Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Shopping at Home

USAShoestring is hopeful about getting this visa renewed in the next couple of weeks so he will be leaving us for his own home !! Today I managed to persuade him to start going through the drawers and drawers and shelves and shelves of stuff which he has been storing with us. Quite a bit of it was rubbish or was of no use to him anymore and so we made several piles:- throw away; give away; see if anybody here wants it and so important it needs to go to the USA at some point !

The throw away pile included lots of paper and a very ancient pair of rugby boots which started to disintegrate when I wanted to clean them up to donate. The give away pile consisted of lots of very large sportswear and some very bright ties. He sold a few books and then we were left with a few shelves of very important stuff to take back with him and an enormous moving box of stuff people here might want.

Out of this box I got a large double sheet, a set of towels, a new lamp, a new telephone, a sewing kit, a shoe cleaning kit, a first aid kit, 2 silk ties, 8 cotton pillow cases, 2 white T shirts and 2 pillow protectors ! Phew ! Shopping at home for free has been so good that I'm too minds now about whether I can use that free IKEA voucher I got at Christmas time. It only goes to show that you should always look at home first before making a shopping list.

So, we have cleared about one eighth of USAShoestring's room, I wonder what we will find next  ?

Monday, 30 January 2017


We have three different ways of saving. The first is a separate savings account where we deposit money every month for expenses over the year. I know that we will spend a certain amount on a holiday or a private eye appointment and so I split up the cost into monthly instalments and deposit that amount into the savings account. The account earns a very low rate of interest but I know that we will have spent the money over the course of the year so that doesn't matter. The important thing is to separate off the money so that we do not think that it is available for spending for everyday expenses.

The second thing we do is to have the emergency fund money and living expenses which might be needed over the next 5 years in a higher interest savings account. Sometimes this money has been tied up in National Savings but at the moment the money, for instance for buying a new car when we need one, is in higher interest current accounts as these offer the best rates of interest but still with the money easily available.

The final sets of savings are in investment ISAs which are index-linked to the stock market. We also have some money in private pension schemes leftover from some of the employers we have worked for. At the moment these investments are doing very well, up by over 10% since the summer. We know that this rate cannot last but are happy to see our little bit of money continue to grow until we retire in about 15 years time.

At present our other savings look like we will be able to have me study and MrShoestring choose his employment by the Summer and that idea of free choice is very encouraging when you are thinking about spending something. The choice is for a physical item now or more time to do what you want later and we almost always plump for freedom to choose !

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Pause for Reflection

This will be the last Pause for Reflection for a bit as it won't be so long until Lent when I'll probably join in with the Pause for Lent and I've got some new ideas for February.

The quality I thought we could reflect on today is Warmth. On the course that I'm doing we talk about Unconditional Positive Regard or Acceptance. People often struggle with feelings of not being enough or thinking that others are judging them and this can mean that they try and fill those gaps in their emotions with physical things. We feel pressure to be like others when in actual fact we are enough in ourselves. We do not need a new car or some new clothes and a haircut in order to be worth something.

If your home is full of Warmth and Acceptance people will want to spend time with you there regardless of whether you have a new sofa and have redecorated for Spring. This week I'll be putting away the last of our decorations for Epiphany and thinking about moving forward into a new season, but without feeling the need to buy stuff. I hope you can do that too and enjoy the Warmth in your home.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Gardening Plans

So the tomato seedlings are up, with another one making its appearance this morning and the mustard and cress have sprouted !

The cress always grows faster than the mustard but I never remember this and always plant them together. It must be something from childhood !

I had been going to plant lettuce but when I went to the stock of seeds I only had lettuce that needed for hours of daylight to sprout, so I shall plant that in March.

Nearly February and it has been so cold here that my plans to spend an hour a day in the garden have been put on hold waiting for better weather !

I am still very keen to grow as much as we can this year and so we are thinking about not growing potatoes as they take up a lot of space. Now we have found a farmer that grows them and can get them for a good price it seems for sensible to plant things that are expensive in the shops.

MrShoestring has already stuck some prunings from the raspberries and blackcurrants in the ground in the hope that they will sprout to form new plants. This worked last year so he's hoping it will again and we can expand the berry patch. Soft fruit is something I never buy in the shops as it is too expensive so growing your own is what we do. We have had good success with strawberries and blackcurrants but we never get enough raspberries to do anything with them except eat them buy the handful, so it would be good to have a few more canes.

The other thing we want to do is put up more protection against slugs and birds. The leek crop was much depleted because of their interference this year so I'm going to work on that this year. We're also going to grow succession plantings of lettuce as we eat that every week.

How are your garden plans ?

