The Results Are In For My Money Saving Challenge!

Ever since we returned from our recent holiday to Sardinia the boys have been asking when we can go on holiday again. It’s sparked a love of travel and rekindled some much-needed quality family time which money simply can’t buy; unfortunately money is the underpinning precursor to any future travel plans. So planning is what I’ve been doing.

When it comes to money I’ve had my head in the sand a little recently. I’m balancing incomings and outgoings on a single wage but the nature of my job means invoices are paid sporadically and I often survive on a famine and feast cycle of work so I have to be very careful and disciplined.

Only I’m neither!

Historically, May and June have always been very expensive months for me as my children have their birthdays as well as my sister and then there’s treating my awesome Dad and Step Dad on father’s day, throw half term in the middle and that’s me pretty much spent out. To keep out of the red, I needed to cut back on other things so I’ve been keeping a diary of my spending over 10 days to see exactly where I can be a little more stringent and ways I can put some money aside for saving.

For anyone who’s never done this before, I can wholly recommend it! While informative, be prepared for a little shock. I’ve always considered myself to be quite a careful shopper, but in hindsight there’s certainly some cut backs to be made, and a little more discipline needed over impulse spending. Bottom line is I’m a working single mum bringing up 3 children but trying not to let them suffer for the whole family make up they’re still adapting to.

Dining out

Over last week though, I spent £97 on eating out! That’s including impromptu coffees, impulsive / can’t be bothered to cook takeaways and date nights. Just cutting that by half would save me £2,522 a year. That alone would equal a decent family holiday. This is certainly one area I can be more careful. 

Potential savings – £48.50

Petrol

I topped up my car with £30 of petrol last week, which is pretty average. This was for essential shopping trips, a couple of longer trips for dentist and work appointments and some totally avoidable trips to drop off or pick up my son from pre-school (it was raining in my defence.) I think if I stop being lazy on the pre-school run (it’s a 10 minute walk so is totes lazy of me) and be a little more clever with my shopping, i.e; make sure I get everything in 1 shop instead of a few mini shops then I could bring my petrol spending down to £20 a week. That’s still £80 a month on top of repairs, tax and insurance which is something to consider when buying my next car and weighing it up against a newer one with cheaper running costs, tax, insurance and reliability.

Potential savings – £10

Food

Last week’s food bill, in total, was £90.86. I try to keep it at around £60 which isn’t bad for a family of 4. The older boys have school dinners which cost me around £80 a month and I send my youngest to pre-school with a packed lunch twice a week and snacks on the other days. Given that the youngest 2 are at their dad’s 2 or 3 times a week that’s only 5 big meals I have to cook as my eldest & I do a WFOTF job (what falls out the freezer) By writing menus, then shopping lists and only replacing toiletries which have run out I can be A LOT more disciplined. My weaknesses are special offers, they get me every time. I need to stick to my list and ignore the potential savings. I currently have 3 hand washes sat under my sink, I have boys for heaven’s sake, we will never get through that amount of hand wash in a year let alone a month.

Potential savings – £30

Clothes / shoes

We recently had a family wedding  which has meant having to buy some new clothes. I think I’ve been super careful though. I’ve bought a second-hand Ted Baker dress from eBay, second-hand waistcoats for 2 of the boys and posh trainers which I shopped around for and paid £97 for 3 pairs, they all needed new trainers so this was an essential spend. If I hadn’t been so shop savvy I would’ve spent £338, instead it’s cost me £191, with last week’s spending £141. I don’t usually spend that amount on clothes a week so can’t count that as a regular spend.

Potential saving – £0

 

Presents

As mentioned earlier, June is one of my expensive months for gifts so last week I spent £36 on gifts. I’m a giver though, not a bad quality to have, unless you’re trying to cut back! I guess that’s pretty normal though as I try to buy Christmas presents throughout the year so it’s not too painful come December.

