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.


Six of my favourite You Tube 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?

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!

This post may contain affiliate links.

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.



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.



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.



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 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.

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.

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.


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!


No spend January update: five frugal things


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


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!


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


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.



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.


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.

This post may contain affiliate links.


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


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.


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.

This post contains some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission.


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!


This post may contain affiliate links.



The good things in life for less #5frugalthings

We have had a thrifty week. I have actually spent very little money generally, although I have bought some things for Christmas. You don’t have to spend a fortune and can easily experience the good things in life for less money.

Christmas booze

good things in life for less

We braved Aldi last weekend to buy some of their excellent Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, which has had some excellent reviews. It was on offer for £7.99.

We bought several bottles as our contribution to our Christmas celebrations, which will be hosted by my sister. Who says you can’t have the good things in life for less?

Slow cooker stew

good things in life for less

The slow cooker has started to be used a lot more now that the weather is getting colder. In last week’s meal plan I said we were having a slow cooked vegetable stew. It was really warming and delicious. We added a bit more stock to the leftovers and ate those as soup for a couple of days too. Home made soup is superior in every way to shop bought, even the fancy stuff in cartons. Super cheap too.

good things in life for less

Bargain books

I bought a few more Christmas presents in the form of books this week. I got them from the Book People. They are good value anyway but currently have a 10% flash sale on.

Eco-friendly bin liners

Who reads newspapers these days? I used to be able to pick up the old ones from work, but it seems everyone is reading online. Except for my old dad! He ambles to the shop every morning to buy his.

So I collected a big pile of his old ones to use as food caddy liners, rather than the compostable sort I have been using. It’s only a small saving, but every little helps. Newspapers are compostable too.

I am also using them to wrap up the old cat litter, before putting it straight in the dustbin. I was using nappy liners before, but am running out of those and I am keen to avoid plastic where ever I can.

Using it up

good things in life for less

I have made the last of my expensive foundation last a few extra weeks by cutting the bottom off the plastic container and scraping it out with my finger. There was loads in there! In the past that would have gone in the bin without a thought.

So, you can experience the good things in life for less. Have you managed five frugal things?

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

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Off to London: Five frugal things

Blogger awards

Finally the SHOMOS have arrived and I am writing this on the train to London. I am so excited to meet lots of blogger friends!

In case you don’t know, the SHOMOS are the annual awards of the UK Money Bloggers. This group are very supportive and friendly. I have learned so much since I joined them.

Shoestring Cottage is up for Best Money Saving Blog, Best Frugal Food Blog and I made it through to the last six for the People’s Choice Award. I have to thank you for the latter as this is decided on votes from readers.

A frugal trip

One of my frugal things was booking my train ticket a few weeks ago, which made it much cheaper.

Another is to bring my water bottle and some snacks.

I also have my bamboo coffee cup with me. It won’t save any money but will avoid any disposable cups.


five frugal things

I have mentioned my efforts to reduce waste at Shoestring Cottage and to live a more sustainable life before. To this end we are switching from teabags, which contain plastic, back to loose tea. It tastes so much better! How did we all fall for the whole teabag thing?

I found loose PG Tips in a cardboard box with no plastic, which was great. Cheaper too.

As I drink decaf much of the time, a reader on Instagram recommended the Brew Tea Company. I ordered decaf black tea as well as some ginger and lemon.

This wasn’t as cheap as the PG Tips but seems a quality product. I will let you know how I get on but it does taste lovely!


five frugal things

How is it that I have three grown up girls who feel I should still buy them advent calendars? I relented this year because there were some Cadbury’s ones for £1.99 each.

Last time! If they ever produce grandkids I will get them reusable cloth ones.

Grape liqueur

five frugal things

We finally bottled up the grape liqueur that has been brewing nicely for a couple of months.

It smells of strong vodka, so I wasn’t hopeful. However, it tastes really nice! It didn’t cost much to make and used up some of our grape harvest.


I love hand crafted presents. You get a unique product without all the usual packaging and support local makers.

five frugal things

A colleague’s husband makes all kinds of things as his side hustle. I brought a lovely bright knitted bag for Christmas for a little girl I know. I think she will love it and it was only £8. I think this was a bargain.

Anyway, I will let you know how I get on at the SHOMOS. Have a great weekend!

What frugal things have you achieved? Have you had an eco-friendly week too? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

An eco-friendly week #5frugalthings

I am continuing to live a little greener with less waste. I find this saves money too. This has been quite an eco-friendly week.

Pumpkin muffins


As promised in last week’s Five Frugal Things post, I used the flesh from our Halloween pumpkin rather than throwing it away. First came a batch of muffins. I used this recipe from Aldi. It made so many! They must have been using giant muffin cases as they said it would make 12. It made 30 fairy cake sized ones. Some we have eaten and some are in the freezer. They are lovely and moist.

Pumpkin soup


Secondly, I used my home made vegetable stock to prepare some yummy curried pumpkin soup.  Again, we have eaten some and frozen some.

It makes me mad that people just throw away their pumpkins once Halloween is over. Why waste good food?

A more eco-friendly cuppa

I wandered into TK Maxx the other day. I rarely go in there – too much temptation! However, I was after a couple of Christmas presents, which they had. I was impressed that, amongst the general tat, there was  a nice selection of items to help those, like me, who are trying to cut back on single use plastics.


They had a lovely selection of glass water bottles, protected with silicone. Water tastes so much nicer out of glass, I think. I purchased a single cup tea diffuser with some black tea. Teabags aren’t made entirely of paper, as you might assume, but also contain a form of plastic. This means that they aren’t fully biodegradable. The tea and diffuser cost just £4.99.

I also splashed out on a bamboo lunch box for £8. It is a good size and, again, no plastic.

Trip to the food coop


As I mentioned in last week’s low waste meal plan, I had my first visit to a food coop I recently joined. I need to get my head around it as I have missed their monthly order, but they keep a stock of some basics anyway. I purchased refills of hair conditioner and fabric softener, some organic sultanas, plain flour and some nuts.  Only the nuts came in single use plastic.


I also bought, for just 87p, these scouring pads made from recycled plastic.

It is much cheaper to buy a lot of these things through a coop. I like that they sell a lot of organic items much more cheaply than I can find elsewhere. We don’t buy organic all the time as we can’t afford it, so any way to save money in order to achieve more organic is good news.

Shoestring Cottage in the news

I am working with the Money Advice Service on a new campaign called Talk Money Week. There will be a blog post next week when it starts. In the meantime, I was asked by a Daily Mirror journalist to be interviewed for a piece she was writing for the campaign. You can read it here. Luckily no embarrassing photos this time!

What frugal things have you achieved? Have you had an eco-friendly week too? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

Old fashioned thrift: this week’s five frugal things

old fashioned thrift

My inexpertly carved pumpkin lantern!

I love writing my weekly five frugal things post. It makes me appreciate the small things we do each week to stay on track and in control of our finances. This week we are going for good, old fashioned thrift.

This week I have been working part time hours. I love it! When I have time I do so many more of the little creative cooking activities that I enjoy. I haven’t been able to achieve as much as normal as I am struggling still with fibromyalgia and a trapped nerve in my neck. Not being hunched over a desk constantly has definitely improved the situation though, so hopefully I am on the mend.

Soup, soup, glorious soup

I love soup and will happily eat it on the warmest summer’s day. It is so comforting and nourishing. Now that the weather has turned chillier I am enjoying it even more. We are going for good, old fashioned thrift this week and our five frugal things are almost all soup themed!

Making stock

old fashioned thrift

I usually make stock with poultry carcasses. However, as I have now given up meat we don’t have as many bones kicking around. Incidentally, I do still keep and make them. I will eat something made with animal stock rather than waste it.

old fashioned thrift

This time, however, I decided to make vegetable stock. I have been reducing our food waste as much as possible and keeping all of our vegetable trimmings and peelings in old ice cream tubs in the freezer. Once I had two full ones I made my stock. It is super easy, but I plan to write a post on how to do it in the next week or so. Old fashioned thrift means wasting nothing!

