Six of my favourite You Tube money saving vloggers


Six of my Favourite Money Saving vloggers

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

Mean Queen

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

Emma Drew

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

Sustainably Vegan

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

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

Dave Ramsey

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

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

Debt Free Dana

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

money saving vloggersSimpler Greener Mummy

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

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

A free haircut and being frugal in February… #fivefrugalthings

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

1# Charity Shopping

being frugal

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

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

2# Not buying new glasses

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

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

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

3# Entering competitions

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

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

4# Birthday cards on the cheap

being frugal

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

5# Free haircut

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

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

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

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

This post may contain affiliate links.



How to get everything cheaper

get everything cheaper

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

How to get everything cheaper

Cheaper holidays

get everything cheaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheaper clothes

get everything cheaper

Dress for less! (credit @makeupbyisobel)

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

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

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

I have a post on frugal fashion here.

Cheaper make up

get everything cheaper

Making up is hard to do…

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

Cheaper glasses

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

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

Cheaper pets

Our beautiful rescue, Lola

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

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

Cheaper exercise

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

get everything cheaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheaper hair and beauty treatments

get everything cheaper

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

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

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

Cheaper meals out

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

get everything cheaper

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

Cheaper food

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

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

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

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

Free coffee or tea

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

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

Cheaper utilities

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

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

Cheaper housing

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget the cash back

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

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

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

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

50 More Ways to Save Money in 2019

save money in 2019

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

50 Ways to Save  Money in 2019

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

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

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No Spend January: the cure for a Christmas hangover

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

The benefits of a no spend January

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

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

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

The rules

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

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

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

No Spend January

Hints and tips to help you stop spending

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

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

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

Set goals

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

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

Low spend grocery month

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

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

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

Good luck everyone!

Eight of the best frugal food blogs to help you save money

best frugal food blogs

I love food and experimenting with recipes and, just because I am on a budget, I don’t want to eat badly. Glossy cookbooks and food programmes are all very well, but sometimes require fancy ingredients that are expensive. This is why when I want inspiration I go to my favourite frugal food blogs. (Incidentally, some of my own frugal recipes are to be found here.)

Here are some of the best frugal food blogs, in no particular order.

Best Frugal Food Blogs

Cooking on a Bootstrap

Master of the budget recipe is Jack Monroe. It started with A Girl Called Jack, but you will now find the blog at Cooking on a Bootstrap. What I like about Jack is the recipe descriptions – there is often a story behind a particular creation – and the way the cost of each recipe is so carefully calculated. The cooking here is all vegan now, but that makes it interesting and very cheap.

Reduced Grub

Kelly at Reduced Grub is well worth a visit. She has loads of recipes on her blog. They aren’t as cheap as some of the other blogs I have mentioned, but still good family food on a budget. She has recently appeared on Channel 5’s Shop Smart Save Money.

Diary of a Frugal Family

Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family is the winner of the 2018 SHOMOS award for best frugal food blog.  She emphasises the importance of meal planning, which is my mantra too for those attempting to stick to a budget. This is good, family food and includes plenty of delicious home baking.

Thrifty Lesley

Thrifty Lesley shows you how to feed yourself for £1 a day. The recipes are interesting and healthy too. Lesley uses very little meat, which is how her food is so cheap I think. This is a clever and well organised blog. She has written menu plans to help you stick to the £1 a day budget, whatever your circumstances. There is even a no power meal plan, aimed at people who have no power in their accommodation. This is serious stuff and really useful.

Utterly Scrummy Food for Families

A brand new blog to me is Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, which has an emphasis on budgeting and meal planning. Michelle presents plenty of inspiration and advice on using leftovers, reducing your food bills and producing delicious meals on a budget. I particularly fancy this potato and vegetable bake. My kind of frugal food blog!

Eat Not Spend

Jane from Eat Not Spend is the author of Home Economics: How to eat like a king on a budget. Who could resist such a promise? The blog is well organised, with shopping lists and meal plans to suit everyone. The vegan chocolate cakes looks good, which uses avocado to create a creamy topping.

Thrifty Cook

Although it doesn’t appear to have been updated for a while, Thrifty Cook is still full of useful and tasty looking budget recipes. The spinach and mushroom pancakes sound delicious! This is another one that is light on the meat, making it great if you are looking for vegetarian food.

Frugal Food

Faye’s blog, Frugal Food, does what it says on the tin. She focusses on producing frugal meals with quality ingredients. Being frugal doesn’t have to mean being cheap! Some recipes are quite adventurous, but sound delicious, such as Toro Rosso pie, made with minced beef and Hungarian sausage hot pot.

Which frugal food blogs inspire you? I hope you enjoy my suggestions..

Note: I first published my best frugal food blogs post in 2017. However, with the sad loss of Frugal Queen, I thought it was due an update. I hope you enjoy it!

Five things to prepare for a frugal Christmas #fivefrugalthings

frugal christmas

December is upon us! I don’t mind admitting that, due to a long term pain in the neck (not Mr S or Brexit, but a trapped nerve) I am a little behind on my Christmas plans. It is hard to concentrate! However, I need to prepare for a frugal Christmas and stick to the budget.

We don’t all have wads of cash to throw around at this time of year. However , it is perfectly possible to have a fabulous frugal Christmas with a little forethought and planning.

This week’s Five Frugal things consists of five random thoughts towards achieving a frugal Christmas.

Visit the discount stores

Check out the Christmas aisles at Aldi and Lidl. They always have a great selection of Christmas food and gifts. Home Bargains, Poundland and B&M can also be good.

Shop around for your Christmas meat

I don’t eat meat so will be settling down to a vegetarian Christmas dinner. However, the rest of the family do. I am absolutely positive that the price of a roast goes up at this time of the year so it makes sense to buy early and get your meat in the freezer. Iceland do some good frozen meat joints.

If you are buying fresh do a price comparison online and check out your local butcher or farm shop as well.

Buy brown paper

frugal christmas

Consider buying plain brown parcel wrap instead of fancy foil covered (and unrecyclable) Christmas wrapping paper. It is much cheaper and looks very pretty with some ribbon or raffia ties. You could even keep your children entertained and get them to do some potato printed wrap!

Plan your food

I tend to harp on about meal planning, but it saves loads of money and prevents food waste. This applies just as much at Christmas. As it can be a time of over consumption and waste, perhaps even more! Plan all of your food over Christmas and only buy what you will actually eat. It is only a couple of days! Also plan what you will do with any leftovers.

I tend to buy as I go along over several weeks to spread the cost as well.

Bargain sites for a frugal Christmas

Don’t forget to check the online cashback sites before you shop online. I got 8% cash back buying my daughter’s Christmas present at ASOS by clicking through from Top Cashback, for example. I also check Quidco to see if they have a better deal.  Both of these are my tell a friend codes. If you click through and make a purchase via a the Top Cashback one you will receive a £5 Amazon gift card (you need to spend a minimum of £10). You also get £5 if you make a purchase via Quidco using my link.

I also like Bargain Crazy for its discounts on pretty much everything, but it is looking particularly good for frugal Christmas gifts at the moment.

How are you preparing for a frugal Christmas? Check out my other posts to help save money at Christmas here and here.

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

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

Christmas gifts that save money

gifts that save money

I like to buy my friends and family presents that I think they will find really useful and that will last. Gone are the days when I was happy to buy lots of cheap, throwaway items. Now, with a view to sustainability and frugality, I am thinking why not also purchase Christmas gifts that save money for the recipient?

Here are some of my ideas for great gifts that save money.

Christmas gifts that save money

A slow cooker

Resist the lure of the takeaway after a hard day at work with a slow cooker. They cost hardly anything to run, and with a bit of organisation in the morning you can come home to a delicious, hearty casserole. We use ours loads in the winter. Slow cooking can also make a tough, cheap joint of meat taste lovely and tender. The 3.5 litre VonShef model from costs £19.99.

 A popcorn maker

gifts that save moneyAs I mentioned in my post Eighteen of the best green Christmas gift ideas,  my daughter is addicted to popcorn. She goes through packets of the microwaveable stuff. As a poor student, she could save money and a ton of packaging with this glass popcorn maker from Amazon.

Cotton face cloth

gifts that save moneyFor the eco-conscious beauty queen in your life, how about buying them a couple of organic cotton face cloths like this one from Beauty Bay? The recipient can ditch the cotton wool pads or face wipes and use this washable version to remove their makeup instead.

I own several nice, soft face cloths so no longer purchase disposables to clean my face. You could team it up with an organic cleanser like the Skin n Tonic Steam Clean cleansing balm.

Save money on coffee

gifts that save money

For the person who always turns up at the office with a take out coffee, a cafetiere along with some decent filter coffee will potentially save them hundreds of pounds each year. You can buy this attractive glass and copper one at for £9.99.

Reusable water bottle

Everyone should have a reusable water bottle. They save money and are great if you want to reduce your environmental footprint as well. Evolution Organics do a nice unbreakable Santevia stainless steel water bottle for £19.99.

For those who spend a fortune on disposable plastic bottles, this is one of the best Christmas gifts that save money.

A sense of history

A subscription to an organisation such as English Heritage makes a lovely present for those who like to get out and about. A membership will give free entry to over 400 historic places throughout the UK. It saves a lot of money on individual entrance fees.

Cinema ticket

Who doesn’t love going to the cinema? However, tickets to see the latest blockbuster can be expensive. You can treat someone to a Cineworld gift voucher. If you buy through Top Cash back using my referral code you will also earn yourself a £5 Amazon voucher.

Battery charger

If you know of a household with a lot of gadgets, how about a Duracell 45 Minute Charger with some rechargeable batteries? These are a win-win for the recipient’s wallet and the environment.

Wine saver

I love a glass of fizz or wine but won’t drink the whole bottle! A wine saver like this one from Domu will keep the contents of the bottle fresh and fizzy and prevent expensive waste.

Wind up torch

gifts that save moneyAnother way to avoid costly battery replacements is to buy items that are rechargeable. A solar powered wind up torch  such as this one is eco-friendly as well as money saving.

A financial education

<a target="_blank" href=""><img border="0" src="//" ></a><img src="//" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />Yes! You can buy a financial education – in the form of a book. A couple of my absolute favourites to help learn about saving money are the Tightwad gazette and How I lived a year on just a pound a day by Kath Kelly. Check out my frugal books page for other ideas.

A dehydrator

gifts that save moneyGrowing your own food is an amazing money saving hobby. An unusual gift for the avid veg grower or allotment holder is a food dehydrator. This presents another way to preserve your harvest when you have a glut and prevents food going to waste.

Reusable steel razor

Christmas gifts that save moneyOn my Christmas wish list – for both its money saving potential and to cut back on plastic waste – is a stainless steel safety razor. I am fed up of spending so much on plastic razors that last just a few shaves. This one should last forever if I look after it.

What other ideas do you have for Christmas gifts that save money?

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

Is it too late to save for Christmas?

save money for Christmas

Christmas comes round at the same time every year, yet still takes some of us by surprise! We are now heading towards November, so is it too late to save for Christmas?

A financial headache

I have done Christmas on the credit cards before. The financial headache going into the new year wasn’t fun. The baubles and glitter have all gone, it’s cold and dark and you are scrabbling around to save money to pay for the festive excesses – and paying interest on it too! As I said, not fun!

I realised I had to save for Christmas, so since then I have always put away a small amount each month.

As I wrote back in August, it is always best to start early when it comes to Christmas. But if you haven’t, is it now too late to save for Christmas? If you make a massive effort you could still put some money away.

How to save for Christmas

Set a budget

Actually set two budgets. One for day to day living and the other for Christmas itself.

How little can you live on? Go through all expenses and cut out anything that’s not strictly essential (see below for ideas). You will be surprised at how little you can live on when your goal is to save for Christmas.

What do you actually need to buy for Christmas? Make a list of everyone you want to buy for and set a strict amount for everyone. If you spend £500 on each of your family but don’t have the money, have a rethink. It’s one day! Don’t put yourself into debt.

What will you eat? Set a shopping budget. Don’t plan to buy more than you can eat. Use last year’s decorations, send out e-cards rather than hundreds of Christmas cards, etc.

Pare down to the essentials

You can free up money to save for Christmas by reducing all inessential spending. It’s only for a few weeks and your goal is to have a worry free and debt free Christmas.

Here are a few ideas:

Cut unused gym memberships.

If you go out to dinner once or twice a week, cut it out and eat at home instead.

Give up on trips to the pub and buy some supermarket beer.

Knock takeaways on the head.

Reduce your TV package to the channels you actually watch.

Stop buying newspapers and magazines and read online instead.

Give up the take out tea or coffee and take a flask out with you.

Stop shopping for fun!

Have a no spend month

You might even decide to cut out spending money altogether. We often choose October or November as a no spend month. This means buying nothing at all apart from food and spending only on your bills. I find a no spend period, whether it is a whole month or just a week, really liberating. There is no debating whether you should buy or can afford something. You just don’t do it!

Having said that, I would allow Christmas spending during November as it can help to buy as you go along – using the budget you made, of course.

Find free stuff to do

Check out free things to do in your area and you may be surprised at how little you need to spend on entertainment.

Eat from the larder

Pull out every item in your food cupboards, fridge and freezer and plan meals around those. This can dramatically reduce your grocery spend and prevent food waste.

