Cheap and easy vegetarian

Ooh, should I call myself a ‘cheap and easy vegetarian’? Sounds dodgy!

Cheap and easy vegetarianNow that I have given up meat and gone back to being a veggie, I have been digging out some of my old vegetarian cookbook favourites. They are well thumbed as I never stopped using them. Even when I was eating meat we always had vegetarian food twice a week.

Going back to the greats

Many of my vegetarian cookbooks are practically vintage. The one that provoked the title of this post was Cheap and Easy by Rose Elliot. She was THE veggie food writer when I first gave up meat  in the late seventies. This one appeared in 1988.

I was having a browse through it last night with my vegan lodger. There are many very good recipes in there which, as the title of the book suggests, are cheap and easy vegetarian food and  quite a few vegan recipes as well.

Some old favourites

Some of the corners of the pages are turned over where years ago I marked dishes that looked particularly interesting. I am going to give some of these old recipes a try.

Glamorgan ‘sausages’, made with breadcrumbs, cheese, onions and lots of herbs appear promising and I remember eating lentils and mushrooms au gratin a lot (we called it lentil slop, but it was really delicious!). Vegetable rice with roasted nuts is a kind of veggie paella and easy nut burgers will be worth making in batches for the freezer.

Rose Elliot on the Internet

Finding this old book made me wonder what happened to Rose Elliot. I was delighted to discover that she is still going strong and has her own website.

She still sells lots of books but Cheap and Easy seems to be unavailable there, along with another  favourite, Not Just a Load of Old Lentils (which I have lost). However, she does have a promising looking collection in the Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian . If I am lucky enough to get vouchers for Christmas I am going to buy it!

In the meantime, I had a look on Amazon and found Not Just a Load of Old Lentils, so bought it for a mere £3 including postage. Bargain! If you fancy it, Cheap and Easy: Essential vegetarian collection is on there too from 1p plus postage.

I am really happy to have rediscovered this great writer. Her books will help me to be a cheap and easy vegetarian on a budget.

Does anyone else have recommendations for interesting vegetarian food writers?

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. If you link through and purchase an item it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission.

Christmas bargain hunting – now is the time!

Christmas bargain huntingHow is your Christmas bargain hunting going? I am almost there! Hardest to buy for is always Mr Shoestring. He can rarely think of any ideas to give me.

I have cracked it!

I have been looking on BuyaGift.com* and  have cracked Mr S’s present! What I bought is top secret, though, as he reads my blog 😀. Suffice to say I am very confident he will like it and it was an absolute bargain!

If you have someone really tricky to buy for, BuyaGift.com does a good range of experiences such as spa days and cream teas.

We had a spa day recently and it was blissful. We also had three cream teas in close succession, using up Mr S’s birthday vouchers. This explains why my jeans are feeling a little tight at the moment!

Aldi shopper

I have been doing a lot of Christmas bargain hunting in Aldi. They have such a great selection of food and drink for a special occasion.

I even found gluten free mince pies in there this week so snapped those up in case my coeliac friend pops on for a cup of tea. 

Aldi do a brilliant range of gift items such as slippers, books, PJs, chocolates, etc. They are so good if you have a really small budget for Christmas.

Christmas bargain hunting online

I have done a lot of shopping on Amazon.co.uk too, including some things from my eco friendly Christmas presents guide here.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy going to the town centre and physically choosing presents. There are two reasons why I don’t do this much. One is lack of time. It is easy and convenient to shop on my phone in my lunch break, for example.

The other is that I like to ask people what they want rather than waste money. They nearly always tespond with a couple of links to websites!

I will go into the town centre at the weekend as I need to do a few jobs in person. It will give me the opportunity to see the lights and do a little browsing.  I do like the idea of supporting my local shops. It’s just that life gets in the way!

How is your christmas bargain hunting going?

*This post contains my affiliate link. If you click through and make a purchase it won’t cost you anything and I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Setting goals (and slacking a bit) 

Setting goalsSo, here we are at the end of October already. Time to reflect on what we have achieved here at Shoestring Cottage. Except… I can’t review October’s goals since I forgot to set any! I can review my September targets and look at setting goals for November though 😀.

Reviewing September’s goals

In September my goal setting included uploading my new blog logo (done). Mr S designed it and I think it looks great!

I also re-painted  the lodger’s room, which looks much cleaner and brighter as a result.

The plan for the garden was to tidy up, weed all of the beds and dig over the veg patch. We did a bit but weekends have been so busy there is still much to do. I plan to spend my day off out there this week.

I had intended to end my Virgin TV and broadband package and perhaps replace with a Freeview box. In the end I decided to reduce the package as much as possible and go for a slightly slower broadband speed. This saved £38 a month and I really haven’t noticed a difference in internet speed.

Setting goals for November

So what will November bring?

Obviously, Christmas is fast approaching so I need to get the Christmas shopping under way. I have bought a couple of things and have money set aside but I need to get going properly. One of my goals for this month is to buy and wrap at least 50% of my presents. There are loads of Christmas cards in a bag on the wardrobe too. I need to sort those out and start to write some.

I intend to do some de-cluttering as well in our bedroom as a prelude to moving the furniture round. I love a good de-clutter. It is so therapeutic. Finding the time is always an issue, though, but I will get there.

As ever, I have stuff to list on eBay – a couple of bin bags full, in fact. I will try to do a few each evening.  The more I list the more I sell!

That feels like enough at the moment. What about you? Are you setting goals for November?

Aiming for frugal health and fitness

I have felt my fitness levels falling over the past few years. With a busy life and a desk bound job it is sometimes hard to find the motivation and energy for a lot of exercise. I do practise yoga but I could do with exercising a lot more.

A new leaf

So today I have turned over a new leaf and am resolved to get fit again! I don’t want to spend money on a gym membership at the moment so it will be DIY exercise and frugal health and fitness at Shoestring Cottage.

Running is no good for me (got dodgy knees) so I have decided to do workouts at home. I started with this one in Women’s Health. The press ups nearly killed me so I clearly have some work to do. I also used the weights I bought in Aldi in the new year to tone my arms.

Some yoga stretches topped it off and I felt great after. I am going to repeat this workout three or four times a week.

I went for a 20 minute brisk walk at lunchtime and will repeat this three times a week as well.

Healthy eating

In addition I am cutting the carbs and eating really healthily. Today I ate porridge with fruit for breakfast, an egg salad with vegetable soup for lunch and fish with a vegetable stir fry for dinner. I am eating whatever I like as long as it is healthy so have also snacked on nuts, yogurt and fruit. None of these foods are very expensive and easily fit into my frugal health and fitness regime.

I have found some inspiration on Instagram from @healthybyfifty (pictured). She is a 47 year old super fit wonder woman. The workouts she does would finish me off I think! Still, if she can do what she does I am sure I can go a long way to improving my fitness. Perhaps I will aim to do this in a slightly less dramatic way. One of the things I like about her is that she exercises in her back yard with minimal equipment, rather than a fancy gym. She wasn’t overweight to begin with, but you can see the cellulite has melted away and her muscle definition has improved hugely. I will probably never be so determined  to be super fit as she is, but I will keep an eye on her anyway when I need some motivation.

What do you do to stay fit and healthy? Can you get fit without spending a fortune and what are your tips for frugal health and fitness?

Right on the money: Sensible advice to save you cash

right on the moneyI have been watching an excellent TV programme In the mornings recently called Right on the Money. It is usually on during the day when I am at work but seems to be repeated the following day at 6.30am on BBC2. I watch it whilst I am getting ready for work!

I have just discovered this but found it features really sensible advice and information for those who are looking for ways to save money.  Sometimes I find such programmes are rather patronising and aimed at people so clueless there is nothing to learn if you are already pretty careful with your finances. Right on the Money is different and interesting, with really original content.

