Monday, 14 December 2009

First Home Sweet Home

Hello everyone,
 
Sorry for the delay in writing - but there is good reason! We have purchased a new home and should receive our keys this week, so we are very excited.
 
I think what we have learned is that in the current economy, first time buyers are definately priced out, unless like us they have been saving for years and years, or alternatively have generous help from family members. Banks have been keen to receive money from governments but have not passed this on in terms of favourable rates to new borrowers, despite the base rate being close to zero.
 
We are however very happy and excited to be finally moving into a place we can call our own. We will be making a very money saving start, as all our money has been used for a deposit and legal fees, so it will certainly be a case of 'Make Do and Mend'. Visits to charity shops, requests from willing family members, and some very 'house themed' Christmas gifts for eachother will be the theme this month. Family are of course happy for us and no doubt we'll have our share of DIY almost immediately after Christmas. I will try to resand, repaint and bring back to life any quality second hand furniture we can get, so you will see more ideas and hopefully can make suggestions as we go along.
 
Our new bills will hopefully be earning us a penny or two via cashback sites eventually, such as gas/elec, broadband etc.
 
I will update the blog as soon as I can, and it's safe that after the move to say we'll allow ourselves a much needed break for the holidays.
I wish everyone here a really lovely time and hope you have had a great year, and we are all are able to achieve even more amazing things in 2010.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Reasons to be happy it’s Winter!

Ok, ok so the headline grabbed you – but today I do want to bring forth some of the benefits of Winter, so we don’t all fall into a gloomy mood! Bet you thought there weren’t any but here are some of the reasons that I think Winter is worth appreciating:

- Food – Summer food is light, colourful and fresh but let’s also remember that it can be more expensive too. In Summer we’re more likely to be outside and with outside, comes expense! In Winter we have the chance to bulk cook again, get that slow cooker out, dust it off and start thinking what delicious warming meals you can make. Here are some of my favourites: Chilli Con Carne, Beef Stew, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chilli fajitas with avocado, yoghurt and cheese, Sweet Potato Lentil and Carrot soup, Lentil and Bacon Soup, Chicken Curry, Roast Chicken (stretchy – as one ‘stretches’ to around 3 meals plus lunches!), Homemade Rice Pudding and Lemon Curd. So start looking around for ingredients now – you can still make healthy but inexpensive meals to claw back what you spend in Summer, or, put towards the Christmas festivities.

- Hobbies – Yes that’s right, we finally have the time for those things that were put to one side, like the game you wanted to play a bit more of, the tv series you wanted to catch up on, photography, listening to music, perhaps for the more energetic even working out a bit more. How about making beauty products? You can see on the right hand side menu of this blog many entries from me, most of which I have more time of in Winter, so why not give it a go and make something that will save you money on gifts, or on your personal beauty budget for 2010?

- That follows on nicely to Budgeting. Yes that’s right – even more time to make sure the tax man, supermarket, insurance company, mortgage company, bank, restaurant and high street don’t have quite so much access to your extra pennies. Now is the time to set up your budget and stick to it. Plan ahead for 2010 for the things you really, really want, rather than those things that ‘come up’ each month and end up being where most of your hard earned dosh goes. Is your insurance coming up in the next few months? Set yourself a reminder. Is your credit card interest free period ending? Make sure you remind yourself of that too. Yahoo, Outlook, your phone or even a trusty paper diary will help you keep on track. Mainly though get that budget spreadsheet going – see www.moneysavingexpert.com for his free one, or contact me and I have one that works well in addition to the one Martin Lewis provides. In fact see my username on MSE (EagerLearner) and you will see my spreadsheet linked to in my signature there for you to download instantly.

- This leads onto cashback sites – once your budget it set up, claw back even more on top of that by using these sites. You want to buy a laptop? Rather than walking into your PC World store for example and buying the one you want, can you go via a cashback site to the PC World site and get the laptop you want online? I did this last weekend, and will earn around 3% cashback plus another 1% cashback from my credit card. This will get me £20 off for no effort at all! Christmas is coming so use cashback sites as much as you can. When insurances come up for renewal, cashback sites will give you hundreds of pounds back in your pocket. Same thing for switching energy suppliers (FatCheese is offering £110 to switch to Scottish Energy which I will seriously consider in the new year).

- Christmas – Of course, I’ve already mentioned it about but it needed it’s own entry. So many chances to make someone feel special by making them something, to save on gifts, to spend time together, eat good food and have fun. It’s not always easy as family gatherings can sometimes be stressful but try to get back to basics and ignore advertising and other people’s standards – no huge amounts of money needed just patience and agreement, plus possibly a love of homemade wrapping paper and experimental gifts!

- Home – Yes that’s right – your home! Seeing as you are now indoors more, what can you do to make your home a nicer, warmer place to be? Are there odd jobs to be done? What about money saving ones like DIY that could save on heating? I’m a renter but as soon as I have my own place, I’ll be spending time improving my place and adding personal touches. Thicker curtains, improved heating, better kitchen storage ideas, homemade surface sprays, homemade beauty products, and your lush homemade cooking will all make you proud and save you money!

That leads me to think that Winter is a great time that we all need – it’s natural to want more duvet days, shelter from the rain, wind and cold, cosy up and enjoy relaxing more. Watch that (rented or borrowed rather than bought) dvd box set, tuck into your homemade stew and fill up the water bottle!

I hope you get some inspiration and that some of the links through this site help you, please click sponsor links too if they are of interest as they support this blog.

Next blog entry will be about my soap making adventures, more Christmas ideas, home hobbies and what we can do in the coming months to enjoy Winter some more… Do share your ideas so far so we can all discuss and try new things!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Gorgeous Christmas Gifts for £0.25p each!




Hello everyone and sorry for the delay, we have had so much on lately.

I saw Marks & Spencer have now got their Christmas decorations up and many stored are selling cards and wrapping already. It reminds me to start getting small things, plus we have agreed no gifts to family and only very small items for friends. It seems in this climate everyone is trying to save!

So here are two ideas you could make now, for Christmas, or who knows even a ghoulish Halloween if you used green and orange colourings...!

SOAP MAKING

Castille Soap

Around 3 weeks ago I made some soap from scratch, so in a week these will be fully cured and it has worked well, I will let you know. These were made with olive oil, beeswax, goats milk and essential oils of chamomile and geranium so should be ideal as both a gentle face wash and shampoo too, which my dry hair will love.

I think the cost worked out £1.50ish for 6 soaps, all natural and multi purpose.

Bath Melts

Another thing I did was to make some bath melts, these were as a gift for a friend and she loved them. The pic on this article is not the ones I have made, but they would look similar if I had spent more on the single 'roses' rather than crushed ones.

Time required: 5 minutes – melt and pour!

50g Cocoa butter
50g shea butter
Rose petals
1 drop of rose essential oil per melt

Sprinkle some rose petals into bottom of each heart cavity in a mould.
Melt shea and cocoa butter together in a pan and pour carefully into pan
Place 1 drop essential oil in each heart
Allow to cool overnight

I bought all the ingredients from ebay, including a heart mould with 9 cavities. One tip I recommend is buy a reasonably deep mould, whatever the shape,as some of the ones I made were thinner as I had added too many petals, so they were fragile. Tip number 2 is don't add too many rose petals!

Once the hearts cooled overnight they looked fab and my friend loved them. I had enough of the shea/cocoa liquid left to pour into a lip balm pot, to which I then added 1 drop of lemon essential oil, and also gave to my friend. So lovely, it smelt like lemon meringue!

You could not have more natural ingredients! I imagine all the bath melts and lip balm cost £2.50. You would pay much more in store. I made 9 hearts plus one lip balm so roughly £0.25p per item on ingredients from now on, now I have invested in the mould.

Not only are they less costly, they could be more environmentally friendly plus the person you give gifts to knows you have spent time considering what they like, as opposed to vouchers, Argos purchases, mistaken gifts etc. You also get the chance to choose 100% organic ingredients, locally sourced etc.

I will post more info about the Castille Soap once I have used it!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Santa recommends... ebay and thinking ahead!

Autumn is here and we’re all left wondering what wardrobe we have for this kind of interim weather… or wanting to go and spend more on a new wardrobe! Keep an eye out for good bargains in 2nd hand stores in preparation for the cold, as this is the time folks start getting rid of last years winter coat for that ‘must have’ new coat this year…

Aaaanyway today’s topic is more about preparing for Christmas. Yes, that’s right – I said that word! In all seriousness though, you have September, October and November paydays, to use towards spreading the cost of Christmas. So here are my top tips for a cool yule that won’t break the bank:

Make food items for foodies

Vanilla extract made for pennies by soaking 3 split pods in vodka for 4 weeks, peanut butter and chocolate, Christmas cookies, your own alcohol like home made Baileys and so much more. You could make some rum butter, gingercake, lots of yummy things, so much tastier and cheaper than store bought… some creative wrapping or a basket from the £0.99 store can perfect the look, perhaps reuse some ribbon from a gift or some brown paper from an item you received in the post.