Making croutons

old fashioned thrift

We don’t eat that much bread, and usually leave it in the freezer taking it out a slice at a time. But we found ourselves with a load left over from when we hosted our French student so I made some croutons. You can read how I did it here.

Butternut squash soup

old fashioned thrift

A neighbour of Mr Shoestring’s mum often sells surplus home grown veg at their front gate. This week they had butternut squashes and pumpkins. We bought a huge pumpkin for £2 and two butternut squashes for 50p each.

The pumpkin firstly became a lantern for the local kids. We always take part – I like seeing the little kids dressed in their funny costumes. This is now waiting to become soup, of course. I am not letting it go to waste.

old fashioned thrift

In the meantime, I made some delicious butternut squash soup. The two squashes made 12 portions. Again, I will post the recipe for this soon.

Halloween costume

We always dress up for Halloween at work. We need to keep our evil spirits up! I didn’t have lots of time to make a crazy costume or the money for anything expensive. I opted for a T shirt from Lidl for £2.50 and a witch hat from the charity shop for 50p. old fashioned thrift

This picture shows what a lovely bunch of crazies I work with.

Zero waste lunch box

old fashioned thrift

OK, this isn’t exactly old fashioned thrift. However, I was recently gifted this brilliant stainless steel lunchbox by &Keep, a brilliant zero waste online shop. Taking my own packed lunch to work every day saves me a ton of money and I can see myself using this one for years to come.

I would love to move towards a completely plastic-free life. This is a great little two tier lunch box with a separate small container, which I take my snack of nuts in.

I love going back to the days where old fashioned thrift was seen as an admirable and virtuous thing. It saves money and is good for the planet.

What have your frugal achievements been this week? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.

A pain in the neck: Five frugal things

Well, this never happens. I have been signed off from work for the past ten days with this pesky trapped nerve. This has made me frugal whether I wanted to be or not, as I haven’t been in the mood to go anywhere or do anything! Five frugal things has been a piece of cake.  I am glad I chose an easy week of meals for my French student, so cooking has been uncomplicated and easy.

Hosting foreign language students

My student is the first of my five frugal things! If you have a spare bedroom (even if only some of the time, like me), hosting foreign language students is an interesting way to make a little extra money. You are helping a young person get to know another language and culture, and have the satisfaction of watching their confidence grow in a very short period. You make friends from other countries and learn about their culture too. And at the end of their stay you get paid! It is a win-win. I have a whole post on hosting foreign language students here.

Making my own raised work station

five frugal things

I have Access to Work coming to see me when I get back to the office to talk about adjustments to my work station. In the meantime, I have made my own at home! Even browsing the internet or writing a blog post has felt uncomfortable this week, but with this little arrangement I can type standing up. It makes a huge difference, as sitting down for long periods seems to be what traps the nerve in my neck.

It is honestly the most painful thing I have experienced after childbirth, although that mercifully didn’t go on for 6 weeks, as this has.

Finding an internet physiotherapist

I have an appointment booked for physiotherapy in two weeks through the NHS. In the meantime, I have been scouring the internet for advice and came across a great You Tube video with some very helpful exercises from Bob and Brad. I with I had found it earlier as after just two days, the pain has begun to ease a little. I am paying to have regular massage but can’t afford to pay for private physiotherapy too, so You Tube, along with the NHS, have come up trumps!

We may moan about the NHS but we are so lucky to have it and should never take it for granted.

New front door

five frugal things

OK, so a brand new door may seem an one to add to this week’s five frugal things. However, the old one was terrible. Not only did it look tatty, it let in the draughts so badly that the hall was one of the coldest rooms in the house.

We recently saved up for the back door and found the tradesman so good and reasonably priced we thought we would get the front door done too. Mr S had some investments mature and thought this would be a good use of his money. It will save cash on fuel bills for sure!

We are super pleased with it. Have a look at the before and after pictures.

five frugal things

eBay listings

As I have had this enforced period of rest, I have finally got round to washing, ironing, repairing and listing almost all of the items I had stored up to sell on eBay. Hopefully this will bring in a little extra money before Christmas.

It does take time to source, prepare, photograph and list things to sell online, but I think it is worthwhile. I have a guide to selling on eBay here and another about how to present clothes here.

Shoestring Cottage needs YOU

five frugal things

Another quick reminder as we are almost out of time. If you get the chance before 31st October, please vote for Shoestring Cottage in the People’s Choice award for the SHOMOS money bloggers award. I would be massively grateful. I am up against bloggers with huge followings so it would be nice to do well. The link is here. Thanks so much to those of you who have already given me their vote!

Have you managed five frugal things this week? Even if you have only managed one or two, please share in the comments below.

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

Saving money where I can: five frugal things I have done this week

Well, it’s been a funny week. I am still struggling with a stabbing pain in my neck and shoulder, which I had assumed was fibromyalgia. I finally went to the GP yesterday and it turns out it is a trapped nerve! That is exactly what it feels like as the pain moves around. It has made me feel quite sick at points and totally sorry for myself.  The doctor has signed me off for a week to get me away from being static at my desk. I hope it helps as I have been suffering for four weeks now and I have had enough! I am still saving money where I can. Frugality can’t stop because of a pain in the neck…

Saving money on pain relief

I have been throwing back the ibuprofen and paracetamol, using ibuprofen gel and also heat pads. If you buy branded pain relief products, they cost an absolute fortune. If you look closely at the ingredients they are pretty much the same as the cheap generic brands you can find in the chemist of supermarket.

I am not into paying for fancy TV adverts and other marketing. If I can get the same product for 45p as I can for £3, it is a no-brainer. Saving money on drugs is easy if you stick to own brands.

I have been using various self heating stick on pads as well, most of which we had from when Mr S had back problems. When I came to buy some more I couldn’t believe the price of them! The best are Deep Heat, but they are about £2 each! You can get cheaper ones in Poundland, but you have to put them on your clothes and the heated beads inside tend to fall to the bottom after a couple of hours. I am also trying to stop buying single use products.

The solution appears to be a reusable microwaveable heat pad. There are loads on Amazon, but I have gone for this one because its shape means it goes over my neck and my shoulders. The reviews are good as well, and it should work out much cheaper than disposable heat pads. I think it will also make me look rather regal. Perhaps I should get a tiara to go with it?

Shameless canvassing for votes

Saving money

I am off to the SHOMOS, a bloggers event, next month. The schedule has just been announced so I can work out my timings and pre-book my train ticket. Much cheaper! I saved around £8 by pre-booking and it would have been even cheaper if I had specified particular trains. However, I want a bit more flexibility on the day.

Talking of the SHOMOS, I have been selected for two categories: the Best Frugal Food Blog and Best Money Saving blog. However, all blogs go into the Peoples’ Choice Award and this is where you can help by voting for me!

Please click here to vote for me. I really appreciate all your votes. Having come in the final three up against some huge blogs with a much bigger readership last year, it would be great to do the same again.

Making my own natural, plastic free toiletries

I think I mentioned in last week’s Five Frugal Things that I had ordered a book called Natural Beauty: 35 step-by-step projects for homemade beauty, featuring recipes to make your own beauty products.  Well, it arrived! It is a gorgeous looking book and brand new. I wasn’t expecting that for £1.25. In fact, I was incredibly lucky to find it at that price as it’s usually £9.99.

There are so many things I want to make. The ingredients aren’t particularly cheap, but if I make a few things using similar items it will spread the cost. I think it will work out cheaper than buying similar quality natural products, as well as save on all the packaging. A body butter is probably a good place to start as I have dry skin so always moisturise all over. Maybe I can start during this enforced period of rest! If anyone has ideas of where to buy reasonably priced cocoa butter, shea butter and the like I would be very interested to know. Thanks! Saving money as well as cutting back on chemicals and plastic are all important to me.


saving money

I have been charity shopping again! You can’t keep me out of them at the moment. I found a nice little pine bedside table for – get this – £5.75! My daughter took the desk from her room when she went back to university. She has moved into a shared house now and there wasn’t one. This left a gaping hole where the desk had been and this little set of drawers fills it perfectly. What a great bargain! I love saving money buying second hand.

