X is for Xmas

Day 24 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

Xmas has to be the most expensive time of the year as well as being the time when we are put under the most pressure spending wise. Television and social media tell us that this is the time to be happy and jolly and that we must spend, spend, spend in order to make this our reality. It would appear that in order to have a brilliant festive period, then we must part with lots and lots of cash.

I personally do not believe it is necessary to rack up loads of debt in order to enjoy this time. With planning, it can be done easily and cheaply. In my book, it is the people that matter far more than the amount of money you have spent. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you have to go without either. We don’t.

I have already mentioned a few of my ideas for keeping within budget when it comes to buying presents etc for special occasions.

  • Keep an eye out for reduced cost items throughout the year and buy them when they are cheap. Not only are you spending less, but you are spreading that cost throughout the year. Just remember what you have bought and where you have hidden it. I have a specific cupboard where everything gets put and i make a note of each item and the person it is intended for into my diary.
  • I save with park hampers for Love to Shop vouchers throughout the year. Again, this means that i spread the cost throughout the year and i get to go on a spending spree with my monopoly money in most of the major high street stores. I also make sure i have enough of them to help me through the leaner January patch as well.
  • I am a seamstress, i crochet and i make jewellery. earringsAll of these can be very helpful at Xmas time as, usually just for those closest to me, i will make something unique and individual for them that is suited to their personality and cannot be purchased in the shops. scrubbie presents
  • Last year all the girls got crocheted face cloths/bath poufs and scrubbies in their favourite colours, the year before it was cosmetic bags, again in lotus bag Annafabrics that i felt suited them. It is harder with the boys, but bean filled phone holders and crocheted blankets have gone down really well. All these cost me is the price of the individual parts (fabrics/wool/charms/chains etc) and the time it takes me to do them.

Don’t forget, if you want to purchase the pattern and tutorial that i have written to make the lotus make up/toiletry bags, you can find it in my shop, Baby Dreams Stitchery on ETSY.

making jamOne thing that i haven’t yet mentioned is that i also cook. And i quite enjoy cookingjams and sweet chilli jam pickles and preserves and so, most years, i put together home made hampers of pickles, chutneys and jams for family and close friends. I have the staple ones that i make every year of orange marmalade, lemon marmalade, strawberry jam and sweet chilli jam and then i will usually cook one or two others just to vary it up a bit.

autumn chutneyOnes that i can recommend are rhubarb and ginger jam, green tomato chutney (this is a brilliant way to use up those green tomatoes you grew that never got round to turning red), spiced apple chutney and one of my favourites that i can never do again i called autumn chutney and was a random assortment of vegetables that i had grown and needed making into something. Really wish i’d written that recipe down, it was delicious, especially with some cheese on crackers.

Apart from that one, all the recipes for these can be found quite easily in a google search. I usually head for BBC Good Food first when i am looking for a new recipe, but there are plenty of other good websites that provide recipes.

Once i have spent hours hovering over a hot hob, i then find a neat and attractive way ofhampers packaging them. Up until now, this has always been with a roll of cellophane and a pretty bow, but with my plan to help the environment out and stop using single use plastic, that plan has now been scuppered and i’m going to have to find another way of doing it for next year. No idea what yet, i have another 9 months to figure that out though. Watch this space.

Therefore, Xmas doesn’t have to Xtra Xpensive. It just needs a little bit of work and forethought put into it and then you can sit back and enjoy the season without worrying about the credit card bill in January.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

T is for Trade Swap

Day 20 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Sometimes, a really good way to save money can be a trade swap. That is, instead of paying for somebody else’s skills in money, you repay them in time instead. So, you need something doing in your house or life that requires a skill that you do not have such as help in the garden or fixing a leaky tap. You find a person that does have those skills and is prepared to do a skill swap with you or through a third party. They do the work and bank their hours. In return, you put forward what skills you have that others may require, for instance, mine would so obviously be sewing, cooking, computing, word processing, writing…. it is surprising when you start thinking about the skills that you possess that could come in useful for others and for which you could get paid in time for.

