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Money Saving Tips for your Home
The Best Things in Life are Free...
Well, not always. In fact a more fitting adage would be that you have to spend money to make money. An initial outlay is often necessary to save money in the long run, but if you can afford it you can save yourself a fortune.
In these harsh financial times, with unemployment soaring, many households are tightening their belts and trying to save money in any way possible. Some have had to deal with redundancy already, others live in fear of it and are taking precautions. To be honest it doesn't do anyone harm to live a little more frugally and if you're saving money in your household then the chances are you are saving energy and so reducing your carbon footprint. It's a win win.
Here are my top tips for saving money, energy and still living well - but beware there may be an outlay to begin with, if you want a quick fix for saving money simply stop spending it!
Utilise Your Garden
You don't need a huge garden to grow your own. Salads, herbs and tomatoes grow very well on a sunny wondowsill inside or out. If you have limited space you can plant vegetables in pots around your patio and for those with a bigger area, a small vegetable patch can yield great results. Beans, peas and cucumbers will grow up a trellis or fence from a pot below, and you can also get trailing tomatoes and sweet chilli peppers for hanging baskets.
Just because you have decided to grow vegetables your garden doesn't need to be ugly and utilitarian, it can also be beautiful. Plant flowers in-between vegetables, choose bright colourful variations that will attract pollinating insects. Your kitchen garden can be both beautiful and useful.
A trip to the garden centre can often be an expensive affair if you buy plants ready potted. Consider buying seeds for flowers and vegetables and growing them in propagator's or pots on windowsills in January and February ready for planting out after the last frost. Pots can be expensive in garden centers but anything can be used as a home for a plant - an old wellington boot, BBQ, broken Chimnea or an old kitchen pot. Plain terracotta pots are generally the cheapest to buy and are more attractive than plastic varieties. Rather than buying propagators and windowsill trays which can all add up (but are reusable year after year) for a small outlay you can order a Paper Potter, a wooden gadget that turns newspaper into seeding pots thus recycling at home (and the pots are biodegradable). Alternatively, halve a toilet roll centre, place on a plastic base and fill with soil, add the seeds and it does the same thing - you already have the tools you need to grow your own, after all everyone needs loo roll right?
For those with even more room, consider keeping a few chickens. For around £100 you can buy a small coop and with chickens at just £10 each and feed at £10 for three months (plus they eat your vegetable kitchen scraps and their own egg shells when roasted) you can make considerable savings on fresh free range eggs. Add to that they make wonderful pets, are easy to keep and a lovely addition to any kitchen garden. Add to that if you can free range them they are excellent bug catchers and will peck off any slugs, beetles and caterpillars from your plants. Make sure you supervise them though, otherwise they will dig and dig and can be quite destructive. Additionally don't let them too close to greens such as lettuce and cabbages - they will devour them!
Be careful when you choose your breed, do your research first and speak to your farmer. Whilst Bantam hens seem like a good garden choice because of their size, their eggs are very small and you would need four just to make one egg sandwich. Our Goldline is a compact hen and she lays the biggest eggs, easily bigger than a typical supermarket 'large'. She is also very docile, quiet and great with kids - a very affectionate hen who loves to sit on my shoulder.
If you get overrun with eggs then use them to trade, we often pass eggs to friends who in turn will give back anything from ripe tomatoes to beans and salads. We have even given them away in return for help from friends with DIY projects. Similarly with young plants, if you have too many then give them to friends, chances are you'll be invited over to sample your hard work at some some point.
Compost and Recycle
Don't bin vegetable waste from the kitchen, newspapers or cardboard, just chuck it in the composter. In just a few months you will have lovely rich well formed compost to top up flower and vegetable beds and to sow seeds with.
Compost bins are widely available from garden centers and DIY stores, but check first with your local council. We got ours at a subsidised rate of £10 within a borough wide scheme to get householders recycling and composting; thus reducing waste being put into land fills. There's some more green kudos points for you!
Got a magazine or periodical that you read regularly? Consider subscribing to you're chose rag for a year and see the savings. Subscriptions can save you up to 35% on the shelf price of a magazine plus you reap the benefits of the free gifts and it's delivered to your door!
Join Loyalty Schemes and Save up for Christmas
Christmas is a very expensive time of year so save up your loyalty points. Tesco clubcard points and vouchers, Boots advantage card points and Sainbury's Nectar points all add up and can buy you feasts for Christmas, can cover your booze and even some presents. Then you don't feel the sting of either saving throughout the year or a big outlay in December.