So far this week I have discovered the following:

Property guardianship

You can save huge amounts of money on rent if you become a property guardian. This involves paying a reduced rent to live in a disused building in return for some maintenance duties. The downside is that you only get one month’s notice of your landlord wants the property back. Not a solution for families but nevertheless such a great idea!

Nocturnal shopping

There is something known as the ‘vampire economy’. There are a whole host of nocturnal Internet shoppers who relax by spending their time and cash on the sofa or in bed buying stuff. I know a lot of people shop for leisure in town or at the mall at the weekend but hadn’t appreciated this happened online so much. I tend to buy things because I need them, not for fun. I don’t have enough spare cash for that to be a hobby!

Beware contactless spending

It is very easy to spend a lot of money using contactless payments. A coffee, here, a magazine there, a music download…they can soon add up. Contactless is easy and convenient, but because it doesn’t feel as if you are spending real money it can be hard to track.

Young entrepreneurs

There are many kids out there earning excellent money running their own businesses. There is 15 year old Harvey, who started a business designing and selling tax disc reminders. He invested his profits in land to create a campsite but ended up selling it for millions to a developer! Fourteen year old Angel sells animal fashion accessories that she makes herself and owns two shops. Then there is 13 year old Henry, who writes books and designs a range of children’s products based on those. Amazing and totally inspiring! They did make me feel a bit of a failure though. Ho hum.

Right on the Money!

It really is a great programme and worth watching on catch up of you can. Even us seasoned money savers can learn something. If you can’t watch Right on the Money, check out the website for loads of hints and tips on saving your dosh!

Good news and bad: SHOMO Awards and bye bye lodger

We are back in Essex after our wonderful week in Wales. I was really pleased to hear that our hosts, Tom and Liza, had received some emails from readers of this blog expressing an interest in staying there. It is the most peaceful place ever! If you are interested in an eco friendly break in a beautiful location (at a very good price), more information is available here. We hope to return next year.

We packed a lot in, whilst leaving lots of time for reading books and resting. Highlights were walking the coastal path at Aberdovey, The RSPB South Stack reserve at Holyhead, a stopover in Bridgenorth and some fantastic charity shop bargain hunting. What a lovely week we had.

Bad news: the lodger is leaving

As well as many, many courgettes, cucumbers and runner beans, we came back to some sad news. Our lodger has a new job and will be relocating. She has been a great lodger and is now good friends with my daughters, so we shall really miss her.  As they all socialise I expect we will still see her from time to time.

This is not good news for the bank balance as we rely on the income. We hope to get a replacement in as soon as possible. I will be getting the advert back up on spareroom.com this week.

Great news: I am a SHOMO awards finalist!

Whilst I was away I learned that my blog has made the shortlist for the SHOMO Awards best frugal and thrift blog. I am really pleased! The SHOMO Awards celebrate and recognise the best UK money blogs. In my category I am up against such exalted company as Frugal Queen (my heroine), my friend Faith Archer with her beautiful Much More With Less blog, Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family (fab recipes and brilliant money saving ideas), Zoe at Ecothrifty, which I love – right up my street, and the amazing Emma Drew – originally of From Aldi to Harrods fame. I love her You Tube videos.

I can’t wait to meet all of them at the awards ceremony in London at the end of September. In the meantime, there is also a People’s Choice award, where you can vote for any of the 70 blogs nominated from 1st August.  I will remind you when this opens .

All of the categories and nominees can be found here.

Staying chilled

I need to keep my post holiday sense of relaxation going. No yoga on the grass in the Welsh countryside, but I will open the window wide and get my mat out in the lounge.

Still – I have a lot to do! I need to do a little shopping for the week, lots of laundry, list some of my charity shop bargains on eBay and perhaps do a little gardening. Luckily darling daughter has left the house clean and tidy so I don’t need to worry about that.

I hope you are having a relaxing Sunday. Back soon with some post holiday money saving ideas.

 

How to find the best boot sale bargains

I had a mixed experience looking for boot sale bargains yesterday. We went to two. The first was rubbish. Hardly any stalls and those that were there were mostly traders, selling old tools and out of date food.

Boot sale bargains

Boot sale bargains

 

We moved on quickly to the next, another small Saturday one. We often find boot sale bargains here and today was no exception. It is possible to buy really decent stuff at a Saturday or mid week boot sale, but Sundays or bank holidays are best. They tend to be much bigger, with more buyers and sellers.

I am trying my best to make a bit of extra money this month and my best chance is by selling on eBay. So I needed more stock. But how do you find the best boot sale bargains?

Find the real boot salers

I tend to look out for the real boot salers rather than the traders; those who have had a good clear out and just want rid. This is where you will find the best boot sale bargains! These tend to fall into two camps. The super keenies who arrive with the dealers at 6 am and those who turn up at 8 or after looking a bit confused and dishevelled.

You can tell the real boot salers straight away. They will be selling a true mix of goods rather than specialising in one thing, as the traders tend to.

Get there early

I do not join the greedy dealers who try to root through people’s bags as they are setting up. This is just rude! However, it pays to try to arrive early. You can get a good look at the early risers things and by the time you get through those the stragglers have set up too.

Identify the right kind of seller

Because my interest is mostly in ladies’ clothing I tend to watch out for younger female sellers. They often buy stuff they never wear and get bored with clothes quickly so I can get brand new or barely worn items from them. However, husband’s selling their wives things are good too. They can be clueless on price and often sell everything cheaply for the same amount, even if is is designer with the tags still on!

If I find a genuine person having a good clearout of their clothes it’s not unusual for me to spend a lot of time and money in one place.  Yesterday I spotted a lady with a stall full of great Marks and Spencer’s clothes, many still with tags. I bought 6 things for £20. The total value from the shop would have been £180 plus! I will get these listed and on eBay as soon as I can.

You will soon find the type of person to watch out for if you are interested in, say, children’s stuff or computer games.

Cheap household items

The traders stalls are worth a look for some items. You can find some well priced healthy plants, for example. Toiletries, cleaning products, bin liners, etc are also good value. Fruit and veg can also be worth a look, but with so much fresh produce in the garden now I didn’t bother.

Are you on the look out for boot sale bargains either for yourself or to resell at a profit? What are your best buys and your tips for finding them?

No spend week update – how was yours?

Broadstairs

On the beach at Broadstairs

No spend week hangover

We came to the end of our no spend week yesterday. I don’t find it difficult generally, especially when I am at work,  as there is little temptation. It really helps my bank balance. You don’t always spot the steady drip, drip of money out of your purse, even when you think you are being quite frugal!

Doing a no spend week or month tends to carry over. I find I get out of the habit of spending money. I do need to go and buy new smart sandals at some point. They fell apart over the weekend. I had to hold them on my foot with a hair band I found on the floor and hobble home! I have my walking sandals, which will do until I get round to it.

What the Dickens?

No spend week

Celebrating the end of no spend week!

We drove to Broadstairs on Friday night to pick up my parents and aunt. They had the most fabulous sunny week there and said they could have been abroad. We stayed in their rented house overnight and came back to Essex after lunch on Saturday.

It seems a rather nice town with a gorgeous sandy beach. They were fortunate in being there for the annual Dickens festival. They hadn’t planned this and were initially a bit confused that the local folk were wandering round in period dress!

We only had a few hours for a wander but it is a lovely bit of coast line with an interesting history (as well as the Dickens connection, it is known as Viking Bay). Broadstairs could be one to revisit I think.

Lunch ‘out’

My parents treated us to lunch to thank us for collecting them. I am obviously their frugal daughter though, as lunch out meant pie or fish and chips on a bench overlooking the sea! We retreated to the car when the weather broke and it started to rain. Typical English seaside experience.

Both my mum and dad had big operations earlier in the year, within two weeks of each other. My mum had a hip replacement and dad had a stent fitted on his aortic aneurism. It was all rather stressful and worrying at the time so it is nice to see them up and about now. Even though they don’t drive long distances as they used to, they don’t let anything get in the way of living their lives to the full.

