I saved £10k a year on a £12k salary – I lived off just £50 a week and my nights out cost a quid, here’s how I did it

GEMMA Bird lives mortgage-free in a four-bedroom detached house, drives a Range Rover and jets off on multiple holidays a year to plush resorts in Mexico, Lapland and Dubai. 

But the 39-year-old mum-of-two, who lives in Billericay, Essex, isn’t an heiress or a lottery winner – no, she’s achieved this comfortable life on a mere £25k-a-year wage. 

Now, Gemma, known as Money Mum to her 164k Instagram fans, is sharing her super-saver wisdom with Fabulous as our brand new columnist. 

Over the next six weeks, the money saving mum will be helping YOU cash in on everything from groceries to clothes, and holidays to parenting essentials.  

I’m a working-class girl, but I can afford what I want thanks to my saving skills

Gemma, who counts Stacey Solomon as a fan, says: “I’m just a working-class girl, but I’m able to afford what I want thanks to how I’ve saved. 

I’ve never earned more than £25,000 a year. I live and breathe deals. I don’t care how much money you have, people always love a bargain.

I’ve saved every solitary penny since the age of seven

I’ve saved every solitary penny since the age of seven. I once managed to save almost £10,000 on a £12,000 salary thanks to my must-know hacks. 

My parents, Jayne, a stay-at-home mum, and Steve, a retired bus driver, always taught me you’ve got to save for what you want – and you can achieve your dreams when you’re careful with other things.

I started saving for my first car at 14 and bought a Citroen Saxo for £7,000 four years later. 

I knew no one was going to hand it to me so I did everything I could to afford it, whether that was mushroom picking, washing people’s cars or doing the paper round.

I knew from day dot that I wanted to own my home – and I was prepared to reach that goal through whatever means necessary.  So the minute I brought my car I started saving for my first house.

In 2000 I worked two jobs, one in a medical centre and at a pub bringing home £1,000 a month. Out of that I would save £800 a month, leaving me with just £50 a week to live off. 

I was lucky enough to be living at home with my parents, and I didn’t pay them house-keeping so all I needed was money to go and see my friends.

I realise that not everyone is fortunate enough to live at home, so I would recommend renting a room in a home in somebody’s home rather than an entire place.

It will work out so much cheaper than paying to live on your own or even house-sharing.

I’d spend no more than £1 on a night out

I’m not a big party girl, I’m quite happy to go out and have a soda and lime because that was the cheapest drink. I’d spend no more than £1 on a night out.

I didn’t buy loads of clothes, I would take bottles of water and snacks with me rather than buying them and hunt for meal deals, I was determined to spend as little as possible.

I was saving with my ex-husband at the time, who was also very careful with his money.

I’m forever coming up with ways to make more money, I live and breathe deals

We weren’t too hard on ourselves though and we did have the occasional holiday where we would obviously spend more treating ourselves.

But other than that, almost every penny we earned went straight into the savings account.

We put everything in a pot together and we saved £30,000 in four years to buy our first home, a two-bedroom terrace in Waltham Abbey for £165,000, by the time I was 23.

I’m forever coming up with ways to make more money

I may have achieved my house ownership dream but I didn’t stop super-saving. 

Gemma’s tips for saving for deposit

  • Start saving in your first job
  • Move home (if you can)
  • Ditch the booze  
  • Flog anything you don’t need
  • Don’t buy snacks when you’re out
  • Write a shopping list before you shop
  • Rent out any spare bed rooms
  • Rent out a driveway

I’m forever coming up with ways to make more money whether that’s renting my driveway out or flogging things I don’t need.

Even while we were living there I found ways to make more money off the property and decided to rent out our second bedroom by putting an ad in the paper.

We rented it to some foreign exchange students and that money paid off the mortgage every month.

There was an element of giving up some of our freedom to make life comfortable, but it was totally worth it because three years later I had put away another £10,000.

In 2007 I asked my dad to go halves with me on two buy-to-let properties in Waltham Cross.

My dad wasn’t well-off either and between us we split the profits of the rent, and when we sold them ten years later we walked away with £240,000 between us.

Sadly, after ten years, I divorced my ex-husband and we each walked away with £66,000 from the house sale and I moved back to my parents.

I might splash out on the odd holiday, or a nice car but I always save on the little things because they really add up

In 2011 I met my now-husband Adam and moved into his home, which he’d bought for £390,000 in 2009. I gave birth to our son, Brody, in 2012 and our daughter Bronte seven years later.

At the time Adam had £225,000 left on his mortgage, and thanks to my savings I was able to immediately pay off £100,000 of it and 12 years later we’re totally mortgage-free.

It’s an amazing achievement, but I want to remind people that I am not, and have never been loaded.

My wealth came from the properties I worked hard to afford as well being incredibly careful with my small amount of money I did have.

I still have to work hard to pay the bills and I’m still saving to achieve my future goals. 

I would like to move again one day and I will have to get a mortgage on my next home and I am prepared to save for that too. 

I am desperate for a bigger garden for the kids, as ours is quite small now and that would be a few hundred-thousand pounds more which I can’t just raise out of nowhere.

It’s just built in to me now to be careful, no matter what money I have.My best advice to anyone who is wanting to start saving is to do it while you’re young, it’s so important and it’s not taught in schools.

Start as early as your first job, spend half and save half if you can. Even now if you have any surplus left at the end of the month, spend half and save half.

Don’t get me wrong it’s really hard. When I was younger sometimes there would be the temptation of a designer handbag that I could have easily afforded because I had saved my money but you have to keep focus.”

Follow Gemma Bird @MoneyMumOfficial

In other money saving news, we shared this mum's new budget-friendly family recipes that can be prepared in less than 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, one mum-of-10 has revealed her HUGE weekly grocery hauls, including giant bags of vegetables and hundreds of ice lollies.

Plus, a chef has revealed how to slash your weekly food shop to £1 per meal by making these simple swaps.

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