Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (7 April)

First bluebells starting to appear in the garden

 

So far we’ve all survived the first week of the Easter holidays, partly thanks to the glorious weather in Suffolk. It’s been a genuine pleasure to get outside in the garden and head off for assorted outings.

Here’s a round up of our five fabulously frugal things this week.

 

Afternoon sun slanting across the fields

Got out for a family walk

We started the holidays with a laid back weekend, with much Lego, swingball and the whirr of the mower as my husband cut the grass. When it descended into a hefty dose of screen time and YouTube, we dragged the kids out for a walk near Polstead.  One of the pleasures of moving out to Suffolk has been the the beautiful scenery that surrounds us. Despite some* initial complaints, they end up investigating the hedgerows, clambering over tree trunks and running full tilt across the field by the church. (*For some, read a lot, loudly. But the complaints did disappear once we got going. Thank goodness.)

We stopped for ages by the little bridge over the ford, while they stripped off socks and shoes for extended paddling in the river, to the accompaniment of me saying “remember I haven’t brought any spare clothes”. The afternoon sun shone, and part of the walk took us through a tunnel of trees covered in white blossom. I really do love this time of year, and we all enjoyed getting outside entirely for free.

 

Shedloads of veg to transform into soups, stews & myriad forms of potato

Stocked up on an Easter veg offer

While I was in Morrisons, I spotted they were doing a special offer on vegetables for Easter, with bags at 50p each or 3 for a pound. I guess it’s a cunning plan to lure people in who’ll be catering for a crowd on Easter Sunday, and hope they buy lots more at the same time.

Anyway I stocked up a couple of 1.5kg bags of potatoes, a couple of 1kg bags of carrots, a 1kg bag of onions and 500g of leeks. At just £2 for 6.5kg of staple vegetables, it should keep us going for a while!

 

Bargain baking from Poundland

Bagged some bargain baking ingredients

I realise Poundland might not be the first place that springs to mind when you want to bake up a storm.

However, when my daughter and I were out in Ipswich, I noticed Poundland had a whole load of ingredients at less than I’d normally expect to pay. We went in to get some cake decorations, as Poundland sells them at two tubes for a pound. I then added 1kg of caster sugar, 300g of dessicated coconut and 140g of ground almonds all for – you’ve guessed it – a pound each. Normally in Morrisons I’d expect to pay £1.60 for the same quantity of caster sugar, £1.28 for only 200g of dessicated coconut and £1.82 for 150g ground almonds, so I was glad to find them for less.

I’ll use the sugar in the cakes we planned, the coconut for these New Zealand biscuits, and the ground almonds for a recipe known in our family as Seriously Chocolatey Pudding.

 

Boss Baby. It’s no Zootropolis.

Used Club Lloyds cinema vouchers 

My two have been campaigning to see the film Boss Baby. We usually wait until children’s films come out at cheaper children’s showings, when the tickets are only a couple of pounds each. However, we still had some free cinema vouchers, one of the perks you get each year with a Club Lloyds current account. My husband was only too happy for me to take the children while he was at work, so he could avoid sitting through this particular film. I did try for Beauty and the Beast, but no, Boss Baby it was.

I carted the children off to Cineworld yesterday afternoon for an entirely free showing which would otherwise have cost us £21.99 if booked in advance on the website, or £24 if we just rocked up at the cinema. (And don’t tell Cineworld, but we also spent £1 in Poundland for 6 snack packs of Butterkist popcorn, rather than spending a small fortune in the cinema foyer).

 

Using a book voucher to buy one, get one half price

Made the most of a birthday book token

During one of our trips to Ipswich, I took my daughter to Waterstones so she could use her birthday book token. It’s been months since her birthday, but we usually get books at the library rather than in a book shop, and it can be all too easy to forget a voucher even if you’re near a shop.

Anyway she zoned straight in on the “buy one, get one half price” table, and emerged triumphant with two paperbacks for just over a tenner. Looks like some of my attempts to bang on about bargains and value for money have stuck!