I will give it the once over with some linseed oil to brighten it up.

saving money

I also found a gorgeous pair of leather boots for just a fiver. I wish they fitted me as I love them. However, they are too small so I will list them on eBay. I hope to get at least £20 back on my investment – now is the time for people to buy their winter boots, after all.

Extreme money saving

Did you see my post 25 extreme ways to save money in the week? I really enjoyed writing it as it reminded me of all the things we should be doing to keep our costs down and renewed my determination to do so. In truth, I don’t do all of these  ideas for saving money – I wouldn’t eat road kill, for example – but most I am happy to do.

Anyway, how has your week been and how have you been saving money?

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

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

This week’s thrifty achievements #fivefrugalthings

This week’s thrifty achievements

Still suffering from a fibromyalgia flare up, so I have done little except go to work and drag myself home again (it feels like). Last night I had the longest, deepest bath and the pain in my shoulder seems to have eased a bit. I am hoping to be back to my usual self very soon! I did manage some thrifty achievements, though!

Joining the food co-op

As I said in my post Do you use a zero waste shop, I was bemoaning the lack of a zero waste shop here.

However, a friend reminded me that there is a small food coop locally, so I have joined that. The products are ordered in bulk according to the desires of the members and apparently much cheaper than the shops. I can also take my own containers. Can’t wait to use it!

Soup, soup, marvellous soup

thrifty achievements

To make sure I used up all of the bits and pieces in the fridge before I went shopping again, I made soup! A big batch of my favourite thick veggie soup. Full of vitamins and fibre.

I love soup, although this is almost a stew, so thick you can stand your spoon up in it. In went celery, carrots, potatoes and peas, thickened with red lentils in Marigold vegetable stock.

thrifty achievements

This is so quick and easy – incredibly cheap too! I made enough for six really big portions and put some straight in the freezer.

Back in my favourite shop

Now that I have discovered our £1 charity shop, I can’t keep out of it! It is chock full of the most incredible bargains.

Frugal achievementsI spent £11 and got a pair of winter boots, a Monsoon skirt and another pretty silk one, a couple of dresses, some vest tops and a witches hat. Well, it is nearly Halloween!

I also got the potato cookery book that I mentioned in last week’s meal plan. It has some lovely budget recipes in it.

I will sell most of these items and hope to make some extra cash for Christmas.

Bargain book

I love Amazon for second hand books too. I am interested in making some of my own chemical free and low waste toiletries. I managed to find this one, Natural Beauty: 35 step-by-step projects for homemade beauty,  for £1.25! Not bad! I saw it new for £6 on the Book People but this was even better.

I will try it out and let you know how I get on,

Yogurt making

thrifty achievements

I dig out my old yogurt maker a few months ago to try my own lactose free yogurt. It came out ok but was a bit runny. I am going to try again with whole milk and some added milk powder to make it thicker.

In the meantime I found this organic stuff on offer in Sainsbury’s for £1.20. It is delicious and I will use some of it as my starter when I make my next batch.

So, these are this week’s frugal achievements. What are yours?

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

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Five frugal things for an eco-friendly week

This week’s five frugal things post has a green flavour  – we have had an eco-friendly week!

Before I begin, though, if you enjoy my blog please consider voting do Shoestring Cottage in the Peoples Choice Award at the SHOMOS – vote here. I really appreciate your support!

‘New’ boots

five frugal things

I wrote a post this week about why I buy a lot of second hand clothes. My best bargain recently was actually found by my mum. A pair of totally comfy, excellent quality Hotter ankle boots for £1!

I love Hotter footwear but it’s expensive new, so I was really happy with these. Ok, they aren’t high fashion, but I prefer comfort!

More shoe shopping

My daughter recently discovered a brilliant charity shop locally. It sells everything for £1. She went in during the week and bought a whole carrier bag of shoes in really good condition. She is selling the trendy ones on Mercari and gave me the slightly frumpier ones to sell on eBay. Another pair of Hotter shoes, loafers this time, some brand new court shoes from Next and a pair of Kickers shoes that look as if they have only been worn a couple of times.

I think it is craziness that people buy these things and never wear them, but their loss is our gain.

Avoiding the plastic

five frugal things

For some time we have been trying to reduce the amount of plastic coming into the house. It is disappointingly difficult! I wrote a post on how frustrated this was making me in  Dreaming of a plastic free life.

My resolve was strengthened by the BBC programme this week Drowning in Plastic. If you missed it I urge you to watch it on the BBC iPlayer. It is a harrowing and quite distressing wake up call to all of us and made me so angry. We have to stop using plastic in the way that we currently do and manufacturers will only listen when we, as consumers, show our displeasure and stop buying so many products packaged in plastic, especially the non-recyclable stuff.

I have been searching for a fortnight for tomato ketchup that wasn’t in a plastic bottle and finally found one last night. Sainsbury’s came up trumps, with their own brand sauce in a glass bottle for just 80p. Since it is so hard to find, I bought two!

And cutting back the chemicals

five frugal things

The other thing I have been working towards to make us a more eco-friendly household is to reduce the chemicals in the cleaning products we use. Annoyingly, they are generally more expensive. However, Sainsbury’s helped again, with Ecover toilet cleaner on offer for £1 a bottle. Again, I bought two!

This did come in a plastic bottle, but at least it is recyclable.

Lunch out

five frugal things

OK, lunch out isn’t that frugal. However, I had a day off on Monday so we decided to take a walk up the Essex coast, from Dovercourt to Harwich. We found a lovely pub called the Alma, where we had a sandwich each, which came with chips and 3 little side salads. It was just £5.55 each, which I thought was a great price.

You have to have the odd treat! Old Harwich is lovely actually, if you are passing.

So that is this week’s five frugal things. What have you achieved this week?

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

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Why buying second hand clothes is good for your wallet and the planet

I love buying second hand clothes. In fact, I rarely buy anything new.

Once you realise just how cheaply good quality second hand clothes can be purchased, you resent paying the full price!

Here’s why I buy second hand clothes and how to find them.

It’s cheaper

second hand clothes

Well, obviously buying second hand will be cheaper than buying brand new. Unless, that is, you buy something labelled vintage! I tend to avoid so called vintage items as I remember many of them from the first time round and they were ugly then.

I was a child in the seventies and mustard yellow and muddy orange polyester monstrosities have left their scars.

You can create quirky looks

second hand clothes

A 99p dress, modelled by DD1

Having said that, buying second hand does give you the opportunity to create unique looks. Whilst the hoards buy identikit looks from the chain stores, true fashionistas love to root round the Oxfam Shop!

Charities benefit when you buy second hand clothes

I buy a fair few items from charity shops. Although many charge a lot now, there are still some bargains to be had. I have mentioned previously that we have a Barnado’s warehouse nearby where they sort and sell for their other stores.

I pop in regularly and find loads of bargains, many for as little as 99p and also donate many of my unwanted things.

second hand clothes

Buying and selling at the boot sale

You can afford better quality

Whereas our grandparents and the generations before them bought clothes to last, cheap, throwaway fashion is the new normal.

Poor quality fashion items can be bought for a few pounds and discarded after being worn a couple of times.

For me, a better option on a tight budget is to buy better quality brands in a used condition. I find Monsoon, Coast, Per Una, Gap, etc all the time.

Reusing is eco-friendly

Reusing rather than buying new reduces waste. As I said above, we live in a throwaway society. Buying second hand clothes extends their life and stops them being thrown away.

Reusing clothing means that less has to be produced in the first place. This in turn means fewer materials and less in the way of transportation.

You can sell yours to make money

When there is a market for second hand clothes this also creates an opportunity for you to sell your old ones and make a bit of extra cash.

