Sunday 27 January 2013

A weekend in Manchester...Part 1

We've just spent the weekend in Manchester. The excuse was the National Winter Ales festival, being held in the city for the last time ahead of its 2014 move to Derby, and as we have a number of friends who were going to be working or simply drinking there, we were talked into going along.  Usual methods were employed to obtain the cheapest possible travel (train tickets at £52 return for both of us meant that it was both cheaper, AND quicker, than using the car would have been) and a budget Travelodge room was booked  - although admittedly it did rapidly become clear why it was quite SO cheap...more on that later. We set off from London on Friday night to head north - we'd checked ahead of time and established that the most budget-friendly way of getting from Manchester city centre to the Travelodge was to get a train directly from Piccadilly Station to the station just half a mile away from our destination. All good in theory, but we'd not bargained for having to do that walk in torrential sleet, with 2" of slippery, icy slush underfoot! We got there though, just before midnight, and as usual the helpful chap on reception was quite happy to provide additional pillows, tea & coffee supplies, and towels - whilst these places might be budget, if you ask politely we've never found it a problem to obtain the odds and ends to make the stay rather less basic!

Saturday morning dawned and the room was revealed in all its slightly tired decor...not, it must be said, the most appealing of establishments, but we were none too bothered as really we were only using it to sleep in. OK, so the switch didn't work properly on the kettle, meaning that it refused to turn itself off, but that was only a minor inconvenience. The inconvenience got a little more major, however, when I flipped the lightswitch and was greeted with a sort of "Wwwwoooff!" noise, and a rather bright blue flash....and all the lights went out. Apparently, we found afterwards, the lights had gone out in all the other rooms on the same circuit too, which must have been lovely for a few of the other guests!  Full credit to the staff, the situation was quickly resolved, power was restored, we were speedily moved to another room just along the corridor, and an e-voucher is being issued too, by way of an apology.

Anyway, having sorted that out we headed off into town to find breakfast and have a wander about the city before heading off to find the Beer festival. Neither of us know Manchester in the slightest, but what we DO know, however, is how to find a decent cafe for breakfast, so when we spotted this.... 

 ...we knew the search was over. not the most promising looking place,you might think - dodgy, hand painted signage, and slightly peeling paint. Look carefully though and you will see that, looking in through the window, the place was absolutely heavingly busy! We were not to be disappointed either - tea & coffee is served in mis-matched, multi-coloured mugs, and "swaps" on ingredients for the stomach-lining Full English we both went for were cheerfully agreed to. (I'm not a fan of either baked beans or fried eggs with a breakfast, and MrEH doesn't much like cooked tomatoes - both of us however LOVE mushrooms, so it was great to be able to swap things about). To perfectly underline the excellence of this place, we'd only been in there 10 minutes or so and a group of 5 friends of ours showed up - apparently it's THE breakfast place to visit in that part of the city!

Breakfasts consumed, our pals headed off to start their shift at the beer festival where they were working, and we went off for a wander about before going that way ourselves. one of the first places we stumbled upon was fab shop Magma - full of books, stationery and all manner of quirky stuff. I especially liked this notebook...

...but I could also have been distinctly tempted by "Bicycle Clips" (Page markers made from coloured wire in the shape of bikes, with a hand paper-clip shaped bit on the back), the "Great place Names" tea-towel (with the shape of the British Isles filled with all the best of the unusual, rude or bewildering place names these Islands have to offer) and the "Your life in Lists" book, designed to be just that, a notebook for all those lists some of us are constantly making! I could cheerfully have browsed in there for quite some time (and spent no small amount of money) but we thankfully escaped again before my bank balance took a battering. According to their Website they have stores in London, too, so I might well have to take a wander along there at some stage.

 Outside we found these rather unusual metal panels laid into the paving slabs. there were all sorts of different designs but these leaves were the one that photographed best. Manchester clearly loves its artwork - my favourite was this full-sized "L A Ink" inspired mural on the outside of a tattoo studio...

I love the contrast of the brightly painted bicycles against the black railings...

