Saturday, 30 April 2011

Its Snowball Time !!

Its the end of the month and we have just made another 'Snowball' payment towards the credit card. We have paid £1300 off today. The refund cheque from the utility company was a nice surprise that we included with our payment. Its great when you can make a payment and see a big difference but it does also make me wonder what else we could do with that money if it wasn't accounted for, holiday, savings, car etc. Our long term goal is to move house once we are debt free so any extra cash would then be put towards the moving house project. Once we are debt free I would like to have separate savings pots like other bloggers do, such as House , Holiday, Car Fund and then save regular amounts in each pot so the individual funds grow. Last year our car 'died' and we had to sell it as scrap. Luckily at that time we had our second car to fall back but now that's gone so if anything happened we would be really stuck. I would like to save enough money that if anything happened I could buy another car (second hand of course) quite quickly and have that money aside in the Car Fund pot. Over the weekend I'm going to sit down and meal plan , I do have to go to the shops this weekend and I also want to look at the bank accounts thoroughly. I have a few birthdays in May also another school holiday at the end of next month so will have to plan childcare again. Our National Trust membership finishes at the end of May so I can squeeze a few more visits in over the weekends and forthcoming school holiday. I have cancelled the direct debit for the time being as I am not going to renew it straight away. If I plan it correctly I can renew it later in the year and then I will get the remainder of this year and next summer in the twelve months membership. At the moment I don't have the £80 renewal spare. On the food front I cooked one of the roast beef joints yesterday that I bought earlier in the month for half price. I was disappointed as it shrunk quite a bit so it won't last all weekend like the gammon joint did, at least I hasn't paid full price for it. We will have enough for sandwiches and maybe a light lunch but it still saves me time and energy cooking again today Have a great Bank Holiday weekend :-)

Friday, 29 April 2011

Congratulations Mrs Windsor

I was one of the two billion audience today who watched the Royal Wedding. I thought it was a lovely occasion, Prince William looked very handsome and Catherine looked beautiful. I thought the dress was superb, the style suited her perfectly. They looked the picture of happiness as they rode in the open top carriage and Prince William borrowing his dad's car for the drive home made me smile. I am sure they will be very happy together. When we go to North Wales next we may pop over to Anglesey, you never know they may invite us in for tea and left over wedding cake !

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Shopping Restraint at the Outlet

Today I went to a shopping outlet with my mom so she could buy a birthday present for my dad's birthday next week. Its hard to resist temptation as there were some good bargains but my desire to be debt free is stronger than having new additions to my wardrobe. That said , I did pick up a few bargains which I will list below. I can justify these as they will be needed later in the year when my daughter starts back at school in September. This is what I bought ; 2 M&S school shirts: ,usual price £14 bought for £3, Pack of 5 school socks ; usual price £7 ,bought for £3, 4 pairs of knickers; usual price £1.50 each, bought for 29p each and finally some Easter cards for next Easter. The cards were on offer buy 5 and pay for 4. I got 10 cards for 80p ! The original price was £2.75 per card !! So I got £27.50 worth of cards for 80p. I was pleased with my bargains, especially the school uniform as it can be so costly to kit children out for school.
Here is something that was on the doormat when we arrived at Betws y Coed. A flyer for a free event. They always seem to have such community spirit there and have these various events that everyone is welcome too. Its a shame that we missed the event as I would have been interested in going along to see what was going on. Do you have anything like this where you live ?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Easter Break

Over Easter we were lucky enough to go away for a few days to one of our favourite places, North Wales. A good friend of ours has a holiday home in Betws y Coed and offered it to us as they had other plans. It is a beautiful place, the scenery is outstanding, the people are great and it really is a lovely place. If you have never been it is well worth a visit. We set off after work on Thursday and travelled down. We filled the car with everything we needed. We had a great drive down in the sunshine and a walk around the village when we arrived. On Friday we went into Llandudno, quick look round the shops and spent the afternoon at the beach. On Saturday it was a bit grey so we went to the cinema to see the kids film showing of the Chronicles of Narnia; Voyage of the Dawn Treader, cost £1 each ( had we have seen it when it was released in December we would have paid full price £7.40 per adult & £5.50 per child- not that I would have paid that !). On Sunday we went into the medieval walled town of Conwy, walked around the castle walls and spent the afternoon 'crabbing' at the harbour. My daughter will do this for hours and they sell bacon bait for the crabs at £1 for a small bag. We took our own - a 35p huge bag of bacon offcuts from Morrisons that I saw a few weeks ago and froze especially for the occasion. My daughter always trys to catch the ' Conway Crusher', a huge crab with one giant claw that nipped my husband about 2 years ago however we did not see him on this occasion. Also at the harbour was a Birds of Prey display and my daughter got to see an owl and various other birds which she was very pleased about. On Monday we visited the beautiful Penryhn Castle in Bangor using our National Trust membership. That is another lovely place to visit, an imposing castle and beautiful grounds and views. Then back home Tuesday. So that was our weekend, we had a great time, the weather was fantastic and it did'nt cost the earth.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Hello Again