Make Beauty Products

As you all know I love making lotions and potions. You can make lip balm in less than 2 minutes, face lotion in less than 10, heavenly face scrubs in 10 and some delightful butter melts for massages and bathing for pennies. My secret weapon is to borrow library books and scour the internet for ideas and then buy the items from ebay. How about a luscious face oil for a few pennies, rather than £30+ in the stores? Plus that way you can customise it to the recipients exact skin type.

Buy most Gifts online Through Cashback Sites

Those of you in the know, already realise that when you buy from HMV or Boots, that if you did it online through a Cashback portal site, you could get 5-10% cash back in your hot little hand, for the same items you would normally buy on the high street. So for Christmas, buy the normal stuff you would usually, but via cashback websites instead, the sites in my Guide (see the Cashback section on the right).

THAT way January will be fun as you will have cash back on it's way to you!

Those are just some ideas, I don’t want to inundate you now, seeing as we’re only in September, but start preparing and a) it will be less stressful, b) it will be cheaper and c) you can dedicate more time to choosing the right present with thought, rather than a last minute gift card. Have fun with it, and get creative!

I will intermittently write a few more ideas just to get the creative thought process going, you never know what we might all come up with!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Extra Revenue Streams – Why We Should All Have Some

This month our spending was higher than normal, but yet less than this time last year. Why? We decided to be one of the millions that decided to take a Staycation, ie: not go abroad this year and stay instead in the UK.

This saved us around £800 compared to a beach holiday in Europe, so it may set a trend for years to come! We still had great food, relaxing atmosphere and lovely adventures, so it seems that the ‘extra’ £800 for say Greece, would then seem to account for the ‘sunshine’ element, which is quite a lot really. I am impressed we stuck to it and will definitely try another staycation for those kinds of savings. Needless to say, the staycation means more money has remained in our savings accounts, which is very unusual at this time of year!

In August after we returned from Staycation, I still diligently logged all my spending at www.spendingdiary.com and am pleased to say I am on target to reach the end of the month with my £100 ATM money (see articles in the ‘Money Saving’ section of the right hand menu for some inspiration on this small but effective money saving technique). In September I will try to reduce this to say £90 and see how I get on. It means I should have some ‘extra’ in the bank account at the end of September to transfer to savings.

Apart from that, I am focusing on Extra Revenue Streams. This means that apart from my normal income, I try to find other ways to bring in cash. One of the main ways is through Cashback Sites (see righthand menu). In August I received around £21, and this all goes into savings. To me this is free money, so I either spend or invest it, to make sure it doesn’t disappear on silly things that I struggle to remember later on.

We should all try to have these as it helps you have some extra cash, in case your main income changes or stops altogether.

For another Extra Revenue stream, I am also learning about Google Adwords, which are now on this Blog. I hope you don’t mind but even if you only click one link that is of interest on the Google ads, this helps me out immensely and shows readers are enjoying what I write and what appears on the blog.

Amazon is another stream, which in August earned me £6.80 for some books I sold, this has also gone into savings.

Even if you can only add small amounts, set yourself up a spreadsheet that inspires you – log every extra bit of money you can earn there and make sure it gets saved, or at least spent on something that can bring you future savings (say special offers on food, maybe some hair clippers, or special offers on clothing you know are worthwhile).

Your comments would be so welcome on sharing what ways you create extra revenue for yourself – how can we all do more and motivate eachother?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Changing Hobbies for Changing Times


There was once a time when I would spend all my time in the shops on weekends, desperate to fill my bags and bring home rewards for a hard working week. I would really feel disappointed to return empty handed. I would feel bored at home and literally feel that if I was at home, I was missing out on something.

The same thing went for holidays or breaks, I would plan them ahead and look forward to my time off as a reward for hard work. Nothing wrong with this at all, if we can afford it and if we have no other bigger aims in mind for the cash.

These days though, I see that the last 3 years have changed how I see things. I was fortunate enough to find moneysavingexpert.com before the credit crunch hit, and so had around 18 months of 'practice' saving money and building an emergency savings fund before I actually saw the financial storm roll in and crash upon our shores.

Instead of expensive shopping and holidays I have now started to enjoy these more credit crunch friendly hobbies:

- Making homemade beauty items (saves a fortune, sometimes goes wrong but still saves so much and is more natural for my skin).
- Scouring charity shops for clothing and vintage plates etc - it also gives me inspiration for items we might like in our future home.
- Reading (I get out library books, which saves a fortune on books and is greener too)
- Visiting places in England instead of holidays abroad, or if we do go abroad, we spend as little as we can
- Making homemade cleaning products, not only cheaper but greener too
- If we go out for dinner we try to use a voucher like 241
- Never paying full price for a movie (get a free Orange SIM card on Google and then go to the cinema on Wednesday with a friend to get a free ticket).
- Scrapbooking (well, gluing onto paper!) ideas for our future home
- Growing tomatoes, basil, coriander and parsley (will try garlic this Autumn)
- Laughing at marketing on adverts which claims you 'need' an item to feel great, young, sexy, successful etc etc
- Homecooked meals - I cook in batches and then freeze to save time in the week when we are more tired. I really enjoy cooking when I get into the mindset - radio on, focused, relaxed, just need to make it happen more!
- Games and times together with my husband - planning ahead, getting to talk properly and feel connected is completely free and enables us to feel we're not just working the 9-5 grind all the time.
- Plan ahead - To avoid buying things new, I am following what Amy Daczyn from 'Tightwad Gazette' suggested - think ahead of items you might need. It hasn't happened fully yet but I am working on it, thinking now of items I might need in Autumn/Winter and keeping an eye out for them.

I do find it hard not to just sit and watch TV when I get in thoguh, so I am learning to be more productive with my time, like I have a list of things I 'Need' to do, but I also want to create a list of things I 'Want' to do. These can replace the need for shopping or over indulging, so that when I do want something special, it won't feel like I have been greedy!

How do you avoid spending money these days - have you replaced certain hobbies with others? Have you learned new skills? Are your family and friends supportive and encouraging? If we can all exchange ideas I am sure we can learn alot!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Are you prepared for the bleak winter of 09?

Ok, so the title sounds scary but the truth is, with job losses, increased costs, energy prices changing all over the place, Swine Flu panic and strikes, we’re all at a loss as to what the next 6-12 months will bring.

I know of people whose mortgages have reduced by about half, and instead of saving the cash, they are preferring to go on expensive holidays. Normally I would be tempted by the same thing in their situation, but in the current climate? No chance.

If you do not have an emergency fund to be your safeguard in this recession, please start one. It is better to have something as a buffer than nothing. It means if you are ill, or your partner is ill, or your washing machine dies, or your car just suddenly stops, you have a stash to cover the problem. Even worse – what if you are ill for several months, or you lose your job?

I started saving £5 a month many years ago when I earned £80 per week, my rent was £40 of that. It was back breaking work and very hard to put that £5 aside, but I did it. The years went by and I increased the amounts as I could, I couldn’t yet afford a pension yet so at least I thought I should increase the savings slowly.

That idea stayed with me and I kept it going. That £5 a month turned into a thousand after a few years which made me feel I could cope if I lost my job and needed to look for another one.

These days, the recommendation is that you have 3-6 months worth of salary just in case. It means if you lose your job, or want to change and walk away from the job, you feel safer.

Savings rates are not amazing right now, but the main reason to do this is for protection, not rates.

So no matter what the next 6-12 months bring for us all, please make sure that if you are paying any debt obligations, you also put a little aside for the emergency fund. You will feel better and able to look ahead and not worry as much about what will happen. We are all in the same boat, so worth having a lifejacket!

Monday, 20 July 2009

How to organise with no time!

Ok, we have all been there – trying to get stuff done, it all piles up and you suddenly have a moment where you think ‘How can I even make a start on all these things’!
I have been a bit like this lately – lots of things I had in my ‘head’ list but never wrote down or if I wrote it down it was on a post it note I lost under a pile…

So today marks a new start – I will write more down and every day take a few minutes to revise the list and see what I have still to do.

The key with this will be to mark each item with a deadline date. With out that, items just sit on the list. I can cross them off, then by the end of the week write a new list for the week ahead, hopefully with less items (ha ha, as if that will happen!).

This isn’t just for regular things like collecting dry cleaning (which by the way is a pet hate of mine, I don’t buy an item that needs dry cleaning as all I can see is expensive bills in the future each time it needs to be dry cleaned!) – anyway – this list is also for hopes, dreams, research and more.

Make A List
So your list might be a mix:

- Book dentist
- Call friend to arrange movie
- Research soap making courses
- Buy birthday present for brother
- Check phone cashback
- Pay tax bill

Each one needs a deadline date, or you might mark the item with several asterisks to show a higher priority – say 3 asterisks (***) for important, two (**) for important and one for normal (*).

