Save-it Saturday 

I took Mr S’s coin collection to use the Coinstar machine yesterday afternoon. Despite all the comments about how I could avoid the 10% service charge, it is still the most convenient way for me to cash it up as it’s hard to get to the bank during their opening hours. However, if I had realised that he had put so much silver in there I would have taken that out first! He had £10.40 in 20ps! 

I came away with over £34 to spend on the week’s grocery shop. I actually spent £45 in all in Asda, but the £13 that I cashed in from my own penny collection meant that our pennies paid for the lot 😀. We will keep throwing in our coppers and small value silver coins and use whatever we collect towards Christmas. 

I made a frugal favourite for dinner last night – my version of cottage pie. I like to fry the mince up with lots of veggies (in this case celery, mushrooms and carrots) and cover with a mix of mashed potato and swede, with some grated cheddar to give a yummy topping. Cheap and filling food that doesn’t take long to make.

I had to pop to the post office before it closed to post a couple of things I had sold on eBay so that was another £30 for the pot. My daughter had a mega clear out of her wardrobe as well. She has so many clothes crammed in her bedroom I don’t think she knows what she has. I went through to see what could be listed on eBay and what needed to go to the charity shop. She had one top that still had the label! She is her mother’s daughter when it comes to money much of the time but clothes are a weakness. She does buy a lot secondhand though thankfully 😀. I will try to get some listing done in the week. (Incidentally my post How to Make Money Selling on eBay has proved one of my most popular so I have given it a page to itself 😀).

It was a beautiful day yesterday  and pottering around listening to Joni Mitchell and getting myself organised put a smile on my face. I am hoping today will be equally lovely and warm so I can get outside. I hope you have a lovely Sunday!

A little bit of kindness

I have pretty much missed it, but this was Random Acts of Kindness week (find out more here.) I love the concept of a random act of kindness; dropping some money into a homeless person’s begging bowl, paying for someone’s shopping when they are standing at the till and realise they don’t have enough, making a neighbour a casserole when they have been in hospital maybe, or anonymously buying all the chocolate in a cancer hospital vending machine and leaving it for staff and patients with a note to help themselves. It makes you feel good about yourself as well as the person or people you are being kind to. 

I once embarrassed my kids by buying a sandwich for an old guy who was rifling through the bins for food. They initially thought it was none of my business but in the end they were quite proud of me 😀. I also slipped a tenner in an envelope and sent it anonymously to a dad I has been speaking to on the phone at work who had no money to buy food for his family. It wouldn’t buy much or be life changing but I thought it would get them a couple of meals.

At the moment the world seems like a hard, uncaring place. People and politicians want to shut the doors on refugees from war torn countries, build a wall to keep out immigrants, cut disability benefits and look after their own interests. They say others should learn to stand on their own two feet, even it they have no shoes to wear on those feet. This pervasive lack of kindness can easily become the norm. I hope the tide starts to turn back the other way. 

Small random acts of kindness don’t have to cost anything. Noticing that someone is lost and showing them where they need to go, spending time on the phone to a bereaved friend, helping a lady off the floor when she has tripped, dusting her off and giving her a bit of moral support, just being thoughtful rather than turning your back and walking away can only serve to make the world a better place.

It reminds me also that it is important to be kind to ourselves. How many times a day do we tell ourselves and others that we are silly? I have resolved to be a bit kinder to myself and everyone else starting now 😀.

Have you carried out or witnessed any heartwarming acts of kindness  lately? Share the love!

Counting out the pennies

I have been completely useless at the penny challenge. I don’t find it a convenient way to save money systematically at all. I don’t remember to put the pennies in or, if I do, I don’t have the cash available. It is far easier for me to simply transfer money from my current account into my savings when I get paid, so that is what I am focussing on doing. 

We have been throwing our coppers in a jar in a less organised way, however, and today I took about half of them to Asda to use their Coin Star counting machine. You just feed them in and get a voucher out to take to the tills. It’s not free though -there is a 10% charge – but it saves having to count them up and finding time to get to the bank. I had almost £15 worth today and I think there is more silver in the next lot so I expect at least £20 when I take that in. I will put it towards this week’s shop!