If you ever have vouchers that you’re worried you won’t spend before they expire, remember there’s a website called Zeek that will buy them for cold, hard cash. Alternatively, if you’d like to save money, you can buy discount gift vouchers there too. I’ve mentioned Zeek before, as I’ve used it to get stuff like wine, a frying pan and cinema tickets for less.

Use the code 2CJTLAUC when downloading the Zeek app on Android or iPhone and you’ll get £5 credit for free (and I’ll get a credit too).

 

Now over to you – any thrifty triumphs to report? Great ideas for frugal family-friendly fun? Do let me know 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.

 

A new home

Vintages suitcase and hatboxes as Much More With Less moves to a new domain and website

A whole load of unpacking ahead

Don’t worry, we aren’t moving house.

It’s just that as you may have noticed, Much More With Less now has a new look and a new home on its very own website.

After much faffing around, I’ve finally made the move from Blogger, and the new blog address is:

www.muchmorewithless.co.uk

If anyone is kind enough to include my blog on their side bar, or in a list of blogs, I would be incredibly grateful if you could change the link. I may yet get round to sending change of address emails, if that makes it easier!

Much like moving house though, there’s still a lot of unpacking and tidying up to do.

For example, the captions on my photos seem to have gone haywire. I’ve got grand plans about actually getting round to adding categories and tags to posts, to make them easier to find. Several people have asked about subscribing to the blog, so they get notified of new posts, so maybe I’ll finally work out how to do that too. Currently all comments have to be approved, which they didn’t before, so I’ll have to find out how to turn that off.

Shock horror I might even get round to writing an About Me page (anyone else cringe at the attempt to describe themself? Just me then?).

So do bear with me while I potter around, moving the furniture into different formats, and redecorating with different colours.

And if you have any thoughts about what makes a good blog website, in terms of layout or features (or whatever really) I’m all ears.

It may not happen immediately – small matter of the Easter holidays to survive – but we’ll get there in the end.

Thanks for reading!

 

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (31 March)

Joyful jump off the slide at Framlingham Castle

 

A calmer week this time, without any crunch work deadlines for me, but with the added excitement of Mothering Sunday.

Mothers’ Day did get a bit disrupted by the whole business of being a mother. In the morning my husband carted my son off to rugby while I did the dutiful thing of escorting my daughter to the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts church service. She got to be one of the standard bearers and eat plenty of cake afterwards, so ended up pretty happy, and I came away with a bunch of daffodils.

In the afternoon we did find some suitably thrifty ways to celebrate Mothers’ Day, so here are my five frugal things for this week!

 

Seduced by an elephant on the bottle (and an offer)

 

Treated myself to some gin

I’m not a big fan of turning high days and holidays into reasons to spend hand over fist. Nowadays, shops seem to use any excuse to pile the shelves high with themed merchandise: Hallowe’en, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter, Back to School, Fathers’ Day and most recently Mothers’ Day.
However, there’s no denying you can pick up some bargains, whether on special offers beforehand or reduced prices afterwards.
As my own “Happy Mothers’ Day” present, I spotted Morrisons had several offers on gin, including £4 off Opihr, plus More loyalty card points worth another £2. I even stood there in the supermarket, checking the MySupermarket app to make sure it was actually a good deal. Thankfully I couldn’t find it anywhere else for less. Cheers!

 

6.6m of zippy slide at The Castle on the Hill

 

Made the most of English Heritage membership at Framlingham Castle 

To celebrate Mothering Sunday, we headed off for an afternoon at Framlingham Castle.
We’re been before, but I reckoned the kids would enjoy the massive slide that Framlingham Castle have put up during conservation work while the visitor centre is closed.
As we’re already members of English Heritage, the entrance was free, rather than paying £23.10 for a family ticket.
Plus as it was Mothers’ Day I could insist that everyone listened to my other present, an Ed Sheeran CD, for the entire journey. Ed’s a Framlingham boy, and Castle on the Hill is all about Framlingham Castle, so it seemed rude not to.
Anyway the kids had a blast, zooming down the ‘slide into history’, racing round the battlements, rolling down the slopes outside the castle and attempting a rather muddy walk round the mere. If you’re nearby, it’s well worth a visit, and the slide is in place until May.