Online and Technology Helpers
Also Yahoo mail offers a calendar which might help you get organised too, as well as mobile phone applications etc which can buzz a reminder at you at a set time. I use these mobile reminders especially for appointments, as a written down note will not get me there guaranteed for the set time! Very important especially if your dentist charges you for cancellations/not showing up!

Plan Time & Money
Obviously if you have a month coming up with lots of tasks to do with birthdays, it would be an idea to budget that cost in ahead of time, so you know you will need more time for research as well as the extra cash to spend. If you research a few months in advance, you might be able to pick up the items cheaper at car boot fairs, on Amazon 2nd hand etc etc.


Set Days
Another things that I would like to do, for housework especially, is set a day to do certain things. For example, Tuesdays might be 5 minutes polishing and dusting when I get in from work.


Get Help
If you are really struggling, who can you ask for help? Even small things removed from your list and onto someone elses' can help you tackle the other tasks much better. You may feel embarassed to ask, but often people realy don't mind - to you it's something huge in your mind, to them it's something they can handle easily and it's such a relief to you, plus they feel good for helping out.


Sit Back and Assess
See how it works for you – one persons method may not be the same as someone else’s best way to do things, you can chop and change to suit.

We all fall short of the super-organised ‘ideal’ and I know that for me both writing things down and having a Household Binder helps a lot (see the Organizing category on the right for more info)…

Friday, 10 July 2009

The 6 month Review - What can we reduce?




Hi everyone,

Well one minute we think it’s Summer and the next – it’s Autumn/Winter! The last couple of weeks have been strange weather-wise and also personally, I am a big Jacko fan so the new hit me hard, hence lack of updates, my apologies for that.

Anyway today is green day, so today’s focus is about what you can start to live without and reduce resources. As times get tighter and we see the news headlines talking about more job losses, higher cost of living and the lack of mortgage lending, cutting back is on all our minds.

Are there any items you would be able to do without? Those little niceties that you think you ‘need’ to buy but can in fact either make at home, buy second hand, or not buy at all? Not only would they declutter your life, they would leave more cash in your purse.

Examples…

Take aways
Coffee on the go
Magazines
Sweets and chocolates
Snacks like crisps
Bus fares or taxi fares
Beauty of make up products
Outings to the pub

All of these slowly drain away from our pockets and don’t seem like much but can amount to a lot over the year. We have all heard the Starbucks quote that a take away coffee every working day can cost around £650 a year – sounds very painful that way!

So for me, this is my 6 month review on how things are going. Below are the things I have either started to make myself at home, or stopped buying completely:

- Washing up liquid – make at home for a fraction of the cost (see right hand menu for how to make this) – now just costs around £10p per litre.
- Handwashing soap – same as above
- Kitchen counter spray – same as above… barely costs 1p per bottle now.
- Magazines – I probably buy one every 3 months now, if that.
- Clothes – I have bought almost all my clothes in the past 6 months from second hand stores and all are of good quality, saving me at least £200.
- Washing powder – I buy the big boxes on an offer then cut it with half of soda crystals (around £0.69 per KG). This means one box has lasted us over 6 months, at a cost of around £5.50 for washing all our clothes for half the year.
- Paper towels – stopped buying and now use small rags cut into squares – has saved around £4, not much but it all counts.
- Beauty products – I make my own now from shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba or almond oil and some essential oils plus some kitchen cabinet ingredients. Although it costs a little in raw materials, I estimate that it has still saved me around £30 these past 6 months, possibly more. See right hand menu for recipes – the beauty oil alone that I made saved lots! I have made lip balm, moisturiser, cleanser, exfoliator and beauty oil from around 6 ingredients, amazing really and so natural, no preservatives as I can just make them when I need them.
- Foods – sounds daft but I used to buy Hummus a couple of times a month – I make my own now for a fraction of the cost then freeze it in small pots for as and when I need it. Other examples: Chilli oil, vanilla essence, tomato and onion chutney and more – these have saved us at least £20 compared to store bought.
- Movies – We rarely pay full price for a movie – get a free sim card from Orange on Google and this gives you half price movies every Wednesday when you take a friend. We also see a lot of free movie previews which cost nothing. Savings are around £50 so far this year, compared to paying ticket prices.
- Energy - Obviously with teh warmer months there is less expense, but we have decided to keep our direct debits as they were so we can have some money on account over the next few months. Also, we have made conscious efforts to always turn off rather than leave items on standby, I charge my phone at work etc. Plus being outside more means less use of gadgets inside.
- Plant your own - we have planted green beans, basil and tomato which are all going well. Savings so far probably £1 as we have only used the basil, but once the tomatoes ripen in 4 weeks or so I am hoping we will save more.
- Amazon - selling books I had read but were still in good condition - have sold arounf £4 worth, nothing much but then I haven't bought many books this year either...

Hopefully these give you some great ideas to continue with and maybe make some cuts or have different ways at looking at your spending / making items at home. Be it honey lip balm, vanilla essence or delicious chutney, once you start to see the product marketing for what it is you can save lots more money!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Reducing Costs and Stashing Savings

Hello everyone, it has been an eventful month with lots going on, so I am sorry for not having posted recently.

June has allowed me to take some time to analyse spending for these past 5 months and compare to previous years. The results are pretty amazing, even though I do say so myself! I hope that by sharing this information it might inspire you to get more out of your budget and put aside more even if just a little, for a rainy day. All savings in this economic climate are valuable protection against the unknown future.

Some years ago I set up a Budget spreadsheet and on it I log the 'extras' we buy, ie: the non-essentials. I have one spreadsheet for me and one for the joint spending. On my personal spreadsheet, I can see the following:

TOTAL Personal'Frills/Non essentials' Spend for the year + Average per month:

2006 - £5365 (£447 per month)
2007 - £3444 (£287 p/ month)
2008 - £3548 (£296 p/month)
2009 - £763 for 5 months (average £153 per month)

So as you can see, there has been a drastic reduction in 'silly' spend since I have started to be more aware of what I was spending on non-essentials and I have focused alot more in the last 3 years. There has been little suffering yet it's saved me an average £2,000 from 2006 to 2007 alone on non-essential spending. Around £294 less spending per month comparing 2006 to 2009!

TOTAL JointSpend for the year & Average per month:

The below include bills and all household spending:

2006 - £5058 (£421 per month)
2007 - £4209(£350 p/ month)
2008 - £4552 (£379 p/month)
2009 - £1652 for 5 months (average £330 per month)

This is a reduction of £90 per month comparing 2006 to 2009, which would be over £1,000 per year in savings if you averaged it out!
Now we are leading a more purposeful life and saving more, and inflation has not affected our joint finances because we have been more creative, therefore allowing us to put exactly the same money in every month since 2006 (£400 per month) and even take money back out into savings at the end of the month. This goes towards our house deposit fund and the way I see it, each £10 saved is another couple of pillows or money towards durable items like good quality pans, growing our own veg etc.

For 2009, I have spent £52 on clothing in the last 6 months, and £30 on charity, almost half of my clothing spend! Lunches and naughty snacks have cost me £95 which is shameful and I want to reduce those much more...
www.spendingdiary.com is a great site you can use if you find budgeting boring or hard to do. It really helps.

Personally, I like to take out £100 in cash on the 1st of the month, allowing myself another £100 in the bank 'just in case'. My £100 in cash has to cover everything that is not a bill. Going out, clothing, snacks, magazines, books and dvd's, all the fun stuff. I then make a note of what I have spent in cash and when, normally on my way home from work in a quiet moment.

Normally, the other £100 stays in the bank for times when I need to pay for something via debit card, but most times, quite a decent amount of that is left in the account at the end of the month, maybe £60 is left. I either save this, or sometimes buy shares or take it out and keep it at home for special treats like going out for dinner or a movie.

So by using this ATM machine rule, I have saved around £300 so far this year, proving that my thoughts last year that I 'couldn't possibly do any better in 2009' wasn't true...

Any extra cash I have come in (on top of my wages) from cashback sites for example, goes straight to savings, I have trained my mind to not even think of it as real money. I also would never consider buying anything off the highstreet now *IF* I can buy it online through a cashback site. See my Cashback Sites section on the right for more info on hwo this can save you some money.

I hope that this inspires you and if you are a homemaker or work a full time job, there are savings to be made in small tweaks here and there that do add up. Make a start, see how you like it and then try and challenge yourself week by week... perhaps keep a log if this motivates you.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Fat Cheese - Cashback New Kid On The Block!

Fatcheese


Hi all,

Today I have another interesting cashback website for you - they're called FatCheese, a strange name but they seem to have good offers!

(If Cashback sites are new to you and sound confusing, don't worry - it's a great way to make money online and buy items you were going to buy anyway - see the Cashback Sites section on the right hand side).

