Saturday, 30 April 2016

Confirmation Menu Plan

Several batches of these will be in preparation of Master Shoestring's Confirmation this weekend ! Lots of people are bringing things but he was keen to make sure that there was something sweet to eat which he could have ! He has even said that he will make them himself !

We are going to arrange for him to go out for lunch with his godmother at Pizza Express as they do allergen free pizzas and otherwise cook his favourite foods at home.

His godmother is coming over from Germany and godfather is coming with his family. Then Master Shoestring will have a family lunch on the Sunday and an afternoon tea party with all his friends. This will mean a lot of cake, as teenage boys need regular refuelling ! I decided that I better make a menu plan and shop for the weekend with that in mind !

Friday night - Godmother arrives at airport, Mum to collect her so something easy that the other's can prepare i.e. ) soup, bread and cake.

Saturday breakfast - rolls and honey
Saturday lunch - going out
Saturday tea - tortillas

Sunday breakfast - rolls and honey 
Take cakes, crisps, lemonade, paper cups and plates to church
Sunday lunch in the crockpot so ready when we return - chicken, potatoes, vegetables, make ahead apple pie
Sunday tea - sandwiches and cake

We wish Master Shoestring a blessed day and some good weather !

Friday, 29 April 2016

Jumble Sale 5

Last one I promise ! But I was very glad to get to such a good sale as the next 2 weekends are busy with family events and I shall miss a couple of good sales because of having to be elsewhere !

I picked up a pair of Marks and Spencer navy blue wool trousers and a matching all wool polo neck jumper and a really good quality base layer for skiing all for 50 p ! I carefully ignored all the other things as I really don't believe I had error for another bargain in most of the other clothing categories ! These will go in the clothing cupboard and wait for my existing ones to wear out, that way I can shop at home when I need something urgently !

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Jumble Sale 4

Now you might be tired of hearing about the jumble sale but I am very keen to share that the goods I get are very good quality, that buying at these sales is helping a good cause and you are also keeping goods out of land fill sites and so ensuring that we are saving resources for future generations. Buying at these sorts of sales is a bit like doing recycling but missing out the stages where all the goods have to be broken down into the constituent parts which takes a lot of energy ! It also saves heaps of money !!

I went to the sale specifically with an eye to looking out for school uniform items for next year. Although school uniform is not particularly expensive and you can get great deals from the chains I am never keen on playing full price ! As it was a Scout sale I thought that it was quite likely that they would have some bits and pieces in teenage boy sizes which are otherwise very hard to get.

I wasn't disappointed and after a bit of searching on the Men's table unearthed 4 Marks and Spencers school shirts for age 15. Three of them had short sleeves, which if we get very hot weather may even come in handy this Summer as I have only bought long sleeves so far. The princely sum for all 4 was 40p ! These have been carefully put away in the clothes cupboard ready for next Summer I hope !

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Jumble Sale 3

I have enjoyed Einaudi's piano music whenever I have heard it played on the radio but could never justify buying an album and the children would not think of buying something like this as a gift so imagine my delight when this album appeared in a box of otherwise very obscure CDs at the jumble sale. 

Having found this gem I was encouraged to dig further and found a Johnny cash, album the Nigel Kennedy version of Vivaldi's " Four Seasons", an album by Carly Simon and 3 good films on DVD which we haven't seen. This little haul came to 2 pounds and although I did not need any of it I think it was a bargain, particularly when the nice lady on the stall asked if I wanted any cards and pressed me to take 30 handmade cards with envelopes for 10p ! She was just worried that they would be thrown away ! Some of them are particularly nice too made with the encaustic wax technique. So I shall make sure that I share them around !

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Jumble Sale 2

It was this picture on the front cover which drew me to the book at the jumble sale. It looked mysterious and old and African. The story turned out to be just that, it's based in South Africa about a girl who has to emigrate there from 19th century London and goes into lots of detail about life there at that time. I can't wait to read it. I got 7 books in all for 2 pounds which is just under 30p a book, so when I got home I cancelled the 2 reservations I had at the library as they cost 60p each !

