We need to be frugal! #5frugalthings

As we were on holiday last week in Wales (even though we didn’t go crazy with our spending), we need to be frugal for a bit. In addition, as I said in my post from Wednesday, we caved in and bought a new dishwasher and microwave from AO.

In truth, I have been too busy catching up with myself to spend much, so it’s not been that hard to be frugal.


be frugal

I’m not really a big spectator when it comes to sport. I just don’t find it that interesting. However, with England making it to the World Cup semi-finals, like many other people, I found myself drawn in.

We decided to have a cheap night in watching the footie. We bought some wine and beers from Lidl, as well as some crisps and chocolate. It was so tense and exciting! Even though England got knocked out, they put on a good show and we enjoyed our evening.


be frugal

We really fancied a takeaway the other night. It was so hot! I really couldn’t be bothered to cook. However, I stuck to the plan and made a quick and healthy stir fry instead. I chopped up lots of veggies and used a sachet of sauce from the larder, purchased from Aldi. Once they were fried up, I tipped in some prawns from the freezer and served it with noodles.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to be frugal, but really this took 15 minutes to make and was so much cheaper than healthier than a Chinese takeaway.

Walking, not driving

I am continuing in my bid to walk more by parking 10 minutes away from my office and having a walk in. This also saves me some money on petrol! Every little helps!

This walk is really enjoyable. It sets me up for the day as I go in and helps me unwind walking back. Ideally, I would like to park further away but have yet to find anywhere safe and suitable to leave the car. Working on this!

Decluttering for a boot sale

It is time for another of my regular declutters. I just don’t know where all the ‘stuff’ comes from! The plan is to get enough together for a boot sale next month. I need to spend a bit more time going through the attic, though. There is stuff up there we don’t know we own. It needs to go!

I have cleared out about 4 bags full this week, although haven’t had as much time as I had hoped. Little by little. We might as well make some money from our junk.

‘New’ sandals

Whilst I was going through and decluttering my wardrobe, I found a pair of lovely leather sandals I had forgotten I had. I did actually get them from the boot sale – if I had spent a lot I definitely wouldn’t have forgotten about them. They are gorgeous quality, soft leather from Italy. Because they are purple I think I didn’t immediately have enough clothes that would go with them, but now I seem to have plenty.

I have found them so comfortable and cool to wear in this heat. So, effectively I have a new pair of sandals for free.

This is why you need to do a regular declutter! It saves money as well as giving you a feeling of control.

Have you managed to be frugal 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.

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

Making money and spending it too

My feet haven’t touched the ground over the last few days. I am catching up after being away last week, both at home and at work. This is the only issue I have with holidays, but I’m not really complaining!

Guest posts

Because I knew I was going to be busy, I asked a couple of blogger friends to write some guest posts for me. I hope you have had the chance to read Ruth’s one about becoming a freelance writer here, and Tuppenny Fireplace’s one about making money from your hobbies here.

I love the idea of earning extra doing something you really enjoy. I have done a little freelance writing myself and these two articles have inspired me to find more opportunities to do so.

I turned my yoga hobby into a job at one point by training to be a yoga teacher. Never regretted it! Yoga keeps me sane and cheerful.

More writing

I also wrote a guest post for Joleisa.com before I went away, about saving money in the garden. As ours is so large, this is a subject close to my heart. I could easily spend a fortune out there. You can check it out here.


I told my daughter I had started listing things on Mercari as an alternative to eBay. She immediately decide to give it a go and has made £250 in just a couple of weeks! Amazing!

I think Mercari works best for younger women, going for good high street brands like Top Shop, New Look, etc plus online ones such as Boohoo and ASOS. I will learn from her success as I haven’t sold much at all.

If you want to try Mercari you can use my referral code to get £2 to spend: XATXYQ.

Spending money

We have splashed out this week and finally admitted the dishwasher needs replacing. Whilst I was there I got a new microwave too. I used AO again, as I was impressed with their excellent customer service when I got our new washing machine recently.

Why do large appliances always decide to die at the same time?

Never mind. I also received a freebie for review this week – an air fryer! I am excited to try it as I have heard good things.

I hope you are having a good week so far too.

Ten hobbies you can make money from

Are there really any hobbies you can make money from? TuppenysFIREplace argues that there are.

Ten hobbies you can make money from

Do you have a hobby that you enjoy spending time on? Or do you have spare time that you want to make more of? Want to earn money on top of your day job but with built in flexibility so you still get to live the life you want?

Turning your hobby and spare time into a money making business will achieve all three. Everyone enjoys having fun but how great is it to have fun and earn money at the same time?

You don’t need to be the next internet mogul or entrepreneur of the year to get started. Nor do you usually need to have any qualifications in the subject. You just need an interest in your hobby and a willingness to spend time doing it. Here are some ideas for hobbies you can make money from.

Ten hobbies you can make money from


Photography can earn you a lot of money. However, it is very competitive so you need to work out what your unique selling point is. Some people specialise in weddings, others in landscape photography. Having a website to display your wares will help people find you and see what you produce. You can sell your photos through online websites such as 123RF, Adobe Stock and Dreamstime.

My daughter started a photography business as a side hustle when she was 22. She worked Monday to Friday in an unrelated field so figured she could work some weekends doing weddings and events and use an evening or two to edit and produce the final results. It brings in a nice side income for her at a time when money is tight.

Freelance writing

You don’t need an English degree to become a freelance writer. In fact you don’t need any qualifications – you just need to be able to write. The people you end up freelancing for are interested in whether you can provide then with what they want, not what exams you passed. You will need a small portfolio to showcase your skills and Ruth has some great tips on how to create a freelance portfolio, and then it’s all about finding those jobs through websites such as:

Freelance Writing Gigs

People per hour


Freelance Writing

Graphic design

If you are a graphic designer by day or just love creating graphics and online artwork then why not consider creating for someone else and getting paid for it? You can find customers through websites such as Fiverr and People per hour. I used Fiverr to find someone to create my website logo and was spoilt for choice.


You often hear in the media how the younger generations spend too much time on social media and their computers. But what if you could make money from doing exactly that? I know many people enjoy online gaming, where you compete and work with other gamers from around the world, talking to each other and building online friendships.

If you’re good at gaming then you can earn money from it. Upload your gameplay to YouTube and gain a following. Add in some YouTube ads and when one of your followers clicks on one of those ads you will gain a commission. Probably only pennies to start but pennies mount up don’t they?

If you are a white hot gamer you may be keen to pit your skills against other elite players. Tournaments can include prizes. The big ones pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds! Become an elite gamer and you could be sponsored by gaming brands as well which would provide you with a regular income. Esporting is the name given to the art of playing in gaming tournaments for money and just look at how much money is involved in the esporting business.


Crafting can be a serious business these days. With the internet and websites like Etsy, it’s never been easier to showcase your wares.

Many hobby crafters make their items for themselves or to give as gifts at Christmas and other family holidays. If you are looking to make a little extra money, why not ramp up the production of your favourite things and sell them? You can sell your craft items through websites such as Etsy or Ebay. There is also a good trade to potentially be had at craft fairs and car boot sales here in the UK.


Being good at DIY gives you a great deal of satisfaction in a job well done. You are also likely to be called upon by family members and friends to help them with their DIY. Why not make a little money out of your DIY skills? There are many people who cannot or are not interested in learning even the basics of DIY such as putting up a shelf or fixing a leaking tap. I include myself in this group!

 A colleague at work really enjoyed his DIY and had completed many jobs for friends and families. Jobs such as installing new decking, building a summer house and the like. He loved this type of work and disliked his office based job. He started offering his services for money, built up a small customer based working at the weekend and using some of his annual leave. After 25 years in the same job, he resigned and is now self employed doing what he loves.

Become a teacher

Some people are born to be teachers and some people get drawn to it after becoming skilled in a particular area. These days you can tutor on a wide range of subjects, from the ukulele to maths to baking. You can teach face to face, at a local college or online. Online sites include VIPKID, TutorVista and tutor. You do usually need a degree in your chosen subject for theses sites but don’t need to be a qualified teacher.

Alternatively you can create online courses on just about anything; from crystal healing to digital painting to Facebook marketing. Udemy and Skillshare are two platforms that you can get started on and get paid every time someone takes your course.

In addition, of course, you can advertise your services locally to teach students in their own home or yours. It could be for extra revision ahead of exams or learning a new skill. There are a multitude of reasons why people seek out a tutor.

Website design

I have to pay £30 to get a basic bit of coding changed on my blog because I don’t have the knowledge, understanding or confidence to do it myself. I bought my website design from a designer for the same reason. Companies need websites designed specifically for them and their brand and will pay decent money for it.


For some people investing in the stock market is a true hobby and they spend hours researching stocks and reading company reports. Me? Not so much, as in not at all! But if you’re not like me and enjoy the challenge of finding the next big stock then you can make money investing. Individual stocks usually pay dividends every quarter or bi-annually. Once you’ve built up a small portfolio you can use the dividends you receive to buy more stock. (I would add that returns aren’t guaranteed and you should take independent advice before investing large amounts of money.)


Would you like to be paid to go shopping? Mystery shopping is big business here in the UK. You won’t become a millionaire with mystery shopping, but you can get free lunches, breakfasts, cash and groceries. I earned £60 for 2 hours work taking out a new bank product at my local branch. Many people see going to a large shopping centre as a leisure activity. Why not get paid for it and possibly have a free lunch? You can find out more about mystery shopping and the best companies to work for here.

These are just ten hobbies you can make money from. There are thousands of other hobbies out there that you could turn into a money making machine. If you have a hobby or enjoy doing something, why not do a little research and see if you could be earning from it?

Many thanks for this guest post from TuppennysFIREplace. She says: ‘I started life as a teenage single mum without tuppence to rub together, then spent many years not much better off. Throughout my life I have saved hard, spent too much, made mistakes and worked my way back out of them. On my blog I talk about living the frugal life and saving enough to retire early. We are on track to retire within 2 years and I can’t wait!




Shoestring Cottage on holiday: five frugal things

We can be tightwads even on holiday so have easily managed five frugal things this week!

What a time we are having in beautiful mid Wales! We have never experienced a heat wave when we have visited before. Usually we are happy to see the sun at all. After all, the reason that Wales is so lush and green is because of all the rain.

The thing is, Wales is a stunning country even when it is rainy and grey. Now, in the sunshine, we could be in the Mediterranean somewhere. I have to admit the Irish Sea is somewhat colder, though.

Five frugal things on our Welsh adventure

Here is around up of our five frugal things and what we have been up to.

A flask is worth its weight in coffee

We had a disaster driving to Wales. Our flask exploded before we had even taken a sip. This meant we were forced the buy some cups of tea as we went. The first was at a motorway service station and cost £2.80 a cup. What? £2.80 for a teabag and some hot water? This is why we take our flask everywhere. It saves us literally hundreds of pounds.

We decided to stop at Welshpool, just across the border, to invest in a new Thermos for £10. It has saved us a ton of money this holiday and has been used every day. An absolute essential on our five frugal things list this week.

Yellow stickers galore

We also popped into Morrison’s to pick up a few provisions for the caravan. As it happened, we picked the perfect time to arrive. They were just marking things down for the end of the day and we followed the lady with her gun round the shop.

Our savings here pretty much paid for the flask! We bought our meal for that evening and the next, plus lunch for the following day.

Our bargains:

A bag of spinach, 8p

2 pots of vegetable stir fry, 6p each

Sweet potato mash, 9p

Two pots of tropical fruit, 38p each

Welsh cheese, down from £1.12 to 84p

Fresh stir fry sauce , 75p from £1

A loaf of bread, half price at 42p

Fresh haddock , reduced from £4 to £1

2 sandwiches, including a gluten free one, 28p each

We also got a cup of tea for £1 each. That’s more like it!

Eating out

As I said we would in last week’s five frugal things post, we have taken a flask of coffee and a picnic out with us every day.

We usually eat out in the evening at some point. However, apart from the odd cup of tea and cake, we haven’t bothered this time. My food intolerances mean it’s hard to find a suitable eatery, to be honest.

Instead we have splashed out on some local lamb and steak for Mr S and various types of fish for me. Last night he had the best steak he could remember eating. It cost £4 from the local Coop. We would have paid £20 minimum at a restaurant.

A new dress

A picnic in my new dress, knobbly knees and all!

We visited a town we had never been to before, Dollgelau. It is a pretty little place.

As ever, I couldn’t avoid the charity shops. I found a lovely floral dress in one. It is very cool and, because it has been so hot, I have worn it already!

More charity shopping

We also hit the charity shops in Machynlleth. I bought three very nice designer frocks. None of them fit me, but no matter. I plan to resell them on eBay and hopefully make a profit.

Checking out petrol prices

We have been driving a lot. Wales is such a great country to explore by car. There are some truly stunning, scenic drives nearby.

However, all this driving comes at a price. We have been keeping an eye on petrol prices and found the cheapest at a gas station just outside Welshpool when we visited Powis Castle. (A separate blog post will follow on that – what a fabulous place!)

We filled the tank up and will do the same when we leave on Saturday, since we drive that way home.

As usual, we have had a lovely holiday and will be sorry to leave. Going back to a stuffy office after so much fresh air will be a drag! Still. We can always come back next year.

Do you manage to save money even on holiday? Have you achieved five frugal things 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.

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

Five frugal activities you can do this weekend

Five frugal activities

I hope you have some sunshine where you are this weekend. Here in Essex it promises to be fine both days. How lovely! As I am cooped up in an office most of the week I love to get outdoors when we can. I am looking for things to do that don’t cost much. We are on holiday soon and want to save our funds for that. So I came up with five frugal activities ideas. I won’t do them all, but you might like to try some of them!

Five frugal activities for the weekend

Find an open garden

You have to make the most of it when you get decent weather in the UK. Myself and Mr Shoestring love to find an open garden. This weekend there is a whole village of open gardens at Layer de la Hay, not far from where we live. We hope to get to see them on Sunday. At £5 for 12 gardens, this should be a very pleasant way to spend the day.

To find more open gardens near you see here for information.

Make the most of your parks

We are blessed with some beautiful parks here in Essex, mostly owned by the county council and free to enter. Some have organised family activities and tea rooms. Others are wilder and more remote. We like Cudmore Grove, on the coast at Mersea Island, which is just down the road. You have to pay for the car park but other than that it costs nothing.

More widely in the UK, we have our national parks. None very local to us unfortunately but you can check them out on the National Parks website. They are some of the best and most stunningly beautiful outdoor spaces you will find anywhere.

If you have children or grandchildren, every town or city has parks with the traditional swings and slides. In Colchester, we have the beautiful Castle Park. As you would imagine, it has a castle, as well as a bandstand, a boating lake, a tea room, the play park, two museums and crazy golf. It also has stunning gardens. We often take a flask of coffee and cake and sit there when we have been into town.

Here is a list of the top ten public parks in the UK.

Your local council or tourist information centre will tell you where your best outdoor spaces can be found.

Community events

Throughout the year, there are great community events going on such as church and school fetes, table top and jumble sales, talks and exhibitions. Once you start looking, you will be amazed at just how many cheap or even free activities are happening locally to you. We love to find a village show, with all the wonderful craft, cake, jam and vegetable exhibits!

five frugal activitiesTo find them check out town and parish council noticeboards, the town council building, your local libraries, the boards outside church and school premises. Look online. A simple ‘what’s on in Essex’ search found an exhibition of watercolours by local artists, a food festival, a free summer concert in the park, loads of open gardens and a free folk music event.

Visit a museum

If the weather is less than perfect you will, in all likelihood, be able to find museums to visit for free in your local area. They are usually owned by the local council and you can get a list of yours from the tourist information office.

Even if they aren’t free, they are usually great value. The Colchester Castle museum usually charges £20 for a family ticket (2 adults, 3 children), but occasionally has free evenings, so we watch out for these. We have a free toy museum, a free natural history museum and, best of all, Colchester First Site, which hosts excellent free art exhibitions and low cost cinema screenings.

Watch a film al fresco

Outdoor cinema viewings seem to be the latest thing. There is something quite appealing about wrapping up, taking a picnic and watching a film in the park. Often they are sing-a-longs, and great fun. We have The Greatest Showman coming to Castle Park soon and I hope to go! Find out if you have any outdoor cinema by doing an internet search.

You can see from my list of five frugal activities that it is often a case of getting to know your local area, and identifying the best places and websites to source the information. It’s not essential to spend a lot of money to have fun! What frugal activities do you enjoy?

