In May last year I moved into a rented apartment with my then-boyfriend. I’d already spent almost two years living with my parents and saving to buy a place of my own, but when his rental contract was almost up, we decided to move in together.
We weren’t in a position to buy a place together, so I decided to put my home ownership dreams on hold and rent instead. Although the relationship didn’t work out and we split up six months later, thankfully I managed to save a respectable £3,000 while living with him.
Here’s how I did it…
Rented a much cheaper apartment than I could afford
With our salaries combined, we could afford to rent a flat in Manchester city centre for £900 a month. But the last thing we needed was to live within walking distance of all our favourite bars. So after having serious words with ourselves, we decided to look for a cheaper place further afield.
We eventually managed to find a two bedroom flat in Sale for just £595. It smelt a little damp, the wallpaper was peeling off the walls, the kitchen was filthy and the bathroom door had a bright blue hand print on it. It was a shit hole, but we instantly felt like it was our shit hole. Having spent the last couple of years trawling through Apartment Therapy’s Instagram, I knew could make it better. I also knew that by slumming it for a while, we’d be better off financially each month.
Accepted hand me down furniture
The flat was furnished and so there was no need to buy beds, wardrobes, sofas etc. But it was such a big flat that it looked quite empty and was in desperate need of a more homely touch. Thankfully, I managed to inherit several hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. My parents gave us a load of stuff for the kitchen, I had a gorgeous armchair from my Nanna, and a friend of my mum’s gave me a desk and fold out bed. I also had the chair that I found on the street and upcycled the year before.
If you don’t know anyone who’s looking to get rid of any furniture, charity shops like the British Heart Foundation and Emmaus often have some good stuff for cheap. Also take a look at Buy, Sell and Swap groups on Facebook along with websites like Gumtree and Preloved.
Shopped around for good energy deals
Many tenants assume that because they don’t own the property they live in, they’re unable to switch energy suppliers. But in reality, most of the time you can swap to a cheaper deal. Ask your landlord first and if they give you the go ahead, start comparing different products to find the cheapest one.
Gave my food shop an overhaul
Over the course of the tenancy, I must have saved hundreds by shopping at Aldi rather than Sainsbury’s and Tesco. There might not be as much choice in Aldi as there is in the larger supermarkets but if you need to save money, it’s a sacrifice that can make a huge difference.
Using my delicious Aldi ingredients, I cooked huge meals in bulk and split them into Tupperware tubs. For less than a fiver, I’d cook a massive chilli or curry and would make enough to last several meals and lunches.
Turned down way too many nights out
I know the last thing you wanna do is sacrifice your social life but if you wanna save a large amount of money in a short space of time, you’re gonna have to become a bit of a recluse.
I turned down an embarrassing number of nights out and meals with friends. It got to a stage where I’d think “I can go on this night out, blow £50 and wake up with a hangover and immense feeling of self-loathing, or I can stay in and watch The Wire.” There is no in-between for me. Since I can’t go out without getting absolutely whamoed, I became even more boring than I’d been when I was living with my parents.
Thankfully, some of my friends were only too happy to come round for the occasional Netflix and nacho night in.
Went without a holiday
My ex and I decided not to bother going on holiday last year. I’m not sure whose boring attitude rubbed off on who. Okay, not going on holiday was probably my idea because I had a deposit to save and he had debts he was meant to be paying off. I kinda regret sacrificing holidays and wish we’d travelled more, but at the time I couldn’t stop thinking about how irresponsible a holiday would have been under the circumstances. ALSO, it felt weird paying lots of money to piss off to another country for 10 days when we’d only just started paying good money to put a roof over our heads in Sale. During that 10 day holiday, we’d be paying approximately £198 in rent! I was way too frugal for that nonsense.
my rent is too high to go outside. i have to stay home and get my money’s worth. https://t.co/FAhioeJICh
— king crissle (@crissles) August 6, 2017
Avoided clothes shops
I’m the type of person who walks into Miss Selfridge and emerges with three new dresses, a pair of jeans, new boots and a handbag. I soon realised that not going shopping at all was the only way to avoid temptation and ensure my money stayed in my purse.
In the past I’ve written about buying clothes from charity shops instead of the high street but I even became addicted to that after a while! My wardrobe is overflowing with cute charity shop dresses and this time last year I decided I don’t need any more.
