Project lodger

Well, we would choose the hottest week of the year to decide on a bit of DIY! Exhausted already but we need to get the rooms done so that we can advertise for a lodger.

So far we have removed all of the old wallpaper, repaired the walls, painted the ceilings and pulled off the rubbish old skirting boards. This prep time takes so long.

A work in progress

We met a lady in B&Q as we were buying the insulating wallpaper. She said she had tried it and it worked well, but it was easily damaged once up and you only had to lean against it to leave a mark. I am worried about this now, but more about the cats scratching it up the moment it is in place! We are going to put protective Perspex near the back door as this is where they really like to scratch. However, there will be some time when it is drying and then when it is painted where there will be no protection. I will be very annoyed with them if they wreck it immediately!

We are still eating from the fridge, freezer and larder. I have bought cat food, bread, ham, cat food and fruit this week but very little else. I am quite pleased that after a day doing DIY we haven’t given in to a ready meal or takeaway. It would’ve been so easy to do it. 

Yesterday we had Quorn bolognese (not the best – I’m not a big fan of Quorn but it needed using up) and today we had Jamie’s Hit and Run Chicken Tray Bake, which has become a favourite (recipe here). Tomorrow will be omelettes and chips with a tomato salad  as they are now coming thick and fast in the greenhouse. Thursday will probably be chickpea curry.

I will eventually go shopping but as I spent a lot of money in B&Q today I will try to put it off for as long as I possibly can!

Locked out and lessons learned

Bit of a nightmare end to our day today. We all rushed out this morning inadvertently leaving my keys in the door on the inside, so when Mr S tried to open it to let us all back in he couldn’t get the keys in! 

Because we are quite security conscious the only open window was the bathroom and we are all too big to squeeze in there. Panic!!

Having said that we have now realised it is so easy to break into this house if you leave the windows locked just a tiny bit open. Mr S got up a ladder and used a screwdriver to push the handles up and finally climb in. What a relief.

Two lessons learned. Do not rush out of the door without the keys and shut the windows properly and lock them!

We actually had a nice afternoon visiting my parents for lunch, where we did a bit of blackberrying. I love foraging. We got another big potful to put in the freezer. Food for free is my favourite type 😊.

My parents’ cute garden

My mum also picked up a great steamer for me at the boot sale. This is a good way to cook your veg. Cheaper, as you only use one ring, and the vegetables retain more vitamins when steamed.

DD3 has had a good week. She got very decent A level results and a new job on the same day. She starts tomorrow and has a few months to decide whether this is actually a gap year before university or whether to become a full time career girl. This has to be her choice but I am hoping she will go to uni. We shall see. 

I hope your day wasn’t quite so interesting. Decorating starts tomorrow so I will do some before, during and after shots as we go. Wish us luck!

Making extra money with a lodger 

It’s been a busy week at work trying to get lots of jobs done as I am off all next week. Most of this will be spent decorating. There is a lot to do but we are hoping to finish it. We are making our small dining room into a sitting room so that we can start advertising for a lodger. If they have a bedroom and their own lounge they won’t impact quite so much on our space. We will obviously have to share the bathroom and kitchen.

I hope we will find someone nice! We generally enjoy having our short term language students but if we don’t we know they are only here for s few weeks. A lodger is a whole new ball game and I admit to feeling nervous. 

The bedroom is in quite good shape but the sitting room can be very cold in the winter so we will be using insulating wallpaper, putting foil behind the radiator, getting lots of rugs for the floor and buying thermal curtain linings. 

We will also need to decorate and insulate the downstairs loo but I don’t know if that will be achieved this week. We shall see!

Have you had a lodger? What are your tips?

Foraging and the fruits of our labours

I saw our students off this morning before work. They were perfectly pleasant but it’s always good to get the house back to ourselves and not to be tied. If we want egg on toast in front of the TV instead of a proper dinner we can! We don’t do it often and I tend to cook but it’s nice to have the option! The money is so handy and most of it has gone into the savings for our holiday in September. 

We seem to have quite a lot of food in the house at the moment so we will be eating from the stores until payday, although I will need to pop into Asda for fruit and cat food on my way back from work in the next couple of days. 

I know I am sad but I was so excited to find loads of fruit on the plum tree tonight – it doesn’t take much to make me happy 😜. It is three years old and last year it produced one plum which the birds ate. We have about 20 on there currently, not ripe yet. I hope they taste nice when they are ready. I am still picking blueberries as we have had a bumper crop this year.  They are delicious and so good for you. 

I plan to drag Mr S out foraging for blackberries this weekend. If I can fill the freezer  we will be able to eat pies and crumbles all winter, which we love with custard. Plus a friend has told me where there are lots of plums ready for scrumping. Maybe I won’t buy too much fruit from Asda!

Any good foraging where you are?

Another day, another walk

We thought we would have to take our students out somewhere today as they have had no organised activities this weekend. We wouldn’t have minded, but it turned out that they had arranged to meet their friends in the park in town so we dropped them there and drove out to a pretty little village called Fingringhoe, a few miles outside Colchester. We walked to the next village, Rowhedge, which lies on the banks of the River Colne, via some small country footpaths and had half a cider in the pub before walking back. It was lovely, such a nice part of North Essex.

We enjoy Sunday afternoon walks, but it may not have appealed quite so much to two teenage boys 😊. I’m sure they preferred football and flirting with the girls in the park!

