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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Saving money on GCSE books


MasterShoestring is going into Year 11 in September and last year when he started the new English course I got all the set books second hand via the internet. I saved a substantial amount of money compared to buying new and he had the same texts as everyone else.

He is doing the new GCSEs graded 1-9 and since this year was the first year of the new exams it wasn't possible to get any of the revision books second hand. However, with the results about to be published lots of people are about to be wanting rid of their GCSE revision guides and now is the time to watch out for them at good prices on book selling sites or even for free on Freecycle.

The other way we have saved on set texts is to order through the school, which gets a discount on a bulk order, this is especially good for the CGP guides and using Google Kerboodle which gives you access to textbooks and revision material for free if the school or yourself takes out a subscription. This is particularly good for Science books.

Good luck to everyone waiting on their results at the end of August and to all those going into Year 11!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Making Apple Pie Filling in the Slow Cooker


We decided to pick all the apples off one tree to stop the animals getting at them. This gave me half a laundry basket full of apples. Some of them have been eaten, some used in chutney but before they start to go bad it is time to put them in the freezer.

I always do this by cooking them down to make stewed apple as this takes up less room and is ideal for pies and crumbles in the Winter. Last year I discovered that it is much less work and cheaper to do this in the slow cooker.

I peel and slice the apples and place them in the slow cooker until the cooker is full. You can add a cup full of water if the apple is a bit dry, I usually do this with russets but not with the other sorts. Then turn the cooker on HIGH and leave for 4 hours. When you come back give the apple a stir and you have perfect stewed apple.

Right, off to peel some more !



Sunday, 20 August 2017

Patience


I have been thinking today about how much of the frugal life is about patience. Saving up for things, rather than going to buy them at once, making do with things, having the patience to mend things and so on. But I also thought that there is a great virtue in learning to do that. So frugal life not only builds your bank balance, it builds your character too ! Here is one of my favourite poems about patience.

Stepping Stones

I see a bunch of stepping stones,
they each appear one by one,
floating up to the surface.
I need to summon courage,
to patiently wait for the next stone,
although,
sometimes the waiting makes me,
curious or bored or anxious.
But if I try to cross,
before my time is ready,
I will just fall and sink,
out of sight to the bottom.
But I need to 
be brave enough to wait
and strong enough to 
cross to the next stone.

Every place in my life,
I've had to cross a threshold,
by going over the stepping stones.
Each stone has had a purpose,
leading me to the place,
that I'm meant to be at, 
at that particular time. 

When the time is right,
for you to finally cross,  
your stone will be there.
Just remember to
believe in all of your steps,
for they'll get you,
where you need to go.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Another Lovely Trip Out !


Trustee business took me to the lovely East Sussex village of West Dean yesterday. Beautiful tiny village, so close to the sea hidden away in the fold of the South Downs. This is a gorgeous spot which people so often rush through on the way to the channel ports. I was lucky and the warm sun came out and it felt like there was nowhere better to be.


The village has a wonderful 12th Century church.


Even a white horse cut into the chalk just above the village. I can thoroughly recommend the forest walks too if the downs are a bit windy, which they were yesterday !



Friday, 18 August 2017

Frugal Friday


A quieter frugal week this week as MrShoestring and I were both away at different times visiting family and friends. We still did all the normal little things, which is just as well, as yesterday we got an enormous repair bill for the car ! We are driving to Italy next week and as the car is over 8 years old we thought that we better get it checked out. I've broken down in Italy in August before and did not want to repeat all that trauma and expense ! Anyway, 3 new tyres, several suspension things, a CVS joint and the brake fluid needed replaced before they said that it would be safe to drive across the Alps ! Fortunately, we do have car repair savings which paid for it all, but we have the savings because of all the little things we do every week, the sorts of things which are listed below !

I ordered cheaper Vitamin B12 capsules instead of just buying them at Holland and Barrett, I paid the same price but got 250 capsules instead of 100. We picked early apples, blackberries, the last of the blueberries, cucumber, courgettes, marrow and tomatoes. I made chutney with the marrow and some of the apples, it smelled amazing !

We also made bread, tortillas, rolls, soup, tomato sauce, iced ginger cake, date and apple flapjack cake, fajitas and pizza. We painted all the woodwork on the outside using trade quality paint ourselves. This paint is expensive but lasts, which means we have to paint less frequently. I weeded the driveway and out down cheap salt instead of weedkiller to stop them growing back.

