3 More Ways To Save Money Online.

Some of my older readers may remember a post from half a year ago, where I brought up some great online shops for people in America and England to take advantage of.

But there are many more ways of saving money than by just finding cheap shops or buying in bulk. Try a few of these on for size.

1: Voucher Sites.

Voucher sites offer discounts and cashback rewards when you use them. Simply log on, print any usable vouchers and make money.

For example, I use Sainsbury’s My Coupons site to get a little cashback on any groceries I actually buy, and I search online for any vouchers whenever I need them. I have even got some babycare vouchers stashed away ready to use at Boots (if they’re still running the program) when I need the items. Come to mention it, I may cash them in as soon as the positive test comes back and start stashing wipes and creams and shampoos already.

How to find them: just search for “free vouchers” or “money off vouchers”, maybe add your country or region for any specialist ones.

2: Warehouse Clearance.

Warehouse clearance sites operate under the same process as bulk buying websites like BuyWholeFoodsOnline. They buy in bulk so as to get a massive saving, then they sell on to the customers for a mild profit. Often they are selling items that are near or past their BBE dates, but nowhere near their Use-By dates.

I love using a few assorted sites, but Wowcher and Approved Food are my favourites at the moment. These sites move around and change, so just search for “best before buy” and see what you get!

3: Newsletters.

I subscribe to so many newsletters, mostly online but some snail mail. Whenever you buy from a website, subscribe to their newsletter. I know, for example, that I will buy from Buy WholeFoods Online, Natural Balance Foods, Donald Russel, Wowcher or Sainsbury’s again soon. So it’s good to see their offers when I’m getting near the date when I need a new purchase.

What’s more, when you subscribe to newsletters you can access special offers not advertised on their site, or even, if you go a few months without buying, receive a discount on your next purchase.

Whenever you buy from an online site, check for their newsletter, you may be pleasantly surprised.

For even more ways to save money, check out my book On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

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TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… overcome impulse buying.

Everyone impulse buys to a degree. When we have some spare money (or sometimes when we don’t!) and we see something on the shelf, in the window or on Pinterest that we want, a few times we will buy it. And every time we will feel the pull. But what if you could enjoy window shopping without coming home with anything? Or browse the supermarket and get only what you need? Or go charity shopping without buyer’s remorse? Or leaf through a magazine and not feel jealous? It is possible, but it involves some careful retraining.

1: Make lists.

The first trick is to make lists. We will look at a couple of sorts of lists but, as with organization and memory, writing any suitable lists can help you avoid distractions.

You will firstly write lists of what you need. The most common list in this category is the shopping list: what you set out to get. Another list is a general list, where you note what sort of things you need (vegetables, protein, soap), allowing you to go with cheaper or better options when available. And another of my favourites is a permissions list, where you note what things you can buy if you spot them, allowing you to buy things you can stock up on, like freezables, canned goods and soaps when they are cheap.

And next you will write lists of what you want. This list is composed over the course of a week. Do not use it to write down everything you see that you fancy, because this interferes with step 3 and can make you miserable. Instead, when you see something you want, forget about it and wait two or three days. If after that it’s still on your mind, write it down. At the end of every week, have a look online to see what is the best way of buying one of these and whether it’s worth it. Often you will forget about most things before the day is out and become disinterested in other things when you consider their impracticalities with a cool head.

2: D.I.Y.

The next stage is to look at your list of impractical wants and ask yourself what you can make. These are the best things to start with. Often newbie diyers throw themselves in the deep end, not by making something too complicated, but by making something they need, or making something from their want list that wouldn’t be terrible to buy. When you try and start with things you need, you feel too much urgency and may mess it up or lose hope. When you try and start with things you would have bought anyway you are setting a standard you are bound to fall below, as it was already cheap, practical and suitable enough.

But by starting with things you wouldn’t otherwise have, you can ease your way into D.I.Y. and make it more worth your while. This means that your confidence grows and you end up relegating more and more of your wants to the D.I.Y. list, leading to fewer impulse buys. (Though your impulse crafting may skyrocket!)

3: Abundance mentality.

This term is often associated with the PUA community’s idea of viewing sex as plentiful, to stop young men thirsting for it and letting that thirst blind them. But whatever angle you take on that definition, it also applies to other facets of life, especially buying. You most resent not getting something when you think you can’t. You most dwell on something when you’re scared you may never be able to get one again. You most want to buy the less you are allowed to buy. This is a perfectly logical pattern for humans. When we deprive ourselves of things, our primitive selves assume they are scarce and, therefore, conclude it is more vital to grab them when we can.

What you need to realize is that you can afford that cupcake maker, those shoes or that ham hock. The money is there. You just don’t need it or really want it. Even if you don’t have the money in the bank, remind yourself that it isn’t because you have no money, it’s almost certainly because you prioritized another luxury, like smoked salmon, a new bag or some yarn for knitting.

