Day 76: The 8p Voucher

So, today I got handed three different vouchers with my supermarket receipt.

Voucher 1:

9p off per litre of fuel when you spend £20 on toiletries and healthcare

To make a saving: buy more than 222 litres of fuel (in one go, of course)

Voucher 2:

8p off per litre of fuel when you spend £20 on clothing

To make a saving: buy more than 250 litres of fuel (in one go, of course)

My car holds 47.7 litres. So I’d have to bring along 5 and a quarter of my little cars to make my money back (assuming I’m not that into the supermarket’s fashion range). Who has 5 and a quarter cars?!

Voucher 3:

Literally just an 8p voucher.

Come on, supermarkets. . . Are you just trying to bamboozle people who aren’t accountants?! I don’t actually want twenty quid’s worth of toiletries, or of supermarket-branded clothing! I certainly don’t want to have to bring my own fuel tanker along to the petrol station to just break even on your super-generous offers. . .

Your vouchers are going straight in the bin. Stop wasting paper, stop wasting my time, stop giving me stupid 8p vouchers.



Day 68: Helping you to do the things you love for less!

Shopaholic Cuts Back – helping you to do the things you love for less!

I don’t want you to feel too deprived if you’re trying to save, so let me give you a whole load of cheap (or free!) options on how to go out and enjoy yourself, while still looking after the pennies.


You must know about Orange Wednesdays, right? Well, what about everyone else, who can’t afford an astronomically priced cinema ticket? Never fear, I have some options for you.

There are a couple of websites offering free tickets for previews. Show Film First and Tell Ten (website addresses below) ask you to sign up, and will then e-mail you when tickets are available. This means that not only can you afford to go the silver screen once in a while, but you can see brand new films before any of your friends do.

Eating Out

The TasteCard is a good option for anyone who enjoys dining out on a regular basis. You can get up to 50% off a meal, but this can involve eating at anti-social times. Membership for a year costs £80, so it’s worth having a think about whether this would benefit you. Although it seems like a lot to shell out initially, you’d only have to use it on four £40 meals out for it to pay for itself. If you’re not sure whether you’d really use it enough to make it worthwhile, you can always get a month’s trial for free.

Vouchers for individual restaurants are available via MoneySavingExpert. These are updated regularly, though, so check the website often if you’re looking to go somewhere specific. As I write there are deals for Prezzo, Ask, Strada, and many more.

Going for Drink

I’m not going to suggest you go hunting for discount vouchers on alcohol; there are not many around, and for good reason! Still, there are ways to spend less on drinks, if you follow these nifty tips. How about pairing up with friends, to take advantage of Happy Hour 2-for-1 cocktails? Where I live there are loads of cool bars (not just national chains) that do this.

Don’t drink. Okay, this tip is slightly cheeky, I know. But how about alternating between alcohol and mineral water, if you’re on a big night out? If you go out a lot, how about alternating between this and water-only on different nights? Another way to do it is to get an alcohol substitute, such as non-alcoholic wine or beer, or an alcohol-free cocktail. My favourite drink is a virgin mojito, which also conveniently saves me a couple of quid on the rum.


Going to the theatre is my favourite thing to do on a Friday and Saturday night, and the way I do it often makes it cheaper than going for a drink with a friend. I’ll readily admit, being young helps. Living in London, and being under-26, can do wonders for your cultural life. As soon as the National Theatre releases a batch of ticket, I will be pouncing, grabbing the £5 tickets for as many shows as I can. You just have to sign up to their Entry Pass scheme, which not only gives you cheap tickets, but also exclusive access to fantastic workshops and talks.

The Barbican also has a programme for youngsters like myself. “freeB” offers discounts and free tickets. Again, signing up is free, so head to:

As if I haven’t given you enough options already, if you’re under 26, you can also bag one free show per year. Check out this government initiative:

Day 59: Freebies!

I’m very snobby about “free” music. Let me just say it outright: illegally downloading music is theft. It’s no different to walking into HMV and walking out with a CD without paying. I’m not setting out to offend you, but if you illegally download music you are a thief, and therefore (in my opinion) immoral.