 

Money saving home made soup

 

Used cut-price parsnips to make soup

This week I picked up a 41p bag of parsnips from the reduced section in our local Co-op, and decided to make some soup. I flicked through a couple of recipe books for inspiration, and spotted a recipe for parsnip and apple soup. This seemed a great chance to use up one of the Bramley apples that have been rolling around our freezer for ages. After some peeling, chopping and simmering with a value veg stock cube, I ended up with three portions of surprisingly creamy soup for only about 20p a bowl. Marvellous.

 

99p for an empty jar? Madness, I tell you.

 

Justified my jar hoarding

I was astonished this week to see perfectly ordinary empty jam jars for 99p in QD. That seems like madness when you can buy full jars of jam for as little as 27p in the value ranges, and around 75p for supermarket own brand.
Given the numbers of jars I hoard in the hope of making my own marmalade and elderflower cordial, my kitchen cupboard must be worth a mint.
So top frugal tip: if you want empty jars, check out full versions on the supermarket shelves first!

Here’s to cutting the cost of holiday activities

 

Signed up for Kids Pass for a £1

As part of my Easter holiday survival plans, I signed up for a 60 day trial membership of the Kids Pass app for the grand total of £1*.
Using Kids Pass you can get discounts off a whole range of family-friendly activities at more than 5,000 places. Offers include eating out, cinema tickets, activities like paintball, tennis and bowling, and theme park entry at the assorted Merlin Entertainment places like Legoland, Sea Life centres and the London Eye.
(I’ve posted in the past about Legoland on a budget and frugal holiday activities including Sea Life Weymouth)
My cunning plan involved waiting until today to sign up, so that the 60 day trial would cover not just the Easter holidays but also both May bank holidays.
Will let you know how I get on, as the expense for these kind of activities can really mount up, so I’m keen to save where I can. My daughter has been campaigning to see Beauty and the Beast, and Kids Pass will cut a chunky 40% off the cost of the tickets.
At the end of the trial, the membership will automatically renew for a whole year at the reduced rate of £39.99. If I don’t want to continue, I can cancel any time between now and 5pm the day before the last day of the trial.

If you’d like to try Kids Pass for £1 too, you can get a 60 day trial, double the length of the normal 30 day offer, using this link*.

Now – over to you. Any thrifty successes to report? Ever looked at shop shelves and thought: “How much?? For that??”, as I did for the jam jars? 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!

My Financial Times article on car financing & why I think PCP is madness

Nearest I’m likely to get to a Ferrari

Excitement at the weekend, when the first article I’ve written for the Financial Times made it into print, explaining car financing and the pros and cons of PCP.

(You can find the article here, and may even be able to read it before the paywall kicks in).

Hopefully, it’s useful for anyone considering buying a car using a Personal Contract Plan, also known as a Personal Contract Purchase. PCP is massively popular – more than 8 out of 10 brand new cars are bought using PCP, and nearly half of used cars too.

But I would never buy a car using PCP myself.

Why not?

Well, PCP is great if:

– you like having a brand new car sitting in the drive (doesn’t bother me)

– you like swapping your car at regular intervals (nope, doesn’t bother me)

– you’d like to afford a fancier car than you would otherwise, trading up from say a boring old Ford to a whizzy BMW or Audi (nope, still not bothered, and beginning to sound like Catherine Tate)

– you can keep your car lovingly maintained and in immaculate condition, without a single bump or scratch (We have two children, drive along country roads, and I’m only just starting to drive again. How much stress do you think that might cause?)

– you drive predictable amounts and can keep within the mileage limits (again, would rather not worry about mileage limits when we’re making plans for the weekend)

– you don’t mind not owning the car during the contract (actually, this one does bother me. I like to use things as I choose, without worrying about having to give them back).

– you don’t mind paying interest for money you’ve borrowed (I’d much rather earn interest than pay it, even when rates are low)

PCP sounds great because the monthly payments are typically lower than if you got a car using trad hire purchase or a personal loan.  Why? Because the payments don’t cover the whole cost of the car.
Instead, you’re just paying the difference between the current value of the car – less any deposit and trade in – and the expected value of the car at the end of the contract.
Your hard-earned cash pays the cost of the car’s depreciation, usually with a chunk of interest on top.
If you choose to buy the car at the end of the contract (and admittedly few people do) you’re likely to end up paying MORE in total to own the car than you would using HP or a loan.

