Holly Smith hasn’t been in a maths class since she was 14 and does not have a single academic qualification. Bullied because of her autism, she dropped out of school and completed her studies on a computer in an extension off the family garage.
Yet she is so clever with money that, at the age of 35, she already lives mortgage-free.
The mother-of-three also has income from a (mortgage-free) investment property, cash in the bank and the cost of Christmas covered. She would never go overdrawn because she knows, to the penny, how much is in each of her accounts every day.
Savvy saver: Holly Smith would never go overdrawn because she knows, to the penny, how much is in each of her accounts every day
None of her wealth has been inherited nor, because of lifelong serious health problems including crippling bone tumours in her leg, has it been earned doing a high-paid job. Instead, it is the result of Holly’s obsessive bargain-hunting and money-saving, a hobby she has turned into a flourishing online career.
She once did a £1,200 supermarket shop solely with coupons (she gave the groceries to charity) and bagged £12,000 of first-class transatlantic flights on loyalty points. With her husband Callum, 31, Holly stays in five-star hotels for a song and enjoys cut-price dining.
She has a photographic memory for prices and fellow shoppers pursue her in supermarkets, copying what she puts in her trolley.
Now she’s written a book codifying the advice that has brought her three million followers on Facebook, half a million on the video site TikTok and almost 100,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel.
Given the austerity of Britain’s Covid-ravaged economy, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
‘My autism is my superpower,’ she says. ‘It enables me to focus. It also drives me to extremes. I can’t sleep at night if I have a coupon I haven’t used that’s about to expire.
‘I began checking grocery prices for my mum when I was eight. By the age of 11 I was booking holidays and comparing car insurance quotes for family and friends. In my mid-teens I camped for three days to get my parents’ name down for a house on a new estate which I knew would be a good investment. I was totally fascinated by saving.
‘In my early 20s I wanted to take it further but I didn’t know how. I was in and out of hospital having surgery and surviving on benefits. While I was convalescing I did hundreds of competitions every day and I won one in which the first prize was having your own website designed. That’s how I began.’
She bursts into tears at the memory and wipes her eyes with a tissue. ‘I got these free,’ she sniffs. ‘On cashback.’
Now money-saving and bargain-hunting is her full-time job. She says: ‘I used to work 20 hours a day. These days it’s more like ten hours, but saving money doesn’t have to take long. I could spend a few seconds with someone and find them stuff on their phone that would save £20 to £30 on an average family supermarket weekly spend. I save at least £2,000 a year on mine.’
Born to save: Holly Smith with her husband Callum and their children
Lockdown saw a 60 per cent spike in traffic to her website. It’s a trend she expects to continue. She says: ‘More people will be forced into cost-cutting as a result of Covid-19, especially those in the £50,000 to £60,000 income bracket. It’s expensive just living, never mind raising a family. I hope I can help bargain-hunting become second nature.’
For her, it was always this way. Even her first date with Callum, a sports massage therapist, was paid for with Tesco Clubcard vouchers.
The couple live in Norfolk with their daughters Mollie-Rose, nine, and Bella-Marie, eight, and their son Cloud, who turns one this month. Eventually, Holly hopes they’ll save their way to millionaire status but she’s not in a hurry.
‘I believe in the principle of saving money. I love saving large sums but saving a few pennies makes me happy, too. I do it for the buzz and I hope that my book will help other people feel the same way.’
She’s happy if people don’t buy her book but borrow it from a library or listen to it for free on the Audible app, saying: ‘Then I’d really know I’d got my message across.’
Holly Smith’s Money Saving Book will be published on November 19 at £12.99. To pre-order a copy for £11.04 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 by November 8. Free UK delivery on orders over £15. For details of her social media presence and more tips see her website extremecouponing.co.uk.