How ridiculous that I anticipate that being a controversial statement. I suppose many of you have stolen music before, and now feel a bit upset that I’m calling you a dirty little thief. Well, I’m making no apologies, so if you’re really offended, either get over it and read on, or navigate to a different website.

Great, now that’s over, let’s get on to the real topic for today.

One of my favourite musicians (Back Ted n-Ted) recently released his album in the UK for the price of pay-what-you-want. Radiohead did the same five years ago. Oh boy, it’s just so tempting to pay nothing, isn’t it? After all, he’s offering us that choice. If he didn’t want us to get it for free, he’d set a price. No? Well, perhaps he knows that if the price sticker read £9.99, people would just nick it instead. Perhaps “something”, be it 1p or twenty quid, is better than nothing at all.

A couple of years ago, in Berlin, I went to a great little wine bar called Perlin. Their pricing strategy was exactly the same. You went up to the bar and requested whichever wine you felt like. You walked away from the bar, glass in hand, no worse off. The idea was that at the end of the night you put into your empty wine glass as much as you felt like paying.
I guess the owners hope that by the end of the night, their slightly merry clientele will be slightly over-generous.
Sometimes it didn’t work that well. My friends and I took a mathematical approach, giving a glass of wine an average “price” and multiplying this by the number of glasses drunk. Our problem was not being able to remember how many glasses we’d had. . .
Well, Perlin has been going for thirteen years now, so it’s working somehow. I’d recommend it if you’re in Berlin.

When the recession first kicked in I read an article about a restaurant in the UK like this. They tempted in city workers for lunch, promising a meal for whatever price the customer felt that the meal and service merited.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work at all. Brits started leaving offensively small amounts. They saw it as a free meal, rather than looking at the family, struggling to keep their business afloat, trying to innovate to survive.

So, to the crux of the matter. Many of my friends are young, skint and in debt. Do we pay what we think the music, wine or meal is worth? Or do we milk the foolish sellers for as much as we can get? It’s not so clear cut, of course. It’s a personal decision, and most of us will probably opt for a price influenced by several factors, in between
1) the optimum price (free!),
2) what we can afford and
3) what we think it’s worth, or what the artist/seller deserves.

I hope that’s given you some food (and wine and music) for thought. Thanks for reading.

Day 56: Money Saving Expert @Home

As Savvy-Saver-In-Training, I’m an apprentice to anyone who’ll have me. This time, I looked to Martin Lewis of for help.

Their “Money Makeover” has eleven tips in the “household” category which, they claim, can save you upwards of £6,750.

1. Gas and electricity

  • The problem is that I’m a renter in a shared house. I’ve no idea how long I’ll be staying in my current pad, and to get the cheapest deals you need to tie yourself in for at least two years, or incur early exit fees that negate the benefit of switching suppliers in the first place. Secondly, opting for direct debit gives you great savings. Unfortunately, I can’t rely on my housemates to transfer the money before the bill leaves the joint account. Every time we accidentally fall into the overdraft, we incur a £25 fine, which also negates the savings you get initially.

Savings: Nil

2. Food shopping

  • The argument goes that we’re all duped by the supermarket. We are too thick to understand that just because something is “three for two” doesn’t necessarily make it a great deal. Apparently we’re comforted by the words “discount” and “savings”, too blind to read our shopping lists (because we’re all doing shopping lists now, boys and girls, aren’t we?).
  • As I’ve written about my food shopping before, I’ll leave you to read my other posts on this subject.

Savings: £50/month

3. Council tax

  • It’s said that 400,000 homes are in the wrong council tax band, and are paying too much. Within minutes, you can check how much all of your neighbours are paying, to give you an idea of whether you’re one of the 400,000. I clicked onto and had a nosey to see what the houses around me were paying. With the exception of one house, which has been extended, and is now much larger than all the rest, we are all in the same band. No savings to be found here, then.

Savings: Nil

4. Home phone & broadband

  • MoneySavingExpert says that you don’t need to pay any more than £15 per month to get top-notch telephone and broadband. Well, now I feel like a numpty. I did a lot of scouting around a couple of months ago, trying to get the best deal for our house. Orange was the one I settled for, and they charge us £25 per month for high speed broadband and unlimited phone calls at any time. The only upside I can see is that at least our bill is divided by three, so I’m only paying £8.83 each month. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

Savings: Nil

5. Childcare costs

  • Alleluia, praise the Lord! Not applicable.