All the industry experts I spoke to compared PCP to buying a mobile phone on contract. Loads of people shell out £50 or £60 a month to have the latest iPhone this or Galaxy that and switch to a new model every few years, and like taking the same approach with their car.

But – klaxon alert – I don’t pay £50 or £60 a month for a fancy phone on contract. I bought a slightly older model outright, and pay a fiver a month for a SIM only deal. Because guess what – it’s massively cheaper!

Personally, I reckon if you’re trying to make the most of your money, then PCP is madness.

PCP, and the buying culture it encourages, is the opposite of the thrifty tactics I try to follow.

1. Paying more than you need is expensive

It frustrates that hell out of me that when people find they could pay the same each month for say a Ford Focus on hire purchase, or a Merc on PCP, they say: “Cheers, I’ll pay for the same for the Merc”, rather than “Fantastic, I’ll get the Ford on PCP and use the spare money for something else”.

Think what that money could do! Pay off debt, save up for something fantastic, help towards retirement or hey build enough to buy your own car outright so you’re not shelling out to a finance company.

2. Depreciation is expensive

Why oh why would anyone want to set fire to thousands of pounds just by driving a brand spanking new car off the forecourt? Seems rather a lot for a new car smell, the latest number plate and the chance to be the first name on the registration documents.

From a frugal perspective. it makes much more sense to let someone else pay for the plunging depreciation, and buy the same car second hand a few years later.

3. Driving someone else’s car can be expensive

PCP deals are driven by depreciation, so the condition and the mileage of the car matter a lot. When you sign up to PCP, you’re also signing up to keep the car in good condition and below agreed mileage limits.
At the end of the contract, if the car is damaged, or you’ve driven further than expected, you’ll have to foot the bill. Typical mileage excess charges run at about 10p a mile – which doesn’t sound all that much. But if you return a car with 35,000 miles on the clock, rather than the 30,000 agreed, that adds up to £500. Ouch.

I’d much rather we own our own car, and don’t have to panic about any dent, scratch or extra journey.

3. Interest is expensive

I resent paying interest. It makes everything more expensive. Ideal world, I’d rather save up and buy a reasonably priced second hand car outright. This might not make me the car dealer’s favourite person, but I prefer paying less.

I do appreciate that some people need a car, right now, if for example they couldn’t work without it and don’t have a several thousand pounds to spare. In that situation, I’d still go for the reasonably priced second hand car, so the monthly repayments were lower and I could save the difference towards buying outright.

4. Swapping cars is expensive

Expensive in terms of the world’s resources, that is. Trading in a brand new car every two or three years seems a shocking waste of materials and labour. Yes, if you buy an old banger you’re likely to face expensive maintenance bills, but surely a three-year-old car isn’t about to expire?

Of course, it helps that I’m not a petrol head and don’t get fired up about cars. What kind of car have we got? A blue one. (I’m only slightly joking here).

From a frugal perspective, I focus on finding a good value car with low running costs – so a reliable brand, with low fuel consumption and inexpensive insurance. Buy it, keep it, and only consider a new one years later when it’s less reliable and the repair costs start mounting up.

Over to you. Are you a fan of PCP, or prefer to buy your own car outright? Car lover, or view cars as a necessary evil to get you from A to B? What are your top tips when buying a car? I’d love to hear, so do share your thoughts in the comments.

Five fabulously frugal things I’ve done this week (24 March)

The joy of returning home to a big box of food

What a weird week. We’ve been pottering around in our own little bubble, and then you hear the news from Westminster and reflect on how circumstances can change in a heart beat. My thoughts are with the victims of the attack and all their friends and families. I don’t know what to write that isn’t trite, but somehow feel that carrying on living our lives, undeterred, and while still welcoming others, is the only way to proceed.

