Wow. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks on the work front. I love the freedom that working as a freelancer brings, but sometimes it can be tricky to juggle when all the deadlines coincide.
Among other articles, I wrote a piece for last weekend’s Sunday Times, about people pursuing FIRE, which stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early”. As FIRE enthusiasts promote spending less, earning more and investing the difference I felt right at home!
It’s also reinforced my thrifty tendencies, so here are my five frugal things from the last fortnight.
Pottered around Wivenhoe
Last Saturday, we headed over to Wivenhoe for a look around. It’s a small fishing town, with a tangle of picturesque streets near the waterfront, and some quirky shops. I put the vaguely alternative air and vegan cafe down to the Essex University campus lurking on the outskirts.
Wivenhoe has a couple of good bookshops, so the children were able to use their £1 vouchers from World Book Day and I splashed out a whole fiver on a second-hand Dorothy Sayers hardback, mainly because I was charmed by the frontispiece map. So much for cutting costs and clutter by sticking to library books!
The children eyed up the boats, resting on less picturesque mud at low tide, and then ran off some energy in the playground. My daughter has now upgraded requests for a dog/Xbox/Nintendo DS to a boat. Sigh. In practice, both children came back and made model boats, which was less expensive but involved more water on the bathroom floor.
Saved with Easter veg
I love the chance to snap up big bags of veg, when the supermarkets decide to do special offers for high days and holidays like Christmas. For Easter, Morrisons were offering bags of veg at 50p each or three for £1, so I stocked up on 1kg of carrots, 1kg onions and 2.5kg of white potatoes. That’s 4.5kg of veg for £1, only 22p a kilo!
I actually used some of the veg last Sunday, for a roast meal featuring the pork joint from the Morrison’s £10 meat pack. I’m very proud of my husband for running his second half marathon in Colchester that morning, and figured he could do with a celebratory meal.
Upgraded our broadband
We’ve finally joined the 21st century, by switching to fibre optic broadband. I’m hoping it should make using the internet faster for work, and also means we can watch catch up TV with less buffering. Thus far, I’ve resisted clamouring for any subscription TV services. Instead, we just use Freeview and catch up TV, and the kids can get YouTube on the telly.
Anyway, we’d negotiated a reasonable broadband and landline packagage with Plusnet, which includes calls to mobiles (for work) and international calls (for my mother in Madeira). The bill tends to hover about £16 to £17 a month, plus the cost of paying for a year’s landline rental in advance.
Instead of switching, I gave our current supplier, Plusnet, a call, as that has worked in the past. Given how much the whole family relies on broadband, and the distress when it goes down during power cuts, I was happy to stay with Plusnet even though we could have switched and saved a bit of cash. It might sound heretical as someone who preaches the benefits of frugality, but I’m willing to pay slightly more to stick with a supplier who’s always been reliable and whose customer service has been excellent on the rare occasions we’ve rung them.
I did at least get Plusnet to come down from £4 extra a month for two years, to £3 a month for one year, by sucking my teeth and quoting prices for new customers plus cashback. So there’s that.
(I was going to put my Plusnet referral link, so I’d get a few pence off my bill if you used it, but to be honest if you fancy switching to Plusnet you’re better off signing up by clicking through from TopCashback* or Quidco* and pocketing a chunky £40 to £85 cashback).
Cut the cost of dishwasher tablets
Major excitement on Monday, as I went on Radio 4 to discuss saving money in the supermarket. Winifred Robinson at You and Yours was interested in all those products that are on eternal offer. If you’re not too fussy about the specific brand or pack size, you can almost always find special offers on otherwise pricey purchases like dishwasher tablets, toothpaste and washing liquid.
But it made me think. We tend to swap between Finish and Fairy dishwasher tablets, depending on what’s on offer, which cuts the price from about 20p a tab to about 14p a tab. Yet I’ve swapped to own-brand products for virtually everything else – why am I still buying branded dishwasher tablets? So as out stocks were running low, we bought some Sainsbury’s own brand dishwasher tablets for just 8p each instead. Hopefully we won’t notice any difference at all!
Loaded up on lentils
I’m keen on both cooking and free food, so was glad when Merchant Gourmet sent me their Puy Lentils and Whole Chestnuts to try. Their ready-to-eat lentils are 25% off at Sainsbury’s at the moment, down from £2 to £1.50 for 250g until 10 April.
I’ve never quite got my head round soaking dried lentils and boiling them, but the ready to eat version went down a storm cooked with tomatoes, onion, garlic and smoked paprika. The original recipe mentioned haddock, but I used from frozen white fish fillets instead. Even my husband (not normally a lentil fan) was enthusiastic.
I’m now planning to make some chestnut stuffing, adding sausagemeat to the whole chestnuts (£1.50 rather than £2.25 for 180g in Waitrose right now). I only usually make chstnut stuffing for Christmas, but love the stuff, so figure I don’t have to wait that long.
Now – over to you. Any frugal tips to share? Brands you’ve stuck with, rather than switching to own brands? Do let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!
*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!
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