17 realistic ways to save money

Ciao, welcome back to my blog!

Money talk has always been a tricky topic, and I think nowadays even more because social media only pictures luxury lifestyles where people are only showing off their wealth.

The reality is quite different, many people struggled to meet ends at least once in their lives.

I have learned very quickly 17 practical ways to save money and that's why I know what to do:

I come from a rather common Italian working-class family: working dad and housewife mum. I never had to worry about money while I was a child but my dad always taught me the value and the importance of money and saving while growing up. He really wanted me to learn how to be financially independent very soon, so I started to have a part-time summer job when I was only 14 to pay for the things I wanted or needed.

During high school and university, I used to work two afternoons a week as a cleaner and I kept that job for 10 years.

In the summer, when I didn't have to attend school, I used to pick another side job to earn more. I have worked in a coffee shop, in a restaurant and I have been an entertainer for kids. My parents always provided everything I needed in terms of food, education and medical check-ups but everything else was on me. For them, I needed to be able to earn and wisely manage my own money so that I would have never had to ask for it or rely on somebody else.

I have to admit it has been hard sometimes. My friends were having fun at the beach while I had to go to work in the summer. They were going out and I was studying. I had to manage my money and my time carefully to work things out. I made mistakes and I had to pay for them.

I bought my first car, my first mobile phone, clothes and what I desired with my own money. I have always had cash aside for "emergencies" and I always managed to have savings in my bank account.

When I moved to the UK, the habit of saving money for rainy days has been very useful, as like every big city around the world, London is very expensive.

Are you struggling to set money aside?

Well, you are not the only one!

If your answer is yes, you are not alone in your struggle to save money. According to statistics, “45% of Americans have saved nothing for retirement, including 40% of Baby Boomers. 38% don’t actively save for retirement at all.” - From the Finance blog zone.

'When you're starting from scratch, saving money can seem like a long, arduous and near-impossible task – but all it really takes is making a series of small changes, and sticking to them,' a spokesperson from NetVoucherCodes explains.

That's why I put together some tips to save more. It is not important how much, the main thing is to be able to put some money aside every month. It might be difficult at first, but it is worth it.

Our current society sends us misleading messages every day through social media, TV, and advertisements that we need to buy, own and do expensive things otherwise we are not cool. That's a lie.

Real friends and real people will understand and admire your intent of being more frugal. Don't be fooled by things that are not necessary but that will leave a hole in your pocket.

I am not going to give you a list of DON'Ts. It feels like a punishment. I am giving you 17 practical advice to save more money but bear in mind that when following this frugal lifestyle laziness needs to be put aside because 9 times out of 10 is what makes you spend money.

Embracing minimalism really helped me to determine what is important for me and that lead me to a frugal lifestyle and better shopping habits.

To know more about it, check this article:

My journey towards minimalism

Saving is a skill like any other and it can be challenging at the beginning, but you just need it to practice it daily to see results.

Start with small changes, then once you are more confident and used to save monthly, you will see that you will find more creative ways to save and to add more cash to your bank account.

It doesn't have to be all year round and maybe it can be a one month challenge just to save enough for an item you wanted. I don't do everything I listed here all the time. Some of the tips below are saving habits but when I can spend more, I treat myself without feeling guilty about it. Life is one after all, and it needs to be enjoyed.

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I know, it sounds obvious but the food is actually one of the biggest monthly expenses, so try to reduce the superfluous.

-Plan ahead, do a shopping list of essential items and stick to it.

- Buy food that has been reduced in price because it is close to the expiration day. Frozen food is fine sometimes but buying fresh, seasonal food is always the best option, for your health and your pockets.

Local off-licence corner shops or local markets are a great choice to save money as you can find loads of fresh fruit and veggies at half of the price compared to supermarkets and usually the quality is much better.

Pre-cooked food and pre-cut fruit and veggies are more expensive without a reason and should be avoided. The amount of actual food is less and on top of it, they won't taste as nice. Try with pomegranate: when you buy it pre-cut from the supermarket it comes in the plastic pot (not good for the environment), it costs around 2£ or more and it doesn't taste anything. Try to buy the whole fruit instead, and you will see the massive difference in taste and convenience (usually around 1.40£ each)!

