Tag Archives: Holidays

Small victories 😀

Time to sort out the patio pots

I had a great eBay day on Thursday. I made three sales but one of them was for £120! If only I could do one of those a week I would be sorted. I hope to sell some more as it’s a double bank holiday weekend and the weather is a bit rubbish. I intend to hit the boot sale on bank holiday Monday to see what other treasures I can search out to resell. You can read about my eBay experiences here and here.

We also managed to book a holiday to celebrate Mr S’s big 5-0 this year (don’t tell him I told you!). We have been searching for a good deal for ages and we finally found one. It pays to shop around. Oddly, the all inclusive price was cheaper than the bed and breakfast option so we went for that. Majorca, here we come!

I have never done an all inclusive resort type vacation before. It will be an experience, I’m sure. Mr S loves a bit of sunshine. We used Teletext Holidays, which was weird as I didn’t know they existed. They seem to have some good offers.

Campanula for the old sink complete with sticks and logs to keep the cats off

We have been cracking on with the gardening, spending at least 3 or 4 hours out there each weekend to keep on top of it all. I have said it before – too much garden, too little time! I love it though. I get so absorbed in what I am doing that I forget about anything else. It is so good for a person’s mental and physical health.

I sowed some pumpkin seeds yesterday. The courgettes and tomatoes are coming up in the greenhouse, as well as hundreds of little seedlings in what we hope will be our new wildflower area. I sorted out some of the pots on the patio and Mr S did loads of cutting back and weeding.  We are planning to do a bit more as it’s a long weekend. 

So, small victories! What about you?

Frugal recipes!

As I am on holiday and have some time and energy to spare, I have started something I have wanted to do for ages and collected some of the recipes I have featured on  the blog over the years in one place. You can find the page at the top. It is a work in progress so I will add a few more over the next few days. I hadn’t realised there were so many! So if you ar stuck for frugal inspiration, take a look.

It was such an interesting exercise as it meant revisiting some old blog posts. This site acts as a diary for me and I loved going through the old memories and pictures. It is a great hobby in this respect and I always enjoy comments and advice from readers.

Just a short post this morning as we are off out to RHS Rosemoor and out to the cinema tonight to see Bridget Jones’ Baby. See you later!

Holiday preparations: brollies or sun cream?

What is going on with this great British weather? One day we have a heat wave and the next it is torrential rain and floods! As I sit here the sky is grey and threatening and it is blowing a gale. This is a shame as tomorrow we are driving en famille down to Devon to stay in a little chalet near the coast. I hope we don’t get this weather all week!

We shall make the best of it anyway, and take raincoats and boots as well as our swimming stuff and sun cream in case the sun returns.

I feel like I need a rest – I have been so tired this week. Work is relentlessly busy , which keeps it interesting (and I would hate to be bored) but there isn’t much time to pause and reflect. I plan to have lots of sleep,read some books,  get outside to walk as much as possible and do a bit of yoga, although I’m not sure how much space we will have with four of us in a chalet!

Lola is pretty relaxed about the whole thing

The cats will be taken care of by DD1, who is coming to stay with her boyfriend for a week. We prefer this. I don’t like leaving them in a cattery – they would hate it and it would be expensive for the three of them.

Our Italian student leaves today. She may be the last we have if we manage to find a suitable lodger. We have a few bits to finish such as the curtains going up in the lodger’s sitting room and a bit of painting in the bedroom and it will be ready. I will get it on www.spareroom.com in the next month.

Today I need to get up, get the cleaning and packing done and tidy up the greenhouse. We still have cucumbers but the tomatoes are finishing. On the veg patch the runner beans have finished but the chard looks fabulous and there are still a couple of courgettes. I have quite a few beetroots as well which need to be made into soup for the freezer, but that will have to wait until we get home now.

My next blog post should be from the beautiful Devon countryside somewhere near Ilfracombe. I can’t wait!

Designer labels? Only if they are in the charity shop

We have had a lovely last morning in Wales going round the RSPB Dyfi Osprey project just outside Machynlleth. There were cameras trained on the osprey chicks as they were fed sea bass by their parents. They are six weeks old now and will be flying soon. You can see them on camera at http://www.dyfiospreyproject.com

We also saw a few common lizards looking for some sunshine as we walked along the boardwalks over the wetland areas and lots of tiny finches. There was even what looked like a red squirrel, although one of the staff said it was a young grey. It looks red to me!

