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 65: One More Addiction

Anyone got any (metaphorical) nicotine patches or AA tips? I’ve been feeling pretty self-satisfied with how little I’ve bought since I started this challenge, but now I’m starting to get the come-down jitters.

Last weekend I went home to see my parents, and had a wander around the shops with Mum.
I suppose this would be the equivalent of putting a recovering alcoholic in a brewery, or someone trying to quit smoking in a room full of smokers.

Everything is so beautiful! The shops glitter with Christmas party dresses. Gorgeous winter woollies in Fairisle knit just make you want to snuggle up in hibernation.

To me, every item promises new life. A new running kit will mean that you suddenly LOVE going to the gym. Home accessories like cushions and candles will make you feel cosy and warm. A stunning dress will make you feel like a million dollars.

When the products on the shelves call to me like this, it can be hard to ignore. It’s all rubbish, of course. You get a temporary lift, a little boost as you tell yourself the benefits of what you’ve just bought. It’s all a trick, though, isn’t it? The retailers want me to think that every item offers a new beginning, rather than being just another “thing”.

At home this weekend, we exchanged Christmas wish lists. I had to divide mine into the slightly more realistic, and the nigh-on impossible.

My real Christmas list has some fairly mundane items on it, like slippers (let’s turn the heating down now, girls). I’d also love a new pair of running leggings, since I left mine behind in a hotel room when I was away with work, and haven’t been able to recover them.

The dream list? How I’d love to fill a shopping trolley with the contents of a Fat Face store. Oh, and if you’re offering, I’d be chuffed with a new smartphone, a MacBook Air, a sunny holiday, and an obscenely cool SLR camera. What’s that? You weren’t offering? Oh, darn.

Shops make me feel like my desire is normal; as though all these things are attainable. ‘What do you mean you haven’t got a few grand spare to spend on gadgets and clothes?’ they ask, ’What’s wrong with you?!’.

Each time the latest version of a gizmo is released it makes the problem worse. The poorest in society fall one step further behind. The gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ widens. We seem to be obsessed with having the latest, to hell with the cost and how much money we actually have.

I’m angry, to tell the truth. I’m angry that I’m made to feel dissatisfied and inadequate, because I can’t keep up. I’m angry that people struggle to do so, when there’s absolutely no need. What made people think it was unacceptable to go to a friend’s house for a cup of tea, rather than meeting in an overpriced coffee shop? Who does it benefit when a new trend is decreed each season? Why do we feel worthless and do ourselves down, just because we can’t adhere to the fashion dictators’ rules?

I’ve got no solutions; every tweak that Apple makes will indoctrinate people into wanting to needlessly spend hundreds of pounds. For some, it will cement a feeling of alienation from a society that measures a man’s worth by how much he owns.

I think you just have to be wary, and be fully aware that it’s the ad man’s job to convince you that your self worth depends on buying that product immediately.

You can choose not to buy something, not because you can’t afford it, but because you know that you haven’t been sucked into the crazy vortex. And as you walk past that item, choosing not to buy it, you can have a cheeky little smile to yourself, feeling just a little bit smug and self-satisfied.


Take that, Ad Man!

Day 62: The Booze Blues

My liver is groaning at me, and my purse sympathises.

Let me give you an extract from my week:
On Friday I drank with my Grandad. It’s not often we get through a bottle of wine these days, because I’m usually driving afterwards. Last week, though, I stayed over, so we got the corkscrew out.
On Saturday I had a date and drank rather more than usual to compensate for my nerves.
On Sunday I met up with a friend for a drink post-church.
On Monday I helped out at a graduate recruitment evening, and, surprise surprise, more wine was involved.

You get the picture.

In London this is no cheap thrill. Although some of those glasses were free, some had to be paid for. Oh dear.

Another problem with drinking, especially after work, is that I need something to soak up the alcohol in my lightweight body. Last night I ended up spending £6.50 on my post-drinking alcohol sponge. Six pounds fifty! So annoying in the cold light of the sober morning. All I got was some fruit, a sandwich and a chocolate bar. I’d never hand over a crisp ten pound note for so little during the day.

Once the bottle is uncorked, though, money starts to feel like those little Monopoly notes. Somehow not real, with no impact on real life. It does impact, though, of course.

Have you ever had that horrible feeling of looking at your bank statement and seeing a series of amounts you’d forgotten about, post-booze? I just looked at my online banking, and remembered a few amounts I’d pushed to the back of my mind. Some amounts I’m not sure I even noticed at the time; I blindly punch in the PIN number on the terminal, without noticing the number before it.

I blame it on the wine, of course I do. But someone (okay, me…) makes the choice to drink in the first place. So now I’m going to make the effort to cut down. I’m not going teetotal (that would just be silly) but I’m going to start out by limiting myself to one night a week. That way I should also limit the surprises on the bank statement to a more manageable figure.