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Top 10 money hacks – or How to be the Queen of Mean

Lucy Reese realised that being good with money wasn't about one grand gesture but lots of small ones that add up.

A few years ago I was broke and every payday my money seemed to vanish into a black hole. I had always prided myself on being good with money, but I wasn’t really. I had just been used to having a high-ish income, low outgoings and someone else to help me out. As with anything else in life, there was no magic bullet, just a series of small steps that over time made a difference. It’s about the money hacks.

Here are 10 tips that will help you make money your bitch and make you be the Queen of Mean. 

I could ramble on for hours — but that’s boring. Instead, here are 10 tips that will hopefully help you make money your bitch and let you be the Queen of Mean.

1. Don’t be a snob.  

Years and years ago, I remember recoiling with disgust at someone who had the temerity to serve Morrison’s value fruit juice at a birthday party. Nowadays I would be giving her a high five and asking her a) whether it was on special offer or b) how did it compare to the price of fruit juice at Aldi or Lidl. I’m the person who prefers Cuthbert (£4.99) over Colin (£7) and Greggs to Pret. I genuinely couldn’t give a toss about whether a shop is ‘middle class’ and haven’t set foot in a Waitrose since 2017.

2. Buy online to help you budget. 

It’s very easy to be seduced into spending more the minute you set foot into a supermarket, so set a strict budget and shop online using a cheaper supermarket such as Morrison’s or Asda, both of which have excellent delivery services. You can also get Aldi to deliver using Deliveroo. Set a strict budget and plan your shopping round what you need – look through your cupboards and fridge as you shop – and also what is on offer. I generally spend about £85 a week in my online shop for myself and three sons. I will probably add £15 / £20 a week in top ups, making my average monthly spend on food and cleaning products about £500.

3. Learn to cook.

One of the biggest ways to waste money is to buy ready meals. They rarely live up to expectations in terms of taste and are full of rubbish. You save a fortune if you cook your own food – I’ve recently got into making hummus which costs literally pennies and tastes way better. If you are vegetarian or vegan you can save even more money and if you like meat you learn how to use cheaper cuts and left overs to make delicious food. This can be a problem if you lack an adequate cooking space or share a kitchen with lots of other people, but for the majority, cooking more is a great way to save.

4. Check your account every day. 

Download a banking app on to your phone and aim to check it every day. Initially this will be frightening, but it will allow you to see your monthly pinch points – when money goes out of the account – and help you understand how you have been wasting money. One of the biggest reasons for debt is delusion and checking your account on a regular basis will help you get real.

5. Ebay. 

Ebay is a gift for the thrifty. I love clothes and enjoy nothing more than going into expensive shops and admiring the beautiful things on sale. I follow lots of brands on Instagram, much as I used to pour over fashion magazines as a younger person. Sometimes I buy the brands in sales or heavily discounted on websites like Otrium. But my best buys have been found on Ebay, such as my £15 Missoni scarf or the gorgeous Selected leather jacket I bought for £35 (it would have been about £200 new). Ebay allows you to save money and level up your life – what’s not to like?

It’s tempting to think that you save money buying clothes in charity shops or Primark, but the low prices can seduce you into buying more and buying without thinking. The process of Ebay – the watching and bidding – encourages you to really think about whether the item is worth having.

6. Build long-term relationships

I often joke that my longest relationship is with my plumber, who I met when my boiler nearly exploded in 2005. Another long term relationship is with my financial advisor, which dates back to the late 90s. Trusted people are much more likely to tell you the truth – that you can mend the boiler for a couple of hundred quid rather than shelling out two grand for a new one. Create trusted relationships by always paying people on time – if you can’t afford to pay all in one go, set up a standing order so that they get a regular payment every month.

7. Re-use, recycle, regift. 

There are clothes in this house that have been given to me second hand and then worn by all three of my kids. If I don’t want or need something I give it to someone else and Christmas and birthdays are an ideal time for re-gifting. Obviously it’s rude and insulting to give something damaged or dirty but if the item is clean and in good condition then it can   make a great gift. I am a compulsive reader and always pass on my books – why not!

8. Pay it forward.

If you give and share what you have, then the world is more likely to help you when you need it. Make sure you remember birthdays and treat people when you can. Being careful about your own finances allows you to be more generous to others and lead a happier and more abundant life. Giving gifts is an important part of most religions for a good reason – it makes everyone feel happy. Giving your time or a skill can be even better than giving someone an object and will cost you literally nothing.

9. Save, save, save. 

If don’t save, you will always be on the back foot when it comes to paying for emergencies or having any treats in life. Even if you throw your loose change into a pot every night for a couple of months you can easily amass several hundred pounds, enough for a new outfit or a weekend away. It takes minutes to set up a standing order that automatically puts money into a savings account or an ISA. The money is locked away so you can’t touch it until you need it.

10. Have fun.

It’s very easy to see cutting spending as a form of torture and a punishment for your poor life choices. The key is to see it as a challenge, or better still a game. Get your family and friends involved – how can they help you save a few quid? I have trained my kids so well that they now tell me off for wasting money! Joking apart, I am proud to have educated them on the importance of taking control of your finances.

My only caveat would be that this advice is aimed at people who are employed, have secure housing and no severe medical problems or disabilities. The last thing I want to do is be like one of those Tory MPs who preaches to the genuinely poor whilst living in a huge mansion. If you are on the breadline, then this advice may seem patronising and inappropriate. But most of us are more fortunate than that and do actually waste a shit ton of money.

Lucy Reese


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