Next stop was the charity shop in Machynlleth where I picked up some real bargains, including a Karen Millen top with the label on (saying £99) for £4! Who spends that much on a top and then doesn’t bother to wear it? Someone with more money than sense I guess. I also bought two Phase Eight dresses, a Monsoon skirt, an M&S sequinned dress and navy work skirt and a lovely wool blanket. Everything bar the Karen Millen top cost £2 each. If anything doesn’t fit or I don’t like it I will put it on eBay and make a profit. I don’t feel bad if I do this – a girl has got to make ends meet and I do give the charity shops a lot of my spare cash.

We will have a meander this evening and get the car packed and head back to England tomorrow. I could stay here forever! We will be back 😀.

Incommunicado – almost

One thing staying in a very basic caravan in the middle of nowhere with no phone, tv or wi-fi tends to remind me is how little I really need these things. I think this is why I love coming here. It is so quiet and peaceful and the endless chatter and noise of every day life – the TV programmes, the lure of the Internet, emails, the radio – just don’t exist. We don’t have even a phone signal! I find I miss them very little, although we have had a fix of wifi on our travels most days for a quick check on Mr S’s business and have been able to text the kids and our parents.

It also reminds me how much time I waste online! Facebook, Instagram, blogs – and I sit in front of a PCs all day at work so you would think I would want to get away from technology when I am home. It’s never that easy, of course, as the world is run by the Internet these days and it is a wonderful tool in many respects. 

A root around the charity shops

As I say though it is great to have space from it. I remember a time before the Internet – yes, I am getting on a bit – when you went on holiday and your only communication to anyone at home was a postcard! You knew what was happening in the world by buying a newspaper. My girls would think that a bit antiquated!

We have another sunny day here in Wales so need to make the most of it. This is a quick stop for a coffee and a bit of free wifi in the library. But I’m throwing technology aside now – off for a blow along the beach and a root through any charity shops we come across. Yes, some things don’t change just because we are on holiday! 

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Well, me, obviously! I am not driven by money, but it would be so nice to have a bit more.

The BBC news the other morning was discussing the probability of winning the UK lottery and said we were more likely to be hit by an asteroid. I am sure the chances are minute. The only reason I play the lottery is because I belong to a syndicate at work. I couldn’t face them winning and skipping off to their yachts and leaving me behind!!

Back in the real world, because I know my chances of winning the lottery are so small I will keep focussing on my budget. I know what I want to achieve over and above ‘just getting by’. I need to get the new woodburner installed so that will be an expense and I am first saving for that. Then I will start saving to get the electrics done in the house – the lights and power sockets in some parts need a lot of work and I have had an estimate for £1200.

But I still want a holiday if possible. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I am more than happy to camp but Mr S is not keen. This is because the last time we did it, in Dorset, we came back to find our tent, pitched on a hill for a splendid sea view, was about to take off. A kind fellow camper was hanging on to it for us! Honestly, some folk are so easily discouraged! We will see 🙂 my lottery numbers might still come up…



Keeping it Simple

As usual, but more so, I am having to watch my budget. I have a bit of credit card debt and I want to pay it all off so that I can start to save money towards the electrical work that needs doing in the house, installing a woodburner, and having a nice cheap camping holiday somewhere next year, possibly in France. I hope I don’t have any more major unexpected expenses – the car repairs cost enough to clear me out for a while!!

Garden (2)I need to produce cheap and nutritious meals that the family will all enjoy, keep the household utility bills to a minimum, and not fritter money on non essentials. I also like to get out and about and see friends but, as I have said before, having a social life and not spending money don’t really mix. On top of this, and I hate to break the news to you, for those who care and celebrate it there are 78 days until Christmas!! I have actually budgeted and saved up for this for once – it finally dawned on me that the successful tightwad understands that these things happen regularly and plans and saves for them rather than maxing out the credit card!!

What I would like to do though is spend just part of the money I have put aside and keep as much as possible to kick off my savings for 2015. I am putting money aside for car tax, MOT and insurance, birthdays, plus the aforementioned electrical work, woodburner and holiday. If the budget won’t allow for anything else the holiday might be a few weekends camping in the UK, as and when the weather allows. I need to do something though – I work full time in a very busy job, and have a busy home life too. It is really important to me to get away and unwind from time to time, and to visit other places.

