Five frugal things to do in February

frugal things to do

As I type this, we have blue skies and sunshine outside. So weird when we had snow a week ago!  Climate chaos rules. It has made me think of getting outside again in the fresh air, so here are my ideas for five frugal things to do in February.

A bit of heritage

We usually have a membership to one organisation at a time that will give us interesting days out. As long as we we use them regularly they give us great value. We have done the National Trust, the RHS (a lot) and also English Heritage.

I love visiting old landmarks and houses, as you can see from my posts from Holkham Hall and Powis Castle. I was perusing English Heritage’s website and found this article, Days out for under £20.  You can save more money by joining though. There are some good places to go! You can join English Heritage here for £4.67 a month as an individual or £8.25 for a joint membership.

If you fancy joining the National Trust, you can currently get up to £8.40 cash back via Top Cashback (this is my refer a friend link). It is so worth checking Top Cashback for every online purchase you make. I currently have £115 sitting in there earned since I last cashed out in November.

Visit a wildlife trust

Another charity that we are happy to support is the Essex Wildlife Trust. They have all kinds of events locally, from a beach litter pick, to an eco jewellery workshop, family pond dipping, nature trails and bat walks. Generally, we just get our wellies on and have a walk around one of the reserves nearby.

You can visit even if you aren’t a member and pay a small fee. It makes a nice frugal thing to do in February, or any time. You can find out about your local wildlife trust and how to locate nature reserves in your area here.

Cheaper days out in London and beyond

frugal things to do

My parents bought Mr S a St Paul’s Cathedral visit for two for Christmas from BuyaGift.com. They do a lot of different days out quite cheaply. One of my presents to him was a trip for two to Windsor Castle with a cream tea thrown in, which I also bought on BuyaGift.com. Yes, you guessed it – I basically got two extra presents for myself! We are going to book them up once my neck and shoulder are better. There are some really good online deals, but remember to book your train fares up well in advance to get the cheapest deals. Otherwise they can mean it’s not such a frugal day out at all.

Find a good garden centre

This could end up NOT being a frugal thing to do if you can’t resist temptation! However, we love to take a wander around, looking at the plants, laughing at the exorbitant prices on some of the pots and furniture and just generally getting ideas for the garden.

A gorgeous one is Perrywood in Tiptree. It is so popular you even get coach loads of people turn up!

Visit a jumble or table top sale

It is too early in the year for a boot sale to be one of my frugal things to do.  However, if you are a bargain hunter like me, you will love a good rumble at the jumble!  But jumble sales are quite hard to locate these days and I thought they were a thing of the past. Recently I have discovered that a search on Facebook can yield good results. Scout groups seem to still run a good jumble.

Table top sales are more common, but are generally more for those interested in collectables, curiosities and antiques. A Google search will usually show a few, as well as Facebook.

I hope you enjoyed my ideas for frugal things to do in February! What are you doing?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

On the Money with Emma from Bee Money Savvy

bee money savvy

In the latest edition of On the Money we meet Emma from Bee Money Savvy. Emma is a 20-something recent graduate who is in the process of saving up for a deposit on her first home. Whilst a student, Emma had to find ways to make her student loan stretch further while working part-time to fund her masters.

Emma created beemoneysavvy.com in 2017 to pass on her financial wisdom to her fellow millennials, aspiring home buyers and anyone looking to gain financial freedom.

Conversations with Money Bloggers: Bee Money Savvy

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

When I was around 6-years-old we would visit my great-grandad every few months. He would always save pennies in a jar for when we visited and we would take them to be exchanged for notes. I can’t remember what we spent the money on, but I remember admiring how saving small amounts of money could add up so quickly.

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

Growing up I would often see my parents just getting by with their finances, so I’ve always been very money conscious. I’ve never really allowed myself to get out of control. I’m happy to admit that even from being a teenager I’ve always been a bit of a cheapskate.

What was your worst money decision?

A few years back, and in the midst of being love-struck, I decided that my wardrobe wasn’t ‘cool’ enough for the person I was dating. To impress him I bought a ton of branded clothing, including a jumper that cost me £150! I’ve worn that jumper twice!

What was your best money decision?

I was a very sensible student (the majority of the time). As soon as I enrolled on my degree I knew that my student loan wasn’t going to cover my living expenses so I went looking for a part-time job. I worked throughout my degree as a lifeguard, fitness instructor and sports coach. On top of that I managed to earn enough to open a savings account.

What is your best tip for saving money at home?

Regularly switch energy providers! If you haven’t switch energy providers for over two years you could save around £200-£300 just by switching.

What is your best tip for saving money out and about?

Go card free! If you’re an impulse buyer then pay with cash. Only withdraw the exact amount you need for the day/week. That way you can only spend what you have on you and you can see exactly what you’re spending.

What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?

Shop for the best deals. It’s so easy to get blinded by shiny new technology/clothes/etc. and not consider that the shop next door could be offering a better deal. Check multiple retailers before making a big purchase and haggle where appropriate (phone providers are always worth haggling with). I have been stuck in so many over-priced phone contracts throughout the years.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

bee money savvy

I was pretty happy with the broadband deal I got last year. I managed to find an £18 a month deal but then went through a cashback site and got £110 cashback plus a £50 prepaid card. With the money from cashback and the pre-paid card my broadband works out at £56 for the whole year!

What was your most recent purchase?

My partner and I went 50/50 on a new game for our Nintendo Switch. We managed to save money by buying a gift card, getting cash back, as well as earning some Nintendo loyalty points in the process.

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

I’m not strict when it comes to budgeting, but I am always hyper aware of what I can and can’t afford and how my finances for the month are looking. As well as my banking app, I use a chat bot to send me updates on how much I’ve been spending.

Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share? 

I’m hoping to buy my first home in the next year or two. I’m currently in the process of saving up for a deposit (and convincing my partner that we should move away from renting and towards buying).

If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?

If I won the lottery I would pay off any debts that my family has, treat myself to a holiday, buy my partner a car (I will definitely get brownie points for that answer) and start looking for a house!

Thanks so much to Emma for her contribution. Great advice about switching energy providers and using cash back sites such as Top Cashback and Quidco. Check out Bee Money Savvy for more of her tips.

You can read more of my On the Money series here and here.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Being the best version of myself?

best version of myself

I am very proud of my lovely daughter, Chloe*. She has been working on her writing career and now throws out fantastic content for some of the biggest names in the magazine industry. This one made me laugh and particularly piqued my interest, ‘I tried to be the best version of myself for a week and this is what happened‘.

Putting what I know about my daughter aside (making her bed every morning? Really?), I thought it might be fun to steal her idea and try something similar.

I have tweaked some of her goals for the week. For example, I am off work sick at the moment so I’m not getting up at 6 am if I don’t have to. More sleep most definitely helps me be the best version of myself. Especially with all the meds I am taking!  Also I generally make my bed already.

Social media? I maybe spend 15 minutes a day on Instagram, maybe 5 or 10 on Twitter, and hardly ever look at Facebook these days. I need to do something whilst I am at home, so I won’t kick my social media habit just yet.

What do I need to do to become the best version of myself?

Exercise: a daily walk.

Being at home and not moving much (and putting on weight), I would say an hour a day in the gym would be beneficial. However, anything other than simple stretches when you have a trapped nerve in the neck is asking for trouble, so I will go with a short daily walk.

Getting outside and having a brisk walk helps me at any time, physically and mentally.

Two litres of water

At work I always have a big bottle of water on my desk. But two litres? Not sure if I drink that or not. I will measure it out.  It seems that being the best version of myself will mean frequent trips to the loo. At least that will be more exercise.

A gratitude journal

I completely believe in the benefits of positive thinking. Being grateful for all the good things in your life is a sure fire way to lift the spirits.

I will try this each morning. Not buying any fancy special journal. I will use an old notebook I rescued from my lodger’s recycling!

A daily meditation

best version of myself

As I said in this post, I have been practising meditation for a while using the Calm app. But I am not in a routine with this so will have a go at meditating each morning, before I get ready for the day.

One household chore a day

At the moment I can’t manage a good clean through of the house in one morning, as I usually do. Just cleaning the bathroom the other day sent my shoulder into a spasm. But it is important to me that things don’t get too messy. I will aim for a small achievement each day. Mr S is good at hoovering so he can do all of that. Today I will dust the bedroom and change the sheets.

Taking a daily supplement

I already take a ton of supplements. However, I was reading recently about the benefits of magnesium. It seems many of us are deficient in this vital mineral. This is because levels are much lower in the soil (and thus in our food) than they used to be.

It is claimed that magnesium can help with a multitude of conditions, including a tendency towards trapped nerves and muscle spasm, and also fibromyalgia. This article explains more. I am in, and have already ordered some.

So this is my plan for the next week to begin to achieve the best version of myself that I can manage with a trapped nerve :). I will let you know how I get on next week!

*Before the other daughters start complaining I am super proud of ALL three of you!

Home made lemon cleaning spray #ecofriendlycleaning

home made lemon cleaning spray

I thought I would share this recipe (if you can call it a recipe!) for  a fabulous home made lemon cleaning spray. Regular readers will know that I have gradually been replacing the nasty chemical products at Shoestring Cottage with more eco-friendly alternatives.

Cheap as chips

However, you can pay through the nose for more environmentally sound products. The beauty of this home made lemon cleaning spray is that it is as cheap as chips! Ideally you would use the rinds of lemons that have been used for something else first. I made a lemon drizzle cake with two lemons. This involved using the juice and some of the rinds. I couldn’t face chucking them straight into the compost bin as they smelled so wonderful. Lemons are well known for their cleaning and antibacterial properties so a concoction for cleaning seemed the obvious solution.

I usually use a mix of 50-50 white vinegar and water as a spray when I am dusting the furniture, in the microwave, on the windows and to clean the kitchen surfaces and cooker top. The addition of lemons means it smells so much nicer.

home made lemon cleaning sprayI usually use old plastic spray bottles, but this time invested in some home made glass spray bottles from eBay.  The spray part is still plastic but they will last a long time hopefully. My home made lemon cleaning spray will save me buying lots of polish in spray cans that are extremely difficult to recycle or items in plastic.

The recipe: Home made lemon cleaning spray

You will need:

The rinds of two lemons

Around half a litre of white vinegar

A suitable glass container with lid

Method:

Add the lemon rinds to the glass container. Pour over the vinegar and put the lid on. Leave it somewhere for two weeks. Strain into a large measuring jug. Check how much vinegar you have and then add the same amount of cold water. Give it a stir then pour into your containers. Bob’s your uncle! Couldn’t be easier. Using a home made lemon cleaning spray such as this will cut the number of chemicals in your house that you and your family breathe in and save you money too.

Do you make your own cleaning products? I also like this one using borax substitute.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Six of my favourite You Tube money saving vloggers

MONEY SAVING VLOGGERS

Six of my Favourite Money Saving vloggers

As I have been off sick, I have had a lot of time on my hands. Resting up means I can catch up with some of my favourite vloggers on You Tube. Some of them aren’t strictly into frugality but their lifestyles mean they are saving money, so I have included them in my list of money saving vloggers anyway. I hope you enjoy them!

Mean Queen

I love Ilona and have been reading her blog, Mean Queen, Life After Money for years. Now I have also started watching her You Tube channel. She isn’t slick, but she is always likeable and charming. Ilona is a down to earth, no nonsense northerner who speaks good, old fashioned common sense. Her frugal lifestyle meant she could retire earlier than most and live a good life on a pension. You can view a typical one here.

Emma Drew

Emma is less about saving money and more about making it. If you need to up your income she has some very interesting vlogs with really good ideas. She explains everything so clearly and is certainly a great example of practicing what she preaches. She is now a multi award winning blogger earning a 6 figure sum. A good money making post can be viewed  here.

Sustainably Vegan

Immy Lucas founded the #lowimpactmovement. She is vegan, obviously, and into a generally minimalist and low waste way of life. In my experience, this makes also makes her super thrifty and frugal and thus a money saving vlogger! I first discovered her when I was searching for money saving tips as here and here. However, I soon realised that there was more to her than this and now I love watching her channel. As well as vlogging she is a photographer, so her videos are very slick and professional. She also has a lovely, soothing voice.

Immy vlogs about sustainable living, reducing your waste, avoiding plastic, fitness and more.

Dave Ramsey

Not really a vlogger, but worth including as I find his radio show broadcasts on You Tube both entertaining and inspiring. I am a fan of his baby steps to financial health. During his show he encourages, advises and cajoles the people that call in with their questions on debt.

Thanks to Dave Ramsey, many people have not only worked their way out of debt but have found ways to grow and invest their income to sustain their future. You can also see some of them doing their ‘debt free scream’ on his show!

Debt Free Dana

Another US money saving vlogger, Debt free Dana follows Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. She is a full time working mum of four, so how she finds the time to do her videos too I don’t quite know! She tells you what you know already, common sense frugality and money saving. I like her manner and presentation.

money saving vloggersSimpler Greener Mummy

Back to the UK, Simpler Greener Mummy aims to live a green and sustainable life with her family on a limited budget. She does her best to save money so that she can stay at home with her kids – she even home educates. She also aims towards simple, green living, as I do. This post is a good place to start. Even though she is basically a parenting vlogger and mine are all grown up, I find her interesting and inspiring.

I am also amazed at how much of their lives people are happy to share. Every now and again I consider starting a You Tube channel but not whilst I am working full time. Maybe one day I will be one of these money saving vloggers! Who do you enjoy watching?

Sticking to the meal plan…

meal plan

Last week’s meal plan went awry! We were out when we were supposed to be in, Mr S was off doing stuff so it was just me a few nights and I couldn’t be bothered…. I ended up eating eggs and chips instead of making something ‘proper’. We also had an unplanned dinner with my parents. Never mind, meal plans need to be flexible and it did mean I only had to spend around £15 topping up and didn’t buy much at all.

This week hopefully we shall sticking to the meal plan. Generally speaking, I love meal planning for the time and money saved with a small amount of organisation and forward planning.

Saturday

Smoked salmon pasta. This was one of the meals we didn’t get around to. The smoked salmon was frozen so it is fine to use this week. We will use up a bag of salad I bought a few days ago.

Sunday

Chicken casserole for Mr S, roast potatoes and kale.  I shall have one of my veggie meals from the freezer.

If I feel OK, I may make a cake! Not sure what yet but will try to use what is in the cupboard.

Monday

meal plan

Lentil dahl

Some of the lentil dahl I made last week and froze. It was yummy!! Served with rice and a naan from the freezer. I played around with this, and will publish the recipe next week.

Tuesday

Spaghetti Bolognese. I have  minced beef in the freezer for Mr S and will freeze half of his Bolognese sauce for another time. I will have a simple tomato and pepper sauce with grated cheese.

Wednesday

Salmon from the freezer with potatoes and vegetables. I have a packet of hollandaise sauce in the cupboard so will cheat on that!

Thursday

meal plan

Aubergine and chick pea tagine

Just me in for dinner, so will see what is leftover or eat something I made earlier from the freezer. I still have some of the aubergine and chickpea tagine in there. This was delicious! Perhaps that with some rice.

Friday

Valentine’s Day! We will have a home made but easy dinner as I said in this post.

I will have another go at getting rid of the burgers in the freezer, with air fried chips and salad or veg. Still loving my air fryer, even if I’m not very adventurous with it.

So, this week’s meal plan is pretty straightforward, but as I am still in pain it needs to be. Do you meal plan? If so, what are you eating this week? Let me know in the comments below.

As usual, I am linking up with Katy Kicker for this week’s meal planning linky. Hop over and see what she has on her meal plan.

For more of my frugal food ideas, have a look at my recipes page here.

A free haircut and being frugal in February… #fivefrugalthings

Another week has gone by so quickly! I had the last of the block of 5 massages that my mum kindly bought me and I still have 3 acupuncture sessions to go. Being frugal, I booked blocks of each as they were cheaper. Both are helping my pain levels I think but the nerve is still well and truly trapped.  MRI scan is next week so hopefully I will soon find out what is going on to cause such pain. And, just as importantly, what can be done about it!

1# Charity Shopping

being frugal

My daughter has been dragging me around the charity shops every now and then to stop me going mad with boredom, as you may have seen in yesterday’s post. We have found some fantastic bargains, but some charity shops charge ridiculous amounts for tatty clothes just because they are a well known label.  Of course they want to get the most money for their charity, but they also need to use their eyes and common sense when doing the pricing.

Having said that, they are currently discounting a lot. I think they must have been inundated over Christmas or maybe everyone is doing a Marie Kondo clear out! I watched her show a couple of times on Netflix and it is interesting. However, I can’t see myself finding the time to fold all my clothes the ways she suggests and keep them like that. Being frugal to me includes getting rid of clutter and not buying stuff I don’t need anyway.

2# Not buying new glasses

I went to have my eye test at Boots, because my employer pays for an annual check there. My reading glasses are usually swinging round my neck (or I lose them!) but I now need glasses for distances, mainly for driving. I thought perhaps it was time to give in to varifocals and wear them full time. However, the price they quoted me was astronomical – £420!

I decided to take my prescription away and look elsewhere. I checked out a few online sites, including one called SmartBuyGlasses, which gives you 50% off your first pair if you sign up for their newsletter. This sounded promising and I thought I could always unsubscribe to the newsletter later.  I am still considering whether buying online is right for me and have emailed off a few questions to their customer service department.

If it means paying £420 I will stick with the ones I have for reading, and a pair I got for work which the optician told me were fine for driving. Has anyone else bought glasses online and saved money? Did you encounter any issues?

3# Entering competitions

I guess this is only money saving if I actually win something, but I have been using some of my time off sick to enter some competitions. One of the sites I like is ukcompetitions.com as it has a straightforward format taking you directly to the competition. I have been on others where you have to answer sooooo many questions and they are clearly just trying to gather your data for spamming later.

On the Martin Lewis Money Show last week they talked to a lady who had won over £70k from competitions! However, she did enter A LOT. I think she said about 100 every week. It would be fun to win something like a holiday or a new laptop, but I don’t think I will be that obsessive.

4# Birthday cards on the cheap

being frugal

I think I have said this before, I like sending birthday wishes to people but, being frugal, I resent paying £3 plus for a piece of card that will only end up in the recycling. So I am always on the look out for cheap cards. Card Factory is one of my favourites for stocking up.  However, in the Sue Ryder charity shop they had these quirky cards for only 50p each. I think the designs are really witty and I love them!

