Category Archives: Saving Money

Thank Goodness, Half Term Is Here

Well, half term is here, and this time it really matters. The four year old has done her first term, has enjoyed it and been happy and excited to go most mornings but is very tired and in need of a rest. But never mind her. What about me!? I have just completed my first six weeks of school runs out of the eleventy billion school runs that I will have to do for both children from now until the end of time. Quite often they have been more like school lets-pick-up-every-acorn-on-the-planet-ever-and-ignore-mummys-frantic-chivvying, school mummy-lugs-two-scooters-and-a-child-up-the-never-ending-hills-because-both-changed-their-minds-and-now-don’t-want-to-scoot, or even school mummy-drags-smallest-child-who-wants-to-sit-on-the-floor-not-walk-up-the-hill-while-screaming (mummy or the child? I’ll let you decide) Arrgghh. And my pockets are full of acorns.

So we all need a rest. And, blissfully, we have nothing planned. I fully intend to stay in my pjs for as long as possible each morning just because I can. On the frugal side of things pyjama wearing until late morning is quite beneficial as I am unlikely to be able to go anywhere to spend any money while wearing my dressing gown, and it takes about three hours to get us all dressed anyway (and that’s just the four year old deciding what to wear). So spontaneity is out of the question.

I do have vague plans other than lazing around. I’d like to do all the things that I know the four year old likes doing but can’t now she’s at school. Cake making, going to the park and play dough are always at the top of her list (if she had one, which she doesn’t). Luckily they are things that a) can be done very frugally b) make me seem like a fun mum and c) who doesn’t love cake? Throw in the odd visit to Granny and we have a winner of a week.

Meanwhile, I am aware of the general hype slowly building around halloween and trying my best to ignore it. I have to admit something – I don’t do Halloween. I think it is the rampant americanisation of it all. I prefer the more traditional aspects of it like carving pumpkins and, well, that’s about it. In previous years, I could just ignore it and the children were none the wiser, although we did pumpkins. This year however, the four year old is obviously a bit more switched on so I will have to be armed with excuses legitimate reasons as to why we are not traipsing round on a trick-or-treat outing. Hopefully it will be raining….. We will carve pumpkins next week though. Very handily, Granny grew some on her allotment this year so we have two rather fine and giant specimens to attack. I have a feeling a chainsaw might be required.

…..nice pumpkins

In the event of no rain, I will probably have to dust off the ‘oh dear, we’ve run out of sweets, here’s an orange’ line for anyone unfortunate enough to try their luck at trick-or-treating. I simply refuse to buy sweets to hand out willy nilly for no reason. I have heard that there’s some sort of rule that if you have decorations or pumpkins outside the house then trick-or-treaters are welcome, and if there’s nothing, DON’T KNOCK. Well I have never had anything outside the house but last year we had plenty of uninvited knockers, all of which went away looking slightly miffed, their buckets a bit heavier, their loot a bit healthier. Let’s hope that this year they gen up on the rule book.

Bah humbug. Or perhaps Bah pumpkin. Or something.

Last years pumpkin carving

On the other hand, bonfire night is coming!!!! Our village always has it’s bonfire night on the last weekend of half term even though it is still October, probably just for a bit of village vs village oneupmanship. Ha! Look at us, we’ve done ours. As a complete contrast to Halloween, I am all for a bit of 5th November festivities. I would much rather commemorate the almost assassination of a king and capture of a would be regicide with arsenals of pyrotechnics, mountainous conflagrations, sacrificial effigies and flaming torches than go door to door collecting buckets of E numbers for reasons lost in the sad commercialisation of traditional rituals. But that’s just me. Conveniently it is a free event, with just the price of two garish flashy wands (yes, I know, that is also commercialisation but at least they won’t rot their teeth) and a bit of change in the bucket being the usual expenses. A huge bonfire on the green and a jolly good load of fireworks. It’s a great night (hopefully it won’t rain…..)

For anyone wondering about this big move I have mentioned once or twice before, we haven’t gone anywhere yet. Still waiting for actual dates but things are slowly, oh so slowly, creeping forward. The thing about this is that we do love where we live at the moment, so apart from the mounting frustration and desperation at wanting to begin the next adventure, it’s not at all bad –  the school child gets more time at a truly fantastic school with her lovely friends, I get more time within easy reach of my parents and friend network in the village, I have plenty of time to sort and clear out all the cupboards ready for packi…hahahaha!! (Sorry, couldn’t keep a straight face, that is sooo not what I am doing!) and we don’t miss out on BONFIRE NIGHT (wahoooo!!). The smallest child is a bit oblivious tbh so he is fine, but it’s only poor Mr B, stuck with his commute, who is not benefiting from hanging around here. Someone get the violins out.

Happy half term everyone!

In Limbo

Guest Post time! Mr B has kindly written a post for me. No, I am not being lazy. He has been meaning to for ages and has at last got around to it, with absolutely no nagging from me, despite what his opening line implies. No, I did not write it for him, although he did have to submit several drafts to the committee before it was finally approved (lol joking….or am I?). Obviously I needed to edit a bit here and there and couldn’t let him have all the fun.

He needs no introduction, he is of course, the one and only Mr B:

Limbo Period

Mrs. B has been asking me to write an article for this blog for quite some time. I’m not a writer and I often struggle to express myself with “good england”. But I have given it a go.  

