Real Life on a Budget: Eleanor's Money Saving Tips & Ideas

Budget Living

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I wouldn't consider myself an overly thrifty person: I like my foreign travel and my creature comforts, and I've chosen to live in one of the most expensive cities on earth. Still, I manage to live debt-free, and my savings account grows every month, so I must be doing something right. I recently had a think about all the ways I save money, so read on for some real-life tips.

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Bring your lunch to work. This is probably the single biggest thing that I do to save money, and I have done for most of my working life. This also helps me not waste food, as the concept of "leftovers" doesn't really exist in my household.

Save first, shop later. Years ago, I used to budget for the month, follow it to the best of my ability, and then transfer whatever was leftover into my savings at the end of the month. That was dumb. Now I have my allotted monthly savings come out of my account on the same day as my rent. Since I never really "see" that money in my bank account, I don't even consider it later in the month when I want to get spendy.

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Embrace hand-me-downs. I swear, half the stuff I own belonged to somebody else first, from cooking equipment pilfered (with permission) from my grandmother's kitchen, to a whole set of tableware that was my sister's, to art from my parents' walls. My wardrobe isn't immune, either: my best friend is a super-talented handbag designer with a generous way with samples (see above), so I pretty much haven't bought a bag in about five years. In turn, I pass things on to friends when I no longer want them, so it goes full circle.

Made do and mend. I do a lot of alterations, mending and adaptation when it comes to my wardrobe. Granted, my fashion design degree might give me a bit of an edge with all that sewing, but I've also been known to get shoes re-soled several times, or dye items that are faded or stained.

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Move things around. For those who love to decorate, having little disposable income with which to do so can be a major drag. I combat the urge to spend by mixing up what I do have: the cushions on my sofa get moved to my bed (and vice versa), my gallery wall gets a makeover now and then, and my shelves get rearranged. It distracts me from those moments when I just want more, and makes my home feel refreshed.

Find free fun. I'm lucky that in London, most of the museums and art galleries are free, and I definitely take advantage of that. But my hunt for cheap entertainment goes even further; my friends love picnics in the park as much or more than we do meals in restaurants, and my monthly Netflix subscription more than makes up for the fact that I rarely see a film in the cinema these days. In terms of exercise, I'm a park runner rather than a gym-goer, which saves even more.

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Find ways to make extra dough. I hold down a full-time job with an architecture firm, but given my never-sit-still personality (and my penchant for regular European mini-breaks), I go a little further when it comes to generating income. I offer freelance design services to private clients around London, not to mention moonlighting here at Apartment Therapy. Maybe having three jobs isn't practical for everyone (or even for me, some of the time!), but if you have the drive, you might turn a hobby or overlooked skill into a little side venture.

(Image credits: Eleanor Busing)