The power of self esteem

We went to see a friend’s daughter, who is not quite 14, sing at an open mic night in a pub the other night. As she stood alone on the stage looking entirely self composed, I envied her incredible confidence and self esteem.

As her lovely voice echoed around the room I thought about myself at 14. I was painfully shy at that age, throughout my teens and into my twenties. There is no way I  could have jumped on stage even if I could sing!  I had very little confidence and, looking back, I can see how limiting that was.

If you believe you can, you can!

What I have come to realise is that If you don’t believe that you can do something you won’t even try, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This might mean you don’t revise for exams – what’s the point if you ‘know’ you’re not clever enough to pass? That opportunity for promotion at work? There are loads of people who are better than you who will go for it. You have no chance. University? You will never be offered a place and you don’t think you will manage living alone.

How many super successful people lack self confidence? Do you think they don’t have knock backs and doubts? The difference between those who settle for an ok life and those who strive for more is routed in their self esteem. So, their big idea was rejected or didn’t work? They will put it to one side and try something else. They will keep going because they believe that they will get there.

Running a marathon

Self belief will get you started and then give you the motivation to keep going. Marathon runners have likely trained for the event but as they approach the end it is the encouragement of those around shouting them on plus the little voice inside their head that says ‘I can do this’ that will see them across the finish line.

When your internal dialogue is telling you that you can’t achieve something, try switching it to ‘I can’. My auto response was always to doubt myself . I was so terrified of failure that I could barely begin, let alone stay motivated to achieve what I wanted. When these negative thought pop up, I recognise them and replace the though

Overcoming self doubt

Age and experience have shown me that I can beat those feelings. When I thought about training to be a yoga teacher my over riding attitude was ‘I can’t stand up in front of a room full of strangers and teach’! By then I had enough experience to put those feelings to one side and give it a go. Fortunately, the teacher encouraged me to start a class as soon as I could and within six months I was teaching at the local adult education centre.

When I divorced my husband I was full of self doubt. How would I cope financially? Could I manage everything alone? I found that I could. This is where my frugal journey began in earnest and this little blog was born.

This all had a ripple like effect on other areas of my life. When I was younger I would never stand up in a meeting to speak. Now I do that regularly. I doubt I will ever find it easy but I know I can. I had to do a group interview for my current job. Many people find this kind of situation terrifying but I quite enjoyed it!

Learning self esteem

Although many of us aren’t gifted with natural self confidence from an early age that doesn’t mean we can’t learn it. We can overcome shyness and lack of self esteem. We can replace each negative thought that pops up to undermine us with a positive one. We can develop awareness of our negative and sel-limiting thought patterns and retrain our brains to think differently.

I may not have been able to stand in the spotlight at age 14, but I can do it now! I am a work in progress and still need to give myself a talking to on a regular basis, but I am getting there! How about you? Has a lack of self confidence stopped you achieving what you want?

Can money buy happiness?

The Beatles said money can’t buy love, but can it buy you happiness?  We have all seen enough miserable celebrities with lots of the paper stuff who seem doomed to miserable, even tragic lives to know that having wealth is no guarantee you will be happy. Think Amy Winehouse, Howard Hughes or Princess Diana. 

The most contented rich folk seem to be those with a sense of purpose, who love what they do.  Maybe it just happens to make them money. I am thinking off the top of my head now: Richard Branson, J K Rowling, Paul Newman. All have (or have had in the case of Paul Newman, who died in 2008) wealth and success but also a social conscience.  They also all seem to have good family relationships. Paul Newman was married to wife Joanne for 50 years. All are considered philanthropists.

Equally there are many people of limited means who have wonderful happy and fulfilled lives, but I doubt the same can be said of someone living in grinding poverty, who is working for pennies on a tea farm in India and sleeping on the floor of a shack with no clean water or decent sanitation. 

We don’t need to be hugely wealthy to be happy but we do need to have our basics covered to stand a chance. Somewhere decent and warm to live, enough to eat, clean water, access to medicines. After that I would say we need something useful to do, people to love and love us back, the opportunity to have education and to learn. 

In this country and much of the western world most of us have all we need in material terms, so why do we seem so miserable? Is it because we want more? We are certainly prepared to get ourselves into debt to have a new car, fantastic foreign holidays, designer fashions and the biggest home we can manage. We can then appear to have the perfect life whilst losing sleep over the mortgage payments and credit card bills.

