Category Archives: Money Saving

When is cheap a waste of money?

‘You get what you pay for’, so the saying goes. But is this always true? Does spending more guarantee better quality or are you wasting your cash? Will you live to regret buying cheaply?

When it comes to new furniture, I think it is likely. Cheap flat packed stuff rarely stands much family wear and tear. However, good quality second hand items are a whole different ball game. An old but solid wooden wardrobe can be painted to fit in with your decor, chairs can be cleaned or re-covered, and a sanded pine table can be a thing of joy to last and last. 

I frequently pick up designer dresses to sell on eBay and I have been shocked at just how shoddy some of these are. When you consider that they cost hundreds of pounds new they should be top quality.  I buy basic vests and t-shirts from cheap shops and market stalls sometimes but they don’t wash well or last long. I prefer second hand decent quality finds from eBay, charity shops and boot sales. I go for Marks and Spencer, Monsoon, Phase Eight and Laura Ashley if I can find them as they are well made with good fabrics that wash well.

With food you get what you pay for up to a point. I don’t like really cheap baked beans, but I’m happy with supermarket own brands. However, the vegetables I can buy on offer in Aldi or Lidl don’t taste any different to the more expensive ones in the bigger supermarkets. My taste buds aren’t sophisticated enough to to detect the difference between decent supermarket teabags and the premium brands. 

I have written many times about the racket that is the makeup and toiletry market. With the most expensive brands I really believe you are paying for the marketing and packaging. Sprinkle a bit of pseudo-science in an advert and some people will believe anything. Really cheap shampoo is usually a mistake, but again the supermarket brands are pretty good. 

It is always worth trying cheaper when you are on a budget but you don’t have to give up on quality.  What do you think? Is expensive always better?

Using it up to save money

My food shop was minimal last week. I haven’t really spent anything on groceries apart from £8 on some yellow sticker stuff I found in my local Co-op.  We seemed to have quite a lot of food and it makes me more creative when I have to use up what we have.

We used the fish cakes for tea on Saturday with some salad. They were delicious but I wouldn’t have paid the original price.  On Sunday we had the chicken pieces, roasted up with some of the carrots and lots of fresh veg that was hanging around plus half a tin of potatoes that needed eating. We had this one tray supper with the spinach and it was lovely!

The kiwis still aren’t ripe – I just can’t think why they were reduced at all! We have apples and oranges to use up anyway as well as frozen berries.

I am saving the whole chicken as we will have a roast over the Easter weekend. I will need to get some shopping before then but I do intend to go to the supermarket on Saturday evening to see if I can get some big reductions before Easter Sunday 😀.

So I  am saving money on my food bill by finding bargains, not wasting fresh food and using up what we have in the cupboards and freezers. How about you?

My Zero Waste Kitchen – book review

I have said before in this blog how much I dislike the pervading waste culture. We are a throw away society and no longer seem to value our possessions or how much they cost in financial and environmental terms. Easy come, easy go!

This also applies to food. I remember learning about wartime rationing at school. Food was scarce but nobody starved in the UK because nothing was wasted. Now we are guided more by use by and best before dates than commonsense and a lot of perfectly edible food is thrown away with barely a thought.

I am generally careful to avoid waste like this, but I am not perfect and could definitely try harder, so I was delighted to receive a copy of My Zero Waste Kitchen from Dorling Kindersley.

It is a prettily designed, small hardback book and good value at £6.99 I think. The advice given is clear and simple, although probably aimed more for those who have just begun to think about reducing their food waste rather than the seasoned waste free cook.

I like it though – there are a lot of useful tips that I hadn’t come across before, such as the page on eggs. Did you know you could use crushed eggshells as a stain remover or as a calcium supplement? Or that you could revive stale cake by putting it overnight in an airtight container with a slice of bread?

Why not put apple cores and kiwi skins in your smoothie? I am sure they would taste just as nice and add nutrition. I was less convinced about adding banana skins, however, as I think they would be too bitter.

If you want to get maximum value from your lettuce, you can cut off the end and root it in water to start a whole new plant. I have never tried this and I am sceptical, but might give it a go.

