This is a topic I've really been wanting to write about. We all feel it from time to time and some more than others but without using that dreaded work (Shhh, it's 'recession') it is safe to say that we have all experienced our fair share of penny pinching in recent months and years. Needs must and all that. Many people are on a lot less money than they used to be, times are tough, and sometimes it can feel like there is barely enough money there for the essentials, let alone the luxuries. Every situation is different, but in this post I plan to talk about the ways that have worked for me when it comes to saving, paying bills, paying rent, and still finding ways to do the things we enjoy doing as much as possible.
I love that saying, but I know it's a bit presumptuous too as some people are under a lot more pressure than others and may feel as though money, working, and simply putting food on the table is a daily struggle. Hopefully we as a nation are starting to somewhat come out of the worst of this recession and perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is not too far away. But I'm not naive, I know it's not all rainbows and lollypops for everyone. This is just a bit of accountability for some of the things that have worked for me in the past and things that I will carry with me through every stage of my life.
Wow, that saying really sums up how I feel! I remember recently saying to someone close to me "I would hate to be rich" and the person looked at me like I had ten heads. I think some people are cut out for being extremely wealthy, having really demanding jobs and working crazy hours, taking work home with them etc. For some people it genuinely is worth it because they see this amazing figure on their payslip once a month and it makes it all worthwhile. I look at it a bit differently though. Of course we all strive to be comfortable. I think that is a lovely term and probably best describes how I feel about money and my aims and goals. To me comfortable
means being able to pay your bills, having enough to go on a holiday, and having a bit of money there to eat out once or twice a month. All of these things are so much more doable than people think. People always say to me "you have a great life, your always away" or "your always in restaurants" and I often feel like people say it with resentment. I'm not being arrogant here, I'm talking about people who would earn significantly more money than me but who chose to spend their money on other things like maybe going out every weekend, clothes shopping when they get paid, alcohol and cigarettes. I've always been the type of person to make the most of what I have and to appreciate all of the little blessings in my life (thanks mammy) and I am no different with money. When I was 17 I started working in The Olympia Theatre (http://www.olympia.ie/)
. It was my first proper part time job and some weeks I might only get 2-3 hours work. My pay-check could be as little as €20 a week and I swear I genuinely made a budget plan for even that €20. You see, €20 could get me quite a lunch out with a friend, a couple of magazines, a bottle of wine (cheap student night out/in) and I could still save €5. This is genuinely how I looked at things. The funny thing is that this train of thought seeped in to my adult years and it is a model I have always and will always use. I'll never look back. For me it's all about lists. I get paid, I make a list - I figure out what I have
to pay for the month and see if there is any room to save for something and have a bit of disposable income to do some enjoyable things during the month outside of work. God I love me a list! Nerermind Santy, I check my list more than twice (how irresponsible of him).
Here is my thinking on some topics that are often paired with the term 'I wish I could'.
If I had a penny for every time someone told me that they can't afford to go on holidays as they sip a €12 cocktail or wear a €100 pair of shoes. I truly believe it is a matter of choice. I am in no way judging people who go out every weekend and who like to spend their money on alcohol or on clothes shopping, not at all, it's about what makes you happy but at some point we have to make decisions about what we want, goals we have and how we can make them happen. We can't have it all and sometimes we have to sacrifice certain things to have another that we want more. Personally I have no issue with not going out or not shopping for a few months when I know I'm saving for a holiday. When you are sitting on that plane about to take off you don't miss the nights out you said no to or the dress you had to resist buying. It is SO unbelievably worth it!! I remember telling people I would go to New York for my auntie's wedding and at the time people didn't think it was possible because I was only working part time and New York is a very expensive holiday, but I did it. Some weeks I saved as little as €5 and before I knew it, a year later, I was sitting on a plane to the Big Apple. Making sacrifices and having a clear goal in your head and sticking to a savings plan is one of the most worthwhile things you can do. Suddenly you are making things happen, suddenly your bucket list is slowly being ticked off. Again, I know that for some people holidays just are not an option but the exact same principle can be used for any small goals you might have such as getting out of debt. It might feel tedious but having some sort of a structured plan and taking a bit of control back is one of the best feelings ever. Suddenly you feel in control of your life and you begin to see things happening. This can be as simple as getting one bill paid and having a fiver left over to meet a friend for a hot chocolate. Some of the best things in life are the most un-costly and simple things. As for holidays, just break it up. Make a goal a year in advance and say you will book flights within the first 3 months of the year, accommodation in the next part of the year and then it's just a case of 'whatever spending money we can save is what we have' and trust me when you are in a hot country not thinking about work or the stresses of mundane life you will have no issue with having a modest amount of spending money and making sandwiches for your lunch, having a couple of cheap beers and chilling by the pool all day. You will just be happy to be there.