I would love to have more money. £10,000 would be enough to sort out a few things around the house and install a new kitchen. Another £10k would buy me the camper van I am dreaming of. It would be nice to have a pay rise to make things a bit easier every month. However, it doesn’t make me unhappy that I am where I am. I look at the people who live in slum areas in places like India and I am so grateful that I have a house, a job, enough to eat, NHS medical care at the end of the phone, a lovely partner and children who have been to good schools and are all employed. I don’t have much left at the end of each month but I don’t hanker for a bank account the size of J K Rowling’s. In fact,I would need to do the same as she did and give half of it away! She no doubt recognises that once you have enough plus a bit more on top to have fun with that is all you need – any more on top doesn’t bring you more happiness, it just means you have to spend more on accountants!

What’s your view? Can money buy you happiness?

A little bit of kindness

I have pretty much missed it, but this was Random Acts of Kindness week (find out more here.) I love the concept of a random act of kindness; dropping some money into a homeless person’s begging bowl, paying for someone’s shopping when they are standing at the till and realise they don’t have enough, making a neighbour a casserole when they have been in hospital maybe, or anonymously buying all the chocolate in a cancer hospital vending machine and leaving it for staff and patients with a note to help themselves. It makes you feel good about yourself as well as the person or people you are being kind to. 

I once embarrassed my kids by buying a sandwich for an old guy who was rifling through the bins for food. They initially thought it was none of my business but in the end they were quite proud of me 😀. I also slipped a tenner in an envelope and sent it anonymously to a dad I has been speaking to on the phone at work who had no money to buy food for his family. It wouldn’t buy much or be life changing but I thought it would get them a couple of meals.

At the moment the world seems like a hard, uncaring place. People and politicians want to shut the doors on refugees from war torn countries, build a wall to keep out immigrants, cut disability benefits and look after their own interests. They say others should learn to stand on their own two feet, even it they have no shoes to wear on those feet. This pervasive lack of kindness can easily become the norm. I hope the tide starts to turn back the other way. 

Small random acts of kindness don’t have to cost anything. Noticing that someone is lost and showing them where they need to go, spending time on the phone to a bereaved friend, helping a lady off the floor when she has tripped, dusting her off and giving her a bit of moral support, just being thoughtful rather than turning your back and walking away can only serve to make the world a better place.

It reminds me also that it is important to be kind to ourselves. How many times a day do we tell ourselves and others that we are silly? I have resolved to be a bit kinder to myself and everyone else starting now 😀.

Have you carried out or witnessed any heartwarming acts of kindness  lately? Share the love!

Are you trying to achieve Financial Independence?

A lovely, kind reader has sent me some scanned copies of some actual issues of the Tightwad Gazette. I am really excited to read them – thanks so much, Gill! In one of them there is an absolutely fabulous article about financial independence (FI). This is a concept I only recently became aware of when I read a book Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, recommended by Ilona from Life After Money. I whizzed through  it, but have yet to work through all of the exercises in it. This article has inspired me to have another go.

Frugality goes only so far

I am very frugal and strive to save as much as I can, but I don’t earn enough to save the kind of money that will enable me to retire very early. I am simply hoping to save a decent contingency fund and buy a camper van. Yet I am sure following the programme towards financial independence  in Your Money or Your Life would enable me to achieve this more quickly.

In the book there are many stories of people striving to save a large amount of their income (sometimes as much as 50-75%!) and aiming to retire in their 30’s and 40’s, quitting the rat race to pursue activities that make them happy and fulfilled. They do this by reducing their outgoings, living frugally and seeking to increase their incomes through various means and investments.

Step into the Frugal Woods

The internet is awash with people attempting to do the same today. There are blogs and Twitter accounts aplenty inviting you to follow their journeys to FI and offering to show you the way.
One that was recently recommended to me by a reader is Frugalwoods.com, which I am enjoying immensely. It is well written and inspiring and, once again, leaves me wishing I had come across the idea of frugality many years ago. Take a look!

I have signed up to the Amazon affiliates scheme so if you choose to click through and buy books on my recommendation I will earn a small commission

Give yourself a pay rise!

My daughter is struggling a bit with money at the moment. She spent too much at Christmas, like many of us. She has been talking about getting a second job to give herself a bit of extra cash. I have suggested that if she changed some of her regular spending habits she would be able to cope on her salary. In fact, it would be like getting a pay rise and she wouldn’t necessarily need a second job!

She probably won’t take all of my advice, but if she just does some of this she will have more money in her purse.

No1: for so many reasons as well as financial -give up smoking!! A pack of 20 cigarettes costs around £9.60!! She smokes three packs a week. Saving: £1500 pa.

No2: start taking in a packed lunch. She spends about £5 a day, five days a week. She could make her own for about a pound a day. Saving : £1200 pa.