Plan every meal and shop with a list

Leading on from the above, plan your whole week’s meals. Then make a shopping list of only what you need and stick to it. I have a post on the benefits of meal planning here. If you can, leave the family at home so they don’t beg for extras and don’t go shopping hungry.

Sell your old stuff

This is a great time for a declutter. You might even be able to sell some of your old things on eBay or Facebook to put towards your Christmas fund.

A declutter can be massively liberating too, and will make space for new things that arrive at Christmas.

Go extreme

You could check out some of my more extreme ideas to save money for Christmas here. These will help you stretch your budget as much as possible.

What do you do to save money for Christmas? Are you ready? I haven’t bought as much as I usually have at this point, but most importantly I do have the money saved that I need to spend for Christmas. Hopefully these tips will help you and stop you getting into debt.

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


25 extreme ways to save money


The frugal ways of past generations seem alien to many of us now. But still, amidst all the crazy over consumption and wastefulness of current times some people are willing to adopt extreme ways to save money.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and if you are really broke, or if you simply can’t bear unnecessary waste, you might be willing to try some of these suggestions. Perhaps you do some already?

I can’t say I have tried them all!

25 extreme ways to save money

1. Adopt a wartime mentality

I was thinking about how I spend my money in comparison to how my grandparents did. They were working class people with very little spare cash. My grandparents lived through two world wars and were naturally thrifty.

They would have been amazed and appalled at the amount of ‘stuff’ people buy nowadays and how much they waste. Everything was rationed, from food to fabric, fuel to furniture.

To save lots of money, adopt the WW2 mentality of your grandparents or great-grandparents. Grow your own food, make do and mend, buy less and waste nothing.

2. Cut and colour your own hair

extreme ways to save money

I have given up my own DIY hair cutting now as I have layers and it’s too difficult. However, I still cut my daughter’s very long hair from time to time. Mr Shoestring gets his hair cut by his sister for free.

I always dye my own hair, though. This is easy enough with a kit from somewhere cheap like Home Bargains or B&M. Of course, even more extreme money saving would be to stop dying my hair and just grow it!

3. Buy only yellow stickers

Ilona from Mean Queen pretty much lives off reduced price food. She knows exactly when to go into each supermarket to find yellow stickers when prices have been reduced as low as they can go.

Ilona doesn’t plan her meals as they generally depend on the bargains she finds.

This might not work if you are shopping for a family, but you can still find some reduced items and it stops this food going to landfill.

4. Skip diving

There is a whole movement of people who go skip diving at night. Some look for food items, some for beauty items like this US vlogger  and others hunt for anything really! It is probably illegal, but no one is likely to prosecute you, as explained here. Skipping is definitely one of the more extreme ways to save money.

We once found a whole load of top quality china, some of it still boxed, in a skip outside a restaurant that was closing down. We took a few things and once other people spotted us they were all over it like a plague of locusts! Better than wasting perfectly good, usable items.

I can rarely resist a peep at the skips outside people’s houses too. Always ask permission before you remove anything though.

5. Share bath water

I tend to have a quick shower rather than a bath nowadays, but have been known to share bath water with Mr S or my daughters. It saves on water and also on the energy used to heat more. Eco-friendly as well as thrifty!

6. Wear boys’ pants

This is another tip from Mean Queen, Ilona. She says: “I have been a fan of pants, some of them teenage boys’ pants, for, oh, around 15 years now. The reason is that they last a lot longer than flimsy ladies knickers. They are more robust, thicker fabric, well made, hug my hips, and will wash millions of times without falling apart.” There is logic there, but not sure what Mr S would think if I started wearing Y fronts!

7. Buy only second hand

We buy so few things new these days. There is a thriving second hand market on almost everything. The internet, and eBay in particular, has made it much easier to find even quite obscure and rare items second hand. Many charities rely on our love for a second hand bargain too. Clothes, furniture, cars, electrical items – you can buy anything second hand and save yourself a ton of money.

8. Reuse plastic containers

Ice cream, butter and yogurt containers don’t have to be single use items. In fact, they have so many potential uses. I make a lot of home made soup and find all of these invaluable. A colleague at work has been using the same ice cream container as his lunch box for about two years! Yogurt pots of various sizes are also great as plant pots.

9. Wash and reuse old plastic bags

It’s hard to avoid plastic bags when you shop in the supermarket.  But many plastic bags can be used again. Not if you have had meat, fish or dairy in them, but bread bags, fruit and veg bags, etc can all be reused. Cut the tops off rather than rip them open, give them a rinse and dry them.

I have a box of zip lock bags that have lasted ages because I have done this. I have some pegs on hooks in the kitchen where I hang them to dry.

10. Clean and reuse the cereal bags in boxes

These are particularly strong and useful, so deserve a mention in their own right. You could also cut the box up to use for you shopping lists.

11. Reuse cards and wrapping paper

Carefully unwrap presents to reuse the gift wrap. Use old cards as gift tags. When you need to purchase new wrapping paper buy cheap plain parcel wrap and tie with colourful raffia or string.

12.  Don’t throw away old envelopes

Keep old envelopes to write notes and shopping lists. Reuse them by sticking a label over the address and taping them shut. You can buy labels specifically for this purpose from the Centre for Alternative Technology, here.

13. Dump the hand wash

I love soap! You can buy so many wonderful natural soaps very inexpensively nowadays. Why has hand wash in plastic bottles become the norm? Get rid of it and go back to solid soap. Do the same with your shower gel to save even more money.

14. Freeze your credit

This is for those people who need to stop spending but don’t want to completely get rid of their credit cards. Try placing your card in a container full of water and freezing it. It will be there if you really need it, but the effort involved in defrosting it can help to prevent impulse buying.

15. Cut your cleaning products

The marketers have convinced us that we need a different product for every cleaning job. One for the kitchen, one for the bathroom, another for the floor, one for the shower, a different one for the oven, a spray for glass….the list is almost endless.

Frugal types looking at extreme ways to save money soon realise that they can get rid of almost all of these. White vinegar cleans pretty much everything, especially if combines with bicarbonate of soda. Even if you prefer to stick to a commercial product, one general purpose cleaner will be good enough for most jobs.

16. Go low tech

Use manually driven devices – whisks, graters, choppers, brooms, carpet cleaners, lawnmowers and more. They are cheaper to buy, there are fewer components to go wrong and they cost nothing to use.

17. Flush your loo less

Have you heard that phrase ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow, but if it’s brown flush it down’? It may sound gross, but we are talking about extreme ways to save money! This will definitely save on your water bill.

18. Grey water

This is especially good after the heat wave we had this summer. Save on your water bills by using your grey water. This is waste water from your shower, bath or washing up. You can use it to water your plants! Not recommended if you have strong detergent in the water, obviously.

19. Shave with steel

Instead of spending loads of money buying disposables, how about investing in a steel safety razor? They last for years if you look after them. I remember my dad having one of these when I was a child and just replacing the blades every now and again.

This is a great eco-friendly alternative too. If your safety razor does break, you can put it in the metal recycling.

20. Dilute it!

My girls used to guzzle juice as though it was squash if I let them. So I diluted it a bit to make it last for longer. You can also water down milk a little bit, although this doesn’t work as well if you drink skimmed.

21. Reuse teabags

There was a time when I always made two cups of tea from one bag. My daughters liked weak tea when they were young so it made sense. Now I tend to use decaff teabags and they are weak enough to start with! However, if you are looking for extreme ways to save money it makes sense to use your tea bags more than once.

Alternatively, use small amounts of leaf tea in a teapot and leave it to brew for longer.

22. Ditch the disposable dishcloths

Buy reusable rather than disposable washcloths – they last for years. Or cut up old towels and use those instead.

23. Road kill

OK, this is the most extreme of my list of extreme ways to wave money. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recommended it years ago. If you can face scraping some poor dead animal off the road and putting it in a stew, good for you. I think I will stick to the home grown veggies!

24. Go to bed earlier

Going to bed earlier will save money on the heating, lighting and running the TV. It will probably also save you cash on snacks and cups of tea!  Since we seem to be pretty sleep deprived as a nation, this tip may also be good for your health.

Alternatively, have a bit of family time. Get everyone to sit in one room all together so you only have to heat and light that one.

25. Give up alcohol

Alcohol is expensive, especially if you drink it in pubs and clubs. I am restricting my alcohol consumption to one day a week currently. It saves money and is good for my health!

Maybe you can think of other extreme ways to save money? What do you do to save cash that other people would consider weird?

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Our frugal life at Shoestring Cottage #5frugalthings

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

A short break

frugal life

Sea Palling

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

frugal life

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

frugal life

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

The best place for tea

frugal life

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

frugal life

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

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

 A frugal life – Up early for the boot sale

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

frugal life

Darling daughter freezing her bits off at the boot sale

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

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

Plums from our tree

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

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

Paring down the shopping list

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to slash your food bill

I am on a challenge to dramatically reduce our food bill. It has been slowly creeping up. I want to save more money than ever in the run up to Christmas. If you want to slash your food bill too, read on!

It is all about being organised. I want to get it as low as possible whilst eating a nutritionally good diet. Here is how I intend to do it. I will let you know how I get on!

slash your food bill

Give up on the major supermarkets

I spend so much less on our weekly shop if I stick to Aldi or Lidl. Of the two, I prefer Aldi as I find their own ranges excellent and their fruit and vegetables of better quality. However, Lidl is round the corner and has better parking so I do pop in their too.

Iceland is another good budget supermarket. Although I avoid their huge range of ready meals, the prices are very good for plain meat, fish and vegetables. Even some of their tinned goods are good value.

Approved Food is also worth keeping an eye on. However, you need to factor in the delivery charge of £5, but if you spend over £55 on your first box you get it free. It’s worth combining an order with a friend. Be careful though – it is easy to fill up your basket with chocolate and treats! A good one for Christmas maybe.

Buy fruit and vegetables at the market

Most towns have a market. Ours isn’t the best, but we do have a couple of decent fruit and vegetable stalls selling at way below supermarket prices. If you go at the end of the day on there are likely to be huge reductions on perishables.

Look out for food bargains in places like Poundland, Home Bargains and B&M.

Eat less meat and fish

There is no doubt about it, meat and fish are expensive. I don’t eat meat anyway, but I do often go for fish as an easy option. I tend to buy frozen or tinned, which is much cheaper. Mr S and my daughter are confirmed carnivores. However, I intend to cook meals just twice a week with meat or fish at the centre. Let’s see how long it takes them to notice!

I will continue to use tinned tuna, sardines and anchovies as these are flavoursome, nutritious and inexpensive. Pulses will begin to feature more in our dinners.

Planning, planning, planning

It is worth repeating! Meal planning saves loads of time and money. Keep a running shopping list and make sure you always take it with you when you go grocery shopping. Be aware of how much items cost. If you don’t, how do you know when you are getting a bargain?

Some folk keep a price book so that they know where they can buy each item cheapest. I don’t have the time to go to lots of different shops, though, so I don’t think this would work for me.

Shop from the larder

This is really important if you want to slash your food bill. Be honest, how many times have you gone shopping and duplicated items you already have rammed at the back of your cupboard? How often do you go through everything in your fridge, freezer and larder and plan your week’s meals using what you already have? It is surprising how little extra you have to buy when you shop from the larder first.

Cook every meal from scratch

Cooking from scratch saves lots of money. Home cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. A cheese omelette with home made chips and some frozen peas is one of my favourite meals. Quick and easy too! Keeping it simple is essential for me. I don’t have time for fancy cordon bleu style cooking.

There are other advantages to cooking from scratch. If you make a spaghetti sauce you know exactly what is in it. You can control salt and sugar levels. What you make will contain minimal additives. You can even get a warm, green glow because when you quit buying convenience meals you will bring a lot less packaging into your home.

Keep it simple. I avoid recipes that insist I go out and buy lots of things I don’t usually use. Miguel Barclay’s book FAST & FRESH One Pound Meals: Delicious Food For Less is good for inspiration. He has a new one
Miguel Barclay’s FAST & FRESH One Pound Meals, which is on my Christmas wish list.

Make soup

This is where your end of day bargain vegetables from the market come into their own. Or if you grow your own and have a glut. Make soup!

I make a huge vat at a time and freeze it in old yogurt and margarine containers. This makes lunches for pennies.

Soup isn’t difficult to make. You don’t need a recipe most of the time. I find a base of chopped, sauted onions and celery means pretty much anything can be thrown into your soup. A decent veg stock such as Marigold is worth buying, but supermarket stock cubes will do. For a nice thick soup, use some potatoes.

Save any scraps of mashed potato, cooked rice and pasta and leftover vegetables in the freezer. When you make your next batch of soup, throw them in! A simple hand blender is a useful investment if you are going to start making soup. However, you don’t need a fancy soup maker.

Batch cook

Batch cooking takes a little organisation and time, but pays dividends in terms of money saving. If you tend to buy lots of jars of spaghetti sauce, for example, you can save loads by making your own in big batches and freezing. I will be making a simple sauce of tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs this weekend in a huge pan. To this I can add minced beef or Quorn mince to make a bolognese, use it for lasagne, turn it into a veggie stew with the addition of pulses and chopped vegetables, add curry spices and chicken or lentils and have it with rice. I  might even have it as it is on pasta with some grated cheese.

