No spend January update 

When is a need actually really a want? My no spend January has raised a couple of tricky questions around this. For example, I ‘need’ some hair dye. I am getting a badger stripe across the top of my head that I am really not happy to face. 

I know if I was on a seriously low income I wouldn’t buy hair dye. If I was living on benefits I would let my hair grow long and grey and focus on keeping a roof over my head. 

In the event I have decided it can’t wait until February. I have bought a pack from Home Bargains for £3.65 and that will do two lots of root retouch up so will last into March. My hair could do with a trim but that can definitely wait!

As I blogged yesterday the girls paid with their Christmas vouchers to take us to the cinema. To thank them we bought cheap snacks from the cinema. Again, not an actual necessity, but as the film started at 1 pm we didn’t bother with lunch so I feel justified in spending £6 on this for the five of us. 

So I suppose strictly speaking I have already failed my own challenge! But I’m not down about it. I am loving being able to say to myself and others, ‘No, I don’t need that. I am on a no spend month’. If I have the odd small failure I’m not going to be discouraged!

Are you on a no spend month? How is it going?

A cheap date in La La Land

All of my daughters were here at the weekend so decided to go to the cinema. They had vouchers and treated us, otherwise I wouldn’t have. My no spend January won’t allow for cinema tickets! They are expensive!

We saw La La Land. I would say it is as good as the hype, stylish, nostalgic and touching. Emma Stone was fantastic in it. She has a beautifully expressive face. I will see it again once it hits Netflix and I can see it for free 😀. 

We popped into Lidl beforehand for a few bits and bought the popcorn and drinks in there. Twelve small assorted bags of popcorn, a pack of five orange juices and three bags of Minstrels came to less than £6. In the cinema a small bag of popcorn and a drink was £7! 

It was lovely to all go out. It’s rare that this happens now that they are all so grown up and independent. 

My new lodger arrived today and got herself unpacked and settled in. I have cleared a cupboard for her food and some space in the fridge, plus a shelf in the bathroom. She seems nice so let’s hope it works out. It’s funny living with a stranger! I downloaded a lodger agreement from Spareroom.com and have done an inventory. You have to keep these things professional in my opinion.

What do you do for  a cheap night out? Have a good week everyone!

Give yourself a pay rise!

My daughter is struggling a bit with money at the moment. She spent too much at Christmas, like many of us. She has been talking about getting a second job to give herself a bit of extra cash. I have suggested that if she changed some of her regular spending habits she would be able to cope on her salary. In fact, it would be like getting a pay rise and she wouldn’t necessarily need a second job!

She probably won’t take all of my advice, but if she just does some of this she will have more money in her purse.

No1: for so many reasons as well as financial -give up smoking!! A pack of 20 cigarettes costs around £9.60!! She smokes three packs a week. Saving: £1500 pa.

No2: start taking in a packed lunch. She spends about £5 a day, five days a week. She could make her own for about a pound a day. Saving : £1200 pa.

No 3: stick to a weekly food budget. Write a shopping list and a meal plan. She currently spends about £50 a week. I think she can save at least £10 on this. Saving: £520 pa.

No4: stop buying makeup. She has so much so she needs to buy nothing until it is all used. I’m guessing she spends at least £10 a month on this but possibly a lot more! A conservative estimate of savings: £520 pa.

I’m not going to suggest buying no new clothes as she doesn’t buy many and they are often second hand. I’m also not going to suggest she stops going to the pub at the weekend. She only goes once a week and she is 25! A girl needs to have some fun.

But if she did all of the above she would have an extra £3740 a year. That’s another £70 odd a week in her pocket, which is probably more than she would earn taking on a second job.

Many of us could rethink our spending habits and give ourselves a pay rise. What about you?

The power of curtains

Brrr, it’s cold out there! Well, it is by my standards…we only have a light snowfall and I know it’s much worse in other areas so I’m not really complaining. However it does feel much colder.