As you know, I spend most of the day behind a computer screen talking to people across the world and providing them a valuable solution that will help their businesses grow, achieving their targets. Great….even during a blog post I throw in my elevator pitch (if anyone is looking for a Market Intelligence Solution please contact me on my work email* – you will be helping me hit my target 🙂 (I think he’s joking…? Editor) ). Whilst I am carrying out the daily routine of a fun commute up to London, looking at all those people in fun suits, having the time of their lives – you get the sarcasm picture – we are waiting for our solicitors to sort out all the relevant

paperwork for the property we are buying.

Now, Mrs. B and I have been trying to save as much money as we possibly can in order to purchase our dream house and land so we can start our own business and grab life with our vast loan from the bank hands. This does mean we spend as little as we can and save as much as we can. The more we aim at not spending money, the more I can see that the consumerist world has dragged the whole population in. Today I received a letter from my bank stating that I can upgrade my Current Account to a higher level. When discussing with the bank, they were shocked that I didn’t have a Credit Card.

Bank: “but Sir, with your higher level account you can get a better Credit Card which can help you and your family”

Me: “Really??? How??? By enticing me to spend more money which isn’t mine??? I already owe you money for my house, I’m not going to owe you money for useless things in my life” (He didn’t actually say that. Editor)

Frugal bank holiday beach fun. Not the best pic but all the other beach pictures contain child nudity….

In theory, it is very easy not to spend money (says the man who gets a coffee from Nero’s at least twice a week – ‘that’s ok I get cash back from it’ – no Mr B. that’s BAD!!!! (*rolls eyes* honestly! Ed)). However, since we have started the process of purchasing our dream property I have found myself slipping into a state of Limbo – we are almost there, the process was meant to have finished at the end of August,  with Mr and Mrs B + kids moving into the new house with all the possibilities  ahead of us. Did this happen? Of course not. Will this happen soon? Of course not, the days are turning into weeks, and now possibly months. Maybe end of September, October or November. Hopefully, not December. This means I have now been in a state of  anticipation for longer than expected and I have seen a resulting failing in my decent saving efforts. Because we have been “about to move” for a while, I have been in the mental state of, well it’s ok, let’s do it, let’s spend the money on something that may not be completely necessary – such as takeaways, the extra coffee in the morning, lunch (very much food related stuff – no evidence to show Mrs. B) (apart from your expanding waistline, I’m not that blind. Ed)

This has lead to a spiral of “defects” in the way I am living, spending has increased (I won’t be able to spend when I’m working from home, so that’s ok), exercising has decreased (it’s ok, there will be plenty of time for this in the new house), Enthusiasm is lacking (once in our dream house, life will be easier, it will be better, I will be stronger and faster). In the past couple of weeks, this behaviour has started to weigh on me, and also I have noticed the same with Mrs. B.(hmmm. Ed) There has been an increase in stress as the move has been moving (see what I did there) slowly and it coincides with our daughter going to school for the first time. This stress, the  amalgamation of events plus the return of bad spending (and exercising) habits is not a healthy way of living – hopefully we can move soon and all our problems will disappear. YAY!!! – Easy.

In the pumpkin patch. These pictures are just to brighten the place up, no relevance to the post whatsoever.

I’ve just re-read the last paragraph (without having to correct any of my English) (You’re right, I did that. Ed), and it sounds quite negative. I will however twist it into a positive frame. The last month or so has re-affirmed that, the way we lived before our decision to save more by spending less, was not fully satisfying. We were stuck in the rut, going with the flow, behaving like every other commuter on the 0716 train from Tunbridge Wells. The last month has reminded me that spending on unnecessary stuff does not fulfill my life and, in actual fact, is the catalyst that degrades it. When I spend money, I have found that I don’t exercise as much, meaning that I feel less motivated and energetic, therefore I eat more, spend more money, and the cycle goes on. Saving and spending money is like exercise, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I am very much looking forward to these next few weeks when I will start again to save, exercise and plan for our (hopefully) impending move. Watch this space! (Not literally. Ed.)

* imnotreally@thatstupid.com

Furnishing A House The Frugal Way

Well, September is here and with it, the cooler weather, shorter evenings and a general feeling of back to schoolness. Hence a blog post. I have made several new (academic) year resolutions:

  1. Prise open the long unused laptop, blow the dust off the keyboard and write more blog posts.
  2. Run more so I can eat more (cake).

  3. Get to school on time…

Yes that’s right, the eldest child has started school! Not being a morning person, I am dreading the resurgence of the morning routine. I have been quite happy in my summer holiday mode of not really doing anything (like getting dressed) until gone ten. She is desperate to start though, and I am very excited for her. Her little brother is going to miss her a lot, he has been her shadow and partner in crime all holidays and at two and a half, has no idea that she is suddenly going to disappear for most of the week. I’ll miss her too, of course!

So, in the spirit of sticking to my resolutions, on to the subject of today’s post: furniture. Of the frugal kind.

This is one of my favourite frugal things. When we moved into our current house we needed quite a bit more furniture as we came from a two bed rented flat with lots of built in wardrobes. It was then that I discovered the joy of second hand furniture warehouses. If you’ve never been, imagine a cavernous warehouse filled to bursting with heaps of furniture……pretty much does what it says on the tin. They are great places, and you can really find some good stuff if you have the time to look through the rubbish. The turnover is often high, so you never know what might have turned up in between visits. As long as you know what you are wanting to buy and make sure what you are getting is decent quality, there are some real bargains to be found. I basically furnished our house from these places. I had a list of what we needed and would pop in every time I passed, over a few weeks our house filled up with good quality furniture, none of which cost more than £150.