Other good things to batch cook are curry, casseroles, pastry, bread rolls… there are loads of dishes that freeze well.

Head for the supermarket value brands

I don’t have the money for any brand loyalty. If you want to slash your food bill, then switch to the supermarket value brands. If you don’t like those, move up to the supermarket own brands. One will suit and I bet no one notices.

Shop at weird times

Ilona over at Life After Money is the maestro of the yellow sticker bargain. I am in awe! She knows exactly when to visit each supermarket in her area for the best reductions and does her shopping in the evenings near closing time. She doesn’t worry about best before or even use by dates. I am going to do some more shopping in the evenings to see what I can find. About 3.30 on a Sunday seems to be a good time at my local Asda.

Ilona is a huge inspiration – if you don’t know her yet and want to save money, you must pay her a visit! Incidentally, you can read my interview with her here.

Use up leftovers and don’t waste food

If you waste food, you are throwing money down the drain. I did a whole post on this here. Being organised, meal planning and eating from the larder will all help you to reduce your food waste and save lots of money.

Buy in bulk

Buy large packets of non perishables, as they are always cheaper. For example, the basmati rice in the world foods section seems to come in huge bags and works out much cheap gram by gram, as do dried lentils and pulses. Iceland is good for large bags of frozen fruit and vegetables.

Grow your own to slash your food bill

For the past few years we have had two small vegetable patches, a greenhouse and lots of fruit. This year we haven’t had the time or energy to grow our own. However, all is not lost. It seems our friends all have a glut at this time of the year. We have had runner beans, salad items, courgettes, beetroot, aubergines, tomatoes…all the things we usually grow.

I have also seen people selling their gluts outside their houses very cheaply. it is worth stocking up to freeze or make soup.

We do have fruit still and have a freezer full of redcurrants and blackcurrants, and now the plums and apples are on the way.

Go foraging

At this time of year blackberries are everywhere, free for the picking. We already have some in the freezer. We have picked sloes, cherries, nettles and apples in the past, all growing wild. If you want to get really good at finding food for nothing, invest in a copy of Richard Mabey’s classic book Food For Free .

Drink more water

I am talking about tap water, which is pretty much free. The more water you drink, the less tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, juice, squash and alcohol you will need. A much healthier option. Don’t buy the bottled stuff though as that won’t save you money and creates a lot of plastic waste.

Frugal food bloggers who can help you slash your food bill

There is a lot of information on the internet to help you slash your food bill. You could try some of my Favourite Frugal Recipes! Thrifty Lesley is another blog I go to for frugal cooking inspiration. There are loads more on my Best Frugal Blogs post.

What are your ideas to slash your food bill?

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Cheapskates and proud of it: 10 ways cheapskates save money


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

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

They plan ahead

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

They budget

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

They buy used

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

They don’t compare themselves to others

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

They aim to save money on EVERYTHING

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

They make do and mend

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

They live simply

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

They embrace DIY

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

They question every purchase

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

They retain control

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

We are cheapskates and proud! How about you?

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Fifty shades of frugal

Fifty shades of frugal? Bet that got your attention. I’m not saying being frugal is as titillating as the Fifty Shades series, but it is probably just as satisfying!

Off the top of my head, here is my fifty shades of frugal list. How many do you do?

fifty shades of frugalFifty shades of frugal

1. Budget

Look at your weekly or monthly income and outgoings and set a budget accordingly.

2. Cancel unused insurances 

So many of us get conned into taking out expensive insurances on various appliances. The appliances come and go, but how often do we forget to cancel them when they are no longer needed?

3. Cut back 

Ask yourself what you can cut out to help you save money. Do you use all those TV channels? What about that gym membership – when did you last go? 

4. Haggle your bills down

Haggle down your utility bills, phone and broadband contracts, etc. A couple of hours on the phone when you come to renew can save hundreds of pounds.

5. Shop around for everything

From appliances to furniture, from cars to shoes. The internet makes it easy to research your best possible price. This also applies to using trades people to do jobs on your house.

6. Increase your income 

Easier said than done? You could sell on eBay, turn your hobby into a way to make money or become a freelance writer. How about taking in a lodger or a foreign student? There are so many potential side hustles to supplement your regular salary.

7. Do a larder stock take 

Pull everything out of your food cupboards, fridge and freezer and make a list. This saves money because you don’t waste food and you don’t keep buying items you already have.

8. Meal plan 

There are so many benefits to meal planning, and money saving is just one.

9. Write a shopping list

Write a list based on your meal plan, then stick to it. Don’t get drawn into BOGOFs and special offers unless you can build them into your plan.

10. Stop wasting food.

So much of our food is wasted. This has implications for the environment as well as your wallet.

11. Cook from scratch.

It may seem time consuming, but making dishes from scratch is much cheaper than spending on convenience food. There are lots of ideas here.

12. Batch cook

This leads on from cooking from scratch. Make several batches of the same thing for the freezer. This saves time and you have your own healthy ready meals. Chilli, Bolognese, shepherd’s pie and soups are favourites.

13. Find those yellow stickers

Shop in the evenings for yellow stickered reductions. You have to time it just right, but if you shop when staff are going round for a second or third time with the yellow sticker gun you can save a lot of money.

14. Eat less meat and more veggie food 

Meat is dearer than vegetables and pulses. Even if you don’t want to eat vegetarian, you can pad out some dishes such as curries and pasta sauces with a few lentils or beans. I have some ideas for dishes with pulses here.

15. Stop buying branded food 

Try the supermarket own brands or even their value stuff. Most of the time you really can’t tell the difference.

16. Avoid designer goods

Stop buying designer clothes and other items. Occasionally, designer brands seem better quality, but a lot of the time you seem to be paying for the name and the brand’s advertising budget.

17. Decrease your energy consumption 

Turn lights off, move the thermostat down a notch, wear a jumper, don’t boil more water in the kettle than you need, hang heavy curtains, etc. It’s all common sense.

18. Decrease your water consumption 

Take showers rather than baths, wear clothes more than once to reduce laundry loads, install water butts in your garden.

19. Decrease your motoring costs

Small things matter: remove roof boxes, keep your tyres at the correct pressure and drive more slowly. Drive less if you can walk or cycle instead.

20. Get the best deals on the trains

You can save loads if you purchase train tickets in advance, or if you buy season tickets rather than daily ones. There is some fantastic advice on MoneySavingExpert about saving money on rail fares.

21. Invest in a bike

You can usually find decent bikes second hand. Cycling can save loads of money on buses and motoring if your journeys aren’t too long. You can find out about cycle paths at Sustrans.

22. Make do and mend

‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’. Develop a more thrifty and creative mindset. See what you already have or can repair before buying something new.

23. Buy second hand furniture

Sometimes solid, old pieces of furniture are much better quality than new, cheap ones. You can even upcycle them if you are feeling creative. Personally, I would go for a nice 1930s wardrobe over a flat pack job.

24. Buy second hand clothing

Since we live in an era of throw away fashion, there are always plenty of good quality items to be found in great used condition at boot sales, in charity shops, on Facebook, on Mercari, eBay, Depop, and so on.

25. Get your hair cut by a student

Hairdressing colleges – and even salons sometimes – are always looking for people for their students to practice on. I have done it many times – it’s not as scary as it sounds! If you are really skint, you could try cutting your own hair….

26. Exercise for free

There are so many ways you can do this. Walk, cycle, run, or use You Tube to find exercise classes on anything from kickboxing to yoga.

27. Grow your own food

If you have a little garden space you can grow some fruit and vegetables very easily. The BBC Gardener’s World website is an excellent source of advice and inspiration.

28. Grow your own plants and flowers

Plants can cost a fortune but you can easily grow your own flowers and shrubs from seeds and cuttings. There are so many ways to save money in the garden.

29. Take food and drink when you are out

Pack a picnic and flask when you are out for the day and even take food and drink if you are heading into town. Our £15 flask saves us so much cash and is very well used. Ditto our reusable water bottles.

30. Keep a present box

This is an especially good tip if you have children, but works for everyone else too. Whenever you see little generic gifts in the sales or on offer snap them up and keep them safe. At Christmas or when somebody has a birthday you can raid your present box for a suitable gift. Buy cards when you see them cheaply too. I find the Card Factory excellent value.

31. Sell your unwanted stuff

Personally, I find little more therapeutic than a good declutter. If you can make some extra cash by selling the stuff you no longer need, then even better!

32. Go camping

Family holidays don’t have to involve Micky Mouse. Camping holidays are incredibly cheap and lots of fun. Kids love sleeping in a tent! Try the concept first by borrowing some gear. If you love it, you can invest. Camping gear will pay for itself in no time.

33. Do a house swap

If you don’t fancy life under canvas you can have a cheap holiday by organising a house swap. There are loads of agencies on the internet. I have done this several times in France and Spain and it was great!

34. Compare Prices

Always research and compare prices on everything before making purchases. This is where the internet comes into its own!

35. Forget about keeping up with the Jones’s

Just don’t bother. The Jones’s may have a fancy car and expensive holidays, but as far as you know they also might have huge debts and nights of worry about how to pay for it all. Be yourself. Enjoy what you have and focus on the really important things in life, like family and relationships.

36. Send an email instead of a letter or card 

If you do prefer to send items through the post, make it second class. You can make e-cards for free here.

37. Use the library

You can read books and magazines for free and hire films for a tiny fee. Many library services also offer online magazine and books for free as well.

38. Cheap play

Give your kids the box to play with instead of the toy! It’s a cliché, of course, but in reality kids need very little. A box, some sand and water, a couple of bats and balls and a bit of occasional adult intervention will keep them happy. I made a dressing up box with charity shop clothes, which my children loved.

39. Make a craft box

Keep bits of fabric, string, foil, sweet wrappers, cotton reels, loo roll tubes, etc in  your craft box with some cheap PVA glue for those rainy days.

40. Teach your kids to swim

You don’t need to pay for lessons if you can swim yourself. With three daughters of different ages, I soon got sick of sitting poolside trying to entertain whichever ones weren’t swimming! Instead of paying for lessons, we took them ourselves early on a Sunday morning. Cheaper and less stressful 40.

41. Old fashioned cleaning

Make your own cleaning spray or use good, old fashioned bicarbonate of soda and vinegar for your cleaning.

42. What can you find for free in your community?

Check out Freegle and Freecycle to find useful stuff for free. Don’t be too proud to do a bit of skip surfing if you see the opportunity, either.  Ask permission before you remove anything from a skip, though.

43. Use less of everything

A bit less washing up liquid, half a dishwasher tablet instead of a whole one, just a small amount of shampoo or conditioner. It all adds up!

44. Dilute stuff!

Juice, shampoo or washing liquid. If you dilute it just a little, it will go further and last longer.

45. Free stuff to do

A quick internet search will help you find free or very cheap events in your local area. From exhibitions and museums to free gigs and talks, you don’t have to spend a lot when you go out.

46. Become a coupon champion

Learn how to make the best of coupons. Jordon Cox’s book the Coupon Kid is a mine of useful information from the expert.

47. Read online

You can find most newspapers online to read for free these days. In addition, as I mentioned previously, many library services use companies like Zinio to offer members completely free magazines online.

48. Borrow rather than buy

Consider borrowing items you will rarely use rather than buying them. Maybe club together with family? It seems a waste of money to purchase items like a steam wallpaper stripper that you might use once in a blue moon! I bet someone has one lurking in the back of the shed….

49. Free stuff online 

You can get all kinds of free stuff at and also at Shopmium. Be prepared for some junk emails when you sign up though! I have an old Hotmail account for this so I don’t get bombarded.

50. Just say no!

It’s a hard habit to get out of, but saying yes all the time often costs money. Try to learn to say no. This includes saying no to friends wanting you to go to the pub, to the kids wanting whatever they have just set eyes on and need and to yourself!

I am sure I could think of another fifty shades of frugal if I tried. What about you? I would love to hear your tips on frugality.

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



How to stop spending and build will power

stop spending

Are you an emotional shopper? Or do you shop because you are bored? I have been guilty of both, although not recently I am happy to say.  It can be so hard to find the will power to stop spending sometimes.

It’s just too easy to spend money! We don’t even need to leave the comfort of our armchairs to have a splurge. You can be idly browsing the internet one minute and have a virtual shopping basket full of goods the next.  I am no shopaholic, but if I am not careful I can easily pop into town for one thing and come back with another four items that I didn’t realise I needed until I saw them.

So if you need to pay off debt or build your savings, how can you learn to resist temptation and just stop spending?

Avoid temptation

This is my number one way to stop spending. If I don’t hit the shops or look online then I don’t really spend anything. I know that I don’t need a lot of stuff and I don’t shop as a leisure activity. This includes charity shops! These are a weakness for me, even if they are full of bargains that I don’t need!

Stop spending on the small stuff

Even if you resist actually going shopping, it is easy to forget small purchases such as a coffee on the way to work, a magazine at lunch time, or a couple of glasses of wine with colleagues at the end of the day. If you find money being leeched from your bank account because of a lot of inexpensive items, try keeping a spending diary for a month. Seeing in black and white how much money you waste on avoidable purchases  can help put you back on track.

