Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (3 March)

Appropriate attire for cooking: shirt and tie

Any week that crams in Pancake Day, World Book Day, a work day in London and a mini rugby match in Bury St Edmunds (which I hasten to add involved my son not me) was always going to be busy.
Here’s a selection of five frugal things we did along the way!

Free biscuits? Don’t mind if I do.

Nabbed some free biscuits from Shopmium

Normally, I don’t buy many biscuits.
The general approach is that if someone wants to eat biscuits, they’ll have to make them – and we do enjoy baking family favourites like ginger biscuits, New Zealand biscuits and cookies with raisins or chocolate chips.
However, last week I spotted that Shopmium, a supermarket cashback app, was offering some biscuits free, gratis and for nothing. I like Shopmium because it pays you back any cashback fast, and you don’t have to earn a minimum amount before you can claim it.
I duly added some Bahlsen Choco Leibniz and Mikado biscuits to the shopping list, sent in photos of the receipt using the Shopmium app on Saturday, and by Thursday the £2.60 was already back in my account. Super speedy!
The biscuits made a delicious treat during the weekend, especially when we got back from taking the kids on a bike ride along the railway walk.
If you’ve never used Shopmium before, it’s worth giving it a whirl to see if there are any freebies or discounts you’d like to try.
Download the app (it’s on Google Play and the App Store) and enter the code KFKKAMKL and you can even claim a free bar of Lindt chocolate too!

Ladling on the lard to make pancakes

Made some pancakes

We didn’t quite manage pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, when my son disappeared off to Cubs and my daughter didn’t feel well.
Instead, I bowed to popular demand and whipped some up for breakfast the next day. (NB This is not an approach I recommend, on top of the normal school morning chaos plus me heading to London for work. I got suckered by my own offspring. Think big eyes and pleading.)
We make small fat pancakes on Sunday mornings, but for pancake day I went old style with big thin flat ones, accompanied by lashings of lemon and sugar.
I even dug out a retro (by which I mean elderly) children’s cook book, to check on the proportions. The big surprise was spotting lard in the 1950s ingredient list. Maybe that’s because you can heat it much hotter than ordinary vegetable oil or butter?
Funny how food fashions change – suspect there aren’t many references to coconut oil in the Good Housekeeping Children’s Cookbook, and I doubt my son would be delighted if I tried to make him wear a tie while cooking (or indeed at all).
Anyway, I gave it a whirl, and the kids wolfed them down.
Some of the supermarkets have pancake mix on sale, which seems a shame for a simple recipe with cheap ingredients. I added up what our pancakes cost us, based on Morrisons as our nearest big supermarket:

112g plain flour for 3.4p (45p for 1.5kg bag of value range plain flour)
1 egg for 13.3p (£2 for a box of 15 mixed weight free range eggs)
1/2 pint of milk for 12.5p (£1 for a 2.27 litre / 4 pint bottle of milk)
10g of lard for 1.6p (39p for 250g value range lard)

Total: 31p, before you add toppings.

Now, I do appreciate that buying these ingredients cost rather more at £3.84.

For me, it’s worth shelling out the cash because I’ll use them all for other things. Even the lard gets used in pastry and for making Yorkshire puddings, and it lasts in the fridge for months.

As an alternative, I saw the Co-op had small sachets of pancake batter mix for 25p, which only involved adding an egg and water. I can see that would make sense if money was really tight and you still wanted to make pancakes for your kids.

But loads of the other pancake mixes ask you to add eggs and milk – what do they contain? Paying £1 to £2 for a bag of measured flour seems a right rip off to me. Maybe there’s something I’m missing – do let me know in the comments!

Your shield handle worries, sorted.

Survived World Book Day with the aid of wine (carrier)

Much as I love books, I do not love World Book Day.
Apart from anything else, it seems to contribute far more to the sales of polyester fancy dress than anything to do with reading. I will save you the full auto rant on this occasion, but suffice to say my preferred Twitter hastag for World Book Day was actually #WorldofPain.
(Just to clarify for those who are not parents, and may live in blissful ignorance, it’s an annual event when children are encouraged to go to school or nursery dressed as a character from their favourite book)
This year, my son was determined to go as Tom from Beast Quest, mainly I suspect because it involved taking a sword into school. Good luck with that, teachers.
Anyway in my frugal attempts to avoid buying an expensive costume, we made a family effort to cobble together a suitable shield. In true Blue Peter style, this involved much cardboard, parcel tape, felt tips, scissors, glue, searching on Google images, and only a small amount of swearing.
My top tip for future shield making was hacking apart a cardboard wine carrier to make a handle. Worked a treat. You can thank me later.

