Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (28 April)

Picture of pale pink quince blossom to illustrate my five frugal things this week post

Quince blossom, on the tree growing in the herb bed

 

Not quite sure where this week went. The kids are back at school, my husband’s back at work and I’ve done a bit of writing. We’re looking forward to a whole load of friends coming to stay for the bank holiday weekend, so I’ve knuckled down and done some (if not enough) housework. Here’s my round up of the five frugal things we fitted in!

 

Picture of two home-made meringues on a wooden board. A thrifty, frugal way to use up egg whites.

Meringues in the sunshine

Made easy peasy meringues

Why did no-one tell me how easy meringues are to make?

I used a couple of egg yolks in attempts at a cookie recipe (it was hopeless, let’s not go there). This left a couple of eggs whites to make me feel guilty. I do hate throwing food away. I tried making meringues when we first moved, as something Agas are meant to do really well. Turns out if you have an 80-year-old converted Aga, not so much. The simmering oven wasn’t even warm enough to cook meringues, and that’s really saying something. They just oozed to death over 24 hours.

Anyway, I thought I’d try again now we have an electric cooker. I whipped the egg whites up into stiff peaks, gently mixed in 2oz / 56g caster sugar per egg white,  spooned the mix onto a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper and bunged them in the oven. That’s it! I followed Delia’s instructions to heat the oven to 150 degrees, then turn it down to 140 degrees straight after putting the meringues in.

Cook for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven, but leave the meringues inside while you wander off and do something else for four hours or so. Ta da, meringues that were crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Bliss.

 

Screen shot of a Samsung smartphone menu showing the mobile data button in green, which I should switch off when on wifi

See that green button that says ‘mobile data’? Wish I had before.

Rang up about a hefty mobile bill

It’s all to easy to think “yeah, yeah, bin” when a bill comes through the letterbox or an email pops up.

This week I was really glad I read the email with my monthly mobile bill. Not because it was three times what I expected (ouch), but because it inspired me to check the charges and call the company. I’d been whacked with £2 a day for exceeding my data allowance – and that really mounts up if it happens half way through the month!

So I rang Virgin Mobile to find out why, as I thought I used free WiFi networks wherever possible. The good news from a frugal perspective is that they kindly promised to refund half the charges.

More importantly, they talked me through switching off mobile data whenever I’m on WiFi, to avoid going over my allowance in future. I think the call centre lady was surprised at the depths of my ignorance, but in case anyone else is similarly clueless, turns out there’s a “mobile data” button one screen back, and I should only switch it on when I need internet access but I’m not on WiFi. (Short pause for the technologically competent to bang their heads on their desks). It hasn’t been an issue before, so fingers crossed it’ll be fine in future, without switching to a more expensive tariff.

 

Picture of two Mister Maker by Toucan box craft boxes bought on offer from a 60 day free trial of Kids Pass

Banish bank holiday boredom  for £1 (she says hopefully).

Nabbed a couple of Toucan craft boxes for £1

Remember I signed up for a 60 day trial of Kids Pass, a discount pass for families, for just £1 ?

Well, I got an email from Kids Pass offering a free craft box as part of a Mister Maker Club subscription, plus the chance to add a box for a sibling for just a pound. Normally, the boxes costs £6.93 each including postage.

I duly signed up, and two personalised boxes arrived today, just in time for the bank holiday. If I don’t want to pay any extra, I can cancel in the next week or so. With great self-restraint I haven’t ripped them open, so will have to wait for the children to discover what’s inside. They’re designed for children aged 3 to 6, so maybe a bit young for my two, but I thought it was worth giving them a whirl.

Could yet be £1 well spent if the weather is rubbish over the next few days. If you’d like to try one too, you can also get a Mister Maker craft box for £1 using this link* or a 60 day trial of Kids Pass for £1 here*.

