a kick up the backside and offer more enticing rewards to switch in years to come. I can’t wait 😍