Kids modelling table (charity shop) and chairs (skip)

Having said that I would give the sofas and armchairs in those places a wide berth, they were always pretty grotty and looked like there may have been other things living in them….

There are more really good places for picking up furniture frugally, mostly virtual ones. This is what I tend to do now rather than drive out to places, I can use the kids or general laziness as an excuse. Sat on the sofa (gumtree) I can spend a happy time scrolling through Facebook selling pages, and have been known to win on ebay a few times. In the olden days (four years ago) we used to look through the FridayAd at the items for sale and we even brought a Dyson through an ad on one of those notice board things on the back wall of sainsbury’s that no one looks at ever. Good old hand-me-downs feature a lot in our house too. It does mean that nothing really matches (lets call it ‘eclectic’) but definitely doesn’t mean we have scabby furniture, we do have some taste and we make sure we get well made things. I like the character of our furniture and the sense of smugness satisfaction that I get from knowing it cost us peanuts.

The thing about buying from the warehouses or from facebook sites is that sometimes you have to get things when they turn up rather than when you need them. Which is precisely why we have ended up with a filing cabinet, sofa and two large bookcases. In the new house, Mr B will be working from home, so the filing cabinet is destined for his boxroom office. When I saw one advertised on facebook for free I couldn’t resist, as a better bargain was not likely to come along anytime soon. The sofa and bookcases were from Mr Bs office in London, offered for free first come first serve. Another sofa was on my wanted list but the bookcases were an added ‘bonus’ that Mr B convinced me to agree to. The only cost was a man with a van to get them down from London. Apparently they might come in useful….at the moment they are getting in my way…..

Kids modelling new sofa (Mr B office discard)

It may seem a bit presumptuous of us to buy furniture for a house we haven’t even bought yet but as I said, often you have to get things when you see them in order to avoid paying more. It helps, therefore, to have a Master List of all things you need. This way, when scrolling through facebook or wandering into a charity shop you know what to keep an eye out for. Also, we know we have the money at the moment. By the time we actually have the house we probably would have spent most of it.

We were buying furniture second hand long before we made the decision to cut back on spending and save money. In all honesty when we were first married there was no way we could have furnished our flat any other way. It always seemed a bit silly that you basically had to take out a small mortgage to buy a new sofa. Luckily we were living in Eastbourne, a favourite of the retired community, where there is no shortage of charity shops which generally look like they carry out house clearances every other day.

Nativity angel in front of bookcase (charity warehouse) and sideboard (family hand-me-down)

One last tip: make sure that what you buy can actually fit in your house. I brought a large wardrobe when we first moved in which wouldn’t fit up the stairs without being dismantled (with an axe) first. Mr B valiantly (there was a lot of swearing) took it apart, then cobbled it back together upstairs. Thinking about getting it back down the stairs for the future move, we came to the conclusion that it won’t. Therefore Mr B set about carefully (violently) dismantling it and it has now been sent to the dump. I replaced it with facebook finds of a smaller wardrobe (£40) and a rather nice tallboy chest of drawers thing (£100, found the same one online at M&S for £400 new), both of which can make it up and down the stairs with only minor huffing and puffing and definitely no axes.

Hopefully we will manage to move to our dream house as, currently, I have filled all the available space in this one with furniture and unsurprisingly we have run out of room.

Current Master List: (On hold due to lack of space…)

Double bed frame

Replacement chest of drawers for kids room (…current one is a bit rickety and may not survive another move)

Office style chair

Table lamps

Proper farmhousey style kitchen dresser (always wanted one, will be my ultimate secondhand success if I can find an affordable good quality one)

Frugal Food

We have not been very frugal recently. In fact, last month (June) was the first month in over a year that we ended the month with less money in the bank than we started with. Admittedly, we have spent the money on things like solicitors fees, a buildings survey and mortgage booking fees, which means that things are moving forward and all progress is positive. However, seeing that amount of money leaving our accounts makes me start to hyperventilate if I’m not careful. A bit daft of me really as this is the whole point of saving up in the first place, and Mr B has budgeted for everything (we think..!) so the money is going where it is supposed to. It means that THE MOVE has begun in earnest, the moment we have been saving up for has come to pass and we are putting our money where our mouth is and actually DOING IT *hides in a corner* it is very terrifying frightening petrifying ahhhhh! exciting.*

On a slightly less panic attack inducing note, we went Glamping! It was such fun. I was really only joking about the research thing before, but it actually proved to be incredibly useful as a source of ideas. We now know what sort of standard and feel we would like to achieve and that it is totally doable. The non research side of things was good too, the kids were so excited, it was great not having to pitch a tent when we first turned up and the fire pit was awesome. Mr B assumed control of that, obviously. ‘I am Man. Must make Fire.’ Pretty sure that is a verbatim quote. We all had a lot of fun. Not a lot of sleep though (see point about excited kids).

Our bell tent!

On to the main point about this post. Food. We have totally nailed the frugal food shop and at this time of year it gets even better. A tub of raspberries and bag of swiss chard from a good friend kicked things off (thank you – you know who you are!), meaning no veg in the food shop that week. This week, my Mums allotment has come up trumps and we are very well supplied with broad beans, potatoes and courgettes. They are now away on holiday and I am in charge of the allotment. In return for looking after it (and the cat. Must not forget the cat…**) I get to pick, cut and dig up as much yummy fresh stuff as I can. This is a massive bonus which will have a big impact on our food shops for a while. I’m going to make the most of it by freezing most of the peas and beans and cooking the courgettes up into things like cakes and ratatouille then freezing. It is also at this time of year that I get stressy about my freezer being too small and not having space for a bigger one.

