Five Frugal Things I have achieved this week, 30th June 2017

Thanks for all the comments on my last post about frugal holidays. I loved the idea of a monastic retreat, as suggested by Kirrie, and Julia’s information about university accommodation. I can see myself trying both of these.

Five frugal things

I guess it’s time for the weekly frugal round up – five frugal things. So what have my frugal achievements been?

No. 1: Getting creative with courgettes

Courgette season is well and truly upon us here at Shoestring Cottage. The veggie patch is looking very productive and healthy, even though we did scale it back this year.  So far we have eaten them fried in butter with garlic, as a ratatouille with tomatoes and peppers and spiced with some cumin. Tonight we had courgette surprise, the surprise being we had broad beans instead .

No. 2: Preserving our fruit

Another crop that is doing well is the currants: red and black. I am picking and freezing them for now and have 2lb so far. When I get to 6lb I will make a batch of currant jelly. I love this!

No 3: Eating from the larder

We ate from the larder all last week as part of my no spend week. As we still had stocks of food,  this continued over the weekend until Monday, when I finally went shopping. However, I still want to clear some foods that have been hanging around a bit. Darling daughter works at the Co-op, and frequently brings little yellow stickered treats home. She sticks them in the freezer and seems to forget about them! I have been working my way through lots of sandwich thins for lunch and little brioche buns for breakfast.

No. 4: Home made stock and soup

I made chicken stock using 3 carcasses from the freezer, then turned this into a hearty chicken and veg soup. This was prompted by my lodger, who roasted a chicken and was about to throw so much of it away because she couldn’t be bothered to pull all the little scraps of meat off. I could! It also gave me a reason to use up all the veg in the bottom of the fridge.

5.  Frugal exercise

I have been getting up half an hour earlier to make sure I have time for my morning yoga before work. This makes such a huge difference to how I feel and allows time for all the other things I have to do after work, like the garden! It costs me nothing to unroll my mat and do a few salute to the suns! Who needs an expensive gym membership?

Have you managed five frugal things this week? Maybe you have achieved even more! Please share.

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

Think you can’t afford to go on holiday? Ideas for frugal holidays

frugal holidays

Mr Shoestring and I work hard all year. We scrimp and save and live a frugal lifestyle to make sure bills are paid and no debts accrued. One thing we insist on, however, is at least one vacation a year.  We know we can go on our frugal holidays!

Building it into our budget

Building a holiday fund into our budget is important to us. We don’t run a fancy car, have lots of nights in the pub or wear designer clothing. Because of this, for the last few years we have managed two holidays every year. It depends what your priorities are and this is what we like to do.

A Welsh idyll

However, we still can’t afford a luxury 5 star hotel in the Maldives. We have our holidays but they have to be within our means. For several years we have spent a week in Wales at an organic smallholding, staying very cheaply in an old but comfy caravan. We mostly self cater (always treating ourselves to some superb Welsh lamb and other local produce) and have a great week walking, wild swimming and perusing the interesting towns and villages nearby. This costs us around £350 for the week, including accommodation, food and transport.  You can see our gorgeous Welsh home from home here.

We generally also have a holiday abroad and have found all inclusive works well.  However this is more expensive. So if the all inclusive package holiday doesn’t suit your budget, what other frugal holidays are there?

My cheapest holiday

Years ago,  I hitch hiked through France and into Spain with my then boyfriend. We stayed in the most basic campsites en route and occasionally pitched the tent in a random field. We once slept behind a pile of rocks on a motorway as we were dropped too late to find another lift. I wouldn’t recommend that! This holiday cost barely anything, but would I let my daughters do it? NO WAY! I mention it just to prove you can have some kind of break away on the tightest of budgets. Instead of hitching, I would get them to explore Interrailing. This seems still to be a great way of travelling in Europe. There is an interesting article about the pros and cons of Interrail here.

House swapping

I have done house swaps several times in France and in Spain. The big advantage is that your (usually comfortable and well-equipped) accommodation is free. In addition, someone is looking after your house as well. However, you do still need to get there. We drove to France and Spain. The latter was a long journey with relatively young children and we did need to stop over at a cheap hotel on the way, which obviously added to the cost. However, there is no reason you can’t house swap in your own country, especially if you live somewhere generally popular with tourists. I used a now defunct house swap organisation aimed at teachers, but there are many, many on the internet these days. This is a good option for families.

A disadvantage of house swapping is the amount of work that goes into getting your house ready. You need everything to be very clean and tidy, and your house needs to be in good decorative order.

Sun £9.50 holidays

Each January the Sun newspaper runs its £9.50 holiday promotion. You collect 10 tokens from the papers and can book a 3 or 4 night holiday for 4 people for (in theory anyway) £9.50. In fact. as this article from Money Saving Expert explains, they generally cost more than this, but are still very good value and worth investigating.

WOOFing

In case you think I have gone barking mad (geddit?), this means Working On Organic Farms. If you are in good physical and mental health, you can volunteer to work on farms throughout the world in exchange for your bed and board. You do need to pay a subscription to the host country’s WOOF organisation and your own travel costs. However, this can be a great cultural experience and you are likely to make many friends from around the world. Tom and Liza, who own our lovely Welsh smallholding, take in WOOFers every once in a while.

Camping

Camping as a family is probably the cheapest holiday option of all. However, it can be expensive to buy all of the gear to start with. You will need a large tent, inflatable mattresses, sleeping bags, lights, a gas cooker, and utensils like kettle, pots, pans, plates, cups, etc. as a minimum. I would also go for a fold up table, a wind break and some comfy chairs. A friend insisted on camp beds, a fridge and a loo as well! If you are going to go away regularly you will soon recoup the costs as generally campsites are so much cheaper than other forms of accommodation.

If you are camping in the UK you all need a decent set of waterproofs! You are at the mercy of the weather. We had some fabulous camping holidays when the kids were young. However, If I am being honest, we also baled out of two. One because of continuous, heavy rain and the other because the winds were so bad our tent almost got blown away!

We bought our tent in the sale at the end of the summer and managed to pick up some other bits second hand. We even managed to pick up some gear on Freecycle. Overall, camping is a great frugal holiday choice for families.

Hostels

Years ago, I belonged to the Youth Hostels Association. YHAs were always an excellent frugal option for accommodation. It was basic and you had to do some jobs to stay in them, such as clean the loos or sweep the stairs. They appear to have moved on apace and now the YHA prices are for private rooms similar to hotels, with much of their accommodation upgraded. However, they still have some more traditional dormitory hostel accommodation. Their Brighton hostel is advertising rooms from £11.85 a night.

I had a look at hostels more generally as an option for frugal holidays. Some of the foreign language students have used them to stay in places such as London and Cambridge. They are super basic but cheap. You share a room with a lot of strangers, not all the same sex. Sometimes they aren’t as clean as you might ideally like! However, if I was young and travelling on a budget I would definitely do my research and give some of them a try. You can stay in a dorm at a backpackers hostel in Birmingham, with free breakfast, from £13 a night.  More information  on frugal holidays in the UK and abroad can be found at Hostel World.

Become a house sitter

This is one I would love to try! Offer to look after someone’s house and pets for free and you can stay in their house for nothing. Trusted House Sitters can put you in touch with those who would like their pets and accommodation looked after. There are opportunities worldwide. According to the promo video, it is possible to families, couples or solo travellers to do this. You do have to pay your own travel costs, however, and obviously love animals.



So – my ideas for frugal holidays in a nutshell. What are yours? Have you ever house swapped or what is your experience of camping?

No spend week update – how was yours?

Broadstairs

On the beach at Broadstairs

No spend week hangover

We came to the end of our no spend week yesterday. I don’t find it difficult generally, especially when I am at work,  as there is little temptation. It really helps my bank balance. You don’t always spot the steady drip, drip of money out of your purse, even when you think you are being quite frugal!

Doing a no spend week or month tends to carry over. I find I get out of the habit of spending money. I do need to go and buy new smart sandals at some point. They fell apart over the weekend. I had to hold them on my foot with a hair band I found on the floor and hobble home! I have my walking sandals, which will do until I get round to it.

What the Dickens?

No spend week

Celebrating the end of no spend week!

We drove to Broadstairs on Friday night to pick up my parents and aunt. They had the most fabulous sunny week there and said they could have been abroad. We stayed in their rented house overnight and came back to Essex after lunch on Saturday.

It seems a rather nice town with a gorgeous sandy beach. They were fortunate in being there for the annual Dickens festival. They hadn’t planned this and were initially a bit confused that the local folk were wandering round in period dress!

We only had a few hours for a wander but it is a lovely bit of coast line with an interesting history (as well as the Dickens connection, it is known as Viking Bay). Broadstairs could be one to revisit I think.

Lunch ‘out’

My parents treated us to lunch to thank us for collecting them. I am obviously their frugal daughter though, as lunch out meant pie or fish and chips on a bench overlooking the sea! We retreated to the car when the weather broke and it started to rain. Typical English seaside experience.

Both my mum and dad had big operations earlier in the year, within two weeks of each other. My mum had a hip replacement and dad had a stent fitted on his aortic aneurism. It was all rather stressful and worrying at the time so it is nice to see them up and about now. Even though they don’t drive long distances as they used to, they don’t let anything get in the way of living their lives to the full.

Frugal soup

I rescued a chicken carcass with a ton of meat on it from my lodger in the week. She was going to bin it! I stripped off the chicken and froze it, then got another couple of carcasses I had saved from the freezer to make a big pot of stock. Today it will be transformed into a hearty chicken and vegetable soup. I hate waste! This will get another frugal week off to a good start.

I need to do a shopping list and meal plan for the week. I spent barely anything on food last week, less than £20. Now we have broad beans and courgettes ready in the garden so I won’t need to buy much veg.

Has anyone else been on a no spend week? How have you done?

Need to save money? How about a no spend week?

no spend week

Beautiful Wrabness

Yesterday kicked off our latest no spend week. Earlier in the year we did a couple of no spend months. We only spent money on essentials such as food and petrol (plus the usual household bills, of course).

As well as being helpful for the bank balance, not buying anything is strangely liberating. Setting myself strict limits on what I can purchase takes away any temptations! There are no internal debates on whether I can afford something, I am just not buying it because I am on a no spend period. I get on with enjoying stuff that is free and using what I already have.

Why we need a no spend week

no spend week

Life’s a beach

As we have had a lot of expense this month,  a no spend week is a good idea and will take us up to pay day without going overdrawn or dipping into the reserves. 

The rules are the same as for no spend months.  We will only spend money on essentials.  Next week we shouldn’t need to spend anything at all, not even on food. We have plenty in the cupboards that needs to be used so it will be an eat from the larder week. We have milk, bread, cat food, tea bags and petrol, as well as plenty of food in the fridge and freezer.