You could even source good quality second hand clothes specifically for this purpose. There is a whole army of resellers prepared to get up early and scour the boot sales, or to spend lots of time in charity shops and nearly new sales in order to stock their reselling businesses. See my articles on selling on eBay here and here for more information.

Where to find them?

Boot sales

If you are prepared to make the effort, boot sales are by far the best and cheapest places to find good second hand clothes.

We were lucky enough in the summer to find a very well heeled family getting rid of a van load of designer and top branded stuff for 50p an item!

I have found so many amazing bargains at boot sales – I love them!

Online auction sites

Depop, Mercari, Gumtree, eBay, even Facebook Marketplace – there are many online auction sites these days. I use eBay personally but I am also experimenting with Mercari. They both have a huge selection of used clothing.

Yesterday  on eBay I found a seller my size clearing out her Per Una items and bought 2 skirts, a pair of pumps and a jumper! All used but in excellent condition for the princely sum of £28 including postage.

Charity shops

I am all for supporting charities via their shops. However, some of them charge far too much! I have seen cheap second hand Primark items for the same price as they cost new. Charity shops should make money but they also need to realise that people don’t expect to pay a lot for second hand clothes.

Having said that, the smaller ones tend to provide better value. If you can find the larger out of town branches, where they sort and dispose of items, they are even cheaper.

Jumble sales

Jumble sales hardly happen at all these days. When I was a teenager there used to be one on in a church hall somewhere pretty much every Saturday. However, once in a while you will find one, and it is also worth looking out for any fundraising community event where they might have a second hand clothes stall.

If you don’t usually buy second hand clothes, maybe now is the time to try. Are you a frugal fashionista and, if so, where do you find your bargains?

This week’s frugal achievements

I am doing my very best to be super frugal at the moment. We have been without a lodger for a month and certainly miss the income. The Chinese student we were expecting decided not to come at the last moment, which was a disappointment, but actually it has been nice having the house to ourselves.  Still, there is news on both in this week’s frugal achievements.

Charity shopping

frugal achievements

Some of my recent charity shop booty!

I absolutely love a good charity shop. You never know what bargains you will encounter and I like the whole concept of reusing and buying second hand. We have a brilliant one not far from us. It is the warehouse for the charity’s other shops locally and also where they sell off items that have hung around for a while. Most of these are priced at 99p.

I went in last weekend and spent half an hour going through one of their bins of women’s clothes. They had some amazing things in there, some of them new with tags. I will never understand why people buy clothes they then never wear. If I buy anything new, which is rare, I try it on, debate with myself and make absolutely certain I love it and will wear it before I part with my hard earned cash. Still, their loss is my gain! I came out with a huge armful and spent around £7.50. This is top of my list of frugal achievements.

£5 credit with Mercari

I mentioned some time ago that I had signed up with Mercari. This is a selling app, particularly good for listing clothes. I have to admit, I have been a bit half-hearted about using it lately, focusing instead on eBay for listing items. However, my daughter loves it and has become a Mercari top rated seller. They even rewarded her recently by giving her £100 of credit, which was amazing!

It definitely seems to work with clothes for younger women. DD1 sells mainly high street brands in smaller sizes. She has quickly begun to make a really worthwhile extra income in this way. I am going to have a push with some appropriate items and get my daughter to model them for me. Try as I might, it is a long time since I squeezed myself into a size 8!

You can also find some massive bargains on Mercari.  People are selling off their summer items and Mercari are adding a 25% discount too. You can sign up using my code for a £5 credit: IXATXYQ.

New lodger

We finally found ourselves a new lodger, after our lovely student finished her masters and went off on her next adventure. Our new lady works in a toy shop in town and is bringing her cat. I must admit I am a bit nervous about this. Our girls may be a little put out and I foresee a bit a hissing and fur flying whilst they adjust.

Still, it is a great way to earn a bit of extra income.

Welcoming a foreign student

As well as the lodger arriving, we have agreed to have a French student for a week at the end of October. I do enjoy having them but they do create a little bit of extra work. For more information on hosting foreign students, see my post on the subject here.

Apples with everything

Now that I have used up most of the grape harvest, the apples are arriving thick and fast. As well as a few from our own small tree, Mr Shoestring is being given them everywhere he turns it seems! Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I have started freezing them. They will be nice in pies and crumbles.

Mr S is no cook but he makes a mean microwaved ‘baked’ apple with custard, so we are eating some fresh.

So that is our week of frugal achievements. How is it looking for you?

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

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Nature’s bounty: Five frugal things

I love this time of year, slipping from summer to Autumn, ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ as Keats once wrote. It’s not cold yet, but you can cosy up under a big old jumper and enjoy the very last of the nature’s bounty.

Grape liqueur

We have had such a big crop of grapes this year. They obviously enjoyed the hot summer! However, they aren’t sweet enough to eat or juice.

Nature's bounty

I offered them on Facebook to see if any friends wanted to take them for wine making but there was no take up. We couldn’t let the whole crop just rot on the vine so I decided to make some grape liqueur.

It couldn’t have been easier. Essentially you just leave them in vodka with a little sugar. I am giving the jar a shake every day and looking forward to drinking this at Christmas.

I am keeping my eyes open for some pretty bottles and might even give some of the grape liqueur as a Christmas present.


nature's bounty

Talking of nature’s bounty, we have had two bags of hazelnuts sitting around for months. They were given to us by a neighbour. Some were eaten last Christmas but the others were forgotten about!

I found them the other day and decided to clean off the husks and start to use them. Now I need to find some good recipes 😀. I can make some nut cutlets for the freezer, of crush them up and put them in cakes or biscuits.

Apples and flowers

As I mentioned in last week’s meal plan, I hosted a dinner party for my girlfriends this week.

In the past I thought I had to recreate a top restaurant experience when I threw dinner parties. I would worry about every detail, spend a fortune on ingredients and generally stress out. But when I have been at work all day I just can’t do that and, to be honest, they wouldn’t expect it or be remotely judgemental.  So I decided to make a nut roast with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puds and steamed vegetables. I made the nut roast the evening before, so just had to put it in the oven. I also made an apple pudding with custard. It was pretty much stress free, and meant I had time to sit and chat without any last minute faffing about. We all enjoyed it and there were leftovers for Mr S.

natures bounty

It didn’t break the bank either! The apples were from a neighbour’s tree like the hazelnuts. My friend Sara, who also grows lovely things in her garden, brought a beautiful posy of home grown flowers for the table.

Bulbs and compost

Our garden has been a bit neglected this year. We did spend a good few hours out there last weekend, cutting things back and tidying up. Then we went to the garden centre and bought a job lot of compost and some big bags of spring bulbs.

Bulbs are a cheap way to bring colour to the garden every year. I am going to layer them in pots so that the crocuses come up first, followed by the daffodils and finally the tulips for a long lasting display.

Sale bargains

I hardly ever buy new clothes and am a veritable second hand Rose. However, I really needed to find a couple of tops for work so I headed to the New Look sale where they had 60% off some items. I got one reduced from £13.99 to £6 and another for £8 that was originally £15.99. I wear a dark coloured skirt and cardigan almost every day so I don’t have to think too hard in the mornings. A bright top stops me looking too drab!

So that’s my frugal week enjoying nature’s bounty and a bargain or two. How has your week been?

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

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Top five quotes to give you frugal inspiration #5frugalthings

frugal inspiration

Do you ever need some frugal inspiration? We all have times when we know we should be saving but we keep spending instead. Or we get fed up with scrimping to pay off debts and book a holiday on impulse. Only the strongest and most determined of us have never been there!

There are definitely times when I need to strengthen my resolve and find frugal inspiration, so for this week’s five frugal things post I thought I would look up some favourite authors for great quotes. Here are the ones that leapt out at me.

Dave Ramsey

“Winning at money is 80 percent behaviour and 20 percent head knowledge. What to do isn’t the problem; doing it is. Most of us know what to do, but we just don’t do it. If I can control the guy in the mirror, I can be skinny and rich.”

