Soft Play On A Budget

Equipment needed:

  • 1x sofa
  • 2x children


Say ‘yes’ when the three-year-old asks ‘Mummy, can my make a mess?’ Watch from a safe distance as the sofa gets dismembered and the floor disappears. Hand dustpan and brush to sweep up sofa crumbs to whichever child gets to you first – this is an oddly desirable job and is hotly contested. Experience slight terror as the oldest leaps from the sofa arms onto a precarious tower of cushions and the toddler uses the sofa base as a trampoline. Who will survive the longest, the sofa or the kids? Escape to the kitchen to eat cake in secret whilst checking Facebook. Repeat about three times a day, having tried in vain to tidy up and rediscover the floor or sit on the sofa in between.

The face of pure joy

The face of pure joy

Five boxes of toys left untouched. Two happy children….must be missing something here. Maybe I’ll just buy them a stack of cushions for Christmas. Or helmets. Or a new sofa……

Breaking Our Own Rules – The Disclaimer

Recent events have seen us breaking the number one frugal rule of not eating out*. Anybody with an ounce of money sense would know that eating out in restaurants/cafes/bus stops etc is not good for bank balances. It’s one of the most obvious things to stop spending money on but often one of the hardest things to stop doing.

This post has been brewing for a while, not as a justification for breaking our own rules, but as a way to demonstrate that frugality does not mean depravity. Our (new) normal mode is to eat at home rather than in public places populated with other humans. This rule is incredibly easy to stick to at the moment, as our own small humans are at the delightful stage of transforming into public nuisances when the words ‘wait’, ‘sit’ or ‘still’ are uttered. Not worth the effort or money. The last time we took them for a meal out anywhere it was an absolute disaster. One was under the table wailing, (for no apparent reason), the other kept legging it out of the front door and wailing in harmony with his big sister whenever he was captured and brought back. Not. Fun.

When the 3-year-old was a 2-year-old. Had to search hard for a restaurant+kids pic. In other news...I want that pudding!

When the 3-year-old was a 2-year-old. Had to search hard for a restaurant+kids pic. In other news…I want that pudding!

So basically it’s an easy rule to stick to. However, we want to make our frugal lifestyle a long term thing. Sometimes flexibility is required to make sure we can bend with what life throws at us, rather than break. If we had slammed our ‘no eating out’ rule into the faces of our uni friends when ‘Dave’ (who doesn’t know a Dave 😉 ) organised our annual Christmas reunion meal, we would be pretty miserable sitting at home missing out on all the fun. If I had done the same with my school friends when a meal in town was organised, I would never get to see them (or ever get to leave the house unaccompanied. EVER.). When my parents offered to have the kids for a sleepover last week, Mr. B and I immediately vacated the house in favour of the nearest eatery – no cooking+no washing up+no kids = Bliss! We even got to have brunch (I’m still in shock)! Choosing not to eat out in any of these circumstances would have made us miserable and cheesed off with frugality in general. That is not how it is meant to work.

Talking about not being miserable, how cute were these two back in the day?!

Talking about not being miserable, how cute were these two back in the day?!

Having made eating out an unusual thing to do on a week to week basis, when we do go out I have definitely found that I appreciate it more. The novelty is a factor, but a large part of that enjoyment comes from knowing that we can actually afford it. Before we started living more frugally, we would stop at a cafe for lunch or tea, just because we hadn’t planned timings very well, or, frankly; cake. Settling the bill always came with a twinge of guilt. My internal thought processing would be recalling the fact that there’s still two weeks until payday, we are close to the red anyway, there’s still a food shop to do, and in actual fact there are plenty of things at home for lunch…..This type of cloud has entirely disappeared from our lives now. The trips out recently have been such a pleasure because of it. Mr. B agrees with me, the day to day worry of money has gone from our lives. We still think about money regularly, as Mr. B tracks our spending daily, but the worrying has gone. For the first time in forever we are living within our means (I sang that first bit…). Bizarrely, frugality has made our lives happier; we feel freer because of it. And we have only been doing it for four months. This is totally contradictory to what cutting back and saving money is often perceived to be like.

