A spend-smart woman has revealed how she saves more than £500 per month thanks to simple money-saving hacks.
Ellie Thomas, 28, from Shewsbury, says she knows every trick in the book when it comes to saving money on food shopping.
Not only does the business owner shops daily for reduced items and claim more than 100 freebies per month through cashback apps, she also bumps up her earnings by up to £250 a month by completing online surveys.
“If someone saw me in the supermarket with a trolley full of branded items – they would never know I am going to pay next to nothing for them," she explains.
“Sometimes nothing at all!"
Thomas says there have even been occasions when she's actually been paid to shop, eat and drink as a mystery shopper.
“But most of the time, I complete online surveys which pay £1-2 for a couple of minutes," she adds.
While this doesn't sound like much it can soon add up.
"Instead of browsing social media or watching TV, I complete a survey and earn money, which covers my food shopping bill," she explains.
"This month I made £220, which covered the remaining monthly £195 cost of the remaining food food bill."
Without her money-saving hacks Thomas says the family's food bill would be over £500, but she manages to accumulate more than £350 in coupons, while the remaining £195 is covered by money from the surveys she completes online.
Despite saving her family up to £500 a month, Thomas says she has experienced judgment about her extreme money-saving tricks.
“I can use 10 different ways to get the bill as cheap as possible," she says.
“But I don’t think there should be any shame or embarrassment around bargain hunting."
Thomas says she shops daily at either 3pm or 6pm to take advantage of reduced food, which really helps bring down the cost of the family's food bill.
“Kids are expensive so it is important to cut the costs when we can," she adds.
“I am a normal person but often think, why should we work hard for a lot of our money only for it to get spent on food when there are so many ways out there to get things cheaper, or even free?
“It just takes a bit of time, research and planning.”
Watch: Money-saving gardening hacks.
This month alone Thomas says she has received £280 worth of freebies.
“I save every month as I buy reduced items and haven’t paid for alcohol or snacks for a very long time," she continues.
“I also get some food, perfume and beauty samples for free.
“This month I've received 102 freebies, which add up to £280.”
Thomas says she has been leading a frugal lifestyle since June 2018 as she was keen to pay off her £3,000 debt.
Now, she lives completely debt-free meaning she has spare cash to treat the children to days out.
Other money-saving tricks the mum adopts include cutting costs on clothes and presents for her children, Liam, 12, Poppy, eight, and Vinnie, five, by purchasing them out of season and in end-of-line sales.
“I buy all year round for birthdays, Christmas and other holidays," she explains.
“At the end of every season or event like Halloween, I buy clothes for the following year to save money.
“I have already got the children their wardrobe for summer 2022 which was just £50,” she adds.
Thomas' top money-saving tips
1. Check out survey sites such as Attapoll, Prolific Academy, Influence, Field Agent and Citizen Me. Thomas says while some surveys pay in points that you can exchange for money or vouchers, others pay in money that you can cash out to your PayPal or bank account. "Some pay really well and the pennies soon add up," she adds.
2. Declutter and use selling sites with no fees like Facebook Marketplace or Vinted.
3. Participate in 'out of home' studies which can be found on Field Agent app. "All you have to do is take photos whilst in a supermarket or other places. Previously, I have taken photos of a car wash and got £7.50 for doing it," she explains.
4. Utilise cashback apps to save some money on food shopping. "Apps such as Shopmium offer free or highly discounted branded products so it is worth swapping something you may usually buy for a better price," Thomas explains.
5. If you can, shop daily or even twice a day. "Doing this means you can plan better and not overbuy food so you’ll be wasting less," Thomas explains.
"Never be afraid of an empty-looking fridge as buying little and often means you can take advantage of reductions or deals and save money along the way!"
6. Set goals. "And know what are you saving for," Thomas says. "After clearing our debts, we bought our car outright for £4,500."
7. Track all your incomings and outgoings. "At the end of the month you will be able to see where your income is going," Thomas says. "Is it mainly food? Takeaway coffee? And once you’ve figured that out, you can start cutting back or making some changes to save money that way."
8. Shop for the following season in the sales. "Start Christmas shopping in the Boxing Day sales and buy Halloween and World Book Day outfits when they go in the sale," Thomas suggests.
9. Take clothes to 'Cash 4 Clothes' - Thomas says you can earn up to £4 per 10kg.
10. Utilise food waste scheme apps such as Olio or Too Good To Go. "Instead of food going straight to landfill, it is possible to 'rescue' it," Thomas says. "I love using our local food waste rescue as we can get a few days worth of shopping, for nothing!"