Category Archives: Money Saving

Five Frugal Things I have done this week 12th August

Five frugal things

It has been a bizarre kind of week weather wise here in Essex. We have had warmth, cold, sunshine but mostly a lot of rain. I have been hoping for an improvement as we are off to a little festival tomorrow.  It’s not looking too bad at the moment but I will be taking my rain mac just in case.

So what five frugal things have we achieved this week?

We have a working wood burner

We finally had our wood burner fitted! It is ready for winter. This isn’t frugal in itself, of course, as it was expensive. Mr S saved us money by doing as much work as possible himself but we had to pay to get the chimney lined. Others who have one tell me that it has saved money on their heating bills in the long run and is great for drying laundry.

I am certainly looking forward to cozying up in front of it this winter.

I got some cash back

I signed up a while ago to Top Cashback and, even though I have barely bought anything over the last few months, I have earned £50 cash back! Imagine how much you could get back if you are a big online spender?

The idea is that you go into the site and peruse the deals they have negotiated with various retailers. If you buy something, you get the published amount of money back. I have got into the habit of checking Top Cashback to see if there is a deal on before I buy anything. I renewed my breakdown cover and bought a few presents and it has definitely come up trumps.

If you use my referral code, here, I earn a commission and you get a £5 bonus once you purchase something.

Picnicking

As I mentioned, we are off to a small festival tomorrow – Wrabfest! We have never been before but it looks fun. It is a community event, organised by villagers from Wrabness. Because we are on a grocery challenge, we shall be taking along a large picnic. I have rolls, crisps, fruit, chocolate, sausage rolls and water. Hopefully we will be allowed to take a flask in too. As we are there all day, we will probably blow the budget and buy a burger or something for dinner though. You have to loosen the purse strings once in a while, and I don’t fancy lugging around too much food. Hopefully, this will be a nice day.

Surveys

I have never bothered much with online survey sites to make extra cash. They seem generally to be a lot of effort for very little reward. However, Prolific Academic was recommended to me as one that actually pays worthwhile amounts. I signed up and did a couple in my lunch hour today. I made £3.17 in about 20 minutes. Ok, it’s not going to make me rich, but if I did that every lunchtime it would be a useful amount extra at the end of the month!

You need to answer quite a lot of pre-screening questions and they keep appearing, each time you log on. The more you complete, the more surveys you are likely to be eligible for. It also pays to add your phone number to verify your account, I am told.

Lunch for pennies

As we still have a few courgettes coming through on the veg patch, I made a bucket of ratatouille on Monday. We had it for dinner with rice and I have eaten the rest for my lunches every day. It made a change from soup or a sandwich. I don’t really use a recipe. I just chop up onions, garlic, peppers and courgettes, fry them up, then add tinned tomatoes, herbs and seasonings. If I have an aubergine I might chuck that in, but I did without this time. It is certainly cheaper than going to the shop every day for a meal deal!

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Hop over to their sites to see the frugal things they have achieved? Let me know about yours in the comments too.

Is frugality the new black?

frugalityIs frugality the new black? I asked this same question back in 2014. Back then it felt we were still in a post recession hangover. Now, in the UK anyway, I think it is more to do with post-Brexit nervousness and our government’s insistence on pushing forwards with their austerity programme. Either way, whatever the cause, frugality seems to be in!

Frugality is in

Food and energy prices go up whilst wages largely stagnate. Benefits are being squeezed for those already on the lowest incomes. Public services are facing cutbacks just as people seem increasingly to need them.

No wonder the internet is packed with money saving and frugality blogs! Whether you want information on living a thriftier, more frugal lifestyle, need advice on budgeting or debt repayment, need better value recipes or want to know where the best discounts can be found, there is a blog for you.

You Tube also features these frugal bloggers and Pinterest is positively awash with them. New books like The No Spend Year: How you can spend less and live more (Michelle McGagh) echo those published at the time of the last recession such as Judith Levine’s Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. There are TV programmes telling you how to spend less on food, how to get more for your money, how to live mortgage free and how to make something new from an item about to be sent to the rubbish dump. Buying second-hand is positively trendy (although not always super cheap if it carries a ‘vintage’ label), with a host of entrepreneurial folk making a living selling second-hand stuff on eBay and other online sites.

Taking care of the pennies

frugalityI guess I might have a different view of the situation if my colleagues were mostly investment bankers rather than local government employees. However, it appears that most people I know are watching the pennies. Those who once seemed embarrassed about shopping in the discount supermarkets now appear very happy to share how much money they saved.

