On the top floor of some some pub, my new friend pushes me for an answer. “Well?” he asks, “What’ll you be giving up for Lent, then?” I consider it for a moment, giving in; “Drinking in moderation.” ‘And’, I add to myself, ‘talking to strangers.’
Regardless of religious inclination, for many Lent is an annual attempt to curtail bad habits, spurred on by naïve hopes that all of one’s defects can be attributed to over-indulgence during the other ten and a half months of the year.
A cut in one area is often complemented by an
agreeable increase in spare cash though, so it really is worthwhile finding a bad habit
to cull. Invent one, if need be. While I won’t patronise you and point out the vast
sums of money you’d hold onto by quitting cigarettes, coffee and drink - vices
are an entitlement - some cutbacks do pay.
Give up… multiblade razors
Using a Titanium Mach Turbo Pro? Any razor with a name like an 80s supercar is
a gaudy example of excellent advertising. Where ten replacement blades for
these razors typically costs just shy of £30, ten double-edged safety razor
blades come in at around £3 on the high street – and the actual razor under a
fiver. £100+ saved over the year and a
better shave thrown into the bargain.
Give up… the overpriced gym contract
By now, you’ll be realising that the popular maxim ‘resistance is futile’ was
first uttered by your warm bed on a cold morning. It’s self-evident paying for
an underused gym membership is an expensive mistake but if your mind remains
optimistic about your body’s chances, then look to swap to a monthly rolling
contract at a cheaper place – and that way, should the optimism cease, you
won’t be forced to honour twelve months of fees for your paltry three weeks of
queuing up waiting for a free treadmill.
Details of good, inexpensive gyms can be found here, but expect to pay around £12-16 a month, which can be a good £50 cheaper than top-name equivalents.
Give up… last-minute shopping
Typically, there are two prompts for food shopping: either you don’t like
what’s lingering in the fridge, or said fridge is bare. A weekly shop should
cut the need for quickly popping to the shops, which invariably results in
overpriced pizza, a packet of M&Ms, a bottle of wine and ‘emergency’ bacon
(the best kind).
Designate a day to pop around the supermarket (or better, a cheap local market) and take a list – because shopping from memory is nothing more than an embarrassing reminder that booze really does pickle the brain after all. It’s an obvious tip but go just before the shop shuts and you stand a decent chance of picking up the final reductions. Top-flight supermarkets like M&S and Waitrose often make the most substantial reductions (no, really!) – look out for their distinctive yellow stickers.
When you make it to the supermarket, give up buying the first stuff you see. Supermarkets tend to stack the most expensive goods at eye-level and above, keeping less expensive equivalents hidden on the lower shelves.
Give up… your student bank account
There is a hasty ‘not until you graduate, though!’ caveat here.
Most students will leave uni with a scrapped 2:1 and a few hundred in a student
bank account overdraft. This overdraft will cease to be interest free sooner
rather than later and banks have a foul habit of demanding penalty fees when
it’s least affordable. A momentary tour
of the high-street banks should find you a graduate account with a much more
suitable overdraft facility and lending policy, which could easily add an extra
couple of hundred pounds breathing room to your limit, often more than
necessary when scraping together the first real-life rental deposit.
Not something to be done during Lent, perhaps, but use the time to do your graduate-account research. Swap as soon as possible.
Give up... going home on one rail ticket
Yes, there is the 16-25yo railcard (London students – have you tethered it your
Oyster?) and yes, booking 12 weeks prior to your journey will reduce a
fare, but train journeys can come in even further under budget owing to a
joyously unreasoned blip in the world of railway tickets.
Buy multiple fares for the different lags of the journey, being sure to book for the same service and you’ll pay less overall, though you will have to look after a cluster of tickets. It’s known as ‘splitting your fare’ and it’s a no-effort-required way to save money getting back home at Easter. Find a few other tips and instructions for ticket-splitting here.