Friday, 27 January 2017

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (27 Jan)

Pancake made with aquafaba. Looks better than it tasted.

About the best thing that can be said for this week is that it's been a pretty low spend, apart from the oil delivery (of which more later).
I got poleaxed by a cold half way through, which took me out for a couple of days and means I still don't feel fab now.
Before coming down with the cold, I recorded a podcast about the blog with Informed Choice Radio, so will let you know when that's available to hear.
Also, the interview I did about money saving tips and Much More with Less with Georgie Frost at Share Radio was aired, so nip over here if you'd like a listen.

And now here's my round up of the five frugal (ish) things we managed this week.

No really, chick pea water does whip up like this, honest guv. 

Attempted to use aquafaba as an egg replacement.

I've included this as a cautionary tale about attempted frugality.
We always make pancakes on Sunday mornings, but in my attempts to rein in our food spending during January (as blogged here), I hadn't bought new eggs when we ran out last week.
Instead, I thought I'd have a go at using chickpea water as a substitute. Bear with me here, as this isn't a completely insane idea but something I've read about in vegan recipes.
Anyway it's true that the water drained from a tin of chickpeas did indeed whip up much like egg whites. However, my family were unconvinced about the taste and voiced their dissatisfaction loudly.
I haven't included the recipe as I really wouldn't recommend it, and regretfully I won't be using aquafaba in pancakes again any time soon.
However, the chick peas did come in handy in some carrot and chickpea soup, using this Jack Monroe recipe that I definitely can recommend.
Has anyone had any more success with aquafaba, maybe in meringues? I'd love to hear.

Plain. Black. Does the job. Perfect.

Saved on wellies

Sometimes I think the Chinese knew a thing or two when it came to foot binding, as my children's feet grow faster than Jack's beanstalk.
A regular part of my childhood was an ear-bashing from my mother about the importance of shoes that fit growing feet, delivered at full volume in many shoe shops. This means that at regular intervals I resign myself to taking both children to be measured at Clarks, hoping for well-fitting, long-lasting shoes even if they do cost an arm and a leg.
On Saturday, we went to Ipswich in search of shoes. Joyfully my daughter's feet stayed the same, but my son had gone up an whole size. This means not just new school shoes, but the whole whack - wellies, trainers for PE lessons at school, trainers for outside school and rugby boots that double up for football too. Whoop whoop. Not.
Anyway, we shelled out at Clarks for the school shoes, trainers and a second pair of trainers that were thankfully in the sale.  However, I then nipped round to Shoe Zone for bargain  black wellies at £7.99. We also threw ethical purchasing to the wind and bought the rugby boots half price from Sports Direct.
Anyone care to bet how long before we'll be back for replacements, in the next size up?

Pretty in pink - a cold survival kit

Bought own-brand medicine

Goodness I felt rubbish this week, laid low by a nasty cold. On Wednesday I staggered to the chemist after dropping the children at school, and remembered to buy Boots own brand cold and flu sachets, rather than spending a whole extra pound on Lemsip.
Buying generic or own brand medicines can be massively cheaper than buying the branded versions with big advertising budgets to support.
For example, the active ingredient in Nurofen is ibuprofen.
Taking a quick gander at the Boots website, Nurofen 200mg Ibuprofen tablets cost £3.29 for 24 tablets, so 14p each.
Yet if you buy the Value Health 200mg Ibuprofen tablets instead, they only cost 35p for 16 tablets - nearly a tenth of the price, and just 2p per tablet. Bet your headache can't tell the difference.
I should probably just have popped a paracetamol and made myself some honey and lemon, rather than using the cold and flu sachets, but look how pretty the pink blackcurrant version looks!

Untrammelled growth before...

...and viciously hacked back afterwards.


Got out into the garden

I still wasn't feeling great on Thursday, but knew the garden waste collection was due.
We pay £40 a year to the local council so they will take away a wheelie bin full of garden rubbish once a fortnight.
We're certainly not lacking in garden waste to remove, so it provides a incentive for me to actually get outside and fill the bin.
Thursday morning found me hacking back the rosa rugosa and tree peony at the corner of the house, and clearing out the assorted weeds and leaves beneath. The cheeky blackbird re-appeared to investigate anything edible, and was joined by a camera-shy robin. I duly filled the bin and will have to hope that the plants survive my attack.
In previous years I pruned them right back in November, so I do hope I haven't left it too late.
Anyway, it was encouraging to see some green shoots from bulbs starting to break through underneath, so we should see some growth one way or another.

