A money saving challenge

Last month I was asked to take part in a spending challenge. I got quite excited initially, imaging a Supermarket Sweep style dash around the shops, sweeping make-up and sweeties into a trolley.

No such luck.

The challenge was actually to reduce the amount of money I spent as part of a project by Voucher Codes called Small Change/Big Difference. The challenge asks you to think about the little amounts of money you fritter away of things like coffees and cake, and to commit to cutting back.

First off you can calculate just how much money you spend on things like this in a year with their special calculator – you put in what you have a week and it calculates your annual expenditure. I felt pretty smug filling it out, as I don’t smoke and don’t drink much, but was quite taken aback by how much I spend essentially just on snacks:

"spending calculator"

Goodness me. It seems like such a lot when you look at it like that doesn’t it? I work from home, so quite often pop to the café round the corner to work for a few hours for a change of scene. Seems like that could be an expensive habit.

Once I had shocked myself into action, I then had to spend two weeks trying as hard as possible to cut back on all those little extras that add up over the course of a year. There were quite a few obvious areas of weakness for me, so here’s how I got on:

I do love a nice café. It’s silly, because I know I could just make a cup of tea at home for about two pence, but there is something so much lovelier about having someone else make it for you and enjoying it surrounded by people chatting and laughing. It’s just nice.

For two weeks though, I didn’t go to my local café once. I reckon I saved about £15 altogether, but I’m not entirely convinced this one is worth it for me. Working from home can be pretty lonely, and getting out of the house and being around other people for a couple of hours can make all the difference. £30 a month seems a small price to pay for my sanity.

"Pretty hot chocolate"

Magazines and newspapers
This is definitely a weakness for me. It wouldn’t be so bad if I actually read them, but all that happens normally is that I end up with about four weeks’ worth of Guardian Weekend magazines in a pile, unread. I don’t go out of my way to buy anything, but if I’m at the station or in a supermarket (which doesn’t happen often as Boyfriend doesn’t trust me to do the shopping), I’m quite often tempted to just pick something up as a treat.

For two weeks then I didn’t buy anything. So that’s two Saturday Guardians and probably one or two magazines – £10 or so altogether? Also, because I didn’t buy a magazine, I wasn’t drawn in to one of the ‘subscribe now for 68% of the usual cover price and get a free soap worth £37’ offers. Bargain.

Other miscellaneous nonsense
I tend quite often to shop, much like I eat, out of boredom. This is a risky strategy as I get bored easily. In early January for instance, bored of updating Facebook statuses and writing about goodness knows what, I went online and bought a bone china tea set hand painted with robins.

"robin teaset"

I think you get the point.

For two weeks though I tried my very best not to do this. It was tough, as I was in London a couple of times during the fortnight, each time with a couple of hours to kill in the middle of the day. During my first visit, it didn’t go so well, and I ended up with three miniature mounted photographs of London landmarks. Oopps.

On my second trip though, I did better. I even tested myself with a visit to the V&A museum shop, but resisted the urge to buy anything at all, not even a postcard, although I really quite wanted to buy a lion necklace that was in the sale. I did like this card, but satisfied myself by just taking a picture rather than buying it.

"Jerome K Jerome Quote"

What a good girl I am.

The lion necklace was £45, so I consider this £45 saved.

What are your bad money habits? How much do you think you could save if you cut out just one small pleasure?

Produced in association with VoucherCodes.co.uk



  1. 1 February, 2013 / 6:11 pm

    Oh God, I totally know what you mean. I am so so bad with magazines and newspapers. That bad that my OH gets really moody and stroppy when I come home with a new magazine…

    • admin
      2 February, 2013 / 3:33 pm

      At least as a writer though you can claim them as a work expense Carolin :-)

  2. 2 February, 2013 / 1:29 pm

    My husband & I have been on a thrift kick lately. We established what we thought was a reasonable grocery budget and pledged to stick to it, no matter what. We pore over the Ocado order, debating the merits of one cheap roasting joint over another, bulk buying cleaning products on offer, and so on. Then we pop into our local posh supermarket for some emergency milk and emerge with fresh squid, fancy cheeses, etc – those ’emergency milk’ purchases are never less than £20. AND then we stop for a cuppa and posh pastry as a reward for living on a budget. Sigh. Needless to say, three months in, we have exceeded our grocery budget by literally hundreds of pounds.

    Ah well. At least we’re trying…

    • admin
      2 February, 2013 / 3:32 pm

      That’s such a horrible feeling isn’t it? You scrimp and save and then blow it all on a coffee and cake! I’m exactly the same. We actually do the bulk of our grocery stuff in Aldi – it is SOO much cheaper, plus they have some unusual things each week too. There are a few bits we can’t get there, but for most things it’s really worth it. I did a weekly shop this morning and spent £37!!

  3. 4 February, 2013 / 9:31 am

    Nice new look of your page! Congrats :)
    First of all I agree with the cafe part. I am not a huge coffee fan but the rule applies everywhere – everything tastes better when somebody else made it for me!
    About money – I am terrible at shopping for high heels and bags. I don’t need to buy new clothes for a few months but shoes and purses are my weakness. I mean, one can never be too fat/too skinny for them and when properly chosen they can change the whole outfit…so it is basically SAVING money…isn’t it :)?

  4. admin
    4 February, 2013 / 11:10 am

    Thanks very much Alexandra – glad you like it!!

    Basically it sounds like you are saving LOADS of money by buying shoes and bags. *cough cough*

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