As I told you last week, I went to Northern Ireland to visit the folks and hoping to glean some useful moneysaving tips from my ‘in touch with her Scottish roots’ mother. It was altogether a very pleasant trip despite the attempts – sadly some successful – of various retail outlets at Stansted & Belfast International airports to part me from my cash. £6 for a cheese sandwich, bag of crisps and paper cup of tea at Belfast really takes the biscuit I think though. So much for the traditional Irish welcome! But I digress.
One small fly in the ointment was that since retiring my dear Mama has to some extent abandoned her formal frugality and spends a large amount of her time and money on dining out and dressing herself in the latest fashions (retired ladies in N. Ireland are extraordinarily well-dressed and fashion-conscious so she has to keep up) and cuts a very sharp figure these days. The mere mention of clothes shopping in charity shops did not go down well. So shamefully I have to admit I spent a fair amount of time being dragged around shops in Derry, tempted by new knitwear in Dunnes Stores (the Irish equivalent of M&S…just fortunately cheaper) and eating out. But I did eventually manage to get her to revisit her frugal youth – namely when she was at home with me as a small sproglet in the late Seventies with only my Dad’s wage coming in – and come up with some moneysaving tips for me….
MUM’S MONEYSAVING TIPS
– take a packed lunch everywhere to avoid spending money on expensive food outlets when you’re out for the day
– take your own sweets to the cinema. Buy a big bag of sweets and divide them into your own little bags of sweets to make them last (and keep inches off the waistline!)
– cook at home – takeaways must be a occasional luxury and should be just a bag of chips rather than full-blown Chinese or Indian, which is reserved only for birthday celebrations.
– save up your points at the supermarket and spend them on something special, like a bottle of gin in my mum’s case!
– buy supermarket own brands to save money – but don’t buy cheap meat as it’s not worth it. You shouldn’t eat rubbish just to save cash. Avoid anything that’s ‘off the back of a lorry’. A cheap drinks brand given to my Dad once 30 years ago he later spotted on Crimewatch!
– go to market stalls late in the day – say 4pm – when fruit & veg are marked down to be sold off.
– freeze leftovers if you can so nothing is wasted
– although mum isn’t keen on buying clothes from a charity shop, as a young mum she wanted to be fashionable, so she’d buy cheap clothes from a catalogue and pay the bill off over time or buy them from a market stall.
– set aside your money carefully for each bill – as a London taxi driver my Dad was paid in cash so my parents did this by literally dividing their money into (empty!) yoghurt pots designated for each bill – gas, electric and so on.
– holiday at friends or family’s homes – you’ll have to pay the petrol or train fare to get there but accommodation will be free. And if you’ve children don’t forget to use a family travel card on the train.
– remember if you go out in the evening you’ll have to pay for childcare too
– have your shoes repaired instead of buying new ones
– scour church or school fetes for Christmas presents and other cheap items, such as cakes. “If I went to a fete I’d be surprised if I’d had more than £1 to spend,” Mum recalls.
– make a present instead of buying one – “If somebody had a baby, for example, I’d knit them something instead of buying a present,” says Mum.
– “Christmas is the worst time when you’re broke because you have to buy presents,” she says. My frugal Irish grandmother, God rest her soul, apparently used to recycle the previous year’s presents that she didn’t like by giving them to people! Dad recalls receiving one! The Yuletide is especially tough if you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have generous friends, because you can’t compete. “The worst thing you can do is start overspending at Christmas when you’re skint,” says Mum. She recommends asking people to give you money instead of a present as it’s more useful than receiving something you don’t need.
– keep wrapping paper or paper from flowers and iron it and keep it to reuse
– If you’ve got children, put away the child allowance for the future instead of spending it – eg. for university spending money or a flat deposit.
But strangely enough Mum is almost nostalgic about her frugal days as a skint mother. “When you’re being frugal you can get quite cosy about it. It’s like Ready, Steady Cook, when you’ve got limited ingredients and you have to try and make something from it. Plus when you suddenly have a fiver you weren’t expecting and you can spend it on anything you like, you really enjoy it.”
Now comes the challenge of trying these tips out!