I love Dave Ramsey. He is clear and to the point. I can rarely argue with anything he says! His books, such as Total Money Makeover, are down to earth and full of commonsense. His radio show is also great value, for wisdom and laughs. You can find it on You Tube.

Amy Dacyczyn

“Tightwaddery without creativity is deprivation. When there is a lack of resourcefulness, inventiveness, and innovation, thrift means doing without. When creativity combines with thrift you may be doing it without money, but you are not doing without.”
―  The Complete Tightwad Gazette

Who can argue with this approach? People think that frugal living means austerity and a meagre existence. Amy Dacyczyn proves that isn’t the case. The Tightwad Gazette kick started my interest in thrifty living and I still go back to it many years later for a bit of frugal inspiration.

Vicki Robin

“Frugality is enjoying the virtue of getting good value for every minute of your life energy and from everything you have the use of.”

Vicki Robin was co-author of Your Money or Your Life , 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, a classic book on money. She teaches you to live well for less and find a bit of financial sanity. I love the idea of getting value for your life energy!

Maya Angelou

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”  – Maya Angelou

OK, so Maya Angelou isn’t well known for writing on personal finance. However, I read several of her series of autobiographies years ago (most notably I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings) and she lived a life! She was considered, philosophical and wise. This quote shows that money really isn’t everything.

Benjamin Franklin

“The way to wealth is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality: that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them everything.” – Benjamin Franklin

Wikapedia says of Benjamin Franklin: ‘As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. ‘
What a shame that so many people don’t understand the value of thrift and hard work now. An even greater shame  is that there aren’t politicians as clever, wise and fair minded as Franklin in the White House today!
What do you think of my choice of quotes to give you frugal inspiration? Do you have any quotes or sayings that you try to live by?
I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission, so thanks!

Five frugal things for Zero Waste Week

We have had a really good week here at Shoestring Cottage. It was Zero Waste Week, and the focus on reducing our waste meant we actually saved money too. Thrift and an eco-friendly lifestyle are natural partners I think.  We may be a long way from a zero waste lifestyle, but it is very satisfying to feel we can do our bit, be much greener and make a difference to the welfare of our planet.

Greener laundry

zero waste week

I finally got round to purchasing an Ecoegg. It cost me around £25 from Amazon and, all being well, should last for a massive 720 washes. I worked out in our case that would be about four years! The benefits are threefold. An Ecoegg will save money on laundry powder, save on the packaging it comes in and mean fewer chemicals are on our clothes and leaching into our water system.

According to the blurb it works like this: “The Ecoegg contains two types of cleaning pellets. The tourmaline ceramic pellets weaken the adhesive forces between the dirt and the fabric. The mineral pellets then naturally ionise the oxygen molecules in the water which then penetrate deep into the fabric, lifting away the direct and grime. ” Sounds like a science lesson!

I have only used it once so far and it cleaned perfectly well, so I will let you know how I get on.

Batch cooking

zero waste week

I made a big pot of chick pea curry and another of chilli con carne in the week. We had one meal each and I froze the rest. So we have two ready meals each for whenever we can’t be bothered to cook. Cheaper and healthier than a microwave meal and – for Zero Waste Week – with none of the associated packaging. I re-used some ancient plastic containers my daughters once had a takeaway in. These are great for freezing batch cooked meals, home made soup and leftovers.

Selling unwanted items

I listed some things on Facebook Marketplace at the weekend and have already sold three of them. We had two pictures that were in the attic and unlikely to be used again and a rug in nice condition but the wrong colour for anywhere.

I hate unwanted items just cluttering up the house and it makes sense to pass them to someone who will appreciate them – and make a bit of cash in the process, of course.

Dusting off the slow cooker

zero waste week

As part of my Zero Waste Meal Plan, I decided to use up some of the rather large bag of pudding rice that was lurking in the back of the larder.  I love rice pudding but hardly ever make it as Mr Shoestring isn’t keen. However, even he had to admit that with sugar and cinnamon it was actually quite delicious.

Now that the weather is turning a little colder I will start to use the slow cooker again.  It costs hardly anything to run and you can chuck in your ingredients and forget about them all day.

Here we go again

We had a lovely trip to the cinema in Clacton and finally got to see Mama Mia. We have been planning to see if for weeks but things kept coming up. Ticket prices are only £4.50 there, which is a bargain. We took our own drinks and parked in the street, although we did splash out on some popcorn for a change since it cost so little to get in. I loved the film – a bit of lightweight fun!

So this has been our frugal, not quite Zero Waste Week. As I keep saying, we are aiming for progress not perfection. How have you got on? Anyone else managed five frugal things or attempting a Zero Waste Week?

I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in their Five Frugal Things linky. Check out what they have achieved this week.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Mobile phone contracts for frugal spenders

This is a collaborative post.

Frugal and savvy spenders are the best at saving money on the monthly bills. One thing that seems to get missed, however, is the mobile phone contact. The most common forms of bill switching are gas and electric suppliers. Consider this. The average household dual fuel bill is more than the average annual household spend on mobile phone plans (source – https://www.ukpower.co.uk).

The average monthly spend on mobile phone plans is just above £45 per month in the UK. That’s £540 per year. Most households in the UK now have 2 or more phones.

That means the average household annual spend in the UK starts lifting to £1080 per year. UK consumers can save money if they research more about what they need. This starts with understanding how the plans are built. Mobile phones plans include three factors.

  1. The cost of the device
  2. Texts and minutes
  3. GB of data allowance

The most common way for a UK consumer to purchase a mobile phone includes the cost of the device within the monthly plan. As texts and minutes are now usually unlimited, it’s really the cost of the device and data that builds the monthly plan.

Purchasing a good deal doesn’t mean finding the best deal on a comparison site. Consumers must start with research on what works for them. This starts with their data requirements.

This shows the average data usage is the UK is 4.1GB of data. The average plan purchased in the UK is 16GB of data. This means most consumers are overspending.

The best way to find out how much data you need is to check your previous usage. You can do this on your device or on your monthly bill. Once you understand your usage you will know what data plan you need to match your monthly requirements.

The second part of this equation is knowing what you do with your device. If you an avid movie streaming or someone who listens to music without access to WI-FI all day then you need a good plan. If you only send a few emails and occasionally check out the family on Facebook then a smaller plan suits your needs. Check out the graphic below which explains how data is used.

(Source – www.fonehouse.co.uk)

It suddenly becomes quite clear that 10GB of data would handle a lot of usage. Especially as most consumers are connected to WI-FI via work or home most of the day.

The next cost factor is the cost of the device. You need to assess what you really need. Do you need the latest iPhone X or Galaxy Note 9, or will an older generation model like the iPhone 6 of Galaxy S7 suit you?

The device cost will be built into the data plan you need. This means a newer iPhone X could cost upwards of £1200 over the 24-month contract whereas an iPhone 6 can cost you as little as £432 with 2GB of data. That’s £18 per month.

If you are happy with your current device and don’t want a new phone, then you can save a lot of money moving forward. Switching to a sim only plan is a cheap way to keep your device but upscale your data allowance. You can pick up a Vodafone sim only deal for as little as £10 a month with 10GB of data. NEVER let your contract roll. You initially paid for the handset within the contract and will still be paying the same amount if you don’t cancel and switch.



Our frugal life at Shoestring Cottage #5frugalthings

I haven’t blogged as much as usual this month. Life has been really busy. So what has been happening at Shoestring Cottage? We are still living a frugal life but having lots of fun too!

A short break

frugal life

Sea Palling

We finally had our two night stay in Norfolk. It was Mr S’s Christmas present from last year. We had to use it before it expired. We chose a place close to Hickling Broad called Dairy Barns, which was absolutely gorgeous. If you are ever in the county I can’t recommend it highly enough.

frugal life

It was immaculately renovated, completely spotless and in a lovely area. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful, greeting us with a pot of tea and two huge slices of cake. They also gave us lots of information about good walks around the Broads and places to visit.

frugal life

Going away isn’t frugal in itself, of course, but booking through buyagift.co.uk was a cheaper way to get this deal and for such a luxurious venue it was great value. We always try to balance our frugal life with plenty of treats. Living frugally most of the time helps us to pay for the things we enjoy doing.