One of the other books I got is also intriguing me. It's called " The Ship" and is based in a London where the world as we know it today has come to an end because of pollution and over-population. But some have escaped onto a sort of ark. I am interested to see how this one develop as it is described as a cross between " The Hunger Games" and the biblical story of Noah's Ark.

Have you got a favourite book you would recommend ?

Monday, 25 April 2016

Jumble Sale 1

Do you remember how I posted last week about wanting a ceramic frying pan and finding out that there was no money left in the household account ? Well at the jumble sale this week they had one of the gadgets shown above. The sale was in aid of the Scouts in a tiny village near here, there is such a pretty village green and a pond with ducks, so well worth the outing with the sale as a bonus.

Well at the sale I asked the helper if he could take the pan out of the box and keep the batter dispenser and the shaper and the book of recipes for someone else and just sell me the pan which had clearly never been used ? As it was close to the end of the sale he said it was fine and sold me the 'as new' pan for 20p !

As a brand new pan I don't think that I will have to worry about bits breaking off the finish for a while and in the meantime shall I experiment with chick pea flour pancakes in this pan whilst saving up for the other ! Wasn't that lucky ?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Unusual Birds

This little fellow was sitting on the sill outside the utility room window yesterday and  although I have seen him about before I had to fetch the Bird book to find out that he is a goldfinch and was probably looking for insects to eat. We garden organically and it was such a pleasure to have such an unusual visitor and know that everything he eats in the garden will do him no harm at all.

This was another unusual visitor yesterday, a green woodpecker ! We have woodland nearby but not really in the garden so I suspect he too was looking for insects to eat.

Finally, the jay was sitting on the driveway when I went out waiting to annoy the expensive Siamese cats from across the way !

These colourful birds really added a lot of pleasure to my day and having to fetch the book to recognise the goldfinch made me realise that it is a bout time I got to know a bit more about God's wonderful Creation !

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Changing Tariff

I have been getting few alerts about falling energy prices and wondered if we could do any better than the fixed for a year price I had signed up for in December. We had been promised a substantial saving but through the winter months the direct debit has been going up and I wasn't so happy with that !

We had signed up with first utility as they were the cheapest we could find, we always go for the cheapest deal as the house is quite large and costs a lot to heat even when we are careful. I had been going to telephone them and ask about alternative tariffs but when I logged on to the website to find the number to call I discovered that you can look up all the alternative tariffs and get an estimate of cost based on what you have already been spending.

I managed to find another fixed price deal until June 2017 which should be £324 pounds cheaper annually. It would mean paying £60 in exit fees from the existing deal but that still gives a saving of £264, well worth having. So I have switched and look forward to seeing that change confirmed in my in-box sometime next week !

Do you shop around for energy ?

Friday, 22 April 2016

Royal Mail Survey

It was time to post my niece's birthday present today and I was able to do so for free using saved packing material and the stamps I get from the Royal Mail Survey.

I joined the survey after seeing an article about it at Moneysaving Expert. You post various test items for the survey people and log the ones that arrive every week until they give you a rest. You are rewarded monthly with 12 first class stamps for ordinary letters and 4 first class large letter stamps.

Sometimes you also get little extras like a roll of sticky tape if you have to send a parcel or chocolate at Easter. Master Shoestring was also very pleased with a set of commerative stamps earlier on this year.

The survey items do not take long to post although it is a bit of a pain that some of them have to go from the post office which is over a mile away rather than the local postbox but I would recommend it. The stamps and other little things are handy and it is fun to see how long the items take to get to you !

Do you do anything for a small reward ?

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Using what you have

With Master Shoestring starting a new school this term it was very tempting to buy everything we needed in the school shop, they do a 'learning' pack for just under 25 pounds. However, I was fairly sure that we had some of the things on the list at home, we did !

Pencils, coloured pencils, plastic folder, A4 ring binders, geometry sets and sticks of glue were all produced from the 'saved from a previous year' pile or the stockpile which I make during the 'Back to School' sales. The final item needed was a pocket English dictionary, we searched high and low, we searched through the charity shops but finally broke down and got one at the local bookshop paid for with a Christmas gift card. 

