Last year I quit my well paid job and started my own business. This meant that my family and I went from being well off and having all the securities full time employment offers, to having very little money. I was, and am still, very happy with the change in career and I have the support of my family - we feel that even if we will have very little for a while, with this new business I have a chance to create something that will provide even more security than working for someone else gave us.
But shopping on a budget was something I really had to learn. I had never done it before. I Googled, I asked around, I made mistakes, I paid too much and then I learned from my mistakes. After 4 or 5 months I felt I had the budget shopping down to a fine art... I even shared this newfound "art" of shopping on a budget on www.MummyMoneySaver.co.uk. Here are my Top 10 Money Saving Tips:
1. Shop online and don't give in to temptation.
The main reasons why shopping for your weekly groceries online, is the number one piece of advice for money savers, is that 1. You make sure you buy the products you need at the cheapest price because you have the option to compare all that's on offer easily on your screen, and 2. You are able to check your basket value, and adjust according to your budget, before you confirm your purchase.
When you have to make your money stretch, the way to do it, while also making sure your family gets everything they need, is to buy the things you need at the lowest possible price. And the only way to do that, is to do price comparisons, and then shop where the items you need, are cheapest.
Also, in this country, no supermarkets offer the lowest prices on the largest amount of products than Tesco and Asda. Whatever the adverts you see on TV say about any other supermarkets, nowhere will you find the food you, your family and your pets eat, and the household items you use, cheaper than in Tesco or Asda. So that's where you should do your weekly shop.
2. Buy the supermarket's own value brand products.
The supermarkets own brand everyday items are the best value for money out there! Tesco's "Everyday Value" and Asda's "Asda Smart Price" is around 500 everyday products at extremely low prices and, for the most part, of a good quality.
If you have a little time, do a comparison online on their websites and see your basket total if you substitute the items you normally buy, with the value items. You will be amazed! You can cut your total down as much as 50-70%.
I shop with Tesco and we buy mainly Tesco's "Everyday Value" items. My family consists of my husband and me, our two 4-year-old twins and our four dogs. Since I started shopping on a tight budget, we spend no more than £50 a week on groceries, pet food and household items. This is at least a 150% saving from what we used to spend weekly!
3. Get the Cookbook out.
Ready meals are notoriously expensive and have no place in the fridge of those on a budget.
4. Comparison websites.
Yes, the adverts are rather annoying and the time you have to spend on these sites might be several hours, but at the end of it, you will not be sorry, as there are hundreds and thousands of pounds to save on insurance and fuel cost especially.
Example: I shopped around for car insurance for mine and my husband's car on a number of comparison websites. I spent a good few hours on this one evening but at the end of the evening, I had saved no less than £600 by changing car insurance provider - that's worth two or three hours of your time any day, I'd say.
5. Don't use credit cards! Don't borrow money.
The money deals are all around us, there's no shortage of credit cards or loans out there, but DON'T DO IT! There are ways to live on almost ANY budget and as boring as it is, saving is better than spending on credit in the long run.
6. Shop around and realize your worth
You need phones and a TV and the like, but shop around to find the best deal. Go online to find out, what's out there and then phone your current provider to let them know you will be leaving them if they don't offer you what their competitors are able to offer. 9 times out of 10 they will offer you what you ask right there and then - your business is worth a lot to them!
7. Sell what you don't use.
We all have tons of stuff, we don't use anymore - just take a look in your cupboards, drawers, attics and closets and you will find loads of things you haven't seen in a while. Sell your things on eBay or at your local boot sale. Not only will you have some spare cash, you will also have less clutter in your house.
8. What have you got to offer?
Saving money is one part of living on a budget, but you could also be earning extra cash. Think what skills you have to offer and set up a little side-business - it could be anything from dog walking and babysitting to knitting or starting a shop on eBay. Every little helps, and what starts as a little venture to make some extra cash, could even become a real business some day. If you don't try, you will never know what could have been.
9. Quit the gym and stop spending a pound or two.
Things like gym memberships, magazines, coffees from cafes and so on, are all things we can do without. Go without until you're in a place where you don't have to worry about your finances - start thinking of these extras as luxuries that you can easily live without.
A gym membership is an expense you can live without. Take your dog out instead, you can both use the exercise, and walking and running in nature is free. If you haven't got a dog, borrow your neighbour's or, better yet, set up a dog walking business and get paid while you're exercising (see point 8).
10. Stop caring what other people think and be honest.
I wrote a piece here on The Huffington Post about what I like to call Middle Class Poverty - "Middle Class Poor? You And Me Both!" It was well received and, especially among my friends and acquaintances who spoke with me about the piece, many told me they, too, felt the pressure of constant money troubles and that it was relief to open up about it. So, although technically not a money saving tip as such, you might find doors opening once you are completely honest with those around you about your situation, so do give it a go.
A couple of our great friends gave us a bag of their son's old toys for us to give to our younger son for Christmas - had we not been honest with them about our situation, they would have probably never thought to give these items to us, they might still be in a cupboard or they might have just been thrown out. But instead, they turned up under our Christmas tree making us, and more importantly our son, very happy.
Often there is a certain amount of embarrassment attached to not being well off and to having to live on a tight budget. Get over it!!! There is NOTHING embarrassing about not having a lot of money and if someone judges you, they're the ones that should be ashamed of themselves, not you!