Frugal soup

I rescued a chicken carcass with a ton of meat on it from my lodger in the week. She was going to bin it! I stripped off the chicken and froze it, then got another couple of carcasses I had saved from the freezer to make a big pot of stock. Today it will be transformed into a hearty chicken and vegetable soup. I hate waste! This will get another frugal week off to a good start.

I need to do a shopping list and meal plan for the week. I spent barely anything on food last week, less than £20. Now we have broad beans and courgettes ready in the garden so I won’t need to buy much veg.

Has anyone else been on a no spend week? How have you done?

It shouldn’t happen to a polling clerk 

Working as a polling clerk

Wow! What a fascinating election result! I am interested again.  I wonder what will happen next? But I won’t go on about politics in this blog. Might save that for Twitter 😀. Working as a polling clerk was an eye opener. I was stunned at how politically ignorant some people are. Several people looked at their ballot paper quizzically and asked why they couldn’t see Corbin, May or whoever. We had to explain that they were voting for their local MP and that if they won the seat it would be a plus score for the political party that they preferred.

Some seemed to think it was a local election, even though we only had one of those back in May.  One lady had a rant at us about everything that was wrong with the government and we had to explain that we weren’t political candidates, just clerical staff. She said ‘Well, you’re lucky I voted at all’ and flounced off, leaving is to ponder this great favour.

I was very pleased to see so many young people in, often voting for the first time. This election appears to have really caught their attention and increased their interest in politics.

I lost my voice….

I didn’t realise how much talking I would need to do. The polling station was very busy and I had to repeatedly explain the process as the voters came and went. My voice is shot to peices today! I am keeping my head down and being quiet at work today (for a change!). It was a long day, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope we don’t have another snap election any time soon. It if we do I will be happy to volunteer!

Short and sweet today as I am dog tired. I have lots to do at the weekend too  – eBay listings, cleaning, sorting a meal plan and food shopping, plus a little gardening. Whoever wins a General Election, life goes on….

Watching the wheels of democracy in action  as a polling clerk

Tomorrow I am looking forward to being a polling clerk at my local polling station for the General Election. I have never done this before. I think it will be interesting and and I am quite excited!

As you know, I rarely refuse an opportunity to make some extra cash and this will go towards our week in Wales next month. It is a looooong day though: 6 am until 10 pm, so don’t expect a blog post! When I arrive I have to help set up the room and voting booths, get the signs out, then check voters in and give them a voting slip. Enough food is required to last me the day, so I popped into Asda last night as I pass it on the way back from work and bought a large salad, chicken drumsticks, some sausage rolls, juice and fruit. I also need to provide my own mug, milk and teabags. They do this stuff on the cheap!!

It’s another side hustle but, of course, this kind of opportunity doesn’t arise too often 😀.

Politically disengaged

I try to avoid being too political on this blog. Apart from working at the polls, I am finding the process quite depressing. I feel pretty disengaged for the first time ever and  have been avoiding the news and most of the debate. I have heard it all before! Truth be told, I’m not really happy with any of the potential candidates.

I will vote though. I think we have a duty. There are many places in the world where people don’t get a say. Democracy may not be perfect but it is the best option. So, if you can vote, make sure you do!

Of great Pinterest? Mistakes? I made a few…

I am just beginning to start to love Pinterest. Yes, I expect I am late to the party and many of you are already Pinterest addicts!

What is Pinterest?

In case you have no idea what I am talking about, Pinterest contains a cornucopia of advice and information, like a lifestyle search engine but with fantastic images to draw you in and inspire you. There are recipes, crafts, DIY and decorating ideas, advice on buying, selling and making money, gardening ideas, illustrated exercise sequences, travel ideas, items for sale and more.

I have been fighting with making my own pins to bring more people to the blog. It’s not as easy as it looks! Still, I expect practice makes perfect.  I have signed up with PicMonkey and Canva as these are both very helpful for designing the pins. I also watched a couple of You Tube videos – there really is nothing you can’t learn on there!

You might begin to see my efforts on my posts. If you do, feel free to hit the pin it button to share! Sadly, I don’t have much time to mess around with this stuff. I wish I did as I enjoy it! I am very much a total beginner.

If you want to see what I have been up to so far, including the pins I have made and those I saved because they were interesting, head along to Pinterest and search for Shoestring Cottage. I could do with some followers! If you feature your own pins on  Pinterest let me know and I will follow you back. if you are a seasoned expert on Pinterest, feel free to share your advice in the comments. I need all the help I can get!

Here is one I did yesterday. I think it looks OK but there is room for improvement for sure.

It is another beautiful day today here in Essex. It’s too lovely to be sitting here on the laptop, so I will be off out on a walk somewhere, doing a bit of gardening or possibly both! Have a super Sunday!

 

 

SHOMO Awards: who will you nominate?

SHOMO Awards 2017

I mentioned recently that I had joined the UK Money Bloggers group and was featured on their site, here. The group runs annual awards for bloggers, the SHOMO Awards, each September. I have booked my ticket to attend and I’m so excited to go. This will be a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and attend helpful talks and workshops. If anybody wants to nominate me I would be very grateful.  I am hoping to get nominations in the Best Money Saving Blog and the Best Frugal & Thrift Blog categories. You can find out more and make your nominations for all of your favourite money blogs here.

Much More With Less

SHOMO Awards UK Money BloggersToday I went to meet one of the group to compare notes and swap hints and tips. Faith Archer lives just up the road in Hadleigh. She has a lovely blog, Much More With Less, documenting her move from London to the countryside, with frugal ideas and lots of beautiful photographs of her garden. We had lunch and a long chat about blogging, exchanging thoughts and tips. Hadleigh is a lovely Suffolk town with lots of charity shops, which Faith very kindly guided me round. I hope to see her again at the SHOMO Awards.

Making extra money as a polling clerk

With the general election just around the corner, I have been recruited as a polling clerk! I am quite excited to see the wheels of democracy at close hand. It is a very long day: 6 am to 10 pm. It’s not the best paid hourly rate but will nevertheless provide a nice chunk of cash for my savings. I am always on the look out for ways to make extra money and it should be interesting.

Has anybody else helped at an election?

Saving, spending and making money in April

I had quite an expensive month in April. I spent the holiday fund and a bit more on Mr S’s 50th celebration trip to Mallorca. Very excited about this but holidays don’t come cheap. I have also spent some money on clothes to take, which is unusual for me! I normally raid the boot sales but, although I have found some good things to resell, there hasn’t been much that I wanted to keep for myself.

As mentioned before, I bought some items from Everything5pounds.com –  4 at £20! These should arrive today so I will report back on those. I managed to get the postage free using Money Saving Expert’s offer code too. I have also purchased 8 items second-hand on eBay. Sadly, four of those were too big so I just re-listed them. One has sold already for a £5 profit 😀. I really must stop buying size 14 clothes as I appear to be a 12 now. I put this down to almost completely giving up sugar since the end of February. 

I discovered TopCashback and did a £25 Asda shop through them to get £15 cash back. I will be exploring that a lot more and we are looking at booking our airport parking through them. I am going to look at some of the other cash back sites too and will report back.

I have sold quite a lot on eBay this month which will positively impact the bank balance. I am going to look at sourcing stock from auctions as well in the future. 

My MOT is due this month so I have my fingers crossed that I won’t have to spend much on that.

So April was a good month! May has kicked off with a lot of wintry feeling weather but I am sustained because I know we will be off to the sun in two weeks! This is what the moneysaving is all about 😀.

Saving money in the garden

I have been a bit rubbish at writing daily blog posts over the past few weeks. I have been busy with work, boot sales, eBay and, most of all, the garden!

Wallflower cuttings

Wallflower grown from a cutting

 

It is a busy time of year in the garden. I have been weeding, chopping stuff back, sowing seeds and moving things about.

We have a large garden at the back and a biggish one at the front as well. I love that we have so much green around us, but it’s hard work! 