5# Free haircut

I said last week that I had booked a free haircut at the training night at a salon in town. Yesterday I went to take advantage. The haircut was very good – the tutor checked everything and stepped in to do the tricky bits. However, it took almost 2 and a half hours! When you have a trapped nerve in your neck, sitting still for that long is no fun. Luckily I had topped up my painkillers about 20 minutes before I went in so I survived the experience. However, I’m not sure I want to sit that long for a hair cut again, even if it is free.

They do a full head of colour at the training night for only £10. When I am better I might consider that as normally professional hair colouring is so expensive. I usually do it myself  – I think I have only ever had one professional colour in my life. Such a skinflint 🙂

Anyway these were my frugal doings this week. Are you being frugal in February?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post may contain affiliate links.

 

 

Charity shop haul: my latest bargains

charity shop haul

I felt a bit better yesterday morning so popped out for a bit of charity shopping with my daughter. We got a great charity shop haul! I paid for it later with a migraine and lots of neck pain, but I can’t sit at home all day, every day. (If it’s your first time here, I am off sick at the moment with some kind of disc problem and a trapped nerve. Not fun!)

Both of us want to start a proper reselling business. I have been reselling on eBay in a minor way around my full time job for a number of years. My daughter preferred Mercari and was doing really well, but sadly it didn’t take off in the UK and closed.

You Tube inspiration

I have been watching some UK eBay resellers on You Tube to get advice, hints and tips on what sells well. So far, with a few exceptions, I have only done clothing. I have discovered an English couple who make a good living selling on eBay and Amazon selling all sorts. Check out Nic and Andrea Hills. They are inspirational. It’s not an easy life and they seem to work very hard. However, they are their own bosses and have flexibility about how their day goes.

My eventual aim is to work part time for an employer and run an online business and blog the rest of the time. I am fed up of the 9-5, particularly since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia last summer. I feel as if work gets the best of my energy and creativity, leaving very little for when I am at home! Being off work, although I am in pain a lot of the time, has made me appreciate the value in having time to myself.

Here is some of my charity shop haul, to give you an idea. We are lucky to have a £1 clearance store run by the local hospice. A lot of our charity shop haul came from them, but we visited a couple of others too.

Adult clothing

charity shop haulA beautiful Phase Eight beaded dress in perfect condition. This was unpriced, so I assumed they would charge at least a fiver. When I got to the till they took just a pound! This was my bargain of the day and if it fitted me I would have kept it! I think I can get £30 for this.

charity shop haulA coast bustier, £1. These sell for £5-10.

charity shop haulA pink Alfred Angelo evening dress for £2.50. I had never heard of this brand, but they seem to go for anything from £5 to £50! I will try it at £15 I think as it’s in excellent condition.

charity shop haulAn absolutely gorgeous Monsoon floaty sequinned skirt for £1.50. Bit screwed up so I will steam it.

charity shop haulTalking of screwed up, a pink Karen Millen dress. It is so ruched you couldn’t iron out the creases, so again I will try it with my steamer. This was more expensive at £5, but Karen Millen can go for silly prices.

charity shop haulA Fat Face dress and a skirt too. These cost £1 each and should sell for a tenner each I reckon.

Other stuff

charity shop haulI don’t usually sell toys, but found a lovely wooden camper van with two figures. They sell for £26 new, so I might get a tenner on it. I only paid £1.

A cute Toyland Noddy soft toy for 50p.

charity shop haulA wicker tray. Andrea on You Tube snaps wicker items up in good condition and says they sell really well. We shall see!

charity shop haulA Monsoon dress for a baby for 50p. It is beautiful, but I don’t think children’s clothes sell for much.

My lodger Katie beat me at the bargain hunting though. She found what she assumed was probably a fake Chanel bag in a charity shop for £3. She had it checked out by a friend who works for Chanel and not only is it genuine, they sell for £750 new! £750 for a handbag!! Who has this kind of money? No one I know.

I will let you know how I get on as an eBay reseller. Had anyone else had any bargains from a charity shop haul? Do you sell on eBay? I would love to hear your hints and tips in the comments. I have a couple of posts about eBay reselling here and here if you are interested!

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Got a Brexit stockpile? Stock up with Approved Food

Brexit Stockpile

I asked on my Instagram page if anyone else was making a little ‘just in case’ Brexit stockpile, and a surprising number said that they were! To start with, I thought it was just media scare mongering. Then I read this article from the BBC and I started to wonder.

As a result, I have started my Brexit stockpile with a large bag of non perishables from Aldi. Tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn and potatoes, tea bags, pasta, rice, etc. It might be unnecessary, but what’s the worst that can happen? I have lots of staples to see us through for a few months.

My Brexit stash shopping list

I had planned to get a few bits each week. Then I remembered that many of these staples are usually super cheap on Approved Food. So I went on last night and bought the following.

It’s always worth checking out the bundles and boxed deals. My biggest bargain was a box of sauces worth £21.33 for £4.99. I will be interested to see what’s included, but the reviews are good! I usually cook from scratch, but it is always handy to have some jars of sauce for when I need something quick and easy after work.

2kg Whiskas dry cat food, £5.25 – hope they like this. Much cheaper than the usual stuff I buy!

500g Tate and Lyle brown sugar, £1

Huge 1kg bag white sugar, £1.49

1 kg Hovis granary bread flour, 2 for £1.50

‘Perfectly Good’ self-raising white flour, 2 x 1.5kg bags for £1 (that’s a lot of flour!!)

500g plain flour, McDougalls, 2 for £1

Ryvita thins multi-seed flatbreads, 2 packs for £1.50

Rajah Biryani Curry Paste , 2 for £1

Jordan’s 6 pack Frusli bars, 99p

Kallo vegetable stock cubes, 2 for £1

Kernal King peanut butter, 2 for £1.50

Resisting temptation

Brexit stockpile

My Brexit starter pack…

I’m not going to lie, you have to wade through pages of catering size packs of items such as yellow icing to find the useful stuff. There is also a lot of temptation in the way of cakes, chocolates, crisps and other snacks (useful if you have hungry kids, though!). However, the savings, especially on branded items are immense. Some things are near or past their best before dates, but last a long time anyway.

You do need to check that the discounted brands aren’t still more expensive than the supermarket own brands too. Usually you can bag a bargain on most things, though.

Approved Food can be absolutely brilliant for gluten free stuff and items for particular dietary requirements. As these tend to be expensive and branded, buying close to or after the best before date can save you lots of money.

The household section can be interesting too. Everything from shoes polish to notepads, pens to gift sets is on there at really big discounts. It’s a bit random, but worth a look.

Watch out for catering packs

Another tip is to check the sizes you buy. I once inadvertently bought a catering size pack of stock powder. It was so huge it would have lasted us way past the need for a Brexit stockpile and into Armageddon! I ended up giving everyone who stepped through the door a little tub to get rid of the stuff!

There is a delivery charge if you spend less than £55. It’s £5.99 for a single box and £8.50 for 2 boxes. It’s worth clubbing together with a friend or family member to make sure you spend enough to get your delivery free.

My box of staples for my Brexit stockpile cost just over £33 including delivery. I will also continue to pop a few bits in my basket each week to add to our stores. I am reassured by our decision to resurrect our vegetable patches in the garden this year. We are going to start buying our seeds this month.  Hopefully then, even if the shelves are bare post Brexit, we will be OK.

What do you think? Are you building a Brexit stockpile or do you think I am bonkers?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission but it won’t impact on the price you pay. Thanks.

Aubergine and Chick Pea Tagine

aubergine and chick pea tagine

I recently made this aubergine and chick pea tagine for one of my vegan days – I try to eat completely meat and dairy free twice a week. This recipe comes from a very old book, The Cancer Prevention Cook Book. Despite its slightly scary title, it is full of nice foodie ideas and healthy too. I don’t think it is still in publication, but you might be lucky and pick it up on Amazon.

aubergine and chick pea tagine

Aubergine and Chick Pea Tagine

This is nice with rice or couscous. Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 small aubergine, diced

2 courgettes, thickly sliced

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

150g mushrooms, halved

1tbsp ground coriander

2tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp groung cinnamon

2 txp ground turmeric

225g new potatoes, sliced thinly (I found it best to par boil these)

60ml bottle of passata

1tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp chilli sauce

75g ready to eat dried apricots

400g can of chick peas

Salt and pepper

(I also added 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika and 1 heaped tsp vegan stock powder)

Method

aubergine and chick pea tagine

Sprinkle salt over the aubergines and courgettes and leave for half an hour. Rinse and pat dry. Then toss in 2 tbsp of the oil and grill for 10 minutes, until tender. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the spices and cook for another minute, stirring to allow the flavours to mingle. Add the potatoes, tomato puree and half a pint of water (add the vegan stock at this point, if you are using it). Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the aubergine, courgettes, chilli sauce, apricots and chick peas. Season and cook, partially covered for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add extra water if the tagine becomes too dry.

I really enjoyed this aubergine and chick pea tagine and can see it becoming a regular on my meal plans. Better still, it freezes really well.

For more frugal recipe ideas, check out my Favourite Frugal Recipes page.

This post contains affiliate links.

OnlyNaturals Review: ecofriendly cosmetics and toiletries

I recently discovered a lovely company called OnlyNaturals, a family run British company based in Berkshire. They only sell natural and organic skincare and cosmetics containing no harmful chemicals. This is the direction I am trying to move towards with the products we use here at Shoestring Cottage.

CBD balm

Regular readers will know that I have been struggling for months with pain from a trapped nerve in my neck. I have tried all sorts to get relief, from massage and acupuncture to an array of drugs from my doctor.  Next stop is an MRI scan to see if I have damaged discs. I am not used to spending so much time with medical professionals – I am usually so healthy! However, this has proved a tough issue to relieve.

onlynaturalsI have been using CBD oil orally, but had heard that CBD ointment applied to the skin can be helpful for pain. With a bit of research, I found that  OnlyNaturals sell it!  I am trying a small pot first, so have ordered the 10g balm for £13.99. They also do CBD oil in capsule form, which might be worth exploring as it tastes vile!

Fewer nasties

Looking at the OnlyNaturals website, there are so many beautiful cruelty free products with fewer artificial ingredients. all of their products need to fit the following criteria:

  1. No Parabens
  2. No SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate)
  3. No Phthalates
  4. No artificial Colours
  5. No artificial Fragrances
  6. No Mineral or Petroleum Based Oils
  7. No contaminated Talc or Lanolin
  8. No animal ingredients (other than milk based ingredients and beeswax)
  9. No animal testing

only naturalsBecause they use only the best, natural ingredients, their products aren’t cheap. However, if you want to do natural beauty on a budget, you can do some savvy shopping with their offers. This Sukin Love Your Skin set is on offer at £15.99, down from £23.99. It consists of a foaming facial cleanser, hydrating mist toner and moisturiser. Pretty good value for three products I think.

onlynaturalsThey have some great value items in their sale too, so it’s worth a look. I wear lipstick a lot and really love their Lily Lolo natural lipsticks at £9.50 each, which I think is pretty reasonable. This one, Demure,  is in the sale for £6.50 and is just my colour!

Sound environmental policy

I like the OnlyNaturals policy on the environment as well. They choose products made by companies who are environmentally responsible and their packaging is either recycled or comes from sustainable sources. They ship products in cardboard and recyclable jiffy bags and use packing material inside the boxes that is fully biodegradable and dissolves in water.

Check them out and tell me what you think! You get a 10% discount on your first order.

This post isn’t sponsored but it does contain some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase using my link I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

 

 

Using it up: Cheap meals from the freezer

 

cheap meals

Our freezer is rammed full with the possibility of lots of cheap meals. It looks as if I have been unconsciously storing stuff up for a no deal Brexit… We need to eat it! Here is what is there:

What’s in our freezer

A ton of redcurrants and blackcurrants from the garden.

Two bags of foraged blackberries.

For some odd reason, two packs of fish fingers. We hardly ever eat them, but a fish finger sandwich makes a nice lunch.

A large pack of diced beef, bought yellow stickered.

2 packs of lean steak mince, again yellow stickered.

Pack smoked salmon trimmings.

3 fish in breadcrumbs

2 bags Yorkshires

6 pots home made soup

3 beef burgers – I bought these when we had our last language student

2 vegeburgers

Pack of vegetarian butternut squash sausages

Half pack vegetable falafel

A giant pig in blanket – seemed like a good idea at Christmas…

Jam roly poly

Frozen peas

1 steak

1 salmon steak

4 chicken thighs

2 lots of vegetable tagine, home made

Box of ready to bake sausage rolls

2 packs pitta bread

2 lots of home made chick pea curry

1 lot of home made chicken and chick pea curry

1 naan bread

2 loaves bread plus various odds and ends saved for bread pudding

A container full of veg ends for soup making

Ready for Brexit?

cheap meals

The start of our Brexit stash

I don’t even know how some of this arrived in the freezer! I think the girls must have bought the sausage rolls and jam roly poly when they were here at Christmas.

Anyway, the meal plan this week will incorporate some of this. I want to make space for some frozen fruit and veg, just in case there are shortages if there is a no deal Brexit. Despite my comment at the beginning of this post, I have started a Brexit store of tins and non perishables in the last couple of weeks.

The media may well be scaremongering, but it pays to be prepared. We will be stocking up on seeds to grow some of our own fresh food this summer as well. We had a year off last year, but now is the time to get the wellies and spade out. (Well, as I can’t dig with my trapped nerve, I will have to stick to the light stuff for now!)

As I have rambled on, here is  a rough meal plan to create cheap meals and use stuff up.

Cheap meals from our freezer

Saturday

Beef stew for Mr S and defrosted aubergine and chickpea stew for me, with kale and potatoes. This will be one of my vegan days.

Sunday

The same for Mr S as there is a lot of beef in that pack! I will have a chick pea curry and we can both have rice.

Jam roly poly and custard for pudding.

If we are home, fish finger sarnies for lunch.

Monday

cheap meals

Chicken and chick pea curry

Another vegan day for me. I will have lentil dahl with rice . Home made soup for lunch.

Tuesday

Burgers, home made chips and peas.  My daughter is round for lunch so will shall have some of the pittas with falafel, humous and salad.

Wednesday

I will make some kind of pasta dish to use the smoked salmon in. This one looks nice. I will substitute the double cream for a Lactofree version. We will have some broccoli with this.

Thursday

Just me for dinner so I will eat leftover pasta from Wednesday.

Friday

Butternut squash sausages, with mash potato and vegetables.

This week of cheap meals from the freezer should free up a little space, hopefully.  I am hoping my neck pain will allow me to finally make some currant jelly too at some point. Do you plan your meals and find it saves you time and money? Check out some of my favourite frugal recipes here.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

Don’t forget to come follow me on Instagram and Twitter to check on our money saving efforts. I also have a Facebook page – follow me and you will know when a new post has been published on the blog.

 

Making money and saving it too #fivefrugalthings

Making money

As I said in my Monthly Money Wins post the other day, I pretty much sailed through my no spend January.  Despite being at home the whole month, I didn’t resort to surfing the internet buying stuff I didn’t need! Instead of spending it, I have been thinking about making money – and saving it too.

Finally got a water meter

I have been meaning to get a water meter fitted for ages! When we first moved here all three daughters were at home, which meant lots of hot water for baths and showers, at least one load of laundry each day,  more running of the dishwasher, etc. We decided it would be cheaper at that point NOT to have a meter. Now, with only one daughter living here just some of the time (she is at university) and a lodger who spends most of her time at her boyfriend’s, we use much less water.

Making money

I am trying to make the best of being signed off from work by catching up on all of these little jobs I never get round to. Today a nice gent came to check all was well and decide where to put a meter. The engineers will be out next week. He left us with this little water saving pack for the garden.  It contains lavender seeds, a water saving hose nozzle, some swell gel, a water retaining mat and water stick for our pot plants and lots of useful information. As we live in one of the driest parts of the UK, the guide to drought tolerant plants leaflet contains great tips for good plants for our garden.

Making money with eBay reselling

I have decided to get serious about my eBay reselling this year, and make it a proper business. Now is a good time to hit the charity shops as many of them have been inundated with donations before and after Christmas. There are lots of fantastic reductions to be found. Selling on eBay is a good way of making money.

Making money

I focus mainly on clothes as I know what will sell already and have spent about £90 on stock in the past week. However, I have started looking at the many You Tube videos on reselling to learn more about other items to look out for. That is for the future. For now, I am washing, ironing, photographing and listing my clothing purchases. I managed to find two Karen Millen silk dresses, one for £2.99 and the other for just £1. When I looked at what these are selling for I was amazed. At least £30-40, which would be a fantastic profit.

A good start to my efforts toward making money.

Festival time

Making money

At this time of the year, I need something to look forward to. We fancy a festival, but prefer a smaller, more chilled out affair with a few interesting acts, rather than a frantic and very expensive V Festival type experience with huge headliners.

For a few years I have wanted to go to the Green Gathering, so I contacted the organisers to see if they would give us free tickets for a review. They were happy to do this, so watch out for a post on this fantastic looking festival! It looks eccentric and fun!

Part time veganism continues

Regular readers will know that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to eat vegan two days a week. This has been surprisingly easy, as I already eat a lot of vegan dinners. I bought oat milk for my porridge, a nice Tartex mushroom from the health food shop plus hummus for sandwich fillings. Other than those things, I didn’t need to buy anything.

Making money

Being a part time vegan is making us try some different recipes. Eating less meat, fish and dairy is cheaper and healthier I think. I made a yummy aubergine and chick pea tagine and will post the recipe next week. We will be eating that again as it was really tasty.

Free haircut

I was going to book myself in for a cheap haircut at the local hairdressing college. They charge just £7.50 for a cut and blow dry. Then I remembered that a salon in town was advertising a student night and asking for models. I rang them and they charge nothing at all! The down side is that they are super booked up so I will have to wait a couple of weeks. I don’t mind this for a free hair cut.

So, that is the summary of my week of making money and saving it as well. What are your frugal achievements this week? Have you managed to save a few pennies and are you making money with any side hustles?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

 

 

On the Money with Joleisa.com

Joleisa

Jo and Leisa are twin bloggers who both gave up the ‘joys’ of teaching to enjoy their second passion: writing. This lead to them starting two successful blogs: joleisa.com and joleisareviews.com. They hail from the sunny isles of Jamaica but have called the UK home for nearly two decades. They lead a simple, frugal lifestyle and aim to inspire others to do the same. Their blog led them to having a spot on Channel 5’s Shop Smart Save Money, which gave them a bigger platform to promote awesome frugal living ideas.

