One of the easiest ways to save money is to avoid buying unnecessary things! While making lunches, which I will come onto, takes a little bit of pre planning and effort, taking drinks with you when you are out of the house can easily become a habit.
I always take a full water bottle with me to university. This saves me from buying drinks when I am out of the house which in turn saves me money. Also this helps to keep me on the straight and narrow in what I am drinking. This habit has really helped me to reduce the amount of fizzy drinks that I buy, which is great for my health.
The best thing about taking water with you is that you don’t need to spend anything to get going. Chances are you will have an old bottle lying about from drinks you have purchased, so instead of throwing it away, recycle it into your new water bottle. Of course you can buy one if you are looking for something more substantial, or haven’t got an old bottle. Careers fairs and events on campus are an excellent place to pick up a new water bottle, free of charge! Also you can fill up your bottle throughout the day and so you are never without a drink.
If you don’t like water you can always take squash with you instead, but make sure you are cleaning your bottle more regularly if you do this to avoid any unpleasant tastes in your drink.
Sometime you just really need a cup of coffee. While Starbucks, Costa and even the University ran cafe will cost you around £3 for a coffee, if not more, if you make a coffee at home and take it with you in a thermal flask this significantly cuts down on this cost.
I use a lifeventure 300ml flask, this is roughly the same as a small cup of coffee. The RRP for this is £13, but I got mine on sale for £10. This is a good investment as it has already lasted me well over a year and shows no sign of giving up soon, so for the cost of maybe three coffees from a cafe I can take my own drinks in, saving me money in the long run.
Depending on how you look at this, there are a few downsides, or positives… So if you want more than one hot drink in the day then this can be a limitation, but I like to see it a good way of managing how much caffeine I am drinking. Also you are limited to drinks that you can make at home. No gingerbread lattes here, however the syrups are mostly sugar anyway, so this makes me make a better choice for my health.
All of this isn’t to say that I don’t occasionally buy a can of Diet Coke or a coffee or hot chocolate on campus. But I definitely don’t buy nearly as many as I used to.
If possible cooking with other people is a good way to cut the cost of groceries and split the effort of cooking a meal. In my house 3 out of the 4 of us cook together. This is a fairly flexible arrangement as there are some days of the week where some of us just aren’t in to eat with everyone else and sometimes we can go away for a weekend or for reading week.
I think that one of the things that scares people away from sharing food is that they imagine that there has to be a lot of commitment and that everyone has to do it. But in reality you can have a lot of flexibility as long as it is planned in advance and everyone communicates well.
When I say that I meal plan it isn’t some scary chart with everyone of my meals on it. Generally we will only plan 5 meals for the week as this is all we will manage to commit to. We plan this on a board from paperchase, which to be honest isn’t the best quality, but the layout is great and suits us well. There is no need for us to plan breakfasts as we have similar things every day. For lunches, I have a rough idea of what I want but will generally try to use leftovers and things that we already have.
Where you shop can have a big impact on how much a week you are having to spend on groceries. Big supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda are all quite similar in price. Whereas the discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl can be noticeably cheaper. We shop once a week at Aldi, and will top up on things like milk and eggs if we absolutely need to.
Aldi is great, the variety in what they sell, although this changes from week to week, has definitely increased from when I was younger and my parents used to shop there. You can get most of the basics that you need here. They also have some free range options for meat and eggs.
What you buy also affects the overall price of your weekly shop. We cook mostly things from scratch, or as much as possible. This may be a bit more effort than cooking more processed foods, but because there are three of us cooking we cut the time we individually spend cooking so it is fine to spend a bit more time cooking cheaper, as well as more nutritious meals. It is easy to live healthily on a budget with just a little bit of planning. Usually we spend between £22 -£35 a week on food for the 3 of us, so around £8 to £12 a week each. This depends mostly on if we need more meat, or if we have ran out of things for the house.
Taking lunch to university saves me money in the same way that taking water and coffee saves me money. When we cook we try to bear in mind what lunches we might need and if necessary overcook some of the food, mostly the carbohydrate element of the meal to help make lunches a bit easier.
I, personally, am not a big fan of sandwiches. I prefer to take a salad or a leftovers as my lunch. Fried rice is a great lunch and one that I really enjoy, it is great to stir fry any sorry looking vegetables into and it is easy to incorporate an egg, boosting the protein content of the meal.
As I mentioned at the start the easiest way to save money is not to spend money. While this is common sense it is much easier to not spend money if you avoid temptation. I try not to go shopping for fun as much as possible, and write a wishlist in my journal of things that I need, or rather want to buy. By not making the purchase immediately it lets me think over if I actually need the item.
Cold hard cash is often a lot harder to hand over than just swiping your card. I try and take about half of my weekly budget out as cash on a Monday. Usually this will last me just fine. Having the real money in my purse makes it easy to keep track of, and dissuades any impulse purchases.
I really hope that these tips will help you get better control over your lifestyle and money. There is a lot more that I could mention, but I think that these tips are the easiest to get started on and can make a big difference.
Do you have any money saving tips that work for you? I’d love to know.