Lush jungle of plentiful goodness

To give you an idea, I spent £36 at ASDA for this weeks shop. A record low. We average around £60 a week and £240 a month, and this includes all food, household products, toiletries and nappies. Other spending might fluctuate depending on how strong our will power is at any particular moment, but the food shop is reliably frugal. Having a free supply of fresh veg and some fruit will be a huge bonus, and at the very least will help us feel like we are saving something, as it all haemorrhages out the other side on move expenses.

Bean podding station.

Supplying ourselves with fruit and veg, allotment style, is what we hope to be able to do at the new place, eventually. And I’ll have room for the chest freezer of my (slightly sad tbh) dreams.

 

Peas, courgettes, potatoes, raspberries, french beans (from our garden, yes!) and two courgette cakes (not from the garden…from the oven…)

The smallest child has decided to help by saving us money on nappies, as he has basically potty trained himself over this last week. I had heard of this happening but thought it was a parenting myth, handed down from a bygone era. But, no, he has done it all on his todd. He stated making a fuss over having a wet nappy and asking for a change after every wee. Then started being dry at night and waking me up at six in the morning saying ‘mummy, my need weewee’ while hopping up and down. Now he has been dry for a week and informs me when he needs the loo. All this without any input from me, in fact, almost every time I suggest he might need a wee I get a very adamant ‘Nooo!’ followed by an evil glare, crossed arms and a stamped foot. I admit, it is quite clever of him, but it has left me stumped! I suppose I just have to go with the flow (no pun intended).

*It is exciting but I keep having to not think about the ‘what happens if it all falls through?!’ scenario….deep breaths….

**Don’t worry Mum. I haven’t forgotten the cat.

This Is Not A ‘Why I Haven’t Been Blogging’ Blog…Honestly

Whenever I haven’t written a post for a while, it is really hard not to write a ‘why I haven’t been blogging lately’ blog. To be honest, if I wrote that sort of post, it is all that would be on the site at the moment. This post really isn’t one of those, however, all the excuses reasons for not blogging lately are totally relevant to what I want to write about today. So it might seem like an excuse filled post but it’s not, I promise!

It has now been over a year since we started talking and forming a plan to change the way we live. In a little over a month it will be a year since we started our proper hardcore saving habits, turning us into frugal thinkers. I’m sure I’ve said this before so I won’t bore you with it again, but it really has turned our lives around. We are in control of our finances and the stress of overspending each month has gone away (oh look, I did bore you with it again…#sorrynotsorry). At the start of the year, Mr B and I had our annual meeting to review 2016, life, the universe and everything (yes, we really did) and came to the conclusion that we not only hit all our targets for 2016 but, thanks to Mr B’s hard work, exceeded them. We also found that Mr B was more fed up with London and commuting than ever (full minutes of this meeting are available to download at the end of this post*).

As time went on this feeling intensified. In March and after many number crunching spreadsheets, we decided to start house hunting. That is where this post comes in as I was having a wobble about it all. I’m fine now, thanks for asking. Anyway, fast forward a few months and here are the stats:

6 trips to Herefordshire/Worcestershire/Shropshire

10 houses viewed

1 beautiful house loved and lost (sob)

1 house put on the market (ours, obvs)

£££££ spent on petrol and trying to fix the wretched car which apparently can’t handle the mileage.

So there you have it. We are actively house hunting for our dream property. Our lovely home is on the market. What with the emotional strain of putting in offers and missing out on places we have fallen for, flogging the 180 miles almost every weekend and fighting a losing battle vs the kids by trying to keep our house in a state suitable for viewings, I am pretty much done in. The blog has taken a backseat as I found I just didn’t have the brainpower left after all the recent emotion.

Much cake was needed to cope with all the emotion.

Added to all this we have been very lazy recently in our money saving ways. I think our focus has been taken off ‘saving for the dream house’ and replaced by ‘looking for the dream house’, and as a result, we have relaxed our normal frugality. We have given ourselves a strict talking to and are going to try harder in the future.

Picnics are one of my favourite frugal things to do. Half term = picnic week!

As a research tool, house hunting has been invaluable as we definitely know what it is we are looking for now, both in terms of what we need for a glamping business or holiday let, and for a family house. Speaking of research….we are going glamping next weekend!! I am so excited! We haven’t even told the kids yet but to be honest I am excited enough for all of us. I know holidays can seem to clash with the money saving idea but as I explained in this post, family holidays and activities are where we want to spend our money and how we make frugality work for us. Also, it is lucky that our (my) ideal family holiday is something that doesn’t cost much anyway – camping. This glamping trip will be excellent research (coughexcusecough) and as its only two nights, will serve as a good trial run to see if we’re ready for a proper camping trip.

You can expect more from me now (not hard tbh) as I have sorted out my brain and told it to get on with things. I have wanted to write this post for ages but it felt like I might jinx the search or something so have held off. We have already offered on one amazing place and missed out on it, but I have since discovered that I can love again so I now feel brave enough to announce our intentions.

So there you have it. That is why I haven’t been blogging lately.

*No they are not. They do not exist. We’re not that sad.

Three ways we’ve saved money by DIYing it.