Even if you can’t actually afford that thing at the present moment, it is better to train yourself to assume you can afford it, but don’t really need or want it. That way you are less likely to impulse buy when it is on offer, or when you find a similar item!

4: The second trip.

This is something that can very quickly annoy people you shop with, so it’s best applied when you are out on your own. Every shop requires two trips.

When we are shopping because we need something, we often pick up things we may not need. Start at the tills and browse your way around the supermarket. Put the things you came in for at one side of the basket or trolley and the things you picked up at the other side. Then, make your way back the same way you came. Put back anything you have changed your mind about in this time. I have no idea why this works so much better than just not picking it up in the first place, but it does!

When we are browsing, we often find ourselves shopping. Sometimes this isn’t so bad for a bit of fun and when we find things we like, but shopping sprees are rightfully seen as binge activities by many. Again, start at the end of town where your car is or where you will exit. Work your way through the shops in order. Don’t buy anything, just enjoy  browsing, take mental note of the items you like and their prices and carry on. On your way back, don’t go into any shop where you didn’t find anything you still want. If anything is really pulling you, just pop into the shop and, looking at it in your hands, ask yourself if it’s worth the price.

Your double trips may seem excessive, but the amount of money, stress and confusion they spare is helpful beyond belief.

5: Allowance.

Another trick is to give yourself a random expenses allowance. The allowance isn’t the random part, the expenses are! When you tell yourself you are only allowed one frivolous item or spontaneous purchase a week, it makes it a lot easier to control pointless clutter and lots of tiny buys. When you tell yourself that you have £X to spend on unplanned purchases, you spend less on each item. Whatever your impulse problem is, place a restriction on it. Preferably at half or below half your current levels. Ideally down to £5-10 or one single item.

This on its own can be hard to keep up, but combined with double trips, shopping lists and a well-cultivated abundance mentality, it is fairly easy to stick to even a ridiculous restriction.

The one caution is not to restrict it to nothing. The reason for this is the “diet effect”. The same way that someone on a low-carb diet will eat an apple and throw the diet out of the window for a day, someone who is not allowed to spend spontaneously will pick up one unplanned item and find their basket full of twelve more unplanned items. Rather than do this, having a little leeway will help you focus and allow for human error.

6: Practical shopping.

One sort of impulse buy that we can let go a little and go crazy on is practical purchases. When you find things on your permissions list, don’t stop yourself getting them. If you find something you will genuinely make good use of within seven days, contemplate a little, but you’re likely better off getting it.

Sometimes, going on a shopping spree with “anything for the house” or “ten new shirts” in mind can be very similar to going on one where anything goes. Of course, minus the guilt trip afterwards!

And those are my six steps to defeating impulse buying!

What are your tricks for avoiding spontaneous spending? What things do you find harder and easier to resist? Do share in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

7 Handbag Essentials for the Recent Acquirer of a Handbag.

I am only just getting used to using handbags. You see, when I was younger in Spain, they were just fashion accessories. A girl had her satchel or backpack for school that also housed all her essentials and could be emptied out into a messy pile on the bed to reuse for girlscouts, going to a friend’s house or a picnic. Handbags were often put in backpacks or carried alongside your main bag. Sometimes they would complete an outfit on their own, but they were still tiny and had little to nothing in them. Being one of the “unfashionable” girls I, of course, had to be contrary and ignore them entirely, favouring the punk look of a tatty, drawn on, stickered backpack that I dragged with me everywhere. After all, if handbags were impractical accessories, I’d darn well not ever own one.

Another breed entirely was the “mummy handbag”. Always medium to large in size and still with T.A.R.D.I.S. properties that made us fairly certain there was everything down to a spare kitchen sink in there. They were often messy inside and, because they were big and not particularly decorative, few girls aspired to owning one. But whether we were tiny handbag connoisseurs or the rebel wild kids, we would hold a certain awe and respect for mummy handbags.

Coming to England, I discovered that mummy handbags are less for mums and more for everyone. They came in many attractive shapes and sizes. Ten year old girls even went to school with handbags instead of backpacks if they were lucky and the dress code allowed. A completely different culture.

Nevertheless, I was reluctant to adopt this alien behaviour. From age sixteen to age eighteen I clung onto my backpacks for school, work, shopping, everything. From age eighteen I adopted satchels and laptop carriers for uni and a huge rucksack for shopping and traveling. When Jon and I moved in together I stuck to an amorphous, heavy bag affectionately known as the “potato sack” for errands and my well worn, well loved leather satchel for work. I was handbag-phobic.

However I did somehow manage to accumulate some. Five, to be precise. A tiny leather one my grandmother owned. A fake leather purse of a similar size. A black and white handbag for going to fancy places. A tattier grey fabric one with fake leather features. And a suede patchwork one with a gazillion pockets. And somehow, their presence corrupted me. I found myself looking at my outfit for the day and wondering whether it was ruined by the giant rucksack I was carrying. And it often was. Because giant rucksacks, contrary to prior belief, do not go with everything.