A cheap but thick pair of curtains can help keep in the heat


Last year the little room we used as a dining room (now our lodger lounge) was so cold we simply stopped going in there until the spring. For a small room there is a lot of glass: some old French doors that need replacing, a front door, a back door and a small window too. It got so cold and damp in the room there was mould around the windows and behind furniture. 

This morning it was really cosy. The curtains have made a huge difference. I bought quite cheap ones, £20 a pair, but they are a heavy cotton with thick linings. I had intended to buy some additional thermal linings but they aren’t really necessary.

The other measures we have taken to warm things up have helped too. Regular readers may remember the blood, sweat and tears that went into thermal lining the walls! We also put some insulated foil behind the radiator. But it is the curtains that make the biggest difference. I feel it if I forget to draw them each evening.

So if you can afford nothing else, a decent pair of thick curtains or even a blanket up at a chilly window could make you feel much cosier and maybe even lower your heating bills. 

I hope you aren’t under 3 feet of snow and keeping warm and cosy!

Eating out? It’s tempting, but…

It’s so tempting to spend loads going out to pubs and restaurants when there is a celebration or you just feel like a treat. My friends seem to do it all the time. A lunch out or cake and tea when they are shopping, maybe a meal followed by the pub five or six times a month. We hardly ever do this. The budget won’t allow it and I prefer to eat at home with friends and family anyway. I would rather do this than risk spending half my food budget on a single meal that might be less than satisfying. The pix are from a very nice meal out we had on holiday, so we do have the odd treat!

I also had two meals out over Christmas. One was absolutely fantastic, at a small family run Italian restaurant,  and one was mediocre meal at a well known pub chain. Because I so rarely treat myself to a dinner out I really resent paying for something I could do better -and vastly cheaper – at home. I emailed a letter of complaint to the latter a month ago but have so far heard nothing. Just remembered about this so will follow it up!

I do enjoy hosting the odd dinner party. It is quite possible to do this without breaking the bank – some home made soup, coq au vin and rice maybe, some fruit, cream and meringue. My low spend January won’t allow that this month but maybe next month.

If I had lots of money I would be happy to eat out more often I am sure. I don’t mind supporting someone else’s employment, especially if I don’t have to do the washing up!

What about you? Fancy dinner out?

The working worried 

I heard on the news yesterday that 19% of British workers admit to losing sleep over money worries. I know how this feels -that gnawing anxiety that there are bills to be paid but there isn’t enough money coming in. The report said that the 18-24 year old age group were worrying the most. Having three daughters in that age category I totally understand. It’s hard to get a job that pays enough to afford a rented box to live in, let alone save any money for a contingency fund or to get a foot on the housing ladder. And the report was only talking about working people. Lord knows how anxious it makes people when they are unemployed.  It’s tough out there!

It helps me to know I can stay in control if I make a big effort and I am disciplined but sometimes it wears me down and I get anxious too. 

We are still eating mainly what we have in the larder. I wanted to use some of the paella rice so I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Save With Jamie. It was supposed to be chicken and chorizo with prawns but I made it more frugal by cutting out the chicken and using pepperoni instead of chorizo as I had some leftover from the chicken tray bake I made the other day. 

Jamie’s recipe is here.

We have snow predicted for the next couple of days in the east of England. I hope it doesn’t arrive! Last time we had snow it took two hours to do the half hour journey to work. 

I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are and not losing sleep over money. 

A cheap packed lunch 

I can’t believe I am still using up various cheeses from Christmas. It is quite nice to have a bit of Brie in my sandwich at work as I wouldn’t usually buy it except as a treat. 

Every day I take a pot of home made soup, half a bake-at-home baguette filled with whatever needs using or sometimes just butter, and some fruit. The baguettes are really cheap from Aldi – they cost 45p for two and I only have half. So my lunch costs about 11p for the bread,the soup is made with mostly home grown veg so is probably only around 10p a cup and a couple of pieces of fruit – 50p? With a bit of cheese let’s say approximately 70-80p for a very nice satisfying packed lunch. Not bad I think for my low spend January! 

I have some chocolate rice cakes if I need an afternoon snack. Theses are sooooo nice! They cost 95p for four, so my treat is a little cheaper Han anything from the vending machine at 80p an item. Lower in calories too at only 93 per bar.