Keep it simpleI was thinking about all the things that I enjoy doing that cost hardly anything. Walking or cycling, reading, watching movies on the TV or DVD player, visiting friends and family, inviting them over, spending time in the garden and growing some of my own food, having a glass of wine at home with Mr S, having days out with a picnic, doing my yoga practice. These all cost hardly anything. I also find that as I get older, I am more and more content with simple things. I don’t want to paint the town red. I don’t need to spend a fortune on new clothes and things for the house. I am not bothered that I don’t own a fancy car. I am happy to spend time with my family. In truth, I am boring as hell, but the great thing about getting older is that I don’t care!!

And here is another of my favourite things that costs very little. Lola the cat, in my work bag, which is her new place to cosy up!


Off on our adventures

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

Very excited! We are off to the Lake District in the morning, leaving DD1 and her friends to guard the fort. My lovely cousins own a mobile home there and are letting us use it for a week. It was the location of many great holidays with my parents as a teenager so I looking forward to going back with my own teens.

It has been busy as usual this week, so tonight will be a mad scramble of last minute packing. We need to be prepared for all kinds of weather so we have waterproofs and jeans alongside our shorts and suncream!

I went to Aldi last night and bought some provisions: pasta, rice, sauces and a risotto mix so that we can make quick and cheap meals in the caravan; rolls, crisps and fruit for the journey, coffee, tea, cereal and juice so we are set up on the first morning, plus lots of sweets and drinks to keep in the car. We won’t be wasting our money in any motorway service stations en route, although we will take advantage of their loos!

I’m not sure if and when I will get any wi-fi connection. There, but will post when I can.

Back to Reality, back to frugality!

imageSo, back to reality – we fly home this afternoon – but I will be happy to see my girls and the cats, and I have the weekend to recover before I go back to my manic Monday at work.

I have had a lovely holiday and it has made me determined to continue to be as frugal as possible and to make extra money wherever I can so that we can do it again. It won’t be soon – I will have to pay for myself next time and would like my daughters to come with us.

I travelled a lot as a young woman but very little since I have had children because of the vast cost. I have no idea how people find the money to have a family holiday abroad each year as I have rarely managed it. We haven’t gone without a holiday though; just gone for cheaper options such as house swapping and camping. The expense of flights has meant that these vacations have tended to be closer to home. We have had some excellent cheap holidays in the UK and in France, but never with guaranteed sunshine. And there is something about a sunny vacation by the sea that relaxes you – Mr Shoestring says the sound of the sea gets into your soul :-).

Back to reality, back to frugality!

Would you swap your house (if only for a week or two)?

So, you would love a holiday but even a campsite seems too expensive? Or perhaps the great outdoors isn’t your thing and, if  you don’t have all the gear anyway, camping is only a cheap option if you plan to use it every year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love camping and had some brilliant holidays in the uk and France when the kids were younger.  However, sometimes a few home comforts are nice!

The other thing I have done for a cheap holiday is house swap. I know it sounds terrifying and many people would be nervous about letting complete strangers take over their house for a fortnight, but in my experience it can work brilliantly.

We had two lovely holidays in Brittany and one in Normandy. Another in Segovia in Spain didn’t work so well but that was more the weather than the accommodation. Nice apartment but no air con and the hottest summer Europe had seen in years (2003). We couldn’t come home because of our house guests! Fortunately we were able to  visit friends in Barcelona who had a pool to cool things down then more in France, which was still hot but you could actually move during the day!

breton houseAll were respectful of our home and left things clean and tidy, although one of the properties in Brittany was a bit on the grubby side when we arrived.

So, the upsides of house swapping:

The accomodation is free!
It is a real home from home – better equipped than any holiday apartment would be
You have someone looking after your home so that it isn’t left empty
You can even exchange pets! Our cats were fed and we became foster carers to some chickens!
You can save on car hire and exchange cars too, although we never did this
If you exchange with a family your kids get to play with all their kids toys (so you need to put away anything precious)
Your hosts will usually leave you lots of local tourist and bus information
You can exchange in the UK or abroad

The downsides:
It is a risk – although it is your interests and theirs that they look after your stuff you can’t guarantee that they won’t help themselves to your best silver
They can pull out even if you have already booked your travel
You need to give your house the biggest clean of its life so lots of work before you go
It needs to be in good decorative order

I would advise you to use an agency – there are lots on the internet. Be realistic about who you try to swap with; the proud owner of a villa with a pool in the South of France probably won’t want your three bed semi in Ordinaryville. Be honest about your property – you want your swappers to be truthful with you. Have a neighbour keep an eye and someone they can contact if there is an issue. We had problems with the plumbing at one place but our contact sorted it out.

When my house is in better shape I will definitely be house swapping again!