We were so delighted to be nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award by the wonderful Sabine at From Scratch, who offer writing and workshops to improve your business and customer service – and the feedback from clients says they are 100% helpful! We are both proud members of the Ethical Hour Growth Network, and the Sunshine Blogger Award is aimed at sharing all that is happy, joyful, interesting and positive on the web.
So, here are the questions we were set – and our answers:
Tell us a bit about yourself.
We had to make a big decision about our family and money at the end of 2015 – based around me wanting to leave the job I had loved for 15 years… and the major change in our income if I did. It turned into a much wider discussion about our family values, what we wanted, what was important to us etc. So, I started a blog to think about how to save money and live on a budget, while also incorporating stronger values such as our environmental concerns. The blog became very popular as it seems lots of us have these competing elements in raising a family on a budget!
The blog is now incorporated into our website which aims to support families and share the knowledge we have gained. As we are now a business, we’ve also added our expertise in the Frugal Office – to support other small operations that want to be ‘green’ but don’t have unlimited budgets.
2. Does your blog represent ethical values? If so, which ones are most important to you?
I hope it really does represent our worries about the environment, our concern for children around the world, and families that don’t have the luxury of our choices. For us being frugal and saving money couldn’t just be about buying the cheapest things, as they are so often part of the shocking ethical and environmental situation – so we’ve had to find ways to honour those values and concerns, while living on a budget. The great news is that it can be done! We’ve started by sharing our school holiday ideas, and household tactics. In 2018 we will be tackling all of life’s events from the cradle to the grave and how to manage them with both financial and ethical concerns.
3. How often do you blog, and why?
As part of the website we try to do a weekly ‘Thursday Thought’, and we mostly manage it! We also have another theme of ‘Unexpected Parenting’ which we would like to revive; that is more of an ad hoc post. The website itself also has a theme each month so we can share, collaborate and highlight ideas and inspiration in bite-sized chunks.
Here at From Scratch, we help ethical and creative businesses give customer support that’s “on fire”.
4. Do you see a connection between strong ethics and creativity?
I think you could be creative without having any strong ethics – but I do think creativity comes from a place of passion, so it’s likely you feel strongly about something!
5. Apart from blogging, how else do you express your creativity?
6. Can you share a customer support experience which you’d say was “on fire”? If you can’t remember — can you recall a poor experience?
The best customer care I ever had was from Simply Health! I was on statutory maternity pay and also had an 18mth old, and my husband was made redundant – things were tough and we got rid of everything non-essential. When I called to cancel our health policy they said how about you just don’t pay your premiums for 3 months and then see how things go. We could still make claims during that time and we could extend it for another 3 months if necessary. Amazing. My worst customer service was the Tax Credit office – don’t get me started…
7. What’s ethics got to do with giving great customer support? We mainly help businesses by writing great service copy, training their teams, and developing their service strategy.
Just showing human kindness is usually a good starting point, great listening skills and not being so held to a script or computer programme that you can deal with individual needs. The ethics of a company will be expressed via their customer service. I would also imagine the care of the customer service staff is part of that ethical structure – it’s not an easy job!
8. What’s the one word, expression or sentence you never want to hear again as a customer?
Press 1 for …
9. Would you rather have a fast or a personal resolution to your query?
Personal, but I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive!
10. What’s your favourite joke?
Why do elephants have big ears? Because Noddy won’t pay the ransom!!
To keep the power of positivity going, and to share some more great blogs out there we are nominating the following excellent and interesting people for a Sunshine Blogger Award, and setting them ten questions of our own…
Pragya Agarwal from The Art Tiffin – an ethical, vegan art subscription box supporting the environment and mental health charities, and encouraging creativity for the whole family.
SS Blake from Earth and Water – helping us all to balance our lives and leave the world in a better state than we found it.
Claire Mulvany from Cotswold Karma – sharing the beauty of the Cotswolds and encouraging us all to take more Mindful Moments.
Here are your questions!
We are a new business – supporting families, here are few questions to find out more about you and your family:
1.Tell us a bit about your blog and how it supports family life.