An oil delivery in happier (read cheaper) times

Bargained when buying oil

This was the big bust-your-wallet, sharp-intake-of-breath, how-much-did-you-say?, purchase of the week.
Yup, it was time to refill the oil tank.
When we moved from London to Suffolk, we swapped a connection to the gas main for a large oil tank squatting in the garden. Our central heating and even our cooking, up until we got the new cooker, all depended on oil.
I've written before about oil deliveries, and we've actually been pretty lucky since moving in 2014, as the oil price dropped down and down to a six-year low last January.
The bad news is that oil prices have soared since, pushed up by the post-Brexit plummeting pound and OPEC deciding to restrict supply. So cheers for that.
I kept putting off ordering more oil, in the vain hope prices might wobble downwards, but finally had to order some more before our supplies ran out.
My top tips are to sign up for the Oil Club, get several other quotes online when you need oil, and then ring round asking people to beat the lowest quote you have. Ideal world, it also helps if you can wait a couple of weeks for delivery, rather than leaving it to the last minute, as I did this time.
Anyway last Friday the nice man from Goff Oil showed up with a large tanker and a massive hose (no sniggers at the back please) before we actually ran out. He delivered 2,266 litres, which cost a whopping £1,064.74.
Attempting to look on the bright side, it would have cost another £60 if I'd gone for the most expensive quote elsewhere. So there's that. Sob.
As you might guess, ways to use less oil have been on my mind, so I'm part way through a new blog post on how to save energy. Here's hoping I can put some of the info to good use...

Does anyone else have any frugal things to celebrate this week? Perhaps more successfully than my attempts at tweaking our Sunday morning pancake recipe? I'd love to hear!

I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (21 Jan)

Taking advantage of train ticket offers to London

Wow it's been a chilly week. Winter has well and truly set in.
I love the way every leaf and blade of grass is outlined with frost and sparkles in the sunlight, but I could do without the draughts whirling about our house.
I've also been juggling work and everything else, as I had a packed day in London and my daughter was off school poorly for a couple of days (all fine now!).

So without further ado, here are the five frugal things we fitted in this week.

New year, new menu plans

Rejoined WeightWatchers for less

Here's a quick hack if you use WeightWatchers Monthly Pass to pay for meetings and get access to the app and resources online. 
I'm sure a true frugalista wouldn't fork out £21.45 for monthly membership but would just shift the weight themselves. 
Personally, I can do with all the help I can get and value the inspiration and support from meetings once a week (waves at any Hadleigh members who might be reading!).
However, I rather begrudge paying for membership during December. I'm even less likely to stick to it over the festive season, and also most meetings shut between Christmas and the New Year, and may be closed on other days too, depending on the timing of bank holidays. 
Plus you can be pretty sure that as soon as January starts, WeightWatchers will offer cut price membership to lure in people making New Year's Resolutions. However, the offers are only available to new members, not those of us who've been shelling out for months. 
So this year, I rang to cancel my membership back in early December. This meant I didn't get stung for the £21.45 direct debit that month.
Due to the weirdness of the way WeightWatchers charges, my membership didn't actually expire until 12 January - but then I rejoined online two days later, taking advantage of a "30% off 3 month's new membership" offer for £52.05. By clicking through from the cashback website Quidco* to WeightWatchers, I also earned £11.58 cashback on top. 
If I'd let my direct debit continue, I would have paid £85.80 for the four months December through March.(That looks particularly painful written down). 
Instead, by cancelling and rejoining, I only paid £40.47 after cashback - less than half the price.
Now I just need to shed some of the weight to make it worth it...

Want to find out more about cashback? Read this post and this one here

Want a free tenner? Get a £10 bonus if you spend £10 via Quidco!

If you've never signed up for Quidco before, then if you join by clicking this link*, you will earn £10 cashback when you spend £10 or more with any of the 4,300+ Quidco retailers before January 31. 

