Did someone say Harry Styles tickets?
Welcome to what is going to be 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.
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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. Especially in light of recent events, when there’s so much 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.
How I Saved In May
I’m actually going to go back in time to April to put May into context. My very quiet May was expected. April was also very quiet for obvious reasons, but I expected April to be a whirligig of fun. I feel like I spent very little in April and May. This is really just because my expectations were completely capsized though. The secret to finding contentment in life relies on regularly managing our expectations.
I thought I’d be having an unusual month in April and going to not one, but two concerts. This is not a regular spending occurrence as you might imagine, and they were for the same artist!
Nature had other plans though, and the Powers That Be have postponed those concerts until 2021(!). Perhaps the decision to drop the same amount on concert tickets as I would normally spend in a year on food was so bizarre that it tipped the entire world on its axis. Stranger things have happened?
Even when lockdown looked inevitable, for some reason I optimistically thought everything would be fine again much sooner. That maybe the shows in question would just shift back a month or so. How wrong I was.
What are spavings?
Buying these tickets would have been the height of extravagance obviously when I was saving for a house. (In fact, I think I missed their first tour partly for this reason). However, now that I have my house, a rainy day fund, and various other budget areas that I know I need very little resources for month to month, spending on certain entertainment has become more of a priority.
Concert-going is not a way to save obviously versus not going at all. It fits much more under spavings. This is saving money on something you insisted on buying anyway versus saving money by buying nothing at all. I first came across spavings on the blog Budgets Are Sexy.
I thought I was the queen of spavings on this occcasion. Or should I say both occasions…But how my spavings really stacked up won’t be apparent now until March 2021 when I rearrange my travel to the arenas.
I ended up buying tickets for two shows for two reasons. A) The people I was going with wanted to go to different locations. B) This artist’s live shows are so good that I knew there was a strong chance after the first concert that I would want to repeat the experience rickety tick.
Is entertainment one of your spending priorities?
Since tours only come round every few years, (or never when they’re cancelled completely…) I could buy or get off the fence. I love music, but there are very few musicians that I go out of my way to see live. It also wasn’t likely therefore that I’d be back and forth to the arena for the rest of the year.
*Witness me trying to rationally justify what is 99% emotional spending.*
I got epic seats close to the stage on both nights for less than £100. This was because I bought during the Ticketmaster presale about five months beforehand. The last concert I went to before that cost in excess of £100 to be farther from the stage. I was happy therefore with the prospective view for a midrange ticket.
The price of tickets went up considerably after that for not so great seats. Or you could pay a week’s wages for some not so bad seats. To get word of a presale it’s best to join the mailing list for the artist you want to see.
And who was I due to see? Sir Harry Styles! (Not an official sir). Did anyone else find themselves in the same boat as me? The comments await you so that we can commiserate together. (I totally understand the postponement, and health is more important obviously. Not that my heart only beats for Hazza or anything).
The only way to get Harry Styles 2020 tickets now then is to go international, and the 2020 tour dates for Europe have been rather delayed indeed.
It would have been nice for that money to be in a savings account instead in the meantime. I imagine various concertgoers were able to postpone the cost of their travel though. Plus any money they were going to sprinkle on Harry Styles merch.
How to go to concerts for less
I bought my train tickets in advance to get those as cheap as possible. Also I planned to stay with a very good friend after the first concert instead of paying for a hotel. It wouldn’t have been feasible to get home again either way without spending an absolute fortune on a taxi.
If this isn’t an option, it’s worth seeing what cashback you can get on sites like Hotels.com by going via TopCashback first. If you need to book a car after all, they also often have cashback on brands like Addison Lee. The same goes for using a site like trainline or National Express. When I checked today you could even get cashback on a National Railcard, so checking for cashback first is a good habit to form.
I don’t think my car would survive that length of journey, which would make it a very expensive drive indeed if I had to replace my old banger! I wouldn’t normally drive long distances in the dark anyway, or daylight, come to think of it… So I’m not in a rush to try it while both very tired and on an adrenaline high.
For concert number two, it was going to be feasible to get a train home the same night. Possibly with some extortionate train station parking added on to avoid walking home in the middle of the night.
I have heard Harry saying in an interview that it “means a lot” that anyone comes to see him at all because “you have to park or get a train and you have to go and then get home and it’s a lot of things”… So at least he recognises the effort involved from his audience!