Let’s hope blossom now = fruit later


Celebrated blossom on the fruit trees

In my frugal quest I remain optimistic about growing some of our own fruit and veg.
When we first moved, the little peach tree in the secret garden was almost engulfed in ivy and growing out at an angle trying to reach the light.
We stripped away loads of ivy and gradually persuaded the trunk back upright, but it has only ever produced a solitary peach, in true Roald Dahl style.
This week, pink blossom has started appearing on the branches. I’ve been reading up on the RHS website, and it looks like I need to get out there on sunny afternoons with a small paint brush, and start transferring pollen between the flowers. Fingers crossed for fruit in the future!

Half price ham. Kerching.

Made the most of a yellow-stickered ham


When it comes to making the most of your money, I reckon small changes can add up to a big difference. Paying less for products, buying food that will stretch for several meals, using loyalty cards where available, earning cashback on your purchases, that sort of thing. Ideal world, I try to combine several money-saving measures at the same time.
This week was a good example when I did a quick scan of the reduced section in the Co-op. I found a chunky piece of gammon reduced to half price (pay less, tick), big enough to last for several meals (stretch food, tick), handed over my Co-op divi card (clocked up some dividends, tick) and paid for my shopping with my Nationwide Select credit card (few pence in cashback, tick).
I also bought some value range orange juice so I could cook the gammon using a family favourite recipe. Last night, my husband and I ate slices of gammon with boiled potatoes and cauliflower cheese, and this morning my husband made ham sandwiches for his packed lunch.
Reckon the remaining leftovers should also cover a topping on movie night pizzas plus another family meal of either creamy ham and pea pasta or quiche.

Yes, I am overexcited about a box of food.

Grabbed a discount Gousto box

Ever tried one of the food delivery boxes? They send recipe cards and carefully measured ingredients, so you can cook up a storm with less effort and no food waste. Much as I love cooking, I do sometimes get fed up with all the planning and shopping and working out what on earth we’re going to eat.
We tried a Gousto* box last year and it was great fun attempting new recipes and techniques, and inspired my husband to have a go at cooking.
So when I saw a £25 off voucher code last weekend, I leapt at the chance. And coincidentally (cough) our 3 meals for 2 for £9.99 have shown up just in time for Mothering Sunday, so I’m letting Josh choose which one to cook for me. Even after the discount, it’s probably a bit more than I would spend normally on our food, but it’s nice as a treat.
If you’ve never tried Gousto* and fancy giving it a whirl, you can get £25 off using the code PROMO25. Alternatively, if you want one of the mega boxes with 4 meals for 4 people, you might save more by using the code SAVE50 for 50% off. The codes work until the end of April, so pick the right delivery date and it could help survive the onslaught of the Easter holidays.

Running trousers after a muddy run

Repaired a rip in my running trousers

I am still slogging away at running, in my attempts to get fit for less and last long enough to get round the Great East Run. So far, I can run for 5km. This means 20km by September still seems a big stretch.
Part of the waistband on my running trousers got ripped, right by the drawstring. However, as the rest is perfectly good, I sewed up the rip rather than shelling out for a new pair. Aside from any thrifty motives, I’d rather not add to landfill if I can avoid it.

Attempting to keep the lights on for less

Switched electricity provider. Again.

Back in January, I got an email from our electricity company explaining my bills were about to go up at the end of a year-long deal. I promptly switched providers – and now, only a couple of months later, the new company has emailed about price rises. Our bills are due to shoot up a whopping 30%! No wonder they were a cheaper option back in January.
So once bitten, twice shy, and when I switched again this week I went for a fixed tariff with Octopus Energy*.
It wasn’t actually the super cheapest option on the comparison sites, but a couple of the companies with the lowest prices had really dire customer service ratings, and I’ve had a bad experience in the past with the seven circles of utility bill hell.
Octopus Energy* seems to have lots of happy customers, supplies big chunks of renewable energy and advertises itself as offering consistently good value prices, rather than luring you in with a bargain basement offer and then whacking up the bills in year two. I’m hopeful it’s a better option for us, and will report back on how it actually works in practice.

So there you go, a round up of five frugal things from our week. Any thrifty triumphs to celebrate? Do comment and share your successes, I’d love to hear. And if anyone tries the Chip savings app (post here) to save more and earn extra interest, do let me know.

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!