Success , everything that was required at considerably less than 25 pounds, frugal happy dance was done around the house !

Do you stockpile stationery items ?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Sticking to the Budget

Today I very much wanted to buy a ceramic frying pan. I researched the topic, looked for a good price and when I saw one from the right make at under 11 pounds I was all set to make a purchase. I do have 2 other frying pans but they are no good for frying chickpea flour pancakes, they always stick. Since I am on a quest to use up all that chickpea flour and there was rather a nice recipe in the "Country Living" magazine I thought that I would just get the frying pan ! I don't like the other sort with the black coating as we have found in the past that coating eventually comes off onto the food.

Anyway, in line with my new resolution to stick to the budget categories, I had a look at them. Still underspent in food, petrol, books etc so that was good but overspent in Household ( the area for frying pans !) and Entertainment. I think that Entertainment is almost spent up for the year after we had our annual flutter on the Grand National and none of the horses picked won anything. We do not gamble at any other time but as the children grew older we always gave them a few pounds to put on a horse. Mr Shoestring comes from close to where the race is held at Aintree and that was what his family used to do. I did suggest that we give it a miss this year but Miss Shoestring likes 'traditions" and she is very generous to us in other ways so we did it !

The Household budget will eventually catch up but is straining under the decorating we have done and less than robust brooms. So the frying pan has gone onto the 'wish list' for the time being ! I think the budget idea might be working !

How do you budget ?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Researching purchases

Very unexpectedly the broom broke. I was a bit cross as I had only bought it last September. I had bought it at our favourite independent hardware shop in town. It must be everybody's favourite shop as it has just won the town's award for best business. It had a plastic handle which screwed into the wooden brush head. I thought that it was a thrifty purchase as I could always just replace either the handle or the brush head when it was needed.

However, what happened was that children who used the broom often liked to stand on it and play horses, twisting the lightweight handle from side to side. Eventually the handle broke off with the screw part still screwed into the brush head. The handle was useless as there was no longer any way of attaching it to the brushed and the brushed was useless as there was no way of attaching a new handle to it.

Now if I had been super thrifty I expect that I would have asked Mr Shoestring to try and attach the pieces using super glue but I am afraid of the stuff and we didn't have any at home. So I decided to try and buy a whole new broom cheaper than the cost of the superglue.

I succeeded ! I didn't think that anyone would beat the little hardware store on price but a national chain called Robert Dyas did, by quite a bit. So I walked into town and bought 2 new brooms. One to use and one for a spare. I was so glad that I had researched price before I replaced the item. I more than a pound on each broom and these ones do not have plastic handles ! I hope they last at least a year !

Where do you buy household goods ?

Monday, 18 April 2016

Library Visit

No, this is not my reading area, it is a picture from "Country Living" magazine which I was able to borrow from the library today. I really like the magazine, not because I find it particularly practical but because I love looking at the ideas and then working out how I can replicate them more cheaply.

For instance the peg rail in the picture is very similar to one Mr Shoestring made using an old pine shelf, a piece of old wood and some cheap hooks. I have made bags, throws and cushions similar to the ones in the picture using material saved from outworn household stuff and fabric picked up for pennies at jumble sales.

The legs on the corner table have been made from narrow branches which have not had the bark taken off and there are plenty of those round here and Mr Shoestring could easily make a round top to fit. The smart dresser at the back of the room could be made from a repainted sideboard inherited or found cheaply at an auction and the square cubbies on top are easy to make. We made a set using hand tools when we were first married. The leather chair and the dining table with a plinth can also be found through the local paper or an auction.

I just like looking at the pictures, I don't ever bother looking at the stockist list, a room like the one above will run to several thousand pounds, one done the 'shoestring way' probably less than 200 pounds including all that paint !

Do you have a favourite source for decorating ideas ?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

A Walk to Shendish

This rather lovely manor house is now an exclusive hotel and wedding venue with an attached golf course. But because the site has been in use since Neolithic times there are a number of public footpaths running right through the estate. Yesterday I walked just over 3 miles and Shendish was my pause point where I turned around to retrace my steps.