Conversations with money bloggers: Joleisa

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

As little girls we used to get a little bit of money to buy snacks. The shop was not far from home so we would walk to the shop and eat the snack on the way back home. Saving any money didn’t even cross our minds! Those were the days!

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

Yes, certainly. Before the frugal bug hit, we used to spend without a care in the world with little or no thought of saving, etc. Even as grown teachers, we used to be sympathetic to any and everyone who needed to borrow money (most of whom never repaid), we would grocery shop when there was no need and we would buy more clothes for the entire family than was necessary.

What was your worst money decision?

Perhaps one of the worst money decisions made was being duped into having a credit card. It was the most stressful time ever! Soon after getting the card, the spending spree began. Not being money savvy at the time and having ‘free’ money, I was certainly caught out. I ran up a bill that seemed impossible to pay off. That’s when I decided: ‘Never again!’. I pledged that if I ever paid it off I would never ever get one again. That was over 14 years ago and I have kept to that promise, thank God.

What was your best money decision?

Debatable, but perhaps investing in real estate, both here and abroad. That way we have somewhere to stay for part of our vacation when we go abroad and also our properties  give a good rental income. We think that is a good investment as well for other reasons: when the stress gets too much, we can sell on or if the market is very favourable for sellers, we can benefit.  I wish I understood the stock market more, though, because I hear there is some money to be had that way.

What is your best tip for saving money at home?

joleisa

In a word (or two, in fact) MEAL PLANNING. Man, we have wasted a lot of money on food! But not any more! We plan the meals for up to a week, shop for just those ingredients and then execute the meals. Along with that we also batch cook and freeze or  refrigerate meals for the family.

One good tip: if there is a glut on the market for a particular food  produce, then it is usually reduced in price so that is a good time to buy the produce and get your culinary creativity going. Look at various ways to use the product, who knows, you might even invent a recipe! We have invented quite a few and have saved lots of money along the way.

What is your best tip for saving money out and about?

Plan, plan, plan.  Plan for as many incidentals as possible. Think, will I be out at lunch time? Should I pack myself something to eat or am I making a conscious decision to buy a ‘treat’ lunch? Is my destination near enough so I can walk, saving me petrol or bus/train cost? Just think, think, think. Don’t be caught out by making impulsive purchases. It’s so good to do a little victory dance when you are back home and you have stuck to your plan.

What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?

Learn how to make and use a simple budget. The simple parts should be:

  • Money coming in
  • What I MUST spend
  • Savings
  • How much do I have left to spend

I find if this is simplified for youngsters, they are more likely to understand and to take it in. Many have no knowledge of money management (a sad state of affairs in schools). We should not sit back and think, they are 18 and they are adults now, so they should know. They can’t know if no one teaches them. So teach them the simple way and eventually they will get it.

Warn them against using money that is not theirs (credit cards!). Advise them to save up for what they want rather than buying things on the spur of the moment and paying for excessively long periods of time and with interest. Let us try to spare them the hell we went through because of lack of knowledge.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

Recently, on the Channel 5 show, Shop Smart, Save Money, we managed to purchase ingredients for three meals for a family of four for £9.00! That was a real bargain. Needless to say, we won that challenge!

What was your most recent purchase?

Hair products. We are doing a no spend January (except for must-buys). My hair is breaking badly so I have bought some products which promise to heal it. We will see!

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

In a word, yes. However, we are so adept at the budget now, it is not written. However, it does follow the same format as detailed above for under 18’s.

Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share?

Yes. We would love to become debt free by the end of 2019 (except for our mortgages). Hopefully we can retire at 60, by which time we should have paid off all mortgages. The plan is to be healthy enough to do some travels.

If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?

Well, first thing to do is to pay off all debts including mortgages, then retire earlier and start the travelling earlier too. Of course, we would support some worthwhile causes and make some  family members and close friends financially set for life.

Thanks so much to Jo and Leisa for this brilliant and interesting contribution. Check them out on Shop Smart, Save Money too! If you enjoyed this, check out some of my other On the Money interviews here and here.

 

What went well in January: my monthly money wins

monthly money wins

Here is  a round up of the small and the large achievements in my financial journey this month. I am trying to save money where I can, as well as to make extra. So here are this month’s money wins.

No Spend January

I have found my no spend January surprisingly easy. I didn’t feel the need to buy anything! It helps to have a goal, and I am motivated to put any extra money into my savings. I am desperate for a holiday to France this year, plus I need to start a car fund. My old girl may not last that much longer!

I have been putting off one expense though, and that is a new car tyre. Now that January is over, I will be getting that sorted straight away. Other than that, I don’t plan to go crazy and spend all the money I managed to save on my no spend month.

Did I have any no spend fails? Just one. I took some bags of items to donate to the charity shop and spotted a really thick Jack Wills hoody for a fiver. This is something I really wanted as I only have one hoody to my name, so I caved and bought it.  I am glad I did as this morning I woke up to snow – I need lots of layers to keep warm. We also had a cup of tea at the hospital, as I said in one of my week Five Frugal Things posts. Not bad for an entire month though!

Zero Waste Shop

monthly money wins

This is only one of my money wins in a roundabout sort of way, but it should save  money. I am over the moon that Colchester now has a zero waste bulk shop. A proper one with big casks of cleaning products so that I can refill my own bottles, alternatives to plastic items such as a loofah scourer and a range of shampoo bars. They also have loose food items such as potatoes, pasta, pulses, cereals, rice and herbs and spices.

An Ethical Life hopes to expand quickly and offer more products soon so I will be supporting them and I hope others do too. Refilling should save me money on the Ecover products I currently buy. I make a lot of my own eco-friendly cleaners too, but handily this shop also allows refills of white vinegar, a key ingredient. Annoyingly, Asda has started selling their white vinegar in plastic instead of glass bottles so I will take my old glass bottles and refill them.monthly money wins

Selling my old stuff

I thought January would be a quiet month as far as selling on eBay went and it was. However, I made the time to list all of the things I had lying around and sold some of them more or less straight away. I made £108 from my old stuff. Not a fortune, but better than a poke in the eye!

Making a bit extra from the blog

I am a long way from making my blog my full time job (though I would LOVE that!) but I do manage the odd bit of affiliate income and some sponsored posts. This month I have made £450, which is a great start to the year. This has gone into the car fund. I intend to keep this up every  month and try to improve on it as much as I can in my spare time. It is hard to make my side hustles pay working full time hours and running a house . I would love to work fewer hours as an employee and be partly self employed. Maybe this year will bring more opportunities to do this.

What have your money wins been this January? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

A Valentine’s meal on a budget

Valentines meal on a budget

Valentine’s Day can be an expensive time. Even if you are careful, you could spend £60 plus on a meal out with a glass of fizz, another £30 on flowers, £60 on some aftershave… whatever takes your fancy. Of course, you could just choose to ignore it altogether and save your money! We tend to go for the mid ground and eat a treat meal at home. So, if you want a Valentine’s meal on a budget, what could you go for?

I don’t want to have to do a lot of fancy cooking for a meal in. It’s not a treat if I have to spend ages preparing and clearing up. So I will be looking at easy options at the discount supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl. We will have two courses with some nice olives and nibbles to start with and, of course, some fizz.

Nibbles/starter

Aldi do a nice pot of Greek olives with feta or some stuffed cherry peppers with ricotta, both for a mere £1.49. We have eaten these before and they are lovely. Alternatively we might chop up some cantaloupe melon from Lidl for 99p.

Main course

Lidl do a delicious looking Cheese and dill salmon wellington at £3.99. Fish would be a good choice for us, as I eat fish but not meat. Mr S eats pretty much anything!

Another Lidl choice might be two Deluxe salmon fillets for £3.75.

If you prefer a steak, as Mr S would, Lidl have two rump steaks with mustard butter for £4.99.

All of the above could be teamed with Aldi’s steak cut chips for 99p, or some baby potatoes from Lidl for 72p. Lidl also do a nice speciality broccoli for £1.15.

Dessert

Lidl Deluxe continental apple tart for £1.99 or maybe a Deluxe Belgian chocolate cheesecake for 2.99.

Aldi offers a heavenly chocolate fudge cake for a mere £1.29 or a double chocolate gateau for £1.69.

Belgian chocolate luxury mousses are only 49p each at Aldi.

Bubbles

Aldi’s cheapest Prosecco is pretty good – we had some at Christmas. Castellore Prosecco Frizzante DOC comes in at just £5.49 a bottle. If you prefer your bubbles to be pink, Lidl do a very good Cava Rosado Brut at just £4.99.

Our Valentine’s meal on a budget

Valentines meal on a budget

This is what we have chosen for our Valentine’s meal on a budget this year.

Starter

Greek olives with feta          £1.49

Main course

Salmon fillets (Lidl)              £3.75

Baby potatoes (Lidl)             72p

Hollandaise sauce (Lidl)     65p

Speciality broccoli                £1.15

Dessert

Aldi heavenly chocolate cake   £1.29

Drinks

Castellore Prosecco Frizzante DOC  £5.49

Our pretty luxurious three course meal with fizz comes in at £14.54. OK, we have to do the washing up ourselves, but it should be pretty minimal! A meal like this would cost a lot more in a restaurant, so I am happy with our Valentine’s meal on a budget.

As reader Laura points out, Tesco also does a mean meal deal of a main, a side, a pud and a drink for a tenner so it’s worth seeing if you fancy the choice there. We have tried both the Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s meal deals in the past and they are pretty good and excellent value.

Alternatively, you could go super cheap and have pizza and cola for £1.92, as suggested by Skint Dad in this post! Don’t think Mr S would be too impressed, but in the end if you were with your one true love…

Do you aim to save money on Valentine’s day, ignore it all together, or push the boat out on a restaurant meal?

More healthy dinners: this week’s #mealplan

healthy dinners

I am planning more healthy dinners this week. Being unwell for so long has made me determined to be super healthy and get better! I take so many pills at the moment I can’t wait to get this trapped nerve sorted once and for all. Still waiting for my MRI… I am doing some extremely gentle exercise whilst I wait, but plan a mega fitness regime as soon as I am sorted!

My two vegan days went well last week so I am doing the same again this week, on Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t enjoy almond milk in my tea at all, although it was OK in my coffee and porridge. This week I am buying oat milk instead.

A week of healthy dinners

Saturday

healthy meals

Aubergine and chick pea tagine. This sounds delicious. I haven’t made it before but came across it in an old recipe book that cost me 20p in a library sale. I use it a lot. It’s called The Cancer Prevention Cook Book, and it is chock full of lovely, healthy recipes with great photos. You can find it on Amazon still for about 40p! I recommend it!

There is couscous in the larder that really needs eating so I will serve some of that with this dish.

Sunday

We will have a roast dinner today. Mr S will have roast chicken or a chop and I will have a nut cutlet, with roast potatoes, lots of veg and a Yorkshire pudding.

I will make plum crumble with our home grown plums that are in the freezer. If I use the vegan margarine this can be one of my vegan days and I will attempt to make custard with oat milk. Not sure how that will work out but I can but try!

Monday

Not strictly a vegan day, but I really fancy making a tomato and lentil dahl, again from the Cancer Prevention Cookbook. It uses ingredients I have in the cupboard anyway. We will have it with brown rice.

Tuesday

Salmon with potatoes and vegetables, with a hollandaise sauce. One of my favourite simple but healthy dinners.

Wednesday

Spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce and grated cheese. Mr S can have mince in his, as I bought lots of yellow stickered stuff which is in the freezer. I will make extra and freeze for some ready meals once I get back to work. We will have salad or veg with this, depending on what’s left.

Thursday

healthy dinners

A nice bit of comfort food – macaroni cheese with a large salad and avocado. I will use whole wheat macaroni.

Friday

Probably the same again – I don’t mind eating the same thing two days in a row! Less cooking.

So this is our week of healthy dinners. Not much meat or fish, some pulses and lots of vegetables. What are you eating?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

Don’t forget to come follow me on Instagram and Twitter to check on our money saving efforts. I also have a Facebook page – follow me and you will know when a new post has been published on the blog.

January is a long month! #Fivefrugalthings

January is a long month….

I saw this funny post on Skint Dad’s Instagram the other day, which rang true… January is a long month. Even on my no spend challenge it is dragging a bit!

no spend January

Regaining control of your finances with a no spend January

If you are feeling the pinch and still haven’t recovered from December it’s not too late to have a few no spend days or even weeks. The discipline of buying nothing except essentials is great. If you decide you are going to spend less, it is easy to just spend and it creeps up without you noticing … However, if you declare you will be spending nothing then that is clear cut. No shopping, no going to the pub, no buying stuff on the internet, no beauty treatments or hair cuts, no meals out. You pay your bills and buy your groceries. You get petrol and pay for any essential repairs, but that’s it.

That might sound depressing, but it’s actually the opposite. It is only for a limited time and you reap the benefits with greater control of your money. So what frugal things have I achieved for this week of my no spend January?

1# Going part time vegan

january is a long month

I don’t think I could sustain a completely vegan diet. Nevertheless I find myself preparing vegan meals quite a lot of the time anyway. If you avoid buying lots of processed vegan foods such as ‘cheese’ or burgers, eating vegan is actually extremely cheap.

I decided to eat totally vegan twice a week in my new year’s resolutions, partly for health reasons – less fat and more vegetables and fruit – and partly to reduce my environmental footprint.

It wasn’t difficult as I enjoy this way of eating. I even experimented with a vegan lemon drizzle cake. It turned out a little soft in the middle but was so lemony we ate it all anyway. My difficulty with the diet is having to either drink my tea black or to put non-dairy milk in it. The almond milk I purchased didn’t taste good in tea. Next week I am going to try oat milk.

2# Keeping warm with our wood burner

january is a long month

I mentioned previously that I am currently signed off work with a trapped nerve. As it has been just me in the house a lot of the time during the day, I have been sitting in the lounge with the wood burner on rather than heating the whole place.

Me and the cats love snuggling up in front of a roaring fire! Cheaper than heating rooms nobody is in.

3# A walk in the park

january is a long month

We are lucky to have a beautiful park in Colchester town centre. Castle Park is huge and always immaculately looked after, with lots of interesting things to look at each time we go. This time there were these lovely willow figures of men tending a war time allotment.  We had great walk round it in the cold sunshine. It was so cold the pond was frozen over. Fortunately some parts had broken and melted as it was full of swans and ducks.

january is a long month

There were lots of people in the park, obviously not put off by the freezing weather. This is great. With all the cuts in local government, it is really important to use facilities that we pay for with our council tax so that they can’t easily justify stopping the funding for local amenities like parks, libraries and museums. Use them or lose them and make sure your councillors know how much you value them!

4# A bit of bird watching

january is a long month

Mr S received a huge wreath made from bird food as one of his Christmas presents. We need to put it in the garden, somewhere the cats can’t get at so the birds feel safe feeding from it. I also plan to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch so have been online to get a free pack. Hopefully the wreath will draw the birds in and we can record a few feathered visitors. It runs from 26th to 28th January. Why not take part? It’s fun, it’s free, it’s educational and it’s useful!

I’m not great at identifying birds but Mr S is pretty knowledgeable. I have been looking at the RSPB website, where there are pictures and descriptions of the most common birds you might see in your garden.

5# Changing broadband provider

We decided to get a grip with our TV and broadband. We had the cheapest, most basic contract with Virgin, which was fine for broadband but pointless for the TV. We get more channels on Freeview! We decided to get rid and take out a broadband and phone only package with Now. I did it through Top Cashback and got £75 cashback! I use cash back sites for pretty much everything I buy now – they save me so much money! (This is my referral code, by the way.)

january is a long monthThe contract will only cost £25 a month, as opposed to the £44 we were paying with Virgin. So, £19 a month saved plus £75 in our pockets. Most of the TV we watch is on catch up, which we can get via the Firestick, and Netflix. I don’t think we will miss Virgin.

How has your week been? Do you find that January is a long month?

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

 

 

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson Book Review


zero waste home
Can you imagine your family producing just one mason jar of waste each year? Even reducing the waste in your recycling to the bare minimum? Can you envisage for one moment your home as a minimalist, plastic-free haven containing only the things you really need? Less to clean and maintain, fewer toxins, and a simpler life richer in the things that really matter? Bea Johnson and her family have created just that and her book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life explains how.

Achieving simplicity

By adopting a zero waste lifestyle, the Johnsons have achieved a balance and simplicity that most of us can only dream of.  It may not be possible for all of us to create a completely zero waste home, but we can learn from their experience to reduce our dependence on plastics, cut our waste dramatically, to eat more locally and healthily, and to learn to place our emphasis on experiences over things.

zero waste home

You can follow the 5 Rs by taking your own containers to a bulk shop

The recent Marie Kondo phenomenon has illustrated our dissatisfaction with the vast amount of stuff we purchase and cram into our homes. We work harder to make more money to buy yet more stuff, and only occasionally stop to consider how little lasting satisfaction comes from this lifestyle. By moving towards the attainment of a zero waste home, we can help to reduce the stress on our environment, save money and improve our physical and mental well-being.

Five steps to a zero waste home

1# REFUSE

Johnson advocates a five  step approach to reducing your waste. Step 1 is to REFUSE. This means curbing your consumption overall, refusing business cards, leaflets, junk mail, goody bags, receipts, plastic bags and single use plastics generally. By taking a reusable bottle, cloth bags for your groceries, taking your own containers to buy loose goods and refusing as much potential waste as possible – ie not bringing it into your home – you will reduce the demand for many items to be produced in the first place.

2# REDUCE

This means questioning your need of past, present and future purchases. It means the reduction of stuff, maybe donating or selling items that you have accumulated but no longer use. Even giving up shopping as a leisure activity, maybe downsizing your property, gettimg rid of one car if you have two, etc.

3# REUSE.

Repurpose the items that come into your house that you weren’t able to refuse or reduce. Finding a new purpose for an item that might otherwise be thrown away or sent for recycling helps to alleviate resource depletion and extend their useful life. For example, you can used old coffee jars to collect and store dry goods purchased in bulk.