The small things count #5frugalthings

This week’s five frugal things round up demonstrates once again how the small things count and really can add up. A conscious approach to our spending every day means that we rarely waste money (I won’t say never!), so have enough for things that are important to us. An example is our upcoming holiday to Wales. We have been adding to our holiday spending fund. Every penny counts!

Family gathering, Father’s Day

small things count

I am fortunate to still have both my parents. This week my lovely dad was 87. It was also Father’s Day last Sunday, of course. We could have gone to a restaurant and spent a load of money. Instead we went for a more relaxed approach and gathered at the home of my brother and sister in law. They made us a lovely afternoon tea and we raised a few glasses.

Since I have to be careful what I eat this suited me – M&S do a great gluten and lactose free range and they bought lots of bits to try.

Stuff for the freezer

We will be off on holiday soon leaving my daughter in charge. When she is at university she shops a lot at Iceland so I plan to stock up on some easy meals and ingredients for her whilst we are gone. The advantage of frozen over fresh if she is just feeding herself is that there is a lot less waste. She can eat more varied meals and just defrost what she needs.

I don’t want to  leave her burgers and chips though – she tries to eat healthily. I will go for things like their zesty bean quinoa, which is not a bad price at £1.69, some of their Mumbai street food range (which actually looks rather nice), pizzas, loads of frozen vegetables, smoothie mixes and things like sweet potato chips. I shouldn’t need to spend too much to set her up for the week.

Reading material

small things count

I used to love fiction and read loads when I was younger. Now I prefer non-fiction books. I think this is because I don’t have enough time to really get into a book and lose the plot (literally). Non-fiction books are easier to pick up and read for ten minutes.

I had an Amazon voucher for my birthday and decided to buy some books for my holiday. Obviously I tried to get them second hand!

Two were available but one I had to buy new. Now I have plenty to read on our holiday. I bought The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, The Million Dollar Blog (if only – I can but dream) and Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters.

You can probably tell from these choices that my mind is on both money and work! Let’s hope they are as inspiring as they sound. There is lots going on at work. I can’t go into it but it’s an unsettling time.

eBay charges

I listed a couple of things on eBay this week. Now, you know that generally I enjoy selling on eBay and find it pretty easy. However, they have introduced some changes recently that really irk me. I even had a bit of a moan at them on Twitter about it.

Firstly, they have started defaulting your settings to auto relist. Auto relist is something they charge customers for. It therefore seems an under hand and sneaky way to take money from their customers. Fair enough if you want items to auto relist – it is handy and I have used it in the past.  However, if I want to keep my costs down I don’t. When I go to relist manually it turns the auto relist button back on so  you need to actually notice that it has reverted back to auto relist. If you don’t you will be charged!

The other thing that is annoying me is around allowing customers to make an offer.  For low price items I don’t always allow offers. Now eBay has decided to turn those on after a while whether I want them to or not. I think that if I wanted to accept offers that is how I would have set it up.

However, until eBay have some serious competition, which they don’t really, I expect they will do what they like.


Another online vehicle to sell you unwanted stuff is Mercari. I listed about 10 items on their recently, but hadn’t had any interest. This week I finally sold something! As I say, I don’t think it is stiff enough competition for eBay just yet.

What I like about Mercari is that it is an app and very easy to use. What I don’t like is that it won’t let you list postage separately – it has to be included in the price. This is good for the buyer I guess, as they can see the total amount they will pay. However, if you are used to selling on eBay it is easy to forget the postage is in the cost and accept an offer that is too low. If I have a dress that costs, say, £6 and someone offers me £4, I mustn’t forget that just under £3 of that will actually be the postage cost. That would mean one whole pound profit on the deal – hardly worth the effort.

If you fancy giving it a go, you could use my recommend a friend code and get £2 to spend: XATXYQ.

So, these are my frugal things this week. The small things count and add up to something significant I believe. Any frugal achievements to report 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.

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

Five Frugal things

I have been struggling to think of five frugal things this week. It feels as if I have been so tired I have barely done anything apart from go to work. With a bit of consideration though, I found some!

As featured on…

This is maybe not frugal in itself, but I shall include it as on of my five frugal things anyway! Have any of my UK readers been watching Shop Smart Save Money on Channel 5? I had a few chats with one of their researchers and they ended up using one of my ideas. You can see me on Twitter giving my wisdom regarding saving money on beauty treatments. It is quite funny – they have given me a musical backing as I dispense my wisdom on eyebrows! If you have Twitter you can have a laugh at my expense here. Please follow me – @shoestringjane!

The programme is really enjoyable. UK Money Blogger Andy, from Be Clever with your Cash, is the programme’s money expert. Other great bloggers featured include Jo and Leisha from Joleisa.com and Kelly from Reduced Grub.

Keeping food bills low

five frugal things

We have had a very low spend week generally. I haven’t done a proper shop for ages and have just been using what we have and topping up here and there. Am I alone in generally disliking food shopping?

Anyway, I will have to do a proper one this week as I also need washing powder and some cleaning items. I will continue to keep food bills low by meal planning and by writing a shopping list. This week’s meal plan will feature on the blog tomorrow! A quick and easy budget dinner that my daughter makes herself at uni is eggs Benedict. She cheats by using a packet hollandaise sauce. I can never eat too many eggs  – I love them – so this will be on the menu at some point.

Fantastic finds

five frugal things

I drove down to collect my daughter from university last weekend. She is home for the summer and has already managed to pick up a summer job in a pub up the road.  She understands the value of money and doesn’t assume she will get any handouts from us.

Her university friends, however, don’t appear to be of a similar mind set. They had left piles of unwanted ‘stuff’ in the corridors that we could help ourselves to. Anything left would be donated to charity. We had a look through one bag and found one brand new dress and 2 pairs of designer jeans, all with their tags on! I thought students were supposed to be poor, but clearly  not all of them.

We also found a full bottle of perfume – still in its box – and several almost full bottles of shower gel! More like five free things than five frugal things…

Still decluttering

I listed a load of stuff on Facebook a while back. It has been selling slowly but this week I suddenly had loads of enquiries. I have managed to sell two things this week and hope to offload a few more.

I do find people incredibly inconsiderate and rude, however, constantly changing times, not turning up or deciding they don’t want items at the last minute. They do this even if you are giving things away for free!

Cheap plants

My friend sent me a link to Sarah Raven’s website the other day with plants she would love to put in her dream garden. The prices! I am incredibly fortunate that our cleaner at work grows masses of plants and sells them to us all for around 50p each. This week I have bought geraniums, cornflowers, mint and some little flowering shrubs.

I know I could grown them from seed or cuttings myself but it is so easy and cheap to buy them from her! Gardening doesn’t need to be expensive, as I explained in this post.

So these are my five frugal things for this week. What have you achieved?

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

A Cooking on a Bootstrap meal plan

I waited a long time for Jack Monroe’s new recipe book to arrive. Well over a year! By the time Cooking on a Bootstrap hit my doormat, I had pretty much given up on the hope of ever seeing it. It came a few months ago and to be honest, after a quick flick through, the recipes didn’t inspire me and I haven’t tried any. This week I am going to give it a chance and do a Cooking on a Bootstrap meal plan!

Looking for inspiration

I’m not sure why I haven’t greeted this new book with as much enthusiasm as I did Jack’s first one, A Girl Called Jack. This is still one of a handful of cookbooks that are my go-to sources of inspiration. It isn’t that she became vegan during the writing of the book and so there are very few meat recipes. I have become vegetarian since I signed up on Kickstarter to help fund it. Partly it is just circumstance. In a bid to sort my IBS I no longer eat mushrooms and eat just a few types of pulse in small quantities. Both are  staples in Jack’s recipes, as they are for any frugal cook.

Nevertheless none of the above is Jack’s fault so I figure I should at least make an effort to try some of the recipes. Not all of the below are from Jack, so I have asterisked those that are.

My Cooking on a Bootstrap meal plan


Self-love stew. This is a mix of root veg, chick peas and white fish. Sounds interesting! *


A roast. Probably chicken, with nut cutlets for me.


Parsnip mac and cheese. This is pretty much what it says on the tin. I am not sure about parsnips combined with pasta, but will give it a try.*


Sausages with sweet potato mash and peas.


Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Basically spaghetti with a tinned sardine tomato sauce. I make this type of dish quite often.*


Smoked mackerel kedgeree. I have made a similar rice, egg and fish dish in the past with kippers. *


End of the week, so it needs to be easy. Probably left over kedgeree if there is any or an omelette with salad.

So that’s this week’s meal plan. What are you cooking?

Cooking on a Bootstrap is published on 23rd August and is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

This week I am linking up with Katy Kicker and the Organised Life Project. If you want more ideas on meal planning and saving money, take a look at their blogs. For more of my frugal recipe ideas, see here.

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


Every day money saving #5frugalthings

I have found myself occasionally being a bit lazy lately. Well, not lazy really – more a bit pushed for time. I don’t always check I am buying items at the cheapest possible price, as I used to do obsessively. It’s a question of balance, isn’t it? After all, your time is valuable too. I work full time and blog and sell on eBay part time. There are only so many hours in the day! However, there are some every day money saving tricks that I make a point of doing that don’t take much time.

Checking petrol prices

every day money savingOne thing I can do to save a bit of money is to check petrol prices before I go to fill up my car. I have signed up with PetrolPrices.com. This site tells me that currently Asda is the cheapest retailer in my post code area, selling unleaded petrol currently at 127.7p a litre. Fortunate for me as I pass it on my way to and from work!

As petrol prices seem to be on the up again it is worth checking prices locally as part of my every day money saving. For more tips on how to save money motoring, see my post here.

Don’t auto renew

When you are busy it is easy to accept whatever you are charged on your renewals for items such as household and car insurance. The cost of these can sneak up, even if you haven’t made a claim. It really doesn’t take long to do a little research and get a few quotes.

If you are happy with your current company, go back to them and tell them what you have been quoted elsewhere. They will often match it. We got our car insurance through recently and did just that.

Never walk past the yellow sticker aisle

every day money saving

I always stop to take a look at the yellow sticker sections of the supermarkets. It’s pointless to buy stuff we won’t eat quickly or can’t freeze, but I often find items I was planning to purchase anyway. Always make sure they are in good condition though. I picked up a couple of reduced corn on the cobs the other day, then realised they were really wet looking! That wouldn’t have saved me any money as they would very likely have gone straight into the compost.

My local Coop is great for reducing food that still has lots of time left before the best before date. I guess this will happen less and less as the supermarkets move away from such rigid labelling to try to waste less food.

Use less of everything

I always try to use less of everything then is recommended. For example, I have been known to cut dishwasher tablets in half! This doesn’t work with really stuck on food, though. I use just a squirt of shampoo and conditioner, less washing powder than the packet suggests and as little washing up liquid as I can get away with.

I also occasionally make more of things by diluting them. Shampoo and conditioner, hand wash (if I use it at all – I prefer a bar of soap), fruit juice and even milk have been known to get diluted to make them last longer!

Exercise at home

every day money saving

I have had gym memberships in the past. Mr S loves his swimming, so belongs to a club for that.  However, I now make a point of exercising for free. We walk a lot at the weekends and I park my car 10 minutes from the office and have a brisk walk there and back. I also practice yoga at home.

So these are my every day money saving habits. What do you do as force of habit to save you money?

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

Making extra money #5frugalthings

I love to save money, but I also like to make it. I have been inspired by some other bloggers to refocus my efforts on selling stuff online. This takes time, but is a good way of making extra money.

Sourcing stock to resell

With this in mind, I hit the boot sale again last bank holiday weekend to source some items to sell. If you don’t know where to start finding bargains at boot sales, read this post.

I have gone off the boil a bit when it comes to selling on eBay but I’m feeling reinvigorated!


I decided not to stop at eBay, and to give an app called Mercari a try. I have listed some items that have been hanging around on eBay on there to see if they do any better on Mercari.

The app seems very easy to use, so it could prove another means of making extra money. If you sign up using my code, you get £2 to spend: XATXYQ.

New (to me) clothing

making extra money

This week has been about saving as well as making extra money, as you would expect.

I found a couple of nice things at the boot sale for myself. I was really pleased with this Per Una skirt for only £2.50. It is a size 10, but as Per Una sizing is rather generous, it fits! I am a size 12 generally. I also got two pairs of jeans that look brand new and 3 tops for work. Those five items cost a mere £5!

Shopping around

I received a small end of year bonus from work. This was fortuitous as the washing machine has been playing up for a while.

I shopped around online and found that AO was by far the cheapest place for the model I had my eye on. I found it for £100 more on a different site!

They called yesterday to check the delivery day and offered to take the old machine away for free. That will save us a trip to the tip! I found AO very easy to use and genuinely recommend them. They aren’t paying me to say this – I have been really impressed with their service so far.

Soup making

I used lots of odds and ends from the freezer to make a large pot of vegetable soup at the weekend. I didn’t use a recipe; just chucked it all in with some stock and whizzed it up.

This has done for my work lunches all week. Batch cooking saves me time as well as money.

So making extra money and saving where I can has been the theme this week. Have you managed five frugal things? Are you making extra money?

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

Five frugal things in sunny Norfolk

Five frugal thingsThis week’s five frugal things is on location!

We have just returned from a week in North Norfolk. We were mostly blessed with fine, sunny weather, although it was chilly on the coast.

It is a beautiful county and there is so much to do. We will go back for sure as we ran out of time.

Taking a packed lunch every day

We stocked up on rolls, crisps and fruit and took a picnic every day. A flask and water too. We were glad of this on several occasions when we saw the queues and the prices at some of the places we visited.

Cooking at the cottage

As I mentioned in last week’s meal planning post, I had a rough plan for food. We cooked most of our dinners in our cute self catered cottage. This saved loads of money and meant we could have a couple of holiday beers and not worry about one of us having to drive.

Five frugal thingsWe had two evening meals out during our week away. The first illustrated why we don’t eat out very much.

I really resent paying £15 for a dinner that turns out to be mediocre, as this did. If I have a professional chef cooking for me I want the food to be better than I could manage myself.

Mr S had a piece of lamb that looked nice but was half gristle. I had skate that tasted like it had been just fried in a bit of butter. Both ok-ish but less than special.

The portions were quite small too. Having had a busy day we were starving when we went in. We still felt hungry when we came out! We didn’t bother with pudding though and had a piece of cake back at the cottage.

Fortunately the second meal was really nice. We had that with my parents and daughter, who joined us mid week.

Choosing our attractions

Five frugal thingsObviously we have a holiday budget. Being careful with our money on holiday doesn’t mean not spending it at all.

We went to two stunningly beautiful stately homes. Norfolk is full of them! We chose Holkham Hall and Sandringham. They both cost around £15 to get in but were fantastic value. There is so much to see and do at both. We spent a full day at each and really got our money’s worth.

I will write a full review of these fine houses in the next week or so.

Life’s a beach

Five frugal thingsEven if you don’t have a heat wave, a beach is such a good place to unwind. We both love being by the sea. An evening walk at Holkham beach was our highlight. It has the biggest sky of anywhere! You walk through a pinewood to find a long expanse of sand with the sea off in the distance. The water, when we got to it, was warm enough for a paddle too. Gorgeous.

The kids would have loved it when they were small, Collecting shells, making sandcastles and running through the sand dunes. Magic. A visit to the beach cost us nothing except £2 for parking.

Stocking up at Lidl

You have got to love the discount supermarkets and we were delighted to spot a Lidl when we collected my parents from Norwich station. We nipped in and stocked up on picnic food, a couple of dinners and some drinks for the cottage. Lidl sell a decent bottle of Cava for around a fiver!So we managed our five frugal things even though we were on holiday.

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.

On the Money with Ruth from Ruth Makes Money

Conversations with money bloggers

Welcome to the next in my series of interviews with well known money bloggers, On the Money. This week’s guest is Ruth from Ruth Makes Money.

What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

on the moneyThe one that sticks in my mind the most is being about 11, and my dad gave me a fiver to go into town with some friends on a Saturday afternoon. I felt like I’d won the lottery! I managed to pay for bus fare, buy several bits of make up from Tammy Girl, including a glittery lipstick, have lunch, and still save a little bit of it. Mind you, this was 20 years ago now! Thankfully, I grew out of my penchant for glittery lipstick.

