Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Aim update

At the beginning of this year I set myself some aims for the year. I haven't looked at them for a little while so I want to see how we are getting on.

The aims set were

  • to finish decorating/ making our home our own
  • to save for the future
  • to enjoy more family fitness
  • frugal- I want to make what we have go further
  • to fix things- I have lots of things around the house that need mending/ altering that I haven't got around to doing.
  • to finish things, I have several craft projects started 2013 is the year to finish things

  • 1. I haven't done anymore decorating since finishing the kitchen. I need to do the upstairs bathroom and my bedroom. I am going to get on with this soon. I know what I want to do in each room it's just time to do it.

    2. I am saving hard for the future. I have an end of year treat I am saving for in the short term. I have approx. half the money required for this. I am also saving to buy our first home I have £700 so far, a long way to go but it will happen. I want to save a bit more and then get some financial advise as to which method of buying is best suited to me.

    3. We have been getting much more active as a family, especially since the weather has got nicer. I have been going out each morning before work to have a run and then after school I have been taking the children out on their bikes. Today we were accompanied by a neighbours 2 children as well.

    4. I have been trying hard, had a few slips, at being more frugal. I am definitely spending less and saving more. So something is working!

    5. I have got better at fixing things and not letting them pile up. I have not had many items sitting around for months waiting to be mended. I did catch up on the items from last year which needed mending.

    6. finish things. This one is not so easy. I start new projects for various reasons and old ones get pushed back. I did finish the jumper I made Stephanie. I have also finished several other projects I began this year. I still have not finished the cross stitch I started before Stephanie was born. I am needing to do this in the holidays more as I am too tired to concentrate on it properly after work. It will be finished before 2014!

    Today's bike ride, I didn't get a picture of Dylan as he was riding too fast! LOL

    Sunday, 28 April 2013

    Birthday week

    Monday last week was Stephanie's 7th birthday. We have had a busy week as a result, we had dinenr out with family on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I had after school meetings at work. After work I was trying to get the cake made, and all the other food prepared and organised. Friday night I took the children to a local, large shopping centre as Dylan had got Stephanie a build a bear voucher for her birthday. So off we went, and arrived home several hours later with lots of shopping, mostly Stephanie's from her birthday money.

    Saturday and I was up early cooking the last of the birthday food before taking Stephanie for her 9am swimming lesson, then to the bank to open her a bank account which she can manage herself before taking her to her Dad's. Then I went to the hall to set up the party. I am pleased to say Stephanie had a fantastic disco.

    All ready for her guests to arrive

    The birthday cake ready to go, made as per Stephanie's request

    Enjoying the party food.
    I didn't manage to get very many pictures of the party itself as I was so busy, but one of my friends who was there helping me took lots and is going to put them on to a disc so that I have a copy.
    I am lucky to have some very good friends!

    Monday, 22 April 2013

    7 years ago today!

    I had not been long home with my gorgeous new baby girl! I was about to embark on the only night she slept for about 2 years, and I didn't sleep as I was too busy watching her waiting for her to wake up! LOL

    Now look at her all grown up;

    opening her presents before school

    Quick ride on the scooter before school.
    We went out after school for a meal with 2 aunts, 1 uncle and 4 cousins. It was a lovely meal and great to catch up, could have been improved by quicker service in the restaurant but we'll gloss over that. We have had a lovely day.
     Happy 7th birthday to my beautiful princess.

    Sunday, 21 April 2013

    Sunny Sunday

    I am loving that the weather is finally warming up, I do hope that it is only going to get better now!

    I have spent today baking a birthday cake, tidying the garden, cutting the grass, planting seeds and doing school work at the garden table. Bliss!