Just waiting for my turn to read it

Sent a free children’s book by Mumsnet book club

I may not be the biggest fan of World Book Day, but I do love free books.
I was therefore particularly grateful when a parcel arrived from Mumsnet Book Club. I’d entered a book giveaway competion for a copy of “The Painted Dragon“* by Katherine Woodfine.
This time, it was a book for my daughter, rather than for me, and she’s already got stuck in. It’s a detective story for readers aged 9+, where the heroines, Sophie and Lil, face “forgery, trickery and deceit” on all sides in their search for a stolen painting.
The quido pro quo is that we have to write a quick book review on Mumsnet, but there’s even a chance of winning a £100 Love2Shop voucher if we do.

Appears piggy banks are old hat. Apps are where it’s at.

Downloaded the Chip savings app

Hark at me. A year ago, I didn’t even have a smartphone, and now here I am downloading a savings app.
I’d like to do a proper post on Chip, but it’s meant to help you save money by studying your current account, and then siphoning off cash it reckons you can afford into a savings account with Barclays. You are notified of any potential transfers, and can stop them if you want.
The part that made me think “kerching” was that you can earn up to 5% interest by inviting your nearest and dearest to download the app too. Given how rubbish most savings rates are right now, that’s pretty good.
Chip also lets you shovel across up to £100 a day yourself, which means that potentially you could end up with a bigger balance earning 5% than using one of the high interest current accounts.
I’ll let you know how it goes, but if you did want to try Chip and plug in my code 4T0C9I you’ll get the choice of earning 2% interest, or 1% and a free tenner. Pass on your own code, and you can add extra interest. (Chip is on Google Play here and iTunes here)
In exchange you do have to bear with the gifs and bad puns, but every little helps in making the most of your money!

Now over to you – any frugal successes to celebrate? Do share in the comments, as 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.

Disclaimer: no-one has sponsored me to write this post (sob), it’s just me banging on about some of the things I do to stretch our family budget.
If you’re kind enough to use the referral codes, then I’ll get a few pounds, and you’ll get chocolate, interest or cash, but you can also download the apps without using any codes at all.

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (24 Feb)

Picture of snowdrops growing in our garden to illustrate five frugal things post

Carpet of snowdrops by the front wall


This week marked the return to normal, after the excitment of half term.
Even dashing in and out on the school run, I still smiled every time I went past the carpet of snowdrops emerging by the front wall. A few crocuses and a solitary winter aconite are also showing through. I’ve been getting overexcited on Instagram posting these first signs of spring – do come and follow me on Instagram if you’d like a daily dose of flowers!
Meanwhile I’ve had a couple of different work deadlines, so have been nose to the grindstone while the children were back at school.
I suppose the frugal advantage of being busy is that you don’t have so much chance to splash the cash!

Anyway here are the five frugal things we did this week.


Picture of inflatable at cheap swimming pool session, one of my five frugal things this week

Commando run inflatable – think I’ll stick to the running…


Took my daugher swimming at the local leisure centre

At the end of half term, while my son has his turn for an outing with the grandparents, I took my daughter to one of her favourite activities – swimming.
Hadleigh Pool runs afternoon sessions with a big commando inflatable for kids to crawl all over, for the bargain price of £3.10. Even better, now my daugher is nine and a confident swimmer, she can go in the pool on her own, while I can sit at the side without shivering in a swimsuit!
Many local leisure centres are run on a not-for-profit basis, with distinctly cheaper charges than swanky gyms and water parks, so it’s worth checking them out.


Picture of home-made mushroom quiche, as the second frugal thing I did this week

Mmmmm mushroom quiche. And salad. Also good.


Made quiche for a Meat-Free Monday

On Sunday, I cooked a cut price yellow-stickered chicken unearthed from the back of the freezer as a big roast meal. This provided plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day, and in fact for chicken and egg fried rice a couple of days later, but in the meantime I opted to make a meat-free meal on Monday night.
Including veggie meals a couple of nights a week can really help with cutting food costs. Depending on what you cook – so perhaps not a massive pile of chips – it can also be a healthier option too.
I’d picked up some yellow-stickered chestnut mushrooms that morning, so we had mushroon, spinach, red onion and cheddar quiche with salad. This had the added bonus of using up some of the frozen spinach that’s been hanging around in the freezer for ages too.
Also meant there more leftovers ready for lunch the next day!