A day out for free to kick off no spend week

no spend week

Mr S takes a dip

Yesterday we had a free day out in the sunshine, bar the cost of the petrol. We had to drop my daughter at a friend’s in Mistley for a barbecue, so we drove across to Wrabness after for a walk on the beach and a swim. The water was so calm, clear and warm, we could have been on the Mediterranean somewhere.  The beach huts at Wrabness are rather luxurious – more like chalets than beach huts really and it looks as if people are allowed to sleep in them. I bet they cost an absolute fortune! But we took some drinks and snacks and spent no money at all. Days out don’t need to cost an arm and a leg, especially when the weather is so hot. We are very lucky to have so many beautiful coastal areas within half an hour’s drive.

 

Is anyone else on a no spend week (or month)? Do you do regular no spend days? How do you motivate yourself and what do you do to stop yourself spending?

Five Frugal Things I have Done this Week 16th June

Five frugal thingsI haven’t spent too much this week, in preparation for next week. This will be strictly NO SPEND. I intend to buy nothing except essentials. I won’t even be doing a food shop, apart from cat food, loo roll and some vegetables. It has been an expensive month overall, so I need to do at least five frugal things every week!

Frugal thing no. 1

I popped into Sainsbury’s after 9 pm one evening to check out the yellow stickers. They didn’t have much that I wanted but I did buy some reduced mince and some bread. There is no point in purchasing yellow sticker items if you then waste them! Both have been frozen. I find that my freezer is essential when it comes to money saving, not just for freezing bargains, but also leftovers, batch cooked meals, poultry carcasses for making stock, left over bread for puddings and breadcrumbs, the fruit and vegetables that we grow in the garden and home-made soup.

Frugal thing no. 2

I have listed a ton of stuff on eBay and Facebook and sold 5 items this week. A nice gent came out to take the old cross trainer that has been sitting unused in the shed for 2 years. I let him have it for free so it didn’t generate any income, but it did save me the petrol and hassle of getting it to the tip! He was very happy with it. Generally, I am finding Facebook is more useful that the local Freecycle group at getting rid of stuff lately and easier to use. Selling on eBay is becoming a regular in my five frugal things round up!

Frugal thing no. 3

We have been carefully tending our veg patch and greenhouse. It has needed watering most days as it has been so hot and dry. The watering and weeding is paying off now. We have black and redcurrants just ripening and should have courgettes and broad beans ready for next week. That will bring the shopping bill down. I love eating our own produce!

Frugal thing no. 4

When I was a polling clerk the other week I carefully kept the cardboard backing and excess paper from each book of ballot papers. This caused some amusement and bemusement amongst my colleagues, but I explained that they would come in handy for writing notes and shopping lists. They really have. This week I used a couple of them to write my meal plan, the shopping list and a to-do list for darling daughter, who has been at home a lot. I hate throwing things away when they could be useful!

Frugal thing no. 5

We needed to find a good deal on the house insurance. I did some research on the internet to find a company that would be happy to insure us for buildings and contents even though we have a lodger. A surprising number won’t consider it although I got some very high quotes from a couple of companies who were happy to. However, the best deal was with Quote Me Happy. It was quick and easy as it was all done online instantly. They allow up to 6 lodgers. I am happy with just the one! it is always worth shopping around.

I am getting a bit of frugal inspiration for my no spend week by re-reading How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly (my affiliate link). I intend to add this to my Frugal Bookshelf next week. Such a great book! I borrowed it in paperback form when I originally read it years ago, but now Amazon have it on Kindle for only £2.08. Bargain!

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 their five frugal things!

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I dumped the Mr Sheen years ago and I have been using a mixture of vinegar and water to clean surfaces and furniture. It is very cheap and effective. I  have also on occasion used bicarbonate of soda to scrub the bathroom. However, until now I haven’t really explored any recipes for  a home made eco friendly cleaner such as this one.

home made eco friendly cleaning spray

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

A home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I hate the idea of living in a house filled with chemicals and the damage that they do to the environment, but I can’t afford the expensive eco-friendly cleaning products you find in the supermarket or health food shop.

Over the years a mixture of being very busy and laziness has meant that my cleaning cupboard has started to fill up with standard cleaners. I have bathroom cleaners, bleach, window cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners….what happened to my green credentials?! My cupboard is full of chemical cocktails in a sea of plastic bottles. Enough is enough!

As I run out of each cleaner I am going to experiment with a cheaper, greener home made alternative. The first has been a general purpose spray cleaner that I have so far used successfully in the kitchen and bathroom as well as the kitchen work surfaces.

This is extremely cheap and easy to make. I put it in an old spray bottle so less plastic waste too! I reckon it cost about 60p for a litre and I have loads of borax substitute left that should last ages.

Orange general household cleaner

An old spray bottle, washed out
2 heaped tsp borax substitute
4 or 5 drops of orange essential oil
100ml white vinegar
warm water

Use a large jug as this fizzes when you add the vinegar to the borax substitute. Start by mixing them together as much as you can. Add your orange oil and top up to the litre mark with warm water. Keep stirring until the borax substitute is dissolved, pour into your spray bottle and get cleaning!

I got my white vinegar from Asda for about 39p and the oil and borax substitute came from Summer Naturals.

Does anyone have some tried and tested eco friendly cleaning spray recipes they would like to share?

Why are you always broke? How to change your spending habits

Why are you always broke?

‘I don’t know, I hardly buy anything!’ Some people are broke because they genuinely have very little money coming in each month. Maybe they live on benefits or have to support a large family on the minimum wage. However, in my experience there are many people out there who claim they have no money and can’t save who have decent jobs and salaries. Perhaps you have the cash, but need to change your spending habits to get you on track?

change your spending habitsI knew a woman who lived in a large house with two family cars and sent her children to private school. She told me she never had any money and they were struggling. The pleas of poverty did not ring true, even when she once had the debt collectors at her door. It doesn’t take a genius to see that her lifestyle was too extravagant for what would to many of have been a fantastic income! Her spending habits weren’t in line with the money she had coming in. She was more concerned about keeping up appearances than she was about the state of her bank balance.

Ask yourself some tough questions to help you change your spending habits

So, before you say your money never lasts and you have no savings ask yourself these questions to identify your spending habits:

Could your accommodation be cheaper? This is likely to be your biggest monthly expense. If you have over extended yourself buying or renting it will hurt. Could you move to more modest accommodation or rent a room out?

Can you travel more cheaply? Cars are a huge expense. If you have more than one car consider whether at least one of you could take public transport instead. Could you downgrade to a motor scooter or cycle? If you need your car you can find out about cheaper motoring here.

Could you holiday more cheaply? I hesitate to say give up on holidays, although many people do enjoy the odd ‘staycation’. However, if you go skiiing every winter and to Disneyland each summer you will need a very full wallet.  Could you invest in a tent for some cheaper camping holidays instead? Some of our most enjoyable family vacations have been under canvas.

Do you have money to burn?

Do you smoke? I have little sympathy for people who literally burn money whilst putting their good health at risk. Nuff said!

Do you insist on buying everything new? From clothes to furniture, whatever you need you can almost certainly buy secondhand if you really want to save money. And reusing can help save the planet! Change your spending habits and consider buying second hand.

How much do you spend in pubs/restaurants/cinemas/theatres each month? If you are in the pub three times a week your bank balance will feel the strain.

Do you enjoy a regular takeaway? How much would you save if you knocked this habit on the head and cooked from scratch instead? Even if you don’t waste money on take outs, do you use a lot of convenience food?

A passion for fashion?

Do you love a brand name? If you can wean yourself off designer clothing (or at least buy it secondhand) you will save yourself a packet. When you are in the supermarket, try some supermarket own brands – the big names make you pay for all of their advertising and fancy packaging.

Do you have too many clothes? If you buy a new outfit every time you go out the answer will be yes. Take the wardrobe challenge and then see how else you can save money on clothes.

How much does it cost you to look that great? There are so many ways to waste money on hair care and beauty products and treatments, but if you are short of cash you probably don’t need to get hair extensions or your nails done every month and could knock the designer perfumes and makeup on the head in favour of some cheaper versions. See here how you can be beautiful on a budget.

How often do you use your expensive gym membership? If you don’t use it then cancel it ASAP! If you are a gym bunny and there every night then good for you, but could you get it cheaper elsewhere?

Do you have hundreds of TV channels you never watch? You could save a lot by switching to a cheaper package or cancelling it altogether and investing in a Freeview box.

Time to change your spending habits

They are obvious questions really but people are very good at sticking their heads in the sand. Don’t be an ostrich. If you live from pay cheque to pay cheque and have no savings but you walk around in designer gear then you know why you are always broke! Have a good look around the site to see how you can change your spending habits. Start here, which gives lots of tips on how to save money.

(First published February 2017)

Meal planning and how it saves me money

The pros of meal planning (there are no cons!)

There was a time long ago when I never considered meal planning. I would wander around the supermarket grabbing things that looked tasty and with only a vague idea of what we already had at home. This lack of meal planning lead to the following scenarios:

I came home with too much food for the week and it got thrown in the bin.

Items I already had were bought again and added to the stockpile, some of which would also end up in the bin.

Insufficient food was purchased and we ran out halfway through the week.

I forgot to buy items that we actually needed to make the meals I was vaguely planning as I went along, such as pasta or rice.

I had to return to the supermarkets mid week when I then got distracted by stuff I hadn’t actually gone in for and spent more money than I intended to!

It only takes a few minutes

Sound familiar? I am sure we have all done this from time to time. I have found that spending 10-25 minutes each week meal planning and writing a shopping list really pays off and saves me a lot of time and money.  If you need to reduce you food budget, I guarantee that you will when you start meal planning.

I go through the fridge, freezer and cupboards first to see what we already have and to ensure we have enough staples like pasta, tinned tomatoes, teabags, potatoes etc. Our meals are planned around what needs using up first. I frequently discover that I don’t need to buy as much as I thought at this point!

Where to find inspiration

I use my large shelf of cookery books for inspiration – and the Internet, of course. If you type in ‘what can I do with cabbage/bacon/ chorizo’, etc you will have a list of helpful suggestions for meals using them.

Today, I have a bag of sorry looking carrots in the fridge. The potatoes from last week are starting to sprout. I have two peppers. I also have some apples that are turning brown in places but are still usable. These will be built into my menu planner for the next couple of days so that I don’t waste them.

In the freezer I have some fish that I bought in the reduced section last week and for some reason I have masses of frozen spinach.

I also know that we are out one day and that I will be eating alone one night so I will factor that in.

This week’s menu looks like this:

Here are the recipes for Saturday’s carrot salad and Friday’s Spaghetti cheese casserole.

I have written the shopping list so that I only purchase what I need for the week. Now I’m off to Lidl!

Are you into meal planning and, if so, what are you eating this week?

 

Five Fabulously Frugal things I have done this week, 2nd June 2017

five fabulously frugal thingsAnother week gone, and a muggy one at that. It has been expensive in some ways,  I have a lot of family birthdays in May and June. So I need to at least achieve five fabulously frugal things!

