Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Reducing My Bills - Mobile Phone

I am trying to cut down on our monthly outlay and over the next few weeks a number of things are coming up for renewal. This year I am going to make time to ring around and get the best price instead of just accepting the renewal quote like I have in previous years. Today I have made a start by getting a better deal on my mobile phone. I don't like contracts and have had Pay As You Go for a number of years. It suits me, I don't use the phone excessively but when I text or call it is more expensive. My current provider is Vodaphone and I have been topping up £5 per month which gave me free weekday evening texts. Depending upon the content of a message I received, I would wait until 7.30pm and then reply ! Sometimes I had to top up again within the month, if you top up £10 per month you then got free weekend texts as well. I never really spent anymore then £10 per month. My land line is with Virgin and they advertised a £5 SIM only deal which is on a 30 day rolling contract. The deal actually finishes tomorrow and is for Virgin customers only. With that I get unlimited texts and 100 minutes per month. I can also call other Virgin landlines or mobile customers for free and as most of my family are on Virgin it should work out well for me. At least now if someone texts me at 3pm I can reply straight away without having to check my credit !!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Bag a bargain

As I have mentioned before there is a conveniance store where I work and although it is usually overpriced , you can pick up the odd bargain now and again. I popped in today on my way home and picked up a few reductions; 6 Free Range large eggs 25p reduced from £1.60, Onions 25p reduced from £1 and Vine tomatoes 32p reduced from £2. Its hard to believe nowadays the price of 'basic' items, the things I bought would have been £4.60 full price ! Hubby has boiled some of the eggs to take to work tomorrow, a nice frugal lunch but eggs can be a bit pongwiffy in the office ! I plan to have a nice omelette for lunch tomorrow and Thursday. The onions will be thrown in the mix for most meals. I don't like tomatoes so hubby will be eating those too. I'm going to try and see how long I can avoid going to the supermarket for a big shop. The fridge is already looking a bit baron but at least I can clean it whilst its empty.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Pay Day

We had a great weekend. On Saturday I managed to get husband to clear out ''some'' of his wardrobe and we took a huge Ikea bag to the local charity shop. The shop assistant was really pleased as he says they don't get many donations of men's clothing. Some items we have held back as I may be able to sell them on ebay to raise some extra cash. Yesterday we had a lie in and headed over to Shugborough Hall in the afternoon. We have a National Trust membership and enjoyed looking around Lord Lichfields private apartments that have recently opened to the public. The grounds are great and we all enjoyed a good walk , admiring the daffodils. We have about 8 weeks membership left before it expires so we intend to go out each weekend and through the Easter holidays. I'm not sure yet if we will renew it , will have to see how the funds look at that time.
Today is payday and I have sat down after work armed with pen and paper . I was surprised when I checked the bank account online to see we had gone overdrawn by £80. Feel annoyed about that as it is £80 less off the credit card balance. This month looks as if it could be quite expensive, a few birthdays coming up and Easter Holidays looming. I also have to factor in childcare for my daughter whilst I am at work. With the Easter break and the Royal Wedding , the children will have nearly 3 weeks off school. I intend to sit down and make a holiday meal and activity plan. Hopefully the weather will be good, fingers crossed !!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Baby Shower

My brother and his wife are expecting their first baby in the summer and I have just received an invitation from them to go to their 'Baby Shower' in May. Baby Showers are a new thing here in the UK but have been going on for some time in USA. I knew they were thinking of holding one so I have been stockpiling items in advance. When I have been to the shops I have bought things on special offer. Johnson's baby products have been on offer recently at £1 each, usually £2 plus, for the large sized bottles. I picked up bubble bath, shampoo, baby oil and talcum powder. Nappies were on offer another day and I bought a pack at £3.24, half price from £6.50. Another time they had other things reduced, I picked up a set of Disney dummies 25p from £1.99, Disney feeding plate and weening spoons at 50p each from £2 each. I also got a cardboard box from work , destined for the recycle bin, and took it home. I have some nice silver paper to cover it and all the items fit inside the box nicely. My brother and his wife have a lot of friends so I know they will probably get a lot of clothes, toys etc so I thought I would give a little hamper of goodies instead. They are expecting a baby boy which makes buying clothes easier. I have also bought some clothes to give as gifts later on. Sainsburys had a 25% off clothing sale so I got a few bargains there. I got a reversible baby jacket £4 reduced from £8, but then they took off 25%= £3. Hat & mitten set £2.25 reduced from £4.50, again 25% off = £1.68. They had big sizes available so I can keep them for Christmas presents.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Its Friday !