I mentioned TopCashback above. If you want a kickback for signing up to their site for free, then see my Free Money post (and I’ll get a bit back too for referring you. Then you can do the same for your friends and family, and so on).
Email subscribers get any referral links that aren’t suitable for sharing on this website, and I tend to share things there first. Subscribe at the bottom of the page if you want including in that (and get a bonus ebook on managing your money better too).
I also used an American Express credit card to buy the Love on Tour tickets. (Guess what? TopCashback usually have rebates on American Express too). Various of the Amex credit cards give Avios points for spending.
You can also sometimes use these points to pay for tickets, but I think you get more for your points if you put them towards short-haul flights in Europe. I’ve written more about this below under cashback and loyalty schemes.
I also used a cashback credit card for the train tickets, and searched for the cheapest tickets first. Splitting the journey is sometimes cheaper.
I applied for a refund for these when the lockdown kicked in. They wouldn’t have been refundable ordinarily as I had gone for advance tickets at the lowest fare. The government amended these rules in light of corona though. Did you get any refunds you were due?
Because I bought the tickets for the shows and my travel so far in advance, all I really expected to do in April was show up and buy a programme at the very least. So while my activities were due to cost £200+ all-in, I felt like I would have had two amazing nights that come around rarely.
I also could have spent far more if I had been slow on the tickets. Also if I had paid for my travel on the day, paid for hotels, and planned to eat out I could have spent far more. Let’s see what the final bill is in March 2021, shall we?
If you breathe for live entertainment, there are ways to keep going to shows for less while saving for another goal. I’d recommend though trying to cut off a few other lines of spending completely to achieve this.
It also might be worth zeroing in on one or two artists that you really don’t want to miss. Trying to go to lots of smaller gigs regularly can add up quicker than a few arena shows.
How To Save Like A Bear In June
I hope these recommendations give you some inspiration for the next month and beyond.
Nothing at the o2 Arena, obviously.
I already work from home, so I didn’t quite go through the discovery process that others did with entertainment the last few months. I was happy as Larry though when season 14 of Supernatural returned to E4 (whoever Larry is).
It really only takes one of these US shows to stack up a lot of hours of free entertainment. (That’s after the initial costs of a DVR to record Freeview if you don’t own one already).
Obviously if it’s only on once a week, that’s only one hour of fun times on the fly. However, because of starting the blog I really didn’t need much to watch anyway. The recommended resources page includes what I use to make the blog function, including things like sending emails to readers via ConvertKit (affiliate link).
It’s not very useful for me to suggest you start spending on a blog(!)in order to save on TV subscriptions, although you can start a blog for next to nothing. Even ConvertKit have a free plan to start your mailing list (affiliate link).
If I am genuinely stuck for something new to watch, I try any of these activities instead:
- go for a walk
- listen to a free podcast
- crack out an old DVD
- hop on YouTube
- write a blog post
- make birthday cards for family
If you add up what you’re spending on television and don’t like the total, I would consider what you could watch cheaper or for free, but also just consider a complete routine change anyway that involves less TV.
If you’ve never watched Supernatural before then it’s probably a bit tricky to start in the middle of current proceedings unless you want a real headtrip! They are finishing season 15 in the US. That’s a lot of catching up to do (or a weekend’s viewing for some of us…)
If you wanted to go back to the beginning though on DVD then you shall be occupied for many hours indeed! It’s possible to get the seasons 1-13 boxset of Supernatural at the moment.
I figure the boxset is roughly the equivalent of paying for some subscriptions for eight months or so, and watching around one episode per day. The difference is that after eight months you still own the DVD!
The alternative to try before you buy is a free trial of Amazon Prime Video.
Students can watch Prime Video via Prime Student, but you get a longer free trial of Prime Student than regular Prime.
I expect the final boxset will be a hefty investment for that many episodes. At the same time though, anyone buying the boxset will likely have their viewing sorted for at least a year…You say tomato, I say…erm, tomato. Compared to paying for something like Sky, it might represent some considerable spavings.
Because it was supposed to be car boot season, I’ve also been raiding my bookshelf to see which books could do with a new home. I read a lot online, but offline I mainly use books if I’ve been lying awake for over an hour.