The weather was rather mixed with quite a bit of light rain but I did see a lot of Spring wildlife.

The bluebells are just starting to come out and there was a small wooded area just full of them right beside the manor house. I am looking forward to when the ones near us are at their height, we have a few in the garden just now but the ones in the woods have a few weeks to go before they appear in their full glory.

The route to the manor lies through a coppice of hazel which should have been thinned out a while ago as the young trees are very close together but I was lucky enough to see this little chap, a green woodpecker ! I think he was out looking for food or possibly nesting material.

Even though it rained a bit I had a lovely walk and really enjoyed the view up at the manor house. The outing cost nothing and meant that I didn't have to do any more exercise for the rest of the day as the route was very hilly. My legs are still a bit achy today, but in a good way ! I'm looking forward to getting out and about a bit more as the weather improves.

Do you have a favourite Spring walk ?

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Frugal Fun

Everybody in the Shoestring household knows how to knit. I don't think USA Shoestring does much these days but I have been enjoying using up 14 balls of the above yarn which I found in a jumble sale.

The yarn is a cotton boucle type 80% cotton 20% polyester and I'm making a V necked top with cap sleeves for the Summer. A great deal of teasing has been happening as the last garment I tackled was an Aran sweater and I started it 10 years ago. I had never done Aran before and the pattern was quite intricate so I would get an enthusiasm for it and then put it in the basket and get on with something quicker.

Last Autumn I finished that sweater and sewed it up and have been wearing it all winter. I was really proud of it ! I started the summer top straight afterwards and am determined to have it finished before we go to the USA to visit USAShoestring, that should put a stop to the teasing. I'm a little way down the back now with the front and both sleeves finished. I'm going to carry on having fun trying to get it finished in time and then start another one as I have 14 balls of the same yarn in pale blue !

Do you like to knit for fun ?

Friday, 15 April 2016

Cutting my own hair

I have gone back and forth on the idea of cutting my own hair rather than going to the hairdressers. For years I have given the fringe a little trim as it grows really fast and hairdressers are reluctant to cut above the eyebrows as it gives their clients rather a surprised look. I, on the other hand, would always beg them to do it as I knew that I didn't want to look like an Old English Sheepdog in 3 weeks time !

I've been to cut price chains like Supercuts, been to the barbers, been to the beauty school, grown it really long, been to a fancy salon , had a home hairdresser but the cheap options often did not do what I liked and the expensive options were full of allergens which made me very nervous about visiting and on edge all the time in case they hadn't washed the brush and scissors and I was going to come out in a rash. Sometimes I did and still had to pay an eye watering price !

I bought the little clips above once before last year and then gave them away as I got cold feet. But since last Autumn I have been growing my hair all one length and re-ordered them and watched a great many YouTube videos on how to use them ! I must have watched several more than a dozen times. Finally I found one on how to trim long, straight hair.

The I told Mr Shoestring to cut ! He did, as he did so I could hear by the noise the scissors were making that he wasn't doing such a good job, too late ! Once he had finished I tidied it up a bit, then I got him to do a bit more tidying up with the help of a mirror so I could tell him what to do. Then I sorted out the fact that one side was shorter than the other.

Finally, it looked like this !

Just the same as it did 9 months ago after an expensive visit to the hairdressers, actually it looks better as now it curves rather nicely round my face which does not look so round because of it. It took about the same length of time and I saved over 30 pounds. I applaud Mr Shoestring's bravery and we will be doing it again. Next time we will use clippers rather than scissors and I might get Miss Shoestring to have a try !

I think hairdressers are marvellous and I have admired their skill for years but I don't need much attention and I would like to reach our goal of early retirement, home haircuts for me too will help us do that !

Do you have home haircuts in your house ?

Thursday, 14 April 2016


Over the years we have benefitted a great deal from free items. Freecycle/Freegle is still our favourite free site and we have a had a piano, a piano stool, 5lbs of grapes, loads of magazines and books, clothing and things for the garden including raspberry canes.

I also keep a look out for money that has been dropped in the street and FREE notices left outside people's gates, these are very common at the end of August and September when people have a glut of apples or courgettes.