Frugal thing no. 1

five fabulously frugal thingsLast night I did a small shop in Lidl. We didn’t need that much as there is a lot in the cupboards, but I did intend to splurge on some steaks and salmon as we have a family meal tonight for my daughter’s birthday.

I was pleased as I found some marinated salmon with Lidl’s orange 30% off stickers, so bought a couple of packs along with a reduced chicken, some mince and a couple of the chicken kievs. These will be an easy tea for my daughter, who works shifts. Unfortunately no reduction on the steaks, but I only needed two of those

I was surprised at the total as I| was in a discount supermarket and had done quite a small shop for the week. I checked my receipt and – get this – the cashier had charged me £26.70 for a box of six eggs! Because she was too busy chatting to her colleague rather than concentrating on the job in hand she somehow hit x30 after the price. Sigh! It’s a good job I am on the ball.

five fabulously frugal things

They cannot be serious!

Frugal thing no. 2

I remembered the amazing deodorising properties of bicarbonate of soda to combat my kitchen bins. They had become a bit ripe in the heat, especially the food waste one. It has so many uses that every home should have a big bag for frugal cleaning, personal care and getting rid of smells. I blogged about this yesterday.

Frugal thing no. 3

On Sunday I went to the boot sale. I got some great finds to resell. I am doing quite well at the moment and it is a really useful income stream for me. This prompted a blog post on How to Present clothes on eBay. So many people go to the trouble of listing items but the photos are so poor potential customers can’t really see what is on offer!

On a similar note, I met up with fellow blogger Faith Archer on Saturday in Hadleigh in Suffolk. Faith runs the More With Less blog. We had a tour of the lovely charity shops in Hadleigh and I bought a top for work and a couple more items that I will list on eBay.

Frugal thing no. 4

I mentioned my darling daughter has a birthday today. She asked for a jacket from Nasty Gal (no, I hadn’t heard of them either!) so I checked on Top Cash Back to see if they were on there and they were – with a generous 8.4% cash back on purchases. I only recently signed up with this site and have made just three purchases. I already have £34.50 on my account! This is a good habit to get into when making online purchases I think. If you join using the link above I will receive a small referral fee.

Frugal thing no. 5

Ages ago I mentioned that I had bought a copy of Gardener’s World Magazine because it had a 2 for 1 card on hundreds of open gardens around the UK. We have used it once but used it again for a return visit to the beautiful Helmingham Hall in Suffolk. As well as getting money off the entrance price, we packed a good, frugal picnic and a flask.  I have so far saved £16 by using this card; well worth the cost of the magazine!

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 their frugal achievements this week! What frugal things have you done?

 

The amazing power of bicarbonate of soda

Yesterday it was a warm and muggy day. As I walked into the house after work I was hit with a most unpleasant pong. The bins! Both the main kitchen bin and the food waste container seemed to be fermenting in the heat. Yeeeuch!

Magic white powder

I immediately reached for the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). If I had remembered to sprinkle some of this magical powder into the bins before I put in new liners, they wouldn’t have been so smelly. I have done that now!

We always keep a big of tub of bicarbonate of soda handy as it has so many uses as a cleaner and deodoriser, as well as for making the odd muffin, of course! it is incredibly cheap for something that is so versatile.

I use wood pellets in the cat litter tray as it is better at absorbing smells, but I also sprinkle baking soda  in the bottom of the tray. It makes a huge difference.

It is good for getting rid of nasty odours in the fridge too; just leave a small bowlful at the bottom and it will help neutralise the smell.

Use bicarbonate of soda for personal care

Because of its deodorising properties, bicarbonate of soda can be used under your arms. I sometimes buy a solid deodorant from Lush that is mostly made of bicarb – and it really works! You can dab it straight onto your skin with a flannel.

It is also great for smelly feet when used in this way. Alternatively, a couple of teaspoons left overnight in stinky shoes or trainers will neutralise those nasty niffs!

I’m not a fan of this, but you can also use bicarbonate of soda to clean your teeth. Just dip your toothbrush in and brush! There are recipes online to make a more palatable minty toothpaste with it.  It can also freshen your breath if you mix a teaspoonful in a small glass of water and gargle.

Half a cup of soda in your bath will clean and soften your skin. Add a few drops of essential oil and you can abandon the bubble bath.

Gentle and effective cleaning

Bicarbonate of soda is well known as an effective and gentle household cleaner.

Use it as a scouring powder on dirt and stains pretty much anywhere in the house. Sprinkle it on a damp sponge and give surfaces a good scrub – it isn’t harsh so won’t scratch them. Tip it down the plug hole with half a cup of white vinegar to alleviate smelly drains then use it to scrub the sink!

Soak dishes with dried on food in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda before hand washing or placing in your dishwasher. This also works on tea stained mugs.

Sprinkle baking soda onto smelly sofas, rugs or carpets, leave for half an hour or so then vacuum. It is especially good at getting rid of pet smells.

If you have heavily soiled laundry, try add half a cup of soda alongside your washing powder or liquid. It will also brighten light coloured items.

I love bicarbonate of soda because I don’t like a houseful of chemicals. It keeps things simple. I also try to avoid a lot of unnecessary products and packaging.  But mostly, I love bicarbonate of soda because it is cheap!

I have just ordered a 1kg bag from Amazon for £4.74 including delivery. It works out even cheaper if you purchase a 5kg tub. Please note that if you click through via either of the images above and purchase something I will earn a small commission.

Frugal Friday May 2017: How has your week been?

Frugal Friday is a good day to think about this week’s frugal accomplishments. I returned home from holiday on Tuesday to find quite a bit of food sitting around – darling daughter didn’t appear to have eaten much whilst we were away! I hate food waste. There was a lot of fruit hanging about so I thought I would tackle that first.

Frugal Friday achievement no 1: Banana loaf and fruit salad

frugal fridayWe had a large bunch of black bananas that I couldn’t just dump. I considered putting them in the freezer to make something later, but I decided to bite the bullet and use them up straight away. I also had quite a few oranges and a bag of walnuts, so it had to be Delia Smith’s super frugal banana and walnut loaf. The recipe asks for lemons as well as oranges, but since I had none I just doubled up on the oranges. You only use the peel in the recipe so I shredded that then cut up the fruit to make a fruit salad with some grapes and apples that needed using. I made two loaves, one to eat now and another for the freezer.

Frugal Friday achievement no 2: Excellent value on holiday

frugal friday

Fabulous pic of the Caves of Drach taken by Mr S!

Our holiday turned out to be excellent value for money so I can add that to my Frugal Friday list. Because we went fully inclusive we barely spent anything. We did have a delicious meal in a restaurant for Mr S’s 50th, however. It was a beautiful place overlooking the port on a gorgeous sunny evening.

The food was excellent quality and well worth splashing out on. We also had a trip to the Caves of Drach in Porto Cristou. They were truly stunning and I highly recommend them if you ever visit Mallorca. Other than that, we had a very relaxing time, walking, swimming and sunbathing (oh, and eating and drinking far too much!).

The hotel very kindly delivered a bottle of fizz and two glasses to our room for Mr S’s birthday. We saved this for the following day and sat decadently drinking it on the beach!

We had to catch the coach to the airport at 7.30 am on Tuesday, so we shot into the restaurant first and grabbed some coffee and breakfast and also made up some cheese and ham rolls to have on the plane with some fruit. Well, we were fully inclusive and our frugal tendancies got the better of us!

Frugal Friday achievement no 3: A frugal shop

As I said yesterday, I restocked a few things in B&M, as they are excellent value for money. I nipped into Sainsbury’s too for some Lactofree milk and yogurts as they aren’t available in Aldi or Lidl. It would save me so much money if the discount supermarkets stocked Lactofree products. I plan a bigger shop once I have used up what we already have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards.

Frugal Friday achievement no 4: excellent eBay sales

I was very pleased that I sold several items whilst I was on holiday. As my daughter was at home and works shifts, she was able to package them and take them to the post office for me. I have done the best ever in my 60 day total. I hope to list some more things at the weekend.  This is a really useful extra income stream for me.

So, this is my frugal Friday, and this is what the cat thinks of it all!

frugal friday

Bargain-hunting and a freebie

Fresh back from my holiday, I need to be mindful of my spending. I have therefore gone straight into bargain-hunting mode.

bargain-huntingI had to go and get a few essentials because lots of things had run low whilst we were away. First stop was B&M. I pop in there occasionally to stock up on cat litter as this is the cheapest place for the wooden pellet variety that I prefer.  £5.59 for a large 30 litre bag, which is so much cheaper than elsewhere.

I have a lot of birthdays coming up so I stocked up cards. These were mostly 99p each which is pretty much the most I will ever pay, since they end up in the recycling anyway! Home Bargains is even cheaper for cards but I thought I may as well get them whilst there.

bargain-hunting

More bargain-hunting in the toiletries aisle. I bought my hair dye as I always do my own. This one was only £3.49, which was a good price. I treated myself to a moisturising foot masque for 99p because my feet feel very dry after walking around barefoot on the beach. My daughter has tried it and said it is nice. The makeup was a revelation in B&M. More bargains! I bought a bronzer to keep my holiday tan going. Only £2.99! It seems very nice and I used it today.

What a beautiful day it was yesterday. It felt even hotter than Mallorca, although I suppose I was rushing around doing laundry and shopping rather than lying on the beach sipping a gin and tonic 😀😀. No more showing my all inclusive arm band and getting everything done for me!

I managed to get three loads of washing done and dried, doing my my usual trick of giving each item a big shake before hanging them on the line and folding them up as soon as they were dry to minimise the ironing. There is enough to do without a massive ironing pile.

Free Manufacturer’s vouchers

A nice little gift arrived recently: £10 in vouchers from Purina. I wrote and told them how much my cats were enjoying Felix and they were obviously delighted to receive the compliment. I was very pleased because I had heard that companies sometimes send you vouchers if you contact them but I had never tried it. It was worth the effort! I might write to a few more. Has anyone else done this?

bargain-hunting

This meant I got the cat food for free as 48 sachets of Felix were only 9.99. I wasn’t lying – my cats really do enjoy Felix!

So a good day for bargain-hunting! I will make this month’s money last 😀. As a plus, darling daughter had watered all the plants and the garden is looking green and lush. Mr S will need to get the lawnmower out.

Five Frugal Things I have Done this Week: 19th May 2017

five frugal thingsAs mentioned, we are on holiday in Mallorca this week and having a lovely time on this beautiful, sunny little gem of an island. Going on holiday isn’t a fabulously frugal thing to do in itself, of course. We could have stayed at home and had a staycation, but this blog isn’t about never spending any money, it’s about having the best life you can with what you’ve got. We love a holiday and it’s Mr S’s big 5-0, so we put money aside to allow us to come away. But can we achieve five frugal things whilst we are away?

five frugal things

Just because we are spending money it doesn’t mean we are wasting it. The first fabulously frugal thing we have done is to make the most of the all-inclusive facilities here. So far we have had all of our meals at the hotel, taken advantage of the free bottles of water to carry out with us and made full use of the free bar (hic!).