Hello. Hope you have all had a nice Easter and a pleasant few days off work. Have been away for a few days, just got back , car is unloaded and washing machine is on its first load. Kettle is on , in need of a nice cup of tea !! Will resume normal service tomorrow....

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Car Tax Time

Years ago you often used to see cars with 'tax in the post' on the windscreen. Nowadays it is all computerised and you can't get away with that. We had our reminder yesterday and have renewed it on line. I always save money for the car tax as it is such an expense. We renew on line which although they charge £2.50 for the privilege , it outweighs the cost of driving 2 miles to the Post Office and back, paying to park then having the ordeal in the Post Office itself  ( our P.O is dreadful !!). However we had our renewal through and it quoted twelve months tax at £235 but when we logged in online it informed us it is now £245 !! In the small print it does say price can go up etc as the renewals are printed in advance. I'm sure that as they know your tax is up in April and the prices go up in April they could print the correct price. Anyway , Moan over !!! Here is a little something to make you smile. I know that prices have gone up but this is ridiculous !! My brother spotted this at a used car showroom last week. I wonder if it will sell ?????

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

My First Milestone

I have had my first milestone today and that is that my blog has passed 500 views. Its only been a few weeks since I took the plunge and I have been surprised with the interest shown. I never imagined that people would be reading and commenting but it has been great to hear from people from all over the world and not just here in the UK. Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read and comment.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Two Nice Surprises

Surprise Number 1 - Ever since my husband had his redundancy notice last year, I started to buy a lucky dip each week. Only 1 for a £1. I just thought that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and as the saying goes 'you have to be in it to win it'. Anyway I never check the numbers on Saturday night and when I checked today we have 3 numbers. I know your probably thinking only 3 numbers but we have never won even in the early days so I was pleased to win £10 and it cheered me up no end.
Surprise Number 2- When I got home from work , the mail was waiting on the mat for me. One was my home insurance renewal ( I have an earlier blog regarding this) and the nice people are renewing for me at £44.97 pcm. I have cancelled the direct debit and it won't be renewed. Another was my husbands credit card bill. Last but not least was a letter from our energy provider, we have gas and electricity from the same place. My husband rang through the meter readings a few days ago and they sent us a nice letter, a very nice letter. We have overpaid by £332 and they are sending us a cheque in the next 10 days. Also based upon our usage they are reducing our monthly d/d from £99 to £78 pcm as from June 1st. So I have a newly acquired personal fortune of £342. In the old days I would have blown it, easy come easy go , but this time it will be put to good use towards the credit card debt. They say luck come in three's, we will have to see ?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Getting What You Pay For ; Laundry Detergent

I thought I would share with you my money saving tip for detergent. When I first started reading about frugality about 10 years ago, someone recommended this tip and I have been doing it ever since. It is so obvious that I cannot believe I didn't do it sooner ! A lot of you probably do this already but for those of you who don't , its worth giving it a go. When I got to the bottom of the bottle I used to throw it away. What I do now is I keep it upside down over night and it empties the bottle of the remaining detergent. The next day it has all emptied into the container below and you probably have enough for another load or two. I have taken a photo of my detergent bottle and managed to capture the little drips falling out. The empty bottle should now be completely empty. The same principle can be applied to other things such as washing up liquid, bleach etc. Every little helps......