Fab, isn't it! The detail in the "Tattoo style" artwork is just incredible, and it magnificently brightens up what would otherwise be a dull corner. I love the street signage too - cleverly made up of individual tiles painted with the letters of the alphabet so that any name can be made up easily. There is something about these that reminds me of the signs for the Metro in Paris.

After that it was time to make our way to the beer festival where we passed a thoroughly pleasant day of catching up with fab friends, and drinking really excellent beer. All good!

Keep your eye out later in the week or possibly early next for more photos from wandering around Manchester this morning before heading off to the train.


Friday 25 January 2013

Frugal Friday

Growing up, one of my favourite TV shows was The Wombles - who were, as we now know, the earliest real exponents of the "Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle" Principles. "Making good use of the things that we find" is of course an excellent plan, but more important still is surely "Making good use of the things that we have".

Casting an eye around the flat, and with Frugal February being planned, I started thinking about the wealth of things that we have that we can indeed make excellent use of, in order to avoid needing to spend money on more.

Entertainment: I have a large pile of unread books. Some I got as presents at Christmas, others have been passed on to me after Mum has finished with them and still others have come from the windowsill in the common area outside our flats, where we all leave books we have finished with for others to take. Either way I have, I reckon, the best part of a years reading, if not more. No need to be buying more at the charity shop, then! We also have a reasonable number of DVD's of films we both enjoy and will be happy to watch again. We also have active RSPB & National Trust Memberships, giving us access to literaly hundreds of places across the country to spend an afternoon, a day,l or just a few hours, at minimal or no cost. We also have CD's, TV, the radio, and lots of board games.

Food: Our freezers, larder & storecupboard are well stocked with provisions and there should be no need to buy other than fresh food (Fruit, Veg & Dairy) through February. The Approved Food couscous mountain is still apparent, and there is rice & pasta aplenty. Bread flour too - this was bought in bulk on a "3 for 2" offer before Christmas, and enabling us to cut the cost of our home made bread even further the yeast was bought directly from the supplier, butter was made from that reduced price cream the other week, and other ingredients are also in stock. HRH The Cat will be in no danger of starving either - we spotted that the local pet superstore had a special offer on her food recently so she now has her own little stockpile!

Toiletries: An essential item this, at least in so far as the basics are concerned, and in practise most of us prefer that little bit extra. I'll confess happily enough that nice smellies are definitely a luxury I enjoy, although I use very few "top end" products these days, and those that I do are asked for as Christmas or birthday presents. I utilise Boots "Christmas Shopping evenings" to stock up on most of what I require for the year, meaning I buy what I would buy anyway, but get given additional reward card points as well just for spending on that specific day. This, combined with items received as gifts, means I am currently plentifully supplied with all the lotions, potions and more personal requirements I shall need for quite some time. In fact, I have committed already on my "Simplify It 2013" challenge that for the next year I will only buy toiletry items when I have actually run out of an item and have no more in stock.

 The National Trust's Oxburgh Hall
Clothing & Footwear: I try to maintain a list of items that I could ideally do with buying if I see them at the right price. For main items of clothing I buy from Charity shops where I can - with a bit of careful searching it's possible to find almost unworn t-shirts for example, and I often manage to add to my vast and varied collection of scarves. Footwear and underwear I usually buy at sale times, or from outlet shops. For nightwear it's hard to beat good old Primark - I'd far rather buy cheap and replace when they get grotty! I'm also not afraid of a bit of repair work when required - I darn woollen socks which would be expensive to replace for example - usually using remnants of wool from other people's knitting projects - which means I have some surprisingly colourful socks! A while ago a friend was astonished to hear me mention repairing a pair of trousers that had gone through in the gusset - her reaction was surely I would just buy a new pair? To me this seems mad if the required repair is just a simple one! Later on in "Simplify It 2013" I'll be concentrating on sorting out my wardrobe.

Cars: MrEH's car "Bessie" is serviced annually, when she has her MoT test in March. This way we can be reasonably certain that things are in order before she goes through the test, and also keeping her servicing fairly close to the recommended mileage for her make & model. My Clio "Gracie" requires servicing at 12,000 mile intervals - and this means that her annual overhaul could get slightly later each year although in practise it is usually done just before we head off for our holiday as she does over 2,500 miles in a fortnight then so it's reassuring to know before setting off that everything has been given a clean bill of health. They are both diesels, and so should be capable of extremely high mileages - in fact Bess has already gone past 160k miles. Thanks to them being diesels we get quite high miles per gallon out of them too - Gracie averages close to 60 miles to the gallon, and Bessie just a little less. Most importantly is the fact that, even allowing for the running costs and diesel, having the cars actually saves us money as without them out annual commuting costs to and from work would be in the region of £7000!

