Looking out into the depths of the Grand Canyon, splashing around with dolphins in Mexico, lounging by the pool in Dubai…
For many parents, especially in households on a single income, these trips may seem unattainable. Noah and I are embarking on saving for our next big trip. This will be our second trip since a very significant drop in income. How will we do it? I can’t lie and say it’s going to be easy. I know for sure it’s going to require a remarkable amount of sacrifice, discipline and patience.
Slowly, but surely, we will get there.
Here are twenty-one techniques we use to squeeze every penny out of the pound…
- Budgeting – from our bills and food to our days out and even holidays, we budget everything in advance. I do this by hand but there are plenty of budgeting apps out there that could be used.
- Commit to putting away a specified amount every month – we work out our outgoings and income, then about 80% of what is left (our disposable income) will be put in a savings account every pay day.
- Give up vices – in the past I gave up smoking and reaped hefty rewards that took us all the way to Mexico. I have just given up my terrible diet Pepsi habit and this should save me at least £730 over the next year (if not more!).
- Meal plan – Every week we’ll work out what’s going on the menu and write our shopping list accordingly. This will help us avoid wasting money on unnecessary items and cuts down on our food wastage.
- Cook from scratch – I feel like this will be one of the hardest ideas to stick to as I hardly ever feel like cooking from scratch, especially after a long day. I’m hoping I might actually accomplish this task by cooking in bulk when I have the energy. I’ll also peruse student cookbooks for cheap, nutritious, filling ideas.
- Using coupons and discount stacking – If I find a coupon (in newspapers, junk mail, supermarket magazines, loyalty card mail, online, mobile apps or by writing to the manufacturer) for a product I always use, I will be using it, but not before I’ve checked if there’s a cheaper alternative out there. I’m a big discount of discount stacking, where multiple discounts are applied to the same transaction for cumulative effect. For example, I am planning a shopping trip this week where I will get £40 of groceries for £31.68 at Tesco. I’ll achieve this by using a £6 off when you spend £40 voucher (from Tesco Clubcard), a £1.50 off coupon for the laundry detergent I use (also sent to me via Tesco Clubcard) and then pay for the total by using a pre-loaded 4% discounted Tesco gift card (through my employer’s discount scheme). Hopefully I’ll pick up some ‘yellow sticker’ reduced items and find some other useful coupons to maximise the value of my money. I’ll also collect loyalty points from the transaction to discount later on.
- Collect Amazon vouchers – I do online surveys every now and again in exchange for Amazon vouchers. My favourite panels are ‘Pinecone Research‘ and ‘Jupiter Panel‘. I also scan my shopping receipts on the ‘Shopprize UK‘ app for Amazon vouchers. It’s amazing how quickly they add up. I used them to pay for Noah’s Christmas presents and this year they should pay for some decent birthday presents for him, freeing up more cash to put away in the savings account.
- Use loyalty points, year passes, wowchers, groupons, collect coupons and free activities for leisure – instead of spending cash, the majority of our days out and leisure activities are funded by other means. Loyalty points from supermarkets are great because they can be spent on things like days out (we did this recently on our Birmingham Thinktank museum trip) and cinema tickets. When the holidays arrive, we’ll be visiting some of the places we already have a year pass to (at some attractions, if you are a tax payer, you can pay once and enjoy entrance for the whole year) like The Deep in Hull and the National Space Centre in Leicester. We also have a National Trust membership that is gifted to us from my parents (wonderful gift for families that drive) so we’ll be taking a look at places we can visit with that, many have extra activities in the vacation period for children to take part in. Wowcher and groupon are great for deals to local farms and wildlife parks. In the past, we have had free entrance to Alton Towers, Legoland and this trip to Warwick Castle by collecting coupons from newspapers. A great challenge is investigating and making use of free activities in the local area, like visiting new parks or to fire station open days.
- Money mantra – Luckily, I’m not naturally prone to impulse buying anyway but if I ever do feel the urge I always ask myself to consider if the item is something I need, and if not, is it something I unquestionably love. This usually clears up whether it’s worth buying. Moneysavingexpert also have their own money mantra that makes a lot of sense, and they have a free print out of it that you can pop in your wallet.
