Category Archives: Fun

Showing love on a budget ❤️ 

A friend told me proudly how her lovely son had taken her to London on Mother’s Day, with tea in a posh hotel, followed by some sightseeing and a meal in the evening. He is clearly a kind and generous son who loves his Mum, but it must have cost a fortune!

As I said in yesterday’s post, I had the loveliest Mother’s Day but I am sure it cost a fraction of the price of my friend’s day. It got me thinking. It is easy to have fun and show somebody that you love them without breaking the budget.  With a bit of planning and creativity you can help friends and family celebrate any event without them thinking you are a cheapskate!

Bake a cake: give a home made cake, cookies or sweets. This works for birthdays, anniversaries,  Christmas, house warmings – even weddings if you are an ace baker and offer to make the wedding cake as your present, as my friend did for me. 

Make your own gift: if you knit, sew, paint, make soap or candles or even if you grow stuff, many people appreciate a thoughtful home spun present. How about a hamper of home grown produce, a couple of pots of delicious home made jam or some potted plants grown from seeds or cuttings?

Keep a present box: It is also useful to buy gifts on offer and keep a present box so you always have a present to give. The January sales are great for this when retailers are keen to shift excess stock after Christmas.

If you are seriously skint, offer a service: gardening, babysitting, grass cutting, car cleaning. Design a voucher and put it in a card,then make sure you keep your promise! This works well if your child wants to offer a present for a relative.

Host a meal: have your loved one round for a special meal. Get out the best tablecloth and china, put flowers or candles on the table and don’t let them wash up!

Take a tour: have a look in the tourist information centre for the free attractions locally and take your loved one on a guided tour . Pack a flask and a posh picnic for a midday break: salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones and cream, hummus and crudités, etc, and perhaps even a bottle of fizz.

Have a date night: if the celebration is for your other half, cook a meal and add a massage and/or a film.

Spend your points: I love collecting Boots Advantage Card points to spend on gifts, but you can do the same with your Sainsbury’s Nectar Card or Tesco Club Card.

There are so many ways to show you care that don’t involve spending much money and won’t break the bank. For me, the thought really does count!

A gem on our doorstep

I often think that people love to spend a fortune jetting all over the world yet don’t take the time to explore what there is on their doorstep. We often get out and about in the local area and I think I know it well. However, this morning I found something wonderful to see five miles down the road!

We went for a walk in the village of Copford, not far from Colchester. We wandered down to the lovely old church and discovered some very old painted frescos on the walls inside. They are fabulous! It is a lovely church with a wooden frame and some gorgeous stained glass. The roof and walls were restored in the nineties. What a great find.

Outside there was a sea of daffodils, absolutely stunning. It was a very windy day but sunny and we had walk past Copford Hall and into the woods. I recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

We came home and went straight outside again to do a bit of pruning and tidying and to dig the second veggie patch. I worked up quite a sweat. Gardening is such good exercise and cheaper than the gym!

Keeping busy is stopping me worrying about my dad. My brother and sister took him to hospital today and they waited hours whilst they tried to find a bed for him. This makes me cross – it’s not as if they weren’t expecting him. He finally got a bed when they opened up a day centre as an extra ward. Here he is having his dinner. He won’t be able to eat after this as the op is tomorrow afternoon. 

I think the NHS is wonderful but gravely under funded at the moment. Let’s hope they do a good job and we get him home safe and sound. 

Back soon – have a great week.

A frugal day out

We had an impromptu day out yesterday to St Albans. Darling daughter 3 needed a lift to South Mimms services on the M25 to meet her friend so that they could drive together to Sheffield. They have gone to see an old school mate at university. 

Since we drove an hour to get there we thought we might as well make a day of it and head another 20 minutes into St Albans. It is a very interesting place, a Roman town like Colchester, where we live. 

It has a fabulous cathedral and a fantastic street market – absolutely huge! Honestly, it went on forever and sold practically everything. I wish we had a good market. Ours is better than it used to be, but is still pretty mediocre.

As I am still on a no spend month I didn’t buy anything and just browsed. I also avoided the charity shops – far too much temptation. We did pack some coffee and a picnic, but after walking round for a few hours we were starving and gave into some Pakistani street food – chicken tikka in a wrap. It was really filling and delicious so it did for dinner. 

We had a quick walk around Verulamium Park, but the weather wasn’t great so we didn’t see it at its best. I imagine it is rather lovely in the summer. 

The cathedral itself was stunning with some wonderful stained glass windows and ornate wooden and stone carvings everywhere. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

So, a pretty cheap day out. All it cost was the petrol, £4 to park, a donation to the cathedral and £6 each for dinner. I’m glad we went. I love moseying around new places. Anyone else got any interesting trips planned?

Shopping for a hobby?

I had to pop to town to pick up my new glasses yesterday. It was really busy. Lots of people apparently shopping for fun it seemed. I do not shop as a hobby. I used to! I remember I would tell myself I was ‘just window shopping’ and before I knew it I had spent £50 on clothes I didn’t need or books I might not get round to reading or expensive glossy magazines. (These are a killer for the money saver. They give you a vision of a impossibly perfect lifestyle. Your life will be complete if you spend money on the right home decor, clothes, beauty products, right? Actually no. They are one of the first things I knocked on the head when I decided to get my financial act together).