A few sites as you all know just get you in on good offers and then once you start to use them, you see those offers dissapear. Some of the sites remain more loyal to customers than others. It seems FatCheese are aiming to be a real contender, with enough going on to keep us all interested, plus with quick customer service response as well but this is my first impression after a couple of months.

Customer service has not always been great with these types of sites, nor do they always share 100% of what they get from suppliers with us. So far my queries have been answered quickly, and my transactions are tracking smoothly, so I thought it was time to write about them a little more.

From what I can see at the moment, they have a good selection of offers on, it might be that some of them are of interest to you now, but you can always take them up another time if you don't need them at the moment. However, these ones seem particularly good, 3 of which involve no spend at all.

Some of the Best Offers at FatCheese today:

- Sky+ at £75 cashback. You can get a free Sky+ box plus £25 Tesco voucher so overall this is worth quite alot - IF you were planning to subscribe to Sky+ anyway.
- Hastings Direct Car Insurance. FREE £20 MOT voucher just for getting a quote, so there is no actual need to take up the offer if yous insurance is not yet up but you want to get an idea of prices.
- T-Mobile FREE SIM cards. £1 cashback for ordering two FREE SIMs. Costs nothing and is useful too if you need some SIMS.
- Gala Bingo. £20 cashback for each new player depositing and wagering a minimum of £5. Essentially you would get £15 free in cashback terms.
- Synovate. £1.35 cashback when you register, easy and quick to do.

As always make sure you clear your cookies effectively (ie: delete all cookies before you log in to the cashback site to make any purchases or register for no-spend offers such as the above SIM cards or Synovate / Hastings Direct) - see my Cashback section on the right-hand side menu for more tips, or request my full guide.

In addition if you follow my referral link:

Fat Cheese

You will get access to an extra £5 to use Coral, currently it's £5 cashback but the above link will give you £10. This will be credited in due course on your statement. You may of course like to check other sites for what they offer, I just thought I'd mention this little extra if relevant to you as that extra £5 effectively pays for your admin fee on FC.

Soon they will be offering a full 10% cashback on purchases at Play.com which is a great offer, given that you cannot get any cashback for Amazon. This means if you buy a £15 DVD from Play.com via FatCheese you would get £1.50 back, reducing your price to £13.50...

I would love your views on this site once you have started to also use it, so we can all comment on whether they may be serious contenders to Quidco!
They seem to offer 100% cashback rather than 'share' the cashback' with members. They do charge an admin fee but I think overall this will still be worthwhile, especially with the kind of offers they are starting to make available.

As always over the coming weeks I will keep you updated on any other sites and will also be updating my cashback site Guide with more info, removing the sites that have been failing members and updating with fresh offers and new sites.

Enjoy the sunshine out there today!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Ideas for Super Summer Savings

Hi everyone and hope you have been out and about in this lovely sunshine...!

This weather is ideal to make some savings, so see whether any of the ideas below inspire you to make some small changes! Perhaps you are already doing some of them, or have ideas for others that read this blog:

- Dry clothes outdoors if possible, or at least in a well aird room if you have no outdoor space. Saves time, energy and money!

- Eat less meat – this is a great time to eat more fish, more salads, more cous cous and perhaps some interesting pasta salads and vegetables. All of these improve you diet, save you money and generally help you feel better in these hot summer months…

- Spend more time outdoors – More time outdoors is money-saving as long as you keep to the free activities, such as street festivals, walking, going to the park and playing Frisbee, swimming, window-shopping etc. Take a packed lunch from home and enjoy the weather. This means you won’t be using electric at home and will get to enjoy all the outdoor activities that cost nothing. Check your local museums and online sites to see what’s on.

- Spend less on clothes – No need for all those expensive Winter clothes. Donate what you no longer need and spend more time in summer clothes. These are cheaper to buy overall as they cost less to produce. Scan your local charity shops and get inspired! Not only that, washing summer clothes could cost less as they take up less room in the washing machine and take less time to dry compared to winter wollies…

- Meet friends – This can cost next to nothing! Socialising on a budget can be about meeting on the beach or in the park, using Pizza Express or other restaurant vouchers to get money off, going to drink cocktails when they have a Happy Hour, all pitching into buy food and drink, or BBQ’s round eachothers homes. All these ideas and more can save you money – get your creative juices flowing!

- Make homemade – things like ice-lollies, cordials, fresh salads, infused oils and vinegars, salad dressing and more can all be made at home rather than being conned by the ‘Look it’s summer’ campaigns at the supermarket. Experiment with recipes – vinaigrette takes literally 60 seconds to make fresh and if you pop some in a clean jam jar it will last a few days for other salads, just give it a shake (use a third vinegar, 2 thirds olive oil, squeeze of lemon, oregano and a dab of Dijon mustard and shake till mixed!).

So there you have it – Summer can be enjoyable and keep you under that all important budget…

What are your ideas and how do you intend to keep costs down during the coming ‘Heatwave’ they keep predicting?

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The £0.10p bar of soap extravaganza



Ok, so you all know I love it when I make things for £0.10p... for a litre of home made washing up liquid, for a litre of home made liquid soap... well now I have done it for bars of soap as well...

Goat's Milk, honey & Oatmeal Soap

This soap is ideal for sensitive skin...
I bought 6 bars of plain Castille soap for £0.99p at the £0.99 store - any inexpensive soap you can find will do (Tesco do some I think)
I then used two of those bars, £0.32. Each bar is 100g.
I grated down all of the soap into a glass bowl. I placed this bowl of grated soap inside a pot of hot but not boiling water (bain marie method).

To the grated soap, I then added a little over 100ml of goats milk (basically, half of the volume of the soap), plus one tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of ground oatmeal and half a teaspoon of cinammon for texture. You can judge for yourself how much liquid to add, just don't make it too liquid or the soap may end up softer than you would like.

Once completely melted, this is when you would add essential oil if you wanted and mix well.
I then poured it all quickly into a clean used butter tub (the 500ml size is good). If you don't pour it quickly, it may start to set in the glass bowl so act fast... and don't overcook!

Once in it's 'mould', this was left to cool some more and once cooler, then placed in the fridge for 3 hours.

I then removed it gently and sliced into 5 soaps, which are perfect hand soap sizes...

A fun thing to do on the weekend and if you have kids it's lots of fun. You can experiment with any soap and any 'flavours', just remember if you are adding aromatherapy oils to add these when the soap is close to cool (but not yet hard) as otherwise the oils evaporate... also do not add too much liquid (milk, water, lavender water etc) as otherwise the soap could end up too soft.


Ideas to add:
- Ground almonds
- Orange / lemon / lime / grapefruit zest etc
- Aromatherapy oils
- Dried lavender etc
- Old soaps you want to melt down and reuse
- Chocolate powder

This process is what is called the 'Melt & Pour' technique, so no scary lye is involved, just a fun quick 10 minute project to multiply 2 bars of soap into 5 nicer, gentler ones...

As these simply involve melting down and re-shaping with some added nice ingredients, you could give these to friends and family as a thoughtful gift. Wrap with some nicely edged brown paper or card, with a little sticker and even maybe a dried flower or emboss the soap with a shape you like.

If you were to turn all your soaps from 2 bars into 5 bars - that will keep you going a long time, and soap improves with age!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Shabby Chic... from unloved to much loved!



Here is what I was up to this weekend - an old 2nd hand table we have was always kept in a corner and covered with a linen tablecloth, as it was marked... I sanded it down, bought some Crown paint for metal and wood in 'Crochet' cream and I will next post the resulting table... took around 30 mins sanding and another 2.5 hours to paint and dry. I then dinished off with a light sanding once it was all dry. So in 3 hours and for around £9, we transformed it into something we now love and will cherish for years to come...




I also found a teacup at a local market for £0.50p, so am using this as a laundry scoop, with a glass vase I found at TK Maxx. The powder is 50% normal laundry powder and 50% soda crystals (Dripak - around £0.70p for 1Kg from Tesco). This saves cash and also softens the water which is greas our water is very hard in this area. So not only is it maintaining our washing machine, it's also softening our clothes more and also saving us money!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Dandelions Revenge... and eating healthier!

Hi everyone and I hope you are well!

My thoughts so far in May have been that usually, Summer costs us more than Winter. This mainly in terms of going out, holidays, foods etc. However, Winter also brings higher fuel bills, Christmas and all those new Winter clothes to keep us warm…

So now I find that food will be more expensive because I love salads and fresh fruit and veg in Summer, as our appetites are smaller.

Do you have any fresh Summer recipes that are not too expensive?

What I have started to do is buy dried aduki beans (one of the SuperFoods), soak overnight and batch cook them to freeze in normal ‘tin’ portions. I have made:

- Tuna, Spinach and Aduki salad with dressing
- Salmon, aduki beans with cucumber and some dressing
- Chick pea, aduki beans, feta cheese and tomato salad with dressing
- Healthier Lasagne with aduki beans and lentils in, together with thin sliced courgette/aubergine etc. This can be frozen in those aluminium tins you get at the £1 stores, and go from freezer straight to the oven

Those are just some ideas for aduki beans – very healthy and cheap too! I love them for lunches too. You can throw on some sunflower and pumpkin seeds to make it even healthier!