Ourselves! : Legs to walk with, rather than using the car, and to walk for fun as well. Hands to cook from scratch rather than buying processed, pre-prepared rubbish. The skills to make meals from all sorts of oddments from the freezers, larder, fridge and storecupboards, in a sort of mad "Ready Steady Cook" inspired way. The ability to be content with having quiet time, as well as going out and "doing things". A Blog to rant on when things prove a bit tricky, or, the alternative, to sing and shout on when things go swimmingly well!

The next "Frugal Friday" post will be the first of "Frugal February" so I'll be summarising how we intend doing things for week one.


Monday 21 January 2013

More snow!

We were forecast to have a bit more snow yesterday - not much more, just another inch or so really. This time the forecasters underplayed it a bit - it snowed ALL day - from before we got up to about 9pm, and another 3 - 4" has fallen. As we had nothing else planned for the day, and we usually like to get out for a walk on a Sunday when that is the case, we bundled up in coats, hats, gloves and scarves (and TWO fleeces, in my case, I do hate being cold!) and set off to Amwell Nature reserve just over the boundary into Hertfordshire.

The roads weren't great, to be honest - nowhere seemed to have been gritted - even the main A414 was down to one lane along quite a bit of the stretch we travelled on. The lane going along to the reserve was a bit hairy too, although the only real problem I encountered was when searching for somewhere to turn the car round to park up. A bit of sideways action though and we were sorted out.

Rather than the actual reserve itself we decided to walk along the towpath towards Ware - always a favourite walk of mine anyway, and I thought it would be interesting to see the familiar route in these new, softened, clothes. The canal boats were looking cosy moored against the bank, several with their wood-burners going ...

...and it's always fascinating to see the way plants and trees catch the falling snow and look totally different to normal - this Old Man's Beard for example, looking rather more "Beardy" than usual...

...and the Teasles, too...

We decided to call in at one of the hides as we were passing - this one is a favourite of mine as there are feeders hanging right outside and it's a good chance to see some of our native birds up really close. I've often spent an afternoon there with the camera in the past, and got some lovely shots. In spite of only having the little compact with me I still managed to get a couple of shots thanks to a helpful Robin posing for me...

And look! A feeder-bucket FULL of Long Tailed Tits! Aren't they gorgeous!

And so we plodded onwards along the path. Very cold indeed (the car was registering -1 on the main road in the way there we noticed) but we were plenty warm enough with all our winter layers on, and the snow crunching underfoot as we walked. We were hoping that the boat-cafe might have been moored somewhere along the canal but sadly not, so no tea & cake for us - we could have continued on into Ware to find a cafe there but by the time we got to the outskirts the snow was falling pretty heavily so we turned tail and headed back along....

Just before we got back to the track out these cheery fellows came and said hello...

They are Konik Ponies - usually to be found grazing in the meadows at RSPB Rye Meads but currently housed at Amwell as the ground is too wet for them at Rye. They are apparently bred to bring back the Tarpan - a wild horse which was hunted to extinction over here some 130 years ago. They're friendly chaps as you can see...

What did you do with your Sunday? Did it involve any snow, or a walk, come to that?


Sunday 20 January 2013


We were forecast to have snow on Friday. Not a vast amount of it - the most that was forecast for here was just a few inches. Since the County Council got caught out when it snowed in December, and all the roads locally gridlocked because nowhere had been gritted, they've been out almost every night spreading salt, so there was no real likelihood of the main roads becoming impassable. MrEH went off to work as usual in the morning, and I pottered about doing odds and ends - emptying the dishwasher, sorting out some laundry, and doing a bit of washing up, before heading out - as I usually do on a Friday morning - to get our weeks shopping in. I went via the Charity Shop to drop off a couple of "bags o' stuff" from Project Spare Room, and it was business as normal with the exception of a bit of road-salt scattered around the front door, and from there I headed over to that large supermarket beginning with a T.