As for the money we have spent on these indulgences recently, the meal out in town with my school friends came to £6.70 each, with parking and tip I spent £8 that evening. And the best bit was that I had sold a baby carrier through facebook earlier that day for £8, so I had the exact cash in my purse for once. Massive win. Pizza Express must hate us; we are the worst customers. The four of us rock up, order doughballs and pizza, drink tap water, sit around chatting for ages and produce a couple of vouchers at the end for 2 for 1 on doughballs and pizza…great evening. The uni friends Christmas meal has become an annual tradition so is easy to plan for. Tis almost the season for Christmas meals to appear left right and center and I’m sure we will see their effect on finances. Money tends to get poured into pint glasses in December doesn’t it Mr. B? Here’s hoping this year might be different (yeah right!). And as for eating out when child free – it’s worth it every time! We managed to control ourselves, though, and walked to the pub, instead of going into town and spending money on taxis.

We are slowly coming to grips with what living a more frugal life means for us. The benefits we have already experienced are totally worth the small sacrifices and changes we have made. Which is totally unexpected by the way. I thought I’d feel the rub by changing things slightly and cutting back in certain places but I really haven’t. By adapting the rules to the way our life runs we are making it much easier for us to keep it up for the long term.  

*Take away falls under the same rules and is much harder to say no to. It is becoming slightly easier to resist over time – practice makes perfect and all that. Anyway, why buy food in when there’s plenty in the cupboards? Because it’s tasty, soooo tasty. No. Stop it.

October Finances

I am sure you’ve been dying to know how half term went after reading about it a couple of weeks ago. Also, October was our second go at Austerity Month (AM) and I know you’ll be wanting to hear about that too! No? Ah. Well, I’m going to tell you anyway….Don’t worry it’s not long!

September was a bit of a write-off. While we hadn’t marked it specifically as an AM, it was still shocking to see how easy it is to slip back into spending mode if we are not concentrating. So we needed to prove to ourselves that we could do the saving thing again. October was alright actually. We saved 7% of our monthly income. Not as good as our first go at AM but still a reasonable effort, as there was a Moped MOT (it failed) and subsequent repairs to account for. Mr. B has a fondness for spreadsheets (not judging), so he made this for me. He’s so romantic.

% of Monthly Income Notes
Necessary Outgoings 55.20% Mortgage, etc
Food 14.67%  
Mr and Mrs B. Expenses 10.24% Our spending outside of food shops (mostly Mr B)
Petrol 3.08%  
Unforecasted 9.52% Moped MOT and repairs
Savings 7.49% Doesn’t sound like much I know, but it’s better than nothing.

Half term did not leave its mark like I feared. I actually paid attention to myself and did what I 
said I would. It was a really social week and thankfully we only succumbed to the snot flood on the Friday. One of my friends had the genius idea of a clothes swap, so the little one gained a new wardrobe in return for some of his sister’s old clothes. Frugal win! We also did fun things at home and, thanks to my obsession with Pinterest, I definitely scored Mum points from the eldest, as well as frugal points, by making playdough (although I’m still picking it out of the carpet…Win? Not so much). The only child related expense was £6 for a flashy wand each (no, just the kids) at the village Bonfire Night. As the eldest had been looking forward to this event and getting said wand, for about a year, we thought it was fair enough.Not included in this table is the £58 that came from selling stuff that was lying around and getting on our nerves. This went straight into savings. Win.

We are rolling AM on into November as Winter Christmas is coming and we want to maximise our savings this year. Christmas is not going to break the bank and I have several plans in place to make sure it doesn’t. I’m sure I’ll be subjecting you to a post about that sometime soon (lucky you!).

Signing off now as I am entering a period of mourning. Poldark has finished. Talk to me next year.

My Latest Addiction

Quick one today. I rely heavily on the small one’s naps while the bigger one is at pre-school to write stuff, so a half term is pretty much a write off (ha ha). Also I have discovered a new way to waste what little spare time I have – Pinterest!

Yes, yes, I know I am years late to the party. A couple of friends have been extolling the virtues of Pinterest* for ages but I basically ignored them. Well I can eat my proverbial hat now. Its great! All these lovely pictures, things to do and things to make and things to eat! So exciting. So dangerous. I have an urge to go out and buy lots of crafty things because the three year old will simply love to make [insert random Pinterest craft here]. I am badly in danger of splurging. Control is needed. This half term has seen us make pompoms and playdough already, only because I had all the stuff, and I had to find some outlet for this newfound (and probably short lived) creative energy.