I am still spending very little on anything except essentials so February is proving another extremely frugal month. The emergency and birthday/ Christmas/holiday funds are a bit less empty. It hasn’t been quite no spend month but it has been low spend. I did buy a new electric kettle in B&M as our lodger was struggling with the stove kettle. Too strange and old-fashioned!

Are you saving pennies? What are you saving for?

Mid week doldrums

Life’s a beach


I’m feeling a little flat. I think it’s because I can see hopeful signs that spring is on its way but it’s taking too damn long to get here! Yesterday was grey and wet. It was busy and stressful at work and I had a crashing head and neck ache for most of the day. Luckily today I feel a bit better. 

I need a bit of sunshine!

What I need is some decent weather at the weekend so that I can get out and tidy up the garden. I find gardening so therapeutic; the combination of being out in the fresh air and creating a bit of order has such a great effect on how I feel. 

The problem with our garden is that there is so much of it and not enough free time to keep it really nice. We are trying to make it lower maintenance by planting lots of flowering shrubs, but they are expensive so this is a slow process. Nonetheless it is so satisfying when the flowers arrive along with the sunshine. I can see the daffodils poking up already. 

Our home from home in Wales


I will cheer myself up today and book our regular week at a small holding in Wales. It is such a cheap holiday in a little old caravan but such a beautiful place that we keep going back.

Anyone else got the winter blues?

Save money, save the planet

I wrote this blog post in my first year of blogging in 2013, when I had no readers! I thought it was worth revisiting 😀.

Happily, lots of things that save you money are also good for the environment. Simply consuming less, wasting less, holding onto things for longer, repairing rather than replacing, buying second-hand, etc, will give you a greener lifestyle. Getting off the treadmill of working more to buy more stuff pays dividends to the state of your bank balance and the planet – not to mention your sanity!. There is so much you can do to get a warm green glow…

Don’t waste food. Plan your week’s meals and then go shopping with a list. Stick to the list!!! Watch your portion sizes too. This will help your waistline as well, so double bubble.

If something stops working get out the manual to see if it is something simple. Look on the Internet to see if there are any suggestions. Get a quote for repair.

Likewise, repair your clothing and get your shoes mended rather than throwing them away.

If you need to replace an expensive item check Freecycle or Freegle first, then the noticeboard at the local shop, eBay, charity furniture shops, etc. If you really need to buy new, look at as many reviews as possible and buy energy saving devices – they are cheaper to run.

If you have a garden, make your own compost. Don’t throw peelings, apple cores, teabags, eggshells, etc in the bin. Mix them with your garden waste and compost them. Save as much as possible from going to landfill.

If you like crafts check out websites like Pinterest. They have a whole section of ideas for recycling and upcycling. I spotted some fabulous planters made from old tyres and also brilliant Christmas tree decorations made from old lightbulbs.


Eat less meat – firstly, it is expensive and, secondly, according to Donnachadh mcCarthy in his excellent and informative book ‘Saving the Planet without Costing the Earth’, one acre of land can produce 30,000lb of carrots but only 250lb of beef. Also 15% of methane, a gas that contributes to global warming, comes from farm animals.

Let your garden be a bit untidy – don’t waste money on chemicals, and create a wildlife friendly garden. Gardening costs very little, is good exercise and a great stress buster.

Grow some of your own food! I can’t afford to buy organic in the shops, but everything from the garden is chemical free. Packets of seeds cost just a few pounds and produce masses of delicious vegetables.

Use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean your house. It is extremely cheap, plus do you really want your home to be full of chemicals?

Buy large containers of washing up and laundry liquid. This produces less plastic waste and usually works out cheaper.

When you need new items for your home, buy second-hand. Most of my furniture, curtains, bedding and rugs has come from the charity shop, eBay and auctions. If you are a creative sort you can shabby chic a solid piece of furniture and make it a work of art.

Forget nasty chemical air ‘fresheners’ and plug ins. You are literally inhaling pollutants! If you want fresh air, open a window.

Insulate your house – check to see if you are eligible for any grants. Your energy supplier should have information on this, or try the Energy Saving Trust.

If you exercise, try to resist the urge to buy energy drinks and bottled water. Invest in a sports bottle and fill it from the tap.

Train your family to turn off lights, PCs, TVs and DVD players. Don’t leave items on standby.

Don’t buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned. This is expensive and the dry cleaning process uses toxic chemicals.

If you like to read, use the library or buy second-hand from the charity shop or online.

If you have a baby check out reusable nappies rather than disposables. This saves so much money!

This one will separate the greenies from the dark greenies! Consider using washable sanitary towels or perhaps a Mooncup instead of tampons.

Keep a scrap paper box. The back of junk mail letters and the envelopes they come in are good for list writing!

Re-use wrapping paper.

Save water – if you are on a water meter this makes financial as well as economic sense. Shower instead of bathing, but put the plug in and use the ‘grey’ water to water your plants in the garden.

If you buy fruit in the supermarket, save the plastic bags it comes in and reuse them as sandwich bags.

Keep your accelerator foot light and save petrol. Boy racers must all live at home with their parents – once they have to pay their own rent and bills they may slow down a bit…

These are just a few ideas. There are so many other things you can do once you start to think about it. I would love to hear your suggestions.

How to make money on eBay

I have mentioned before that I make extra money selling on eBay – mainly clothing, but anything that comes my way that might make a few pounds as well. In addition to selling our old unwanted stuff, I actively buy in order to sell on. It is quite a bit of work, but can be a nice little earner. Here is what I have learned.

People will pay a lot for secondhand designer items

Certain brand names sell well and, as long as they are in good condition, they can command a very good price. Brands such as Karen Millen, Phase Eight, MonsoonLipsy and Jane Norman all sell well.

Give a good description

You need to provide a detailed description of the item you are selling, but be honest. If there is a small stain on the hem or a pull to the fabric say so and provide photos. This will avoid battles with disgruntled customers if the item isn’t as they were expecting.

Take some good pics

A decent photo really does speak louder than a thousand words. People cannot try items on or feel the fabric so will be reassured to see several good shots from various angles. If you are going to sell clothes on a regular basis it is worth investing in a hanging dummy. I bought mine from eBay for around £8 (some examples are here. Dress them as they do in the window displays in the shops. Make dresses ‘fit’ with a few pins and add some jewellery.

Grab attention with the heading

Your title is also important. Think about what key words people might use to search for particular items. Make sure they are spelt correctly too! Include the brand, colour, style, size and if it is new, say so. I bought a Karen Millen dress from eBay for £4.50 – it didn’t sell because the photo was dreadful and the heading was ‘Lovely Dress’. Nobody was able to identify it as a gorgeous designer dress so mine was the only bid. I later sold it on for £25.

Research prices

It is worth looking at how much similar items sell for to try to establish a good price for whatever you are selling. If you’re not in a hurry you will get more for an item if you sell it at a fixed price – I tend to do this with higher end designer clothing. If you want to sell it quickly go for an auction,  I tend to choose this option for items that are worth less than a tenner. Sometimes the prices you get still take you by surprise!

Set reasonable postage prices

Don’t be greedy with postage – customers aren’t stupid and will be put off bidding if you are charging £10 P&P for an object that will only cost £3 to send. I usually weigh the item and check the Royal Mail price finder to get guidance on costs, then add a little extra for packaging. For heavier or bulky items it is worth checking out Collect Plus as it is often cheaper. I would recommend sending using recorded delivery if the item is expensive. Even if you send by standard post, always get proof of postage in case the parcel goes missing, as you can refund your customer and get a refund from the Royal Mail to keep everyone happy.

Pack well

Take a bit of time to pack items carefully. Make sure you use lots of bubble wrap and a decent box if you are posting anything breakable. When selling women’s clothing I wrap it in coloured tissue paper and pop it in a matching plastic envelope. Again, I buy these from eBay as I have found this to be the cheapest place for packaging materials.

Include a little message thanking the customer for their purchase. Ask them to leave you positive feedback if they are happy with the item or to contact you before leaving negative feedback if not so that you can try to resolve any issues. If you are selling regularly, it is worth getting business cards printed with this message. I got mine quite cheaply from VistaPrint, but there are lots of companies offering good deals on these.

The power of feedback

If a customer is not happy with the item for any reason, don’t argue. If you want to make money selling you need good feedback and it’s not worth risking that by quibbling over a return. In addition, if you buy on eBay be sure to leave reasonable feedback for the seller. I would never leave bad feedback unless the seller was obnoxious or unreasonable in some way and I hope buyers are the same (they aren’t always, but I have only had one customer leave me bad feedback – completely unfairly!).

Good timing

If you are selling by auction think about your timing and schedule your posts to end at peak periods. For example, it is better to time your auction to end on a Sunday at 8pm when people have time to browse rather than on a Monday at 10 am when they are all at work! eBay has a scheduling feature for this purpose.

Sell overseas

Don’t be afraid to sell abroad. I have seen so many adverts stating that sellers will only post within the UK. Why? If you are going to the Post Office anyway it is no more complicated to post abroad. You can use the Royal Mail Price Finder for this too!

Buying to sell on

I felt a bit like Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses when I first started doing this, but I soon got over my discomfort when I realised that eBay could seriously help my budget. It is only what antique and collectible dealers have been doing for ever – buying and selling and taking a cut where they can!

Whilst you are feeling your way selling on eBay, I recommend you don’t spend too much on buying stock. Boot sales are brilliant places to find bargain items to sell on. You often see brand new items with the tags still on for just a few pounds. I got a gorgeous new Monsoon dress in pristine condition with the tags in place for £1!! I would have happily paid five or even ten pounds for it. I later sold it on for £30.

As mentioned previously, I have purchased items cheaply on eBay itself because I knew I could present them better and sell them on for more. This can be a risk; if you are buying from sellers who aren’t savvy enough to do a good presentation they may also be vague about the condition of the item. I bought a dress for £6, another Karen Millen number, which was absolutely filthy when it arrived. Dry cleaning is expensive so I risked the fabric on a delicate wash and it came up as good as new, but it might just as easily have ended up in the charity bag.

Charity shops often know the value of high end brand names so aren’t always good places to find good stuff to sell on. Occasionally you will find some great stock though. I went into a hospice shop and they were selling all their dresses off for £4 each. I filled up three carrier bags! I know that some people feel uncomfortable making a profit from charity shops, but I don’t. I buy so much from them I think I support their causes, and sometimes they need to move their stock on to make room for the next lot.

It is also possible to get some superb bargains at the end of the sales in regular stores and sell them on at profit. Mr S’s sister does this regularly. She has a great eye for the styles that will still be in demand when they are no longer available in store, and has found that sometimes people are prepared to pay more than the original retail price.

I know others that have found objects on Freecycle and sold them on. This is where I draw the line. It goes against the whole ethos of giving something for free to stop it going to landfill in my view and means the sites can be awash with greedy dealers.

So, that is my experience of selling on eBay in a nutshell, which I hope you will find helpful. I am sure I still have much to learn, so please feel free to add your helpful hints and tips!

 

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A bit of frugal luxury 

We nearly always have a late and leisurely breakfast on a Sunday. It is our day of rest. It feels like a complete luxury to have some freshly baked crusty baguettes with an egg and a bit of bacon lying in bed with a nice cup of tea. The ingredients for this breakfast all come from either Aldi or Lidl and are quite inexpensive.

I always buy the ready to bake baguettes, which cost around 69p for 2. I bake half at a time and take it to work with some home made soup for a cheap but delicious lunch.

Being frugal doesn’t mean living an austere and joyless existence. Buying at a bargain price and getting the best value possible can feel rather luxurious. For example, I have bought pieces of secondhand designer clothing in excellent condition for a fraction of the price it would cost new. I found a beautiful silk Phase Eight skirt in a charity shop for just £4. It would have been £80 in the shop. I got so many compliments when I wore it. 

I also found a Phase Eight dress new but on sale reduced from £120 (can you imagine!!) to £30 when I was looking for something special to wear to Mr S’s neice’s wedding. This was a real investment as it is lovely quality and I have worn it to several special occasions since.

Sometimes the simplest of things can feel luxurious. A nice drop of wine with a piece of good cheese and some crackers is my idea of heaven and costs just a few pounds. 