I don’t have lots of cash to splurge so I save money everywhere that I can. I am not an expert and I am sure there is plenty I need to learn, but this is what I have learned about saving money in the garden:

Boot sales and supermarkets are excellent places to buy cheap plants (Aldi in particular)

The reduced section in the garden centre is worth a browse for perennials. They might look a little sad but can be revived!

Most things can be grown from seed extremely cheaply. Share packets and seedlings with friends and family to save even more.

You can grow great plants from cuttings for free! Mr S pinched a bit of a multicoloured wallflower from a garden we visited. It grew spectacularly and this year he has taken cuttings from that. 

You can also divide plants such as grasses to create new plants. I have a geranium that spreads and is good for filling a gap or two so have just divided that.

Places like Home Bargains and B&M are good for cheap compost. Even better, make your own. We use a bit of both.

Pots, planters and containers can be expensive but other gardening friends often have too many. Ask! Failing that, boot sales can be a treasure trove. But you can also be creative – old tyres make good planters, for example.

Boot sales are also great for old gardening tools, as well as Freecycle if you have a group in your area.

Bird scarers can be made easily from aluminium containers on strings – they make a great clatter!

How about raised beds from old bottles? We saw this recently on an allotment and thought it was a great idea.

Several water butts around the garden will save you money if you are on a meter. You can also use ‘grey water’ from your shower or bath to water the garden. 

As well as finding ways to save money in the garden it can save you £££S. Gifts from your garden cost very little: home made jams and chutneys are often appreciated presents, or a hamper of seasonal fruit and vegetables. How about growing your own pot plants as gifts?

Finally, of course growing your own fruit and veg can save you a lot and is also free exercise.

How do you save money in the garden?

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?

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.

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?

What’s your best money saving idea?

I belong to a few Facebook groups whose focus is frugality and the question that comes up time and again when people join is ‘How can I save money? Where do I start?’ It seems many people are still struggling to get from pay day to pay day and looking for money saving advice and inspiration.

My first piece of advice is to have a long, hard look at your outgoings. Go through your bank statements and see what you can cut. Have you an insurance policy on an item you no longer own? Are you paying too much for your utilities? Shop around. Can you save money on your mobile phone or your tv and internet package? You need to check if there is a penalty for early cancellation but sometimes it is worth paying, or you could stay with the same provider but downgrade your package. Do you have a gym membership you barely use?

Make a budget and stick to it. I use Budget Brain from Money Saving Expert. Check your bank balance regularly so you know how much is in the account and when you need to rein in your spending.  

It is interesting to see how much cash can drip out of your account in the form of small purchases on lunch, coffees, newspapers, etc. £10 withdrawals here and there can soon add up to hundreds of pounds. You can save a lot of money by anticipating these small expenses in advance and organising yourself. For example, take your own coffee, teabags and milk to work rather than buying it. Take your own packed lunch. 

Avoid temptation. If you know you are prone to impulse purchases, window shopping is not the pastime for you!

Food shopping is often a great place to save money. You can save loads if you stop buying branded goods and use cheaper supermarket own brands, buy your fruit and veg at a local market, minimise convenience foods, plan your menus, make a shopping list before you hit the supermarket, eat less meat…I could go on. There are so many money saving ideas.

Look at your heating and hot water costs. There are plenty of ways to insulate your home cheaply, you could turn the thermostat down a notch, get the family to wear more layers of clothing, etc. More ideas here.

What about transport? Could you car share? Leave the car at home and walk or cycle?

Do you have a garden? If so, how about growing some of your own food. Digging is as good as a gym session 😀.

What are your top money saving tips for the newbie?

Should you ever buy branded groceries?

I quite enjoy the adverts on TV for Aldi, where they compare an expensive brand of coffee, tea or whatever with their own version. The message is that theirs is just as good, but cheaper!

When I initially started trying to save money on my grocery shopping the first thing I did was dump the brands wherever I could. I tried all of the supermarket basics first. Some we liked and some we didn’t. Value/Smart Price baked beans were a definite no-no, unless included in a veggie stew. Loo rolls didn’t last as long but were worth buying as they were so much cheaper. Value bacon may not look as good but it tastes pretty similar. The kids ate the biscuits even if they didn’t arrive in fancy packaging. I now wouldn’t dream of buying anything other than a basic fruit juice either.

Where we didn’t enjoy the basic products, I moved up to supermarket own brand. Most we liked, but occasionally we still resorted to a branded product.

With the advent of the discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, the situation has improved even more. Most of their own products are very good quality and as cheap or even cheaper than the old style shop own brands. I have found them to be better overall. 

I might consider something from a range such as a Tesco Finest if it is on offer but I have found some of these are disappointing. I think they are a marketing ploy and another way to squeeze a bit more money out of their customers. 

Generally speaking if I buy a brand it is because 1. I really like it more than the alternatives (such as my Millicano coffee mentioned in yesterday’s blog post) or 2. It is a really good price. I don’t need to pay for a company’s expensive branding – they pay marketing people a lot of money to work out how to make us spend our wages. I bet at least half the time if people did a blind test to decide which product was branded and which was a supermarket’s own brand they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So, if you really want to save money on your groceries chuck out the brands and try some supermarket own labels!

Saving money on coffee

It was a madly busy day at work today, followed by a visit to the hospital to see my mum. She was in a lot of pain today, although she did manage a little walk along the corridor on her frame with the physiotherapist.

Luckily my daughters had sorted dinner when I got home – Quorn bolognese, as one of them is vegetarian. 

I hardly drink coffee at all as I can’t do too much caffeine, but I do enjoy one decent cup each morning. I usually buy Millicano. I try to find it on offer as it’s not cheap, so I was interested to try this Alcafe Barista Moments coffee from Aldi. It was a pretty nice cup actually, not quite Millicano but not bad at all. It cost £2; Millicano is usually at least £4.30. I might mix the two to save a bit of money!

Anybody else tried this? What did you think?

I’m hoping to go and collect Mum tomorrow and take her home but we will have to see what her consultant says. Fingers crossed!

Another Goode Book

Reader Rosemary reminded me of this one for my frugal bookshelf.  The Goode Kitchen was written by the late Shirley Goode to accompany her BBC series of the same name in 1986.

Shirley had a precise and logical approach to saving money in the kitchen, which has barely dated. In fact her approach to her kitchen decor (open shelves and a mix of charity shopped mixed crockery) seems positively on trend . Think shabby chic! She believed in spending more on the essentials, such as some quality knives and pans.

I first read the Goode Kitchen years ago and clearly absorbed this approach to cooking. Shirley can take a lot of the credit for much of my kitchen behaviour now – reusing yogurt pots and margarine pots to freeze soup or store leftovers, keeping old bread bags and making stock from bones and chicken carcasses.

She takes an interesting approach to budgeting that makes me think she was an influence on Jack Monroe, carefully costing her ingredients to easily calculate the price of any meal and adjusting ingredients to always get the best possible value.

The recipes are straightforward, nutritious and tasty. They use ingredients likely to be in most cook’s store cupboards or easy to find in a supermarket. For example, you will find recipes for fish chowder, Somerset rabbit casserole, poor man’s jugged hare (actually made with beef) and pauper’s pottage (a healthy vegetable stew) – great, no frills family food.

It is sadly out of print now but you can still find the odd copy secondhand on Amazon, as I did. If you see it at a reasonable price, grab it! There is a link below but you may have to go through and do a search.
goode kitchen

 

Cheapskate Tuesday 

My Approved Food order arrived yesterday, just in the nick of time as I had run out of cat food. I ordered quite a lot of Felix but also some posh stuff called Encore, which apparently would have cost £8 for 10 sachets. £8!! I find that hard to believe. Anyway it is a treat for the cats and they loved it 😀. I also purchased a huge 1kg tub of Marigold bouillon for a fiver. I make a lot of soup so this will come in very handy. The smaller one in the picture also cost me a fiver from the health food shop so quite a saving.

I love a bargain! Am I very sad to get excited over this stuff?

