Instead of writing my usual Sunday Special post, I thought I would write something different instead. Today I want to talk about the bare minimum that one person needs to survive in such an expensive city as London. Okay, this is a bit dramatic, but I am sure you get the point. The title of this post should actually read HOW TO LIVE ON ONE HUNDRED BRITISH POUNDS PER MONTH AFTER THE BILLS ARE PAID, but I would like to think this is pretty self-explanatory.
Have you ever wondered how much money you actually need on food and other basic needs each month? Well, I have and back in May I decided to find out. Since I started this blog, I have been on a “spending crash diet”. If you read my last two Sunday Special posts (one and two), you probably remember that I spent very little on my grocery shopping and personal care items. Well, I have not been doing this for just those two weeks; this has been going on for over two months now (apart from one week when I went to Italy). The rule of the game is simple: I only buy things that I need and nothing else. By need I mean things like food, personal care items and cleaning products.
Let me assure you that this experience has been a real eye-opener for me, it has not been as hard as I thought it would be and the valuable lesson that I have learned is I don’t need a lot to enjoy life. When I started my “spending crash diet” I had two conditions: this is a three month experiment and my “diet” must stop if it makes me feel unhappy. Don’t worry, I have some cash set aside if this stops working for me.
This is what I did to save big bucks and squeeze all my needs into one hundred pounds per month. For comparison, my monthly travel card costs more than that. Shocking, I know.
CUT OUT THE UNNECESSARY
I don’t really need the latest issue of yet another magazine. Nowadays, you can find any information you need online. Celebrity gossip, fashion, food, sport; you name it, it’s there. Also, you can always re read your old magazines; they will seem brand new to you.
I don’t really need take-away coffee. I used to love Starbucks and had a Starbucks card that I would regularly top up to pay for my coffee and get a free drink after purchasing, like, fifteen. Perhaps, I am not a big coffee lover after all, but cutting out my usual trips to Starbucks was the easiest thing I had to do so far.
I also gave up buying DVDs and sold about one hundred I had already. It freed up so much space in my bedroom and earned me some extra cash. Yes, I kept all my Sex and the City DVDs. Seriously, this is a real need!
FULL SHOPPING BAN
I do not remember the last time I bought a piece of clothing. I really don’t. I have a closet full of clothes and 1/3 of it is brand new or worn once or twice before. What do I need new clothes for? My guess is that I will not need any new clothing until the end of this year (if not longer). I mean, I have eight different coats alone. Eight! I won’t even mention my shoes and bag collection.
CUT YOUR GROCERY BILL IN HALF
I wrote a separate post on this subject some time ago. The main tips include making a shopping list, collecting points by scanning a loyalty card, meal planning, buying in bulk and downgrading to own store brands where possible. My diet is pretty healthy and I buy a lot of fruit and veggies, cook yummy meals at home and pack my lunch to work. I occasionally treat myself to chocolate, sweets and other yumminess (Is this even a word? It sounds pretty cool). Yes, I may have downgraded some items to store own brands, like rice and pasta, and personally I do not have a problem with this, but I do not deprive myself of anything. I still buy pineapples, mangoes and other expensive fruit along with avocados and asparagus. Perhaps not every week, but whenever I feel like it.
EATING OUT/GOING OUT BAN
Eating out is perhaps the most difficult part of being on a “spending crash diet”. I love eating out. I miss catching up with my girlfriends in fashionable London bars and restaurants, and I don’t mind one- or two-hour wait to be seated. Yes, this is how dedicated I am when it comes to food. I used to spend some serious cash on eating out and although I miss this experience, it helps to not have this spending category in my budget. I have initially set a £70 budget for this, but later on changed it to £0. This is not a need, especially when I am “crash dieting”.
As for going out, my party days are over, and I sure don’t miss my late nights out. These days my weekends are more productive than ever.
FIND FRUGAL WAYS TO HAVE FUN
Spend time outdoors, go for a walk or a bike ride; have a picnic with your friends or a night in watching films; spend your afternoon in an art gallery or attend a free exhibition; or take a camera and play a tourist in your own city. There are so many alternatives to expensive pastime that will not break the bank. Having fun does not have to cost much (if anything!).
CUT OUT THE LUXURIES
The last time I had my hair cut and dyed was back in January. Yes, it has been that long. It is perfectly okay for me to not have my hair dyed at all. My natural hair colour is not that different from the one they use to dye my hair. I would like to have a cut though.
As to manis & pedies, these are no longer things I get done, I do it myself. What else do I have all these expensive Nails Inc. nail polishes for?
EXERCISE FOR FREE
Cancel your gym membership and exercise for free at home or outdoors. I have two great workout DVDs by Jillian Michaels (she is the best, no joke!) and a pair of dumbbells. If you are into yoga and meditation, this can be done at home too. If you do not like the idea of exercising at home, go for a run in the park or along the river. It is much healthier to exercise outdoors than in a stuffy gym and it is totally free. I have one exception to this rule – if your employer pays for your gym membership in full, take it!
This may not be for everyone, but it sure helped me set my priorities straight. Well, my results are in. Although I still have one month left to go, I thought I would share my progress with you. Here are my figures so far.
|JUNE 2013 – Total Spend £75.44
Personal Care/Cleaning Products £27.22
* I didn’t have to buy any groceries for one week in June (but if I had done I would have still been under the £100 mark).
|JULY 2013 – Total Spend £79.43
Personal Care/Cleaning Products £22.35
* I was in Italy the first week of July and had a separate holiday budget. Had I been at home, I would have probably managed to stay within the £100 mark for the whole month.
I have mentioned this before but for my new readers I will mention this again – I get invited to different events as I work in corporate travel and entertainment business. From time to time, I attend hotel functions, restaurant openings, gala dinners, sporting events and so on. This does not cost me a penny. In the month of June I attended six events whereas in July I attended five. This privilege helps me cope with my current financial lockdown; however, I believe I would still be able to cope had I not been given this opportunity.
I wish everyone a fun but frugal August 😉