 

Picture of a free Lets Grow Together Goodness Gang Garden sticker collecting card and seed pot

Mini seed pots free from East of England Co-op

Claimed free seeds from the Co-op

Currently, our local East of England Co-op is giving out tiny seed pots for free (as mentioned in my post about where to buy seeds for less). You get a sticker for every £5 you spend, and need 4 stickers to claim some seeds. My kids are keen on the colourful packaging, and this week I picked up some beets to go with last week’s carrot pot. We’ve watered the soil discs, planted the teensy seed mats, and now we’re waiting for signs of life. Many cheers for free seeds and maybe even some free veg too!

 

Picture of the brass band, complete with uniforms, red berets, gilded embroidery, tubas and trumbones for the parade of beavers, cubs, scouts and explorers on St George's Day in Long Melford.

Brass band leading the St George’s Day Parade.

Was grateful for free parking

Last Sunday, I drove the children over to take part in the St George’s Day Parade in Long Melford, together with hundreds of other local beavers, cubs, scouts and explorers.

That sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Yet it was a big deal for me, because I don’t drive, and it was the first time I’ve ever driven my children. (Don’t worry, I do have a licence from decades ago).

There’s a longer post to write about driving and our move to the country. For now, I was extremely grateful I could take advantage of free National Trust parking at Melford Hall, rather than trying to squeeze into a space between the hordes of other parental cars. An unexpected way to make the most of National Trust membership!

 

So now, over to you. Any thrifty successes to celebrate? Suggestions for a bank holiday on a budget? I’d love to hear, so do comment below.

 

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma 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!

Where to buy seeds for less

Picture of sun shining through carrot leaves grown from cheap seeds

Carrot seedling growing on the kitchen windowsill

 

Growing your own fruit and veg can be a great way to cut your food costs.

Of course, it all depends on how much you spend on gardening. Investing in a greenhouse to grow tomatoes will make them rather expensive!

Even packets of seeds that only cost £2 to £3 a pop can soon add up if you’re buying several varieties. The good news is that there are loads of ways to buy seeds for less or even get them for free.

When we moved from London to Suffolk, I had great intentions about growing some of our own food. I made the odd attempt in London, keen to show my children where food came from. Despite our postage stamp of a garden, I had a tomato plant on top of the fridge, some strawberries in a hanging basket and a few beans growing up the garden fence.

Getting hold of seeds is the first step to growing your own food, so I’ve been investigating ways to buy them for less.

Cheap packets may contain fewer seeds than fancy packs from big brands. However, if you don’t want to plant huge quantities of the same thing, and get stuck with a glut of courgettes / lettuces / radishes, then why waste money buying more than you need?

With the bank holiday fast approaching, it’s a great time to get out in the garden and sow some seeds. I might even get round to planting some of the stash of packets down the side of the radio!

So here are my top 8 places to find seeds for less.

 

Picture of packets of cheap seeds from Wilko, from 25p for salad leaves, 50p for tomatoes, radishes and spinach, and 75p for courgettes

Bundle of seed bargains from Wilko

1. Dive into discount stores

Simple enough really – if you want inexpensive seeds, try inexpensive shops.

Wilko sells packets of veg seeds starting at just 25p for lettuce and parsnips, with more than 40 different veg seeds for 75p or under. When they’re so cheap, you can afford to get the children involved in chucking them around the place and watering them over-enthusiastically.

Over at Poundland, you can get three packets of Mr Fothergill veg seeds for a £1. Poundland also stocks seed potatoes and onions sets at (you’ve guessed it) £1 a pop, plus fruit canes like raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, red currants and black currants for £1 each. It’s worth inspecting the fruit shrubs in the shop though, as they can be a bit unloved. (Scroll to the end of the Poundland bulbs & seeds section to see examples).

If you can find them in store, Aldi sells seed multipacks usually with a whopping 8 different varieties of veg for just 99p.

Choose from Herb Garden, Vegetable Patch, Mediterranean Seed, Spicy & Aromatic and Salad Bar Classics Multipacks, all with 8 different varieties, or get four different types of seed in the Pea & Bean Collection Multipack. (More details on the Aldi website, look out for the brown packets).