I was planning on writing a post about the free and fun things we all got up to over the holidays, the weather was stunning and we could have done all sorts of blog-worthy things. But we were all ill. Mr B managed to escape it, mainly by fleeing to the kids’ room whenever either of them turned up in the night to cough and splutter in my face and then insist on sleeping with their hot, feverish little bodies pressed up against mine all night. The boy had it, then gave it to the girl, who then shared it with me and turned hers into a chest infection. All we did for 75% of the two week holiday was sniffle in the garden in the sun for a bit, then hide inside to watch a load of Disney DVDs. The remaining 25% of the holiday involved some Herefordshire house hunting, and a loud, boisterous Easter weekend with the in-laws, including all the cousins. The kids had a fantastic time and, thankfully, we were all healthy again.

So instead of a post of Instagram-worthy fun in the sun pictures, I will share with you a couple of ways in which we managed to save money recently.

  1. Blackout blinds. These are my new most favourite things. We have lived here for three years, and each time the clocks change in the Spring, I start moaning about the light evenings. This year we had just started sorting out the two-year-olds rubbish sleeping habits and had worked out that if we wore him out enough during the day and didn’t let him nap, he would fall asleep by himself, in his own bed. Brilliant! Except that we worked this out about two days before the clocks changed and it ruined everything. So I decided that this year was the year in which I would pull my finger out and do something about blackout blinds. Even before starting our frugal thing, I was too stingy to buy blinds and always put it off (while moaning about it all summer) and just used blankets draped over the curtain poles. However, I now have two fully functioning, totally successful homemade black out blinds which were a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest actual blinds. Win. They have yet to magically turn the kids into children who sleep though, grrrr.

The Maths: 

Cheapest blackout roller blind from Homebase: £14.99 (including all the faff of drilling holes etc) Blackout curtain lining material + length of doweling = one DIY blind: £7.20

Trying to wear them out with a spot of rock climbing.

  1. Picture framing. Last year Mr B and I had a very unfrugal jaunt to Rio de Janeiro for a (CHILD FREE!!!) wedding. We brought back two unframed acrylics on canvas paintings as a souvenir. Being the money-wise (read: lazy) people we are, we haven’t actually had them stretched onto a frame. We know proper framing places are reasonably costly, so instead of enjoying our souvenirs and seeing them on the walls somewhere, they have been languishing in whichever room happens to be the current ‘dumping ground’. Until now! It was Mr B’s turn to pull his finger out. He made a manly trip to Homebase and returned with wood and nails. A few weekends later, we had two proper, actual, can-hang-on-a-wall pictures! Ta da!

The Maths (this one’s not very mathematical…):

Proper picture framing by professional people: £50? We had another canvas framed a few more years ago so I’m assuming around the same price. Wood and nails and some drawing pins that were lying around at home: Significantly less £ than 50 (I forgot to keep track…)

  1. Asparagus. This one is a bit dubious tbh but never mind. We have an asparagus bed in our garden. Actual asparagus grows in our flowerbed then we cut it and eat it. Now, honestly, we are not in the habit of buying much asparagus so the money saved is minimal, but we don’t even have to buy it on those rare occasions when we might be tempted. This was a random whim of Mr B’s when we (he) filled in the mammoth pond* and we (he) created a raised flower bed. He went to the garden centre and came back with a few things on a ‘whim’. One of the ‘whims’ was a blueberry bush. That died. Another was an asparagus plant. That survived. I was sceptical at first and neither of us really knew what to do with it. We did a bit of goolgling and then proceeded to ignore it for six months or so. It seems to have flourished under our inattention and each year since has produced a regular supply of asparagus. By regular supply I mean it reliably produces enough to feed half a person every two weeks. We tend to have one reasonly sized spear each, about once a fortnight. Not quite self sufficient yet…..

Current ‘Whims’ of Mr B:

Four french bean plants. Two butternut squash plants.

This mornings asparagus haul. Awe inspiring isn’t it?

4. Being ill. Although I didn’t get to do lots of inexpensive fun things over the Easter Holidays, I didn’t spend any money either. I was even feeling too ill to drag the kids to the local shop (a nano minutes drive away) and re-plen our paracetamol and lemsip supplies which had been completely depleted. This, I suppose, is a good thing. But also it was a pretty rubbish thing.

5. To save money I really recommend NOT househunting somewhere that is six counties away, and therefore never less than 4 hours away by car. The amount we have spent on petrol is really depressing and has basically eaten up our savings potential for this month. Bummers.

6. Student loans. Mr B has managed the unthinkable and paid off his student loan! 10 years and a whopping goodness knows how many £s later, we are debt free (apart from a mortgage but we’ll ignore that for now). Well done that man.

There you have it. Slightly more than the three things I advertised but I’ve never been terribly good with numbers. I am aware that I haven’t posted anything for a while but this is for a good reason. At the moment my brain power (and very limited small child nap time) is currently deployed on writing a real grown up business plan for a glamping business. Now, we are nowhere near to actually starting anything just yet, but we thought the best way to get an idea of the reality of our plan was by having something vaguely formal, which includes things like a Marketing Strategy and Financial Forecasts. I have just finished the rather demoralising Competitor Analysis so fancied a change of tone and wrote this instead. There are scary, nerve racking, exciting things afoot in the Blackberry household (no third babies involved just to make it clear…) but I can’t reveal anything as I am terrified of jinxing it.

That’s it for now, I need to go and lie down in a darkened room as my nerves are shot to pieces. Luckily, I know just the place – those blinds are working a treat!

*as in a big pond. Not an actual mammoth pond.