Savings: Nil

6. Cut boiler cover costs

  • Fortunately, my landlord is responsible for our boiler repair (which is rather frequent, in my house). No savings for me.

Savings: Nil

7. Free international calls

  • I don’t make any international calls, but if I did, I’d use Skype anyway.

Savings: Nil

8. Calling mobiles

  • My mobile contract gives me more free minutes than I use, and our home phone gives us free calls to mobiles.

Savings: Nil

9. Should you use a water meter?

  • Already got one.

Savings: Nil

10. Cut your digital TV costs?

  • We only have Freeview, which, as the name implies, is… free.

Savings: Nil

11. Direct debits

The instruction is thus:

“Being a Cancellation Hero is simple: unearth EVERY wasted regular payment and stop any you no longer need or use. “

As I’m pretty hot on keeping my finances in order (if not in the black) I’m well aware of what each of my direct debits is for. On the website people complain about having paid white goods insurance for over five years, without even realising! I’m not sure how you could do this, but I, for one, do not.

Savings: Nil

Well, Mr Lewis. I’m not very impressed with your eleven tips. You told me I would save seven grand, but the only saving I’ve made, I was already doing, without your help. Sigh. Still, I hope this has helped someone.

Day 43: The Yo-Yo Diet

“Shopaholic”, I hear you cry, “have you gone on a diet?”. Well, my friends, in a way. It occurred to me earlier that this cut-back exercise is quite like a diet in some respects; a self imposed restriction on things I like.


Given the similarities, are there lessons I can learn from yo-yo dieters, without making the mistakes myself?

The yo-yo cycle often occurs because dieters are so strict with themselves at the start. The effort is so extreme that is is completely impossible to sustain.


Likewise, I found my sudden halt in spending pretty tough, and have a longing for some former favourites. I miss flicking through a magazine, buying into the latest trend, enjoying a large glass of Chilean Merlot on a Friday night. It’s oh-so-tempting to slip back into old habits.

Initially, dieters feel great; they’re looking forward to the weight loss, and they’re proud of themselves for shunning the sugar. As time crawls along, though, it seems harder to sustain. Tired and fed up, they reach for a pick-me-up: food.
Again, I relate to the experience; I felt very self-satisfied with my initial budget-slashing, and looked forward to watching the debt diminish and the savings stack up. When I passed the first thirty day marker, still in debt and still running a deficit, my motivation wavered. I felt like reaching for my equivalent of the dieter’s chocolate bar: the shops.

So, having failed, and feeling upset, the dieter eats more and more until they regain the weight they lost (and usually a bit more).

And here’s the lesson. Now that the initial excitement has passed, and I am in the humdrum period of living with less, how do I ensure I do not slip backwards?
Already I’ve clocked myself casually buying tea at Pret-a-Manger and “forgetting” my packed lunch. It’s so easy to forget how quickly all those “little extras” used to kill off my cash.

Perhaps the trick is to treat myself with non-monetary rewards. Here are a few of my practically free treats:
1) Time spent relaxing is pretty cheap; a candle-lit bubble bath, chilling out in front of the TV, doing the crossword and listening to the radio are all pretty much free, and are all amongst my favourite things to do!
2) Living in one of the most hectic cities in the world is fantastic, but escaping to the country is a retreat, and another cheap thrill. Just looking at the sky and the stars, listening to the birds sing or breathing in the heady fresh air all make such a difference; I know it sounds clichéd and trite, but it’s true.
3) Unfortunately for the real yo-yo dieter, food is a great pleasure, and as I’ve learned, doesn’t have to be expensive to taste delicious and be nutritionally balanced.

“Joy” comes in all kinds of guises, and what qualifies for my list won’t necessarily be on yours. One thing’s for sure, though. Having a few reliable freebies on the list, whatever they may be, certainly helps the shopaholic to cut back!

Thanks for reading,

Day 41: Savvy saver or massive miser?

Searching for inspiration for more cost-cutting tricks, I just came across a forum on loo roll use.
Come on, hundreds of people spending hours discussing how to minimise toilet paper use? One, gross, and two, get a life!! Perhaps this is the signal to prompt me into taking my cost reduction exercise more seriously. On the other hand… No. Just, no.