The caravan in Wales for our summer holiday is booked so I am excited to go again and must give them a plug. If you want a cheap holiday in an amazingly peaceful, environmentally sustainable situation you can’t beat this place. They have a lovely old caravan with a compost toilet and a tiny little campsite if you are hardy enough. Check it out here. Tom and Liza are lovely hosts. Tell them I recommended them 😀.

If you are interested in buying from Approved Food and use my link, I earn a teensy but welcome commission.
https://store.approvedfood.co.uk/?afid=aab8d8

 

The flexible, frugal cook

 

The blacker the better!

The blacker the better!

Being a yoga teacher in my spare time, I should be a flexible, frugal cook :). I made a banana loaf the other day with some very black bananas that no one was going to eat. I used the Delia recipe as my starting point, but as I didn’t have any walnuts or oranges I substituted brazil nuts and dried cranberries. It was really delicious!

The frugal cook needs to be able to do this: either adapt recipes or make meals up to suit your ingredients. If you don’t have an expensive ingredient like sundried tomatoes try fresh or tinned with some tomato purée. If you don’t have shallots, use ordinary onions. If you don’t have dried porcini mushrooms, the usual fresh sort will work ok.

store cupboard 1Make sure you have plenty of store cupboard staples. Flour and baking powder, tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, tinned or dried pulses, pasta, rice and noodles spring to mind. Casserole sauces bought cheaply from places like Approved Food and Home Bargains are good for days when you can’t be bothered or don’t have time to cook from scratch. Tinned and frozen veg is handy to have. Canned tuna or sardines can make a good quick meal.

Staples from Aldi

Staples from Aldi

Eggs and cheese are good to have in the fridge, and a pack of bacon can add flavour and interest to all manner of dinners.

What to do if you think there is no food in the house? Have a good look in the store cupboards ; I bet there is a ton of food in there. You may not be able to make a meat and two veg type of meal, but how about a lentil shepherds pie or veggie curry for a change? If you can make a tomato sauce from onions and tomatoes, you can build it into a veggie casserole with courgettes , carrots, lentils, etc and make some dumplings to go with it. Or use it to make a pasta sauce with garlic and peppers, or a bolognese with some mince meat. Add and taste as you go along. Mess about with curry powder, cumin and chilli to add a bit of spice to what you have. Eggs can make an omelette, a quiche, or you can crack them over your tomato and pepper sauce and bake them the oven. How about curried eggs? If you have flour you can make pastry. What do you have that will go in a pie?

If you have cheese, onions and potatoes you have a veggie classic: cheese and potato pie with no pastry needed. Mash the spuds and mix in sautéed onions , plenty of cheese and some seasoning. Yummy with baked beans !

Use up all the bits of veg in a stir fry with noodles or rice. Make all kinds of fillings for a jacket potato with whatever you can find.

Use recipes as inspiration and as a guide for quantities rather than feeling you need to slavishly follow them.

And if you really can’t be bothered to cook, there is nothing wrong with the odd ‘something on toast’!

 

Cheaper groceries? I Approve!

Every now and again I have a look on Approved Food and get a few mega bargains. Last night, since I have my new bank card (the other one was used and abused by some scumbag and it was blocked), I decided to take a look and see if there was enough to tempt me to justify the £30 minimum order charge plus £5.99 delivery. As soon as I saw that there was the Felix cat food that my cats like (only £2 for 12 sachets), I knew it would be. I avoided all of the yummy looking sweets and chocolates, as I have given up sugar for the month, and focussed on purchases that would really save me money – items I either need now or soon would.

In case you haven’t come across them, Approved Food sells goods that are past their best before dates at huge discounts. The items are still perfectly good to use. The company doesn’t just sell food; as well as the groceries, they have alcohol (I took advantage and ordered some wine), pet supplies, toiletries, household goods and gifts.

You can’t do the week’s shop on there. There are some staples (I bought orange juice, teabags and Marigold vegetable stock), but no bread, milk or eggs. If you like branded goods such as washing powder and fabric softener you will really make massive savings. I bought a big tin of Vanish carpet spray (constantly clearing up cat sick in my house!) for £2 instead of £4 for example. There are often very cheap cook-in sauces as well for quick and convenient after work meals.

If you want to try Approved Food and you place an order using my link, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Try Approved Food

Twenty+ purchases that will actually save you money

I know I tend to encourage people towards frugality and NOT buying things, but I was looking around for some new hairdressing scissors and it got me thinking about other purchases I have made that have saved me money in the long run.

Because I save about £30 each time I don’t go to the hairdresser, this can be first on the list, although they are in no particular order:

Hairdressing scissors – and clippers for short hair. Mr S hasn’t let me cut his yet but he might, in which case I will invest in some clippers to go alongside the scissors.

Bread maker. You can buy cheap bread, but if you like it fresh and crusty it is cheaper to make it yourself. Plus you can make dough for pizza. Ok, lots of you will say you make bread without a bread maker but if you are super busy they save time as well as money.

A freezer. This offers so many moneysaving possibilities. You can batch cook or just save left overs to eat instead of ready meals, you can freeze bones for making stock, you can make big batches of soup to freeze for lunches, you can buy yellow sticker reduced items and store them, you can buy gluts of fruit and veg cheaply in season and preserve it. I could go on.

Tightwad Gazette. I know I have mentioned this book a lot of late but it is so inspiring! Available here: The Complete Tightwad Gazette

A slow cooker. These cost so little to run and are a good way to use cheaper cuts of meat to cook them very slowly until tender. You can make things like porridge and rice pudding in them too.

Heated airer. I got mine from Aldi but Lakeland do a better one I think. Tumble dryers are expensive to run and these are a good alternative. If you can’t afford a heated one then just an airer – try to site it near a radiator or wood burner.

Car-washing stuff. Buying a sponge and bucket and using a squirt of soap can save you £10-15 a time if you usually pay to wash your car.

A spade and some seeds. If you have room for a veg patch and can grow your own you can save loads of money (growing your own is another good reason for having a freezer).

A drill and basic toolbox. Learn a few DIY skills -these really can save thousands.

Some decent cookbooks. Frugal Food by Delia Smith, A Girl Called Jack and Save With Jamie are three of my go to books for budget recipes. If you can’t cook you will spend vast amounts on convenience food and takeaways.

Freeview box. Although you can beat the cost down, Virgin, Sky, etc are still expensive. You can pause, rewind and record with the newer boxes too. Combine this with Netflix and you probably have all you need.

A tent. Think you can’t afford to go on holiday? Invest in a tent and some camping gear. There are some great value family breaks to be had under canvas and kids love camping.

Bicycle. Still a super cheap and reliable mode of transport.

Food processor. I use mine mainly to liquidise soups and bake cakes, both of which save money.

Pet insurance. Ok, you could do without and save money, but vets costs are astronomical. If your pet needs ongoing medical care you will wish you had insurance.

Low energy light bulbs. They last a long time and cost less to run.

Radiator foil, Thermal curtain linings, Polystyrene backed wallpaper. If you insulate and keep out the draughts you can turn the heating down.

Soup carrier/ lunchbox. A leakproof, airtight container is essential for moneysaving work or school lunches.

Reusable carrier bags. You only save 5p a time by not buying a bag at the till but every little helps and it’s good for the environment too.

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. If you buy these in quantity you can clean pretty much your whole house. You save money and don’t live in a smog of nasty chemicals.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, more a starting point. As ever, of you do make any purchases, shop around to get the best quality for your money and buy secondhand where you can.

What would you add to the list?

Frugal Friday 

Having fallen asleep in bed at 8.30 on Thursday night (almost unheard of) I actually had some energy after work yesterday. I picked up DD3 and we went to Lidl to get the week’s groceries as it isn’t usually crazy busy and it’s easy to park. We only spent £44 but will need to get some bits from elsewhere over the weekend. Hopefully I can keep to a £50 budget.