Don’t shop with children

If you have kids around it is even harder. Not only do you have to resist your inner shopping demons, you need to stand firm against their constant pleas. If it is remotely feasible to leave them at home, even if you are just grocery shopping, then do! Even now that mine are adults, I still spend more if they are with me!

Set a budget and track your spending

Setting a budget was the action that finally gave me control of my spending. I know how much I have at the beginning of the month, how much my bills are going to be and the amount that will go into savings. What is left over has to last the month. There are loads of different apps around now to help you budget, but I prefer a basic spreadsheet.

Check your balance regularly too to check that you are on track.

Set clear goals

Having a goal to aim for can really focus your attention and help you to stop spending. Try to make your goals specific. Rather than saying ‘I want to pay off my debts’, say ‘I will pay off £100 towards my credit card every month’. My goals for the year were to put a fixed amount each month into my emergency savings fund and the same figure into a holiday/birthday fund. These goals are measurable and achievable. I feel good when I manage to achieve them!

Avoid the sales

Oooh, the sales are a dangerous time! It is so easy to tell yourself it is OK to make a purchase when an item is 50% off. This is why I often have a no spend January. Most of the sales are over by the time I dust off my wallet.

Hide your credit cards or cut them up

I have a single credit card for emergency use only. I don’t take it out with me unless I am going on holiday. It is hidden away in a drawer so that I am not tempted to grab it at home to make an online impulse purchase. I have heard people suggest freezing your credit card in a container full of water – genius! Dave Ramsey would say not to have a credit card at all (‘Cash is king’) and this is a good idea if you are a serious shopaholic. Cut it into a million pieces and throw it away. Which leads onto…

Use cash

Cash is harder to spend than credit or debit cards. You can feel the money in your hand and you can see it leaving you. It hurts more to hand over the paper stuff than flash your debit card over the pay machine. If you go out to make a purchase with £20 and no cards then £20 is all you are going to spend.

Have regular no spend periods

Have regular no spend days, weeks or even months. Once I have a rule that I am buying nothing except essentials for a set period I find it easy to stop spending. The rule is absolute, so no arguing with myself or anyone else. No, I can’t go out to dinner/the pub/the cinema, I am on a no spend month. Yes, new shoes would be nice, but actually I am on a no spend week so I will wear one of the 10 pairs already in the cupboard.

Unsubscribe from newsletters

I try not to get sucked in to subscribing to updates or newsletters when I make an online purchase. However, sometimes those clever companies make it easy to miss the little box you have to tick. Just unsubscribe when they come through, then you won’t be constantly tempted by special offers or discounts.

Cancel catalogues

If you still receive glossy catalogues through the post, cancel those too. Put any you have lying around in the recycling. They make everything look so beautiful and tempting!

Don’t buy glossy magazines

These are even worse than catalogues. They present the perfect (expensive) lifestyle. It’s easy to feel rubbish if your home doesn’t look as stunning as those in the carefully set up scenes, your garden isn’t full of expensive furniture or exotic plants or you haven’t got a wardrobe full of immaculate clothes like the stick thin models. Who do you know you actually lives like that? Well, there may be a couple, but most of us cope with furniture scratched by the cats and wander round in our trackie bottoms and no bra as often as we can get away with it. (Please don’t tell me that is just me!)

Get organised

If you want to keep your spending to a minimum get organised. Keep a running shopping list and plan your meals. You are much less likely to buy food you won’t use or give in to a take away if you know what is for dinner each night.

When you are out and about takes refreshments. I don’t even go into town without a water bottle and often even a flask of coffee. I keep a stash of cereal bars to take out as well. Occasionally I love a coffee out, but this can become an expensive habit if you aren’t careful.

I deserve it

I remember when I first had a Saturday job, aged 16. One of my colleagues often said (as she spent most of her pay packet before she had even left the shop), ‘A working gal needs to treat herself’. For a while I followed her example, but pretty soon realised I was just handing my employer back my hard earned wages!

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of treating yourself because you have been working hard, or feeling poorly, or are a bit down… Just remember what your goals are and how much better you will feel when you make it to the end of the month with no overdraft.

Shop from home to stop spending

When I feel tempted to buy new clothes because I ‘have nothing to wear’, I go through everything I already own.  A wardrobe declutter will always reveal some gems I forgot I had. The same with books, CDs (if you are old fashioned, like me!), kitchen gadgets, tools, etc. This will take your mind of the temptation to buy something new and you might find some unwanted items worth selling. Which brings me to…

Sell instead of buy

As another distraction technique for the shopaholic, how about going through the stuff you already have and making some money? There aren’t many folk in the Western world who don’t possess lots of ‘stuff’. Items that were purchased on impulse and not used, or bought for a particular occasion and used just the once. I am a big fan of decluttering as a kind of therapy. It makes me feel in control and living a (slightly) more minimalistic lifestyle feels less stressful.

If you can sell some of the things you declutter and put the money towards your savings goals or paying debt, you get a double benefit. Time for a spring clean, maybe?

I’ve blown the budget already

Once you have given into temptation, it suddenly becomes so much easier to spend more money. It’s so weird as you would think the opposite would be the case. I find once I have loosened the purse strings a bit I need to be careful not to go crazy with my spending. It is easy to think, ‘Oh well, I have blown the budget now, I might as well get this too’. Be aware if this is you and try to extract yourself from temptation as quickly as possible.

Build in treats

If you do need to stick to a tight budget, it is important to build in some treats. A sense of deprivation and resentment can soon set in if you don’t, no matter how determined you are. A monthly Chinese takeaway, an occasional trip to the cinema or whatever you fancy will be guilt free and more enjoyable when you know you can afford it.

Beg, borrow, share

As many of your family and friends will have useful items such as steam cleaners, hedge trimmers and various power tools that don’t get used frequently, ask to borrow rather than buying new. Offer use of whatever gizmo you already own in exchange.

Join Freecycle or Freegle and see what is being given away for free. You can also post wanted ads for particular items. Just don’t be one of those annoying people who always takes without occasionally giving though!

Understand your triggers

Often your triggers for spending are obvious when you start to think about it. PMT, a tough day at work, loneliness, boredom…. Try to identify yours so that you can develop a strategy to deal with it without spending money. If you are bored or lonely, how about volunteering? If your spending patterns are filling some kind of void in your life, maybe it is possible to find another way to fill it.

The money saver’s chant

Can I afford this? Do I really need this, do I really want it, will I still need it tomorrow? The more you ask yourself these questions before each purchase, the more likely they are to become a habit.

What do you do to stop spending?

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

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, 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.

Celebrating small money saving achievements – five frugal things

This post contains affiliate 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 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 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.


Twenty purchases to save money

purchases to save moneyI know I tend to encourage people towards frugality and NOT buying things, but I was looking around for some new hairdressing scissors and it got me thinking about other purchases I have made that have saved me money in the long run. Here are twenty purchases to save money.

Hairdressing scissors

Mr S hasn’t let me cut his hair yet but he might, in which case I will invest in some clippers to go alongside the scissors. I always cut my own fringe, and occasionally do a whole head of DIY haircutting.

Bread maker

You can buy cheap bread, but if you like it fresh and crusty it is cheaper to make it yourself. Plus you can make dough for pizza. Ok, lots of you will say you make bread without a bread maker, but if you are super busy they save time as well as money.

A freezer

A freezer offers so many money saving possibilities. You can batch cook or just save left overs to eat instead of ready meals, you can freeze bones for making stock, you can make big batches of soup to freeze for lunches, you can buy yellow sticker reduced items and store them, you can buy gluts of fruit and veg cheaply in season and preserve it. I could go on…A freezer is one of my essential purchases to save money.

Tightwad Gazette

I know I have mentioned this book a lot of late but it is so inspiring! It is available from Amazon: The Complete Tightwad Gazette.

A slow cooker

These cost so little to run and are a good way to use cheaper cuts of meat to cook them very slowly until tender. You can make things like porridge and rice pudding in them too.

Heated airer

I got mine from Aldi but Lakeland do a better one I think. Tumble dryers are expensive to run and these are a good alternative. If you can’t afford a heated one then just an airer – try to site it near a radiator or wood burner.

Car-washing stuff

Buying a sponge and bucket and using a squirt of soap can save you £10-15 a time if you usually pay to wash your car.

A spade and some seeds 

If you have room for a veg patch and can grow your own you can save loads of money (growing your own is another good reason for having a freezer). A few good gardening tools will be great purchases to save money.

A drill and basic toolbox

Learn a few DIY skills. Being able to put a cupboard together, make repairs to furniture, reuse old materials, put up shelves or do a bit of plastering can literally save you thousands of pounds.

Some decent cookbooks

Delia’s Frugal Food, A Girl Called Jack and Save with Jamie are three of my go to books for budget recipes. If you can’t cook you will spend vast amounts on convenience food and takeaways.

Freeview box

Although you can beat the cost down, Virgin, Sky, etc. are still expensive. You can pause, rewind and record with the newer boxes too. Combine this with Netflix and you probably have all you need.

A tent

Think you can’t afford to go on holiday? Invest in a tent and some camping gear. There are some great value family breaks to be had under canvas and kids love camping. There are some other ideas for frugal holidays here.


Still a super cheap and reliable mode of transport, you can pick up a decent bike second hand on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree.

Food processor

I use mine mainly to liquidise soups and bake cakes, both of which save money. I wouldn’t be without a food processor and it is one of my must have purchases to save money.

Pet insurance

Ok, you could do without and save money, but vets costs are astronomical. If your pet needs ongoing medical care you will wish you had insurance.

Low energy light bulbs

They last a long time and cost less to run.


Radiator foil, thermal curtain linings and polystyrene backed wallpaper are all cheap and cheerful ways to warm up a cold house. You can also fill your wall cavities and look at your roof insulation.

If you insulate and keep out the draughts you can turn the heating down. You can find more information at the Energy Saving Trust.

Soup carrier/ lunchbox

A leak-proof, airtight container is essential for moneysaving work or school lunches.

Reusable carrier bags

You only save 5p a time by not buying a bag at the till but every little helps and it’s good for the environment too. I always keep a fold up one in my handbag and lots of strong reusable bags in the car boot.

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar

If you buy these in quantity you can clean pretty much your whole house. You save money and don’t live in a smog of nasty chemicals. This post explains the amazing power of bicarbonate of soda.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, more a starting point. As ever, if you do make any purchases, shop around to get the best quality for your money and buy second hand where you can.

What would you add to my list of twenty purchases to save money?

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. If you click through and purchase something, I will make a small commission. 

Meal planning: the benefits to your wealth and health

I can’t believe that once upon a time I never thought about meal planning. However, once I had discovered just how much time and money it saves me, I never looked back.

Meal planning saves money

If you buy too much food on your grocery shop you can end up throwing some of it away. If you buy too little, you are likely to find yourself making extra trips to the shops. You might then be tempted by more items than you actually need while you are there. The times I have done this and come out with an armful of chocolate or crisps….no will power!

Meal planning helps you stick to your budget. If you have your whole week’s food planned (or even your whole month’s food for those of you who don’t mind deciding that far ahead) you are far less likely to give into fast food, a takeaway or convenience food on your way home from school or work.

meal planningNot that I am against convenience food per se. I work full time and will happily cut corners when I need to. I frequently stock up on items such as Bolognese or casserole sauces from Approved Food for those occasions when I have less time to cook. Then I make sure they get used by factoring them into my meal planning. (DISCLOSURE: this is my refer a friend link and if you click through to make a purchase I will earn a small commission.)

Meal planning saves time

If you buy all the food you and your family are going to need in one go that will clearly save time. You can do a weekly shop and cut out all the extra trips because you have run out of cheese, fruit or whatever.

You won’t be scratching your head when it comes to dinner time, trying to work out what to cook with some eggs and half a wilted cabbage.  Your shopping list will be based on your plan and you will have all the ingredients you need for that day’s planned meals.

You can factor in events that mean you need to produce a meal quickly. You are working late, need to cart children to swimming lessons, have a parents evening, are off to the cinema, etc.

Meal planning helps prevent food waste

I hate wasting good food. You might as well be throwing your hard earned cash in the bin, as explained in this post. Meal planning means that you only buy what you will eat during the course of the week. You are therefore less likely to let perishables spoil. When you check your cupboards to start your meal plan you can see what you have and use it up. You will avoid buying duplicates too.

Meal planning encourages healthy eating

When I was trying to lose weight, meal planning was essential. I was on a low fat diet and counting calories at the time. Having all of the ingredients needed for each meal really helped me to stick with my eating plan.

However, you don’t need to be on a diet to find meal planning beneficial to your health. You can plan your nutritious meals for the week and be much less likely to splurge on fast food and take-aways. You can factor in some treats too.  I actually think this is essential in order to stick to your plan and also your budget.

I always buy a bottle of wine, maybe a few crisps or nuts, some dark chocolate or maybe some of Aldi’s delicious but still healthy paleo bars. We also enjoy lots of fruit, rye crackers with cheese plus the odd biscuit to snack on. We are realistic! If I don’t buy a few treats we are much more likely to nip off to the corner shop and have a splurge! I do try to keep them pretty healthy though.

Where to start with meal planning

Begin by finding somewhere to write your plan. A chalk board or plain old piece of paper will do the job. Alternatively, you can download mine by clicking on the link below.