I am going to say though, that in my experience, this does need to be thought about carefully and does come with risks involved that you should be aware of.

I say this because i have tried it in the past.

A number of years ago i heard of and became involved in my local TimeBank. It was (and still is for some) a brilliant idea and i had high hopes of it working for me as i did sometimes struggle with a few things, mainly to do with heavy lifting. There were also tasks being offered on their list of skills being offered that i didn’t particularly enjoy doing and thought that a skill swap might be beneficial in this way, things like ironing, car washing and cutting the grass. I don’t mind general gardening, but i do hate cutting the grass, at the time i also had a rather large lawned area to do as well.

The rules were that the TimeBank Bods in charge would act as a third party and would organise who swapped with whom depending upon the skill required. They would hold a list of all people involved as well as a central point of reference for each person and an overall tally of each person’s ‘banked’ hours. There was a maximum amount of nine hours that any one person could bank before they had to get them redeemed. You didn’t have to have the points redeemed by the person that you did work for, it could be anybody on the list as it was the skill you were hiring rather than the actual person themselves. They would redeem their own hours from someone else. All materials used had to be purchased by the hirer, not the person doing the work.

I appeared to be quite popular. I was mainly offering sewing/alteration services and had built up to my maximum allowance of nine hours owed to me within a month. I shortened the arms of a couple of dress shorts including taking off and replacing the formal cuffs. I made a dolls dress from scratch, even had to create the pattern for it. The lady with the short arms also had short legs and requested me back to shorten a few pairs of trousers for her.

I also remember that this was around the time my mum passed away and she compared my loss to that of losing her cat a couple of years before. It had taken me about 20 mins to realise that she was talking about her cat.

Now don’t get me wrong, i am a pet owner, i have two dogs and a cat myself and i know how much they weave their way into our lives. They are our family. They are greatly missed when they pass. But i will also admit that i wasn’t quite in the right place at that time to agree with her. Just as well i’m polite…

Meet (from left to right) Maisie, Danny and Jazz.

…and know when to keep my mouth shut.

However, when she started asking me to make some custom cat clothes for her pets i discreetly refused. I also refused to give her my direct landline number so she could call me direct about any sewing she might need doing…

Anyway. I was up to my nine hours and needed to redeem some before i could bank anymore.

‘Goody Goody.’ i said, rubbing my hands in glee, ‘now what can i have? Oh, my car needs washing, i’ll do that.’ 

So i phoned the coordinator and requested it.

‘Oh, i’m sorry,’ she said, ‘we haven’t got anyone that can do that.’

‘Ok, i said, my son’s18th birthday is coming up, is there anyone can bake and ice a birthday cake?’

‘We’ve got someone that can make the cake, but they can’t ice it,’ She told me. 

‘Oh, i said, don’t worry, i’ll do it myself. What about a tip run, i’ve got quite a bit of rubbish that needs to be disposed of?’

‘Yes, we’ve got a guy that can do that for you, you’ll have to pay his fuel and he needs a desperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356permit to drive his van into the site so you’ll have to pay that as well.’

Ever think you’ve been had?

I had expected the fuel, but not his dumping permit for the year as well. I hadn’t thought to charge anyone for the cotton and notions i had used when doing the stuff i had done.

My bad, but what a pillock i was.

After a few other unsuccessful attempts to redeem my time, i told them it wasn’t worth it for me and i would be resigning from the Bank.

She said she was sorry to see me go.

I’ll bet she was. I reckon i was the only one doing any work!

That said, i still think it is a really good idea in principle. If you can check-mark-1292787_960_720find someone or a company that is reliable and trustworthy to complete the swap with then go for it. All i say is:

Make sure you do your homework first.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

R is for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair

Day 18 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

I can’t do a theme of make do and mend without using R for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repair. It’s a bit of a given really.

All of these are essential in the bid to save you money and stop you from throwing items away that could be of some use to you, even in other ways.

