WE all love a bargain, but savings addict Gemma Bird takes penny-pinching to the extreme.
The Instagram influencer has squirrelled away her cash ever since she was ten.
Gemma is now 39 and her scrimping paid off by the time she turned 24, with the super saver having already owned THREE homes.
And mum-of-two Gemma now lives mortgage-free in a four-bedroom house, has a Range Rover and flew off for holidays to Mexico, Lapland, Lanzarote and Dubai in 2019 — despite never earning more than £25k per year.
Gemma, who lives with husband Adam, 45, and children Brody, eight, and Bronte, one, in Billericay, Essex, 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’ve managed to do all this by doing what I share on my page — and that’s why I want to shout about it.
“I live and breathe deals. I don’t care how much money you have, people always love a bargain.”
When Gemma was a child, her full-time mum Jayne and dad Steve, a bus driver, refused to hand over more pocket money once she had spent her weekly 50p.
So she decided to top up her funds by washing neighbours’ cars.Gemma lives with her husband Adam and children Brody and Bronte in Essex[/caption]
PICKED MUSHROOMS BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED
Gemma also sold chocolate bars to her schoolmates and, as she entered her teens, she would work as a mushroom picker before the school day started.
Canny Gemma, who is dyslexic, left school at 16 with a couple of GCSEs. By age 18 she was bringing home £12,000 a year as an estate agent — saving £850 a month while living with her parents. At 17 she had bought her first car for £6,000, which she paid in cash.
She says: “My target was to save £30,000 by 24.
“My then-boyfriend was on £18,000 a year and we saved £25,000 between us and bought a two-bedroom terrace in Waltham Abbey for £165,000 in 2004.”
By 2007 Gemma still had £10,000 in savings. Dad Steve went halves with her on deposits to buy two more properties.
They each put £3,500 towards a £109,000 one-bedroom flat in Walthamstow and £5,000 each towards a £179,000 three-bedroom house in Waltham Cross.
“I rented out the ones I had bought with my dad,” Gemma says. “I ran the finances at my home, so every month I’d overpay by up to £300 on the mortgage.
“We rented out our spare room to a student for £400 a month. By the time I was 29, our mortgage was £80,000.”
- Rent out your driveway – I earn £50 a month from this.
- Write a shopping list. And stick to it.
- Sell your kids’ old clothes on eBay before buying new ones.
- Go to free local church groups instead of expensive baby classes.
- Buy loose fruit instead of packaged as it is often cheaper.
- Get a year’s delivery package from your favourite clothing brand.
- Buy your yearly railcard the day before new prices come into force.
- Buy a nice foundation and you will get away with cheap blusher and bronzer from Poundland.
- Take your own drinks and packed lunches to soft play.
- Use loyalty cards and reward schemes everywhere – even at your local car wash.
- Have one day a week where you don’t spend ANY money.
In June 2010, Gemma moved back in with her parents after getting divorced from the man she had bought her first house with.
She walked away with £66,000 from the house sale and ramped up her saving efforts.
Gemma was then working three jobs — she was a driving instructor, a consultant with the Halifax bank and worked in a pub at weekends. She stashed away £30,000 in 18 months.
Gemma says: “I didn’t drink alcohol. I didn’t go to fancy places — I’d use vouchers for Prezzo and have just as good a time.
“I didn’t go on holiday. Four days a week I would have ‘no spend days’. I didn’t buy takeaway coffee. People think ‘it’s just £5 here and there’ but it soon adds up.”
Gemma had met now-husband Adam, who worked in sales, in March, 2011 and within five months they had moved into his home, which is where they live now. He had £225,000 left on his mortgage.
Gemma gave birth to their son, Brody, in 2012 and daughter Bronte seven years later. Gemma says: “When I moved in, I paid £100,000 off Adam’s mortgage with my savings.
“I then sold the two properties I’d been renting out, making £130,000, and paid off the rest of the mortgage.
“I wasn’t able to do this because I’m loaded. It’s because I’m careful.
“Adam has always been savvy with money, too, and saved well. We’ve only been able to pay off our mortgage and do nice things as a family now because we are really careful with money.”
Gemma insists that it’s thanks to her thrifty ways she’s been able to save money, and live her dream lifestyle. She says: “I’ve never been overdrawn or missed a payment. I’ve never bought something I can’t afford.
“When I take my children to softplay, I take my own drinks and food. I always check for deals before ordering a takeaway.
“I spent £200 on them each at Christmas, and that included putting £100 into a savings account for Bronte.
“These small things all add up — and mean you can afford luxuries in life.”
After being made redundant from her job with Halifax in 2012, Gemma started her own wedding underwear business, BB Lingerie, with a friend, both putting in £500 to buy stock.
‘I DON’T SPOIL MY CHILDREN’
They “learned on the job” and the business is so successful that Adam has quit his role in sales to work for Gemma full time.
Then, last year, Gemma launched MoneyMumOfficial to help others save cash. She shares money-saving tips and promotes her Gemma’s No Spend Day and Gemma’s Make Money Day.
She challenges followers to sell five unwanted items a week on sites like eBay.
Gemma says: “I wanted to incorporate all the things I do regularly on my Instagram page. That’s when it started spiralling. Every day I receive messages saying ‘You’re going to be the next Mrs Hinch’ — which is a huge compliment!
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“People can still have the things they want, but much cheaper — and you’re better off if the money is sitting in your pocket rather than with some big business.
“Of course, every family’s situation is different.
“I can’t say that I can help every single person, but hopefully I can show how I’ve managed to save, and families can use what’s relevant to them.”
- Follow Gemma Bird @MoneyMumOfficial
Gemma’s fave apps
TOO GOOD TO GO: Buy unsold food from top eateries to prevent it being thrown away.
PLUM: This savings and investment “robot” works out how much you can afford to save using an algorithm and moves the sum automatically into a “savings” account.
AIRTIME REWARDS: This turns your bank cards into loyalty cards so you earn cashback on your everyday shopping.
YOUGOV: Earn yourself points and redeem cash rewards by answering surveys.
HONEY: Clever browser extension automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout.