Christmas bargain hunting – now is the time!

Christmas bargain huntingHow is your Christmas bargain hunting going? I am almost there! Hardest to buy for is always Mr Shoestring. He can rarely think of any ideas to give me.

I have cracked it!

I have been looking on BuyaGift.com* and  have cracked Mr S’s present! What I bought is top secret, though, as he reads my blog 😀. Suffice to say I am very confident he will like it and it was an absolute bargain!

If you have someone really tricky to buy for, BuyaGift.com does a good range of experiences such as spa days and cream teas.

We had a spa day recently and it was blissful. We also had three cream teas in close succession, using up Mr S’s birthday vouchers. This explains why my jeans are feeling a little tight at the moment!

Aldi shopper

I have been doing a lot of Christmas bargain hunting in Aldi. They have such a great selection of food and drink for a special occasion.

I even found gluten free mince pies in there this week so snapped those up in case my coeliac friend pops on for a cup of tea. 

Aldi do a brilliant range of gift items such as slippers, books, PJs, chocolates, etc. They are so good if you have a really small budget for Christmas.

Christmas bargain hunting online

I have done a lot of shopping on Amazon.co.uk too, including some things from my eco friendly Christmas presents guide here.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy going to the town centre and physically choosing presents. There are two reasons why I don’t do this much. One is lack of time. It is easy and convenient to shop on my phone in my lunch break, for example.

The other is that I like to ask people what they want rather than waste money. They nearly always tespond with a couple of links to websites!

I will go into the town centre at the weekend as I need to do a few jobs in person. It will give me the opportunity to see the lights and do a little browsing.  I do like the idea of supporting my local shops. It’s just that life gets in the way!

How is your christmas bargain hunting going?

*This post contains my affiliate link. If you click through and make a purchase it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Get things done! Super Saturday

I had such a productive day yesterday. I had loads to do, and was determined to cross as many things off my to do list as possible. Sometimes you just need to get things done!

Getting up early to get things done

It’s easy to go for a nice lie in at the weekend. I went crazy and set my alarm for 6.45 rather than 6 am! I had a cup of tea and fed the cats, then started my day with a half hour yoga session. When I can fit it in, early morning is the best time to practice yoga. It is quiet and my mind isn’t filled up with the general busy-ness. This set me up for the day.

Shopping

Get things done. Pumpkin soupI like to get to the supermarket early if I go at the weekend, before it gets too crazy. I hit Aldi just after they opened. We didn’t need a lot. As we are eating really healthily I bought lots of fruit and salad bits, some chicken for Mr S, cheese, milk, etc. I had already been into Asda the evening before and got some yellow stickered pork chops, carrots and courgettes. I was in and out in 40 minutes – no hanging about.

eBay sales

I sold a couple of pairs of boots in the week so popped the parcels in to the post office on my way home. I had a little chat with the owners. We both go in there so often we know them well now. Mr S gives them honey from his brother’s hives and they let us forage the amazing blackberries at the back of their car park.

I had no sooner got home than I found a message from another eBay customer. If she paid for a dress she wanted today, could I post it straight away? So I packaged that up and shot back round to the post office!

It has been quite a good week. If you are interested in selling on eBay, you can read my guides here and here.

I have more items to list. It has all been washed and ironed. Yesterday I listed a few things whilst watching TV and will do more this evening.

Cleaning

Well….it can’t be avoided. Cleaning is not something I enjoy, but I do love a nice clean house!

I got into a great pattern over the summer of cleaning a room each night after work. This worked well as it meant I had more time to do other stuff at the weekend. I am still working on Emma Drew’s blogging course*, which I am thoroughly enjoying,  but need to find time to finish it.

As it is now so much darker when I get home after work, it is hard to be motivated to do any cleaning. You just want to curl up on the sofa in front of the fire. However, next week I aim to get back into my routine.

I did the whole house from top to bottom yesterday, so I have a few days’ grace.

*This is my affiliate link – if you use it and the code BLACKFRIDAY you will receive a £50 discount until 30th November.

Super soup

I am back into the soup making now the weather has turned. Yesterday I used two of our pile of home grown pumpkins to make some. Jamie Oliver’s glorious roasted pumpkin soup recipe is delicious! I made a ton and have already put it into the freezer in old butter containers.

Black Friday bargains

Get things done. My new laptopI was on the go all day and it was a very productive day. As I said before, sometimes you just need to get things done! Talking of which, I want to buy myself a really good planner for 2018 so will get onto Amazon to see what I can find as it is still the Black Friday weekend. I fancy this one – it looks so good for the price! Being organised and getting more done means I have more time to do the stuff I like.

My best Black Friday bargain was my new laptop! It is a Christmas present from Mr Shoestring but I couldn’t wait a month so he let me have it now. He got it from Argos on Friday morning. We watched it for a couple of weeks hoping it would be reduced and it was – by £160! I have never owned my own laptop before and I am really excited. We got this one from Argos, an Acer Aspire.

Today we plan to take things a little easier. A long Sunday walk followed by some of the pumpkin soup, then I am going for tea with some of my girlfriends. Whatever you are doing today have a lovely Sunday. I hope you also get things done.

 

Five frugal things: Finding ways to save and make money

Five frugal things. Ways to make and save moneyIt has been a while since I took part in this ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. However, the thrift and frugality continues! For those of you who don’t know, every now and again I team up with some other bloggers to share our five frugal achievements for the week.  I have been looking at ways to save and make money. 2.I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky .

1. Selling our old clothes

I have finally started listing two huge bags of clothes that have been sitting around for several weeks. It has gone rather quiet on the eBay sales so I haven’t felt motivated, but I need to get it all out of the way. As Christmas approaches, I am looking even more closely at ways to save and make money. I am also having a good declutter. An awful lot has been going to the charity shop, but I will sell the better items. How about you?

2. Ziffit

As well as selling my old clothes, I am having a clear out of loads of DVDs that nobody ever watches, plus some books, via Ziffit.com. We are going to redecorate the sitting room in the new year and we don’t need any excess clutter.

If you have never used Ziffit, it is really easy. You just input the barcode of the item you want to sell and Ziffit gives you a value. I am maximising this by going via Top Cashback, which is currently paying 10.5% commission*.

The downside of Ziffit is that they don’t want items that are quite common. This means that you might input a lot of bar codes but have quite a few rejected. You also need to be sure they are in great condition or they won’t pay you plus their terms and conditions say they do not need to return the rejected items.

I was frustrated at how few of my DVDs were accepted but pleasantly surprised at the price offered for some old books. £5.49 for one of them!

3. Freebies

Save and make money. Photo of a free pot of moisturiserMy latest freebie from the Savvy Circle is some Olay moisturiser.  It is actually rather nice. I usually use a mega cheap pot from Aldi. This does the job of keeping my skin moisturised perfectly well and is a steal at £1.99. However, I have to admit the Olay one smells nicer.

If you want to take part in the Savvy Circle and try new products for free you can sign up here.

4. Black Friday

I don’t often join the mad scramble for bargains on Black Friday. I am sure it is all a huge marketing ploy to make us all spend more. However, I really want a new laptop. I have an old one that used to belong to my daughter. It is frustratingly slow and unreliable.

I am on the lookout now to see if any of the models I fancy are discounted anywhere. Mr S is buying me this for Christmas, which will show those Daily Mail readers that we aren’t as mean as they think!

I am also tempted by a few items on Everything5pounds.com*. I buy most of my work clothes from them now as they are such good value. I have yet to be unhappy with anything so far. They are always cheap but for Black Friday they have a buy five tens and get the sixth free. 

Six items for £25 plus postage! You would struggle to get one thing for that in many stores. 

5. Thrift soup

Thrift soup. Ways to save and make moneyI fancied something warming for lunch rather than salads all week. I have been eating a lot of raw food in my bid to eat more fruit and vegetables and be generally healthier. So, I made a big pot of what I like to call thrift soup. It involves some good vegetable stock and whatever you have in the fridge. In my case this was celery, carrots, potatoes, frozen peas and spinach, some home grown courgettes, also from the freezer, half a can of sweet corn that needed using and some of my huge pot of Marigold stock. I fried up all the veg in some oil, added the stock to cover, plus a bit more on top, and simmered it all for about half an hour. To make it slightly creamy I added some parsley sauce that we had with dinner the night before. It was lovely and the day after it was even better. I love a bit of soup.

So these are this week’s five frugal things. What have you done to save and make money?

Ecothrifty post

I wrote a guest post for Zoe at EcoThrifty.com this week on cheap, eco friendly things to do with your children. It got mentioned on Twitter by  the Joshua Paul Show, which has 137.5k followers! We were pretty happy about that. You can read the post here.

Whatever you have been up to this week, thrifty or otherwise, I hope you have had a good one. Here’s to a frugal weekend!

*Disclaimer: These are my affiliate links. If you sign up to a deal it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission.

 

Going vegetarian: why I’m finally giving up meat

Back to weird: going vegetarian

For 16 years, from the age of 16 to 32, I was a vegetarian. That was over 20 years ago – how time flies! In those days the nearest thing to a vegetarian meal you would find in a standard pub or restaurant was a cheese omelette, or something that was accidentally vegetarian, like macaroni cheese. Going vegetarian was still considered a bit weird. I would be grilled by well meaning friends and relatives about why I was a vegetarian and forced to defend my position, when actually I just wanted to get on with my dinner! If you are vegetarian or vegan you will be familiar with the questions and comments, such as ‘So, if we all stopped eating meat, what would become of all those sheep?’

Going vegetarian: photo of me as a 16 year old

My veggie 16 year old self

Vegetarian restaurants existed because us veggies needed to eat out occasionally and have something worth dressing up for. However, you would only find them in cities. I worked in one in London for a while: Food for Health in Blackfriars. We searched for it recently and it is now some kind of office. A vegetarian friend of mine ran a veggie catering business and I often helped him out at events, including Glastonbury Festival one year. Fun times!

A change of heart

So what happened? What made me start eating meat again? Life got in the way. I got married and had three daughters. My then husband ate meat and so did the girls, so I was frequently cooking two meals. With a busy family life and a job, my priorities changed and I started eating fish, then chicken and eventually whatever everyone else was having. I also suffer from IBS and, truth be told, literally couldn’t stomach the largely pulse based meals I used to eat. But I always felt like a vegetarian who ate meat. Strange but true!

The research and benefits

Now that the girls are all off my hands and it is mostly just me and Mr Shoestring, I have decided it is the right time for going vegetarian again. I actually enjoy vegetarian food more than meat and we have always eaten it twice a week or so. It tends to be cheaper too, so useful for those of us on a budget.

Healthier

I think I will be healthier – there is quite a lot of evidence to back up the health benefits of a good vegetarian diet. For several years when I was a veggie, I took part in some research that the Oxford University was running and had to send in  blood tests every now and again for analysis. I just Googled this research and found a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that backs up claims that vegetarians live longer. At my age, that is good news!! Just wish I could persuade Mr S to join me.

Greener

Whilst I was tracking down the research results I came across an interesting article on the University of Oxford website, Veggie based diets could save 8 million lives by 2050 and cut global warming. This is appealing on so many levels. I am a bit of a greenie, as regular readers may have noticed, so if my vegetarian diet produces less CO2 that is a huge bonus. At a time when there is so much pressure on the NHS, a healthier population is also something to aim for.

Kinder

I am an animal lover too. Although animal welfare in farming is much better than it was in the eighties when I was a vegetarian, I have always had an underlying feeling of guilt about eating meat.  In the end, no matter how kind we are to the animals, they are going to die because we choose to eat them. It is a difficult moral argument. I have no intention of trying to push my feelings  onto anyone else – it is a matter of personal choice.

Doing it differently

Going vegetarian: photo of a cheesy quinoa and broccoli bakeGoing vegetarian these days is so much easier than it was when I was 16. As well as being able to find a decent meal in a restaurant, there are so many options for vegetarians and vegans these days when shopping. Even my preferred budget supermarkets have sections selling food free from meat. There are ready made pies, nut roasts and bakes in the freezer section for when you don’t have time to cook, and tins of pulses – no more soaking over night and cooking for hours.

I am not a massive fan of Quorn, but it is handy to have some of this in the freezer to bung into a quick stir fry or Bolognese after work. I had never heard of quinoa until a few years ago but now you can buy it everywhere. It is super nutritious and high in protein, so excellent for a vegetarian diet. I made this quinoa and broccoli casserole for dinner the other night. It was nice but a little on the dry side. If I make it again I will add a layer of white sauce or some tomatoes.

New inspiration

I still have a shelf full of old veggie recipe books, including my fabulous original copies of the original Cranks books, some Rose Elliot classics and the Vegetarian Kitchen by Sarah Brown. I have never stopped using these.  However, I am also enjoying some of the new writing on vegetarian food online, include some great looking recipes on the Vegetarian Society website. If you want to eat more veggie food, there are plenty of ideas in my Favourite Frugal Recipes section.

I am not ready to go vegan, even with its currently popularity. I am also still prepared to occasionally eat fish as this will make it easier if I am going to friends’ houses for dinner. But I am enjoying the challenge of finding and creating new recipes that fit my budget and IBS issues. Going vegetarian is making cooking and shopping interesting again!

Make money from your spare room – a guide

Can you make money from your spare room? A picture of a house with a pound sign next to it.How can you make money from your spare room? There are plenty of options and you don’t need a lodger all of the time. Renting out a room in your house is a great way to earn some extra income.

We have made good use of our spare room since my daughters started to leave home.  We have got to know some lovely people and our experiences have been almost 100% positive.

1. Taking in language students

It might be that you want to make money from your spare room but can’t, or don’t want to, share with someone full time. This was our position initially. One daughter was at university but came home during the holidays so needed her room back some of the time.

We have a large language college where we live. Students come to learn English and stay anything from a week to a whole year. They are often looking for host families. You provide a room, breakfast and dinner during the week with lunch as well at the weekend. This is usually a packed lunch as they often go off on organised excursions.

You also clean the room and do the student’s laundry. I never found any of this to be a problem as it was only what I was doing anyway.

Socialising

You are expected to sit together at the table for dinner to give the students the opportunity to practice their English skills. We had some hilarious conversations at times and were only saved by the use of Google Translate!

We have had students from all over the world – including Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Angola, Slovakia and Macedonia and have enjoyed learning about their lives.

As well as the college  I discovered a couple of other organisations locally that bring in school parties from Europe. They also need host families. The students are younger, of course , which feels like more of a responsibility. It generally involves driving them to their learning base for the first few days whilst they find their feet and get to grips with the bus system.

You can expect to be paid between £120-140 per week as a host family.

Pros: you get to know lots of interesting folk from around the world and forge some lasting friendships. Cons: the students tend to be under 20 and can cause some worry. We had one 17 year old who didn’t come home until midnight on her first day with us, spent much of the night throwing up and then missed college the next day! They are supposed to be in by 10.30 so this was a little awkward, but we made it clear there was to be no reoccurrence. You need to be firm from the start.

The best way to find organisations seeking host families locally is to do an internet search.

2. Airbnb

It is possible to make money from your spare room through AirBnb. We have never done this but we have used several now between us. Me and Mr S stayed in one in Wales which was basic but extremely cheap. My daughter and her friends have rented several whole houses and flats between them for weekend breaks. She and her boyfriend also stayed with a lady near their flat whilst it was having some work done. We have all found it a generally positive experience.

But what about welcoming guests in? I would be nervous about allowing complete strangers have access to my whole house, but would consider doing the odd bed and breakfast weekend. Nikki Ramskill from the Female Money Doctor did it several times and she says ‘I had no issues with anyone as I vetted them all before I agreed to let them stay. I turned down a few people because I didn’t trust them. New profiles, unverified, are ones I avoided. I tried to put in couples and women. I didn’t allow pets or children and there was a strict no smoking policy. You can set up a deposit limit which is taken in the case of a problem. The interface is really easy to use. The calendar is fully controlled by me, and I also blocked out weekends I didn’t want people staying, like Christmas and new year.’

Potential issues

Although problems are rare, Sara from Debt Camel has come across someone who let his flat out for a long weekend but  came back on Sunday evening to find the ‘guests’ were still there and had changed the locks! She recommends you check the terms of your tenancy or mortgage, your insurance policy and that you aren’t breaking any planning laws with the local council. She says you should consider that there is a risk of theft or of having your place wrecked, albeit very small, if you rent your property as a whole.

You can find information about how to become an Airbnb host here.

3. Renting longer term

Once two of my three daughters had moved out more permanently we decided to take a longer term approach and take in a lodger. We were a bit anxious. What if we didn’t get on or they tried to move the boyfriend in? What if they were really messy or noisy?

Set clear parameters

In the end we decided that we would set clear parameters for prospective lodgers and if they weren’t happy they could look elsewhere. We only accept females as we all feel most comfortable with this. It is a single room so no, they cannot bring their boyfriends home every weekend. They are welcome to have friends round and have had the odd girlfriend staying over with no issues.

They have their own cupboard in the kitchen and cook for themselves but do need to tidy up afterwards, the same as we do. They are responsible for keeping their bedroom clean but I do the rest of the house.

Our own space

We are lucky in that we have another small room downstairs that we have made into the lodger’s sitting room, so there is no fighting over the remote. Whilst I like having chats in the kitchen I don’t want to sit with them every night – I like my own space. It might be worth getting a TV set up in the lodger’s room if you feel the same.

In city areas there is also the possibility of renting your room on a Monday to Friday only basis, so you get the house to yourself at the weekend.

We found our lodgers through www.spareroom.com. I tried a couple of other sites but didn’t get much of a response.  It was worth taking a paid ad for a couple of weeks as the number of contacts I received increased dramatically.

I purchased a lodger agreement through spareroom.com for just £7.50. It is worth doing this, as a formal agreement protects you both. Because you are renting out a room in your own home it is much easier to get rid of your lodger if things don’t work out.

Get a deposit

Always ask for a damage deposit and a month’s rent in advance. It is worth getting references too, but our last two lodgers had never rented before so they weren’t available. They aren’t easy to verify either!

I personally think you need to trust your gut when interviewing prospective lodgers . Our first one is now my eldest daughter’s best friend – they hit it off from the moment they met. Our current one is absolutely lovely and starting to feel like another member of the family already!

Paying tax on your earnings

The UK goverment’s rent a room scheme means that you can earn up to £7,500 each year tax free. There is a lot of guidance on this here and here.

You will need to check with your mortgage provider that they have no objections to you renting a room. It is also very important to make sure your household insurance allows for this.

4. Supported lodgings

A slightly different way of making money via your spare room is to ask your local social services department if the run a supported lodgings scheme. This is a whole new ball game. It isn’t just a way to make money from your spare room, it is more of a career choice.

What is supported lodgings?

A supported lodgings scheme is where you provide not just a room but family support for a young person leaving care. You need to be a caring family and willing to overcome some frustrations and difficulties to help a vulnerable young person move on with their life.

By providing a safe and nurturing home, you can be instrumental in helping the young person become more confident. Some young people will have experienced a lot of trauma and upheaval. They may need help with finding better ways to manage their behaviour.

You receive full training and support to do this job. Your earnings vary depending on the needs of the young person you take in. This is the most difficult of the options to make some income from a spare room by far, but will suit some people I am sure.

Have you found ways to make money from your spare room? It could be a great asset to up your income!

Save with Jamie – review

Save with Jamie review - book cover

When I first picked up this book I was sceptical about it saving any money. It is big and glossy with a lot of nice colour photos. But Save with Jamie is a useful addition to my frugal bookshelf, with some lovely recipes. Here is my Save With Jamie review.

Can this book help you save money?

Save with Jamie review. A photo of the inside pagesWhat would Jamie Oliver know about saving money, you might ask? He has never had to live on a very tight budget. I am sure this is true, but he does know how to run a kitchen for profit so is aware of ways to reduce food waste. He is  also a creative chef, which means some of the recipes presented in this book are very different from anything else I have come across.

Puff pea and potato pie, squash houmous, aubergine daal, and savoury Japanese pancakes are on my hit list to try.  I regularly use Jamie’s saag aloo and hit and run tray baked chicken already.

Love your leftovers

Save with Jamie review. A photo of the inside pagesI like the way the book is organised, with a key recipe for, say pork, with lots of ideas about how to use the leftovers. Alternatively he will take an ingredient, such as squash or chicken stew, and give you four ways to use them.

There are pages aimed at preventing food waste spread throughout, which is great for the budget cook. What to do with stale bread, dripping and leftover wine (as if!) are useful sections.

Shop smart

There is a chapter on smart shopping, which won’t tell you anything you don’t already know if you already shop on a budget. We know we need to meal plan, shop with a list and not go to the supermarket when hungry.

However, his chapter on the freezer is good. I find the sensible use of mine to freeze leftovers, home grown fruit and veg and yellowsticker bargains does save money.

I also like the cheap and simple ideas in the bonus recipe section.

Expensive ingredients

Occasionally the ingredients pose an issue for the truly frugal cook, however. For example, lamb is too expensive for many families on a budget and beef is reserved for high days and holidays in our house.  Salmon is also not likely to be on the poor cook’s shopping list often.

Despite this though it is overall a bumper book full of delicious looking recipes. Save with Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less would be a very nice present for a young couple moving into their first home I think. If you can get it at a decent price it is worth having.

This review contains my Amazon referral links. If you use the link and purchase anything it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Ten easy eco friendly ideas to save money

I know I harp on about this, but it’s nearly always the case. A green approach saves you money! So, as well as feeling good about yourself for keeping control of your finances, you can help save the planet. Not a bad day’s work! Here are ten easy eco friendly ideas to save money.

1. Reconsider your heating

As the weather in the UK turns chilly, think about your heating bills. If you are one of those people who leaves the heating on 24/7, stop! No one needs to be that warm. Turn your thermostat down, set the heating to come on for an hour or two morning and evening and then switch it on as you need it.

A longer term plan should be to improve the insulation in your home.  Short term you can sew thermal linings into your curtains and use draught excluders at your doors. Long term you can look into improving your loft insulation and filling your wall cavities. You can find more information on home insulation here.

2. Lunch at work

Take a sandwich or salad to work. This saves money and packaging.

3. Don’t waste food

A shocking FAO statistic is that one third of the food produced in the world is wasted. If you plan your meals, shop using a list and make creative use of your leftovers you will avoid binning food will buy less.

4. Eat less meat

Meat is really expensive compared to vegetables and pulses and there are so many veggie options these days. According to this interesting article in the Guardian, “Behind most of the joints of beef or chicken on our plates is a phenomenally wasteful, land- and energy-hungry system of farming that devastates forests, pollutes oceans, rivers, seas and air, depends on oil and coal, and is significantly responsible for climate change.”

There is a lot of research on the health benefits of a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables, so upping your intake can give you a boost physically too. You don’t have to go completely veggie. How about a Meat Free Monday?

5. Use your leg power

Walking is an eco friendly idea to save money. Picture of my walking route Walk or cycle instead of taking the car or bus on short journeys. They are free exercise! If you walk a few miles a day you could maybe jack in the gym membership or exercise classes. I am spectacularly rubbish at this, so it is something I am going to work on. Mr S loves cycling but I am not a fan and prefer to walk. I can’t walk to work as it is too far, but I can go out for a power walk at lunchtime and walk to the shops at the weekend.  We had a lovely long windy walk yesterday just for the fun of it and used Map My Walk to record the distance – 4.67 miles, which was a nice length.

6. Ditch the bath

Showering uses far less water. This will save you money on your water bill and heating, as you will have to heat less water! If you shower already, consider taking a shorter shower or even a cold one. There are apparently a lot of health benefits to taking a cold shower, but in this cold weather I don’t think I can bring myself to try this!

7. Power down

Don’t leave your appliances on standby. Switch off at the plug when they aren’t in use, including (and especially) your phone charger! This may not save thousands but every little counts.

8. Cut down the chemicals!

I hate to think of the chemical cocktail we used to breathe in and the nasty stuff I used to swill down the sink whilst I was cleaning the house. Nowadays I use mainly (although not exclusively yet) bicarbonate of soda  and white vinegar, and make this cleaning spray. This is very much cheaper than buying branded cleaning products too.

9. Turn off the lights

This is such a simple act that saves money and energy. Train the family to switch lights off behind them!

10. Buy second-hand

Be it clothes, furniture, tools or sports equipment, you can get almost anything cheaper second-hand or even free. Check out eBay, Gumtree, Shpock, Facebook Marketplace, Freegle and Freecycle, as well as your local charity shops of course. Reusing means another object doesn’t go to landfill.

These are only 10 ideas out of many eco friendly ideas to save money. Once you get started, you will feel the benefits in your wallet and the environment will reap the rewards too. Warm green glow all round!

Fame at last… spreading the frugal message

What a strange and exciting week we have had here at Shoestring Cottage, spreading the frugal message.

I was approached a couple of weeks ago by a journalist who had read my Frugal Christmas article. She asked me to provide some nice family photos  to run alongside a story about how we keep our costs down at Christmas.

The pressure to create the perfect Christmas

I was happy to oblige. I hate how the pressure to create the perfect festive season causes families to get themselves into large amounts of debt each year. It should be a lovely time spent with family and friends first and foremost.

Spreading the frugal messageIf you can afford to spend lots of money, go for it. However, it seems many folk can’t. I just wanted to point out that it was possible to do it quite cheaply. In fact, it’s possible to spend much less than we do and still have fun!

In the tabloids

Much to my surprise the article was picked up by the Daily Mail, the Sun and also the Daily Mirror! We were all stunned.

I haven’t bothered reading any of the comments. I know exactly how some people will react to me spreading the frugal message about having Christmas on a shoestring.

Colleagues have told me I was called Mama Scrooge and apparently I am clearly responsible for Brexit. LOL, anyone who knows me is well aware I was on the other side of that particular argument! Very odd logic.

Being judged

The funniest thing of all was being invited onto Judge Rinder! The logic was that I would have the chance to publicise my message if one of my daughters sued me for buying their presents too cheaply. This concept caused much hilarity before I politely declined 😀.

Anyway our time as ‘celebrities’ was great fun and interesting. I really don’t know how people cope doing it every day though!!

I know from the comments yesterday that many of you spotted our moment in the limelight! Have any of you appeared in the media?

New order: the great wardrobe declutter

Considering I don’t buy many clothes at all, I shouldn’t need an annual wardrobe declutter. However, I most certainly do!

Don’t you just hate it when you are getting dressed in a hurry and you can’t find the top you need to go with the skirt you are wearing? Or the jumper in the right colour can’t be located anywhere? A wardrobe declutter gives you the opportunity to sort your clothes out and remember what you actually own. I usually rediscover items I had got out of the habit of wearing, so a good declutter makes me feel I have more clothes in an odd sort of way.

Declutter rather than redecorate

One of my goals for November is to sort out and declutter my bedroom. We don’t have the time or money to redecorate but  would like to freshen it up and maybe move the furniture around. It is not a large bedroom – it is the middle of three. We chose it because it has a view over the back garden, which we love.

The wardrobe is really just a  hole in the wall with a curtain across it.  I have had many of my clothes for years – I try to look after them. Many were purchased second-hand in charity shops, eBay and boot sales. Some were bought in the sales. If they were new and full price they are usually from Primark or everything5pound.com! Because it isn’t a huge space it does tend to get a bit crammed. At the moment there is so much in there everything is getting creased. A wardrobe declutter is essential!

I also intend to go through all the drawers in my dressing table, the bedside tables, the linen cupboard, the boxes under the bed and our large chest of drawers (for a small room, we have a LOT of stuff in there). However, today I started with the wardrobe.

I have started pulling everything out so that I can decide what to keep, what to sell and what to give to charity. It will be put back in item type: dresses, skirts, tops, trousers, cardigans, coats, etc. I am not a fan of colour coding and, since I wear a lot of  black and grey, it would be pretty pointless anyway!

Decluttering saves you money

There are so many money-saving advantages to having a good old wardrobe declutter.

Firstly, you find clothes you had forgotten you owned, as I mentioned already.

Secondly, you can sell your unwanted items, maybe on eBay (my guide is here), Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or Depop.

Thirdly, your bedroom will look clean and tidy and is almost as good as repainting!

Finally, you can donate what you want to charity. In my case, we are having a clothes sale as part of our Children in Need fundraising, so anything I don’t want will be sold to raise money for this great cause.

I am half way through my wardrobe declutter. How about joining me? It is cheap therapy and good for the soul :).

 

Can you make a living blogging?

I have been blogging for quite a while now. My first post went live in 2013. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! That didn’t really matter as it was a great new hobby. It didn’t occur to me that it was possible to make a living blogging.

Sharing tips

I used my blog initially as a kind of online diary. Documenting events at Shoestring Cottage and sharing money saving hints and tips was a fun thing to do. It also helped me to stay on track financially.

Another huge unexpected bonus of blogging for me has been my interactions with readers. I have usually had such intelligent, supportive comments and lots of really good advice.