A fine array of yellow-stickered food 

Went food shopping for less

As well as shedding lbs with WeightWatchers, I'm also attempting to save ££s on our food shopping this month (Read more about my five frugal New Year's Resolutions here). 
This week, I scooped up a good haul of suitably healthy yellow-stickered food at the Co-op. I needed to buy milk after dropping the children at school, and always check out the reduced shelves while I'm there. 
Looking at the photo from top left to right, I was able to buy malted sliced bread from a local producer, a piece of cooked ham, strawberries, grapes, decent bacon, bananas, cucumber, sugar snap peas, two packets of Warburtons sandwich thins, piccolo cherry tomatoes and a fancy salad bag, all for less than the normal price. 
In total it cost £9.31, down from £22.32. 
Admittedly, the Co-op prices tend to start out higher than many other supermarkets, but the reduced prices definitely help keep our bills down. The key is to buy either food you know you will eat quickly, or food you can freeze. 
We've already polished off everything in the pic above, apart from a few slices of bread, half the ham and one pack of sandwich thins, which are all stashed in the freezer.

Cheeky trip to London for less - including half term

Booked train tickets for less

One big decision when moving to Suffolk was that we weren't going to endure a daily commute to London. However, I do still nip up and down every so often, either for work or (shock horror) purely social reasons.
This meant I was delighted to spot an offer from our local train company, Greater Anglia, just when I had two work trips on the horizon. The "Wake Up Your Weekdays" promo applies to off peak day return tickets during the week (try saying that three times fast).
Book online before 3 February, and you can pay £10, £15 or £20 for a return ticket, depending on how far you're travelling.
Even though I can't get a third off with my railcard, and have to pay for tube and bus travel on top, it's still cheaper. I took advantage of the offer to book tickets for two trips and saved a bit more than £13 compared to the normal cost.
As an added bonus, you can book for travel right up until 10 March - which covers half term. So now I'm planning a day trip with the kids, as you can take up to two children with you for just £2 each.

Brand spanking new Cubs uniform

Ordered Cubs uniform for less

After attending her first few sessions, my daughter is keen to continue with Cubs, so I bit the bullet and ordered the uniform.
After a quick search online, I ordered the sweatshirt and polo shirt for £25.47 including delivery from Cubs Uniform, more than £4.50 less than if I'd got them from the official scout shop website (sorry Scouts).
Delivery was super speedy too - I ordered on Wednesday morning, and the parcel arrived on Friday.
I have attempted to buy the sweatshirt in size "she'll grow in to it enormous", as I don't fancy unpicking and resewing badges on a new one any time soon.

Ok, so the jam might finally be finished now

Scraping the barrel jam jar

I'm putting this one out there to see if anyone else does this! Anyone else willing to admit to taking a spatula to their jars, or having a good scrape around with a spoon, to use up the last remnants of jam, mayo or whatever else it is? Anyone? Or just me then? I reckon every little helps, so I'm going to keep on scraping away!

Still need to face up to your tax return?

If you need any top tips about tackling your tax return, I've written an article for this weekend's Sunday Times Money section, and will also be on BBC Radio Suffolk at about 12.30 on Sunday, talking to Georgina Wroe.
If you're on the hook for self-assessment, it's worth filing your return before 31 January, or you'll get hit with a £100 fine even if you don't owe a penny in tax.

I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

*indicates an affiliate link, so anything you buy through it will help support the blog, as I will get a small commission at no cost to you. Many thanks!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (13 Jan)

Nice tree, but no snow. 

With the children back at school, we've been slotting back into a normal routine.
During term time, we tend to mix dashes to school with a merry-go-round of swimming, Strikers, guitar, Beavers, Cubs and Brownies. (Yes, you did read that correctly. Two children and yet all three of Beavers, Cubs and Brownies. Go figure).
My working week has been a dollop of tax returns with a side order of writing about tax returns, and now I'm just cursing the anti-climax of hardly any snow. I wanted blankets of picturesque white stuff, to gaze at while wrapped up warmly inside. Maybe next week!

In the mean time, here are my five fabulously frugal things for this week.

