In last week's post, I looked at frugal living versus value living, something that can apply during the journey to financial freedom and also if you have already retired early. I choose to focus on value because it feels like a more upbeat approach to a fun early retirement. To me, the word "frugal" just sounds a bit sad although, having said that, the frugal bloggers I follow seem to be pretty happy.
But whether we look at it as getting good value or being frugal, we all like a bargain. And that extra bit of money saved can then be spent on something else to enjoy. That's got to be a good thing.
Today, I am taking my son, Sam, for his first day at college. That's a big deal for Sam of course, but also for Sally and me as, from now on, we will be empty nesters, with both children having left home. That's going to take some adjustment for all of us. One thing that Sam is going to face for the first time is budgeting. He's getting a living allowance, with which he will have to pay for his groceries, travel, clothes, books, social life etc, and make sure that it doesn't run out before the next "payday" comes around. He's not bad with money, but living away from home is a whole new ball game for him.
I've therefore spent some time thinking about Sam's budgeting, and tried to pass on some advice to him. Hopefully he has listened at least to some of what I've told him. No doubt he'll get some things right and some things wrong, but as long as it's not too far wrong it will all be a useful learning process. I'm sure that budgeting at college feels pretty tough, but we know that it mostly gets more difficult later on, so every lesson learned is a good one.
Thinking of Sam's upcoming budgeting experience made me think of how we are with our money. We are at a completely different stage of life to Sam, but we still want to get the most from the money that we have. Not in any particular order, but here are some of the things that I do to try to eek out a bit more value for money/save a bit of cash.
Booking a hotel, get breakfast included
When booking a hotel, get one that includes breakfast in the room rate. It's generally much less than buying the room and the breakfast separately. When I go to Booking.com or Expedia, I choose how much I want to pay, then click the breakfast included filter and select from there.
Use a shopping list at the supermarket
Figuring out what you need for your weekly shop, making a list, and sticking to it helps in two ways. It stops you buying things that you don't need, didn't really want, or aren't good for you - there's a reason they put the chocolates by the checkout! And it also stops you buying too much and finding you throw out rotten food at the end of the week.
Record your spending
My daughter has recently finished college and started her first job, so she's used to operating on a budget. She showed me how she records her spending and colour codes it. Necessary spending is highlighted in green, and unnecessary or luxury spending in red. Very simple, but a really visual way to help her see what she spent, and whether she wants to change her spending habits going forward.
Don't shop because you're bored
Another one from my daughter, Rebecca. When she was showing me her colour coded payments, she said a number of the red, unnecessary costs, were made because she was bored, so went shopping, and bought things that she didn't need.
Put things on your gift list
It seems that whenever I ask someone if there is something they would like for a birthday or Christmas present they tell me that they can't think of anything. But I bet in the previous weeks a number of them bought things for themselves. If you have a birthday or other gifting celebration coming up, hold the purchases and put them on your gift idea list. Your friends and relatives will thank you.
Choose which shops to go to
This is so simple. We have two good supermarkets close to us, and one is 20% cheaper than the other. Guess which one I shop at! But I'm not going to tell you which one Sally shops at😭
Collect points and use vouchers
We get points each time we use our credit card, and double points in certain stores. We've used these to buy a TV, laptop, mobile phones and more. It feels great to get something for nothing. We also look out for two for one vouchers on some voucher apps that we have.
Check your bills
Look at your bills and see if there are better deals out there for your mortgage, utility bills, TV/phone/broadband packages etc. Use comparison sites to quickly check whether you could be paying less. You may not even need to switch provider, just the threat of changing will often cause them to reduce your bill. Don't trust these providers to look after your best interests, because they won't! Watch them closely, and you can make some big savings.
Pause before you buy
There are two parts to this. Number one is to try and avoid impulse buys. There is no problem with buying something that you want, but a pause before you splash the cash gives you the chance to decide whether you really want it. The second part is a pause to consider if you are getting the best price. My son just got a new laptop ready for college, we saw it in the shop but took a brief timeout to check online and ended up getting it quite a bit cheaper from Amazon.
Buy only what you need
I had an example of this last week when I renewed my car insurance. I got a couple of quotes that were quite similar, but when I told the broker that it seemed to be a lot of money he gave me some other options that were 50% of the price. Now I didn't get the exact same product, but by excluding the items that I didn't need, or was happy to take the risk on myself, I made a big saving.
Airline ticket savings
Look at alternative dates, and routes with stopovers, to get some serious savings. Now that I've retired early, I can spend a little extra time at the airport if it's going to keep a pile of cash in my pocket.
Don't waste food
There are too many people in this world going hungry to waste food, so this should be common sense as much as a money saving issue. But having said that, I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to throwing things out that have gone past the sell by date or simply cooking more than we can eat. This is particularly difficult when the kids leave home. Too often we still cook for four even though we are now only two, meaning that we either eat too much (not a good thing!) or run the risk of throwing food away. We're trying hard to cook the right amount, or make a second meal with the leftovers.
Could I have a discount?
Well, maybe I'm not too serious on this one, as it isn't too common. But the other day, I was in our new local coffee shop and asked whether they had a loyalty card. They didn't, but did say that we get a 15% discount for being a local resident. Where I do ask for a discount is when we have work done on our rental properties, and quite often we get some reduction from the original quote.
So they are some of my money saving ideas. Most of them are not about going without, but more about getting the same thing for a better price. That's surely just common sense, giving us extra money to spend on other things to enjoy in our early retirement.
Post a comment below if you have any ideas that you want to share.