I got a free dental check-up using our tax credit exemption card and re-used some aluminium foil. I downloaded some free ebooks for the Kindle and renewed books at the library online rather than driving in specially to do that. We enjoyed a couple of films using MissShoestring's Netflix subscription rather than going out !

I hope that you had a great week too !

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Every Penny

 !

Every penny counts ! That is certainly true for those of us living on a shoestring and is the name of Kate Singh's new e-book which is available for download for free this week on Amazon ! It is not a book of tips or a schedule for thrifty bill payment but rather an autobiographical fragment which shows how she gradually matures in handling money.

The book is USA based and so some of the information about house buying does not apply here in Europe, but what I find so encouraging about this story is that she shows it is never too late to get to a better place and writes in a very warm and encouraging tone.

The whole book is a like a lovely chat with Kate across the fence and if you are feeling a bit down or worn-out with all your penny pinching I thoroughly recommend this gentle, quick read for helping you feel encouraged once more !



Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Date and Apple Flapjack Cake


This is a cross between flapjack and cake and used up some of our vast quantity of dates and some early apples yesterday. Needless to say, it was all eaten by the evening !

4oz dairy free margarine
4tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
7oz oats
4ox self-raising flour
5 ox chopped dates
3 grated apples

Melt the margarine and honey together in a pan over a slow heat. Whilst it is melting grate the apples and put together with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Grease a 12in by 8 in pan. Once the margarine has melted mix in to the rat of the ingredients and press into the pan. Bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the pan before slicing and eating !!



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Spending a Penny !


I was a bit shocked yesterday to be asked for 20p to spend a penny at Bourton on the Water ! It was lucky that I had some change in my purse and was able to help out an American family who only had large notes ! I had forgotten that tourist hotspots often charge to visit their conveniences !

The picture above directs you to one of the few free public lavatories in the Cotswalds, at Chipping Camden and there is a handy website to let you know how much it will cost elsewhere !

http://www.cotswold.gov.uk/residents/environment/parking-and-public-toilets/public-toilets/

Other ideas to spend a penny for free are to use service stations on the motorway and use the facilities in coffee shops and pubs that you stop at. The whole event reminded me that often in Europe you have to pay and that I better make sure we have some small Euro coins for our arrival in Belgium, as there even the motorway service stations charge !

Monday, 14 August 2017

A trip to see friends


Off to the lovely Cotswold village of Bourton on the Water today to visit with friends. We are going to walk along the lovely river there.


Possibly, have a paddle !


Keeping costs low by arriving once the free parking starts and bringing our own flasks and snacks !

Enjoy your day too !



Sunday, 13 August 2017

Easy Marrow Chutney


MrShoestring found the first marrow this weekend and since we already have plenty of courgettes in the freezer and marrow jam needs pectin I decided to use what I had and make a batch of chutney. This is very easy and tastes good after being left in the cupboard awhile.

11/2 kg marrow
225g onion
225g apple
225g sultanas
1tsp ginger or piece of ginger
225g demerara sugar
850ml malt vinegar
12 black peppercorns

Chop up the marrow and remove the seeds and skin, cover the chopped pieces with salt to draw out the water and leave for 12 hours.; Then rinse off the salt. Chop up the apples, onions and ginger (if using, but I find powder works fine too). Place in a big saucepan along with the marrow and other ingredients. Tie the peppercorns in muslin and add to the mixture. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the mixture is thick. Remove the peppercorns and wait 10 minutes until the mixture has cooled a bit before bottling in sterilised jars.

This is good with cold meats and cheeses.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Visiting Midsomer








I borrowed this book from the library as we wanted to visit a few local places and were not sure where to go. It has lots of lovely pictures and although I have only seen one episode of the television series, it did highlight some picturesque places we have never seen within 1 hour's driving distance. So we thought that we would plan a tour.

In fact we were not the first people to have that idea and in seeking to put my own tour together I discovered this website :-

www.visitmidsomer.com

It has two different ideas for tours with downloadable maps and lots of pictures and ideas. So guess where we are going today ?

I hope you enjoy your Saturday too !

Friday, 11 August 2017

Frugal Friday


Although this was quite a 'spend' week with all the annual car expenses we always did well on the frugal front, which is why we have all the annual expenses saved up for !