    I have also done a little housework, I was sorting some bits out in a pot I keep chucking in a flowerpot on the kitchen side. Put everything away that shouldn't have been in the kitchen and discovered this in the bottom;

    I counted it up there was £3.21 in small change. I don't even remember putting it there. So I put it all into the sealed pot. Which incidentally is a figuratively speaking sealed pot as I still have not put a lid on it LOL

    The pot is now full, so the plant pot has become sealed pot #2

    I also put up this bunting, Stephanie made it yesterday at the English festival, it looks perfect in my hall. I think I may get some pretty papers to put some in the other rooms in the house. I do love bunting, it's so cheerful.
    I must go and empty the washing machine ready for going on the line in the morning, and to decorate the cake.

    Saturday, 20 April 2013

    English festival

    Today Stephanie and I went to a local country park where they were having an English festival. Dylan chose not to come so went to his Dad's instead.

    We had a lovely day here are some of the things we did;

    grooming a pony

    fussing guinea pigs, Stephanie has decided they have scratchy claws so we don't need them after all! LOL

    Making rope

    Riding the top deck of a child sized bus

    showing her face paint off

    bunting she designed and made

    watching the dragon parade

    climbing high
    We had a fantastic day, I thought we would be there for a couple of hours max, we were there all day. We got the park and ride bus to the park but the queue for the bus was huge. the policeman organising it said we had an hours wait! As there was no on site parking and still masses of visitors there when we left at closing we decided that we would walk back to the car. The weather was lovely all day so it was a very nice walk back to the car. At 3.6 miles it was slightly longer than I had anticipated but Stephanie managed it perfectly fine and didn't complain once about the distance. Just a little upset when she fell over just a few minutes away from the car. Bless.
    It wasn't the most frugal day but we didn't spend as much as we could have;
    parking- free
    bus- free
    children's rides- £3
    donuts- £2
    ice-cream- £2.50
    cake- £2.50 (for 2 huuuggee pieces)
    mussels- £2
    total spend- £12

    Friday, 19 April 2013

    that special someone

    I am used to my family asking if I have met someone yet, I have friends who ask me as well. This evening I took the children to Stephanie's uncles engagement party. Without getting into it to much her dad has fallen out with his whole family. I got a message via facebook from stephanies uncle in the week asking if I would bring her as he'd really like her there and his family miss her. I think it's important that the children maintain contact with their families so I went. I had a nice eve, I found a few people I know to chat to. I was a little taken aback by stephamies grandad and great grandad surprise that I wasn't with someone new.
    Is it so unusual to be on your own for a while after a break up, or to not have time outside of work to actively hunt someone new. I'm of the mind when I do meet someone it'll happen because it's the right person/right time. Or am I wrong and should look for someone purposefully?

    Life is very hard to fathom sometimes, and right now I'm too busy trying to work out what is irritating my right eye than the best way to live my life lol

    Thursday, 18 April 2013

    making extra money

    I am trying to save in order to buy our own home. Saving is going well but I want it to happen faster. I have been trying to find ways of making extra money. I filled I'm an online survey and got paid £4, then the other day I stumbled upon a blog post telling about the money saving blog post where I could earn £30 for sharing thirty tips for saving. I have since been reimbursed for both of these meaning an extra £34 has gone into the 'get a mortgage pot'.
    I have also listed some items on amazon, I have sold one of them. After amazon fees I have made another £6, I haven't factored this into my extra income as I've not received the money yet but I have made a nice extra amount so far this month. I am going to organise more items to sell over the weekend. I will use what I have to make more money (within reason!)

    How have you made extra cash recently? Do you have ideas I or others can try?

    Sunday, 14 April 2013

    30 ways to save £1

    I have seen this pop up on several of the blogs I follow today and decided it is too good an opportunity to pass up.

    The money supermarket are paying bloggers to post their money saving tips to celebrate the 30th birthday of the British pound coin. You can read more about it here.

