Watch more Tom Hardy.
Actually, there’s slightly more to it than that.
Welcome to my monthly dose of savings and earnings inspiration on the blog. If it isn’t your first time on the blog then you’ll likely know I’ve discovered the deep satisfaction that comes from earning compound interest on my savings in the long term, rather than relying on the temporary happiness that comes from impulse buying.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it wasn’t always easy to save a mighty five figure sum towards my deposit. Temptation also seems to strike me less than most people I know.
I thought a monthly post therefore on where I find the best value for money in daily life might be useful. When there’s so much in life out of our control, I think there’s more benefit than ever to finding ways to control what we can regards our finances.
Looking for timeless saving ideas?
While these monthly posts might highlight short-term offers here and there, these two posts talk more about how to approach saving long-term:
I don’t think of myself as “tight”. It’s also bizarre to me that we would criticise anyone in society for NOT wanting to spend willy nilly day in and day out when there are so many people homeless or in debt who would benefit from a windfall. I believe in spending priorities.
If we have the means, but we feel like our wages disappear of their own accord, then saving big doesn’t mean wearing a potato sack and living off bread and water. It’s about stopping to assess whether we’re really spending on the most important things to us, and then finding the best value within those priorities. This might not be the cheapest product or service, but the one that suits our needs for the lowest price.
Go your own way
There isn’t one right way to spend. In the past I’ve had an addiction to buying clothes. Someone working in fashion might just call that an occupational hazard.
I spent most of my savings from my teenage jobs on backpacking, and I don’t regret a penny of that. They were amazing experiences. Somebody else might not give a flying squirrel about spending on travel and think that I squandered that money. I could have bought a house much sooner if I hadn’t gone to California for a year. At the time that wasn’t my spending priority.
Now that I own a house, my spending priorities have shifted again. Don’t take these posts as a Bible representation of how I live. They’re not intended to tell anyone else exactly how to live either. I just hope they give you some ideas for the budget areas that are relevant to you.
Our priorities evolve. The continuing thread is that I’ve found a level of financial freedom through getting up close and personal with my concept of value for money. My monthly outgoings are far less with a mortgage than they were renting in London. This won’t be the case for everyone. Having savings has definitely given me options to improve my lifestyle for the better though.
If a job is affecting our mental health, but we feel like we can’t leave for financial reasons, then reducing our expenses and building up our rainy day funds will open up opportunities in future to take a break, switch careers, start a business…Whatever we need. All while keeping a roof over our head.
Disclaimer: If you sign up for a free trial or purchase via an affiliate link in this post, I earn a commission from the seller at no extra cost to you that goes some way towards covering the cost of hosting the blog etc. Since I’m big on analysing value for money rather than big on big spending for its own sake, I obviously only recommend anything I think is genuinely good value. I hope you save on your spending priorities that way.
IF YOU ARE IN DEBT, please do not try and support the blog through my affiliate links. Speak to National Debtline, StepChange, your local Citizens Advice, or all of these about your debts. If you want to support the blog, share it and the free mailing list with someone you know instead, or share my notebooks available on Amazon with them. I add about one new notebook per day, so the collection is growing.
How I Saved In July: Recommended Viewing
I said last month that adding up the hours of DVDs in my collection had really killed the urge to buy more (until I’ve sold a few at the carboot perhaps. When will that be? Who knows).
I get much the same feeling when I delve into the history on my DVRs. I’ve got over 300 hours of shows recorded. Then films on top. This has been very handy for recapping for the blog, but also means I’ve always got something to revisit.
Remember that documentary Tom Hardy did about poaching? Or his first series of Taboo? Or every film he’s ever made? Nah, of his movies I really only have Warrior, RocknRolla, This Means War, and Lawless recorded at the mo’. Not that I’m a fan or anything…*
*Other actors are available, but don’t tell Tom Hardy I said that
Also worth a second viewing are Dunkirk, The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Inception if you have more time. Apart from Mad Max, I don’t think you’ll find these easily on Freeview. They’re thrilling stuff. However, they’re also twisty turny, or not told in a linear storyline, so you catch more the second time around. Dunkirk also stars Harry Styles in a role very at odds with his rock star persona (not that I’m an authority on King Hazza too… Ahem).