First off the garden is still producing well and inspire of the damp weather we appear to be keeping ahead of the slugs ! This week we picked blueberries, blackberries, cucumber, tomatoes and courgettes. The pumpkins are getting very large and there is still plenty of spinach, chard and kale, which I shall have to get around to freezing.

We continued to eat well and spent only £8.11 on groceries this week. We made tortillas, bread, quiche and a spare quiche case to use next week. Also breadcrumbs, chocolate brownies, blueberry muffins and yoghurt, all delicious ! The free cheesecake from MissShoestring was also very much enjoyed !

The boiler seems to have been repaired for £8 and we now have a reliable engineer for next year's service. I also saved £15 on a car insurance policy, I needed to look early as the insurance is up whilst we are away on holiday and I wanted to get it sorted so I don't have to worry about it lapsing. I used the Tesco Clubcard vouchers to order a free annual subscription to Landscape magazine. I've had this before and really enjoyed it. We don't get so many vouchers now that I don't shop there so often , so this seemed a good way to spend the few we do have. I also ordered 2 free cinema tickets from Nielsen and a £Amazon voucher from Swagbucks, but those have not arrived yet. I also downloaded some free Kindle books and started a free course on Mindfulness which I'll need for the next part of my training.

I finally found some wild sweet peas with seed pods during a walk so I took some to dry at home. I love that purply-pink they have and they grow anywhere, so I'm hoping to plant some next year. I've looked in to buying seeds but they are quite expensive, here's hoping the free ones work ! We went to a free jazz concert last Sunday, it was beautiful weather and the band was good, so a lovely Summer afternoon out. It was very popular and the Memorial Gardens were packed, it was lovely to see so many people having good time, there was dancing on the paths! Finally, we enjoyed our free behind the scenes tour at the Houses of Parliament, a real once in a lifetime experience !

Looking back I thought that the week had been quite miserable because of all that cold, wet weather in the middle of the week, but actually it has been quite good, I hope yours was too !


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Right on the Money


During all the wet weather over the past few days I have mostly being staying in and finding zero spend ways to have fun. One of the things we tried out was watching Series 3 of the 'Right on the Money' programme from the BBC. I just paid the license fee and thought that I should try out iPlayer to see what was on !

The programme was recommended on a few frugal blogs I read, so I thought that I would try it out and I must say that I quite like it and have learned a few things too ! I really like that they are using ordinary people for the money makeovers rather than those with vast incomes who are just wasteful. However, what has been a bit shocking is just how little financial literacy there is, I thought the primary school lessons about balancing a budget were a jolly good idea !

I am always looking for frugal inspiration to help me stay on the straight and narrow, especially in a week when I paid £190 car tax, £147 car insurance and £127 for 2 new tires, ouch !! This programme provides it in spades and I am now going to look into sugar craft for cakes and renting out some loft space ! I am also going to see if I can find the first two series for some more wet weather inspiration !

Does anyone else have a favourite source for frugal inspiration ?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Vegan Chocolate Brownies


These brownies went down well with all the family over the past few days. MasterShoestring said that he thought they could be a bit sweeter, as he sprinkled icing sugar all over his, but I replied that a cupful of sugar was plenty ! The cocoa powder makes the chocolate flavour very strong, so you could always reduce that a bit if you are not a fan of such a strong flavour.

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup dairy free milk
1 tablespoon vanilla essence

(This makes a very stiff mixture, so you could always add a bit more dairy free milk to loosen it up a bit. The sugar can also be substituted for a cup of alternative sweetener such as maple syrup or Sweet Freedom, then you won't need extra milk.)

Mix all the ingredients together and turn into a greased square 9inch pan. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. let them cook before cutting into small squares as these are very rich ! Enjoy !

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Free Visit to the Houses of Parliament


During the Parliamentary recess all sorts of sprucing up and repair work takes place at the Palace of Westminster. They also allow more visitors than usual in, as there is no business going on. You can buy a ticket for the audio tour and go round any day you please or you can request a free tour from your MP like we did and have to go on a specific day !

August is the ideal time to go as the House of Lords and House of Commons are both empty which means that you are allowed to go inside and even have a little turn at the dispatch box, just like the Prime Minister ! We were very surprised to contact the MP's office just a couple of weeks ago and be given the choice of 3 dates. But apparently there is quite a bit of space as so many people are on holiday.

You are given a print out of your date and time and must specify beforehand how many people are coming. After that you go through airline type security, collect your visitor's badge and there you are inside the Palace of Westminster.

