Oh the joys of half term, trying to balance work with free range children!
Here’s my round up of our five frugal things this week:
Survived half term without breaking the bank
After a busy start to term, early morning routines went out of the window. The kids relished the chance to hang out around the house in pyjamas. Pancake making provided a particular high spot.
We did also get out and about! This halfterm included away days with the grandparents, swimming at the local leisure centre, a sneaky cinema trip, haring around the parks nearby, a day in Whitstable and walks with weekend visitors. Our National Trust membership* came in handy just before half term, when we went snowdrop spotting and den building over at Ickworth*. The photo at the top of this post was taken when we took refuge from the cold in the Orangery. We don’t always go to tea shops, but their amazing hot chocolate helped the children defrost!
Resisted the temptation of an expensive breadmaker…
I’ve never had a breadmaker before, due to fears that either I would eat way too much bread or it would end up as an expensive dust trap.
However, I thought a breadmaker would help with the dough for Friday night pizzas. Lo and behold, the issue of Which? that arrived during a £1 trial subscription included a review of best buy breadmakers. I got all overexcited about the stunning reviews for an all-singing, all-dancing Panasonic SD-ZB2502B*. Rather than paying £140 plus (!) for a new one, I figured a breadmaker was just the kind of thing people would use a few times and then sell second hand.
However, ads on Gumtree and local Facebook selling pages were still pretty pricey. I found the same model up for auction on eBay with bids under £20. Many cheers! The buyer only offered collection, rather than postage, so I hoped the price would stay low. I even set an alarm on my phone, so I could bid in the final seconds of the auction – but then watched aghast as the bidding spiralled past £70. Luckily I managed to avoid getting caught up in a bidding frenzy. That’s an awful lot for something to speed up pizza dough!
…then snapped up a bargain breadmaker from the charity shop
Instead, the next day I marched down to our charity shops, and picked up an elderly Breville breadmaker in the EACH shop.
(Hadleigh has several fine charity shops, as described here)
For the princely sum of £10, I figured it would be perfect to try. If we use it loads, we can always invest in a fancier version in future.
So far, we’ve made:
- a white loaf. Tasted good but a bit like cake, maybe it was all the milk in the recipe?
- a little sour dough loaf, using the last of some yellow-sticker bread mix I bought aeons ago. I even managed to use the delay function, so we woke up to the smell of newly-baked bread!
- pizza dough, polished off by a horde of children
I particularly like the fact I can load up the ingredients, and then wander off and forget about it, while the machine takes care of all the kneading, proving and baking.
Right now I’m glad I didn’t get carried away, and we’re only a tenner down!
Posted off a cheque to my pension
Over the long term, I reckon investing helps make the most of my money, compared to leaving cash sitting in a savings account.
I perked up when I saw headlines about stock market prices falling in the UK and US, with the first big dip for ages. Seemed like a perfect time to top up my pension, while I could buy investments for less. The other bonus with a pension is that for every £1 you put in, the taxman adds an extra 25p, and the money then grows tax-free.
My contribution hit my pension on 12 February, so will let you know how it goes. Who knows whether the markets will pick up or continue to slide, but historically stock markets do head upwards over the long term.
If I was really sensible, I’d set up a monthly direct debit. However, as I’m self-employed, my income varies, so I don’t always know how much spare money I’ll have each month. In practice, I tend to review my finances every January when I file my tax return, and bung some cash into my pension afterwards.
Maybe this will be the year I get round to checking whether my Legal & General pension offers a good balance of charges, choice and customer service, and move the money elsewhere if it doesn’t! At least it’s a stakeholder pension, so they won’t gouge huge fees if I do.
Headed out for a freebie trip to the cinema
Investing is only good for money you can leave alone for at least five years, and ideally more, so we also keep some emergency savings in cash. One of the accounts I use is the Club Lloyds current account, which pays 2% interest on up to £5,000. Hardly a high rate, but better than zip all.
(More on earning interest from current accounts here)
The Club Lloyds account also hands out a ‘lifestyle benefit’ every year, so we chose vouchers for six Cineworld tickets. During half term, we used some of the vouchers to see Coco, the latest Pixar film. Fabulous colourful film, very thought-provoking about family and death, and a particular hit with the two guitarists in the family.
A family ticket would have cost more than £20, so we were glad to go for free.
Article on ways to save money
I’m also over excited because the article I wrote during my mentoring week thanks to Time Inc and JD Williams has now been published on the Good to Know website.
(More about the mentoring competition)
Good to Know doesn’t run tons of money saving content, but I reckon it would be really helpful to the parents who visit the site. So if you fancy reading about 28 ways to save money without affecting your lifestyle, and care to comment, give it a good rating and share the article, I’d be immensely grateful!
Now – over to you. Any savings to celebrate? Frugal triumphs to report? Do share your top tips in the comments, I’d love to hear. And for any parents about to finish half term, or bracing themselves for the week ahead, good luck!
*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!