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

I’m generally on the ball with keeping an eye on my finances and planning for things in advance. I’ve been self-employed for quite a lot of years now, so I’ve created monthly money habits that help me to feel in control. Still though, there’s often something that needs to be addressed. I’ve realised recently for example that our energy spending is way too high, so that’s something I need to sort shortly. It might be a cliché, but being in control of your money is always a journey, not a destination!

What was your worst money decision?

Something that I regret is not paying into a pension sooner. Whilst I’ve always been quite good with putting money aside for the future, I know that I haven’t been as proactive as I could be when it comes to making sure that cash is being put to the best possible use. It’s a priority that I’m making this year.

What was your best money decision?

Going self-employed! It was a big leap into the unknown, but it’s one that I’m thankful for every day. I’m in control of my own earnings, I earn money on my own terms, and I have much more freedom than I did when I was working for someone else.

What is your best tip for saving money at home?

Cooking from scratch. My partner works away most of the time so I’m usually just cooking for myself. It can be tempting sometimes to grab a ready meal or a packaged sandwich and a bag of crisps if it’s been a long day. Cooking proper meals, though, saves a significant amount, and it’s also one of my favourite ways to wind down and relax. I’ve got plenty of go-to recipes that are super quick and also reasonably healthy, and I feel much happier when I’m sticking with a meal plan.

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

on the moneyWhere possible, walk instead of taking the car or jumping on the bus. If I’ve got a spare afternoon, I love walking into my local town – about three miles away – and going for a swim or checking out the charity shops for my reselling business. When you work from home it’s easy to become quite sedentary, so it gets me out of the house, it gets my step count up, and it costs nothing.

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

Oooh, that’s a tough one. I’d probably just say to keep on doing what you’re doing.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

I resell on eBay, and along the way, I’ve found quite a few charity shop bargains for myself. My favourite is a designer silk dress that I paid £6 for! I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve worn it now, so I’ve definitely had my money’s worth from it.

What was your most recent purchase?

I’ve just been out today to pick up books to read on an upcoming holiday. Two friends and I are doing what we call ‘holiday book club’ – we all bring three of the same book, then we swap around when we arrive so we all end up reading the same three over the course of the holiday. We accidentally did it a few years ago when we picked the same book without realising, and it turned out to be quite fun to discuss the latest storyline developments around the pool!

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

I wouldn’t say a budget as such, but I’m mindful of my spending. I love taking a few holidays a year, and we also love eating out. However, there are places where I’ll actively try to cut back on spending, so I can make the most of my money and spend it on what matters most to me.

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

Paying off our mortgage as quickly as is reasonably possible is a big priority! It’s the only debt that I have. I’d love to get rid of it within ten years – so around half what the term currently is. Our fixed rate period just came to an end, so we re-mortgaged and managed to shave four years off the term. I’m also trying to make regular overpayments. There’s a really useful calculator on the Money Saving Expert site that shows you how much you can save by making overpayments, and it’s amazing the difference you can make even if you’re just paying a small amount extra each month.

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

I’d treat myself to a fancy bottle of champagne. Then I’d pay off that bloody mortgage!!


Ruth blogs at RuthMakesMoney.com about genuine ways to make money online. Whether you want to pay off a credit card, save for a holiday, or even ditch the 9-5 for good, she shares practical advice and guidance for making that happen. She’s been self-employed for over seven years, and lives in Durham with her boyfriend and her Airedale terrier, Jax.

If you enjoyed this post check out some of my other money blogger On the Money chats here, here and here.

Some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


This week’s money saving achievements #5frugalthings

I can’t believe another week has whizzed by and I am writing this week’s five frugal things post already! It is my firm belief that our small money saving achievements really add up. When you adopt a bargain hunter’s mind set you begin to see cost savings everywhere. So, here is what I have done this week.

Dyed my own hair

I rarely attempt to cut my own hair these days (it has been known when I really don’t want to spend out). However, I always colour it myself. I don’t want to do hairdressers out of business, but the price of getting your mop professionally coloured is horrendous!

To stop my hair getting too dry, I only touch up the roots each time. I buy boxes of colour whenever I see them at a good price, usually from Home Bargains. I then mix up just half of the ingredients as that is enough for my roots. This means it costs me about £2 to do my roots!

money saving achievementsMoving onto the eyebrows

You can save a lot of money by having some beauty treatments done at your local beauty school. Prices are a fraction of those in a salon. This week I had my eyebrows waxed and tinted at the college. It cost only £5.50, but would have been £14.50 at the salon in town.

Again, I don’t want to do any beautician’s out of business, but I probably wouldn’t bother at all if I had to pay almost £15 each time. Plus the students need the practice!

Got a discount on my MOT

As I work on a business park we frequently get discounts offered to us from other local businesses. Fortuitously, as I was thinking I needed to book my little car in for its MOT, I got an email offering the MOT for £45 plus 10% off any subsequent work. You can usually get a discount if you search, but I didn’t have to.

Unfortunately, my car does need work but it won’t be too horrendous. I put money aside for car costs anyway so it’s not too traumatic. It is my third MOT since I bought this car and it’s the first work it has needed. As it is 15 years old, I think I am winning!

Coffee out?

My trusty flask saves loads of money. I had two occasions last weekend where it would have been easy to spend £3 or so on a coffee but I took my own in the flask. I went to town shopping one day and to the boot sale on the other. The queue for the coffee van at the boot sale was really long – another good reason to take a flask!

Boot sale bargains

The boot sale was disappointing in all. Maybe all the good sellers had been out over the bank holiday. There were lots of plants and tools, but not so many clothes. I had a good root round though on a nice lady’s stall. After hunting through, I found a dress and skirt for my daughter and two work tops for myself for a grand total of £5.  All good brands, too. I love a boot sale bargain and this was the most satisfying of my money saving achievements.

How have you saved this week and what are your best money saving achievements?

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

How to stop that spending frenzy

Spending FrenzyI would love to say that I never waste money, that I don’t spend cash I really cannot spare and that I am in control 100% of the time. But I’m not! It would be a lie. When I am feeling down or hormonal, when I am too tired to research the best prices and look for a bargain, I am as tempted as anyone else to have a spending frenzy and bust my budget.

Brewing up for a spending frenzy

Take yesterday. I felt exhausted and needed cheering up. Then I got an email inviting me to submit a short video clip which potentially could be used on an upcoming Channel 5 programme. Oooh, exciting, I thought, but what will I wear? I NEED something new! I shot into town to find a new top. I found one in Marks and Spencer and fortunately had a £25 voucher from my birthday. Only then I found a bargain pair of jeans – just £15!

I needed more jeans as I have only one pair that fit, so I actually could justify this purchase and, with the voucher, I had only spent £7.50 on these two items. But then something else happened….I came upon the footwear section and remembered that I NEEDED some sandals! I tried on a pair of £45 leather ones and decided that I would buy those too.

I was feeling ever so slightly nervous about the sandals. I knew I should have looked around to see if there was anything else suitable but cheaper. I decided to try New Look and, sure enough, they had a similar (but not leather) pair for £8.99. At this point I came to my senses and took the £45 pair back to the shop. They were nice, but not nice enough to destroy my carefully crafted budget and send me into an overdraft!

Of course, the M&S were better quality than my cheapie sandals and would last longer, but I will wait until July when the summer sales start and buy a decent pair then. That’s if I still feel I NEED them, of course. My last pair from New Look lasted 3 years!

How to stop yourself when you feel the urge to splash the cash

So, spending frenzy over, I got to thinking. What to do if you find yourself in a similar frame of mind surrounded by shops full of temptation? How can you fight the urge to splurge on those beautiful displays of tantalising goodies you never knew you wanted until that moment? Here are some things I (usually) do when I am possessed by the impulse to spend more money than I can afford.

Remind yourself of your long term goals – why are you trying to save money?

If you are impulse buying to make yourself feel better, ask yourself if this purchase will really cheer you up? Is it more likely to make you anxious in the long term?

Before you make a purchase more questions to ask: Do I REALLY want this? Do I actually need it? If I don’t buy it, will I care tomorrow?

Work out how many hours you would have to work to pay for whatever is tempting you.

Think about what else you could do with the money.

And a further question: ‘Could I get this, or something similar, more cheaply?’

If you desperately need a bit of retail therapy, visit a charity shop and give yourself a £5 limit.

Take a step back rather than immediately giving into your impulse purchase. Have a cup of tea or phone a friend. Sit in a café and write down your savings goals. Go home and allow yourself to return and purchase the item if you find you still need it after 24 hours. The chances are you won’t!

Long term ways to avoid a spending frenzy

The way I generally avoid impulse purchases is to avoid shopping centres unless I know what I am going to buy. I don’t go shopping for fun! Those marketing people know how to do their work on you once you are in their den. It is the same online. If you consciously decide to buy something on the internet, do your research. If you find something you want, you will soon find the best price by looking around.

For example, a few years ago I found a gorgeous pair of Hotter boots on a leaflet that came through the door. They were on offer on the Hotter website at £100 rather than £120. My old boots were pretty worn out so I could justify a purchase, but £100? I had a look on eBay and found the exact same pair at £60, brand new! I put in a cheeky offer of £50 and it was accepted. This was worth a little victory dance! I still have these boots – they are excellent quality and were a really good purchase.

When you are shopping, work out your budget in advance and take cash so that you don’t over spend. As Dave Ramsey says, it hurts much more to hand over physical notes than a piece of plastic. You cannot avoid knowing what you are actually spending.

If credit cards are your problem, cut them up. I used to have 4. I paid them all off and now I keep one, but not in my purse. It is in my knicker drawer and is for larger purchases where I want some insurance, such as when I am booking a holiday. I don’t use it unless I can immediately pay it off in full.

Know that you cannot spend your way to happiness

In my heart I know that buying stuff doesn’t make me happy. At best it gives me a little lift for a couple of hours. That satisfaction is no more or less than if I had found an item for a few pounds at a boot sale, for free in a skip or for £45 in M&S. Sometimes saying no is more satisfying that having as spending frenzy. I need to recognise and understand my triggers!

What about you? Have you given into impulse buying or gone on a spending frenzy lately?


Some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Lost in Poundland #5frugalthings

lost in PoundlandI realised today that I am one of those people who mourns the death of the high street whilst doing most of my shopping on the internet. Mostly it is a lack of time, but when I have enough of it I do enjoy a good shopping trip. Shopping is hardly frugal, I hear you say. Well, that depends where you shop! This week I got lost in Poundland!

Buying some budget makeup

Yesterday I met my daughter after work and we had a good look around a few shops. I got lost in Poundland for a good 45 minutes, which is easy to do. There are quite a few positive accounts on the internet about Poundland makeup, so thought I would buy some for myself.

lost in PoundlandI have yet to use any of it, so that will wait for a further blog post. There was loads of choice, but I decided on a long lasting foundation in warm porcelain, the hide and chic concealer and a fairly nude looking lipstick in sun-kissed beige. Three quid! That’s ridiculously cheap. I hope they are good. This review suggests that most products are worth a go.

Saving money on birthday cards

I resent paying a lot of money for birthday cards that will end up in the recycling bin. I always try to buy them in bulk when I see them cheaply. May and June feature loads of birthdays in our family – six in fact. The cards in Poundland were funny with some nice designs. At two for £1 I stocked up.

Bargain toiletries

Still in Poundland, I needed some general toiletries. I bought a L’Oreal Skin Perfection cleansing milk, a pack of two pairs of tweezers, a razor with a couple of spare blades and a pack of 40 nail files. That lot will probably last me for the rest of my life!

Free entertainment

lost in PoundlandBank holidays can be an expensive business. It is tempting to bust the budget on days  and meals out. The weather last weekend was fabulous fortunately, so we took full advantage.

lost in PoundlandOn Sunday we packed up a picnic and drove with Mr S’s brother to Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast as there was a vintage vehicle rally. It was fabulous. Felixstowe is really an under rated place. It has been improved a lot in recent years using lottery funding.

lost in PoundlandOn Monday we went in search of bluebells. We had a walk in the beautiful Chalkney Woods, near Earls Colne in Essex. There were swathes of bluebells and they were absolutely stunning. There is little I enjoy more than walking in the dappled shade of a wood on a sunny day. It is so relaxing. So, two days out for just the cost of the petrol to get there.

Out in the garden

lost in PoundlandMr S has been working hard in the garden this week. There is always loads to do. He rotovated a big patch where we have previously grown vegetables. Rather than spending money on turf we are going to sow some wild flowers mixed in with grass seed. Cheaper and much prettier! I do love a wildlife friendly garden!

So, have you managed to get lost in Poundland this week? Have you managed five frugal things?

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

Five frugal things and building in some treats

five frugal thingsHere is my weekly five frugal things round up. In truth, I usually do a lot more than five frugal things, but sometimes one of them is not spending any money at all. I haven’t had that issue this week! However, if I am spending, I want good value for money.

A Japanese treat

I have been totally impressed by the delicious sushi at Aldi recently. It is the type of thing I never buy because it is expensive. However, Aldi sell a fish, chicken or vegetable sushi selection and they are a bargain at only £1.69. I love it when I can be fancy without spending crazy amounts of money. I think it is really important to build in a few treats such as this to help stick to our budget. So, this is the first of this week’s five frugal things.

An open garden

five frugal thingsWe had to drive my parents down to Southend on Sea last weekend. Having been glorious the week before it was FREEZING. I mean, if snow had started falling I wouldn’t have been surprised.  Usually, we drop them at their friends and have a walk along the pier and seafront, but we couldn’t face being blasted by icy winds.

five frugal thingsInstead, we drove along the coast towards Shoeburyness. It was an unexpectedly pretty route but we didn’t want to waste petrol driving aimlessly around. Fortunately, we came across an open garden at a rather lovely place called South Shoebury Hall. It was a shame the weather was so dull – the garden was stunning and would have been even more lovely in the sunshine. It was £4 to get in with all proceeds going to various charities. Better than wasting our cash trying to keep warm in the amusement arcades in Southend.

Better still, they have the most fabulous selection of home made cakes with hot tea in the church hall next door. The day was looking up!

eBay sales

I have gone off the boil a bit selling stuff on eBay. It has been so quiet! Also, I object to the stealth charges on eBay these days. Every little extra costs you money. For example, if you auto relist items it costs you, if you do a buy it now price it costs you, whether you sell or not. Then they take their 10% and Paypal also takes a cut. It is no longer worth selling low price items at all, in my view.

Having said that, I have sold two items this morning, so that is the third of my five frugal things. Selling stuff I no longer need also helps reduce the clutter. I am choosing Facebook Marketplace as my preferred place to try first at the moment.

Buying online

I am still managing to find bargains on ebay, though. Today I purchased something really good but I can’t tell you what as it is a birthday present!

I also bought a new king size duvet set for only £20. Now that we have upgraded to a king size bed we have hardly any suitable bedding. I have bought nice quality sheets in Asda, but none of the designs of the covers appealed. This is when online shopping comes into its own. So much more choice!

Line drying

five frugal thingsI am so happy that the sun is finally out here in Essex. Yesterday I line dried all the bedlinen and towels and they came in smelling lovely. Today I have another load out there. Perfect bank holiday weather!

We don’t have a tumble dryer and I don’t want one. They take up space and cost a lot to run. I use airers in the winter, one of which is heated. I also stick the dehumidifier on at times, which is cheaper to run than a dryer. However, nothing beats line drying!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and later make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting Shoestring Cottage.

As ever, I am linking up with  Cass Emma  and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I have done this Week linky. Have a fab frugal bank holiday weekend!

Ten unusual uses for common household items to save you money

Something happened recently that made me think about unusual uses for common household items.

Regular readers will know that I love my cats. Lately, however, they have been driving me crazy by pooping in the plant pots on the patio. I searched the Internet for a way to deter them and came up with sprinkling of black pepper on the soil. To my surprise it worked!

This saved me money on a commercial cat deterrent, is non toxic and ecofriendly. Very appealing to a greenie money saver such as myself!

unusual uses for common household itemsThis discovery led me to research other unusual uses for common household items. I haven’t tried all of these, so can’t say they definitely work. However, most are worth a try since you are likely to have many of these items in the cupboard anyway.

Unusual uses for common household items

Black pepper

As above, black pepper keeps cats off the garden without harming them. I have heard that this isn’t the case with cayenne pepper so I won’t be trying that.

According to Organicfacts.net, black pepper can also help you lose weight by helping to break down fat cells. I have no idea how much you have to eat to shed the pounds though!

Banana peel

You can wipe the inside of a banana skin onto leather shoes and then buff them up instead of using shoe polish.