As you can tell, I am close friends with the TV guide. You have to actually check the listings if you’re determined to record all these for free. Then there’s the ads to tolerate if it’s on a commercial channel. I understand why most people would sooner grab a DVD.
Other ways to watch for free (Tom Hardy included)
Prime members can also watch almost all of the films above included in their monthly subscription. Newbies can get a free trial of Amazon Prime for 30 days. Students get a six month free trial through Prime Student instead and then pay 50% less than ordinary Prime if they decide to stay.
If you’re wondering what the difference is between Prime and Prime Video, then a free trial of Prime Video gets the same benefits as Prime with a few added perks that are purely entertainment-focused. If you decide to stay after the trial, you’d usually pay for Prime annually, and Prime Video monthly, so some prefer the latter for flexibility.
Some film buffs are big fans of Tom Hardy in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but it’s a bit of a mindfudge, so you have to concentrate. None of the films he did between 2013 and 2018 are relaxing to watch really! I would only investigate Locke, The Drop, Child 44, Legend, and The Revenant if you realllllly like dramas and thrillers.
A much younger Tom Hardy is also in Black Hawk Down. That has a huge ensemble though, so I don’t think of it as one of his movies per se. I’ve had the Black Hawk Down Special Edition DVD since release, and it now costs about the same as the standard version.
Digital recorders vs DVD players (vs subscriptions)
My DVR was over £100 when I got it years ago, but it has certainly paid for itself since. If I’d paid for a subscription monthly during that time it would have cost me hundreds of pounds instead.
Having said that, my main DVR is showing signs of wear and tear after 10 years(! Shocking!) It’s absolutely not because I’ve watched Kingsman too many times… Technology has obviously moved on quite a bit since then, so I don’t think the brand even exists anymore.
My second DVR (yes, I have two because a relative wanted to offload one) is even older and that’s a Panasonic. They haven’t really come down in price, but then digital recorders today like this Panasonic HDD Recorder are geared towards bigger hard drives and smart catch-up features rather than playing DVDs. I wonder if this would last 10+ years too?
My Goodmans DVD player gave up, and using an old laptop is not ideal… Especially when I’ve since updated that laptop due to a failing hard drive that makes the fan sound like a fighter jet flying through my house. (That the laptop even has a DVD drive gives you an indication of its ancient age. I buy things to last!) I’d probably go the same reliable route and get a Panasonic DVD Player also. It’s a much smaller investment upfront, providing you already own plenty of discs.
This DVD player is not endorsed by Bill Bailey, but the image is teeny tiny.
If it’s a choice between the two,you have to weigh up whether you’d rather get a digital recorder and mainly record free TV, or pay a fraction for a disc player and mainly watch DVDs. Buying discs might add up to the same as getting the recorder anyway.
Of course, if entertainment isn’t in your spending priorities, then there’s no decision to make!
Considering cancelling pay TV like Sky, or getting rid of a TV licence altogether? In last month’s post I covered the television DVD boxsets of the last 20 or so years that I think are still worth investing in:
I mentioned last time that I was reading more blogs than books due to the library closures. There is another blogger I’ve followed for years and that’s Cal Newport.
I discovered him as a student. Cal was writing about how top performing college students use different strategies to make studying seem effortless.
These days he writes a lot about career design and the relationship between productivity and technology. His blog posts consistently make me stop in my tracks. You can’t go wrong with any of his books on careers either for the same reason.
The best thriller books
As for other non-fiction, I mentioned the movie higher up, but the Black Hawk Down book actually came first. It’s a detailed and heavily researched account of a military mission gone very wrong. I used to keep it in the car to read while waiting for appointments, but it was too tense! Then I made it bedtime reading, but I’d realise an hour had flown because it’s so engrossing.