It’s a lovely evening here in Essex. Now I am cooking roast pork with veg from the garden and Yorkshires. Let’s see what they make of those. They have been very easy to feed and have good appetites so I don’t anticipate any complaints…

Early start, busy day

Yesterday I blogged about starting a penny jar to create a nest egg. I have already been chucking my coppers into an old sweet jar for a while  but not in any structured way. I spent about an hour counting my penny jar this morning and had over £15 to kick off my penny savings plan. A good start! I have bagged it up but won’t take it to the bank just yet. It occurred to me that you couldn’t really wait until the end of 12 months to bank all your coins – if you had managed to save £670 you would need a wheelbarrow pulled by a donkey to get it to the bank!! I will transfer it to a savings account as I hit £30 or so I think.

I woke up at 5 this morning – why do I always have to do this at the weekend? I gave up trying to get back to sleep and got out of bed at 6. It was lovely actually, so peaceful in the garden. I gave everything a water, hung the washing out then went in to do a yoga session whilst everyone else was still snoozing. 

We walked to the park this afternoon to meet up with some of the other students and their host families. It was quite pleasant sitting in the sunshine chatting whilst the students played football.

I am feeling a bit shattered now though! We are having chicken with olives for tea. I found the recipe in a magazine  and will post it if it’s any good. It smells nice. After tea I can see myself collapsing on the bed with a glass of wine. I need an early night!

Find a penny, pick it up…

I have been thinking of other ways to put money aside and have started the penny challenge. You can find lots of information about this online. It seems everyone is at it!

I already have a penny jar. Every now and then, when the coppers are making my purse heavy, I chuck them in the jar. So the first thing I need to do is take them out and count them.

The aim is to add a penny on day one, two on day two, three the next day, increasing the amount you place in the jar each day by 1p. If you do this for a year you will save around £670. The most you will add to the pot on any single day will be £3.60. Some folk calculate the weekly amount and save weekly in case they don’t have the change. Others start with the £3.65 amount and work backwards. I am skint right now but have plans that will bring in a little more income so I am starting with a penny.

You can see a really good table showing exactly how this works plus a great explanation from Saving Mummy’s Pennies here.

It’s not entirely painless. At midpoint in the year  the total monthly amount will be £43.26 and as you reach your total you will be putting aside £90. However it does provide structure and gets you into the savings habit. 

It would be good to start this on Boxing Day to save for the following Christmas. I am starting today to add to my general savings rather than for a specific goal. I like to have a contingency fund.

Has anyone else attempted this? How did you get on?

Money saving and money making tips 

A friend and work colleague recently discovered my blog and has given me a good tip for putting money into savings. She has a banking app on her phone and can access both her current and savings account from this at any time. If she makes a purchase of a discounted item, be it on sale or yellow stickered, rather than simply congratulating herself on a wise buy she immediately transfers the amount saved into her savings account. She does this whatever the item is – food, clothes, household goods, etc. 

I think this is a great tip! Of course, it won’t work if you are only buying the item because it is on sale and wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. It is food for thought though and you could create a healthy nest egg with very little effort.

Another useful thing she does is to rent out her driveway during the week as she lives in the centre of town. Whilst she is at work her drive is earning her money, which she receives in cash, so she makes this last for all her miscellaneous expenses during the week – that loaf of bread or pint of milk that might otherwise mean a trip to the cash point. 

You need to use the resources you have and be creative to make the most of your hard earned cash,and she is certainly doing that.

Personally, we don’t live close enough to town to rent our driveway, but we do have a spare room and take in foreign language students on a short term basis. I currently have two very nice French 16 year olds!

We have decided to use the room to create a more regular income and will be decorating it in the next few weeks and advertising for a lodger. We didn’t really want to go down this road as we value our space and privacy but we have a small back room that we have used as a dining room in the past. This is now going to become the lodger’s sitting room, so no need for awkward negotiations over the tv remote 😊. I hope we can find somebody nice.

I also used to teach yoga to make a little extra but this proved a real bind after a busy working day so it is on hold for the moment. I will start a new class at some point I expect.

What do you do to help you create a nest egg?

Everything in the garden…

…is a little overgrown and the weeds are doing great. Still, it still looks good I think and it’s a pleasure sitting out in the sun to eat now that the weather is so warm. I quite like a wild looking garden!

It kind of sums up my life: I live on the edge! On the edge of being tidy and on the edge of being bankrupt 😊😊. I would love more time and money to improve the garden and the house generally, but it ain’t happening right now and I am pretty happy with what I have. 

Holding back those pesky weeds

I am lucky and better off than so many people. We own most of the house, I have the wonderful Mr Shoestring propping me up at all times, a secure job and three beautiful daughters. 

The sun is shining and the flowers look great alongside those pesky  weeds!

What to do with two teenage boys?

Our two new French students have arrived. They seem nice but very shy. Hopefully they will warm up and become more confident as the fortnight progresses. Their English isn’t too bad but I must remember to speak slowly!

We took them for a drive into town and for a walk around castle park. 


It was a lovely sunny evening and there were lots of people about. It made me think that we should go into town for a wander more often. We don’t need to spend any money as there is plenty of stuff to see for free, museums, galleries as well as the park.I couldn’t get them out of bed this morning. I told them we had to leave at 8 and at 7.35 there was no sound so I knocked to wake them. We left at 8.10! Fortunately the schools are on holiday and the traffic wasn’t bad. I will have to wake them earlier tomorrow as they will be getting the bus.

They brought us some lovely gifts: champagne, two bottles of wine and some rather tempting sweets.

Some of this party from France pulled out, their parents worrying about security issues. I can quite understand their anxiety. I woke up to hear that there had even a knife attack in central London, near the British Museum which they will be visiting on Saturday. However, it seems a shame to let these hateful terrorists win when the chances of being affected by them are still very slight.

They will be at home on Sunday so we need to think of some way of entertaining them. It is due to be a nice day so maybe a trip to the seaside and a picnic is in order. I don’t know much about teenage boys but hopefully this will be ok!