Picture of seedlings from free seeds sprouting in the bargain windowsill seed tray, one of the five frugal things I did this week.

Progress in the windowsill seed tray


Spotted signs of life from the seeds

I’m glad to report that some of the vegetable seeds my son insisted on planting during half term are showing signs of life. The photo above shows our windowsill seed tray after 10 days, although to make it easier to see the seedlings I removed the transparent plastic top which creates a kind of mini greenhouse
The salad leaves and kale sprouted first, and the carrot seedlings nearest to the camera emerged next, but we haven’t seen any progress on the onion or pepper front yet.
Who knows whether we’ll actually emerge with anything edible – or money saving – at the end, but it’s certainly fun trying!
Given I got the seeds, seed tray and potting compost last year, and they’ve been hanging around ever since, this is a very frugal activity.


Picture of a Nest learning thermostat sent to me by Octopus Energy, as one of my five frugal things this week.

A Nest learning thermostat. Fancy that.

Been sent a Nest Thermostat by Octopus Energy

This week I was particularly overexcited because the nice people at Octopus Energy sent me a Nest learning thermostat (I lead a quiet life).
The attraction of a Nest thermostat is that it’s meant to help save energy and therefore cut heating costs. It learns to adjust your heating, to keep the house cosy when you’re home, but avoid heating an empty house.
Apparently you can also adjust your heating and your hot water using your smartphone.
I’ve booked an appointment for a professional installer to come round and fit it, and we’re raring to get going, and find out what else it can do.
Given our chunky oil bills, any help with cutting our heating costs will be very gratefully received!
Octopus Energy meanwhile are a new gas and electricity supplier, focused on clearer, simpler pricing and top notch customer service. They invest in loads of different forms of renewable energy, from solar to wind generation and anaerobic digestion, which is based on breaking down plant waste.
This means if you want to do your bit for the environment, you can opt for the Super Green Octopus Tariff using 100% renewable electricity, and full carbon offsets for gas, but there are a range of other tariffs too.


Picture of a Fitbit Charge HR with a broken wrist strap, as one of my five frugal things this week

See that gap in the middle? It shouldn’t be there. Bust.

Contacted customer services about my broken Fitbit

Last year, my husband got me a Fitbit for my birthday, to encourage me in my attempts to get fitter.

I have worn it ever since, and it has definitely encouraged me to walk more, aiming to beat the 10,000 steps target each day. I opted for a Fitbit Charge HR, and do like fiddling around on my phone to check graphs about my resting heartbeat and how much sleep I’ve got.

It’s been fascinating to see how my resting heart beat came down when I actually get off the couch towards the 5K part of my running programme (remember what I said about the quiet life?).
Anyway, much to my distress, the strap started coming away from the screen, so my Fitbit was losing charge really quickly and didn’t always work.
I finally got my act together and emailed customer services this week. After sending a photo of the damage, and some details about when and where I got it, they confirmed that it was still within the warranty, and I can return my broken Fitbit to exchange it for a brand new one.
As I was poised to buy a brand new fitness tracker, then forking out for tracked postage to the Netherlands instead is a big saving.
I’m still concerned that the replacement will be the same model, where the strap problem is a known issue and could reoccur, but it will be great to have a working Fitbit again.

That’s my round up of five frugal things I did this week. Now over to you – any frugal successes to celebrate? Do share them in the comments, I’d love to hear.

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

Ten fabulously frugal things for half term (17 Feb)

Winter jasmine, from a trip to the Gainsborough Museum in Sudbury

This week was half term, so I’ve focused on fabulously frugal things that were fun for the children without breaking the bank.
Being frugal doesn’t mean spending nothing at all, but I try to make any money we do spend stretch further.
So for example we balanced free activities like country walks, gardening and baking with a day trip to London where we took advantage of offers and vouchers.
School holidays are always a juggling act, with me trying to fit in some work round the edges, but here’s how we got on!

OK so the Little Grey Rabbit book was more for me than any offspring.

Stocked up on books at the charity shop and library

On the last day of term, my daughter and I did a quick scan of the charity shops while my son was at football after school. The children get a pound a week pocket money, and I try to divert them onto longer lasting purchases before we reach the sweet shop.
This time I splashed out on some children’s books at Hadleigh Thrift Shop, to help with entertainment during the half term holiday – a bargain at £1 for five!
My daughter is a big David Walliams fan, so I also reserved a copy of his latest book, The Midnight Gang*, at our local library. It showed up just in time for our day in London, and kept her occupied on the train trip.

