Former shopaholic saves £15,000 for a house by slashing monthly food bill to £20

Abbie was able to save up enough for a deposit for a small home (Picture: PA Real Life)

A reformed shopaholic has revealed how she saved enough to buy a house by cutting her monthly food bill and moving into her sister’s garage for two years.

Selling the house she bought with her boyfriend after they split in March 2012, customer services advisor, Abbie Drown, came out with nothing and, to help her save money, her sister Lorna Burton, offered her garage as alternative accommodation, for just £20 a week.

Abbie, of Truro, Cornwall, managed to save a £15,000 deposit for a property in two-and-a-half years by living without nights out, holidays and heating.

‘I moved into a house-share for about six months, but then my sister suggested I came to live with her family and save for a deposit,’ Abbie explains.

‘It had a tiny window and I changed the door from one that opened upwards to one that opened outwards. My friend put some carpet down, but I was in there among the bikes and the fridge.

‘I paid her £20 a week to stay there, she made meals for me and I used their bathroom.’

Abbie and her sister Lorna (Picture: PA Real Life)

The frugal habits Abbie learnt during this period have stuck with her. She still saves around £700 a month by being smart with her money.

‘It was tough, as I really didn’t do anything,’ says Abbie.

‘I’d maybe go out for a slice of cake at the weekend, but that was about it. I had no holidays, but luckily living in Cornwall I was able to go to the beach.

‘My friends would ask me if I wanted to go out and I’d refuse. I would say, “When I’ve stopped saving will you remember me?”

‘I was working full-time and really I didn’t spend any money. My savings grew to £15,000 during the two-and-a-half years I lived there.’

But this hadn’t always been Abbie’s way of life. Before this, she admits that she used to be frivolous with money.

‘I remember, my laptop broke and I just went to buy a new Apple mac on my credit card, not thinking anything of it,’ she says.

‘I didn’t care about money at all. I would always get things on credit if I could not afford them, but this experience completely changed me.’

In March 2015, Abbie bought her house – a two-up-two-down with parking and a garden for £103,205. She used an interest-free credit card to pay for carpet, flooring and furniture.

She also made sure she bought her sofa in the sales, while her television was a gift from her brother.

She paid her credit card off within a year, so she did not start being charged interest.

‘I wanted to keep saving and I’d got good at shopping on a budget,’ she says.

‘I still keep my food bills to £20 a month. I will always use my clubcard, nectar and advantage card points.

‘I will buy eight tortilla wraps for 90p and make pizzas with a bit of tomato paste at 35p, mozzarella for 45p and some vegetables.

‘With eight wraps that can be a meal for eight days.

Abbie’s homemade pizza (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I’ll spend £3.60 on all of the ingredients – but they stretch to at least four meals – making it 90p a portion.’

Abbie also makes a lot of meals in bulk. She makes big pots of chicken curry or Bolognese and freezes them, or she makes giant veggie stir fries with noodles and soy sauce.

‘I don’t deprive myself but I’ll always look at ways of saving,’ she says.

‘I use a lot of apps to get deals. I’ll use the Meerkat app by Compare the Market, because if you’re going on holiday and buy travel insurance for about £3, they will give you discount on meals.

‘If I’m going out for dinner I will search beforehand to see if there are any money-off vouchers.’

Abbie is also a fan of Top Cashback, which works by partnering with retailers, who pay commission when shoppers are directed to their stores and make purchases – some of which is repaid to the customer as cash or vouchers.

‘I joined in May 2019 and have earned £289 in cashback so far,’ she says.

Other tips include using websites such as YouSwitch to get the best deals on energy providers.

‘Living in the garage, I got used to not having the heating on, so I hardly ever put it on now, which saves me a lot of money,’ she says. ‘I have an electric blanket on my bed which I put on while I’m brushing my teeth.

‘I’d rather wear layers and have a hot water bottle, or snuggle under a blanket if I’m watching television, than put the heating on.

‘I turn all the plugs off before going to bed, except for the internet and I’ll always unplug my phone charger. The television is never left on standby.

‘As the water in Cornwall is quite expensive, I keep an egg timer in the bathroom so I can keep my showers to under four minutes, which is good for the environment and save money.’

Abbie uses an egg timer in the shower (Picture: PA Real Life)

Abbie will allow herself holidays now, but she always makes sure to look out for good deals.

‘In January this year, I got a two-night trip to Venice for £99 per person.

‘I will look for deals on holidays and then go through Top Cashback so you get cashback on your discounted holiday.

‘Then I shop for second-hand clothes on websites like Vinted, which give a good deal to the seller, too.’

And for Christmas, her large family does secret Santa rather than buying individual presents. Abbie also keeps an eye out on Black Friday on November 27, to try to pick up some bargains.

‘I’ll also use Boots to buy two for one gifts as stocking fillers, or save up my advantage card points to use at Christmas,’ she says.

All of these tricks and hints has meant Abbie has continued to save since buying her property.

‘I’ve saved £7,000 so far this year, which I used to pay off my car and will use to pay off a bit more of my mortgage,’ she adds.

‘I think my family are proud of me. Perhaps they think I take it a little bit too far, but when they see how much money I actually save they are really impressed.

‘I do wish I had started saving in my early twenties, as I would have been able to accumulate so much more.’

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