Playdough and pompoms

Playdough and pompoms

I have grand plans for my new Pinterest addiction. Obviously I will be taking a frugal perspective and searching out recycling/upcycling/money saving things-to-do-with-kids. We will see if anything actually comes of it but in the meantime it is so fun to look at all the pictures! Also featuring in my grand planing is of course, Christmas (shhhh!! The eldest child might hear you think the word!!). I have been toying with the idea of doing some sort of homemade present, as it is usually more frugal and also more personal too. Once upon a time I was lacking inspiration and ideas. Not anymore! Oooo the possibilities are endless! I have so many ideas my head is bursting. I apologise profusely to those friends and family in the gift firing receiving line. There is a high probability that you may be presented with something which resembles those hilarious Pinterest failure pictures, rather than an actual gift.

Anyway, as I am up to my knees in flipping pompoms (which keep gathering in corners and scaring me as they look suspiciously like spiders), and my fridge is full of playdough, I had better go and do something more constructive. Like check Pinterest tidy up.

*I know, this totally sounds like this post is sponsored by Pinterest but I promise you it’s not. I am clearly just a bit obsessed.

Here I am if you wanted to know what you might be getting for Christmas…

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 🙁

Do’s and Don’t’s for Thrifty Travellers

This weekend we undertook our first non Google-based, actual research and went to The Glamping Show in Coventry. I know, who knew there was such a thing?! It was great, we looked at real life things that you glamp in, like shepherds huts, eco pods and plastic igloos. Obviously it wouldn’t have been much of a glamping show if there weren’t about 500 different kinds of yurt/bell/tipi/safari/nomad tents. Not forgetting every type of composting loo under the sun. Glamorous. We even did the grown-up thing and went to actual seminars, rather than just cruise round for all the free things, have an overpriced hotdog, then leave. Mr. B listened to a talk on planning permissions and processes (snore) while mine was basically ‘Glamping for Dummies’. I really enjoyed it, probably due to the fact that it was 50 minutes of child-free time and I was allowed to sit down.

Does what it says on the tin.

Does what it says on the tin.

This all took place in Coventry, which is not very local. It took us three hours of nighttime motorway driving, a personal best, with one loo stop. Mr. B’s family is scattered to the four corners of the lower half of the UK so we have undertaken many a long car journey over the years, and previously regarded ourselves as rather proficient at long distance over-indulgence. Let me explain; as a family we look forward to these treks as they are the one time we cram ourselves with fast food, chocolate and anything else which will rot our teeth in a suitably short period of time. This sort of fuel has been even more necessary since becoming parents, as sugar goes some way to counter sleep deprivation. Now however, we have encountered a problem. Buying overpriced sugary foodstuffs from service stations is not going to save us money! Eating at McDonalds falls under the forbidden ‘meals out’ category! Shock horror! How are we going to stay awake on the motorway now???

The Scouts have the answer ‘Be Prepared!’ Having realised that a lot of parenting is just dishing out snacks from a nappy bag, I decided that this is what we would have to adopt for long car journeys. Hot drinks are also our weakness when travelling, which is OK for Mr. B as good coffee is readily available on the go. I, however, can’t survive without tea for an extended period of time, but am constantly disappointed by the standard of take away brews from service stations. The solution? Take it all from home!

I have compiled a handy list of Dos and Don’ts for anybody wishing to travel long distances with (or without) kids on the cheap.