Time for a little heart-to-heart

I started writing this as a ‘what we did at the weekend’ kind of post but it morphed into something that I think I actually needed to write. It’s a different kind of post to the usual but that’s probably not a bad thing!

Before I start, as I was sitting here typing most of it the four-year-old was making food for her wedding out of playdough. She made (so she told me), cabbage, broccoli and beef. She wanted my help to make some gammon and more cabbage ‘’coz I love cabbage, it’s my favourite.’ Well, I think I must have done something right with this one at least!

Back to business. We made a spontaneous trip to Herefordshire this weekend. As spontaneous as you can be when you have two small ones in tow. It was a week in the planning but felt very off the cuff. As we got further into the three hour drive it felt more and more as if we were skiving from normal life and hiding in the loos while everyone went to lessons. I kept expecting someone to ring and tell me off for not being at home.

We went because we are tired of the internet and wanted to do some actual research rather than look at another picture of a field and argue about whether 1.3 acres would be enough land or whether the pin on the satellite map is the actual house or is it that one over there next to the sewage plant… Also, Mr B admitted that he lost his heart to Herefordshire after our holiday there last summer. Totally canned the idea that we would be sensible and move to wherever we found the property that ticks the most boxes, but that’s ok with me! Basically, we thought some proper boots on the ground research would do us good. In reality, boots weren’t on the ground for very long as we spent most of the time in the car but it was worth it. Research wise it was very helpful, for example; 3.7 acres is great, 1.3 acres not enough; an existing holiday business is definitely preferable as run down barns look terrifying worse in real life than on Rightmove…; ‘A’ roads will not be good locations for a glamping business. These things seem obvious really but all we had to go on before was a map and photos on the internet. It was a much-needed trip for clarification and has given us a lot to think about. As it turns out all the thinking has led to a radical shift in our plans, but that is for another post!

A cold, windy, drizzly picnic spot in the Cotswolds somewhere. How very British.

Mr B found it exceptionally hard to return to London and normality on Monday. I did too (to normality, not London) but I suspect that was just from knackeredness – Getting home at midnight and playing musical beds with the children in the sweltering Travelodge room the previous night (to the tune of Mr Bs snores) did not make for a productive Monday. Also, I have been thinking a lot about our long term goals and what that involves – basically moving house. I hate moving.

Don’t get me wrong I really want to make the move, do the plan and all that it involves but I am struggling with the idea of leaving things behind. By ‘things’ I mean family, friends, our house, the area. Those sort of ‘things’. I worry what friends think when I talk about moving. Do they think I’m being callous and don’t care about our friendship? The reality is that I care a lot and it makes me sad. When we moved to our current house we had decided that this would be it. We would stay here until we were fed up of the place, outgrown it and ready to move to a ‘grown up’ house in the same village (what is a grown up house anyway? I dunno, somewhere with a fourth bedroom or a ‘drawing room’ maybe). Because of this I immediately started to put down roots, make ‘mummy’ friends and embed myself in village life. I did it very well and have made great friends who I love, I love the area and as a massive bonus my babysitters parents live in the neighbouring town. But now our plans have changed and while I am definitely on board with them, I have to tackle the thought of pulling up those roots that I purposefully sunk so deep. I am torn between the life I have here already and the future ‘what if’ life. I know that after a bit of time I will make friends and settle down in wherever it is we end up, but I am very settled here already. For Mr B, it’s a no-brainer – do the move, see his family more, build our own business, no commute. The poor thing has not had a chance to put roots down as London has leached away all his time. I will be leaving more behind than he is, but the one thing that I am missing in my settled life at the moment is him. To fix this, it is worth moving. It is not fair that he has to be the one making sacrifices all the time. But. I am sad about leaving all the ‘things’ behind.

Also I find it difficult to make new friends. I am shy and awkward and have always hated starting from scratch in new places like schools or towns. To be honest I almost cba* to do it all again. But I will, I’m not that antisocial!

My Mothers Day haul. Yes that does say ‘Nan’. And yes, the chocolates are empty. I rescued the box from the recycling to take the picture….

When I start thinking like this I have to give myself a shake and a stern talking to. Thinking rationally, Mr Bs’ reasons for wanting to make the move sooner than the five-year plan (that we are now almost a year into), make perfect sense; house prices rising, starting businesses sooner means more income sooner, while the kids are small is better, he’s fed up of London…Thinking rationally, what do I want from this move? I want Mr B happier, to see him more, for the kids to see him more, to run our own business from home (part of my elaborate plan to never have to go back to work…), countryside, doing the things I’d always daydreamed about but didn’t think would really happen. After all, it’s what we are saving for. All those are the things that make the move worth the emotional cost (which only I am paying, really). The catalyst for me moaning about all this is the fact that Mr B wants to bring the move forward (for the reasons set out above) so the five years that I thought I’d have to get used to the idea of moving have suddenly been condensed a little.

It has been useful to bash this out on the keyboard, as it is hard to get a chance to really talk to anyone about it, what with two tiddlers running about like lunatics wherever I go. Thank you for being the recipients of this catharsis. The thing is, I’m not going to let my fear of leaving swamp the chance we have to turn our lives into something we want. If life is nothing but a shout into the wind, we are going to make our shout count.

But still. I’ll miss my friends.