Stewed apple - virtue in a jar

Made stewed apple to cut food waste

Some of the apples we've been given were looking a bit soft and wrinkly. Rather than ignoring them until it was too late, I peeled and cored all five, chopped them roughly, and chucked them in a saucepan with a splash of water.
I softened them over a low heat, and made a couple of jars of stewed apple.
The stewed apple has several other benefits, quite apart from extending the life of the apples and avoiding food waste.
It tastes great on top of porridge or with natural yogurt, as part of the New Year's Resolutions I mentioned last week about healthy eating on a budget.
Plus, it's not just a money saver, but also a time saver. If I'm in a hurry, I'm more likely to snack on something sensible when it's handy in the fridge. A winner all ways round.

Jellytastic. Anyone else nostalgic for Tupperware?

Raided the storecupboard to make snacks for the children

It's fair to say, however, that my children are less enamoured with stewed apple as a snack.
As part of my plans to use up the contents of our cupboards, rather than spending extra money on food, I unearthed a packet of strawberry jelly.
One packet made six little pots for the fridge (anyone else nostalgic about Tupperware?). They went down very well as an after school snack for several days.

Hoping for inspiration for healthy food, fast

Borrowed rather than bought a book

Continuing with my resolutions to get fitter, not fatter, I wanted to check out a copy of the Hairy Dieters: Fast Food cookbook.
It promises lower calorie recipes that only take half an hour to cook. I'm not really up for supposedly healthy eating that involves scything entire food groups from my diet, and rather than existing solely on almond milk and quinoa, I like their approach of hearty meals that are full of flavour.
Sadly, I have discovered that merely buying a book does not cause pounds to drop off - unless you count the damage to my bank balance.
So rather than shelling out for yet another cookbook, before I know whether I'll actually like any of the recipes, I reserved a copy from the library.
We're very fortunate that our local library is still alive and kicking, and a great resource for borrowing books and DVDs.
Looks good so far - I've spotted several budget-friendly recipes like breakfast cranachan mixing the oats and berries with natural yogurt, plus ham and pea fritters, white bean and tuna fishcakes, blackeyed peas and greens, and a fish crumble.
(And if you fancy getting your own copy, rather than borrowing one from the library, The Book People are offering the Hairy Dieters book for a bargainous £5.99 rather than £14.99)*.

Sadly, filing my tax return did not enable me to levitate. Swizz.

Did my tax return, avoided a £100 fine

I may not have found the inner peace promised by HM Revenue & Customs, but it's certainly a great relief to have filed my tax return online.
I don't why I always leave it so late - the tax year finishes on April 5, but somehow I never get round to it until January. Perhaps it's the threat of a £100 fine if I don't get it in by January 31 that finally focuses my mind...
Anyway, I dragged the bulging "tax" file out of the filing cabinet, and after much poring over bank statements and reference to my trusty excel spreadsheet, it was finally done.
I've also written an article for this weekend's Sunday Times with some top tips for completing your tax return - so the payment will be something to add to next year's taxes!

Sunshine slanting across the Railway Walk, earlier this week.

Got out in the fresh air

One thing I've been really enjoying this week is getting outside in the fresh air. I spent a whole chunk of November and December with my head down typing away in front of a screen, so it's been good to get out of the house.
I'm still plugging away at the Couch to 5K running programme as part of my New Year's Resolutions, with a short run every other day. At the weekend, my daughter asked if I could come out with her to ride her Christmas bike, so we went along the Railway Walk so she could hurtle over the hills and hummocks beside the track.
The colours may be muted greens and browns, but the sunshine slanting across the path was very beautiful. There are still robins, pigeons and blackbirds darting around, and plenty of dogs and dog walkers. Best of all from a frugal perspective, bike rides and runs are completely free once you've shelled out for the initial equipment.

Anyone else got some frugal triumphs to share? Submitted your tax return, or dreading the day when you will finally get round to it? I'd love to hear!

I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

*indicates an affiliate link, so anything you buy through it will help support the blog, as I will get a small commission at no cost to you. Many thanks!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Five fabulously frugal New Year's Resolutions this week

Soup, using up bendy veg in the fridge. Healthy AND money saving!

I had a cracking year on the frugal front during 2016, and it really made a difference to our family finances (post here).

One thing I really enjoyed was starting to write these "five fabulously frugal things I've done" posts each week. They definitely helped celebrate any frugal successes, and remind me how much the small changes add up.