Friday, 27 January 2017

Frugal Things We Did This Week

So the most frugal thing I did this week was to keep on checking the bank account to make sure that all the transactions I had recorded were showing up. The bank account balance is often a few days out of date so then you think that you have more money than you actually have. I keep a running total on the wall by the computer which I update daily. Today the back account number is more than £100 above what I know we actually have as the credit card payment has not recorded yet. We have a card for the points to earn money off the grocery shopping and pay it off every month.

I have also been using the envelope system this month and that was helpful as it showed that I only had a little bit left in the grocery budget until next week when I can go and do the big shop for February. This was helpful as I was very tempted at the start of the week to put in a big order to a discount grocery retailer called Approved Foods. They had 16kg of organic bread flour for £9.99. This was a good price per kilogram and we bake every day at the moment. However, seeing how little the grocery budget was made me think twice and then reckon in the delivery cost of £8.99. This took the price above the local one per kilogram and made me delete the order. If I hadn't been using the envelope system I think that I would have made the order. Instead I made a menu plan until the end of the month using up what we had in hand.

I still haven't been to IKEA to spend my voucher so the petrol is lasting quite well. I returned some library books to avoid a fine. Parcelled up some more books for and sold one on Amazon. It's nice to think that a book we found helpful in the past is going off to help someone else.

We didn't book tickets for a Summer holiday after costing it all out and realising that we would be better to save up first. That was hard for me as I love booking a holiday and then spending lots of time researching the destination and planning what we are going to do. But instead I entered lots of holiday competitions and dreamed about winning !

It is still pretty cold here so we've been staying home and exercising inside so that has saved lots of money too !

Next week I'll reckon up exactly how much we have spent this month but inspite of unexpected expenses I think that we have been able to stick to the budget. Fingers crossed !

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Saving money on car repairs

Normally in the car repair department we have a number of things that we will do before taking it to the dealer for repair, as this is the most expensive option.

Firstly, we will do it ourselves. So MrShoestring just replaced the front windscreen wipers using parts he bought at Halfords. Initially we tried really cheap, generic parts from Screwfix but these did not fit, so he got the money back and bought more expensive Bosch ones which did fit.

Secondly, we use the small, local garage who will often tell us that a repair is not needed now but will be in the future. So in December they said that we should watch out for the front passenger side tyre whilst it was in for the MOT and service. Many garages would have been tempted just to say we needed a new tyre but these people are really honest and are all about having you come back. So we will when we need the new tyre !

Last of all we will use a main dealer. We need a rear windscreen wiper but these are not essential so we have been putting it off as you can only get them from the dealer. However, the car has a fault and has been recalled to have it fixed. It will have to go in all day and the dealer will give us a courtesy car whilst the fault is fixed for free. When I made the appointment I asked about the rear wiper and they said that since the car will be in anyway they will fix it just for the cost of parts, £6.50 ! This is about ten times cheaper than we were quoted when we enquired originally at another dealer.

I was delighted that the car will be repaired and I'll have a working rear wiper at such little cost. So dealers are not always really expensive, it pays to shop around !

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Menu Planning to the end of the month

I have just over £15 left in the grocery budget until the end of the month. So, I have amended the menu plan to make sure that we can last to the end of the month without going over. I still need to put some money on MasterShoestring's lunch account for next Monday and Tuesday so that takes it down to around £10. I will need to buy some rice milk and some cheese so after that I will be spending on the cheapest possible fruit and vegetables to round out the meals I have planned.

Today - birthday party, fish and chips, a treat paid for by the children as part of the birthday present

Thursday - homemade lentil and tomato soup with homemade rolls and jam suet pudding

Friday - barbecue beef stew with potatoes and carrots, peach crumble

Saturday - homemade tortillas and beans, homemade vanilla coconut ice cream (I'll have to remember to make this beforehand !)

Sunday - homemade beef and onion suet pudding, potatoes, buttered cabbage, homemade apple and blackberry pie

Monday - homemade pizza and salad, leftover apple and blackberry pie

Tuesday - baked potatoes and toppings, rhubarb crumble

Breakfasts - pancakes, cereal or toast

Lunches - soup and sandwiches and fruit

Phew ! I think that we can make it !!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Keeping Warm

It has been barely making it past 0C during the day round here for about the last two weeks. Today was especially cold as the central heating will not come on automatically when it is really cold ! Apparently this is a well known problem amongst condensing boilers and is a safety feature ! It is due to the condensate pipe possibly freezing when it is really cold ! We like to joke about it as it seems very silly that these boilers are promoted as so much more efficient than old ones but are no use when it gets really cold ! Once we realise that it hasn't come on because the indoor temperature is really icy then we have to go into the garage to turn it on manually. The problem with doing this is that by then the house is very cold and it takes a long time to warm up again, 4-5 hours usually. So we need other cheap methods to stay warm.

