A reformed spendthrift revealed how she reduced her monthly food bill to $26 and saved enough to buy a house by moving into her sister's garage for two years.
Selling the house she bought with her boyfriend after they parted in March 2012, Abbie Drown came out with nothing and her sister Lorna Burton offered her garage as alternative accommodation, for just $26 a week.
Abbie saved for a $20,000 deposit for a property in two-and-a-half years by living without nights out, vacations, and heating.
“I bought a house with my ex in November 2011," she said.
Abbie and her sister Lorna (PA Real Life/Collect)
“The deposit came from him so when we broke up in March 2012, after two-and-a-half years together, I had nothing out of it," she said.
“I moved into a house share for about six months, but then my sister suggested I came to live with her family and saved for a deposit."
“So, I moved into their garage. 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 amongst the bikes and the fridge."
Abbie's house (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I paid her £20 a week to stay there, she made meals for me and I used their bathroom," she said.
“My niece would joke about her 'Aunty Abs living in the garage.'"
But being frugal soon became a way of life to Abbie, who still saves around $913 a month by being smart with cash.
Paying off all her credit card debts, while keeping an eye on the housing market.
“It was tough, as I really didn't do anything. 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," she said.
“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?'"
Abbie and her boyfriend Jamie in Belfast (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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," Abbie said.
But Abbie had been far from thrifty in the past.
“Before this, I was 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 confessed.
Abbie on holiday in Iceland (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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," she said.
In March 2015, Abbie's belt tightening reaped massive rewards when she bought her house.
She also made sure she bought her sofa in the sales, while her television was a gift from her brother Sam Drown.
Don't forget, if you do see a higher cashback rate somewhere else we will not only match the rate but beat it! Make… https://t.co/tBvpsYDFEG— TopCashback (@TopCashback)1603620000.0
And 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 said.
“I still keep my food bills to £20 a month. I will always use my clubcard, nectar and advantage card points."
Abbie (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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," she explained.
“I'll spend £3.60 on all of the ingredients, but they stretch to at least four meals making it 90p a portion. I make tortilla pizzas with my niece and nephew, who have fun adding their own toppings."
Abbie's savings on Top Cashback (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I also make a lot of bulk meals. I'll make a big pot of chicken curry or Bolognese and freeze it, so it lasts a long time – or a veggie stir fry with noodles and a bit of soy sauce," she said.
Rather than buying lunch every day when she is working in the office, Abbie often takes veggies, cheese and Ryvita with her.
“I don't deprive myself but I'll always look at ways of saving," she said.
Abbie on holiday (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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," she continued.
“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 bought a new vacuum cleaner by going through there before," she said.
“It's a bit of extra money that ends up in your account, which you can exchange for vouchers for lots of different retailers. I joined in May 2019 and have earned £289 in cashback so far."
Abbie uses an egg timer in the shower (PA Real Life/Collect)
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. I have an electric blanket on my bed which I put on while I'm brushing my teeth," she said.
“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."
Abbie's offers through her phone provider (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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," she added.
“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 also uses apps to get codes and money off offers through her phone provider, managing to get Now TV free for three months, then at a reduced rate by haggling.
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“If you tell companies you want to leave they will often offer you something else or something cheaper," she said.
“I buy petrol at the supermarkets, as it's always cheaper and quite often you will get a voucher to then use in the shop. I always look out for a deals on holidays as well. In January this year I got a two-night trip to Venice for £99 per person."
Cashback was a lifesaver.
“I will look for deals on holidays and then go through Top Cashback so you get cashback on your discounted holiday," she explained. I'd also go through Top Cashback for airport parking," she said.
“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 have a secret Santa rather than buying individual presents, and Abbie keeps an eye out on Black Friday to try and 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."
Still incredibly thrifty, Abbie has continued to save since buying her property.
Abbie's homemade pizza (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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 said.
“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."
“My friends and colleagues do make fun of me, but then I will sign them up to things. For example, Bulb Energy will pay £50 to you and a friend if you sign them up, so I help them out with it too."
She wants to help others be more money savy.
“I do wish I had started saving in my early twenties, as I would have been able to accumulate so much more," she said.
“I manage to save about £700 a month now through being savvy and my message is that if I can do it, you can too!"
“In Abbie's case, she has clearly had a really tough time, but her hard work and thrifty attitude has not only enabled her to pay back her debt, she's also made a huge achievement of owning her own home," Abigail Yearley, spokeswoman for TopCashback, said.
Abbie gets deals using Compare the Meerkat (PA Real Life/Collect)
“Although she evidently has had to make some big sacrifices along the way, she is reaping the benefits now," she added.
“Her savviness and newly found money-saving skills will in no doubt help her time and again in the future."