By reducing what you use in the first place, it makes for a much simpler lifestyle as well as helping out the planet just a little bit as your consumption rate lowers.  It also reduces the amount that you spend as you head out to the shops to refill your cupboards, wardrobes etc. It’s about taking that step back before you purchase again and asking yourself if you really need that item? Can you live without it? Can you use something else in its place?

flowerpotWe needed a bucket to hold water for washing a car today. I suggested looking in the gardening shed to see what was out there. Hey presto, big flowerpot (with no holes in the bottom) to the rescue! Worked a treat.

Didn’t have to go out and buy a bucket.

Reusing and recycling items also apply to the above example. Just because something is traditionally used for one purpose doesn’t mean that purpose is the only thing it can be used for. Think creatively and out of the box. It is amazing how much money you can save by doing this.

  • Use a sheet for a tablecloth
  • Use an old glasses case to store jewellery or other small items you don’t want to lose
  • Use a cosmetic brush to clean you computer keyboard
  • Slice wine corks into thin discs and stick them to the inside of doors to stop them banging when closing
  • Use tea and coffee tins as planters
  • Cut old clothes/towels down to use as cleaning cloths around the home
  • Use old envelopes/backs of letters as scrap paper for when you need to leave a note for your son – Again – to do the dishwasher before you get home from work… (yo’d really think he’d know by now!)
  • Save butter/margarine/ice cream tubs etc for using again in the fridge or freezer, or for taking your lunch to work/family taking leftovers home after a family meal – that last one means that you don’t lose all your expensive boxes because you can guarantee that they won’t come back again…
  • Use old blankets to line pet beds
  • Cover an old baking sheet with fabric or paper, decorate it and use it as a magnetic board

And as for Repair? That just stands to reason as a sensible option for saving you money.

I’m sure you are all aware by now that i am a seamstress so, for me, repairing of clothes isn’t usually much of a problem – apart from making myself actually sit down and fix it, i’d much rather make an item from scratch rather than spend two hours replacing a zip in a pair of overalls –  but i do have those skills if i need them. I would certainly recommend purchasing and learning how to use a basic sewing machine, it will repay itself a million times over once you get the hang of it.

Regardless of my above comment about having to make time to sit and do my own mending, i do also take in clothing for alterations and repair – i’m a lot quicker at making myself sit and do that – so it is also a bit of an income stream for me. There is no reason why it couldn’t be for you also.

When thinking about replacing something that is broken, always think if it can be repaired first. Why waste money when a little bit of time and effort can breathe new life into the item and mean that you can spend that same money on something much more fun.

I only have three areas where i won’t try a fix first. electric shock

  • I don’t mess with the plumbing or water
  • I don’t mess with the electrics
  • I don’t mess with car mechanics

 

 

 

I will always call the professionals in for those. Life is too precious and if any of those go wrong it could be much more costly in the long run.

These are just some ideas to start you off, let me know what other alternative uses you have for items around the home that save you money.

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

Q is for Quilting

Day 17 of the A – Z blog challenge

Quilting is the perfect way to use up all those odd bits and pieces of fabric you have left over from other projects. It always seems strange to me that it is possible to make a perfectly good item out of the odds and sods that would normally be thrown in the rubbish bin because they are seen as scrap.

In times gone by, when we weren’t quite such a disposable society as we are today, you would never find good fabric thrown away, no matter how small. It would be sewn together into patches and made into blankets or clothing that were unique and timeless.

It doesn’t have to stay in the past though, quilting and appliqué (it’s got a Q in it!) can go a really long way in helping you to make something out of nothing.

With my own quilting, i like to do things a bit different to the usual. The family tree is a padded wall hanging backed onto wood. The bunny is made from the odds and ends of so many different projects that i made while the boys were growing up. The photo cushion is also made from preloved fabric and the photo is one of my three boys playing in the front garden about 15 years ago (the eldest is just climbing over the wall in case you are wondering how you missed one of them).

That’s not to say that i can’t do it ‘properly’ when i need to – that blue boat quilt has a really comfy blue fleece backing on it too…

And if the bits you have left are too small to do the traditional squares, you can always do triangles or use the bits for an appliqué design within the squares –

Applique square

A square i made for inclusion into a charity quilt a few years ago.