I could spend £3 on a sandwich from the shop, 60p for a bag of crisps, £2 for a coffee and get an 80p chocolate bar – £5-6 a day? Over £1000 a year? Nah, don’t think so …

Proud to be frugal

I don’t mind being a penny pincher. In fact I am quite proud to be someone who is taking control of my finances by all possible means. I am happily telling people I am on a no spend January. Most of them totally get it as they are all feeling the pinch after Christmas as well!

I am not mean. If I was, then I wouldn’t have spent so much in December. If I go to the pub (which I don’t very often and definitely not this month) I will happily buy my round. I like to buy presents for people as much as I like receiving them!

But you are more likely to find me buying my clothes in a charity shop  or at a boot sale  than getting them from new. I will shop around for anything I need to spend out on rather than pay full price. If I am too tired to cook I will eat egg on toast in front of the TV rather than go for a take out or ready meal. 

You won’t catch me buying a cappuccino from Costa on my way to work every day as some of my colleagues do and I always take in lunch. I don’t heat the house hot enough to walk around in a t shirt but I don’t sit and freeze either. I don’t own a tumble dryer and prefer to dry my clothes on the line.

I don’t drive a fancy car but make do with a small, very old Toyota Yaris that gets me from A to B. I am not booking a hugely expensive holiday I can’t afford in the hope I will be able to pay the balance by the time summer comes. We will have a holiday I expect but will need to save a bit first. Life is for living after all!

I try to remember to be grateful that I have everything I need even if I can’t afford everything I want. One day I hope to be able to be less frugal but until then I am quite enjoying the challenge! How about you? 

How much debt??!!

I heard on the news that the average UK household has around £13,000 of debts, not including their mortgages. The idea of being that much in debt frankly terrifies me. I occasionally put the odd small thing on a credit card, transfer it to a 0% interest card straight away, then pay it off as soon as possible. I’m talking three or four hundred here though, not thousands! 

I suppose this didn’t really surprise me that much though. I do wonder, if you are on an average kind of salary with average expenses, how do you pay that amount off? I guess you start being frugal and reining it in at some point or you go under. I would worry how I would cope if interest rates went up, or if I became ill and my income dropped. I will never get into that much debt!

We had a few hours in the garden yesterday as it was so mild. It really needed it. We have been really neglectful due to lack of time. We found a whole load of leeks that we had forgotten about so pulled the lot up. They were quite small as they hadn’t been thinned out enough but are usable. I feel a big pan of leek and potato soup coming on! It was nice to get out and dig. We did that instead of going for a walk but I’m sure it burned off a few calories.

We have finally found a lodger. She is moving in next weekend and only wants Monday to Friday, which suits us fine. That will boost the bank account a bit. Hopefully I can focus on saving money rather than getting into debt!

Bargain of the week

Yesterday I said I don’t rely on yellow sticker bargains. I did, of course, take a peek in the reduced sections when I was in Sainsbury’s yesterday but there was nothing I wanted and the reductions weren’t that great. I only go in there for the cat food and my Lactofree milk anyway so trudged over to the pet aisle and was amazed to find this:

That is my idea of a yellow sticker bargain, 48 sachets of cat food for 99p! I don’t know why it was reduced so drastically. The box was a bit damaged but nothing major. I was chuffed and so were the cats!

I spent £45 for the 3 of us in Aldi for the week, which wasn’t bad at all. Last night we had a delicious chicken tray bake. I already had a pack of peppers that needed using and some olives. I adapted the recipe to use what was in the larder: green olives instead of black, dried thyme instead of fresh and balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. The chorizo in Aldi was in huge packs for almost £2.50. I bought pepperoni instead at 89p and will use some of that today. I am making paella to use up some rice. I also added a 15p can of Aldi potatoes to make it more substantial and served it with canned sweet corn. It was lovely. The original recipe is here. I got it from the BBCGood Food website, which is a great resource when you need a little inspiration.

What are you cooking this weekend? Do you adapt recipes to suit what you have or what you can afford?