The best place for tea

frugal life

One day on our trip away we went looking for a reasonably priced place to have lunch. We had a lovely walk around Hickling Broad so we were starving! We tried a pub nearby but it was heaving and we didn’t want to wait an hour just for a sandwich. It was also very expensive! Fortunately a helpful lady recommended the Prima Rosa Cafe in nearby Salhouse. It was an absolute gem!

frugal life

We had a very reasonably priced panini each and some tea. We didn’t have room for any cake, although they did look delicious. As well as being a vintage style tea room, Prima Rosa is a gift shop, specialising in crafts made by local artisans. It is absolutely jam-packed full of treasures. Every nook and cranny displays items for sale, even the loo!

We had a long chat with the lady who owns it, Judith, who told us it was her dream to create and run Prima Rosa. She and her husband completely gutted and renovated the shop three years ago and have been steadily building it up ever since. It was a labour of love that has really paid off. So worth a visit! What a lovely place.

 A frugal life – Up early for the boot sale

We got home on Friday night, then got straight onto preparing to do a boot sale the following day. I was fairly reluctant and didn’t have that much to sell, but my daughter persuaded me. So, we were up at 5.15 and off by 6 am.

frugal life

Darling daughter freezing her bits off at the boot sale

It wasn’t a great success in terms of selling. The weather was quite chilly first thing and there weren’t enough customers. However, we discovered a chap selling off all his barely worn and in some cases new designer clothes so we bought loads! I am washing and ironing the used stuff today and hope to list some of it on eBay tomorrow.

I was a bit shattered so the rest of my day wasn’t that productive. However, I did manage to make spaghetti cheese bake for tea, which is quick and easy. I will stick to this week’s frugal meal plan whatever.

Plums from our tree

We have a small Victoria plum tree in our front garden, which we planted a few years ago. It was a free one, when the council ran a scheme giving a way three trees or fruit bushes to whoever wanted them. I don’t think they would have the money to run this now but we took advantage of it for three years in a row.

Anyway, the plum tree is doing brilliantly this year. If it stops raining today, I will get out there to pick a few more. My daughter plans to make this plum and hazelnut cake, which looks delicious. They should also freeze well to make a decent crumble or two over the winter.

Paring down the shopping list

I always make a shopping list based on my meal plan, chucking in a few treats like some snacks and some wine maybe. This week I pared it down to the absolute minimum. If I am going to save more money for Christmas I need to cut back to the basics now. I could also do with reducing the vino as it is making me fat! I associate a glass of wine with a bag of crisps and if I do both too often my waistline suffers.

I have probably mentioned that all our spare pennies are going in the back door fund too. The patio doors are very old and draughty in the winter. Hopefully we can pin our chap down to doing it in the next few weeks. He works full time for a local firm fitting doors and windows but does extra in his own time. He was the cheapest of the three quotes we found and was recommended by a friend.

So this is our frugal life this week. We have had a really lovely, if tiring few days so I am glad it is a bank holiday weekend. Hopefully the weather will improve tomorrow as we plan to pack a picnic and head to the Countess of Warwick’s County Show. It is a great day out and we go most years.

What are you up to this weekend? How is your frugal life?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Planning for Christmas: Start early, save money!

planning for christmas

I know it’s only August, but is anybody planning for Christmas yet? I actually started in January. Not in a ‘What are we eating for dinner next December 25th’ sort of way. I’m not that organised!! However, I do generally peruse the sales for Christmas cards, wrap, decorations and the odd generic gift.

Most importantly, I start planning for Christmas by putting money aside, beginning in January. Having to find the money for Christmas (even if we do it in a fairly modest and frugal fashion) could easily be (and has been) a major source of anxiety.

The ghosts of Christmas past

planning for Christmas

In the past, I would leave it until November, thinking I was being pretty switched on by starting a couple of months in advance. In fact, the Christmas purchases would eat into our pay packets and leave us feeling very skint by January. A couple of times, it was left so late it went on the credit card. It is no fun when you are still paying for Christmas the following spring!

One notable year, when the kids were small and I was super skint, I bought almost all of the presents second hand from boot sales way in advance. This was good in one way. The kids had second hand toys that were in decent condition and new to them. I had very little last minute shopping to do. They were oblivious and perfectly happy with what Santa had brought them.

My relatives, however, weren’t impressed and didn’t get into my frugal Christmas spirit. As I have three siblings, their partners and kids, it is a large family. Buying for so many when you don’t have a lot of money creates a lot of pressure. As no one else was feeling the pinch in the same way I was it was hard to get them to understand the problem. I wasn’t being a Scrooge – I was broke! Christmas felt horribly stressful when it should have been a fun family time.

Paring it back

Eventually, when more nephews and nieces arrived and a couple of my other family members were having their own money struggles, when I suggested doing things differently they were more enthusiastic. We discussed a budget of no more than £5 per person or buying only second hand. However, we eventually settled on £20 for each child (‘child’ being in still education and not working) and a secret Santa for all the the adults. So we each buy just one present for whoever we draw for the Secret Santa and then budget £20 for each of the kids.

This works well for us. It save loads of time trying to think of what to buy, as well as saving money.

Putting money aside for Christmas is a crucial way to stay in control of the festive spending.

Planning for Christmas by writing lists

planning for Christmas

I write a list of everyone I need to buy for, with the amount I will spend on each person. It is important to include friends, colleagues, teachers, window cleaners (Yes, I buy a nice bottle for the window cleaner! I have had the same one for 20 years at 4 different houses!) on the list to help me budget. We do a secret Santa at work as well.

Set a budget for food. I can tighten this up once we have decided what is happening. Are we staying at home or going to family? Are we planning to host or attend any gatherings with friends? I actually asked my family the question this week, but I went in too soon. Some of them were still on their summer holidays!

Buying as you go

At this point in the year, I have often found quite a few little stocking fillers for Mr S and the girls. New Look has started their accessory sale, so that should be promising. I got some mega discounted items in their recent cosmetics sale, as outlined in my recent Frugal Friday post.

Marks and Spencer have their ‘sizzling summer event‘ on too. This is another sale I want to look at, as they currently have 50% off some items. Might be good for undies and pyjamas.

Another site I keep an eye on all year round for bargain gifts is The Book People. Their collections of books are such amazing prices. These are very good for stocking fillers. The only trouble is I have to stop myself buying loads for me! I have plenty to read at the moment.

No spend month

I always do a no spend month after Christmas, to get the bank balance looking as healthy as possible to start the new year.  This year, I intend to do another no spend month in October to get some more money into our Christmas and general savings.

A no spend month really focuses your attention on how much money you fritter away on small bits and pieces and never notice. It is even more helpful for people who haven’t managed to put any money away up to this point – it’s not too late to save!

Those of you who are keen cooks probably already have the ingredients for your cakes and puddings. I tend to make my life easy and go for whatever Aldi has to offer. They always have a nice Christmas food range.

Using last year’s present

We will very soon be using Mr S’s Christmas present from 2017 – two nights in a farm cottage in Norfolk. We have had a few breaks this year and this will be our third. I am looking forward to it.

I bought it through BuyaGift.co.uk. This is another site that is great when you can’t think what to get someone that they will really appreciate. Sometimes an experience works best.  Mr S is really hard to buy for!

How about your planning for Christmas? Are you super organised and already writing lists? Have you budgeted or are you starting to panic? I would love you hear your tips on planning for Christmas and saving money.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thanks!


Just another frugal Friday #fivefrugalthings

Feeling grateful on Frugal Friday

frugal Friday

I have been feeling rubbish this week, just tired and low. So it is good for me to think about being grateful. Watching DIY SOS always makes me cry and last night was no exception. It makes you realise that if you have family, friends and your health you are really lucky. If you want to find some reasons to be grateful, watch it here.