Do people still feel the need to keep up with the Jones’s? I don’t see this so much. Many families are prepared to budget when they need to,  which doesn’t leave much scope for showing off. I am sure some parents continue to spoil their children by spending vast amounts on Christmas and birthdays. However, I have noticed that there are just as many keen to show their children they love them in more meaningful ways and to teach them the value of money.

It is no fun having no spare cash. It is even worse if you have debts because you don’t control your spending. There are plenty of folk out there with reasonable incomes who are in a sticky financial situation because they have been under the influence of the buy now pay later credit culture. I am happy to be part of the frugality trend if it in any way helps people to manage their money better, to appreciate the simple things in life and to save a bit of cash for a rainy day.  I hope it isn’t just a thrifty fad and that frugality really is the new black!

There are a couple of affiliate links in this post and if you purchase anything after linking through I will receive a small commission.

A weekend of thrifty living and saving money

We have had a good weekend here at Shoestring Cottage. I really feel we have achieved something! We continue with our thrifty living adventures.

A new tenant

One of my aims for this month was to get a new lodger sorted. I paid a few pounds to Spare Room to have a bold advert and I’m glad I did. We have had lots more interest than last time. Yesterday I spoke to a young lady who is studying abroad but is coming to Colchester to do her masters. She seems very nice and has decided to take the room from October. This gives us time to get in once our current lodger has gone and spruce it up a bit.

Free food

thrifty livingWe have been picking blackberries. There are always tons in the car park at our local post office. No one ever seems to harvest them. We checked it was ok to have some and picked 4lbs of lovely ripe fruit.

They are already in the freezer. I will use them puréed in porridge or made into pies and crumbles over the winter.

Yellow stickers

thrifty livingDarling daughter has got lucky a few times hunting for yellow stickered food recently. She arrived just at the right time in Asda on Saturday evening and got loads of items reduced to 10p. I really must make a more concerted effort to hunt out reduced food. This will help my £35 a week grocery challenge!

Home grown

thrifty livingOn the veggie patch, the courgettes have started to slow down but are still arriving. We had our first ripe tomatoes on Saturday and there are still tons of cucumbers. These are so easy to grow if you have a greenhouse. Ours came from eBay a few years ago and cost £85 secondhand. It was a good investment.

We also have tons of runner beans, spinach and chard and some chilli peppers. I am really pleased that our apple trees look like producing their first decent crop this year too. They will go well with our foraged blackberries! We have a young plum tree too but only a couple of plums on there so far.

Seeds for free!

thrfty livinigWe did loads of much needed tidying in the garden yesterday. I am really pleased with how it is looking. It never ends though and there is still plenty to do.

I collected some seed heads from our hollyhocks and foxgloves and put them in an envelope, as instructed by Monty Don on Gardener’s World. Free seeds for next year! I love the cottage garden feel those plants give.

DIY hair cutting

thrifty livingI did some more DIY hair cutting at the weekend, just trimming the fringe and layers. I do still go to the hairdresser but a lot less frequently now that I know I can tidy it up myself between cuts.

It looks pretty ok I reckon. I do need to learn not to cut my layers quite so blunt though. Maybe I will have a look at purchasing some layering scissors with my Boots points.

I am happy with our good weekend of money saving and thrifty living. Was yours a frugal weekend?

Grocery challenge update: still saving money

Last Friday, because it was pay day for me, I kicked off a grocery challenge. A whole month of shopping on a budget of just £35 a week to feed three of us.

I was pleased that some of you here and on Instagram and Twitter decided to join in, setting your shopping budget  lower than usual to help save a few pounds.

So how is your grocery challenge going?

I have found week one to be very easy. My spending has looked like this:

Initial Lidl shop £16.35

Weekend top up £5.62

Milk top up (Lactofree), £3

Urge for chocolate and junk (will explain later) £3.89

Total: £27.86

Week one was always going to be the easiest week as we still have plenty of basics. As we use those up we are likely to spend more. We also have produce in the garden, so in that sense the summer months are the best time to do a grocery challenge.

However, If you have school age children starting a grocery challenge in the school holidays could be tricky. Mine were like maurauding plagues of hungry locusts at the best of times! At home all day in the holidays? Well…I would love to know how you manage this.

I am going to plan next week’s meals  and go to Lidl tonight for next week’s instalment of the grocery challenge

Sad times

It has been a tough week. Work has been particularly busy and stressful. On top of that, my old cat, Vera, suddenly took ill on Monday.  She stopped eating, hid under the bed and, the worst, started having violent seizures. By Thursday we knew we had to let her go. The vet did blood tests and her kidneys and various other parts of her were shutting down. We had her put to sleep and stayed with her until the end. Then we took her home and buried her under the apple tree. Sad days. RIP Vera. We miss our little companion, who was usually snuggling between Mr S and I when we settled down on the sofa.

