Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Welcome to the Frugal Column, where I aim to inspire you to live your best life without breaking the bank. You can follow my blog Shoestring Cottage and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. This month I am looking at ways to save money now.
Many of our expenses are fixed. We have no choice but to pay our rent or mortgage, gas and electricity bills, council tax and car insurance. However, if you need to save money urgently, taking control of your discretionary and variable spending can be really effective.
If you can cut back on your expenditure, it will free up money to put towards your savings, to pay off debt, or simply to help you get by.
The first thing to attend to is your mind set. Become conscious about your spending and what you are buying. Ask yourself if you really need whatever purchase is tempting you and if it will matter tomorrow if you don’t buy it. It can also be helpful to track your spending so that you can see where your cash is going.
Think about the purchases you have made recently that have been pointless; for example, the gadget you fancied that is lurking in a cupboard gathering dust somewhere. Resolve to buy fewer pointless things and to have a fresh look at some of the items you currently consider essentials. Are they really?
Here are some suggestions for things you can stop buying to save money. Many of them will save just a few pounds, but when you are paring your spending back to essentials every penny counts and it all adds up.
I have never liked air fresheners. They make me cough and give me a headache. Rather than freshening the air, they pump out artificial fragrances to mask offensive smells. I would rather open a window or have a bowl of potpourri covered with a few drops of essential oil in the loo. Air fresheners are one of the things I happily don’t buy to save money.
Potential savings: £7*
Kitchen roll is one item I thought of as an essential until recently. I was getting through so much of the stuff with our puppy, that I cut an old towel into squares and used that to mop up spills instead. It worked so well, we carried on using cut up towels and haven’t bought any kitchen rolls since.
Potential savings: £3*
I stopped buying liquid hand soap to reduce the amount of plastic we brought home. Bar soap is much cheaper, lasts much longer and you can buy it wrapped in paper.
Potential savings: £1*
Cotton wool pads were another item I considered to be essential until I discovered that I could remove my make up with a soft flannel or some reusable bamboo pads.
Potential savings: Cotton wool £1.75*/Face wipes £1.90*
Fabric softener is not essential. In fact, I have read that it actually damages your fabrics. The same can be said about dryer sheets, which seem like a totally unnecessary product.
Potential savings, £5*
Sure, it is helpful to add some water to your steam iron, but does it need to be specific ironing water? Apparently not, and it can even damage your iron, according to this article by Which?. This is another of the things you can stop buying to save money.
Potential savings: £1*
Furniture spray is another product that makes me cough. Instead, I use a 50-50 dilution of white vinegar and water to clean most surfaces. The vinegar smell dissipates within a few minutes, so don’t worry about your home smelling like a chip shop.
Potential savings: £1.65*
These days, you can read your news for free online, which is a great saving when you need to cut your expenses. You may also find a wide range of magazines and journals can be accessed via an app through your local library service.
If you usually read one newspaper a day and one magazine a week, the savings can be significant.
Potential savings: Up to £16 a week
Unless you have a disability, buying pre-chopped fresh produce makes no sense financially. For example, I can buy 400g of ready cut carrot batons for £1, or a whole kilogram of loose carrots for just 40 pence.
Potential savings In this example, £2.10*
You can get a disposable wipe for every cleaning job these days, from polishing your furniture, to washing the floors, to cleaning the loo. As a free alternative, why not make reusable rags yourself from old towels and T-shirts? As a bonus, this is a much more eco-friendly way to do your cleaning.
Potential savings: £1.80*
Wouldn’t it be lovely to win a million, or even £10 million? However, if you ever studied probability during those far off maths lessons, you will know that your chances of winning the Euromilions jackpot are very, very small! In fact, according to Wikipedia, they are 139,838,160 to one. I would rather put £10 in my savings each month than buy a weekly ticket.
Potential savings: £2.50 per line
For a while when my children were small and had birthday parties, I embraced the idea of giving party bags full of silly plastic toys, sweets and pointless novelties to the guests as the left. I soon noticed that when my own daughters returned from parties with similar bags, most of it ended up in the bin in record time.
Buck the trend and give your party guests a piece of cake and a bar of chocolate to take away. Party bag novelties are expensive and bad for the environment.
At the Original Party Bag Company, you can get bouncy balls for £1 each, a tub of bubbles for £1 and a plastic toy for £1.50. Add in an assortment of sweets for £2 and that’s £5.50 per guest!
Potential savings: £55 for ten guests
Once you start questioning all of your purchasing decisions, you will find there are even more things you can stop buying to save money! What have you decided are unnecessary purchases?
*Prices from the Sainsbury’s website.
AmbiPur plug in freshener, £7; 2 rolls of Sainsbury’s Ultra Absorbent Kitchen Towels, £3; (250ml Carex hand soap, £1 (you can buy two 100g bars of Imperial Leather soap for £1, which will last twice as long); 100 Sainsbury’s cotton wool pads, £1.75; Nivea biodegradable face wipes x 25, £1.90;1.1.6L Comfort Fabric Conditioner, £2.50; 34 Lenor tumble dryer sheets, £2.50; Sainsbury’s ironing water 1L, £1; Mr Sheen furniture spray, 250ml, £1.65; Woman’s Weekly, £2.25; Daily Mail, 65p; Daily Telegraph, £2.80; 1kg loose carrots, £1.40; 400g carrot batons, £1; Flash cleaning wipes x 40, £1.80; Euromillions, £2.50 per line;