The first surprise was that it was quite difficult to find a parking space. Not only on my usual side of the car park, but on the other - further away from the store side - too, which is usually almost empty that time on a Friday morning. Curious. On entering the store though, it all became clear. At least four times as many people as usual, all piling their trollies high with bread, fruit & veg, milk & meat...quite honestly it gave the impression that war had just been declared and rationing was imminent, rather than, as was actually happening, a few flakes of snow were falling. Yes, panic buying was in full flow! Now, bear in mind if you will, that in this town we have 6 large Supermarkets, plus countless smaller ones. Every area of housing has a central area of shops with a convenience store of some description, in short, I would have my doubts that anybody living within the town itself is, at any given time, more than a mile at the very most from the means of acquiring for themselves the means to make a cup of tea, an omelette, or a slice of toast.

A comment from a friend later on that evening started me thinking - she mentioned that it had struck her how different the ethos of stockpiling is to the panic buying that a lot of us have witnessed due to the winter weather.  Many of us in Frugal-Blogland  are familiar with the concept of Stockpiling, or keeping a storecupboard - bulk buying particular items, usually dried or tinned goods, when prices are low, to save money on future food purchases. Of course it also has the advantage of meaning that if, for any reason, we are unable to get to the shops easily, we can also feed ourselves and our families for some time without too many issues.  My shopping list on Friday consisted of milk for both of us (had I not been able to get out I had UHT in the cupboard), fruit (we had apples in but no citrus fruit), veg (again, had I not been able to get out I have frozen veg in)  and potatoes (for which I could happily have substituted couscous, pasta or rice, all of which I have in abundance). I also picked up some sliced haslet and some pate for our lunches. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing in vast quantity, and more importantly nothing which will, in a week from now, be on its way to landfill as it has not been eaten. The breadmaker spent the evening whirring away to produce a fruit loaf for our breakfasts over the weekend, and even if we were to get snowed in for a week, we would be in no great danger of starvation!

How much snow did you get? Did it mean you had to change your plans, or did you see others around you doing so, and wonder why?


Friday 18 January 2013

Frugal Friday...& February!

I regularly come across various "No Spend Challenges" on the internet - through the whole of last year Sue at Our New Life in the Country did her "£2012 in 2012" challenge - a bid to save or make that sum through the year, and others are making a conscious effort to cut down a month at a time, redecorate houses on almost a zero budget, or take part in "storecupboard challenges".  Because the very nature of what we're trying to do is to fund our eventual dream by paying down the mortgage, but without compromising on living life now too, through a lot of the year we have "stuff" going on which does require a degree of spending - albeit planned and budgeted for - and we're not willing to compromise on fun plans!  February though tends to be a quiet month in our world - a good time to recharge the batteries ahead of a busy spring and summer, so we have decreed that this February will be "Frugal February"!

Treading carefully...
The plan is this:
From the 1st to the 28th of February we will:
- Set a weekly maximum grocery budget of £20 for fresh fruit, veg & dairy, but aim to save as much as possible of this
- Eat from existing stocks, from the freezers, larder and storecupboard
- Aim to put as little as possible on our cashback credit card (paid off in full every month, remember) so just MrEH's railcard, diesel, and any grocery shopping not done using our ClubCard+
- My car will get "fed" with £50 worth of diesel which will have to do for the month
- Not be tempted to wander into charity shops, 99p stores or B&M Bargains "just for a browse"
- Utilise our existing National Trust & RSPB memberships if we are looking for entertainment at weekends
- (me only) - I will withdraw my weekly spending budget but aim to have as much as possible of it in my purse at the end of each week.

We will not be doing a "big shop" or stocking up ahead of the challenge starting to facilitate less spending whilst it is in progress. This will be a genuine attempt to cook and eat from the supplies we already have!

