Entertaining cheaply

We don’t go out much – it’s so expensive!! When we see friends we usually eat in. Tonight I have ‘the girls’ round. We do this every couple of months and take it in turns to cook.

I am trying to save as much money as I can for our holiday next month, so I won’t be going crazy with the expense. I am also at work all day so I won’t have a great deal of time!! On the menu we have butternut squash soup with crusty baguettes (made last night. The baguettes are the bake at home variety so I shall do those later); Jamie’s chicken tray bake (I make this a lot and it is reliably delicious and quick to prepare) with some sugar snap peas and broccoli; fruit salad and cream (I am still off the sugar).

I have a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge from my birthday and everyone will bring wine anyway. I also have some nibbles from Lidl to kick things off. OK, so it’s not Cordon Bleu, but it will be fun!!

I hope I’m not too bleary eyed as I have promised to drive my daughters to a boot sale on Saturday morning. I am doing well with my eBay sales, which all helps the holiday fund along.

Did anyone who is based in the UK watch ‘How to Live Mortgage Free’ on Channel 4 a couple of nights ago? I thought it was very interesting. There was a young lady who bought the shell of a boat and converted it into a house boat so that she could remain living in London – this cost her £33,000 in all, a chap who had purchased an old tin chapel with £50,000 cash from the sale of his previous home and a young family who had lived a super frugal existence for 8 years to pay their £240,000 odd mortgage off quickly, thus saving themselves around £200k in interest charges!!

I wish I had considered that paying off the mortgage early was even a thing when I was younger. I fell into the trap of thinking I had to move onwards and upwards, seeing each house as a step towards a bigger and better house and re-mortgaging many times to make home improvements. It was what everybody else was doing and it never occurred to me that there was a better way.  I will pay my current small mortgage off as soon as I can but I can’t help having a few regrets about my previous lack of financial education. Still, I am making up for it now!!

I really admired the creativity and determination of those featured and can’t wait for the next one.

 

No battle at Hastings

Thanks so much for all your recommendations yesterday on places to visit in and around Rye. I wish we had longer so that we could have done more. It has been lovely and we were blessed with two beautiful sunny days.

We had a huge breakfast in the hotel this morning – muesli, fruit and a full English. We knew we wouldn’t need any lunch! We made do with punnet of strawberries then a sandwich in the way home at tea time.

We drove to Camber Sands first. I was expecting it to be really pretty and scenic but, aside from the glorious sandy beach, it was disappointing. It seemed to consist of lots of tatty chalets and static caravans.

Hastings Pier yarn bombing

We moved onto Hastings, which was lovely. The new pier was wonderful and, even better, it had been yarn bombed! I always love a good yarn bombing 😀. We then walked into the old town and up to the castle, where we sat and munched our strawberries, looking out to sea. Glorious! 

We yarn bombed each other!


What a lovely town and a superb break. I am confused now as it feels like it should be Sunday evening instead of Thursday. Still, I only have one day to work and it’s the weekend!

We’ve got a ticket to Rye!

The point of living a frugal lifestyle to me, being  very careful with our money most of the time,  is to be able to afford the odd treat. We would love to travel more than time or money allows, but we do get out and about as often as we can.

Today is my birthday and Mr S treated me to a night in a beautiful hotel near Rye to celebrate. It’s not an area we know at all but it was recommended by my brother and his wife and we found an excellent deal online. It certainly seems very quaint and picturesque – full of cobble stones (hard to walk on!), pretty little shops and antiques warehouses. 


We had the most delicious meal at Webbe’s Fish Cafe. It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t crazily expensive either and the food was excellent. I rarely eat out – I resent paying big bucks for mediocre food, and prefer to eat at home, but today our meal was perfect.


The hotel has a spa, so we came back about six to have a swim, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna – well, we thought we would get our money’s worth! You often get excellent value with a mid week break and our luxury hotel cost about the same as a cheap B&B. 

Tomorrow we are going to look at Camber Sands and Hastings – a whistle stop tour! Let’s hope the sun shines 😀.

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?