Moneysaving expert has a fun fruit machine of freebies and sometimes I get a few of those as stocking fillers. One year we got Miss Shoestring a handy first aid guide when she had just joined the St John's ambulance and last year Master Shoestring got a great sports poster from The Times newspaper which listed all the sporting highlights for the coming year.

I also save up any beauty freebies which I get from free magazines and check HOTUKDEALS which has a freebies sections at the start of the website. This is best for identifying free Kindle books and Bookbub is a very good source of those as well.

If you don't want to hang on to stuff and just borrow it then the library is a great resource as well.

Do you have a favourite source of freebies ?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Stocking a gift cupboard

As soon as a know that I am going to need a gift then I start looking out for something to add to the gift cupboard. So, for instance, if I hear of a colleague at work who is having a baby I start to look out for something unique to gift. This means that I am always prepared ahead and  can stick to a budget.  Rather than being asked for a set amount to add to a gift envelope I can gift something that I know will be special just from me. For baby gifts it's often something homemade, I particularly like to do something in cross stitch or fabric which can't be found in the shops. Babies are considerate that way because they give you plenty of notice !

Birthdays and Christmas also come round at predictable times so when I see something that I know someone will like,( remember those shirts that I found for Mr Shoestring's birthday next year ) and it is a good price then I can snap it up and pop it in the gift cupboard. At the moment the gift cupboard is fully stocked with everyone's Christmas and Birthday presents for 2016 apart from Master Shoestring as he keeps changing his mind so we have to buy a bit closer to the time rather than 6 months ahead !

Getting serious about stocking the gift cupboard has cut our gift spending from 611 pounds last year to under half that this year as we have a budget for Master Shoestring's gifts as well.

Do you have a gift cupboard ?

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Chicken Fried Rice

I thought that we should have a change from chicken curry the other night and because I had some rice left from the previous day's meal went for  chicken fried rice. I often don't follow the recipe but this time I did, at last something to do with balsamic vinegar bought for a cookery lesson !

oil for frying
leftover chicken (enough for 2 servings)
115g cabbage
2 onions
115g peas
leftover rice (enough for 2 servings
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 tbsp citrus fruit juice (whatever you have on hand)
pinch of chill
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the chopped onions, chopped cabbage and peas together in the oil together with the chill and paprika. Add the rice and the chicken and give it a good stir. Add all the other ingredients, out the lid on the pot and leave to heat throughout for 10 minutes.

I did find that mine need an occasional stir during the 10 minutes and I also added a bit of chicken stock just to make sure that it didn't stick to the bottom of the pan. If you use a non-stick pan this won't be a problem.

Best thing about this recipe is that it is ready in less than 15 minutes !

Do you have a favourite quick recipe ?

Monday, 11 April 2016

Revisiting the Budget

I have been re-reading this book recently, just a chapter at a time. Some of the detail is not applicable as things like car buying in the USA are a bit different to the UK but the chapter I was really interested in was the budget one.

The last time I made a budget was July 2015 and prices have changed quite a bit, some things are down, like petrol prices and some things are up like car insurance and water rates so I thought it would be a good idea to re-visit the budget and update it.

We have a lot of different categories in the budget, 37 in total, which might seem a lot to some people, but I found that if I don't split it up that way then some things get forgotten and I also have a tendency to borrow from one category to make the expenses in another not look quite so large, yes, I'm thinking of last year's book spend !

One thing that the Economides do which I haven't done yet is that for annual expenses they put aside a monthly amount on paper to make sure that they have that amount saved up when the annual expense rolls round. I have been relying on the fact that as long as we are spending below our means and have the calculated amount to put away in savings then everything must be alright, even if I am exceeding  the budget in some categories. The folly of this was shown by last month's 700+ pounds car repair bill. We did have the money but it meant that we didn't hit our 50% savings target that month and just paying the expense because we have the money also does not show us when things are becoming so expensive that maybe it is time to cut our losses ( we have been wondering about this with the big car).