Instagram or Foodagram? We are all guilty of it on some level - taking photos of our food when we are eating out. Yep, this section is all about the mystical illusion that 'eating out' and going to Restaurants is something that only wealthy people can do. This couldn't be further from the truth. One of the (few) positive things that has come from the recession in Ireland is that beautiful term that I hold so dearly in my heart - Early Bird Menu. This has completely changed the way I think about eating out. No matter what the month, no matter what events I have on, no matter how much I need to save, I will always find a way to fit in a dinner or a lunch out at a restaurant. I love eating out. I love finding a place that does a good deal but I NEVER pay full price for a meal. It's always Early Bird Deals or Restaurant Deals that I find on websites like Groupon (http://www.groupon.ie/)
, GrabOne (http://www.grabone.ie/dublin/view-all)
, Living Social (https://www.livingsocial.com/)
and BiteABargain (http://www.biteabargain.ie/)
. For example, this February I know I need to have a really quiet month and spend as little as possible and I am already looking on these websites to see can I buy even one good restaurant deal that I can use during the month so myself and himself can have a meal out as a treat. It is so do-able. People have this idea in their head that a meal in a restaurant could set you back €50 each. Of course it could, if you chose to fine dine in Thornton's on the Green, but here is just one example of a deal I was looking at on one of those bargain websites - €19 for a mixed starter platter, 2 main courses and 2 rice or naan breads at a nice Indian Restaurant right in the middle of Dublin City Centre. That is literally €9.50 each for a TWO COURSE MEAL! It can also be used at weekends with no particular time limitations. How can you argue with that? You would pay that for a McDonalds meal now-a-days. So come on, get out there and start enjoying the amazing food Dublin has to offer. Even make it your mission to just have one treat a month - you deserve it!
Here are some of my personal favourite Dublin restaurants and the deals they offer.
The Lemongrass Restaurant, Citywest (http://www.lemongrasscitywest.ie/earlydinnermenu.php)
. Oh God, where do I even start? My absolute favourite spot in Dublin. Beautiful Asian/Thai food and you will get 2 courses of amazing elegant food for €18.90 Monday-Friday between the hours of 4pm and 8pm (up to 7pm on a Saturday and Sunday). This place is absolutely amazing and you will have to see for yourself how much of a bargain this is. It is just out of this world! Phone 01-4588207
, Dame Street, Dublin 2. This is, in my opinion, Dublin's absolute best spot for Italian food. It is incredible. Hands down the best Bruschetta and meatballs Dublin has to offer. You'll get two courses of amazing Italian food for just €17.95 up to 6.30pm. This place has a lovely ambiance and even live Italian music on a Sunday. Go on, you know you want to! Phone 01-6709785
Red Torch Ginger, St Andrews Street, Dublin 2 (http://redtorchginger.ie/)
. A recent find of mine and myself and my family are completely in love with the place. Formerly known as Siam Thai, this new take on Asian Fusion food is just simply impeccable. One of the only Dublin restaurants who continued their Early Bird deal all throughout the Christmas period. This food is sensational, as is the service and attention to detail. It is also one of the most competitive Early Bird Menus at just €19.95 for two courses of beautiful Asian food and
tea/coffee. Their duck and pancakes for starter will blow your mind, as will the Massaman Curry. They also have extensive Gluten Free options for those who suffer from Coeliac disease or whom want to avoid wheat. Phone 01-6773363 and ask for Gary. He is the managing director and honestly couldn't be any more helpful or friendly!
That's just a small example of what Dublin has to offer, and my personal favourites. There are of course a million more.Would love to hear your feedback about these places - quality sublime food for the same price as a take-away in some cases! Bon Apetit.
And Finally... I give you my most favourite tips for saving money, making whatever you have stretch further and ultimately finding more cash to do the things you enjoy and dream about!
1. Make your lunches for work. I started this two weeks ago when we moved in to our house. Myself and the Mr in my life were spending an average of €5 a day each on food at lunch-time at work which equated to a minimum of €50 a week on just lunch. €50 a week is €200 a month - that's a holiday!! See what I mean? About two weeks ago we made the decision to include 'lunch items' in our weekly shop - stuff like an extra loaf of bread for sandwiches, nice sandwich fillers, yoghurts, snack size packets of popcorn and fruit. It literally added about €10 on to our weekly shopping bill and now we enjoy lovely home-made packed lunches and we are saving an average of €40 a week, and that is just a minimum. It's probably close to €50 or €60. How amazing is that? I can also say with honestly that I have never enjoyed my lunches more. I think about nice sandwich fillers, different types of bread, different combinations and include snacks that I would have bought anyway in the shop. It's a no-brainer really! In just a month of this we could have flights booked for a holiday.