One of the methods is the wood stove and this is very good as we have a massive living room . Once it is going we don't need any other heating in that room and it runs on free pallets sometimes ! The other thing we do is just to heat up one room with a little electric blow heater. We have 2 of these and these are especially handy when we have to get up and be out for school before the central heating has a chance to get going.

We also drink hot drinks, wear coat and hats indoors until the temperature gets a bit higher and use blankets. We also like thermal underwear and two pairs of socks. As I write this, I've got my thermals on, a cashmere blanket wrapped around my legs and I'm wearing two pairs of socks. I'm drinking a hot drink and have had the electric heater on, but now it's only a few degrees until the thermometer hits 18C so I don't need it anymore.

Good luck with staying warm where you are. I'm off to walk a couple of miles and stay warm with a spot of exercise !

Monday, 23 January 2017

Mending a Tap

When I was cleaning the bathroom on Friday the hot tap by one of the sinks would not turn off properly. I knew that either the washer or the valve on the tap had worn. The tap was gushing hot water so I bound it up with some string to stop it running until MrShoestring would be home, I did not want to lose a tank of hot water whilst we waited for the repair. You might be wondering why I didn't tackle the repair myself, but you need a pair of pliers to turn the neck of the tap and although I could find those I wasn't strong enough to loosen the tap !

Fortunately, we had saved a pair of taps from a few years ago when we replaced the bath and they were still in the workshop in the box. MrShoestring turned off the water and quickly replaced the part that was worn. We had wanted to replace the whole tap but it turned out that they were different sizes, so he just replaced the part that was worn and now we have a perfectly working tap.

There was a little problem, in that the taps do not match perfectly now. They are the same colour and a similar style but not the same height. We are not bothered by this as we would rather have the saving and nobody but us ever uses that bathroom, we have another one for guests. It was a quick repair in the end and we were so thankful that MrShoestring could do it himself rather than having to call the plumber !

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Pause for Reflection

I have really been enjoying thinking about wider values in these few Sunday posts and thought that I should say something about honesty today.

Every frugal journey depends on honesty, you have to admit to yourself where you are now, possibly in debt, not telling your partner what that item of clothing really cost and feeling overwhelmed ? It also means admitting where you would like to go, off the consumer merry-go-round, with time to listen to people and help them out. Then you have to honestly admit what it will take to get to that place, a bit of sacrifice maybe ? 

I have found writing down the numbers really helpful and calculating the overall spend more frequently thank usual has also helped me to see that having made choices in some areas you then have to curtail choices in others. It has also meant feeling contentment and gratitude with what we have already got !

This little poem shows the honesty we can see in nature and reminds us that the flowers of the fields don't have the worries we have, the lilies of the field do not toil or spin !

Flowers, We…
The faithful wife of poets
The call girls of beetles
The adopted children of gardeners
Sometimes we are used in celebrations
And in the event of homage, given too
Sometimes we commence love affairs
And travel on the bouquet of brides
Sometime as demand dowry in temples
And to glorify the cheeks of Gods
And politicians too
What else..?
We are 'Honest' to pristine
And so we die
on the same day of our birth 
A.P. Bharathi

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Making Soup in the Pressure Cooker

This week I saw a recipe in the pressure cooker book that used split peas and bacon and since I had some of both and didn't have any more leeks I thought I would try it.

To start with it was just like making ordinary soup, fry and onion etc. One good thing was that the split peas did not have to soak overnight, the recipe said that you could just cover them in boiling water for an hour. That means that you can make this soup at shorter notice than is usual when using split peas.

I looked all through my pressure cooker instruction manual and put the lid on at the right time. It seemed to be making all the correct noises but I was a bit confused by the fact that the little indicator seemed to have already popped up before I tightened the lid !

I waited 15 minutes for the soup to cook and then took it off the heat and waited for the little red indicator to pop back down so the lid was safe to open. I waited and waited and finally opened the lid after about half an hour. The split peas were still hard ! It obviously had not come to pressure !

I debated what to do, cook the soup like usual, have something else for tea ? It was time to get MasterShoestring from school in about 20 minutes time and I did not want to have to spend money to pick up something for tea !

I decided to have another go and this time pushed the little red indicator down before I put the lid on. It worked and in 15 minutes I had perfect split pea and bacon soup. Everyone said how nice it was and that I should add it to the monthly rotation.

Now I'm wondering what I should cook next  ?!

Friday, 20 January 2017

Frugal Things we did this week !

Everyone is still at home so it has been especially important to watch the pennies !

We cooked all our meals at home and had a nice birthday party at home. We turned off the heating one it was warm and lowered the thermostat on some radiators in USAShoestring's room. 

I only put £20 worth of petrol in the car and made it last, that meant no trip to IKEA to spend a £20 voucher as I'll wait for a week when I'm not doing so much taking to school and the station.

When we ran out of things I waited before going to the store and will go today. We ran out of sugar but used carob syrup instead.