So now I'm starting 2017 with five fabulously frugal New Year's Resolutions - all very familiar topics, I'm sure, but hopefully with a thrifty spin!

I'm also sure that I'm not alone in seeing many resolutions fall by the way side over the years. However, in a triumph of hope over experience, I always get enthusiastic about January as a fresh start.

Grabbed the wrong headphones to start running again - doh.

Resolution 1: Get Fit For Less

I'm about as far from a gym-honed fitness freak as possible, so I could definitely benefit from doing a bit more any exercise.
Rather than signing up for expensive gym membership, I recommend running as exercise involving less time and even less money.
Last year I surprised myself by having a go at the Couch to 5K running programme, which is based on a completely free app or podcast. I really enjoyed feeling fitter, having a lot more energy and getting outside for half an hour or so three times a week. I even staggered around a few (free) 5K Park Runs. However, what with one thing and another, I got out of the routine of regular running, and now I'd like to start again.

Progress this week

After dropping the children back at school on Wednesday, I headed out for my first run in absolutely ages. I've gone right back to the beginning, with the very first run of Couch to 5K.
However, I now know that if I keep going for the next nine weeks, I'll be able to run for 30 minutes straight by the end of it.
I'll be posting quick updates on Twitter, but you might want to check back mid March to see if I've managed it...

For more on Couch to 5K, including info on equipment, downloads and how I found it:
Cheapo Fitness: Couch to 5K
Couch to 5K: The Return of the Running Shoes
Couch to 5K in tweets
Summary for Mirror Online: "How I got fit for free"

Lose lbs, win £££s - let's see if this will keep me motivated!

Resolution 2: Lose Weight For Less

Well, it wouldn't be New Year without my perennial resolution to lose weight!
As ever, I would like to be fitter not fatter.
I still valiantly believe is it possible to shift lbs without spending a gazillion £££s, so I'm aiming to eat healthily on a budget. I can't promise earth shattering revelations - I was thinking more of watching my portion sizes, making healthier choices (eg more fruit & veg, less cake) and moving more (see Resolution 1).

Progress this week

Project "get back into my jeans" started on January 2, right after I'd scoffed the last of the coffee & walnut birthday cake for breakfast (oops). Turns out having to buy new clothes because you grew out of your old ones is not a frugal option...
In a thrifty spin, I've joined a Diet Bet set up by the amazing Emma Drew (do check out her money making / money saving blog if you haven't already).
You place a bet - in this case $20 - that you can shed 4% of your body weight in 4 weeks. If you don't, you lose your money. If you do, you get to share the pot with anyone else who managed it too - and could end up getting more than your original stake back.
Let's see if the chance of getting paid to lose half a stone can keep me motivated...

For more info:
50 diet-friendly options from the value ranges
Slimming on a budget - shopping
DietBet website

Stretching a chicken over multiple meals

Resolution 3: Spend Less on Food

Anyone else keen to cut their food costs in January?
I've started another storecupboard challenge, hoping to spend less on food by using up the contents of our kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer.
Right now, after freezing an array of yellow-stickered bargains, I'm playing freezer Tetris every time I want to add anything else. It is definitely time to Eat the Freezer, as one of my friends calls it.
When we tried this last February and in June the year before, it lopped more than 30% off our food bills.
This time, I'm keen to see how it affects the pounds spent when I'm trying to shed lbs at the same time. At the very least, we should gain more space in the cupboards and freezer to store healthier options!

Progress this week

We got off to a good start by defrosting a whole chicken, bought half price on Christmas Eve.
So far, it's provided the basis for:
- a roast meal for our family of four, with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, broccoli and gravy.
- chicken stir fry for four, with onion, peppers and rice
- chicken sandwiches for my husband's packed lunch
- creamy mustard chicken and pea pasta for two, as the kids preferred creamy ham and pea pasta instead).
- chicken stock to be added to soup or risotto

For more on the storecupboard challenges, see:
Storecupboard stock check challenge
Storecupboard challenge results: clearer cupboards & 40% lower food bills
10 tips for cutting February's food bills

Switching electricity provider: let there be light for less

Resolution 4: Make 2017 a Money Saving Year

Last year, I was amazed at how small tweaks each month to cut costs and earn extra really added up (this is the post).
I'm keen to continue our money saving efforts this year. I'm not talking about shivering under a blanket, eating gruel. Instead, I mean the kind of things like switching insurance companies that don't affect your lifestyle but can save serious cash.