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Frugal Balti

This evening I had my parents round for dinner. I decided to cook them one of our family favourites, Balti. We all like Indian food in our family so I knew they would eat it. I haven't been cooking Indian food for long, it is only in recent years I have grown to like it - there was a time when I didn't even like garlic bread ! So I put Balti chicken on the menu, with rice, Naan bread and Indian snacks. Balti is very simple to make; diced meat, chopped veg, tinned tomatoes and a bit of water plus balti paste then cook on the hob. Everyone enjoyed it and there was even enough for a portion to go in the freezer. Now here's the best bit, my frugal balti for 5 people cost roughly the same as you would pay in a restaurant for 1 diner. Here's the costing ; Frozen Asda chicken fillets 1kg £3.49, Box of boiled rice 89p ( only used 2 out of the 4 packets), Mushrooms & Onions approx £1, Naan breads £1 - 2 packs bought on offer at 50p per pack, 2 tins of tomatoes 66p - bought on offer at 3 for £1, Balti Paste £1 ( used probably 1/4 of a jar) and last but not least Indian snacks 40p = Grand Total £8.44. My husband and my dad even had second helpings, so if you count the 5 main portions and the freezer portion , it comes to £1.40 per portion. Where could you go on a Saturday night and eat for £1.40 each? You would probably be hard pushed to get a bag of chips for that!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Cinema Trip

Yesterday I had plans to go out with my friend and her two children. We were originally going to an NT property but as the weather was bad we decided upon a trip to the cinema & Pizza Hut afterwards. I haven't got loads of money to spend but as my daughter is the only one I have to sometimes do things for her to socialise with other children her age, so even though I knew it would be costly I agreed to go. We normally go to the cinema for the Kids Showings which are £1 each at the weekends, yesterday was full price even though we had a discount before 5pm. So it cost £5.60 for me & £5.40 for my daughter. My brother had given her £5 earlier in the day so she decided she would spend it at the cinema buying sweets. On the way over I managed to convince her the cinema is too expensive , we had a few of our own goodies and that she should save the £5 to spend another time. I don't know about anyone else but sometimes outings with other people can be a bit pressurised. What I mean by that is you can be pressurised to buy/spend that you don't necessarily want. On previous occasions I have spent beyond my means but I don't do it anymore and I think other people may find it awkward. That probably sounds a funny thing to say but that's the vibe I get sometimes. When we bought our tickets , the other family bought a few pounds worth of pick and mix whereas my daughter and I stood and watched. Then they bought ice creams, the one ice cream was a tub of Ben & Jerry's at £4.20. Now it may appear to others that I am being miserly and to the other children , a mean mom but I can't justify around £25 for us to have a film,ice cream and nibbles. My daughter although she is only 9, is quite level headed and I try my best to explain to her that in life you can't have everything you see.The difficulty for a child is that they may not understand that every family has different circumstances and that they think their friends get everything they ask for. My friend and her husbands financial situation is a lot better than ours, not that I am jealous, its just fact.  Afterwards we went to Pizza Hut for a buffet. At the moment kids eat free so I just had to pay for my meal. I can never finish a drink there as they are so huge, so what I do is I have some of my daughters drink, its refillable so she can top it up as she wants. When we were eating I asked my daughter for some Coke and my friend noticed this and she asked '' if I have been watching Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert?''. I found myself explaining that I can't drink a full drink but why should that matter? I know that she wasn't being malicious when she said this but again its all down to different circumstances. Gone are the days when I just popped it on the plastic. Ultimately we want to get out of debt and live better for less but I also want to set a good example to my daughter , I don't want her to grow up spending what she hasn't got !

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Supermarket Shop

Tomorrow would have been three weeks since my last shop and today I had to go as I was pretty much out of everything. I spent £67 but I had to stock up on both food and other things. Managed to get washing powder at £3 instead of £5.50 and also stocked up on my daughters lunchbox drinks, on offer at £2 per 10 pack -usually around £3.50 full price. Bought 5 packs so 100 drinks should keep her going for a while at school! Timed it just right when I got to the meat aisle and the nice lady was putting out the reductions and I got first pickings. I got 2 beef silver side joints (reduced from £9.67 to £4.85 & £9.12 to £4.59), 3 packs of beef casserole (reduced from £3.19 each to £1.65) , a huge gammon joint (original price £8.79 -on special at £7 then reduced to £5.25), Kiev's ( original £2- on special £1 then reduced to 45p), Lamb shank ( £4.17 reduced to £2.09), Steak ( £2.50 to £1.25 ) and last but not least Indian snacks ( £1.20 to 40p). All the meat went straight in the freezer. The joints I intend to cook maybe on a Friday then we can eat from them all weekend saving time & energy. Muller yoghurt's were on offer 61p each or 12 for £2 =16p each. I also bought two 3L containers at 99p each. One of the things I intend to do is start batch cooking and I hadn't really got any containers big enough. Now I have no excuse !!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Dentist Appointment

