/ Money

Low on cash – what could you live without?

Pound sign with scissors

According to the latest Which? Quarterly Consumer Report, 6.6 million homes cut spending on essentials over the last three months. Are you one of them and where have you been trimming your budgets?

So, we’re technically out of recession – the UK economy recorded growth of 1% in the last quarter – but life’s still not a bed of roses.

Our latest Quarterly Consumer Report found that one in three people were out of money at the end of the month. With fuel, energy and food prices continuing to rise, lots of people have had to be meaner with their money.

Dipping into overdrafts and savings

I can sympathise. My bank account is almost always exhausted by the time the next payday approaches. On the weekend prior I tell everybody I’m ‘hibernating’. Most understand this to mean ‘I’m skint’, though one friend did ask whether I was part hedgehog (for the record, I’m not). When I do run out of money and I need to spend, whether it’s for a food shop or to top-up my travel card, I invariably find myself turning to my credit card or my overdraft.

That’s similar to the four million people who used their overdrafts in the past three months, or the 800,000 who took out a new credit card. And then there were the 4.8 million who had to dip into their savings to cover monthly spending. Something has to give.

Our executive director Richard Lloyd said of the findings:

‘Consumer confidence is at rock bottom. The government and businesses must give consumers confidence that everything possible is being done to keep prices in check and give people value for money if we are to see the consumer spending recovery that is so essential to the nation’s economic well-being.’

Where to make the cuts

I’ve decided I can’t go on any longer like this – I’m taking on the spirit of George Osborne and introducing some austerity measures of my own.

According to our report, 54% of people have cut down on entertainment and socialising in the last quarter. I’ve found myself doing the same, with more nights in front of the TV and dinner parties, rather than going to the cinema or eating out. In fact, I haven’t been to a restaurant for six weeks now – it used to be a weekly occurrence.

That ties in with the 44% of people who’ve cut back on alcohol and tobacco. Unfortunately, I’m still hooked on Sir Walter Raleigh’s weed, but I’ve always been a smoker of rolling tobacco. Still, I have found myself being more economic with it.

In my recent reassessment of expenditure, I was shocked to find out that I was spending over £450 a year getting my hair cut. Every four weeks (it grows quickly) at £35 a snip (I have an unruly mane) has built up into an expensive coiffure. I’m now resigned to a shaggier look and a healthier wallet.

What about you? Where have you been snipping back your budgets? And how do you cope when your bank account runs dry?


My gf has bought me a fanciful
hair-cutter hoping I can do so myself
in her absence…what makes her
think I can do that?

I have been cooking more from scratch, shopping a my local greengrocer and bringing my lunch into work. I spend more time in the kitchen but these cut backs have been allowing me to put a little aside each month for that rainy day!

Real austerity has arrived when you don’t have money for enough food, heating or housing. Ditching restaurant meals, expensive haircuts, drink and fags, subscription TV, may not be pleasant but it is hardly austerity. We all have to live within our means – it’s all about deciding how to get the most from your limited income.

Joanna McCarthy says:
1 November 2012

Taking your own lunch in to work is a good one and saves me about £5 a day. I now also take my own coffee instead of going to Costa in the morning. I’m also always looking to reduce my monthly outgoings so have changed my car insurance provider (£200 saving!) and will change my ebergy provider when the next bill arrives (in the next 2 weeks). I use the Supermarket that gives me the highest discount voucher for the week and but what ever is on offer. I have NO brand loyalty at all which I always used to have without thinking. The only exception being a certain Birmingham chocolate company :-)….But I can’t bring myself to cut back on the satelite TV cos it’s the only pleasure left.

We don’t have satellite TV now because we found we were not getting much value from it [not being particularly interested in football, motor racing and other sports or the latest films]. The service on Freeview plus a PVR fulfils all our TV requirements and we have scores of DVD’s for the Winter evenings, many of them still unseen! It’s amazing what you don’t miss and then there’s some money left every month for other treats.

Getting a fruit and veg box has helped our shopping last for 2 weeks instead of 1. It’s amazing the difference in how much longer they last. Then when you’re finished, you can make a nice soup.

Saves so much in the long run and helps out local farmers who end up getting paid a decent amount for their goods, rather than pittance from supermarkets.

par ailleurs says:
1 November 2012

Good to see so much common sense here. I may be old fashioned but I get deeply cheesed off with people moaning about being below the poverty line when they have the latest smartphone, Sky TV, smoke and eat ready meals and/or take-aways.
I’ve been there in the past, indeed for a large chunk of my lifetime. It wasn’t nice and I’m grateful that things have changed for me but to put it simply, we went without things that needed hard cash and made do with whatever entertainment didn’t cost extra. Food was home cooked with cheap and simple, but delicious ingredients. Our children didn’t go without essentials but couldn’t be allowed to keep up with peer pressure for luxury items.
I did watch the programme about poverty and food banks and indeed genuinely sympathise with most of the people featured. The unpleasant fact remains though that there are others who expect everything on a plate. I’m fully aware too that I’m not comparing things with the same era but nevertheless there are lessons that could be learned by many.

I’ve noticed that more people are using the buses these days even though the service in rural areas is not wonderful. On the other hand, not many people seem to have stopped using the car to take children all the way to school; they would drive into the classroom if they could! Obviously, for some, there is a long or an unsafe journey but most primary schools tend to be within the walking distance of their catchment area having regard to the age of the children. Some people do sharing or organise a “walking bus” where parents take it in turns to supervise, but there are still a lot of big cars on the school run driven by people who are complaining about the cost of living.

This would also make sense for more reasons than cost saving. I live near a primary school and over the past 20 years the number of kids that are delivered and collected has grown greatly.

I walk my kids to school. My son is in a wheelchair and my daughter walks beside him. It is a 15 to 20 minute walk and this walking is healthy exercise. I have a car and fill it with 40 pounds fuel per month.

I am trying to get cheaper utility bills and next I will be trying to get cheaper insurance.