February Round Up: Money saving and side hustle favourites

February was another tough month.  The kids were at home as their nursery was still closed for lockdown so we were both trying to keep up our full time jobs while also looking after them.  

Our focus was on doing whatever we could to make daily life easier and cutting ourselves some slack.

Tomorrow will be a new month and the nurseries will also open again.  The kids don’t want to go back and although we’ll be under less pressure at work, I’ll also miss having all that extra time with them.  I’ve decided to drop down to four days a week from August and am looking forward to getting a better balance.  

Saving money on food

The stresses of January in lockdown triggered some “bad” money habits, like spending on takeaways when we hadn’t planned for dinner. We decided to get a chest freezer for our garage so that we could keep easy meals in there when we are in a pinch (which feels like every night!).  Not only are we now not so tempted by takeaways but our routine is much easier.  My other half is still baking a lot of sourdough, so now he bakes six loaves at a time and slices them to keep family-sized portions in the freezer.  This means we can always have sourdough toast in the morning and have not needed to buy bread all month.

We’ve also made our own pizza bases as well as pulled pork in the slow cooker.  

I also just started making my own yoghurt. I’m mostly doing this for the health benefits.  I was about to buy some probiotics for my son when I realised that I could make live yoghurt instead.  Then I thought about how much we spend on yoghurt a year.  It’s £300-400 as we like and buy the expensive FAGE brand and eat it every day.  If I can make our own yoghurt instead then I’m just paying for the milk which will turn out to be a saving of around £200 a year, even getting organic milk.  It’s turned out nice so far although I’d like to make it thicker and creamier.  I am planning to use it for savoury foods too.  Today I found some tired lettuce in the fridge which didn’t look very appetising but after chopping it and coating it in a salad dressing made from this yoghurt it was pretty tasty.  

Now that Spring is here I’m also planning to grow more veg.  Last year we saved hundreds of pounds (and drastically reduced our food and plastic waste) by growing lettuce all year.  

I love focussing on one favourite staple and finding a way to make it more cheaply at home. First bread, then lettuce, then yoghurt – what’s next? Maybe a really decadent granola?  Suggestions please…

We are also trying to be better at using up leftovers and reducing our portions, which is also allowing us to stretch out our shops for longer.

ISA Top Up Challenge

As 5 April 2021 is the last day we can top up our ISAs in this tax year (in the UK), the last few months I’ve been focussing on using up as much of this year’s allowance as I can.  I have been working on cutting down our living costs so that we can set up a £1600 monthly direct debit to use up the full allowance next year. 

As I am already saving the most I can out of our income, a few days ago I decided to set myself a challenge to see what extra I could hustle in the last 40 days of the tax year to top it up.

This year I have £6950 of my allowance left to use up and expect to transfer £1600 from my March salary, leaving £5350 that I could still (in theory) put in for this year.  I don’t expect to be able to put in that much, but have decided to use this as motivation to be more creative with income sources.  Rather than setting myself a particular target, my goal is to explore some new ways of making money and to try to do something every day.

So far, here’s how I am planning to bring in the money over this time:

  • Survey apps

So I had sworn off survey apps (except for Prolific) but have discovered a new favourite – VoxPopMe.  You record very short video responses to questions – usually about 15 seconds long.  The questions are quite interesting – the other day I answered about five questions about shopping for Mexican food at Waitrose.  I like it because you don’t waste time getting screened out and it’s fun to practise speaking on camera.  

If you’d like to sign up (in which case we both get a £1 bonus) you can use this link.

I’m also carrying on with OnePoll because I am so close to a £25 pay out, but I will probably stop after that as there’s a lot of screening out and it isn’t very interesting or well paid.  

  • Selling second hand

I’ve put £130 worth of items (mostly old baby stuff) on Gumtree and have set myself a goal to put up at least £200 worth in March (and to sell at least 3 items).  I’ve heard good things about Vinted as there are no selling fees and the buyers pay the postage but I put a lot of items on it that didn’t sell.  

Cashback sites

I’m late to the party with cashback schemes but have been enjoying Airtime Rewards and Accelerate Your Mortgage. Airtime Rewards is great because you don’t need to remember to go through a specific site, it just tracks your spending and applies the cashback credit to your phone bill. It also means you can also go through a Cashback site too, and get the Airtime Rewards. I also like Accelerate Your Mortgage because I’ve stopped overpaying my mortgage at the moment so it’s nice to at least be putting something extra towards it, however little. This works in the same way as Top cashback, I.e. you visit a retailer through their site and then get credited some cashback after a purchase. The difference is that the cashback is then applied as a mortgage overpayment once you back £50. It also has the bonus of occasional prizes (ie a month’s mortgage paid). If you’d like to join you can use my referral link here.

With the kids back at nursery in March I’d love to be a bit more ambitious next month and to create a few more products for my Etsy shop.  I’m also planning to focus more on my health and wellbeing, including making more time for exercise and spending more undistracted time with my children.  I’ve also been enjoying sewing again – making headbands and face masks – so may put some physical items online too.  

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