I posted off some books to see if I can get some money for them. I also listed a few on Amazon. I did get some money for some old broken gold jewellery and that was worth doing. I also got a £5 Amazon voucher from Swagbucks so that was good.

It is nice to see that the nights are getting slightly lighter, so I've planted a few tomato seeds and put them in the airing cupboard to germinate, next week I'll do some lettuce. Withe the very cold weather in Europe they are predicting that the price of vegetables will rise, so need to think about the garden now !

I hope you had a lovely, thrifty week too ! I used the pressure cooker but still think I like the slow cooker best !

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Selling Books Online

So with ultra frugal January underway but then having some unexpected expenses, like that new retainer for Master Shoestring, I have been looking for easy ways to make some money. One of the things I have done previously is to sell books on Amazon and a few things on Ebay. However, another frugal blogger talked about Ziffit for selling books and CDs so I thought that I would give it a go.

I've just sent them a trial parcel to see how things work out and so far it was really easy. I selected some management and leadership books which we don't need anymore and typed in the ISBN number from the back on the website, the value they would offer for the book was then displayed. This was usually much less than you would get from selling on Amazon but you can package up a whole lot of books and be paid all at once. They don't charge postage so once I had reached £14 worth I found an old orange box and packaged them up. You have to drop them off at a collection point but that was no extra travel as I was going past with Master Shoestring anyway.

You get a receipt from the collection point and then wait for the books to arrive and be checked before you get paid. So far it has all gone very smoothly and if I get paid promptly I could imagine doing this again as it is much less hassle than taking individual books to the post office.

I think not could be a great way to continue with the decluttering which has ground to a halt over the past few days !

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Frugal Birthday Celebrations

It was USAShoestring's birthday earlier this week and he had a lovely day without much expense. On the day the birthday celebrant always gets to choose all the meals. They have a candle and some flowers at their place at the table and all the presents and cards to up wrap after breakfast. So if it is a work or school day, everyone has to get up a bit earlier !

USAShoestring had homemade cinnamon buns and coffee for breakfast, pizza for lunch and steak pudding and all the trimmings for supper. Delicious ! His favourites all day and we also had a chocolate birthday cake and his siblings made chocolate chip cookies for afternoon tea.

he enjoyed watching a football game as entertainment and quite a few relatives telephoned to wish him many happy returns of the day ! He said the best bit was getting a lie-in as his birthday was at the weekend !

Birthday celebrations can be very modest when we put a bit of effort in and spend them with the people we love !

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Making Handkerchiefs

With our challenge not to buy clothes for a year MrShoestring started to clear out his wardrobe and discovered 40 long sleeved shirts. This is too many even though we are doing a clothing challenge so reluctantly he parted with 20 of them. I cut them up to save the buttons and the fabric for patchwork and we gave a few to the charity shop.

However, there were two shirts where the collar was worn and they were made of a fine linen, ideal for making handkerchiefs. Cloth is much softer on the nose than paper when you have a cold and I had been looking for some bigger hankies as I find ladies' ones are too small. I cut all the fabric from the shirts into large squares using pinking shears so the cloth would not fray.

Then I ironed the seam allowances and started to sew the hems. It took an hour in the evening and I had 15 new hankies ! Not bad from 2 old shirts ! I have been trying them out over the past few days and they work fine. With so many hankies now I should never run out and have to use paper ones. Better for my nose and my pocket !

Monday, 16 January 2017

Car Breakdown Insurance

So having decided that the AA deal was not a good one I still needed to find breakdown insurance for this year. The renewal quote from the RAC was nine pounds higher than last year and said that their price included a substantial discount. However, we didn't use them last year so I was looking for a price less than last year or as close as possible to it as that is what I had budgeted for.

We do like to have breakdown insurance as the car is over 8 years old now and the last time we had to get it taken from home to the garage it cost £40 and a motorway tow can be three times that cost. So we always buy the minimum level of cover which would repair the car away from home or get us to a garage that could do it. We like to have both drivers covered so that we know we are covered whoever is driving.

So with all that in mind I telephoned the RAC. No the could not give me a discount, no they could not match a cheaper price, the best they could do was same price and add 2 months to the cover or an extra service. I did not want extra services and although an extra 2 months might have been value for money I wanted to spend less money now not in 12 months time so I asked to cancel. They were very polite and cancelled the policy form its end date.

Now to find replacement cover. It was straight over to the Moneysaving expert website and their guide on getting the cheapest cover. I worked my way through the guide and at the end there was a link to a new comparison website where they had negotiated an extra percentage off. It was really simple to use the comparison site and with the extra discount this was the cheapest price I was quoted. We are all signed up now at at £4.50 less than the same cover cost last year.

You might think that it was a lot of trouble for a small saving but it took around an hour to do everything and I saved just over £14 compared to the renewal price quoted by RAC. That is like getting paid for 2 hours at a minimum wage job. Best of all for me it meant that I stayed on budget and that £4.50 can be put towards something else !