- MrEH's personal spending - if he wants to join in he can, but no pressure, and the nature of his job is that a degree of socialising is required.
- Rugby related spending on a Saturday - this will include some beer for MrEH and almost certainly cups of hot tea for me after standing on the touchline clutching my camera! It's impractical for me to take a flask along as the club would (quite rightly!) not be very happy at me sitting in their clubhouse drinking my own tea!
- Clarinet lessons - I will continue with these as usual.
- Regular bills - anything that goes out of the bank on a regular basis where we have no say over the amount will not be declared in the spending.
- A possible re-arrangement of a cheery weekend with a friend which has had to be postponed due to the forecast snow this weekend. This is already budgeted for though so is essentially just a case of shifting the money from one month to the next.
- Diesel in MrEH's car. His is our "commuting vehicle" and as we car-share it is our cheapest way of getting in and out of London on a daily basis.

My Blog posts through the month will report on progress, and declare spending. Frugal Friday posts will focus on one aspect at a time of the challenge, and anything we are struggling with.

So - Frugal February - bring it on!


Also joining in with Frugal Friday this week is Jenni @ A Cheerful Living Adventure

Thursday 17 January 2013

Simplify It...2013 - January

You might well have noticed the new page which has appeared on here - this relates to my year long "Simplify It!" challenge - to work on the simple-living ethos all the more and generally improve our lives.

Challenge 1 is to "Streamline the Stuff" and part of this has been "Project spare room" - living in a two bedroom flat, with only myself, MrEH, and HRH The Cat, the spare room is not only a guest-room, but also office, storage space, and all too often, general dumping ground for all manner of things which we aren't quite sure what to do with. Increasingly I was finding that just walking into the room was making me feel a bit sad - we only decorated it about 18 months ago and when it was first done walking in there made my heart lift - compared to how it looked before it was a joy to see the lovely fresh paint, pretty bedding etc. When it's cluttered though, I don't get that feeling, and I wanted it back.

The first task was to tackle the large cupboard built in to one side of the room - this gets used for kitchen equipment (the perils of having a tiny kitchen with barely any cupboard space), camping gear, and DIY equipment mainly. We decided that at the moment, the DIY stuff should be left alone, but everything else was fair game! I cleared the shelves one at a time and with each item we assessed when it was last used, and if that was not regularly, what the value was in keeping it. If we decided that the item was better got rid of, then it went either into a charity shop bag, or to the rubbish, and if we wanted to keep it, we considered whether there was anywhere better to store it than in the cupboard. This was then repeated with the bits stored on the floor of the cupboard too, before finally putting everything back.  The same procedure was followed with the 4 large open shelves, and then the drawers under the bed - and at each step we decided how the space was best used, and adjusted/moved things around accordingly. Empty boxes from electrical items such as cameras etc - which we like to keep as if you come to sell an item on, having the box both increases the value and makes it simpler to package for posting - are ideally suited to the under-bed drawers as they are usually light in weight, but can be quite bulky to store, so it makes sense to put them somewhere with a fair amount of space, but which won't take anything heavy. Similarly kitchen equipment which might get used fairly regularly is best left out on the open shelves as it's easier to access them from there. The "loft" was the next step - yes, we do live in a flat, and a ground floor one at that, but there is a large, deep, high cupboard in the spare room which is cavernous enough to qualify for the title! By using the same process as before, enough space was cleared in there to leave us scratching our heads and wondering how on earth we were going to fill it up again! We managed, of course, but someone please remind me that among other things up there is a large pack of toilet rolls, when I'm scratching my head in a few months and wondering how on earth we went through THAT many rolls of it, so fast! Finally "attacked" were the two low bookcases which line one wall - on the fact of it just a small area but their flat tops attract all manner of odds and ends - and consequently this clutter means they rarely get cleared for dusting!  Books are important to both of us, too, and so going through them always takes time - to discuss, to decide whether we can actually bear to part with, or whether the fact that we haven't read something in ages means that it would be better released to a move attentive home.