Dinner had to be as easy and uncomplicated as possible so I stuck some sweet potatoes into bake whilst we were out. We cooked up some omelettes and veggies when we got home for a speedy frugal supper. I am a fan of simple food!

Our lodger is proving to be extremely easy to live with. It is a Monday to Friday arrangement so we have the weekends to ourselves, but even during the week we don’t see much of her. She makes her dinner when she gets back from work and we have a little chat in the kitchen then she either goes out or disappears to her room for the evening. Last week she was only here Tuesday to Thursday – I feel guilty taking her rent!

I wish she was staying longer but at the moment she plans to go to Camp America in May and I will have to readvertise. I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Does anyone else have a lodger? How are you finding it?

Another frugal classic: the Penny Pincher’s Book

I discovered the Penny Pincher’s Book at about the same time as the Tightwad Gazette. I would say it is the UK equivalent. Like the Gazette, it was born from a newsletter, the Penny Pincher Paper.

John and Irma Mustoe are not preaching an austere and joyless existence. Rather they are saying that saving money gives you more choices and more control. ‘Spending money must be a skill at least as important as earning it’ – a great quote and one I agree with.

It is full of tips to save money, some to save pounds and others that will make a few pennies difference. Making do, mending, reusing and repurposing in creative ways form the basis of much of the advice. There are many suggestions for wringing every last drop of value out of all your purchases. Some may not be worth the effort (reuse the free envelopes in junk mailings by turning them inside out and carefully regluing it is one I wouldn’t bother with -I’d sooner stick a label on top of the address) but others are genius. For example, bicarbonate of soda can be sprinkled on a flannel and wiped under the arms as a deodorant. I know this works as my long lasting Lush one is basically bicarbonate of soda with some essential oils. Dilute shampoo by a third and it will last longer and lather better. Turn down your heating by one degree to save around 8% on your heating bill. Take care of what you have – ‘maintenance works’!

Just because you cannot do all of a job it doesn’t mean you can’t do any of it. This is Mr S’s philosophy for sure. He is currently fitting our new wood burner. He has removed the old fireplace and laid the hearth, fitted a mantle shelf and plans to clean the chimney. Once we have paid a professional to line the chimney he will fit the burner. 

It’s a great book that you can pick up and read a few pages of every now and again to get some inspiration, but you will easily read it through as it’s an interesting and absorbing read. I have the original book from 1995, which you can still pick up secondhand, but I notice that Amazon is selling an updated version, the Penny Pincher’s Book Revisited, published in 2007.

So, another classic on my frugal bookshelf. More to follow!

Save-it Saturday 

I took Mr S’s coin collection to use the Coinstar machine yesterday afternoon. Despite all the comments about how I could avoid the 10% service charge, it is still the most convenient way for me to cash it up as it’s hard to get to the bank during their opening hours. However, if I had realised that he had put so much silver in there I would have taken that out first! He had £10.40 in 20ps! 

I came away with over £34 to spend on the week’s grocery shop. I actually spent £45 in all in Asda, but the £13 that I cashed in from my own penny collection meant that our pennies paid for the lot 😀. We will keep throwing in our coppers and small value silver coins and use whatever we collect towards Christmas. 

I made a frugal favourite for dinner last night – my version of cottage pie. I like to fry the mince up with lots of veggies (in this case celery, mushrooms and carrots) and cover with a mix of mashed potato and swede, with some grated cheddar to give a yummy topping. Cheap and filling food that doesn’t take long to make.

I had to pop to the post office before it closed to post a couple of things I had sold on eBay so that was another £30 for the pot. My daughter had a mega clear out of her wardrobe as well. She has so many clothes crammed in her bedroom I don’t think she knows what she has. I went through to see what could be listed on eBay and what needed to go to the charity shop. She had one top that still had the label! She is her mother’s daughter when it comes to money much of the time but clothes are a weakness. She does buy a lot secondhand though thankfully 😀. I will try to get some listing done in the week. (Incidentally my post How to Make Money Selling on eBay has proved one of my most popular so I have given it a page to itself 😀).

It was a beautiful day yesterday  and pottering around listening to Joni Mitchell and getting myself organised put a smile on my face. I am hoping today will be equally lovely and warm so I can get outside. I hope you have a lovely Sunday!

Counting out the pennies

I have been completely useless at the penny challenge. I don’t find it a convenient way to save money systematically at all. I don’t remember to put the pennies in or, if I do, I don’t have the cash available. It is far easier for me to simply transfer money from my current account into my savings when I get paid, so that is what I am focussing on doing. 

We have been throwing our coppers in a jar in a less organised way, however, and today I took about half of them to Asda to use their Coin Star counting machine. You just feed them in and get a voucher out to take to the tills. It’s not free though -there is a 10% charge – but it saves having to count them up and finding time to get to the bank. I had almost £15 worth today and I think there is more silver in the next lot so I expect at least £20 when I take that in. I will put it towards this week’s shop!

I am still spending very little on anything except essentials so February is proving another extremely frugal month. The emergency and birthday/ Christmas/holiday funds are a bit less empty. It hasn’t been quite no spend month but it has been low spend. I did buy a new electric kettle in B&M as our lodger was struggling with the stove kettle. Too strange and old-fashioned!

Are you saving pennies? What are you saving for?

How to make money on eBay

I have mentioned before that I make extra money selling on eBay – mainly clothing, but anything that comes my way that might make a few pounds as well. In addition to selling our old unwanted stuff, I actively buy in order to sell on. It is quite a bit of work, but can be a nice little earner. Here is what I have learned.

People will pay a lot for secondhand designer items

Certain brand names sell well and, as long as they are in good condition, they can command a very good price. Brands such as Karen Millen, Phase Eight, MonsoonLipsy and Jane Norman all sell well.

Give a good description

You need to provide a detailed description of the item you are selling, but be honest. If there is a small stain on the hem or a pull to the fabric say so and provide photos. This will avoid battles with disgruntled customers if the item isn’t as they were expecting.

Take some good pics

A decent photo really does speak louder than a thousand words. People cannot try items on or feel the fabric so will be reassured to see several good shots from various angles. If you are going to sell clothes on a regular basis it is worth investing in a hanging dummy. I bought mine from eBay for around £8 (some examples are here. Dress them as they do in the window displays in the shops. Make dresses ‘fit’ with a few pins and add some jewellery.

Grab attention with the heading

Your title is also important. Think about what key words people might use to search for particular items. Make sure they are spelt correctly too! Include the brand, colour, style, size and if it is new, say so. I bought a Karen Millen dress from eBay for £4.50 – it didn’t sell because the photo was dreadful and the heading was ‘Lovely Dress’. Nobody was able to identify it as a gorgeous designer dress so mine was the only bid. I later sold it on for £25.

Research prices

It is worth looking at how much similar items sell for to try to establish a good price for whatever you are selling. If you’re not in a hurry you will get more for an item if you sell it at a fixed price – I tend to do this with higher end designer clothing. If you want to sell it quickly go for an auction,  I tend to choose this option for items that are worth less than a tenner. Sometimes the prices you get still take you by surprise!

Set reasonable postage prices

Don’t be greedy with postage – customers aren’t stupid and will be put off bidding if you are charging £10 P&P for an object that will only cost £3 to send. I usually weigh the item and check the Royal Mail price finder to get guidance on costs, then add a little extra for packaging. For heavier or bulky items it is worth checking out Collect Plus as it is often cheaper. I would recommend sending using recorded delivery if the item is expensive. Even if you send by standard post, always get proof of postage in case the parcel goes missing, as you can refund your customer and get a refund from the Royal Mail to keep everyone happy.

Pack well

Take a bit of time to pack items carefully. Make sure you use lots of bubble wrap and a decent box if you are posting anything breakable. When selling women’s clothing I wrap it in coloured tissue paper and pop it in a matching plastic envelope. Again, I buy these from eBay as I have found this to be the cheapest place for packaging materials.