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Pause for Reflection

As I was watching the snow fall over the week and thinking how cosy it was indoors and how lucky we were that it wasn't bad enough to make travelling difficult I realised that I was content.

A feeling of contentment, along with one of gratitude can help you a lot with frugality. If you already have enough you don't need to go and get more. If you are grateful for what you have then you also do not need to go and get more.

This poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes always makes me smile. It starts off alright with being content with a little stone hut but he already wants too much by the time he's got to a 3 course dinner, one is enough for me ! It reminds me that I'm content with just enough !

LITTLE I ask; my wants are few;
I only wish a hut of stone,
(A very plain brown stone will do,)
That I may call my own;
And close at hand is such a one,
In yonder street that fronts the sun.

Plain food is quite enough for me;
Three courses are as good as ten;--
If Nature can subsist on three,
Thank Heaven for three.
I always thought cold victual nice;--
My choice would be vanilla-ice.

I care not much for gold or land;--
Give me a mortgage here and there,--
Some good bank-stock, some note of hand, 
Or trifling railroad share,--
I only ask that Fortune send
A little more than I shall spend.

Honors are silly toys, I know,
And titles are but empty names;
I would, perhaps, be Plenipo,--
But only near St.
I'm very sure I should not care
To fill our Gubernator's chair.

Jewels are baubles; 't is a sin
To care for such unfruitful things;--
One good-sized diamond in a pin,--
Some, not so large, in rings,--
A ruby, and a pearl, or so,
Will do for me;--I laugh at show.

My dame should dress in cheap attire;
(Good, heavy silks are never dear;) -
I own perhaps I might desire
Some shawls of true Cashmere,--
Some marrowy crapes of China silk,
Like wrinkled skins on scalded milk.

I would not have the horse I drive
So fast that folks must stop and stare;
An easy gait--two forty-five--
Suits me; I do not care;--
Perhaps, for just a single spurt,
Some seconds less would do no hurt.

Of pictures, I should like to own
Titians aud Raphaels three or four,--
I love so much their style and tone,
One Turner, and no more,
(A landscape,--foreground golden dirt,--
The sunshine painted with a squirt.

Of books but few,--some fifty score
For daily use, and bound for wear;
The rest upon an upper floor;--
Some little luxury there
Of red morocco's gilded gleam
And vellum rich as country cream.

Busts, cameos, gems,--such things as these,
Which others often show for pride,
I value for their power to please,
And selfish churls deride;--
One Stradivarius, I confess,
Two Meerschaums, I would fain possess.

Wealth's wasteful tricks I will not learn,
Nor ape the glittering upstart fool;--
Shall not carved tables serve my turn,
But all must be of buhl?
Give grasping pomp its double share,--
I ask but one recumbent chair.

Thus humble let me live and die,
Nor long for Midas' golden touch;
If Heaven more generous gifts deny,
I shall not miss them much,--
Too grateful for the blessing lent
Of simple tastes and mind content!

Poem by 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Frugal Things this week

This is MasterShoestring when we lived in the USA . Now he will be going back there in April,  in order to do work experience at USAShoestring's company. It might not seem very thrifty, but we paid for his air ticket and ESTA this week in order to get a discount price. Since he is under 16 at the time of the flight he does not pay tax on the flight so that brought the cost down further. I was in 2 minds about paying for the ticket or waiting until we had the money saved up. However, each day I waited the price went up so in the end we agreed to buy it rather than pay more later.

I did not have so much luck with reduced food this week so we ate up what we had from last week and only bought what we needed in the shops. This meant that the total cost for the week was £13.74. So far we have spent far less than last month, even with more people home so that shows that buying in bulk at the start of the month and then just topping up works well for us. I've got just over £50 left for the rest of the month and will have to pay for 2 more weeks of school lunches out of that as well.

It has been very cold here but we have just been putting the heating on until it reaches 18C and then switching it back off again.

I got 2 free items in the post which was nice. I'm trying not to pay for stocking fillers next year so a nice set of notecards and some sweet pea seeds will be going into the gift cupboard.

We used the slow cooker 4 days out of 5 for the evening meal and ate leftovers for lunch so that saved quite a bit on cooking as we have an electric hob and it costs quite a bit to run.

I batched errands together so that they could take place when I was already out to do something which needed the car. I have to take MasterShoestring to school and MrShoestring to the station so errands were done first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon. Anything else and I walked, for instance to a doctor's appointment.

I need a recording device for the next part of my course and thought I already had one. I went to the cupboard and although the box was there the device was not. I must have lent it to someone and now I cannot remember to whom ! Rather than buying another one I ordered a cable costing £3.19 and hope that this will enable me to use an old phone of USAShoestring's to do the job. Fingers crossed ! I also ordered more books from the library for the course rather than buying them !

Good luck with your spending goals next week !

Friday, 13 January 2017

Leek and Potato Soup in the Slow Cooker

I looked at how to make Leek and Potato soup in the pressure cooker but when I located the recipe it was going to take as long in the pressure cooker as it would on the hob so no saving there ! I had a look at how to do it in the slow cooker and that was much better. So here is the recipe !

  • 8 potatoes, chopped
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 5mm rounds
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons margarine
  • 2 cubes chicken stock
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 350ml stock (I used turkey stock frozen from Christmas)
Place it all in the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Then blend with a stick blender and enjoy !

This is delicious with homemade rolls and ideal for the weather we are having just now !

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Saving on Printer Costs

I have talked before about saving money on home printing but when I calculated the figures I was surprised at how much I saved, so I thought that you might be interested too !

Firstly we always print on cheap paper, I aim to pay no more than £2.50 for 500 sheets of paper. Sometimes I get this price by buying in bulk and sometimes I get it by buying  the Saver range in a store. We also print on both sides of the paper and re-use sheets that have only been printed on one side if they are just for out own use. We use around 5 reams a year so if I buy the cheapest paper that costs me £12.50. If I buy the next level up, which is only an extra £1 per ream then the cost rises to £17.50 !

Cheaper printer cartridges show an even bigger saving. Buying a single own brand cartridge for our printer costs around £11, the manufacturer brand costs at least £2 more. We use around 6 cartridges a year so that is a difference of another £12.

So printing costs annually using the cheap method costs around £78.50 which comes out of the household budget and I would be happy to het it lower. If we go the next level up then it costs another £17, taking it quite close to £100. So it really pays to shop around for printer supplies ! Researching this article has shown me another source of printer cartridges at only £9 each so I shall be ordering from them and seeing if the printer will accept them !

Good luck with your shopping around !

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

Busy evening tonight as I've got my course, so supper needs to be something easy which can be neglected and is easy enough for everyone to serve. Baked potatoes in the slow cooker are a good choice as everybody can choose their own filling, they don't mind being left alone and I can prepare them before I go out.

Here's what you have to do :-

Prick each potato and wrap in foil. You can leave them without foil but if you are going to leave them for a long time, say you are going out for the day, then the skins might get a bit crispy and they might stick to the inside of the cooker a bit.

Then stick them in the slow cooker on HIGH for 4 hours. You can put them in on LOW and leave them for 8 hours or more. This works well when we are going to be out all day and want a hot meal to come home to.

Unwrap your potato and fill with your choice of filling !

Serve with a salad, coleslaw or a selection of vegetables !

Delicious !

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A Day in the Life of

No, not a squirrel but a frugal tightwad like me ! It is a really, grey day here, typical January and the only wildlife I've seen has been a couple of squirrels. It is really a day for hunkering down by the fire but instead :-

I made a batch of granola, a loaf of bread, 4 pizzas and a blackberry and apple pie !

Making delicious food at home not only saves us money but it also heats up the kitchen so I only needed to put on the heating for a little while around lunchtime.

Took MasterShoestring straight to school and back and did errands on the way so no need to spend extra petrol money on going out twice. I also exercised at home to a free Youtube video to save going out in the damp.

Made a bit extra by selling something online and worked most of the day on an assignment for my course, so no impulse or window shopping either on or offline as I was too busy ! I also watched a free video to help with a tricky part of the assignment rather than buying a book and having it rush delivered which is what I may well have done in the past !

For a treat I had an extra long hot shower, much cheaper than a spa day !

Hope you are all keeping warm and busy and doing well with your savings and other goals !

Monday, 9 January 2017

Watch out for poor deals

So, on Friday I received what looked like a good deal from the Automobile Association. We like to have breakdown insurance for the car as it is over 5 years old and you never know when a fault might leave you stranded. We always buy the cheapest, basic cover and shop around to get the best deal. Getting a tow can cost up to £150 so we think as long as we have cheap insurance it is a good deal.

The deal from the AA was £39 per car and get a £20 gift card back effectively making the deal £19. But when I called up this deal was per driver and you couldn't insure more than 1 driver on 1 car. So the deal only applies to people who never have another person driving the car. This would be fine if you were on your own, in which case it is a good deal, but it is no good for married couples who might alternate who drives the car. I tried to negotiate with the customer service agent but he was having none of it. Nowhere in the paperwork did it mention that this was such a restrictive deal and I was disappointed that it was actually a bit misleading.

It was good that the customer service agent made it clear that the deal was no good for us but I think that should have been clear in the initial paperwork. We are currently with the RAC and that deal will renew automatically at a vastly increased cost unless I contact them and cancel it. So I shall be doing that today and I shall be shopping around for the cheapest deal, but not from the AA !