    So without further ado here are my 30 tips:

    1. Menu plan, before you go shopping take a look in the fridge, freezer and cupboards build a menu around these then only shop for the extras you may need. Don't buy anything else.
    2. Look in the reduced sections of the supermarket, lots of bargains can be had by arriving at the right time. The right time depends on your supermarket and what you need, I find in ours meats go on reduced in the morning, bread etc the evening. So shop at the best time for what you need.
    3. Grow your own, you can grow your own in small containers especially if like me you have a small garden.
    4. Take on an allotment, I pay £50 per year on my allotment. On it I grow my fruit and vegetables. I also have 2 apple trees, a pear tree and a damson tree. All of which were added by a previous tenant so cost me nothing but I get so much fruit from them I preserve as much as I can and also give a lot away to friends and family.
    5. Borrow. Some things are unnecessary to buy they are not used that often. I borrow books from the library, a carpet cleaner from my sister, large tools from my uncle, DVD's from friends. Don't forget to lend what you have too I lend out various things depending on what I have that people need.
    6. buy second hand. I buy many things from charity shops, eBay, amazon traders, friends. I always try and get anything we need second hand before shelling out for new.
    7. Swap trades. I get my hair cut for free sometimes by a friend, I try and help her out by looking after her children when she needs help.
    8. make do and mend. I always try to repair things before replacing them. Clothes, teddies and bedding are things I have repaired recently in my house and in friends/ families homes. I'm often passed things that need a quick stitch by two of my nephews. If you don't know how to fix it ask help from relatives/friends. Stephanie's bed was broken the other day, I was unsure how best to fix it so my uncle came and did it for me. Saved me £xxx on a new bed.
    9. upcycle. I have made clothes for Stephanie out of my old worn/ stained clothes. I recently made some birthday presents out of past mending/ no longer fitting clothes, for Stephanie's school friends.
    10. Walk. Don't drive short journeys, it saves on fuel and helps keep you healthy.
    11. Look for alternative parking. I recently discovered I could save several pounds on parking at the top of a cliff and following the footpath down. It took me 5 minutes to walk and gave some stunning views I would otherwise have missed.
    12. Go to the park rather than indoor play places. Indoor places are very pricey these days nearly £10 per child in some places. Get some fresh air instead and visit a park.
    13. Join places you love. We have English heritage and national trust membership as we love to visit these places. I can save the cost of the membership by visiting twice a year. See here for costs saved during a recent trip.
    14. book last minute. Save your money for a few months before you want to go away and then book last minute. We recently saved £190 by booking our holiday a few days before we went. I paid less than a third of the price advertised.
    15. use online codes to get money off of purchase. A quick Internet search can bring up all sorts of vouchers to save.
    16. use discount food shops such as approved foods to bulk buy foods you use.
    17. When shopping for clothes or household goods try and wait until the sales. Then have a good look at the clothes to make sure they are going to stand up to being worn a lot. Quality is important.
    18. swap parties. When you have clothes that no longer fit/ you don't like get a group of friends together and swap. A new wardrobe and no cost.
    19. take a pack up. Don't buy food when you are out, plan ahead and either time trips so that they are not at meal times or make a pack up to take with you.
    20. Have a reusable bottle and fill with drink whenever you leave the house. I use an old water bottle and refill that, or you could buy a specific drinks container.
    21. If you see something on a whim while out shopping, don't buy it on impulse. Do you other shopping and then come back to it, or even better go home and if you still think you need it a few days later then go and buy it.
    22. bootfairs; use these to buy goods but also to sell things you no longer use. We have a clear out each year of clothes/ toys outgrown which we bootfair and then use this money for a camping trip in the summer holidays.
    23. Get a tent. Camping is MUCH cheaper than hotels. I also find we enjoy camping holidays much more. We camp in quiet sites, usually they are cheaper. And we benefit from the detox of screens. We camp without electricity  (this also saves money as pitches with electric hook up are usually more money.)so there is no point in buying a portable DVD player etc etc.
    24. trade down your car. I used to have a larger car it cost more on insurance, tax and fuel. I now have a small car and it is more economical in all of these areas.
    25. Keep you car well maintained. By keeping oil levels etc at the correct level your car will be in better condition. Also keeping tyres correctly inflated means that you use less fuel.
    26. Use a slow cooker, they are incredibly cheap to run saving on energy costs. Also as food is cooked slowly cheaper cuts of meat cook so that they are more tender in the slow cooker than a conventional oven.
    27. Shop around. Don't accept the renewal costs of car insurance without looking around. I always check out several of the comparison websites find which companies are coming out cheaper. And then go direct to them. I have always found I can lower the quote even more by doing this.
    28. Get to know your butcher! I have recently done this and found that by buying larger quantities of meat from him I get  a massive discount. I spent £90 a couple months back and still am less than half way through the meat I bought.
    29. Batch cook. I cook larger portions than we need and freezer in portion sized containers. These make great ready meals on days when I have meetings at work, and days when I just can't be bothered. This saves money on supermarket read meals/ take aways.
    30. Fill your oven. When using the oven try and cook several items at once to make the most use of all that heat. you can cook several days meals at once, cook cakes for packed lunches etc to make the most of the heat. I also fill up the steamer when cooking veg, I then get 2 or 3 days worth of veg cooked at once saving on energy costs, as they just need a minute or 2 to heat in the microwave the next day.
    So there you have my top 30 money saving tips. Which of these do you use? Do you have any others I could use and improve my frugality?