Weekly Meal Planner

meal planning

Next check to see what you already have and which items have the shortest dates. Plan those into the meals you are going to make early in the week. Make sure you look in your fridge, freezer and cupboards.

I keep a folder of meals that I have found in magazines or printed off the internet for inspiration. I have also started to save some interesting looking recipes on Pinterest.  It is a good idea to keep a list of meals that you and your family enjoy to refer to when meal planning.

Think about the week ahead. What are you going to be doing each day? Are you out in the evening? When do you need something quick and convenient and when will you have more time? I tend to plan our evening meals but have just a rough idea for lunches. I keep a stock of items in for those – eggs, rolls, canned sardines and tuna, home made soups in the freezer, etc. You might prefer to be less fluid. I don’t bother planning for breakfast as it is nearly always porridge or toast.

Once you have planned your meals, you can write your shopping list.

So, these are the benefits of meal planning. It saves you time and  money, prevents food waste and helps you to eat healthily. What are your tips for planning your meals?

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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?

Five frugal things to help my no spend January 

If you are joining me on my no spend January, I hope week one has gone well! We have had a lovely week, with all three daughters home a lot for various reasons.

A frugal birthday

no spend JanuaryWe were going to have a takeaway for my daughter’s birthday – an allowable pre-planned expense. In the event, we decided on steak and chips for the meat eaters and I had salmon. We had Mississippi mud pie for pudding. Everything was purchased from Aldi, along with a nice bottle of Prosecco.

At £25 for the five of us, this was a lot cheaper, and probably nicer, than a take out. I recommend Aldi’s fresh meat and fish. I have found everything to be excellent quality and great value for money.

A no spend walk for New Year’s day

no spend JanuaryWe decided to have a good walk to start the new year as we intend to go on, doing more exercise. A six mile meandering walk to town and around Colchester’s Castle Park brought a glow to our cheeks. We were surprised to find lots of shops and cafes open – they really do only close on Christmas Day now.

This is a shame. I wish we had more days when people were forced to do activities that didn’t involve buying stuff, although I suppose they would stay at home and buy on the internet instead.

We didn’t browse the sales but sat in the park with a flask of coffee and home made cake. Which brings me to my next frugal achievement…

Using up black bananas

no spend JanuaryWe usually eat loads of bananas. However, there was so much food in the house over Christmas that we had three left. They were turning rather black – perfect for a banana loaf.

Being a creature of habit, I generally use Delia Smith’s recipe. This time I decided to ring the changes and try a Nigella Lawson one from her classic How To Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking(my affiliate link). I am glad I did as it was delicious and is our new favourite (sorry, Delia!). Can’t wait for the next lot of bananas to go brown….

Making do

no spend JanuaryI need a new watchstrap. The little bit of leather that keeps it secure once on has broken off, which means my watch could come loose and fall off. Because I am on a  no spend January I can’t buy a new one, so I have secured it with an elastic band.

Not the classiest look but I doubt anyone has noticed. I don’t want to purchase a new one just now and would rather not lose my watch!

Laughing in the face of the best before date

no spend JanuaryI am sure many of you don’t bother too much about best before dates. Me neither! I frequently deliberately buy out of date food from Approved Food because  it is cheaper (my refer a friend link).

When I was clearing and sorting out the larder, I came across a pack of nutty snacks from Aldi and a couple of individual portions of long life Lactofree milk. Both were out of date but instead of throwing them in the bin I have taken them to work and started to use them. They are perfectly fine and taste exactly as they should.

I hate our culture of wasting food and chucking it out just because it has passed the advisory only best before date. I am also happy to eat items a little bit past their use by date. As long as they look, smell and taste OK I will risk eating them. Food doesn’t immediately decide to go off because of the date stamp!

No spend January progress

no spend JanuaryIf you are joining me on a no spend January, how are you doing? I have broken my rules just once this week, buying a copy of Bella magazine. However, I had a good excuse – I am in it!!

It’s tough being a media star. However, I don’t intend to break the rules again this month and look forward to having a bit more spare cash to put in the savings as a result. How about you?

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week linky. Check out what everyone else has been doing to keep costs down and share your five frugal things!





How to find a bargain on eBay

find a bargain on ebayI recently discovered a handy little eBay app called Bidkit It is a great tool if you want to find a bargain on eBay, especially if you buy to resell. You can search under the following headings:

Spelling mistakes

This is the most useful one, as far as I am concerned. The number of people who cannot spell! If you have a particular designer or brand that you like you will probably search using the correct spelling. With Bidkit you can find almost correct spellings.

For example, a search for ‘Karen Millen’ bought a whole load of listings spelled ‘Karen Mullen’, a ‘Kaern Millen’ and a ‘Karen Milen’. None of these had any bids on them.

Local collection only listings

This is handy for larger items that you want to purchase locally. To be honest, you can do the same thing using the advanced search facility on eBay, but it is still useful to have it on the app.

Daily deals

I probably wouldn’t use this one to find a bargain on eBay. If you have an eBay account you will receive the daily deals via email already. I am not sure how these are chosen by eBay, but I am rarely drawn to anything.

Zero bids

This is helpful if you want less competition. You could even keep an eye where there have been no bids and make a cheeky offer after the auction has ended. It is possible to sort so you can see those ending soonest as well.

Unwanted gifts

There are likely to be a lot of unwanted gifts just after Christmas. It is not the best time to sell because there will be a flood, but this makes it a great time to buy.

You can search for unwanted gifts directly on eBay, but it will only find these where ‘unwanted gift’ is in the heading. Bidkit finds this within the text too. Very useful to find a bargain on eBay.

Night-time auctions

It is always worth looking out for auctions that end at an odd time. Being able to locate items that will end in the middle of the night is very useful. I am not suggesting you sit up and put your bid on at 3 am, though. You can use Auction Sniper to get your bid in before you go to bed!

Unwanted prizes

I was surprised at how many of these there were. Why enter the competition if you don’t want the prize?

Like new

Useful if you want to find a bargain on eBay that is only lightly used.

The other categories that I doubt I would use are New Buy it Now items, Penny auctions and Expensive items. I might look at the latter if I want to see how the other half live!

If you enjoyed reading this post you might also like How to Make Money Selling on eBay and How to Present Clothes on eBay.


This is a sponsored post. However, all views expressed are my own honest opinions.

Prepare for a no spend January

no spend JanuaryAre you feeling the pinch after Christmas? Do you wish you could pay off debts or get your savings off the ground? If so, a no spend January could be the answer.

The new year is a great time to set yourself a no spend challenge, although you can do it any time of year. Turning over a new leaf and starting afresh; the themes for a brand new year perfectly suit a no spend month.

Why do a no spend January?

‘Really? You spend NOTHING for a whole month?’, is a common response when I tell people my plans for a no spend month.

Some can manage a no spend day, weekend or even a no spend week. But a month is a whole new ball game.

A no spend January will help  you recover from the Christmas spend-fest and save you loads of cash. However, a prolonged period of not spending will also increase your awareness of where your money goes and make you appreciate how little you can live on if you need to.

I find a no spend period truly liberating. There are no more of those internal conversations about whether you should buy that new item of clothing or have a night on the town. You know you won’t be doing either.

How to prepare for a no spend January

Tell family and friends

I always find it best to be upfront with friends and family when I do a no spend month. It is hard to keep making excuses for not meeting for coffee or going to the pub. If you tell people in advance you will get fewer invitations.

Don’t, however, let your loved ones spend all their money on you during your no spend month. Instead of letting them pay for dinner, how about cooking something together to share at home?

Stay away from the shops

It may sound obvious but looking around the shops or window shopping is a terrible idea when you are trying to save money. This includes charity shops! I can spend a small fortune in them if I am not careful.

Plan for fun

If you are usually a social butterfly, a month of no outings at all will be tough and lonely. Look for cheap or free things to do. Invite friends round with a bottle or get together and bring a dish each. Your rules for the month might allow for a weekly night out with an upper spending limit. You can be flexible and the rules are up to you.

This may be a good time to use up any vouchers you got for Christmas for the cinema. Otherwise, Netflix always has a good choice of films and dramas.

Plan what you will do with the money you save

This can be a great incentive to stick to the rules you make for your no spend January. Whether you want to pay off your credit card or put some money towards a summer holiday, a plan will keep you on track.

The Rules

These are my own personal rules for my no spend January. Yours might be different, depending on your circumstances. Here is what is allowed:

Mortgage and bills

Obviously we will take care of these, as usual. No point in saving money and having to deal with the bailiffs….

Groceries and pet supplies

I can spend money on food. However, I will eat from the fridge, freezer and cupboards first and make sure I plan our menus around what is in there before buying anything else. I always pack a work lunch anyway as this saves a ton of money.

We don’t have masses of food left over from Christmas, but some of you will. Make sure you factor this into your planning to keep your grocery spend to a minimum. Personally, I intend to make lots of soup with the stack of home grown courgettes in the freezer, to make bread pudding with the bread ends and to use up some of our frozen plums for crumbles.

It is really important to go through your larder to see what you have stashed away. I did this today and found I had two jars of coffee and a pack of teabags pushed right to the back. Both were on my shopping list, so have been able to cross them off.

You might find some of my favourite frugal recipes helpful.

I stocked up yesterday on cat food, litter and biscuits. We will obviously buy more of these if we need to as we go through our no spend January.


I could save money by cycling to work, but I am no cyclist and it is 6 miles each way, so I think not! Petrol is therefore allowed. I will, however, walk or cycle short trips. We are trying to increase  the amount of walking we do anyway so this will be a good incentive to keep our miles up.

Alcohol and treats

I am allowing some wine and a few treats during my no spend January. However, I won’t need to buy any sweets or crisps as we still have loads left over. As I won’t be going out to the pub this month, a couple of bottles of white wine will be on my shopping list.


It is my daughter’s birthday this month. I have already sorted her presents. However, we will be having some kind of takeaway as a celebration on Friday, the day before she travels back to university.

Free days out

We have our RHS card so might take a trip to Hyde Hall, our nearest garden. There are free museums and galleries here. We will take lots of long walks too. We are allowing our travel costs to these places where necessary.

What isn’t allowed

Make up and toiletries. I have enough of both to get me through the month.

Cleaning supplies. Again, we have plenty. I will buy toilet paper and washing up liquid during the month, as we are likely to run out. Essential items only!

Nights out. Unless they are free! If we get an invitation out to dinner we shall accept that and return the favour next month.

Items of clothing. I don’t need anything.

Books. I am terrible for impulse purchasing books. I have quite a few to read and some on my Kindle app, so there is no excuse to buy any more. If I am short of a read I will look on the internet or visit the library.

Snacks from the machine at work. These are ridiculous. 80p for a single chocolate bar. I will keep a stash of our Christmas food in my drawer for emergencies.

Coffees out. If I am going into town or if we are out for the day I will prepare a flask. We always take a picnic on excursions anyway, which saves a lot of money.

Takeaways. Apart from my daughter’s birthday, there will be no expensive take out food. We don’t spend money on these anyway as a rule.

Will you join me on a no spend January?

I will be checking in weekly to let you know how I am getting on and whether I have succumbed to any extra spending. It will be interesting to know if you are planning a no spend January and what your rules will be! How far can you stretch your money this month?

My top money saving blog posts for 2017

top blog postsIt’s always interesting to look back and review our year here at Shoestring Cottage. I thought it would be good to identify my top money saving blog posts to see which have been the most popular.

Earlier in the year I signed up with Google Analytics. It tells me all kinds of things, such as how many people have visited each day, which country they are from, how long they stayed for, etc. I find it fascinating! It also tells me which posts were the most read, so here is the top ten.

My top money saving blog posts of 2017

A tabloid sensation

Fame at last: spreading the frugal message. This was our first taste of fame, as we became tabloid sensations for the day, appearing in the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Mirror. It was a bit of fun, although I avoided reading the Mail comments. They are always nasty!

A great debate

Lidl or Aldi: which is best? I was surprised that this was such a hit. Actually I like and use both Lidl and Aldi, but think Aldi has the edge.

Saving money on groceries

The Joys of a well stocked larder. This is fundamental in my list of money saving blog posts. If you don’t keep the basics in and know what you have in your kitchen cupboards, you will tend to buy more products you don’t need. You might not use them in time, which leads to food waste. This is a no-no in the thrifty kitchen, as I am sure you will agree.

Cleaning frenzy

Cleaning as therapy. Although not strictly a money saving post, this is a good one for the New Year. A nice clean, tidy and clutter free house does run nicely alongside a frugal approach to life. If the house looks nice you are less likely to want to spend money on redecorating or new furniture, or buy thing you already have buried in a drawer somewhere.

Making extra money

How to make money selling on eBay. One of my favourite money saving blog posts for after Christmas. You have all your new presents so might want to sell some of your old stuff to make space. Or you might want to sell the lovely, but not quite you, jumper that Auntie May gave  you. Selling on eBay is a great way to make a little extra cash at what may be a lean time of the year for some.

Planning ahead

Frugal Christmas: Budget now to save your bank balance. I wrote this one back in October. This was the money saving post that got picked up by a media company and sent to the tabloids. It’s all about planning for Christmas and it’s never to early to start….

A classic of frugality

Tightwad Gazette remembered. Ahhhh…. this absolute classic manual of thrift and frugality. Even though it is now over 25 years old I still give it a read every now and again for frugal inspiration.