-Home cooking is key. You don't need to be a chef to put together a good meal and sometimes it doesn't even involve cooking. Think about salads, toasts and so on. If you don't know how just go on YouTube and check for tutorials for easy and quick recipes. Most of the time you can find tasty dishes that are easy to do and in less than 15 minutes (more ideas on my food section).

Remember that homemade food is healthier and it makes you in control of the portion sizes and the ingredients, which is also better for your waistline.

If you double the quantities of ingredients in the evening you can bring the leftovers of your dinner at work the next day. Don't let anybody make you feel weird about it. My colleagues regularly come to check what I have for lunch and they are pretty jealous about it most of the time, compared to their sad pre-cooked meals from Sainsbury.

-Takeaway and eating out are for special occasions only.

-Make your own coffee/tea saves you time and money. It makes you skip the Starbucks queue and save loads at the end of the month. Invest in a good coffee machine and a collapsible mug, it literally takes you 5 minutes to make an excellent coffee or latte with it at home before leaving for work.

-Invest in a Brita filter jug if you like me can't stand the taste of tap water instead of buying the plastic bottles and bringing with your water while travelling in a stainless steel bottle.

-Travel expenses:

If you leave far away from work it might be expensive. There are travel cards and subscriptions available online to make you save money.

You can also ask to be relocated if the distance is big or you could move closer if possible. I believe that spending a bit more on rent is better than wasting precious time and money commuting.

If you don't live far from work just have a walk or cycle instead of taking the tube or a bus for 2 stops. I know a girl that walks everywhere within the hour: she is in amazing shape, more relaxed than many people I have met and she saves loads every month. One of my boyfriend's friends cycles from Bethnal Green to High Street Kensington every day! It is better for the environment and healthier for you too.

Also, when possible try to stick to one public transport: if for instance, you are taking the bus to get to the tube station, and then take the train, just skip the bus and walk.

I personally take the bus instead of the tube daily and not only I save money but my commute is much more pleasant. It takes longer obviously but at least I can sit down and read a book quietly while before I used to stand and be squeezed in the train, forced to smell other people's body odour. No, thank you very much.

-Plan ahead how much you are going to spend per month or week and then top up your Oyster card instead of using contactless to keep a better track of it.

I can't see the point of calling an Uber or a minicab in London: it takes sometimes more than taking public transports and it costs more than double.

-Buy secondhand items

Buying second-hand is currently cool, but a few years ago it would have been sort of embarrassing, at least where I come from.

Furniture, home wear, technology and clothing in good conditions (sometimes even brand new) are available at a fraction of the cost on eBay, Gumtree, Depop, Vinted, Facebook Marketplace and many other websites.

Buying pre-loved items is a more sustainable choice and it really helps save money. It just takes a bit of practice and patience but it is deeply satisfying.

Read my article on how to successfully shop second hand here.

-How to shrink your energy bills:

I am not telling you to live in a dark, cold hole but I noticed that many times people are abusing the endless amount of energy that we think we have got.

We actually don't. Saving energy is a major issue for the Earth first, and it is vital for your bank account too.

-Turn off the lights and open the curtains during the day: enjoy natural light.

-Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room, even if you know I will come back in a few minutes. It still counts.

-Opt for one small lamp to light up the room instead of several led lights on the ceiling. Unless you are doing open-heart surgery, you don't need 8 blinding lights.

-Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and do the same while you are shampooing. Also washing up in a bowl rather than using a running tap.

-Don't use the dryer when doing laundry in the spring and summer months.

-Turn off standby appliances.

-Set a timer for your heater and set a reasonable temperature according to the weather. Switch it off during the night: you will sleep much better, believe me! Check my article about it https://www.femicate.com/single-post/sleep-time

I am not at home during the day so I usually switch the heater on only in the evening and only when it's very cold.

I would never understand people wearing only t-shirts and shorts in the winter while at home and setting the temperature at 28 degrees when outside is 2 causing a high-temperature gap between indoor and outdoor that is very unhealthy.

-Opts for showers rather than baths and set a specific time for them (for example: no. more than 10 minutes).

-Repair your old/damaged items instead of buying new

-Sell what you no longer need

-Don't pay for apps and memberships

Premium Spotify and Amazon Prime, no thank you.

I am not paying 10 quids a month to listen to music. The 4 seconds of AD before you can skip on YouTube are not so annoying.

Ask a friend to share Netflix with you to split the cost.

