New year, newish me!

Well here we are, in wet, cold, windy January. Christmas is remembered only but my expanded waistline and the three-year-old who keeps asking whether Father Christmas is going to come again tomorrow. This first blog post of the year has been a real struggle to write. Firstly I couldn’t think what to write apart from the obvious ‘Christmas, well wasn’t that expensive! Let’s make New Year Resolutions to not spend a thing in all of 2017’. Secondly, THE TODDLER DOES NOT NAP ANYMORE. Arrrggghhh!

Snow!

So what is this post about? Umm well, Christmas was a bit pricey don’t you think? Had a lovely time though, lots of family fun and the kids loved it. 2016 was a sock year. I have the world’s cosiest toes and I’m loving it (currently in pjs on the sofa, with a new pair of extra soft socks on. Comfy doesn’t begin to describe it). We had a lovely New Years Eve too. We went to a really posh party and got dressed up and everyth….Oh wait, sorry just remembered who I am…We spent the day travelling home and consequently when we got back at 10pm none of the small creatures were remotely tired. Watched the fireworks on TV and only went to bed after midnight because we were determined to out last the toddler, who finally succumbed at about 11.50pm. As for New Years Resolutions, we are definitely clawing our way back onto the frugal wagon. It is surprising how easy it is to revert to old habits of not watching where the money goes or spending without thinking about it. It will take us a month or so to be fully back to where we were in November. They say it takes 30 days to make a habit, and about 30 seconds to break it. Whoever ‘they’ are ‘they’ seem to be right.

It’s going to be a tricky month for saving though, as both the car tax and MOT are due. To complete the trio, the car has been making a horrible, expensive sounding, grinding noise every time I drive it. Not good. I really should ring the garage.

Another very ordinary and a bit half-hearted resolution of mine is to run more. I like running, and I like cake. For the past month or so there has been more cake than running so I feel like I should really put on my trainers again and heave myself out of the door. Things like snow (too cold), rain (too cold) and January (too cold) are getting in the way though. Ah well. Might as well eat the cake then! Mr. B, on the other hand, has signed up to the local half marathon in March. This means that I can nag him to go instead and make it look like I’m being generous, ‘You go for a run dear, don’t worry, I’ll eat the cake and look after the kids’.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a picture of my lunch today. Happy New Year to you all! I know it’s mid-Jan but whatever. A not-napping-toddler means that I now only have evenings in which to write stuff. As my brain tends to close down at around 6pm, earlier if the night has been bad, it will be a miracle if any of this has made sense!

Healthy isn’t it? and fascinating…

 

 

It’s Christmas!

Here it is, the obligatory blog post about Christmas. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t be doing it properly if I tried to gloss over the most commercially orientated annual event since records began 2016 years ago in a stable.

Bah humbug.

I love Christmas.

No, I really do! I am so excited this year. I love the build up, and the festive cheer that wafts around in glittery clouds of mulled wine spices and carol singing. I love planning presents and shopping for them, writing cards and opening advent calendars. I love buying things for my children and imagining their faces when they come downstairs to see bulging stockings waiting for them. Christmas means many different things to different people. For us it is about our faith and celebrating it with large family gatherings, playing silly games when the kids are in bed, eating/drinking too much, giving and receiving presents. All accompanied by carols and as much tinsel as I can cram onto a tree (love the stuff). This year I feel even more excited because the eldest has entered the world of Christmas hyper-awareness. She can remember last year, totally gets the context of Father Christmas and goes into paroxysms of delight each time she sees Christmas lights in someone’s window. To top it all off, she was an angel in her pre-school nursery and even had a line to say! *dies of maternal pride* The youngest is a bit oblivious, being only 22 months, but responds to his sisters delighted squeals with little jumps of joy and has clocked on to the fact that twinkly lights set her off. I can’t wait for Christmas morning and watching him figure it all out.

Last years tree.

Obviously this year, we are approaching Christmas from a slightly different angle. A frugal one. Having said that though, not too much will be different. What has changed is the thought I have put into things. Usually, I’d do all the Christmas shopping, and the food shops, and know that things would be expensive but just shudder at the bills and hand over the plastic, putting it down to what happens at Christmas. This year I have tried to look at things from a more frugal point of view.