Tidy Bookcase
As each area has been cleared, then it has been wiped down with a damp cloth to remove any dust and then dried. We have also vacuumed regularly as we have been going along as this level of reorganisation stirs up so much dust! We have taken 4 black bin sacks full of rubbish outside to the bins, plus further items which weren't suitable for being bagged up - boxes of old magazines, the broken printer etc, and 6 large carrier bags/storage bags have gone to the charity shop. We have also rehomed things to other people, via FreeCycle, and even to the office I work in! The shelves and bookcases are now organised, tidy, and we can easily lay hands on what we are searching for on them, and concussion is less likely when opening the doors to the cupboard or the loft! Above all though the room has regained its sense of space, and seems larger, and lighter, again. It is simpler to move around, to use the room as it suits us to use it, and above all to accommodate someone staying with us!

All looking organised...

A tidy desk...

No, I don't iron bedding...
Challenge 2 will be "Frugal February", which will be an attack on our finances, more than anything - as we will be seeking to spend as little as possible, make use of the resources that we have for meals, entertainment etc, and to end the month with fuller bank accounts and emptier freezers! See this week's Frugal Friday post in due course for further information on this one.


Sunday 13 January 2013

Birds, Beasts and Fire-breathing Dragons...

One of the joys of my job is that although I work in an office, it's not always the same office. Take last week for example, on Thursday I found myself working in a building just along from here....

A pretty good location to spend a day, that. In the interests of making the most of a day when I was being paid to be somewhere anyway, I decided to pop out for a wander along the river at lunchtime. I used to work further along the river to the East - at North Woolwich, and absolutely loved the opportunity to see Old Father Thames on a daily basis - although there the view was the Thames Barrier and the Woolwich Ferry, where I was today it was quite different...

It was a nice surprise to see one of these almost as soon as I started walking...

A Cormorant - enjoying his view of the London Eye! (And who can blame him, it is a rather splendid view!)

Surprisingly there were other creatures to be found as well...some not so surprising alongside a river I suppose.....

Fish feature heavily along this stretch of river, decorating the lamp standards on each side of the pavement -

Slightly less to be expected was this...

Isn't he splendid? This can be found on the gates of the Inner Temple, one of the Inns of Court, and is just a short way along from a similar emblem for the Middle Temple - another animal, a Lamb this time, although no photos of that one I'm afraid.

Of course if we're after mythical creatures, you'd have to go a fair way to beat this one...

This is the emblem of the Corporation of London, and a pair of these wonderful fire-breathing beasts can be found at the main entrances to the city, standing guard. What better than a dragon to safeguard the very heart of England's Capital, eh?


Friday 11 January 2013

Frugal Friday...

When I first woke up to the positives of being financially savvy, and starting to overpay the mortgage, I posted regularly on the "Mortgage free wannabe" section of a well known and deservedly popular website's forums. I've sung the praises of this particular site (and its forums) regularly, and shall continue to do so, but ironically, this particular forum was very nearly the cause of me giving up before I had even really started.

We initially started by saving money to pay off a car loan early, and overpaying tiny bits - literally £10 a month to start with - on the mortgage. Initially the forum board and the regular posters on there proved to be a great source of support and inspiration - many people were sacrificing absolutely everything to put every penny they could to their mortgage. there were incredible stories of people paying down their mortgages in 3 years...but gradually I started to feel a lingering sense of questioning as to why I was there. I was still taking holidays, going out with friends, we were having takeaway occasionally and the bulk of the money we were saving was going to pay off the loan in the short term, not the mortgage. Even though the overpayments were gradually creeping up - £50 per month, £70, £100 - I still felt that slight awkwardness, I wasn't *quite* dedicated enough to be playing with the big boys - I was still having treats and enjoying life so clearly I didn't really have quite the same enthusiasm for the task at hand as others did. I began to feel that maybe that unspoken question was valid - perhaps I really DIDN'T have the determination to see it through?

A friend reminded me of a couple of pertinent sayings "Slowly wins the race" and "there's more ways than one to skin a cat" - and both of these hold extremely true in the world of frugaldom and mortgage overpayments! It's easy to get terrified when faced with a group of people who are all throwing more money every month at their mortgage than you even earn - but just because you can't do the same doesn't mean that you're not making a difference. Even a £10 per month overpayment on a mortgage over 25 years will knock a bit of time - and a bit of interest, more importantly - off the final due date. Remember also it's important to try to get some savings behind you - budget carefully for not only regular monthly outgoings, but also for "big one-offs" like insurances, car servicing etc. Then save an "emergency fund" - ideally of 3 - 6 months money - so that if the worst should happen and someone ends up not earning for a while, you can still pay the bills. Then, and only then, start working on chipping away at "the big one".