This is why I don’t feel bad for the chocolate binge. I was comfort eating! This week I will build a few more treats in.

I hope you had a better week. If you are joining in, how is it going? It isn’t too late, if you want to take part. Let me  know in the comments what budget you are setting and how you get on.

This month’s grocery challenge: eating on a budget

Grocery challengeAre you spending too much on food? Do you set a budget? When you need to start cutting back on your living expenses your food shop can be an easy place to start. How about a grocery challenge?

I love a grocery challenge – I set myself a lower than usual budget and use every means to stick to it. Using up what I have in the cupboards, the fridge, the freezer and the garden, I am confident we can eat well and healthily for just £35 per week for the three of us. I am not including cat food, cleaning products or toiletries in this budget, although I intend to keep spending on everything else to a minimum too.

Friday was my start day as that is payday for me, and I will continue through until 23rd August. So that is 4.5 weeks of food for around £155. Can I stick with my grocery challenge? We shall see!

Although it helps that we have some produce in the garden,  I don’t want every meal to be based around courgettes. I love them but there are limits! Most people won’t have home grown produce available, but it is still possible to eat cheaply. If you have a bit of garden and spare time, I really recommend growing a few bits. It is cheap and pretty easy to do.

Essential steps on your grocery challenge

The first thing to do when you are setting yourself a grocery challenge is to audit your food stores.  We have plenty of rice, pasta, tins of tomatoes, cereal, veg (fresh and frozen), tinned tuna, etc.

The next step is to plan meals for at least a week. I find this is long enough, but I know people who plan the whole month in one go. Aim to use as many of your stores as you can. This focusses your attention on those unused and unloved ingredients that have been hanging around a while. Set yourself a challenge to find a recipe that will use a can of coconut milk or bag of walnuts, for example. I write a detailed plan for dinners but lunches and breakfasts are a little more fluid. We tend to eat porridge and raisins, or fruit and yogurt for breakfast with sandwiches, salads of soups for lunch. I also build in a few snacks. If not, I risk breaking the budget by going to the machine at work for chocolate or the expensive corner shop for crisps and wine!

Finally, write a shopping list. Think about where you need to go to get the best deals on the food on your list. I do the bulk of my shopping in Lidl or Aldi and pop to Asda or Sainsbury’s for the cat food and Lactofree milk.  The latter can be expensive, varying from £1 a litre when it is on special offer up to around £1.50, depending on where I buy it. As I want to stick to my challenge I will check online to find the cheapest price for this before heading out to buy it. I will also water it down a bit as my daughter guzzles it!

Other ways to save money

If you really want to save money, forget expensive branded items, at least for the duration of the challenge. You don’t have to buy the cheapest, but supermarket own brands are usually pretty good.

I mentioned we grow some of our own food. We also have gluts so are happy to give the excess away. If you have friends who have a veggie patch or an allotment you are likely to find they are willing to do the same. You could offer to do a bit of weeding in exchange! We don’t grow apricots but were lucky enough to be given a load the other day. I stewed half for puddings all week and put the rest in the freezer for later.

If you can easily get to a supermarket later in the day you can find some good yellow sticker bargains from time to time. Only buy what you know you can eat quickly or freeze. If you get a real bargain be prepared to change your meal plan to fit it in.

Think about doing some batch cooking. I will be making a large pot of ratatouille and another of courgette soup. The ratatouille will be a meal with some brown rice and cheese one night, and an accompaniment to meat another night. The soup will be good for lunches and I will freeze some for next week too.

We aren’t vegetarians, but will definitely be eating some meat free meals to save money.  I also bought a pack of bacon lardons in Lidl, which will be good for adding a little meaty flavour to a couple of meals.

Grocery Challenge Meal Plan

This week’s meal plan is as follows:

Friday:  Risotto made with vegetables and lardons

Saturday: courgette stuffed with turkey mince and mini roasties

Sunday: Chicken casserole, rice and vegetables

Monday: Cheese omelette with home made chips and salad

Tuesday: Ratatouille with rice and cheese

Wednesday: Fish in breadcrumbs, potatoes and vegetables

Thursday: Tuna pasta bake with vegetables

Do you want to join me on my grocery challenge? If so, what figure will you set for your weekly budget? Do you have ideas for some meals to use up the food you have in the stores?

 

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!

Five frugal things: 16th July 2017

five frugal thingsAs I was on holiday last week you may be surprised to learn that I have easily achieved five frugal things.  Our week in our lovely Welsh retreat was a bargain vacation after all!!