Since they were doing so many repairs the direct access to the House of Commons was blocked and we were allowed to go round by the Members' Library and saw quite a few things which were not on the regular tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and really worked hard to make sure the children in the party understood things and had a good time.

I would thoroughly recommend the tour and once it was finished I quite fancied becoming an MP so I could go round again ! However, apparently I don't need to as every constituent has the right to enter parliament, go to the central lobby and ask to speak to their MP. If the MP is in the house, they have to come out and speak to you ! Apparently this is how lobbying began !

Anybody else been on a great free trip recently ?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Free Cheesecake



Last Friday MissShoesstring went out with a friend to a nice restaurant in London called Blacklock. It specialises in tasty meat dishes but also has tasty puddings. MissShoestring has a sweet tooth and loves cheesecake. She has tasted cheesecake all over the world, including New York, which is supposed to make the best in the world. After one bite, she declared the one that night at Blacklock to be the best she has ever tasted.

On the way out, whilst paying the bill she asked if she could buy a piece of the cheesecake to take home for her Dad. MrShoestring has not been very well this week and she wanted to cheer him up. The restaurant staff explained that they did not normally do that and she explained that it was for her Dad and why.

The fantastic staff went into the kitchen and fetched a plastic tub and placed a piece of cheesecake in it so she could carry it home safely. Then they got a paper carrier bag and wrote on it in lovely writing " To Dad from Blacklock". Then they told MissShoestring that there was no charge and that they hoped her Dad got better soon.

There are lots of lovely reviews about that restaurant praising the great, friendly staff but I think they surpassed themselves last Friday. MrShoestring enjoyed his piece of cheesecake and it did cheer him up  . I think it is a wonderful example of the sort of kindness we have been seeing in London recently, long may it continue !



Sunday, 6 August 2017

Mending the Lawnmower


Nearly every Summer we have something go wrong with the lawnmower. One Summer thieves tried to run off with it, one summer servicing it cost £169 and one summer we had to buy a new one, so we always keep extra savings in case something has to be done with it. However, over the years we have got more used to what might go wrong with it and so can plan ahead to take preventative action.

Now, we buy a servicing kit and MrShoestring does the servicing himself and we always add fuel stabiliser, so if it is stored away for any length of time then the fuel lines do not get clogged. We have a lot of rough lawn to mow here so a big, high-powered petrol mower is essential.

Well, yesterday it stopped working ! We tried everything, so resigned ourselves to taking it in for repair and facing a more than £100 bill. MrShoestring was all set to load it into the car when MasterShoestring suggested he have one more try to get it started. Well, it did start ! Then it stopped again ! This suggested that a faulty spark plug might be the cause. So we bought a new one at a cost of £2.99 and fitted it.

Now the engine worked but the blades would not turn. A quick look at Youtube and some tightening of the blades and it was working properly ! We were ever so happy that the repair cost £2.99 rather than the £169 servicing charge we would probably have had to pay at the lawnmower centre !

Fixing things yourself is a great skill to have ! What a blessing all those people who post on Youtube are !

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Boiler Update !


So, we arranged for an independent boiler engineer to come and look at the boiler, yesterday at 9am. He did not arrive ! I called, he was busy on another job but promised to come at some point during the day. He finally turned up at 2.15p.m. I was not best pleased that he was so late but he was very polite and had his twin sons with him, who were also very polite.

They checked over the entire system, even climbing in to the loft and turning the central heating and hot water on multiple times, they checked the boiler again ! Eventually, they declared there was nothing wrong but a little valve must have got knocked during the previous service. I checked that the hot water was really working and sure enough it was !

All of this took about 45 minutes and when I asked how much they would charge they said £40 plus VAT if I would agree to have the boiler serviced by them next year. Of course, I agreed ! So, the £40 from HomeServe as compensation, paid for the visit and I paid the VAT. Making the sum cost of fixing the boiler, £8 rather than the £95 HomeServe wanted to charge. Also, it was clearly their fault rather than being a new breakdown.

I'm so glad that I shan't have to go through all of that next year, fingers crossed !