*Can’t be arsed: for those of you not familiar with tla’s**

**Three letter abbreviations.

Everything in Moderation (excludes cake)

Birthday Month was seen out by the boys second birthday. It was a bit of a wash-out to be honest as his sister had given herself a tummy bug by drinking swimming pool water, so was in quarantine from preschool. We were stuck inside and basically just watched TV all week. The boy’s birthday was a bit more frugal than his sisters as I’d managed a bit of forward planning and bought a couple of his presents second hand and in the January sales. That being said I went and spent a tenner on a stuffed dinosaur from Sainsbury’s simply because he found it in the toy isle and wouldn’t let it go. It was so funny watching him chase his sister with it up and down the isles (yes, I am that mother) that my will power completely crumbled. ‘He’ll love it forever!’ I thought. Now let’s watch as he never plays with it again because he is too busy with the plastic rubbish that came with a magazine…*

His second hand Facebook site present comes with its own cautionary tale by the way. The key word is scale. Ah perfect, I thought, a nice toy tractor just right for small hands. I’ll buy it for his birthday because I am super organised (it was November). Got a message back; would you like two more? Ok I thought, why not? Who doesn’t need three toy tractors? Mr B came back from collecting them with three of the biggest flipping tractors I have ever seen (that are actual toys rather than working farm machinery obvs…). SCALE. Very important. Ah well, at £3 each I suppose I’m just getting more for my money…?

What?! Its bigger than a dinosaur!!

Another fun thing about February is that the boy started Rugby Tots. For the uninitiated, it is a half hour session where two- and three-year-olds go mental in a sports hall with rugby balls, supposedly doing a series of exercises involving scoring trys, kicking and throwing. The two-year-old loves it, luckily, as we have signed him up to the eight week course and had to buy the uniform too. Not strictly a frugal thing really but then the four-year-old gets to do ballet and Mr. B. wanted to be involved as well (it’s at 8.30 on a Saturday morning…painful… we have since discovered that, like his mother, the boy child is definitely not a morning person). While the boys went to the inaugural Tots session a couple of weeks ago, the girls went swimming as the four-year-old was desperate to try out her new costume (yes, this was when she swallowed the pool water and poisoned herself). We were all back home before 10am and absolutely shattered. Have another seven weeks to go so bring on the coffee!

Spending money on things like Rugby Tots, swimming and ballet lessons is quite un-frugal, especially as kids classes tend to cost a bomb. There are obviously a lot cheaper things to do and giving two-year-olds rugby sessions isn’t really a necessity, he probably won’t remember going and didn’t ask for it in the first place. We signed him up because we  wanted him to do it. But as we have found out in the eight months of living frugally, this is the area we don’t mind spending money on. Everyone will have different ways of living frugally, and to be successful at it in the long term, it has to work for you. I am happy buying and cooking with supermarket own brands, using the car less to save petrol and avoiding the shops to remove myself from the temptation of shopping. Mr B takes in lunches to work, lets me cut his hair and goes for runs rather than to the gym. However, the area of our life where we want to spend money is family. Giving the kids opportunities and doing things as a family is what is important us. Our ultimate goal is to have more freedom to spend time together and that is what we are saving towards, so it makes sense that the things we want to spend money on are family orientated. Take holidays for example, technically a frugal no-no. But this year we are going GLAMPING! Under the guise of ‘research’ I persuaded Mr B to allow me to book us a couple of nights in a bell tent. I am SO EXCITED!! I’m sure the kids would be too if they understood. I have been wanting to go camping for about forever four years but have had to wait until the kids would enjoy it and not be annoying all the time. Well, this is The Year. I can’t wait anymore. Even if everyone else is miserable (impossible, camping is awesome) I will be loving it. And of course it is research, anyway.

A taste of whats to come!

The key thing is not to go overboard with whatever it is that you don’t want to cut back on. We don’t actively look for things to do on weekends that cost money just because we have given ourselves the green light to spend. Otherwise all the money you have worked hard to save in other areas of life just gets sucked into this new one. When something comes up that costs, we weigh up the benefits vs the expense. Rugby Tots is worth the cost in our opinion, because it will be good for the boy child to learn from it, Daddy gets to take him, and its good for the girl child to see that not everything has to involve her. Everything in moderation is my motto. Like I went for a moderate run this weekend and therefore can eat a moderate amount of cake during the week….Totally how it works.

*Update – He actually does love it! He calls it ‘grrr’ and shares his food with it and takes it to bed…*melts*

The Dangers of Fake Frugality

Having fallen off the frugal bandwagon in December and January, it is proving much harder to claw our way back on than I anticipated. Foolishly I thought it would just be a case of flicking a switch and all would be how things were back in November. But, as I think I mumbled on about last time, being frugal actually involves some work. Well, it turns out I was right. I’ve been using the excuse that February is Birthday Month, and is therefore bound to have some un-frugalness going on, but I realised the other day that actually I have become lax in the way I am operating, and no birthdays are to blame at all.

THE cake! Nailed it.

The 4 year old had a great day and was chuffed with her new running kit (Daddy less so as she made him go for a run in the morning to test it out. Serves him right for going out the night before), and with her £2 torch from Wilko (backfired a bit as now she apparently can’t sleep without it on but, strangely, it keeps her awake….she’s going to get a nasty shock when the batteries run out and she realises that we are currently experiencing a planet wide battery shortage….) and a few other bits and bobs. Not a specifically frugal birthday but definitely not a break-the-bank one either. It was after popping into the village shop that I had my moment of clarity. I’d gone in for a £1 bottle of milk and came out after spending £4. Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much, but in our frugal hey day I wouldn’t have spent the extra money. I got two packets of chocolate mini rolls because they were on offer and a packet of mini eggs. The rolls were on offer so I got two – my justification was the offer (frugal) and the fact that I never get them but the kids love them. If I’d had my proper frugal head on I’d have remembered that I had a cupboard full of biscuits that have been ignored in favour of birthday cake. And why did I get two?! Mini eggs are my Kryptonite. I’m not sure I would have resisted even when being uber frugal but still, I did not need them. I thought I was being frugal by shopping the offers but, no, it was all fake frugalness.