The recipes in the book look interesting. I like how a base recipe is presented such as hummus or flapjacks alongside ideas for foods you could add to save wasting them. I will definitely be trying the Waste-not want-not savoury muffins, as they look yummy.

If you want some fresh ideas on how to begin to reduce your family’s food waste, or you want to teach your children more about the subject, then this book will be a great place to begin.

If you decide to buy this book using the link below, I will receive a small commission from Amazon.

How boot sales can help you reach your savings goals

Boot sales! You got to love them on a beautiful sunny morning. My usual one, at Ardleigh in Colchester, was absolutely packed with bargain hunters today. I queued for 45 minutes to get in. That’s a first. My daughter was selling and had arrived at 6.30,  but she queued just the same. 

Hannah and Bex as glamorous sellers


If you are on a budget, boot sales  are worth getting up early for. I know people who never go to them. Maybe they imagine them as one huge jumble sale. It’s true, they can be a bit like that but, amongst the junk, there are new and nearly new bargains to help every family stretch their money. Here’s how.

1) New parents: babies don’t care if their clothes and equipment aren’t new. They grow too quickly for their clothes to get worn out. Today I saw an almost new travel cot for £20, a baby bath for £1 and a steriliser for £3 and I wasn’t even looking at baby stuff!

2) Kids: although I would say it is generally more heavily used, it is possible to pick up some great children’s clothes and shoes for pennies. Toys, books and bikes were all available in quantity this morning. 

3) First homers: if you already have the cost of rent or a mortgage to worry about, you possibly don’t have the means to kit your abode out from new. You can get kitchen equipment, bedding, furniture, cushions, pictures, curtains and lots more. Of course, you don’t have to be a first home buyer or new tenant to benefit from the cheap purchase of other folks’ cast offs!

4) Students going to university: similarly you can easily kit out a student from a boot sale. Pots, pans, cookery books, bedding can all be had at a fraction of the price of new items.

5) DIYers: there are always plenty of decent tools on offer from some of the traders, as well as new pots of paint and items such as paintbrushes.

6) Foodies: in recent years boot sales have started to attract more traditional market stalls, selling great value fruit and veg, sweets, cakes and drinks just out of their best before dates as well as fresh meat. You can also pick up household items such as loo roll and household cleaners.

7) Gardeners: I have bought some excellent plants at boot sales over the years – much cheaper than garden centre prices. The professional sellers offer good quality products. The sales are also good for garden tools.

Boot sale haul


8) eBayers: if, like me, you try to make a little extra cash on eBay, then boot sales offer the best place for cheap stock. You will get sellers who are wildly optimistic when pricing their items but many who under charge. I watch out for those who look as if they have had a proper clear out and just want rid. I hit gold today; a lady selling brand new clothes with the tags still on. I asked how much she wanted for a new Phase Eight dress priced at £120 and she said £3!!!! When I had picked myself up off the floor I bought that along with a gorgeous Dorothy Perkins dress and two Tops for £10 – all new with their labels intact. Almost £200 worth! There are also antiques and collectibles for those who have a good eye – it is worth doing some research.

9) Fashionistas: as above. If you need clothes for home or work you can get a lot for your money. You can also find decent costume jewellery, makeup and toiletries.

10) Families searching for fun: DVDs, computer games, board games, bikes, garden swings and trampolines, I have seen them all. If you give the kids a strict budget it can be a fun morning out as well as teaching them the value of money and how to get the most from their cash. Avoid the bouncy castles if you can or they will spend their cash in five minutes flat…

10) Sellers: finally, if you need to make some money whilst clearing your junk, boot sales are perfect!

So… Easter is coming up and there will be boot sales aplenty. If you have never been this is the time to try!

My frugal bookshelf: Delia Smith’s Frugal Food

If anyone ever doubted the awesomeness that is Saint Delia (as I call her), think again. This book is a classic with good reason.

First published in 1976, At a time of inflation, rising prices and world food shortages. Sound familiar? Those problems persist,  but add to those our current issues around austerity, benefits cuts and  the uncertainty around Brexit and you realise that hard times and financial pressures are an increasingly common reality for many people.