    Bargain holiday!

    I thought as many of you have expressed an interest in how our barain holiday went I would dedicate a post to.

    I booked at the very last minute and got our caravan for £69 instead of the £250 it should have gone for. We had 4 nights; Monday to Friday. The caravan was on a Parks holiday site. See my post here for pictures of our caravan. It was a Silver level caravan this meant that we got the bedlinen included in the price, we had a fully equipped kitchen with toaster, microwave, fridge etc. We also had a tv and dvd player (although it says you only get DVD players in Gold accomodation on the website). The caravan was very clean and well looked after, unlike some we have been in in the past on a different holiday site a few years ago.

    Our entertainment passes were included in the price I paid for the caravan these gave us use of the swimming pool, and the clubhouse. There were also children's entertainment activities going on during the day included but we didn't use these so I don't know how they were. There were some entertainment in the evenings for the children for me the entertainment leader lacked a little enthusiasm and could have livened up a little, that said Stephanie seemed to enjoy herself when joining in.

    Not advertised on the website was that the swimming pool on our site was closed, we were told we could journey to the next Park holiday site and use their pool free but we didn't do this. There was no hidden extras onsite; no fair rides for children to pester for, no go-karting/crazy golf etc etc that we have had on previous sites. This did mean there wasn't a huge amount to do on site but as we planned on exploring the local area it wasn't a problem I have never been a fan of all singing all dancing spend spend spend sites. So this site suited us perfectly.

     This holiday did prove to be a complete bargain, I would happily pay cheap rates to come again, I wouldn't pay the full asking price. When I compare this break to ones in the past when we have taken a sun holiday I have found that it is not for £9.50 as advertised as you have to pay for 2 adults!!! I hate that! then you pay for the children, then a surcharge for the entertainment passes, then pay for bedding etc. When we did a Sun holiday I took my sister as I refused to pay for an absent adult, altogether our £9.50 holiday was around £100.

    I took food for us to make all of our meals with us and each day we took a packed lunch out with us so we barely spent on food. Apart from Thursday when I managed to leave the cool bag on the caravan table! I had packed it with drinks and nibbles as I was planning to surprise the children to a fish and chip lunch, so not a great loss I did end up paying out a few pound in drinks, but this was balanced out by discovering if we parked at the top of the Cliffe and walked down to the front we paid £1.20 to park for 4 hours instead of £4 for 3 hours at the bottom of the Cliffe.