Thank goodness its Friday, I am so glad its the weekend. This week the weather has been great here and I have managed to get all the washing done and line dried. The washing basket is now empty but the downside is that the ironing basket is now full ! The meal plans have been going really well and I am going to plan next weeks over the weekend. This sounds pathetic but we haven't eaten out or had takeaways for over two weeks now. There was a time when we would have had a meal out or a takeaway at least once each week but so far we have stayed strong ! It is so easy to feel weak and give in to the laziness. I felt like that yesterday, I'd had a busy day and felt like taking the easy way out but I came home and cooked dinner as planned like a good mother ! Another success this week was that my husbands credit card bill came and it had came down by £2300 last month. This was due to a number of things: overtime, cutting back, savings and sale of our second car. Our other car hadn't really been used for a few months. My husband gets the train in now to work, much quicker,cheaper and easier ( should have done it years ago-never mind ) We decided that rather than leave it parked up to rot away , we would sell it and put the proceeds towards the credit card balance. It is great to see the balance coming down. This was what I had to remind myself with yesterday when my mind was drifting onto fast food. Nothing tastes as good as being out of debt feels !!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


My daughter has always enjoyed stories and reading books but it seems in recent weeks she has turned into something of a bookworm. Each night she goes up to bed and reads before she gets off to sleep. She has even been asking if she can go to bed early so she can read for longer ! She does have quite a good selection of books , she has always had them for birthdays and Christmas. She is now into Jacqueline Wilson books and has read the ones she has and wants more. I have suggested that we go to the library at the weekend and she can take some books out but she is not happy about this. The reason being is she would like to buy the books to read over and over. Most of the children's books are between £6-£10 each for a paperback and if she is averaging a book every few days that could be quite costly! No to mention all the extra clutter. I do feel a bit of a 'meanie' saying no to the purchase of books but I am really trying to keep on track with the spending and not buy any unnecessary things. The library will let her loan out 15 books at a time and although you are supposed to return them within the month, children do not get fined if they are overdue. I do also believe in the 'use it or lose it' theory; as tax payers we pay for the libraries and if they are not used then surely they would be closed down. So I will be saving my pennies and heading off to the library this weekend.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Where has the time gone ?

I have been so busy the last few days that I haven't had time to write my blog. I just don't know where the time has gone ! The weekend flew by, we had a great time at the quiz and came a respectable 7th out of 24. The next day a nice surprise in the post, our tickets for Alton Towers arrived. They have allocated us a Saturday in May so no time off work or school. We managed to stick to the meal plan and did not stray. We are now on our second week of meal plans and tonight was Sausage and Mash ( 59p sausage from last week) It was delicious and everyone enjoyed it. It works well with the meal plan as there is no wasted time thinking what to cook. I just get the ingredients together the night before and it just seems to work so much better than throwing things together when you get home from work. It seems a such long time since I got paid last but I think March always does seem long. Next week feels an awful long way off ! But I do still plenty in the freezer to keep us going.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Happy St Patricks Day

We have been enjoying our meal plan menu so far this week but I could have incorporated an Irish stew for today had I remembered that today is St Patricks Day ! It got me thinking that we could have an 'Around the World' menu plan on certain days ie Burgers on American Independence Day, Turkey on Thanksgiving, Haggis on St Andrews Day etc etc.
Today I have a day off and have been busy doing housework , its a nice day and the washing line is full of washing blowing dry. When I am at home I like to open all the windows and let the fresh air circulate all around the house, I have enjoyed a frugal lunch ; omelette with mushrooms,onions and ham. It is simple and easy to make but it is so tasty.
Tomorrow me and my husband are going to a charity quiz night. We go twice a year and it is held at a local special needs school. The purpose of the evening is to raise funds for the school. You enter as a team of 4 paying £5 each. In with the £5 entry fee is a buffet and afterwards lovely cakes cooked by the pupils. You can also take your own drinks. During the break they hold a raffle, people bring along things ( usually unwanted gift sets/wine etc ) and these are given out as prizes. It can be quite comical as some people have won back the items they had donated! At the end of the night the winners & also the losers have a prize. All in all it is a good night for a worthwhile cause however each time we have the same problem - what to call the team ?????