But I’ve got very used to my giant rucksacks and all their practicalities. So, in the spirit of becoming more feminine, not ruining my look with a giant rucksack, actually putting my handbags to some use and keeping them as a practical item rather than an accessory, I worked out how to get started growing my very own organic mummy handbag. Now, be warned, these are merely the seedlings for your mummy handbag. They may seem like only a few things, but they will gradually grow and expand and fill the entire bag, causing the T.A.R.D.I.S. effect. This will happen naturally, without encouragement and often without your noticing until you start finding forks and small galaxies in there. Regular cutting back of your mummy handbag is required to keep it in good health.

1. The beauty kit.

If we’re talking about handbags as not just a bag to drop things in, but a feminine alternative to rucksacks and plastic bags, then we can’t neglect our beauty. After all, a nice outfit with a nice bag and messy hair and makeup looks as out of place as the same outfit with good hair and makeup and a giant rucksack.

So something to keep around is a beauty kit for light topups. What you’ll keep in it will of course vary based on what you wear. But as the trick of a mummy handbag is to have everything you might need ready to grab, the best idea is to keep a spare of every item you wear regularly and the sorts of things you might wear. Seeing as my makeup bag is very small and my handbag preference is medium, I can often just drop my makeup bag into my handbag, but you will need to keep smaller amounts of spares for smaller bags of if you use many different products.

Suggestions:

-Top ups for lips, eyes and concealer.

-Baby wipes.

-Small nail kit with scissors, file and clippers.

-Hairbrush or comb and dry shampoo can.

2. The first aid kit.

An essential to making the mummy handbag seem like magic. A well-stocked tiny first aid kit, prepared for all sorts of minor accidents and some major ones. A lot of the beauty kit can be reused here: wipes, cotton balls, clean nail scissors, etc. But the first aid kit needs to be kept separate and prepared for all sorts of common problems.

Imagine you’re not just trying to be ready for yourself, but for your friends or any passing stranger who may ask for a plaster or a throat soother.

Suggestions:

-Plasters of various shapes and sizes.

-Antiseptic.

-Cough pills/sweets/mints.

-Pads for blistered or corned feet.

-Sanitary products.

-Mild painkillers.

-Bandaging and sterile needle set.

3. The pens and paper.

In theory you should only ever need your phone for taking notes and writing down contact details. In reality, your phone relies on an often very limited battery, your notes can be lost at the touch of a button and not everywhere has pens and paper, even when they probably should.

To be prepared for everything you need a small assortment of pens and paper, preferably in a tiny folder or binder that fits neatly away into a single compartment of your handbag.

Suggestions:

-Four pens: two in black and two coloured.

-A reporter’s notepad.

-Post-it notes.

-An address book.

4. The charger supply.

Everyone needs chargers. We have phones, kindles, notebook computers and all sorts that we carry around with us. And we are mysteriously bad at remembering to charge all of them, all of the time. Even someone who’s normally quite good at remembering can have a bad day. So you need a supply of chargers.

Your options are two.

1:

-A multicharger.

-A smaller laptop charger.

-A power pack.

2:

-A USB plug. This is basically like any plug you us, except where the wire is meant to come out, there’s a USB port.

-Assorted USB chargers. These come in 2″ versions, so they don’t have to be full wires.

5. The wallet.

Everyone needs a good wallet. Even if it’s in the card compartment of your bag and not an actual, separate wallet. A good wallet contains various sources of real money, not many credit cards (to discourage overuse), any sources of discounts, any necessary ID, etc.

This is basically going to be everything you need if you are shopping, just stop somewhere and want something, need to show ID for any reason or want to donate your change.

Suggestions:

-A coin purse.

-Around £20 in notes and large coins.

-Debit cards.

-A credit card.

-Gift cards.

-Reward scheme cards.

-In-date coupons and vouchers organized by date.

-ID cards.

6. The “just in” case.

Yes, that was a terrible pun. This is a small case, bag, purse or section of your handbag that you use for emergency items. Pretty much anything you often find yourself looking for or lacking when you need it. What they are depends on who you are, who you’re often with and what you’re doing.

My bag:

-A tightly folded large carrier bag for shopping.

-Candy for students I may encounter.

-Matches.

-A Nakd bar for hunger.

7. The entertainment centre.

For when you or whoever you’re with are unexpectedly bored. These are things to fill the spare minutes at work, to keep you busy waiting for the bus or to keep your kids quiet in the back of the car.

Your entertainment centre needs to have a variety of forms of entertainment for everyone you may need to distract. I largely need just to distract myself, but you may need to consider your partner, children or friends. Good ideas are travel games you can fold away and move or arts and crafts.

My bag:

-Current sewing project.

-Small artists pad and charcoal.

-Travel chequers.

-Headphones for my phone.

And those are my suggestions for starting your own all-eventualities-covered mummy handbag.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is in your handbag? Why do you carry certain things? What situations do you like to be covered for?