Freebie seeds resurrected from down the side of the radio

Sowed some seeds

Last year, I took out an offer subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine, at just £5 for three issues plus 20 packets of seeds. You even get extra seeds with each issue.
If you’re interested, they’re actually running the same offer again – just remember to cancel in time, if you don’t want to pay £20 every six months afterwards.
Sadly, the packets then just sat on the  kitchen windowsill, wedged down the side of the radio.
Anyway, my son declared that during half term he really wanted to sow some seeds.
I asked him to read the back of the packets and find stuff suitable for sowing in February.
He piled potting compost into a cheap and cheerful windowsill seed tray I bought last year (like this £2.50 version from Wilkos), poked holes the right depth, dropped the seeds in, and insisted on watering them with a water pistol (as you do). I was chief packet opener, in an attempt not to scatter the remaining seeds everywhere.
The seed tray is now ensconced on the kitchen windowsill, and we’re waiting to see if anything emerges from the carrot, kale, pepper, salad leaves and onions seeds in the tray.

Plunging down a hill on a voyage of discovery

Explored the railway walk

The next item on the half term schedule written by my seven-year-old son was a trip to explore the Railway Walk. It’s a nature reserve just near our house, along the route of (you’ve guessed it) an old railway line. It’s great for dog walkers, runners and cyclists, and also children who want to explore the interesting side turnings, hills and hummocks.
I let my son lead the way, along different paths through the brambles and gorse, and pelting down a hill between the oak trees. We discovered a brick tunnel we hadn’t tried before, and then found our way back to familiar routes. Good to get outside and all for no cost at all!

Romance, in biscuit form

Baked some biscuits

My son also insisted on baking some chocolate chip cookies, and as it was Valentine’s Day, we had a go at heart shapes. We used the tried and tested recipe at the end of this post, and mainly value range ingredients, which helps keep the cost down. They made my husband smile when he got home from work.

Posing up a storm at Liverpool Street Station

Saved on train tickets to London

Planning ahead can play a big part in living a more frugal life. When Greater Anglia were running an offer for cheap off peak day return tickets during the week, I noticed the offer included half term, and booked to take the children for a day in London.
So on Wednesday, the three of us took the train from Manningtree to Liverpool Street and back for the princely sum of £19. My son has been studying the Great Fire of London at school, so we walked round to see places he’d heard about like Monument, Pudding Lane and St Paul’s.

Arsonists need not apply.

Checked out 2 for 1 offers when travelling by train

If you travel by National Rail, you can save money at the Days Out Guide website with two for the price of one offers at loads of different museums and attractions.
I had a look at the website before our day in London, and could have got two for one entry to St Pauls and the exhibition about the Great Fire of London at the Museum of London.
However, the voucher for the Fire! Fire! exhibition could only be used at the ticket desk.
I could see that the timed tickets were starting to sell out, so in the end I booked in advance online, to be sure we’d actually get in to the exhibition. At least the Museum of London knocked £3 off when booking for an adult and two children.
So the 2 for 1 offers are worth checking – but not worth trying to save the cash if you miss out on something you’d really like to do!

Trying sushi for the first time

Downloaded a voucher when eating out

Currently, my kids are fixated on Japan. I blame YouTube and clips of vending machines and capsule hotels. Anyway, they were really keen to try some Japanese food, so I promised to take them to Yo Sushi while we were in London, figuring they’d like the coloured plates and conveyor belt.
Eating out in general, and Yo Sushi in particular, are not remotely frugal choices. However, this was a special occasion so I checked for any offers before we left – and printed out a voucher for a free katsu curry. We also packed crisps, drinks, fruit and yogurt tubes to take with us, to save elsewhere.
If you know you’re going to be buying from a particular website, shop or restaurant, I figure it’s always worth checking if there is some kind of discount available.

Almost wish I’d seen it myself.