This isn’t one of my five frugal things! This week I have achieved the following. It is good to look at my achievements on this frugal Friday.

No. 1: A walk in the forest

We had to drop my daughter at the station in Ingatestone on Sunday. Rail replacement services mean that the journey back to Brighton for her is so long! We took pity on her and saved her £15 in the process. Having driven all the way there from Colchester, though, we decided to go a bit further and have a few hours in Epping Forest.

We hadn’t visited for years and it was absolutely gorgeous. Even though it was a slightly grey and drizzly day the forest still looked beautiful. It’s hard to believe it is so close to London. We love to walk in the woods. It really lifts the spirits to get out in nature – plus it cost us nothing except the petrol to get there. A cheap day out.

frugal Friday

We dropped into Greensted Church on the way. It is apparently the oldest wooden church in the world, and just happens to be where my brother got married! It is a lovely building and it was nice to have another look at it.

Essex isn’t all TOWIE, you know. We have history, culture and nature too!

No. 2: Buying green on a budget

I have been moving more and more towards buying eco-friendly products wherever I can. However, I am on a budget and my purchases need to reflect this. I have been researching this and published a post about eco-friendly beauty on a budget here. Green is the way to go and you don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve an eco-friendly lifestyle.

No. 3: Bargain make up

frugal Friday

In the meantime, I found some ridiculously cheap makeup the last time I went to town. I wandered into the New Look sale. I couldn’t see any clothes I liked, but I did find some makeup items hugely reduced. I got £28 worth of makeup for just £9. That will keep me going for a bit. However, as things are used up I will be looking for guaranteed environmentally friendly alternatives.

No. 4: Dodging the rain

frugal Friday

I managed to time doing the laundry so that we had some sunshine to get it dry. It has been raining on and off all week, but when the rain stopped the weather was warm and breezy. Clothes smell so much nicer dried in the fresh air, and I save money because I don’t need to put the dehumidifier on. I don’t have a tumble dryer and really don’t want one. However, it is definitely easier to get the laundry dried in fine weather.

No. 5: More listing and decluttering

frugal Friday

We have more bags of bits and pieces from our decluttering efforts. They are starting to pile up actually so we need to do one soon. This should make a bit of cash!

I also listed on eBay two pairs of really nice shoes that I never wear. What’s the point of them sitting gathering dust in the cupboard? One was a lovely pair of leather pumps which felt nice in the shop but were actually a bit narrow when I wore them. The second were a comfy leather pair of heels. However, I hate wearing heels! I bought them for a wedding but have only worn them twice in 5 years. Time to go.

So here are my frugal Friday achievements. How has your week been? As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. Thanks!

A little bit of frugal luxury: five frugal things

Watching the budget doesn’t mean you can’t have the odd frugal luxury. These were ours this week.


frugal luxury

I have taken inspiration from Margaret Powling over at her blog and purchased some fresh flowers. There were three bunches in Asda that were hugely reduced, though they seemed perfectly fresh. They were £5 for the lot and they smell absolutely beautiful. Now that it is so wet and grey all of a sudden, they cheer the place up.


My darling daughter scrumped some blackberries from my parents’ garden yesterday. They are lovely – a large cultivated variety that are very sweet.

You may think that blackberries aren’t very luxurious.  I disagree! These luscious fruits were in the freezer within half an hour and will be made into a gorgeous, indulgent blackberry mousse and probably a crumble too.


frugal luxury

I drink very little coffee as I can’t over do the caffeine. However, I really enjoy one decent cup every morning. My favourite is Millicano. I usually wait until it is on offer somewhere and then buy lots of it!

The other day in Asda I spotted the big 170g sized cans reduced from £6.49 to £4 so I purchased three cans. This will last us ages! I no longer buy cheap and nasty coffee or tea. This is one frugal luxury we find the money for.

A hot bath

It has been far too hot for a bath lately. I usually shower anyway as it is quicker and uses less hot water. Now that it has suddenly cooled, I treated myself to a warm bath with almond oil and lavender essential oil. This costs so little but feels incredibly luxurious and is so relaxing. I put on some soothing music from my Calm app and just chilled for a bit.

 A good book

What is better than curling up with a good book? I don’t buy new books that often and I’m a fan of supporting the local library. However, the Book People had a flash sale this week and a cookbook called Nadiya’s Family Favourites caught my eye. I loved Nadiya Hussein on Bake Off and have enjoyed other recipes of hers that I have come across. As it is a hard back book and was only £8 (reduced from £20), I treated myself. I am looking forward to this one arriving!

To get the free postage I bought a few things for Christmas. Sorry to mention the C word! But it is August and that is when I start buying. I like to be prepared and spread the cost.

So, these are our five frugal things this week. Do you like a bit of frugal luxury? What are your budget friendly indulgences?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Five frugal things I have planned for the weekend

five frugal things

The heat wave left us for a bit. What a relief it was to get some rain. However, the sunshine is back. I don’t mind as the garden is looking so relieved for the rain. We have had a busy week with all three of the daughters around for much of the time. This meant more noise and mess but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The weekend is looking quite busy too. But as we are saving to get the back patio doors replaced, our entertainment will have to be cheap. Here are my five frugal things for the week.

Packing a picnic

Mr S wants to go to Helmingham Hall in Suffolk for their Festival of Classic and Sports Cars.  I absolutely love Helmingham Hall. The gardens are stunning. Mr S is a sucker for a classic or vintage car too. It looks as if it will be a beautiful day, so we will take a flask and picnic. We hopefully won’t have to pay any more than the entry price of £9 each. I don’t resent paying this. A lot of money from the event goes to  EACH – East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice, which is a charity doing very good work for children with life threatening conditions. It should be a good day and not an expensive day, so one of our five frugal things.

Dusting off my bike

I spent four months at the beginning of the year feeling terrible, just absolutely exhausted. This is so unlike me. I am a healthy sort and rarely get ill. The GP referred me to a rheumatologist to see if I have fibromyalgia. The appointment is next week, but I have felt so much better over the past few weeks I think I am OK! Let’s hope so. I will go have a chat with him anyway, but I am blaming the menopause and not fibromyalgia. However, I am doing a lot of self care: meditation, yoga, walking and a good diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.

I am at the point where I feel I can up my exercise now, so I am dusting off my bike. You don’t have to spend a lot of money getting fit and I plan to start cycling, which is free!

Updating my room advert

Our lovely lodger, Jess, will be finishing her masters and leaving us in mid-September. We will really miss her! But, sentiment aside, this means it is time to update our advert on-line. I will be doing this over the next few days.

Renting out our spare room makes a huge difference to our income. For guidance on how you can do this see the Gov.UK website.

Getting quotes for work

We would like to replace the patio doors in our back room. They are old aluminium ones and don’t have good insulating properties. We have been saving up for this and are at the point where we can get some quotations.

As ever, we will get several and have a few tradesmen coming, recommended by friends on Facebook. We want the best value for our money!

New throws

five frugal things

We would love to buy new sofas for the living room. However, as the cats tend to rip the sofas to pieces the moment our backs are turned, it just isn’t worth it. When we do get around to replacing them we will buy second-hand for sure. So, to smarten them up, I bought a new throw from eBay. When it arrived, I was so pleased with it I bought a second one. At only £14 each, I thing these are a great thrifty alternative to a new suite.

How have you got on with your five frugal things this week? Have you managed to avoid spending money unnecessarily. Please share your achievements in the comments!

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Cheapskates and proud of it: 10 ways cheapskates save money


I am not sure if we are extreme cheapskates or not. Compared to most people I know we are!  We do spend when we need to. But instead of compulsively spending our money, we prefer to be more intentional with our finances and prioritise our spending. We are cheapskates and proud of it!

As I see it, the main attitudes of a cheapskate are as follows:

They plan ahead

Cheapskates always plan for the future rather than blindly getting by. They have an emergency fund. Cheapskates set themselves savings goals. They put money aside for their future in a pension.  You can find out more about retirement savings here.