Some of the other Tom Hardy movies are also adaptations, like the novel Lawless by Matt Bondurant (although Matt’s grandfather and granduncles really were bootleggers like in the book). Child 44 is not a light read as a novel; neither is The Revenant.
Legend was adapted from The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John Pearson, while Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a classic John Le Carre novel. Lest we forget: Wuthering Heights, Oliver Twist, and The Take by Martina Cole. Basically if Tom Hardy’s in it, assume it was a book beforehand. Let me know if I missed any!
If that’s all too heavy, there’s always Tom’s Bedtime Stories on CBeebies…
Don’t forget if you have Prime or try Prime for free then you can access the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library too. Or there’s a 30 day free trial of Kindle Unlimited if you’re always running out of blogs and books.
I’ve been recording a podcast to enhance the money topics here on the blog, so I’ve mostly listened to myself ad nauseum! That shall be ready imminently. Join the mailing list at the bottom of this page if you want to know as soon as it’s live (and get a free ebook to help improve your finances).
I’m actually going to have a segment on the podcast for recommending other podcasts. I’d like to do a dedicated post also just for podcasts, but in the meantime, try the list below.
Deep Questions – This one belongs to Cal mentioned above. He answers questions from readers on improving their (work) life meaningfully.
Cash Chats – Also mentioned elsewhere here on the blog before, journalist Andy Webb covers all aspects of money management.
Scriptnotes – If you love behind the scenes of movies or storytelling generally, then Hollywood screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin are approaching episode 500 of their show discussing the industry and how they write. (A script of mine was once in an episode of this! So I’m a bit biased).
The Joe Wicks Podcast – I know some people are cynical of celebrities discussing physical and mental health. You really can’t guess how someone lives until you’ve heard their story though. In episode three actor David Harewood follows up his BBC documentary about the psychotic break he had in his 20s.
See below for more on Joe’s recipes that I’ve been making for a few months now (as mentioned in last month’s post too).
Consoling Myself – Fellow money blogger The Reverend also has a money podcast on the way. In the meantime gamers can take a tour through his life in video games.
Kudos to The Reverend also for ensuring I know always where to get my IV drip – sorry, I mean, a free coffee. He inspired this blog post as a result:
I could recommend more podcasts, but that should be plenty for now. I’m open to recommendations too from readers who are on the mailing list. (I’ve overdosed on Tom Hardy, so anything else please).
If you want a free audiobook, try the Amazon Audible 30 day trial. Black Hawk Down, Cal Newport, and some of the novels recommended above are included in the choices.
Cashback And Loyalty Schemes
See the blog post on Free Money a few lines up! If you haven’t joined TopCashback yet, I would join now. Their most recent giveaway has ended, but it will be back again soon enough if past experience means anything. It gives your account an early boost without buying anything.
They run a daily competition for a few weeks at regular intervals where they post clues to brand names. If you go to the brand’s merchant page on TopCashback, and click on the hummingbird, that gives you cash, or prize draw entries. You’re not obligated to buy anything from that merchant afterwards.
Otherwise usually you’d check the site before buying something you’re going to buy anyway to see if you can get a rebate for going via their link. They also have a free offers section that gives you cashback with no upfront spend.
Once you’ve joined at no cost, you can earn extra cash for referring friends and family. I’ll keep updating the blog post linked above with any suitable opportunities like this. I also share some of my referrals in the emails only, so again make sure you join the mailing list at the bottom of the page if you want more for your money.
I also got my first free share from Freetrade, and started using some receipt apps, so we’ll see what I rack up from those. (Again see the Free Money post above if you want to make use of the same opportunities).
Joe Wicks ate most of the word count in last month’s How to Save Like A Bear because I ate mostly his recipes… And his book Veggie Lean in 15 has had a lot of mileage. I borrowed it from the library before buying.
I explained in the previous post why I usually dislike paying for recipe books. Number one being that I usually would have run out of recipes I actually want to make long before now.
But throughout July, I was still testing out the book. That’s a good hit rate! I’ve never spent so long following recipes. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve made any of the recipes exactly as they are in the book.