JodieOr, you can just use the bits and pieces for a complete appliqué design and then quilt the top appropriately to fit the design…

This wall hanging was a present to a beautiful woman who owned a yellow ukulele.

I’ll let you guess what her name is…

 

And it doesn’t have to be pieces of new fabric from sewing projects that you can use for these projects, you can repurpose any fabric.

Those denim jeans that have worn through in one spot but the rest is fine? Now, i know that you have

made yourselves funky handbags out of the body section, denim handbag  but there is still a load of good denim left in those legs…

…So how about some really handy utility aprons???

Although they aren’t strictly quilting…

…But these are…

Quilt tops denim

And when saving the little pieces, remember the trims. That butterfly on the denim quilt top was a patch on a pair of jeans.

So before you throw out those scraps, old clothes etc, take a closer look and see what else it can be used for. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

P is for Planning Ahead for Presents

Day 16 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Following hot on the heels of O is for Organise and matching it hand in hand is P is for Planning Ahead for Presents

IMG_3464

Yeah, couldn’t find the number 7, it’s an upside down L in the lightbox…

The lists and immediate to do items are one thing, but it can also be worth looking further into the future when making plans for saving money.

In my phone i use the notes app to keep a list of people that i need to buy birthday/xmas presents for as well as any other celebratory events that may cost me money over the next twelve months or so. When i am out shopping, i keep an eye out for bargains/sale items that are suitable for those events and pick them up as and when i see them.

Now, i have always done this – remember the skint single mum thing back when the boys were growing up? But the problem i always had was that i would then squirrel them away somewhere and forget their existence until i was doing some random tidying up and would come across them again…usually a couple of days after the event they were originally purchased for.

Doh!!

So now, i make sure that i make a note next to each name, what the present is and how much it cost. This latter may not seem so important at first glance, but i generally have a set amount of money in mind that i allocate to each person. If i can save money on a present, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they only get that one, after all, they don’t know how much i paid for it, but quite often, i will make other purchases that brings the presents up to the value of that figure. Doesn’t mean that you have to do that too, remember, they don’t know how much you paid for it, whether full price or reduced, and does it really matter what the cost is if it is something that they want or need?

Not in my book, it really is the thought that counts. The thought that somebody has spent the time to try and find something you like and appreciate rather than a ‘that’ll do’ present that was purchased while standing at the check out, half an hour before closing time on Xmas Eve.

leggings

I once received 7 pairs of leggings for my Christmas present from my (now ex) husband. He said that i always wore leggings so what was the problem?

I had given birth to my third son one month before. I was sick of poxy leggings. I’d vowed never to wear the darn things ever, ever, ever again. I was already back wearing my size 10 jeans. i wanted something a bit more flattering than leggings.

It is my birthday one week after Christmas.

He bought me another pair of leggings. I’m not kidding you – he really did!

I felt like strangling him with them.desperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356

He admitted that he’d bought them with the other pairs on Christmas Eve and thought he’d save them for my birthday present.

My motto.

Plan ahead.

 

Buy presents throughout the year so you spread the cost, but make sure they are suitable for the recipient.

…..Unless you want to get garrotted by a stray pair of leggings…

.Have a happy day.

Anita x

O is for Organise Yourself

Day 15 of the A -Z Blog Challenge.

For me, the key to saving money is being organised.

For anyone that knows me, they will be well aware of how difficult i can find that ideal sometimes.

I am one of those people that tend to have a fair bit on the to do list, but will procrastinate and prevaricate until the very last minute and then get it all done in a rush. Sometimes, this isn’t necessarily the cheapest way of doing things and i am slowly getting into the swing of organising my time more effectively to achieve the best outcome for both myself and my purse.

