How to shop and save money

by workshyscrounger

I am probably preaching to the converted but articles on easy ways to save money make me angry. I feel compelled to read them all the same in case I am missing a trick. Disappointingly, they infallibly fall into one of the three categories

– the obvious: change you habits and you could save £10k in a year. Nice – as this is nearly my whole yearly income (including housing benefit). Unfortunately, it says to ditch Waitrose, cook at home, walk rather than drive – things I have always been doing. No mention of downgrading your shopping, buying reduced items but, I guess, the £75k annual income puts her in a completely different world to mine.

– the dangerous: go foraging. Dangerous to the planet and to you. If hordes of untrained people descend on the countryside they will cause harm: less food available for wildlife and damaging the plants leading to smaller crops next year. Many edible species are similar to poisonous plants – you could kill yourself and you family in the name of saving a few quid.

As for the money saving powers of foraging, they don’t always amount to much. Nature is unpredictable and it might mean you will spend money on the bus to get to the woods hoping to come back with basketfuls of berries and mushrooms only to come back empty handed. The bus fare would have been better spent simply buying that packet of raspberries in a supermarket.

– the savvy – extreme couponing as exemplified by the latest voucher vulture sensation Jordon Cox claiming to use coupons offered by manufacturers and stores and managing to get £106 worth of shopping for under two quid.

Sounds great in theory but there are a few problems:

– cost of obtaining the coupons: you need to buy newspapers, magazines and pay for printing other coupons – my local library charges 10p for each page; we have a printer but cannot afford the £10 or so it would cost to refill the cartridge.

– access to shops – there’s only a Tesco near me (and other smaller discount shops). A trip to Asda or Sainsbury’s would cost me too much to be worth the bother. Same goes for home delivery.

– value – in the article the receipt was chosen for its maximum shock value. The averages are less impressive: they bought £1220.68 worth of stuff for £654.04 saving themselves £566.64 in the past nine months in “the supermarket alone”. I presume it means Tesco only. Considering that we do not know where else they are shopping, what else they are buying and how much they are spending there, it is hard to draw any conclusions. I also noticed that they shop in Tesco Extra which is more expensive than other Tesco formats.

The problem with coupons is that they usually are for items that are processed, unhealthy, unnecessary or more expensive than value stuff even after the discount is applied. I would like to see Jordon do our fortnightly £70 shop for under £40. I say it’s impossible. At the same time, I bet I could make his shopping cheaper and healthier.

Advice like that makes me really angry. It seems to imply that I am useless with money because I do not manage to slash hundreds of my bills while buying branded stuff. It gives an impression that extraordinary savings can be made. It justifies the benefit cuts – look how much can be saved if you only you are clever enough to look around.