So from now onwards I'm going to add some sheets to the Excel expense account and track monthly amounts in each category. Traditionally this has been done using cash in envelopes but then you quickly end up with rather a lot of cash in the house and other members of the family might need a little cash loan which they don't tell you about ! So I'm off to add the sheets and let you know how we get on later in the year !

How do you budget ?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Jumble Sale Bargains

There was a RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) jumble sale nearby yesterday and I went along later as it is usually very crowded. Still lots and lots left, piles of clothes but the books had got wet due to a sudden shower. I knew that we did not need any clothes apart from next years's school uniform but I couldn't resist this hat and a matching pair of wool socks. Along with 3 pairs of opaque cotton tights the bill was 1.80 pounds, a bargain ! The hat is 100% wool with a lovely fleece lining.

When I got home I looked up the label Moshiki and discovered that it is a Fairtrade company which ensures a fair deal for their workers in Asia and is based in Germany now. The hat is worth around eighteen pounds and is very comfortable. Definitely worth going out on a rainy Saturday afternoon even if we could argue that I didn't really need it !

Do you have a favourite bargain ?

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Petrol Prices

This is our big car, the one we try to avoid driving except when we need the load capacity or when Mr Shoestring and I are working in separate places or at different times. It is a diesel and we bought it second-hand 8 years ago as we were assured that it would be cheaper to run, not so sure if that it true ! It definitely is very economical when you have it on a long motorway run, for example we can get from the South of England to relatives in Scotland's central belt on a single tank of fuel. However, if we time the ticket buying right and only one of us is going it can be cheaper and quicker to travel by train.

We always look for the cheapest fuel to fill it up as the petrol tank capacity is 70 litres which is quite a bit to fill all at one go. The car has a feature that warns you when you are down to your last so many miles so you have plenty of time to look out for the cheapest deal. At the moment because the oil price is down diesel is much cheaper than it has been for several years, it is even cheaper than petrol in some places !

I went to fill up the car today and before I did I checked on where had the cheapest fuel, I'm glad I did as the previous day I thought it was at a garage a bit further away but when I checked the cheapest fuel was at the closest garage, only a difference of 1p a litre but the cheaper cost of driving to the closer garage was also helpful. I save 70p just by doing a quick check before I left, not to mention the fuel saving by having a return journey of 1 mile instead of 4 miles. Every penny helps !

What do you do about buying fuel ?

Friday, 8 April 2016

Pork and Peas

I combined errands today and went to the dump, to get petrol and shopping all in one trip. This meant that I was at the supermarket at a different time than usual and they had some pork at a reduced price. I snapped up 3 packets as it was less than 4 pounds a kilogram, my target price for meat and then divided it up at home to make 4 evenly sized packets from the 3 !

I had already put out some split peas ready to make soup but was able to make a favourite dish of "Pork and Peas" instead. This is delicious with homemade French bread on the side. It makes a really thick soup which is like a stew and after eating it once we usually thin down the soup for the following day's lunch, if there's any left !

Pork and Peas

6oz dried peas
11/2 lb pork with bones
1 onion finely chopped
1 pint chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp cornflour

Pour boiling water over the peas and leave to soak overnight. Preheat slow cooker on HIGH. Put the pork and the onion in the slow cooker. Drain the peas and put in a large pan with the stock. Boil for 15 minutes. Pour the peas and the stock into the slow cooker, make sure the peas are in the stock. Cook on HIGH for 6 -9 hours. Cut the pork into pieces and mix into the stew adding salt and pepper to taste. If the stew/soup is a little thin blend the cornflour with a little cold water and add to the mixture in the slow cooker stirring until in thickens.

Enjoy !

Do you have a favourite slow cooker recipe ?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Library Visit


Library visit today as I am down to my final free Kindle book and will have nothing left to read by tonight ! It was absolutely buzzing, lots of children and some youngsters in the reference section very serious about revising for their exams. 

The nice thing about going to the library after you haven't visited for a while is that there are lots of books you haven't seen before and you are spoiled for choice. That was certainly the case today and instead of getting the 5 books I normally limit myself to I ended up coming away with 7 ! One of them was Home Made Simple shown above. This has lots of good ideas for things to make around the home and for gifts. I was especially interested in all the celebration ideas at the back which included lots of multi-cultural festivals as well as Christian ones. There are also lots of other good ideas including shopping bags, so I'm looking forward to making a few things and searching for the author's other book  " Simply Wonderwoman" !