Friday, 4 August 2017

Frugal Friday


Another Friday and a week of small savings but good ones ! I planned out all the meals for this month and the shopping. I split it into two sections, one for whilst we are home and then a menu plan and a shopping list for when we are away. I did most of the shopping in Aldi and a bit in Tesco. I'll go to Aldi again before we go away, whereas I normally only go once a month. We're planning on taking most of our food with us as that should ensure that we stick to the budget, I've allowed just a bit for ice creams and fresh stuff and hope that it will be enough. So far I've only spent £72.71 ! A big saving was £10 for 10 litres of sunflower oil in Tesco and I also picked up a copy of their free magazine. The only slightly disappointing thing about not shopping much in Tesco now is that my vouchers were only for £4.50 this quarter.

The garden is still producing well but not quite so copiously in the wet weather . We managed to harvest courgettes, a cucumber, blackberries and potatoes. We planted more lettuce and I made bread, tortillas, stuffing and cake.

I gave MrShoestring a home haircut and downloaded some free Kindle books, including one on how to live for free. The book is by the founder of the website LatestFreeStuff and although I don't find the website so good, the book contained details of a few swapping sites, including one for garden vegetables which I might try.

I got a £5 Amazon voucher from Swagbucks so used it to get a copy of Marlene Stevens new book on Homemade Gifts. It is really good and has lots of good ideas I could definitely try out, a great buy ! I used a comparison website to see if I could find a cheaper home insurance price and then when I found it was with the same company we were with already I called them and asked if they could match the online price. They were very polite and even managed to knock off 2p more. So now we have home insurance at £11 cheaper than last year.

The final frugal thing is not a saving but an earning, the feed-in tariff payment for the solar panels was calculated and that worked out at just over £211. When it comes in I'm going to use it to buy second-hand copies of the books I need for next year's course. If I buy now the prices tend to be lower as last year's students get rid of their books. If I wait until I need them, the prices are often higher.

I hope you had a frugal week too !

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Blueberry Loaf


I made this yesterday and before it had finished cooling MasterShoestring had pinched a bit !

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup milk or non-dairy substitute

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into a greased loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour at 350F, check after 45 minutes if you have got a quick oven or a large loaf tin as then the mixture will cook quicker.

Turn out and leave to cool before slicing to enjoy ! If you are feeling extravagant it is tasty with butter or jam or with a bit of icing drizzled over the top !

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Outfitting Baby


Just out of curiosity I thought that I would tot up how much it would cost to equip a new baby with all the stuff you would need to start out with. I was shocked to discover that including a cot and a highchair would take the amount to just under £300 !

I can remember that when we were having USAShoestring we looked in Mothercare and then went home and made a crib ourselves, as it was far cheaper. The important thing to remember is that the baby grows so fast that most stuff will not be used very long, especially clothes and nappies. So, there are bargains to be had second-hand.

I found all the clothes for the first year in charity shops and did not pay more than 50p an item. You could do even better at a jumble sale and a quick wash and it's like it always belonged to you. We borrowed a cot and got the pram out of the paper. We also saved big items and lent them to other people and then re-used them ourselves. National Childbirth Trust sales were really good too.

Wait and see what your baby is like before investing lots of money in real nappy systems. It was fine with MissShoestring but MasterShoestring had colitis and disposables met his needs better. I ended up selling the real nappies I'd saved !

Also be aware that babies are born in lots of different sizes and they may be too big or too small for newborn sizes ! Have a few items larger and smaller just in case you need them !

My best item was a good sling so I could leap on and off buses, we had no need of a car seat with the first two, so pick items that fit your lifestyle !

What would you recommend to new parents ?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

A Wee Trip Out


Off to a conference yesterday and as it was such a fine day we used all our free time in-between presentations to have a look around. This is the war memorial.


A lovely footpath !


The conference venue, a lovely old house with a super garden.

I love it when we can enjoy the countryside at the same time as visiting somewhere for a conference or training. Feels like a mini-holiday !



Monday, 31 July 2017

July Reckoning


So we did come in under our 1500 pounds a month budget this month but had one or two annual expenses which meant our savings rate was only 19% of that amount. Not too bad for a month where for part of it MasterShoestring was on holiday, which means he eats something just about every hour !

However, I had re-jigged the budget in March to take account of some expenses going down, like water and books, but had noticed that we were spending more in other areas. In particular, transport and telephone calls. We had changed the package to Plusnet in June, but had not included a telephone package just to see if it would cost less as we don't make that many calls. So this month when I looked at the itemised bill one of the calls was for over £8, it was one of my calls to a friend ! For £8 a month I could have Unlimited 60 minute calls at anytime so I've decided to add that package ! Transport for MrShoestring in and out of London was also around £10 a month more expensive than we had been reckoning on so that budget category has been increased as well.