On the bus

Today we are off to visit the Caves of Drach in Puerto Cristo. To save money we have found out about public buses to get to there rather than paying for an excursion. This will cost us 14 Euros each for the bus and entrance instead of 30 Euros each.

I have saved money using Boots three for two offers on sunscreen and fake tan, as explained here.

We were fabulously frugal on the plane here, Packing up sandwiches, fruit and snacks rather than purchasing expensive airport food. We found cheap bottles of water in the duty free section to keep us hydrated, which meant we only bought one cup of tea each during the flight.

Carrying a bottle

We will take some fruit and water from the restaurant on our trip today plus Aldi’s version of Nakd bars – raw fruit bars – to give us energy whilst we are out and about.

We have bought spending money with us, of course, but so far we have barely touched it and will be taking a lot of it home with us I think!

I’m linking up with Cass,  Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.  Check out their frugal achievements this week!

Bargain fashion from Everything5pounds.com

New bargain fashion

I received my parcel from Everythingthing5pounds yesterday. It was all very nicely packaged – they use their packing as an advertising opportunity, as you can see.

I purchased 4 items. I am most happy with a black cold shoulder top. The label says Portfolio, which I think is Marks and Spencer.  I also bought a long cotton summer skirt, originally New Look, a floral vest top and a pretty long sleeved black top. I’m not sure where these were from originally. Annoyingly, I seem to have purchased the wrong size as the black top is an 8 and way too small. Never mind – the labels are attached so I will stick it on eBay and get my money back.

Would I use the site again? Yes, definitely.  I won’t browse now though – I have spent enough this month and I need to focus on making money, not spending it.

Second-hand bargain fashion

Talking of which, I bought a second hand pair of leather sandals the other day at a bargain price of £15. They were lovely quality and I was disappointed that they were too big. I listed them straight back on eBay at a cheeky £20 and they sold immediately 😀. I also sold a pair of Skechers that I bought used for the same price I paid for them. You can never tell how shoes will sell but sporty sandals are doing ok so if you are having a clear out they are the ones to list! Three things to pack and post from yesterday; as well as the shoes I sold a lovely little dress from Next.

Let’s hope the sales continue. I will be out at the weekend looking for more bargains to sell on!

(BTW this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.)

Free and frugal ways to spend a bank holiday

No money? Wondering what to do this fine bank holiday weekend? How about these ideas to keep you and the family entertained? There are lots of free and frugal ways to spend a bank holiday.

Get the April issue of Gardener’s World magazine. They have a 2 for 1 offer for over 400 gardens around the uk. Plus you have a great magazine to read when you get home😀.

Go to the park and play on the swings (preferably take a child with you, lol), or take a football or cricket bat.

Play rounders! I have excellent memories of family holidays doing this when I was young.

Go for a walk at a fast pace and you won’t need to bother with the gym. Do it with a buggy and you are resistance training!

Check your local museums and art galleries – some will be free.

Head for the hills

Pack up a picnic and head for the hills. If we have a day out anywhere, Mr Shoestring and I always take a flask and sandwiches – whatever the weather. It saves so much money and also means no queuing in crowded cafes for over-priced food of variable quality.

Check the country parks in your area. In Essex we are blessed with some great open spaces, ideal for a family walk: Visit Parks. It’s easy to find where yours are at your local Tourist Information Centre.

Go find a bluebell wood. This is a good time to go! You can find some listed on the Woodland Trust website here.

Check out your local wildlife trust. They have all kinds of activities going on, from a family pond dip to an twilight bat or owl walk.

Garden centres for green entertainment

Go to the garden centre. We have several locally that have so much to see for free, and the kids love their displays. However, don’t be drawn in to the café, and don’t buy anything unless you need it and it is a good price.

Visit your relatives and friends. They are an under-rated and often under-valued form of entertainment and support.

Find a boot sale and get yourself some bargains.

There are lots more family ideas at dayoutwiththekids.com as well as great offers and deals at  Moneysavingexpert.com.

We will find some free and frugal ways to spend a bank holiday, as we always do. I can see us meandering around a garden I should think. Maybe see you there!

Anyone fancy some money back?

I was perusing Twitter in a sleepy state this morning when I came upon a great offer: £15 cash back on a £25 spend online at Asda. As I planned to pop in somewhere tomorrow to buy my Lactofree milk and cat food I thought I might as well have a look.

I signed up with a site called Top Cash Back and clicked on the link to the Asda site to get the offer. I will pop in to collect it tomorrow so I don’t have to pay the £5 delivery charge and hopefully my cash back will appear on my Top Cash Back account soon. Chuffed!

If you are interested in this, have a look. Be quick though as it only lasts until Monday. If you click through from my link I will earn a referral fee. Then if you recommend it to your friends you will also earn the fee. It’s win-win with this one!

Click here.

I plan to have a proper examination of the Top Cash Back website as it looks excellent. You can get money back on almost everything if you go through the site: fashion, beauty, furniture, holidays and hotels, eating out and utilities. I have recommended Good Energy on this blog before. I like their green credentials and very good customer service. I notice you can get £70 cash back if you sign up with them.  Broadband deals that are worth checking out are £150 cash back on Sky bundles, £250 on the same from Virgin Media and £150 on EE.

With the vacation season fast approaching, you can also get 20% cash back on airport parking, 6% on Holiday Cruises and 4% on Disney World holidays.

As this is the first time I have used the site and I don’t have my cash back yet, I am cautiously recommending it. It looks promising though! Has anyone else used it?

Garden money saving

Springtime in the garden

Garden money savingI have been a bit rubbish at writing daily blog posts over the past few weeks. I have been busy with work, boot sales, eBay and, most of all, the garden! Garden money saving has been most on my mind. How can we make it look fabulous without spending a fortune in the garden centre?

Garden money saving

Wallflower cuttings

Garden money saving

Wallflower grown from a cutting

It is a busy time of year in the garden. I have been weeding, chopping stuff back, sowing seeds and moving things about.

We have a large garden at the back and a biggish one at the front as well. I love that we have so much green around us, but it’s hard work!

My ideas for garden money saving

I don’t have lots of cash to splurge so I save money everywhere that I can. I am not an expert and I am sure there is plenty I need to learn, but this is what I have learned about garden money saving:

Boot sales and supermarkets are excellent places to buy cheap plants (Aldi in particular).

The reduced section in the garden centre is worth a browse for perennials. They might look a little sad but can be revived!

Most things can be grown from seed extremely cheaply. Share packets and seedlings with friends and family to save even more.

You can grow great plants from cuttings for free! Mr S pinched a bit of a multi-coloured wallflower from a garden we visited. It grew spectacularly and this year he has taken cuttings from that.

You can also divide plants such as grasses to create new plants. I have a geranium that spreads and is good for filling a gap or two so have just divided that.

Places like Home Bargains and B&M are good for cheap compost. Even better, make your own. We use a bit of both.

Pots, planters and containers can be expensive but other gardening friends often have too many. Ask! Failing that, boot sales can be a treasure trove. But you can also be creative – old tyres make good planters, for example.

Boot sales are great for old gardening tools, as well as Freecycle if you have a group in your area.

Bird scarers can be made easily from aluminium containers on strings – they make a great clatter!

garden money savingHow about raised beds from old bottles? We saw this recently on an allotment and thought it was a great idea.

Several water butts around the garden will save you money if you are on a meter. You can also use ‘grey water’ from your shower or bath to water the garden.

Your garden saves you cash

As well as finding ways to save money in the garden it can save you £££S. Gifts from your garden cost very little: home made jams and chutneys are often appreciated presents, or a hamper of seasonal fruit and vegetables. How about growing your own pot plants as gifts?

Finally, of course growing your own fruit and veg can save you a lot and is also free exercise.

What are your garden money saving tips?

Using it up to save money

My food shop was minimal last week. I haven’t really spent anything on groceries apart from £8 on some yellow sticker stuff I found in my local Co-op.  We seemed to have quite a lot of food and it makes me more creative when I have to use up what we have.

We used the fish cakes for tea on Saturday with some salad. They were delicious but I wouldn’t have paid the original price.  On Sunday we had the chicken pieces, roasted up with some of the carrots and lots of fresh veg that was hanging around plus half a tin of potatoes that needed eating. We had this one tray supper with the spinach and it was lovely!

The kiwis still aren’t ripe – I just can’t think why they were reduced at all! We have apples and oranges to use up anyway as well as frozen berries.

I am saving the whole chicken as we will have a roast over the Easter weekend. I will need to get some shopping before then but I do intend to go to the supermarket on Saturday evening to see if I can get some big reductions before Easter Sunday 😀.

So I  am saving money on my food bill by finding bargains, not wasting fresh food and using up what we have in the cupboards and freezers. How about you?

How to save money on clothes

I wasn’t surprised to read in Good Housekeeping that the average UK woman spends around £600 a year on clothes. I know quite a few who spend a lot more than that! I was quite shocked to find in the same article that women’s wardrobes also contain around £300 of clothes that never get worn. I addressed this in my Great Wardrobe Challenge post a few months back. If you spend too much, how can you save money on clothes?save money on clothes

Save money on clothes by not buying them…

I don’t spend anything like this amount. Last year the items  I purchased new were as follows:

One pair of leather boots, reduced from £60 to £14.40.

Several vests in assorted colours from Primark, about £15.

3 long sleeved black tops, also from Primark, about £12.

A Wallis top, my one extravagance, bought with a 20% discount for £25.

One pair of black suede loafers, £20.

Some socks and underwear, around £25.

Mr S also bought me a pair of Next jeans as part of my Christmas present, but I won’t count those towards my total.

A blue lace blouse from eBay, £6.

Buying second hand

I honestly can’t remember buying anything else new. I did make several second hand purchases, including some tops, skirts, a cardigan, shoes and more jeans from charity shops and boot sales. I would estimate I spent about £40 on these, so a grand total of £111.40. I never look like a tramp – I’m sure my friends would tell me if I did 😀.

If you need to save money you can easily do so by hitting the boot sales – the time to do this in the UK  is right now! Boot sale season is underway.

The article also said that families are spending more than ever before on their children’s clothes: an average annual figure of almost £800 per child! I was fortunate in that mine were more than happy to wear used clothes and hand me downs. They never demanded expensive designer brands. Now that they are all independent they all buy far too many clothes in my view, but are still savvy bargain hunters!

We also all sell items we no longer use on eBay if they are in good condition.

Save money on clothes by wearing what you have

If you are trying to budget and save money, first take a long look at what you have. If you don’t wear it, sell or donate it. Then consider what you actually need. Don’t buy stuff just for the sake of it, even if it is second hand. Consider quality used items of clothing rather than new. If you have to buy new, take advantage of the sales.