Budget eating

This month’s grocery challenge – eating on a budget. We are always looking for ways to spend less and this money saving post focussed on groceries. It’s all in the planning. If you are new to money saving, you can usually get a quick win with your grocery budget.

A good declutter

New order: the great wardrobe declutter. Is there anything more therapeutic than a good declutter? I don’t like lots of stuff and don’t have masses of clothes. However, I find it incredibly cathartic to have a good clear out.

Time for a holiday?

Think you can’t afford to go on holiday? Ideas for frugal holidays. This is exactly the time of year to plan some kind of a break. You don’t need to spend a fortune to have a holiday and this post gives some ideas for inexpensive and affordable breaks.

So, this was a taste of our year in blog post form. I hope you find some of these interesting and useful. If you write a blog, what was your favourite/most popular post of the year? Leave a link in the comments so that we can all go and have a read!

Top 20 frugal habits to beat spending fatigue

Does anyone else get spending fatigue at this time of the year? I put money aside all year for Christmas, so I am not worried about going into debt to fund the festivities, food and presents. However, I stick to my frugal habits the rest of the year and spend as little as possible. Dusting off the purse and spending lavishly doesn’t come naturally!

Forward planning

So I am already thinking ahead to 2018 and getting back to my usual careful, frugal habits and lifestyle. We will be commencing (finally) the redecoration of the lounge in the New Year, so will need to focus our spending on that.

Post Christmas sales

I may take advantage of some post-Christmas sales to purchase cards and wrapping paper for next year, and hopefully some soft furnishings for the lounge project. After that I will be starting a no spend month for the whole of January.

I did this last year and found creating a no spend rule for the month was incredibly liberating. Friends asking me to the pub? Sorry, I am on a no spend month – perfect excuse! Shoes wearing out? I have other shoes; I will just wear some of the ones I don’t like so much.

Saving money where you can

During a no spend month, we do, of course, have to pay our bills and purchase food. However, with the latter particularly, creating a no spend ethos means you automatically save money wherever you can.

I will clear out the cupboards, fridge and freezer and start to use up some of those ingredients that sit unused at the back. It makes me more creative and adventurous in my menu planning!

Top frugal habits

A no spend month will help to boost our emergency fund and go into the New Year feeling financially more healthy. It also allows me to remember some of my top frugal habits and make sure I am practising what I preach.

My top 20 frugal habits for life are:

Make a monthly budget and stick to it.

Review your bills at least quarterly and shop around.

Pack a lunch for work or school.

Menu plan.

Make a shopping list.

Buy groceries from the discount supermarkets and look out for yellow stickered bargains.

Repair and maintain items rather than rushing to replace them.

Buy second hand whenever you can.

Where you can’t buy second hand, use cash back sites such as Top Cashback. (This is my referral code. If you sign up using it I will earn a fee and you will get a £5 voucher until 27th December).  You can also try Quidco. (Again, this is my referral code and if you use it we will both earn £5).

Sell your old stuff on eBay or on

Use Approved Food every now and again to buy staples (my affiliate link). They currently have a tin of Christmas chocolates for £1!

Cook from scratch as much as possible and batch cook soups and stews.

Freeze left overs.

Grow some of your fruit and vegetables in the garden.

Avoid takeaways.

Rather than eating out, cook a nice meal for friends at home.

Pack a flask and picnic for days out.

Drink water rather than fizzy stuff, tea or coffee (particularly when out and about).

Take frugal exercise: gardening, walking and running are free.

Cut your TV package to the minimum.

I will revisit these in more detail in the New Year. In the meantime, just typing this list makes me feel better! I can’t kick my frugal habits.

This post contains some affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase or sign up, I will earn a small fee. Thanks!

Five frugal things to help you save at Christmas

five frugal thingsHow has your week been? Christmas preparations are well in hand here at Shoestring Cottage. I am joining in with this five frugal things round up as Christmas is the perfect time to focus your spending and save where you can.

The decorations are in place, the presents are all purchased and mostly wrapped and I have been buying a few Christmas treats for a couple of months now. I set my budget for Christmas back in October, I have been saving all year. Now I can spend and not feel worried or guilty, and without putting it all on a credit card.

1. Only buying what we need

I don’t go crazy and try to buy only what I know we will eat. This year I decided to finally stop buying things that are traditional but that no one really wants, as proposed by Faith at Much More with Less. We actually enjoy some of the foods she has decided to ditch. However, dates sit around for ages as no one really eats them much – Mr S will usually dutifully consume them at some point, but it’s not about duty, is it? We also have a ton of hazelnuts in their shells that came from a friend’s tree,  so we don’t need to buy any more. They also tend to sit around for months before they all get eaten.

Nobody eats Christmas cake so that is off the shopping list.

However, we all love Christmas pudding so that is staying firmly on the menu. I usually buy a couple reduced after Christmas because Mr S loves it with custard any time of the year.

2. Using up all the leftover veg

vegetabl soup five frugal thingsThe very cold weather always means one thing here – soup! I love it! Soup is great for using up any bits and pieces lurking in the fridge. Into mine last Sunday went potatoes (including some frozen leftover mash), carrots, celery, frozen spinach, half a can of sweetcorn, the end of a bag of frozen peas and lots of Marigold vegetable stock.

We ate it after our freezing cold snowy walk last Sunday and it was just the job for warming our cockles! It was great for work lunches all week and there are still a couple of portions in the freezer.

3. A simple vegetable bake

I posted a recipe a couple of days ago for a vegetable bake, adapted from one of Delia’s in Frugal Food. It is so simple and cheap to make. Another good one for using up vegetables as you can add more or less whatever you have in the fridge. We had it for dinner with spinach. The meat eaters had a couple of chicken drumsticks with theirs, but I enjoyed it as it was.

I love the cheesy breadcrumb topping, which is a good way to use up the ends of a loaf of bread. I made a whole lot of breadcrumbs and what I didn’t use for the bake went into the freezer.

4. Making my own Christmas gift tags

I always keep my Christmas cards from the previous year and recycle them to make Christmas gift tags. It’s such a simple thing to do, I never know why everyone doesn’t reuse them in this way. It is quite nice to reread the messages from last year from friends and family too.

5.  Savvy Savers in the Sun

I was pleased to be asked to give some top tips for money saving at Christmas to the Sun, along with some other UK Money Bloggers. My contribution was to suggest that people consider buying second hand presents, particularly for small children. They wouldn’t notice or care. Looking on Facebook Marketplace, I can see all kinds of large ride on toys, dolls houses, bikes, scooters, dressing up outfits, etc. They mostly seem in great condition, but cost a fraction of their as new price.

I did this all the time when my kids were small. I have bought second hand phones and an ipad, computer games and a console, DVDs and many books second hand as presents.

There is a little bit of embarrassment about buying second hand as a gift but I don’t understand that. As long as the item works and is in good condition, where is the issue? And if it helps you stick to your budget, even better!

An early Christmas

nut roast en croute five frugal thingsWe are having an early Christmas dinner today with my extended family. My sister is off to see my nephew in Thailand so this will be our only opportunity. I am road testing the vegetarian nut roast en croute I found on the Sainsbury’s website. If it works, that will be my veggie Christmas dinner. The recipe is here. It smells lovely so I have high hopes.


Five frugal things I have done this week, 8th December 2017

At this time of year, when most of us tend to be spending more than usual on Christmas presents, five frugal things feels like quite a feat! However, the potential for rampant consumerism means that it is  even more important to save money when you can.

1. Packing a great frugal lunch

five frugal things: pumpkin soupOne of my daughters is staying with us at the moment. As she has to commute to work each day she is keen to save her pennies. I always take a packed lunch to work, but get lazy and uninspired. Sometimes a sandwich is the easiest thing to throw together but not the most appealing. So we have been taking it in turns and so far she has made a delicious Greek salad, which lasted two days. I made some pumpkin soup. Today we have leftovers from a sweet potato curry. Delicious!

Because she is home I am making more effort and enjoying my lunch each day. If I was to buy a salad, some fruit and a drink out I think I would easily spend £6 or £7 each day.

2. Reflecting on my Christmas budget

I have almost finished my shopping – just a couple more gifts to find. I set a budget for presents and one for food. We don’t need decorations or a tree so there is no budget for those.

Of course, there is no point in making a budget if you don’t review it regularly and make sure you stick to it. So far we are coming in a bit under, which is good news. If I have money left over it will go straight into the savings pot for next year.

3. Cooking more vegetarian

Five frugal things: sweet potato curryI have been enjoying digging out my old vegetarian cook books, as well as finding new recipes to try online. BBC Good Food seems like a great resource. We all enjoyed the satay sweet potato curry I mentioned earlier. It was easy to make but I varied the ingredients slightly to make use of what we had in the cupboards. I added a sad looking carrot and a courgette that needed using up. Dried ginger did the job just as well as fresh. I find when I buy fresh half of it gets wasted as we don’t use enough of it.

I also rather like the look of paneer with broccoli and sesame, if I can find somewhere to get the paneer locally.

Veggie food definitely saves money, even with a few more unusual ingredients.

4. A visit to the food bank

Ok, not really one of my five frugal things, but I have to mention it! As I have written on several occasions, the UK Money Bloggers have all been taking part in a reverse advent campaign for the food banks. I ran this at work and, thanks to the generosity of my colleagues, we collected a whole carful. We visited the food bank yesterday to hand it over.

five frugal things: trip to the food bankThis was such a worthwhile exercise and we will do it again next year. I feel reassured to know that there are such great organisations around like the Trussel Trust to help look after people if they are unfortunate enough to hit hard times.

5. It’s the little things

It’s amazing how much toothpaste you can squeeze out of what appears to be an empty tube. Because I thought we had some I didn’t buy any this week and keep forgetting to pop in and get some on the way home from work.  Surprisingly we have had several days worth. I really do need to buy some now though!

five frugal things: 1001 ways to save money bookI got a great gift on the secret Santa at work, which lists a lot more than five frugal things – 1001 Ways to Save Money. They know me too well! I will read it carefully to see if there are some good frugal tips for next time.

If you need to save money at Christmas, have a look at my ideas here, here and here.

I’m linking up with Cass Emma and Becky in this week’s Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week linky. Hop on over for more money saving inspiration.

What five frugal things have you achieved this week?

Save money on your heating bills: Some easy ways to keep warm this winter

save money on your heating billsThe current early cold snap in the UK has been rather a shock to the system! The heating has been on a lot at Shoestring Cottage. With the prospect of larger bills looming now that winter is upon us, how can you save money on your heating bills?

Dire consequences

I am not going to go radical and tell you to turn it off all together and wear a hair shirt. We tried the no heating/lots of layers approach and it had dire consequences. We ended up with damp walls and mould growing all over the house.

Unless you are on an extremely low income (in which case, see if you qualify for extra help here), you are better to set it to come on for a period morning and evening, and then top up as you need it.

I find even if the house gets really cold my modern boiler soon gets it warm. If you can work at keeping the heat in, you won’t need to have your heating running constantly.

Insulating to save money on your heating bills

It is so important to insulate your house as much as you possibly can to keep the heat in. You don’t want to heat the house just to feel it disappearing through the roof.

We have a thick layer of insulation on our roof space. We also had the wall cavities filled. We were fortunate that at the time we were with British Gas, who were running a scheme giving both to customers for free. Some energy providers are still offering this for nothing, so check with yours. Money Saving Expert has an interesting article on this – in some cases you can also get a new boiler for free.

Thermal curtain linings

Our windows are double glazed but it is very old glazing. Replacing all of the windows with state of the art triple glazing, or even just better double glazing, is not an option. We have found that using thermal linings on our already thick curtains makes a huge difference.

A door curtain can also help to keep the draughts at bay. We have three  sets in our chilly back room – 3 external doors in one room!!

Insulated wallpaper

We also did something in the back room that has made the most amazing difference. Insulated wallpaper. It really keeps the heat in. I wasn’t sure that what is basically lining paper with polystyrene stuck to it could do the job but it does.

It is a devil to cut and almost made me cry when I papered the small downstairs loo (you can see what we did here). So awkward! Well worth it though. It has another useful advantage if your plaster isn’t great as it covers up all the lumps and bumps.

I can’t recommend this stuff enough and I am sure it will help you to save money on your heating bills.

Foiled again

save money on your heating bills photo of a wood burnerRadiator foil is inexpensive and helps push the heat back into the house rather than out through your walls. We put this in the cold back room too and will use some more in the lounge when we redecorate in the new year.

We are hugely fortunate to also have a wood burner in place this winter. It is lovely! If it is just us at home we cosy up in front of that and don’t bother to heat the rest of the house. I think this will make a difference to our heating bills, although it was expensive to buy and fit.

So, Shoestring Cottage is pretty warm and cosy. We do still have our layers and slippers to hand. I refuse to have the heating blasting out whilst everyone is walking around in shorts and T-shirts! We also have blankets and throws on all of the sofas in case anyone is feeling chilly.

What are you doing to save money on your heating bills?


Ten easy eco friendly ideas to save money

I know I harp on about this, but it’s nearly always the case. A green approach saves you money! So, as well as feeling good about yourself for keeping control of your finances, you can help save the planet. Not a bad day’s work! Here are ten easy eco friendly ideas to save money.