2. How do you balance time to write and share with parenting?
3. We are trying to practice more considerate spending – what’s your favourite store bought item?
4. Frugal HQ is in the old potting shed! Where do you get your work done for the blog?
We are also striving to measure the positive impact we can have by making small changes to our daily lives…
5. What are you top ‘green’ tips?
6. Do you believe there is a link between conscious living and more positive mental health?
7. What is your favourite ethical or eco item?
8. Do you feel your blog holds you more accountable for your choices – and is that good or bad?!
At The Frugal Family we are also all about saving money!
9. What’s your favourite free family activity?
10. What’s your ‘go to’ luxury or treat?
Thank you so much for being part of this fun and positive part of the internet – the ‘rules’ are listed below – have fun sharing your answers and introducing us to some other lovely blogs x
These are the rules:
Thank the person who nominated you for the Sunshine Award and link back to their blog.
Answer the questions set by the person who nominated you.
Nominate other blogs and give them questions to answer.
Notify your nominees through social media or commenting on their blog.
List the “rules” and display a Sunshine Award logo in your post.
WOW! How can it possibly be time for another school holiday already?
Some schools are already out, but we have to wait until next week. If you have kids home from school and need a few ideas you can have a browse through our Staying Sane in the Summer series as many of those ideas are still valid, or I have few choice ones for an autumnal week here as well…
Go and check out WikiPlaces for Kids – we love this site as it is parent driven, and only supports positive reviews so you know if a place is on there it’s already good – you just have to check your particular needs. If you have a good day out yourselves during half term do add it to the site to help others (and you get included in a prize draw!). Listed on the site are some of the well known ‘big days out’, but there is also a section of walks and other free and frugal ideas.
Autumn is really the best time for a walk in the woods, the leaves are so great to run around in so grab your wellies and a waterproof coat and find your nearest woodland or park and have a few free hours of fresh air. The trickier bit of park loving in the colder weather is that picnics aren’t as appealing – you could try taking a thermos of tomato soup and some bread to dip or a batch of just cooked pasta will stay warm for a while in a good insulated cool bag. Timing may be more important than the Summer to go when you will only need a snack is best, and a thermos of hot chocolate. If you have any memberships remember to make the most of them during the school holidays, National Trust places often close over the Winter do this may be the last chance to get the benefit of your membership for a few months. We like to collect some leaves and then draw faces on them when we get home, and of course we must always have our pockets full of conkers… If you want to stay closer to home in case of changeable weather (and children) then there is lots of fun to be had in the garden still, you could make a bug hotel or become a nature detective.
Crafts galore! Rainy and cold days often call for indoor activities and crafts are pretty fun to do if a little messy to clear up… If you don’t feel confident at preparing your own activities then try Ready To Go Art, who have created a downloadable set of craft ideas that you can just print off with low ink options and simple instructions – super easy and educational too. We love to use up toilet roll tubes at every opportunity, they are just the right size for small hands and can be turned into so many things – check out our Frugal Autumn board for lots of autumnal craft projects, if you like to do the Hallowe’en thing then we also have a board for that! In all the school holidays we also have a Box Day – we collect up boxes from our shopping and the neighbours over a few days and then the kids can do as they want with them one day in the holidays, it’s fun to create all sorts of things from rockets, cars, houses for toys, submarines – their ideas are endless so you best make sure the sticky tape is too! Remember to recycle all the boxes afterwards for a quick clear up from lovely free fun.
Have a theme day – this requires a little bit of planning as you want to use things you already have at home; one evening put everything into a box or suitcase so the kids can open it up and discover all the exciting things inside – we have tried Dinosaur Day, Pirate Day, Fairyland Day, Pumpkin Day, Farm Day, Robot Day, any of their favourite tv shows or characters will have lots of things online to print off as well as more likely to have things already at home. If you have a mixed age range this needs a bit more management, we put some more advanced things like word searches or crosswords into an envelope with the child’s name on, and colouring sheets for the younger children. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can make a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt around the house with clues etc. This doesn’t have to be too daunting, the scavenger hunt could just be for different coloured items…
Things to put in the box/suitcase might include:
- masks to make,
- films to watch,
- colouring in sheets,
- books to read,
- dressing up items,
- cake/cookie making,
- List of things to find/Treasure Hunt
- Lego instructions to make themed items – or try the Lego family page for ideas
- pin the X on the X if you have the energy to make something
- balloons are always popular
Playdates – lots of parents are fearful of adding more children to the chaos, but I actually find it much easier if they all go off and play with friends – this does require a certain acceptance of the mess that will be made, and that you don’t have to clean every nook and cranny for a 6 year old to visit. Invite another family over, have a few ideas of things they can do (or use the theme day above) and let them just play. If you want to invite just the kids or the parents for a cuppa as well is totally up to you, but if you’re going to be stuck inside on a miserable day you may as well just embrace it! You will need to have some strategies for the inevitable disagreements, especially when different age siblings want to play with older ones etc. I try to have zones that have different activities in and circulate people e.g. crafts/colouring on the table, film in the living room, building bricks in one bedroom and a specific play item in another bedroom (we let our kids put ‘special’ things away if they don’t want to share them).