It is also worth checking eBay for new items. I wanted a Zara coat a few years ago. It was £120 in the shop but I found  exactly the same one for £70 brand new. The same with some leather Hotter boots. £135 in the catalogue: I got mine for £50 online!

Finally, look after your clothes and footwear. I keep mine for years. I don’t launder them every time I wear them unless they are actually dirty as they diminish with each wash, and I keep my shoes and boots clean and polished.

How much do you spend? How do you save money on clothes?

Not buying it: Fifteen things I don’t spend my cash on

I’m frugal, not a cheapskate, but there are some things I just won’t spend my money on any more. They may be cleverly marketed as essential, but  I’m not buying it (or them)! I don’t miss them! Perhaps I will relax and shell out for some of the goods and services on this list in the future, but at the moment I am happy to do without and I don’t have any sense of deprivation.

Not buying it: Plug in air fresheners

Yuck! Indoor air pollution. Just open a window.

Not buying it: A tumble dryer

not buying itI don’t have a tumble dryer! I line dry everything outside in the summer. Winter in the UK can prove trickier for drying laundry, so I use a dehumidifier or a heated airer if I need to. Both are much cheaper to run than a dryer.

Not buying it: A cleaner

When I got married years ago and had more money than sense, I employed a cleaner for a few hours each week. I wish I had done my own cleaning and put the money in a high interest savings account!

Not buying it: A gardener

I love doing the garden. Fresh air and exercise – you can’t beat it for stress relief. Mr Shoestring is my head gardener and he doesn’t charge :).

Not buying it: A car wash

It really only takes 15 minutes to wash my little car so I save myself a tenner.

Not buying it: Hair colouring

I always do it myself. I invested in a little pot and brush and mix up half a pack of dye at a time. It costs about £2.50 tops. I even cut my own hair on occasion. This may be a bit extreme for some, but when I need to be super frugal that is what I will do.

Not buying it: Newspapers and magazines

You can get them online. I beg old ones from work colleagues to line the cat litter trays, though.

Not buying it: Branded goods (unless they are second hand)

I can’t afford to pay for a marketing campaign. Designer clothes really don’t appear to be better quality much of the time. I frequently pick them up second-hand and sometimes the quality seems quite shoddy.

Not buying it: Salon beauty treatments

I go for a DIY approach. For example, I don’t pay to get my nails done; I am a gardener so what would be the point? VERY occasionally I will go and get my eyebrows waxed at the local beauty college at just a few pounds, but generally I am a low maintenance kind of gal.

Not buying it: Gym membership

I have paid for expensive gym memberships in the past but now I just walk, do yoga and dig the veggie patch. I am pretty fit for a woman of a certain age…

not buying itNot buying it: Painting and decorating

We have learned some skills over the years and Mr S is particularly handy. However, if I had lots of extra cash….Doing your own DIY, as we did here, saves hundreds of pounds.

Not buying it: New furniture

I have purchased used items almost exclusively for many years. You can get quality items this way at a fraction of their purchase price new. We have also done a bit of up cycling on occasion, such as refurbishing this old garden bench. It was free!

Not buying it: Expensive moisturisers

I always use one as I have dry skin, but I haven’t found any difference between my £2 pot from Aldi and the expensive stuff they sell in department stores.

Not buying it: Furniture polish and cleaners

I use a mix of white vinegar and water, which does the job very effectively without nasty chemicals. For a lot of general cleaning I use this home made cleaner.

Not buying it: Pricy greetings cards

I am often stunned at the price of birthday cards, for example. £4 for a card that will end up in the recycling in a few days?? I have been known to make my own Moonpig type affair using print outs of photos, but when I don’t have time I pick them up in bulk from stores such as Home Bargains for 29p to 99p a card or at the boot sale even cheaper.

Are you not buying it? What do you refuse to buy as you think it is a total waste of money?

Showing love on a budget ❤️ 

A friend told me proudly how her lovely son had taken her to London on Mother’s Day, with tea in a posh hotel, followed by some sightseeing and a meal in the evening. He is clearly a kind and generous son who loves his Mum, but it must have cost a fortune!

As I said in yesterday’s post, I had the loveliest Mother’s Day but I am sure it cost a fraction of the price of my friend’s day. It got me thinking. It is easy to have fun and show somebody that you love them without breaking the budget.  With a bit of planning and creativity you can help friends and family celebrate any event without them thinking you are a cheapskate!

Bake a cake: give a home made cake, cookies or sweets. This works for birthdays, anniversaries,  Christmas, house warmings – even weddings if you are an ace baker and offer to make the wedding cake as your present, as my friend did for me.

Make your own gift: if you knit, sew, paint, make soap or candles or even if you grow stuff, many people appreciate a thoughtful home spun present. How about a hamper of home grown produce, a couple of pots of delicious home made jam or some potted plants grown from seeds or cuttings?

Keep a present box: It is also useful to buy gifts on offer and keep a present box so you always have a present to give. The January sales are great for this when retailers are keen to shift excess stock after Christmas.

If you are seriously skint, offer a service: gardening, babysitting, grass cutting, car cleaning. Design a voucher and put it in a card,then make sure you keep your promise! This works well if your child wants to offer a present for a relative.

Host a meal: have your loved one round for a special meal. Get out the best tablecloth and china, put flowers or candles on the table and don’t let them wash up!

Take a tour: have a look in the tourist information centre for the free attractions locally and take your loved one on a guided tour . Pack a flask and a posh picnic for a midday break: salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones and cream, hummus and crudités, etc, and perhaps even a bottle of fizz.

Have a date night: if the celebration is for your other half, cook a meal and add a massage and/or a film.

Spend your points: I love collecting Boots Advantage Card points to spend on gifts, but you can do the same with your Sainsbury’s Nectar Card or Tesco Club Card.

There are so many ways to show you care that don’t involve spending much money and won’t break the bank. For me, the thought really does count!

Frugal habits to keep up with the cost of living

I heard on the news today that the cost of living in the uk has risen by 2.3% in the past year. Food itself has gone up by 1%. This is ok if your salary keeps up with it, but I have had a paltry 1% increase this year. Heaven knows how larger families manage. So, what can you do? What frugal habits will make a difference?

Frugal habits to cultivate

How about a side hustle? There are some ideas for making extra money here.

You can save money on your grocery bill with a bit of careful planning and savvy shopping. Developing some frugal habits around your food shop can save you tons of money.

Then we have your energy bills. Some ideas that I have tried can be found here. You can also haggle down the cost of your utilities.

Running a car can be a huge expense but it is possible to be frugal here too. This is how I save money on motoring.

Do you spend too much on clothes? You can slash costs if you embrace the idea of buying second hand. I am a happy second-hand Rose.

Days out also don’t have to cost the earth. My tips are here.

This is just a quick compilation of ideas to help you develop more frugal habits. I hope they help! And don’t forget to check out my frugal recipes.

What frugal habits help you to cope with the rising cost of living?

What are your best money saving ideas?

I belong to a few Facebook groups whose focus is frugality and the question that comes up time and again when people join is ‘How can I save money? Where do I start?’ It seems many people are still struggling to get from pay day to pay day and looking for money saving ideas and inspiration.

Look at what you spend

My first piece of advice is to have a long, hard look at your outgoings. Go through your bank statements and see what you can cut. Have you an insurance policy on an item you no longer own? Are you paying too much for your utilities? Shop around. Can you save money on your mobile phone or your tv and internet package? You need to check if there is a penalty for early cancellation but sometimes it is worth paying, or you could stay with the same provider but downgrade your package. Do you have a gym membership you barely use?

Make a budget and stick to it. I use Budget Brain from Money Saving Expert. Check your bank balance regularly so you know how much is in the account and when you need to rein in your spending.

It is interesting to see how much cash can drip out of your account in the form of small purchases on lunch, coffees, newspapers, etc. £10 withdrawals here and there can soon add up to hundreds of pounds. You can save a lot of money by anticipating these small expenses in advance and organising yourself. For example, take your own coffee, teabags and milk to work rather than buying it. Take your own packed lunch.

Avoid temptation. If you know you are prone to impulse purchases, window shopping is not the pastime for you!

The grocery shop

Food shopping is often a great place to save money. You can save loads if you stop buying branded goods and use cheaper supermarket own brands, buy your fruit and veg at a local market, minimise convenience foods, plan your menus, make a shopping list before you hit the supermarket, eat less meat…I could go on. There are so many money saving ideas.

Examine your heating and hot water costs. There are plenty of ways to insulate your home cheaply. You could turn the thermostat down a notch, get the family to wear more layers of clothing, etc. More ideas here in my post abut insulation.

What about transport? Could you car share? Leave the car at home and walk or cycle?

Do you have a garden? If so, how about growing some of your own food. Digging is as good as a gym session 😀.

What are your top money saving ideas for the newbie?

Lidl or Aldi? Which is best?

I have been using Lidl for my weekly grocery shop recently, mainly because they built a brand new store five minutes from Shoestring Cottage with plenty of parking. However, I have been shopping in Aldi for years now. Which do I prefer, Lidl or Aldi?

Lidl or Aldi: they both save you money

Both of these discount supermarkets are guaranteed to save you loads of money. I estimate that I save £20-30 every single week by shopping at Lidl or Aldi instead of Sainsbury’s, Asda or Tesco. OK, they don’t have the huge choice that the bigger supermarkets have. To me this is actually an advantage. After working all day, I want to get in and out as quickly as possible and I can do my weekly shop in 45 minutes. I am not distracted by loads of extra products and not tempted by them either. I can’t bear shopping in the huge Tesco’s near me – it takes forever just to walk round and then back to the car!

Last night darling daughter wanted me to take her to her local Aldi so I went back 😀. Yes, you all know I am sad but savvy and this kind of thing cheers me up after a long, hard week at work!

Lidl or AldiFantastic skincare

I have particularly missed Aldi’s moisturisers. They are amazing value at under £2 a pot and really work. When you consider that some folk happily spend £40 on the same size pot, fooled by pseudo scientific claims of wrinkle reductions and firmer skin, it just proves just how gullible many of us are! All you need for good skin is to keep it clean, wear some kind of moisturiser, don’t spend too much time in the sun and don’t smoke! Seriously, I truly believe it is that simple. I have followed this advice for years and I am regularly told I don’t look my almost 54 years so it must be working 😀. Whilst I was there I went crazy and bought two. I prefer these to Lidl’s versions as I find theirs too highly perfumed.

Great wine

I also prefer Aldi’s wine range to Lidl’s. I am no expert, but I do buy a bottle a week and Aldi’s are best! You can get a decent bottle of wine from either for a fiver though. My daughters love Disaronno and tell me that they do a very good imitation in Aldi for about half the price.

So, all in all, when it comes to choosing Lidl or Aldi, the latter just about wins. I love them both really though!

