Tuesday, 7 May 2019

A Quick note for Amazon Prime users

I live in a very rural area and Amazon Prime is very useful to me for deliveries.  However, within my membership are various other "benefits" of varying degrees of usefulness.  One of these is Amazon Prime Video which I have used twice in about five years,

However, this morning an offer popped up - watch at least five minutes of a film or TV show on Prime and you'll get a £5 Amazon credit next month.  I've got a film running now without any sound (not actually watching it but only you know that!) so I'm hoping I'll get my credit.  As this is costing me nothing apart from a little electricity it seems like a good idea.

If you are a Prime user it might be worth logging in to Amazon to see if the offer is available to you.

Monday, 6 May 2019


I record all my income and expenditure so I have a pretty good idea of where the money goes and sometimes how I spend isn't as pretty as it could be.  

In some ways I am very good.  My food waste is minimal.  I check the fridge and take a shopping list with me each time I shop.  I've reduced my monthly spend by 15% over the first four months of this year (compared to the same months last year) but I know I could do better.  

My big downfall is "bargains".  You know, BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Free), yellow stickers, special deals and the like which tempt me away from my list.  I usually eat the stuff but it's really not a good way to shop.  The cupboards and fridge become jammed up and I can't see what is in there.  Often too the deals are on products which are more expensive than the items I would normally buy.  

Another silly habit is being careless about portion sizes.  I cook far too much.  I don't throw it away - I was a post war baby and I learnt from an early age to eat everything on my plate - but to be honest it's just as wasteful to eat food I don't need and don't even mention the other sort of waist!

I'm sure other people have their own danger areas but them's my two pennorth!  

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Auditing April

Each month I do a review of various things including what I've written about on my blogs, how active I've been, special days out and, of course, how the finances are panning out.

Well, first of all the good news.  I have again smashed my target of living below my means by £400.  I've been doing a little paid work recently and I sold over £50 worth of stuff on eBay so that has helped.  

Then there's the rest.  Groceries were £127 which is way over my target of £100 but I honestly don't think £100 is enough so I've revised my target this month to £120.  I don't want to live on lentils: cooking and eating good food is pure pleasure. 
Not so good was my motoring budget.  I did 945 miles in the month.  I've been doing sick visiting, bereavement visiting and marriage preparation interviews but I really can't see why I have done so much motoring.  I have now Taken Myself In Hand.  

I've been watching the Smart meter monitor doing its thing in the kitchen.  I've fiddled with the timer on the boiler (I may do a post about that soon) and I'm whittling away at my gas consumption.  As yet this has had no impact on my day-to-day finances as I pay by monthly direct debit and I haven't fully paid for my winter usage.  

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Summer bedding

I love my garden in the summer.  It's quite a small garden and I fill it with as much colour as I can - but colour comes at a price.  Gardening is very limited by my disability.  

Cleome, beloved of butterflies
The cheapest thing would be to grow everything from seed sown direct into the garden (especially from collected seed) but that needs very regular weeding until the flower plants are big enough to defeat the weeds.  I can't bend down for very long (and can't kneel at all) and the gardener isn't here enough to do that.   I shall however direct sow candytuft, poppies and maybe a few wild flowers.  

Garden-ready bedding plants are very expensive.  Last year I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw annual cosmos at over £1 per plant!  This year I have used a windowsill propagator and sown seeds for cosmos, cerinthe and cleome.  I've got a yen for cleome in my garden but I've a feeling it may not be easy to germinate and grow.  Still at £1 a packet it's worth a try!

Cerinthe, or Honeywort
Small plug plants can be good value and this year I bought a "lucky dip" of 270 plugs for £20 which I think is pretty good. I got begonia, gazania, petunia, impatiens, stocks and lobelia in my selection.  I also bought 45 extra impatiens (£9) as I like them around my north-facing front door. I've potted them all on using fibre pots to minimise root disturbance when they are planted out

I am gradually planting a few more perennials.  For these I am hoping to take cuttings from friends' gardens. I had a message last night to say that someone has grown me some dianthus, a favourite of mine as I love the clove smell.  