#4 RECYCLE

If you have followed steps 1 to 3 so far, you won’t be sending so many items for recycling. This is progress, since recycling isn’t a panacea for our over consumption. Recycling uses a lot of energy for a start and is confusing. Some plastics are recyclable and some are not. Some claim to be compostable, but how long does this take? Are our recycling systems properly regulated and robust? How do we know they aren’t shipped off to a third world country and dumped?

#5 ROT (compost the rest)

When you have gone through the four preceding steps, hopefully all you have left is compostable food and maybe also paper waste. You have achieved zero waste!

Can you really achieve zero waste?

zero waste home

We are lucky to finally have a zero waste shop

Johnson does admit that a truly zero waste lifestyle is pretty much impossible, but we can all move towards it. The benefits to our finances, our health, our time and the environment will be immense. She guides you through the whole of your home and lifestyle, giving you invaluable information and advice to enable you to at least follow a low waste existence.

Zero Waste Home has had a huge impact on how we live at Shoestring Cottage. I urge you to buy a copy and lend it to all of your friends and family members to encourage them to tread more lightly on the earth.

This post contains affiliate links.

Sarah Brown’s Spiced Almond Risotto

spiced almond risotto

As I have finally commenced my new year’s resolution to eat completely vegan twice a week, I have been looking up some recipes in my old cookbooks. Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen is one of my favourite go to veggie recipe books, and contains a lot of vegan dishes too. On Sunday I made this yummy dish, as per my flexitarian meal plan. It was really nice with a nice big salad. If you have a meat eater in the house, as I do, it goes well with a roast chicken thigh or two.

Spiced almond risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove crushed garlic

6oz brown rice

3 sticks of celery

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 pint boiling water

2 oz sultanas

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 red pepper, cut into strips

4 oz almonds

Salt and pepper to season

Method

spiced almond risotto

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok and fry the onion, garlic and rice for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the celery, sliced, along with the spices and fry for 3 minutes more. Pour over the boiling water and add the sultanas, mushrooms, pepper and almonds. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes,, until the rice is cooked. Ideally you want all of the water to be absorbed but keep checking to make sure the rice doesn’t boil dry. Add more liquid if you need to. Season well to taste.

I hope you enjoy this spiced almond risotto as much as we did.

This post contains affiliate links.

Twenty tips to cure a Blue Monday

cure a blue monday

Is Blue Monday really a thing? It may be true that January is a dull month. The weather is rubbish and the days are short, we are all feeling a bit skint after Christmas and maybe we have already failed our new year’s resolutions. If you are feeling a bit low this Blue Monday, here are some simple ideas to cheer you up and make you feel more positive.

Twenty tips to cure a Blue Monday

Go for a walk in the woods

cure a blue monday

For me, there are few things so uplifting as a walk in the woods, at any time of the year. You can find woodland to explore all over the UK through the Woodlands Trust. Also check out the parkland owned by the local council, which may also be wooded, and your local Wildlife Trust.

Bake some cakes

You don’t have to be Bake Off standard to make a decent cake. There is something so satisfying about transforming eggs, flour and fat into something delicious. You can cheer your friends and family up too by sharing your creations.

Crumb by Ruby Tandoh – one of the most successful contestants from the Great British Bake Off – will encourage you to be more adventurous in your baking endeavours.

Practice yoga

It is well documented that a regular yoga practice can make you feel better both physically and mentally. You can find a class by looking on the British Wheel of Yoga website. If you want to give it a try first, have a go at this gentle yoga practice on You Tube.

Learn to meditate

You don’t have to become a Buddhist to meditate, or even find a class. Instead there are various apps to help you get started, such as Calm and Headspace (both have free versions to get you started).

Meditation is said to lift  your mood, lower blood pressure, improve concentration and help you cope with stress. It’s not easy to begin with but if you are prepared to be patient and practice regularly you will soon reap the benefits.

Go for a bike ride

Can you remember how exhilarated you felt as a kid on you bike? Whizzing down hills, racing your friends and getting some great healthy exercise and fresh air without even realising?

If you don’t already have a bike you can find them cheaply second hand. You might even get one for nothing on Freecycle. Once you have one you can get from A to B much more cheaply than driving or using public transport.

Learn a new skill

What have you always wanted to learn? Blue Monday is a great time to challenge yourself to learn a new skill and find something to get your teeth into. Your local adult education college will run many hobby courses, from painting and photography to gardening and pottery. You can do free courses on all kinds of topics online through Open Learn  and also Future Learn.  The University of the Third Age runs a ton of courses for older people and also encourages you to share your skills.

Practice positive thinking

When you are feeling low, consciously practising positive thinking can be hugely beneficial. I love Normal Vincent Peale for his uplifting and powerful positive thinking messages. You can hear him on You Tube or purchase one of his books. I am currently enjoying You Can If You Think You Can.

Do some crafts

Sometimes doing something with your hands can be soothing and uplifting. The act of creating, whatever you make, could be enough to cure a Blue Monday. Knitting, sewing, card making, painting, crochet, cross stitch, candle making – the list of potential crafts is endless. What do you fancy?

Grow some sprouts

Sprouting your own super-nutritious seeds is easy at home. There is an easy guide on how to do it here. Your little sprouts are full of vitamins and antioxidants to help cure a Blue Monday! You can buy mixed packets of seeds such as this one from Amazon, which contains a variety of microgreens.

Phone a friend

In a world of the speedy email and the text , how often do we bother to pick up the phone and actually speak to someone? Ring an old friend and have a chat. He or she might have the winter blues too!

Book a massage

I have really come to appreciate the benefits of a good massage as I have had a painful trapped nerve in my neck for months. It’s super relaxing, alleviates your aches and pains and gets your lymphatic system working. If your finances don’t allow for a trip to the beauty parlour, try your local beauty college for a cut price one with a student.

Go for a swim

You might not be drawn to a cold, wet swimming pool when it is the middle of winter. However, the benefits of swimming might change your mind. Swimming allows you to exercise without putting strain on your joints – great if you are overweight or suffer from arthritis. Propelling your body through water is a brilliant way to strengthen your muscles and improve your fitness, and a good work out releases feel good endorphins.

Invite friends for a pot luck supper

When you feel low, being around friends is sure to cheer you up. If you don’t have a lot of spare cash, a pot luck supper is the ideal way to have a gathering without breaking the bank.

Start a gratitude journal


The simple act of writing things down that you are grateful for, and doing this regularly, can have a hugely positive impact on how you feel and your mental health. It makes you focus on the good things in your life, rather than on the negatives.

Have a clear out

You don’t have to be a Marie Kondo fanatic to reap the benefits of a good declutter. Choose a small area so that you don’t get overwhelmed. You could choose to do one cupboard, the whole of a room or to tackle a larger area such as an attic or shed. Whatever you decide to clear out, you will feel a renewed sense of control once you have done it. You an even sell some of your unwanted stuff to make some extra cash.

Have a home facial

Treat yourself to a nice face mask and have a home facial. Cleanse your face, exfoliate, give yourself a facial massage and finish off with the mask for a rejuvenating facial that will leave your skin glowing.

Buy yourself some flowers

cure a blue monday

Well, why not? You can get a nice bunch of flowers really cheaply from Aldi or Lidl to cheer yourself up.

Set yourself a budget

I know it’s a bit dull, but a budget can make you feel in control of your life and your finances. Just the thing if you are worrying about money after Christmas. There are lots of apps to help you budget now, such as Yolt or Money Dashboard. Alternatively, the Money Advice Service has an online budget planner that’s really easy to use.

Plan a trip

It’s great to have something to look forward to, even if it’s just a couple of nights away in the UK. Make sure you research prices online to get the best deal. AirB&B is always a good bet if you are on a tight budget. We are looking at using this to go to France in the summer.

Rehome a pet

cure a blue monday

Squidgy Dora loves a cuddle

A pet is such good company. We have two rescue cats and we wouldn’t be without them. They are guaranteed to give me a bit of love when I need it!  If you have the time to commit to a pet, why not check out your local rescue centre? There are all sorts of animals in need of a loving home.

What tips do you have to cure a Blue Monday?

This post may contain affiliate links.

 

A flexitarian diet? This week’s meal plan

The Flexitarian DietA flexitarian diet?

Did anybody see the story in the news this week about the ideal diet we should all be adopting? This so-called ‘flexitarian diet’ promises to make us all healthier, feed 10 billion people and prevent the catastrophic damage our current food and farming practices do to the planet. You can read the details here.

It reminded me that my new year’s resolution was to eat vegan twice a week and has inspired me to get on with it. Because we had the cheese mountain left over from Christmas I didn’t start it as I didn’t want to waste the cheese. We still have some but it is at a more manageable level, so now is the time to belatedly start my resolution. I am going to do it on Sundays and Mondays as a minimum.

Now that I have heard of the flexitarian diet, it seems it is well established, with a plethora of books available to get you started. I like the look of this one on Amazon,
The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way To Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, And Add Years To Your Lifeflexitarian diet

I like the idea of losing weight and adding years to my life!

When I go shopping I will buy almond or oat milk for my breakfast porridge. I can’t stomach soya. I already have some vegan margarine that needs eating. Otherwise, I actually eat quite a lot of vegan meals at dinner time anyway. I will buy some dairy free dark chocolate though! A girl needs a treat, flexitarian diet or not.

A pot of humous should be fine for my lunches with pitta bread and salad.

I have to be mindful that this is my resolution and not Mr S’s. He doesn’t want to give up meat or dairy altogether although he is happy to eat more vegetables and grains.

Saturday

Vegetable spaghetti Bolognese, made with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, celery and half a tin of mung beans that have been frozen. This could be vegan, but I will grate some of the cheese up to eat with this. Mr S has a meat Bolognese batch cooked from the freezer.

We have strawberry yogurt in the fridge that needs eating for dessert.

Sunday

Sarah Brown’s spiced almond risotto with salad. Mr S will have a couple of chicken thighs with his.

For some reason we have a ton of ground almonds, so I plan to use some of them up in this vegan lemon drizzle cake. No idea how it will come out without eggs, but I am happy to experiment. This will be good for dessert this week or just a snack with a cup of tea.

Monday

Chick pea curry, with added spinach and chapatis.

Tuesday

Probably chick pea curry again. Chicken curry for Mr S.

Wednesday

Penne with tuna and black olives. Steamed broccoli.

Thursday

Leftovers. Whatever is hanging about from this week’s meals.

Friday

Baked potatoes with an omelette and large salad.

So there you have our meals for this week. My version of the flexitarian diet. Not strictly vegan or even vegetarian, but incorporating a lot of plant based meals and not much meat, fish or dairy. Hopefully, this will make us healthier and perhaps a bit leaner. What are your thoughts on trying to feed yourself and your family using the flexitarian diet?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

5 more free things to do on a no spend challenge

no spend challenge

How are your frugality efforts going this dark and damp January? I am still on a no spend month and doing really well. Honestly, there is very little to spend your money on when it is cold outside. January is a good month to cut your costs for this very reason. In addition, I am signed off work with continued pain from my trapped nerve, so I don’t feel much like going out spending. I could go crazy and shop online, of course, but I feel no need. I am enjoying  the thrift and frugality of my no spend challenge!

My one fail? A cup of tea at the hospital on Saturday. I had an awful allergic reaction to some painkillers and came up in a horrendous rash. It was so bad I had to go to A&E for blood tests and a blast of antihistamines and steroids. I will let myself off. We didn’t think we would be very long and really needed to buy a tea whilst waiting around.

I don’t normally show pictures of me in my pants on my blog, but I had to share! I was like this from my neck down. Shocking, ain’t it?

no spend challenge

It got worse than this!

You may have read last week’s post Five free things to do on a no spend month. As I have plenty of time on my hands at the moment, I have been thinking of more things you can do rather than spend money when you are doing a no spend challenge, or even when you are just on a tight budget.

Volunteering

Volunteering gives you the chance to do something useful, meet new people, increase your skills and improve your job chances. It also costs nothing! If you are bored but have no money to go out, how about looking at volunteering opportunities in your area? Do-it.org is a good website to get you started.

Change energy providers

I know it’s not exactly exciting, but doing a price comparison on your utilities is well worth the effort every now and again. A no spend challenge is all about saving money, so this is a good time to re-evaluate your spend on the essentials.

I have been getting a few quotes this week. I’m not just going for the cheapest, though. They need to have a good reputation for customer services too for me.

Have an audit of your makeup and toiletries

no spend challenge

I don’t wear that much makeup, but even I was surprised by the makeup items I had forgotten when I had a clear out recently. Two very nice lipsticks stashed at the back of my drawer, plus an unused mascara that someone gave me. If you don’t use them quickly enough, the oils in them start to turn rancid. They don’t last forever! Finding things you have forgotten about will hopefully stop you wanting to buy more, so a no spend challenge month is a good time for a clear out.

The number of toiletries has decreased since my youngest went to university, but we still have duplicates of things. For some reason, we have many bottles of shower gel – I rarely use this as I prefer soap and I am trying to reduce my plastic consumption. However, since they are here I am working my way through them. We also have lots of bath bombs that various daughters have purchased or been given as presents. Usually I wouldn’t use those either, but a hot bath and a good soak is good for my painful neck and shoulder.

Play board games

Most of us have a cupboard full of board games, but how often do we actually play them? Bring the family together for an old-fashioned, non digital afternoon of Scrabble, Monopoly, Cluedo or Pictionary.  It’s not a board game, but my favourite is still Boggle!

Clear out your books, CDs and DVDs

You can make a bit of money on this one! Declutter and have an honest look at the books, CDs and DVDs that just gather dust but are never taken off the shelf. If you don’t love them, will never read, view or listen to them, then sell them onto to someone who will.  If you decide on a proper clear out, you can sell these and all sorts of other stuff (old phones, tablets, gift cards and more) through Music Magpie.  I love a declutter, and a no spend month is a good time to make money from your old stuff.

Do some baking

no spend challenge

There is something incredibly therapeutic about baking, I find. If you aren’t massively artistic or creative, like me, you can still create something good with your hands by following some decent recipes. As part of my no spend challenge, I cleared out the larder. I wanted to keep our grocery costs low this month too by using up what we had. There are lots of things to bake with in my cupboard – flour, icing sugar, baking powder, dried fruit and more.

I made my daughter a chocolate birthday cake and have also made my easy fruit cake. Next I plan to bake some spelt bread again as I have both spelt flour and yeast!

So these are another five free things to do instead of spending your money! You can keep up with how I am doing with my no spend challenge by following me on Instagram and Twitter.

This week I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

On the Money with the Money Principle

money principle

This week we meet Maria Nedeva, a business school professor and the creator of The Money Principle, where she teaches people in financial trouble how to build sustainable wealth. You can follow Maria’s work on Facebook and Twitter. 

Conversations with money bloggers 

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money? 

I was probably four or five years old. Growing up on my grand-parents farm meant I didn’t have much awareness of what money was or how it worked outside of fairy tales. When living back with my parents, I remember having a stash of small coins. This was my treasure. I discovered chewing gum and bought some…I couldn’t believe that all my treasure was gone. This is my first experience of ‘paying pains’. 

Have you ever felt out of control with your money? 

Oh yes. I was not in control of my money until approximately nine years ago. And it wasn’t only a feeling either – I really had no control. This means that I didn’t know how much I earned, how much I spent and how much things cost. I had no savings and no investments, at least not substantial enough to mention. I just wasn’t interested. Having wealth in property and pensions was accidental rather than a thought through strategy. 

Nine years ago, we reached a crisis point – we were £100,000 in consumer debt. This is when I decided that things will change, and I would become a ‘money master’. We paid off all consumer debt in three years and continued to increase our wealth by investing.   

What was your worst money decision? 

money principle

In the mid-1990’s, John and I decided to invest some money (approximately £6,000) in the stock market. We had to do the old-fashioned thing: select shares to buy and make sound decisions about the (small) portfolio later. 

Instead of reading up on some companies and learning about value stock investing, I put some of the money in a company because I liked its name. Okay, I wasn’t that shallow – it was also in biotech and I suspected biotech would be big. Yep, you guessed it – within several months I lost 95% of my investment. 

Since that time, I’ve made money and I’ve lost money; but I’ve never bought shares without doing my homework. 

What was your best money decision? 

My best money decision was to learn about, and experiment with, investing in businesses. Businesses not only yield unrivalled returns; they also make money by contributing value to people and society rather than speculation. 

What is your best tip for saving money at home? 

When I analysed our spending for the first time (nine years ago) I found that up to 80% of overspending on our budget was from: 

  • Wasting food; 
  • Overpaying for insurance; and 
  • Entertainment. 

I would also emphasise that saving around the home, or any saving, for me is about reducing waste. Hence, my tips would be: 

  • Make a weekly menu a buy for what you are going to cook; 
  • Batch cook and freeze meals; 
  • Snap out of  the ‘I don’t like left overs’ mentality. What is left from dinner is your lunch, not rubbish. 
  • Check your insurance payments regularly; use comparison sites to do this. Even our life insurance is a fraction of what we used to pay (and we are decades older). 
  • ‘Entertainment’ is only what makes your life more enjoyable. How much of this is free? 

What is your best tip for saving money out and about? 

At first, I thought to say that I don’t do this.  But I do, I just do it differently. I focus on two things: buying quality and training myself to want less. 

What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance? 

People will tell you that mastery of money comes from learning how to save and invest it. Don’t believe them! Money mastery comes from learning how to spend money mindfully. 

What was your biggest ever bargain? 

Our house, I suppose. Its value has increased five-fold in 25 years. 

What was your most recent purchase? 

A pair of shoes. I was in Capri and my shoes were killing my feet (at least this was my excuse for buying a lovely, and comfortable, pair of Italian shoes). 

Do you stick to a monthly budget? 

This is difficult for me to answer. If you ask me whether we have a monthly budget, and stick to it, the answer will have to be no.  Still, I know exactly what we spend every month and the ‘God knows what’ budgeting line when I do our budgeting is very small (no more than several pounds). 

There are two things behind this apparent conundrum. First, we minimise our spending by controlling our wants. And second, we have built a positive monthly cash flow that affords us spending flexibility. 

Do you have any longterm financial goals you would like to share?

I used to dream about a time when no employer would control my life. This is no longer a ‘long-term’ financial goal – I’m already in a position where continuing in my university professorship role is a matter of choice. 