Family news

I have a couple of potentially stressful weeks coming up with my parents. They are both in their eighties and in great shape generally, but have operations within two weeks of each other. Today my mum is having a hip replacement. She had the other one done last year and will soon be almost entirely manmade…I am meeting her there this morning to see her in. All being well, hope to get her back home on Tuesday.

The week after next my dad will have a potentially more serious op to repair an aneurism. This is at a different hospital further away, so will mean a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to visit and take my mum.

I need to make some meals for their freezer and will start with a big vat of lentil soup tomorrow and maybe some shepherd’s pies next week. Fortunately, I have three siblings so we will be sharing the duties.

Wish them luck and good wishes and, if I don’t manage a daily post, you will know why! Have a great weekend everyone.

Making money and saving it too

Making money

I spent the whole evening listing clothes for eBay last night. Quite a boring task but hopefully my efforts will prove fruitful. I currently have 40 odd items for sale 😀. I am interested in making some money from my efforts.

A thrifty dinner

Dinner was chicken wings marinated in a bottle of Nando’s sauce that appeared from nowhere – I think my darling daughter must have bought it and it was forgotten about in the back of the cupboard. In my opinion chicken wings are very under-rated. There may not be lots of meat on them but what’s there is very flavoursome. Great value too. We had them with a baked sweet potato and some salad for a thrifty dinner. The marinade was nice but it would obviously be cheaper to make it yourself.

Saving money on laundry drying

It was a gorgeous day here in Essex yesterday. I wish I had known it would be then I would have got the laundry outside before I left for work. I love to see it hanging out there, and it’s so much better than having airers all over the house. Today doesn’t look promising so it is indoors. Roll on spring!

I refuse to waste money buying and running a dryer. People  are forever asking me why I don’t get one. Firstly, there is no space in the kitchen, secondly even the AAA rated ones cost a lot to run and thirdly not having one is better for the environment. I managed to raise three kids without a dryer so I think I can carry on without one now they are grown up. I swear I am considered rather eccentric to take this stance! 

What about you? Are you a line dryer or do you rely on the tumble dryer?

Save money and the planet

A warm, green glow

Happily, lots of things that save you money are also good for the environment. Simply consuming less, wasting less, holding onto things for longer, repairing rather than replacing, buying second hand, etc. will give you a greener lifestyle. Getting off the treadmill of working more to buy more stuff pays dividends to the state of your bank balance. It is also more friendly to the planet – not to mention your sanity!. There is so much you can do to get a warm green glow. You can save money AND the planet!

How to save money and the planet

Don’t waste food. Plan your week’s meals and then go shopping with a list. Stick to the list!!! Watch your portion sizes too. This will help your waistline as well, so double bubble.

If something stops working get out the manual to see if it is something simple. Look on the Internet to see if there are any suggestions. Get a quote for repair.

Likewise, repair your clothing and get your shoes mended rather than throwing them away.

If you need to replace an expensive item check Freecycle or Freegle first, then the noticeboard at the local shop, eBay, charity furniture shops, etc. When you really need to buy new, look at as many reviews as possible and buy energy saving devices – they are cheaper to run.

If you have a garden, make your own compost. Don’t throw peelings, apple cores, teabags, eggshells, etc in the bin. Mix them with your garden waste and compost them. Save as much as possible from going to landfill.

If you like crafts check out websites like Pinterest. They have a whole section of ideas for recycling and upcycling. I spotted some fabulous planters made from old tyres and also brilliant Christmas tree decorations made from old lightbulbs.

More veggie food

Eat less meat – firstly, it is expensive and, secondly, according to Donnachadh mcCarthy in his excellent and informative book Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth: 500 Simple Steps to a Greener Lifestyle, one acre of land can produce 30,000lb of carrots but only 250lb of beef. Also 15% of methane, a gas that contributes to global warming, comes from farm animals.

Let your garden be a bit untidy – don’t waste money on chemicals, and create a wildlife friendly garden. Gardening costs very little, is good exercise and a great stress buster.

Grow some of your own food! I can’t afford to buy organic in the shops, but everything from the garden is chemical free. Packets of seeds cost just a few pounds and produce masses of delicious vegetables.

Use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean your house. It is extremely cheap, plus do you really want your home to be full of chemicals?

Buy large containers of washing up and laundry liquid. This produces less plastic waste and usually works out cheaper.

Buy second hand

When you need new items for your home, buy second-hand. Most of my furniture, curtains, bedding and rugs has come from the charity shop, eBay and auctions. If you are a creative sort you can shabby chic a solid piece of furniture and make it a work of art.

Forget nasty chemical air ‘fresheners’ and plug ins. You are literally inhaling pollutants! If you want fresh air, open a window.

Insulate your house – check to see if you are eligible for any grants. Your energy supplier should have information on this, or try the Energy Saving Trust.

If you exercise, try to resist the urge to buy energy drinks and bottled water. Invest in a sports bottle and fill it from the tap.

Turn it off!

Train your family to turn off lights, PCs, TVs and DVD players. Don’t leave items on standby.

Don’t buy clothes that need to be dry cleaned. This is expensive and the dry cleaning process uses toxic chemicals.

If you like to read, use the library or buy second-hand from the charity shop or online.

If you have a baby check out reusable nappies rather than disposables. This saves so much money!

This one will separate the greenies from the dark greenies! Consider using washable sanitary towels or perhaps a Mooncup instead of tampons.

Reuse scrap paper

Keep a scrap paper box. The back of junk mail letters and the envelopes they come in are good for list writing!

Re-use wrapping paper.

Save water – if you are on a water meter this makes financial as well as economic sense. Shower instead of bathing, but put the plug in and use the ‘grey’ water to water your plants in the garden.

If you buy fruit in the supermarket, save the plastic bags it comes in and reuse them as sandwich bags.

Keep your accelerator foot light and save petrol. Boy racers must all live at home with their parents – once they have to pay their own rent and bills they may slow down a bit…

These are just a few ideas as to how you can save money and the planet. There are so many other things you can do once you start to think about it. I would love to hear your suggestions.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission with no extra cost to yourself.

A bit of frugal luxury 

frugal luxuryWe nearly always have a late and leisurely breakfast on a Sunday. It is our day of rest. It feels like a bit of frugal luxury to have some freshly baked crusty baguettes with an egg and a bit of bacon lying in bed with a nice cup of tea. The ingredients for this breakfast all come from either Aldi or Lidl and are quite inexpensive.

I always buy the ready to bake baguettes, which cost around 69p for 2. In the week I bake half at a time and take it to work with some home made soup for a cheap but delicious lunch.

Designer clothes can be frugal luxury

Being frugal doesn’t mean living an austere and joyless existence. Buying at a bargain price and getting the best value possible can feel rather luxurious. For example, I have bought pieces of second hand designer clothing in excellent condition for a fraction of the price it would cost new. I found a beautiful silk Phase Eight skirt in a charity shop for just £4. It would have been £80 in the shop. I got so many compliments when I wore it. That is frugal luxury!

I also found a Phase Eight dress new but on sale reduced from £120 (can you imagine!!) to £30 when I was looking for something special to wear to Mr S’s neice’s wedding. This was a real investment as it is lovely quality and I have worn it to several special occasions since.

Simple living

Sometimes the simplest of things can feel luxurious. A nice drop of wine with a piece of good cheese and some crackers is my idea of heaven and costs just a few pounds.

We have bought some lovely solid bits of furniture from eBay and charity shops in the past that would have been so expensive new and have lasted for years. We could have bought flat pack furniture for the same price but it would have looked cheap and wouldn’t have survived the wear and tear of family life.

I love that we can enjoy some of the good things in life without busting the budget.

What are the little luxuries you enjoy that don’t break the bank?

More DIY hair cutting

DIY hair cuttingMy daughter watched my recent efforts at DIY hair cutting with horror. She was sure it would all go horribly wrong! When it didn’t she agreed to let me cut hers. She has the most beautiful hair in generally excellent condition, but it had a few split ends and was so long it was getting in her way.

DIY hair cuttingWe watched a couple of You Tube videos where long hair was pulled into a very tight pony tail at the front of the head, and a lump was taken off which created layers. There are a lot of folk practising DIY hair cutting it seems.

DIY hair cutting

We decided to be quite cautious and only took 3 inches off this time. It is still very long but looks a bit neater. We will take more off next time but first I will purchase a better pair of hairdressing scissors. The ones I have were sharp enough for my hair but not sharp enough for her very thick locks. I have quite a lot of points on my Boots card so I am hoping this will cover it! More DIY hair cutting may follow!

DIY hair cuttingA  kitchen let down

I don’t know when we all stopped eating bananas, but I had a pile of black ones this week to use up plus some I had put in the freezer. A recipe from Nigella Lawson’s  How to be Domestic  Goddess for banana muffins looked promising. However, I wish I had stuck to the usual recipe I use as these were just weird: chewy and bland. The recipe uses no eggs or sugar, although it does include honey. They are ok if you cut them open and smear a bit of jam on, but not my favourite! Disappointed, Nigella!


Happy Sunday everyone! Anyone else done any DIY hair cutting?

Shopping for a hobby?

I had to pop to town to pick up my new glasses yesterday. It was really busy. Lots of people apparently shopping for a hobby, it seemed.

I do not shop for fun. I used to! I remember I would tell myself I was ‘just window shopping’ and before I knew it I had spent £50 on clothes I didn’t need, books I might not get round to reading or expensive glossy magazines. These are a killer for the money saver. They give you a vision of a impossibly perfect lifestyle. Your life will be complete if you spend money on the right home decor, clothes, beauty products, right? Actually no. They are one of the first things I knocked on the head when I decided to get my financial act together.

Shopping for a hobby is an expensive pastime

Anyway, I digress…these days many people shop for a hobby. They park, they shop, they coffee, they lunch – it can be a very expensive pastime. I sometimes fancy a spree but I rarely indulge as I don’t enjoy the shopping hangover: the dent in my bank balance, the strain on the credit cards and the worry about how to pay it all back.

My idea of shopping heaven is a £10 note and a couple of hours at a boot sale on a sunny morning. I get more of a thrill from spending a pound buying a top second-hand than I would have if I had bought it new for £20 😄. I can get a couple of books I fancy, a DVD and some CDs for the car for the price of a fancy coffee in town.

Use your library

Instead of buying lots of books to clog up my house I can borrow them from the library. If there is a book I would like to keep I can get it used – the internet makes it possible to locate practically anything second hand.

If I want furniture you won’t find me hanging round a fancy showroom; I will be in the local charity shop or looking on Gumtree or eBay.

Shopping isn’t a hobby if you are trying to save money. How about hiking? Walking is free! If you don’t fancy that you can download exercise classes of any description online for nothing. How about yoga? All you need is a good book (from the library) on the subject and a non-slip mat. You can learn almost anything on You Tube so the possibilities for finding a new hobby (knitting, crochet, painting, woodwork?) are endless. Just don’t take up something that involves you buying lots of fancy equipment before you begin!