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Qwirkle and coffee

It was a lovely morning out.  We played Quirkle - and just in case you've never Quirkled this picture is a completed game .  It's a good game, easy to learn, demanding a little concentration but not so much that you can't chat while playing.

Quirkle and coffee
My friend Sarah and I enjoyed a couple of games at her house on Tuesday.  We also enjoyed a pot of coffee (or three), some soup which Sarah had made, and some hummus and crudites which I had made.  We could have played Bananagrams or Rummikub or Triominoes or quite a few other games which we have each acquired over the years but Tuesday we played Quirkle.  Two games.  We each won one.

I think one of the most important aspects of a thrifty lifestyle is having friends who share your values.  Sarah and I exchange homemade gifts for Christmas and birthdays and we have (without any discussion) scaled down our gifts as we have got older and our incomes have got smaller.  We go out for occasional meals but we are happy with far less than we used to have.

It is difficult to be frugal if your friends want always to be out splashing the cash, if Christmas is about swapping huge gifts (or bragging about how much was spent on the children/grandchildren).  It's tricky if your common interest is an expensive hobby or a liking for overpriced fine dining.  

Frugality is much easier when it is shared with friends.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Sometimes I surprise myself

Sometimes I surprise myself and March was one of those times.  Despite having to have a lot of paid help, despite having my trundle truck repaired and despite paying for wood for a new fence and new gate, I still smashed my target of saving £400 and managed to save £500.  This was helped by it being a "free" month for Council Tax (I pay over ten months rather than twelve).  My hope is that I will save £5000 this year.

I've kept my grocery budget below £100.  Only 8p below but still below.  I have a lot of food in my stores in case of a Brexit disaster and I don't want to run those stores down too much yet, but I needed to do a bit of rationalising and that has helped.  As have getting the cheap vegetables from Lidl and the free stuff from my neighbours.  I've also reduced my motoring.  And I've tracked all my expenditure - no "Money-gone-walkabout" during March.

So, a new challenge for April.  This month I want to make a little money rather than just restrict my budget (although I am still working at £400 saved each month) and with that in mind and also my aim of decluttering, I want to make £100 by selling unwanted stuff.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Even better than a Lidl veg box.

I've been feeling slightly envious this week - my next door neighbours are off to Spain for several weeks.  However, this has definitely been A Good Thing for me!

The first phone call came Thursday.  Could I use the remaining contents of their fridge and freezer?   Now I am definitely a girl who doesn't need to be asked a question like that more than once so I'm now better off by two packs each of cheese and butter, about a dozen Yorkshire puds, plus peas, mince and pizza are all happily in my stores.

The second call came Friday. How would I feel about the contents of the vegetable rack?  I'd feel very grateful, that's how I'd feel!  Which is why I'm now making a butternut soup and I've got all this lovely stuff in my fridge!

I think that must be a whole week's groceries for me - and all free! 

(I shall make them something when they come home though.)

Monday, 25 March 2019

Just a small thing

I really enjoy doing puzzles, especially Sudoku.  I keep some by my bedside and do a few before I go to sleep.  There's something about managing to solve a problem which I find very relaxing and it helps me nod off.  I also keep some by my armchair, maybe slightly harder ones, to entertain myself in a quiet moment.

However, in January I realised that I had spent over £8 on puzzle books and I wondered if I could cut this down a bit.  I also realised that I was throwing out a lot of paper which is printed on one side only (junk mail, stuff I need to print for Sunday use etc.) and I decided to solve two problems at once.  I went on line and found various Sudoku sites and settled eventually with 1sudoku and I'm now able to print six sudoku to an A4 piece of paper.  I print a selection every week, fold them and pack them into  an Amazon packaging sleeve.  I can pop a pen into the sleeve and it's even more convenient than having a book - I even use the sleeve as a hard surface for writing!