Of the other 6 books 2 are fiction, 1 is a biography, 2 are non-fiction and 1 is a guide book to the area where USAShoestring is living so we can begin to plan our trip. I'm looking forward to a lovely evening reading and hope that it won't be too long before I can get back to the library to pick up all the books I had to put back as I chose these !

With libraries in the news these days with more and more being closed or having their hours curtailed I feel very blessed to have such a good one nearby !

What's your favourite craft book ?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Ten Frugal Pleasures

It is a beautiful Spring day today with plenty to savour.

Number 1, the magnolias have just started to bloom, they are an absolute picture.

Number 2 the warm weather has brought the children out to play, lots of happy laughter to hear.

Number 3 all the daffodils are in bloom everywhere, not just in sheltered corners as they were in December !

Number 4 the sky is a lovely blue which just promises a great day ahead, especially for drying !

Number 5 the back garden is full of clumps of primroses, there are so many I have to be careful where I put my feet when I go out to hang out the washing !

Number 6 the sun is warm finally and it is great to feel it on your back.

Number 7 the violets are in bloom all along the birch trees in the front garden, gorgeous smell !

Number 8 it is warm enough to enjoy a cup of tea in the garden.

Number 9 the neighbour's cherry tree is in full bloom and I can enjoy it as I go walking.

Number 10 the internet speed is fast enough that I can load lots of pictures to this blogpost and share the joys of Spring !

What signs of Spring are there where you are ?

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Selling on Amazon

Different people have different feelings about Amazon. Some people do not like using it as they feel that it puts small shops out of business and does not abide by the same tax paying rules as the rest of us. However, I have found Amazon very useful, especially when sourcing hard to get books and ingredients for allergen free meals (still working my way through all that nutritional yeast !). I do try to buy from smaller vendors who are using Amazon as a platform to get better known. 

I quite like buying books from authors from the USA and these are hard to source in the UK. I am trying to keep the book spending down to an absolute minimum this year so one way of doing that has been to sell off books I am finished with via Amazon. This is very easy to do as the listing has already been created to sell the Amazon product so all you have to do is list the one you have at the price you want via your seller account. You are given an extra amount to cover postage as well. At the end of the month Amazon pays any money straight into your bank account.

I just sold a DVD box set we were finished with and in exchange bought 3 books on thrifty living I have had my eye on for 3 months, cost to me, nothing ! I bundled up the DVD box set and didn't even have to pay postage as that was covered by the free stamps I get to take part in the Royal Mail postal survey ! I am looking forward to reading those new books and we enjoyed the box set, so a definite win !

Do you sell online ?

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Making Curtains

Miss Shoestring picked a pale coffee colour for the walls of her new room along with accents of chocolate brown and pale blue. We painted the walls, cleaned the existing pale blue lampshade and looked to buy another pair of cream tab top curtains like the ones shown above. Her old room only had one window, the new one has two. So since Master Shoestring got a new lamp and rug it seemed only fair to get a new set of curtains. By the way the new rug and lamp cost less than 30 pounds, a bargain !

However, tab top curtains are not as fashionable as they once were and the only place we could find a pair which might work was on Ebay, no problem, reasonable price BUT they were miles too long and too wide so would need a lot of cutting down. That's when I went foraging through the fabric stash. I had been thinking that the stats would need thinning down as there is a very large amount in there ! But how pleased I was to find a massive piece of polycotton striped in cream, pale blue and chocolate brown ! Ideal for making a new set of curtains.

There are lots of tutorials on the internet about making curtains, including tab top ones, so I won't bore you with what I did but suffice to say it worked out great and cost nothing apart from the time as I already had plenty of thread. It is easy to do and if you can sew in a straight line you can do it. Now I don't feel quite so bad about the fabric stash, you never know when you might need it !

Do you sew home furnishings ?