Are you into shopping for a hobby?

How to stop wasting money: Frugal Fran vs. Spendthrift Sue – which are you?

I had a bit of fun with this last night. Which are you most like – Frugal Fran or Spendthrift Sue? I am going to guess that, as you are reading my blog, you are all Frugal Frans! Are you spending too much? If you recognise your poor habits you can stop wasting money.

How can you stop wasting money?

I am always amazed at how much money my friends and colleagues appear to waste during the course of a working day, whilst also complaining about how little spare cash they have. It is fine to spend money like Sue if you have plenty to spare. Personally, I would be in trouble pretty quickly if I lived like that. I certainly wouldn’t be able to put anything aside for savings.

It takes a little more time and effort to be a Frugal Fran, but I feel it is worthwhile if you need to stop wasting money. More  cash in the bank and less anxiety about your finances! See you tomorrow.

 

Spendthrift Sue

 

 

Frugal Fran

Is very organised and puts the laundry on before leaving for work. Uses a brand name laundry liquid as she likes the TV ad (8 pence a wash) Is very organised and puts the laundry on before leaving for work. She uses the supermarket own laundry liquid as it is cheaper (3 pence a wash). She spends 15 minutes chopping  up some beef and veggies to put in the slow cooker
Buys a coffee and breakfast muffin on the way to work (about £5) Has a bowl of porridge and cuppa at home before she leaves for work (about £1)
Gets tea and biscuits in the staff canteen

(c£1.50)

Keeps a pack of biscuits in her drawer for when she needs a snack and takes her own teabags and mug to work (a cuppa and 2 biscuits: about 35p)
Buys a meal deal at lunch – sandwich, fruit and crisps (£3.50) Has a packed lunch she made at home the evening before – sandwich, fruit and crisps (£1)
Gets a chocolate bar from the vending machine in the afternoon (80p) Keeps a pack of biscuits in her drawer for when she needs a snack (10p)
Feels really tired when she gets home and orders in a takeaway pizza (£14) Feels really tired when she gets home and is so happy to smell her slow cooker meal as she walks through the door £2.50)
Gets the laundry out of the washer and puts it in the dryer (30p) Gets the laundry out of the washer and hangs it on the airer FREE
Perks up a bit and agrees to meet her friends in the pub (£15) Perks up a bit and invites her friend round to share a bottle of wine (£6)
 
Total spend: £40.18 Total spend: £10.98

 

Haggling down the cost of your utilities 

I was listening to Chris Evans on the radio recently and he was relating the story of a woman who spent two hours on the phone to her utility companies threatening to leave and negotiating a better price with each. She eventually saved herself £2000 by haggling! That is a good use of two hours of anybody’s time 😀.

Shopping around

I have never actually done them all in one go but I do shop around every time something is due for renewal, such as car and house insurance, to get a good price. However, I read reviews and if people are complaining about them I look elsewhere.

One thing I don’t intend to change is my energy provider, Good Energy. I switched to them after a horrific experience with First Utility, who tried to overcharge me by thousands. Their levels of customer service when I tried to get it sorted were appalling. Never again! Good Energy charges reasonable prices, produces all its energy from renewable sources and its customer service is the best I have ever experienced. I’m going nowhere!

Sometimes the cheapest sounding deal isn’t worth it. I really recommend this company and, no, they haven’t paid me to say that!

Never accept the first price

A year ago my water company offered me a great deal on emergency plumbing insurance, £6.50 for the whole year. At that price, why not? Last week I got a renewal letter and the price was £96.48 for the year, £8.04 a month. I didn’t think I needed this, so rang to cancel. I was then offered a reduced price of £75 for the year. When I refused again this went down to £55 for the year, or £45 if I had a £50 excess. The poor salesman had his work cut out with me and finally accepted I was cancelling. It did make me think though! Never accept the first price you are given!

Have you saved money by haggling down the price of your bills?

Just say no! Spend less, save more

Since I have been on my journey towards simplicity and frugality I have learned a lot – about myself, the people around me and society in general, especially our attitudes towards money. There is no doubt that we live in a spend now, worry later society. It is still easy to get credit, with lenders seeming to be rather casual about whether we can afford to pay our debts back or not.  So how can we spend less and save more?

spend lessA perfect lifestyle

The pressures on us all to achieve the perfect lifestyle are huge! We measure success in terms of wealth. We need to live in a nice house, drive a new car, wear designer clothes, have an expensive annual holiday. If we get married we should look at a £20k budget minimum. We might even consider a few thousand on plastic surgery to sort out our perceived imperfections.

You might achieve all of these things yet lie awake at night in a fit of anxiety worrying about how you are going to pay for it all. You only have to look at the dramas the rich and famous endure to see that all this surface stuff is no guarantee of happiness, even if you can afford it.

So, number 1 on my list of ways to spend less is – learn to say no! To yourself, your children, your partner and to friends and family.

Just say no and spend less

Your girlfriends invite you on a weekend to Amsterdam – you have a huge overdraft but could add it to the credit card…don’t do it! One of your kids wants a new tablet NOW. They can save up for it or wait until Christmas! You have to go to a smart work do or a wedding and NEED a new outfit. Do you? Is there really nothing in your wardrobe that will do? Ignore the TV ad telling you that a new sofa before Christmas is essential. You parked your bum on the old one perfectly happily all year so why take on a major expense with all those presents to buy?

When you have a supportive partner helping you control your finances you are very lucky. If you don’t then you need to sit them down, show them the current state of your bank balance and make a plan together. Getyour partner on board (and children too if they are old enough to understand) and you are in the first step to getting your relationship with money back on track. If you can’t, your relationship with each other is bound to suffer horribly.

Still having fun

Whatever you need to save money for, to pay off your debts, to retire early, to save for a house deposit or your wedding, or just to get by, saying no will be key. I don’t mean you can’t have any fun. There are so many experiences in life that cost very little or even nothing. It’s not about deprivation, it is about accepting your financial limitations and being more creative and appreciative of what you have. This is very liberating!

This is my intention. I will see friends, I will have a cheap holiday and I will buy a small number of inexpensive things when they are really needed. But gone are the days when I will max out the credit cards to book a break, feel pressured to meet friends in an expensive restaurant or be persuaded to have a store card with a high interest rate when I want to purchase clothes.

How about you? Can you say no? How do you spend less when you need to?

So this is why we need an emergency fund!

Everybody needs an emergency fund. Most of us crash from month to month just hoping for the best, totally unprepared for situations such as the car breaking down, sickness leading to a loss of salary, or a big household item needing replacement. I blogged the other day about how we are focussing on increasing ours this year with some determined saving. Three things happened at the weekend that brought this need into sharp relief.

First, I noticed that the drain under the kitchen window was blocked. I poured boiling water and soda crystals down it but nothing happened. Mr S prodded and poked it for a while and it finally cleared. It appears that a piece of some kind of plastic packaging got blown under the cover. A minor issue. No plumber required thankfully.

More reasons to have an emergency fund

Later in the day the washing machine began to act strangely, making odd noises and refusing to spin. The machine was an inexpensive one we purchased five or six years ago and I feared the worst. I tried it on various different programmes but it then stopped altogether and  locked itself shut with a load of laundry stuck inside, including my daughter’s work uniform. Yikes! Mr S came to the rescue again. He managed to drain it manually and open the door so that I could retrieve the soggy clothes. We put it through a short cycle with nothing in it and it worked ok but still made a few strange noises during the spin cycle. I ran another load through and it seemed just fine. Mr S thinks the blocked drain backed up into it and temporarily messed it up. So another escape. No expensive call out or, even worse, new machine required!

Finally, we came home from seeing my parents to find the house freezing and the boiler off. This has happened several times over the past month so might be more serious. Each time we have managed to reset it, sometimes having to take some water out of the radiators to manually adjust the pressure. I will call the plumber this week to look at this. He is a friend now as we have been using him since he was newly qualified so we know he won’t rip us off. He has already adjusted it at no charge and thinks he might need to replace a sensor. Hopefully that won’t cost too much. As long as we don’t need a new boiler!

So we will work even harder on the emergency fund , just in case!

In other news…

Changing the subject, DD2 showed a bit of girl power on Saturday, attending one of the many marches across the world aimed at the awful Donald Trump, showing him that the mysoginistic, intolerant and racist undertones that seem to be part of his thinking won’t be tolerated and aren’t acceptable. I wish I had gone – I love a bit of people power!

Have a good week everyone!

The great wardrobe challenge

wardrobe challengeTake the wardrobe challenge

‘I have nothing to wear!’ We have all said it whilst standing in front of a wardrobe full of clothes. I am guilty of this. I tend to wear the same few outfits much of the time: two or three favourite skirts, jeans at the weekend and an assortment of tops.

Most of my clothes are well worn and some have definitely seen better days. Still, they are wearable. A lot were second-hand when I bought them and still going strong. But I have quite a few that just sit there, unworn yet too good to put in the charity bag. I think I will wear them at some point so I hang onto them, but I have some I swear I haven’t touched in three years.

Wear or donate

Time for the great wardrobe challenge! This week, because I am on a no spend month and will not be buying new clothes, I challenged myself to wearing at least one of my ignored garments every day. Of course, there are lots that aren’t suitable for the current cold weather but plenty that are.

I tried a cardigan on that I had actually forgotten I owned. Perfect. Wore that yesterday with my jeans. There was a grey long sleeved top. It is lovely but it is too low cut and I will never feel comfortable wearing it so that went in the charity bag. I have a nice pair of smart trousers – they are too tight round the middle and have been for about three years. It is possible that I might get into them again but I suspect they will just take up wardrobe space, so they are in a pile of things I will list on eBay.

Getting organised

I have organised my wardrobe by item type mostly. Skirts, dresses, shirts and tops, with a section for coats and another for summer wear. That’s better. Now I can see what I have!

I don’t intend to be buying anything new in the next few months apart from underwear. Last year I can think of about 5 items I purchased that weren’t second-hand!  Most of those were in the sale, I am pretty sure.

I would love to go out and spend lots of money on a whole new wardrobe of fabulous clothes,  but I am a realist. I can’t afford it and I don’t really need it!

How about you – nothing to wear? How about trying the wardrobe challenge?

Are you an extreme moneysaver?

I found an article on Twitter yesterday, which made me smile. It was called ’60+ extreme things people have done to save money’.

Some of them were a bit crazy, like  making your own reusable toilet paper, shaving your head to save money on haircuts and hair products, going through your neighbours’ rubbish for coupons and giving your child a new toilet seat for their birthday.

But others were quite sensible and I do some of them (or I know people who do them) – cutting out cable and all other forms of paid tv, cutting your own hair, limiting the amount of stuff you have, hanging blankets over doors and windows to stop drafts, going to bed early with a hot water bottle to save on heat and flushing the toilet less to save on water (the saying being ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’)!!