“They” say if you can’t sleep, you should leave the bedroom to do something until you feel tired again. Otherwise our brain associates our bed with being awake. This means I don’t crack my fiction collection very often.
I regularly look at a full bookcase and wonder why I’m holding onto certain books after so many years. Especially when some of them were given to me for free while travelling by backpackers trying to make their luggage lighter. I’m going to keep the following collections of books.
The Hunger Games
It’s also possible to listen with a free trial of Audible. The audiobooks aren’t available on the page for the boxset above. This means if you already have access to Audible, then you’d download an audiobook for book one of The Hunger Games trilogy separately from Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
I’ve heard that listening to an audiobook while reading along is a good solution if you get distracted while trying to only listen or read, so a free audiobook is worth getting even if you already own the physical books.
My Hunger Games set doesn’t include the prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. (Have you read it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!) That’s available as an audiobook too, so it works with the free trial of Audible above.
I like the cover design of this Harry Potter Boxed Set best, but also unlike some other designs, it’s available in hardback, paperback, or Kindle depending on how you prefer to read.
As with The Hunger Games, the individual Harry Potter titles are available as a free trial of Audible (or on each page if you already have Audible. Here’s the first book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone).
The other distinction between the Harry Potter book collections and reading them individually is that the individual titles are also included in a free trial of Kindle Unlimited.
Specifically her original trilogy The Vampire Chronicles Collection. (Her style of writing is a lot more formal than a Buffy comic if that’s usually you’re speed). As with the above two box sets of books, only the individual titles are included in the Audible free trial (scroll up for the link).
If you already have Audible, you can listen to Interview with the Vampire and books two and three, but not as one boxset.
I’m not familiar with Anne’s more recent return to supernatural fiction, but I did also get many rereads out of her other classics like Blood and Gold, The Vampire Armand, and Pandora. You can’t beat a bit of historical fiction with your mayhem. (You know what to do if you want to listen for free! Hit that free trial link above for Audible).
I think people mostly think of Judy as a childrens’ author, but her novel Summer Sisters breaks my heart at any age.
I also can’t let go of my very faded copy of Just as Long as We’re Together. It’s a nostalgic tale of childhood friendship… or a great gift for someone still living all that confusion.
So a bit of an eclectic mix! The others I sold through Ziffit in the absence of car booting. I’ve only mentioned here the books I kept where I own more than one from each author, but I kept some one-offs too. Just ask if you’re looking for more ideas of what to read and I’ll share the rest.
Besides the audiobooks above, I’m a luddite who still listens to CDs. (Remember those? Those disc thingys? They still exist). I played Fine Line a lot therefore in preparation for seeing Harry live twice in April. (I figure that puts us on first name terms, even if it didn’t go ahead).
It was the first CD I had bought myself in many years though. His debut CD has gone down quite a bit on Amazon too due to age. I ordered that too, but accidentally ordered the hardcover photobook version.
This cost a fraction of what it would have cost on release though. It was a pleasant surprise when I received a hardcover book in the post with a CD inside when I was only expecting a CD! I think you’ll find his first self-titled album is also included in a free trial of Amazon Music Unlimited.
This comes under free things to watch though also. If you can’t make it to a concert, the wonders of YouTube etc still allow us to watch show footage. (Or to watch it all even though you were there just to relive the memories…) That’s why I included Harry in The Not Drinking Game.
Cashback & Loyalty Schemes
Before buying anything, I quickly check TopCashback for rebates (and you can get bonus money for going via that link). I was able to get cashback on a Holland and Barrett order, and I also used my Holland and Barrett reward voucher. Although I only order from them a few times a year, I still manage to qualify for a couple of quid off.
I reckon therefore that their points scheme is likely more rewarding than the supermarkets. This is only a saving if you’re buying things that are cheaper in their sale anyway. (Nakd bars usually!)
I also use cashback credit cards for all my spending. This gives either points, or a discount on my final bill of the year. I don’t use this as an excuse to spend more. It’s just an extra bonus on things I was going to buy anyway.
It’s so important to pay the cards of in full every month though for your credit score and to avoid interest. I also don’t use this therefore to dream up things I can’t really afford.
I’m devising a recipe page for the blog since I just recapped Save Money Good Food and there will be more recipes from TV shows on the way. The funny thing is though, I don’t often use recipes.