Printer ink is probably the most expensive fluid to come into this house but even taking that into account this is great - and although the paper still has to go to recycling eventually, it has been very well used before it goes.

Sunday, 17 March 2019


It's expensive being disabled!  I've been trying hard to make sure that I save my target £400 this month but it won't be easy.  This week I had to have repairs done to the Trundle Truck (mobility scooter) and that cost £90.  It set me wondering about just what being disabled costs me.

First what it doesn't cost me.  I have a Blue Badge which means that I get some free parking.  I can park on the street if necessary but I don't like to take advantage of that if there is a car park nearby and occasionally car parks are free to disabled badge holders.  Even if they're not I still prefer to use car parks rather than be in the way on a street.  

I don't have to pay VAT on goods and services directly related to my disability.  This meant that I didn't pay the tax when I bought my scooter and I don't pay it on repairs.  I still have the rest of the cost to find so that was £90 this month as well as the £275 on repairs and maintenance just before Christmas

I can't kneel or sit on the ground and I can't bend to do jobs so I can't manage without the help of a gardener/handyman and a cleaner.  I have to buy a ridiculously large car to transport my trundle truck which means that my fuel bill and road tax are also high.  

Although I am entitled (because of my age) to have a free bus pass it would be no use to me because I need my trundle truck wherever I go.

None of this is to complain.  I know I am very fortunate in that I have enough money to do all this and enough ingenuity to make every penny count.  It is written in sheer frustration at the two ladies who had a very loud conversation (making sure that I could hear) complaining about having to pay 50p for two hours car parking when I had mine free.  

Friday, 15 March 2019

Reducing food waste

That wonderful box of vegetables had to be sorted fairly quickly.  I decided that I had to edit my fridge as well so that I could use the vegetables in there as well.

First I chopped the leeks, added a potato and some stock and now I have a pan of leek and potato soup.  My menu re-planning meant that I had to use some calabrese so I dug my bag of bits and pieces of cheese (mainly the crust of Stilton) and now I've got some broccoli and Stilton soup.  Those corn cobs were probably the tattiest vegetables in the box so I stripped off the kernels, found a few sticks of celery and a sad looking parsnip in the fridge and I've got mixed veg soup.  That needs a bit of oomph so I'm thinking a bit of chili might not go amiss.  My soups will be frozen tomorrow.  

The mushrooms from the box were wiped and sliced and they're now in the freezer ready for my next Bolgnaise sauce or beef casserole.  Some of the bananas were for eating today but the rest have been made into banana ice lollies.  The avocado went on toast for breakfast.  One apple was eaten for pudding today.  The cabbage, the apples, the satsumas and the nectarine are all sound enough to keep for a few days.  I shall use the rocket and watercress tomorrow.

I had bought some flat mushrooms before I got the veggie box so I've stuffed those with goat's cheese, sprinkled on a few breadcrumbs made from crusts and they are in the freezer.  

While I was in Lidl I bought some Italian style chicken chipolatas which had been reduced to 70p.  I'd never had them before and I won't buy them again.  This seems to me to be a good way to look at yellow sticker (or rather Lidl equivalent) food.  I might have seen chicken sausages and thought them worth a try as they are lower fat than the pork equivalent.  I've eaten some for lunch, the rest may go in a casserole but I certainly wouldn't recommend them.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Thank you, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Just over three years ago HFW presented Hugh's War on Waste, a short series of TV programmes including one which highlighted how much food is wasted by supermarkets before we even get our paws on it.  He also showed just how much food is wasted in homes and all sorts of other waste and those too had a big effect on me, even though I have always thought I was pretty good on food waste.

Getting back to the supermarket waste, HFW showed how supermarkets were being just too picky about the cosmetic standards of vegetables which they bought in, and how much good food was being discarded by supermarkets themselves.  One result of all this was that several supermarkets now sell "wonky" vegetables which I think are more fun than the Class One stuff.