Anyway, I digress…these days many people shop as a leisure activity. They park, they shop, they coffee, they lunch – it can be a very expensive pastime. I sometimes fancy a spree but I rarely indulge as I don’t enjoy the shopping hangover: the dent in my bank balance, the strain on the credit cards and the worry about how to pay it all back. 

My idea of shopping heaven is a £10 note and a couple of hours at a boot sale on a sunny morning. I get more of a thrill from spending a pound buying a top second-hand than I would have if I had bought it new for £20 😄. I can get a couple of books I fancy, a DVD and some CDs for the car for the price of a fancy coffee in town.

Instead of buying lots of books to clog up my house I can borrow them from the library. If there is a book I would like to keep I can get it used – the internet makes it possible to locate practically anything second-hand.

If I want furniture you won’t find me hanging round a fancy showroom; I will be in the local charity shop or looking on Gumtree. 

Shopping isn’t a hobby if you are trying to save money. How about hiking? Walking is free! If you don’t fancy that you can download exercise classes of any description online for nothing. How about yoga? All you need is a good book (from the library) on the subject and a non-slip mat. You can learn almost anything on You Tube so the possibilities for finding a new hobby (knitting, crochet, painting, woodwork?) are endless. Just don’t take up something that involves you buying lots of fancy equipment before you begin!

There is nothing like coming home to a hot dinner!

On Sundays we very often get out for a good walk and this week was no exception. It has been so cold, but luckily it warmed up a bit and the wind died down. Mr S woke up with a headache so we decided a bit of sea air would do him good and headed off to Brightlingsea.

 It’s a pretty little place and worth a visit if you are ever in Essex. It has a nice shallow paddling area for small children in the summer and an actual lido – very bracing!! It being the middle of winter, we resisted the urge to dive into the icy waters. Instead, we did a nice circular walk along the sea wall, up to the church and then back into the town. It wasn’t too far as Mr S was still feeling a bit fragile. I think we did about three and a half miles.

 On days like this the slow cooker comes into its own. When I got up I made a big beef and mushroom stew. I hardly ever use a recipe for this kind of meal. I browned the meat with some onions and celery, then added carrots, a tin of tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, beef stock cubes, some herbs and a little water and chucked it all in. It smelled wonderful when we got home. All I had to do was make a big pile of mash to go with it – delish, and really easy. I made enough for Monday as well, feeding me, Mr S, his mum and my no 3 daughter. I stretched the beef with a lot of vegetables, but it was excellent value anyway from Lidl.

 I really must use my slow cooker more often – they are such a worthwhile investment and cost pennies to run.

I wasn’t surprised at how many people made positive comments on the Tightwad Gazette the other day. I really envy those who subscribed to the original newsletters. I wish I had known about them in the early nineties when I had my first house and my first child! I would have avoided so many mistakes.

I am still finding interesting new blogs and websites via Twitter. One I have just discovered is Montana Money Adventures. The link will take you to an article called Do the Unnecessarily Difficult Things, which I found fascinating. I tend to do everything in moderation so this approach would be challenging, yet made a lot of sense. Have a read and see what you think!
 

Blog fest!

I have been spending more time than usual on Twitter and reading blogs and have come across some really interesting ones. 

I have the old favourites I always go to (Ilona at Life After Money, Sue at Frugal in Suffolk, Jenny at Can’t Swing a Cat and Jane at Frugal Queen among them), but I am also currently enjoying the following:

A Frugal Family’s Blogspot
A Californian family’s journey towards financial independence.

Slummy Single Mummy
A wise and witty blog about pretty much everything, with some interesting finance stuff.

Ecothrifty Living
A lovely green blog that’s good for your health, wallet and the environment!

Much More With Less
A move from London to Suffolk and how they managed to save £9000 in 2016.

Lotty Earns

Money blogger of the year 2016. Lots of deals and written in a warm, light hearted way.

Penny Wise, Life Rich
Lots of great, cheap recipes and good advice.

There are so many interesting blogs these days you are never short of something to read. I veer towards those dealing with frugality and personal finance, as you might expect, but if I had more time I would read all sorts! 

Have you found any gems? Please share!

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!

Perfect Sunday 

I don’t normally let Christmas in this early, but I needed to go through all my decorations to take the spare ones into work and before I knew it we had put ours up!

I bought loads really cheaply at my favourite charity shop and the others I have had for years. It looks really cosy.

We had a lovely autumn walk today in the sunshine, walking five miles  from Colchester to Wivenhoe and back. If you haven’t walked the Wivenhoe trail I recommend it. When you arrive there is a great pub in the village called the Rose and Crown, by the estuary. Today we settled for a cup of tea in a little cafe before we headed back to Colchester. 

We now have roast pork in the oven which will be followed by apple and blackberry crumble made with foraged fruit for pud. Can Sundays get any better? 

Crochet crazy

I wish I could crochet! A friend at work taught me some basics recently but I have yet to find the time to sit and  paractice. I can knit, although I haven’t done it for years, but crochet always seems so much more interesting and creative. Now that it has become trendy there are so many beautiful things popping up in the internet, in magazines and in real life.  

When we were in Wales a few years ago someone had yarnbombed a while village. It looked amazing, with a crocheted old man looking down over the bridge, crochet bunting everywhere and random objects completely covered such as the phone box, benches and plant pots. The one above was the station sign.  It was great and made everyone smile.

A friend  put this on Facebook recently. I can’t credit it as I have no idea where it came from, but it’s fantastic! Totally impractical of course, but fun!

One day I will find the time and start making amazing things. In the meantime, what about you? Anyone crochet crazy?