How My Immigrant Mother Saved $30,000 for 2 years Selling Sweets

Jax Hudur

Image by Maurojr83 from Pixabay

At the time our family had just moved recently into the UK. The children enrolled in school and our parents were adjusting to life in London. My parents did not believe in idle hands, so my mother (a former nurse) has started a side hustle to make ends meet- making sweets, whilst my father went out to work as a security guard (he formerly worked as a civil engineer). There was a language barrier for my mother, so she could not work as a nurse unless she re-trains in English. This was not possible as the children were too young for her to leave and work long hours in a hospital. So she became stay-at-home mum. This enabled her to work from home, help us with our homework etc. Apart from study and sleep time, the children were encouraged to help out our mother making sweets in her kitchen.

My mother had goals and one of her goals was to have a retirement plan in place. She worked hard and saved hard. Her sweets were quite popular in many local cafes she was supplying. This venture was not meant to be a long term. In fact, it was only until the children started higher education. She expanded too quickly and as a result, she could not continue at the same pace without employing help from outside. The children could no longer help as their social life and homework kept them away from the kitchen.

In the two years she was making and selling the sweets, my mum saved every last penny for her and for my father’s future. Living off from a paycheck to paycheck was never enough for my mum. She eventually retrained as a nurse and worked for the NHS (Healthcare system in the UK) for years before her retirement 5 years ago. Although being a nurse did not stop her from creating different income streams throughout the years.

Many people I know would not have have saved this amount from selling sweets on such a minuscule scale and in a such short period. But not my mother — Mrs. Frugal. This is what my father used to call her.

These are some of the things she used to do and still does to save up:

  • She shops around for the cheapest, be it food, clothes, or household items. She prefers Aldi, or Lidl supermarkets( European version of Walmart & Target for our US readers).
  • Cut down all TV subscriptions and getting prepaid mobile phones, instead of getting bogged down with monthly contracts.
  • Never buys anything on impulse. She plans months ahead before making a purchase.
  • After finding bargains, she buys in bulk.
  • Instead of buying the odd coffee and fresh croissant from the coffee shop, she will shop at Costco to buy 10 croissants in a package for the price of one fresh croissant and make her coffee home
  • Unplugging all appliances before sleeping or when leaving home.
  • Switch off all the lights in the house except the room that is in use.
  • Avoid debt. She does her best never to purchase things she has no money for.

‘Simple, plain, and costing little’

The Oxford dictionary defines frugal as: ‘sparing or economical as regards money or food. Simple, plain, and costing little’.

Leading the life of a frugal person can help save extra money without working more hours or creating a side hustle.

I have seen what living beyond your means can do to families. Not having an emergency fund for sick child/parent, funerals, a sudden trip to visit families, redundancies, etc can be a serious problem. You will end up begging for a loan. Who do you go to for help? You go to those who have been able to prioritize their spending.

You are wondering how buying coffee for $3 or having a couple of monthly subscriptions would not have much of an impact. You’d be wrong. These do add up eventually and it will have a huge impact on your finance.

I am not going to regurgitate the usual advice on how you should be mindful of your spending in generic terms. I want you to try some of the following.

Small changes could make a huge impact on your life.

1- Budget ahead: You need to sit down and budget your income and spending for the following month.

2- Always spend less than you earn: Make sure you put 10–15% of your earnings aside before you start spending.

3- Make sure you prepare your packed lunch from home: Always take a packed lunch. Spending £5 on a sandwich, drink, and crisp is neither healthy nor fulfilling. It makes a big dent in your pocket.

4- Minimise the number of times you eat out or get takeaways: On special occasions, eating out may be necessary. However, eating out is pricier than eating in. Always make sure you include this in your budget.

5- Never buy on impulse: Always plan your purchases ahead: Make sure you ask yourself two or three times if you need it. If you do, put it in your budget for next month or the month after.

6- Sell your unwanted items: There maybe purchases you made previously that you have no use for. Items that the kids wore once perhaps, items the children outgrew of, some household items you don’t need anymore. Sell them on eBay or other selling platforms. I do this kind of clearing once every 3 months and I earn back more cash than what I bought these items for.

7- Always return your returns: Sometimes we buy a shirt or dress that doesn’t fit. Sometimes you receive an item that did not do what it was supposed to do. Please return those as soon as possible. Don’t be lazy.

8- Shop around for your yearly spending such as your car insurance, your energy suppliers, etc. It is smart never to renew with the same suppliers every year. You will save tons. Use a comparison website or phone different energy suppliers to see if you can save by switching. If you are happy with your current supplier, but find a better offer elsewhere, you can ask to see if they will match it.

9- Instead of driving everywhere and spending fuel, try to walk or public transport. You save money and the environment at the same time.

10- If broken, first try to mend it: One of my old man’s pet peeve. We are all guilty of this. Something needs small TLC, instead of fixing it ourselves (let’s face it, nowadays anyone can mend anything, all thanks to YouTube and Google), we tend to throw the broken item in the garbage and buy a new one. First, try to repair it yourself. Nothing dangerous, mind you. But small repairs that you can do.

11- Going out to have fun shouldn’t mean spending unnecessarily: There are free activities for the family in your local areas. Scour the newspapers and local websites for these events. You will be surprised by what is on offer.

12- If you get a promotion, do not raise your standard of living. Make sure you continue living as before and invest the difference.

My final thoughts

“Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time”.
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For some of us , the habit of saving does not come to us naturally. We need to learn how to control our spending before it controls us.

It is common sense that we need to save for three reasons: emergency fund, purchases, and investing, in order to leave a financial legacy, avoid debt, reduce financial stress, and gain financial freedom.

You will be happier and healthier for it.


This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Not all information will be accurate. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

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I write about history, politics, and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or is newsworthy.


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