Had to visit the dentist this afternoon. Years ago the treatment never bothered me but now I find even the cleaning drill traumatic. It must be that my teeth are getting more sensitive as I am getting older. The dentist and his assistant must find it highly amusing watching peoples faces as I know I was squirming a little when he was cleaning my teeth. The ten minutes of torture cost £17 as an NHS patient. Luckily my teeth are in good condition and I don't need any treatment. My daughter had a fluoride treatment on her teeth which means she can't have anything to eat or drink for an hour. We are only 30 minutes into the hour and I have had so many complaints. Roll on 5 o'clock !!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sunny Sunday

Another glorious day today. After a nice breakfast we headed off to visit another National Trust property, this time Dudmaston Estate in Bridgnorth. Really nice drive through the countryside and the estate was lovely too. When we arrived the house wasn't open so we had a walk through the grounds. We walked though the Dingle and around the lake which was quite a walk. We had a nice mini picnic, some drinks and Nana's homemade cakes by the lake. Then a look around the house which was mainly an art gallery. One thing about NT properties is that some tend to have a second hand bookshop. My daughter found the book 'Bad Girls' by Jacqueline Wilson and was thrilled to find it priced at 10p. It is well thumbed but for 10p cant complain. My daughter made a friend at the play park and played for ages. The weather was great and it was hot and sunny all day. We came home and ate some of the gammon that I had cooked yesterday. It was really tasty and there is lots left for tomorrows meal.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Food Hall Waste

Today has been a really good day. The weather has been great and have got all the washing dried on the line outside. We have been to church, been to visit relatives and also been to the cemetery. My mom had baked cakes and gave us some to take home which will be gobbled up after dinner. This afternoon we had to go into town and whilst there we went into M&S. We had a look in the food hall, it was 5pm and you can usually pick up a few reductions before it closes at 6pm. We saw that the sales assistant on the fruit/veg section had a big container with items all dated today. My husband asked if she was reducing them and she said '' no, they are being taken off sale''. As we carried on round, there was another container with items in, steak pies, fish pies, rice dishes and various other things. My husband asked the sales assistant there if they were being reduced. The young chap said ''no, the reductions had already been done earlier in the day and that they were being taken off sale to throw away !! I was really surprised to hear this. From a retail of point of view there was still nearly an hour left of trading, surely it is more profitable to sell it at a discount than not at all. I could not believe what they were throwing away, it could have probably fed a family for a week ! Had I of had my camera with me I could have taken a picture to show you. On the plus side, we did get to sample some rose wine and some chocolate cakes. What do you think, does it go in the bin ? Or are the staff tucking into steak pie for tea tonight?

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Duvet Day

Today has been a Duvet Day! My husband is working from home today and tomorrow and I put in a request for a Duvet Day. I had a lie in and he took our daughter to school. I did not get up until after 10am, how lazy is that ! I think we all need a lie in from time to time and today I needed it. I find that even if I go to bed early it does'nt feel the same as having a lie in. Tomorrow it will be my husbands turn but I will wake him as we leave for work/school as he still needs to work office hours even though he is at home. Not much done today I'm afraid. I have managed to do a quick freezer audit and made a meal plan for the next week. This is how it looks and its all from freezer/store cupboards;
Friday - Omelettes,
Saturday - Chinese Stir Fry with the 50p Pork Escalopes
Sunday - Gammon Joint ( This is a big joint , should have been £9 but reduced to £4 )
Monday - Leftover Gammon, Chips & Egg
Tuesday - Spaghetti and Meatballs
Wednesday - Scampi
Thursday - Beef Fajitas (using the £1 Stir Fry Beef)
Friday - Chicken Thighs, Freezer Veg and some left over mini sausages from Christmas still lurking in the freezer.