The link is here if you fancy reading it.

I have saved a bit of money myself today, buying my poor old cat’s prescription meds online. My old vet used to charge me £100 for 100 tablets and was sniffy and obstructive about giving me the prescription (charging £12). I changed vets and my new one is much more obliging. They charge £80 for the same tablets but gave me the prescription with no quibbling, charging me £7.50 for this. I then went online and got the tablets at £54 for 100. That’s more like it!

I make a point of saving money wherever I can. It all adds up. The site I use is www.vetuk.co.uk. They seem very efficient and I have used them a few times now.

I’m not an extreme money saver though. I like to think I am just enthusiastic!

Save money and give yourself a pay rise!

give yourself a pay riseMy daughter is struggling a bit with money at the moment. She spent too much at Christmas, like many of us. She has been talking about getting a second job to give herself a bit of extra cash. I have suggested that if she changed some of her regular spending habits she would be able to cope on her salary. Saving your pennies means you give yourself a pay rise.

She probably won’t take all of my advice, but if she just does some of this she will have more money in her purse.

Give yourself a pay rise

No1: for so many reasons as well as financial – give up smoking!! A pack of 20 cigarettes costs around £9.60!! She smokes three packs a week. Saving: £1500 pa.

No2: start taking in a packed lunch. She spends about £5 a day, five days a week. She could make her own for about a pound a day. Saving : £1200 pa.

No 3: stick to a weekly food budget. Write a shopping list and a meal plan. She currently spends about £50 a week. I think she can save at least £10 on this. Saving: £520 pa.

No4: stop buying makeup. She has so much so she needs to buy nothing until it is all used. I’m guessing she spends at least £10 a month on this but possibly a lot more! A conservative estimate of savings: £520 pa.

Girls just wanna have fun

I’m not going to suggest buying no new clothes as she doesn’t buy many and they are often second hand. I’m also not going to suggest she stops going to the pub at the weekend. She only goes once a week and she is 25! A girl needs to have some fun.

But if she did all of the above she would have an extra £3740 a year. That’s another £70 odd a week in her pocket, which is probably more than she would earn taking on a second job. That is the same as giving yourself a pay rise!

Many of us could rethink our spending habits and give ourselves a pay rise. What about you?

No spend January 

So, my no spend January is approaching. I am avoiding the sales as there is so much I want to buy that I can’t afford. In an ideal world there would be enough left in the pot to take advantage of some bargains but there isn’t.

The only exception will be Boots. I have a £25 voucher from Father Christmas so might take a peek at their reduced gift sets before the New Year. If there is nothing I fancy I will save it for toiletries and makeup as I need them. In the past I have bought Christmas cards, wrap and crackers at this time but I still have plenty to use for next year.

no spend JanuaryNo spend January: focus on essentials

To get the bank balance back in shape I am giving up spending  for a month on anything except food and essentials. No more snacking at work or sneaky coffees in town,  impulse buying books or any of the other things that can catch me out.

I would avoid town all together but have to go in on Friday to see the optician and change a jumper I bought for Mr S that doesn’t quite fit. So it will be in, parked and straight out again 😀.

The other weakness I have is for charity shops. Even if I go in with donated items I often can’t resist coming out with more stuff I probably don’t need. What are your weaknesses when it comes to spending? Anyone care to join me on my no spend January?

Spending less and saving more in 2017

We have had a lovely day and dinner at my sister’s and we are now home and chilling. It’s nice to have a bit of quiet time to relax. I have been having a think about the upcoming lean January I need to have. I am absolutely determined to save more money next year than I managed in 2016 and I will do this in the following ways:

Spending less

This is tricky as I already live a frugal lifestyle. But I am sure I can save here and there. I need to question every single purchase. Do I really need this? Can I do without it? Can I get it more cheaply?

I had two holidays in 2016, it was lovely! But it cleared out my savings. This year it is Mr S’s BIG birthday. I won’t say which, I will leave you to guess. So we will have a holiday to celebrate as that is the thing he loves to do, but just the one.

I can spend less on groceries. I already shop in the discount supermarkets (Aldi or Lidl) but I will do more yellow sticker hunting. Tell me please, what is the best time to visit the supermarkets to find the really serious discounts?

I need to cook more. Lack of time has made me start using more jars and more expensive short cuts. I need to find some energy and enthusiasm and do some batch cooking.

Getting control of the ad hoc spending

Getting control of my ad hoc spending is essential. I have noticed that I have started buying the tempting but expensive 80p chocolate bars or bags of crisps from the machine rather than keeping a few cheaper snacks in my drawer at work. Popping to Asda or somewhere for my Lacrofree milk and cat food is something I need to do, but  while I am in there picking up wine, snacks, a fancy salad for work, etc. I need to go in with my blinkers on and only buy what I intended!

I will clean my own car. It only takes half an hour but I am tempted from time to time to take it to the Polish car washers. They do a great job but at £10 when it could be free.

I rarely buy new clothes, I dye my own hair and buy only basic toiletries. So nothing to save there. I am mean with the heating and fanatical about turning off lights so no savings there either. We hardly ever go out to the pub or for a meal, so not much I can cut back on.

I will do a review of all my outgoings to check to see if I can get anything such as utilities  more cheaply or cut things out all together.

Earning more

This year, as well as spending less,  I need to bring more money in. I went for a promotion but didn’t hear before Christmas so don’t think I was successful. However, there will be other chances so I will sign up to some job alerts so I don’t miss the opportunities.

I am hoping to get a lodger. This is proving tougher than I thought but hopefully I will get some more interest in the new year. In the meantime I will keep taking the language students as I have for the past few years.

I intend to up my eBay sales . This has made me a bit extra in the past year or two – £50-£100 sometimes a month. It takes quite a bit of time but it all helps. This will go straight to savings.

What are your top tips for making more money and spending less?

Pet money saving – and being ripped off!!


Dora, the baby

Warning: I am Mrs Angry of Colchester as I write this post!

I have my three lovely cats and I would hate to be without them. I take pet ownership very seriously and they have regular flea and worm treatments plus lots of love and attention.

Lola, the beauty

The younger two are insured but my old girl isn’t. I didn’t appreciate it was that important when she was younger and I was richer, and now it would cost so much to insure her and her existing conditions would be excluded anyway. She has a thyroid condition and my vet charges £90 for a 3 month supply of her medication. (My vet charges me at least £50 for stepping over the threshold and breathing, but that’s another story!)

I prefer the flea and worm treatments that are applied to the back of the neck. The vet currently  charges £36 for 4 treatments – I thought this seemed even steeper than usual so I decided to finally get round to exploring how much I could save if I went online. I was flabbergasted. With www.vetuk.co.uk the cost of this identical product, Prinovox, was £14.18!! Even with delivery this was a huge saving so I called the vet to ask for a prescription. They sounded a tad unhappy at the request and said they would charge £12.44 for this and it could only be used once and would expire after three months.  I had the feeling they didn’t want me to shop around!! Not such a great saving but I was so annoyed at feeling ripped off I decided to go ahead. In fact I asked for a prescription for 6 Advocate as my vet doesn’t sell this anymore and it was even cheaper – £22.50 for six treatments.

Vera, 15 year old queen of the cats

When I went to collect the prescription the receptionist looked embarrassed and said the vet had decided she couldn’t do a prescription because she hadn’t seen the cat for 6 months so I would need to bring her in. At this point my mild irritation turned to outrage – they were blatantly putting obstacles in my way! I pointed out that they would sell this to me directly without me having to bring the cat in, so why did I need to because I was buying it elsewhere?

I was steaming at this point and said to put the prescription against my old girl Vera not the littlest one since they had seen her in the last six months for her thyroid treatment. They finally agreed to this but I then had to wait another 5 days to get it.

When I got back I decided to check the online price for Vera’s thyroid treatment. With delivery it was half price! So well worth me buying a prescription. I wonder what obstacles they will put in the way this time?

I have been using this vet for 15 years but have now decided that they are a bunch of rip-off merchants and I am exploring cheaper options. Has anyone had any experience of using the vets at Pets at Home? I have heard they are cheapest but I don’t know if they are actually any good.

In the meantime I will be getting all my medication online as a point of principle. My vet will still afford his villa in France but I’m not paying for it!

Cutting back painlessly 

cutting backStill feeling the pinch after Christmas? I blogged the other day about making extra money, but my ideas may not be feasible for everyone. If you can trim all the flab off your spending and make things leaner that will have the same impact as extra income. Some people just don’t know where all the money goes!
A tried and tested way to find out what your spending habits really are is to keep a diary. It is a bit of a fag, but it is really helpful – trust me! First find a suitable notepad – it doesn’t have to be fancy; a cheap reporter’s notebook will do. Write down every single purchase that you make during the course of your day, from 80p for a chocolate bar, £2 for a coffee, £5 for lunch, £3.50 for a magazine, £10 for drinks in the pub, £30 for petrol, £3 for sweets for the kids, etc. It all adds up.

Make a daily total. Write some notes too that might help explain your spending, such as ‘kids on school holidays’, ‘worked late’, ‘had friends over’, ‘felt depressed’. After a few weeks of keeping your diary you will start to understand your habits and motivations for spending money.

Now start to scrutinise your spending. What was essential, what could have been avoided, what could have been done more cheaply?

If I take my own examples, it is clear that only the lunch and petrol were essential purchases. The others were wants rather than needs. However, we all need a little treat sometimes, so how to scale down the expense?

Chocolate bars – multipacks are so much cheaper than buying these singly or from a vending machine. Keep some in the cupboard/your handbag for when you need a boost.

Ditto sweets for the kids – supermarket multipacks are the best value, but keep them hidden away for an occasional treat rather than every day.

Magazines – such an expensive habit. You can buy them really cheaply (3 for £2) on market stalls. They won’t be the current issue, but they churn out the same stuff each season anyway! My library service offers a free e-magazine service called Zinio. If you are a member of Essex libraries check it out. If not, ask your library if they offer anything similar.

Tea/coffee – if you are going out you could take a flask. I always do this for picnics. For trips into town I take a bottle of water and wait until I get home to make my own tea or coffee. A lot of work places provide drinks but if they don’t take your own milk, teabags, coffee and mugs and you are good to go.

Lunch is an essential, but it is clearly much cheaper to take a packed lunch from home rather than buying it out. Even a prepacked sandwich with a cake can set you back a fiver.

Drinks in the pub? I rarely do this as it costs so much. How about getting together with friends at home with a few bottles from the supermarket?

These are just a few examples of where you can save money on small purchases. Another advantage is that most of the above mean you will avoid going into any shops other than the supermarket for your regular grocery shop, so if you are somebody who gives into the impulse purchases you are less likely to encounter temptation (and if you choose the discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl there is even less choice and temptation on offer).

How do you keep your spending under control?