Five ways cutting costs could be bad for you

Feeling smug about the clever ways you are cutting back on your spending? Unfortunately, if you're a fan of extreme penny pinching, you may be about to feel a whole lot less smug... when you discover that your efforts to cut costs could be putting you and your family in harm's way.

That doesn't mean you have to give up your penny pinching ways entirely, it just means understanding the risks, and saving money the clever way instead.

There are five common cost-cutting measures to beware of - and five sensible alternatives.

See also: When penny pinching gets extreme

See also: Are bad driving habits costing you £750 a year?

See also: The trolley detox: the switches that will save you money

1. Saving leftovers

About half a million people in the UK get food poisoning every year, and leftovers play a big part in that. Of course this doesn't mean you have to chuck everything away that's not finished, but be careful.

Leave it out of the fridge to cool down, but then refrigerate it as soon as it is cool. Don't leave it in the fridge too long either. Leftovers in the fridge need to be eaten within two or three days: those in the freezer within four months, and if you are unsure whether food has gone off, you must not taste it to be sure. Finally, defrost anything before you heat it, and make sure it is heated all the way through.

2. Buying second hand furniture

Certainly you can save a fortune by buying second hand, but be aware of what you might be bringing into the house - including bedbugs and fleas. Thoroughly cleaning the item, hoovering it out, and spraying with flea killer (before you take it inside) should help get rid of fleas.

The trouble with bedbugs is that they can burrow so deep into the furniture that you can't get to them. Don't think you can just buy wooden beds and get new mattresses to avoid the problem either - because they can burrow into the frame too.

If you need to buy cheap furniture, one alternative is to visit the section near the till at Ikea, where items can cost a fraction of their original price, because they are ex display, or need a few repairs.

3. Sharing too much

You may think that sharing a single toothbrush, towel, flannel or razor with your other half will halve your costs, but it comes with a hidden health cost. There's no better way to pass on inflections, and viruses to one another, so you need to ask yourself whether you love one another enough to share gum disease too.

Instead, why not look out for buy-one-get-one-free offers in the supermarket, stick with generics rather than own brands, and buy razors regardless of their gender marketing. That way you can save just as much cash - with the risk

4. Dumpster diving

Fishing food out of the bin behind shops has become a trend in recent years, and people point out that it's a great way to avoid needless waste as well as saving money.

However, it can pose a serious risk to your health. Even if the food is in date, you have no idea how it has been stored, how long is has been in the bin, or how it may have been contaminated. It's far safer to trawl the yellow sticker shelves in the supermarket.

5. Failure to flush

There are plenty of people who decry the waste of water from frequent flushing. The problem is that the longer you leave between flushes, the more time bacteria has to breed. A far better solution is to install a water saver in the cistern, so you flush with less water each time - and can then flush more often.

Vintage money-saving tips
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Vintage money-saving tips
Back then there was no choice, because the mass-produced microwaveable meal was just a glint in a marketing guru's eye, but now, cooking from scratch can save substantial sums.
The older generation learned that there were meat-free days of the week to save money, and that if you had meat you''d stretch mince with breadcrumbs, or buy cheaper joints and use every scrap.
Perfect fruit and vegetables and top-of-the-range brands are a new phenomenon. Buy generic non-branded food and fruit and vegetables in whatever size and shape is most affordable

Nowadays we rush around the supermarket grabbing things we like the look of - with little idea of what we're going to do with it. Making a list and thinking about what you buy can save you thousands of pounds over the course of a year.

There's no such thing as 'left-overs' there's just the ingredients for tomorrow's dinner. The remains of the meat can be stir-fried the next day, the vegetables blended into  soup, and the potatoes saved for bubble and squeak.

Try an experiment and eliminate everything from your life with the word disposable in the title. Not only will you save money, but your bin will take far longer to fill too.

Before you bin anything, think twice about whether you can give it a second life. Think carefully, does your granny have her tried and tested tips that she has a habit of mentioning, for instance, washing out freezer bags? If you mock, you're missing a trick and wasting money and resources.
Cutting out draughts and insulating your home properly can cut 10% off your heating bill.
Back in the 1940s when no-one had central heating, people got used to wearing another layer at home. Try lowering your thermostat gradually, and only stop when those around you start to notice - you'll be surprised how much you can save.
If you save your washing and dish washing until you have a full load every time you'll save energy and save money.
Over the generations we have been sucked into believing the hype. In the days when adverts were few-and-far between, we managed without many of the things we consider essential nowadays. Re-consider what you buy, and why. Without advertising, would you buy any of it?
It's always cheaper to save in advance and plan a purchase than to rush in and borrow - which could end up costing you hundreds of pounds more in interest.
Older generations typically withdraw what they can afford to spend in cash and then leave their debit card at home or deep in their wallets. This has the advantage that they don't tend to reach for a debit or credit card and spend more than they can afford.
Because the older generations couldn't borrow their way out of trouble, they tended to plan more. Give your family a financial safety and a nest egg for the future.
Back when there were only a finite number of items of clothing to go around in a neighbourhood, people borrowed from each other for special occasions. Nowadays swapping and sharing can save substantial sums
Back in the 1940s when no-one had central heating, people got used to wearing another layer at home. Try lowering your thermostat gradually, and only stop when those around you start to notice - you'll be surprised how much you can save.
There was a time not so long ago when no-one could actually remember anyone who had actually bought a bike. They were passed through the siblings, then across family and friends networks, so that decades later, children were still learning to ride a bike for free. Of course it helps if you buy something gender-neutral, then you can hand it down, and reap the benefits as others hand expensive toys on to you.
In previous generations, neighbours would think nothing of asking each other to babysit, walk their dog, or to borrow a ladder. Nowadays we pay handsomely for babysitters and dog walkers, and each have an expensive ladder gathering dust in the shed.
The army of people who come to our homes to do odd jobs is a new phenomenon for all but the very wealthy. You may well have the skills required to complete these jobs, so get stuck in.

Ditch going out for dinner or browsing round the shops for taking a walk, visiting the beach with a picnic, or holding a family DVD night.

Nowadays we're constantly striving for a bigger TV, a flashier car and a better kitchen. Generations ago people never considered that they would ever be able to afford bigger, flashier and better, so they got on with the business of enjoying what they had.

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