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Mindful Money, Spring Forward To Smart Finances

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Spring has sprung and with it, Spring cleaning. How about taking a feather duster to your finances? You might think you already live on a shoestring and have no more savings to make, but you’d be surprised.

Cost A Fortune?

What about your daily coffee? Sandwiches at the shop? Takeaway food? Car wash?  Now I’m not suggesting you give these little luxuries up. ’m not sure any of my colleagues could tolerate me without a coffee in the morning.  It’s just that with a few minor adjustments, you can be a lot better off financially. There are many campaigns around telling you how to save money by reducing or stopping drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. You can tally up daily, weekly and monthly how much you have saved. It can be quite an eye opener, but did you ever think about the little costs that you don’t even notice?

An average coffee at the coffee shop, let’s say 1 regular latte costs around £2.60. There are 23 working days in March 2016 so that will mount up to £59.80 over the month.

A Real Deal Meal Deal?

The average ‘Meal Deal’ at most supermarkets is sandwich/salad with a choice of drink a snack for £3.00. Multiply that by 23 working days in March, if you spend this every day and it mounts up to £69.00.

Hunger Strikes

Eating out or grabbing a takeaway on the way home won’t help your wages last longer either. The average takeaway meal costs around £4.00, so even if you did this a couple of times per week on the way home to ‘save cooking/washing dishes’, this will set you back £40 in March.

Money Down The Drain?

A weekly carwash at a drive through even the lowest price works out at an average of £8.60 per month and that’s without a wax.

Being mindful of your budget means you are honest with yourself about how much money you have and how much you can afford to spend monthly.  Just that simple example of normal workday spending racks up to a staggering £177.40 per month.  That is before you even think about going out for real social events.  Just think what you could spend that on instead.

Here’s how to drastically reduce those costs.

Be Mindful...

Making a coffee and taking it with you in an insulated mug is much cheaper.  For example, I have a filter coffee machine, it cost £30. My thermal mug cost £2.99 and each month the ground coffee I buy costs around £4.00. Even in one month, compared with buying a coffee en route, you could save over £20 and, as a bonus feature, the filter machines often have a timer which can be set for the next morning. Wake up and smell the coffee, literally. That’s the first month too when you have the expense of the coffee machine. The following month will cost you about £4.00 in coffee, saving you about £55.00. If you think about costs building up monthly, you can be warier. If a coffee house, for example, offered you a £55.00 per month unlimited coffee card, you’d never be sold on it, yet drop by filtered drop, you’re paying through the nose for the stuff.

Mindful Preparation...

Instead of trapesing to the shops for a pre-packed sandwich, consider a packed lunch.  I’m convinced those plastic triangles they’re packed in drain out all of the flavours anyway. If you make your own sandwiches, at least you can have them exactly as you like them and put the filling all the way to the edges. You might be lucky and have kettle, fridge and microwave privileges at work.  If you do, use them. It just takes a little organisation, but shopping once a week for the things you like will start saving you money immediately. There are plenty of ‘just add water’ or ‘heat for 1-minute’ options, some of them are even relatively healthy. If not, invest in a ‘cool bag’ to keep your sandwiches and any dairy items fresh. You can also freeze yoghurt and add it to your bag.  By the time lunchtime comes around, the yoghurt is thawed and your lunch is chilled. On a cold day, bring a flask of hot soup to keep you warm. Try hot baked beans and Melba toast which you can buy ready-made. The other added bonus if, like me, you’re a bit of an impulse buyer, is that you aren’t walking around shops and throwing a few ‘necessities’ in the basket too. Agree with your colleagues to have a Friday Pot Luck Lunch. Every one arrives with a serving of different food, drinks or snacks and make lunchtime a buffet and a chance to catch up with your colleagues.

Resist The Temptation...

To resist the urge to follow the neon slip-road to the drive-thru window, try keeping some nuts, raisins or cereal bars in your glove compartment. These should keep the hungry wolf from the door and get you home ready to prepare something less costly for your evening meal. Think about setting up a slow-cooker meal before you leave the house.  Knowing you will have tea ready the second you walk through the door is a good way to put you off sneaking in a quick burger on the way home. You might even make enough to take leftovers to work in the morning. This only works if the food you squirrel away in plastic containers doesn’t get eaten later, of course. If you think you’ll be tempted, maybe freeze it so that it’s out of sight and out of mind.  

Could you wash your own car? Could it be something the kids do to earn pocket money? It doesn’t take long and, apart from neighbours joking that you can wash their car next, it isn’t such an awful task.

So you can see how a few minor tweaks here and there and a little forward planning can leave you better off monthly. There are many more ways to dust off your finances and clean up your act, stay tuned to our Mindful Money blogs for hints, tips and budgeting help. Enjoy spending the money you save on something more interesting than your workday food and drinks.