My next idea, which I will experiment with soon, is to eat some Dandelions… we have lots of weeds in the patio, and I have discovered not only are they edible, they’re good for you! I hope to take my revenge on those pesky things by eating them… only the newest leaves to start though, as the flavours are more delicate:

Dandelion Recipe


You can then even make infusions from the dandelion heads, thus using the whole flower for body and mind! I do hope this inspires you to think of Summer salads and eating for less…

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Saving Money... Nipping ebay in the bud!

Hi everyone and hope you are enjoying teh fabulous weather out there - even if it's just a quick walk at lunch!

Today I thought I would focus on the amount of money we all spend on ebay, as it can become an addiction... but as usual, I hope to save you some cash on that hobby too!

Around 6 months ago I joined this site called BidNip and they bid for you, in the last few seconds of the auction. If you do not win the auction, there's no fee to pay!

How it works is that you pay for some credits in advance so you can 'snipe' an auction. They are incredibly cheap at a few pence per 'snipe' (only charged if you win) and have saved me at least £80 over 6 months as I buy lots of clothes / books / aromatherapy, items for my workplace and more on there.

You then tell BidNip the auction number (normally on the right side of the screen on the ebay page). Copy and paste that onto BidNip, tell them the maximum you are prepared to pay, Snipe the auction, and wait to see if you win because they will bid for you in increments until your set maximum is met!

So - no more of that last minute paying more than it's worth because you got heated up and *had* to have the item...

I normally set my 'snipe' to 8 seconds before auction end... so if you want to be in bed, or out on the town when that auction finishes, now you can - because BidNip will do the work for you even in your sleep!

Let me know how you get on!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Shabby Chic - Make your own pretty things!


Hi everyone, hope you have been enjoying the sunshine whilst it lasts!

Today my post will mainly be pictures of what I have been up to at home, mostly gardening and kitchen stuff. Before Easter I attempted to make some jelly eggs for my nieces but failed miserably (how DO the Americans do it!?), then on Easter Sunday I made some muffins, what I call Breakfast muffins as they're made with carrot and apple, with honey and cranberries for natural sweetness. I also sprinkle them with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds for added goodness. See left for a pic of one next to my Bonne Mamman customised jars... I used normal white address labels and just added a nice font in Word, then inserted an image I liked from Google and print... far less than what the stores would charge you for jam jar labels, and, you can afford to make mistakes or change your mind!



These are my customised coffee jars as they keep things so fresh. Just be careful not to put the lids in the dishwasher as after a while they absorb moisture and there goes your airtight lid!



I have also been planting - the tall ones you can see in the pic are green beans (wow do they grow super fast - it was like Day Of The Triffids!) - also we have basil, small carrots and tomatoes growing. Let's see what happens! Have tried lettuce but failed - must try harder as they're supposed to be super easy! We want to be able to have our own edibles this Summer, and so far have not really spend much on them - as you can see lots of the pots are yogurt pots! Whilst I am experimenting, I'd rather do that, then spend more later when I know what's what...

I love all things Shabby Chic - the gingham print on the jam jar lids, aged French furniture, you name it, it's how I'd love my home to be. Of you like that style too, do join us on MSE on this thread packed with lovely ideas!

Shabby Chic Thread

Friday, 17 April 2009

More cashback sites - more pennies, more pounds!

I have found a couple more ways to make some extra cash, which you may like to also try and then we can share feedback on here or on my MSE thread:

A a brand new site called FatCheese which has recently launched and has several daily clicks (ie: free clicks that earn you money - see my cashback section on the right for more articles about how to make money this way).

Fatcheese link - daily cash clicking

Hopefully we can all make some extra cash on these, as 8 months to go until Christmas which wil allow lots of click payments to build up.

We Promise To:
http://www.wepromiseto.co.uk/r/795295

I have a dedicated cashback guide explaining the routine I follow, and the cashback sites I use - simply drop your e-mail on this article if you would like a copy, but remember that once you have received the guide you should delete your e-mail address from here in case any third parties get hold of it.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Fabulous Face Oil - Frugal Fabulousness at £0.30p



Hello everyone and I hope you are enjoying these precious few days off…!
This week I have been investigating essential oils. It has always been a subject of interest for me, but I haven’t dedicated more than a few passing minutes here and there to the subject.

However this week my copy of The Fragrant Pharmacy arrived and once I started to read, it really did inspire me. For one, making beauty and home products with essential oils contain no chemicals – so cleaner and purer washing up liquid, air freshners, moisturisers, face oils, kitchen spray and general products can be readily made in just a few minutes. Quicker in fact, than nipping to the shop to get the usual ready-made product – so not only will you save money, but you will also save time.

My first product a while back was a lotion and a lip balm, which if you check the Beauty Is Fridge Deep article you will see went very well. Since then I researched some more, and now that I have the book, I have also made beautiful face oils, a ‘manly’ lotion and also learnt about the amazing powers once you infuse the right oils with eachother, rather than using just one oil alone. This is called ‘synergy’ and combines several oils which in their own right are already strong, to make a super-mix of goodness, whether for well-being, mood, to fight illness or to create welcoming home.

My face oil especially for dry skin was made as follows, as per the base recipe in the Fragrant Pharmacy, with my personal variation of oils. The author recommends 30 drops of essential oil per 30ml of base oil:

Face oil for dry skin
Base - 30ml apricot oil
15 drops geranium oil
7 drops Roman Chamomile oil
6 drops Bulgarian rose oil
2 drops carrot oil

I mixed this in a 30ml brown mixing bottle from Holland and Barrett (£1.49) and will keep it in there to preserve it and take some as I need it. I then decanted some into a smaller clean empty 10ml bottle which used to have essential oil in it, and as it has an inbuilt dropper. I just massage 3 drops into my face before bed and 3 in the morning. I can honestly say it’s one of the most pampering and delicious treats, and already feel a difference in my skin after just 3 uses. Remember if you make any face oil, leave it overnight, and then use the next day, just to allow the oils to settle and infuse together.

If you research online how much these kinds of face oils normally cost, you will be pleased to see that making your own little bottle will cost sooooo much less.

The 30ml I made will make 3 x 10ml bottles. That 30ml overall cost me just £0.90 in ingredients. Meaning each homemade 10ml bottle costs around £0.30p. Now compare how much these tiny bottles are online! There’s a Clarins Lotus one that costs around £24 for 40ml – that’s £6.00 per 10ml instead of £0.30p. The highly regarded Aesop Fabulous Face Oil costs £30.00 for 25ml, an astounding £12.00 for 10ml! Remember also that to sell these commercially, the companies probably add preservatives and other ingredients which when you make fresh, you do not need to add. As such the one I custom made only really had 2 ingredients – base oil and aromatherapy oil, all in it has 5 types of item.

Making yours at home not only allows you to save vast amounts of money, it's incredibly fresh and will give your skin an amazing glow, and can be made in less than 45 seconds, one of the easiest beauty products to make yet one that the industry charges us so much for. Not only that but you will be able to customise the oil with your favourite scents and what is best for your own skin type. For example. dry skin benefits from Chamomile, lavender, carrot oil, jojoba, rose, geranium and so many more, so I chose exactly what I wanted to use and how much of each.

These will now become staples when I would like to give someone a thoughtful gift personalised to their skin and the scents I know they like. I would far prefer a gift that was thought-out and made by someone than a more expensive item that was bought off the shelf. It means that at least by trying to make your own, you can see what works, what you like, and what your family and friends like! Plus at these low costs, you can afford to experiment!

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Eggstra Special Easter... cheap, cheap!




Ok, so the title says it all... but seriously - how much should we really spend at Easter? Is it about expensive wrapping on chocolate eggs? Here are some ideas to get you inspired:

http://frugalliving.about.com/od/easter/Cheap_Easter_Ideas.htm?nl=1

Between Easter gifts, food, trips out and about, snacks, cards and more, suddenly the costs can seem like they came out of nowhere. Food-wise we may buy some gammon this week, soak it overnight with spices & sliced lemon/oranges, then cook it. That will do at least 2 main meals (say Sunday and Monday) and plus say 5 packed lunches, plus if we freeze some bite-sized pieces, a couple of homemade pizza toppings - all for £5 as our local store has an offer on right now. I had never considered the flexibility of a joint of gammon until I realized you could freeze it quite well. I use tupperwares and freeze small amounts of the baked gammon. Great for sandwiches, main meals like stir-fries, special fried rice, toppings on a pizza, soups and so much more. Experiment with lentils for a lovely soup... then see what you come up with in terms of other tasty meals!

Ideas for Ham

I love this time of year - the sun is shining, we feel better, clothes can get lighter, we get more fresh air and feel happier in general. But just today I was aware that April will be an expensive month for us so got inspired to find ideas for Easter and Spring savings - starting with food.