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Make hay whilst the sun shines

Surprisingly I was asked at work today if I would like to do any overtime at the weekend. My initial thought was no ; I have made plans and my daughter is off to a birthday party. But on reflection I could rearrange things and still go in and earn some extra cash. Plus it is only until 1pm each day so I still have the afternoons to go out. Sunday is the problem moreso, my daughters party starts at 12.45. I think I could cheekily ask my friend if my daughter could go with them and I could meet them about half hour later. I have done lots of favours for my friend so I can't imagine that would be a problem. My employer, like most is cutting back and we definatley won't have any overtime after April 1st. Also my employer pays overtime the next month, so whatever I work in March gets paid to me in April and I'm sure I will have things to spend it on come the end of April. It can be easy to budget for certain things, for example the car tax is due in April but unexpected things such as the damaged tyre can leave a little hole in the savings plan. Extra money versus lie in - it has to be the extra money ££££££.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

'' Hot dogs for tea boys''

If you have seen the film 'Twin Town ', you probably will have seen that the Lewis brothers love sausages. Most days their father says to them '' hot dogs for tea boys''. Well its not quite like that in our house but we do like sausages ! Where I work there is a convenience shop in the foyer and although on the whole it can be on the expensive side you can sometimes pick up the odd bargain. I had to pop in after work for milk. The milk is a few pence more than the supermarket but it saves me the trip/time/fuel and all the extras you buy when you go to the supermarket for the 'one thing' you need. Whilst there I noticed they had a few reduced items, milk 20p from 51p, jacket potatoes 25p from £1, grapes 70p from £2.49 and sausages 59p from £2.39. I picked up 3 packs of sausages and a punnet of grapes =£2.47 instead of £9.66 ! Now I know that I said yesterday I am trying to get the freezer down but at 59p per pack I thought the sausages were too good to miss. I know that we will use them, and I can include them in a few cheap meal ideas.
My husband has heard back from the garage today, they can't repair the tyre so it will need a new one £59! However my husband has been able to get it slightly cheaper at £53. Still a lot of money to spend as a result of a silly nail in the road.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Meal Plan Monday

Yesterday was lazy. I had intended to follow the good example of my fellow bloggers and create a meal plan for the week but I had never gotten around to it. I decided to make it after work today. I have been running down the freezer lately and the meal plan can incorporate the oddments. I have lots of frozen veg in stock and I had taken advantage of some special offers at the supermarket, various fruit & veg for 30p each. Also had a bag of potatoes for 30p. Here's how it looks;
Today - Spaghetti Bolognese - Mince beef about £1, mushrooms 30p, onions 10p, can of tomatoes 40p, pasta 50p, ciabatta 30p ( reduced from £1.19) salt , pepper and squirt of tomato puree. Total £2.60.
Tuesday - From the freezer - Salmon En Croute/fishfingers with potatoes/frozen veg  Total £4 approx.
Wednesday - Chicken casserole and mashed potatoes. Total £3.50 approx.
Thursday - Shepherds Pie with frozen veg = Mince £1, Potatoes/frozen veg £1. Total £2 approx.
Friday - Macaroni cheese . Total £1.50 approx
Saturday - From the freezer - Scampi, salad & potatoes wedges. Total £4 approx.
Sunday - From the freezer - Haggis, roasties & frozen veg . Total £4 approx.

My crude maths gets that to a total of £21.60 which averages £3.08 per meal , which is'nt bad as there are 3 of us. This is for our evening meals, we do take sandwiches to work/school and have cereal/toast for breakfast. A lot of the freezer stock is items that were reduced or on offer such as the salmon en croute and scampi. Once the freezer has been ran down, I could probably make up some cheaper meals. A family favourite is omelettes, good for using up leftovers !