    We had 2 days we spent on the beach and a little play in the arcades I gave the children £2 each in total and they used their pocket moneys and had lots of fun. We visited Battle Abbey making use of our English Heritage membership so saved £7.80 per adult and £4.70 per child  on entrance fees, also as we were members the car park for the whole day was £1 instead of £4.50. So in all we saved £20.70 on that day out.

    I did spend a little on treats, we went to the clubhouse for one drink each evening which cost between £3.50 and £5 each time, and we spent £1.25 per game on 3 games of bingo. Our fish and trip treat ended up being a little more than anticipated as due to wet weather at lunch time we decided to eat in and not have soggy chips. So lunch for 3 plus drinks came to £14.00. Which was only a little more than I had expected it to be.

    We had a fantastic time on our bargain holiday which truely had no hidden extras, so I will be keeping a close eye on the Parks holiday website to see if we can book a bargain during another school holiday.

    Thursday, 11 April 2013

    battle abbey

    Wednesday we went to Battle abbey we went for a walk around the town.

    After that we went to Rye harbour where we walked a mile or so along the seawall and then back.

    tuesdays trip to hastings

    Yesterday we decided to take a trip to the seasideit was about five miles from our site. We parked and discovered parking is extortionate here! £4 for three hours.
    We went to have a look around the (free) fisherman's museum
    Finding out about the different birds.
    We also wewent in the arcades and had a wander along the beach
    Blogger isnt letting me upload more pics will try and add more when we get home

    Tuesday, 9 April 2013

    first day

    We got up yesterday moroaded the car then set off for a leisurely drive to the site where we are staying. We stopped off along the way for lunch in a little village. We ate our packed lunch then explored a little.
    We found a park for a little play, followed a trail meandering over a little river and across fields for a mile and watched geese in a pub car park.

    We then carried on our journey. This is our home for the next few days

    Sunday, 7 April 2013


    Today has been a bit busy. We started by doing our packing for tomorrow, them I took Stephanie to her friends football party, next to the allotment where I got the onions and garlic in the ground. Then home Dylan cleaned out the car while I made dinner. I'm now relaxing in front of tv while waiting for the wash machine to finish.
    We organised our meals for the week

    Monday-left over gammon and jacket potatoes
    Tuesday-tin fish, pasta and salad
    Wednesday-chicken and noodle stirfry
    Thursday- a surprise for the chn, fish and chip supper

    Breakfast will be toast/cereal
    Lunches sandwiches etc as we explore

    All food that doesn't need refrigeration is packed, the last will be packed before we set off in the morning.

    Stephanie's to do list for tomorrow!

    Saturday, 6 April 2013

    sunny saturday!

    Yes you did read that correctly. We have had a lovely sunny day.
    I decided to make the most of it by taking the boys to the allotment and putting them both to work.
    We emptied the 2 compost bins, dismantled them and resited them at the other side of the plot. Dug potato trenches, put in ash and fresh compost then planted the potatoes.
    It took the 3 of us all day but we didn't mind as it was such a lovely day.
    K was very fascinated by these little guys. We found 2 whilst digging in the new compost bins

    Friday, 5 April 2013

    Friday's musings

    I started off today by being excitedly told by Stephanie "3 more sleeps til our holiday Mum" She is rather excited and is telling anyone who will listen that we are staying in a caravan not  tent this time!
    It seems she is not the only one who is excited, as cool as he likes to play it I found this in Dylan's bedroom this morning;

    a list of what he needs to pack

    He has even bagun to pack.
    We spent a couple of hours at the allotment digging out the old compost bins so that we can resite them, nearly there now.
    Then when we got home we had a parcel, it was this;

    you can just about see the little caterpillars in this pic Stephanie had to try out their home.
    We get to watch as these caterpillars become butterflies, again I have a very excited Stephanie.
    We have also been swimming with the children's 2 cousins, aunt and her partner. We have swapped children! I have Dylan and her eldest for tonight, she has Stephanie and her youngest. The boys have made me laugh tonight I think my favourite was when K (aged 10) misunderstood what I said. The boys were messing in the living room while I was in the kitchen, there was a loud bang, K came out to me and said "it wasn't me I'm innocent" Laughing I told him that was an oxymoron. He looks confused and goes back in to Dylan "she said I'm a poxy moron!"
    I laughed so hard- and have also explained to his mum, what has happened before he goes home and says auntie Sarah called him names! LOL

    Wednesday, 3 April 2013

    Spring tease!

