WITH the cost-of-living crisis affecting households up and down the country, many of us are trying to cut bills and save money.
Ann Russell, who is best known as 'TikTok's Auntie,' has spent much of her life on a tight budget, and since energy bills first started rising, has been sharing her top tips and tricks on how to live more frugally.
Ahead of her new book, 'How to Save Money,' the self-employed cleaner, who has a whopping 2.3 million followers on TikTok, has spoken exclusively to Fabulous Digital.
From questions on shopping smarter to energy efficient ways to keep your house cool, Ann has got you covered…
Keep your house cool for free
1. Hang a towel on the outside of the window
"Never let the sun pour through your windows," says Ann, who is also the author of 'How to Clean Everything.'
"At the very least, always close a curtain or blind, but if you can put something like a towel or piece of cardboard on the outside of the window, the heat won't be able to penetrate through the glass so it won't be getting inside your house."
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She continues: "A few years back I lived in a flat that had one particular window upstairs that would have the full sun on it for about eight hours a day.
"I got a towel, flipped it on the outside of the window and shut the window on the towel so the light wouldn't get to the glass.
"It made about a 6° Celsius temperature difference to the room."
Ann explains that some people instead put tin foil on the outside of the glass, but warns it doesn't come without its risks.
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"It can mark the window and be very difficult to get off," she says.
"And if you've got cheap window glass, the thermal shock can affect the glass and crack it."
Everyone's favourite 'TikTok Auntie' advises: "If you're going to do something like that, reduce the risk by using sticky tape or drawing pins to attach it to the frame of the window rather than to the glass."
2. Let heat out
Ann explains: "When it's hot outside, you need to keep your windows, doors and curtains closed to stop the heat from getting into the house.
"But when you walk outside the house and it's cooler outside than it is in, that's the time you open all your windows and doors up.
"You want to get all of that hot air out of the house and the cooler outside air in."
3. Evaporative coolers
According to Ann, if you're looking for an efficient and affordable cooling solution, then evaporative coolers are the answer.
That's because these devices are a much cheaper alternative to air conditioning and can help cool the air with low energy demand.
"You have a stream of air that plays over something that's wet," explains Ann. "This then evaporates the water, providing a cooling effect to the air."
Put something like a towel or piece of cardboard on the outside of the window, the heat won't be able to penetrate through the glass so it won't be getting inside your house…it can about a 6° Celsius temperature difference to the room
She goes onto explain that you can make your own using a fan and something as simple as a bucket of ice or damp towel.
"The fan will blow a current of air directly over a bucket of ice or a damp towel that's hung on an airing rack," she explains.
"It can make a difference in a room of several degrees.
"The caveat being it'll increase humidity so if it's very humid heat you've got, it probably won't help a lot but with dry heat it can be very helpful."
4. Put tops or sheets in the fridge/freezer
Ann says that last year, she noticed lots of parents putting sheets or tops in the freezer in a bid to stay cool.
However, she points out that they're best placed in the fridge to avoid any risk of freeze burn.
"There's nothing more glorious when you're far too hot than taking out a lovely cold T-shirt and putting it on," she says.
"And if you're really hot, you can put a damp T-shirt in the fridge – and that'll really cool you down."
5. Sleep downstairs
The savvy TikTok sensation notes that as heat rises, it's worth swapping your upstairs bedroom for the downstairs living room or garden.
"If it's safe where you live, have a nice camping adventure with the kids in the garden," she suggests.
"Making it into an adventure for them will help to offset any discomfort they may have."
1. Keep it covered
Ann recommends keeping paddling pools covered with an "old sheet, blanket or piece of cardboard" when they're not being used as this will help to extend the life of the water.
"You've got a water metre so you will pay for every litre of water that you run from the tap, so you can't stop that or make that free," she points out.
"But, by making the water remain in good condition for longer, you can halve your water bill."
She goes on to explain that covering it up will hopefully "stop algae growing" and will "keep leaves and rubbish from blowing into the water," meaning you won't have to clean and empty it as regularly.
"Doing this will make the water in there last twice as long," she adds.
2. Frozen bottles
Savvy Ann explains that if the water does become really warm, frozen bottles of water or ice can come in handy.
"You can put these into the paddling pool to cool the water temperature down – although don't put ice in at the same time as the kids as this could cause freeze burn," she warns.
1. House swapping
Ann explains that instead of going and staying in a hotel or Bnb, you can enjoy a budget holiday by swapping houses with somebody – so they come and stay at your house and you stay at theirs.
"It's a brilliant idea," she says.
"My friend has recently done one which she organised through her church but there are websites you can also book through.
"You just clean it out properly, put clean sheets on, leave some tea and coffee – something to welcome them with – and they do the same.
"Then, you go and stay at theirs for a week and enjoy all the things locally to do in their area, and they come and stay at yours.
"It gives you a real change of scenery and it saves a fortune."
Ann points out that people often forget to explore any local tourist attractions to them.
" There'll be museums, walks and all sorts of things you just don't pay attention to," she explains.
By making [paddling pool] water remain in good condition for longer, you can halve your water bill
"So before your annual leave starts, have a look for all of the things you can see and do that you can afford to get to – perhaps anything a bus ride away."
