Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How i've saved money in 2011

Having had a (relatively) minor health issue earlier this year, which resulted in some time off work, I sat down and went through the family finances with a fine tooth comb in early June to keep me busy. At the time I was seriously wondering if we could manage on one income but thankfully things didn't come to that.

Anyway I started with the mortgage as it is by far the biggest outgoing we have. At the time we were paying £1197.00 in interest alone, thanks to a high interest rate, 7.58% (OUCH!). We ended up having to move with work transfers, just as the financial crisis hit in late 2008 . We managed to get a new mortgage deal with Northern Rock - 2.5% (NICE) and saved ourselves £692.00 in interest EACH MONTH!

About that time I was checking out the 'mortgage free wannabes' on Martin Lewis' MSE site. That's when I got the idea to get rid of our horribly huge mortgage as soon as possible.

Now this blog is not about extreme frugality although if I didn't have the kids I would be more of a tight wad, i'm thinking of the wonderful and amazing Frugal Queen here ( I love her blog

Having said that if I didn't have kids I wouldn't have a big house. I would be happy in a much smaller house. Really getting off topic here, I will do a post about my minimalist dreams for retirement, in France hopefully, ( is another favourite blog about a couple saving for their dream move abroad), another time and I really love where I live so I am not complaining.

Anyway! Having saved us £692.00 a month on the mortgage I really wanted to round those savings up to a nice round £1000.00 so I could make that extra 1K in monthly overpayment to the mortgage capital. So, in discussion with SM, we made the following changes to our monthly outgoings;

  • cancelled BT Vision subscription - £12.50
  • cancelled 'call divert' on our BT phone package - £3.00 (I didn't even know we had this option until I went through the bill!!)
  • changed energy supplier from Eon to N Power. Approx. £10.00 saved. (May work out more in future due energy saving measures inplemented)
  • Reduced spending on groceries from £500 to £350 a month.
  • Reduced spending on petrol / diesel from £300.00 to £200.00 a month.
  • Kids now taking packed lunches (paid for out of grocery budget) to school instead of school dinners x 3 each day - £70.00 approx.
That works out at £1037.50 approx saved every month and available to reduce the mortgage.

We achieved the extra savings by meal planning (I cannot believe I hadn't discovered the joy of this before now!), knowing what was in my freezer / cupboards, making a list and sticking to it and being a complete supermarket tart. I will go wherever the cheapest prices are, and I don't mind having to traipse to different shops.( I have a Morrisons, Lidl and Tesco all quite close) Soon we will also have an Asda and I will make use of their cheap prices too.
I now do a lot of shopping at Lidl and get the majority of our fresh produce there.

I 'downshifted' lots of products. As a family we agreed we would try this out to see what we liked / didn't like etc. Examples of items I now buy from Tesco 'Value' or 'Own brand' ranges for instance are;
  • washing powder - £1.69 for 30 washes. ( I only use this on whites / pale colours. I used Lidl 'Formil' colour liquid £3.49 approx for coloured / dark clothing.
  • Fabric conditioner - £0.45 for 1 ltr.
  • Soft cheese £0.40 instead of 'Philadelpia' at over £1.00
  • Mozzarella (for HM pizzas) £0.40
  • 'Daisy' brand dishwasher tablets - £2.23 for 40 (6p per tab) - cheaper than the 'Value' tabs.
  • Market value fruit & veg. i.e. carrots, apples courgettes etc.
  • Tinned tuna - £0.45
  • Tesco own brand 'Butterpak' instead of Lurpak, although I will buy this IF it's on offer.
  • Tesco own brand Readybrek
  • Tesco own brand Weetabix
  • Value flour & own brand bread flour.
  • Value baby bath £0.11 for 500ml - I use this as shower gel and decant into hand soap pumps in kitchen and bathrooms. This gives a huge saving in toiletries with a family of 5 all having showers every day and with young kids prone to wasting gels down the plug hole.....
  • Value baby shampoo for the boys and SM, who doesn't have much hair left to wash bless him...
  • Value general cleaning fluid - £0.27.  Fine for mopping floors and I also decant into old kitchen / bathroom spray bottles and dilute half with water. Way cheaper than CIF sprays etc and does just the job.
  • Value toilet cleaner - £0.27 - cleans my loos just as well as more expensive brands.
  • Value cream cleaner - £0.27 approx. Does the job.
I have managed to reduce the grocery etc spends so much due to doing the above and home cooking every meal. We rarely have take aways and I can't remember the last time I bought a ready meal. I also started baking my own bread and haven't bought a shop loaf for over 3 months now. I don't have a bread maker so I do have to set time aside to make sure I make a loaf but I tend to do a batch of rolls and a large loaf at the same time and this lasts 2 - 3 days.

I rarely use my tumble drier now and am hoping for some obvious savings when my next electricity bill comes in (current DD is £66.00 a month). We were always quite good at not leaving tv's / chargers etc on standby but we switch everything off at the wall now when not in use, with the exception of the BT 'homehub'. The microwave, the washing machine switches on the walls etc are only on when in use. Batch baking etc to make best use of the oven when it is in use.
We have an integrated fridge in the kitchen but have a big fridge freezer which is adequate for our needs. We used the old built in fridge for drinks until recently but it was often near empty so we stopped using it altogether. I'm hoping all these small measures will add up to a nice reduction in electricity use. Next bill due in Feb. 2012 so will report any changes then.

We also have oil central heating which everyone knows is very expensive. We will be trying to keep it's use to the minimum this winter but who knows how cold it will be yet... We have an open fire in the lounge which we like to light most days once it gets very cold and we have managed to gather / 'womble' a good amount of wood so far this year. We are also lucky to have a friend who gets us a good load of fire wood for a nominal sum.

I don't like to have a cold house and would not want the children to ever be cold in the winter. I therefore count myself as very fortunate to know that I can go and switch on the heating any time I need to. So many just can't do this each winter and I really feel for them.

Oh, and SM started cycling to and from work whenever possible. This has saved loads on our fuel spends. I know this will rise a bit again over the winter but come the better weather it will go down again too.

Sorry for the long post but these are some of the things we've done to save money this year and I can honestly say no one in the family has felt any reduction in living standards.


  1. Wow! Lots of changes!

    I'm trying to reduce our electric/gas bills too, let us know if you manage to do it.

    Thanks for the shout out - looking forward to hearing more about your dream of living in France :)

  2. This is really impressive - we are trying to make overpayments too but are no where near making your extra payments yet! I must start making bread again (mutters to self....)