    Yesterday I truly thought spring had finally sprung- it seems today came to prove it has not it was in fact just teasing us!
    It is freezing out there. The car went to the garage today to have some work done on it at a cost of £150 that means it has cost £370 in maintenance in just over a week with the new tyres I had put on last Tuesday.
    This has meant there has been no savings here this month, well there was until the car ate them all! Still I am 4% of the way towards a mortgage deposit. Slowly but surely we will get there.

    While the car was in the garage we walked the couple of miles into the local shopping town. It was bitter especially when we had to cross the river, was mighty windy on the bridge. I got the bits Dylan needed for school, when will that boy stop growing? I also got Stephanie some new tights, she has fallen over in countless pairs recently so made massive holes in the knees.

    Yesterday we spoke about the possibility of going camping next week if the weather is warm. The children decided they like the look of Hastings. So while waiting for them to wake up this morning I was googling to see which sites were near there and in our pitiful price range when I found a caravan site, you know the kind with the static caravans. When I discovered that for next week I could have a 4 night stay for £69 for all of us, this is around what it costs us to camp in a field. The caravan site has a pool, entertainment etc all included for the £69 and a caravan with heating! So I decided to go for it. If we were camping it would have been a case of play it by ear and watching the weather for the next few days to see whether or not we would brave it.

    We are going posh this time by having a caravan;

     which apparently will look something like this.

    I'm so excited! Don't worry the holiday will be done in true frugal style. We are planning on using our existing English Heritage to explore the Abbey etc while we are there, there are loads of walks around/from the park which will keep us entertained for the 4nights we are staying. And the food will be taken out of our fridge/freezer/cupboards on Monday before we leave. I do have some scratchcards to cash in which the children's nan gave me the other week, we will get a fish and chip supper one night probably with these, I can't remember if it is £8 or £10 I have on them either way that's a meal for us.

    Tuesday, 2 April 2013

    Spring? Is that you??

    My Daffodils finally!

    Washing on the line and dry!
    I think Spring may have finally have arrived! Wahoo!

    Wow today has been a lovely day. Temperature's reached a whole 8c at one point this afternoon- positively balmy compared to recent months. I have even turned of the central heating this evening I am determined it is staying off now until the end of the year. I have read my meters and have a LARGE heating bill due to drop on the doormat at the end of this month. Not good as I also need to have £150 of work done on the car- i must phone the garage to book it in tomorrow morning.

    My lovely sister and her family stayed with us from last Wednesday until this morning. We have had a lovely time catching, toasting marshmallows in the garden, playing in the arcades (we were meant to be bowling, let's not get into that story grrr!), a meal out with my brother and another sister and their partners/children, visiting aunts, and a tea party for the nieces and nephews birthdays. It's been a relaxing fun filled week, although when you look at that list it looks busy doesn't it?

    Here are some of my favourite pictures taken during that time;

    having a 'campout' in the living room

    time for desserts at the restaurant

    arcade machines

    Gangnam style!

    sweet talking Uncle Sean into paying for games

    Easter bunny shadow puppets

    making our own pizza

    toasting marshmallows in the garden.
    It wasn't a very frugal week, but it was fun. We had a takeaway costing £17, we spent £15 in the arcades, £23 eating in the restaurant, and £5 on the tea party and £2 on marshmallows. For the memories built, and the fun we had it was worth it. ( Just maybe not the takeaway!)
    Now to make up for the over indulgence we are spending the rest of the week, behaving like scrooge! LOL If it is not in the house already we don't need it!