Wednesday, March 14, 2018

10 Ways to Save Money That Won't Cramp Your Style

Disposable Coffee Cups

Whether you're saving up for something special, trying to stash some cash for a holiday, making an honest effort to pad your savings account or simply trying to live within your means, saving money can be a challenge these days, but it doesn't have to be as restrictive as you might think. Little adjustments here and there can yield big rewards without cramping your style too much. I've tried and tested each of these methods below and in fact, I use all of them regularly... Just think - the more you save, the closer you are to that holiday and the more shoes you can buy, so it's really a win either way you slice it! Here are my tips for making money stretch a bit further in a way you might not even notice at all.

Black Sunglasses and Black & White Disposable Coffee Cup
Coffee Cups - Flying Tiger
1. Coffee
I love a takeaway coffee, I really do! What I don't love is looking at the bank statement at the end of the month and seeing all those little charges add up. In the past I've been guilty of spending as much as £70 a month on coffees in nice little insulated cups, so a while ago I put a stop to that. I still go for a coffee from time to time, mostly when I'm meeting friends or if I'm desperate for a caffeine jolt, but these days I drink my own coffee whenever I can and my wallet thanks me for it. A reuseable coffee mug, a flask (thermos) or paper cups with lids you can buy (look for recyclable ones) are a cheaper way of getting your coffee to go and when you're not relying on that takeaway cuppa Joe, you'll enjoy the ones you do go out for even more because they're more special!

2. Apps, Social Media & Newsletters
Many brands give exclusive discounts and offers to their customers through apps, social media accounts and email newsletters, so make sure you've downloaded, signed-up and followed brands you frequent accordingly. Just recently I got 50% off at Gap through their app, a discount & free shipping from the Zara Home e-mail newsletter and 50% off my pizza at dinner from a post on Instagram. If there's a pizza place you regularly order from, restaurants you frequent, bars you hang out in, brands you love to purchase or even service providers you use repeatedly like hair salons, spas, etc. make sure you've connected with them in a way that helps you save. The trap to avoid of course is spending just because there's an offer, but if you can use these little helpers only when they apply to something you need, the savings benefits can be endless.

3. Loyalty Cards
I have a deep and meaningful relationship with my loyalty cards... I have them for coffee shops, groceries, clothing stores, the local cinema, pharmacies and various restaurants. Whether the loyalty card gets me a free coffee after 10 cups, access to coupons & discounts or points that I can use, I'll take it... As the old saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Running Shoes and Hot Pink Glass Water Bottle

4. Water
Bottled water isn't only a danger to the environment, but it's also expensive if you're drinking it all the time. Invest in a reusable water bottle or two and fill them up. If you can't drink tap water, try a filter instead or if you like sparkling, invest in something like a SodaStream. If that doesn't work and bottled water is all you can bear, save money by buying bulk. You may have noticed that the bigger the bottle, the cheaper it is. If you buy a 6 pack of litre bottles, you'll save more money than if you buy scores of small bottles.

5. Planning & Deciding
This tip is a bit more vague than some of the others, but planning ahead and making conscious, intentional decisions is key to avoiding impulsive or accidental spending. It's also a way to save money. If you know what you're doing, where you're going, what you need to buy or what your plans are for the week ahead, you can be a bit more savvy when it comes to paying for it. There are money-saving are apps for signing up to workout classes like ClassPass if you are able to plan ahead. Shopping around to find the best deal or looking for discount options from websites like VoucherCodes can help you get the best deal possible. Many events and classes have early bird discounts for those who plan well in advance. Alternatively, if you're planning ahead and you see that something you want to buy or plans you have are going to cost more than you might like, you can make an intentional decision to either give yourself a strict budget, splurge because it's important to you or skip whatever it is altogether and save that money.

Black leggings with white stripes and running shoes

6. Shop Around
Shopping around has never been easier with so many apps and online browsing options. It's also a great way to save money. Before you purchase something that might be available elsewhere, check online to see if you might be able to get it cheaper. I don't do this for everything - it would be ridiculous to try, but for items that are more expensive, available from multiple retailers, branded items and things that are not too terribly specific, I find I can save a lot of money by looking for the best deal. For example, I don't really have a lot of opinions about my running shoes. There's a specific brand that my husband and I both really love for the quality and fit, but neither of us mind if we get last season's styles, so we almost always buy our runners online and find them at significantly reduced prices, saving at least £30 to £50 with every pair. Discount retailers like TK Maxx are also a great option for saving money this way and I tend to buy everything from candles, salon-quality hair products & liquid hand soap to sports bras & socks from stores like that to significantly reduce my spending. Why spend more on something if you don't have to?