See how easy it is to slip up even when it could be passed off as saving money? If you don’t need it don’t buy it.

I fell into this trap again when I recently went into the village charity shop. I quickly went in to do a last minute rummage for any decent birthday presents before the 4 year olds big day. Nothing there. I should have walked out then. Instead I thought I’d have a quick peruse of the clothes since I was child free, for once. I came out with a jumper. No. Should not have brought it. It is the same as most of my other jumpers. I have too many, I did not need another. Why did I buy it? It was Crew, I thought £5 was fairly reasonable and it’s from a charity shop so that’s ok isn’t it? I didn’t need it so it is not ok (I don’t even like it that much, there’s nothing special about it, I just thought I shouldn’t miss the chance…plonker).

Frugal half-term activity – Troll hunting.

My mentality was ‘think of how much money I’m saving by not buying a brand new jumper and not buying full price mini rolls’. In reality I saved £0, and spent £8 more than I needed to. I need to sort my head out and return to the proper frugal mentality of ‘Don’t spend money’. It is very easy to slip up like this but equally as simple not to – just don’t. It’s like I said to Mr. B when he was telling me about the half marathon he’s just run;

‘I walked a bit but I shouldn’t have done*’ He admitted.

‘Why did you then?’ said I.

‘Because I just did, it was up a hill’.

‘Well next time just don’t’.

‘It doesn’t work like that’ he protested.

‘Yes it does. It’s all in your head. Just don’t walk.’ I said, helpfully.

Simple 😉

*Disclaimer preempting Mr. B’s probable objection: He did very well. Not much walking involved at all. Honest.

Thanks, But No Thanks January.

Great. Thanks, January, but I’m going to be glad to be seeing the back of you next week. You have been a write off as far as saving money is concerned, and thanks to your general iciness, I have been stricken down with a plague of fever and snot and therefore am unable to go running (shame). I have broken both my New Year’s Resolutions, through no fault of my own, and am thoroughly fed up with you.

I was in bed for three days straight. No responsibilities, no housework, no cooking, no children…….utter bliss! I wish. I have felt utterly rubbish with a nasty fluey cold, given to me by the toddler, thanks son. We both took over the big bed and were languishing there all last weekend. Thankfully Mr. B is a bit of a hero (or ‘legend’ – his word) and has been amazing. Turns out he can wash up, who knew! Although after three days of it he announced that we need a dishwasher. Yes dear, that would be nice. Anyway, I’m better now, but the result of the toddlers bout of flu last week was that our routine was completely thrown off. As it was so frosty, and the poor boy was feeling so low, I couldn’t face taking him food shopping. Luckily Granny came to the rescue with some emergency supplies and saved us from a supper of spaghetti and carrot (singular). Then I fell victim to the ravages of fever and was declared a quarantine zone. With daddy in charge that of course meant Dominoes for supper.

Pre-plague Jan was fun; snow!

It just goes to show how much we depend on routine and habit to save us money. As soon as things go a bit tits up, the whole system falls apart. Our main way of saving money is by not spending it – obvious and simple. But as Tuesday this week showed, there is a bit more work involved than might first appear. I wasn’t very with it on Tuesday, after the weekend lurg, but we had finally got around to leaving the car at the garage. Super Granny turned up so I could collect the preschooler at lunch time, then gallantly entertained us all day while I waited for The Call. Obviously I had forgotten to think about what to feed the kids in the evening, or to bring pjs so I could be lazy flexible. That Call from the garage came at half five, by which time the kids were climbing the walls from tiredness and general hanger. We still had to get the car, pay (bleugh), transfer both car seats, drive home without anyone falling asleep, eat something then actually fall asleep. As we pulled away from the garage I was dwelling miserably on the evening ahead, (and giving my full attention to the road obvs…), when the three year old pipes up, ‘Mummy! We can go to McDonalds!’. Genius. So that is what we did.

Lessons I learnt this week:

  1. Proper prior planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance. Obviously.
  2. Sometimes three-year-olds have genius ideas.
  3. Apparently the plastic window in McDonalds showcasing the Happy Meal toys is not built to withstand a determined toddler with hanger issues…..er, oops

This really does show that even something as simple as not spending money needs actual planning and preparation. I had to ring Mr B that night to confess and tell him to feed himself as there was no food waiting at home. The knock on effect is that there was no lunch for him the next day either. Money spent and money spent.

On that note here’s a new thing that we now do:

Introducing ‘Z days’. These are days where we will spend zero money. Obviously we already have lots of days like this (just not many in 2017 so far…) but now they have a name and Mr B has decided to count them. Because, apparently, it’s not fun unless it’s a competition…..*rolls eyes* honestly. I’m totally going to win anyway.

Lets hope February fares better than January or the Z day tally will be pretty poor. This is the Birthday Month though, so remembering PPPPPPPP* will be key! I took a cake order from the soon-to-be-four-year-old-and-doesn’t-she-know-it. It went like this, ‘Chocolate with pink on top and Rapunzel, and sprinkles and sparkles. And a tiara. And birds.’ Right. Wish me luck!

*catchy isn’t it? See lesson 1 above.