I think if I can last out until next week , I will then have to go and do a supermarket shop but I will have gone 3 weeks , only buying odd things when I have ran out. I'm interested to see how long the gammon joint will last us and if we could stretch it to a few sandwiches as well. Once the freezer is empty I think I will cook some meals in bulk like other bloggers.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Reducing my Bills - Home Insurance

Day off today so have been busy trying to get things done. Quick trip to the charity shop to donate two big bags of unwanted toys from my daughters bedroom. It pains me to get rid of certain things when I think how much I spent buying them and what good condition they are in but she has outgrown them and the clutter was getting ridiculous! Having time on my hands I thought I would make a call to see if I could get a cheaper quote for my home insurance. It is due to renew at the end of the month and I called another company to see how it compared. My existing insurer is a household name and I pay them £43.00 pcm for buildings and contents. We had a mailshot from a high street bank and they advertised a 15% discount. I gave them a call ( on their 0800 number of course ! ) and they offered me two policies to choose from. The first quote was based on unlimited cover at £29 pcm ! The second quote was on a like for like basis at £26 pcm ! I was really surprised to see how much I could save, I expected maybe a small difference but if I go for the second policy I would be saving £17 pcm / £204 pa. I will definitely be making a few more calls before the end of the month!!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Food Bargains

It will be two weeks on Thursday since I went to do a supermarket shop. I am trying to go as long as possible and live off what I have in stock and just buying the odd thing that we need such as milk or bread. I had to pop into the supermarket yesterday , so I ignored the trolleys and picked up a hand basket instead. I managed to spot a few bargains that went into in the freezer; Warburtons loaf 23p reduced from 95p, potatoes 50p reduced from £2.05, Beef Stir fry £1 reduced from £3.50 and Pork Escalopes 50p reduced from £1.94. I narrowly missed out on two packs of diced lamb reduced from £4 to £1 each. The eggs were a freebie ! Three duck and three hens eggs from one of my moms work colleagues. Although she has hens & ducks they don't eat eggs so if you bring her an egg box, she will return it complete with eggs ! How egg-cellent is that !! Wouldn't it be great if you could get all your meat so cheaply each week. I suppose its being in the right place at the right time. My dad got some T Bone steaks for 5p each one night by going to the supermarket as it was about to close. A blog I saw recently said the blogger got a £10 leg of lamb for 58p , wouldn't that be ''baa-verlous ! ''

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothers Day

Happy Mother Day. I thought I would share with you today the gifts I have bought for my own mother. My mom is into baking so when I saw the cake stand I thought it would be ideal. I have seen cake stands recently and they are anything from £15 upwards. Mine is a porcelain stand and was originally £4.99 but I bought it in the January sales for £3. I also bought her an embroidered pillow from my daughter. I bought that last summer in a card shop sale , the full price was £7.99 but I paid £1.99. The card was 10p again bought in a sale, full price would have been £2.50. The silver wrapping paper was £25p per roll , bought again in January sales should have been £1.97. The bows were an absolute bargain, originally priced at £2 per pack. Again bought in the sales but the bag was ripped, they sold them to me for 5p !! When I got home and counted the bows there was only 1 missing ! The other card and wrapped present you can see are for my grandmother. The card was 29p reduced from £1. It is just a flowery card blank inside for your own message. Cards like this are great as they can be used for any occasion. The pink striped paper is actually recycled from a present I had for my birthday. I always salvage the paper if possible and reuse. If it is ripped or creased I just cut it down a little so it is like new. The present itself is a smaller embroidered pillow with a 'Nan' message on, that cost 99p instead of £5.99 bought at the same time as the bigger pillow. I always try and buy things ( money permitting ) if I see a good bargain throughout the year. Needless to say these pillows/cards are back to full price this weekend. I always try and buy paper in the January sales. I buy plain paper , like silver, that I can use throughout the year for any occasion. So my grand total spend for Mothers Day is £6.67 which includes the price for the paper & bows. I know that my mom will like the cake stand and find the pillow very funny for a long time to come. The £20 Mothers Day bouquets that are on sale in the shops will be on the compost heap in a few days.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Ebay Bargain

I read recently on another blog how the lady had purchased some furniture locally from eBay. She had picked up various items at really cheap prices. I came across a site called '''' which is local items from eBay mainly for local pick up /collection only. I had a look for items within a ten mile radius. It is like an Aladdin's cave with all kinds of things for sale. I saw a sideboard for sale with a starting bid of £10. We have a messy corner at home and I thought this would come in useful to hide away all the clutter! Unfortunately husband forgot to put a bid on it and the auction ended. However he emailed the seller and they called us today to say that we could have the sideboard at £10. We have just been over to collect it and it is now in our front room ready to be filled up. Obviously it is not to every ones taste, I'm sure the 'uber' trendy amongst us wouldn't dream of having anything second hand but but it suits my need, hasn't cost a fortune and hasn't ended up in landfill. Here's a picture, what do you think ?