Stretching the euro
Making every euro count
If there’s one thing that the economic crisis has definitely done, it’s inspire new ways of saving money. There can be few better examples of this than UK school teacher Kath Kelly who went so far as to write a book about how she decided to deal with the crisis by surviving on just one pound (about €1.20) per day. This miniscule amount did not include the rent of her room in a shared house nor the utility bills (which were all paid in advance), but had to cover everything else, including clothing, food and toiletries. “I discovered that if you buy the supermarkets’ basic ranges, some things are very cheap,” Kelly told The Times. “I bought three bars of soap for 18p....It isn’t great but it does the job.”
Other tips Kelly gave were signing up for as many events as possible where free nibbles were on offer, walking instead of driving or taking public transport and e-mailing instead of texting and calling friends. While this is an extreme example of how to cut costs in lean times, there are a few simple ways to save money in Barcelona that require just a little bit of effort, discipline and foresight. In addition, there are several sites out there such as sindinero.org, ahorradores.net and mileuristas.com that have some useful cost saving suggestions.
Here are a few tips and highlights on how to beat the crunch in Barcelona:
1.Wait a few days before buying something—try not to buy on impulse and always use a shopping list when going to the supermarket.
2. Consider whether you really need an item or if you can do without it for now.
4. Add up your small expenses—buying a copy of La Vanguardia every day for example costs over €350 per year. Read newspapers online, or in the library, which is also a good source for free CDs, videos and magazines.
5. Watch your phone bill for numbers in the 900 series. Only numbers beginning with 900 are free. Others, like 902, 905, etc. will cost money.
6. Check with your mobile operator to see how your calling costs could be saved by subscribing to a particular fixed price ‘abono’ that they offer. If you’re using pay-as-you-go then consider changing to a contract as calling rates will usually work out to be cheaper.
7. If you eat out, consider eating at catering schools where there are huge discounts on excellent menus. Comerporlapatilla.com is also an excellent resource to find free eating events and giveaways.
8. Don’t always buy branded goods. Supermarkets such as Lidl stock mainly non-branded goods—including some electronics and homeware—at knockdown prices and they have regular offers.
9. Opt for foods that are easy to prepare and save on cooking bills, like rice and pasta, which are also cheap to buy.
10. Use home delivery services rather than driving long distances to supermarkets.
11. Compare the price per kilo of bulk and packaged goods.
12. Only take advantage of three-for-two offers if you really need them.
13. Save money on music and videos with legal download sites such as iTunes and Usenet.
15. Save money by going to hairdressing academies where huge savings can be made on hair cuts and colour.
16. Buy clothes during sales (rebaixes) periods which end in February and during July and August. Sales usually work with an initial discount, then a second one (segones rebaixes) and then a final clearance.
17. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables—they are often amongst the cheapest things in the shop, but also the best because they are ready to eat now.
18. When out drinking, take advantage of happy hour deals (they usually run up to 10pm), or consider having drinks at home first rather than going wild at the bar.
Bills and utilities
19. Check out if you are eligible for a rent subsidy. Those between 22 and 30 years old may be eligible for rent subsidies of up to €221 per month from the Generalitat (called ‘Renda Bàsica d’Émancipació’), plus other financial aid.
20. Find out whether you can bank cheaper. Caja de Ingenieros give a free credit card as long as €500 per year are charged to it, and withdrawals can be made five times per month for free in Servired cajeros. Consider online banks like ING Direct with free banking and low commissions on transactions.
21. Buy energy-saving electrical appliances with an economy ‘A’ rating.
22. Defrost the freezer before it gets iced up to save energy costs.
23. Do not leave lights or appliances running in empty rooms or electrical chargers connected. A television on standby consumes more energy than an average laptop turned on.
24. Take advantage of natural light as much as possible, and use energy-saving lightbulbs.
25. Avoid using electric tumble dryers and electric powered heating devices.
26. Water bills have undergone huge increases in Spain recently. Save water by showering in bursts rather than having water running constantly while in there. Dishwashers usually save water as long as they are on a low enough power setting.
27. Use a microwave instead of an oven for heating up food.
28. Use Barcelona’s excellent public transport system as much as possible. Buy travel cards such as the T-10 for infrequent journeys or the T-Mes card if you travel frequently.
29. Use Bicing as a way to get around if public transport is too expensive or inconvenient for you. A year’s pass to use it as often as you want can be had for €24. Make sure you get to stations early for morning trips to avoid having to wait for a bike.
30. After nights on the town, stick with those that are going home in the same direction to share taxi bills, or use Barcelona’s extensive nightbus service.
Three readers were asked: How are you saving money?
Debbie Thompson; country: England; in BCN: two months
“I’m not doing anything to save money, even though I don’t have a job yet. In fact, I’ve just spent €150 on clothes in one day!”
Stewart Coubrough; country: Scotland; in BCN: one year
“I haven’t really cut back, but I had to take advantage of the Christmas holidays to return to my old job at home and earn some extra money.”
Cassie Guilfoyle; country: Australia; in BCN: three years
“I’ve stopped buying DVDs and started renting them from the library instead.”