Potential saving –£0

Conclusion

£88.50 a month which amounts to £4,602 a year is the amount I could be saving if I was a little more careful with my spending. When looking at it that way, that’s more than enough for the family holiday the boys and I are hankering after and maybe some to spare for a long weekend away. This has been a fantastic exercise to do and given me an opportunity to have a complete look at all my outgoings as well as ways I can make sure I’m living within my means and not using overdrafts and credit cards.

improving your credit sore

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This is a collaborative post with Scottish Friendly

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How To Shop Savvy This Christmas & During The Sales

It’s all shop, shop, shop here while all systems go as I secretly start panicking about buying the last of the Christmas presents. There’s only a few more things to tick off my list so as always, I’ve been scouring the internet for the best deals and any special offers floating around. Even Christmas doesn’t escape my hard bargaining skills, quite the opposite actually, it’s when they’re tested out to the full.

I check the latest offers via The Money Saving Website which ping into my email inbox, then search out what the latest offerings are on the voucher code websites. Even if it’s just a saving on delivery, that’s more money in your pocket and often the tipping point when choosing between websites. (If you’re wondering what I’m on about,  www.myfavouritevouchercodes.co.uk for example, is just one where you can find various offers in one place from the major retailers.

Once I’ve found my best deal it’s over to Quidco to see if I can claim any cash back, over the years I’ve totted up over £1500 here. There really is nothing better than knowing you’ve paid the best price possible for just a few minutes extra effort and web browsing . Think of it as your journey to the shops if you’re feeling precious about the time it take.

Lastly,  if there’s nothing which floats my boat over on the voucher code websites, cash back or a search on the web, then I buy what I can second-hand. One man’s silver is another man’s gold after all.

Don’t think for one moment that this routine is only for pre christmas shopping, it’s just as effective once the big day is over and it’s on to the Boxing day sales. Don’t even think for one minute that you need to settle for the reduced price just because it’s already reduced. My shop savvy skills have been passed on to my kids too as they’ve learnt to check out voucher code websites and shop around before buying online.

I’m seriously thinking of changing our family motto to

There’s nearly always room to save a few more pennies.

how to shop savvy on the internet this christmas

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This is a collaborative post

 

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Salmon and Smoked Haddock Pie

For any of you lucky enough to have a teenager in your life you’ll appreciate my love of cheap, nutritious and most importantly, filling, meals.

Both my boys have evolved from fussy snackers into human dustbins. They burst through the front door at the end of the school day & right on cue, ask

“how long ’til dinner?”.

They have a hunger which never seems to go!

One of my favourite teen filler uppers is this salmon and smoked haddock pie. I make it the day before and use frozen fish portions which I nearly always have in the freezer to keep costs down, but you can use fresh fish if you’d rather.

for variation add extra vegetables such as sweetcorn and small pieces of chopped carrots.

A perfect midweek meal, this salmon and smoked haddock pie can be made in advance.

Ingredients;

Maris Piper potatoes

2 eggs

1 finely chopped onion

2 hard boiled eggs

2 small portions fillet of salmon

2 small portions smoked haddock (If using frozen fish check packing for defrosting advice)

1/2 pint of milk

50g butter

50g plain flour

600ml double cream

1 finely chopped onion

handful of fresh parsley (can be substituted for 1 tsp dried)

2 handfuls of frozen peas

Fresh spinach

Method;

  1. Preheat oven to 180
  2. Peel potatoes, cube and put in boiling water along with the eggs.
  3. In a large frying pan, gently poached the fish in the milk for around 10 – 15 minutes then remove the fish and pour the milk in a jug.
  4. Next melt the butter over a low heat in the same frying pan then fry the onion for couple of minutes
  5. remove from the heat and stir in some flour, you want enough so it soaks up the butter and combines with the onion.
  6. Gradually add the milk from the poached fish, stirring and each time then leave to cool for 10 minutes, finally slowly adding the cream
  7. Add pinches of salt & pepper, chopped parsley.
  8. Put in an oven proof dish with the fish, chopped boiled eggs and peas then add a layer of spinach and top with the mashed potatoes.
  9. Bake in a pre heated oven on gas mark 180 for an 1/2 hour (60 minutes if it’s chilled. )

A treat for your taste buds with this smoked haddock and salmon pie

for more thrifty recipes try

sausage and vegetable bake  and Nasi Goring

 

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Planning a Staycation in 2016? Try Bristol

Yes, Bristol, you heard it right. It was once a mid-point stop for meet ups with my sister and over the years has become a city to which I find more and more a connection with. It helps that it’s now the place my brother calls home, so I have even more of a reason to shout about it and each visit has always been a memory making, bestest day, EVER.

