We’ve all been there: faced with a looming overdraft limit five days before payday, wondering if we can actually afford to buy groceries this week or if we’ll be stuck on a diet of cupboard leftovers (oh helloooo tinned kidney beans and cream crackers). Whether you went a bit too treat yo-self the last time you got paid, or you’re just struggling to survive on a grad salary and high rent – there’s no denying that the last few days of the month can be a little tricky.
But fear not – we’re here to help with some tried and tested hacks for surviving crunch time with some quality of life intact.
1. Borrow, beg and steal
(NB to all male readers: you have FULL permission to skip this one…)
Here’s a real life SpareRoom employee story. In the early days of full-time work, I was a classic case example of somebody that dressed like a queen for the office, and reverted back to pauper-chic come Friday night. Which is all well and good cos girl gotta look professional, but not so sweet for my then-pitiful grad bank balance.
How did I hack my way around it? I borrowed. My transitional wardrobe from student to working gal was definitely not plentiful or professional enough to allow a different 9-5 outfit every day, so I sweet-talked a couple of friends, borrowed/swapped the odd blouse/skirt/tailored trouser, and I’ve never looked back. Or returned some of it. Soz girls.
2. Lunch out for less
Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve found some underlying, undiscussed pressure to buy lunch out ALL THE TIME. I don’t know if this is just due to central London’s bountiful range of various eateries that could fuel a different daily lunch for a year or more (Korean kimchi-filled burritos, anyone?), or just the fact that having an income makes you feel a whole lot more gourmet-deserving…but I’ve always found it’s a difficult (read: expensive) habit to keep up with. And while there’s nothing wrong with eating value chicken breasts from a tupperware box, there is something a bit sad about doing it while you’re watching a colleague enjoy a polystyrene container of sumptuous Lebanese meats.
Well, here’s the hack of your DREAMS. In big cities, there are all sorts of different apps and services to bridge the gap between ordering fast food and walking to pick it up, like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, or ones that offer in-store collections (usually for discount prices) like Redi and Too Good To Go. Most of these apps will offer some sort of incentive/discount/freebie just for signing up. Keep eyes peeled, email inboxes on alert and prepare for a walk in some cases. It might just mean the best lunch of your life…
3. Cycle or walk to work
When the going gets tough, and the tough can’t get going because they’ve forgotten to budget for transport this month… it’s time for plan B. So many people take public transport to work that don’t really *need *to – and I don’t really blame you. It gets cold outside, and who wouldn’t rather sit down for 20mins and zone out with a podcast/book/daydream on a sweaty train than actually move to work?!
Alas, in times of financial hardship, a pair of wheels or legs could just be your saviour here. Instead of plunging £149 every month into that season ticket, invest some savings into a bike and padlock and get pedalling. Or if that looks like too much of a push and you live in London, try your hand at Boris biking (or Santander Cycles to be formal) for just £2 a day. It’s low-cost transport, you’ll be keeping fit (YES to toned calf muscles) and you can invest in some top notch envy-inducing cyclewear that will be the talk of your colleagues.
Or failing that, just walk. No kit or equipment expenditure necessary.
4. Cash it in
Boring parental tip alert
Debit cards are great for a number of things: not being mugged with £200 cash on you, the ability to shop online, and not losing £10 to the washing machine and your back pocket… but they’re not so great for giving you a real overview of what you’ve got. As “advised” in tip one, debit card transactions can take longer to process a.k.a there are times when you’re not getting the full picture of what’s actually in your account. And let’s face it, it’s *all *too easy to tap that card without a second thought…
Withdrawing cash gives you a much more physical view of your money, so can be a handy strategy in the peak of financial gloom as payday approaches. For extra budgeteer pro points, divide what you’ve got left with how many days you’ve got to stretch it across and spend accordingly.
Or if you really can’t be doing with a pocket full of change, check out the Monzo card – a prepaid balance card that you can ‘top up’ with your desired spending amount (min £10) and use as a normal debit card. Except it will prevent you from overspending (thanks to no overdraft), decline if you haven’t got enough funds left, and give you a phone notification every single time you use it…
Laughably simple, but super helpful when balancing the last few pounds (and last few morning coffees…)
5. Sell, sell, sell
You can’t afford to go out, so let’s make some cash from home instead. Promise it’s almost as fun.
While your friends are out getting drunk, make the most of your poverty and start sifting through the endless piles of belongings and junk you’ve accumulated in your flatshare. Instead of consigning them to the bin, fish out anything half decent and flog it online – eBay is a classic for gadgets, books and more, or try Depop for hardly worn or unworn clothes. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and you’ve got the double bonus of making money *and *making storage space. Super satisfying.
Or why don’t you take that newly-acquired bike (slash Boris bike) you’ve been using to get to work every day, and become a Deliveroo cyclist? Word has it you can make up to £120 a day, and keep 100% of your tips too. All for hanging around your favourite take-out joints and delivering their delicious treats to members of the public.
6. Time your supermarket trips
Go at the right time, and you could be onto some MAJOR savings. Supermarkets generally do all of their discounts at the end of the day, when fresh produce that goes out of date gets drastically marked down to get rid of it. Don’t be ashamed to be ‘that person’ hanging around the clearance aisle while the man with the yellow stickers does his thing. You could just head home with some Taste the Difference parmesan-crumbed cod fillets for a cheap AF £1.25 (me yesterday)…
Do this enough and you’ll get a good freezer stash, meaning that in later months when the pauper life strikes again, you’ve got stuff to defrost for some slightly more lavish meals. Winner-winner, parmesan cod dinner.
7. Stay loyal
…because if you’ve been loyal long enough, it pays. Confused? Dig into your wallet and check out the loyalty cards in there, probably unloved and gathering dust. When was the last time you checked how many points you’d racked up on them? You could just be in for a treat, or a free lunch/moisturiser/meal.
8. Re-assess your rent
It’s the biggest expenditure of them all, so give it some attention. If you’re struggling a bit with your current monthly cost, it might be worth another look – rents are currently declining, so have a look around and find a new deal. With more than 80,000rooms and flatmates on SpareRoom, it’s probably worth a browse.
Or how about you stop paying rent altogether? Yep, it’s a thing and we can make it happen for one person EVERY month with our LiveRentFree competitions. Give it a go and cross everything…