1. Reconsider your heating

As the weather in the UK turns chilly, think about your heating bills. If you are one of those people who leaves the heating on 24/7, stop! No one needs to be that warm. Turn your thermostat down, set the heating to come on for an hour or two morning and evening and then switch it on as you need it.

A longer term plan should be to improve the insulation in your home.  Short term you can sew thermal linings into your curtains and use draught excluders at your doors. Long term you can look into improving your loft insulation and filling your wall cavities. You can find more information on home insulation here.

2. Lunch at work

Take a sandwich or salad to work. This saves money and packaging.

3. Don’t waste food

A shocking FAO statistic is that one third of the food produced in the world is wasted. If you plan your meals, shop using a list and make creative use of your leftovers you will avoid binning food will buy less.

4. Eat less meat

Meat is really expensive compared to vegetables and pulses and there are so many veggie options these days. According to this interesting article in the Guardian, “Behind most of the joints of beef or chicken on our plates is a phenomenally wasteful, land- and energy-hungry system of farming that devastates forests, pollutes oceans, rivers, seas and air, depends on oil and coal, and is significantly responsible for climate change.”

There is a lot of research on the health benefits of a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables, so upping your intake can give you a boost physically too. You don’t have to go completely veggie. How about a Meat Free Monday?

5. Use your leg power

Walking is an eco friendly idea to save money. Picture of my walking route Walk or cycle instead of taking the car or bus on short journeys. They are free exercise! If you walk a few miles a day you could maybe jack in the gym membership or exercise classes. I am spectacularly rubbish at this, so it is something I am going to work on. Mr S loves cycling but I am not a fan and prefer to walk. I can’t walk to work as it is too far, but I can go out for a power walk at lunchtime and walk to the shops at the weekend.  We had a lovely long windy walk yesterday just for the fun of it and used Map My Walk to record the distance – 4.67 miles, which was a nice length.

6. Ditch the bath

Showering uses far less water. This will save you money on your water bill and heating, as you will have to heat less water! If you shower already, consider taking a shorter shower or even a cold one. There are apparently a lot of health benefits to taking a cold shower, but in this cold weather I don’t think I can bring myself to try this!

7. Power down

Don’t leave your appliances on standby. Switch off at the plug when they aren’t in use, including (and especially) your phone charger! This may not save thousands but every little counts.

8. Cut down the chemicals!

I hate to think of the chemical cocktail we used to breathe in and the nasty stuff I used to swill down the sink whilst I was cleaning the house. Nowadays I use mainly (although not exclusively yet) bicarbonate of soda  and white vinegar, and make this cleaning spray. This is very much cheaper than buying branded cleaning products too.

9. Turn off the lights

This is such a simple act that saves money and energy. Train the family to switch lights off behind them!

10. Buy second-hand

Be it clothes, furniture, tools or sports equipment, you can get almost anything cheaper second-hand or even free. Check out eBay, Gumtree, Shpock, Facebook Marketplace, Freegle and Freecycle, as well as your local charity shops of course. Reusing means another object doesn’t go to landfill.

These are only 10 ideas out of many eco friendly ideas to save money. Once you get started, you will feel the benefits in your wallet and the environment will reap the rewards too. Warm green glow all round!

A frugal lifestyle: taking care of the pennies

I am going for super frugal at the moment. As the saying goes, take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. This is a good enough motto when you are going for a frugal lifestyle.

Our frugal lifestyle will ensure we have enough money to pay for Christmas. It’s not about being tight or stingy; rather it’s about saving money to spend on the things that really matter.


This week I was determined to use some of the large pack of couscous that has been lurking at the bag of the cupboard for ages. It is so quick and easy I will definitely use it more often.

We had it instead of rice or noodles with a vegetable stir fry one night and had the leftovers for lunch the following day. I had soaked another lot, which I made into a salad with some chopped veg and raisins the day after as well. It makes a great, cheap packed lunch. A nice change from soup or sandwiches.

Food bank update

Couscous would be a good item to include in your food bank collection if you are doing one. It requires no cooking, just soaking in hot water or stock, is incredibly versatile and very filling. You can see my post about the reverse advent collection and how you can take part here. We already have lots of items in our box and many of my colleagues have chosen to take part with their own teams.

A frugal mushroom dinner

frugal lifestyleI had a craving for mushrooms the other day! Luckily I had a pack from Lidl. I made a very simple and delicious mushroom chasseur using the recipe in A Girl Called Jack*. We had this with rice. As Mr S is a meat fan I cooked a couple of chicken drumsticks to accompany it. (This is my affiliate link to Amazon and if you purchase anything by clicking on it I will earn a small commission.)

This book remains one of my favourites. I do wish Jack would get on with publishing the new one, Cooking on a Bootstrap.

Super Savvy Me

frugal lifestyleI have mentioned that I am a member of the Savvy Circle before. I tested some Pantene Micellar water a few weeks ago and today I received some Bold 2in1 washing capsules to try and to share amongst family and friends. This smells really nice and much posher than the supermarket own brand I usually use. In return I need to give feedback a few times on the Savvy Circle website – not too onerous!

Survey loot helping my frugal lifestyle

I have been doing the odd survey here and there for Prolific Academic and cashed £20 in today. Not a fortune I know, but every little helps. I do the odd survey in my lunch break and each one takes just a few minutes.

Online surveys can be a bit hit and miss I have found, but I like this company. They pre-screen you so you know that you are accepted for the surveys on offer.

I miss quite a few so they would be ideal for retired folk, part time workers, stay at home parents or students with more time to check what is on offer.

My money saving efforts and frugal lifestyle mean I feel in control of my finances. I would hate to be in debt again!

How about you? What are your top tips for a frugal lifestyle?


Spend less: Avoiding unnecessary expenditure

As Christmas approaches, we are keeping the belts on a tight notch.  We want to avoid unnecessary expenses and spend less.

Spend less on entertainment

It’s lovely to meet friends and go to the pub or cinema, but even just a couple of drinks out costs a lot these days. Instead, we will invite friends round for a glass of ‘vin du supermarche’!

It is possible to get cheaper cinema subscriptions from time to time through cash back sites like  Top Cashback (who currently have £11.97 cash back for a Cineworld subscription) or Quidco, but we are already paying for Netflix, so will make the most of what’s on there and stay in.

Spend less on food

I have planned all of our meals for this week and will sit down tomorrow and do the same for next week.

Saving money on food is all about preparation in my view.  Make a meal plan based on what needs using up, write a shopping list, use a discount supermarket and don’t shop when you are hungry. 
Shoestring Cottage pumpkin harvestWe only have spinach and pumpkin left on our veggie plot but have a lot of frozen fruit and vegetables so I will be building some into the meal plan.

Spend less on toiletries

I never spend a lot on high end cosmetics and toiletries. I am not short of much as I got my recent beauty bargains. If I do run out I will go to Home Bargains. I am a fan of this shop. There is a great choice and everything is superb value for money in my view.

Spend less on hair care

I have mentioned this in previous posts, but I always touch up my own roots and sometimes even cut my own hair. I will be giving it a little trim and will save the trip to the hairdressers until next month.

Spend less on clothes

I would love to splurge on clothes, but I’m not even going to allow myself any charity shop stuff this month. I bought a couple of things from my favourite online fashion retailer Everything Five Pounds last month so I don’t need anything desperately. Maybe it is time for another wardrobe challenge? Wear it or get rid of it!

Spend less on travel

Driving is by far the cheapest way for me to get to work. Otherwise I would need to take two buses. This would also cost a lot of my precious time! However, I will try to reduce other journeys by using shops en route and walking locally.

I love autumn and really enjoy walking anyway. This week we are dog sitting for friends, so no reason not to walk.

Spend less on fitness

Relaxing in the hot tubAs well as walking, me and Mr S have been doing quite a log of yoga at home. This is free!

This is my plan to spend less for the whole of the rest of October and November.

In other news

We are enjoying our dog sitting this week. The house is beautiful, the dogs are lovely and they have a hot tub! I don’t know if I would ever be prepared to buy one, but it’s lovely for a change. It feels like we are on holiday!

The reverse advent idea I mentioned in a previous post has already begun at work. We already have a lot of contributions so I think we wil need several boxes. Other colleagues have taken up the idea, which I’m very pleased about.

I can look at how to spend less, but it is good to be reminded that other folk have things much harder and can’t spend anything at all.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and purchase something from my link, it won’t cost you any extra but I will earn a small commission.

My five frugal things this week 20th October

Welcome to this occasional round up of my frugal things for the week. It is a collaborative effort with some other bloggers and will hopefully give you a  bit of inspiration to be a bit more frugal when you need to.

Selling some old clothes on eBay

Some boots to sell on eBayMy daughter had a big clear out of stuff before she left for university and left several bags behind. I fished out some items I knew I could sell before donating the remainder to the charity shop. I have been slowly working my way through them and managed to get quite a bit listed this week. I found two pairs of ankle boots in excellent condition. One was a leather pair from Clarks and the other from New Look. They are barely worn. She clearly has more money than sense!

I managed to sell a couple of things this week too, but I have to stop myself browsing whilst I am on there and buying more clothes! I love a bargain and there are plenty to be found on eBay. You can read my post on eBay selling here.

Old fashioned frugal things: Apple picking

Home grown russet applesA few years ago the local council did a tree giveaway. We rushed to join the queue for this rare freebie and picked up a russet apple tree and some blackcurrant bushes. We have had crops of blackcurrants  two summers in a row, but this is the first time we have had a decent crop of apples. They are huge – delicious and crunchy too, with a nice sharp flavour. I have been out picking them so have saved myself money on fruit this week. Growing our own is one of our favourite frugal things to do.


I have been exploring the money making possibilities of doing on-line surveys recently. My favourite so far is Prolific, as they only take a few minutes and pay quite well. I have managed to do three surveys for them this week, mostly in my lunch hour.  I have also signed up for Mingle, but that site is annoying me so far as you have to spend ages answering qualifying questions and then get told you aren’t right for them. This has happened three times so far – I can’t be bothered. It doesn’t happen with Prolific. They ask you enough questions when you first sign up and only offer you surveys you are pre-qualified for. My daughter has recommended One Poll as another survey company that pre-qualifies you so I have signed up with them too.

None of these will make a fortune, but for a few minutes every now and again you can make a few quid. I have £14 in my Prolific account and won’t withdraw it until January, when I am skint after Christmas!


I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had received some excellent Pantene hair care freebies from SuperSavvyMe. I got to test them and feed back and I have now been accepted for another trial. This time it is for Bold 2 in 1. A much more expensive washing liquid than I would ever buy normally, so I will be happy to give this a try. I think I am lucky to be selected for two trials. I am sure it helps that I have this blog and that I am active on Instagram and Twitter so they are likely to get a mention!

If you are into social media it is worth signing up. They give voucher codes and run competitions as well as the product testing.

I genuinely liked the Pantene products. I had Micellar shampoo with two types of conditioner. My daughter and lodger both tried them as well and were pretty positive about them.

Out with the slow cooker

Slow cooker beef casseroleI popped into Home Bargains – I love that shop – to buy my cat food as it is the cheapest place by far to get it. Whilst I was there I had a browse at the food and bought some stewing steak for £2.30.  As I suspected it wasn’t going to be the best, most tender meat I got out the slow cooker and made a delicious casserole. I can almost embrace the onset of the cooler weather when the slow cooker comes out! I love that you can chuck a load of stuff in it in the morning and it is transformed into something amazing by dinner time. It costs almost nothing to run and means you can use cheap cuts of meat to make yummy family meals. This made four generous portions.

So these are my five frugal things for the week. What are yours?

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Check out what they have achieved this week and share your own frugal achievements

Test your frugal habits with the thrift test

Frugal habits

Do you consider yourself savvy with your money or could you develop better frugal habits? Take the thrift test below to raise your awareness of which areas of your finances you need to improve.

  1. Do you know how much is in your bank balance right now?

    a) not a clue but I am probably overdrawn.

    b) yes, because I check every few days and budget accordingly.

    c) I have a rough idea as I take a look at my balance every now and again to see what I have left.2)

  2. Work lunches for you mean:

a) buying something on the hoof. I pop into a coffee shop or fast food outlet most days.b) a packed lunch. I always make one the evening before to save money.

c) sometimes I take a packed lunch but I don’t always have time.

3) What is your attitude to shopping for leisure:

a) I love it! Buying new things makes me feel good and I go into town or to the mall to shop most weekends.

b) I never shop for fun. I make my purchases when I am sure I need something and can afford it, and even then I shop around.

c) I know I can’t afford to go on regular sprees but like to look around the shops and make the odd impulse buy.

4) If you can’t afford something straight away do you:

a) buy it and stick it on your credit card. You can worry about how to pay it later.

b) do a lot of research online to find out the cheapest price for the item. Then either use your savings or save up. You will often try to buy second hand where possible.

c) If I really need it I buy it straight away, but have a quick look at some product reviews and prices first. I use a credit card but make sure I can pay at least the minimum repayment charges.

5) How often do you use cash back sites when you make your online purchases?

a) Never. I don’t know anything about them.

b) I always check to see if I can use sites like Top Cashback or Quidco before I make any purchase and get several hundred pounds back each year this way.

c) I have signed up but I often forget to use them.

* These are my referral links and if you sign up using them I will earn a small commission – thanks!

