Category Archives: Cheap days out

Need to save money? How about a no spend week?

no spend week

Beautiful Wrabness

Yesterday kicked off our latest no spend week. Earlier in the year we did a couple of no spend months. We only spent money on essentials such as food and petrol (plus the usual household bills, of course).

As well as being helpful for the bank balance, not buying anything is strangely liberating. Setting myself strict limits on what I can purchase takes away any temptations! There are no internal debates on whether I can afford something, I am just not buying it because I am on a no spend period. I get on with enjoying stuff that is free and using what I already have.

Why we need a no spend week

no spend week

Life’s a beach

As we have had a lot of expense this month,  a no spend week is a good idea and will take us up to pay day without going overdrawn or dipping into the reserves. 

The rules are the same as for no spend months.  We will only spend money on essentials.  Next week we shouldn’t need to spend anything at all, not even on food. We have plenty in the cupboards that needs to be used so it will be an eat from the larder week. We have milk, bread, cat food, tea bags and petrol, as well as plenty of food in the fridge and freezer.

A day out for free to kick off no spend week

no spend week

Mr S takes a dip

Yesterday we had a free day out in the sunshine, bar the cost of the petrol. We had to drop my daughter at a friend’s in Mistley for a barbecue, so we drove across to Wrabness after for a walk on the beach and a swim. The water was so calm, clear and warm, we could have been on the Mediterranean somewhere.  The beach huts at Wrabness are rather luxurious – more like chalets than beach huts really and it looks as if people are allowed to sleep in them. I bet they cost an absolute fortune! But we took some drinks and snacks and spent no money at all. Days out don’t need to cost an arm and a leg, especially when the weather is so hot. We are very lucky to have so many beautiful coastal areas within half an hour’s drive.

 

Is anyone else on a no spend week (or month)? Do you do regular no spend days? How do you motivate yourself and what do you do to stop yourself spending?

The best garden in Suffolk? A trip to Helmingham Hall 

I’m not a gardening expert but I  know what I like. Of all the gardens I have visited – and there have been many – I like Helmingham Hall Gardens in Suffolk the best!

Everything in the garden is rosie

This was our second visit. When we went before, the spring bulbs were at their best and Helmingham Hall was ablaze with bright tulips and daffodils. Just a month on, the roses and cottage garden flowers are starting to take over, with stunning shapes and colours.


The vegetable gardens are also doing well.  Huge, perfect lettuces with no sign of slug damage were in the cold frames and there were broad beans ready to eat. The microclimate created by the ancient walls in this part of the garden means that figs and peaches can already be seen and it looks as if they will provide a bumper crop.

We met the gardener

Where else can you find an actual member of the aristocracy in the garden doing the weeding and chatting to the visitors except at Helmingham Hall? The Tollemache family have had the house and garden since the 1400s. Both times we have visited, the current Lady Tollemache has been working alone in the garden. She is a Chelsea gold medal winner and is clearly passionate about her gardens. We had a chat about what a nightmare bindweed is! Lovely lady.

I love that she literally gets her hands dirty and is not at all grand. We look forward to visiting for their Autumn Plant Fair on 18th September, although we might be tempted along before then.

I just wish I could have a nose inside the splendid moated mansion. Sadly, this isn’t open to the public.

If you are in the area, I urge you to visit Helmingham Hall Gardens. I can’t recommend this fabulous garden highly enough! More information and opening times can be found here.

Free and frugal ways to spend a bank holiday

No money? Wondering what to do this fine bank holiday weekend? How about these ideas to keep you and the family entertained?

Get the April issue of Gardener’s World magazine. They have a 2 for 1 offer for over 400 gardens around the uk. Plus you have a great magazine to read when you get home😀.

Go to the park and play on the swings (preferably take a child with you, lol), or take a football or cricket bat.

Play rounders! I have excellent memories of family holidays doing this when I was young.

Go for a walk at a fast pace and you won’t need to bother with the gym. Do it with a buggy and you are resistance training!