Do: Make a cake or biscuits to take with you in the car. Unhealthy sugary snacks – tick, cheaper than service stations – tick. Obvs you don’t have to eat it all, or you could make something healthier (who am I kidding!). Don’t: Make the one cake that you just can’t seem to get right no matter how many times you try. Don’t only remember this when you take the burnt and raw result out of the oven, and don’t run out of ingredients and time to make something else.
Do: Be organised and pack in good time, allowing for potential cake related emergencies. Don’t: Wait until the last hour before leaving to try and pack, while your mental, over tired and over excited children execute a two pronged attack to trip you up and unpack everything as you flounder on the floor.
Do: Take a thermos of boiling water and appropriate tea/coffee making ingredients to make said beverages in the car parks of service stations. Don’t: Attract odd looks from other occupants of car parks as you make your drinks out of the boot of the car in the dark, and try to fish out scalding tea bags with your fingers. Also, don’t spill boiling water over your thighs. The looks just get odder as you do the accompanying ‘arrrggghhh that’s HOT’ dance.
Do: Resist the temptations of service stations by stopping in the attached petrol station. Run into the loos, not making eye contact with the chocolate which calls to you like sirens to Odysseus, luring you to your doom of unnecessary expenditure. Don’t: Forget to go the petrol station. Walking to the loos while fighting a sudden craving for McDonalds and regretting leaving your money in the car (good intentions) so you can’t cave even if you wanted to, is VERY annoying.
Do: Remember to pack all foodstuffs on the return journey. Especially the jam and cheese which are the only things the three year old eats for lunch. Don’t: Forget the jam and cheese. This leads to buying the most expensive jam and cheese in the land because it’s too late for normal shops to be open, and the three year old needs a packed lunch for pre-school the next morning.
Do: Fill up with petrol. Don’t: Think you can drive 68 miles home when you have only 75 miles until the tank runs dry. That, Mr. B, is stupidity, not frugality.

There you have it. We had enough provisions to survive any length of M25 tailback. Luckily the kids slept all the way otherwise we would have eaten the lot within the first hour. Just remember, the return journey is always when your willpower is at its’ weakest. Be Prepared for any travel hunger pains you can foresee and money will be saved!

Camping with kids is in tents.

Camping with kids is in tents.


What’s The Blogging Point?

I’ve written this post as a reminder to myself more than anything else. Basically, you know when you walk into a room and totally forget what on earth you are there for? Yeah like that.

So, why am I blogging? The reasons are threefold:

  1. I have always wanted to write. Simple as that really. Apart from some rather cringy fan-fiction at 17, I have never got around to it. So what made me finally bite the bullet? The idea for a blog came about at the same time as our decision to shake things up, and subsequently got caught up with the same mentality that started us down this path of saving money and reaching our goal: Just do it. Get on with it for goodness sake or I’ll always be day dreaming about it rather than flipping doing it. If I applied the same thinking to the washing pile or to the inch of dust covering every surface, I would have an immaculate house!
  1. Accountability. We realised early on in our ‘journey’ (urgh hate that word but can’t think of a better one) that we needed to publicise what we are doing and aiming for. If we kept it to ourselves then it would be way too easy to slide back into normal habits. If no one knows you have failed, does it count as failing? Deep. We need all the help we can get. If people know what we are up to then the thought of questions like, ‘hey I thought you guys were going to move to the woods and live like hippies and use acorns as money? How come you still haven’t done it?’, is not a nice one. Essentially, you are helping us to get where we want to be, whether you want to or not! Its also good to have a record of our endeavour (that’s a better word). Then we can look back and say, smugly, ‘look how far we have come!’, as our future selves sip frugally sourced blackberry wine from the sanctuary of our country idyl.
  1. Finally, it is to counter the effects of two doses of baby brain. I have felt my brain cells dying as I try to string a coherent sentence together, about something other than night feeds and dirty nappies. Baby induced exhaustion and brain power do not coexist happily. Writing this on and off, as I have been doing for the last month or so, has been extraordinarily beneficial for my poor burnt out neurons.
How most of the posts are written....

How most of the posts are written….

Those were the reasons for entering the blogosphere in the first place. However, to be perfectly honest the number one reason for carrying on is that I have come to enjoy it. That should be sufficient enough reason to do anything, surely (actually, I don’t think that’s strictly true. For instance an enjoyment of arson…).

And why ‘Blackberry Mummy’? I hear you ask (a total of one person has actually asked me that). Well, I was faffing around, procrastinating about not having a name or a title for the blog and Mr. B. got fed up. He said, in an exasperated tone, ‘just call it mummy blackberry or something’. We had been blackberrying that afternoon and I was covered in blackberry juice that the youngest had oozed all over me, so I thought, yeah that fits. Obviously I couldn’t let him have the last word though, so I swapped it around.

It’s lucky we had been out blackberrying, or I would have ended up with something like ‘Snot/Baked Beans/This Mornings’ Weetabix Mummy’, which is what I’m normally covered with.