One of my New Year's Resolutions was to get a better handle on my finances. I'm trying to be more savvy with my spending and I'm hopefully making small changes that will make a difference to my bank balance!
My work colleagues have been great at giving me some tips. First up was to sign up for Money Saving Expert emails (and then actually take the time to read them).
I also had accounts with Virgin, BT, Sky & Orange for internet, landline, TV and mobile... silly when you think about it! I've ditched the Sky TV and invested in a Freeview box instead. I managed to get a little one that you plug into the scart at the back of the TV and so there is no ugly box on view. I also cancelled Virgin and now have internet & landline with BT. Makes sense I think (and hopefully saving some pennies!).
A big spend each week is food. On the advice of a colleague I've tried Money Saving Expert's Downshift Challenge. Items in the supermarket fit into four levels - premium (finest, extra special); branded (e.g. Kelloggs, McVities); own brand; and value (basic, savers). The theory is that you drop one brand level on everything then see if you can tell the difference of not. If not, stick with the cheaper one.
There are certain things that I'm not willing to compromise on, such as cold meat, meat & fish, bin bags (I hate the cheap ones that rip easily), baby wipes (Huggies all the way - the others I've tried are rubbish in comparison), washing powder (it's Persil non-bio for us!), Heinz low-salt baked beans, free range eggs, Tetley Extra Strong tea and extra virgin olive oil.
However, for the majority of the usual items I've gone down a brand level and am happy enough. I'm no longer buying 'Taste the Difference' bread, and instead am buying branded bread (I really should just make my own artisan bread!!); I'm buying own brand milk, yoghurts, raisins, crisps, breadsticks, smoothies etc for the kids snacks (I do still buy Mini Cheddars - not spotted an alternative yet but I'm maybe not looking hard enough); I now buy own brand nappies instead of Pampers; and even Onion the cat has been down-graded from specialist cat food to Whiskas.
Another thing I'm trying to do is shop online rather than in store. I always get distracted by the clothes, toiletries, DVDs, magazines and other things that aren't necessary. If I shop online then I'm likely to just buy what I actually need. I've also had a look at mysupermarket for the first time... to be investigated!!
Which is where meal planning comes in. I now do weekly meal planning hosted over at Mrs M 's blog. This means that I know in advance what I'm eating for dinner eat night and I avoid wasting food. It's made a big difference.
One final thing that I've just started doing is running to and from work. I'm not going to do this every day, but I used to spend £7 per day on parking and on top of that I'd have the expense of diesel too. By running I'm getting exercise & fresh air which is great for my soul and I'm saving money at the same time! Ideal!!
What are your money saving tips? I'd love to hear from you :-)