 

Picture of a sticker collection card from East of England Co-op Let's Grow Together campaign with free beetroot seed mat in a pot with soil disc and plantmarker

Free seeds from our local Co-op

2. Snaffle freebie promotion seeds

At this time of year, just as spring has sprung, watch out for companies offering free seeds in publicity campaigns.

So far this year I’ve been sent free tomato seeds from Heinz (fear it’s closed now), and am waiting for a free sunflower seed growing kit to show up from Dorset Teas.

Our local East of England Co-op has also just started offering free Goodness Gang Garden mini seed pots if you collect stickers with your shopping. You get one sticker for every £5 you spend until 28 May, and need 4 to claim a teeny seed mat, mini cardboard pot, soil tablet and plantmarket (as shown in the photo). There are 20 different herbs and veg to collect. You may only get a few seeds in each, but I’ve had fun with my kids following the instructions and seeing the soil tablets expand when watered.

 

Picture of 20 packets of seeds that came free with a special offer subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine

Free seeds with a previous Kitchen Garden mag subscription

3. Stock up on seeds with a magazine subscription

Lots of the gardening magazines include free seeds on the cover, but often the magazines themselves aren’t cheap.

The best bargain I’ve seen is the chance to subscribe to Kitchen Garden magazine for a fiver.

You not only get 3 issues of the magazine, normally £4.99 each, but 20 packets of veg seeds on top. You’ll even get extra seeds with each copy of the magazine.

The only catch is that you’ll need to cancel your subscription before your discount issues stop, or you’ll end up paying £20 every six months.

Picture of stuff in special offer potato growing kit with extra free seeds.

Example of ‘free’ potato growing kit that actually cost £5.95 for postage

4. Sign up for magazine mailing lists

On simliar lines, I somehow ended up on the mailing list for Gardeners’ World magazine. Every so often, I get emails with assorted offers, such as the chance to claim a free potato growing kit. Worth keeping an eye out, but beware that the “free” offers normally inolve paying chunky postage. Check out current offers here, and consider signing up for email newsletters from other gardening companies and magazines too.

5. Order from online seed specialists

I’ve ended up with more cheap and free seeds than I know what to do with from the sources above.

However, I have seen recommendations for the website MoreVeg. It sells small packets of seeds, rather than saddling you with more seeds than you could sow or your family could eat. It promises more than 500 varieties at just 50p per packet, but also does special offers bundling packets even cheaper.  Postage is free for seed orders over £10, but is still only £1.35 if you’re spending less than a tenner.

6. Stalk garden centre sales

Watch out for offers at your local garden centre, particularly end of season sales. If you go shopping for seeds in September or October, you may be able to grab seeds for pennies rather than pounds ready for next year.

7. Join a gardening club

If you are feeling sociable, and join a local gardening club, you can often find organised seed swaps or other gardeners willing to share seeds. As an added bonus, you might get to hear talks about the likes of bonsai gardening, weaving with willow or garden photography, if the example of Hadleigh & District Gardening Club is anything to go by.

Similarly if you have neighbours who are keen gardeners, or sign up for an allotment, you may find similar souls willing to swap unwanted seeds.

 

A picture of a glass of water with mint sprigs that have grown roots, on my kitchen windowsill

A marvel of hydroponic gardening, ie leaving sprigs of mint in water too long

8. Grow from cuttings or existing plants

While these aren’t strictly seeds, I’ve had minor success in getting cuttings to root in a glass of water (by accident, admittedly). I also bought a few cut-price yellow-stickered herb pots from the supermarket. Despite my doubts, the parsley and chives are still going strong in the herb patch.

 

So now over to you – any other great sources of where to get seeds for free? Where to pay less for seed packets? I’d love to hear, so do share your tips in the comments.

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

Picture of pink tinged apple blossom in the orchard to illustrate my five frugal things this week post.

Apple blossom in the orchard, during the Easter egg hunt at the grandparents’ house.

 

From buns to bows and arrows, we’ve had an exciting week here in Suffolk.