This is partly because there’s nearly always something I want to skip or change for reasons of taste or cost. In the past that made most recipe books useless. I’ve found Joe’s useful still though as the recipes are very adaptable.
I’ll probably put together some content on all the recipes I modified for the best value, so shout if you want to know more. In between I still made things up as I went along depending on what rag tag bunch of ingredients was leftover. I’m not a huge fan of coconut,so I’ve discovered that if a recipe calls for coconut oil and cream/milk, I can often use one or the other. Using one or the other completely changes the final texture, but it hasn’t made anything inedible.
What I Bought
Erm, have we met before? We’ve established I have over 1300 hours of entertainment, what else could I possibly need? Oh yeah, food. Apparently I can’t eat my book collection either.
Because I started using receipt apps, I didn’t fill out my expenses tracking. I’m normally a paper and pen budget planner (how about you?) The receipt apps didn’t really capture everything I wanted though, especially as uploading online shopping wasn’t an option. I’m back to trusty pen and paper for working out where my money goes.
According to the receipt apps, I bought petrol. I buy it so rarely that I didn’t check prices beforehand. The time spent working out whether going to a different station to get some money off isn’t worth it to me on something I only purchase a few times a year anyway.
If you’re regularly buying petrol though you can use a site like PetrolPrices to compare your cheapest station near you.
How to save money on food
I bought an ungodly amount of oats from Holland and Barrett during a 50% off promotion, and stacked that with bonus points from their Rewards For Life scheme. I also qualified for free delivery, clicked through for cashback, and used a cashback credit card to pay. Here’s a link to H&B at TopCashback if you want to see what rate they’re paying at the mo.
Oats are a very cost effective breakfast. On this occasion it made them cheaper than going to the discounters like Lidl or Aldi. My philosophy is it’s worth it to bulk buy anything you use daily or at least weekly to save money over the year, even if it means money is tied up in the cupboard in the meantime.
If you use something less often, then you’re probably better off just seeing what deals are available when you actually run out. I find with the latter category that those are purchases I’m likely to do away with all together.
I was able to use another discount code on their penny sale also for Nakd bars which are one of the few convenience snacks I buy. Like the petrol example, the time saving is more worth it to me than investing in a food processor and making them myself. I buy raw nuts and fruit too, but you’ll be hard pressed to have an afternoon snack for the same cost after all the deal stacking.
Wilko are also consistently very competitive for household items. I obliterated a points balance at Sainsburys’ too. They’re not offering cashback today on deliveries at TopCashback, but it’s still worth joining as that will probably revert in future.
Other ways to top up your Nectar points are to check their site for your personalised offers before you shop, and earn points through survey sites if you have time to kill. If you usually pay your credit card off in full each month, then you could do the same with a Nectar points credit card.
Self-employed can’t apply for the Sainsbury’s one currently unfortunately, but Amex have an alternative. (I have the Avios Amex, but I can only refer friends for you to get bonus points. Unless you’re one of my mailing list buddies, it ain’t happening, sorry!)
What I Didn’t Buy
I’m not an impulse buyer at the best of times, but the spring weirdness of lockdown continues to make me redefine life’s “essentials”.
Take pyjamas for example. They might seem essential because we go to bed every night…But I’ve stopped distinguishing between nightwear and daywear. A tshirt is a tshirt. When a pair of gym joggers gets too worn out for outside, that’s likely to end up in the pyjama drawer too. Especially as I know they’re already comfy!
If something’s too scruffy to wear out the house anymore, then may as well throw it on to sleep in as it’s just going to get screwed up anyway! Most of us have enough clothes that the wardrobe is never fully empty even if most of it is in the wash. Then when there’s a heatwave, I want to wear summer clothes instead of PJs anyway.
Do you buy nightclothes especially? Is there anything you’ve declared non-essential? Let us know in the comments!
Luxuries To Last A Lifetime
Only the Gilmore Girls drink more coffee than me.