This inspired me to think of light, but inexpensive meals. Winter tends to be much cheaper as we all eat more starchy comfort foods overall, which are cheaper.

What are your favourite Spring/Summer meals that don't cost the earth?

Mine are:

- Greek salad - salad, feta cheese, juicy tomatoes and black olievs with a sprinkling of oregano and sometimes some added roast chicken

- Nicoise salad - tinned tuna, cooked green beans, boiled eggs, black olives, some anchovies and tomatoes

- Griddled aubergines and courgettes with a mint and yoghurt dressing, with a cous cous salad on the side.

- Mozarella salad - simple but lovely especially with big ripe tomatoes!

- Grilled chicken lemon salad - just make a salad as normal but make a zesty lemon dressing to go with it )I like to use the grated lemon zest in the dressing as well).

These can be served with light bites such as Ryvita with hoummus, or some yoghurt dip, as well as some fresh fruit for dessert. The colourfulness of the food is lovely plus the heat means that overall we eat less, great for the pounds on our hips and the pounds in our purses!

Also see www.moneysavingexpert.com for the latest restaurant vouchers, because if you are going out to eat, you can almost guarantee MSE will have a money off voucher of some sort. Why not consider changing the restaurant, to ensure you go to one that does have a deal on and can save you money?Wagamamma, Giraffe, Pizza Express and Ask are just some of the chains that have had excellent vouchers on offer.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Spring, Shares and Tasty Savings

Hello all!

Well Spring is finally appearing behind the clouds and we can see a shimmer of sun – makes a big difference to how we feel and… how we spend!

I was able to somehow achieve my 20 x NSD’s, although it was very hard! I can see that Spring will mean this target will be harder to achieve – I know that the warmth and the lull of meeting friends and family will generally cost more but I do love this season and am prepared to sacrifice more in Winter months.

My plan for this month is to carefully save any money from cashback sites and either put it away, or buy some shares. Scary but hopefully worth it, as the financial market in some way at the moment is on‘sale’ with great companies quite devalued. In time hopefully they’d come back up to their normal levels because they are household names. The ones that are at least well run are my aim, rather than any possible Woolworths out there… However, I know very little about it so will carefully look at some big chip names if I do go ahead with it. The way I see it is that if it is cash from cashback site earnings, at least it’s not *my* hard earned money I’d lose… seems to make it easier somehow!

Other things we have been up to – we took part in Earth Hour 2009 which was great fun and saved us an hours worth of consuming electricity or gas. It also allowed us just to enjoy silence and it’s surprising how much else you hear – all the neighbourhood sounds, birds and more.

In April we aim to:
- Stick to £120 for food shopping for both of us (March didn’t work that way!)
- I will try for 15 No Spend Days each month until October as it’s getting warmer…
- Enjoy more fresh fruit and veg – as local as possible so it travels less
- I plan to click even more on free Cashback clicking sites to ensure Xmas 2009 is still free in terms of all food & drink (see the Cashback section on the right menu for more info)
- Clean up the patio garden and start to enjoy it!

In terms of eating better, here's a new code for you, or to forward to your friends that gives a Free Graze box PLUS another box half price… this is worth £4.48. These guys ensure you get delicious snacks, at least 3 of your 5 a day, delivered via Royal Mail...

free box code: 7VBCHQFD
Enter the code at: www.graze.com

For April I would also like to eat healthily and really, really relax and enjoy the Easter Break…

Here's a nice Easter idea I came across:
Easter Eggs

Have a great weekend and drop in a message sharing your ideas for Spring and what you plan to get up to!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

How to avoid overspending in Spring

What miserable weather all of a sudden! We all thought Spring had sprung, and now we see Autumn/Winter is back with a vengeance...

Well I guess this puts us slightly back into hibernation mode for a few days which can be a good thing, because I think it's the perfect time to plan your strategy for Spring.

Shops will soon be tempting us all with lovely new Spring clothes, goodies, food, picnic ideas, new futniture and so much more in the lead up to Summer. You may already be thinking of Holidays, gin and tonics, more white wine, lots of meals out and day trips. Or you may be worrying about finances and concerned that the school breaks will cost a fortune. So tiem to sit and plan ahead - is there anywhere money can be saved completely or at least some of it clawed back?

Here are some small ideas:

If school breaks are worrying you - can you see local attractions and events for free? Could you visit the beach rather than a centre of town? Or perhaps a country walk with a pub lunch for a treat rather than a big amusement park?

For kids clothing this summer what about checking out charity shops? Other parents will be discarding kids stuff from last year and no doubt some very good quality items will appear that have been used only a few times. You can also browse for yourself!

If you like your wine, perhaps buy in bulk to save money, or if you like G&T's buy enough to last a while rather than always buying individual tonic botttles.

For picnics, make your own food rather than buying ready made as it;s so much cheaper. Take your own tap water, or if you must buy bottled water at least buy an ethical bottled water or one that supports charity.

If you have friends that love eating meals out, how about using vouchers to get money off? www.moneysavingexpert.com have lots of vouchers weekly for Pizza Express, Wagamama and more - this can save you so much money and everyone will benefit.

What about food? Summertime is a great time to cut back on expensive read meats and enjoy fresh salads, aduki beans, fruit and even chilled soups. Good for the wallet and the diet too! It's harder to bulk cook in warmer months but much better for the diet overall. Remember to buy online so you can see the costs mounting up as you shop. This also avoids going to the supermarket and being tempted by all those instore deals.

Also foodwise, why not sling some basil seeds in some compost in a washed yoghurt pot - in a few days it will start to come up, just keep the soil damp and the pot on a sunny windowsill. You can plant as many as you like, so they flourish throughout Summer months for all those lovely salads.

And finally, how about making your own vanilla extract rather than spending a fortune everytime you need some?
Make your own vanilla extract

This is something I want to try as we do use a fair bit in making desserts and it's so handy to have around. It would make a great present for someone too, in a pretty jar.

I hope these ideas have inspired you in some way & welcome to all the new members - do suggest ideas of what you aim to do so save money this Spring/Summer!

PS: Don't forget 20:30 on Saturday is Earth Hour please join in & switch your lights, tv, computer etc just for one hour! Also on Saturday night the clocks go forward one hour...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Make money by reading e-mails & clicking

I hope you are all well and enjoyed the lovely weather this weekend. My time was spent outdoors enjoying the sunshine and then on Sunday relaxing...

I also spent time researching more ways to beat the credit crunch as well as updating the clicks guide that I send out to people (see 'Cashback' section on the right, the guide is now worth £4.70 per day - drop me a message with your e-mail address if you would like a copy of that guide).

So the site below is yet another new way to increase earnings and could give you an extra £50.00 + per year... there are banner clicks, payments to sign up to sites, bonuses, e-mail clicks and more that pay you a small amount each time.


Here is the link:

Sterling Mails


Sterling Mails is a British 'paid to click / read emails site. This site offers lots of different ways to make small amounts of money and these include:


Paid to Read Emails - you generally receive about ten emails per day.
All you have to do is click on the link provided and then keep the site open for the required amount of time (around 15 secs).
These generally pay 0.025 pence, which doesn't sound much, but they do all add up!

Paid to sign up - Now some of these are really quite lucrative.
These are the chances to be paid for signing up to various websites, and once you paste in your confirmation email text and press submit, you will be rewarded with anything up to £5!

Paid to click - there are a number of sites which you can click on on a daily basis. They are in the Sites section of Sterling's website. You don't have to actually do anything as long as you keep them open for the specified amount of time. You just do one at a time. They will also e-mail you these links.

It then credits your account automatically a few seconds after your window confirms it's been logged.

Referrals - If you can get friends and family interested in the site you can then also earn a percentage of their earnings too. This means that when your referrals get others to sign up, you will also earn from them too.


How do I get paid?
Payments are through PayPal and you only need to earn £3.00 before you can cash out.

According to feedback this does not take very long to reach with the amount of emails that they send for you to click on.



So you can probably earn roughly a nice extra per year plus any wins from bonuses and plus any referrals.

That could end up paying for some Christmas drinks & nibbles!


The link to sign up is here:

Sterling Mails


Drop me a line with any questions or come and say hello on the MSE Clicking thread...

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=609037

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Make it count - Earth Hour 2009 - Join in!




Hi everyone and a special welcome to any new followers. This here blog is intended for money-saver extraordinaires - the ones that want every nook and cranny explored!

This week my aim is a bit more general - WWF are again doing Earth Hour this year. It's a simple thing but could be so powerful across the globe. From New York, to London, Sydney and many more - everyone that can take part hopefully will. Many landmarks will turn off their lights too.

Basically, you would agree to simply not use any electricity for one hour on 28th March 2009 at 20:30 in the evening.