We packed several outings and family occasions into the Easter weekend, before celebrating my birthday and the children’s return to school. It’s been all go, I tell you.

On Good Friday, cousins Jan, John and Lucy came round for lemon drizzle cake (that recipe is a winner, even if I do say so myself). We watched the racing at the Higham Point to Point on Easter Saturday, were invited over to the grandparents on Easter Sunday, visited Ickworth on Easter Monday and went out for my birthday meal on Tuesday night. School restarted on Wednesday, and on Thursday I went along as a parent helper on a school trip to the Suffolk School Farm & Country Fair.

So now I’m quite glad to be sitting down in front of a computer.

Anyway, here is my round up of our five frugal things this week.

 

Photo of home made hot cross buns on a plate by the kettle and tea pots

Hot cross buns I took along for tea after the Easter egg hunt.

Baked some hot cross buns

As my contribution to tea after Sunday’s Easter egg hunt, I baked some hot cross buns. This was a risky strategy, as the one time I attempted hot cross buns before, they came out hard and heavy. Less squidgy bun, more currant-filled cannon balls, if you get my drift.

This time I compared several recipes, rather than blindly following one, and they actually came out edible. In fact, they went down pretty well with assorted great aunts and uncles who were spectators at the family Easter egg hunt. Suppose my top tip would be to allow enough time for all the proving, knocking back, shaping and proving again. It seems hot cross buns are not to be hurried.

Fortunately, they’re a pretty economical choice compared to buying mountains of chocolate. Eggs, milk, butter and sugar are staple ingredients in our house, and we already had bread flour and yeast sachets for our Friday night pizzas. I even got the chance to use some of the Whitworths Traditional Mixed Fruit* bought at a bargain price in my last order from Approved Food*. If you’ve never come across discount food website Approved Food before, I’ve written a post about it here.

 

Picture of Ickworth, a place that is free to visit with National Trust Membership

Ickworth through an arch. Lovely place to visit.

Hunted for eggs at Ickworth

If you stump up to join the National Trust or English Heritage, it makes sense to use the membership where you can. I thought the children would be keen to go over Easter, so they could take part in one of the egg hunts that the National Trust has had so much stick about. I think it’s harsh to criticise the Cadbury’s egg logo for not including the word ‘Easter’, when the website and posters all said “Easter Egg Hunt” in huge type.

Anyway, on Easter Monday we packed a picnic and headed off to Ickworth. Normally, a family ticket would cost £31.55, but if you’re a member, you can visit for free. Turned out we weren’t the only ones with the same plan, as the overflow car park was packed. Luckily the grounds are so big they can swallow lots of people. We ate beside the playground while the children ran off some energy. My daughter found some friends to try activities listed in the National Trusts’ “50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4” booklet, while my husband snoozed in the sunshine and my son dragged me off to explore uncharted territories behind trees and nettles.

The egg hunt itself cost £2.50 a child. In exchange, they got a sheet with a map of the 17 clues, hared around the Stumpery (yes, that is not a typo) chasing them down, and were rewarded with a trio of chocolate bunnies each.

Part of the reason we decided to go to Ickworth was the assortment of other activities also on offer. The kids had fun living out their Robin Hood / Merida fantasies with an archery session (£4 each), eyed up the giant chess, attempted some croquet and mastered catching a ball in a plastic scoop. Next time we might even brave the craft sessions in the Gallery.

 

Photo of cocktails at the Hadleigh Ram to celebrate my birthday

Birthday cocktails? Don’t mind if I do.

Benefited from free babysitting for a birthday meal

Shock horror my husband and I actually went out for a meal to celebrate my birthday. As regular readers might remember, we usually mark anniversaries by cooking some kind of special meal at home.

I can’t pretend it was a frugal evening. However, we did choose to go out the night before my birthday, so we could benefit from free babysitting from the grandparents (many thanks!). It also meant we could take advantage of Burger and Steak Night at the Hadleigh Ram, which includes steaks with skinny fries and a glass of wine or craft beer thrown in. If you are going to blow the budget on eating out, I reckon it’s worth checking for deals, discounts and set menus beforehand.

