A thrifty dad who was living off a food bargain after his £300,000 business debt forced him into bankruptcy has shared his top tips for saving money. Al Baker, 48, was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2017 after falling behind on debt repayments when his business failed.
The father-of-two ran a successful food import business selling American products in the UK and led a ‘comfortable’ life until import rules changed in 2014. ‘Life was pretty good – I had a nice car, money in my pocket, owned a house and had a great vacation,” Al said.
“The rule changes meant that we could no longer offer our most popular ranges in the future, so our revenues fell by around 80% and the business became insolvent. As I had personal guarantees , I became liable for £300,000 for a large percentage of the debt.
“Although I did my best to meet the payment of debts, I was in a position where I was unable to pay, so I had to file for bankruptcy.” Al was “barely getting by” after selling his house and moving into a rental costing £1,500 a month.
He said: “Every month we hoped there would be a new miracle that would give us just enough money to pay the rent. I suffered from severe depression and anxiety not knowing how the next bill would be paid and it affected me deeply. I had no idea how things were going to get better.
“As someone who had enjoyed a better lifestyle when the business was booming, being thrown into a new world of desperation and poverty when everything came crashing down around me was a brief wake-up call. and brutal. Somehow we made it, but it was incredibly stressful and difficult.
“We mostly lived on the yellow sticker bargains found at our convenience store and scrambled to try and save and earn every penny we could.” Luckily a friend of the family allowed them to rent out his house, saving them £400 a month and having cheaper bills.
Meanwhile, Al got a job building an e-commerce platform for a local business – which he still works for – and their finances have improved enough to cover their rent with less hassle. Food bargains were an integral part of his cost-cutting plan, with Al buying yellow sticker foods like salmon fillets reduced from £6 to 62p, fruit transports costing pennies and huge joints of meat for a fraction of the price.
Al said: ‘We were able to survive on smart shopping and had a budget of £3-4 a day for food and shopping – which buying yellow stickers made possible otherwise we wouldn’t have had no luck. I suspect I saved around £10,000 in the two most important years when our finances were at their worst.
He’s also started indulging in various ‘side hustles’ to try to set aside as much money as possible, and is now a year away from bankruptcy which will be wiped from his credit report – allowing him to recover. to access credit, loans and a mortgage. Al shared his top three tips for cutting costs in a snap using his proven methods.
For Al, it was crucial to seek out the best food deals and buy discounted food items before their expiry date. He said, “Yellow stickers all the way! You’ll save up to 90% by making sure you get great deals that can boost your food budget.
“I always buy yellow sticker food now and look for bargains because it’s a way of life. I’m still a year away from having my bankruptcy wiped off my record, so always complete a lack of access to credit by shopping wisely.
Al also uses food-saving apps like Too Good to Go and Olio to save money and help prevent food waste.
Another key area where Al was able to save money came in the form of cashback apps and gift cards. He said, “Always use cashback apps to save money! If you buy anything online, always go through a cashback site – why wouldn’t you want to earn money on something you have to buy anyway?
“Use cashback sites to buy gift cards for purchases you need to make in-store, not online. For example, you can spend £250 a month at your local supermarket, which you’re unlikely to get cash back.
“However, if you buy a gift card for your supermarket, you will usually earn between 3-5% cashback for the purchase of the gift card, so potentially £12.50 per month in cashback, possibly more. “If you buy fuel at the supermarket, you can also use a gift card to pay. My van costs me £100 a time to fill up; I get 5% cashback on a £100 gift card so I save £5 every time I fill up, and the more you use your car the more you save. »
As well as being a numbers game, Al also says your mental attitude is just as important when shopping. He explained, “Breathe when looking to buy something! Don’t be impulsive – sleep on what you’re going to buy and you might just think differently.
“But if it’s something you have to buy and you’re buying online, put the item in the basket and leave it. You will probably receive an email reminding you that you have something left in your basket. Often you’ll get a discount code to use on your purchase which will reduce the cost – and make sure you can’t buy it cheaper by using Google shopping to find out which is cheaper.
“You can also install a browser extension like Honey, which will automatically apply discount codes to your shopping cart to try and save you money.”
Now the father is counting the days until he is no longer bankrupt. He added: “Bankruptcy is still hanging over me. Next year, my six years of record on my credit report will be removed, putting us back in a more favorable position for credit, and we hope to be able to buy our own house.
“We still have to be very careful, as a lot of people do, and the extra costs from the rising cost of fuel and food means we’re still far from comfortable. I started to blogging about my experiences on The Penny Pincher to help others find ways to save and earn extra money, using the side hustle and money saving ideas I had come across during my most difficult days.
“I had struggled to find information and advice when I needed it and thought it would be good to document it so others could find it more easily. As someone who had needing help and knowing what a difficult time it was and
how stressful I found the experience, it helped me mentally to know that I could help someone else who had found themselves in the same situation.