5 Easy ways of paying a bit more to your mortgage:
- In February & March most of us pay no council tax or water rates - pay this as a lump-sum to your mortgage in these months instead.
- Challenge yourself to a "Frugal Month" - I'm going to be doing this in February. Pay whatever is left in the current account at the end of it to the mortgage.
- Set yourself a monthly grocery budget and then see how much you can save of that - pay whatever is saved to the mortgage.
- Search out a cheaper deal on gas, electricity, TV or telephone - pay the amount that your monthly Direct Debit reduces by to your mortgage as a regular overpayment. By the time you've done all of them this can really add up!
- Save to be able to pay insurances annually rather than in instalments - typically you pay £1.50 - £5 per month extra to spread payments across the year - so that saving can be added to your mortgage pot too.

We have no plans for sacrificing our annual trip to the Hebrides, our second car, cheery trips off with friends or occasional nights out for the sake of scrimping, saving and throwing every last penny at the mortgage. Our view is that you never know what is around the next corner, so we will continue to have fun today "just in case" there is no tomorrow. If anything happens to either of us then the mortgage is paid off in any case - we have adequate insurance to be certain of that - and where there are things that we both want to do, see or visit, we'll jolly well do, see and visit them as and when we get the chance - how sad to have to go to one of those places that was on both of our lists, alone, at some unspecified time in the future, wishing that we had gone sooner, while the other was still there to enjoy it...

Most importantly, if you are now that person who is managing to OP a dribble at a time, then brilliant - well done you! Don't let anyone tell you that it's not worth it unless you are paying a fortune, or that because you still want to have the odd treat, a weekend away, or a nice meal that you haven't had to cook occasionally, you're not doing the right thing. For YOU, your way might well be the right thing - for someone else, their way is their choice. Each to their own - personally, I'll go for having fun and enjoying life!

Remember - As much as you can is absolutely fine!


(What was that? The photos? Oh, they are "just enough" to get the idea of what they might be of...check back in a couple of days to see "The bigger picture")

Others joining in with Friday Frugality this week are:
A Cheerful Living Adventure
Cwtch Corner

Sunday 6 January 2013


I seem to have picked up a larger than normal amount of page views over the past few weeks, so wanted to say hello to the new readers (And to the longer-standing ones too - don't want anyone feeling left out!)

Blog posts seem to be a bit thin on the ground so far this year so I thought I'd update about our upcoming plans for the year. The start of the year is generally fairly quiet - in the past we've been up to London for the Chinese New year celebrations but have decided to give that a miss this year.

There will be a trip North to a beer festival coming up instead though - bargain priced Travelodge room already booked, bargain priced train tickets also already booked, and we hope to be close enough to the city centre & venue that at least some of our travel can be done via good old Shanks' Pony so that should keep the costs down a bit too. February has been decreed as "Frugal February" in this household, so watch for an upcoming Frugal Friday post telling you all about that. MrEH hasn't quite decided to what level he wants to participate with his personal spending, but it will be covering my personal spending and the household expenditure, at least.

Also planned for the year is a trip to Orkney - very excited about this! We're going to be adventuring off to see the lovely Fay at The Wind & The Wellies so really looking forward to that. And almost as exciting is the fact that the first bit of the journey will be done by the Caledonian Sleeper - for which we have managed to get tickets for the grand sum of £39 each! This will take us all the way to Aberdeen, and will mean that we get a head start on our travel without having to pay an additional amount for overnight accommodation as we would if we flew up. From there the decision still needs to be made - Ferry from Aberdeen to Kirkwall - a 6 hour crossing - or train to Thurso, then ferry from Scrabster. As MrEH is NOT a good sailor he is firmly in favour of the train!

More Island adventuring later on too as we'll be heading back to the Hebrides of course....