Progress this week

We switched electricity provider last January, which means our one-year tariff at a fixed price is just about to finish.
Rather than rolling over onto more expensive charges with the same supplier, I've switched to a cheaper option. It doesn't save the nearly £400 we netted last year, but it should still cut our costs by almost £50 compared to staying put.
Someone asked how long all my money saving changes took. In this case, I'll fess up that I spent an hour and a half, from start to finish.
It needn't take that long, but I faffed around taking our meter reading, calculating how many kWh we use each year, comparing the figures for a couple of comparison websites, searching for cashback, checking customer service comments for the firm that was cheapest, and then ringing the company with a query about their website. Will let you know whether the eventual switch goes smoothly or not!

More info:
Small changes, big difference: how I saved thousands in 2016

Climbing rose running rampant over the back door

Resolution 5: Make More of Our House and Garden

I've been back and forth over my fifth resolution, but I think what I'd really like to do is focus on our home.
We have way too much stuff, and could do with shedding a lot.
We're hoping to get a couple of rooms repainted, and even put ceiling lights in some of the rooms that don't have them. (Who knew when viewing a house you should check if all the rooms have ceiling lights? It's right pain in the middle of winter darkness when they don't, I'm telling you)
I would also like to get to grips more with the garden, whether that's hacking back plants that have run rampant, banishing more weeds or growing a few of our own veg. I have a box of bulbs and a stash of seeds down the side of the radio that are making me feel guilty!

Progress this week

I really have to face up to the great Drawer of Stuff For eBay (and that's while still igoring the Mountain of Clothes For eBay, or the Box of Random Rubbish For eBay etc).
I mentioned on the #MondayMoneyUK Twitter chat that I'd been putting off selling some stuff on eBay, using the excuse of waiting for an offer on final value fees. Then bingo, two days later, an email from eBay offering 25% off. Spooky.
So I've now accepted the offer, ready to list some stuff this weekend.

More info on eBay (I really should follow my own advice):
Make a mint by selling hidden treasures online

Hopefully, I'll be able to write some follow up posts so you can follow the progress of my resolutions.

Now over to you - what are your New Year's Resolutions? Do share your ideas in the comments, I'd love to hear!

I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Small changes, big difference: how I saved thousands in 2016

Small changes, big difference

I love New Year's Resolutions.

Ever the optimist, I start January bursting with enthusiasm about getting fitter not fatter, sweeping clutter from my home (in fact, just sweeping my home), never snapping at my nearest and dearest and oh, maybe a little bit of world peace. As you do.

Sure, many of them fall by the wayside. Life, laziness and cake intervene.

But last year, I resolved to do something extra each month to make the most of my family's money.
All that stuff like comparing insurance prices, switching electricity providers and applying for higher-paying current accounts. The kind of thing you know you should do, but don't always get round to.

I wrote about the results in yesterday's Sunday Times, and when I added up all the cost savings and extra earnings during 2016 it came to a whopping £9,000.


(Here's the link - afraid it's behind a paywall but think you can still see a photo).

However much I bang on about small savings adding up, I was really surprised at the total.
As regular readers will know, I already try to make every penny count.

We live on a limited income, but do still have emergency savings and money stashed away for retirement. This means I'm keen both to cut costs on money we spend, and also to earn extra on our savings, at a time when interest rates are generally rubbish.

So in case it helps with any of your own New Year's Resolutions to make the most of your money, here's what I did:


Switched electricity provider, saved £394, earned £16.16 cashback by clicking through from TopCashback to the comparison site.

Cut costs on our broadband and home phone without switching, saved £118.
I blogged about asking Plusnet for a better deal back in April last year.

Sold a broken washing machine on eBay, saved £38.50.
Instead of paying the council £38.50 to remove our broken washing machine, I sold it for a penny on eBay for repairs or spares - with the buyer to collect.

Switched to a multi car insurance policy, saved £529, earned £65.65 cashback
We finally bought a new-to-us second car in June. Rather than paying the eye-popping insurance quote, we saved by switching to an Admiral multi car policy, getting a partial refund from our old insurer and clicking through from TopCashback to buy the policy.

