NEW mum Emma Aldridge, 37, has transformed her two-bedroom council house from a stripped down shell into a showroom-style property using £2000 of her own money and with help from two easy-to-apply-for grants.
Here, Emma revealing her top tricks, T the former supermarket checkout assist, from Lydney, Gloucester, who is mum to Evie-Rose, 17 months, and married to video games reseller, Simon Aldridge, 32, speaks to Fabulous.
Typing ‘government grants’ into Google, I hit return and waited.
I was delighted to see a number of results come up including the Turn2us site. After putting in my postcode and other details I jumped for joy – I felt like I’d hit the government grant jackpot.
In our area, former supermarket workers like me, who had worked in the sector for a large chain for more than five years, are entitled to a £1k grant for whatever you needed the money for. That grant’s available nationwide.
The great news is anyone can apply – and there’s different criteria for different professions, based on your circumstances.
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I inputted my work history details and other personal information and after verification I snared the funds to spend on our new, rented two bedroom semi-detached council house, which I got in October 2021 with a front and rear garden.
Since then I’ve been renovating it, spending £4000, including £2000 in grants and £2000 worth of bargains which, if I’d paid full price, would have cost over £10,000 improving it.
It’s gone from a grotty empty shell with nothing on the floors to a gorgeous home with a stunning bedroom for our daughter. We've furnished it with amazing bargains, decorated the space with cute Dumbo wallpaper and snagged a £50 sleigh cot and change table.
We then revamped the lounge with upcycled furniture and new carpet and transformed our boring back and front garden with astro-turf and bright pink and blue colours.
I know some people will sneer or stick up their noses but who turns down free money? Just because you’re in a council home doesn't mean you can’t or shouldn't apply.
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And I won’t have anyone tell me otherwise. I met my now husband Simon, 32, in 2010 and, moving in together in 2011 were paying a staggering £695 per month private rental for a two-bed terraced house in Buckinghamshire.
It was crippling us financially so that’s when we put our names down on the council list knowing we weren’t priority but hoping we’d get an offer on a council rental.
Ultimately, in September 2019, we moved in with my mum and dad, unable to afford the staggering private rents.
When our daughter Evie-Rose was born in December 2020 the house became overcrowded, there wasn't enough space for five people.
The council upgraded us to priority and put us into a group home which is a bedroom and small bathroom and a communal kitchen often used for interim emergency housing for eight weeks.
We moved into our first council house last October. It was an empty shell and a chance to put my bargain hunting renovation skills into practice.
I’d been putting together a ‘council house renovation box’ for more than four years.
It’s being turned into a palace on the cheap.
In the box I piled items I’d found at car boots, charity shops, on Freecycle and skips.
We instantly qualified for a £1k Household Support Grant from the council to get a fridge freezer, oven and carpets.
We paid £200 of our own money to get the carpet we wanted to kit out the entire house. The kitchen and bathroom flooring was free from the council and they laid it too.
I’ve used wallpaper I nabbed for 50p a roll in the main bedroom from a charity shop.
In the lounge room we have a sofa in the grey colour scheme I got free off Facebook.
The wallpaper in that room is from Wilko, was half price and cost £12. I used the B&M Scanner App, where you can check for discounted items, to hunt for bargains.
I saved hundreds using it, grabbing a £15 shower curtain for £1.50, placemats and coasters for 50p and cushions for £2.50 I even found a bedding set which was priced at £25 for a fiver.
I got a £250 silver cross pushchair free on Facebook as the lady simply wanted rid.
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I joined a group which tells you about Amazon Glitches and it allows people to use secret codes to get free items. You have to be fast and up at different times but it saves thousands.
I bagged a paddling pool, solar lights for the garden, under counter lighting strips, all for free and brand new from Amazon using the Glitch codes.
I love bright colours so there is fake grass in the front and back garden which means I can Hoover and not weed it. It cost me a total of £50 because I got it from a clearance sale.
I used Barbie pink and blue colours out the front to make the garden stand out with free paint and doing it myself saved thousands.
We’re still working on some rooms but it’s being turned into a palace on the cheap.
It’s home for us and one day we hope to buy it at the discounted rate.
That will hopefully mean the discount offered by the council will act as a deposit on our mortgage.
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So I’m investing in my family's future. I won't stop looking for bargains or being proud of our little council house. Just because we are council tenants it doesn't mean we can't be proud.
It looks like I've spent loads but I haven't as I am a right bargain hunter!
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