This book, with its reliably cheap and tasty recipes, is still relevant. It was actually republished in a glossier format in 2008 but I have a copy of the original, with yellow pages and spillages to testify to its regular use.

There are some recipes I wouldn’t class as frugal. I think meat and fish may have been cheaper when the book was written so I don’t cook lamb or beef much. However, there are lots of recipes for those on a budget.  My favourites include pork sausages with cider sauce, spaghetti with tuna and olives, bean and lentil chilli, souffle’d jacket potatoes and liver casserole. There are some great puddings too. Classics like bread pudding and spotted dick alongside blackberry cheesecake for the forager.

You can still pick up various versions of this book secondhand, but if you use my link to Amazon to make a purchase I will receive a small commission.

Frugal achievements 

Although March wasn’t a no spend month as January and February were, it was a low spend period. I am forever trying to make my money go further in many small ways. There is nothing life changing in this list, but every little helps! Here are some of my steps towards frugality for March:

Listed and sold several items on eBay

Took cuttings from our unusual multicoloured wallflowers – free plants!

Made a cake as a gift for my parents

Saved some old wine by freezing it in ice cube trays for cooking

Made chicken stock from old carcasses.

Reduced the amount of sachet food I give the cats and increased their dry food (cheaper and better for their teeth).

Took advantage of the Aldi super six offers to buy butternut squashes for soup at 49p each. This should cover our work lunches.

Sowed tomato seeds for the greenhouse. These were free Heinz seeds my daughter picked up! Should be interesting.

Sowed courgettes and broadbeans.

Purchased a lovely pair of curtains for our upcoming redecoration of the lounge. These were from eBay in great used condition for £20.

I think I must also have saved money over the course of the month by not eating sugar. This was much easier than I anticipated. I broke the sugar fast with a slice of lemon drizzle cake yesterday. However, I still intend to keep my consumption of refined sugar very low. I feel better for it!

It is a glorious day here and we have been using the green gym in the garden, i.e. digging and weeding! So I am saving more money and getting my exercise for free! Have a great week.

How to save money on clothes

I wasn’t surprised to read in Good Housekeeping that the average UK woman spends around £600 a year on clothes. I know quite a few who spend a lot more than that! I was quite shocked to find in the same article that women’s wardrobes also contain around £300 of clothes that never get worn. I addressed this in my Great Wardrobe Challenge post a few months back. 

I don’t spend anything like this amount. Last year the items  I purchased new were as follows:

 One pair of leather boots, reduced from £60 to £14.40.

Several vests in assorted colours from Primark, about £15.

3 long sleeved black tops, also from Primark, about £12.

A Wallis top, my one extravagance, bought with a 20% discount for £25.

One pair of black suede loafers, £20.

Some socks and underwear, around £25.

Mr S also  bought me a pair of Next jeans as part of my Christmas present, but I won’t count those towards my total.

A blue lace blouse from eBay, £6. 

I honestly can’t remember buying anything else new. I did make several second-hand purchases, including some tops, skirts, a cardigan, shoes and more jeans from charity shops and boot sales. I would estimate I spent about £40 on these, so a grand total of £111.40. I never look like a tramp – I’m sure my friends would tell me if I did 😀. If you need to save money you can easily do so by hitting the boot sales – the time to do this in the UK  is right now! Boot sale season is underway.

The article also said that families are spending more than ever before on their children’s clothes: an average annual figure of almost £800 per child! I was fortunate in that mine were more than happy to wear used clothes and hand me downs, and never demanded expensive designer brands. Now that they are all independent they all buy far too many clothes in my view, but are still savvy bargain hunters!

We also all sell items we no longer use on eBay if they are in good condition.

If you are trying to budget and save money, first take a long look at what you have. If you don’t wear it, sell or donate it. Then consider what you actually need. Don’t buy stuff just for the sake of it, even if it is secondhand. Consider quality used items of clothing rather than new. If you have to buy new, take advantage of the sales. 

It is also worth checking eBay for new items. I wanted a Zara coat a few years ago. It was £120 in the shop but I found  exactly the same one for £70 brand new. The same with some leather Hotter boots. £135 in the catalogue: I got mine for £50 online!