Cut our petrol costs, saved £216
Switching to a smaller, more efficient car means we spend a lot less on petrol for my husband's commute into Ipswich.

Bought mobile handsets and switched to cheaper tariffs, saved £195
Buying an older handset outright and adding a SIM-only deal turned out to be cheaper than a contract for the lastest all-singing all-dancing smartphone. I asked for a second fiver a month SIM card from Virgin Mobile for my husband, and cut his costs too.

Researched cooker and connection prices, saved £539
Remember my excitement about the new cooker? I saved £500 by asking a local firm, Stellisons, to price match the best deal I found online, and also found an electrician to connect the cooker for less.

Claimed water leakage allowance, saved £92.97
We had a couple of dripping taps and leaky loos, which is not great when you're on a water meter. Once I got it all fixed, Anglia Water paid us a one-off leakage allowance.

Compared heating oil quotes, saved £150
I've written before for the Sunday Times about saving money on heating oil, as blogged here, and saved £150 in 2016 by ringing around different suppliers.

Cut train fares with a railcard, saved £145
My £30 Network Railcard, as mentioned here and here, has more than paid for itself by cutting a third off the cost of off peak train tickets to London.

Grew herbs, saved £8
Remember my attempts at growing some herbs? Somewhat to my surprise, all but one have survived, and I reckon I've saved about £8 in 2016 compared to buying herbs like parsley, mint, sage and tarragon from the supermarket.


Applied for a cashback credit card, earned £95 cashback
I'm a big fan of earning cashback on money we would have spent anyway. We use a simple no fee Nationwide Select credit card to get 0.5% cashback, but check out websites like to find out which cards might suit your circumstances.

Claimed loyalty points, earned £300
I've blogged before about making the most of supermarket vouchers and loyalty cards.
However, even I was surprised to find we'd benefited by £300 thanks to a combination of the Boots Advantage, Morrisons More and Sainsbury's Nectar schemes, plus my Co-op card.

Got cashback on when shopping online, earned an extra £65
In addition to the cashback on insurance and switching electricity provider mentioned above, we earned another £65 from assorted online shopping via cashback websites like Quidco and TopCashback.


Opened regular saver accounts, earned £260 interest
Interest rates are ridiculously low right now, but you can still get 5% interest on limited monthly payments for a year on regular saver accounts linked to current accounts from the likes of First Direct and Nationwide, For clear, independent best buy tables on savings, I always go to Savings Champion.

Used high-interest current accounts, earned £830 interest & cashback
I've blogged before about using current accounts to earn reasonable rates on your savings.
The good news is that we earned £830 in interest and cashback, after fees, on our five (count 'em) current accounts. The bad news is that the Club Lloyds, TSB Classic and Santander 123 current accounts have all either already cut their rates or will this month, and introductory rate we had with Nationwide only lasted for a year, so I can't hope for similar interest earnings again. Check out Savings Champion if you'd like to see which current accounts are the best bets today, including the Tesco current account I opened in November..

Paid into my pension, earned £675 in tax relief. 
I don't know many investments that earn you 25% on day one, but if you bung money in a pension, the taxman will top it up with tax relief. I sent off a cheque for £2,700 to my personal pension, the taxman added £675, and now I can sit back and hope the investment grows.


Now this one was the biggie.

All my attempts above added up to around £4,700 during 2016.

However, I've also written for the Sunday Times about how just over a year ago I overcame a lifetime of caution to move my hard-won Isa savings from cash into the stock market, and how they progressed afterwards.

Got growth and dividends on my investments, earned £4,300
During 2016, the investment trusts in my Isa grew 14% - from just under £30,070 to almost £34,370 with dividends invested. That's a whole £4,300 higher than on 1 January 2016, carried along with the rising stockmarket.
It bumped up the grand total saved and earned in 2016 to £9,000.

I haven't blogged about my investments before, partly because this blog started off about frugal food and I wasn't sure if anyone would be interested.

But I've been writing about investing for the newspapers for more years than I care to mention - so if you might be interested in me blogging a bit more about what I've invested in, and why, then please do say so in the comments.

Any financial resolutions or top tips for saving more money in 2017? I'd love to hear!