A mere 90 minutes or so from my little corner of East Devon, the transport links make any day trip easy. We tend to hop on a cab from the train and spend the day in the more touristy areas, but we often comment on how you can quite easily stay an extra day or two. Especially when using the Travelodge Bristol Central as your base along with some clever planning, you can pack in all the tourist attractions and places without breaking the bank. Here’s a few recommendations gathered from personal experience and recommendations via my Bristolian brother.

@Bristol Science Centre is first on my list. This fully interactive and engaging museum appeals to young and old alike. The children have opportunity upon opportunity to get stuck in without the fear of being told “don’t touch!” and we always come away learning something new. My personal fave is to go stargazing in the planetarium. The cafe’s not bad either and sits in Millennium Square which is in its self, an experience.

planning a staycation in Bristol , some ideas on what to do here;

Clifton suspension bridge, photo courtesy of Pixabay

Get ready to be wowed by the Clifton Suspension Bridge. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of being educated on a little history by my 7-year-old son, when he came home and told me all he’d learnt about Isambard Kingdom Brunnel. He had a dynamic and enthusiastic teacher at the time who was teaching his class all about this historic designer who, I’m ashamed to say, I knew very little, ok nothing, about. We were due to visit Bristol and after sharing his expertise I can hand on heart say I appreciated this little bit of historic architecture  just that extra touch more. It really is a breath-taking site.

While we’re on the subject, a stroll along the harbour, and there’s no mistaking another piece of history which sits awaiting your appreciation, The SS Great Briton. Another engineering delight by Isambard Kingdom Brunell, this was once the worlds largest ship (1843), built for the early passenger trade and now docks on the harbour welcoming many visitors.

planning a staycation, how about Bristol? there's so much to do, you could easily fill a few days with this guide;

Courtesy of the ss Great Britain Trust, photo by Adam Gasson

Cabot Tower in Brandon Hill is the oldest park in Bristol where you can enjoy great views over the city and Harbourside area. Located just off Park Street in the West End, Brandon Hill features a children’s play area, beautiful paths and a nature conservation area, and of course the icon of Bristol’s skyline.

Just a short stroll from the Travelodge is Gloucester Road, home to people from all walks of life, where a rich variety of locally run shops, cafes, bars and restaurants manage to thrive alongside the usual high-street chains. Quoted in the Independent as The last great British high street, the shops serve the community just as they did a century ago.

For another history fill up, visit The Red Lodge Museum it’s free and another shot stroll from the Travelodge. Great if you’re doing your staycation on a limited budget. See how it’s transformed over the years from royal party place to a Victorian girls school.

Last but by no means least is a favourite recommendation from my own little  brother, the National Trust owned Leigh Woods. With the suspension bridge as the backdrop, there’s something for everyone from bike and walking trails to family events. It’s steeped in history as well as wildlife and I’m assured is a full day out.

planning a staycation in Bristol? here's a handy guide on where to go;

At Bristol Planetarium picture credit pixabay

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5 Simple handmade Christmas Cards 

Christmas is expensive, it’s a fact. Every year I try and find ways to cut corners and save some pennies so I’m not still paying for it by June. I buy wrapping paper in the sales and pack it away with the decorations, have costing negotiations with my family on how much we’ll spend and try to buy a few practical presents for the boys. I gave up buying Christmas cards for family many years ago, preferring to send them something which I or my children have made, it’s a much more personal way of sending Christmas love and cheer to loved ones.

These simple handmade Christmas cards are super effective yet easy to make from everyday things which lurk in many homes and should only cost a few pounds make. 5 simple christmas cards, which anyone can make!

10 simple but fabulous handmade Christmas cards

 Buttons as Baubles via Southern Fabric Blog

 

10 simple handmade Christmas cards which look amazing

Pantone paint card sample card tree via Pretty Designs.com

10 simple but fabulous Christmas cards anyone can create

Simple thread and jewels via Echo of a Dream

simple but fabulous handmade christmas cards anyone can make

Family thumb via Disney Family

simple Christmas Cards anyone can make

Ribbon and sticks Via A Wee Nest

You Baby Me Mummy
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