They budget

A monthly budget enables you to take care of all of your bills, put money by for savings and stop over spending. Meal planning can help with your grocery budgeting.

They buy used

You can pretty much buy everything you need second-hand – apart from food, of course! The internet makes the marketplace for second-hand goods enormous. And it’s not just the online giant eBay. You can also try Gumtree,  Mercari, Shpock, Dpop and more. Don’t forget Facebook Marketplace, charity shops and boot sales too. Cheapskates buy used whenever possible and save lots of money in the process.

They don’t compare themselves to others

Cheapskates don’t try to keep up with the Joneses! They make the best of all that they have. Remember, the household with all the gadgets and the fancy car is very likely to be living on credit. Many truly wealthy people don’t necessarily earn the most: they just save the best.

They aim to save money on EVERYTHING

Cheapskates always look for the best deal. They get lots of quotes for utilities and services and they haggle. Cheapskates never take the first price they are offered.

They make do and mend

Cheapskates don’t rush out to buy something new if something is a bit worn out or broken. They aim to repair, upcycle and revamp. They make do with what they have. For example, instead of buying a new sofa to replace our old cream one, we spent £14 on a cheery new throw.

They live simply

Cheapskates embrace simple living. They prefer a minimalist lifestyle and reduce clutter. The benefits of simple living go beyond money saving, however. Simple living gives you more time and helps you to reduce stress.

They embrace DIY

There are many things that we could currently get someone else to do that we do ourselves. We don’t employ painters, we wash our own cars and we enjoy gardening. Mr S even repaired the roof (despite being terrified of heights). Cheapskates learn DIY skills.

They question every purchase

Cheapskates don’t make impulse purchases. They question every purchase that they make. Cheapskates look at what they already have or can beg or borrow before buying.

They retain control

By planning and budgeting, by not impulse buying, by saving for the future cheapskates keep control of their finances and their lives. Cheapskates might be cheap but they are often also wealthy. According to the book The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, many millionaires don’t necessarily earn the most but they do plan and budget. The often live frugal lives and prioritise saving over spending to secure their long term financial futures.

We are cheapskates and proud! How about you?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thanks!

Fame and honey: Five fugal things

No sooner had I sorted my meal plan for a heat wave yesterday, than the weather broke. We had a big storm and heavy rainfall. It is very welcome and feels like the garden is breathing a huge sigh of relief!

Everything looks so dry and parched. Even the weeds have been dying. I am hoping for more rain this weekend.

Anyway, onto our five frugal things for the week.

In the news

Regular readers might remember that aeons ago I did a photo shoot for the Daily Mail. It was because I had seen a plea from a journalist on a Facebook group for women who had started experiencing allergies as they moved towards the menopause.

five frugal things

It was great fun. They sent a photographer and stylist round to make me look fabulous. Theoretically, anyway. In reality they trowelled on the makeup and made my hair look a bit flat, but hey ho!

I had given up on them ever using the article but it finally ran this week in the Femail section. You have to get past the annoying popups to actually read it.

Why is it one of my five frugal things? Because they paid me £100. That is going into the new patio door fund (I had said it would go to our emergency fund, but that has been building up nicely anyway). The current one is ancient and allows the damp and cold into our little lodger lounge.

Frugal food savers

Does anyone else save elastic bands? I always do – they are so handy to have. Often I use them to secure packets of food, such as frozen peas or bags of pasta. Something else I use to help keep food from spoiling is a pack of pegs. You don’t need to buy special bag ties or clips. A cheap bag of pegs does the job better and they can be reused again and again. I even kept the wire ties from our dishwasher packaging as I am sure that will be useful for something!

five frugal things

Mr S never lets a decent cardboard box go, either. He uses them to safely package some of the books and brochures he sends out as part of his business.

I keep the plastic bags that fruit and vegetables come in as well and use them as sandwich bags. Reduce, reuse, recycle and save money!

Spending my vouchers at the sales

My daughter gave me some M&Co vouchers she had been holding onto for ages and decided she would never use. I thought they might have expired but checked and was told that their gift vouchers didn’t have an expiry date. Even better, they had a sale on. I like M&Co clothing but it’s not the cheapest, so this was good news.

five frugal things

I bought a pair of cool floral summer trousers for £19. This left me £1. Luckily I found a pair of plain black socks reduced to exactly that. Very pleased with the trousers and, of course, they actually cost me nothing.

Let’s get listing

I have had items from various boot sales and charity shops kicking around for ages, waiting to be listed on eBay.  As I picked up yet more last weekend this propelled me into action. I did everything apart from a couple of pictures, which I shall put onto Facebook Marketplace.

It is quite time consuming to resell on eBay, especially as I already have a full time job, but it is helpful extra money.

Tell ’em about the honey

five frugal things

I asked Mr Shoestring whether he had achieved five frugal things this week and he first said, ‘yes, I always do.’ Then exclaimed, ‘Tell ’em about the honey!’

five frugal things

Jono the Bee in action

His brother is a beekeeper (aka Jono the Bee) and Mr S helps him out a lot. This week they spent hours spinning off some fresh honey. It is so delicious. I have it on my muesli or porridge every morning.

five frugal things

The honey is ready for despatch

This is sold to friends, shops and at the local wildlife trust, where some of the hives are. It is a bit specialised for a side hustle, but very satisfying. And it goes to prove that you can, indeed, make money from a hobby.

What have your five frugal things been this week?

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky.

Small frugal wins

How has your week been? We actually had about five minutes of rain last night. Not enough to help our parched garden, though. Here are my frugal wins for the week.

Growing our own, in a small way

frugal wins

We have grown no vegetables at all this year. The veg patch and greenhouse are shadows of their former selves! Life has been too hectic and I have been too tired.

However, the blackcurrants we planted a few years ago have given us a great crop, despite how dry the weather is. The blueberry bush has also been prolific over the past weeks.

I have picked and frozen the blackcurrants to use in desserts and perhaps make some blackcurrant jelly. The blueberries are being eaten as we go. I love them on my porridge or muesli each morning.

Cooking from scratch

I have been madly testing out the new air fryer this week. It seems to be rather an energy efficient way to cook as it does things so quickly. It’s almost as easy to chop up a couple of potatoes into chips and ‘fry’ them in there as it is to get a bag of oven chips out of the freezer. Cheaper and healthier too!

Boot sale bargains

frugal wins

This morning darling daughter no. 1 and I were up early and out to the boot sale. I found a very nice overnight bag for £3, which will be good for our upcoming short break to Norfolk. I bought a voucher for this for Mr S for Christmas through www.buyagift.com, but we have yet to take it.

My daughter found loads of clothes for her burgeoning Mercari reselling business. It seems she has an eye and is doing very well!

We also found some food items from a chap who sells things that are just going or have just gone out of date. They are all perfectly safe to eat and extremely cheap. We bought big bags of Twiglets at 2 for £1, some classy looking curry sauce for £1 and some gluten free fruit and nut bars, which were four for £1. Bargains!

Courgette bonanza

Even if we aren’t growing vegetables ourselves, there is always someone trying to get rid of their courgettes at this time of year. We have a large bag to use up! I am going to make some ratatouille to have with pasta tonight. Tomorrow I will try those courgette fritters I keep promising to make in the air fryer. Anything left over will be made into soup for the freezer.

I was also given tomatoes and runner beans so that will bring the grocery bill down.

Posting cheaply

I finally sold a beautiful vintage coffee set I have had sitting around. Obviously china items have to be wrapped really carefully in bubble wrap so that meant the box was quite big. I chose to send it using Collect Plus
rather than the Royal Mail as it was much cheaper. It wasn’t a heavy box, just a bit bulky. It also meant I could pop round after work to my local Coop to send it rather than trying to get to the post office before they closed.

So these are my frugal wins. Have you managed anything to save you money? I am linking up with up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky. Have a read to see how their five frugal things for the week.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Thanks!