Turns out I’m not a very good restaurant reviewer because I happily cleared my plate before I even thought to take a photo. However, cocktails at The Ram are always a high point, and I much enjoyed my Rhubarb & Ginger Fizz. Happy birthday to me.

 

A photo of a Beebot programmable robot, as used by my daughter during the bargain childcare at computer club

A beebot, shortly before world domination.

Took advantage of low cost childcare

The children’s school was shut on Tuesday, due to a PD day aka an inset day or whatever you want to call teacher training nowadays. Luckily, on PD days our school offers a couple of clubs. My daughter was keen to return to the computer club, for a whole morning of Minecraft and Beebots. I was keen on anything that involved three hours of childcare for £7.50. Sadly, my son wasn’t keen to go along to the sports club alternative, but next year he’ll be old enough for computer club. Roll on Year 3.

 

A picture of a free Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 razor from Latest Free Stuff in front of a cherry tree

Free razor, plus entirely gratuitous cherry blossom

Claimed a free razor

I reckon frugal things are great, but free is even better.

Every so often I spot a fab freebie on websites like Latest Free Stuff or post decent offers I’ve seen on Latest Deals (waves to Deepak and Tom).

This week, I got a parcel with an entirely free Wilkinson Sword Turbo 5 razor, after applying for this offer on Latest Free Stuff. Looks like the same razor would normally cost anywhere between £4 and £10, depending on the supermarket and what deals they’re doing. I have no idea why 5 blades should be better than a lower number, but hey we’ll give it a try.

 

So now, over to you. Any thrifty successes to share? Tips for surviving Easter without breaking the bank? I’d love to hear, so do comment below.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma 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!

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (14 April)

Picture of the sun rise at Rendlesham Forest, as the sun shone between the pine trees, one of the five frugal things we did last week

Sun rise at a campsite far from screens and Wi-Fi.

 

Last week got off to an unexpected start, when we decided to dash off on a camping trip.

Originally, we weren’t intending to go away during the Easter holidays, but just do day trips plus a couple of sleepovers for the kids at their grandparents.

But then on Thursday night, the friends who were due to come for lunch on Sunday had to cancel. Suddenly, we had a clear weekend, the weather forecast was fabulous, and we decided to spend a couple of nights under canvas.

I’m planning a whole post on camping for less, but in the mean time here are the five frugal things during the second week of the school holidays.

 

Picture of our tent on the Rendlesham Forest campsite on a frugal comping trip, one of our five frugal things this week

Campsite in the forest, surrounded by beautiful spring foliage

Headed off on a low-cost camping trip

If you’re planning a weekend away, then camping really is a frugal option. Once you have invested in the equipment, it costs much less than staying in a hotel or holiday cottage. Aside from frugal considerations, it’s also a fabulous way to get closer to nature, when you wake up to the birds singing and spend the whole day outside rather than sitting in front of screens.

For our last minute trip, we didn’t go far afield, just the hour or so to the campsite in Rendlesham Forest. It was an off season weekend, so the pitch fees cost a grand total of £48 for a couple of nights for the four of us.

Normally you have to leave before midday on the last day, but we knew we wanted to stick around for longer to have lunch and enjoy the forest. When my husband rang to book, it turned out that instead of paying £22 for another night, we could extend our stay until 5pm for just £4. Perfect.

My top tip if you’re brave enough to consider camping this early in the year – take lots of layers of clothes and bedding, plus hats/hoodies/onesies to sleep in. During the day, the sun shone and the weather was gorgeous, but we had to wrap up warm to stay cosy at night.

 

Picture of toasting a marshmallow on a camping cooker, with biscuits waiting to make smores

Toasting marshmallows on the camping cooker

Toasted marshmallows and made s’mores

According to my children, an essential part of any camping trip is making s’mores. If you’ve never tried them before, this involves toasting marshmallows until they go all caramelised and melty, and then sandwiching them between a couple of biscuits.