- Save money on clothes – I don’t spend much on clothes as it is. I would rather have a wardrobe full of a small collection of pieces I really love, than drawers bulging with clothes I’ve never worn. When I am looking for a new outfit, charity shops are fun because I never know what bargains I will find.
- Save money on books – It’s not like we don’t have enough books at home already, but we love going to the library and choosing new books to read.
- Check utility tariffs – I do this several times per year to make sure I’m always on the cheapest tariffs for my electric and gas and switch accordingly. To make this nice and easy, I use moneysavingexpert’s cheap energy club to compare tariffs in one place.
- Save electricity around the house – Right, this is a new one for us. I am awful when it comes to leaving lights and heating on so I know we are going to struggle with this.
- Only pay for TV we use – until a couple of months ago, we had Sky TV. We cancelled and got a NowTV box to try instead. It was much better value but I noticed we were hardly watching it as most of the TV we’ve enjoyed lately has been on Netflix, so I cancelled our passes for that as well (we can subscribe again any time we want). Now we are just using Netflix and freeview (although, really, the freeview is barely used). We don’t miss the other services at all.
- Cashback – We’ve been using Quidco for about three years now and we’ve cashed out £556.87 in cashback so we’re going to continue with this every time we make an online purchase.
- Switch banks – I do this about once a year as many banks will pay you a bonus to switch to them. The last bank I switched to paid me £130 for switching to them, and continues to pay me £10 every month for paying in a certain amount every month, staying in credit and having a couple of direct debits going out of my account.
- Use credit cards wisely – We no longer use credit cards for spending, except when we know we can pay the amount off in one go. Some credit cards will pay cashback on purchases. We use our M & S card on our everyday expenses (all budgeted beforehand) like petrol, pay it off straight away and earn points towards vouchers for M & S to spend on stuff we need.
- Sell unwanted stuff – I love having a good clear out! Most of the stuff we get rid of gets sent to charity but if I find anything of particular worth I try to sell on local selling Facebook groups. I’ve also done car boot sales and baby sales in the past, which I found quite fruitful but I’m quite lazy so I haven’t done one in a while.
- Crafting – I taught myself to do some basic papercraft and cross stitch as a hobby which I’ve used to make some pretty lovely cards and gifts. The people I’ve given these to have always appreciated the thoughtfulness of the gifts and the effort it’s taken to make them. I’m hoping this year I can advance my skills and get a bit of practice on my sewing machine so I can make something more impressive. Noah also likes crafting and we prefer to make cards and gifts for teachers when it comes to the end of the school year.
- Make the most out of our savings – We’ll be looking at interest rich savings accounts to invest our money. To also stretch those savings, we’ll be researching ways to achieve the holiday we want at a more reasonable price. Could we fly to a different airport? Do we really need to stay in an expensive hotel or could we use Airbnb, camp, or stay in a hostel? On this blog about Hawaii, research went a long way as the writer found there was a very significant difference in cost between flying from the UK to Hawaii and staying for a couple of weeks, to splitting the holiday between California and Hawaii (it saves thousands!).
- Skimming – this article was originally titled ‘Twenty ways to save for our dream trip’ until I remembered this new (to us) technique. Thanks to the Skintdad Facebook group for this one! Skimming involves putting away any change you might get, so for example, if an item costs 89p and you’ve paid with £1 then the 11p change would be put away to save. I’ve discovered that my online banking account (with TSB) will automatically do this for me, rounding transactions up to an amount that I specify and then sending the change straight to my savings account. Awesome!
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. We’ll always be looking for ways to save!
My advice for anyone who would also like to start saving for that trip you’re always day-dreaming about. Just start! Get a piggy bank or a jar or open a savings account and put a small amount in. Get over that first hurdle! Several weeks or months down the line you will be astonished at how quickly the pennies turn into pounds! You will be jet-setting before you know it!