Used cinema vouchers from Club Lloyds

I’ve spread our cash savings across assorted current accounts, in an attempt to earn more than the minimal interest than we’d get elsewhere, including a Club Lloyds account.
Lloyds was one of several banks to slash the interest paid on its current account recently, down from a maximum of 4% to 2% on up to £5,000. Boo, hiss, gnashing of teeth etc.
However, it turns out that the “lifestyle benefits” we got when opening the account are actually an annual offer.
We opt for six Cineworld cinema tickets, rather than an annual magazine subscription or Gourmet Society membership. Last year, we used some of the vouchers to see Kung Fu Panda III.
This year, the vouchers were emailed just in time for half term. When my husband took a day of leave so I could work, he carried the kids off for a trip to Ipswich They enjoyed a jam-packed day, including visiting Ipswich Museum, letting off steam in the park and using vouchers to see the LEGO Batman Movie, which saved more than £24.
Turns out a LEGO Movie and a happy meal from MaccyDs is pretty much as good as it gets when you’re seven and nine.

Free wristband from Great Run Local.

Staggered round a free Great Run Local

As mentioned in my post with an update on my get fit for less resolution, on Sunday I met the other winners of the Great East Run Challenge competition (waves to Jeff, Paula, Sara and Tony!).
We all showed up at Needham Lake at hideously early o’clock to have our photo taken for the local paper, before the regular Sunday morning runs.
Great Run Local runs are completely free, welcome both adults and children and if you register on the website beforehand, you will be sent a free snazzy wristband to record your time.
At Needham Lake there are 2K and 5K courses, so even younger runners can get round.
I was in a dilemma about whether to opt for the 2K or 5K route, as I hadn’t got far enough along Couch to 5K to complete a whole 5K.
In the end I decided to do my Couch to 5K week 7 run along the 5K route before walking the rest.
My family all came along in support, and my kids were keen to run part of the route with me. With my son, daughter, and Bridget, one of the organisers of Needham Lake Great Local, running alongside, I even managed to run the final part of the course after all.
The fancy wristband showed that I covered the 5K in 38 minutes 57 seconds – but boy did I feel tired afterwards! The kids are now keen to complete their own run, so my husband has volunteered to accompany them on the shorter 2K in future.

Handy list of funeral directors for participants in the Great East Run…

Used a voucher to cut the cost of the newspaper

I duly increased the circulation of the East Anglian Daily Times the next day, when I bought a copy to see the article and particularly flattering photos.
I even managed to a) find and b) remember to take one of the vouchers for the relaunched newspaper, saving an entire 25p off the 85p cover price.
The article about the Great East Run competition appeared next to an ad listing local funeral directors – should I be worried???

In the news

On Sunday, I’ll be chatting to Georgina Wroe at BBC Radio Suffolk about frugal fitness. Tune in at 12.30pm for an update on Couch to 5K and other money saving ways to get fitter not fatter!

Get Kids Pass for 60 days for just a pound!

Offer for Much More With Less Readers: £1 for 60 days of Kids Pass

Here’s your chance to save money on children’s activities, by signing up for 60 days of Kids Pass for just £1 using this link*.
With Kids Pass, you can get discounts for you and your children at more than 5,000 places including cinemas, theatres, attractions, restaurants, family breaks and more.
At only £1, it’s worth a punt to find out if you’ll use the membership to make real savings.
Sign up now*, and the £1 trial stretches right over the Easter holidays too.
After the trial, Kids Pass will automatically renew at £39.99 for a full year’s membership, rather than the normal £75 annual rate.
So do remember to cancel before the 60 days are up, if you don’t want to pay for membership afterwards.
You can cancel at any time during the 60 days by calling 0161 244 8225, writing to KidsPass, emailing the customer service team or online in the Members’ Area of the Kids Pass website.

Now – over to you. What are you top tips for surviving half term without spending a bundle? I’d love to hear, what with the Easter holidays on the horizon…

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!

Get fit for less: be careful what you wish for!

Running shoes in cleaner days, before recent mud and rain.

Back at the beginning of the year, I posted a list of my five fabulously frugal New Year’s Resolutions.

Top of the list was get fit for less. Even though I am hardly a natural runner, I reckon running is a good bet for exercise that takes limited money and less time. Basically until some scientist can come up with a form of fitness that takes place while I sleep, I’m stuck with running.

I resolved to have another go at Couch to 5K, which is a nine-week running programme designed to take complete couch potatoes (ie me), get them out running three times a week, and end up being able to run for 30 minutes straight. I did the programme last year, and then a couple of free 5km Park Runs, but what with one thing or another, I let it slide.

