Monthly Archives: October 2016

Spend-free holidays: As imaginary as my three year old’s new friend?

We currently have a house guest. I’m not sure how long she will be staying, and sometimes her friends turn up unannounced. It is quite hard to keep track of her as sometimes she takes to zooming around the house in her ‘Vroomster’ (a jet powered sort of plane/pod racer). Today I sat down next to the eldest child to give her a kiss, ‘Mummy, don’t squash Xulie!’ was the loving response I got. Yup. The three year old has an imaginary friend. Meet Xulie (zulie), who was invited for tea last weekend (by the 3 yr old, over the toy phone) and has yet to leave. Her friends Kian, Lars and Foz sometimes drop by, but they tend to say their goodbyes at some point. Kian went to work with Daddy today apparently. He was waved off in the morning and this afternoon he had his shirts washed for him.

The thing is, these ‘imaginary’ friends, while not actually real, already sort of exist. They are characters in a Cbeebies cartoon called the Go Jetters. The eldest child loves them, she sings the theme tune and laughs at the villain. For the uninitiated here they are. As kids shows go, it’s not bad, there is definitely far worse out there (I’m looking at you Kerwhizz), and if one of the Teletubbies had come to stay I would have booted him/her/it (no idea) out long since. She has even learnt things about Mount Everest and Big Ben, not bad.

BUT. Now I am worried that too much TV has been watched. Imaginary friends have appeared before (one was a woodlouse…) but Xulie has already outlasted them all.

Normally I’m not sure that I would do much about it. They don’t watch that much TV (do they?) and we are limited to Cbeebies due to parental laziness on the technology front, but half term is looming, the days are shorter and darker, wetter and colder. All things which mean the daily TV quota may sneak up if left to itself. Coincidentally, these things are also what leads to spending money. Entertaining kids during the holidays, away from the house and out of the cold/wet/dark,  can add up. Soft play, shopping centres, cafes and places like ‘Peppa Pig World’ are the main culprits.

So I have a plan. I don’t want to spend any money on entertainment for my two this half term, but I don’t want to stay at home where the seductive call of the tv may prove hard to resist (I actually think the Go Jetters are quite amusing but we will forget that I said that). I have decided that I will myth-bust the common conception that children are expensive things to run. I have always thought that the accepted view of kids as money pits was not necessarily true. Undoubtedly they do have an impact on household outgoings but they don’t have to be the leeches they are often portrayed as. Especially when entertainment comes into play. And I’m not even talking toys; a few days ago my two spent most of the day playing with the sofa cushions. Building houses, playgrounds, bunk-beds (I only know this is what they were making because the three year old kept up a running commentary to Xulie while doing so), and bouncing on the naked sofa base. The boxes of actual purpose made toys were left untouched.

So what is the plan? Here are the things we will do next week:

  • There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, and everyone knows if it ain’t raining it ain’t training [insert other cheesy weather cliche here], so muddy welly walks here we come (dependant on health and severity of weather conditions, I’m not an idiot).
  • Some friends will come to play. Little ones, not mummy’s friends unfortunately.
  • We will be making ourselves welcome at Granny’s, (Mum, can we come over please?!)
  • Our village does an amazing bonfire and fireworks night, which we will be going to. Its free.
  • Finally, for the days when we really are confined to the house, we will do wholesome things like baking. So I can eat cake.
Did someone say inappropriate clothing?

Did someone say inappropriate clothing?

Luckily we don’t really ‘do’ Halloween anyway so I don’t have to plan for that. Trick or treaters who call by will be disappointed (scrooge aren’t I?). Last year I genuinely forgot to get any supplies in, this year I think I will ‘forget’. They can have an apple from the fruit bowl or my ‘sorry I’ve run out already’ line.

Now, I’m sure TV will be watched, and Xulie will probably still be with us, but we have plenty of things to keep us entertained for free this coming week. It will really help with our savings for October, and let’s face it, I’m not working so can’t really go splashing the cash anyway. Rest assured I will let you know how it goes, I’m sure you will be wondering!

With impeccable timing, I have just been informed by the eldest child that Xulie is hungry. I had better go and make lunch.

Splurging. Old Habits Die Hard

Since working towards our grand plan to move to the countryside and start our own business, I have learnt quite a lot about myself. I know; profound stuff. More specifically I have come to realise how I used to spend money in the past. I splurged. I wouldn’t spend for weeks but then have a shopping trip where I went mad, and that would be it again for another month or two. The catalyst for this splurge (love that word) could have been a simple need for new jeans, the ‘I haven’t been to the shops in a while’ excuse, or occasionally, the start of a new hobby.

When I was first married and living in our wonderful little flat in Eastbourne, I suddenly realised I had ‘spare time’ (?? I honestly do not know what that means anymore). With this ‘spare time’, I decided I could finally pursue my love of drawing that had always been put off for some reason or another. Great! I thought, I need new pencils and a new drawing pad and this and that and t’other. I took myself to The Works (love that place, but as you can see I focused on quantity rather than quality) and splurged. I did a bit of drawing after that to try out all my new stuff but most of it remains unused to this day (in a box in the roof).