I have tried this one on a pair of taupe boots when I couldn’t find a polish the correct colour. It worked ok but didn’t give a glossy shine.

Banana skins can also be used to feed your roses. You can make a liquid feed by soaking the peels in water or simply bury them by your plants. You can find more detailed instructions here.

Tea bags

There are lots of uses for old teabags apparently! I remember being told that you could fake a tan by lying in a bath of strong tea. It didn’t work…. I have had more success using them to revive tired eyes, making sure they are as cold as possible first.

According to Chasing Green, I have been missing out on lots of other potential uses, however. For example, ‘If you have a bruise, sunburn, a bee sting, mosquito bite or cold sore put a cool, damp teabag on the affected area and use like a compress. The tea will bring comforting relief, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.’

Orange peel

We have ants trying to break into our back room at the moment. I dislike brutally murdering them with ant powder, so I like this idea for using orange peel from Home Tips World. You can soak orange peel in water to make an insect repellent. This, drained and placed in a spray bottle, will apparently keep both flies and ants at bay. If orange peel works, I can’t see why any citrus fruit skin wouldn’t do the job, particularly lemons.


Talking of which, you can use lemons, either whole or the piths once you have used the juice, to clean your microwave. This one is from One Good Thing by Jillee. ‘Add lemon rinds to a microwave-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Cook on high for 5 minutes, allowing the water to boil and the steam to condense inside. Carefully remove the hot bowl and wipe away the mess with a damp towel.’


If you are researching unusual uses for common household items, you can’t ignore vinegar. Whole books have been written on this super useful store cupboard staple.   I find it good as a fabric softener, to clean glass and as a general household cleaning spray – here is my recipe. However, these are well known. The website Vinegar Tips says it is also a brilliant stain remover, and I will be trying this: ‘Quickly combine a solution of mild liquid detergent (1/2 tablespoon) with white distilled vinegar (1 tablespoon) and one quart of cool water, and let the stained cloth sit for 15 minutes. Wash with cool water.’

Natural Living Ideas has a whole article on how great cider vinegar is for your hair. It softens and clarifies, adds body, detangles and defrizzes your locks.

Onion skins

As well as chucking them on the compost heap, which is generally what I do, I have read that you can also use onion skins as a hair dye! The blog Trash Backwards claims that they will turn your locks golden brown and also promote hair growth.

Coffee grounds

Another one from Trash Backwards (love this blog!). Coffee grounds can turn your hydrangeas blue by making the soil more acidic. Well, who knew. We always admire the blue hydrangeas when we go to Wales. It’s a shame we aren’t real coffee drinkers!  A bowl of coffee grounds will also apparently absorb odours in your fridge.

Rose petals

When those beautiful roses have faded, you can give them a new lease of life by drying them. You can then make a face cleanser, a bath soak or pot pourri. These tips come from Natural Living Ideas.

Bicarbonate soda

I rarely use bicarbonate of soda in my baking. It is more likely that I will be using it as a deodoriser in the bin or cat litter tray, as a scouring powder or in my smelly trainers! I have a whole post on the amazing power of bicarbonate of soda.

I am sure there are literally hundreds of other unusual uses for common household items. Which do you use?

This post may contain affiliate links.

Here is the news from Shoestring Cottage

The news from Shoestring Cottage

It’s been a busy week at Shoestring Cottage. What happened to the weather? Last week was a premature heatwave whilst this week it has rained constantly. Anyhow, this is the news from Shoestring Cottage, including your chance to improve your financial education with a special offer. It’s all about fitness this week, both physical and financial.

Frugal fitness

news from shoestring cottageI got totally soaked through walking back to the car on Wednesday.  As part of my current frugal fitness regime I park about half a mile away from the office and walk the last bit. It is lovely to come round a bit in the fresh air first thing on the walk there. Usually, I find the walk back at the end of a busy day and chance to relax a bit, have a think and clear my head. This time the sky was ominously dark and I could hear thunder crashing in the distance. Then the heavens opened!

I will continue braving the spring showers, though, as I feel a lot better for this little walk each day. We will still try to fit in a 5 mile plus hike somewhere each weekend if I am up to it.

I am also doing regular stretching and yoga. This is important as generally I am very achy and exhausted. The GP thinks I might have either fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Having done a bit of reading, I think it might be the former. This is good motivation to look after myself a little better as I generally try to do too much. Perhaps my body has had enough and is forcing me to slow down? I hope it is neither, but time will tell.

Frugal weight loss

We had an invitation to a special event in London yesterday. I bought a new dress at the very end of the winter sales as I knew I would have reason to wear it.  However, when I went to put it on, it was a little tight to say the least! I have put on 4 lbs since February and I was already about 7 lbs heavier than is ideal for me.

I wore the dress – it was fine, who needs to breathe or eat? However, I have learned my lesson and need to finally shed the pounds instead of just talking about it and waiting for the Easter chocolate to be consumed.

I’m not joining a slimming club. Although I am sure they are very good, I don’t want to spend lots of money. Plus I am following the FODMAP plan for my IBS so I think it is safer to do it myself.  It boils down to eating less!!

My plan is to cut out the carbs whilst eating good amounts of protein. This will hopefully stop me feeling too hungry. Low carb eating fits in pretty well with FODMAP I think. It means I don’t have to mess around with gluten free stuff as that stuff is all carbs anyway. If you have digestive issues, I think Kate Scarlata’s blog is really helpful.

Incidentally, reading about fibromyalgia recently, I have discovered there is a link with IBS. So if I can keep on top of one, perhaps it will help the other.

A very special day

We went to London yesterday, hence the dress. A great friend of ours has been appointed as a circuit judge. He invited us to his swearing in ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice. What an amazing building! It was like being in Hogwarts!

It was a very special event. We are so proud of Lloyd and all that he has achieved. He is a normal, down to earth, kind and funny guy, which the judiciary needs. He did have to wear the ceremonial garb, which will give us many opportunities to poke fun for years to come…but he has given me permission to publish his photos. Congratulations Lloyd!

news from shoestring cottageWe had a delicious celebratory lunch after and probably drank too much champagne, but it would have been rude not to.

Change Your Money Story

news from shoestring cottageI often lament my own lack of a financial education, which has led to some serious money mistakes as I have gone through my life. I have learnt a lot from Dave Ramsey in recent years. Now, I am doing my best to teach my daughters to make better financial decisions. I still think financial education should be on the curriculum. Maybe people would be more in control of their money and get into less debt it if was.

My blogger friend Eileen Adamson, a financial coach from Your Money Sorted, has a new course out. The Change Your Money Story course is an inexpensive learning plan for anyone who needs a little help organising their finances. I will be doing a full review in the coming weeks, but thought I would mention it now as Eileen has a special offer for Shoestring Cottage readers.

The online course is usually £49, but if you use my code you can enrol for £39.20 – a 20% discount.  Apply here using the code Shoestring20 to get your discount. You also have the option of taking part in a live version of the course until 11th May. If you decide to enrol, let me know what you think!

Anyway this was my week and all the news from Shoestring Cottage. How was yours?

The Coupon Kid can save you cash: book review

4p for £600 of food?

Some of you may already have heard of a rather interesting young man called Jordon Cox. Also known as the Coupon Kid, he first hit the headlines a few years ago when he managed to buy almost £600 worth of food for just 4p, using coupons. He then donated it to homeless families in his town (Brentwood, where I am also from) for Christmas.

the coupon kid

Jordon has just published his first book, Secrets to Saving: The Ultimate UK Couponing Guide, written whilst he had an enforced stay in hospital for a couple of months. He put this time to good use!

Where it all started for the coupon kid

He began couponing as a 15 year old, trying to help his mum to get by on a reduced income after his parents split up. Inspired by the American show Extreme Couponing, he became addicted to finding coupons to reduce the cost of their weekly shop.

Now he works as the coupon kid for MoneySavingExpert.com, helping even more families to save money.

Jordon says that with a bit of thought and planning you never have to pay full price for your supermarket shop and can easily save £1000 each year – maybe a lot more. It isn’t just about cutting coupons these days. You can write to manufacturers who may just give you some (this worked for me with some cat food vouchers), you can download phone apps and you can learn to combine coupons with special offers to maximise your savings.

In this book you will discover the various places to find coupons: online, by contacting companies direct, in magazines and in-store publications, in newspapers, through shop loyalty schemes, on product packaging, and even on receipts. Jordon tells you which are the best shopping apps to save money and where to find the best new customer discount codes.

Maximising your savings

Once you have your coupons, the coupon kid offers advice on how to redeem them and maximise their value. For example, if you find something on BOGOF and you have two coupons for the same item, you can reduce the cost of each item massively. If you are really clever, sometimes you can even get some items completely free!

Jordon also gives advice on how to save money generally, by finding yellow stickered products, switching down to cheaper brands, not going shopping hungry and looking at different aisles. For example, you can get cotton wool cheaper on the baby aisle than the beauty aisle and you can buy rice in bulk, and at discount, on the world foods aisle.

I found this an interesting and easy read. I have generally explored couponing very little as I do most of my shopping in Aldi and Lidl. Unfortunately, they rarely take coupons. However, Jordon has made me realise that there are other avenues I really should look into. If you want to be an even more savvy shopper with the coupon kid, I can recommend this book.

You can find Jordon’s blog at http://www.jordoncox.com/blog/. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thanks for your support. If you fancy looking through some of my other frugal reading recommendations, see My Frugal Bookshelf.

Frugal fashion: dress for less

frugal fashionWe all like to look smart and stylish when we need to. However, like many people, my income doesn’t allow lots of clothes shopping. I need smart clothes for work and I want some nice things for social occasions. So how to buy decent clothes on a budget? Is frugal fashion possible and can you really dress for less?

First steps to frugal fashion

Buy second hand

Buying second hand is clearly better for your budget than making new purchases. Don’t be sniffy about wearing someone else’s cast offs. No one will know unless you choose to tell them and may be impressed if you call second hand clothes vintage! Just wash them before you wear them.

Second hand frugal fashion offers other benefits too. I can buy better quality than I could afford new, I am often supporting a charity, and items get re-used rather than thrown away. Why not be a green fashionista? With this in mind, the best places to buy second hand are boot sales, charity shops and eBay. You can also sometimes find second hand items of clothing on Facebook. I used to love a good jumble sale, but you rarely see them these days.

Boot sales

I love it when the boot sale season begins. It is best to go when the weather is good as you will be more likely to find people who have had a clear out and genuinely just want rid of stuff at a good price. If you go on rainy days you might find a field full of professional traders who charge a lot more. Get there early and take as much change as you can. A couple of carrier bags are always useful.

Many of my clothes come from boot sales and I am not ashamed to admit it. They are great places to indulge in a bit of frugal fashion retail therapy if you don’t have much money. I have a post about buying from car boot sales here.

Charity shops

Charity shops aren’t as cheap as they used to be. Most now understand that they can reasonably charge more for designer names and decent brands. In the end, they are trying to raise money for good causes so who can blame them?

You can still pick up a bargain, though. Most have changing rooms, of course, so you can make sure you like your items and they suit you before handing over your hard earned cash. You can also take them back if you have a change of heart, as long as you keep the receipt.


I still buy a lot of frugal fashion from eBay. It is a bit of a lottery as most private sellers won’t accept returns unless there is something wrong with the item or it was incorrectly described. If I purchase something and it doesn’t suit, I simply re-sell it (you might like to read my post about selling clothes on eBay).

If you want to buy a new item, it is worth searching the brand outlet section. There are some great bargains and huge discounts to be had from Boohoo, Very, Littlewoods and Skechers, for example.

Everything 5pounds

Still one of my favourites, Everything5pounds.com is always great value. I buy a lot of my work clothes from there. The items tend to be aimed at a younger woman than myself, so I have to scroll through. I always search the internet to see if I can find a free postage code to make it even cheaper.

I Saw it First

Although not quite as cheap as Everything5pounds, I Saw it First always seems to have a huge sale going on with discounts of 40 or 50%. It only sells tiny sizes though, so not for everyone for sure.


In our house we call it Primarni…. Primark is still a brilliant place to go for frugal fashion. I like buying basics there such as T-shirts, jumpers and vest tops, but have also found it great for tights, socks, knickers and pyjamas.

I used to worry that Primark was so cheap because they didn’t ensure the workers who make the clothes were properly paid and looked after, but they have a declaration of their ethics on their website that is reassuring.

frugal fashionWatch out for their in store reductions for even better bargains. My daughter recently bought some boots that were reduced to £1! Actually, as they were so cheap she got a pair for her sister as well.

Bargain Crazy

A site I have just discovered is Bargain Crazy, another outlet for Littlewoods. They don’t just sell clothes, but everything you might find in a Littlewoods catalogue.

Sometimes there is a reason the items didn’t sell – I was just looking at a voluminous wet look skirt thinking ‘that would be a mistake’…. However, if you do find something you like it will be at a good price.

Supermarket savvy

Supermarkets are really good for clothes. I tend not to look at them when I am doing my general shopping, though, as it is too easy to over spend. I will go in specially if I need something. This week I bought two T-shirts in Asda which will be ideal for my yoga practice. They were just £6 for two. Bargain!!

I prefer the choice in Tesco, though. The style of clothing seems to be more my taste and the quality is good. The items aren’t super cheap, but great value. They are fantastic for jeans. It is well worth keeping an eye out for the sales too.

Get cash back

Before you buy anything online, be it frugal fashion or something else, it is worth checking TopCashback to see if you can get cash back on your purchases. If you use my referral code I will earn a commission and you can currently score a £5 Tesco gift card*.

I also recommend checking the Money Saving Expert deals. They research current deals on everything, including fashion.

Market stalls

If you are lucky enough to have a decent market in your home town then, of course, the clothes stalls there are always worth perusing. You do need to watch the quality, however. They do tend to be cheap for a reason…

There does, though, seem to be a trend for beautiful floaty clothes in neutral colours on our markets now. If you ever go abroad to places like Mallorca or Tenerife you will see loads of shops selling similar items. These aren’t generally that cheap.

I know some of you will say that you prefer to spend a little more on items of clothing that are classic and will last. This is a good idea too, but in reality most of us get bored with the same old stuff. Our weight fluctuates and even really decent quality items will only take so many washes before they start to look a little tired. So it makes sense to pay less when you can.

If you have no budget at all remember you can always ‘shop’ from your wardrobe. Dig out those things that sit unworn and unloved in the back of the closet and give them another go. If you know you will never wear them, sell them or donate to charity. Take the wardrobe challenge!

*This offer finishes on 30th April 2018 and you have to spend £10 in order to receive the card. For full terms and conditions go to the Top Cashback website.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry – it won’t cost you a thing. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Thank you to @makeupbyisobel for the loan of the photos – sassy!

Five fabulously frugal things I have done this week 20th April

Welcome to Friday and my five fabulously frugal things round up. It has turned into a beautifully sunny week that has really cheered me up.

An unscheduled no spend week

five fabulously frugal thingsI have hardly spent any money at all this week, so this is the first of my five fabulously frugal things. I have been spending a lot of time with my very sweet French student, just chatting. We also found a great series on Netflix that she absolutely loves so have watched that together too. You have probably seen it as I am late to the party. I didn’t think it would be my thing but it was. It is called A Series of Unfortunate Events.

What a great programme! Quirky and odd, and a little dark. Definitely entertaining. The books and film had passed me by, but I am glad I watched this.

She leaves tomorrow and I have to get her to the coach by 4.30 am! 4.30 am! I didn’t know that when I signed up. I will need an afternoon nap tomorrow for sure.

If you are interested in hosting language students, you can sign up with Homestay. It is a fun and interesting way to earn a little extra money. I have a post on hosting foreign language students here.

Bargain makeup

five fabulously frugal thingsOne item I did purchase this week and the favourite amongst my five fabulously frugal things was a mascara from Aldi. It was only £2.49! What an absolute bargain. It works really well too. I have a habit of rubbing my eyes when I am in the office working on the PC and end up with mascara all down my face. This one doesn’t seem to smudge easily.

I intend to try some more Aldi makeup as I see it. I have used the moisturiser, shampoo, etc. for ages and always found them excellent quality and value.

A good lunch

five fabulously frugal thingsObviously, I have also been feeding my student from the budget supermarkets! There is no point earning extra money and then spending it all on luxury food. Nevertheless, I make sure she gets a decent lunch.