You can make a living blogging

Reading other people’s blogs, I have become aware that some bloggers earn money from their blogs – in some cases, a six figure income!

It is hard work and you need to be immensely well organised, but it seems that you can make a decent income.

This is hugely appealing to me. I would love to at least earn part of my income as a blogger. To this end I recently signed up for Emma Drew’s blogging course, Turn Your Dreams Into Money: How to Build a Six-figure Blog and Live the Life You Want.

If you haven’t come across Emma Drew before, you need to check her out. As well as her blog, EmmaDrew.Info, she is very active on You Tube with some excellent and informative videos. Her blogging is so successful that she now earns a six figure income and employs her husband.

I am working my way through the course at every opportunity and have already learned so much.

From creating a blog from scratch, choosing topics to blog about, earning affiliate income, using social media, to negotiating sponsored posts and advertising, this course covers everything you need to know.

Will it help me make a living blogging? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, I am finding it fascinating. I have already used some of what I have learned to improve my blog, and it has explained some concepts that were all a bit of a mystery.

Black Friday £50 discount

If you want to start a blog, or already have one and would like to monetise it, Shoestring Cottage readers can get £50 off Emma’s course until midnight on 30th November. Click through from here and use the code BLACKFRIDAY to get your discount. The course usually costs £197, so you will pay £147. (This is my affiliate code and if you purchase the course by clicking through I will earn a commission. However, my opinions are my own and genuine.)

As well as the course itself, you can join Emma’s dedicated Facebook group to give and receive ideas and support from other people taking the course.

Maybe you have a blog and you are fine with it as a hobby. But if you are interested in blogging as a genuine career choice you could do a lot worse than investing in Emma’s course. In the meantime, I will let you know how I get on as the course progresses!

A frugal lifestyle: taking care of the pennies

I am going for super frugal at the moment. As the saying goes, take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. This is a good enough motto when you are going for a frugal lifestyle.

Our frugal lifestyle will ensure we have enough money to pay for Christmas. It’s not about being tight or stingy; rather it’s about saving money to spend on the things that really matter.

Couscous

This week I was determined to use some of the large pack of couscous that has been lurking at the bag of the cupboard for ages. It is so quick and easy I will definitely use it more often.

We had it instead of rice or noodles with a vegetable stir fry one night and had the leftovers for lunch the following day. I had soaked another lot, which I made into a salad with some chopped veg and raisins the day after as well. It makes a great, cheap packed lunch. A nice change from soup or sandwiches.

Food bank update

Couscous would be a good item to include in your food bank collection if you are doing one. It requires no cooking, just soaking in hot water or stock, is incredibly versatile and very filling. You can see my post about the reverse advent collection and how you can take part here. We already have lots of items in our box and many of my colleagues have chosen to take part with their own teams.

A frugal mushroom dinner

frugal lifestyleI had a craving for mushrooms the other day! Luckily I had a pack from Lidl. I made a very simple and delicious mushroom chasseur using the recipe in A Girl Called Jack*. We had this with rice. As Mr S is a meat fan I cooked a couple of chicken drumsticks to accompany it. (This is my affiliate link to Amazon and if you purchase anything by clicking on it I will earn a small commission.)

This book remains one of my favourites. I do wish Jack would get on with publishing the new one, Cooking on a Bootstrap.

Super Savvy Me

frugal lifestyleI have mentioned that I am a member of the Savvy Circle before. I tested some Pantene Micellar water a few weeks ago and today I received some Bold 2in1 washing capsules to try and to share amongst family and friends. This smells really nice and much posher than the supermarket own brand I usually use. In return I need to give feedback a few times on the Savvy Circle website – not too onerous!

Survey loot helping my frugal lifestyle

I have been doing the odd survey here and there for Prolific Academic and cashed £20 in today. Not a fortune I know, but every little helps. I do the odd survey in my lunch break and each one takes just a few minutes.

Online surveys can be a bit hit and miss I have found, but I like this company. They pre-screen you so you know that you are accepted for the surveys on offer.

I miss quite a few so they would be ideal for retired folk, part time workers, stay at home parents or students with more time to check what is on offer.

My money saving efforts and frugal lifestyle mean I feel in control of my finances. I would hate to be in debt again!

How about you? What are your top tips for a frugal lifestyle?