...slight change of plan on the past few years as although we will be going up via the same route - Mallaig to Armadale, drive up through Skye, then ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy, we will be coming back by driving down to Lochboisdale on South Uist and then taking the longer crossing from there to Oban. This has the advantage of meaning that we don't have to get up at what a friend refers to as "The crack of death" in order to be at Lochmaddy ferry terminal for 6.45am, although MrEH is distinctly uncertain about the 5 hour crossing time...I may have to do him a deal where I agree to the train/short ferry route for Orkney in exchange for the longer crossing back from the Hebrides, I think!

There are several other things planned too - budget weekends in Norfolk with the tent, more use of cheap Travelodge rooms elsewhere, and hopefully several meetings with cheery pals from across the country too. I'm sure some if not all of those will make an appearance here as the year goes on. There will also be Frugal Fridays - now being joined by lots of people for these so that's great fun, and the usual odd ramblings as things take my fancy I'm sure!

What do you have planned for the year?


Friday 4 January 2013

Frugal Friday *Guest Post*

This post is courtesy of Dreamer over at Living a Slow & Simple Life

When I asked Dreamer about letting me have her favourite frugal tip for last weeks Frugal Friday post, she went one better than that and offered me an entire post! All the good solid common sense we've come to expect too, so here it is...

"My favourite frugal tip is just to take a step back whenever you are doing anything and truly look for the potential in whatever you are doing or producing.Whether it is a way to use less energy, make something stretch further, make something multi purpose, or just a way to utilise what you have to the absolute limit there are always ways to make little improvements. In the long run it is all these little steps that add up to make your money go further and help you get good value.

For instance today I was making a batch of individual shepherd's pies and some bolognese sauce to use a large pack of quality minced beef. I think we all know by now how to stretch the mince and we do that without thinking, and I would rather buy good quality and stretch it further than eat "cheap" food.
Today I was peeling the washed potatoes for the shepherd's pies and decided to get a bit more value from them by using the peelings to make a quick snack. It was a cold frosty day and we had all been outdoors for a while, dog walking, or working in the garden so something warm and tasty was welcome as it was many hours to dinner.

I was using the oven for the shepherd's pies and apple crumble so I just put the potato peelings on trays and seasoned them, one tray just with sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil, the other with some sea salt, ground dried onions, ground dried chives and a drizzle of olive oil. I left them in the oven for about 35 minutes and ended up with two bowls of tasty, hot potato skins for everyone to snack on.   


The potato peelings could just have ended up in the compost bin but this way I managed to get some extra value from them.
I used the same sort of logic using up the apples that had been lurking untouched in the fruit bowl all week.

Rather than let them deteriorate I decided to make an apple crumble for the freezer, no surprise there then, BUT, then I thought I could get some extra value from the peelings before they were added to the wormery. So I boiled up the peelings and cores with a touch of water and lemon juice, strained the pulp and cooked it up with sugar to make a jar of apple jelly, which will be great with pork.

The remaining fruit pulp then went into the wormery to be turned into compost :)
I am always looking for the potential in everything in this way. Another thing I did today was to pick up some bargain tangerines which we love to munch on.A good buy at 49p a pack, and I picked up several packs which will keep us going this week in fruit.I was still looking for the extra potential though so the peel from the tangerines is now being added to a (recycled ) jar filled with white vinegar where it will soak for a while and then be drained and diluted to use as a surface cleaner.The peel will then end up in the compost bin.

Try thinking outside the box too. Dog toys are expensive in the pet shops and are usually poorly made too so I look in the charity shops and pick up children's soft toys for the dogs for pennies - and as they usually have to pass stringent safety tests they are tougher too.

Overall I think my favourite frugal tip is to change your attitude, think outside the box, look for the extra value in everything you do or use or make. Being frugal doesn't have to mean buying the cheapest,poorest quality, or depriving yourself, it is what happens when you are busy looking for the potential in everything.These are just some of the small steps I have taken today, doing this type of thing day in day out soon adds up and frees up household finances for more important things."

That final paragraph just sums up the whole "Frugal ethic" for me so well - Living simply should leave you feeling as though you are living your life well, not with a lingering sense of "Oh poor me" or a constant need to justify your actions or make excuses for the way you are living. Thanks Dreamer - inspiration there for all of us! (And the Potato skins look fab!)

(All photos in this post are Copyright Dreamer@Living a Slow & Simple Life)