My long-term desire is to build enough wealth to start a foundation to deal with some of the most acute problems of humanity. One of these is inequality in all its manifestations.  

If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do? 

First thing I would do is let it rest for several months – this way most of my emotions would have settled.  After that, I’d start researching businesses to buy/invest in. (I know, this sound far too boring, but my foundation is not going to build itself.) 

Thanks to Maria for a really interesting perspective on money. Check out her blog, the Money Principle! You can read more gems of wisdom from my On the Money series here and here.

How to get everything cheaper

get everything cheaper

They say the best things in life are free and to a large extent that is true. The things I truly value – my family and friends – are there no matter how much is in my bank account. I am grateful! However, we live in a world where you need money for many of the things you want to do. But it is also true that with a bit of thought and creativity you can get hold of a lot of great stuff and experiences really cheaply! Here are my ideas on how to get everything cheaper.

How to get everything cheaper

Cheaper holidays

get everything cheaper

You can save a ton of money on your holiday accommodation if you are prepared to do a little work for it. For example, Trusted House Sitters connects pet loving travellers with pet owners who want their beloved animals and houses looked after whilst they are away.

Today’s favourites are asking for someone to look after a family cat in Twickenham, someone to travel to Fiji to look after a pair of dogs (with free use of a car) and reliable people to take care of dogs, cats and chickens in a fabulous barn conversion in Shrewsbury.

You still have to get yourselves there, but these are real home from home holiday experiences that could save a fortune on your accommodation so you can get everything cheaper.

Another way to get your holiday accommodation free is to do a house swap. There are a plethora of organisations online that you can sign up with to do this. I have personally tried this 5 times with great success.

If you just want a holiday through an organisation, we have found the prices on Teletext Holidays to be very competitive and travelled through them to Majorca a couple of years back.

For more of my ideas to get cheap holidays read this post.

Cheaper clothes

get everything cheaper

Dress for less! (credit @makeupbyisobel)

The best way to get everything cheaper when it comes to clothes is to have a rummage at the boot sale. I have found brand new designer gear for just a few pounds on a regular basis and love it when the boot sale season comes around. Charity shops can be good too, although I have found that some have started charging a lot more than they used to. Incidentally, if you can’t be bothered to trudge round the charity shops for your vintage bargains, Oxfam now have an online shop!

If you prefer to purchase your clothing new, my favourite discount fashion site is easily everythingfivepounds.com. It does what it says on the tin – every item, even footwear, is just £5. I have found some great bargains on there.

Auction sites like eBay are still good for picking up second hand and new items at ridiculously low prices. Just don’t get carried away with the bidding. You can use Auction Sniper to set your top bid and then forget about it.

I have a post on frugal fashion here.

Cheaper make up

get everything cheaper

Making up is hard to do…

The first thing I would say about makeup is to use up what you have first! We often have a ton of stuff that gets purchased but never used. I have three daughters with a passion for the stuff and it drives me mad! One of the best sites my daughters visit regularly is Beauty Bay, particularly their outlet section where everything is 50% off.  You can pick up some massive bargains.

Cheaper glasses

Annoyingly, my once perfect vision has gone downhill in the last 10 years, meaning frequent changes of spectacles as it changes. They cost a flipping fortune! The next time I need glasses, I swear I am going to get my optician in town to give me the prescription and buy them online more cheaply. They have had enough of my money to keep them in holidays!

One site that offers good value on glasses is SmartBuyGlasses. If you like designer brands, you can pick up a pair of Raybans sunglasses on there for less than £90 or, if you aren’t fussy about a brand, many of their Smart Buy prescription specs cost less than £30.

Cheaper pets

Our beautiful rescue, Lola

We Brits love our pets. However, if you buy a pedigree puppy or kitten they can cost you the proverbial arm and leg. You can easily spend £1000 plus on one pampered mutt or kitty.  However, if you go to an animal rescue you can re-home a pet in need for a donation of around £100. You get a new pet and the animal gets a loving home, which is a win-win in my book.

I have never had an animal that wasn’t a rescue. Even when I kept chickens, they came from an egg farm down the road.

Cheaper exercise

It is lovely to have membership of a fancy gym if you can afford it and will use it regularly (and if you do sign up for a gym chain check to see if they are on any of the cash back sites first. See below for more details).

get everything cheaper

However, there are many cheaper ways to exercise. Many people buy brand new gym equipment that they swear they will use but never do. If you have the space for an exercise bike, cross trainer or running machine, it pays to buy second hand. I picked my cross trainer up for £40, used it for a few years and got bored with it, so sold it again for £30. Gumtree and Facebook are good for buying second hand gym equipment locally.

You can find pretty much any exercise class you like on You Tube. Here is a nice, gentle yoga class for beginners.

Walking and running are free, or at least once you have paid for a decent pair of trainers or walking boots. We walk a lot and like to use an app such as Map My Walk to track how far we have travelled. My 58 year old sister started running using the Couch to 5K programme a couple of years ago, and is now running half marathons! She puts me to shame….

And who has bicycles gathering dust in the shed (hides head in embarrassment). Pump up the tyres and go for a cycle! This is nice for all the family to do together on a sunny day.

In the New Year there are also lots of bargains to be found on exercise mats and clothing. They have some cheap, eco-friendly yoga mats on Amazon, such as this Calmia Lotus Print one, as well as a huge choice of sports gear. Some of the supermarkets are good too. Tesco’s have a decent range of items such as jump ropes, resistance bands, exercise mats, weights and gym balls at very good prices.

Staying fit doesn’t need to cost a fortune and you don’t need a personal trainer!

Cheaper hair and beauty treatments

get everything cheaper

The best way to get cheap hair and beauty treatments is to find a student willing to practice on you! You can get everything cheaper, from hair colouring to massage to eyebrow waxing. I recommend checking out your local further education college.

At mine, you pay £7.50 for a cut and blow dry, a luxury manicure or pedicure for £10, a bikini wax for a fiver and a slim and firm body treatment for a tenner.

Some hairdressers also have evenings when their students are cutting hair and they frequently charge nothing at all. Be prepared to book up well in advance though.

Cheaper meals out

Again, the best way to get a first class restaurant experience at a massively reduced price is to find some student chefs to cook for you. Again at our local FE college they run a restaurant, staffed by the students but supervised by the tutors.  You can have a fine dining three course lunch with coffee for £15.  Here is a sample of their current menu, which I think looks splendid!

get everything cheaper

Another way to get everything cheaper when eating out is to sign up as a mystery shopper. Sometimes you even get the full cost of your meal refunded. There are loads of mystery shopping sites, but one that is aimed at diners is Mystery Dining by HGEM. They don’t need shoppers in my area at the moment but I keep checking! Francesca over at From Pennies to Pounds has a good article on mystery shopping here.

Cheaper food

I am a big fan of the discount stores such as Lidl and Aldi. They sell goods that are of excellent quality, but they really are much cheaper than the bigger supermarkets! I reckon I save around 30% on our grocery shop.

Yellow stickers are another obvious way to get everything cheaper when it comes to food. However, you have to get your timing right! Late in the day, especially on a Sunday or bank holiday, is the best time to shop. Make sure you are prepared to eat or cook and freeze your cheap goodies though. Wasting even yellow sticker food isn’t going to help you save money.

Approved Food is another great place to shop for bargain food, especially branded items. I like the ethos behind this company. The food is beyond or close to its best before date so you save money and help prevent food waste at the same time! I find it is an excellent place to stock up on store cupboard basics such as pasta, rice, sauces, biscuits and snacks, drinks, etc. They also have amazing one day deals. I recently saw full boxes of Cadbury’s Milk Tray for £1 each, reduced from £4.25. Brilliant if you have a present to buy.

Another fantastic idea for reducing food waste that means you can get everything cheaper from cafes, restaurants and retail outlets is Too Good to Go. It’s an app that links you up to places that are selling their food cheaply at the end of the day. For example, I can see that Yo! Sushi will let me have a magic bag of sushi for £3.50 between 9.30pm and 10pm or I can rescue a selection of sandwiches, pastries and cakes for£2.50 at a local bakery this afternoon. This works best if you live in a city, and is worth checking out.

Free coffee or tea

Even better than cheap – it is possible to pick up some freebies if you sign up for a few loyalty card or apps. Waitrose still give free coffee and tea to loyalty card customers if you make a purchase, but there is no lower limit on this, so you could just buy a carrot or something. It’s quite nice to get the Sunday papers from them and read them with your free coffee though!

If you sign up for a Family card at Ikea you can get a free hot drink without a purchase.

Cheaper utilities

When it comes to your utility bills, always shop around and don’t be afraid to phone up any of your providers and threaten to leave if you see a better deal. They suddenly become amazingly flexible on price when they think they may lose your custom.

I heard a lady on the radio recently who had spent 2 hours on the phone to all of her providers and saved £800! That is time well spent. However, if you do decide to switch, make sure you go through a cash back site (see below).

Cheaper housing

Housing is a huge cost to most of us. Unless you still live with your parents, your mortgage or rent could take up to 40% of your monthly income.

There are ways to reduce this. One is to become a property guardian through an social enterprise organisation called Dot Dot Dot. They make renting in London and other cities more affordable by matching empty buildings with guardians. The catch, if you can call it that, is that you have to volunteer for 16 hours a month at a charity of your choice. Dot Dot Dot states:

“On behalf of owners, we take good care of buildings that would otherwise be empty. We provide guardians with good quality housing which is much more cost effective than the private rental market. And we make a positive difference to communities by ensuring our guardians are great neighbours who volunteer for good causes while preventing the blight that empty buildings cause.”

You could also help cover the cost of your mortgage by renting a room to a lodger, by hosting foreign language students or via Air B&B.

Don’t forget the cash back

Whatever you are purchasing, don’t forget to see if the merchant you are buying from is on a cashback site. This is money for free! You get cash back on so many things, from switching your utilities or buying a holiday, to banking, buying clothes or shopping for home ware. I love Top Cashback but also use Quidco from time to time.  These are my refer a friend links and we can usually both claim a reward if you choose to click through from them to make a purchase. I earned over £85 just for doing my Christmas shopping through them.

Swagbucks is also worth checking out. You earn Swagbucks points with your online purchases then redeem your points for free gift cards for retailers such as Amazon. Alternatively you can get cash back from PayPal. You can even earn Swagbucks points just for doing a an internet search!

I hope you like my tips on how to get everything cheaper. You can live well without busting the budget! Please add your money saving tips in the comments.

This post contains some affiliate links and referral codes. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Earn more money: 13 side hustle ideas that aren’t run of the mill!

earn more money

I first published this post at the beginning of last year. However, at a time of year when many of us are feeling the squeeze I thought it was worth revisiting. If you are on a no spend January as I am, it is good to have some things to do that don’t involve spending! Here are some ideas to earn more money.

Earn more money with these side hustle ideas

There are bound to be times when, for one reason or another, you need to boost your income. Perhaps you are paying off debts or saving towards a particular goal. We have had to be creative at times to earn more money and make sure we stay on track financially.

I have taught yoga, sold stuff on eBay, flogged makeup door to door and even appeared in the newspaper to earn more money. We also make good use of our spare room, taking in lodgers and language students.

Here are my ideas to boost the coffers and earn more money.

Language Students

If you have a spare room, even if this is only some of the time, have a look to see if you have a language college nearby. If you do, the chances are that they will need host families. I have worked with our local college for many years now. We take in students from all over the world, usually for a week or two at a time. However, it is possible to host for up to a year.

My advice is to set ground rules from the start. It is your house, not a hotel. With the youngsters particularly, I always make it clear what time I expect them to be home in the evening, when their meals will be ready and that they are to text me if they are going to be late.

Under the Government’s Rent a Room Scheme, you can earn up to £7500 per annum. If you cross this threshold you will need to complete a tax return. My full post on how to earn money hosting language students is here.

Take in a lodger

We also take in lodgers much of the time. The advantage here is that they can sort their own meals, do their own laundry and clean their own bedrooms. It is also a more dependable form of income.

You need to be pretty easy going I think. Whilst your lodger is living with you and paying rent, it is their home too, so you can’t constantly hog the TV remote and need to be prepared to share the kitchen and bathroom.

Taking a lodger also comes under the Rent a Room scheme rules.

Teaching

If you have a particular skill, you could try teaching it to others. As I mentioned, I have taught yoga on and off for many years, both for the local adult community college and in leisure centres.

You used to be able to teach pretty much anything from sewing and cookery to woodwork and photography without a qualification. However, the adult colleges are increasingly insisting on a teaching diploma. It’s worth asking what their requirements are. For very specialised leisure courses and workshops it may still be enough just to be a subject expert.

If you have a degree in something like a language, maths or English you could do home tutoring. I know some teachers who are now out of the profession but still do this. If you have a grammar school locally, there is usually good demand for 11+ coaching. Be creative. If you are a great guitarist or pianist,  you might also be able to teach one to one in your own home.

You can register with an agency such as First Tutors. If you plan to teach children you should apply for a DBS check.

I have a friend who is a native French speaker who used to earn more money running small after school clubs in French. My kids loved that! She just asked around in the playground and had a lot of interest.

Competitions

I have a work colleague who hasn’t paid for a holiday in years. He usually wins at least a couple of breaks every year, as well as household goods, days out, tickets to events and all sorts of other goodies.

Competitions are his hobby. For fun, he sits for a couple of hours each evening and enters as many as take his fancy. He recommends that you set up an email account just for comping. Otherwise, you will start to get overwhelmed with junk mail.

He uses Loquax and MSE to find his competitions. You will also find more to enter and advice at Super Lucky Di.
Obviously cash prizes are the only ones that will directly give you money in the bank, but they will certainly save you some and you could sell some of your unwanted prizes.

Matched betting can earn more money

Having heard stories of people winning thousands with matched betting, I did attempt it. However, I just couldn’t get my head round it and didn’t have the patience required.

However, I have come across other bloggers who are so good at it they regularly bring in an extra couple of thousand pounds each month. If you want to try it, I recommend looking at Katy Kicker for information on how to get started.

Online Surveys

A lot is promised by survey sites but can you really earn decent money? Skint Dad reckons you can, although he admits that surveys can be time consuming. He suggests that if you sign up to multiple sites and do a few each day you could earn as much as £200 extra each month. His guide is here.

I don’t have time to do that many but I do pop onto Prolific from time to time as they seem one of the best payers. I got fed up with answering loads of questions before being screened out on some of the others.

Mystery shopping

When my kids were still at school I signed up to do some mystery shopping. I had to go to a café in a department store and order a particular meal in one case, then had to enquire about opening a new bank account for another.

What I really wanted were some fabulous three course meals with wine or a stay on a hotel, but it wasn’t to be!

Emma Drew reckons you can make some decent money and have some fun experiences as a mystery shopper. She published a blog post called Everything you need to know about mystery shopping in the UK, which also lists some of her favourite mystery shopping companies.

Rent your driveway

If you live near a town or city centre, you could find your garage or driveway is easy to rent out to commuters. I have a colleague who does just this. She uses her car to get to work so her driveway is empty all day – or rather it isn’t as a lady in an office nearby pays her to park there. She undercuts the local car park!

As with everything, there are several websites where you can list your parking space if you do an internet search, or ask businesses near to where you live to pass the message to their employees.

Selling online

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of eBay. I buy and sell on there. You can easily make a few pounds clearing out your house or garage and selling your things on. You can also use Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace.

As well as those having a declutter, there is a growing army of entrepreneurs making a living out of reselling on eBay. They source items cheaply via auctions, boot sales, charity shops, etc and then sell them on at a profit.

I do this from time to time, focusing mainly on clothing. I have a couple of guides here and here.

Feature in the press

earn more money

Would you believe it, the press aren’t only interested in stories from celebrities! They are frequently looking for ordinary people to write about and will often pay you as well. You could submit your story to publications like Take a Break, although they tend to focus on the tragic or the sensational.

If you prefer something more run of the mill, I recently discovered a Facebook group called Feature Me, run my Daily Mail journalists. Every day they make requests for people (mainly women) to take part in stories. They usually pay £100-200 upon publication.

I recently did this and they came to my house to give me a makeover and take photos. That was fun!

Work as an extra

This isn’t going to make your fortune, but if you like the limelight you could meet some interesting people and see your face on TV or film. There is an interesting article here about how to get started.

Love animals?

Francesca Mason of From Pennies to Pounds makes money dog boarding at home. She gets paid to look after cute dogs whilst their owners are away. If I was at home more, I would definitely go for this (although I’m not sure the cats would approve)!

It may not work if you already have a dog, however.

There is no reason you couldn’t offer this service for other creatures too. Francesca uses an organisation called Tailster. You can sign up for pet boarding, dog or cat day care and dog walking as well.

Help at the local elections

Your local council regularly recruits polling clerks for elections. I worked as one during the last general election  to earn more money. It was hard work and a long day, but very interesting. I plan to do it again  for any more local elections. I worked a 12 hour day, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

You can progress to being a presiding officer, which pays a bit better. Rates of pay seem to vary between councils, so approach yours for more information. Now is a good time as many will have parish and council elections coming up in the summer.

Don’t forget your tax obligations

When you earn more money you are, of course, obliged to pay more tax. Keep good records and receipts and be prepared to complete a tax return. Go to Gov.UK for more information on self assessment.

What are your ideas to earn more money?

This week’s frugal meal plan 12th January 2019

Frugal meal plan

Again this week I want to spend as little as possible on groceries to go along with my no spend January. So it is another frugal meal plan!

We mostly stuck to last week’s meal plan, although ended up eating spaghetti Bolognese two nights in a row as I made quite a lot. There are two portions in the freezer too, as well as some of the spicy parsnip soup that I made. The cheese mountain is still in the fridge, so I will be incorporating cheese into our meals as well.

Frugal meal plan, 12th January

Saturday

Kipper kedgeree with hard boiled eggs. I often make this. It is super cheap as kippers cost so little compared to smoked haddock, for example. Still lots of healthy fish oils, too. Grated carrot salad and avocado on the side.

Sunday

Nut cutlet or pork chop with roast potatoes, broccoli, Yorkshire puddings and home made gravy.

Apple crumble with windfalls given by a neighbour with natural Greek yogurt or custard. I was recently delighted to find that, despite being lactose intolerant, I can cope with proper stained Greek yogurt, which I love. Apparently, when it is strained it loses a lot of the lactose.