She enjoys white rolls or baguettes so she has had two of those each day, plain crisps, an apple and a little cake or come chocolate biscuits. I don’t usually buy bottled water as I dislike the plastic waste, but I made an exception this week as she needs to take water in. As it is so hot I have also included a Capri-sun, since they were on offer in B&M.

I remember being a size 6! She is a skinny little thing and doesn’t eat much, so I have kept portions reasonably small.

Decluttering and making money

Having given a few things away on Facebook last week, I have been sorting out some more items to sell this time. I just want to get rid of them really so I won’t charge much. However, I am loving the spaces appearing in the shed. I pulled out a little exercise stepper and have just put that on for a fiver. Hopefully somebody will want it.

I wish I had a couple of days free just to declutter. In the summer I might have to think about this. I find it a great feeling to simplify your life and streamline.

Looking at coupons

five fabulously frugal thingsI don’t tend to pay much attention to money off coupons. Aldi and Lidl don’t accept them and that is where I do most of my shopping. However, I might have to have a serious think. I am in the process of reading a book by the ‘Coupon Kid’, Jordon Cox.  He has written the Secrets to Saving: The Ultimate UK Couponing Guide and it is proving an interesting and easy read. I won’t go on about it now as I plan to review it, but I have already followed Jordon’s advice and written to a few companies to tell them how much I am enjoying their products. He says this is a great way to get free manufacturers coupons, sometimes worth quite a lot.

So this might be one of my five fabulously frugal things for this week – we shall have to see if I am successful!

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

This post contains affiliate links.

At home at Shoestring Cottage

Shoestring Cottage

Feeling grateful

Sometimes, after a tiring few days at work, I just love being at home. Shoestring Cottage is far from perfect and wouldn’t grace the pages of a glossy magazine, but it is bright and comfortable. I love living here and I am grateful that we own our home.

You may remember that we did a bit of budget DIY earlier in the year. I am glad we made the effort as the lounge looks so nice with the sun streaming in.

The hallway will be next but not for a while.

Student update

Our French language student is proving a lovely house guest. I did the right thing in choosing simple and unfussy meals this week. She likes her food fairly plain.

She is lucky as this week spring has finally decided to arrive and we are having lots of sunshine.

In case you missed it, I wrote a blog post on hosting foreign students here. It certainly helps with the Shoestring Cottage finances.

A Thai treat

Shoestring CottageThe meal plan I published for Shoestring Cottage last week went out the window on Friday. My daughter decide to cook us something special. She made a fabulous Thai meal, bought all the ingredients and cleared up too. I love it when she is home from university!

Shoestring CottageDinner consisted of Thai green curry with prawns, massaman curry, rice and a cashew and mango salad. She also made a cod satay starter and a gluten free chocolate pud. It was delicious!

Shoestring CottageFortunately this was before our student came. I don’t think she would have liked it.

Everything in the garden…

…well, it is a bit of a mess actually. The weather has not inspired us to get any work done.

I finally spent a few hours on Sunday potting up some plants I bought at B&M, which is quite good value for gardening stuff I find. I also bought lots of ornamental bark to try to keep the weeds at bay.

Usually at this point we have loads of seedlings everywhere and are planning the vegetable garden. This year we have decided to give the veggie patch and ourselves a rest. The garden is really big and there is just to much to do. We are going to take it a bit easier and try not to do everything! We will focus on the first section of the back garden. The rest will be grass.

I would happily spend hours doing the garden in an ideal world. In reality neither of us have more than two or three hours a week. It can feel overwhelming.

Decluttering Shoestring Cottage

I am still slowly but surely decluttering (this has been going on for months!). I dragged some unwanted items out of the shed last weekend and offered them for free on Facebook. It saved us having to take them to the tip as I don’t think anything was good enough to sell.

As ever people are unreliable, even when you are giving them things for free. One person came but the other two keep rescheduling. I may have to re-list the things if they don’t come in the next couple of days.

Joining the FIRE brigade: Financial Independence Retire Early

FIREHave you heard of FIRE? The internet, along with social media, is awash with people aiming to achieve Financial Independence and Retire Early.

FIRE away

What does this mean in practice? When you think about retiring, you perhaps see yourself in your sixties. In fact, in the UK, the reality is that many of us are looking at retiring aged 67 or 68. Some people have made little provision other than paying into the state pension and face financial struggles, even poverty. Others have planned for retirement and have a decent employers pension on top of the state pot.

Making the right money decisions

But what if you made some key decisions about money in your twenties and thirties that meant you could quit work forever in your thirties or forties? What if you could be free to choose what to do with your time?

That ship has sailed for some of us. Nevertheless I find the concept of FIRE fascinating and have begun to follow some of its ideas so that I can have a better retirement.

But how is FIRE achievable if you are on an average income? Can anyone achieve financial independence if they aren’t millionaires? You do need a decent professional income. However, many FIers have achieved their dream of FIRE on a five and not a six figure income.

Mr Money Mustache is one. He and his wife retired in their thirties to have a family. They achieved this on two very good salaries, it’s true. But instead of living lavishly they set about saving and investing a large percentage of their income so that they could retire early.

Mr and Mrs Frugal Woods are another American family living the FIRE dream.  They left their corporate jobs to run a rural homestead. Mrs Frugal Woods, aka Elisabeth Willard Thames, says that frugality enabled this to happen: “My philosophy is that frugality enables you to pursue unusual aspirations and opens up a world of options. Through frugality, my family and I have created a life that we love living every single day–not a life beholden to consumerism or the drive for material perfection or the incessant clarion call for more.” Her book, Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence through Simple Living is available from Amazon.

It isn’t just a US phenomenon, however. There are also FIRE blogs springing up in the UK. The FireStarter is 32 and working towards retirement in five years.

The key elements of FIRE

There  are several key elements to achieve if you want to achieve financial independence and retire early.

Live debt free

Getting rid of debt is crucial if you plan to move towards FI. It’s tricky to save and invest if you are paying off or still accruing debts at the same time. When you get rid of debt repayments you have more cash to invest.

Frugal living

Another fundamental is to spend less than you earn. Many FIers live very frugal lives. However, it’s not necessarily about spending nothing, but more about spending money on things that are important and meaningful to you.

Living within your means is crucial if you want to achieve financial independence. It’s not just about income. Think how many rich and famous celebrities end up with nothing because they splurged it all. To achieve FIRE you need to know where your money is going, to set a budget, to have enough left over to invest.

A healthy income

As I mentioned earlier, you need to generate a decent income in the first place. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to inherit a large pot of money or win the lottery, so this means establishing a good, well-paid career in your twenties and thirties.

Establishing a savings fund

I wrote about the importance of an emergency fund here. This is important for anyone, but if you are aiming for FIRE it is just common sense to have savings for day to day issues.


It isn’t enough to have a good savings fund, though. If you want to achieve FIRE you have to create wealth through investments.  Grown your money over time. I am not about to issue advice on investing as it is a subject I have only just started to research. However, my friend Faith over at MuchMoreWithLess is a financial journalist with a common sense approach to investing. Read her advice for the beginner investor here and here.

In order to have something to invest, of course, you need to either increase your income, cut your expenses or, ideally, do both.

Freedom and flexibility

FIREWhen you read what those who have achieved FIRE have to say, it seems it is not really about retiring early. More about having the freedom and flexibility to follow your dreams. You can work, but perhaps in a job you love rather than one that earns you the most. You can set up your own business or get away from it all on a smallholding. Or you can take time away from work to travel or pursue hobbies.

FIRE will never be possible for those who aren’t earning a living wage – it does require a decent income, even if you are prepared to make sacrifices. There is no doubt that those aiming for FIRE tend to approach it from a point of privilege. Two professionals on a double income have more chance of excess income that a single working parent in a £25,000 a year job. If you are scratching around to make a living or unemployed the concept of FIRE is like chasing rainbows.

So, that ship may have sailed for me, but I can still be intentional with my money to make the best of it. In the meantime, I am passing the ideas to my daughters. Maybe they will achieve financial independence and retire early!

I am taking part in the Monday Money linky with Lynn from Mrs Mummy PennyFaith from Much More With Less and Emma from EmmaDrew.Info

This post contains affiliate links.

Five frugal things and a trip away, 6th April 2018

five frugal thingsWe have just returned from a lovely couple of days in Brighton. What a great place! I will write a separate blog post about that. Going away can be expensive, though, so did we still manage this week’s five frugal things?

A bargain break

Mr S found us a bargain break in Brighton for my birthday via Booking.com. It’s so much cheaper to use companies like this, Groupon or BuyaGift.com if you want to get away. We looked at the prices of our hotel online and it was way more expensive to book directly with the hotel.

five frugal thingsWe were lucky as they upgraded us to an apartment free of charge. I will write a separate post about our trip to Brighton and all the fun things we found to do. It is a city we plan to visit again. We whizzed round and did a lot, so we are both shattered now.

Packing our own refreshments

Mr Shoestring and I rarely go anywhere without our trusty flask and refillable water bottles. We took the flask for the journey to Brighton and filled it up again at our apartment for day two.

We also took lots of snacks. To save money we usually take a picnic, but this time we had already planned chips on the beach as it was a fine day.  As Katy Kicker said in her guest post last week, it saves a lot of cash if you get organised in advance and take food and drink with you. This is one of the five frugal things we did this week that I would recommend to anyone looking to stick to a budget.


Parking in Brighton is astronomically expensive! We went in the Lanes car park when we arrived as it was very close to the hotel and we got a discount. However, we drove to Brighton University where my daughter is studying on day two and parked in her car park for nothing. Otherwise it would have been £5 an hour!! Daylight robbery. We could have searched to find a cheaper place but you can’t get cheaper than free …

You can have your cake and eat it too

five frugal thingsI am still eating mainly gluten free. There wasn’t much time over the Easter weekend to bake though and we had family coming for a bank holiday roast. I nipped into Asda and bought a Betty Crocker gluten free chocolate cake mix. It was only £1.89 and made a moist, dark cake that served 8 of us with some to spare.

Everybody agreed that you wouldn’t have known it was gluten free. I love to cut the odd corner when I am short on time and this was a bargain!

Tough on trainers

five frugal thingsI finally walked my old trainers into the ground this week. We did 8.5 miles on Sunday and the sole started to come away.

These were a good quality pair of trainers that I bought in the sale years and years ago (about 15 I think) for £28. Obviously, I am no athlete so that helped them to last too, but they did well. However….I haven’t accepted they are lost and have super glued the sole back on. I will do a test walk on them tomorrow to check they don’t just fall apart again.

In the meantime, I bought a cheap pair from Primark for £8. They are so comfy but I doubt they will last 15 years!!

How has your week been? Have you managed five frugal things or more?

I’m linking up with CassEmma and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal things I’ve done this week linky.

This post contains affiliate links.

Five frugal things, 30th March

What a treat not to get up at 6 am this morning. I love bank holidays! What a shame the weather is so rubbish. I was hoping to catch a couple of boot sales this weekend but if the rain keeps up they will all be a washout. Still, not spending loads of money at a boot sale could be considered one of my five frugal things this week….

Simplicity and a cup of tea in bed

Five frugal thingsI picked up this book, Simplicity: Easy Ways to Simplify and Enrich Your Life by Elaine St James, at the charity shop this week. I promised myself in the New Year that I would make time for reading again and read at least one full book a month. This is so absorbing that I have almost finished it already.

I have been thinking about simple living and decluttering a lot recently (I wrote this blog post on the subject), so finding this book seems serendipitous. It is right up my street! I will publish a review when I have read it.

The cat joined me this morning for a lie-in and a cup of tea in bed and I read a bit more. Now that is one of life’s simple pleasures.


The car exhaust started clanking this week. I think it had worked its way loose with all the potholes. I have been doing my best to dodge them but there are so many!

The local quick fit exhaust place looked at it and said it needed replacing. It would cost around £250….I must have looked shocked enough that they took pity on me and said it could probably be repaired with a bit of welding. So it is booked in for Tuesday and I am looking at £50 rather than £250! So I can count it towards my five frugal things.

Sweet potato burgers

Five frugal thingsI made these tasty little burgers using a recipe I found on the Tesco website. They were really nice. We ate some and froze the others. They will be a nice easy tea some time.

Sleeping easy

Five frugal thingsI mentioned last week that we had bought a king sized bed frame at a bargain price on Facebook. We then found a nice mattress online. Blimey, they are a price!

I would have liked a memory foam one but they were too expensive, so settled on a sprung one with a memory foam top. It was reduced from £340 to £170, so we made a good saving.

We put it all together today and it is so comfy! Mr S fits on it and can finally stretch out a bit! The favourite one of this week’s five frugal things for sure.

Five frugal thingsI can recommend the retailer, Mattress Tomorrow. Ordering and delivery was quick and painless with great customer service.

Asda bargain

Now that the bed is up we will need to invest in a king size duvet and bed linen. In the meantime, I popped to Asda to grab a couple of king sized sheets. They were only £6 each!

How has your week been? As usual, I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘five frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Hop on over to see what everyone else has been up to and add your link if you have a blog.

This post contains affiliate links.

On the Money with Katy Kicker

On the Money: Conversations with money bloggers

Welcome to the first in a new series of interviews with well known money bloggers, On the Money. My first guest is Katy Stevens, from KatyKicker.com. Katy is a UK blogger covering topics including parenting and money saving. She lives in Essex with her husband Thomas and 2-year-old daughter Daisy Blue. Katy loves to help people make and save money, kick their finances into touch and live their best life. I hope you like the series and discover some fascinating new blogs.

on the moneyWhat is your earliest memory of having and spending money?

I can remember standing in line at school waiting to buy my lunch. I would always try and work out how I could have the most filling meal by spending the least amount of money. Usually because my friend Bradley and I were trying to work on our short stories and needed supplies!

Have you ever felt out of control with your money?

Yes. When I was on maternity leave after having my daughter I was suffering from postnatal depression. Fortunately we have good cash flow, so I didn’t accumulate debt or anything, but I wasn’t controlling my money well either.

What was your worst money decision?

Moving into a flat with my ex just before the recession started. Whoops. Thank goodness we didn’t buy that bigger new build flat we went to look at twice!

What was your best money decision?

Saving up to buy a house with my husband. We’re feeling so excited for this year and looking forward to having a 50% LTV (loan-to-value) – hopefully!.

What is your best tip for saving money at home?

Meal plan and cook from scratch. Two tips I know…! By cooking from scratch you’ll eat healthier, get better nutrition and save LOTS of money. You ARE trading your time a little but your body will thank you for it, and so will your purse-strings.

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

Take drinks and snacks with you – particularly if you have children. When we were on holiday recently the drinks were £1.80 a bottle. We took our own bottles and packed drinks every day. As we were out 2-3 times a day this saved us a small fortune, even without the snacks we packed too.

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

Don’t keep up with the Joneses. They won’t care if you build up debt and can’t afford to live your current existence anymore.

What was your biggest ever bargain?

It’s hard to pick just one! One of my favourite ever bargains was a white gold, diamond and topaz ring. It was reduced by 90%, thanks to an error when I worked at a high-street jeweller. I bought it the same day I saw it. The next day we got the email down from Head Office to advise us to adjust the prices, and my purchase was already safely at home!

What was your most recent purchase (not including bills, groceries, etc)?

Birthday presents for my daughter who recently turned two. We went to Toys ‘R’ Us and took advantage of their closing down sale to get lots of bits, that were only marginally cheaper than Amazon and Argos still. Sad times!

Do you stick to a monthly budget?

Not really…! We have a budget for bills and expenses, and I keep a lose budget for groceries. We’re in a good time of our life. I don’t want to waste money unnecessarily but we have days out, lots and lots of holidays and live a good life too.

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

We are looking to buy our house this year, with a 50% LTV. I want to be mortgage free in five years – although maybe 10 years is more realistic!

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

Become mortgage free. Maybe my husband would finally quit his job then!

You can find more tips from Katy at KatyKicker.com. Watch out for the next On the Money interview, which will be every fortnight.


In search of a simple life: how to live more and stress less

simple lifeIn my fantasy world, I live a simple life. My contented existence sees me earn enough working part time to cover the bills with plenty left over. I spend hours in the garden and we have lots of weekends away exploring new places.

In reality, I have to work full time and spend weekends cleaning, shopping and cooking. I am always on the lookout for opportunities to earn more money. It is a priority to get some cash in an emergency fund, so every little helps.

This means the garden is looking forlorn and weekend trips away are a rare treat.