Thrifty Furniture Repair

It wasn't such a thrifty week, what with buying a new rug and lamp for Master Shoestring, all that money on paint and materials as well but we did not need to buy any furniture as Mr Shoestring repaired some we already had.

We have had a couple of 5 drawer chest of drawers since we got married and the children have all had one in their rooms as clothes storage for the past 30 years or so. We bought solid wood as we knew that it would last but pine furniture is not as fashionable as it once was and we have painted the one in our room with cream paint in order to update it. However, we never bothered with the children's ones as we figured they would get damaged anyway and so it proved !

When we came to swap over the rooms which Master and Miss Shoestring had we discovered that both chest of drawers were broken, each had several drawers that would not slide because the runners had snapped. Miss Shoestring's had been repaired with sticky tack, obviously she hadn't wanted to let us know when it broke (perhaps she was climbing up the drawers, which they all did in earlier times) ! Now if the chests had been modern ones they would probably have had metal or plastic runners and that would have been that but these were wood so Mr Shoestring was able to make some identical ones out of scrap wood and knock them in with panel pins.

The repairs were a complete success and now both chests of drawer are working like new, here's to the next 30 years !

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Lovely Spring Weather

This is plum blossom, well worth watching out for as you walk around the neighbourhood as this is where you will find small, wild plums later on in the year, ideal for making jam !

It is a beautiful day today and that got me to thinking about how mostly the whole week has been nice and how that helps with saving money !

We have a 4KW solar power array on the roof and at the start of the week I began to notice that the hot water was getting very hot, too hot for comfort. This usually means that there is enough solar power to heat the hot water without a boost from the gas boiler. So I turned the gas off to the hot water tank yesterday and waited to see what would happen. I did all the usual things plus a huge kitchen clean which involved multiple buckets of hot water and there was still some hot water in the tank this morning when it was close to freezing. So I think we shall try leaving the gas off even on cloudy days and just boost when we really have to, like when people want multiple showers.

Only using the gas sparingly for heating hot water should help deal with the ever rising gas bill which was rather large last month. I was surprised at how little electricity we were using compared to the gas but suspect that some solar power was already online and we sis have the heating on during the day every weekend and that gets expensive. Here's to lonely warm days and turning the heating off for the season !

How do you save money on hot water ?

Friday, 1 April 2016

The Reckoning

FOOD 70.72 175.22 168.29
PETROL 121.34 149.32 118.27
RATES 228 228 0
GAS AND ELECTRI 83 125 125
WATER 21 21 21
TV 0 0 0
CAR INS +tax 0 0 0
CHARITY 166 160 210
SAVINGS 650 650 650
LIFE INS 31.43 31.43 31.43
MEDICAL  64.2 8.2 52.09
DENTAL 18.5 37.41 15
GIFTS 8.08 5 0
HOUSEHOLD 23.58 29.87 46.82
MISCELLANEOUS 10 6.08 74.45
BOOKS 5.94 29.86 31.46
CLOTHES 0 21.5 72.6
POCKET MONEY 12.5 12.5 12.5
EXTRA CURRIC 295.5 0 0
TEL+INTERNET 14.08 14.54 18.47
SEPTIC 0 0 0
GARDEN 5 98.24 0
HAIRCUTS 10.5 0 14
WOOD 0 85 0
UNION 0 0 0

I didn't do a post about February spending as it was such a short month but here are the three month totals so you can see how our spending goes up and down each month. Not such a high saving month as January as this month we had to pay for school uniform for Master Shoestring and an enormous car repair bill ! The car repair bill meant that we only saved 48% of our income, which I guess is not too shabby, just not the 50% we are aiming for.

The car bill was so large that we did wonder if it was worth it but the brakes seized at home so we had to pay for transport to the nearest garage and then because the car uses an electronic braking system it was about twice the cost you might have expected. We are still using both cars and will need them over the Summer but after that we have talked about cutting down to only one as we hope to stop commuting to work by then.

Book spending was also up slightly because of buying books that Master Shoestring needed for school. Good to see that petrol spending was down a bit because of the holidays and so was food spending. Next month I am hoping to cut that by quite a bit as we try and eat down the stockpile  !

How was your saving month ?