‘I didn’t care about money at all’ Woman saved £15k for a house by moving into her sister’s garage for two years

A woman has explained how she completely changed her spending habits and saved £15,000 after moving into her sister’s garage for two years.

Abbie Drown sold the house she bought with her boyfriend after they parted in March 2012.

To help Abbie, 36, save money, her sister Lorna Burton, 42, offered her garage as alternative accommodation, for £20 a week.

The customer services advisor of Truro, Cornwall, went on to save £15,000 for a deposit for a property in two-and-a-half years by living without nights out, holidays and heating.



Abbie
(Image: PA Real Life/Collect)

She explained: “I bought a house with my ex in November 2011.

“The deposit came from him so when we broke up in March 2012, after two-and-a-half years together, I had nothing out of it,” she said.

“I moved into a house share for about six months, but then my sister suggested I came to live with her family and saved for a deposit.

“So, I moved into their garage. It had a tiny window and I changed the door from one that opened upwards to one that opened outwards. My friend put some carpet down, but I was in there amongst the bikes and the fridge.”

She continued: “I paid her £20 a week to stay there, she made meals for me and I used their bathroom.

“My niece would joke about her ‘Aunty Abs living in the garage.’”

But being frugal soon became a way of life to Abbie, who still saves around £700 a month by being smart with cash.

Paying off all her credit card debts, while keeping an eye on the housing market, Abbie, whose boyfriend Jamie, 27, is a customer services assistant, said: “It was tough, as I really didn’t do anything.

“I’d maybe go out for a slice of cake at the weekend, but that was about it. I had no holidays, but luckily living in Cornwall I was able to go to the beach.



Abbie on holiday
(Image: PA Real Life/Collect)

“My friends would ask me if I wanted to go out and I’d refuse. I would say, ‘When I’ve stopped saving will you remember me?’”

“I was working full time and really I didn’t spend any money. My savings grew to £15,000 during the two-and-a-half years I lived there,” Abbie said.

But Abbie had been far from thrifty in the past.

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She confessed: “Before this, I was frivolous with money. I remember my laptop broke and I just went to buy a new Apple mac on my credit card, not thinking anything of it.”

She added: “I didn’t care about money at all. I would always get things on credit if I could not afford them, but this experience completely changed me.”



Abbie and her boyfriend Jamie in Belfast
(Image: PA Real Life/Collect)

In March 2015, Abbie’s belt tightening reaped massive rewards when she bought her house – a two up two down with parking and a garden for £103,205, then using an interest free credit card to pay for carpet, flooring and furniture.

She also made sure she bought her sofa in the sales, while her television was a gift from her brother Sam Drown, 39.

And she paid her credit card off within a year, so she did not start being charged interest.

She explained: “I wanted to keep saving and I’d got good at shopping on a budget.

“I still keep my food bills to £20 a month. I will always use my clubcard, nectar and advantage card points.”

She explained: “I will buy eight tortilla wraps for 90p and make pizzas with a bit of tomato paste at 35p, mozzarella for 45p and some vegetables. With eight wraps that can be a meal for eight days.

“I’ll spend £3.60 on all of the ingredients – but they stretch to at least four meals – making it 90p a portion.

“I make tortilla pizzas with my niece and nephew, who have fun adding their own toppings.”

She said: “I also make a lot of bulk meals. I’ll make a big pot of chicken curry or Bolognese and freeze it, so it lasts a long time – or a veggie stir fry with noodles and a bit of soy sauce.”



Abbie’s house
(Image: PA Real Life/Collect)

Rather than buying lunch every day when she is working in the office, Abbie often takes veggies, cheese and Ryvita with her.

“I don’t deprive myself but I’ll always look at ways of saving,” she said.

“I use a lot of apps to get deals. I’ll use the Meerkat app by Compare the Market, because if you’re going on holiday and buy travel insurance for about £3, they will give you discount on meals.

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“If I’m going out for dinner I will search beforehand to see if there are any money off vouchers.”

Abbie is also a fan of Top Cashback, which works by partnering with retailers, who pay commission when shoppers are directed to their stores and make purchases – some of which is repaid to the customer as cash or vouchers.

“I bought a new vacuum cleaner by going through there before,” she said.

“It’s a bit of extra money that ends up in your account, which you can exchange for vouchers for lots of different retailers.

“I joined in May 2019 and have earned £289 in cashback so far.”

Other tips include using websites such as YouSwitch to get the best deals on energy providers.

“Living in the garage, I got used to not having the heating on, so I hardly ever put it on now, which saves me a lot of money. I have an electric blanket on my bed which I put on while I’m brushing my teeth.

“I’d rather wear layers and have a hot water bottle, or snuggle under a blanket if I’m watching television, than put the heating on.”

Abbie added: “I turn all the plugs off before going to bed, except for the internet and I’ll always unplug my phone charger. The television is never left on standby.

“As the water in Cornwall is quite expensive, I keep an egg timer in the bathroom so I can keep my showers to under four minutes, which is good for the environment and save money.”

Abbie also uses apps to get codes and money off offers through her phone provider, managing to get Now TV free for three months, then at a reduced rate by haggling.

“If you tell companies you want to leave they will often offer you something else or something cheaper,” she said.



Abbie uses an egg timer in the shower
(Image: PA Real Life/Collect)

“I buy petrol at the supermarkets, as it’s always cheaper and quite often you will get a voucher to then use in the shop.

“I always look out for a deals on holidays as well. In January this year I got a two-night trip to Venice for £99 per person.”

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“I will look for deals on holidays and then go through Top Cashback so you get cashback on your discounted holiday,” she explained.

“I’d also go through Top Cashback for airport parking.

“Then I shop for second hand clothes on websites like Vinted, which give a good deal to the seller, too.”

And for Christmas, when her large family have a secret Santa rather than buying individual presents, Abbie keeps an eye out on Black Friday on November 27, to try and pick up some bargains.

“I’ll also use Boots to buy two for one gifts as stocking fillers, or save up my advantage card points to use at Christmas.”

Still incredibly thrifty, Abbie has continued to save since buying her property.

“I’ve saved £7,000 so far this year, which I used to pay off my car and will use to pay off a bit more of my mortgage,” she said.

“I think my family are proud of me. Perhaps they think I take it a little bit too far, but when they see how much money I actually save they are really impressed.

“My friends and colleagues do make fun of me, but then I will sign them up to things. For example, Bulb Energy will pay £50 to you and a friend if you sign them up, so I help them out with it too.”

“I do wish I had started saving in my early twenties, as I would have been able to accumulate so much more,” she said.



Abbie
(Image: PA Real Life/Collect)

“I manage to save about £700 a month now through being savvy and my message is that if I can do it, you can too!”

Abigail Yearley, spokeswoman for TopCashback, said: “In Abbie’s case, she has clearly had a really tough time, but her hard work and thrifty attitude has not only enabled her to pay back her debt, she’s also made a huge achievement of owning her own home.”

She added: “Although she evidently has had to make some big sacrifices along the way, she is reaping the benefits now.

“Her savviness and newly found money-saving skills will in no doubt help her time and again in the future.”