At the start of the year I had a bit of a food buying ban. I’d stocked up enough that random odds and ends from the cupboards and freezer added up to several weeks of food. I just needed to be creative about mixing and matching ingredients.
I think we all suffer from a bit of kitchen blindness now and again. You know, where you convince yourself you need to get groceries in… Then while reaching for an ingredient to put with it all, I find a year old tin of soup. That usually makes me assess what else I keep ignoring.
My stash ran properly low at the worst possible time though and I found the aisles rather empty indeed… Even before that I improvised a lot with gravy, and ate plenty of sweetcorn and cashew soup (to use up cornflour). I also made batches of homemade pasta sauce which is far cheaper than buying more jars.
I couldn’t restock properly in March and April due to coronavirus. Having nearly sweet **** all groceries to take home is not really a saving to shout about!
I had another root around and tried to do something different with couscous each time. I can’t complain about the threat of food boredom. At least I had anything to eat at all.
Here were a few of the combinations to put with couscous:
Cinnamon, almonds and broccoli
Curry powder, toasted cashews and mixed peppers
Cashews, sweetcorn or lime raisins, and cumin/coriander
Couscous with mint, cashews or red kidney beans, and sweetcorn
I also found at least three ways to make walnuts more tasty. This was just as well as they seemed to multiply of their own accord. Soaking them in water makes them less bitter.
Then you can roast them for even more flavour, or I dip them in Jim Jams. Soaking them in coffee is also an option, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted caffeinated nuts.
May was a lot more promising on the supermarket shelves. Because I was trying to shop so rarely though, there was still a lot of improvising going on. I should have some more results from my experiments next month.
What I Bought
Even though I didn’t need much food, I always need a supply of coffee. I buy the cheapest ground coffee by weight from Aldi/Lidl. My coffee machine was a present a few years ago that is still going strong.
However, I used a cafetiere regularly too. Investing in a cafetiere can be a huge saving on buying coffee out and about. A cafetiere is also a fix if we literally can’t buy coffee out and about because everywhere is closed…
This section of the post will always be very brief! It’s just not in my instincts to solve a problem with a purchase. I’ll look to what I own already, or free options first. Given the choice between spending time researching something I might need and doing things like writing, the latter usually wins.
Because I work from home and shop rarely anyway, lockdown didn’t greatly change my day to day. I’m fine to eat from my cupboards, although stocking with the cheapest items was tricky at times. Which then defeats the whole objective as you’re shopping for food MORE often because the shelves were empty the last time you went.
The latter is terrible for stopping corona from spreading, but very kind on the wallet. In times like these health is more important than finding a bargain. However, our finances can have a big impact on our mental and physical health too.
The crisis has also been a bit of a shock to anyone who’s never dabbled with a second income, or who has limited savings. That’s when being healthy stops being its own currency.
Our health won’t pay our rent unless we become a virtual dance teacher or something similar overnight, so money is still important.
What I Didn’t Buy
It was rather tempting to glam up in advance for the Harry Styles tour with themed manicures and the like. I wouldn’t normally hit the salons, but I wouldn’t normally go to the o2 arena either, so anything was possible.
Aside from wanting to put my money towards more important things though, I also didn’t really expect to have time. As things transpired, I had time. But only because Harry pushed back his 2020 tour dates, and everything closed.
I’ll call that a sign that I’m not supposed to paint watermelons or kiwi fruit on my nails any time soon. I’ll make do with the solitary Essie nail polish I own that we have in common.
I cut my own hair. This is something I learned to do thanks to the interwebs in the last year or so. I was frustrated with paying extra at the hairdresser because I have very long hair…
Yet I would spend longer waiting for the appointment than the trim itself as I don’t have a complicated style. I’m not sure why I should pay extra for a five minute haircut just because my hair is long.
How to save money with slow fashion
I also planned to shop from my existing wardrobe to find some fun outfits for both shows. Everything from my bag to the jewellery I wanted to wear hadn’t been outside for over a year. Yet they would have been perfect to wear on these occasions.
