We all know the customary money saving advice: invest wisely, keep to a strict budget and try to save at least 10% of your income each month. And it’s all very sensible and all very true, but what if you don’t want to give up your fashion addiction, or social life or love of looking good?
What if you want to keep living the high life, just armed with a little more knowledge about how to make it work on a skinny budget?
Here are 15 money saving ideas to keep living the high life when your budget’s looking low.
15 Money Saving Ideas To Save Thousands
#1. Make Like Cinderella
Remember the scene in the first Sex And The City film, in which Carrie’s assistant rents a Louis Vuitton handbag from a company called Bag, Borrow Or Steal? Well, the same service is now available to us all!
The trend of renting dresses, shoes, bags and jewelry that you can’t afford to buy has taken off over the last couple of years. Costs vary depending on the popularity of the item with a Louis Vuitton Judy GM handbag, valued at £1570, for example, typically costing £45 for a seven-day rental.
Items can usually be hired by the evening, the week or the month and prices get proportionally lower the longer you hire. For those super-special occasions, designer rental is an option worth knowing about, but don’t get carried away.
It’s as far from investment shopping as you can get and normally you’ll need to give your credit card details for the full value of the item, just in case it gets stolen or spoilt in your care.
#2. Get An Invisible Hand
If you’re shopping for clothes (or just about anything else) online, do your purse a big favour and download the InvisibleHand add-on to your computer. After loading it onto your machine, InvisibleHand sits quietly in the background until it recognises you’re shopping online, at which point hey presto, it jumps in and tells you where to get the same thing cheaper.
Unlike price comparison sites which gather prices from retailers at specified intervals, InvisibleHand is always live, gathering prices there and then.
From there, you can see if the online retailer is on ebates so you can enjoy an additional discount through cash back.
#3. Holiday In A Home From Home
House swapping has really taken off since the recession and there are now plenty of websites where you can meet people who are happy to hand over their home for a fortnight in return for you doing the same.
With house swapping you can go pretty much anywhere in the world, staying in the kind of places you’d normally only dream off. From villas in Florida with an outdoor Jacuzzi and pool, to city pads in Berlin, all it costs is a small fee to the house swap agency, then your plane fares and some thank-you gifts for your hosts.
Many holidaymakers car swap too, meaning no car hire costs.
#4. Go Vintage, Dahling
Vintage is officially having a moment. TV shows like Mad Men and Pan Am, and style icons like Kate Moss and Dita von Teese, have inspired us to look to the past for great, original fashion, and the good news is that it’s not only way cheaper than the high street, but often far better quality too.
The cut, quality and details of most vintage garments can’t be matched today. And with less cash in our pockets, vintage is at the forefront of the drive to live stylishly for less.
Vintage shops are springing up around the country, but if there isn’t one near you, ebay is a great place to start.
#5. To Auction, To Auction
There’s no need to head to pricey interior design shops to furnish your home, not unless it’s to pinch ideas. Auction houses are the best way to furnish a house when funds are tight, letting you pick up beautiful, solid pieces of furniture for the same price as a flatpack chest of drawers.
Mirrors, wardrobes, paintings and desks are all excellent buys at auctions. Since the recession hit, charity shops which specialise in furniture are growing in popularity, and they’re far brighter places than you might imagine, with some incredible bargains.
Find out what time of day they put out new deliveries and time your visit accordingly to be in with the best chance of bagging the goodies.
#6. Save On Hair Care
All those touch-ups, highlights, lowlights and slices can punch a great big hole in the monthly budget. But do without? No way! To stay on top of root touch-ups without running back to the salon every three or four weeks, use an over-the-counter kit from the pharmacy or ask your hairdresser to give you some of your colour to take home.
Being a salon floozy can really pay too, with lots of salon deals to be found on the likes of Groupon and Wahanda. If you’re brave, or were looking to change stylists anyway, these deals can be phenomenally cheap.
#7. Turn Your Thoughts Into Cash
If you’ve got an opinion on everything, why not get paid for giving it? Companies across the country want to hear what the public thinks of their products and they’re willing to pay. Whilst doing online surveys is never going to make you rich, it could be a nice sideline of an evening whilst watching TV. Typically you’re paid £5 per completed survey.
Here are a couple of my favorite survey sites:
#8. Save Cash Shopping In The States
What with the weak dollar and the great clothes bargains in the States, there’s many a skint UK resident who wishes they could grab some style on a shoestring by shopping direct from the USA.