Frugal achievement no. 1: Eating in

It would be easy to eat out a lot on holiday. We rarely do, usually allowing ourselves just the one restaurant meal. We had a delicious one when we went to Anglesey and I was more than happy to pay for the lovely food and excellent service. The rest of the time we treated ourselves to yummy meals in, buying Welsh lamb a couple of times as it really is excellent quality. Not cheap, but much more so than eating out. We had new potatoes and home grown vegetables we had taken with us alongside whatever we bought.

Frugal achievement no 2: Picnics all the way

five frugal thingsEvery day we made ourselves a flask and some sandwiches to take out with us. A couple of times we found some yellow stickered reductions and took those out with us the day after. I know people get nervous about going over best before dates, but it was only a day and we kept everything cold in the fridge and the cool bag. I think if you use your common sense and the food looks and smells fresh, it is usually perfectly edible and delicious. One day we got our picnic for less than £1!

Frugal achievement no 3: Kitting myself out for work

I find it hard to pass a charity shop and we went into lots of them in Aberystwyth. Poor Mr S was running out of patience with my by the end of the holiday! However, as well as finding some bargains to resell on eBay, I found two skirts and a top for work. The grand total? £6. You can’t do much better than that for a bargain.

Frugal achievement no 4: Finding free trips out

We did pay for some days out whilst we were away, most notably the wonderful Plas Cadnant Gardens in Anglesey. However, we also found lots of free attractions. The Museum of Modern Art in Machynlleth was very interesting, when the sun shone we went to the beach and the RSPB South Stack nature reserve also cost us nothing. A walk along the beach or in the woods is always a joy and you get both for free.

Frugal achievement no 5: Using the library

One very wet day in Wales we went and sat in the library where we took advantage of the free wi-fi, magazines and newspapers on offer. I am all for using libraries wherever and whenever possible as the more people that do, the less likely the local authority is to close them. It was really interesting to see the range and number of people coming in to borrow books and use the computers.

Now we are home I need to think about some post holiday money saving so may need to find more than five frugal things each week! We may have had a frugal week compared to other people on their holidays, but Wales is a long way from us and the petrol cost a lot, we bought a few gifts for the girls and spent more on food than we normally would. So, this week, we will mostly be eating…..courgettes!

How about you? Have you managed five frugal things?

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Hop over to their sites to see their five frugal things and the other bloggers taking part this week.

 

 

 

Five Frugal Things I have achieved this week, 30th June 2017

Thanks for all the comments on my last post about frugal holidays. I loved the idea of a monastic retreat, as suggested by Kirrie, and Julia’s information about university accommodation. I can see myself trying both of these.

Five frugal things

I guess it’s time for the weekly frugal round up – five frugal things. So what have my frugal achievements been?

No. 1: Getting creative with courgettes

Courgette season is well and truly upon us here at Shoestring Cottage. The veggie patch is looking very productive and healthy, even though we did scale it back this year.  So far we have eaten them fried in butter with garlic, as a ratatouille with tomatoes and peppers and spiced with some cumin. Tonight we had courgette surprise, the surprise being we had broad beans instead .

No. 2: Preserving our fruit

Another crop that is doing well is the currants: red and black. I am picking and freezing them for now and have 2lb so far. When I get to 6lb I will make a batch of currant jelly. I love this!

No 3: Eating from the larder

We ate from the larder all last week as part of my no spend week. As we still had stocks of food,  this continued over the weekend until Monday, when I finally went shopping. However, I still want to clear some foods that have been hanging around a bit. Darling daughter works at the Co-op, and frequently brings little yellow stickered treats home. She sticks them in the freezer and seems to forget about them! I have been working my way through lots of sandwich thins for lunch and little brioche buns for breakfast.

No. 4: Home made stock and soup

I made chicken stock using 3 carcasses from the freezer, then turned this into a hearty chicken and veg soup. This was prompted by my lodger, who roasted a chicken and was about to throw so much of it away because she couldn’t be bothered to pull all the little scraps of meat off. I could! It also gave me a reason to use up all the veg in the bottom of the fridge.

5.  Frugal exercise

I have been getting up half an hour earlier to make sure I have time for my morning yoga before work. This makes such a huge difference to how I feel and allows time for all the other things I have to do after work, like the garden! It costs me nothing to unroll my mat and do a few salute to the suns! Who needs an expensive gym membership?

Have you managed five frugal things this week? Maybe you have achieved even more! Please share.

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

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?

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

no spend week

Beautiful Wrabness

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

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

Why we need a no spend week

no spend week

Life’s a beach

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

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

A day out for free to kick off no spend week

no spend week

Mr S takes a dip

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

 

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