When it comes to budgeting, the old ways are the best
Using up leftovers? Sewing our own clothes? The money-saving tips of the past are just as relevant today
Saturday 29 November 2008
Be it due to war, recession or a non-existent state pension, Britain's older generations are far more likely than the rest of us to have first-hand experience of real shortage. Today, some 2.1 million pensioners are living in poverty, so having a few less pounds to spend every week is a walk in the park in comparison.
For many retirees there is nothing optional about living on very little money, but going "old school" for tips on a cheap lifestyle is very in vogue right now, and taking a few leaves out of the old-fashioned, hardcore, book of frugal living could be the future for everyday saving for the rest of us.
The clever consumer
Modern families throw away an average of £150 worth of food every year, according to consumer group Which?, and many of us admit to binning far more, particularly if ready meals and pre-prepared foods have been left languishing in the fridge.
Going back to our roots by shopping locally and frequently for the things we need, cooking from scratch, planning meals in advance, properly storing food and cooking with leftovers could banish the expensive habit of wasting food. And search out tips to maximise the use for your meat and vegetables, such as rolling citrus fruit on a hard surface to get the most juice out of it.
"My granny never wasted anything," says Ed Bowsher, a financial expert at money website Fool.co.uk. "If there was a tiny bit of meat left, she'd make a stew. Or put it in a sandwich the next day. But these days we throw out 6.7 million tonnes of food each year. If we plan our shopping and cooking carefully, however, we needn't waste a crumb."
Vegetables are far cheaper than meat so why not go vegetarian – at least for a few days a week? With the right range of fruit and veg, dairy products and dirt cheap lentils, a balanced, leaner diet could be easier to maintain than a meat based one, and could even help you shift a few pounds in weight as well as save those coins. Make the most of the new-fangled luxury that is your freezer by cooking in bulk and freezing it.
If you can't face a meat-free day or two, why not embrace the growing trend of cooking with cheaper, more unusual cuts such as mutton, or even trotters. If it's good enough for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, it's good enough for the rest of us. Resurrect the old skill of haggling for the best cuts for the best possible price and become a loyal customer. Going back to the same independent butcher could eventually earn you a nice extra cut for your loyalty.
If things get really tough, and you're feeling adventurous, the revival of foraging for food from the wild is going strong, even among city dwellers. What about nettle soup, some wild berries, garlic or mushrooms, and, if you can catch one, a grey squirrel? Make sure you know what's edible and what's not, and that you're not trespassing or otherwise breaking the law during your foraging. Only pick species that are common and which you are familiar with. Like so many things in life, if you don't know what it is, don't put it in your mouth. "How to" guides, cookery courses and advice websites are springing up that can help you find your feet. But if you're not quite ready to go out rambling for dandelions, growing your own – or even rearing animals for meat – could be the answer. Growing your own veg can save as much as £1,500 a year. The Royal Horticultural Society is a good place to start; see www.rhs.org.uk for advice on making the most of your garden.
Meanwhile, turn staying in into the new going out. Rediscover the art of the dinner party with everyone bringing a dish, rather than heading to a plush restaurant, and trade that chic but pricey bar for the fun of home-made cocktails. Very few people had cars until the end of the 20th century, so if you do go out, walk, take public transport or hitch a lift with friends.
Make do and mend
One of the biggest lifestyle changes over the last century has been the increase of disposable items. But re-usable razors, nappies and refillable bottles of beauty products are much cheaper per use than the single-use wipes, blades and baby products. If something breaks try to fix it first before you add to the landfill – and your debts – by forking out for a brand new replacement.
Getting out your grandmother's knitting needles and sewing machine and making your own clothes is cool again, and groups like Stitch'n'Bitch ( www.stitchn bitch.co.uk), a social network for knitters, have never been so popular. Embrace the hand-me-down culture you thought you'd escaped as a child by buying second-hand clothes, either online through sites like eBay, or in charity shops. You're the only one who will know that they're "nearly new".
"There was always more you could do with old items," says Audrey Carver, 90, from Epping Forest. "Sheets that were worn down the middle could be turned into pillowcases, then handkerchiefs, and finally cleaning cloths and rags. And when we made clothes we would use one layer of material rather than the two layers you get now.
"It must be hard if you are on a fixed income now," she adds. "These things are fun for a while, but become harder long term."
If you are on the look out for a new item, do your buying slowly, shopping around for the best possible price, and consider paying a few more pounds for a robust, longer lasting product rather than something plastic but inevitably short-lived.
Use your new-found domestic skills to make yourself a draft excluder out of old clothes or bits of cloth. Hang your clothes up to dry rather than using the tumble dryer. Put an extra jumper on instead of whacking up the heating, and turn lights out in rooms you're not using.
Nor is it essential to splash out on expensive cleaning products – just raid your cupboards. Lemon juice can help to get rid of grease and marks, and mixed with olive oil it can be used as furniture polish. Baking soda can get the grime off your bath and can clear your pipes if you put a few tablespoonfuls down the sink. Vinegar is mildly acidic and acts well as a cleaning product, particularly white vinegar. Spraying it on windows and wiping with an old newspaper will give you a smear-free shine better than most manufactured products. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in an old spray bottle to clean your surfaces as if you were a 21st-century Mrs Beeton. Or, better still, check out her own wise words at www. mrsbeeton.com – you too could be a domestic god or goddess for less.
Traditional values: How to budget
Grandparents always seem to have a notebook on them, and now we know why. Work out your incoming cash and your outgoing expenditure, create a budget and stick to it, writing down everything you spend in a month. It'll be an eye opener and will help you keep control of your spending.
Get a money box and put away your change for a rainy day. You'll be surprised how much it adds up.
Above all, have a saving goal. "One of the modern problems is the sheer abundance of things to spend our money on," says Peter Chadborn, an independent financial adviser for CBK Colchester. "Having a plan like paying off debts, or building up savings will focus your mind, and ensure you walk past the shops rather than saunter in.
"If you have to borrow money to buy something you can't afford it, and if you still need it a month later, it was definitely worth saving up for."
Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?
Dirty tricks in a divorce can cause some nasty surprises
What would happen if you put a statistician in a casino with £1m?
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Simon Read: 'The fight must go on over equality on expat pensions'
- 1 The scientist who takes 100 drugs a day so he can live to 150
- 2 The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...
£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...
£45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...
Day In a Page
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads