Tired of being told to bring lunch to work or to cut out the morning coffee to save cash? It's fair to say that some of "ingenious" money-saving tips can be a little bit, well, patronising.
But when Nectar ran a competition to find Britain's savviest families, some of the ideas that surfaced were genuinely creative - albeit, not for everyone.
Eight finalist families were tasked with writing a money-saving blog over the course of six weeks before the loyalty points provider picked the Staniforth family from Leeds as winners. You can check out their blog here.
Here are some of the best cash-saving tips gleaned from the finalist families:
The Beesley family
1. Staying in youth hostels can dramatically cut down on the cost of family holidays. The facilities are impressive and you have your own family rooms to sleep in, but can enjoy the company of others in the communal areas and kitchens.
2. Order a 'Weekend Box' for free at www.weekendboxclub.com using a free code which you can easily find online. Delivered fortnightly, this is a box with four great ideas for kids in - something to cook, something to make, something to explore and something green. They contain almost everything you need (apart from things you will commonly find in your cupboard) and provide great entertainment for a quiet moment over the weekend.
3. LEGO has two kids magazines that are completely free. Arriving several times a year, they are packed with cartoons, model plans and competitions - perfect for any young engineer. And with different editions to suit your child's needs, it really is a great freebie. Sign up here.
4. Let the shower races begin! Armed with a towel and sand timer we all race to have the quickest shower. Check out Soap and Glory’s 2 minute rinse campaign for more tips on shorter showers and a chance to win prizes too.
5. Did you know that any child who has had an achievement of some sort can apply for a Blue Peter Badge? With it they get free admission into a huge number of attractions. I’m sure most children have done something amazing that has made their parents proud so why not apply.
6. With Nectar points you can get an annual Merlin pass for some guaranteed fun days out at fantastic attractions like Madame Tussauds, Chessington World of Adventures, SEALIFE and Legoland. In fact, a huge number of the UK’s most famous attractions are included.
7. Make sure you keep hold of old books and magazines to make your own bunting. Then you have bunting to tie-in with your kid's favourite theme, whether it's Moshi Monsters, pirates or Peppa Pig.
The Johnson family
8. Try using up the ends of rolls of wall paper or unwanted samples by repurposing as wrapping paper. It’s thicker than wrapping paper and gives a really nice quality look to gifts - why not add a bit of ribbon at only 7p a meter from the market too? Left over lining paper is great too, for anything from kids' craft to making sewing patterns.
9. Mobile phones and printer cartridges can be pretty high value items for charities, so don’t ever bin them. Sainsbury’s has a special recycling scheme where they fetch at least 50p each, so that's a £3 donation without having to open your wallet.
10. Use Dulux tester pots to create feature/accent walls in the home. They hold 250ml (far more than normal testers) and cost about £3.40. The published coverage is 2sq metres but you could also try buying it a couple of shades darker and mix in some white to make it go even further!
11. Why pay for a decorator when your friends can help you break the back of your job. Whether it’s decorating you need help with or if you need to get on top of a neglected garden, why not invite over a group of friends to help with the hard graft? For the cost of a few pizza and a couple of boxes of beers you can tackle the most daunting jobs and avoid the heavy labour charges a decorator would charge. And if you don’t trust your friends to paint your house after a beer or two, just ask for help with getting the prepping done, after all how much harm can anyone do with a piece of sandpaper? And that’s the worst part of the job sorted.
12. Lined curtains are really easy to make and if you use a thermal blackout lining they can help reduce fuel bills too. Especially as very few houses have standard sized windows you really are better off making your own. The cost of made to measure curtains is daunting, but shop around for your fabric or try the market and you’ll be surprised how little they cost to make. (How to make lined curtains)
13. Collect rainwater for gardening - it's better for the plants, and free. Even if you don't have a water meter to worry about, collecting rainwater is still important as it takes power to filter, treat and pump the tap water to our homes, so adds to environmental costs.
The Joyce family
14. Have a weekly 'no spend day' and you'll find it makes a huge difference to the way you manage your weekly budget. Try cooking bread overnight in the bread maker that you can use for lunchtime sandwiches, and then cook from the cupboard for tea. Any purchases have to be deferred, but you'll find that a little thinking space makes you realise that you don't need it, you just want it - especially when it comes to sweet treats!
15. Check out your local council website to see whether there is a recycle/reward scheme in progress Some councils put aside money for every extra tonne recycled, and then ask residents to bid on that pot of money for local projects. It's a great idea that's also really beneficial for the whole community.
16. There is always a park or a footpath near to you where you can enjoy a lovely day out for free. Use the internet to search for footpaths in your local area.
17. Consider DIY before paying someone else to do some work for you. Search the internet for video tutorials, and then buy everything you need online too - you'll make some great savings using eSpare and eBay.
18. Grate the whole block of cheese and put it in the freezer, just using it as and when you require. No need to defrost either, it melts in no time, and grated cheese goes much further too.
19. Check out your local Children's Centres. They're a really under recognised resource for parents and young children, throwing lots of free community events throughout the year.
The O’Callaghan-Bowskill family
20. When having your car serviced, always ask for a breakdown of the labour charge you are quoted. All garages should follow what is called 'book time' or 'flat rate billing' meaning that if the book states a repair requires two hours labour the garage can't charge you for three hours. The stated repair time for the brakes on my car is 40 mins, so as labour is usually billed in half-hour blocks, I would query if the labour was higher than one hour.
21. Create your own free recipe collection; it's easy to make by using a free app called ziplist. Most times when you are browsing the internet for recipes, there will often be an option on the page which states “add to ziplist” which will then store the recipe in your app. This also gives you the function to add ingredients from the recipes to a shopping list to make it handy for when you're at the supermarket. On a weekly basis you also receive the top 10-12 recipes that other users have saved via email.
22. You can make your own air fresheners for a fraction of the price of those you can buy, plus you have a far better choice of scents, and you can decorate your jars as you wish. These will last up to six weeks and the gel will break down as it does with a normal gel air freshener. All you need is a pan, water, salt, gelatine, food colouring and essential oil. They look fab once decorated and can be used as a gift stocking filler.
23. Blend lemon rinds with water to form a smooth liquid and then added to a recycled container and diluted with water to fill the container. This makes a fab and fresh cleaning solution to clean your wheelie bins, the fridge etc., or to add to bicarbonate-of-soda for a homemade cleaning scrub.
24. Use toothpaste on plastic headlights when they go a foggy/misty yellow in colour and it will revive them.
25. Grind chicken bones into a fine powder as a great free addition to compost.
26. Instead of letting all the water disappear down the plug hole after a bath, have a bucket handy and decant some bath water to use to flush the toilet - instantly reducing water usage.
27. Get to know your neighbours and share your skills and resources. You might find that your old newspapers are invaluable to them for their crafts for example, and they may have something they can give you in return that would otherwise go to waste.
28. When buying on eBay, look out for item listings finishing at obscure times, e.g. 10am and 2pm. These are usually good times to pick up a bargain as there are fewer people around at the listing end time to place further bids should a bidding war start-up.
29. Don't throw away fruit just because it's getting over ripe. Bananas make great chutney or you can freeze them then blend them into a healthy smoothie. Squeeze out the juice from citrus fruits and freeze in an ice cube tray for when you have a recipe which requires this, or add to drinks in summer as a flavoured ice cube. Pineapple freezes nicely, dice and freeze, then you can use this straight from the freezer to make a sorbet by blending together with vanilla essence.
30. Use a Terramundi Pot - a money savings pot where the only way to access your money is to smash the pot. Feed the pot with your first coin and then continue to feed until the pot is full, then you can treat yourself to something nice and you're not tempted to dip in before the collection has built up.
31. Always put an empty water bottle in your hand luggage when you're packing, as you can get water free at the airport that means you can have a drink on the plane for no cost.
32. If you're getting married or want a memento from a party you're throwing, whether it's a birthday or christening, try contacting local colleges that run wedding photography courses where students are coming to the end of the course. Ask any students wish to do your photos for free so that they can use the photos to build their portfolio. They'll often do this in return for a party invite and good food.
33. Make a phone speaker out of a simple toilet roll by placing a slit in the top and popping your phone inside. Decorate and you have a quick and easy speaker - no batteries or electricity required.
The Oliver family
34. Try making your own baby wipes. Container: Old ice cream containers [no cost] Cloth wipes: Cut from outgrown baby vests and t-shirts [no cost] Baby wipe solution holder: A (thoroughly cleaned out) old cleaning spray bottle [no cost] Baby wipes solution recipe: 500ml of cooled boiled water, 1 tbsp of baby wash, 1 tbsp of oil (almond, olive or baby oil would do), 1 tbsp of aloe vera gel. Add everything to the cooled boiled water, give it a little mix and the solution lasts for a few days if kept in the fridge. When you want to make up a box of wipes, pour the solution into your box of dry cloths and leave it a while to give the solution a chance to soak through each cloth.
35. After the Commonwealth Games, keep a look out for sports clubs and organisations offering free taster sessions to encourage new people to their sport.
36. Many charities working with the homeless run a furniture recycling scheme. They pick up your furniture (for free) and either pass it on to someone who needs it, or sell the item with the proceeds going back into the scheme. This is a great way to pass on larger items of furniture you no longer need.
37. Try geocaching for a great day out - it's the modern day treasure hunt, and it's absolutely free. You can join at geocaching.com and the website is full of information with everything you need to get started. Get the children involved to make geocache treasure and use it as a sneaky way of decluttering toy boxes. Foreign coins, fridge magnets, pens, pencils, small figures and toy cars are just a few examples of potential 'treasure'.
38. World of Golf provides free beginner lessons and you don't need to have your own set of golf clubs. You can enjoy a round of golf for £10 or less, and remember to choose off-peak times to get the cheapest price.
39. Check out your local British Military Fitness programme and make use of their free classes.
40. Swap children's clothes with friends - you're never going to use those outgrown clothes so swap and exchange with a family who have children who will fit.
The Smith-Wilby family
41. When unpacking your food shop, use the "First In, First Out" rule. Arrange all your grocery products in order of use by date to avoid any food going off and optimise the freshness. You're more likely then to use all the fresh food before it becomes spoilt and it's also a great way to organise your meals and ingredients.
42. Re-decorate on a budget by using aerosol spray paints to give your furniture a fresh new look. Some of the easiest pieces to spray paint are bedside cabinets and dated wooden curtain poles. The paint sprays come in a wide variety of different shades and effects such a matt, satin or gloss and two cans will cost you just £5 from Homebase.
43. Buy second-hand board games from the local charity shop for 50p - £1 each! Why not swap them with friends too, so that you can get a selection of different games?
44. Surfing is fun, great exercise and most importantly... FREE. If you're a beginner, head onto eBay to buy a board and wetsuit. Also remember to car pool with friends or join up to groups such as Meet Up.
45. Get searching for the Camping & Caravanning Club online and become a member - you get some fantastic savings on your camping trips as well as special offers on days out both in the UK and Europe. You can also save 15% on your first tent using the exclusive vouchers available for members.
The Staniforth family (Winners)
46. Invest in a wash scrunchie and apply a small amount of your product or run against a soap bar. It quickly soaps up into a lather and means a bottle of shower gel goes much further.
47. When selling on eBay, the best time for your auction to end is a Sunday evening around 7-8pm. However, remember to check the TV schedule to be sure there's nothing of interest to distract potential bidders around your auction ending time.
48. Check to see if your local council runs a membership scheme. In Leeds, for example, there is a Leeds Card (for Adults) and Breeze Card (for under 19s). Membership is often free or low cost and you may receive free or discounted entry for a number of leisure and sports activities in your city, including theatres, museums, as well as discounts when eating out at certain restaurants.
49. Make the most of '3 for 2' offers at Argos in September/October to buy for Christmas.
50. Get together with friends and take it in turns to 'Host at Home', with each family brining along their own drinks, a contribution to the food table and any music or games they wish to share.
51. If you apply for Days Out tickets that you later find you cannot use, Facebook has a number of 'swap' groups where you can swap your tickets for something you could use.
52. Check to see if your local shops reward you for recycling used cosmetic pots. You can often get vouchers or even free products in return.
The Wedge family
53. Set a budget for your food shop and take cash only so you're not tempted to over spend whilst shopping. Always check that what is in your trolley is a 'need' rather than a 'want'.
54. If you are a British Gas customer, ensure you have an Energy Smart Thermostat controlled unit installed. This enables you to control the temperature of your home whilst out and about, via an app. Savings of around £9 can be made per month by using this device, as well as the convenience of turning on heating so it's ready for when you get home. If you forget to switch it off, you can do this when you're out and about.
55. Look out for offers and freebies with beauty brands when you purchase your makeup. Now and again there will be a freebie box worth £35 if you buy two products. A great idea is to save these 'gifts', re-use old gift bags that you have received and make up a little hamper for birthdays and Christmas.
56. Create a 'lucky dip' activity box for the kids by writing down an activity and short instruction for the children to do on a folded piece of card, then let the children choose a card. Some great activities to include are plant rubbings (the children use the garden to collect up the leaves or even something they have found), making a fruity desert using two ingredients, playing a board game (get games from the local charity shop for 50p - £1 each and then swap with friends to keep your collection fresh), story time (the children choose a book each and grab a comfy blanket and sit and read as a family), and treasure hunts (leave no more than five clues around the house, when the children find them all, there is a sweet treat waiting for them at the end!).
57. We have a group of friends who have children a little older than ours and they always pass us clothes that they have finished with. We hardly ever pay full price on clothes, always doing our research on how to get an item of clothing cheaper elsewhere. We use eBay a lot, as there are so many bargains to be had, plus collecting Nectar points is a huge benefit.
58. Always use carrier bags for bedroom and bathroom bins, rather than paying out for bin liners.