Finally, look after your clothes and footwear. I keep mine for years. I don’t launder them every time I wear them unless they are actually dirty as they diminish with each wash, and I keep my shoes and boots clean and polished. 

How much do you spend? How do you save money on clothing?

Not buying it: Fifteen things I don’t spend my cash on

I’m frugal, not a cheapskate, but there are some things I just won’t spend my money on any more. I don’t miss them! Perhaps I will relax and shell out for some of the goods and services on this list in the future, but at the moment I am happy to do without and I don’t have any sense of deprivation. 

1. Plug in air fresheners

Yuck! Indoor air pollution. Just open a window.

2. A tumble dryer

I don’t have a tumble dryer! I line dry everything outside in the summer. Winter in the uk can prove trickier for drying laundry, so I use a dehumidifier or a heated airer if I need to. Both are much cheaper to run than a dryer.

3. A cleaner

When I got married years ago and had more money than sense, I employed a cleaner for a few hours each week. I wish I had done my own cleaning and put the money in a high interest savings account!

4. A gardener

I love doing the garden. Fresh air and exercise – you can’t beat it for stress relief.

5. A car wash

It really only takes 15 minutes to wash my little car so I save myself a tenner.

6. Hair colouring

I always do it myself. I invested in a little pot and brush and mix up half a pack of dye at a time. It costs about £2.50 tops.

7. Newspapers and magazines

You can get them online. I do beg old ones from work colleagues to line the cat litter trays though.

8. Branded goods (unless they are second hand)

I can’t afford to pay for a marketing campaign. Designer clothes really don’t appear to be better quality much of the time.

9. Salon beauty treatments

I go for a DIY approach. I don’t pay to get my nails done. I am a gardener so what would be the point?

10. Gym membership

I have done this in the past but now I just walk, do yoga and dig the veggie patch.

11. Painting and decorating

We have learned some skills over the years and Mr S is particularly handy. However, if I had lots of extra cash….

12. New furniture

I have purchased used items almost exclusively for many years. You can get quality items this way at a fraction of their purchase price new.

13. Expensive moisturisers

I always use one as I have dry skin, but I haven’t found any difference between my £2 pot from Aldi and the expensive stuff they sell in department stores.

14. Furniture polish

I use a mix of white vinegar and water, which does the job very effectively without nasty chemicals.

15. Pricey greetings cards

I am often stunned at the price of birthday cards, for example. £4 for a card that will end up in the recycling in a few days?? I have been known to make my own Moonpig type affair using print outs of photos, but when I don’t have time I pick them up in bulk from stores such as Home Bargains for 29p to 99p a card.

What do you refuse to buy?

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!

Happy NOT to be in vogue

I am just having a little laugh idly reading an old copy of Vogue someone left in the break room at work. It is a ‘more dash than cash’ special issue. Hidden amongst the pages and pages of adverts for designer handbags, jewellery, clothes and makeup is an article on DIY couture, in which designers make dresses out of cling film, latex gloves (‘When layered up, the gloves look like silk’) or cotton wool balls. I must add this to my Fifty Ways to Save Money Now article 😀😀.

They also suggest ways to customise some clothes that look more likely to save money, as long as you don’t spend £125 on a denim jacket to perform this transformation on, as they did. There are other gems of frugal wisdom like the suggestion that spending £50 on a designer headband can save money on blow dries, how to update last season’s dress by spending £240 on earrings, shoes and a clutch bag, or buying a £27 bottle of foundation as it contains an anti aging serum so you won’t have to buy one separately. The most confounding piece of advice was that ‘lipsticks are the new it-bags, so ensure yours has a big, prominent designer logo’. Uh?

No wonder people are in trouble with money! This is why I always advise people who are trying to save cash or pay off debts to avoid glossy magazines. They are trying to sell you a lifestyle and, unless you are on the big bucks, it is simply not realistic or achievable. I would add ‘or desirable’ but this magazine is clearly not aimed at me, so what do I know? It is a different and totally alien world to me.

I can laugh as I am not taken in, but I worry for those who are. What about you? Are you a fan of glossy magazines?