Made the most of discounts when I needed to shop
I’ve not been a student since 2014, but that hasn’t stopped me getting a student discount on things like Spotify Premium or the cinema. Here’s my guide to getting an NUS card even if you’re not a student.
I was also introduced to the online gift card marketplace Zeek. It allows you to buy and sell gift cards at a discount. Although I didn’t sell any, I managed to save money at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Debenhams by buying gift cards for cheaper than their actual value. Earlier in the post I told you that I shopped at Aldi, but since Zeek also has a rewarding referral scheme, it made sense to shop at more expensive supermarkets when I had referral money. Let me explain…
If you recommend the app to a friend, you each get £5 off your next gift card. By helping my parents, grandparents, brother, primary school teacher and milkman to sign up, I managed to do a huge food shop for free at Sainsbury’s. The people I recommended also saved money too.
Wanna sign up? You can save £5 on your first gift card by following this link and using the code 2LINA2YS. Once you’ve made your first purchase, you can start recommending the app to others too.
I’m not usually the biggest fan of voucher codes and coupons because I think they encourage people to buy things they don’t really want or need. However, if you’re careful and only use them on things you were going to buy anyway, they can be a good money saver.
Opened multiple high interest current accounts
Keeping my savings in multiple high interest current accounts has seen me earning a decent amount of interest each month. I currently have eight accounts and to give you an idea just how rewarding these accounts are, I’ve made more than £800 in interest and cashback since I first started opening them in April 2016.
If you’re at the very start of your saving mission and you don’t have much to put away yet, there’s no point having this many accounts. Start with one and when that’s filled, open another.
Cutting all the fun stuff out of your life will only get you so far. Sooner or later you get to a stage where you just want to live your bloody life and when that happens, you need to find ways to boost your income.
Here’s a quote from one of my favourite personal finance bloggers, Desirae Odjick: “When you earn too little, it’s hard to push past a certain point without hating everything. Don’t get me wrong, frugality and compromise on your expenses matter a lot, and both can be huge in terms of hitting your goals and living within your means. You’ll probably also want to be frugal while you’re rocking an entry-level salary, or launching a new business, just to make your monthly money situation work. But there’s only so much you can cut out of your budget”
Ideally, you wanna get a pay rise or a job with a higher salary, because that means you shouldn’t have to slave away after work. You’ll be getting paid more for doing the same kinda job you did anyway, in the same number of hours as before. However, I loved my day job, started on a salary I was happy with, and having only been at the job for a few months, I didn’t feel like I was in a position to ask for more money. This left me having to make extra money at home.
Freelancing from home during evenings and weekends made a huge difference to the amount I was able to save. When living in the flat, I made money writing blog posts for businesses and managing their social media accounts.
Looking back, I didn’t clock up quite as many hours as I should have done. Finding the motivation to use my spare time writing for clients was tough, especially when I’d much rather be working on my blog or chilling out.
Nevertheless, I was fortunate to be able to make a decent hourly wage in my spare time. I appreciate that not everyone can have a side hustle due to health issues or family commitments or whatever, so I’m grateful that I’ve got the freedom to do so.
If you do think a side hustle is an option for you, you obviously don’t have to be a writer or social media manager. It’s all about monetising whatever skills you do have. Whether you’re a talented designer, you’re bilingual, or you’re good at fixing computers, make money from your wisdom! If you don’t feel as though you have any talents to monetise, it’s not too late to learn. Take an online course, spend your weekends in the library, or watch some YouTube tutorials.
This may sound like a lot of effort, but investing in yourself is never a waste of time. You don’t need to do a degree to pick up skills that have the potential to make you thousands of pounds.
Nothing I’ve said here is rocket science. Saving money never tends to be. I keep banging on about how saving money is like losing weight. We all know how to do it, but actually putting this knowledge into practice is really tough. Temptation is all around us and often, life just gets in the way. Nevertheless, if you want to save a large amount of money in a short space of time, you need to be committed to the cause and be willing to make as many sacrifices as you can.
You probably also need to not live in London.
You may get called a tight-arse along the way and you may get tired of wearing the same clothes over and over again, but it’ll all be worth it when you’ve achieved your savings goal. So whether you want to save a deposit, fund a dream holiday or build up an emergency fund, have faith in yourself and find ways to make the most of your money.