Overall, the extra expenses mean that the budget has increased overall by around £50 a month. Still doable but over the next few months I might have to put up the food budget as well as we are just squeaking in under £170 a month on average. There are a few possible reductions in expenses on the horizon as our new Tax Credit exemption cards should help with dental and prescription charges. However, there are a few possible increases as well. For instance, I've stopped doing the postal survey, they always retire you after 6 months, so back to paying for postage !

August is going to be a bit of a challenge as we are away right at the end of the month and MrShoestring won't earn anything. We have money saved to cover all this but it is tempting over the Summer not to watch every penny, but I think this year we will have to !

Have you had to re-jig this year's budget at all ?

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Blueberry Muffins


At last, the blueberry bushes are producing enough to allow us to make blueberry muffins. This recipe is very popular in our family and a dozen muffins doesn't last long. The good things about the recipe are it does not need eggs and is quite light on sugar, so these muffins are quite good for a teenager boy's breakfast during the holidays !

1/4 cup margarine
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup dairy-free or ordinary milk
2 cups blueberries

Cream the margarine and sugar together. Add the flour, milk and blueberries and mix together. Fill 12 cupcake papers 2/3 full with batter and bake at 200C for 20 minutes. Leave to cool before eating or else the blueberries will burn your mouth !

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Not so good Boiler Check


You may remember a few weeks ago I said that I had got a boiler check from Homeserve for less than I paid last year and how pleased I was that it also included boiler cover for a year. I paid £60 via a £5 a month direct debit.

Well, last week they came to check the boiler and validate the cover. So far, so good, except the engineer was 4 hours late and the hot water did not work properly after he left. We excused the 4 hours lateness, as these things happen and did not know there was a problem with the hot water until 6 days later when due to the cloudy weather the solar hot water was not working. When I turned on the hot water all the radiators came on, not what you want on a warm Summer day !

I checked it a few times and then called Homeserve to tell them to come and put it right. As part of my story I also told them about the lateness and that this had affected my work. Well, they said that they could not come and put it right as I had called 6 days after the event and as it was a breakdown they would charge the £95 excess on the policy before they would make an appointment to fix an breakdown.

I explained all about the solar hot water and then said I wanted to formally complain that the boiler had been working before the check and that their unhelpful attitude meant I would now be complaining about the lateness as well. So we raised a formal complaint and went around  the house turning off all the radiators manually just in case we might get another cloudy day and need to turn on the hot water.

Well a letter came saying that they have judged my complaint and were sending me a cheque for £40 for the lateness but would still charge £95 to come and look at the boiler. I have had unhelpful service from Homeserve before and want to warn you against them if you do not like stress.

Now, I've contacted an independent engineer, who does not charge a call out fee to come and look to see what has happened. If it is a genuine breakdown I do not think it will cost £95 to fix and I'm going to put the £40 cheque in the bank towards any costs. If, as I suspect, the boiler check engineer just forgot to put something back in the right place the repair should be quick and easy. If not, I still think it will be cheaper than having Homeserve come out for £95. MisterShoestring isn't so sure, so we'll see next week !

Was this a frugal move, to use Homeserve even though I have had poor service from them in the past ? Well, at the moment I have had the boiler checked for £60 and received £40 of it back, fingers crossed any repair required doesn't cost much and I still come out ahead !

Friday, 28 July 2017

Frugal Friday

Another good frugal week, which is just as well as yesterday I calculated that driving to Italy and back at the end of August is going to cost just under £300 ! So we need maximum savings in the next few weeks !

I had a free eye test and then ordered two free pairs of glasses on the NHS using my new tax credit exemption card. I had to pay for 1 pair for computer use but £25 for the test and 3 pairs of glasses seemed good value. We re-used foil quite a few times and I haven't had to buy any for several months.

We made yoghurt, soup, scones, blueberry muffins, peach cake, bread, rolls, ratatouille and tortillas. Into the freezer went blackberries, raspberries. spinach, courgettes and celery. I picked two pounds of mirabelle plums and used them to make 2 jars of jam.

We found a cheaper septic tank emptying service and that will save us £7 a year and got a free watch repair at the same time as having the battery replaced.

I signed up for the Nationwide Building Society Rewards scheme and got £5 off a £30 spend at Lidl and MrShoestring fixed a faulty shower seal for free. We applied for and got the Marriage Allowance so should see the difference in MrShoestring's tax code in September and I got a book for my course from the library. I also downloaded a few free Kindle books.