Yesterday I took advantage of the cheap vegetable boxes in Lidl.  Usually I can't do that from my mobility scooter but yesterday the store was very quiet.  Just look at my box!  Isn't it beautiful!

I unpacked it and found three leeks, a bag of rocket, a bag of rocket and watercress, a cabbage, nine bananas, three pieces sweetcorn, four red onions, two satsumas, five apples, a box of mushrooms, a nectarine and a cabbage.  And the cost of this box of deliciousness?  £1.50.  ONE POUND FIFTY PENCE!  Unbelievable.  I shall need to use the sweetcorn and mushrooms very quickly but the rest is superb.

I've rewritten my menu for the week and will take time this morning to prep and use the stuff really well.  

Friday, 8 March 2019

The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory

I'm a great one for writing things down.  I record my energy usage on a daily basis. I check and note my weight and the number of steps I take.  And I write down every penny I spend.

Each day I check my bank and credit card accounts and count the money in my purse and work out what has disappeared since yesterday and where it went.  I know a lot of people don't record their spending to this degree but I have found it helpful.  Maybe there will come a day when I trust myself enough not to have to be so "accountable" either.  The only person I am accountable to is me!

Once a month I create an account of all that I have spent and what I have done.  To use fashionable language I have made myself much more mindful of where the pennies go

Before I retired I was far less obsessive about it but I realised that I would have to be more careful now that I have a reduced income.  The amazing thing is that I feel as if I have an increased income.  It feels as though I have more money than ever I had!  I go out for lunch several times a month, I have a few mini-breaks each year and yet I never have to worry and I can save for treats or the inevitable rainy days.

Flylady used to have the acronym FACE - Financial Awareness Continually Empowers - maybe she still does.  Knowing what I've got and where what I had went to has certainly empowered me.  And writing it all down makes it even more real. The faintest ink is truly more powerful than the strongest memory.

Sunday, 3 March 2019


A few months ago I got  smart meter, supplied by my energy company.  Just in case you're not familiar with them I'll explain that the energy company can now read my meters remotely and I shall never again be asked to supply a reading.  The fun bit is that they also supplied me with a monitor which sits in the kitchen and nudges my conscience.

A few weeks ago I was at a dinner and there were four households represented at the table.  All four of us had smart meters and monitors but the other three just kept their monitor in a drawer and didn't bother to use it!  I wanted one so that I could save money but the smart meter will not save you anything - it just gives information so you can do the saving if you want to.

And I do want to.  I read my meter daily and each day rack my brains to think of the things I did the previous day which used energy.  Gradually I am becoming better at reducing my consumption.  I will need a least a year of figures before I know how much I have saved but I am sure that the habit of turning the thermostat down, that using my insulated cafetiere rather than boiling the kettle several times, and all the other little economies I make will make a difference.

One of the things that has helped is this little "dry fryer" which I was given for Christmas.  Actually it's really a mini oven and it uses far less power than even my top oven but I can cook small meals, eg a chop and a jacket potato or a shepherd's pie rather quicker than in the top oven.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

It's been a long time!

Well, hello if you're reading this - which you are, of course!

Thank you for coming here.  It's a very long time since I wrote on this blog but this feels like a good time to come back.

Thing is, I want to save some money.  Now I'm never going to be an extreme frugalleur (and I don't feel the need) but I'd like to have a wee bit more money to spend on the things I choose.  It's not just things for now, like holidays, but my more long term well-being with enough money to last into my old age.  I'm sixty seven now so I'm no spring chicken, but my lifestyle for the next ten, twenty, maybe even thirty years depends on the choices I make now.  My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all lived into their nineties so who knows!

Anyway, I want to live below my means by £400 per month.  That means I've either got to get more money in or it means I have to let less money out.  It sounds so simple!

Lets see how I go.