Many US sellers’ won’t post goods to Britain, either because they only deal in dollars or just consider it too much trouble to ship across the Pond. That’s where package forwarding services come in. For a one-off fee of around $10 you can set up your own US address, then forward items to you quicker than you can say I’ll-take-that-in-red.
Don’t reserve haggling for holiday markets. Department stores and larger shops are well-used to people trying to knock them down on expensive items. It’s not uncommon to get as much as 20% off just by asking.
Don’t think about paying full price for a new sofa without at least trying to snag some money off. At the very least you should be able to get the delivery charge waived or some free cushions for the sofa.
And always remember to ask about interest-free credit too, meaning that you don’t pay a penny more than the original cost of the items, but can spread it out over three or four years. Many shops do it, especially for bigger purchases, but don’t always advertise.
#10. Get A Designer Kitchen For A Song
If you can’t live another day with your tired old kitchen but are too skint to replace it, check out websites dedicated to selling ex-display and used kitchens on behalf of showrooms and private clients.
This can be a great way of getting well-built kitchens at a fraction of the original retail price or for selling your old one if it’s still got life left in it.
It’s environmentally-friendly too because unloved kitchens are passed on rather than ending up at the tip.
#11. Embrace Imperfection
Loads of people are put off by a little scratch on their furniture. Me? Ooh, I’ve learned to love ’em. Whether its appliances or dining room tables, shopping at outlets that specialise in slightly imperfect items can save you a ton.
Last summer I saved hundreds on a new fridge freezer because it had a tiny scratch on the side, and I mean tiny. Whenever you go shopping, just ask where they have the scratch and dent or open box items.
#12. Use Cash Back Sites
An internet phenomenon, these are basically sites that get paid by retailers for sending them shoppers. Cash back sites then pass that money on to members in the form of credit.
The percentage of cash which gets paid back to you varies depending on the retailer, but can be as much as 20% of the price of the goods you’re buying. By far the biggest is Ebates, which offers new members a $10 gift card just for opening a free account.
Another option is Swagbucks for cash back as well.
#13. Save A Ton On Your Supermarket Shop
Next time you shop online for food, don’t go straight to your usual supermarket’s site. Instead, check out mysupermarket.com, which lets you enter your shopping list, selecting from Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s or Ocado, but keeps a running total of what your items cost in each of these four shops.
When you’ve finished working through your list, this clever site tots up where you can get the whole lot cheapest and redirects you to the supermarket site that will give you the best deal. It takes the same amount of time as shopping with your usual supermarket and can typically save you 5-10%. Genius!
#14. Go Far On Less
If you’re a two car household and only use the second car occasionally, signing up to a car club could work out far cheaper. These offer pay-as-you-go motoring, allowing you to rent a car for as little as an hour.
Prices typically start from £5 an hour or around £40 for 24 hours, and cars are generally available 24/7. Search ‘car clubs’ together with the name of your nearest town.
On the surface you might think this option is more expensive than owning, but when you take into account insurance and maintenance of your car, you will see the numbers make sense for renting.
#15. Don’t Leave Home Without Your Phone
The clever little Shop Savvy app lets you scan the barcodes in shops to find if the item is cheaper anywhere else. Just swipe your iPhone camera over the barcode and let it get to work. Simple and easy to use, it will help you to save money in no time at all.
Bonus Tip: Pair Your Shopping With Qapital
One additional way I save money is by using the free app Qapital. I link up my accounts and when I spend money, it rounds up the purchase to the nearest dollar. The money is then transferred from my checking account to a savings account.
You wouldn’t think that spare change adds up, but it really does. I’ve saved an additional $1,000 in one year just by rounding up my purchases. You can learn more about Qapital here.
So there you have 15 ways to save some serious amounts of money. By just doing a few things differently, you can easily save yourself thousands of dollars every year. And if you are able to use this savings to pay off debt or even to start investing, you will get ahead financially in no time at all.
Skint in the City writes about living the stylish life on a shoestring budget, such as how to buy Pucci and decorate apartments even when you’re living on a starter’s salary. Mixing down-to-earth personal finance with tips on budget style, entertaining and home styling, Skint in the City is for those who haven’t given up on their dreams of living the stylish life – even if their budget’s currently tighter than their skinny jeans.