I duly packed some metal skewers alongside the camping stove, and included marshmallows and biscuits when we nipped into the supermarket on the way to the campsite. We made s’mores as pudding on Saturday and Sunday, experimenting with both chocolate digestives and rich tea biscuits, purely for research purposes of course. Great fun for only a couple of quid.

 

Picture of the amazing wooden adventure playround in Rendlesham Forest, with a huge wooden climbing frame like a crashed plane

Part of the adventure playground at Rendlesham Forest

 

Investigated the alien trail

As we were staying in Rendlesham Forest, we were keen to try the UFO trail. Back in 1980 there were reports of several sightings of a UFO, a bit like the British version of Roswell.

We picked up a leaflet at the Forestry Commission hut and took a walk round the three-mile route. There are also signs to several other routes if you want to walk further or take bikes. My daughter was less convinced about a lengthy walk, but my son really got into reading about potential aliens, and they both enjoyed the adventure playgrounds.

One advantage of staying right in the forest was that we could try out the equipment about 5ish, just as most families headed home. This meant we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves. I can highly recommend the zip wire, and I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try it with a wider audience!

 

Picture looking out from the play tent we made on the trampoline, with bedspreads clipped to the top of the net.

View from our trampoline tent

Created a trampoline tent

Even after we returned from our trip, we weren’t quite ready to leave camping behind. I saw on the Instagram feed of another Suffolk blogger’s daughter (waves to Sadie at The Sadie Diaries!) that they had created a tent on their trampoline.

This sounded like a fun – and entirely free – idea for the school holidays. The kids and I dragged out assorted duvets, cushions and blankets. I used bulldog clips to attach a couple of flowery bedspreads over the top of the trampoline net. It proved a great place to read and bounce, and easy enough to set up and take down on a couple of different days.

 

A picture of pizza, after I used discount codes and a Zeek gift voucher for a frugal meal at pizza express

Pizza. Admittedly not from Pizza Express, but you get the idea

Took advantage of discount codes and vouchers at Pizza Express

I had a child-free evening out this week, when a friend was back from Africa for work, and I dashed to London to meet her for dinner. We were looking for somewhere cheap and cheerful near her office, so before I left I checked the offers at a local Pizza Express, and requested the code for 20% off food. If you’re intending to eat at Pizza Express, especially during the week, it’s always worth checking its website for offers.

I also used a £15 gift voucher for Pizza Express, bought for 11% less than the face value from the discount gift voucher website Zeek. I’ve banged on about Zeek before (here’s my review) as I’ve used it several times to buy vouchers and cut the cost of everything from wine to saucepans, supermarket shopping and cinema tickets.

If you sign up for the app, you can get £5 credit towards your first purchase by using the code 2CJTLAUC (and I’ll get a £5 credit too).

Even better, until 18 april Zeek is offering £10 back for every £100 you spend on top of the promo credit. Worth checking it out, to see if there are bargain vouchers for anywhere you’d be spending money anyway.

 

Now over to you – any frugal tips for surviving school holidays? Do share any ideas in the comments, I’d love to hear.

I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five fabulously frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

How to earn £38,230 a year without paying a penny in tax

Picture of our house with cherry blossom, maintained partly with the help of tax-free allowances.

Less money paid in tax = more money to stop the roof falling off

 

Do you have any idea quite how much money you can earn without paying a single penny in tax?

I’ve just finished typing madly for an article about tax codes (check yours now!).

It really made me realise that if you’d rather keep more of your money, and pay less to the taxman, there are loads of ways to do so. Just this month, another couple of new allowances were introduced to earn extra totally tax-free.

When we made the move from London out to Suffolk, we also left behind London salaries. Sayanora higher pay, but big hello to more time as a family. Nowadays, making the most of tax-free allowances can help boost our income and stop bits of the house falling off.

So have a dekko, and see how quickly it all tots up.

Personal Allowance – £11,500

As a start, you can earn £11,500 without paying any income tax using your Personal Allowance. Sure, if you earn more than £100,000 the taxman will start taking that allowance away, but that sounds like a nice problem to have.