No 3: stick to a weekly food budget. Write a shopping list and a meal plan. She currently spends about £50 a week. I think she can save at least £10 on this. Saving: £520 pa.

No4: stop buying makeup. She has so much so she needs to buy nothing until it is all used. I’m guessing she spends at least £10 a month on this but possibly a lot more! A conservative estimate of savings: £520 pa.

I’m not going to suggest buying no new clothes as she doesn’t buy many and they are often second hand. I’m also not going to suggest she stops going to the pub at the weekend. She only goes once a week and she is 25! A girl needs to have some fun.

But if she did all of the above she would have an extra £3740 a year. That’s another £70 odd a week in her pocket, which is probably more than she would earn taking on a second job.

Many of us could rethink our spending habits and give ourselves a pay rise. What about you?

Keeping warm when the outlook is gloomy

Now that the weather has turned colder we can really feel the difference our efforts to insulate the dining room-cum-lodger’s sitting room have made. We lined the walls with polystyrene backed thermal wallpaper, which was a total nightmare to hang but does appear to work. It has the added benefit of making the walls as even as if they were freshly plastered. We put radiator foil behind the radiator and bought some heavy lined curtains. It was such a cold room before but now it is nice and cosy. 

We plan to fit the radiator foil throughout the house and I really recommend it. I don’t think I can face fighting with the thermal wallpaper again though!

I was a bit depressed about the post autumn statement analyses in the media today. This from the BBC:

In its analysis of the Autumn Statement, the independent think tank, the IFS, said workers would earn less in real wages in 2021 than they did in 2008.

“This has, for sure, been the worst decade for living standards certainly since the last war and probably since the 1920s,” said Paul Johnson, director of the IFS.

“We have seen no increase in average incomes so far and it does not look like we are going to get much of an increase over the next four or five years either.”

The “outlook for living standards and for the public finances has deteriorated pretty sharply over the last nine months”, he added.

So, any money we can save on our heating bills (and all bills) will be a bonus. I work in local government and the belts are being tightened so hard there we can barely breathe, so I don’t expect much of a pay rise any time soon. 

Still, we are better off than many so need to make the very best of what we have.  

Staying positive 

Feeling rather sad today. My dad has been diagnosed with a not very nice potentially life threatening disease. I’m trying not to worry too much as he has further tests but it’s hard not to. He is in pretty good health overall for an 85 year old and he and my mum are fantastically independent. I have been so lucky with them so far so have everything crossed for a good outcome. 

We went to see them both for a cup of tea yesterday and they were being very positive. He has even started decorating the bathroom! This attitude is what has got them to where they are, I swear. Neither of them let anything knock them down for long. I need to follow their good example. 


Before we went round we visited a beautiful private garden. It was so nice, with gorgeous autumn colours. We had a lovely weekend weather wise. I could have worked all weekend as I had so much to do but everyone needs some downtime so I am glad we went out for a few hours. 

If you are ever near Colchester, this is the one: Green Island Gardens. Well worth a visit!

Being frugal is not being mean!

We have a monthly dress down collection at work for a different charity each time. Most people give a pound. If it is a charity close to their heart some give more. Very few people seem to have an issue with this easy form of fundraising. However, once in a while there will be the odd person. We had a man who never joined in the dress down and if you rattled the jar at him he would loudly point this out and refuse to donate. Another young girl (on a full time salary and living with her parents) would dress down but tell you she couldn’t give any money as she was ‘saving her pennies’. 

I am always a bit disappointed with this attitude. I am saving my pennies (literally! I’m doing the penny challenge) but I’m not such a tightwad that I can’t give a little money to charity. That’s not frugality, it’s downright meanness!

This is the confusion some people have with the concept of frugality. It isn’t about being mean, sitting Scrooge like in the parlour counting coins. It is about making the most of what you have, recognising your financial limitations and living the best life you can without going into debt.

It is about appreciating people and experiences rather than things, enjoying spending time with friends and family rather than trying to find fulfilment through shopping, forgetting trying to keep up with the Jones’s and realising that simplicity and frugality can make you happier than a new car and a big pile of credit card bills.

Yesterday a young man who had a very difficult period during his teenage years, when he was thrown out by his parents and helped by the local charity we were  collecting for, put £10 in the pot. He doesn’t have much spare cash but he understood the value of giving back, which was quite heartening. 

Anyway, lecture over and off my soapbox. Have a good day!

It’s the little things …

Excuse the lack of posts this week. I have felt inexplicably exhausted and seem to have spent a lot of my evenings snoring on Mr Shoestring’s shoulder on the sofa. Oh well – I guess my body needed the rest!