She adds: "Kids love trains and buses and they can be a wonderful adventure for them.
"You don't have to go very far and can make the journey a part of the excitement and attraction – you just need to make sure you plan for it and take snacks."
1. Envelope budgeting
Ann says the 'envelope' money-saving method, which involves splitting up your money according to how much you want to spend in each category, worked for her grandmother.
"My grandmother had a tin that had a little lock on the front and it had different slots," Ann explains.
"It worked the same as the 'envelope method' and had sections including gas and electric, so every time she got her pension she'd put a set amount of money into each one."
2. Out of sight, out of mind
The money-saving guru explains that she has several saving accounts that she hasn't got apps for on her phone.
"They're on my computer and they've got very complicated passwords that I purposely don't save on my computer," Ann explains.
"I write them down in a book and put the book in a drawer.
"I transfer money to them and forget about them – I can't look at them to see how much money I've got in there because they're not on my phone.
"If I want to find out what I've got in there, it's a long process of having to go to the drawer, find the notebook and carefully type out the very long, complicated password."
She adds: "It's a layer of protection but also in my case, I find if it's out of sight, it's out of mind, and I just don't think about it."
3. Bank savings book
Ann suggests that an old-fashioned bank savings book can be "brilliant" if you have something to save towards – and particularly if you can't easily get to a building society.
"You can't draw the money out if the building society isn't open, which means you can't get withdraw cash at 4am if you're drunk, for example," she says.
"It's in a book, you put the book in a drawer and when you've got money, you simply take it to a building society and pay it in over the counter.
She adds: "Again, it's out of sight, out of mind and because you can't get your hands on it, you tend to forget it's actual money and that it's spendable."
Removing sunscreen stains from white clothing
Ann recommends starting with a drop of washing up liquid and water so that it's "runny but still strong."
She explains: "Don't use coloured stuff because that's got dye in it.
"Rub it really hard into the stain, rinse it out under the hot tap and do that two or three times – that should be able to get most of the grease out."
The cleaning guru goes onto note that there'll likely be brown-coloured marks leftover.
"For that you want very strong oxygen bleach," she says.
"For whites that have discoloured in any way, I put half a mug-full in a bucket of really hot water, I then submerge everything that's white and stained, put a plate on top of it and I leave it for 24 hours.
"I then tip the clothes into the washing machine and wash them – and then I give it a second wash to get the rest of the Oxygen bleach out.
"That usually brings it back to looking brand new."
DIY home updates for cheap
1. Hit the charity shops and jumble sales
"They're absolutely brilliant and you can completely revamp your home," Ann says.
2. Look on eBay for fabric remnants
"Don't go and buy a load of cushion covers," the savvy shopper warns. "In Morrisons they're £9 a cushion!"
Instead, she advises taking the covers off your existing cushions, washing the cushion pads and then sewing your own or buying them second-hand.
"You can revamp your entire living room for very little money just by going onto eBay and buying a few second-hand bits," she says.
"Pick a theme and colour you'd like and go and have a lovely browse on eBay – that's fun in itself.
"You can have the most satisfying three-week hunt for all of the bits and accessories you like – and you can pick up it all up for a couple of pounds in charity shops."
She adds: "You can wash it, mend it, press it and swap it over, and then put your stuff on eBay."
1. Opt for cheaper cuts of meat and use the slow cooker
Ann explains that using a slow cooker means you can eat cheaper, chewy meat, such as stewing steak, for much less.
"I was in Lidl the other day and I picked up a small leg of lamb for £17, which is really expensive," Ann recalls.
Have a stream of air that plays over something that's wet. This then evaporates the water, providing a cooling effect to the air
"To cook it I would've roasted it, making it a mega expensive meal.
"So we did have lamb and it was still expensive but I had a shoulder cut instead which is much cheaper, and I cooked it in the slow cooker to save on electricity costs."
2. Lentils are a great substitute for meat
The TikTok sensation points out that when cooked and combined with other grains, lentils become a complete protein similar to meat.
"If you mix a grain and a pulse, things like beans and chickpeas, you get a complete protein," she explains.
"There are an awful lot of really tasty traditional dishes that mix the two together nicely – rice and peas, for example."
She urges: "Instead of thinking, 'I'm going to have a chicken korma,' look across the Indian curries and select one that uses dals and pulses.
"They'll be every bit as tasty and good but they'll cost a fraction of the price – and they can be done in the slow cooker, too."
3. Discounted food websites
"I know 'Approved Food' is one of them," she says. "It sells short date-coded foods which are things that have either gone out of date or are very close to the end of their best-before date.
"They're still safe to each but they're much, much, much cheaper."
However, the savvy shopper warns that while they're great in cutting costs, be aware that you probably won't get what you're used to.
"You'll get all random things and some of them will be absolutely lovely, and some of them you'll try and them and think you can see why they didn't sell," she says.
"If you plan your meals, work out in advance what you've got and what meals you can make with it, you can save a fortune because you're not wasting anything.
How to Save Money by Ann Russell is out on the 27th April (Headline Home, £12.99)
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