Get out of debt by making the smallest of changes

When we decided we need to make a change in our lives and get out of the overdraft once and for all, the very first thing we did of course was to go through our expenditure with a fine-tooth comb. I sat going through every payment, purchase, direct debit, every single penny to find out exactly what was going where.

I must admit I was quite shocked to realise that we were spending between £500-£700 at supermarkets and convenience stores every month, it was an outrageous amount for two people and two dogs. Immediately it was obvious that this is where the bulk of our problem lay.

When breaking it down you could see we were shopping at Tesco for the large part and using the CO-OP, Waitrose and M&S. This is where we had to make a start to have any chance of trying to lower our monthly average of £600.

We were using the CO-OP & M&S a lot as it was on the way home for both of us, so we often stopped by for a treat for dinner and often picking up other necessities, just because you were passing. Obviously, their prices are generally higher all round than the supermarkets but it’s the convenience thing that we continually fell for after a long day at work.

The first small change was to ban the use of the CO-OP, M&S and any convenience stores/petrol stations for food requirements. We also agreed that we would also ban any use of Waitrose as well, it’s no secret is it that they’re probably one of the most expensive supermarkets out there.

We then came to the agreement that all our shopping would be done at the supermarkets, making that effort to kerb spending as we had been would be the way forward as a starting point. We would use Tesco for our fresh fruit and vegetables and Aldi/Lidl for our meat and everything else.

We found the meat to be great from Aldi and Lidl and to be much cheaper than Tesco. On the downside we found the fruit and vegetables to be quite poor from Aldi and Lidl, it didn’t tend to last very long so was never cost effective.

We made these changes and we started seeing our shopping bills go down which was great, a real sense of achievement for our efforts. I then decided to break it down further, when I’d worked out how much we spend, I’d never actually worked out what we spent in individual areas or items.

My first port of call, how much do I spend on alcohol per month? So out comes the calculator, I used to buy a bottle of wine every other day at £5.99 a bottle so….

15 x £5.99 = £89.85 per month

And to be honest that was at a minimum! Come the weekend, we may have gone out so there was likely to be more expenditure on alcohol. So, then I thought, what’s that a year?

12 x £89.85 = £1078.20 a year

This is what got the ball rolling for me with making major changes in our spending, the realisation that if I gave up drinking I’d be £89.85 per month better off! I was horrified to think that from just the large glass of wine every night after work was costing me over a thousand pounds every year. The alcohol free journey started there pretty much.

So, then I started adopting the same process to all the other insignificant purchases I hadn’t given any thought. How about that can of Monster every day?

7 x £1.29 = £9.03 per week

4 x £9.03 = £36.12 per month

12 x £36.12 = £433.44 per year

The Chinese takeaway once a week?

1 x £23.00 = £23.00 per week

4 x £23.00 = £92.00 per month

12 x £92.00 = £1104 per year

The meal deal I’d pick up for lunch because I’d always forgotten to do my own the night before?

5 x £2.99 = £14.95 per week

4 x £14.95 = £59.80 per month

12 x £59.80 = £717.60 per year

So, by not drinking alcohol, cutting that can of Monster, no weekly Chinese and making my own lunch I save….

£3333.24 per year!

That to me was absolutely astounding! All it takes is making a few changes to your small insignificant purchases, because over the course of a year it turns into significant money and it makes a huge difference. If you’re having difficulty saving or can’t see where your money is going, start to take a long look at the small things.

By looking at things in this way for me it was the biggest motivator to do something about it, to think we could have that extra in our savings! All you’ve got to do is make some small sacrifices.

Overall our food bills have gone from averaging £600 to £200-£300 a month, a much more sensible now that we’re keeping a closer eye on things.

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2 thoughts on “Get out of debt by making the smallest of changes

  1. Like you I have stopped shopping at Waitrose, which I do miss and started shopping at Lidl and Tesco. I agree with you in respect of the vegetables at Lidl, but I think it depends on which day you go. I have found that my store seems to be better on a Wednesday – the veg seem fresher. Other days every cauliflower I look at has got brown marks on it. Sometimes there’s only a couple of pence difference between fruit and veg and Lidl and the same thing in Tesco. I’ve tended to buy other things in Lidl such as juice, coffee, crisps, which don’t depend on freshness.

    It is amazing how much small savings build up. Every day I see people wasting money on buying lunch or bottles of fizzy drink. I’ve always got my bottle of water – filled up at home of course and my packed lunch. I watch programmes set in the 50s and 60s and back then they’re doing the same – flask of tea and a packet of sandwiches. In recent decades we’ve grown wealthier, but forgotten how to be frugal as we don’t have to anymore. Your sums are a good reminder of what this wastefulness may be costing us.

    1. Hi Sam, thanks I’ll try checking out the veg on a Wednesday, I miss Waitrose too they do some lovely stuff. I do the same, a flask of tea and a bottle of water with me at work or when we go out, as you say saves so much money not buying bottled drinks when you’re out. I remember my father doing the same when I was a child, we would rarely ever have to buy anything on days out, my dad would think of everything. The sums are amazing really to what can be saved when you take a closer look at the true cost of the little things. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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