Category Archives: Fun

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! 

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.

 

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?

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 😀.

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!