*This is a collaborative post*
We’re now nearly halfway through the month of December. Christmas and a brand new year is quickly coming round the corner and if you’re anything like me you might be facing a moment of sheer panic/crisis about how you are going to budget for it all. I used to be quite a big spender (alright Shirley Bassey, keep ya hair on!) until my financial circumstances changed and I really learned a lot about myself, what’s important (and what really isn’t) and learning how to budget my allowance properly. It was a hard process to go through both in the literal sense and mentally too.
At this time of year, it’s easy to fall into the trap shops want you to: to buy more and more stuff. When you feel as though you are saving money, it’s far easier to justify spending more. It’s also easier to justify buying lower quality stuff – we rationalize that it’s okay for something to break immediately as long as it didn’t put too much of a dent in our savings. I’ve said it myself in the past when I’ve bought something for a few pounds and then when it breaks I’m left feeling annoyed but justify it with a ‘oh it was only £2 or so it wasn’t going to last forever’.
Obviously you don’t need me to write this and tell you that this isn’t good value in any way, shape or form. In fact, buying cheaply and having to replace things all the time is a poor use of resources as well as a poor use of your money. This is why it’s really important that we all fully understand the concept of good value. I don’t want to patronise you or to teach you something you’d already know but I’m going to list beneath a few of the ways I’ve found helpful to monitor my spending habits and how to become a more savvy shopper.
Note down what you’re spending.
Now this one might not be for the faint hearted especially if you’re anything like me. It’s a great way to really re-evaluate what you’re spending and it also really makes you second guess yourself before you grab yourself another £3 takeout latte in the morning. I don’t know about you, but I personally always think things like that always feel so much more real by seeing things in writing, especially in an age where contactless card spending is so prevalent in our culture. So when I see a piece of paper or my notes on my phone that show me how many gingerbread lattes I glugged that week or how many things I bought from New Look sale rail in my lunch break. Oops.
Make plans and stick to them.
When it comes to food shopping and keeping everything on a budget, I’ve found that a great way to keep cost down is to meal prep and meal plan each week. Some people might find that really time consuming, monotonous or boring but if you get your family or everyone you live with involved it will go by a lot quicker and you can have some fun with it too! It works out a lot cheaper to meal prep/plan that way you know what ingredients to buy for each week, it’ll be harder to go off piste when in a supermarket doing the weekly shop and think of the savings you’ll make when you don’t grab the same lunchtime meal deal at work each day!
Take advantage of voucher/offer websites
You can find some fantastic offers for a whole range of things online these days. Whether you’re a regular user of Groupon/Livingsocial/Wowcher you can get some fab offers from treats for yourself, gifts or even holidays and spa trips. If you were looking to purchase one of these things anyway it’s always good to shop around and sometimes you’ll find a great deal from one of these sites. Similarly, websites like Vouchercodes or honey can be automatically uploaded onto your browser so the next time you buy something online and are in the checkout they’ll scan through the internet and find suitable voucher codes and take off any savings they can! Who’d say no to that?!
Don’t be put off by shopping around
Before you make a big purchase I’m sure I can speak for many people when I’d recommend shopping around for different prices or offers first. Maybe I’m just a bit of a cynic and someone that really hates a hard sale in a shop but I always wonder when a shop assistant is really pushing to sell an item if they really believe in what they’re selling or whether they’re just hoping for a commission based sale. If it’s something that is quite a big purchase I’d suggest sleeping on that decision before you make it. Have a look in different shops and online and see what prices can be recommended to you and if you could haggle. If you’ve seen a good deal somewhere but it is more expensive some places might price match for you. You’ll still get the exact same item but with more satisfaction as you got more bang for your buck.
Buying second hand is often really good value but you have to know where to look. For example, buying second hand cars or something like these nearly new Vauxhall cars is a good option because cars are built to last and lose value the moment they are driven off the forecourt. But there are plenty of other things you could buy second hand. Vintage clothing is a great example and as more people become environmentally conscious, it is gaining popularity. Fast fashion might be tempting but developing a capsule wardrobe is a tip that comes from the heights of the fashion industry.
When you spend your money, you are investing in the product or service you are buying. The hope is that the product will fulfill a need and be worth the money spent on it. But this kind of logic can be problematic – if you spend a little and receive a little, it still seems like a worthy investment but it isn’t really.
A good way to determine good value is to work out the cost-per-use of an item. A t-shirt for a fiver worn once costs £5 for that one wear but a t-shirt bought for £30 and worn 10 times costs £3 per wear. Now you will start to see why buying second hand can be such good value – you will pay less because you aren’t the first owner but you will still get plenty of use out of what you buy.
Understanding your ethics.
Everyone has a slightly different ethical code and, let’s face it, we can’t afford to have outstanding ethics all the time. However, the more you can do to behave when you shop, the better you will feel. Our world is in a perilous state at the moment and while we can’t blame ourselves as individuals for what is going on, we can all make a small difference by ourselves. Choosing where you shop and how you shop will influence what shops and manufacturers produce and sell. This is why understanding value is so important. You have to figure out what you think of as good value and then pursue it.
Figure out a good time to shop.
This might sound a bit daft but hear me out with this. Depending on how much time you have, what shops are closest to you or what your budget is, a great way to save a few pennies here and there is by timing your big shop a little bit differently. When it comes to food shopping most big supermarkets will be pricing down any produce for reductions in the late afternoon/evening so that’s a good time to scour the aisles for an offer on something you’d usually buy.
Good value incorporates the longevity of the products you buy, understanding the cost-per-use of each item and taking your ethics into account.