(If you’re interested, here’s a link to the NHS Couch to 5K podcasts with the lovely Laura and rather rubbish music, which I really recommend. There’s also great support on the NHS Choices Couch to 5K forum on HealthUnlocked)

So the good news is that I’ve managed to extend this fit of enthusiasm beyond the first few days of January.

I’ve been heading out roughly every other day and rewarding my inner five-year-old with stickers on the family calendar. You can even follow my progress over on Twitter, where I post a #Couchto5K tweet every time I stumble back from a run. Yesterday I finished the third run on week 6, which involves staggering along for an entire 25 minutes straight. Given when I started last month it was a bit of push to run for 60 seconds, I’m still not quite sure how I managed that.

And the ‘be careful what you wish for’ part?

I do rather like free stuff.

And I do rather like entering competitions.

Mostly I just fill in my details, enter the competition, and forget about it, but I figure you’ve got to be in it to win it. And sometimes – just sometimes – I do, whether it’s a free book from Mumsnet Books Club mentioned yesterday, or an amazing manicure / pedicure / London hotel stay.

Anyway, I was casting around for ways to keep myself motivated once the nine weeks of Couch to 5K finish, so I didn’t just let any exercise drift again.

I was reading a free copy of the East Anglian Daily Times which was put through our letterbox, and had a whole big spread about the new Great East Run, which will be taking place in Ipswich in September.

And there was a competition specifically for beginner runners who have never run a half marathon before. Five prizes were up for grabs with free VIP entry to the race, Great Run training kit, Skype training tips with Team GB’s Andy Vernon and a cryptic reference to “other support”.

(I think you might be able to see where this is going) 

Competition in the East Anglian Daily Times – what have I done???

So I bunged off an email with the details requested, and I’ve only gone and won a place on a half marathon. Eeeek!

That means running for 13.1 miles, which Google assures me is 21.1 kilometres. It’s also more than four times further than I’ve ever run before, and gracious that 5K seemed pretty tough at the time.

So somehow between now and 24 September, I need to be able to run a half marathon. While that’s not a completely insane timetable, it’s still going to be a massive stretch. At least it has been a cause of great amusement to my nearest and dearest, although my star husband has said he will run it with me, and my mate Rach might even make it to Ipswich too.

And tomorrow I have to show up at Needham Lake before the weekly Great Run Local, to meet the other winners and have our photo taken. Double eeek!

There are two runs afterwards, a 2K and a 5K, and given I don’t think I can manage as far as 5K tomorrow goodness knows how I’m going to cope with 21.1K come September.

But hey, I saved £30 on race entry and might get a free T shirt, to go along with the blisters. So there’s that.

Anyone else ever bitten off rather more than they bargained for? Or feel like running the Great East Run with us? I reckon we could do with the company!

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (10 Feb)

Signs of spring from the cyclamen

This week I’ve enjoyed spotting some of the first signs of spring in our garden, and the peace before the chaos of half term next week. Wish me luck!

We’ve also had time for a few frugal things this week, from flowers to freebies and bank account opening.

First snowdrops to flower

Celebrating the first snowdrops

After the bleak winter weather, I was delighted to spot the first snowdrops to flower in our garden.
It seems so long since there has been any colour amidst the browns, blacks and greens under grey skies. Since then I’ve spotted a few tiny flashes of pink, from cyclamen at the edge of the lawn, some tentative yellow primroses emerging in the front beds, and delicate white daphne flowers (or at least I think it’s daphne) on a bush at the back of the house.
As the days lengthen, and the light lasts longer, I’m enjoying these signs that spring is on its way. Enjoying our garden, and the Suffolk landscape, is such a wonder and all completely free.
If you’d like to see more pictures, I post a photo of a flower a day over on Instagram – do come over there and follow my feed.

Free book. Excellent.

Bagged a free book from the Mumsnet Book Club

This week I was excited to get a parcel in the post (easily pleased, me) with a free book from the Mumsnet Book Club. If you sign up for their book club emails, they often do book giveaways. All you have to do it fill in your details, keep your fingers crossed, and then leave a brief book review if you’re lucky enough to win a copy.
I’m really looking forward to reading “The Trouble With Goats and Sheep” by Joanna CannonOne of the reviews on the cover describes it as “A quirky, moving and beautifully written tale of life in 1970s Britain”, so I’m looking forward to wallowing in nostalgia from my own childhood.
If you want to buy your own copy, as opposed to borrowing one from the library, the cheapest I found was £4.21 with free delivery at The Book Depository*