  1. The first thing i had to learn to do was to actually write a list. I’m not good at writing lists. In the past, i have thought that the time spent writing the list of things to do could be better spent actually doing something that i have to do. In some cases that may be true, but for the large part, the focussing of the mind on the tasks that lie ahead can help to alleviate the problem of ‘what shall i do first?’
  2. Actually use the list. Yeah, this helps. I cannot count the amount of times that i have actually written a shopping list and then got to the supermarket only to find i have left it on the kitchen worktop at home. this means that i then fall into my old habit of wandering up and down the aisles, throwing things i think i need and might have written on the list into my trolley. then i get home and find that i’ve forgotten everything i had on the list but i now have 12 tins of baked beans…
  3. Meal plan…with a list. Look through your kitchen cupboards/fridge/freezer and plan what you are going to eat at each mealtime through the week. Then write it down and stick it somewhere that you will see. When you go to the supermarket, you only need to buy the items you require for the meals that you will be eating, not a random assortment of bits and bobs that leave you scratching your head for actual meals but the freezer is so full of vegetables, you can’t fit anything else in. I currently have three big bags of Brussel sprouts in my freezer. I hate sprouts. With a vengeance. As do two of my sons. The one who does like sprouts lives 200 miles away…..
  4. Consider online food shopping. With your trusty meal plan in hand, this can reduce your spending as you aren’t tempted by the sales tactics of the supermarkets flashing their impulse buys at you as wander around the store. You may also save on fuel depending on what the delivery charge is and how close or distant you may live to the chosen shop. A saving on time and shoe leather can also be seen as a bonus on this one.
  5. Organise the house so that it works for you. If it’s the only way that it will get done, then list what housework jobs you are going to do and on what days. Tick them off when you are finished with them. If this really helps, then start to write a journal, a plan of your work and the order in which you do it. Use colours, stickers, cut out pictures from magazines and glue them in. Make it your goal.

Make your life work for you rather than letting it happen and then being disgruntled at what little has been achieved at such a great cost.

Organisation and advance planning can work to help you to achieve what you want.

To do listOne of my first lists. It’s a work in progress.

Meanwhile…

Beans on toast with a side order of Brussels sprouts for anyone???

Have a happy day.

Anita x

L is for Lunch

Day 12 of the A to Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge.

And by lunch, i mean making your own…

I work full time and that inevitably means that i have a mealtime while i am there. Now, i am quite lucky that my place of work has a complete kitchen that i can access in order to cook something should i so wish, however, time is not always on my side in order for this to happen.

There was a time when i would think nothing of saying that i didn’t have time (read as couldn’t be bothered) to make a packed lunch and i would then buy sandwiches/wraps or pasties (gotta be done when you are Cornish) for my midday meal. This adds up though. Even getting the local shops meal deal at £3.00 a time x 5 equals £15.00 per week. Multiply this by 48 (omitting four weeks holiday per year) and you have a total of £720.00. Add this onto the total of over £800 for take out coffees that i talked about in K is for Keep a Diary or Journal, and you have a costing of over £1,500.00!

How many holidays can you take for that?

Lunch doesn’t always have to be boring either, you can be the envy of your workmates with a little creativity. Fresh salads with added extra’s that you would never get in a shop bought one. Wraps or sandwiches filled chock full of so many foodstuffs that tickle your tastebuds.

Personally, i add my home made chutneys to both salads and sarnies adding that personal touch and flavour that i just cannot buy anywhere.

Autumn chutney jars

 

I don’t sell these although that is my label. I just like them to look cool when i give them away as presents.

 

 

 

I also make a lot of soup with random flavours, depending on what vegetables i have in the fridge, and add herbs and spices to flavour exactly to my taste.

Occasionally i will just take an egg, some milk and some bread in with me and make scrambled egg in the microwave and a couple of pieces of toast. It takes approximately 3-4 minutes and you have a nice filling meal that cost you pennies.

And if i’ve cooked a big batch meal the night before, then box full of the leftovers is always tasty the next day!

Be creative with your lunch and see how much money you can save over a very short time.

And don’t forget the lunch bag as well – you can be really cool and funky with your choice of those…

You can find a PDF tutorial on how to make these bags in my ETSY shop Baby Dreams Stitchery

Let me know what your favourite home made, quick and easy lunch ideas are.

Have a happy day.

Anita x