  • I worked to a budget for Christmas presents. I am normally against setting budgets (although they do work for some, obvs) as I think they can lure you into spending the budget even when you don’t need to. However, presents are going to be brought so I thought a limit on how much to spend would help to keep myself in check.
  • Because I am working to a budget, I have tried harder to save money where I can. The kids presents are mostly second hand from charity shops or facebook. This in itself was tricky as I felt that I could buy things because the price was right rather than because I needed it. A couple of examples of absolute steals: Disney princess bed set – free off facebook, car mat – £5 off facebook, couple of Thomas the Tank Engine trains – £5 off facebook, really good condition sleeping beauty dress – £2 charity shop. You get the picture.
  • Most of our family and friends are getting homemade presents (sorry fam). This is one of the best ways to save money but to still give a gift that is (hopefully..) appreciated. That is, if I manage to make all the stuff on time…Stage One is pretty much in hand, Stage Two is not, nor is Stage Three. So it’s going well.
  • Nectar points. Even before our new frugal thing, I used to save all the Nectar points I reaped throughout the year to supply us with all the Christmas food and booze we’d need. Now, because you have been paying attention, you will know that we shop more in Asda, rather than Sainsburys. You are very observant. Because of this my Nectar balance was very low compared to previous years, and since the value of the points themselves has plummeted, it was a pitiful £22 that I was able to get ‘free’. Still, I knew this to be the case well before I went shopping so I tried to be smart and get things that needed to be better quality, or were drastically outside of our usual shopping price range. For example (because who doesn’t want to know?!): 1x Bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream (can’t have Christmas without it….), 1x Gammon joint (Christmas eve lunch), 1x box of Christmas biccies (obv), 1x box of crackers (red, because the three year old chose them). Pitiful compared to the Nectar hauls of years gone by but better than nothing!
  • Cashback sites. This year, I didn’t buy much online (see the third point), but the two things I did purchase through the interweb were bought using cashback sites. If you’re not sure what these are, I am not the best person to explain. They are not complicated, but Google (or anyone really) would do a better job than I can. Basically, you get money back from buying things online by going through sites like Quidco and TopCashback.  Now, if I was better at this blogging thing, these links would be affiliates, but it is almost 10pm and I basically cba atm, so they are just normal links. I’ll figure it out one day.
  • I love sending Christmas cards and this is one aspect of the season that I have had to think hard about this year. Buying and sending Christmas cards is not a particularly frugal thing to do. I know some people donate the money they would spend to charity instead. But I have decided that we won’t be cutting back on this part of Christmas, it is one of the only times in the whole year that we send actual post to people, and I love getting cards from friends and family, knowing that someone else was thinking of us as they wrote it. Just as we were thinking of them. Additionally I am a massive fan of the Cards for Good Causes, and one of my favourite Christmas prep things to do is having a good look at all the different designs they have. I find I will often choose cards from charities that I probably wouldn’t actually donate to normally. Not because they are not good causes, just because there are so many charities out there, often I only come across them via their cards. As it is one of the few times we give to charity, I don’t want to compromise it*

*Slight addendum; This year is a bit different as I decided to use up all the random leftover cards from Christmases past, so I only needed to buy one pack rather than my usual three or four – frugal thinking in action. Also the eldest ‘designed’ her own at pre-school for the first time and naturally we had to buy a pack….

My angel! *melts* and yes, a homemade costume…as evidenced by the different length sleeves.