6) If you have to travel somewhere by train, do you:

a) buy the ticket as you get to the station.

b) purchase your ticket online several weeks in advance as you know you can save money. You consider different routes and buying two singles if that works out cheaper.

c) you know that you should buy your tickets in advance but often don’t remember until a few days before.

7) How do you keep your heating bills as low as possible?

a) I don’t really – as soon as I feel chilly the heating goes on.

b) I put on several layers and draw the curtains before I give in to turning it on and keep the thermostat as low as possible.

c) I try not to put it on too quickly but my partner or children often flick it on when my back is turned.

8) When was the last time you shopped around for a better mortgage deal, bank account or utility provider?

a) I don’t bother. They are all pretty much the same.

b) I check everything from my mortgage to my house insurance at least once a year.

c) I do it every now and again if I have time.

9) Your car is getting old and cranky. Do you:

a) Get another one on finance as soon as possible. I don’t really understand what they said about the interest rate but the car is shiny and red!

b) Look after the old girl whilst you save for another decent second hand model.

c) Get a loan from the bank to buy another car as soon as you can.

10) When you go grocery shopping, do you:

a) go in on the way home from work and buy what you fancy for the week.

b) Check what you already have in the stores, plan the meals for the week and then shop with a list.

c) I have a rough idea of what we need and usually take a list, but I don’t always stick to it and I am drawn to special offers.

The results to reveal your frugal habits

Mostly As

You don’t have to be a genius to work out that most As means your attitude to finance is so relaxed it is bordering on reckless. You rarely get a bargain and you don’t keep track of your spending. The chances are you have an overdraft and debts as a result. If you need to, you can get help and advice from the CAB, the Money Advice Service or Step Change.

Mostly Bs

You are a paragon of thrifty virtue, with fantastic frugal habits. You get the best value on everything you purchase, know how much money you have to spare to the penny and are likely to have a healthy savings account to prove it. We can all learn from you!

Mostly Cs

Let’s admit it, this is where most of us are. We love to get a bargain but don’t always do everything we could to save ourselves a buck. We can learn from the experts so that we can make the best of our money.

This is a light-hearted quiz with a serious message. Money really does make the world go around so understanding money


Five Frugal Things I’ve done this Week 6th October 2017

I love these occasional five frugal things posts. When you think the week has flashed by in a blur of busy-ness, it is good to stop and reflect. So here are my five frugal things to kick off October.

frugal thingsFrugal thing 1: Using up the stores

I am eating out of the cupboards this week. For one reason or another it is just me almost every night. It can be hard to find the motivation to cook properly when I am by myself but tonight I made myself a delicious store cupboard stew.

I used chick peas and tinned tomatoes from the larder, along with a few frozen vegetables and some fresh ones that needed using up. Also chucked in were celery, carrots, mushrooms, a green pepper, some left over cooked spinach, a single new potato I found lurking and the end of a packet of mixed frozen vegetables. The addition of half a pint of stock and some smoked paprika – my favourite spice – gave it a lovely flavour. It was absolutely delicious! I had it with some brown rice for a really cheap and healthy dinner. Which leads me onto:

Frugal thing 2: Batch cooking and freezing

I love the odd home made freezer meal and frequently batch cook. It saves time and money. Tonight I deliberately made a big pot of my stew so that I could eat it tomorrow and freeze a couple of portions.

Frugal thing 3: Rented out the spare room

I welcomed my new lodger on Sunday. She seems really lovely and is settling in well. It has been nice to have a bit of company this week. The extra money is hugely helpful to my budget. I found her through Spare Room, which is a good site in my opinion.

I gave the room a refresh the other week – bit of frugal DIY. It was well worth it as it looks lovely and clean now.

Frugal thing 4: Making the most of windfall fruit

Mr S arrived home with a huge box of cooking apples a couple of weeks ago, far too many for us to use in fact. I have given a load to friends and neighbours and got back some pears in return. These are currently ripening in the fruit bowl. I didn’t have to buy any fruit this week at all.

I also peeled, chopped and froze some of the apples to mix with the home grown and foraged currants and berries already in the freezer.

frugal thingsFrugal thing 5: Completed a no spend week

I have purchased nothing this week except cat food, milk and a pack of reduced price mushrooms. I didn’t intend to do this – it just happened! We didn’t need any groceries except milk as we have been eating from the stores, but when I saw the yellow sticker on my half price mushrooms I knew I could use them in tonight’s stew. I don’t spend unless I need to. At the moment I am conscious that Christmas is on the way, and I want to save the pennies for presents.


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 to their blogs to see their five frugal things. What have your money saving achievements been this week?



Save money with a wood burner

Save money with a wood burnerThe wood burner is finally up and running! We have had it for ages and ages but Mr S fitted it over the summer, then we got someone in to line the chimney.

The benefits of a wood burner

Yesterday evening it was finally cold enough to try it out. We only had a small fire but it was lovely!  I am looking forward to cosying up near the fire as it gets colder. There are other benefits to having a wood burner, of course. Wood as a fuel is carbon neutral and if we buy it locally it will have a smaller environmental footprint than running the gas boiler. No doubt we will run the heating at times as well. I anticipate that the wood burner will warm up the house but I’m not sure it will get to some of the cold rooms at the back.

Save money with a wood burnerI have read that logs purchased locally are also likely to be much cheaper than other forms of heating fuel and that we could save money with a wood burner. We have some free logs that we have gathered from various places. Now we need to start searching for a good source of cheap wood.

Saving money with a wood burner

It will be nice to hang the laundry on the clothes horse near the wood burner. Hopefully it will dry quite quickly. I don’t have a tumble dryer so currently use the radiators and a dehumidifier to help dry the clothes in the winter. Partly because of this, partly because the house is lacking ventilation and partly because we are mean with the heating, we have suffered some mould problems in the past. To counter this, over the last few years we have run the heating more and had the dehumidifier on quite a lot, which can be quite expensive. I think the wood burner will help keep the condensation at bay.

I am hoping the wood burner will save us quite a bit of money overall but we shall see!

Mr S picked up a large plastic garden chest that should be ideal to store our logs outside. This cost him nothing as it was from a house clearance he helped with. We also found a nice wicker log basket at a country fair recently  for a fiver. The wood burner itself was expensive, of course, but hopefully it will pay for itself over time. The next step is to decorate the lounge, which we will be doing over the next few months.

Do you save money with a wood burner? What are the benefits or the drawbacks?

Is frugality the new black?

frugalityIs frugality the new black? I asked this same question back in 2014. Back then it felt we were still in a post recession hangover. Now, in the UK anyway, I think it is more to do with post-Brexit nervousness and our government’s insistence on pushing forwards with their austerity programme. Either way, whatever the cause, frugality seems to be in!

Frugality is in

Food and energy prices go up whilst wages largely stagnate. Benefits are being squeezed for those already on the lowest incomes. Public services are facing cutbacks just as people seem increasingly to need them.

No wonder the internet is packed with money saving and frugality blogs! Whether you want information on living a thriftier, more frugal lifestyle, need advice on budgeting or debt repayment, need better value recipes or want to know where the best discounts can be found, there is a blog for you.

You Tube also features these frugal bloggers and Pinterest is positively awash with them. New books like The No Spend Year: How you can spend less and live more (Michelle McGagh) echo those published at the time of the last recession such as Judith Levine’s Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. There are TV programmes telling you how to spend less on food, how to get more for your money, how to live mortgage free and how to make something new from an item about to be sent to the rubbish dump. Buying second-hand is positively trendy (although not always super cheap if it carries a ‘vintage’ label), with a host of entrepreneurial folk making a living selling second-hand stuff on eBay and other online sites.

Taking care of the pennies

frugalityI guess I might have a different view of the situation if my colleagues were mostly investment bankers rather than local government employees. However, it appears that most people I know are watching the pennies. Those who once seemed embarrassed about shopping in the discount supermarkets now appear very happy to share how much money they saved.

Do people still feel the need to keep up with the Jones’s? I don’t see this so much. Many families are prepared to budget when they need to,  which doesn’t leave much scope for showing off. I am sure some parents continue to spoil their children by spending vast amounts on Christmas and birthdays. However, I have noticed that there are just as many keen to show their children they love them in more meaningful ways and to teach them the value of money.

It is no fun having no spare cash. It is even worse if you have debts because you don’t control your spending. There are plenty of folk out there with reasonable incomes who are in a sticky financial situation because they have been under the influence of the buy now pay later credit culture. I am happy to be part of the frugality trend if it in any way helps people to manage their money better, to appreciate the simple things in life and to save a bit of cash for a rainy day.  I hope it isn’t just a thrifty fad and that frugality really is the new black!

There are a couple of affiliate links in this post and if you purchase anything after linking through I will receive a small commission.

Right on the money: Sensible advice to save you cash

right on the moneyI have been watching an excellent TV programme In the mornings recently called Right on the Money. It is usually on during the day when I am at work but seems to be repeated the following day at 6.30am on BBC2. I watch it whilst I am getting ready for work!

I have just discovered this but found it features really sensible advice and information for those who are looking for ways to save money.  Sometimes I find such programmes are rather patronising and aimed at people so clueless there is nothing to learn if you are already pretty careful with your finances. Right on the Money is different and interesting, with really original content.

So far this week I have discovered the following:

Property guardianship

You can save huge amounts of money on rent if you become a property guardian. This involves paying a reduced rent to live in a disused building in return for some maintenance duties. The downside is that you only get one month’s notice of your landlord wants the property back. Not a solution for families but nevertheless such a great idea!

Nocturnal shopping

There is something known as the ‘vampire economy’. There are a whole host of nocturnal Internet shoppers who relax by spending their time and cash on the sofa or in bed buying stuff. I know a lot of people shop for leisure in town or at the mall at the weekend but hadn’t appreciated this happened online so much. I tend to buy things because I need them, not for fun. I don’t have enough spare cash for that to be a hobby!

Beware contactless spending

It is very easy to spend a lot of money using contactless payments. A coffee, here, a magazine there, a music download…they can soon add up. Contactless is easy and convenient, but because it doesn’t feel as if you are spending real money it can be hard to track.

Young entrepreneurs

There are many kids out there earning excellent money running their own businesses. There is 15 year old Harvey, who started a business designing and selling tax disc reminders. He invested his profits in land to create a campsite but ended up selling it for millions to a developer! Fourteen year old Angel sells animal fashion accessories that she makes herself and owns two shops. Then there is 13 year old Henry, who writes books and designs a range of children’s products based on those. Amazing and totally inspiring! They did make me feel a bit of a failure though. Ho hum.

Right on the Money!

It really is a great programme and worth watching on catch up of you can. Even us seasoned money savers can learn something. If you can’t watch Right on the Money, check out the website for loads of hints and tips on saving your dosh!

Five frugal things: 16th July 2017

five frugal thingsAs I was on holiday last week you may be surprised to learn that I have easily achieved five frugal things.  Our week in our lovely Welsh retreat was a bargain vacation after all!!

Frugal achievement no. 1: Eating in

It would be easy to eat out a lot on holiday. We rarely do, usually allowing ourselves just the one restaurant meal. We had a delicious one when we went to Anglesey and I was more than happy to pay for the lovely food and excellent service. The rest of the time we treated ourselves to yummy meals in, buying Welsh lamb a couple of times as it really is excellent quality. Not cheap, but much more so than eating out. We had new potatoes and home grown vegetables we had taken with us alongside whatever we bought.

Frugal achievement no 2: Picnics all the way

five frugal thingsEvery day we made ourselves a flask and some sandwiches to take out with us. A couple of times we found some yellow stickered reductions and took those out with us the day after. I know people get nervous about going over best before dates, but it was only a day and we kept everything cold in the fridge and the cool bag. I think if you use your common sense and the food looks and smells fresh, it is usually perfectly edible and delicious. One day we got our picnic for less than £1!

Frugal achievement no 3: Kitting myself out for work

I find it hard to pass a charity shop and we went into lots of them in Aberystwyth. Poor Mr S was running out of patience with my by the end of the holiday! However, as well as finding some bargains to resell on eBay, I found two skirts and a top for work. The grand total? £6. You can’t do much better than that for a bargain.

Frugal achievement no 4: Finding free trips out

We did pay for some days out whilst we were away, most notably the wonderful Plas Cadnant Gardens in Anglesey. However, we also found lots of free attractions. The Museum of Modern Art in Machynlleth was very interesting, when the sun shone we went to the beach and the RSPB South Stack nature reserve also cost us nothing. A walk along the beach or in the woods is always a joy and you get both for free.

Frugal achievement no 5: Using the library

One very wet day in Wales we went and sat in the library where we took advantage of the free wi-fi, magazines and newspapers on offer. I am all for using libraries wherever and whenever possible as the more people that do, the less likely the local authority is to close them. It was really interesting to see the range and number of people coming in to borrow books and use the computers.

Now we are home I need to think about some post holiday money saving so may need to find more than five frugal things each week! We may have had a frugal week compared to other people on their holidays, but Wales is a long way from us and the petrol cost a lot, we bought a few gifts for the girls and spent more on food than we normally would. So, this week, we will mostly be eating…..courgettes!

How about you? Have you managed five frugal things?

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky. Hop over to their sites to see their five frugal things and the other bloggers taking part this week.