Ashley Lennon knows about being broke; she's traveled the world with little room in her bankbook, and documents all her ways of making a dollar go further on Skint in The City. She spoke with us about keeping your money in your pocket.
Has it become harder or easier to save a bit of money since you started the blog?
I started the site in 2010. Interest rates for savers were abysmal then, and they still are. I'd have to say it's probably trickier now, both personally and for many of us in the UK, given cuts to child benefit, wages that are either frozen on rising below the rate of inflation and the rising costs of everyday items like food and fuel. It's not all doom and gloom, though - the economic downturn has made us realize the importance of saving and not to take our money for granted. Even though people often have less cash now, they are smarter about how they use it, and more conscious of the need to save where they can.
What are some common tactics you use to cut down on costs?
I'm a dab hand with leftovers! It's rare that a potato gets binned in our house - food waste is like throwing money in the compost bin. And I do love to haggle - show me a full-price sofa and I'll show you a bargain begging to be born. The main trick for cutting costs is to be organized - book advance deals on all travel, buy Christmas presents in the January sales and summer clothes in the August ones. Planning ahead gives time to scout around for the best deals instead of panic-buying at the last minute - though of course I don't always practice what I preach!
When is a deal not a good one? What signs are there that you should just walk away?
It's only a good deal if you need it. We've all fallen prey to deals on group-buying sites that seemed too good to be true, (who could turn down yet another vintage high tea?), then regretted it at leisure. My advice: If you've never thought you needed a vintage high tea until the deal pings into your inbox, it's not a good deal. Not even if it only costs a fiver. The mighty Martin Lewis is spot-on with his advice here: Before buying always ask yourself - Do I need it? Will I use it?
If you could give your younger self a piece of financial advice, what would it be?
Don't waste money trying to keep up with the Joneses. Let your spending and your saving be a reflection of your own priorities and values, not an attempt to impress anyone else.
What's the biggest cost sink you've ever cut out of your budget, and why?
Probably fancy holidays - they're not compatible with young children! The days of South American adventures have been replaced by buckets and spades close to home, but I still keep squirreling money into a personal savings account every month, hoping that I might get a gap year of my own with the cash when the kids are grown!
What's the future of personal finance, in your opinion?
For most people, the phrase "personal finance" is about as enticing as "root canal treatment." There's still a perception that personal finance is terribly complicated and scary, but I think the rise of personal finance blogging and forums is helping to democratize the field, as people learn from their peers about the best deals on saving and share tips on managing their money. We no longer look solely to banks and financial advisors for advice on saving money - the rise of initiatives like peer-to-peer lending provide entirely new ways of saving and investing.