So there you have it, those are the ways I am attempting to frugalise our Christmas this year. I could go on about the things we are not doing (because they are a nod to the commercialised nonsense that Christmas is in danger of becoming, such as Santas Grotto visits, Christmas Eve boxes, Chocolate advent calendars, Elf on the flipping Shelf – although that is more because the idea creeps me out….) but I won’t. 😀

The good thing about Christmas is that it is predictable. It happens every year, at the same time, so there is no excuse for being caught by surprise. Plan for it and you can enjoy it in anyway you like! You have my permission 😉

Five Ways We Saved Money This* Month

*OK, I was generalising, some of this happened last month or maybe even in September, I’ve sort of lost track. It has only added up to a decent blog title worthy number this week, though. This was because on Sunday evening around 5 pm (awful timing):

  1. I cut my husbands hair! He asked me to, don’t worry. I wasn’t enacting revenge over him going to the pub after work, or giving me tea in the wrong mug (real problems). When we started saving money, haircuts were one of the first things we thought of as expenses to tackle. Mine are expensive at £46, Mr B.’s less so, the most he spends is £10, but goes more often than I do. For his birthday in the summer he received an amazon voucher, which he then spent on a hair cutting kit. It had its first use in half term when I cut the three year old’s hair, and this Sunday the clippers got broken in. It was terrifying. There was hair everywhere. There still is hair everywhere (and, yes, I have hoovered. Three times). It didn’t turn out too badly though, if I say so myself. I mean, apparently I can’t do straight lines (hehe sorry love) but it he looks alright! The three year old was much simpler, she sat stillish, a few snips, and that was that**. Her curls hide the wonky bits luckily. So from virtually no investment on our part, as it was essentially a gift, we saved money! Am I brave enough to let Mr B. do my hair? Err, no. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
Ready and waiting. Like the worst hair salon ever.

Ready and waiting. Like the worst hair salon ever.

  1. Window cleaning. This one is a bit dull. Basically after faffing around for ages about getting a window cleaner round, I missed my chance as we had started saving. Then I spent the whole summer not cleaning the windows, moaning about how dirty they were and thinking about ladders. One weekend in September my Dad said ‘why don’t you reach around and clean them from inside?’. So we did. I say ‘we’, it was actually Mr. B. who did it. Me and the kids yelled helpful things up at him from outside like, ‘Daddy you’ve missed a bit!’. Took nine months and ten minutes to do, saved us about £40 probably (never did get a quote). We’ll He’ll do it again when we can’t see out of them any more.  
  1. Clothes swap. Mentioned this before when I wrote about half term. Brill idea and manages to fulfil the desire for new stuff and ticked a few things off the list that the smallest one actually needed. Money saved!
  1. I found a toy kitchen in the rubbish! It was just sitting there, by the bins, looking sad. Being a bit of a scrounger opportunist, I had a sneaky look while I walked past. Seemed fine, just grubby. Dumped the eldest at pre-school and checked it out again on the way home. Yup, just as I thought, nothing wrong with it, just full of leaves. I checked with the owner of the bins (felt like such a scab, should have seen the way they looked at me) and was given the go ahead. So glad I had the car that morning, didn’t fancy my chances in getting it home on the buggy board. The reason I braved the odd looks and covered the passenger seat of the car in leaves and mud, is that I was on the lookout for something to use as a mud kitchen. I was thinking I’d get Mr. B to fashion something out of wood and nails but bingo, a free kitchen! It is now the most popular outdoor feature and the source of all the mud covering the carpets/coats/children.                                                                                                                
    Mud kitchen in action

    Mud kitchen in action

    Finally;

  2.  Ignored Black Friday. I don’t like Black Friday. It makes me feel like I’m missing out on getting a bargain on things that I might need one day in the future, so must buy them now. Panicky, it makes me feel panicky. Apparently, though, things aren’t as good as they may seem. So called Black Friday ‘deals’ may not be all that amazing, Mr B. did some reading. Obviously that may not apply to everything but it’s worth being a bit sceptical sometimes. Having said that, if you know what you want it is worth checking for any deals, there are a couple of things I’m after but after checking, BF hasn’t made enough difference for me to think it was worth it. I’ll wait until the January sales then check again!

So there you have it. I think the moral of the story is to DIY, re-cycle old things and stay in and away from the internet on Black Friday. Or ‘Black Friday week’ as it seems to be now, I mean, that doesn’t even make sense. Let’s leave it to the Americans, I think they do it better than we do anyway.

**totally worried she might decide to give herself/her brother a haircut now….

Soft Play On A Budget

Equipment needed:

  • 1x sofa
  • 2x children

Method:

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