Include a little message thanking the customer for their purchase. Ask them to leave you positive feedback if they are happy with the item or to contact you before leaving negative feedback if not so that you can try to resolve any issues. If you are selling regularly, it is worth getting business cards printed with this message. I got mine quite cheaply from VistaPrint, but there are lots of companies offering good deals on these.

The power of feedback

If a customer is not happy with the item for any reason, don’t argue. If you want to make money selling you need good feedback and it’s not worth risking that by quibbling over a return. In addition, if you buy on eBay be sure to leave reasonable feedback for the seller. I would never leave bad feedback unless the seller was obnoxious or unreasonable in some way and I hope buyers are the same (they aren’t always, but I have only had one customer leave me bad feedback – completely unfairly!).

Good timing

If you are selling by auction think about your timing and schedule your posts to end at peak periods. For example, it is better to time your auction to end on a Sunday at 8pm when people have time to browse rather than on a Monday at 10 am when they are all at work! eBay has a scheduling feature for this purpose.

Sell overseas

Don’t be afraid to sell abroad. I have seen so many adverts stating that sellers will only post within the UK. Why? If you are going to the Post Office anyway it is no more complicated to post abroad. You can use the Royal Mail Price Finder for this too!

Buying to sell on

I felt a bit like Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses when I first started doing this, but I soon got over my discomfort when I realised that eBay could seriously help my budget. It is only what antique and collectible dealers have been doing for ever – buying and selling and taking a cut where they can!

Whilst you are feeling your way selling on eBay, I recommend you don’t spend too much on buying stock. Boot sales are brilliant places to find bargain items to sell on. You often see brand new items with the tags still on for just a few pounds. I got a gorgeous new Monsoon dress in pristine condition with the tags in place for £1!! I would have happily paid five or even ten pounds for it. I later sold it on for £30.

As mentioned previously, I have purchased items cheaply on eBay itself because I knew I could present them better and sell them on for more. This can be a risk; if you are buying from sellers who aren’t savvy enough to do a good presentation they may also be vague about the condition of the item. I bought a dress for £6, another Karen Millen number, which was absolutely filthy when it arrived. Dry cleaning is expensive so I risked the fabric on a delicate wash and it came up as good as new, but it might just as easily have ended up in the charity bag.

Charity shops often know the value of high end brand names so aren’t always good places to find good stuff to sell on. Occasionally you will find some great stock though. I went into a hospice shop and they were selling all their dresses off for £4 each. I filled up three carrier bags! I know that some people feel uncomfortable making a profit from charity shops, but I don’t. I buy so much from them I think I support their causes, and sometimes they need to move their stock on to make room for the next lot.

It is also possible to get some superb bargains at the end of the sales in regular stores and sell them on at profit. Mr S’s sister does this regularly. She has a great eye for the styles that will still be in demand when they are no longer available in store, and has found that sometimes people are prepared to pay more than the original retail price.

I know others that have found objects on Freecycle and sold them on. This is where I draw the line. It goes against the whole ethos of giving something for free to stop it going to landfill in my view and means the sites can be awash with greedy dealers.

So, that is my experience of selling on eBay in a nutshell, which I hope you will find helpful. I am sure I still have much to learn, so please feel free to add your helpful hints and tips!

 

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The fine line between order and chaos…

The front room currently looks like a furniture store with three sofas in it, including one on its side waiting for the charity collection van. It feels cluttered and makes me uncomfortable. Despite my efforts to minimise stuff and declutter I still feel we have too many possessions generally and will continue to streamline. Having an extra sofa feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

I feel sure that many people have far more than we do. I wonder how they cope – maybe they have more space? Although I think the more space you have, the more likely you are to fill it with stuff!

It is another good reason to keep up my no spend February. I don’t need anything else!!

I continue to be as frugal as I can possibly be. Before I buy anything I make sure I ask myself some essential questions: Do I actually need it? Do I really want it? Can I afford it? Could I get it secondhand? Could I find it cheaper elsewhere?  Unless it is something essential I give myself some breathing space. If it can wait a couple of days the chances are I won’t bother 😄.

In my experience, impulse buys are rarely wise buys. So I will try to avoid them?

How about you? Are you a minimalist or awash with clutter? Do you give into those impulse buys and regret them later?

Still not buying it and getting stuff for free…

So…this morning we have the engineer to look at our boiler,  which has been misbehaving. It randomly refuses to come on. Most of the time we persuade it but yesterday it simply refused. The engineer is confused. This is the third time he has looked at it but can’t work out why it is going wrong. It doesn’t appear to be anything too major, but as I said a few weeks ago, this is why we need an emergency fund!

I would normally be in Aldi or Lidl first thing, but I bought quite a lot last week so I am going to make it last. I have plenty of pasta, rice, vegetables, fruit, chicken, pulses and some Quorn. DD2 is coming to stay for a couple of days and she is vegetarian, so we won’t need much meat anyway. I am planning spaghetti and cheese casserole and cheesy mushroom and lentil cottage pie. She does tend to guzzle lots of milk so that is all I need to buy, along with cat food for my furry princesses. 

I did buy some vitamins for DD3 as she hasn’t been well and is very run down. Apart from that I am still buying nothing unless absolutely essential.

Sofa anyone?

Honestly having a second super frugal no spend month is oddly liberating. I don’t worry about what I can’t have – I already have so much! 

Sometimes the things you would like just fall into your lap if you are lucky anyway. I was hankering after a new sofa as ours (secondhand from the charity shop) isn’t as comfy as it could be. My friend James and his wife decided to upgrade their still rather smart and very comfortable cream leather one so offered it to us. He helps me when WordPress leaves me confused and confuddled as it does on occasion, so he is very familiar with the theme of this blog and my thrifty ways. 

Today we will go and collect it. I am now frantically trying to get rid of the old one for free on Gumtree and Freecycle. One charity shop doesn’t want it as they have enough furniture and another can’t collect it until the end of the month. It is too good to send to the tip so I am hoping to find it a new home. 

Sofa anyone? Anyone else on a super frugal no spend month?

There is no shame in bagging a bargain!

From time to time I  see acquaintances when I am shopping in one of the discount shops I like to use. Some of them look embarrassed and make silly comments. Yesterday morning a work colleague I saw in Lidl looked sheepish and said, ‘Let’s pretend this is Waitrose.’ I said ‘No – all the clever people shop in here now!’ I could have said, ‘You’re kidding – I wouldn’t be seen dead wasting my hard earned cash with their prices!’ I will save that for next time 😀.

Why are people embarrassed about shopping smart and bagging a good deal? There is no shame in being sensible with your money, even if you are loaded.

If people compliment me on something I am wearing and it was secondhand on eBay or from a boot sale, I tell them. If I can get a really nice work outfit for £8 in decent condition instead of £40 new, why wouldn’t I?

I love getting a bargain. I got quite excited when I found big blocks of cheddar on offer in Lidl for £1.99 yesterday. I bought two as they have a use by date in May. If you are passing, pop in and grab some! 

I have a plan for my money which means squeezing every bit of value out of what I have. So I will do my shopping wherever I get get best value cheapest. 

If you are a bargain hunter, and carefully watching your bank balance (however large or small that might be), don’t be ashamed – be proud! 

Haggling down the cost of your utilities 

I was listening to Chris Evans on the radio recently and he was relating the story of a woman who spent two hours on the phone to her utility companies threatening to leave and negotiating a better price with each. She eventually saved herself £2000! That is a good use of two hours of anybody’s time 😀.

I have never actually done them all in one go but I do shop around every time something is due for renewal, such as car and house insurance, to get a good price. However, I read reviews and if people are complaining about them I look elsewhere.

One thing I don’t intend to change is my energy provider, Good Energy. I switched to them after a horrific experience with First Utility, who tried to overcharge me by thousands. Their levels of customer service when I tried to get it sorted were appalling. Never again! Good Energy charges reasonable prices, produces all its energy from renewable sources and its customer service is the best I have ever experienced. I’m going nowhere! Sometimes the cheapest sounding deal isn’t worth it. I really recommend this company and, no, they haven’t paid me to say that! 