Monday

Macaroni multi-cheese (i.e. mac cheese made with various hard cheeses from the fridge) with more carrot salad and avocado.

Tuesday

Chick pea curry with rice and poppadoms. Might do a chicken curry to go alongside this for the carnivores.

Wednesday

We are having a little party to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday! The plan is to make afternoon tea, with sandwiches, sausage rolls, a giant pig in blanket that I bought at Christmas but never used and an assortment of crisps. This will be followed by birthday cake (which I will make) and some shop bought cream cakes. We also have lots of Prosecco left from Christmas. I can’t drink it because of my painkillers, but I expect the others will have a glass or two.

I don’t think we will want a big dinner after that little lot, so will just do some baked potatoes with cheese and salad for tea.

Thursday

Salmon fillet with home made air fryer sweet potato chips and peas/broccoli.

Friday

Fish in breadcrumbs from the freezer, with home made air fryer chips and frozen peas.

So this is my frugal meal plan. What are you eating this week?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

Five free things to do on a no spend month

 

free things to do

How is your no spend month going, if you are doing one? January can be a depressing time. It is cold and dark and you don’t feel like doing a lot. In addition, most of us don’t have a lot of spare cash after Christmas. To stop you dying of boredom, here are some ideas for free things to do during a no spend January.

Visit your library

Libraries are full of books that you can read for free! If you can’t find one you want, you can usually order it in online. I have done this many times. Even if you think you want to buy a book, it gives you the opportunity to try before you buy.

Libraries offer loads of other things too, including e-books, films and various community events. Ours does toddler groups, art exhibitions and book clubs, for example. You can go and sit in a warm library and read free magazines and papers. When my children were small, we spent many a pleasant hour sitting on the bean bags and reading books.

As reader Jo pointed out a few days ago, the library service in the UK is under threat from funding cuts. However, it will be a lot harder for local authorities to justify those cuts if the libraries are well used. Use it or lose it.

Discover your local parks

We are blessed with some lovely parks in Essex. There are huge country parks run by the county council as well as smaller play parks run by the borough councils. We often take a walk out and see them at different times of the year. To stop unnecessary spending, we generally take a flask, water and a picnic (or a snack at least), even in the colder months.

Do an internet search to see where the parks are in your region and go explore.

Go on a nature walk

Whilst you are out and about, how about taking a camera and notebook and recording some of the interesting things you see? Kids love this! You can borrow books from your library to help identify the wildlife that you see. Nature walks are one of my favourite free things to do. Mr S is a mine of information and can identify a lot of birds, butterflies, trees and flowers as we go along.

Check out free museums and galleries

Even small towns often have free museums and galleries to visit. Cities are even better for free things to do when it comes to culture. We have a toy museum, natural history museum and a big art gallery in our town so we are lucky. However, as these are all funded by the local authority they are another facility that it pays to use regularly to justify the cost of keeping them open.

Have a wardrobe declutter

Do you ever go through your wardrobe and find barely worn items you forgot you owned?  Yes, me too and I don’t even have many clothes. A no spend month is the ideal time for a wardrobe clutter.  You can rediscover clothes and remember why you bought them. It will also help you resist spending on new items.

I hope you enjoy my ideas for five free things to do during this no spend January. You can keep up with more of my ideas by following me on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter!

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

 

On the Money with Sam from the Money Nest

money nest

In the latest in my On the Money series, I meet Samuel Jefferies from the Money Nest. Sam is on a mission to educate a generation. He aims to help 20-30 year olds who’ve missed out on the benefit of personal finance education in school, and breaks down everything they need to know about money now and in the future.

On the Money: Conversations with money bloggers

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

My earliest memory is from the age of 5, when my parents had decided to start giving me pocket money and it felt felt like a new world had opened up to me!

My pocket money, however, was just 20 pence so I was limited to a 20 p vending machine offering two choices – bubble gum or miniature trolls!

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

At 19 I started a paid one year internship overseas, it was the first time I was totally responsible for my own finances. Part of my wage came from funding via a European government agency, the payment was paid in two tranches and shortly after moving over a decision was made to delay and reduce the initial tranche.

I had been relying on this coming through; my planned income suddenly crashed yet my outgoings remained the same. Worse still, I had to complete a planned internship as part of my university course so couldn’t simply drop out.

The bills kept pouring in and money really started to dominate my mind. It’s difficult to explain how this feels unless you’ve been in a situation like this. Thankfully for me, this only lasted several months, not years. I clawed myself out of the difficult situation by moving to a cheaper shared apartment, negotiating a salary increase by a factor of almost 100%, taking out an additional student loan and having my kind parents lend me £500 until the student loan came through.

money nest

In hindsight of course, I look back at this as a huge life lesson in financial planning, frugality and saving. It definitely taught me a lot and I’m glad I learned these lessons in my early adult life.

 What was your worst money decision?

My first investment was in silver. I’d come across some of these scaremongering articles and thought since the fundamentals were positive and it had recently dipped it was the perfect time to buy. Unfortunately for me, it carried on declining (and still is!).

Thankfully I didn’t bet the house! But it definitely taught me the importance of good asset allocation.

What was your best money decision?

Books! The perfect example is Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It. Written by an ex FBI hostage negotiator, the book teaches others negotiation advice. It cost me less than £10 but has made me at least several thousand pounds through negotiating rental contracts, cars and employment contracts.

What is your best tip for saving money at home?

A classic but a clear winner for me is ensuring you compare all your insurance/energy/internet/phone providers every time your renewal comes up. The reduction in car insurance alone has saved me thousands.

An extra tip is buying your car insurance early. From my own research I’ve seen the cost jump by 20% or more when buying a week before compared to a month or two.

What is your best tip for saving money out and about?

Try and make it easy on yourself by buying weekly groceries online against pre-planned meals. This way you avoid the temptation of wandering through grocery stores several times a week salivating over all the tasty snacks!

What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?

Take it easy on yourself, everything will fall into place in time.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

In our previous apartment we knocked £100 per month off the monthly rent as we were able to move in the next week. It was a great spot and originally outside of our budget, so I was pleased I worked up the confidence to ask!

What was your most recent purchase?

Hmmm, difficult! I tend to spend my spare cash on investments, books and travel. We came back from a week’s road trip around the Scottish highlands recently – does that count!? It was awesome.

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

I automatically deduct my investments the day after I get paid, we shop online and I have a generous phone allowance so that only leaves socialising and clothes. I’d say I stick to it by around 10%. I’m not perfect but if I can get 90% there I’m happy!

Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share?

We recently started planning to purchase a house, so that’s the big one. They’re expensive where we live (£300k for a 2-3 bed) so it will require a fairly chunky deposit!

If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?

Buy ourselves a home, mortgage free!

Thanks to Sam for his interview. Head on over to the Money Nest to see what else he has to say.

If you enjoyed this post see my On the Money interviews with Mean Queen Ilona and with Emma Drew.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Perplexed by pensions? PensionBee makes saving for retirement easier

This post has been written in collaboration with PensionBee.

Why you should care about your pension pot

pension pot

When you are young it is easy to think you have loads of time to save for your pension. However, time soon runs away with you, so the younger you start the better. A decent pension pot will give you so many more choices in later life and ensure you have a comfortable retirement.

By the time you hit your 40s and 50s, it is likely you will have several pension pots sitting with various ex-employers. I know I have! It can be hard to keep track of them and there may even be some you have forgotten about. It is really important to track these down when you are attempting to forecast what your pension pot is likely amount to. If you want to find a lost pension, the Pension Tracing Service may have contact details. Alternatively, PensionBee can help trace and transfer pensions.

I am now 55, so I am actively planning for my retirement. Ideally I would like to retire in 5 years time. Because I have pension pots all over the place I have decided to sign up with Pension Bee to get them all in one place and work out exactly what my monthly pension will be and when I can afford to retire. I can see whether I need to pay in more or whether I can afford to withdraw any early if I want to as well.

Calculating your income

I used the PensionBee calculator, and was pleasantly surprised to find that, if I continue contributing as much as I am currently, I will hit my target of an annual pension of around £24,ooo per year. This includes my state pension, which I won’t actually be able to claim until I am 67, however. To bridge the gap (and because I want to do some writing on a self employed basis anyway), I think some kind of part time work will be essential in my case.

pension pot

The calculator gives you the opportunity to mess around with factors like your retirement age or adding a lump sum from an inheritance, for example.  I might decide to keep working until I am 65, in which case my projected retirement income will increase to over £28,000 pa.

If it was a lot less than I was expecting, I could choose to start adding extra to the pot now. Perhaps I could scrape together another £100 a month to ensure a better retirement fund.

Please note, however, that the estimated retirement income the calculator gives you is a projection based on buying an annuity and is not a guaranteed income. 

Some interesting stats

I am pretty happy with my projection, as according to PensionBee’s analysis the average pension pot across the UK is just £21,441.  The situation is better or worse depending on which area of the UK you live in, with a clear north-south divide.

Women are generally predicted to be worse off than men in their retirement. The average female pension pot in the UK is only £16,083, whereas men have saved £23,416 on average, according to PensionBee. With more women working full time, this may improve in years to come, but we still tend to take on more caring and childcare responsibilities. This means more part time work, fewer opportunities for promotion and more career gaps.

I am glad now that I always chose to pay into a pension fund with pretty much every employer I have ever had.

As I am 55, I could withdraw 25% of my pension pot tax free. However, as I am still earning I have decided that this wouldn’t be the right option for me at the moment. I  would urge you to get independent financial advice before withdrawing funds from your pension pot.pension pot

What will your state pension pay you?

It is also worth checking your state pension forecast, which you can do on the GOV.UK website here and you can also find out when you allowed to claim it here.

pension potThis is what mine tells me I will get, but I can’t claim until 2030! If you are young, I would say not to count on any form of state pension. It seems they are increasing the age you can claim all the time. My 26 year old daughter won’t be able to claim hers until she is 68!

Charges

PensionBee charge a single annual management fee, unlike some other providers who add all sorts of other fees that can eat into your pension pot if you aren’t careful. For more information on these fees, see here. PensionBee is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers.

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice. 

 

Inspirational Books for the New Year

Inspirational Books

I have said it before, I love a good book. Only rarely will you find me reading fiction these days. I prefer real life, constructive and inspiring reading matter these days. The following is a list of inspirational books to help you save money, live better and motivate you in 2019. They are under broad headings but some of those that encourage you to live more frugally also happen to be more eco-friendly, and vice versa. I have a heading for motivational books, but many of those under other headings will also motivate you to move in your chosen direction. I hope you like my list. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Inspirational books to help you save money

Total Money Makeover:  A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Anything by Dave Ramsey will help you to take control of your finances, as well as to grow your money. I was extremely impressed with his The Total Money Makeover, which I reviewed here. Thousands of people have found financial peace by following his baby steps to get out of debt and create wealth.

How I lived a year on just a pound a day by Kath Kelly

This is an entertaining and inspiring read. How I lived a year on a just pound a day follows Kath Kelly’s journey as she finds creative ways to have fun and live a good life on the toughest of budgets. She cycled everywhere, ate reduced price food and even managed a couple of holidays. Whether she could still do it today I don’t know. I wish she would do a follow up! My full review is here.

The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle

Another book that shows just how little you can live on if you are determined is Moneyless Man, The: A Year Of Freeconomic Living. I was intrigued to find out how he would live on no money at all for a year. In this thought provoking book, Mark Boyle shows how you can not only live on less money, but actually thrive. His book draws attention to the damage our thoughtless consumerism does to the world and our fellow citizens and offers a radical new way to live. My review is here. If you want to find out more about the movement showing people that money is not true wealth you can watch this short You Tube film. This book could easily have been in the Motivation or Live Greener sections as it encompasses all of these topics.

His book The Moneyless Manifesto: Live Well. Live Rich. Live Free is on my list to read next!

The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn

This is the book that started my journey to frugality and helped to take control of my money. The Complete Tightwad Gazette makes money saving seem like an enjoyable hobby rather than a hard, painful slog. The Tightwad Gazette started life as a money saving newsletter, full of great frugal commonsense and thrifty ideas. Even though it is now quite old, it is a classic and a must for anyone wanting to live a good life on less dollar. My review is here.

Budget cookery books

A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe

Every frugal cook should have a copy of A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes. Lots of super cheap recipes in this one. I prefer it by far to any of the others from Jack. My full review is here.

Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver

inspirational books

I have never been a massive fan of Jamie Oliver. All that ‘bish bash bosh’ stuff put me off. However, I now have a couple of his cookbooks and they are great. Save with Jamie: Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less isn’t mega frugal, but very good for the budget cook because it makes sure you use all your leftovers. Pukka! I reviewed it here.

Vegetarian Kitchen by Sarah Brown

I have mentioned this book a lot recently as I have been revisiting some old vegetarian favourites. It is out of print now, sadly, but you can still pick up a second hand copy on Amazon . If you are a vegetarian or have one in the family, it is well worth buying. I still love the cashew nut and mushroom roast and the red dragon pie, especially.

Vegetarian food is nearly always cheaper than meat and healthier too.

The Complete Vegetarian by Rose Elliott

Rose Elliot’s New Complete Vegetarian brings together recipes from many of her books. What I like about any of Rose Elliot’s books is that she always gives you plenty of information on how to eat a nutritionally balanced diet and the recipes are easy to make. I have pulled this one out as it has a lot of good recipes, but actually any Rose Elliot book is worth a look. Many of them are out of print now so grab a copy if you happen to see one second hand. Some are available on Amazon, but are expensive now. The New Vegetarian Cookbook is another good one, but I couldn’t see it on Amazon at all, and I used to love Not Just a Load of Old Lentils, which I think was probably the first vegetarian cook book I ever bought, in my teens.  Spinach roulade, anyone?

Frugal Food by Delia Smith

inspirational books

I come back to this book time and again. I had a copy of the original 1970s paperback, which disintegrated with over use. My mum came to the rescue and bought me the re-published hardback version from the late ’90s. You can do an awful lot of nice dishes with the humble sausage, there is a vegetarian section and lots of good, cheap cake recipes. You can read a fuller review here, but on the whole I would say this is worth buying if you want reliable budget recipes.

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen

This is a really unusual and original vegetarian cookbook. In fact, I have only just rediscovered it and it has been sitting on the shelf for years. It contains recipes for the more adventurous cook, I would say. Again, because they are vegetarian, they tend to be cheaper to make than meaty food. Even if you just want to cut back on the amount of meat you eat rather than becoming a full on vegetarian, there is lots to explore in this book.

I love the sound of the peanut and sesame noodles and might give the sweet potato pie a go. There are lots of interesting sweet and savoury bakes too. I have always wanted to try calzone so this is on my list. The food in The Enchanted Broccoli Forest is influenced by a wide range of ethnic cooking styles and incorporates lots of different nuts, grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.

If you want a cookbook that doesn’t rely on expensive ingredients yet offers something a bit different, this could be the book to try.

Books to help you live greener

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

I love this book: Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life, which I finished reading just before Christmas. Not that I believe we are anywhere near creating just a glass jar full of waste each year, as Bea Johnson and her family do, but it has certainly made me realise that we could reduce our waste A LOT with very little effort.

I found this a very inspirational read, full of ideas about how you can cut the waste you produce, whilst living a more simple and fulfilling life.  The key is to follow the 5 Rs: Refuse stuff you don’t need (don’t take the waste in the first place; easier said than done, but not impossible); Reduce what you do need and cannot refuse (spend your money on experiences rather than ‘stuff’); Reuse what you consume (this doesn’t mean recycling but rather finding a new purpose for items that you didn’t manage to refuse or reduce); Recycle (hopefully, you have refused, reduced and reused so much that there is much less left to recycle) and finally, Rot (compost everything that is left).

inspirational books

I will do a full review of Zero Waste Home in the next month or so, but highly recommend it. If you want to find out more about Bea Johnson and the zero waste movement she created, just do a search on You Tube. She pops up doing talks all over the place.

Saving the Planet without Costing the Earth, by Donnachadh McCarthy

This practical book stops you feeling overwhelmed about how you can make a difference and live a greener lifestyle. It offers 500 ideas to live a more environmentally existence, from turning off your appliances at the plug rather than leaving them on standby, to insulating your home, buying more energy efficient appliances, reducing your waste and reusing where you can.

I love that it offers practical solutions.Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth: 500 Simple Steps to a Greener Lifestyle is quite an old book now, as it was  first published in 2004. However, it is totally relevant for today, as we become more acutely aware of the environmental damage our lifestyle is causing and strive to reduce our carbon footprint. This is one of the most inspirational books I have found and it has certainly had an impact on me as I have attempted to live a green lifestyle over the years.

Natural Household Cleaning, Making your own eco-savvy cleaning products, by Rachelle Strauss

This was one of my Christmas presents and I was very happy to receive it. Natural Household Cleaning shows you how you can replace the plethora of highly marketed, plastic packaged chemical cleaners with simpler, more natural and less environmentally damaging alternatives.

I have been using bicarbonate or soda, vinegar and soda crystals to clean here at Shoestring Cottage for a while now so much of this isn’t new to me. However, what is really interesting is the information on the chemicals in most commercial cleaning products and the harm they can do you individually (let alone mixed in a chemical cocktail with other products). For example, air fresheners don’t actually freshen the air. All they do is coat your nostrils and block the olfactory nerve with a stronger chemical fragrance. The warnings tell you to not to breathe in the spray and that inhaling the product may kill you. Just open the window or tackle the source of any bad smells!

In Natural Household Cleaning Rachel Strauss gives you simple ideas recipes and ideas to replace all chemical cleaners in your house for the sake of your health, the environment and your bank balance.

Books on Simple Living

Simplicity: Easy ways to simplify and enrich your life by Elaine St James

As more and more people find that having it all – the best clothes, the biggest car or house, the newest gadgets -means working more to earn more, many of us are looking for ways to get off the treadmill. Working to compete with the Jones’s leaves less time for family, friends and more fulfilling activities, leading to a sense of being overwhelmed and stressed out.

In Simplicity: Easy Ways to Simplify and Enrich Your Life, Elaine St James suggests a different way to live, trading in your high pressure lifestyle for one that is less about money and more about valuing the simpler things in life. A great read if you need inspiration to change, but don’t know where to start.