Turkey Meatball Soup
Orzo Soup With Garlicky Parmesan Turkey Meatballs
7. Eating Out
Eating out can seriously effect your bank balance and it's the one thing I see so many people doing more often than necessary while also complaining about being skint. I love to eat out as much as the next person, but if I want to save money, this is usually the first thing I look to reduce after coffee. Cutting down on restaurants or fast food even as little as just one time a week can really effect the bottom line in your budget. My rule for eating out is to first ask myself "Is this necessary?" If I'm meeting friends, really short for time, having a craving or simply too wiped out to prepare something at home, then that answer will be yes, but if I'm simply doing it out of laziness, I try to choose a better option. Keeping things on-hand at home that are easily prepared helps to reduce the frequency, but when it's unavoidable and I'm not particularly bothered, I'll skip the expensive restaurant option and go for something I can pick up in the grocery store instead like a pre-made sandwich or some fresh fruit. This is not only something that's padded my wallet over the years - it's also made eating out or ordering takeaway when I intentionally decide to a lot more enjoyable because it's more of a treat.

Soup with Polish Sausage and Cheese Tortelloni
Kielbasa, Cheese Tortelloni & Cannellini Bean Soup
8. Meal Planning
In addition to the previous point, meal planning saves my bacon more often than not - it saves me money too! When I was 26 years old, I was an intern in New York City at a Broadway theatre and with my $7.15 an hour, going out for lunch was simply not an option. Of the many wonderful things I learned from my internship experience, one was the incredible value of meal planning. I worked with some very creative people who showed no less enthusiasm in the lunches they prepared for themselves than they did in their work. Back then I would always choose a dinner to make that would give me leftovers for the following day. Things like pasta, soup or simply making a little extra if I was cooking something like chicken with sides. Every night after dinner I would pack up my lunch for the following day and I found that the more creative I got, the more enjoyable my lunch hour would be. Though I'm no longer an intern and can afford a bit more in my eating budget, I still know that for what it would cost for my husband and I to both buy lunch out every day, I can buy all of our groceries for the whole week. He makes salads with chicken on Sunday evenings and puts them in Tupperware containers for the week that he can just grab and go every morning. I usually cook something in bulk that I can heat up for lunch every day. My favourites are homemade soups, lasagna, cottage pie or some kind of meat & veggies with rice and a sauce. Not only do I save about £100 per week, but we both have more delicious lunches than we would do otherwise. For recipe ideas click here.

9. Modern Coupons
Coupons have come a long way since moms used to carry around organisers full of newspaper clippings. I occasionally still use the odd paper coupon since so many grocery stores here in London send them to me for deals like double loyalty card points or £10 off when I spend a certain amount. That said, there are so many other, more modern versions available these days and with sites like VoucherCodes, Groupon and Treatwell, saving money has never been easier.

10. Socialize at Home
This point is pretty obvious I'll admit, but perhaps something you may not have considered. Whether you order a pizza, cook a lavish dinner with wine or simply have your friends over for a pot of homemade soup and a movie, it's a heck of a lot cheaper to meet your pals at home than it is to convene in expensive bars and restaurants. I have found in the past that I can cook dinner for 6 people with tons of wine for less than what it costs for just my husband and I to dine out in a nice restaurant. Furthermore, renting or buying a film on iTunes is always much cheaper than going to a cinema and while a night at the movies is one of my favourite things, staying home to rent a movie can be fun too and for a couple or a family, can yield an incredible savings from just two or three hours of doing something at home. Of course I'll never give up on going out full stop nor would I suggest that anyone do that, but if you're trying to save money for that dream holiday you're desperate to take, why not invite your girls over for a bottle of red and a cheese board sometime instead of going to a trendy wine bar or rent a movie, pop some stove-top popcorn and sit on the couch with the family one or two Friday's a month. These options are a lot cheaper and aside from the atmosphere and strangers you'll meet, they're pretty much the same thing. Even if you can only manage to hang out at home a couple of times a month, that's a bit of extra cash you didn't have before and every little bit helps.

Do you have any money-saving tips you'd like to share? If so, leave a comment below - I'd love to hear them!
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