Loyalty points can also be exchanged for day trips, discount restaurant vouchers and consumer electricals. Shop around, there are plenty of deals to be had.
Do you really know how much electricity you're using? It's fine to keep turning off lights and appliances when not being used, but consider getting a home energy meter to really keep a track on how much you're spending. It measures the amount of energy you are using throughout the day and displays it on an easy to read screen. When only a few appliances are plugged in such as a TV, alarm clocks and a light or two we only use 0.2 pence per hour of electricity, but when I boil the kettle it shoots up to 25 pence. You become obsessed with the numbers, wanting to keep it below a couple of pounds per day, and so turn off everything that you don't need. The glorious consequence of this is that of course that you are saving energy, making your carbon footprint greener, another win win.
Get your boiler serviced. An under performing boiler can be costing you and the environment. If your boiler is over 10 years old consider having it replaced. Although the initial outlay may be upwards of £500 you will save energy, and therefore money, by installing a new efficient boiler. We had a new boiler installed a year ago and so far the new boiler has saved us 30% on gas bills compared to the previous winter with the old boiler.
Insulate your loft and walls. The Warm Front scheme in the UK give's grants up to £3,500 for energy services to certain groups of people, and if you qualify you could save thousands on making your home more energy efficient.
Seal up window frames and doors, draughts loose energy hand over fist and cost you more.
Look into solar panels. Sadly a Government scheme in the UK to provide free solar energy installation to qualifying households has now finished, but my parents just got in there before the closing date. Now they have solar panels on their roof that earn them free electricity during daylight hours and it's at that time that my Mum now runs the tumble dryer and any other expensive electrical items. Any energy that they don't use gets put straight back into the National Grid. Some schemes even pay you back for giving your surplus energy to the National Grid and many households end up in energy profit each year - free electricity and an income from the surplus. If you can afford to have it installed and you have a roof facing the optimal direction then it's worth looking into.
Always Check for Voucher Codes
Particularly when ordering online, before you check out open a new page and check to see if there are any voucher codes available for that site. For example, before checking out an online Dominos pizza order, Google 'Dominos Voucher codes' and visit a few sites until you find something useful, 8 times out of 10 you will find a code that will get you anything from £5 off to 30% off or free side dishes and drinks. If you are doing your grocery shopping online for the first time do the same again, Google your chosen supermarket name with 'voucher codes' and see what springs up, discounts for first time shoppers can be £10 or more and often include free delivery.
Sign up for Voucher websites, but before you do set up a Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo mail account just for these websites. They will fill your inbox to the brim so keep an eye on what they send and if it's useful, use it.
Never check out anything online without searching for voucher codes first, you can make some substantial savings.
When doing your online grocery shop, use the website mysupermarket.com to find the best deals across the four major supermarkets in the UK, Tesco's, Waitrose, Sainbury's and Asda.
Add items to your basket as you normally would using you usual supermarket and then hit the compare button. My supermarket will not only tell you if there is a cheaper or more economical product within that particular supermarket, but it will also compare the same shopping basket over the other three supermarkets. An added bonus is it can also swap your products for a healthier option, so you can diet and save money. By using this site you can be sure that you are getting the best deal, you can check out via mysupermarket.com and transfer the basket contents and book a delivery slot at the click of your mouse with your preferred supermarket. As with a normal online supermarket shop, the site will remember your favourites from each store and so you save time by clicking on your previously ordered favorite items.
Always use price comparison sites when buying electricals, or really anything from in store or online. Do your research, find the product you're looking for and then compare prices. There are some great deals out there and a lot of sites will price match. Price isn't the only thing to consider, look at delivery costs and freebies too, such as cables, cases and vouchers for that store.
When shopping in store always take a look at the clearance shelf. A lot of the time clearance items in supermarkets are marked down in price just because the packaging is damaged, and fresh goods are marked down as they are close to the sell by date so if you can use it grab a bargain.
Don't discount your local shops. They are constantly having to fight the big supermarket chains for business and so you can find some good deals. For example my local shop sells bars of Green & Black's chocolate for £1 per bar and a box of tomatoes (around 8-10 vines of six toms) for around £2.50 - that's an awful lot of soups and salads.
There are so many different ways to save money and I've only touched on a few here. I maintain however that the internet is your best friend when it comes to buying anything from energy to electricals and food to flowers.
Get Googling and see what you can find, you'll be surprised how much you can save.
© 2012 mooboomoo