We have bought some lovely solid bits of furniture from eBay and charity shops in the past that would have been so expensive new and have lasted for years. We could have bought flat pack furniture for the same price but it would have looked cheap and wouldn’t have survived the wear and tear of family life. 

I love that we can enjoy some of the good things in life without busting the budget. 

What are the little luxuries you enjoy that don’t break the bank?

More DIY hair cutting and a kitchen let down

My daughter watched my recent efforts at cutting my own hair with horror. She was sure it would all go horribly wrong! When it didn’t she agreed to let me cut hers. She has the most beautiful hair in generally excellent condition, but it had a few split ends and was so long it was getting in her way.

We watched a couple of You Tube videos where long hair was pulled into a very tight pony tail at the front of the head, and a lump was taken off which created layers.

We decided to be quite cautious and only took 3 inches off this time. It is still very long but looks a bit neater. We will take more off next time but first I will purchase a better pair of hairdressing scissors. The ones I have were sharp enough for my hair but not sharp enough for her very thick locks. I have quite a lot of points on my Boots card so I am hoping this will cover it!

I don’t know when we all stopped eating bananas, but I had a pile of black ones this week to use up plus some I had put in the freezer. I decided to make a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s  How to be Domestic  Goddess for banana muffins. I wish I had stuck to the usual recipe I use as these were just weird, chewy and bland. The recipe uses no eggs or sugar, although it does include honey. They are ok if you cut them open and smear a bit of jam on, but not my favourite! Disappointed, Nigella!


Happy Sunday everyone!

Frugal fashion: Making something from nothing

As someone who firmly believes in making do and mending, I have a little confession. I don’t own a sewing machine! I am old enough to have learnt basic sewing at school and have in the past made curtains, skirts and blinds but not for many years. If a piece of clothing needs hemming or a small repair I can do that by hand but I would love to be more proficient and creative, perhaps making more complicated soft furnishings or transforming items of clothing I already have or purchase secondhand so that they fit better or are more stylish. 

One incredibly talented woman I found on Instagram does just this. She gets quite ugly bits of clothing from thrift stores and magics them into something glamorous and amazing. Her name is April and her site on Instagram is Coolirpa.I love her! Check out these thrifty transformations.




She shows you how to do this on her You Tube channel and makes it look easy when I’m sure it isn’t . So creative and clever and I love the idea of making some new new out of a piece of clothing that no one will wear anymore. 

One of my plans when I get a little more time is to refresh my sewing skills. Because I hate waste and spending money unnecessarily, the idea of making things from salvaged fabric really appeals. I doubt I will be making myself anything quite as glamourous as this lady but who knows?

Are you skilled with a sewing machine? What creations have you made?

Are you trying to achieve Financial Independence?

A lovely, kind reader has sent me some scanned copies of some actual issues of the Tightwad Gazette. I am really excited to read them – thanks so much, Gill!

In one of them there is an absolutely fabulous article about financial independence (FI), a concept I only recently became aware of when I read a book Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, recommended by Ilona from Life After Money. I whizzed through  it, but have yet to work through all of the exercises in it. This article has inspired me to have another go.

I am very frugal and strive to save as much as I can, but I don’t earn enough to save the kind of money that will enable me to retire very early. I am simply hoping to save a decent contingency fund and buy a camper van. Yet I am sure following the programme in Your Money or Your Life would enable me to achieve this more quickly.

In the book there are many stories of people striving to save a large amount of their income (sometimes as much as 50-75%!) and aiming to retire in their 30’s and 40’s, quitting the rat race to pursue activities that make them happy and fulfilled. They do this by reducing their outgoings, living frugally and seeking to increase their incomes through various means and investments.

The internet is awash with people attempting to do the same today. There are blogs and Twitter accounts aplenty inviting you to follow their journeys to FI and offering to show you the way.
One that was recently recommended to me by a reader is Frugalwoods.com, which I am enjoying immensely. It is well written and inspiring and, once again, leaves me wishing I had come across the idea of frugality many years ago. Take a look!

I have signed up to the Amazon affiliates scheme so if you choose to click through and buy books on my recommendation I will earn a small commission.