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Goodbye to my flexible friend

Today was quite a lazy day although I did have to work from 9-1pm so no lie in! I have been working extra shifts in recent months in an effort to make financial headway. It has been a successful exercise. I have repaid my credit card. It had a balance of about £1300, not huge but still enough to get me down. Last week was the final direct debit, a princely sum of £1.87 ! That timed nicely with the fact that there is no more overtime and today was my last day of extra shifts. The household as a whole has changed its spending habits in the last year. Once upon a time if I was short of cash I would use my credit card without hesitation. We never spend on it now and don't intend too. Recently I had a family birthday, once I would have picked up a gift and paid for it more often than not on my credit card. This year I sent a nice box of chocolates , I did feel a little bit miserly but the feeling that it was paid for in cash felt good. Next project is to repay my husbands card, which if all goes according to plan , should be clear by summer. At that point we would only have our mortgage remaining which is where we started 15 years ago when we bought our house! Here is the ridiculous thing - all those years ago I got talked into taking the credit card by the salesperson, who offered me a free sports holdall which I had wanted. That stupid bag , which cost about £20 at the time, has probably cost me thousands.. Hindsight is a beautiful thing

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Frugal Disapointment

Well... after Mom's Taxi last night we noticed that the tyre on the car had a new accessory, a nice shiny nail stuck in it! So this morning we took the car into the garage. The nice man put the spare on and is going to see if the old tyre can be repaired. If so the repair will cost about £20. If it can't be repaired it will be a new tyre, £40 upwards?
We decided to claim the freebie corned beef from the supermarket in town. We already had to go into town to collect an undelivered parcel from the post office so decided to make one trip to save time & fuel. The new supermarket gives 3 hours free parking so another little cost saving there. Unfortunately it had run out of corned beef,such was the demand yesterday ! I resisted temptation to buy anything ( albeit I did have to buy the newspaper to get the free Alton Towers voucher).The freebie corned beef coupon expires today so unless we chance upon another store we won't be able to take advantage.
My daughter and I went to visit our friends this afternoon. She played with my friends children in their big garden for a few hours ,had a great time and we didn't spend a thing.I was able to catch up with my friend and helped to demolish the lovely biscuits she had.
Husband and I have a longstanding engagement tonight, we are going for a meal with some friends which we are both looking forward too.To be honest it is extra expense but it has been put off before due to illness. After this we haven't really got anything else expensive lined up so will just enjoy tonight then re concentrate our frugal efforts.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Everyone loves a Freebie !

I always love a freebie and have lately been collecting the vouchers in the newspaper for the free Alton Towers tickets. Friends have collected them in previous years and have enjoyed a great day of free family fun whereas I did'nt know about the scheme and missed out . In fact when my daughter wanted to go last year for her birthday , and take a friend, we  went along and paid around £100 for the day out. It was a good day out and the two girls really enjoyed themselves but it was still a lot of money to spend.

This year I was determined not to miss out and have bought the paper religiously each day. So far I have not missed a voucher so should be able to apply for our tickets next week. The only downside is that they chose when you go , as you can't nominate a particular date only a 'time band'. Nevertheless it is still a great offer and if it comes through for a date we can't make , we could always give them away to a dear friend !

However along with the park vouchers to collect , there has also been some other freebies. On Saturday they was a coupon for a free six pack of crisps, normal RRP £1.56. We chose a new flavour, which ultimately we did'nt like so we were glad we had'nt paid for them. Today there is a coupon for a free tin of corned beef. Not everyones cup of tea but makes a nice corned beef hash! Tonight I am on Mom's taxi duty as my daughter goes to a kids club so I am hoping to pick it up , time permitting. My husband says it's just to get me into store to spend more money. It probably is ! I will have to go in with blinkers on, get the corned beef and leave promptly. The challenge is on !!!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Blog 1 - My first entry.

Decided to take the plunge and blog my experiences. Have been trying to be frugal for a number of years sometimes successfully, sometimes not ! My principal aim is to have a healthy piggy bank instead of an empty one and have some fun along the way. I have followed a few blogs over the years and admire the level of frugality that others have managed to keep too, some out of choice , others out of necessity. Nevertheless blogs are great , and give us loads of ideas and tasty tips !