Personal Savings Allowance – £1,000 (adds up to £12,500)

You can also earn £1,000 every tax year in interest on your savings, or £500 if you’re a higher-rate taxpayer. Potentially hard to do, when interest rates are so low, but still a nice chunk of cash. What I didn’t realise before is that if you earn less than £17,000 a year, you don’t pay any interest on your savings interest at all, even if you’re getting interest payments worth more than £1,000. Cheers!

Dividend Allowance – £5,000 (adds up to £17,500)

If you’re willing to invest in the stock market, you can earn £5,000 a year in dividends on shares or funds totally tax-free. The good news is that the Government has abandoned plans to cut this allowance to £2,000 next April, in an attempt to rush through the Finance bill before the election.

Long term, you’ll almost certainly be better off buying any investments within an individual savings account (Isa), as you don’t have to pay tax on anything inside an Isa. However, the dividend allowance is handy if you have shares or funds that aren’t in an Isa, either due to wealth or never-quite-getting-your-act-together.

Rent a Room Relief – £7,500 (adds up to £25,000)

Not so long ago, Rent a Room Relief was hoiked up to £7,500 a year. You can benefit from this one if you let out a furnished room in your own home, for example by taking a lodger or foreign student, or letting a room on Airbnb. Short pause while I feel all nostalgic about my flatmates when I was a first-time buyer.

Sorry folks, it doesn’t work if you’re letting out a whole place somewhere else, so buy-to-let landlords look away now.

Property Income – £1,000 (adds up to £26,000)

Since April 6, you can now earn a grand every tax year from property without paying tax. (OK so we not talking Trump style property tycoon figures)

Again, this could be via Airbnb, but you might also make money renting space in your loft or garage for storage, or hiring out your driveway as a parking space.

You don’t even have to worry about declaring it to the taxman, if it tots up to less than £1,000.

You can’t use Rent a Room Relief and the allowance for property income against the same money, but you could for example do two different things, like letting to a lodger and hiring out your driveway, and still benefit from both.

Trading Income – £1,000 (adds up to £27,000)

Also since April 6, you can earn another grand a year from selling goods or services totally tax-free. So if for example you rake in some extra cash flogging stuff on eBay or Etsy, or from services like babysitting, dog walking, cleaning, ironing or cooking, you can hang onto £1,000 a year without paying tax.

Capital Gains Tax- £11,000 (adds up to £38,000)

I admit this one is a bit of a stretch, because you need to own plenty of stuff in the first place, but you can still earn capital gains of up to £11,300 without having to pay any tax.

Capital gains is the profit when you sell something that has gone up in value.

So maybe you sell shares, or a fancy painting for more than £6,000, or a property that isn’t your home. If their price has soared since you first shelled out, then the difference between what you paid and what you sold counts as a capital gain.

The Government is keen to take a cut, but will at least let you pocket the first £11,000 before hitting you with capital gains tax (CGT). You are also free to sell your own home and your own car without being troubled by CGT.  Cheers for that, HMRC.

Marriage Allowance – £230 (adds up to £38,230)

Believe it or not, you can get free money for being married or in a civil partnership.

This only works if one of you is a basic rate taxpayer, and the other doesn’t earn enough to pay any tax at all. The non-taxpayer transfers 10% of their unused tax-free allowance to the basic rate taxpayer, which means the taxpayer pays less tax. It’s worth £230 this year.

Even better, if you’ve never claimed before, you can whack in claim for this year and the two years before, and get £662 free money. So hop over to gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance and fill your boots.

Wowzers.

A whopping £38,230 a year without paying any tax.

Plus, if you salt away savings and investments in Isas, you can whip money out of those to add to your income without paying any tax either. (Although you might want to hoard those Isa savings for as long as possible, as you can’t put any money back in)

Anyone keen to make a mint from any of these allowances? Know of other tax-free ways to stash the cash? I’d love to hear!

 

Figures correct for the tax year 6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018