In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore

Another oldie but goody, In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed challenges the faster is better, hectic lifestyles that many of us find ourselves trapped in. When Carl Honore found himself speed reading a bedtime story to his child, he knew he had to change and find a better balance. In this book, he explores the idea of slow living, from slow food to slow sex to show how embracing the slow living movement can help you live a more productive and fulfilling life.  A great book for when you are feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself time to read this!

The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour

inspirational books

This classic inspired the TV series the Good Life and caused lots of people to attempt to go back to the earth. You may not be ready to go and live on a smallholding in the back of beyond and live a self sufficient life, to give up the supermarket and grow all of your own food, kill and eat your livestock and make everything from scratch.  However, The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers may well inspire you to keep a few chickens in the garden, make some home brew or jam and bake a few loaves every now and again. It will encourage you to waste less, respect the land and be a little more self sufficient.

John Seymour says in his introduction: ” Self-sufficiency does not mean ‘going back’ to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food which is fresh and organically grown…for the health of body and peace of mind which come with hard varied work in the open air…’

Whether you just want to dream or to actually live the good life on the land, this book is a must read.

I hope you enjoyed my (by no means comprehensive) list of inspirational books for 2019 and that they will give you food for thought.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission to help keep Shoestring Cottage going. Thanks!

 

A meal plan for a low spend January

Running alongside my no spend January I am doing a low spend food month. Like many people, we have lots of food in the house post Christmas. Mainly cheese! For some reason we went a little mad on the stuff. Luckily it lasts a long time if it isn’t opened. I want to spend as little as I can get away with on food this month to maximise our savings, so here is my meal plan for a low spend January.

low spend January

Meal plan for a low spend January

Saturday

Blue cheese pasta with salad and garlic bread. This will use up some of the Stilton and some lettuce that needs eating too. I don’t usually have ready made garlic bread in the freezer but my daughter bought some when she was home.

Because there is a lot of frozen fruit from the garden, I will also make a plum crumble to have over the next few days with custard. Mr S is a sucker for an old fashioned pud.

Sunday

Fish pie. We have cod in the freezer but I will need to nip to the shop for some more spuds to make this. We will eat broccoli and carrots alongside this and have more of the crumble for dessert. I have one sad sweet potato in fridge so will add that to the mash.low spend

Monday

Fish pie again. There should be leftovers. Peas from the freezer to accompany it this time with more carrots as we have a large bag to eat up.

Tuesday

Sausages, onion gravy and mashed swede (there is some in the freezer) mixed with potatoes. I have meaty sausages as well as the veggie sort. Probably peas and carrots again with this.

Wednesday

Spaghetti Bolognese. I will make two lots, one veggie and one meaty and freeze whatever we don’t eat. Then we will have some quick and easy ready meals for when we are too busy or can’t be bothered to cook! There is Quorn mince in the freezer so I will use that up.

Thursday

Veggie burgers with home made chips from the air fryer. I will make a salad of grated carrots, chives and tinned sweetcorn to go alongside this.

Friday

Cheese omelettes, bakes potatoes and carrot salad.

low spend

In addition, I will make some spicy parsnip soup to use up a bag we have. As I type this, I have a big pot of home made vegetable stock on, made with all the peelings and odds and ends of veg from the last couple of weeks. I keep old ice cream containers in the freezer and fill them up as I go along. This makes a super thrifty, nutritious and delicious base for a soup.

I can foresee quite a few versions of cheese on toast to go alongside the soup for our lunches. We also have tinned sardines so may go for sardines on toast too. No one can say we aren’t wildly adventurous!

Because we have so much cheese in the house, I am putting my plan to eat vegan twice a week on hold. I don’t want to waste any food!

Are you on a low spend January too? What are you eating this week?

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at her blog.

No spend January update: five frugal things

NO SPEND JANUARY UPDATE

We are at the end of the first week of our no spend month already! Well, day 4, but it’s Friday… here is my no spend January update and my five frugal things for the week.

I have spent no money at all since January 1st, apart from some groceries. I didn’t need to buy much, just some fruit and juice. We have quite a lot of food in the house. So my first frugal thing was to work out what we have and plan some meals for next week around that.

Larder stock check

I got everything out of the food cupboard, then made a note of what was in there and what needed to be used up first. After that, I did the same with the fridge and the freezers. We have loads of frozen fruit from the garden, so at some point I need to make some currant jelly and some crumbles.

I am putting my meal plan together and will be publishing it tomorrow.

Yellow sticker bargains

no spend January update

I made a point of going into Asda on my way home from work on New Year’s Eve. It was packed! I needed more painkillers anyway and thought I would find some reduced food. Luckily, I was right and it was worth fighting my way through the hoards. As you know, I don’t eat meat, but Mr S does. I found stewing beef and lean beef mince, both at half price. It seemed a good idea to stock up so I bought three packs of each.

Then I looked in the reduced fruit and veg section and found a large bag of chopped casserole veg. I don’t usually buy pre-cut vegetables as they are expensive, but these were only 50p. There was also a bag of pre-chopped broccoli and carrots so that went in my trolley as well. The next day I made a huge pot of beef stew and another of bean and vegetable stew, enough for four meals each.

New house plants

no spend january update

We have started to reintroduce some house plants back to Shoestring Cottage. For a few years we hardly had any, but I have read a lot about how they can help clear the air of indoor pollutants. They also look really nice.

My pilea had sprouted little baby pileas, so I decided to pull them off and pot them up. Hopefully, they will take and turn into nice new free plants!

eBay listings

I haven’t had the time to list anything on eBay for a while but I have a pile of things that I want to sell. The clothes have all been washed and ironed. Now I just have to take the photos and list them. Hopefully, if my neck isn’t giving me too much grief, I can do some of that over the weekend.

Safety razor

no spend January update

Santa bought me a bamboo and steel safety razor for Christmas. I have been using it all week and it’s no harder to use than the plastic disposable ones. As well as reducing my plastic waste, I am hoping it will save me quite a lot of money. Even though I make the disposables last as long as possible, they do end up in the bin. Decent disposable razors are quite expensive!

I have cut myself once. However, I quite often did that with the disposables I used to use, so I don’t think this will be a problem. I just need to slow down!

So that is my no spend January update and round up of frugal things achieved this week. I am posting tips and updates on my no spend January most days on Instagram. If you don’t follow me already, please pop over and find me! I am @shoestringcottage or you can find me here.

If you are joining in let me have your no spend January update in the comments below. I love to hear how everyone is getting on.

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

 

50 More Ways to Save Money in 2019

save money in 2019

New year, same goals – to live as good a life as possible on the least amount of money! Some years ago, I wrote a post 50 ways to save money now. I thought it was time to extend this. So to help you to save money in the new year, here are 50 more ways to save money in 2019.

50 Ways to Save  Money in 2019

  1. Leave your credit and debit cards at home and carry just the cash you have budgeted to spend.
  2.  To save money in 2019, how about a skill swap? If you are a great mechanic but would like to learn to cook or sew, or you are willing to swap babysitting skills for gardening know-how, you can find someone to trade skills with at swapaskill.com.
  3. Always do a comparison before renewing utilities, insurance, etc. You may not even need to swap. Just call your provider and tell them you have found a better deal. They are likely to match it.
  4. Go through your bank statements regularly so that you know what is coming in and going out. You can also make sure you aren’t still paying for things like insurances for appliances that are long gone.
  5. Sell items you no longer use. It makes no sense to have things sitting gathering dust when someone else could be making good use of them and you could earn money. Try Marketplace on Facebook, eBay, Schpok, etc. or do a boot sale.
  6.  Move your credit card debt to a zero per cent deal. Money Saving Expert is a good place to find the best offers.
  7. To save money in 2019 and beyond, make your resolution to cancel your unused subscriptions to the gym, to magazines or online music providers. So much cash is wasted on these!save money in 2019
  8. Pay yourself first. Set up a direct debit to your savings account and arrange for a regular amount to be transferred as soon as you are paid.
  9. Have a no spend month. I do this every January and sometimes October too. Join in my challenge and kick start your bid to save money in 2019!
  10. Go to the supermarket late in the day (3 pm on a Sunday or before a bank holiday is usually a good time) to get the most reduced items.
  11. Similarly, go to the market near the end of the day on a Saturday – they often have amazing reductions on stuff they just need to get rid of.
  12. Don’t buy pre-prepared chopped food (unless it is a yellow sticker item). You will pay a lot extra for the convenience.
  13. Check the world food section at the supermarket for items such as rice as they often retail in larger packs for a cheaper price.save money in 2019
  14. Buy cotton wool from the baby section rather than the cosmetics shelf. It is exactly the same, just much cheaper.
  15. Only buy food that you can eat quickly or freeze to prevent food waste.
  16. If you are vegan or lactose intolerant, make your own home made oat milk.
  17.  Consider using powdered milk rather than fresh for sauces, porridge, custard, etc.
  18. Don’t buy the little one portion sachets or cups of microwaveable porridge. Oats are microwaveable anyway!
  19. Keep your vegetable peelings in a pot in the freezer and when you have enough make nutritious vegetable stock. It is so superior to the powdered stuff.
  20.  Meal plan. Having a plan means you will have the ingredients in and will be far less likely to get a takeaway or end up eating rubbish.
  21. Eat your leftovers. Take them to work for lunch or freeze them for when you are too busy to cook.
  22. Invest in a slow cooker such as this large Morphy Richards one. They cost very little to run and make cheap ingredients more tender and tasty.save money in 2019
  23. Purchase generic versions of over the counter drugs and remedies. The pharmacist will advise you of the generic equivalent to the expensive brand names.
  24. Understand what a bargain really is – don’t get fooled by the BOGOF offers if you weren’t planning to buy the item anyway. If you were and will definitely use them, stock up!
  25. Consider buying an electric blanket or heated throw to save money on your heating bills.
  26. Make or buy thermal linings for your curtains. You will really notice how they help to keep the heat in.
  27. Use a money jar to collect your coppers. Save them up for Christmas, then take them to the bank or a cash counting machine.
  28. Pay your phone bill and other regular bills on time so you don’t get any extra charges. It is best to set up a direct debit.save money in 2019
  29. Take cuttings from your houseplants to make extras. Some even provide you with little mini plants that just need to be rooted and planted, like spider plants.  We are filling the house up with plants nowadays as they help to clean the air.
  30. Buy the best you can afford to save money in 2019. Durable and long lasting items may cost more to begin with but will pay their way.
  31. Buy everything that you possibly can second hand. This helps the environment as well as your bank balance. Charity shops are also likely to benefit from your custom.
  32.  Rent out your home when you go on holiday. You can do this through organisations like Air B&B.
  33.  If you want a change of scene but can’t afford a holiday, you can join an organisation such as Trusted House Sitters, where you look after people’s pets whilst they are away. You can stay in the UK or travel all over the world!
  34. When you make a purchase online, always check Top Cashback to see if you can make your purchase through them and get cash back. If you go through my referral link you will earn £5 extra as soon as you make your first purchase.
  35. Value your possessions. Look after them. Learn to repair them. If you value the things you own it will save you buying a replacement.
  36. Wash your clothes less. Unless you work in a manual job, your clothes can probably be worn more than once. This means that you use less hot water and laundry soap and your clothes will last longer.save money in 2019
  37. Air dry your clothes rather than use a tumble dryer.
  38. Use it up! Dilute the last of your shampoo or conditioner to stretch it; cut off the end of your toothpaste or foundation tubes, etc.
  39. Go for reusable sanitary products instead go of disposables, such as a Mooncup.save money in 2019
  40. Use your grey water (that is, your waste water from washing up, showering or bathing) to water your plants outside.
  41. Share your bathwater. I generally shower but if one of my daughters runs a bath we will often share. We aren’t that grubby!
  42. Go skip diving.
  43. Plan ahead to avoid convenience purchases. For example, if I am going into town or out for a walk I always take my water bottle and often a snack and flask too.
  44. You can save money by buying a no contract used phone then sign up for a super cheap sim only deal. We use Tesco Mobile and pay around £12 a month for all the calls, texts and data we could possibly need.
  45. Don’t go near the sales unless there is something specific you wish to purchase.save money in 2019
  46.  Having said that, the post Christmas sales are the best time to buy all of your cards, wrapping paper, gift sets and decorations for next year. Just don’t forget where you have put them and buy them again!
  47. Write yourself a monthly budget so that you know exactly what you will be spending, saving and what you will have left over.
  48. If you are a fizzy drink fanatic, buy the large bottles and decant to smaller ones rather than continuously buying small bottles when you are out and about. Alternatively, stick to fizzy water and mix with squash.
  49. Pay your car insurance annually rather than monthly, if you can afford to.
  50. If you like a lot of days out, subscriptions to English Heritage or the National Trust can be a worthwhile investment and save money after just a couple of visits.

Whatever you need to save money in 2019 for, I hope these ideas help. Please add your own in the comments.

This post contains affiliate links.

Shoestring Cottage resolutions for 2019

RESOLUTIONS FOR 2019

I love a brand new shiny year with all its possibilities. New resolutions aren’t confined to January for me; I make them all year round. However, I like to plan ahead with my goals and the new year is the perfect time to do this. The last days of December can be a time for introspection and to evaluate the life choices you made the previous year. Your resolutions and goals can be ambitious, but they also need to be realistic and achievable. Here are my resolutions for 2019.

Work and change

2019 is likely to be a time of change for me. My workplace is cutting back dramatically on staff. Many long time and valued colleagues have already gone.

Change is hard. But it can also bring opportunities. If the option of redundancy comes my way I resolve to grab it with both hands and do more of what I love on a self employed basis. That means writing, blogging and eBay reselling.

I don’t get time to achieve what I want to in any of these areas, so 2019 could be the time to start.

Alternatively I could jump at a promotion. The jobs that remain after the cuts tend to be better paid with more responsibility.

One of my resolutions for 2019 is to be open to change and look for the opportunities it brings rather than running round in a blind panic!

Writing

I have done a little bit of freelance writing during 2018. A blog I love for giving guidance on freelance writing is RuthMakesMoney. Ruth writes from experience. She has been a self-employed writer, blogger and reseller for years. This is the direction I would like to move in.

So I am working on my portfolio and need to start actively looking for writing opportunities during 2019.

A healthier year

RESOLUTIONS FOR 2019

As I lie in bed typing this, I have a head full of snot (thanks for sharing, Mr S) and a constantly aching neck. I have never been so unhealthy. Before this I don’t think I have had a heavy cold for maybe 10 years. The winter vomiting virus also got me a month or so ago. But the past few months have taught me a valuable lesson. To never take my good health for granted again.

I tend to think we eat a pretty nutritious diet, and we do in comparison to many other people. However, there is always room for improvement. We will be eating a lot more fruit and vegetables in the new year, as well as cutting back on sugar and alcohol.

I have some food intolerances that would make a vegan diet really difficult for me. However, I can see the benefits, from an environmental perspective mainly. We do all eat too much meat and our planet can’t support this. There is also much scientific evidence to suggest that eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables is better for our bodies. Therefore one of my resolutions for 2019 is to eat completely vegan one and possibly even two days each week.

More exercise

I say this every year, and every year I don’t do enough to keep fit! I want to start a much stricter exercise programme to get myself fitter and stronger. Because I still have the trapped nerve in my neck I can’t start properly until that is sorted. My exercise programme needs to take into account the fact that I have fibromyalgia so don’t always have lots of energy.

I have done Pilates recently and really enjoyed it, so plan to enrol in a weekly class. Tai chi is another gentle form of exercise that I believe will suit me so I am looking into that too. In addition, I will restart my 15 minutes a day of yoga. I feel much better physically and mentally when I practice regularly.

I am not beating myself up about this until my neck is better. But my physio said it is likely the fibromyalgia lead to the trapped nerve as I am moving so much less and doing less exercise.

Saving more

Because the future is uncertain, on the job front and with Brexit looming, I want to save even more than we did last year into our emergency fund. This really means side hustling (and hopefully the freelance writing I mentioned above). I put anything extra I earn other than my full time employment straight into savings and will continue to do so.

Reducing waste

I have written during 2018 about our efforts to cut food waste and reduce plastics, especially single use ones. I am absolutely passionate about protecting our environment and intend to do all I can to make our life here at Shoestring Cottage greener and to be as eco-friendly as we possibly can.

Holidays

RESOLUTIONS FOR 2019

Whatever happens we will have at least one holiday! This is what we scrimp and save all year for. We don’t go on luxury cruises but always end up somewhere lovely and have a great time. This year we are looking at driving up to the west coast of Scotland. I visited Scotland years ago but Mr S has never been, so it will be an adventure.

I am also desperate to get back to France, but we will have to see how the finances and job situation pans out first.

No spend January

I almost forgot! My first resolution is a complete no spend January to kick start our savings goals. If you want to join in read this post. You can also come and find me on Instagram where I will be posting regular tips and updates on my no spend month! I am @shoestringcottage.

So there you have it – the Shoestring Cottage resolutions for 2019. Do you have any goals for the coming year?

A Frugal Year: Shoestring Cottage review of 2018

frugal year

At this time of year, it is interesting to look back at what we did during the course of 2018. Life seems to pass by in such a whirl it can sometimes feel that all we do is work. But we have done a lot more than that this year. Here are the most notable bits from our frugal year.

The good bits

Building our emergency fund

We are always careful with money and save throughout the year. However, 2018 was the first year we created a dedicated emergency fund. This is, as you would imagine, money that won’t be used for anything except emergencies. Once we hit three months of expenses in our emergency fund, we will start to look at investing the excess. This post explains why you need an emergency fund.

Shop Smart Save Money

You may have seen this new Channel 5 series on saving money. I had a chat with one of their researchers and gave them a money saving tip, which was used on their social media channels.

Blog award nominations

frugal year

Shoestring Cottage was nominated in three categories in this year’s SHOMOs awards, which shine a light on bloggers who write in some way about money. I didn’t win, but was happy to be shortlisted in Best Frugal Food Blog, Best Money Saving Blog and the People’s Choice award.

I went to London for the day and had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of my favourite bloggers. It was a really enjoyable day and you can read about it here.

In the news

frugal year

I  appeared in the Mail,  in a piece about why women of a certain age can suddenly develop allergies. It was quite exciting, as I had a professional photographer and make up artist come to our house in advance! I also managed a small piece in Prima. Amazingly, so many people I know spotted me in this. It is obviously a very well read magazine.