Why pay for a gym membership when you can have a run in the park or cycle or just choose a free workout to do at home on youtube? There is a new good free app called FITON that you can download.

Pinterest is full of free printable workouts. Everyone knows that paying for the gym will not make sure you are actually attending those classes. My boyfriend bought for us a second hand but pristine complete home gym machine for only 75£ and we live in a one-bedroom flat. If you share a flat and you don't have space just buy a yoga mat, a resistance rubber band and a couple of dumbbells from Decathlon or Core Balance. If I can, you can too.

-Avoid apple pay and limit the use of your contactless card

I used to have Apple pay for a few months and I found out that I didn't perceive properly when I was spending money. As a result, I ended up splurging too much without realising it. More or less the same with contactless cards. Tapping is so easy and pain-free that I couldn't understand where all the money went at the end of the month.

The best method to check your expenses is to set a budget to spend for the month and divide it per week. Then withdraw only a set amount of cash per week and stick to it.

Using cash can be annoying but it makes real and tangible the act of paying itself.

-Ask for email receipts

Paper receipts are easy to lose, are wasting paper (they are not recyclable) and they take space. To keep track of how, where and how much you spend money properly, ask for the email receipts instead when possible. Then, create a folder in your email account where it's super quick to find them back. You will never be stuck again with an item you are not sure about!

-Plan your holidays and avoid peak

Bank holiday, Christmas, Easter, weekends in general and several other times during the year are to be avoided if you want to spend less money. If you can't, plan your trip months so you can find better deals.

-Check your bank account at the end of the month and keep track of your expenses

Keeping track of your expenses is vital.

Make a monthly budget of all the essential expenses (rent, bills, commuting, food, debts) that should amount to 70% of your income.

Save 10% of your salary, put it aside or invest it.

The other 20% is for you to enjoy.

I learned it reading "The richest man in Babylon" from George S. Clason which is one of my favourite self-help books and I managed to save much more than I used to follow his guidelines so I highly recommend you to read it.

-Start buying vouchers

Groupon and Treatwell are amazing websites where great discounts are given for restaurants, retail stores, salons, spas, theatres and much more. When I need to cut my hair I browse on Treatwell and I often find a very good deal for less than half price.

-Do researches before buying and buy quality items

My father always repeated to me when I was a kid: "Who spends more, is spending less" meaning: if you invest in long-lasting, quality items you will eventually save money. It is easy to be attracted by cheap items only for spending more when they break.

When you actually need something is tempting to rush into a purchase but I usually take my time to compare prices in stores and online. Many times I found the same item at a lower price elsewhere or second hand.

My shopping Vade Mecum

-DIY is key

When you can do it on your own, don't pay someone else to do it.

One of my favourite quotes from the famous book "Think and grow rich" by Napoleon Hill says: "people should do something and pay nothing than to pay dues and do nothing."

Don't pay others to clean your house, do your nails, make your bread.

It is fine to treat yourself now and then but when it is a habit you can't give up, it will affect your wallet greatly.

Making your own cleaning and beauty products is easy and it will help you save money.

For cleaning tips this is the link for one of my previous posts:

Pinterest gave me so many tips! Homemade face and hair masks using natural ingredients, body lotions and much more.

-Plan your gifts and hand made them

A creative way to save money is to get handy and start to make homemade, personalised gifts. Buying gifts can be very satisfying but also incredibly expensive, especially at Christmas. When on a budget, use your creativity and make something useful for your friends and family.

It could be a basket with homemade products such as a bottle of spirit, a jar of jam, a face mask, a candle!

You don't need to be Wonder Woman to do these things and surely the people you love will appreciate the effort and time you spend doing them, which is the most valuable thing in the world.

-Don't buy magazines, read blogs

Again, think about the environment! No waste of paper and free info! Nowadays we can find literally everything online, why should we pay for magazines?!

-Unsubscribe from newsletters

How tempting is it to indulge in online shopping after finding an intriguing 50%off email from your favourite brand?

Well, too difficult to resist, at least for me. I used to receive dozen of newsletters every single day. Not exactly what you need if you are trying to restrain yourself from shopping because you are determined to save more money.

Unsubscribing is easy, usually is within the email you just received.

There you have it, I hope you guys enjoyed the post and find some useful tips to save more money!

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