How I saved £4,000 by cutting my bills and using spreadsheets to track prices
CUTTING her bills and using spreadsheets to track prices has helped Virginia Gill save almost £4,000 since moving into her new home.
The website designer, 38, also avoids impulse buys and waits at least two weeks to purchase anything.
Virginia estimates she has saved £3,161 alone by monitoring the prices of furniture and other household essentials by using a spreadsheet.
With her spreadsheet, Virginia would mark down a "predicted price" based on either typical prices or what she expected to pay.
She'd then keep an eye on what she wanted by marking down website URLs until the price goes down enough.
For example, Virginia saved £714 on a Simba mattress, paying just £194 instead of £909 in the Black Friday sale, thanks to noticing a huge price drop and taking advantage of a promo code.
When a product is out of her price range, she also uses her spreadsheet to help her shop around for a cheaper alternative.
Instead of spending £47.50 on 2.5 litres of Farrow & Ball paint, Virginia found an almost identical colour from Homebase for just £11.
She started being more savvy with her finances around five years ago when she began saving for her first home.
She ramped this up last year, keeping a spreadsheet on furniture and other essentials for her future property, when she put in an offer on a flat in London in June 2020.
Virginia’s top tips for finding the best prices
VIRGINIA is a self-confessed bargain hunter and loves to browse the internet to find the best prices.
Here are her top tips for finding the cheapest products and not wasting cash:
- Use spreadsheets: Keep tabs on prices by setting up a spreadsheet for items that you’re looking to buy. Include important information such as current and past prices, and relevant URLs. As well as helping you keep organised, it also stops impulse buys.
- Use Google Shopping: This brings up a range of prices from different websites so you have a clearer range of retailers. Don’t just stick to specific websites, as you won’t know what else is out there.
- Wait at least two weeks before buying: Ask yourself if you really need that purchase. Ask again after two weeks, and if the answer is no, don’t buy it.
- Use discount codes: Virginia recommends the free browser add-on Honey for helping her find discount codes. Honey will automatically bring up any valid discounts for products when you get to the checkout stage of websites.
- Don’t be afraid to downshift: If you can find a cheaper equivalent, don’t always be afraid to go for it. Check if it still meets your requirements and how much cash you could save by not going for a branded good.
- Do an audit of your bills: At least twice a year, it pays to check your bills to see if you can save cash. Use comparison sites to check everything from your phone bill to your broadband and even your gas and electricity. It’s also worth reevaluating your subscription services, such as Netflix and Amazon, every few months.
This sadly fell through, but she eventually fell in love with another home in south London and moved in with partner Max in December 2020.
In total, everything she wanted to buy for her new home based on the "predicted prices" should have come to £7,000.
But the "actual price" – how much she ended up spending – came to £3,839 -a saving of £3,161.
'I guess I have been a bit stingy'
She told The Sun: “I guess I have been a bit stingy in the last five years while saving for my flat, so that's why I got into these habits about not taking the first price option.
“For large purchases for my flat I did a lot of research and I do have a spreadsheet for that with all the URLs.
“This was great around Black Friday and Christmas when sales started so I could get the things I wanted at discount.
“I've never had to buy big furniture or kitchen appliances before, they cost so much! So I needed to save everywhere I could.”
As well as always checking prices, Virginia uses a web browser add-on called Honey to find discount codes.
She reckons this works four times out of ten, and gives an average saving 10% – which works out usually between £2 and £5 – or free shipping.
Virginia will also wait at least two weeks before buying something to make sure it isn't an "impulse purchase".
This saves her money, as around 50% of the time she'll decide she doesn't really need that product.
To compare prices, Virginia says one of her favourite tools is Google Shopping.
She advises use this to expand your search, as it'll bring up all different prices for a variety of products, instead of sticking to specific websites.
'It amazes me how many people don't Google products'
She said: "My friend was trying to find a bed recently. She knew the one she wanted and she was complaining about how expensive it was – but she didn’t Google search for what.
"If you wanted a bed with a white frame, you just type it into Google and it'll bring up all different prices.
"It amazes me how many people don’t just Google products."
In addition, Virginia saved another £798 since moving into her new flat by slashing the price of her bills.
She reduced her energy bills by £294 by switching from SSE to Bulb and getting rid of the prepayment metre in her new home.
She also now pays £276 less on her mobile phone each year after ditching her iPhone when her monthly contract was up and changing to a Google Pixel mobile with a SIM-only deal.
Meanwhile, her broadband is now £228 a year cheaper after she switched from Virgin Media to Plusnet.
For these bills, Virginia used comparison sites to find the best prices for her area and needs.
She added: "I’ve spent a lot of time researching for my new flat."
It comes as new research from Plusnet shows the average UK householder pays £299 over the odds on their mortgage, £222 too much on their fuel bills, £156 on broadband and £132 on TV packages.
Almost four in ten (38%) admitted to buying or signing up to a product – including energy, insurance, TV or phone packages and mortgages – despite not being sure what they were getting for their money.
A further 43% ended up buying something they thought was something completely different due to misleading language.
We explain seven ways to reduce your bills by £100s as Netflix, Sky, British Gas and more hike prices.
We've rounded up 16 tips to slash your supermarket shopping bill by hundreds of pounds a year.
And here are eight Martin Lewis money-saving tips that could save you £9,243.
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