The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching

Any thriftista with an ounce of frugality will have been glued to the telly on Thursday (1st Dec 2011), when Channel 4 screened the Cutting Edge documentary – The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching.

I’ve got coupons and I’m not afraid to use them…

Firstly we were introduced to Judith. A woman who has so many money-off vouchers she can reduce a weekly shop of £65.06, down to £5.50, simply by handing over a wodge of coupons (I’d hate to be queuing behind her in Tesco!). It doesn’t even matter if the coupons are for that store, she tries her luck, and it appears the cashiers are more than happy to take them!

Her quest for her next hit of freebies sees her writing to companies simply to compliment them on their products, in the hope they will send her more vouchers. Well, it did score her a block of cheese. One wonders if the servers at Cathedral City crashed under a barrage of emails from over-zealous bargain seekers following the screening of this show.

The rest of her family didn’t seem to share her passion. Her son’s complained about soggy and unappetising free microwavable burgers. But Judith, bright and breezy as ever, insisted they weren’t that bad. Besides they were FREE.  The fact she’d cycled around a number of supermarkets to find free food that half of her family disliked seeming to pass her by. In fact, if they disliked something it seemed to work to her advantage. When one of her son’s decided that a pizza with a tomato stuffed crust wasn’t appealing, she told him to eat the bits he liked, they would send the rest back to the company and get their money back.

That was relatively small fry compared to the fact that due the family home being fitted with solar panels, it meant they sometimes weren’t able to take a shower that day. It seems it is a rare occasion that the water heater is switched on in their house, which has meant they’ve seen bills of as little of £5 for four-to-five months throughout the summer. Although they did admit it was a little more problematic in winter. Erm, OK.

Judith did have some interesting points:

  • Use vouchers – perhaps not as many as Judith, but ignore the stigma and just go for it
  • Apparently if you text the number on a bottle of ‘This Water‘ you get another bottle free! (Although surely if she was being truly frugal she’d be sticking to the council pop?)
  • Bulk buy when there’s a good deal on
  •  And her philosophy of being careful with money all year around so they can then spend on nice things, like holidays, is a good one (although whether some of that money went towards the ‘pay what’s fair lunch’ which she organised (and ate) at the local church remains to be seen.)

King of the road…

Then we met Jonathan, who kindly informed us:

“I find my steak already run over in the road.”

Thanks for that Jon-boy. Yep, he was an advocate of foraging and eating roadkill – treating his friends to a roadkill bbq of squirrel (which apparently tastes of Tofu), pheasant and an array of other animals which had been liberated from their Tarmac death beds. His friend’s didn’t know what they were tucking into, and thankfully were pleasantly surprised when Jonathan revealed they had been eating food which was otherwise destined for the maggots. Although, one must wonder whether with Jonathan listing Taxidermy as one of his many jobs, they   had perhaps sussed him out before the big reveal.

As well as imparting the helpful:

“Gulls… they’re quite tasty.”

Jonathan proved to us that you can feed nine people for nothing. If you’re happy to forage for mushrooms, make your own wine and eat your meat complete with tyremarks.

For richer for poorer…

Next up was bargain bride and groom, Rebecca and Steve. We first meet them choosing their wedding flowers…in Tesco. Well, as they said they paid £28 instead of £340. Why wouldn’t you..?

In fact they spent less than £1500 on the entire wedding day. In some respects I loved their story. They were obviously getting hitched for the right reasons – because they loved each other and wanted to be together – not just because they wanted a big party. Rebecca set to making the table decorations and ensuring the local church hall looked befitting for a wedding celebration. They opted for a Wednesday wedding to keep costs down, asked a friend to be their photographer and cut back on catering and drinks. It should have been lovely, but seeing Steve driving them both away from their own wedding party, whilst it was still light outside I couldn’t help but feel getting hitched was something they were ticking off a list. Whatever your budget surely the whole point is to savour the day?

Supermarket Sweep…

Jalaj described himself as a money manager, not a penny pincher. Whatever you decide to call him, he was taking bargain-seeking to a whole new level. A lover of cash back deals, the internet was his best friend and he would research any item at length to ensure he got the most cost-effective deal. That’s right ANY item. Whether it be a mobile phone or a packet of Jammie Dodgers.

His wife, a reformed shopaholic, had been changed by Jalaj’s frugal ways. Although with stories of him taking her out for a ‘romantic’ anniversary dinner at Pizza Hut – because he had a voucher. You couldn’t help but wonder if she would have been a touch happier if he did splash the cash every once in a while.

Again, he did offer some sense:

  • Don’t hunt for things you don’t need – by which I think he means it’s only a bargain if you really need it
  • He had fixed his gas prices until 2013 and deposited the money he had saved into an ISA
  • Family fun doesn’t need to cost a fortune. As proven by their adorable (and supremely well-mannered) son being captivated playing with bubbles in the park (Although not sure he’ll feel the same way once the inevitable teenage peer-pressure kicks in)
  • Jalaj uses My Supermarket to research the best prices for shopping. Researching the cost for each item in each store before deciding where to do the weekly shop. He then backs this up by using a barcode scanner app in-store to make sure that price really is the best he could get. If it isn’t, he goes elsewhere at a later date to do a top-up shop and get a better deal (taking it a step too far maybe).

The subjects of this show did admit this isn’t something you can do if you’re short on time. It seems being as tight frugal as they are takes some serious hours. Judith confesses she couldn’t do it if she worked full-time. Jalaj reveals he would rather search the web for deals than watch TV. definitely an instance where dedications what you need.

Notably, one thing which these bargain kings and queens failed to mention was how much money they spent on petrol driving from place to place to get the best deal (or find the best dead animal in Jonathan’s case). Interesting

What did you make of the show?

Find out more, or watch on 4OD

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2 responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching

  1. I agree, I thought the exact same thing about not considering petrol costs. Another thing I noticed was that Jalaj only appeared to buy branded goods – not very frugal 🙂

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