Please join up and register to comit do switching off for one hour:
http://earthhour.wwf.org.uk/

We did it last year and we had lots of fun, just nice to enjoy the quiet really and go back to candles and feel peaceful.

I am also getting my employer to do it, as well as mentioning it to friends and family, plus anyone else who will listen such as you lovely folk and any MSER's that aren't aware...

Not only is it green it's moneysaving so I am hoping we will all do it on the 28th!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Healthy body, healthy mind - simplify and breathe!

Sorry it’s been a while, wow there’s been so much on and I have lots to tell you about.

The main focuses for me lately have been family, with a family member that has needed lots of support, health as you will see below and also in my aims of having a simpler life, some learning.

The main areas are:

Health
Well,one of the things I have done is cut my gym membership 4 months ago. This used to cost £30 a month, so I have saved £120 there. I did however buy a cross trainer which I am getting better at using and that cost £30, so technically I have now saved £90.

Could you cut back on the gym and exercise more cheaply? Or find a new gym that costs less? Get an exercise buddy that would run with you? If you are an early riser – can you jog before work? Or maybe it suits you better after work. Spring is coming now so the days are starting to get lighter, my mind is already so much happer.

Ok so that is that for what I have been doing for my ‘outside’ health mainly.

Then for my ‘inside’ health, I signed up to Graze that I kept hearing about and have already been waxing lyrical about this to anyone who will listen... With just a few clicks online, Graze have been posting ultra-healthy fresh snacks to my desk (You could also get it at home so you avoid temptation there too).
My snack boxes arrive twice a week and it means no more chocolate, crisps etc, instead they send me ready to eat fresh seasonal cut fruit, nuts, seeds, japanese crackers and loads more. It is a pretty big (each box will actually last me 2 days) and gives me 3 of my 5 a day (I did 'Design your own' but you can let them choose for you). So for £2.99 x 2 per week I know it will actually last me 4 days or so and I am less tempted by unhealthy food. I now get several of my 5 a day automatically... costing just over £1 a day, which I was already spending on bad stuff anyway!

If you need a helping hand getting healthier just go to www.graze.com enter the code JK4M7TC to get your first box for just £1.

I know not everyone will want to do this, but for me I know it will work far better than my so-called attempts at cutting back on bad snacks and buying fruit etc. Invariably I was eating a banana twice a week and that just wasn’t cutting it!

Learning
So this bit may not make sense, but, in my aim of simplifying my diet / health routine, I was also aware that my mind is also cluttered, I admit to being a bit of a worrier, plus I almost absorb other people’s moods whether positive or negative. So for a long time I have been trying to work out a way to also simplify my mind if that makes sense.

So I then learnt of a book called A New Earth: Create a Better Life which is massively recommended by Oprah and has sold 6 million copies. I was wary at first but figured I’d see some reviews – well, I went on Amazon and sure enough lots of high praise. I then bought in town for £5 as I couldn’t wait for Amazon to post it out….
It ranks 107 on the entire Amazon seller list, which is pretty impressive on it’s own. Anyway I am reading through that now, with the free podcasts on www.oprah.com which accompany each chapter, and wow is all I can say. It starts out quite philosophical but after chapter 1 definitely resonates with me. I feel calmer and definitely that no book I have read explained things in this way. At times like now such as the credit crunch, we are all feeling more negative and looking for a calmer life, it may be that you’d enjoy the book too. In fact. I’d love some comments from anyone who has read it as maybe we could have a discussion group on here?

He also has a book called The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment which ranks #91 on their listings and will definately be my next read.

Plus in addition to this I have now had 3 NSD days for the month, so only 17 days to go to reach my goal of 20 No Spend Days which is great.

I hope you have all had a good week and it’d be great to hear any comments you have – a special welcome to anyone new who has joined the blog, I hope you find articles of interest in the archives and would love to hear from you on any of the threads!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Counting the pennies... so the pounds can take care of themselves


Well, as some of you know, I take part in the NSD (No Spend Days) challenge on MSE – usually I do it as a ‘lurker’ – ie: I have never officially signed up, as I have been testing the water to see how well I do myself...

Well, now there’s a new post dedicated to doing it in March:
http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.html?t=1509465

How about we all take part here on Savings Now?

It has to be worth a shot – we could support eachother either on the actual MSE thread or heer on the blog, to see how far we can stretch the cash in March.

Personally, I will not purchase:

- Treats like chocolate / crisps / sweets / soft drinks during working week
- Magazines / coffees etc on weekends

I always allow myself this ‘Pocket Money’ for the month for my non-essential spending. This covers treats, going out, clothes, entertainment and those kinds of things.

My steps for the March Challenge:

- Take my ‘Pocket Money’ out in cash again on 01 March and only spend from that.
- Get 20 No Spend Days (NSD’s) for March
- Convince him indoors that what he takes out in cash is it for the month!

I normally allow myself maximum £50 per week / £200 a month to cover everything that isn't a bill.

In February I managed well and have only taken out my £100 allowance in cash at the beginning of Feb and been using that. It means that this Friday I will have a massive £100 for my savings account which is fantastic.

Here’s to hoping we can all do this together in March!

Monday, 16 February 2009

When the brain just ain't good enough

Ok, we have all had those days when we think 'well, I know I had lots to do, and I've achieved two of those things. What were the rest?'...

... Or what about the birthday that you asked your other half to remind you of, in case you forgot, and they then ended up forgetting... you see - they thought you would be your usual organised self anyway, so subconsciously they didn't *really* need to remember it!

Truth is, sometimes pen and paper is the only way to do it. However, not lots of papers, lots of envelopes, lots of post it's or lots of cork boards. For me, it used to be my Filofax but I use my own homemade diary now - and that is just that - a diary and a task list.

For other stuff we use a wall calendar for birthdays and important dates, this is essential and is easily viewable every day in the kitchen.


The Piece De Resistance? Well, it's our Home Binder. I came across this concept on a US website last year and initially dismissed it as too much of a faff. However! My interest was raised and I started to see that rather than digging out that old council tax bill to try and find outr account number, why not have all bill companies and their account number & tel on one sheet? That level of smart-thinking hit me right in the middle of my forehead. Above is the pic to prove it... one page ladies and gentlemen - right at the front of the manual!



This is the tab for the 'home' section. In here I have recipes for homemade stuff (food, cleaning, beauty lotions etc).



This example is in the Home section is about bathroom cleaning and then I jot notes on that page + the back of the page all to do with the bathroom cleaning.


Finally, I have the reading section - here I will eventually jot notes for books I'd like to read. However, I also have an Amazon Wishlist, so I tend to use the two methods. Right now mainly I use scrap bits of paper for notes on books I want to read, which I'd like to transfer to this manual. it reminds me I must check my Amazon Wishlist to see it's up to date!



There you have it - it's an idea that may work for some and not for others. However for us it works fine as my other half knows exactly where to look for what and as it takes far less time, it's less of a 'chore'. However, for stuff I need to urgently be aware of, we still use the wall calendar and my mobile phone reminders that beep at me...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Loyalty Brings... a £10.00 Bonus!

Loyalty Shopper are now as of February offering ...

OFFER 1) they will give you £10.00 now if you join (above link) then click their 'Starter Bonus' section when you join (top left of their website). All you need to do in that section is sign up for two quotations with their selected partners. Once you complete two of the offers online, £10.00 will be credited to your account. You only need to apply for the quotes - you do not need to pay or comit to anything, to get the free £10.00. Then....

OFFER 2) IN Addition - a great £4.00 bonus to anyone who only cashes out when they reach £45. Then, if you hang on longer and only cash out when you reach £100, they will give you an amazing £10.00 bonus.


Hang On... What does that mean?


If this is all sounding too confusing... Cashback sites are websites that offer you cash for purchasing things you would normally buy anyway.

For example - you might normally buy from JohnLewis.com. However, if you buy via a cashback site, you will buy the same item from John Lewis, say a £100 MP3 player, except the cashback site themselves will give you say 5% cashback into your bank account!

That means technically that you only paid £95 for something you were going to buy anyway. So in that example you get £5 in your pocket!

In 2008 I made lots of money this way - and it works amazingly well on home insurance, travel, car insurance, cd's & dvd's and almost anything you care to think of. Just remember to clear your cookies before each purchase...



Join Loyalty Shopper then sign up to some of their bonus starter offers and incentives. If you joined today you could make around £30 from sign up offers by hardly spending a penny.

LS are a very friendly site and not only are they good for cashback purchases, they are also great for FREE daily clicks, clicks that earn you cash without spending at all. Loyalty Shopper offer you around £0.35p per day for you to click these links!

Last year I made enough across the various sites in my guide to pay for Christmas, so IF you have spare time every day - use those 15 minutes to pay for food & presents!