Holidays

a frugal year

We didn’t go anywhere exotic or expensive during 2018, but we did have some lovely holidays nonetheless. Our first was a couple of nights in Brighton, where my daughter is at university. Mr S booked this through Booking.com. for my birthday (this is my refer a friend link). It was a chilly but sunny trip. We thought Brighton an interesting city and enjoyed the Pavilion particularly.

frugal year

The grand hall at Holkham Hall

A month or so later we had a week in Norfolk, renting a cottage from a friend near Binham in the north of the county. It was lovely. We managed an outing to Holkham Hall and another to Sandringham during the course of the week, both of which were really enjoyable. Walking on Holkham beach was one of the highlights of my year. What a beautiful place.

frugal year

Powis Castle

Our second holiday was to Wales. We go most years and stay on a permaculture small holding near Machynlleth. This year we had a heat wave! We could have been in the Mediterranean somewhere. It was lovely. We made a point of visiting Powis castle for the first time, a most impressive place with stunning gardens.

frugal year

In  August we had another trip to Norfolk, with a short trip to Stalham broad at Dairy Barns. We were so impressed with this fabulous venue, booked through BuyaGift.co.uk. I used to live in Norfolk and still love it. Maybe we will head back there one day.

A bit of DIY

frugal year

2018 wasn’t all spent gadding about the UK on holiday, however. The lounge was desperate to have a refresh so we did some budget DIY back in February. We changed the wallpaper, painted all the wood work, put in a new fireplace and purchased cushions, a rug and some throws. The room was totally transformed with minimal expenditure. We are particularly happy with the tiles around the fireplace. I found these on eBay.

frugal year

We also saved up for new patio doors on our back room and a shiny new front door, which I love. They have both made the house much warmer as well as looking so much nicer!

Becoming greener

I have always had an interest in green issues and protecting our precious environment.  I have tried to make 2018 a frugal year but also a more eco-conscious year. Reducing food waste has been top of the agenda, and also cutting down on the amount of plastic that comes into the house. If you are interested in doing the same you can find my ideas to reduce plastic here.

a frugal year

I have joined the local food coop and started taking my refillable bottles to purchase washing up liquid, fabric softener and hair conditioner. Laundry is now mostly washed with an Ecoegg Laundry Egg , which seems to be working fine.  Wherever possible, I am buying things like ketchup and mayonnaise in recyclable glass containers. I even took my own container to the fishmongers and to the market. However, working full time means that this isn’t always an option.

There is more to do and in 2019 I will be redoubling my efforts. I got some great zero waste Christmas presents to get me started, including a bamboo toothbrush and some Georganics Natural Toothpaste and a stainless steel and bamboo safety razor.

The bad bits

2018 has been a strange year for me health wise. I have always been fit and healthy, but this year I have felt tired, low and achy much of the time. In July, after months of exhaustion and painful joints I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

frugal year

Acupuncture for a bad neck

To add insult to injury, I have had a trapped nerve in my neck for over four months, the most excruciatingly painful condition I have ever suffered. So far, I have tried physiotherapy, pilates, massage, all kinds of pain killers and acupuncture but nothing has worked for long. I do have an appointment with the spinal clinic in the New Year so I am hoping they will find out what is causing the nerve to be trapped and sort it out. Also I will be continuing with the acupuncture, which I have heard is great for pain relief.

I am determined to get fit for 2019!!

How has your year been? We are aiming for a green and frugal year in 2019, and will be looking to save money wherever we can.

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Happy Shoestring Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve 2018. Where has the year gone? I still have a few jobs to do today, but I am generally calm, organised and in control. It has been a Shoestring Christmas. We have spent the money we wanted to spend on food and presents but haven’t gone crazy.

No over indulgence so far…

Shoestring Christmas

Usually I buy far too many Christmas treats and we are looking at them in disgust as the New Year (and our resolutions to be fitter and healthier) approach. I have so far bought very few. We are out and about a lot over Christmas so we don’t need them anyway. I don’t want any food waste.

We do seem to have gone generally overboard on cheeses, however! I think I will be searching out some good recipes to use those up. At least they last a long time in the fridge and some can even be grated and frozen.

The last of presents have been wrapped in brown paper and raffia. This year I wanted to reduce waste and make sure all of our wrappings were recyclable, compostable or reusable. We had a lot of gift bags given to us last year, so I have reused as many as possible. This approach has proved extremely cheap: just the thing for our Shoestring Christmas.

Germ central

Shoestring Christmas

Mr S is full of cold, so I made some stock yesterday from a chicken carcass and loads of vegetable trimmings. I keep a pot in the freezer and add to it as I go along.  This made the base for a lovely vegetable soup. We will have the leftovers for lunch today. I really do not want his cold on top of my neck problem, but woke up with a sore throat today…

Tonight’s tea will be Nigel Slater’s casserole of chestnuts, parsnips and mushrooms. I make versions of this quite often, but this time I have all the ingredients so will follow it properly and have some creamy mash to go alongside, and sausages for the carnivores. We also have a chocolate cake, made by no 2 daughter, for dessert.

I haven’t bothered with a traditional Christmas cake, but might get one once they are reduced!

Last minute cooking

Although the rest of the family are eating meat at Christmas dinner, I am going for Sarah Brown’s cashew nut and mushroom roast.  It’s an old family favourite. My friend Jan found a lovely recipe for vegetarian gravy on the BBC Good Food website, so I think I will make some of that too.

I also have a quiche to put together for Christmas tea. Red pepper and sweetcorn makes a good combination I think, so I am making that.

Finding reductions

Every year I intend to hit the shops before they close for Christmas to find bargains. In reality, I am usually too busy to do so, but today I am going to have a quick whizz round Sainsbury’s and the Coop at around 5 pm to see if there is anything worth buying. I have checked the websites and they close at 6pm.

If it isn’t at a knock down price, I shan’t bother. I’m not going to be spending for the sake of it. If I can get some cheap food for the freezer it will help towards my no spend January and low spend grocery plan.

Sloe gin for a slow brain

We went to friends for a walk and drinks yesterday. Their home made slow gin was delicious and it turns out it has great pain relieving qualities. My neck didn’t bother me much at all!

However, Mr S did somewhat over indulge. He was dopey as hell last night! I will have to see if our home made grape liqueur has a similar anaesthetising effect later!

A night at the pantomime

We had a brilliant night at the panto at the Mercury Theatre in the week (oh no you didn’t, I hear you cry…). Our friends’ daughter Jade was in the chorus for the second year in a row so we wanted to go and support her. It was such good fun. We were off to the side, making our tickets cheaper, but had a good view of pretty much everything. My friend said she got tickets right at the back for one performance but still had a good view. Hers cost just £12, so I think we will explore that option next year.

If you live in Essex, I believe there are some January tickets left – I highly recommend it – so much fun!

Shoestring Christmas

Mr Shoestring’s favourite dame

Mr S would prefer to be as far away from the dame as possible as he literally ALWAYS gets picked on. This year was no exception and he ended up with the dame on his lap and his head under her voluminous skirts! He reckons he needs counselling to get over it. I absolutely love a good panto!

Whatever you are doing this festive period,  whether you are having a Shoestring Christmas or even if you have decided not to bother and to hide under the duvet until it’s all over, we wish you warmth and happiness and all the best for a happy new year. See you when it’s all over!

No Spend January: the cure for a Christmas hangover

For the past few years I have greeted the New Year with a no spend January. It is the perfect antidote to the excesses of the festive season and always on my list of resolutions. Indeed, it is often the one New Year’s resolution I manage to achieve…

The benefits of a no spend January

When your bank account is feeling empty, a no spend January gives you the opportunity to regroup, to refill the coffers and to take control of your finances. If you are in debt, a no spend January will give you extra resources to pay off some of what you owe.

Beginning the year feeling anxious and out of control can set the pattern for the months ahead, whereas a no spend month can help you break free of some of the negative behaviours that made you over spend in the first place. A period of limited spending gets you out of bad financial habits. It makes you more creative and appreciative of what you already own.

If you do have problem debts, take a look at Debt Camel or the Money Advice Service for expert help.

The rules

A no spend January means not buying anything that isn’t essential. So, you pay your rent or mortgage, your household bills, transportation costs and buy groceries. However, you ignore the sales, you don’t buy any new clothes, furniture, books, music, films, makeup or treats. You don’t go out to dinner, to the pub or to the cinema. Having said that, my daughter’s birthday is in January. This year it is her 21st, so we will go out for a meal, but this will be planned and budgeted for in advance. Her presents are already purchased!

I always find it amazingly liberating to have a no spend January, or any no spend period I happen to set myself. It is easier than telling myself I will spend as little as possible. If someone asks me to do something or go anywhere that costs money I will simply explain that I am doing a no spend January. They are usually really interested and some even join in!

Generally I find I get out of the spending habit and this spills over into February too.

No Spend January

Hints and tips to help you stop spending

If you are somebody who enjoys shopping for fun, a no spend January is the ideal time to rethink your hobbies and interests. What can you do instead by yourself, with friends and family instead of shopping?  Could you go for a nature walk or cycle, host a pot luck supper, find the films you always wanted to see on Netflix or watch your old DVDs? Do you have a shelf full of books you have never got round to reading or a half completed craft or knitting project to finish? How about starting a daily journal?

I find a no spend period is a good time to cook some thrifty recipes. Baking is something I enjoy, so rather than spending money I can devote more time to creating delicious cakes. Let’s face it, most of us have a cupboard full of flour and items like cocoa and dried fruit that probably need using up!

Shop your wardrobe. This is a great time to reorganise your wardrobe and dig out little worn clothes, rather than spending money on new items that you don’t need. You could even sell items that you know you will never wear on eBay to make a bit of extra money.

Set goals

Set yourself some savings goals to inspire you and make you more determined not to spend any money. If your money isn’t going towards paying off debt, could you put some away in an emergency fund? Would you like a family holiday? Do you need to kick off your teenager’s university fund or are you likely to need a new car in the near future?

For me, redecorating our tatty hallway is a priority so I will be saving towards that. I also need to start a car fund as my old banger isn’t going to go on forever.

Low spend grocery month

Getting into no spend mode tends to focus my mind on keeping our grocery spend as low as possible too. This is the time to do an audit of your cupboards, fridge and freezer and see what needs using up. Plan your meals to incorporate what you have. If you have sausages in the freezer but no potatoes, use your stores of pasta instead to make a sausage ragu. Think of a recipe to make to use the couscous that has been sitting there for a year. Use more pulses and beans instead of meat and eat vegetarian a couple of times a week.

I always make sure our larder is stocked with the essentials to make quick, easy and frugal meals. Having items like eggs, rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, tinned tuna and sardines, cans of chick peas and frozen vegetables helps to keep our grocery spending low as I can always throw something tasty together with those.

Who is in for a no spend January? Let me know what you think and give your advice on achieving a no spend month in the comments. You can also come and find me on Instagram where I will be posting regular tips and updates on my no spend month! I am @shoestringcottage.

Good luck everyone!

Keeping up with the frugal life on the run up to Christmas

frugal life

HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM LOLA!

How is everyone doing with their Christmas preparations? The festive season can be a huge drain on your financial resources. In the past I have blindly spent whilst feeling vaguely anxious the whole time and then dreaded the new year hangover. Because I never want to get like that again, I now put money into a savings account all year. When December hits I transfer it into the main account and can buy whatever we need – within our Christmas budget of course! It might seem impossible to have a frugal life when you are on a spending frenzy but it really isn’t if you are organised.

Avoiding temptation

I saved money by taking bottled water and a flask of coffee into town when I went Christmas shopping so that I didn’t get tempted into the coffee shops (where I would probably also buy a cake!). I do this most of the time – not just at Christmas. It saves a few pounds and probably also stops me putting on pounds round the belly too!

Not buying washing powder

Several months ago I purchased an Ecoegg Laundry Egg from Amazon. You use it instead of washing powder, so it is more eco-friendly. It also saves money. At around £20 for the claimed 720 washes, that is just under 3p a wash.

frugal life

I am pretty happy with the quality of the wash. However, I do currently still use fabric softener so the laundry smells nice. I haven’t found it effective on really dirty clothes, like Mr Shoestring’s work jeans, so keep a small box of powder for those. This is a good purchase for a greener, more frugal lifes I think.

Acupuncture

frugal life

Well, acupuncture isn’t frugal in itself. It is my latest attempt to cure the relentless pain of the trapped nerve in my neck. By booking ten sessions ahead I got each session for £23 rather than £30. I think this was a really good deal. I have only had one session so far but came out feeling a little better. I need to wait until after Christmas for the next one though.

The idea of having needles stuck in your back may not appeal to everyone, but it didn’t hurt at all and was actually quite relaxing. There is quite a bit of research on the benefits of acupuncture and in some places it is also offered on the NHS. I am hopeful it may help where everything else has so far failed!

Using up the veg

I have been doing very little cooking – I just haven’t felt up to it. As a result we had a fridge full of veg that needed using. I decided that a nice easy curry was the way to go and made enough for two days, including new potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery and peas. I used a jar of sauce that was lurking in the cupboard so it was super easy and super cheap.

Normally I would have had a nice big glass of white wine with mine. I can’t drink much at the moment though as I am on too many painkillers, so I guess I am saving money on alcohol too!

Home spa

frugal life

Secret Santa gave me a Lush bath bomb. I don’t usually use these as generally take a shower rather than a bath – quicker and cheaper. However, there is nothing like a really hot, deep bath to ease an aching neck and shoulder. I lay in it for 20 minutes, listening to an excellent programme on You Tube. When I got out I moisturised all over, plucked my eyebrows and gave myself a pedicure. It was so relaxing.

The bath bomb was crazily psychedelic though! It was the luxury Lush pud – if you look on the website you can see what happens when you put it in your bath!

A home spa is a cheap way to give yourself a little treat. When you live a frugal life you appreciate these small things.

Are you managing to achieve a few things toward a frugal life in the run up to Christmas? What small, inexpensive treats do you give yourself to keep your spirits up?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

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The ten most popular posts from Shoestring Cottage 2018

most popular posts

I do enjoy having a look back over the year to see what happened – what we got up to, our small achievements, what has changed and which blog posts got the best reception. So, without further ado, here are the ten most popular posts from Shoestring Cottage 2018!

The ten most popular posts from Shoestring Cottage 2018

On the Money

I began a new series of interviews with other bloggers who write on the subject of personal finance in some way. It has turned out to be an interesting series with a lot of common themes. 80% of the bloggers featured wish that they had started saving and investing earlier. Of course, most of us are too busy being young and foolhardy in our teens and early twenties and are full of optimism that the future will somehow sort itself out.  This serie has definitely affected my views on money. I am trying to persuade my daughters to realise that sensible financial decisions made now will give them so much more freedom and flexibility later. On the Money with the wonderful Ilona from Mean Queen was my most popular post in this series. I have so much respect for this lady – she is a real inspiration to me.

A new way of cooking with an air fryer

I got a new air fryer a few months ago and was surprised at how much interest my initial post on this, Meal Planning and Using my New Air Fryer, got! I haven’t experimented with it much and mainly use it for chips and roast potatoes, although I did have a go at breaded courgettes too. My attempt at baked eggs did not go well…

Tightwad Gazette remembered

Complete Tightwad Gazette was the first book on frugality I ever read. I still refer to it regularly if I want some money saving inspiration. This review was actually written in 2017 yet remains one of my most popular posts. Even 25 years after publication people are still searching for information on this book because there is a hunger for sound advice on good, old fashioned thrift. It fits well with the current concerns of many people about the rampant over consumption of our society and the resulting environmental damage too, I believe. You can read my review here.

Prepare for a no spend January

I am about to prepare for my next no spend January. Last year’s post on this subject was extremely popular as readers struggled to make the household finances balance after the excesses of the Christmas period. I will publish a new post in the next week as no doubt many people will be looking for inspiration to save money and get back on track in 2019. A no spend January is a great way to see the new year in and start the way you mean to go on.

Eight ways frugality will ruin your life

Well, this post outlining eight ways frugality will ruin your life was a bit tongue in cheek. As a writer on thrift and frugality, I truly believe that, for most people, frugality will actually enrich and improve their lives in ways that they don’t even consider until they start. Most people just want to take control and worry less about money, but a frugal lifestyle makes you appreciate the things that really matter, like relationships, experiences and your environment. It may sound like a cliché but it’s true! Being in control of your money, spending less and buying fewer pointless items gives you more time, and no amount of dosh will buy you that.

Top 20 frugal habits to beat spending fatigue

This one came just before Christmas last year. I don’t spend much all year and soon get sick of seeing all of my hard earned cash disappearing in the run up to Christmas. This post whizzed through my top 20 ways to save money. It’s all pretty timeless and relevant.

A budget lounge revamp

most popular posts

We don’t do DIY very often. It’s so disruptive, time consuming and expensive! However, we didn’t spend a lot revamping our lounge and were hugely pleased with the result of our labours. New wallpaper, a lick of paint and some fancy fireplace tiles transformed the room.

In search of a simple life

It seems a lot of people are searching for a simpler, happier existence. In my post In Search of a Simple Life: How to live more and stress less, I explored how decluttering, saving time, buying less stuff and learning to appreciate life’s simple pleasures might lead to more contentment. I am not there yet, but I am on the journey.

Most popular veggie recipes

At the end of 2017 I decided to go back to a mostly vegetarian diet, for both health and moral reasons. I do eat a bit of fish still, but have cut out the meat completely. As part of my meal planning series, I have published two recipes from the Sarah Brown classic, the Vegetarian Kitchen, which have been amongst my most popular posts of 2018. Number one is Red Dragon pie, a really delicious and healthy alternative to shepherd’s pie. Number two is Layered Mushroom and Cashew Nut Roast – pretty much the best nut roast recipe I have ever come across.

This is a really good vegetarian cookbook and you can still pick it up second hand on Amazon if you keep your eyes open.

Reducing our plastic

Like many people, we are really concerned about reducing our waste – particularly our plastic waste – for the good of our beautiful planet. In 10 easy ways to reduce plastic waste and save money too, I aimed to show that frugality and living an eco-friendly existence go hand in hand. It’s really very easy to take a few simple steps to reduce your plastic rubbish, mostly involving avoiding it in the first place!

I hope you enjoyed revisiting the ten most popular posts from Shoestring Cottage from the last year. I have lots of exciting plans for money saving and eco-friendly posts in the New Year, so come back soon!

 

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