2. Meal Planning. Rather than going food shopping and throwing random items in to the trolley, make some sort of a plan. Our routine is to plan about 4 meals a week, just to give the week and shopping list a bit of structure. This week we went to the butchers in The Square in Tallaght , the one beside Tesco (http://thesquare.ie/stores/midland-butchers)
and availed of their package deal where you basically get a full large chicken, 4 chicken fillets, 4 pork chops, a bag of steak mince and 4 beef burgers all for €20. That's all our meat for the week and the bulk of our meals. We then went to Aldi and built our shopping list around it - chips and buns to have with the burgers, potatoes and veg to go with the chicken, pasta and a sauce to go with the chicken fillets, rice and chilli con carne sauce to go with the mince - that kind of thing. We ended up getting our full weeks shopping and all of our items to make our lunches every day for €70. That's €70 between two people, two people who a week previous to this were spending €50 alone on just lunches. It's been a real eye-opener to say the least. And the best part? We've been having gorgeous dinners and really enjoying our meals across the board. I didn't use my bank card once this week, because I didn't have any need to. Shopping in places like Lidl and Aldi can really make a huge difference to your weekly shopping bill. We're delighted with the produce we get there. Don't be a food snob ;)
3. Buy a value saver bus ticket. Check out the different types of tickets Dublin Bus offer and you could save a lot of money on a rambler or leap ticket. All of those euros, and all of that change for the bus really adds up, why not be smart about it? (http://www.dublinbus.ie/)
4. Staying in is the new going out. I'm not even joking, I have seen so many people convert to this way of thinking. €15 can get you amazing deals like a Pizza, DVD, Icecream and Lemonade such as Tesco's 'Big Night In' Offer. (http://www.tesco.ie/groceries/SpecialOffers/SpecialOfferDetail/Default.aspx?promoId=R31242445)
. Between 2 or 3 people that is really nothing when you consider that you could pay €20 each at the cinema to watch a film and have some popcorn and a drink. The same can be said for having take-aways and a bottle of wine/couple of beers. Whatever takes your fancy and whatever you like to do to relax can more than likely be altered to it's 'stay at home and save money' alternative. Sometimes the best feeling is knowing you have had a great night and your not afraid to look at your bank balance the next morning.
5. Make sure you are on the best plan for you with regards to your TV, Internet and Energy Providers. We are with UPC for our TV, home phone and internet and get a great deal every month (http://www.upc.ie/)
, with Electric Ireland for our Energy Supply (https://www.electricireland.ie/ei/home/index.jsp)
and we are both with Meteor for our mobile phone monthly deals http://www.meteor.ie/
. What I love about our TV and Energy providers are that everything is done Paper-free. I get my bills and statements emailed to me which mean I can access them any time, and I have both set up as direct debits so we do not need to worry about actively ensuring we pay the bills. They are scheduled to be paid a day or two after pay-day and then they are sorted for the month. Ask your provider are you getting the best deal. I asked Electric Ireland and ended up getting a 10% discount off my Gas and Electricity bills every month. I also called Greyhound Waste and got an amazing deal on our wheely bins (http://greyhound.ie/)
. €99 once off payment, no bin tags and no weight restrictions or lifting charges and this gets me all three bins (green, brown and black) collected twice a month. Simple and no hassle, just the way I like it. I was originally quoted €175 and 5 minutes later I was signing up to a €99 deal. Just goes to show you! If you do not ask, you may not receive.
Those are some of the big one's that come to mind. I could honestly go on and on all night but you will be reading this till next Christmas if I write any more, so I will leave you with this wise piece of advice, and I will say that if you really really want something there is usually a will and a way to make it happen. Why throw away money that you worked hard to earn when you can be thrifty, frugal and find a nice balance between doing the things that you enjoy while also not breaking the bank and putting yourself in to debt.
Get to grips with what 'enjoy life' means to you. For me it happens to be going on holidays, days out and eating at nice places. So start making changes in your weekly and monthly budgets and see how much of a difference it will change. You could be lying on that beach sipping your favourite cocktail some months from now thinking 'Thanks Tracey'. (and for the record, you are welcome).
Over and out!
PS for anyone interested... Aldi are having a 'Baby' Special Day tomorrow on Thursday 30th January 2014 where lots of baby products and items will be on sale. Superquinn are also doing a similar deal (for example large box of nappies for €7.50 and they are normally €15). Lidl are having their Baby Deals starting next Monday 3rd February. See you there!