The not so good weather meant that we stayed home on Wednesday and watched an old film so that saved travel money and we got free tickets for a tour of the Houses of Parliament so the travel money saved this week will pay for going to that !

Keep on saving !


Thursday, 27 July 2017

Everyday Adventures - last week


The weather has interfered with the 'everyday adventures' this week but I still had a lovely trip out on my bike. I have got a red mountain bike with a broad saddle and this makes it much more comfortable to ride on the bumpy country lanes around here.

I went to see if there were any blackberries along a footpath by a farmer's field as our favourite patch was cut down by the council last year. There were quite a lot right at the far end and having the bike made them much quicker to reach and get them back home again.

Another day I went to look for wild plums and found some. Usually they are yellow when I pick them but this year lots of them had turned red as well. I was able to pick 2lbs of them and carry them home to make two big pots of jam. These little cherry plums are difficult to destine so I always cook them up first and then scoop the stones out as they float to the top of the pulp.

I also took some pictures of bees, did some meditation, wrote some snail mail, did some journalling and gave some hugs !

What were some of your everyday adventures ?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Living on a Shoestring - the final post !


This is the final post in this series and I'll start a new series in August. But before we get started a quick alert about a couple of good deals this week. The first one is for people with a Nationwide debit card. If you go to the Nationwide Simply Rewards page 

http://www.nationwide.co.uk/support/support-articles/services/simply-rewards/cashback-offers

 and sign up, you can register to get £5 off a £30 spend at Lidl if you spend the £30 at Lidl on your Nationwide card before 31st July. So I shall be doing my August grocery shopping a bit early !

The second offer is on the Kate Singh site and is a free ebook about penny pinching, well worth it if you haven't got it already !

So why bother with either of the two offers above ? Well, eventually living on a shoestring, or well below your means, will enable you to do things that might otherwise not be possible. Over the years we have spent a few years working and volunteering full time for causes we believed in, without earning a wage and we are still able to do this part-time. Giving back to what we believe in is a central value in our lives and we are happy to do without some things to enable this to happen. Other people like to give money as well as time to charity and shoestring living can allow this to happen.

We have also been able to take advantage of educational opportunities for our children which otherwise would have been out of reach. On occasions, it has helped us out with major medical problems too. We have had fantastic holidays with all the family by only going on holiday every few years and it has been all the more exciting for it !

Most importantly of all, living on a shoestring has given us choices: we have been able to walk away from bad work situations; train for careers we believe in and work less as we are getting older ,yet still enjoy a rich and fulfilling life. We have also been able to help our children with house and business purchases ! In fact living on a shoestring enables you to do everything a rich person does at much less  cost !!

What do you like about shoestring living ?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

School Holiday Savings


One of the best things we have done over the years to save money during the school holidays is to have a plan for each day of the week. One day might involve spending some money but all the other days had to involve free activities.

A plan might look like this :-

Monday - Cooking Day
Tuesday - Park Day
Wednesday - Outing Day
Thursday - Craft Day
Friday - Playdate Day
Saturday - Movie Day
Sunday - Rest Day

The outings on Wednesdays might be to pick your own farms, the beach, a country park or on occasions, to somewhere a bit more costly if you can afford it. This year we're going to visit all the free museums in London with MasterShoestring.

The other thing we have done and are still doing with 15 year old MasterShoestring, is to insist on some level of routine. That doesn't mean it can't be broken at times, but it does mean that over the course of several weeks you don't end up with everyone in bed until noon and then demanding to stay up later on as they are not tired ! So MasterShoestring has certain things he has to do before he is allowed any electronics !

We also found the library reading scheme and the list of events on the local council website really useful. Some places even offer free swimming and the National Citizenship Scheme is worth looking in to for older teenagers !

What are your tips for the long Summer holidays ?

Monday, 24 July 2017

Top 3 Moneysaving Websites


I have a long list of favourite websites on the blog. Some of them are about simple living, some about day to day frugal life, some more about money saving and some I just follow because they remind me about the important things in life but I was trying to think which ones I would recommend to those just starting out with frugal living and came up with a list of three.

The first one is based in the UK and is Martin Lewis' Moneysaving expert :-

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com

The great thing about this website is that it is not too hardcore, if you just want to look for a better deal on your mobile phone contract, you can, but if you are looking for really good advice and support to cut back, the forums are the place to go, particularly the Old Style Thrift one. I used to look at this everyday when we were just starting out and it still has great recipes and is my 'go to' place when shopping around for deals on insurance and other regular bills.

