More savings in these difficult times.

I am bearing in mind that you may not want to lower your actual standard of living too much with these tips.

Reduced visits: Do you like to eat out? If, for instance, you eat out once a week, either get to know lower priced bistros or, if you are friendly with some of the restaurant owners and you want to continue to support them, why not just cut down to once a fortnight.

Home cuisine: Another idea what we have adopted at home is, on the last Saturday of each month, we have a superb three course meal at home with wine. We have a minute vase and always have a single flower in it. If we can’t locate a “live”flower, we have an imitation rose we put in. We also have candle lighting. It’s lovely and romantic, and costs us a fraction of the cost of going out.

Charity Shops. Don’t be proud. The good days are over. Years ago, in a previous depression, I bought a Jaeger suit, in brand new condition for £15, a Barracuda raincoat for £12 and a Simpsons hacking jacket and Daks trousers for around £20 the pair. I did see an almost new Saville Row suit for £25 but alas this was so much out of my size range I had to let it go. Nowadays the good stuff never reaches the shops! However,you can buy beautiful silk ties for around a fiver, and new shirts for not much more.

Food waste: If you are throwing away more than a small bag of waste for each member of your family, each week, you are doing something wrong. Wash your vegetables thoroughly before peeling and use the peels to make soup, or put them into stews. If you see a sign in the supermarket saying £1 each, two for £1.50, in most cases, the £1 for one is the cheaper price. Will you use the second one? Will it stay fresh and edible?

Food buying: There is a very good program called “Now you’re cooking” which allows you to store menus, gives all the health information for each item of food, allows you to enter details of what food is on which aisle in your supermarket and, when you have sorted out the weeks’ menus, it will print a shopping list in aisle order. These are just some of the options of the program. In addition, there are lists of recipes on the website totalling 158,000 and they are all free. You can use the program free but to speed it up, you can get it for US$25.00 and if you pay an extra US$5 you can have free upgrades for life. The following page has a huge amount of awards and write-ups. Not sure exactly how many as I got tired after counting 150 links!

Additionally, when you visit a supermarket, look at the bargains at the end of the aisles, but beware of the BOGOF (Buy one, get one free) principle. Be especially careful if it is on an item of dated food. This brings me to the shelf marked “End of life”. This may give you an idea for that evening’s meal, thus saving you considerable money. In addition, do note that a lot of end-of-life dates have to take into consideration that you may not have a fridge or freezer. Don’t automatically throw out food just because it has reached it’s sell-by date. Prawns and fish, perhaps, but many items can be eaten safely after this date. You have to use your head here and, if you are not an experienced cook/housewife, then perhaps you should rely on this date.

Using the car. Do you need to make that journey? Can’t you walk to the shop for that single item? Have a note list in the kitchen for chores you need the car for, and do them all together once a week. A walk to the station and back each day may put years on your life, keep you fit over the years to pursue the things you love to do, and keep you healthy. And think of the cost of petrol.

Work Lunches. Nothing wrong with taking sandwiches. If you like to join other workers going out to lunch, take just one sandwich so you buy less food out. I have done this and when people have made a remark at my skimping of lunch, I just said I was trying to lose a little weight as I couldn’t fit into my favourite old suit. (Men would understand this.)

Drinking. The first thing to cut out a few of those pub visits, and is the short at the end of the evening really necessary? If you have to go to the pub, go a little later. If you drink with half a dozen lads why not invite them home one evening a month. This means you are only host twice in a year and once a month you will all have an evening costing a lot less. This reduced business might encourage breweries to look at my idea in Sunday’s blog and start lobbying the government to encourage the sale of drinks with lower alcohol by reducing the taxes on them.

Entertainment: If you like the cinema, theatre, going to concerts, make a note of how many you go in a given period and for every six you visit, cut them down to five. Look for free or inexpensive entertainment such as playing bridge or poker with friends, How about getting a small group together of friends with similar tastes, and have an evening discussing a play which has been on TV during the previous week? Put an evening aside once a month if you have free evening calls, and call all your friends. A lovely way to keep in touch, and you can share some of the tips from this list with them.

Friends: If you are like me, you have friends all over the place. I live in London, with friends all around the UK. I have overseas friends in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the US, Mexico and a few European countries. This is all very nice but if times get worse, you need more local friends. I now wish I had more friends within walking distance as it is these local friends who will look out for each other if things really get bad.

The bottom line here is not to put these ideas into practice if times get bad. These ideas will be useless then anyway. The real idea is to save enough money to cut down on credit card bills, make mortgage payments, and put aside savings for the times that may get bad.

My ideas have been centred around a premise that you can cut down your expenditure without drastically curtailing your standard of living.


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