Whenever my old clothing addiction bug tickles the back of my brain (I live near a designer outlet…) I have a rummage through what I’ve already got. I always come up something with I already love, but haven’t had cause to wear lately. Alas, these outfits shall likely languish a little longer…
For one of the shows I did plan to wear a new pair of shoes. However, I bought them in the December sales after shopping around online and at Westfield White City. They were black leather Converse high tops for £40 a.k.a the first pair of shoes I had bought for five years.
I had to retire two other pairs of shoes before that with disintegrated soles, so the Converse felt worthwhile. I think mine were priced so low because they have a zebra stripe sole which is a bit of an acquired taste!
Fingers crossed they’ll be a bit more durable than the canvas versions, although I haven’t owned a soft pair so can’t say how long they last. I belong in the camp that classes Converse acceptable trainers to wear with a dress or skirt, so they should be fairly versatile. If it’s good enough for Kristen Stewart…
Plus flats are a blessing in the majority of situations. Even if I’m doing my best interpretation of Calum Scott’s Dancing On My Own when I thought I’d be dancing with 15000 other people at Birmingham Arena, but hey ho…
Maybe don’t buy bright pink footwear
I owned a pair of flats already, but they’re pink knee high Dr Martens. They’re similar to this shade of pink Dr Martens ankle boots. If they don’t sound very practical apart from being durable then that’s because I bought them during my shopping addiction days.
As you can guess the colour doesn’t exactly go with everything. I also don’t always want to wear knee highs, so a black pair of flats would have been a better purchase the first time around!
Having said that though, despite paying something like $30 in a Foot Locker in New York many years ago for my pink boots, they’re now selling for crazy prices on eBay. A black pair of knee high Dr Martens on Amazon with a similar design is over £100 too…I didn’t realise I was buying a collectable.
I wonder how many people are buying these on sale on one site and then relisting them for a profit on eBay or Amazon Marketplace. Dr Martens have gotten a lot more popular I think, especially as people get braver about what to wear.
Luxuries to last a lifetime
Those $30 Dr Martens were a luxury (who buys pink boots, seriously?) They’re also holding out very well after over 10 years.
The Converse were a luxury too, as I wouldn’t have gone barefoot without them. Let’s see what their lifespan is like.
I hear memories from Harry Styles tickets last a lifetime too, but I’ll have to take someone else’s word. (At this point, I’m treating his name like Bloody Mary: if I say it enough times, he might appear in person!)
I consider Fine Line and his first album luxuries too. My problem with money is that I find it hard to spend even on things I might enjoy (contrary to what all this chat about Harry Styles tickets might imply). Still, I think this is a better problem to have than the opposite.
“Things” I’m thankful for
Everything above! I work hard, but I’m also privileged. I try not to take anything for granted.
Staying active for free
Would have been all that dancing in the arena, innit?
I did a free trial of Chris Hemsworth’s Centr instead which includes recipes and workouts. The trial lasted six weeks and so I came away with enough thoughts about it that I might give it its own blog post.
I didn’t make any of their recipes during the trial for lots of reasons, but I did do some of their workouts in between going for walks in the sunshine. Has anyone tried this, or are you an annual member? Let me know in the comments.
Get thee to a car boot sale when life allows! This too was disrupted by coronavirus. My local one usually only costs £5 per vehicle. This is pretty good as other sales in the area charge £10 and up. I did several last summer and I came away in profit every time.
If you do more than one car boot sale, I think it’s best to take more with you each time. You see a lot of the same buyers. They’ll stop off each time if you’ve got something new on display. They then browse things they overlooked before.
I launched a blog! What have goals got to do with value for money? Part of the aim of securing my first house and continuing to save beyond that was to give myself freedom. Including freedom to do more of the things I like.
I’ve been working a little less so that I could get this here blog off the ground. I haven’t missed any earnings though really. I’m at a point where I’ve got my monthly spending as low as possible without feeling deprived. I know that my savings are earning interest day by day should I come unstuck. At my rate of saving and spending though, it would have to be something very sticky.
Again the blog comes under spavings rather than savings. It would have been cheapest to not start a potentially expensive hobby. This will come as a real shock, but I did of course research the hosting costs and everything in detail. I wanted to pay for my second home online without regret.
Curious about starting your own blog? Or do you have a blog and you’re reviewing your existing providers? I’ve written about who I selected for the hosting/domain name/theme etc after careful consideration on the resources page:
What have you done to save money lately? Let me know in the comments.