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Pause for Reflection

So, it was quite a busy week last week and it was nice to get a few comments including one from Abbi over at Proverbs 31 Living, reminding me to enjoy the extra family time. That got me thinking and instead of posting a post on Friday all about the frugal things we did last week I thought that I would do this post today all about the things we enjoyed for free.

We have lots of candles and candle holders and we enjoyed cleaning them up and having them lit on the dinner table and around the hearth once darkness falls, which still seems to happen rather early !

Having more people around makes it more fun to play games in the evenings and MasterShoestring especially has benefitted from more skilled competition than his parents normally provide.

USAShoestring has all sorts of skills that we do not have and he has been really helpful this week with mending technical things that have broken and giving advice to his sister.

The cold weather has meant that we stayed home more so that has meant quite a bit of decluttering has got done

We have enjoyed discovering all the treasures we already have, including some lovely pictures of the Three Wise Men for Epiphany.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Keep on Frugaling !

So with this week's shopping I was very conscious about trying to keep it as low as possible. I ran MissShoestring to the station, as she has already been contacted by a headhunter and after that headed to Tesco to see if they had any reductions. Well they had clearly over-bought on vegetables this week as I got 4 cabbages for 1 penny each ! Then I got 4 tubs of coleslaw for 7p each, 10 kgs of new potatoes for £1 and 6 pints of milk for £1.20. A grand total of £2.52 in there !

Then I went and bought fruit in the Co-op and scored 10 jerk chicken pasties for 19p each. These were allergen free and capable of being frozen, so they will come in handy for lunches next week. So the total spend for the week was £8.90 ! This is really good for us and I do not normally do so well with the yellow-stickered bargains so I suppose lots of people are not buying as much this month. I hope we can keep it up ! Simple Living 31 always has great pictures of the reductions she has got and I am very happy to have been able to find a few myself today !

Friday, 6 January 2017

Some more unexpected news !

So MissShoestring was let go from her job today, very unexpectedly ! She will easily find something else, but it reminded me that it can happen to anyone with very little warning in these volatile times, so it is a good idea to have a plan just in case it happens to you.

The first thing to work out is your bottom line budget, which expenses must you pay in order to keep a roof over your head and keep the utilities connected. You need to be fed and you must have some means of communicating with potential employers or clients, if you go self-employed. You must also have some way of getting to job sites, this might be remotely via internet or in person using a method of transport. Transport does not necessarily mean car ! That's it, everything else is an extra and has to be cut immediately. We are fortunate in this country that we do not need to think about paying for healthcare as even dental and optical expenses are covered if you are job-seeking. So MissShoestring is finding someone to take on her room in her flat and then is moving home as soon as she can. She will have shelter, warmth and food, access to transport and the internet and plenty of advice.

After your basic needs have been taken care of you need a support network to cheer you on. This might be friends or family or professionals, make use of all of them as you look for work. Leave no stone unturned and do not turn up your nose at jobs you might have done when you were younger. Also think about starting a side business now and diversifying your income so you are not dependent on a single employer. You need to know that you can rely on yourself ! 

So this ultra frugal month we have:- USAShoestring home, waiting for his visa; MissShoestring home job-hunting; MasterShoestring studying for school leaving exams and MrShoestring working daily in London, starting at 0545 from next Monday it looks like January just got a lot busier and more expensive. Thank goodness for savings ! 

Even so I have made a list of go-to frugal things to try this month to produce extra income ! My dreams of lots of time to study have gone ! However, I looked into getting an NUS student card, which I am entitled to, then decided that the discounts were not worth the £12 I would have to pay for the card. We are not going to be buying anything new ! It is worth remembering to check whether the discount you get is worth the initial cost as I have seen lots of blogs promoting the NUS card but for us there is definitely no saving.

Still, at least it is a beautiful crisp, sunny day and it might be fun having everyone home  !

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Unexpected

You may well be wondering what these are ? They are acrylic retainers which MasterShoestring was fitted with about a year ago when his braces came out. You get 1 set free and then subsequently have to pay for them so he has been quite careful with them and one day when he could not remember where he had put them we turned the house upside down to find them !

However, he has been mentioning for a month now that the bottom one has developed a couple of cracks and that I should telephone the orthodontist to arrange a replacement before it breaks altogether. So I did that today and we have an appointment in 10 days time, which is good for the orthodontist who often has a waiting list of 6 weeks. The bad news is that we will have to pay for them and the price is steep ! The budget will now have to include a charge of £70.10 which I had not reckoned on at the start of the month. Of course, we can afford it as we have savings and an emergency fund. I just would rather not fork out so much during the month we had earmarked as 'extra frugal'. It also means that I will have to top up the amount in the dental column in the budget by about 6 pounds a month and that is dependent on the top one not needing replaced this year.