Busy, busy, busy

Now the weather is better we must find time to get out in the garden and make up for its current sad state of neglect. I need to book friends in for dinner – it’s my turn to cook. I am walking 14 miles for charity in a few weeks and want to get out and do more walking in readiness. I have a couple of French students coming too so need to prepare the rooms and plan suitable meals. Everything has to be crammed into my weekends or a few hours in the evenings.

When did life become so complicated? It’s always so busy. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I know from talking to friends and colleagues that many feel the same. So how can you simplify your life to make time for the people and pastimes that are important to you?

Working towards a simple life

Here is what I do already to save time and keep life simple:

Stick to the budget and don’t get into debt. If we spend less, we don’t need to earn more and more just to keep going.

Don’t iron – most things are OK with a shake before they are dried.

Shop once a week for food and never shop for fun (apart from charity shops and boot sales because we all love a bargain).

Batch cook as often as possible to save time during the week.

We don’t have a wild social life. Seeing friends is fun, but you won’t find us in the pub or a restaurant every night. Too expensive!

Shrubs are now our plants of choice in the flower beds as they look after themselves.

We don’t attempt to keep up with the Joneses.

We aren’t ridiculously house proud. As long as the house is clean, it doesn’t have to look like a scene from Ideal Home magazine.

We appreciate simple pleasures – a walk in the sunshine, a look around a lovely garden, a glass of wine watching a film, quiet time with a book or magazine or a good yoga session.

By saving time and money whenever we can, we can make sure we have at least one day a week for leisure and can afford some holidays!

A love of stuff

It seems to me that many of the complications and stresses in our lives come from a love of ‘stuff’. In order to chase this materialistic lifestyle we have to earn more money. To earn more money most of us need to work longer hours. The more we have, the more we need. You buy a great new car, then hanker after a better one. Having your own place is initially exciting, but soon your house is either too small or ‘needs’ expensive renovations. A holiday to the English coast pales into insignificance next to your neighbour’s trip to the Maldives.

We are never satisfied! If you keep in mind that 1.4 billion people around the world live on less than US$1.25 a day, our endlessly materialistic lifestyle seems obscene. But we can live a happier, more simple life without living in dire poverty, I am convinced.

Actions you can take towards a simple life

simple lifeIdentify what is important to you and focus your time and attention on that – don’t allow this to be a long list! Maybe four or five things.

Learn to say no – to your kids when they want toys and clothes they don’t need; to friends and family asking you to events you can’t afford; to yourself when you are tempted by an expensive gizmo or gadget that you will stick in a drawer and forget about; to your partner when they are trying to convince you to take out a loan on a beautiful new kitchen.

Manage your time better.

Go tiny

simple lifeDownsize your accommodation – do you need all your space? Are you paying to run a huge house when the family have all left home? Or are you paying a huge mortgage or rent on a big, fancy house that you can’t afford? To get a different perspective, take a look at the tiny house movement.

I am fascinated by the concept of tiny houses. With the ridiculous cost of buying and renting in the UK now, I can foresee three of them parked in our garden for my daughters to live in! (Joking, Mr Shoestring)

Declutter. I am not exactly a minimalist, but I find lots of clutter disturbing. We have been determinedly decluttering for a while now, although we have some way to go. Having less stuff to clean and look after is liberating! We have donated some items and sold others, with the money going towards our emergency fund.

Regain financial control

Pay off your debts. When you are free of debt a huge weight is lifted. Sticking to a simple life helps to keep you debt free. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Being debt free gives you more money day to day as you have no repayments to keep up with.

Find things to do for free (or cheaply). It sounds like a cliché, of course, but there is so much you can do for fun that will cost hardly anything.

Learn to appreciate the simple things in life.

Stop buying stuff! Ask yourself: do I really want it, do I really need it, can I afford it and where will I put it! If you leave it a week the feeling to impulse buy is likely to pass.

An old fashioned concept – saving up

If you have to make a purchase, save up and buy second hand so you don’t accrue more debt.

Cull some of your activities – you can’t do it all. This is especially important if you have kids. I nearly drove myself made when mine were younger in a cycle of after school activities that cost a fortune and took all of our spare time. Focus on one or two maximum. It is very easy to get into the trap of feeling you have to give your children every possible opportunity and forget to give them time to just have fun or be bored.

Stop setting ridiculously high expectations around housework. You don’t have to clean the skirting boards with a toothbrush every week!

Get the family to help with chores. I try not to attempt to be super woman.

Turn it off

Limit your screen time. This includes the TV, mobile phone, laptop and tablet. A kindle is probably OK (although I still prefer an old-fashioned book).

Keep away from glossy magazines and advertising generally, then you won’t fall for the idea that if you buy such and such a product your life will be that much closer to perfect. You don’t actually need to upgrade your phone just because there is a new one in existence.

Don’t watch or listen to the news on repeat. I am with Morrissey on this – ‘The news conspires to frighten you’. It can feel so negative. I listen on to events on the radio on the way to work and then avoid the news!

Consider your wants versus your needs.

Get your priorities straight. Relationships are more important than shopping, so spend time with your loved ones.

I don’t have the simple life sussed yet, but I am working on it! Do you ever feel life is far too complicated and what steps are you taking towards a more simple life?

The power of writing a list

I think any busy person should be a list maker. Writing a list when you are feeling under pressure creates a sense of order. A few words on a piece of paper (or in the notes on your phone) can give you a feeling of being in control, even if really you aren’t.

Why write a list?

At the very least, writing a list enables you to prioritise. Having all of the things you feel you need to do in black and white helps you to identify the easy wins and the things you need to do first.

If, like me, you have a bad memory, writing a list means you aren’t always forgetting important things. It once completely slipped my mind that I was supposed to be going out to dinner with friends. Instead I went home from work ravenous and stuffed my face with egg, chips and beans. When my friend rang to ask where I was I had to pretend I was running late, before rushing out to eat a second meal, this time with three courses and wine! And all because it wasn’t on my list…

Writing a list or two is crucial if you have lots to do but limited time to do it. Good time management, whether you are at home or work, makes you more productive. This obviously gives you more hours to get a few more jobs done if you need to. Importantly for me, though, it frees up some time to do some of the things I like to do: my yoga practice, a long walk with Mr Shoestring, even the opportunity to sit and do nothing. Everyone needs down time!

writing a listWriting a list and colour coding it

An important point when writing and then acting on your list: don’t just start at the top and work your way down. I usually circle the things I must do in red. If I am being ridiculously organised, I colour code my list from red (must do today), to orange (this week) to green (at some point).

If your list is too long, consider whether some of your green items could really be crossed off. Maybe you can make a separate ‘would like to achieve list’ for when you are less busy?

My list of lists

You can probably tell by now that I am an obsessive list maker. Writing a list negates any need I might ever have had for therapy I think. I have several lists on the go at any one time. Here is my current list of lists:

An ongoing shopping list

A list of meals for the week (a meal plan is, after all, just another list)

A work to-do list so I don’t forget important tasks or miss deadlines

A home to-do list

A long term would like to do list with things like future DIY projects on it

A blog to-do list

A calendar list. (When the kids were small I would write everything on the calendar. Sports days, a command to sign reading diaries, take dinner money, world book day costumes, etc. Now they are grown up I just write the things I need to worry about in my diary. I also do a back up of events on the calendar on my smart phone, which is great as it sends me reminders.)

This will be joined at various points by a holiday list, a Christmas list and a list for any other occasions that I need to focus on, such as when I have invited friends over for dinner (‘remind friends to come’!)

Retaining control

What a great feeling as you start to cross through those things on your list. You can see what you have achieved as you go.

However, if you find your lists are getting crazy long they can start to become counter productive. Your feelings of panic could start to overwhelm you if you realise that you just can’t achieve everything. I have a few strategies to cope with this. Firstly, be honest with yourself. Do you really need to write ‘have a shower’ on the list? If you are stuck for time, is getting your nails done actually essential?

I knew someone who used to write sh-sh-sh on his daily list. Shower, sh*t and shave. Well, it made him feel better, but those things were going to happen anyway, so they didn’t need to clog up his list. Focus your energies on things that are actually productive.

Break it down

It may be that some jobs on your list need to be broken down a bit to be manageable. For example, ‘decorate kitchen’ needs to be a series of much smaller achievable tasks. It deserves a list in its own right!

Once you have culled some of the items on the list, the next thing to do is delegate. If your car is infested with crisp wrappers and needs a clean, pass this job onto someone else. When you have kids or teenagers I expect they put the wrappers there in the first place, so it’s only fair they do their bit.

If there are too many jobs on your work list, have a word with your manager. Maybe some of your colleagues can help to take the strain.

I am an old fashioned sort and like pen and paper when I am writing a list. However, there is free software out there if you prefer a digital approach. I can’t recommend any but a quick Google found Todoist and another one called Remember the Milk.  The name itself appeals to my inner control freak!

Are you a fan of writing a list? How many do you have on the go?


Five Frugal Achievements, 23rd March 2018

This week’s five frugal achievements sees me actually spending some money on clothes, a bit more baking and plans for a holiday.

A new frugal cookbook

Eons ago (almost two years in fact), I enthusiastically joined in with a Kickstarter crowdfunding thing for Jack Monroe, raising money so that she could self-publish her new cook book, Cooking on a Bootstrap. Her first one, A Girl Called Jack, is one of my favourites.

It was supposed to arrive within 6 months or so but it didn’t, with no real explanation. Then there were odd updates, citing illness and depression as reasons the book wasn’t ready. There were long periods with no news, which made a lot of backers really angry. Quite a few demanded their money back.

five frugal achievements

We were asked for addresses but the book still didn’t come. In December it was apparently ready. However, Jack appeared to be signing and packing all the books herself, even dragging bags of them down to the post box! After all this, I was really excited when my copy finally arrived last week.

Having perused most of the recipes, my first impression is that it was worth the wait. I will be testing out some of her meals and will review the book in due course. It is not yet available in the shops, but is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Going gluten free

I have pretty much cut gluten out of my diet over the past month, which has hugely improved my IBS symptoms. I have been experimenting with making my favourite cake recipes gluten free. I have found that if I simply replace wheat flour with gluten free flour it can taste dry and a bit grainy. However, if I use 25% ground almonds instead of just gluten free flour it works a lot better.

Happily, I prefer Asda’s own gluten free flour to some of the more expensive branded ones!

A bit of xanthum gum also helps I am told, but I am a little nervous about that aggravating my digestive system as well.

five frugal achievementsI already posted about making Nigella’s banana loaf this way. This time I made a gluten free fruit cake, which wasn’t bad. I think it needs less time in the oven that when it is made with wheat flour, however, as it was slightly dry. Next time I will cut the time down. Baking my own gluten free stuff is cheaper than buying it ready-made, for sure.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook may have been getting a lot of bad publicity this week, but Facebook Marketplace is still pretty popular here at Shoestring Cottage. In my last Five Frugal Achievements post, I wrote about listing some items for my parents on there. I have managed to sell five items in the past couple of weeks for them.

This week I have been buying. I have found a really nice king size iron bed frame for £50. We will be going to collect it at the weekend. Once we are sure it is OK, we will be looking for a bargain mattress, so if you have any recommendations…..

Planning a holiday

As winter drags on into spring, the only thing was to book a holiday! We haven’t booked an expensive trip to the Maldives, just a week in Norfolk. It’s so nice to have something to look forward to and north Norfolk is so lovely. We got mates’ rates as it is a friend’s cottage.

If we get some sunshine whilst we are away it would be wonderful. Even if we aren’t lucky with the weather there is a lot to see and do in the area.

Bargain clothing

I have said before that I get a lot of my work clothes from Everything5pounds.com. The clue as to why is in the name! You can get an awful lot for your money at £5 an item. They are general high street and generic brands. I have rarely received anything I wasn’t happy with and I have made four or five orders.

I am quite picky about what I buy and get several items at a time to make the postage worthwhile. I have just put in an order for 3 work tops and a skirt – not bad for twenty quid! My daughter bought a playsuit, an amazing pair of boots and a couple of cute pyjama sets.

So these are my five frugal achievements this week. How have you managed to save money?

frugal achievements

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s  ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Click the links to see other ideas for saving money.

This five frugal achievements post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Saving money with five frugal things

Here we are again! Another week gone in a flash. As usual, I am sharing five frugal things that I have achieved this week. As I said in my last post, the little things all add up.  Saving money and a frugal lifestyle can help you achieve your debt busting and savings goals.

A pot of soup

saving moneyAlthough the weather has improved a lot, it is still very cold. I find a nice mug of soup every day at work is warming and comforting.

It’s so easy to make soup as well and very economical. I decided on carrot and coriander. So spicy and delicious that I plan on making more this weekend. I used a bag of carrots (49p) and a pot of coriander (68p) from Aldi. I added a couple of medium potatoes, a head of celery (you could use onions), some vegetable stock, along with some ground coriander, cumin and turmeric to add some nice spice.

This made 8 really big portions and helped me with saving money on lunches.

Banana bread

saving moneyWe went for a walk into town last weekend. On the way back we passed a Tesco Express and Mr Shoestring spotted some bananas in the window. They looked a bit the worse for wear, but perfect for banana bread. He chatted up the shop assistant and negotiated a drop from 21p a banana to 20p for five!

I made Nigella’s yummy banana loaf with these, a gluten free version. I replaced the wheat flour with 75% gluten free and 25% ground almonds. This always seems to work well. I am not eating entirely gluten free, but find a lower gluten diet beneficial for my sensitive tummy.

Home made bread

saving moneyIn last week’s Five Frugal Things I mentioned that we bought some spelt bread from Waitrose. This was expensive at £2.50 for a small loaf. In truth, it wasn’t as nice as the one I made the previous week. It costs me about £1.60 a loaf to make it at home so I had another go.

The bread maker decided that this was a good time to die, so I had to make the dough by hand and cook it in the oven. What a revelation! It was so easy I don’t know why I had never tried before. I won’t be replacing the bread maker.

My next challenge is to find a cheaper supplier of spelt flour than the local health food shop. I need to research online.

Saving money on home furnishings

Now that we have completed our budget DIY lounge makeover, we wanted to find a decent nest of tables. We had been looking around but new ones were so expensive and not necessarily great quality either. This week I finally spotted some nice ones on Facebook Marketplace for just £35.

Mr S drove to get them in the week and they are perfect.

saving moneyWe also spotted some art nouveau style cushion covers on eBay and they arrived this week. They were a bargain at only £3 a cover. We don’t have the budget for a new sofa at the moment so these perked up the old one. You don’t have to spend a small fortune to furnish your house. There are plenty of opportunities for saving money.

Making some money for the oldies

Talking of Facebook Marketplace, we went to see my parents at a table top sale where they were selling a few things. It was rather quiet and they had quite a lot of stuff leftover. I took a few photos and listed them on Marketplace. Within an hour I had sold one item and had queries on 3 others.

It really is a great place to sell larger items for local collection. You don’t have to pay any eBay or Paypal fees or worry about packing and posting. My next step is to teach my mum how to do it!

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s  ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Click the links to see other ideas for saving money.

Focus on frugality: Why the little things do matter

frugalityI recently read a finance blogger who said he wasn’t into frugality. He could help you become wealthy but not by telling you to forego your daily takeout coffee.

Focus on the big wins?

This writer suggests you ignore the small stuff and focus instead on big wins to improve your finances. He talks about finding ways to achieve more income, getting a better job and creating wealth. The testimonials on his blog are from people who now earn a lot more than they used to so can still buy their morning cappuccinos.

I can see that creating extra income could mean the end of many people’s money woes. However, I also know that a more systematic and disciplined approach to finance is also essential for a lot of us who are rubbish at money management, whatever our income.

A question of attitude

I have listened to enough of the Dave Ramsey Show on You Tube to understand that there are folk out there earning large incomes who still spend more than they earn.

There comes a point when you have to look at your attitudes and spending habits in order to improve your finances. The person who earns £150k a year but spends £160k is no better off than the person who earns £25k but spends £30k. It could be that the high earner may be able to keep their daily latte but cancel their skiing holiday in order to get back on track. Whatever they do, they still have to make some sacrifices and learn to say no. It’s all relative.

Small but significant choices

Either way, in my view small daily choices towards frugality can help anyone. The more firmly you tighten the belt the quicker you can pay off debt, build an emergency fund, pay off your mortgage or begin to put your cash into investments. I can’t see why you can’t go for the big wins and work with the small ones. Surely that will get you to where you want to be faster?