Click here for my guide to all you need to know about cashback sites

Monday, 9 February 2009

Various Websites to help the budget

Ok, so February is cold and miserable, a great time to stay in and keep that spending to a minimum... Here are some sites I recommend to get the creative juices flowing in terms of cutting back:

Spending Diary - Use this free useful site to track your daily spending. That's the muffins, the magazines, the extra glass of wine, the chocolates and more... by the end of the month you will finally know where it all goes and can cut back!
By cutting back on buying lunches for work last year I have saved around £30 per month, or £360 per year. If someone came up to you today and offered you £360 in cash to make your own lunches at home, would you do it? How about if they offered you £104 to stop buying chocolate and therefore be healthier? Magazines would be £160 in your pocket if you read them in the library or Borders instead of buying them... not to mention greener for the planet! We will all have different ideas on what our limit would be - try to re-define yours.


Volunteer4Panels - If you are accepted, this cashback-type site enables you to accrue points which you can then turn into high street vouchers. We save these for Christmas or clothing, very handy and only takes a few minutes per week. All you need to do, is tell them each week what clothes/cd's/beauty products you have bought and you will earn at least £1.50 per week if you do this.

MoneySavingExpert - Of course, I wouldn't even have this blog if it were not for the great Martin Lewis - we've truly turned around our spending since finding this site. The forum is particularly useful and so insightful, to learn from so many generous people that share their tips and hints. I have learnt so much and we have made many changes - we now try to give back on the forums and this blog and pass it on...

Take the chance to review things and prepare for the coming year - what are you aiming for? What real goals would you like to achieve by the end of the year? What small steps can you take now, so that in a few months you are closer to them?

We have a few in mind and have been talking about the small stepping stones, an example is only going out to a meal once per month. This could be seen by some like something we could cut out, but one meal per month at around £25 (less if we use buy one get one free vouchers etc) won't break the bank and it helps us avoid take-aways etc the rest of the month. Plus it means we save gas & electric at home one night per month by not cooking, not washing up and not having the tv/computer on... we can catch up with eachother properly and have some quality time.

So in these troubled times with so much talk of recession / depression we all need to get planning now, see what sites we can all join to help save or make cash... Here's to the year ahead and us getting through it all together.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Cashback sites - make free money!

Hi everyone, here are the 3 steps to making cash from cashback sites:

STEP 1: First, join some or all of the sites I am currently recommending.
Be sure to also click the right hand menu 'Cashback sites' Section and see the latest additions and movers and shakers.

STEP 2: Once you have joined those sites, join me on the cash clicking MoneySaving Expert thread!

STEP 3: PM me via the thread for the info guide and downloadable spreadsheet.

I am happy to e-mail the guide over to you - just contact me via the clicking thread on MSE.

Friday, 30 January 2009

February Challenges

Well it’s been another few days and my skin is still feeling great, so the other cosmetics are definitely out in my next recycling box.

I will be making some more of the oatmeal/honey/milk cleanser for the coming week, plus some actual face moisturiser and a body one, as my unrefined shea butter from ebay has arrived. I am expecting some rose essential oil too and I will then be set to go. A cheap Argos hand blender has been purchased so all in I have spent approx £9 to get these basics which will do me for at least 6 – 9 months which is an amazing saving compared to this time last year.

In addition, I will be able to use the rose essential oil to add to my homemade shower gel or handsoap if I want to, so that’s another plus, however this will be rare as I will use it sparingly because it’s not the cheapest oil – more likely grapefruit / lime etc will be used and I will save the Rose for face moisturiser or cold cream.

CHALLENGES

February marks the start of another month, another chance for me to beat the monthly challenges and they may be something you already do. Some I already do and some are ones I’d like to start:

- Monthly supermarket challenge – I try to stick to £120 for two people for all food, cleaning and drinks, but wine normally blows this budget to around £135ish. Let’s see how we do in February.

- Monthly No Spend Day Challenge – This is my personal challenge and every day that I do not spend any money at all, I mark it as an ‘NSD’ in my diary. My personal best has been 21 x NSD’s in a month – not bad but very rare that happens! More average is 16 or 18 NSD’s per month. I find that it focuses the mind though and I know that most times I won’t hit 18 NSD’s in the Summer months...

- Cash Only Challenge – This is a new one for me - I am going to withdraw cash in one go this month and not visit the ATM as much to make it stretch. Not only will it save me time but it will ‘hurt’ me more to get the cash out of the drawer and see it dwindling away there than in the bank, so hopefully I will stay away from the drawer!
Plus as the banks and savings accounts are offering such poor interest rates now, the justification to leave it in the bank is getting less and less of an issue, so this may help me put a few more coins in the piggybank at the end of Feb.

- Less Electricity Challenge – Another new idea - I am aiming to have one night each week where we get back from work and literally only have a radio on. This means we can catch up properly with eachother, read, enjoy quality time, file old paperwork, clean house and all those things that seem to build up with all the busyness of the week. I am hoping it will help us lead a simpler life with ‘less static interference’ – let’s see whether it happens!

February is a hard month for challenges - Valentines day is coming and for those in a relationship it marks an expensive time – will you be treating yourselves or saving money in the credit crunch?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Beauty is... fridge deep!

This week has been all about beauty. I have over the last 6 months been questioning the ingredients in my current beauty products – my skin is both dry and sensitive (this is at it’s worst in Winter). Anyway, my current staples are Clarins moisturiser (given to me by a friend), Superdrug moisturiser Vitamin E (to test against Clarins) and a L’oreal Rose cleansing lotion.

I recently read up on the subject of the ingredients present in most commercial products and well, the lists are scary. Surely, given how quickly us women go through these products, we don’t mind if it has a shelf life of say 2 months, but only around 4 or 5 ingredients instead of 15? I know my ‘shopper’ self believes all the marketing hype, but my money-saving and live-greener self is starting to question things.

So, to this aim, I have made some of my own products this week after some Googling. This site gives some interesting recipes that inspired me to make a natural face cleanser:

http://www.organic-skin-care-directory.co.uk/organic-skin-care-recipes.html#anchor29480951

I adjusted it slightly and my ingredients for a cleanser were:

1 x Tablespoon Ground oatmeal (I used a pestle and mortar to get it very fine)
Drizzle Honey
1 x teaspoon Yoghurt
Drizzle of olive oil
Dash of milk

Mix all until you have a cleanser consistency to your liking, similar to what you might get in a store.
This lasts around 1 week, pop it in a sterilised lidded pot and should be kept in the fridge.

I estimate it costs around £0.20p, if that, to make. That’s around £0.80p per month for a nice natural cleanser, 5 ingredients worth, made in 5 minutes and you KNOW everything that went into – in fact, you know it can be eaten – I tried some to prove this!

Plus I can report it works amazingly well, my skin feels softer and I am definitely happier – my L’Oreal will be disposed of and recycled because I really don’t want to use more chemicals and prefer to spend £0.20 a week. So, £9.60 for a years worth of cleanser – that’s pretty amazing. I just need to make sure I make a new pot weekly.

My next experiment was Lip Gloss. That’s right – my last purchase was a Honey balm from REN which I seem to recall was around the £5 or £6 mark. Well, I was running short and almost bought another pot… Then I remembered I had bought some natural ingredient items off ebay last year in a moment of Shoppaholism. I had almond oil, jojoba oil, macademia oil and shea butter (unrefined). I found them all and made some of my own lip gloss – 2 pots worth and it worked amazingly well.

I now have 1 pot in my handbag and 1 pot on the bedside table – my hubby is also using it and loves that it’s natural. The recipe involves:

- Beeswax
- Shea Butter
- Jojoba Oil
- Essential oils
- Honey

I estimate these cost less than £0.50p per pot to make, compared to the £5 per pot – that’s something! I have as a result ‘Snowflaked’ £4.00 to my savings account, to cover the pot I *would* have purchased this week.

This site has some useful info:

http://www.naturallybalmy.co.uk/page_560513.html

and this one has some other recipes:
http://www.aromantic.co.uk/lip-balm.htm


Of course you need to get the basic ingredients from a good seller, I liked ebay for this overall. Once you have them, you can make so many items – whipped body butter, lip balm, cleansers, cold cream and so much more. You can add the oils to shampoo, shower gel, conditioner etc.



I have also made a cold cream (see pic) with only a few ingredients – this site has an example:

http://www.greenchronicle.com/health_beauty/cold_cream_cleanser_for_dry_skin.htm

This would have cost me around £3.00 to purchase, and only has a few ingredients instead of a long list of unpronounceables. I have made a pot and a half which I keep in the fridge, and massaged/cleansed my face with it last night, followed by a spritz of rose water onto a cotton pad and a final cleanse. In the mornings I am using the oatmeal/honey/yoghurt facewash which also helps to wake me up!

My home made whipped shea body butter worked out at around £1.90 for a whole tub:



This body butter contains many of the same ingredients and has simply been whipped with a blender, to add air and make it lighter.

All these are so quick to make, fun and natural plus I have noticed an immediate difference over the period of just 1 week.

I really don’t think you would regret making them, plus think of the a) money you will save, b) recycling you will avoid and c) happier skin!