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We've all got less cash in our wallets
How I got the money-saving habit
In our hectic lives, it's tough to find the time to sort out your finances – but as BBC Gloucestershire's Clare Parrack found out, it could be the best investment you ever make.
I've never been moneywise. I was no good at maths at school, and when I left the aversion to sums stayed with me, so the thought of budgeting filled me with horror.
I can remember the look on my bank manager's face when I had to see him about an overdraft in my early 20s – yes, this was well before the days of online and phone applications.
He pointed out that as I was living virtually rent-free in a company flat so should be able to manage and even save a bit. Sadly it wasn't the case.
I'm not a big spender with cupboards full of shoes and handbags – in fact I'm an avid charity shop bargain-hunter.
But somehow there's always been more month left at the end of my money than the other way round.
And it's more or less stayed that way ever since, though I'm in a well-paid job, as is my husband, and we've lived in the same house for 20 years so we don't have a huge mortgage. Yet the overdraft and the credit card debts have crept up and up.
Like many households where both partners are working, we're often too busy – or too tired – to tackle all the household chores, and with my maths phobia somehow checking the family budget always fell off the bottom of the 'to-do' list.
But when I passed my 50th birthday at the end of 2007 I decided it was high time I started acting like a grown-up in my financial dealings.
Fed up with towing debt and with a son at university making heavy demands on the Bank of Mum and Dad I spotted a book called The Money Diet.
The author, moneysaving expert Martin Lewis, always struck me as a rather annoying bloke when I'd seen him on the telly, but the book's common-sense advice struck a chord and was just the wake-up call I needed.
And it couldn't have come at a better time as food and fuel bills started to rocket.
I made myself sit down and really go through all the household outgoings – all those direct debits I hadn't really noticed creeping up and up. And I have to admit it was a shock ...
No benefit in being loyal
Why were we being billed over £40 in monthly charges for our telephone, cable TV and broadband when our supplier was advertising special deals of £15 for new customers?
One phone call threatening to take my business elsewhere and our monthly bill was cut by more than half!
That success got me well and truly bitten by the money-saving bug. Suddenly I was addicted to price-comparison websites.
The big realisation that had most impact on me was that there's no benefit in being a loyal customer.
Companies make most effort – and offer the best deals – to win new business.
Suddenly one of my Grandma's favourite phrases - "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves" was echoing round my head.
So why was I sticking with a bank that charged me £10 a month for the privilege of being a customer? Bye-bye to the account I'd had since I left school ... hello to the internet bank that pays me the best rate of interest when I'm in credit.
When my car insurance renewal notice came from the broker I'd been dealing with for 10 years or more I decided to shop around – and paid £140 instead of the £220 I'd been quoted.
When he rang to ask why I hadn't renewed through him it was quite fun telling him straight!
When our 15-year-old TV died, I compared the market and brought the price of the cheapest new one I could find down by another £50 by haggling in the store.
A switch to a new energy supplier brought has brought our monthly fuel bills down from £83 to £55 a month.
And we're getting a water meter that will bring our water bills down too.
Fuel's still a big drain on the family exchequer because I commute over 300 miles a week, but now I check a daily-updated petrol price comparison website that tells me where I can buy the cheapest diesel on my way to and from work.
Six months in and our household finances are starting to look healthier at last despite the rising cost of living.
That's it, I'm hooked on the money-saving habit – I only wish I'd got it years ago!
last updated: 28/01/2009 at 13:41
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