Move to the country and save thousands

cottage in the countryBy ditching city life and heading to the country you can save a small fortune.

Almost four years ago my family and I uprooted ourselves from west London and relocated to a town in Hampshire.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Moving from one of the world's great cities to a much more modest community was something of a culture shock. No longer do we have great attractions such as museums, galleries and historic landmarks almost on our doorstep. Instead, we've had to adjust to a slower pace of life, with a reduced emphasis on working hard to earn more.

What's more, moving to the Home Counties has saved us a fortune too. I estimate that we have saved well over £20,000 in the 45 months since our move.
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Here's how our relocation steeply brought down our bills:

1. Cheaper housing
Our main saving is due to the insane cost of housing in London. According to the Land Registry, the average London home sold for £367,785 in July. This is more than double the £162,900 price tag for a typical property in England and Wales. Moving away from London almost always means lower house prices and reduced rents.

Even though we live in the most expensive part of Hampshire, our housing costs are still much lower than they were in London. Having leapt off the housing ladder by selling our first home in the spring of 2005, we have yet to get back on.

As tenants, our first move cut £200 from our monthly rent, while our second move -- to be closer to our children's school -- knocked another £300 from our biggest bill. As a result, our rent today is £500 a month lower than it was four years ago. This enables us to stash an extra £6,000 a year into our tax-free savings.

2. Cutting Council Tax
Moving to a part of England with cheaper housing has also reduced our yearly Council Tax bill.

In London, we were paying around £2,500 a year, whereas here we pay below £1,435. This generates an additional saving of above £1,065 a year.

3. Cutting childcare costs
When we lived in London, the high cost of living forced my wife to work full time. Since our move, she has switched to flexible working. By doing this, my spouse can fit her working day around school commitments -- which ended our childcare costs.

In London, childcare costs can be colossal. For example, when our children spent three days a week at a nursery school in the capital, our childcare fees soared towards an incredible £20,000 a year. When our son and daughter entered primary school, these fees fell dramatically. Even so, after-school care before we left London came in at over £3,000 a year.

These days, my wife works four short days a week at home and visits her office in west London one day a week. This means that our childcare costs since moving have fallen to zero, taking enormous pressure off our household budget.

4. Driving down motoring bills
To facilitate our move, my wife convinced her employer to allow her to work flexibly from home.

As a result, she makes a long motorway drive to the office and back once a week, rather than ten short drives to and fro in heavy traffic.

This change to her motoring habits -- and much-reduced traffic in our new neighbourhood -- has radically reduced my wife's fuel bill, as well as lowering wear and tear on her car. She reckons her minimal mileage has curbed her motoring spending by at least a third, or upwards of £500 a year.

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5. Slashed shopping bills
When in London, we lived within a stone's throw of several supermarkets. However, inhabiting a less built-up area, we're no longer so close to the stores. This extra distance encouraged my wife to try using the online delivery services offered by various grocers. Eventually, my better half settled on Ocado, which combines low-ish prices with the best customer service we've ever received.

To make this weekly delivery work well, my wife now plans each week's menu in advance and in one go. This allows her to plan ahead, save money on groceries, and stop driving to the shops several times a week. This has shrunk our weekly food bill to around £100, which is fairly modest for a family of four.

6. Lower energy costs
When we first moved to Hampshire, we lived in a large, three-storey, four-bedroom townhouse. This cost a mint to heat and light, with gas and electricity bills roughly on par with those we paid in London. However, our second move was to a four-bedroom bungalow with much lower energy bills.

I estimate that our gas and electricity spending has dipped by £50 a month, or £600 a year.

7. Pruned insurance premiums
We now live in an area that has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Indeed, the town's much-discussed recent 'crime wave' was a few bicycle thefts!

A lower frequency of crime (and road traffic accidents) means fewer local claims on home insurance and car insurance. This translates into lower insurance premiums, which is another bonus saving.

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This takes time, but once you know the cost of a phone call, putting the dryer on, or a bag of potatoes, it enables you to judge far better how much you can afford to consume.

Once you know the base price, you are in a position to keep your eyes open for a better offer. If you see a discount you can judge for yourself whether it actually constitutes a bargain. For bigger things like utilities it enables you to do a proper price comparison and see if you can cut your bills.

Don't just assume that the premium range is better, try the every-day brand, or even the basic version and see if you spot the difference. Likewise, consider trading down your supermarket from one of the big players to local markets or discounters like Aldi.

If you plan what you buy to match what you actually cook and eat then not only will you be able to budget far more effectively, but you'll also waste much less and find your money goes further without you having to try.

If you can't think of a way to get your meat for less, consider a vegetarian day once a week. If you can't find petrol any cheaper, then work on making your driving as efficient as possible. The more you can think of clever alternatives the less you will have to make painful cuts to make ends meet.

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