For example, keeping a spending diary can be useful to see where your money is disappearing. Making a budget each week or each month will help you establish how much you can use to pay or debt or how much you could afford to put into savings. Meal planning and searching out bargains in the supermarket can be vital for those on low incomes but is likely to just be sound common sense for a few millionaires too! And, yes, cutting out that morning take out coffee could be worthwhile as well.

Perhaps some of them started on their road to wealth by saving the money they used to spend on coffee and investing it instead!

Prudence and frugality

I like to think that many of those with plenty of money got there through prudent and sensible money management rather than simply earning big bucks. After all, there are plenty of stories of celebrity bankruptcies. They had it all but made terrible financial decisions and ended up with nothing to show for all their hard work.

I may not ever be wealthy but at least by making daily choices towards frugality I will have peace of mind and control of my money. Check out my top 20 frugal habits here.

Five frugal things for the big freeze, 2nd March 2018

This post should probably be headed Five Frozen Things instead of Five Frugal Things!

Five frugal thingsLord, it has been freezing here this week! It is the coldest, snowiest time I can remember in a long while. Getting to work each day has been an adventure in itself. I don’t have the type of job where you can work from home. We are expected to make every effort to get in.

I am glad the week is coming to an end. Fingers crossed for better weather next week!

I am sure many of you in the UK are experiencing similar conditions so I hope you are safe and warm where you are. I feel I have done little but struggle to work and back! However, I still managed my five frugal things.

Keeping warm with free wood

Five frugal thingsThe boiler has been playing up all week. Fortunately our plumber is also a friend and has popped out at short notice twice to try to fix it. It is limping along, but may need surgery at some point. It hasn’t cost anything so far but it might, so I am tightening the budget in preparation and hoping we don’t have to use the emergency fund.

The wood burner has come into its own this week. It is great to have a back-up heater. We have had to huddle round it a few evenings to keep cosy.

Currently we are burning free wood. Mr S and his brother cleared some fallen trees for a local care home and got to keep the logs. We have worked our way through a lot of these this week.

Plugging the draughts

Five frugal thingsThe Beast from the East brought a freakishly cold and strong wind with it. It was whistling through our front door, making the hallway feel very cold. I have been meaning to get a good, heavy door curtain for ages. In the event, Mr S came up trumps by pinning a blanket up against the door. It made a huge difference!

He also temporarily blocked up the vent in the bathroom as it was a bit draughty having my bath.

Warming winter stews and soups

We have been going for comfort food this week. Easy stuff to fill and warm us up. I made some more veggie soup to take to work. Last night it was a simple stew: sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, peas and Quorn with some tinned tomatoes, stock and herbs. We had it with some rice and it went down a treat.

This type of food is economical and fuss free. Who wants to spend hours cooking after fighting through traffic in the freezing cold?

Free coffee

Five frugal thingsI mentioned in last week’s Five Frugal Things that I had made my own spelt loaf, which is lower in gluten than a standard wheat bread. It was pretty good and I will be making it again.

In the meantime, we popped into Waitrose at the weekend to buy a couple of their spelt loaves for the freezer.

Now, are not usually a Waitrose shoppers, as you know, and generally go to Aldi.  However, we thought that whilst we were in there we would sign up for a Waitrose card. This entitles us to a free coffee or tea each time we shop there. We can get some of the cost of our £2.50 loaf of bread back!

You also get a free copy of the Waitrose Food magazine and if you buy a newspaper they give you the cost of it back when you spend £10 or more. This seems like a card worth having! You can sign up on the Waitrose website.

An eBay bargain

I have just managed to buy a second hand roman blind for the lounge for a bargain price of £10 including postage. It is a neutral fabric affair from John Lewis originally. I love eBay!! I am looking forward to this arriving.

If I had purchased it new I could easily have paid quadruple this price.

Have you managed five frugal things this week? It’s actually a lot harder to spend money when you avoid leaving the house as much as possible …

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Click the links to see the five frugal things others have achieved.

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Needs versus wants: how identifying your priorities helps you budget

needs versus wantsNeeds versus wants

Recently I had a wardrobe crisis. How come? I have a wardrobe full of things! But I keep them a long time, many are pretty tatty and I am bored with the others. Most were second hand in the first place. So I NEEDED new clothes! Obviously, I didn’t actually need them. It wasn’t as if I would have to leave the house naked. It made me think about the idea of needs versus wants.

My wardrobe crisis arrived in the middle of my no spend January. All the sales were on and it was frustrating not being able to give in to my inclination to buy some new outfits.

I did actually buy some very reduced items once January was over. I was glad I had waited in the end as I went into Debenhams and found a lot of items at a 75% discount. But did I need them? Truthfully, I could have gone without. But it is unlikely that I will buy any other new clothes until the boot sale season arrives (so then they will be second hand).

The bare necessities

It all made me consider the things I believe I need. Many are not basic necessities. Some are definitely first world requirements. Take my iPhone. Definitely not a need. I could survive with a more basic model and could manage without a mobile phone at all. However, I use my iPhone for many different things (including writing this blog) and it enriches my life. I don’t want to do without it.

Ditto my laptop. I survived without one until Christmas. If I wanted to use a computer I went on the one at work. However, I love having my laptop! If I had to do without it, I would, but I prefer not to.

Our actual needs are fairly basic, of course. When we are trying to pay off debts or put money into an emergency fund it helps to bear this in mind.  A roof over our heads, a way to keep warm and cook, nourishing food and water and some basic clothing are what we need to survive. This attention to what you really need can help you retain your focus when it comes to your budget.

Other things we could do without but would rather not…

Once you get past basic survival, the idea of needs versus wants get a little greyer. When you have your actual survival needs sorted, it is only natural to aim for items that add quality to your life, that enrich your existence and make things somewhat easier.

For me, I would struggle without my little car, as getting to work would mean two buses and take about an hour and a half longer than it does now if I had to use public transport. A car enables me to go shopping for bargains too and to get around in my leisure time. I could do without a car, but it is a priority that I am willing to budget for.

However, we only ever drive fuel efficient old bangers! We are not prepared to take on debt for a car. I flinch when people I know who don’t earn very much tell me about the great lease agreement they have on a shiny new car that cost more that their annual salary. That way madness lies!

That’s entertainment

We could do without a TV. I listen to a lot of radio, especially Radio 4, and I love to read. However, we don’t go out a lot to spend money in pubs, restaurants or the cinema. We love to watch great dramas and films on TV, so this is another thing we are happy to pay for.

However, we don’t have a huge package on satellite or cable. We have the absolute basic TV package on Virgin, along with the home phone and internet.  At one point we had loads of channels but hardly watched any of them. Our most viewed channel is BBC on demand. We also have Netflix – well worth the money.

On a scale of my needs versus wants TV is about a 5. I could do without, but I would feel deprived!

Life’s a beach

A holiday isn’t an essential for anyone. However, we are prepared to budget for at least one inexpensive break each year, usually two. We shop around, use Air B&B and find budget accommodation wherever we can. In the past we did a lot of camping and have also done house swapping. We generally go self catering and save money by preparing most of our meals whilst away.

Of course, we could do without a holiday if we needed to. But it is another thing that enriches our lives so we are prepared to save for it.

Food intolerances

Food intolerances are another first world problem. If I was really hungry I would eat whatever I could get my hands on. There is a general perception that food intolerances are just fussiness. I’m not naturally fussy at all. However, I would rather do without the bloating, rushing to the loo and stomach pains! This means that I avoid lactose, don’t eat much gluten and would rather not eat onions. I need to eat, but I don’t need to eat stuff that will mess up my digestive system.

I am not talking food allergies here or issues such as coeliac disease. These are serious health conditions and needs versus wants doesn’t come into it.

The ideal home

We have just finished a DIY project on our sitting room. It wasn’t essential. If we were broke it wouldn’t have happened. Even so, we were happy to go for a budget approach. We spent around £300 and are very pleased with the end result.

I am often heard to say that we ‘need’ a new kitchen. However, this would cost thousands so we will put up with the rather tatty one that we have.  It is perfectly functional. We painted the walls and put up some bunting and it looks fine! We don’t need a new kitchen; that definitely falls into the wants category.

We love our house but don’t want to go into debt to make it fit into the pages of Ideal Home magazine.

Don’t bust your budget

There are so many things that people think they need that cause them to spend more money than they have spare. They bust their budget on everything from holidays to new clothes, from meals out to shiny cars. This is all fine if you can afford it. However, if you have a goal to become free of debt, if you are saving towards your retirement or want to focus your efforts on a house deposit (whatever your end goal is), you need to think differently.

Considering needs versus wants before you make any purchase can help you stick to your budget. Need a new coat? You already have three. Need new shoes? The heel is falling off, so OK :).

Putting your impulse to buy something into the context of how well you will survive without it generally makes you realise you don’t want it as much as you want to achieve your financial goals.


Love your leftovers and more DIY: Five Frugal things 23rd February

five frugal thingsIt’s been a funny old week. I haven’t felt ill exactly, just slightly below par and lacking in energy. Last night, after painting all day, I felt like I had been run over by a steam roller. I think I may have caught the lodger’s cold. This never happens – I have an immune system of steel usually! I still managed my five frugal things though, so here we go.

A healthy veggie bake

Five frugal thingsI am eating healthily but haven’t done much except basic cooking, although I did make a really nice vegetarian spinach and potato gratin to kick off the week. I had mine with some sliced boiled eggs on top; the others had Aldi Lincolnshire sausages. This was a thrifty winter warmer to kick off my five frugal things.

I wish I could find a decent veggie sausage. I know there are some out there but they all seem to contain soya, which I just can’t stomach. Perhaps I need to make my own. Anyone have any good recipes or know where I can buy some soya free sausages?

Love your leftovers: soup

Five frugal thingsI made a bucket of what I call ‘thrift soup’ at the weekend to give us a whole week’s lunches. There was quite a lot of frozen leftover mash potato, which I used as a thickener. I diced the rest of the veg. You can use pretty much anything in this type of soup – I chucked in all the odds and ends that were lying around in the fridge. We had two sweet potatoes, half a bunch of celery, 4 large carrots and some frozen peas.

This soup was lovely and hearty. We will be having the last of it today for lunch.

Something fishy

Five frugal thingsI found some kippers in the reduced section at Asda the other day, so I grabbed two packets. They were reduced from £1.28 to 88p each.

I hadn’t had kippers for years and only got them because they were so cheap. But they were delicious and there was a lot of protein in each pack. I would say there was enough for two people – I tried to eat a whole pack myself for tea but was defeated.

Mr S loves them and they are pretty healthy, being full of those good omega 3s. Without doubt, I will be buying these again, even at the full price. I had them with tomatoes, bread and butter, but I am thinking they would make a good kedgeree type dish.

Lactose free

Five frugal thingsAsda came up trumps again when I discovered they now have their own range of lactose free products.

As a lactose intolerant person, I have missed finding a decent yogurt at a reasonable price. I can’t eat soya (that’s even worse for my digestive system!) and the only alternative I have found is coconut milk yogurt. This is very expensive! I bought two tubs of the Asda strawberry Greek yogurt as they were 2 for £2 and this stuff is yummy.

They also do milk at £1.20 a carton. 5p more than Aldi’s version but still cheaper than the Lactofree brand, which tends to be around £1.45 a carton.

Food intolerances are flipping expensive!

Bread making

Five frugal thingsThe older I get, the more I struggle with IBS. It can be stress related, but for me it is definitely aggravated by various foods. I currently avoid dairy (although hard cheeses are fine), soya, onions and leeks, cabbage and sprouts, beans and lentils (not ideal as a vegetarian) and recently found to my horror that mushrooms cause issues. I love mushrooms!

The doctor tested me for Coeliac disease and thankfully this came back negative. However, I can’t eat too much bread or anything containing flour.  My sister has similar problems. She has found that spelt bread is much lower in gluten and gentler on the stomach.

Bread or spaghetti?

Five frugal thingsI couldn’t find anywhere selling spelt bread when I went hunting, but found some flour so thought I would have a go at making a loaf. Such fun! I made the dough in my bread maker and could see it rising and looking fab. However, when I went to take it out to bake it in the oven it had gone a bit soft. I turned it onto a floured board to knead it and it looked like spaghetti!

Perseverance being the key, I kneaded it anyway and stuck it in a loaf tin to bake. It came out tasting pretty good! I would say it was a little on the heavy side, but I ate it anyway. It was pretty nice toasted and much superior to any gluten free loaf I have ever tried.

However, I clearly need to practice as I don’t think I quite have the technique. Apparently they sell a 100% loaf in Waitrose so I will try some of that to see what it should taste like.

More DIY

I am writing this to put off another day of DIY. We have pretty much finished now so I need to get on with it. Just a wall to paint, the curtains to go up and a thorough clean of the floor today. We still need to find a rug and a nest of tables and we are done. Hurrah!

If I could afford to pay someone to do the decorating, I certainly would!

How has your week been? What are your frugal achievements?

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Pop over and have a look see their five frugal things.

Time for a spring clean? Cashing in your clutter

This is a collaborative post.

Time for a spring cleanThe days are getting longer. We have had a couple of chilly but bright and sunny days. I think the season is finally changing and it makes me feel like having a spring clean.

We have a head start on the weather; regular readers will be aware that we have been decluttering! As we were renovating the lounge, it was essential. We have cleared bags and bags of books, CDs, DVDs and general clutter. Some has gone off to the charity shop and other items have been listed on eBay and Ziffit.

Decluttering goals

One of my goals for 2018 is a bigger decluttering/spring clean project – the attic! It is chock full of ‘stuff’. This is why I keep putting it off. I intend to make a bit of money selling some of the items up there. I know there are some interesting bits and pieces. We don’t use them, so somebody else might as well.

I need to break it up a bit and clear a small section at a time, to motivate me to get going on my spring clean.

The sheds are another potential decluttering project. We have loads of bikes and bits of pieces of furniture that could be sold to add to our emergency fund. I can’t actually remember what is at the back as these items are buried. I hope there aren’t too many huge spiders!

Turn your spring clean into money

I might consider selling larger items with an auction house such as BPI Auctions. They deal with private individuals as well as company auctions. If I was in the market for a new kitchen I would definitely be looking on there. They have some amazing looking ex-display kitchens. But I am not buying, I am selling!

I am also considering a boot sale. If you are decluttering, the Easter weekend is a good time to sell. I need to see if we will have enough items to make a boot sale worthwhile then. If not, it can wait until the summer.

Save yourself a trip to the tip

I use Freecycle and Facebook Marketplace when I want to give large items away. We had a rusty and very heavy old cross trainer that would have been a pain to get down the tip. It wouldn’t even have fitted in the car. A very nice gent was extremely happy to come and take it off my hands when I put it on Facebook. It was a win-win!

Facebook Marketplace is also a good place to advertise items you want to sell. The advantage of this over eBay is that there are no fees. I discussed the eBay versus Facebook for selling here.

Anybody else up for a spring clean and declutter? You can read about my decluttering story here.

This post contains affiliate links.

Celebrating small money saving achievements – five frugal things

This post contains affiliate links.money saving achievementsI haven’t saved thousands this week, mostly because I am still spending as little as I can get away with! We have been really busy with work and DIY, so this week’s five frugal things celebrates some small money saving achievements.

Frugal Valentine’s Day

Money saving achievementsYou can’t have missed the hype about Valentine’s Day on the 14th. It must be annoying as hell if you are single. Even though it is totally commercialised, we still make a point of doing a little something each Valentine’s. It’s good to remind your significant other that you love them!

However, we weren’t about to hit the town and spend a fortune in a fancy restaurant. Instead we went to Aldi and bought a nice piece of steak for Mr S and salmon for me. We had home made sauté potatoes (done in the oven so they were lower in fat) and some crunchy veg. Aldi also came up trumps with the booze – a decent bottle of Cava for a fiver – and a delicious French apple tart.

We spent about £15 in all. That would have bought a single main course if we had eaten out.

Keeping the greys at bay

Money saving achievementsI always dye my own roots. This is one of my regular money saving achievements. Even if I went to the college and got a student to do it, I would still have to pay a lot.

We popped into town at the weekend and I was really pleased to find some hair dye drastically reduced in Boots. It was £2.50 a box! I think it is an end of line. I thought I had better buy a couple of boxes at that price and wish I had bought more.

As I only mix up half a box to do my roots, it cost me £1.25 this time. Beat that!

DIY update and bargain cushions

Money saving achievementsMr S has put our new tiles around the fireplace as we continue our budget lounge makeover. He has to grout them still, but they already look great!