I’ll aim to include in next month’s post a taste test as I discovered ground coffee for £1/250g in Poundland yesterday. That beats the previous price winners Aldi, Lidl, and Hubbards own brand at Sainsburys’.
If you have a pod machine, did you know you can get reusable pods on Amazon too? Fill them with the ground coffee you want. If you can’t get any of the brands I listed above or you didn’t like them, Solimo Ground Coffee is currently included in Amazon’s Subscribe and Save discounts if you want to switch brand for less.
I mentioned above that covid has put the kibosh on cashback on Sainsbury’s deliveries. If you already pay for deliveries and Amazon Prime, then take advantage of a free trial of Amazon Fresh to see if it nets you a saving.
“Things” I’m Thankful For
Daylight. Summer will be on the way out (winter lasts September to May in the UK, don’t you agree?) It costs more energy to be cold, and since most of the nation is vitamin D deficient, we could all do with more sun.
Winter plays havoc with a lot of people’s sleep. When we don’t sleep well, it has a knock on effect. Being sleep deprived is comparable to being drunk. How can we make spending decisions that will serve us in future if we’re walking around half-cut most of the time?
I’m thankful to all the creators mentioned so far in this post. Discovering money bloggers and vloggers and podcasters accelerated my savings in the past and obviously inspired me. I’m pretty sure I discovered Shoppix via Panda Boss’s video on Money Making Apps. Definitely check out her channel if you’re interested in personal finance and investing.
Staying Active For Free
When the sun came out in spring, I really tried to start a walking habit.When the weather was bad I did Centr’s free trial. Then I fell back on Joe Wicks on YouTube.
It is good to change things up a bit though, especially as I get stronger. I’ve been doing more of Zanna Van Dijk’s workouts on YouTube. They’re a bit more challenging than Joe’s. Because I’m not interested in weight loss, I’m choosing strength training more over HIIT cardio.
I’d be wary of watching a video from any old soul, but she’s a qualified personal trainer. (There’s still a risk of injury, yadda yadda). She’s also just seems lovely if you watch any of her other videos. She has her own sustainable swimwear brand and obviously wants to have a positive impact.
Do you get outside each day? Even a 10 minute walk clears the mind.
What car boot sale?
An alternative is to list your unwanted stuff when Ebay has zero selling fees like they did recently. I made time instead for a few secret projects I can’t share just yet. We’ll see if they pay off. Sometimes a side hustle requires time upfront without knowing exactly when the return will kick in.
Why don’t I include the blog etc here? I started the blog primarily to share information. It costs me money to run and that’s fine by me. Perhaps that will change in future. I’ve covered which services I use on the Resources page if you have questions.
I’ve got a line up of side hustle questions from email subscribers to answer on the upcoming podcast. Join us if you want to submit a question too about side hustles or self-employment.
If you already purchase business supplies for a side hustle or any other business, let me know if you’ve used Amazon Business. I used to find buying office supplies a nightmare because we couldn’t get everything we wanted in one place. I couldn’t even see what we ordered because our suppliers were in the Dark Ages and had no website.
Part of my saving was that I wanted to have a lifestyle with more leisure time. I’ve been “working” on the blog in my leisure time, so the line’s blurred these days!
I’ve really enjoyed blogging and recording the podcast though. Do let me know what you find useful so I can create more in the same vein. It’s not just for my fun.
I originally started the blog to help first-time buyers. The property section of the blog is your online home if that’s you. Same if you’re a saver renovating on a budget. As per the intro, my spending priorities and goals have evolved since buying my first home, and yours will too. Your priorities will also be unique to you anyway. I write these posts to share what’s worked for me, but do what’s best for you.
See you in September for more of this, but I’ll be posting savings on other things in the meantime. I can’t promise Tom Hardy fans he’ll crop up again, but you never know. Adding the Save Like A Bear YouTube channel will help more people save I hope. Subscribe to the channel now and you’ll be the first to know when I add videos. Same goes for joining the mailing list below.
Read the previous monthly savings posts: