While many of us have frittered away our commute and entertainment savings on an excessive number of takeways and at-home beers, some people have managed to save a load of money in lockdown.
Take Louise and Mike Zanier, for example.
The couple were left gutted when they were forced to pull out of buying their first house at the start of 2020, as their mortgage lender stopped accepting 5% deposits, which meant the £17,000 they had saved up wasn’t enough.
Rather than giving up, content manager Louise, 30, came up with a plan.
Drawing on tips she learned during a work placement with money saving expert Martin Lewis, Louise devised a new budgeting scheme, which ended up tripling their savings in the space of a year.
What was that budgeting scheme, you may ask? It all comes down to cutting costs, making sacrifices, and using plenty of spreadsheets.
Oh, and living with their parents for six months to save money on rent. That was a big part of their approach to stashing away more cash.
The pair stuck to their plan throughout the year, and they have now bought their first home, in Northfleet, Kent.
Louise said: ‘We knew we had to get serious or we would be renting for years.
‘When we realised how much we were saving by not travelling to work or buying takeaway coffee, saving became addictive.
‘We started keeping a spreadsheet, tracking our outgoings and savings.
‘Something that’s stayed with me from my time interning with Martin Lewis is to get over the awkward feeling of asking for a better deal or price.
‘I’ve also learned to never underestimate the power of just being nice to people.’
The biggest expense to cut won’t surprise you: rent.
So for six months of lockdown, Louise and Mike moved in with Louise’s parents.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but in lockdown it made sense.
‘When lockdown happened our entire lifestyle was forced to change,’ explained Louise. ‘We realised if we made the most of the situation, we could still achieve our dream of buying a home.
‘At times it felt like it was never going to happen. When a 10% mortgage was also pulled from under us we had two options – give up or save harder.’
There were other areas where Louise and Mike had to cut back, all of which were made a touch easier by lockdown life.
Louise said: ‘We didn’t realise just how much money we were wasting.
‘I was spending £260 a month on a rail pass, Mike is a teacher and was spending £60 every month on petrol to get to work.
‘We would have daily coffees at work, and takeaways costing £70 a week as well as lunches on the go and after work drinks.
‘Being at home all the time, we realised we had so much stuff we didn’t need.
‘I loved decluttering and made almost £600 selling clothes, furniture, wedding decorations and even empty phone boxes.
‘We could really see our deposit shooting up and this is what spurred us on.’
Documenting every expense in spreadsheets allowed the couple to compare their utility bills and see where they were overspending.
From there, they were able to make meal plans, swap to a low-cost supermarket, and use up all the food in the house rather than doing loads of shopping trips.
They also banned takeaways and fancy coffees entirely.
And with holidays, nights out and friend’s weddings cancelled, the couple were able to add thousands of pounds to their pot.
All that work paid off, as they managed to save an additional £33,000 in the past year.
They’re now the proud owners of a £325,000 two-bedroom house.
Louise said: ‘Moving in with my parents made the biggest difference to our savings.
‘We were spending over £1,800 a month on rent, council tax and utilities.
‘It was tough giving up the flat, we felt like we were going backwards but we had to focus on our long term goal.
‘This time last year it seemed like an impossible dream but we have managed to save £50,000 and can finally say we are on the property ladder.
‘Lockdown forced us to review our spending and see how much money we were wasting without realising.
‘I would advise anyone to use a spreadsheet. You can see what is coming in, exactly what you are spending and even better that that, what you’re saving. It was so hard but worth every saved penny.’
How Louise and Mike saved money in lockdown:
Total savings in lockdown:
- Rent: £1,250 a month
- House bills: £500 a month
- Flat deposit returned: £1,700
- Train travel and petrol for work: £310 per month
- Stamp duty: £1,250
- No clothes shopping: £100 per month
- No socialising: £200 per month
- Cancelled celebrations: £500
- Cancelled holiday to Canada: £1,800
- No work lunches: £100 per month
- No coffees at work: £100 per month
- No haircuts: £80 per month
- Gym membership: £25 per month
- No takeaways: £200 per month
- Meal planning: £150 per month
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