I was berating myself for getting so little done. Then I decided to make a list of all this week’s frugal achievements. To my surprise I did better than I thought. This proves we need to be kinder to ourselves once in a while. Writing a list proves you have accomplished something 😀.

So…what did I achieve?

Decluttered my wardrobe

I have pulled some things out to sell on eBay and have two bin bags to take to the charity shop. What’s the point of this stuff cluttering up my cupboard if I never wear it? Now I can see what I actually have!

Sold 4 things on eBay

I finally got round to listing some items that had been sitting in a cupboard for ages. I sold four and made £25 which has gone straight in the savings account. Every little helps!

Started a spending diary
I have done this before, although not for a while. This time I am following the plan in the book I am reading, Your Money or Your Life, and recording every penny that comes in or out of my life. I think this will prove a useful exercise to see if I am really in touch with my spending habits.

Repaired the dishwasher

This wasn’t really me at all – Mr S, my very own Handy Andy, came to the rescue and managed to get it working. It keeps blocking. I suspect it is on the way out as it is 15 years old. I won’t be replacing it when it does expire finally.

Dyed my own hair

I always do this. I use half a box of hair dye on my roots once a month which costs me about £2. My hairdresser charges about £30! They have to make a living but my budget won’t run to this.

Made thrift soup
  I dug out two carcasses to make stock – one was a chicken and the other the duck from Christmas! It made lovely stock. I added some frozen leftover mashed potato, pasta and veg, then chopped up an onion and celery and threw the whole lot in the pot with some lentils. It was delicious and will be lunch for about 4 days.

Repaired a hole in my jumper

My favourite blue jumper! It took three minutes to sew up the little hole that had developed. It was secondhand when I got it but I still want my money’s worth 😃😃.

Aranged to have a water meter

I have put this off for years as with three long haired daughters who spent a lot of time in the bathroom and required many loads of laundry to be done, not to mention the poor dishwasher, I knew my bills would go up with a meter. Now, with just one daughter left at home, it was time. The water company is sending an engineer in a few weeks.

Purchased lots of reduced jewellery

My new venture is an Instagram shop. I am currently on the look out for bargain bits to sell on and found some very pretty earrings and necklaces at a discount sale price. I will start a new account for this, although my current one now has over a thousand followers – I am quite pleased about this. I know it is yet another way to waste time but I enjoy looking at people’s pictures and getting a little window on their lives. Check me out: @shoestringcottage.

Wonky box

Asda have very kindly arranged for me to receive a Wonky Box to review. It should arrive this week so watch this space! In case you are living in a cave and haven’t heard, they are selling misshapen vegetables for £3.50 a box, which they claim contain enough vegetables to feed a family of four for a week. Sound excellent all round and I am very excited about this!

I am starting this week by finally starting some seeds for the veg patch. We had planned to do this last Sunday but had a day out to Pin Mill instead. So that’s my first frugal achievement for this week 😀.

Whatever you are doing, have a good week, money savers!

If you can’t say something nice…

I have always felt it is energising and uplifting to be around positive people. If you are feeling low or uninspired seeing someone making the best of things, not allowing set backs to leave them defeated, and accepting situations they don’t like but can’t change rather than constantly complaining about them does inspire similar positivity in those around them. 

I try to be generally positive but sometimes it fails me and I find myself bitching and moaning about my situation, usually work connected. If it makes me feel better to do this that feeling doesn’t last, so I need to take some deep breaths, maybe have a walk and get myself into a more positive frame of mind. I think of myself as a cup-half-full person for sure, so I can usually snap out of it quite quickly. 

The other side of the coin is that sometimes work forces you into a situation where you have to spend a lot of time with very negative people. In your personal life you can choose to avoid the moaners and the pessimists. So, how to deal with a work arrangement where that isn’t possible? 

I work quite closely with someone who appears to find offence in almost anything anybody says that doesn’t entirely agree with her view of the world. She will tell a story and give it such a negative slant it is like a different version of everyone else’s reality, a parallel version of the universe in which everybody is out to make her life difficult. She has on numerous occasions accused a colleague or customer of saying or doing things that simply aren’t true. She isn’t lying exactly; it is as if she has twisted events in her mind to the point where she believes her version even when people around her are telling her otherwise. 

I have learned I can’t change her, so I avoid her as much as I can and try to avoid getting dragged into the pettiness. Nevertheless, it is wearing a bit thin!

I feel like turning into my mum and saying ‘if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all!’

How would you deal with someone like this? How do you shield yourself from life’s moaners and avoid turning into one yourself?