Christina Sparkle

How to save money

Since our wedding we’ve needed to pinch the pennies a little more. We’re planning to make some changes in our lives that mean we need to be more aware of how much is coming in and going out. Plus, we’ve had this house for over a year now, we have barely touched it and I’ve been getting some serious Pinterest envy.

Step 1: Work out your household budget
We used a GoogleDoc template to work out our “break-even point” i.e. how much we spend every month that needs to be covered; mortgage, utility bills, subscriptions, etc.

We added our salaries to the template then went through our bank statements to add all of our outgoings. We didn’t add what we spend on food or clothes so that we could see exactly what our budget is for each month.

Once we had the final figure we then decided whether it’s easier for us to work to that each month, or split it into weekly or fortnightly amounts.

One bonus to using the budget template, that I wasn’t expecting, is the fact that I can see exactly how much each month goes onto credit cards or loan payments. Seeing that figure makes me even more determined to curb my spending for six months, and put more into payments, then I will have lots more pounds every month and we’ll be completely out of debt. I hate debt. Debt be gone!

Step 2: Stop spending so much on food
Before Andy and I lived together we would make packed lunches together for the next day, but making food together always ends in an argument. We decided that making packed lunches, despite saving money, was not worth having arguments about. Six years later we’ve addressed that; I buy the ingredients and Andy makes the lunch.

We’ve also started to get veg boxes from Riverford once a fortnight. If you were to add together the costs of buying vegetables from the supermarket compared to Riverford it might not save money. I don’t know if it would or not, I haven’t done that comparison, but, having vegetables delivered saves many of the “small” trips to the supermarket to pick up an onion that end with £10 worth of shopping.

Having vegetables always in the fridge means we always have ingredients to make something and that means less take aways and less meals out. It is not so long ago that we were having more meals out or take aways in a week than we were eating in. Not a great ratio if you’re looking to save money.

Step 3: Don’t own a car
My neighbour has four cars. Three people live there, and they have four cars. A van for work, a car for non-work, a car the wife and another for the daughter. Then his daughter’s boyfriend comes over in his van and there’s a fifth.

How do people afford cars? It is a mystery to me. You buy the car, you have payments to make each month, you have tax and insurance to pay for and then petrol too. Crazy amounts of money.

We don’t have a car. Neither of us have passed our test. Lessons are around £25 per hour. Suffice to say that we don’t take lessons either.

I get the impression that once you have your own car it becomes difficult to give it up. You build your life around being able to drive anywhere, any time. I guess the fact that my parents couldn’t afford to buy driving lessons for me has saved me from that. Ten whole years I could have been wasting money on petrol and cars (instead I wasted it on a million other things!).

Work for me is a short bus ride, or a 40 minute walk if I’m feeling poor. Work for Andy is much further, it’s a bus followed by a train and tram journey which takes roughly 1.5 hours each way. Not ideal. Very expensive. Yet, still more appealing than learning to drive and owning a car.

I used to need a car to get to roller derby. Training is out of town, but several skaters live nearby and there were always lifts to be shared in exchange for chit chat and venting, or cupcakes.

The time when we most need a car is at Christmas when the trains don’t run. We split our time between Andy’s parents’ and my mum’s; only a couple of counties away from each other, an hour or so to drive. But still at 27 and 29 we rely on our parents to drive us on boxing day to across the Midlands. If we only need a car at Christmas, we don’t need a car. A car is for life, not just for Christmas.

Step 4: Cut down on discretionary expenses
We could lower our mobile phone bills, but we can’t give up our iPhones. We could reduce our TV package, but I can’t give up Tivo. One thing I can give up is my roller derby dues, no skate-y means no pay-y. £40 per month saved right there.

We’ve also saved by not going to roller derby matches every weekend. When we were doing that we could easily spend £100 in a weekend; petrol, door fee, beer, merch, vendor goodies, after party food; it all adds up so quickly. We’ve been watching roller derby online through our Apple TV. We get a great view of the action, none of the costs, and none of the awkwardness of being in the same room as people who don’t want to talk to you. Win, win.

Now we save up for the special matches, like when my wifey is playing <3

These steps have worked well for us, we are a lot more aware of our outgoings and can make informed decisions about when to spend and when to thrift. Of course, it would help if after saving all of this cash I didn’t then go and spend it on a new capsule wardrobe, but at least that is an investment and a potential money-saver in itself. I guess, sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate.

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