It looks as if it might be sensible to reckon on replacing each retainer on a yearly basis up to the age of 21 when he can stop wearing them and thereby add another 12 pounds to the budget each month ! Hmm, moneysaving will have to go into overdrive or extra income will need to be found.

As our little extra expense shows, it is really important to be prepared for unexpected expenses over which you have no control !

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Sticking to the Goals

Today MasterShoestring had a table tennis tournament in a big town about an hour North of here. It would take several hours to finish the competition and was too far away to make it worthwhile coming home again before he had finished. The table tennis venue is right on the edge of a big shopping area and the design of the town means that there isn't anything else to look at if you don't fancy 4 hours of table tennis !

So I decided to go prepared ! I made sure that MasterShoestring had something to eat before we left and we took 2 water bottles and some biscuits with us for him. Then I took a flask of tea and an apple for me and a book from the library which I hadn't started.

Our plans worked ! MasterShoestring enjoyed the table tennis, ate the biscuits, drank the water and didn't need a stop to eat on the way home. I looked around the shops, spent 25p on another packet of biscuits to keep MasterShoestring fortified on the way home and did not spend anything else ! It was fun to look and then when it got too cold and dark I went to watch the table tennis and read my book in the gallery when MasterShoestring wasn't playing. One of the items I liked was a magazine about homemade gifts but ir cost £7.99 and I realised that I had patterns to make all the things included at home already.

It was fun to of somewhere new and NOT spend !

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Learning something new for the New Year

This picture shows MrShoestring getting ready to take a picture at the top of Mount Washington last Summer. He has a digital camera and so do I, but I only know how to point and shoot whereas he know all about F stops and other fancy stuff !

I would really like to know how to use my camera to take photos for the blog and also to be able to change the format of some of our old photos so we can share them with family. So that is something new I would like to learn. I'm also finally going to try and learn to knit socks ! It has been on my to-do list for the past 2 years and it would be good if this year was finally the year that I did it. MasterShoestring knows how to knot socks and gloves, so it really is time I learned ! I would also like to get back to playing the violin and piano as this is something which has gone by the wayside through being so busy these last few years. 

So this year I am resolving to learn more about those 4 things and then if there is time I might do some more research into family history. I last did this nearly 15 years ago and there are so many more resources out there now. I would also like to learn how to use the pressure cooker properly. I used it a few times was impressed and then went back to my old ways. I would like to be so confident about using it that it will be just as easy as the slow cooker !

Phew ! That is a lot of new things to try, so that should keep me busy for a bit ! Are you going to learn something new this year ?

Monday, 2 January 2017

Goals for the New Year

So one of the goals for 2017 is to spend some more time with these people ! We would also like to go on holiday together but in order to do that we will have to radically reduce the budget for things like clothes and entertainment. So, Mr Shoestring and I are not going to buy any ' new to us' clothes in 2017 unless we absolutely have too. We have plenty of clothes, including pyjamas, but might need some new shoes or underwear at some point, but we shall try very hard not to spend anything ! We usually buy at jumbles sales, make at home or use charity shops. MasterShoestring is going to do work experience in July with USAShoestring, so that air ticket is going to take all the holiday money. MasterShoestring is growing a lot and will need new school uniform at some point and new shoes, so it is not realistic to include him in a clothing fast.

The entertainment budget is very small, at £10 a month but we shall try very hard not to spend anything, as together with a clothing freeze, this should generate enough money for a cheap holiday, around £400 total cost. Otherwise we shall have to do a staycation whilst MasterShoestring is in the USA.

The other goal is to try and spend £2000 less than last year in order to live on £18000 a year. This is a practice for retirement and if we can do it should mean that I can study all year and not have to work. We have done this in the past and managed it, but I think it will be very tight and I might end up having to bring in some income. If we can manage it then we can reach early retirement next year which would be amazing !

We also have other goals like learning how to use our fancy digital camera for photos on the blog, get the garden in shape to be more self-sufficient and learn to knit socks, but details of all of those are for another day.

If you also have tight financial goals this year you might want to head over to Frugalwoods who are running an ultra frugal January campaign to show people just how much they could save towards their goals if they only spend on needs.

Good luck with your goals and Happy 2017 !

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

So USAShoestring made it over in time to celebrate with us, in spite of the fog so we were very happy about that. MasterShoestring went to his first New Year party and we stayed in as usual ! 2017 is going to be a new start for us and I have a number of frugal challenges planned which I will start to share tomorrow but in the meantime I leave you with the words of our favourite New Year carol as we'll be singing around the tree until January 5th, the traditional 12th night !

Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
For to worship God with, this happy New Year.

Chorus (after each verse):
  Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine,
  The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her toe;
Open you the West Door and turn the Old Year go.

Sing reign of Fair Maid, with gold upon her chin;
Open you the East Door and let the New Year in.