More seriously, I did come across a couple of more useful ideas. One with remarkably higher success rates than I expected was haggling.

The money saving expert website did a poll of 2,544 people, where at least 100 attempted to haggle in each store. In Comet, B&Q and Currys/PC World 78% met with success.

Could I do it, though? It takes a certain chutzpah to even attempt to barter, which I’m just not sure I have.

The easiest place to barter, I find, is my local market. The greengrocer has an easy, flirty rapport with his customers and often offers a “discount” (either to shift produce nearing the end of its life, or where the so-called “discount” is no such thing). The irony, of course, is that the greengrocer’s margins are much slimmer than the major supermarkets’, where I would never dare to barter.

If you’re interested, though, the poll found 60% luck at Asda, 58% at Tesco and 54% at Sainsbury’s. So, if you’re confident enough, it’s certainly worth a try. The worst outcome will be “no”.

The cashiers at the supermarket checkout are usually in no position to offer a discount, while 10% off a single sale would have a negligible result on their finances. On the other hand, the greengrocer is autonomous enough to gauge what effect a discount would have on his profits. One discount could be damaging to his finances, yet could keep customers loyal.

Personally, I don’t have the audacity required; I’d hate the humiliation of trying and failing at the supermarket checkout. I’d hate the awkwardness of requesting a further discount on already bargain prices from the greengrocer.


If you’re brave enough, though, go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Day 28: Cashback Queen

Hi everyone! Say “Happy Birthday” to my Mum, please 🙂

Tell me something, readers, is this cash-back thing a really well-kept secret, or have I just been oblivious to the whole movement?

Recently I signed up for a cash-back website, as part of my Money-Making Challenge.

Essentially, instead of buying things directly from a shop’s website, you find a link on the cash-back website, which tracks your purchases, and gives you cash in proportion to how much you spend.

The only snag to this approach is that, as with discount voucher websites, you have to be very disciplined in only buying what you would have bought anyway – deal or no deal.

So, for example, I’m in desperate need of a new pair of shoes for work. Rather than going straight to the retailer, I go via the cash-back site to the same page. I buy the shoes, with free delivery and am also given 6.5% of the price off the shoes, in cash, for making the transaction. Mental, or what?!

There’s another money-spinner on the website. Once you’ve downloaded the free app onto your phone, you “check-in” whenever you get to a shop featured on the site. This action of clicking to check-in earns you between 5p and 15p. Yes, okay, it won’t make me a millionaire overnight, but it all adds up very quickly. If you’ve got time on your hands, you can spend ten minutes walking in and out of shops, clicking, and earning yourself a couple of quid.

Getting paid for window shopping? Now that’s what I like to hear.

I realise several of you will be worrying about the Orwellian feel to this; retailers track everything I buy from one centralised site. My movements are also followed, by that apparently harmless act of “checking in”.

From my perspective, retailers already have much of this information. Think of those side-of-page adverts that show you the dress you were just looking at on another website yesterday. Or CCTV, which could follow our movements up and down the country, if anyone felt like doing so. Equally, my Nectar card has already categorised me into one of six groups, as a result of each and every purchase I have made, from paint at Homebase to milk at Sainsbury’s. Tesco’s Clubcard, and other loyalty cards, do exactly the same.

This is just one more option for Big Brother to watch me, and it doesn’t feel any more or less sinister than those other ways.

Sorry, freedom-fighters, I’ve lost my integrity: I’m opting for the cash these days…


Day 20: Changing Rooms (Part IV)

Good morning, people!

Today was the day that I finished off my gorgeous new desk.

Yesterday I primed the whole thing, and then left it to dry overnight.

I started by putting masking tape over all the areas I wanted to do in pale pink, and started with the ‘wine’. 

 The first layer of paint goes on. . .

After a second layer over all the darker sections, I peeled off the tape and started on the ‘rose’.

The final stage is to varnish, to protect the paint, and, of course, to add the beautiful drawer-pulls.

Et Voilà!

From this:

To this:

Lots of Love,

Shopaholic xxx

P.S. Yesterday I reached 1,000 views. Thank you so much for reading!