Art in progress

Art in progress

When I got the sewing bug, about the time that Mr. B. took himself off to Afghanistan, I went fabric mad. Fat quarters, remnants and bias binding galore now fill a couple of bags residing in the roof. I did a bit, followed a lot of crafty blogs, then ran out of this thing called ‘spare time’ when I started a part-time MA, then had kids. I have used some of that fabric collection in the years since; to make seat pad covers and a drawstring bag for ballet, but that’s not really the point.

I started blogging a few months back (you might have noticed), the first thing I did was splurge on a domain name…..even though I knew it was going to be a blog based on our new money-saving-to-change-our-life-thing. Old habits die hard I suppose.

You get the point I think. Basically, it’s a case of all the gear and no idea. It even happened when we had the first little terror, three years ago. Ooo a baby, let’s buy All The Stuff! That is probably a bit more acceptable but ‘all the gear and no idea’ still rings true even now….

Since the domain name slip up, I have been trying very hard not to do it again. It has been tough, let me tell you. Making Mr. B. his lunches for work provided a great opportunity for a Tupperware splurge. Who doesn’t love new pots? With actual lids that match?? NO. I did need new ones as mine tend to get used by the small ones for fun games such as ‘fill up mummy’s’ pots with soil’ or ‘hunt the lid’ (lids usually to be found weeks later under the sofa/in the garden/not at all as I suspect they got hidden in the bin), or my personal favourite ‘chew the lid until it doesn’t fit properly anymore’. £1 for four from Asda did the trick.

General state of my kitchen floor at the end of the day.

General state of my kitchen floor at the end of the day.

On the flip side of the coin, sometimes money does need to be spent to be saved. I got Mr. B an insulated mug for his birthday (I know, what a wonderful wife I am!), so he can have money saving coffee on this daily commute. There is nothing more annoying than a hot beverage seeping into the fabric of your backpack and work computer. Nobody likes a leaky mug. So I made sure I brought a quality one that was definitely not the cheapest, or even middle of the range. The ‘no-spill guarantee’ cheerfully emblazoned on the sticker swayed me. So far it has stayed true to its marketing slogan and has seen lots of use already with plenty more to come – worth the money.

So there it is. I am changing my ways for the better and controlling the urge to splurge, definitely a good thing. It’s all about adjusting the way we spend money to fall in line with our new priorities.
Splurge. Fantastic word.

Confessions of a Non-Frugal Shopper

Sunday was a good day. I took my little girl into town to go shoe shopping, just me and her. It was lovely and we even had lunch in a cafe.

This was a test to see if you have been paying attention. The above sentence should have set your frugal money saving alarm bells ringing. Shoe shopping? How frivolous, surely that does not fall under allowed Austerity Month spending, and lunch in a cafe???!!! (this use of excessive punctuation is to denote your righteous horror).

Don’t worry (I’m sure you didn’t), it’s ok. All is under control. I haven’t thrown in the proverbial towel. It was all necessary, (says every shopaholic everywhere), my baby girl suddenly has size 8 feet and I had holy shoes. We were hungry and it was lunchtime. There. Happy? Now, I know that I made the rookie error of going into town at lunchtime but I sort of did it on purpose. I wanted to treat her, I never get time for just us these days and she loves going to cafes. It was something we did regularly as a family before we started saving and  it’s the only thing I miss about our eating out ban. As it was, I had the cheapest egg sandwiches and a glass of free water. Being M&S though they were pretty decent sandwiches.

New shoes in action

New shoes in action

I have a secret weapon, however, which so far I have not disclosed. Child Benefit. It is the only money that comes into my account and doesn’t amount to that much. Luckily I am naturally more of a saver than a spender, so even before our new saving spree and trial Austerity Month, I had been careful to let it build up. Before, I used it for the kids and for me, meaning I didn’t have to feel guilty about spending money I didn’t earn or contribute to (I just felt guilty about spending the kids’ money instead, but what is life without some sort of Mum guilt?). Now it is a kids-only zone. Back in April when we were bashing out all the practicalities of starting our frugal journey, the only things that gave me doubts were the kids. We definitely don’t spoil them materially, and I turn into strict nasty mummy when it comes to sweets, but I didn’t want them to miss out on opportunities that may come up, just because mum and dad are exercising a new found stinginess. Child Benefit provided the answer and I was able to be fully on board with our plan. Essentially it means that the kids can have new shoes, ballet lessons, ponies*, swimming sessions, clothes and occasional treats without impacting the overall budget.

Alright, to be honest, the thought of the nuclear level tantrums the three-year-old would throw if we told her she could no longer do her ballet lessons was terrifying me.