We decided to stick with the art nouveau theme and managed to find some cushion covers on eBay with similar designs. I had been looking around town for some and couldn’t believe how expensive they are. £25 for a single cushion in Debenhams! It was pretty, but we need more than one and we are not about to spend hundreds of pounds on them.

The ones we have chosen work out at £4 each. They are coming from America so might take a bit longer, but there is no rush. I hope the quality is OK when they get here.

Filling our emergency fund

We are still determinedly putting every little bit of extra money earned into our emergency fund. I sold a few bits on eBay, so that money went in the pot, then a few more books on Ziffit. It is amazing how quickly it is growing in this way, little by little.

Everyone should have a decent rainy day fund. As Dave Ramsey says, it will rain!

My favourite thrifty dinner

In Aldi, tinned sardines in tomato sauce cost 36p a can. That’s a good sized portion of omega packed oily fish for an amazing price. One of my favourite easy and thrifty dinners at the moment is sardine spaghetti. It is minimal effort and maximum nutrition for a tiny price. I adapt this recipe from the BBC Good Food website. I sometimes add in olives but mostly I don’t. Capers aren’t an ingredient I have lying around, so I leave those out.

You  might not think this sounds all that delicious but, believe me, it really is! As I have been too busy to do any complicated cooking this week, this recipe was perfect for an easy tea.

So these were my teensy but worthwhile money saving achievements. What have yours been? Big or small, share your money saving achievements in the comments.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I’ve done this week linky. Pop on over to add your link if you are a blogger, or just to check out how other people save money.


Five frugal things for a budget lounge revamp

Five frugal things….

Five frugal things I have mentioned in previous blog posts that we have been carrying out a bit of budget DIY. Not surprisingly my five frugal things this week are all related to this!

I am not a fan of DIY. It’s not the process, but the time it takes. The mess and disarray start to make me twitch after a while.  But we are getting there.


Because we live in a cold house we take every opportunity to heat it up. We have lined the exterior walls with polystyrene, then papered over the top. This is an old fashioned yet simple idea to create an extra layer of insulation. It really works!

We did the same trick with our freezing cold back room last year and the results have been amazing.

I won’t lie to you, it is a faff. It means papering the same walls twice. The polystyrene is quite delicate and easy to damage too, but ok once the wallpaper is on top.

Reflecting the heat

Another very effective way to keep your house warm is to slide some reflective foil behind the radiators. We have done this in the sitting room too.

This was tricky as we didn’t want to take the radiator off the wall but we managed it with the help of some canes from the garden. (And quite a lot of swearing on my part!) So that is the first of my five frugal things.

New to us curtains

five frugal thingsMy mum is insisting on buying us some new curtains. I would rather buy great quality second hand ones than inferior new.

There are some great pre-owned curtains on eBay, and I have purchased a beautiful pair. They are long Marks and Spencer curtains and look like excellent quality.

Adding a bit of colour

We turned to eBay again to add a little colour to our neutral colour scheme. I would love some original Art Deco tiles to put around the fireplace but they are such a price!

five frugal thingsI had a search on eBay and there was a guy selling some decent reproductions. They were much cheaper than we have seen elsewhere.

I will leave the tiling to Mr S though. He is the expert in that department.

Bargain paint

We popped in Homebase to get some cream paint. We like their own brand range. It is much cheaper than the branded stuff and the quality is very good.

However, this time we bought some Dulux. It was massively reduced so it was actually the cheapest. I think it must have been end of line. We bought two 5 litre pots for just £14 each, reduced from £26. It is called barley white, which is still cream, as I can see! Bargain!!

Frugal food

I guess this is number six in my five frugal things list, but who’s counting? I have saved us some money since we started our DIY by planning really easy dinners, like omelettes and jacket spuds.  On days we have been on the go all day I have also defrosted some of the veggie curry I batch cooked.

Usually, when we are doing DIY we cave in at the end of the day and grab fish and chips or a takeaway. Not this time!

We still have a little way to go as we only have one day a week to get on with it. However, we are winning.

So, these are this week’s five frugal things. I would love to hear about yours.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I’ve done this week linky. Pop on over to add your link if you are a blogger, or just to check out how other people save money.


Five Frugal Things I have done this week, 2nd February

Well, that’s January over. The days are already getting ever so slightly longer. Roll on Spring! So, what five frugal things have I done to see out the month?

Reached the end of my no spend January

At last!! We reached the end of our no spend January. It felt like a very long month. This one of my five frugal things lasted the whole of January, not just this past week. We spent very little money on anything except essentials.

A no spend month is hard work, especially during such dark, cold period. You have to endure a small amount of pain in order to feel the long term benefits. For us, it has meant we have put a lot more money than usual into our emergency fund. I know that many other people find January a good time to do a no spend month to help them recover from Christmas. This is a great idea. However, better still put away money towards Christmas every pay day starting now. This helps to avoid the January blues.

We intend to do another no spend month in October.

Going for the fake away

#5frugalthingsWhen you are on a no spend month you can’t just pop to the Chinese take away when you feel like it. We did fancy a Chinese, so I added some ingredients to my shopping list to make a Chinese fake away. This included Ready to Wok noodles, a ready made chow mein sauce (both from Aldi) and some beansprouts from Asda. I added chopped broccoli, celery, beans, mushrooms and carrots to the wok as well.

#5frugalthingsIf you haven’t tried the Ready to Wok noodles, give them a go. They are delicious and so much nicer that the ones you have to rehydrate. We really enjoyed our vegetable chow mein .

Mr S also likes a curry from time to time. I made this slow cooker sweet potato curry from the BBC Good Food website. I used spinach instead of cabbage as I didn’t fancy that. It was nice, but I think there were too many sweet potatoes in it. If I make it again I will substitute half of them with carrots, potatoes, etc.

#5frugalthingsI am looking out for some more vegetarian slow cooker recipes if anyone has any good suggestions.

A bargain haircut

I mentioned in a recent post that I had had a no spend month fail and booked myself in for a haircut. However, this is one of my five frugal things because it wasn’t an expensive cut and blow dry at a fancy hairdresser’s shop. Instead, I took myself along to the local college and got one of the hairdressing students to do it for me. It took ages – 2 hours! – but cost just £10. I think this is a bargain and I am perfectly happy with the cut.

She insisted on spraying it with lots of greasy spray though. Why do hairdressers always do that? I couldn’t wait to wash it off.

It is a nice place, with all the latest equipment, clean and well run. You can’t pop in for a quick hair cut as the students get their tutors to check every stage.

Cheap cinema tickets

As we have barely had a social life over the past month, we plan to go to the cinema in the next week or so. We have a rewards system through my place of work which offers huge reductions on cinema tickets. The deal was an adult ticket for £6.50 instead of £12. When I went to pay I realised I had over £7 cash back unclaimed on the site so I ended up buying two tickets for just £5.50. Result!!

Now we just have to agree on a film…

Budget DIY

#5frugalthingsWe have been slowly continuing with the revamp of our sitting room. We have been focussing on all the boring prep, but are now at the point where we can get on with the wallpapering. That is this weekend’s task.

Costs have been kept low by using what we already had in the shed. We were also fortunate to be sent some products to review, which have turned out to be really handy for a budget DIY project.

Amtech kindly sent over some paintbrushes, rollers and a tray and we have already put those to good use repainting the ceiling. The paint brushes are great. They don’t lose their bristles like others we have tried and clean up really well.

They also gifted us a cordless screwdriver set. Mr S has been particularly impressed with this. He put up a wooden baton to hang our new curtain rail on and said it was much easier to use this than get his drill out. It made less noise and mess as well.

Budget tools

Domu.co.uk sent us a handy Von Haus tool bag containing all the basic tools anyone would need to get started on a DIY project. We thought it would be a perfect present for somebody moving into their first home. It is a 92 piece tool kit  and includes 3 pairs of pliers, a hammer, a spirit level, a tape measure, various screwdrivers and lots of other useful bits and pieces. This seems like good value at £29.99. Mr S has been diving into this!

We want to get on and get this room finished but items such as a new rug, curtains and cushions will be bought bit by bit. Nothing will be purchased on credit so need to save up for it as we go.

So, these are the five frugal things we achieved this week. Have you managed five or even more? I would love to hear what you have been up to.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Frugal Things I’ve done this week linky. Pop on over to add your link if you are a blogger, or just to check out how other people save money.

Disclaimer: the DIY products mentioned were all gifted to us for review, but all views and opinions are our own.


Eight ways frugality will ruin your life

frugality will ruin your lifeWhat? Eight ways frugality will ruin your life? Odd title on a blog that follows a frugal living philosophy.  However, bear with me. Here are some ways that you may feel frugality will ruin you life (and how to see the benefits).

You won’t have anything to watch on TV

One of the first things many people do when they are saving money is to cut their satellite or cable TV packages. We decided not to get rid of Virgin altogether, but we have reduced our package to the minimum.

When you do this you will hear cries of ‘There’s nothing to watch on TV!’ The kids will surely think frugality will ruin your life! We often felt there was nothing worth watching before we cut our package, to be perfectly honest. There were a lot of channels, but most of them didn’t appeal. You could easily spend half an hour flicking through before giving up and going to bed.

As well as the obvious money saving ones, the advantages of cutting down to the minimum are:

You make the most of the free channels you have. We have discovered some great programmes on the BBC, for example, and can watch them through the iPlayer.

You watch less rubbish and have more free time.

You will have to menu plan and cook

Another way frugality will ruin your life is that you will have to find time to cook. When you are tired and get back late from work, it is so tempting to buy a takeout on the way home or pop into a restaurant.

When you choose a frugal lifestyle you know you have to plan. Keep on top of what food is in your house, plan your meals for the week and write a shopping list. You can even plan for those nights when you can’t be bothered to cook by freezing leftovers as ready meals and batch cooking. Then you always have something quick for when you are tired and in need of a speedy supper.

If you plan in your lunches as well you won’t have an excuse to pop out to buy lunch at work either. It can feel like an annoying job to plan in this way, but it pays dividends with a healthier bank balance.

Writing a budget is such a faff

It really is boring to write a budget and track it. However, it gets a lot more exciting when you can see that you are sticking to your budget by following a frugal lifestyle. The faff becomes worthwhile when you have money left over at the end of the month to put towards your debts or something you are saving for.

There are loads of budget planners to help you online or you could make a simple spreadsheet to show your income and outgoings, how much you are putting in savings, and so on. I like Money Saving Expert’s Budget Brain.

You will miss shopping as a hobby

If you are a serious shopper frugality will ruin your life as you know it. No more weekend trips to the shopping centre, or evenings sitting at your computer buying stuff you really don’t need. You start by looking for a skirt and the next minute your shopping basket contains some shoes, makeup, a couple of books and a coat you suddenly realise you desperately need (even though you already own four coats).

On the plus side, this will give you more time to plan your budget and cook your own healthy, tasty and frugal dinners. How about a wardrobe declutter instead? You might find items you forgot you even owned.

You could do the odd bit of retail therapy at a boot sale or in the charity shop, but you will still need to make sure these purchases fit in your budget.

Frugality will ruin your life when you have to say no to your friends, your family and yourself

You might feel terrible when you can’t buy your kids the expensive gizmo, game or toy they see. The pain of a child screaming the shop down will certainly make you feel that frugality will ruin your life. However, the pleasure your children get from saving their birthday and pocket money to buy something they really wanted and have been patiently waiting for is likely to make the pain worthwhile.

When your friends ask you to the pub or cinema and you can’t afford to go, will it feel dreadful to ask them round to yours for a meal and a few glasses of wine instead? It’s perfectly possibly to throw a frugal dinner party.

Playing the waiting game is no fun

It might feel like the end of the world that you can’t impulse buy a new kitchen and stick in on the credit card. You may be driven mad that you can’t get new boots and have to get your current ones re-heeled instead. It will feel like pure misery that you have to tip out your makeup bag and use the 10 lipsticks already in there rather than buying another one. Or will it really?

When you live a frugal lifestyle you learn to wait instead of opting for immediate gratification. A huge plus of doing this is that you often find that you don’t really want whatever it was that you considered buying. If you still do, then you save up and feel great about a purchase with no credit card hangover.

You have to buy second hand

A shiny new car is lovely, but unless you happen to have buckets of cash this is going to involve a big loan or finance deal. Plus, new cars depreciate as you drive them off the forecourt. Buy second hand and you can put your money towards paying off your debts or your mortgage instead.

The charity shops, eBay and Facebook Marketplace are awash with furniture at a fraction of their new price. I have a post on how to find a bargain on eBay here.   The same with clothes and toys. There is no shame in second hand. Call an item vintage or antique and you will pay a premium but they are actually second hand, right?

I have lost count of the number of fantastic pre-owned bargains we have found.

You have to sell your stuff

Well, you don’t have to sell things that you love and use. But how many people have cupboards and sheds full of things that are unused and gathering dust? A good declutter is good for the soul, and you may as well get some money from your old stuff if you can.

You can sell on eBay or other online sites, through your local Facebook groups, by sticking a notice in the local shop or by going to a boot sale.

Still think frugality will ruin your life?

Whether you have chosen a frugal lifestyle to pay off your debts, to get some money in your emergency fund, to put money aside for travelling or a house deposit, or just to get by and make all of your regular payments, there will be times when you feel that frugality will ruin your life.

But when you look at other people who are not living a frugal lifestyle, what you may not see is that they  may regret that they never saved for a house, or they owe a fortune to the credit card companies. Maybe everything looks rosy on the surface, but one small misfortune – an illness or a job loss – could tip them over the edge. By purposefully living a frugal existence you are building financial resilience and moving towards being debt free and happy.

Frugality will ruin your life but only for 5 minutes at a time. In the long term the benefits you gain from a frugal lifestyle will save you lots of worry and keep you secure.


No spend month update

What do you do when you are on a no spend month? Well, luckily I find it easy to amuse myself without spending any money. It has been a busy time at Shoestring Cottage anyway, so I haven’t had time to worry about things to buy. I have had one lapse though….

Budget DIY

No spend monthWe have finished stripping off the wallpaper in the living room (well, Mr S did it while I was at work). I have two days off next week and plan to rub down and wash all the woodwork, then paint it all along with the ceiling.

We have leftover paint so intend to use all of that up before we buy any more next month. We have a nest of tables and a cabinet that need painting as well.

There is plenty to do that doesn’t involve buying anything during this no spend month.

Food rotation

Food bills have been pretty low. We can see the bottom of the freezer, which is often very full. This is a good thing as it means food is getting used rather than hanging around going stale.

We have been buying food, obviously. Just trying to minimise our spending by using up what we have.

Bad hair day and a no spend month fail

I have had a lapse during my no spend regime! I really need a hair cut. Every day is a bad hair day at the moment.

Because I don’t want to spend much I have called the local hair and beauty college. I have an appointment with one of their students for next week. It will cost just £10 for a cut and blow dry.

This isn’t allowed during my no spend January but it will be after pay day so I am going with it.

Regular readers will know that I have been known to cut my own hair on occasion. However, this time it needs more specialist attention.

Dave Ramsey debt buster

I recently started reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, not because I am in debt but because I am interested in financial issues. It fascinates me how people get themselves into a financial mess, but even more so, how they get out of it.

I will do a review when I have finished it. In the meantime, I have been watching some of his videos on You Tube. They are interesting and funny! He is often brutal in making sure people are aware of their stupidity in allowing themselves to get so outrageously in debt. At the same time he is supportive and constructive when offering advice to help them out of it.

He makes no bones about the fact he is a right wing Christian. I am neither but I do agree with his basic position that people need to get out of the view that you can have everything you want, right now, whether you can afford it or not.

I find it terrifying how easily people who are already in debt can get into more debt. How youngsters fresh out of university with student loans and a low paying job can get an expensive car on finance. Just how ‘normal’ it is to have lots of credit card debt. Food for thought.

If you aren’t familiar with Dave Ramsey he is worth a look.

What’s hard about a no spend month

It can be boring. If you want to go to the cinema, you can’t. The pub? Not on a no spend month. You fancy some new clothes – this is a no-no. However, you can still watch stuff on You Tube or TV, you can catch up on all those books you have bought and never read. You can take more exercise for free. This post has plenty of ideas. You can have a wardrobe declutter and discover things to wear that you had forgotten you had.

I am forgiving myself my £10 haircut and resolve it will be my one weak moment. How about you? If you are on a no spend month how is it going?