I think we're not alone in feeling the pinch at present, everyone I know is thinking about how to save money, make more money and make the best of the money they have. So here are my 25 top ways to save money, all but one of which I use myself, the latter I can credit my friend H with.
1. Avoid turning on the central heating in the house, by wearing thermal vests (children), cardigans or jumpers and slippers (all).
2. Use woodburner, or open fire whenever possible, and burn found wood collected from the ground on country walks (you may need to take an axe/saw with you, so might be worth taking whole family so police are not called.
3. Keep old linen, curtains, etc and re-use. If you move house, curtains you went off can suddently have a new lease of life in new window with a new room. Or creative types can make up children's costumes out of these, or even new cushions.
4. Using up the ends of paint pots by painting old furniture, handed down chairs, children's tables etc. Of course this is not to be recommended on real antiques but is great to add a chic factor to yellow pine and Ikea bits.
5. Order a weekly vegetable box, either from an organic company, or locally our PCT organises a scheme, and plan meals based around contents of box. This way you get to eat (mostly) healthily and have some inspiration for meal planning. I use cranks cookbook, and index of other less worthy volumes to find things to do with more unusual vegetables (have to admit have never yet cooked the celeriac though).
6. Buy economy tissues for the children to use, they use so many that although they are not recycled it is less waste as they're so thin.
7. Make cupcakes and birthday cakes from scrach rather then buying, also taste far better, even if for me anyway sometimes look a bit flat/burnt/plain weird.
8. Re-discover basic cleaning products, you'll be amazed at actually how much better they can be than the more modern developed products, i.e. use cream cleanser with scrubber (sponge not you) for the bathroom instead of specific bathroom cleanser, and own brand antibacterial cleanser for everything else.
9. Rather than buying expensive flowers, use what you have, whether they are beautiful flowers growing in the garden, or bits and pieces of seasonal green. A selection of charity shop, and collected vases will help display these to best effect.
10. Family fun nights - try football crazy nights, with finger rolls topped with cheese, and red pepper cut in to St. George's flag, if you support England, or make up your own flag recipes depending who your family support. Try X Factor nights, get some soft drinks in, darken the lights and join in with the voting, and singing if you know the songs. And of course there is always the seminal Eurovision pary night, which is my favourite - think Euro pop, stringing and making paper Euro flags around the room, betting on your favourites, or picking countries out of a hat, downloading the songs to sing along, and even digging out old video's of previous years' competitions to watch after the show.
11. Make your own popcorn - simply buy from health food ships, heat some oil up in a lidded saucepan, add enough corn to cover the base well, put lid on, shake every little while and listen for the pops. When they have died down, its probably ready. Add some butter and salt or sugar and enjoy.
12. De-clutter areas of your house every couple of months, e.g. bookshelves, DVD's, toys, wardrobes etc, and either sell on e-bay/amazon or store to have a car boot sale every couple of years, or more often if you have lots of bits. Generally speaking you can usually make more on ebay or amazon (for books) if items can be posted.
13. Do the obvious and right things, turn off lights when leaving a room, and replace used bulbs with energy efficient ones.
14. Give and recieve hand me down clothes for your children, so expensive to have to buy all new, and appreciated by everyone.
15. Buy or borrow a tent and go on camping holidays, you'll be amazed at how civilised they are nowadays, mostly with nice loos and showers, and you can take all your own things, and have yummy local salads/grilled prawns and fresh bread to eat.
16. Use the local library for books and DVD's rather than buying them. Apart from particular favourites which can then be bought most are only read/watched once anyway. Some boroughs now rent children's DVD's for free (although not East Sussex).
17. Buy some items locally, or from local markets, bread is usually much nicer straight from the bakers, and not much more expensive (hence more likely to be used than horrid cheap bread), free range eggs are only 70p per half dozen from our local shops, about half the price of supermarket ones, and in the country, like here, fresh milk from local farms is again reasonably priced in local shops.
18. Bulk buy certain items in cheaper Northern and Scandinavian supermarkets, much cheaper for decent pasta, tins of tomato's, bottled water (if you use it on days out), some cheese, although hard to tell if veggie, big cartons of yoghurt, cartons of juice, and my favourite 55% fruit jam at half the major supermarket price for red coloured jammy sugar (or 35% fruit jam in other words).
19.Cut children's hair at home, this needs a steady hand, but once you buy a pair of good scissors and they have basic- ish hair you won't look back. n.b. ignore all friends who say son looks like his hair is the shape of pudding basin. When they are young the children look adorable with pudding basin heads and they don't mind.
20. Avoid takeaways and eating out. The best way I find to resist temptation is to quickly make and easy dinner like noodles or jacket potato's or even cheese on toast.
21. Rather than buy frozen pizza, make your own, with either a quick and easy scone base, or proper dough base, much healthier, and you can easily add your favourite toppings, always mushroom and black olive in this house, with occasional bit of pepper, and frozen spinach.
22. Hang washing on line, and clothes horses rather than use dryer, since we got rid of our dryer we have saved lots of electricity, and have had to be more organised...
23. Invite your friends over for drinks, cheaper than the pub, comfortable chairs, you get to choose your own music. Note to self, hide husbands' 'Mother is a witch and she burned at the stake' punk music before next time we have drinks party, only get out if people staying too late, as makes them go home.
24. Hang out in the kitchen when using the oven, its much warmer, obviously making sure slippers are worn.
25. Use real nappies, and this bit is friend's tip, pop wipes in nappy bucket too, they can also be re-used and apparantly come out of washing machine nice and soft. Would not recommend using these for wiping noses though, even if this does save on tissues and hence give fund for coffees and cakes out.
Would be interested in hearing other ideas.....