Check your local museums and art galleries – some will be free.

Pack up a picnic and head for the hills. If we have a day out anywhere, Mr Shoestring and I always take a flask and sandwiches – whatever the weather. It saves so much money and also means no queuing in crowded cafes for over-priced food of variable quality.

Check the country parks in your area. In Essex we are blessed with some great open spaces, ideal for a family walk: www.visitparks.co.uk. It’s easy to find where yours are at your local Tourist Information Centre.

Go find a bluebell wood. This is a good time to go! You can find some listed on the Woodland Trust website here.

Check out your local wildlife trust. They have all kinds of activities going on, from a family pond dip to an twilight bat or owl walk.

Go to the garden centre. We have several locally that have so much to see for free, and the kids love their displays. However, don’t be drawn in to the café, and don’t buy anything unless you need it and it is a good price.

Visit your relatives and friends. They are an under-rated and often under-valued form of entertainment and support.

Find a boot sale and get yourself some bargains.

There are lots more family ideas at dayoutwiththekids.com as well as great offers and deals at  Moneysavingexpert.com.

We will be meandering around a garden I should think. Maybe see you there! 

A thrifty bank holiday weekend

Meeting a friend at Abberton Reservoir


What a lovely long weekend! We have been non-stop busy here at Shoestring Cottage, mainly in the garden, but I have enjoyed every minute.

Our neighbour chatting over the fence said they weren’t going anywhere as everything cost so much to do. We suggested a walk along the coast, which we do regularly – we are only half an hour away. He said even that would cost £20 by the time they had stopped for coffee and cake. Not the way we do it! A flask and a home made picnic costs just a few pounds to make. You can spend a lot on a day out, but you don’t have to if you can’t afford it – there is loads of free stuff to do!

Starting to look tidier …


In fact, we didn’t choose a coastal walk but had one around the local wildlife trust reserve yesterday and a five mile one today from the house to our beautiful local cemetery and back.

I also hit the boot sale again this morning and found more fantastic bargains for resale on eBay. I am still frequently amazed at what people are selling. Today I discovered a lady selling her spendthrift daughter’s clothes. Everything was £2, even a brand new and beautiful Top Shop dress and skirt, both with tags still attached, a fabulous floral Zara summer skirt and top and a gorgeous Warehouse dress in perfect condition.  I got loads of stuff so spent a few hours washing and listing some and will finish the others after work in the week.

Who needs chocolate?


We had a family roast dinner yesterday with two of the three daughters here. As I am avoiding sugar we had a fruit salad for dessert, which we all enjoyed as much as a chocolate cake 😀.

It’s great to feel we are finally on top of the garden – or getting there anyway. It is a lot of work but so nice to get outside for some fresh air and exercise. 

We are completing our long weekend with a couple of glasses of wine watching the final episode of Broadchurch – what a  series! Who needs the cinema?

My weekend cost very little; in fact the money I spent at the boot sale should be an investment and make me a bit extra. A thrifty weekend in all – how was yours?

The urge to wander

We had a lovely short break away on the south coast. There are still so many places in the UK to explore! On beautiful sunny days such as we had why would anyone feel deprived if they can find the cash for a couple of days at the English seaside instead of the Maldives 😀?

Seriously, I love to travel. There are many places I wish I could afford to go to but there are just as many fabulous areas in the UK that we can easily get to. We need to start a serious savings plan to buy the camper van we have always wanted, then there will be no stopping us. If we are going to manage that we must be even more frugal than usual!

I came back to find I had been sent a copy of Zero Waste Kitchen to review for my frugal bookshelf. It looks right up my street. I hate waste and I think it could give me good ideas for avoiding it and save money at the same time.

The review will follow as soon as o get the chance. The forecast for this weekend is excellent and I want to spend some more time out in the garden. I also want to take a trip to the garden centre as I have some vouchers from my birthday. 

But first the cleaning, then we are meeting up with some of Mr S’s family for lunch. It will be a busy weekend for me! How about you?

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.