On the subject of kids clothes, I know I have preached second-hand shopping. Confession time. I am rubbish at it. Toys, coats, wellies and equipment (like highchairs and cages**) are all fine. I second hand all of those things. But clothes are another matter. I am not squeamish about it, I just find all the lovely new cute kiddie things in the shops really hard to resist. I don’t go overboard with their clothes either but they have this annoying tendency to grow all the time. Each new season heralds a realisation that last winters’ trousers don’t fit anymore and that dress is now inappropriately short. New stuff time! Unless that new stuff falls into one of the above categories it will be brought new and sparkling from a shop. I must get better at it I know, but I am using the Child Benefit excuse; I have money especially earmarked ‘new stuff for kids’ so it’s fine, and they’ll get loads of use out of it (yeah right). I have found the only way to counter this problem is to stay away. I even have to exercise extreme will power in Asda not to venture beyond the fruit and veg aisle into the enticing land of homeware and cute kids clothes.

Going to attempt a bit of new leaf turning this weekend though. There is an NCT nearly new sale which I will brave on Saturday in an attempt to source a couple of things in the appropriate frugal way. Wish me luck!

*a joke

**also a joke

Autumn: Saving, Showering, Shivering and Shopping.

Last month we fell off the frugal wagon a bit. Nothing too drastic but we were lax about tracking our spending, therefore the lack of accountability meant some people (*cough* Mr. B.* cough*) frittered away the pennies. I say frittered, I think gulped them down in pint glasses is more appropriate. That’s a bit harsh (not really). I was no angel either. A night out in London for a friends’ birthday (which was awesome!), and a hair cut were my Achilles Heel. But hey, a girl’s gotta live! I haven’t been tempted back to Sainsbury’s yet so we’re still saving on the food shop compared to before,. Things are not as bad as they could be, and despite all this we still saved a grand total of 50 quid….get in.

The back to school feeling of September always catches me off guard. After the halcyon days of the summer holidays and being away for a week, reality comes as a shock. I have to get up and make another packed lunch? What and be dressed in actual clothes before 8 am? Blimey. Additionally, as there are other people doing the pre-school run, and it is frowned upon to wear paper bags over ones’ head, I’m having to play the shower roulette game more often (will the baby wake this time???). Who am I kidding, I’m just going through my dry shampoo at a faster rate.

However, October is here and with it, the dawning of another Austerity Month. We are going to sort ourselves out and do things properly. Stop spending unnecessary cash, and save our socks off (not literally). Problem is though, the weather has also changed. It was jolly cold this morning on the walk/scoot to pre-school. I wore a scarf. The pre-schooler, whose commute it is, wore her winter coat. The baby was stuck with his habitual hoody as he does not posses a winter coat. My fingers got frizzed while pushing the pushchair. Pre-schooler announced that her hands were too chilly for scooting, resulting in mummy carrying the scooter and pushing the pushchair up the giant hill towards school. That wore out warmed mummy up at least (*chants* look on the bright side, look on the bright side…). Now I’m very aware that the weather is only going to get colder and wetter, so herein lies my dilemma. I clearly need to equip my children for the changing seasons, but how to do it in the most money savvy way possible? (Brace yourselves for some real life actual problems…)

THE scooter

THE scooter

The aforementioned winter coat fits and is warm but is not waterproof. I intend to walk to pre-school as much as I can this year, as it is actually quicker than driving (saves petrol and counts as exercise, allowing week long guilt-free cake consumption), so I can guarantee rain. Do I replace it? The baby needs one too, but that’s simpler to sort out, as he’ll be in the pushchair and under a rain cover. Gloves are needed as mummy lugging scooters defeats the point of having said scooters. Do I go to Asda or JoJo? Asda clothes are not bad, but is it worth buying for quality rather than risking it with cheapo gloves/coat which might not last the season? The sleep deprived (lazy) me says Asda, as that will save me dragging myself into town. I also need new shoes as I can feel the pavement through my current favourites.

This mornings' guilt-free muffin.

This mornings’ guilt-free muffin.

The best frugal option is to buy second hand, especially for kids things as they insist on growing at a rate of knots. I spend a fair amount of time hiding in the kitchen trawling through facebook sites that sell second hand kids stuff. The problematic winter coat came from such a site last year. The issue with this, though, is that you are at the mercy of the sellers. If they have nothing to sell, you are stuck. Do I wait until an appropriate coat becomes available? The prices are often ridiculously cheap, but who knows if what I need will ever appear. Do I buy a new coat and take this risk that one might appear the next day? Head scratching stuff.

I don’t know the answer by the way. I think I will just keep an eye on the forecast, and put it all off for as long as possible. One good thing about this chilly weather; all four humans in my house were occupying the same bed for the latter half of last night. Instead of being hot, sweaty and sleepless, I was warm and cosy. But still sleepless, obvs.

shoes, holes

Must not step in puddles 🙁