A year ago my water company offered me a great deal on emergency plumbing insurance, £6.50 for the whole year. At that price, why not? Last week I got a renewal letter and the price was £96.48 for the year, £8.04 a month. I didn’t think I needed this, so rang to cancel. I was then offered a reduced price of £75 for the year. When I refused again this went down to £55 for the year, or £45 if I had a £50 excess. The poor salesman had his work cut out with me and finally accepted I was cancelling. It did make me think though! Never accept the first price you are given!

Have you saved money by haggling down the price of your bills? 

No spend January update 

When is a need actually really a want? My no spend January has raised a couple of tricky questions around this. For example, I ‘need’ some hair dye. I am getting a badger stripe across the top of my head that I am really not happy to face. 

I know if I was on a seriously low income I wouldn’t buy hair dye. If I was living on benefits I would let my hair grow long and grey and focus on keeping a roof over my head. 

In the event I have decided it can’t wait until February. I have bought a pack from Home Bargains for £3.65 and that will do two lots of root retouch up so will last into March. My hair could do with a trim but that can definitely wait!

As I blogged yesterday the girls paid with their Christmas vouchers to take us to the cinema. To thank them we bought cheap snacks from the cinema. Again, not an actual necessity, but as the film started at 1 pm we didn’t bother with lunch so I feel justified in spending £6 on this for the five of us. 

So I suppose strictly speaking I have already failed my own challenge! But I’m not down about it. I am loving being able to say to myself and others, ‘No, I don’t need that. I am on a no spend month’. If I have the odd small failure I’m not going to be discouraged!

Are you on a no spend month? How is it going?

Ten ways I have made extra money

I always have at least one scheme on the go to make a little extra money. I like my job but it just doesn’t pay me enough! I would rather put some effort into this than waste my energy worrying about not having enough to pay the bills.

These are what I am doing now or have done in the past to make ends meet:

Taken in a lodger

Hosted foreign students from the local language school

Run yoga classes 

Bought from boot sales or charity shops and resold on eBay

Babysat

Worked behind the bar at the local pub

Sold my old books online

Attended weekend events such as shows and exhibitions for work

Sold Avon makeup door to door

Hosted Body Shop parties

The key is to commit enough time but not so much you are permanently exhausted. If you can turn a hobby into a way of making money that is ideal. I did this with my yoga classes. Bar work can be fun if it is somewhere you would go anyway. Hard work though! I hated the sales parties – I’m not a natural sales woman. If you are, I think they can be worthwhile. Avon was a hard slog round the houses with a toddler in a buggy. I think I spent more than I earned!

If you have a spare room this is the best way to make a substantial regular income. The language students were great – we met so many interesting people from all over the world. They are a tie, however, as you have to be around to feed and entertain them. 

A lodger is ideal and this is what I am focussing on, along with selling a few designer dresses on eBay. If you fancy it, there is loads of guidance on how much you can earn before paying tax on renting your spare room here if you are in the UK.

There are loads of ways to make a little extra if you are willing to have a go. What works for you?

The working worried 

I heard on the news yesterday that 19% of British workers admit to losing sleep over money worries. I know how this feels -that gnawing anxiety that there are bills to be paid but there isn’t enough money coming in. The report said that the 18-24 year old age group were worrying the most. Having three daughters in that age category I totally understand. It’s hard to get a job that pays enough to afford a rented box to live in, let alone save any money for a contingency fund or to get a foot on the housing ladder. And the report was only talking about working people. Lord knows how anxious it makes people when they are unemployed.  It’s tough out there!

It helps me to know I can stay in control if I make a big effort and I am disciplined but sometimes it wears me down and I get anxious too. 

We are still eating mainly what we have in the larder. I wanted to use some of the paella rice so I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Save With Jamie. It was supposed to be chicken and chorizo with prawns but I made it more frugal by cutting out the chicken and using pepperoni instead of chorizo as I had some leftover from the chicken tray bake I made the other day. 

Jamie’s recipe is here.

We have snow predicted for the next couple of days in the east of England. I hope it doesn’t arrive! Last time we had snow it took two hours to do the half hour journey to work. 

I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are and not losing sleep over money. 

A cheap packed lunch 

I can’t believe I am still using up various cheeses from Christmas. It is quite nice to have a bit of Brie in my sandwich at work as I wouldn’t usually buy it except as a treat. 

Every day I take a pot of home made soup, half a bake-at-home baguette filled with whatever needs using or sometimes just butter, and some fruit. The baguettes are really cheap from Aldi – they cost 45p for two and I only have half. So my lunch costs about 11p for the bread,the soup is made with mostly home grown veg so is probably only around 10p a cup and a couple of pieces of fruit – 50p? With a bit of cheese let’s say approximately 70-80p for a very nice satisfying packed lunch. Not bad I think for my low spend January! 

I have some chocolate rice cakes if I need an afternoon snack. Theses are sooooo nice! They cost 95p for four, so my treat is a little cheaper Han anything from the vending machine at 80p an item. Lower in calories too at only 93 per bar.

I could spend £3 on a sandwich from the shop, 60p for a bag of crisps, £2 for a coffee and get an 80p chocolate bar – £5-6 a day? Over £1000 a year? Nah, don’t think so …

Proud to be frugal

I don’t mind being a penny pincher. In fact I am quite proud to be someone who is taking control of my finances by all possible means. I am happily telling people I am on a no spend January. Most of them totally get it as they are all feeling the pinch after Christmas as well!

I am not mean. If I was, then I wouldn’t have spent so much in December. If I go to the pub (which I don’t very often and definitely not this month) I will happily buy my round. I like to buy presents for people as much as I like receiving them!

But you are more likely to find me buying my clothes in a charity shop  or at a boot sale  than getting them from new. I will shop around for anything I need to spend out on rather than pay full price. If I am too tired to cook I will eat egg on toast in front of the TV rather than go for a take out or ready meal. 

You won’t catch me buying a cappuccino from Costa on my way to work every day as some of my colleagues do and I always take in lunch. I don’t heat the house hot enough to walk around in a t shirt but I don’t sit and freeze either. I don’t own a tumble dryer and prefer to dry my clothes on the line.

I don’t drive a fancy car but make do with a small, very old Toyota Yaris that gets me from A to B. I am not booking a hugely expensive holiday I can’t afford in the hope I will be able to pay the balance by the time summer comes. We will have a holiday I expect but will need to save a bit first. Life is for living after all!

I try to remember to be grateful that I have everything I need even if I can’t afford everything I want. One day I hope to be able to be less frugal but until then I am quite enjoying the challenge! How about you? 

Bargain of the week

Yesterday I said I don’t rely on yellow sticker bargains. I did, of course, take a peek in the reduced sections when I was in Sainsbury’s yesterday but there was nothing I wanted and the reductions weren’t that great. I only go in there for the cat food and my Lactofree milk anyway so trudged over to the pet aisle and was amazed to find this:

That is my idea of a yellow sticker bargain, 48 sachets of cat food for 99p! I don’t know why it was reduced so drastically. The box was a bit damaged but nothing major. I was chuffed and so were the cats!

I spent £45 for the 3 of us in Aldi for the week, which wasn’t bad at all. Last night we had a delicious chicken tray bake. I already had a pack of peppers that needed using and some olives. I adapted the recipe to use what was in the larder: green olives instead of black, dried thyme instead of fresh and balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. The chorizo in Aldi was in huge packs for almost £2.50. I bought pepperoni instead at 89p and will use some of that today. I am making paella to use up some rice. I also added a 15p can of Aldi potatoes to make it more substantial and served it with canned sweet corn. It was lovely. The original recipe is here. I got it from the BBCGood Food website, which is a great resource when you need a little inspiration.

What are you cooking this weekend? Do you adapt recipes to suit what you have or what you can afford?