The second one is based in the USA and now has helpful videos to go with it, it is the Kellam family's Living on a Dime:-

www.livingonadime.com

I have all their books and they have walked the walk as well as talked the talk. They have had to deal with chronic illness and had very little money coming in. I use their recipes every week and love their kindness and the feeling that they really know what family life is like !

The final one is Frugal Queen based in the UK again:-

www.frugalqueen.co.uk

This blog is worth reading from the beginning to follow her story of getting out of debt. Now she is renovating a property if France to help with retirement savings and always has great recipes. She also muses on why it is important to live frugally and the challenges faced by families on low wages or none. Always worth reading !

Which are your favourites ?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

What to sow now


Our new lettuce seedlings are starting to grow and in the spaces where crops are finished we are just starting to sow some extra things to try and extend the season a bit.

Thomson and Morgan have a excellent seasonal list of what to plant in July and it includes flowers for next Spring as well as vegetables for now. We have planted some French beans, some more peas, radishes, carrots and turnips, all of which should take  around 60 days to mature. This means that we will have some more crops in the Autumn.

In the meantime the courgettes and pumpkins are taking up a lot of space and the courgettes need dealing with every other day. We don't mind as everyone likes them and they are very versatile. This is the first year where we have grown them successfully, even though they are supposed to be so easy !

The other thing you can plant which is quick to grow and good to have in the kitchen is pak choi, but we have given up with this and other brassicas as the pigeons eat it, even if covered with a net !

How is your garden growing ?



Saturday, 22 July 2017

Vegan Chocolate Banana Cake


This is a lovely cake for the weekend and was certainly polished off quick in this household !

10oz self-raising flour
2oz cocoa powder
8oz sugar
1 cup oil
1/2 pint water
1 mashed banana

Mix all the ingredients together and place in a greased 9 in square or round tin. It makes quite a lot of mixture so you might want to use 2 tins depending on how deep they are. (If you do make 2 then you can sandwich them with buttercream icing afterwards which is good for a special occasion.)

Bake for 40 minutes at Gas Mark 5 or 180C. Leave to cool in the tin and enjoy !

Friday, 21 July 2017

Frugal Friday


Schools in England break up for the big Summer holidays today so I was keen this week to try to save a bit extra, so we can go on a few outings as well as our holiday at the end of August. The savings started off slowly but got better as the week wore on.

The garden has been very productive and I have been freezing courgettes every other day inspite of the rain. We also picked and froze blackberries, raspberries, chard and beetroot. There was also a good crop of volunteer garlic which I picked before the heavy rain, just in time as it turned out !

We made tortillas, chicken stock, pancakes and a delicious chocolate banana cake to a new recipe, MasterShoestring wasn't very well this week so I was looking for a way to cheer him up. I also used the slow cooker for several meals and all the hot water was heated by the solar panels. I also dried 2 loads of laundry, including bedlinen outside on the line.

MasterShoestring used free stamps from the Royal Mail Survey to post his birthday 'thank you' letters and we used email for the international responses so there was no cost involved. The cards were ones I got free some time ago. I also used a book token and free shopping vouchers from the Royal Mail survey to order 3 course books which I need for next year, along with some points from a Waterstones loyalty card. I got the books brand new for nothing, cheaper than ordering from the library !

We applied for a Halifax Clarity credit card and were accepted, this was recommended by the Moneysaving expert website as being the cheapest way to get euros for our trip abroad at the end of August. By ordering now we made sure that we had it in plenty of time and there was even £20 cash back. We shall only use it abroad and pay off the full amount after the holiday, so we should actually gain £20 !

I paid the television license in full so that it does not cost extra and ensures us the best seats in the house for the Six Nations rugby next year. We were offered some tickets recently but all the family said that they prefer to watch it for 'free' at home ! Knowing that we are going to be away at the end of August I also checked which annual bills will fall due whilst we are away and made a note to pay them before we go. They include the car tax and insurance and the house insurance, so pretty important not to have them lapse whilst we are away !

We also booked free eye tests for everyone and replaced a lost Oyster card for MasterShoestring. The Oyster card still had £12.45 credit on it, so well worth doing before we set off on Summer holiday adventures !

I hope that you had a good week too !