Cutting out pieces for a doll

Helping my daughter make her own doll

I do worry that my children watch too much TV, but sometimes it does actually inspire them to do something else instead. Chopsticks were pressed into action as wands when shouting spells, post Harry Potter viewing, and the sitting room got taken over by a blanket tent after we went to see Swallows and Amazons.
My daughter used part of her Christmas money to buy a Laika DVD boxset – Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls* – keen to point out that £7 was a good deal for three films.
She was remarkably unmoved by the whole “buttons for eyes” storyline in Coraline that freaked me out, but was very taken by Coraline’s mini-me rag doll, and announced that she would like to make her own.
Rather than rushing out to buy materials, I unearthed some possibilities from my fabric stash and dug out a bargain £2.99 book about doll making* that I got ages ago. My daughter decided to use some of the silk left over from my wedding dress and traced a pattern ready to cut out the pieces. She’s now part way through sewing it up, and hopefully we can finish the doll, stuffing, button eyes, clothes and all, from things we already have in the house.

Voucher-tastic savings

Remembered to use vouchers on my supermarket shopping

I’m not always the biggest fan of money-off vouchers, as they tend focus on branded food.
Often, even after you’ve used a voucher, the product is still more expensive than if you’d bought an own brand alternative. It feels like you’re nabbing a bargain, but actually you end up spending more than you need to.
However, I do like vouchers where you get something completely free, and last Sunday when we went to Morrisons I remembered to use a combination of vouchers sent by post, email and via supermarket cashback apps.
I used one of the Rachel’s Organic vouchers I blogged about before to get a free pot of their £1.84 low-fat rhubarb yogurt.
I also claimed the £2 cost of a box of 24 Weetabix via TopCashback’s Snap & Save. The offer is still valid through Sunday (12 February) if you get a shimmy on.
I also lashed out on some no added sugar Ribena, but took advantage of a 50p off voucher from a Change4Life email, plus another 25p off via the TopCashback mobile app.
It’s hard to justify the Ribena, as I could have bought a perfectly good litre of Morrisons no added sugar blackcurrant high juice squash for £1.36, rather than the £1.73 the 850ml Ribena cost me after discounts, but it cheered the children up.

Joys of opening current accounts

Opened yet another current account

I’m still keen to earn as much interest as possible on our savings, even if it’s tricky when rates are so rubbish right now. Current accounts seem to be one of the few places where you can earn slightly higher interest, albeit on limited amounts.
Last Saturday I got round to setting up yet another current account, this time with Bank of Scotland.
I applied online and ticked the “Vantage” box, which means I can earn as much as 3% on balances up to £5,000.
I’ll happily pocket an extra £150 a year, especially when the new Personal Savings Allowance means basic-rate taxpayers can earn £1,000 a year in interest without paying a penny in tax, and even higher-rate taxpayers can earn £500 a year tax-free.
The good news is that you don’t have to switch your current account to benefit and there’s no acccount fee, but you do need to pay in £1,000 a month and pay at least two direct debits every month. For details of other high interest current accounts on offer, check out my post here.
Once the computer generated my account number and sort code, I was able to tweak the standing orders that move money round between our different accounts, so that £1,000 will be paid into the Bank of Scotland account every month.
The letter with my internet banking code showed up yesterday, so I’ve now been able to set up a standing order to transfer the money out of Bank of Scotland a few days later, and back into our main current account. I was also able to check that the £1 test payment I did on Saturday showed up in the right place, and then transfer more of our savings.
The direct debits are slightly trickier. I prefer to pay most of my direct debits from my Santander 123 current account, as it pays cashback on household bills that covers the fiver-a-month fee.
Instead, I’ve changed our direct debit details on the TV licence website, so it will now go out of the new Bank of Scotland account, and I’ve also set up a pound-a-month direct debit to Shelter. It may be a minimal contribution, but it meets the account criteria, and I know the money will go to a good cause. Hopefully as it’s an automated payment it won’t cost the charity too much to adminster.
I’ve written this all out because although it may sound a bit complicated, once you’ve set it up, everything happens automatically and you can just sit back and pocket the interest.

So that’s my round up of five frugal things this week. Now over to you – any thrifty successes to celebrate? I’d love to hear!

I’m joining in with the #5frugalthings blog linky. If you’d like to join, or just want to check out other thrifty suggestions, hop on over to visit Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family, Becky at Family Budgeting and Emma at Emma’s Savvy Savings

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