You also need to think about your food offering. If the kids can help make their meals that’s great – we like to make a trail mix, smoothies, or put pizza toppings on for example.
A week will go past pretty quickly, meet up with friends and make sure you have some quick meals already prepared as you will be tired in the evenings. Get a few treats in for the adults too! I really believe I will miss all this time when the kids have all left home, so I’m trying to embrace the stress and mess of really enjoying their childhood fully – the holidays for us have become really precious times and I now love them more than school days – really!
Plan Your Writing for a Year.
So, you are full of great ideas for articles, blog posts and have a bunch of photos on your phone… and the first few sentences flow from you like Shakespeare – until after about a month of writing you suddenly have nothing to say, or someone has just posted the same idea as you, or you just lose your writing mojo.
One great way to manage your website writing is to plan it out in advance. For some of you that may sound impossible but I promise these steps will mean you can have a year of weekly writing to share on all social media all ready to go – so you can get on with the fun bit of actually writing it!
This works for all subjects so I will try to give a variety of examples – I like a challenge so if you don’t feel you can do this let me know and I will walk you through the process. I was a lecturer and coach for 15 years writing and delivering courses on time management, journaling, life planning and perfectionism – remember that procrastination may be the real problem.
- You need a calendar, planner, diary, app. Something with the day/week/month. I work best on paper and then move onto electronic things. I’m also a big advocate of sticky notes and pencils with erasers on. I would also advise some colour coding for an easy way to see ‘what’s what’.
- Divide the year into seasons – this works for fashion, food, gardening, kids activities, weather, travel pretty much everything. By this I mean physically write or colour in the calendar with seasons. This gives you three month chunks (in most countries…).
- Then add any dates relevant to your PERSONAL LIFE – for example I add the school holidays as I don’t work the same times during holidays. Also consider any relevant life events happening that may make a relevant article.
- Then add any dates relevant to your SUBJECT MATTER – festivals, events, award seasons.
- Next take a look at www.awarenessdays.com or something similar for your country. This will show you National and International celebration or awareness raising events. Make a note of any that resonate with your theme, your readers or you feel are interesting. It’s best to make a separate note of them first, and then add some of those to your plan – you will be surprised how many there are! This gives you themes and topics to write alongside, and gives great exposure (for example by using relevant hashtags on Twitter or Instagram) and may lead to collaboration with new organisations.
- Add in the ideas you already have scribbled on bits of paper and stuck around the house. See where they ‘sit’ best and link with any of the Awareness Days or items from no. 4 (SUBJECT).
- Do an internet search for your niche or a subject you plan to write about and see what else is linked to that, find out what questions people have around those issues and that should give you another couple of writing prompts.
- Join a Twitter Hour and Facebook Group around a subject that you would like to write about, engage and get a feel for topics that are relevant and current – there should also be opportunities for collaborative posts either by responding to others or creating one yourself.
- On average, you will be looking to put something on your website every week which means 52 ideas (you may have more by the end of this). Rather than worry about numbers, as you think of something add it in pencil to the calendar, you can also use those cool page sticky things for colour coding if you want. You may choose to keep to the same day of the week for your regular activity for example we have a Thursday Thought as the blog on our website, and then post in addition to that as and when appropriate.
- If you go off writing completely then remember the power of video – everyone’s doing it, so instead of writing you could just speak to camera and post, or do a Facebook Live or Instagram story and direct everyone to it. You may also consider starting a You Tube channel, we have one just as a place to store video that we want to use on the website, but with effort it could become a really engaging platform, and with the information world becoming faster and faster video is the present and future….
If none of these float your boat then I have EVEN MORE ideas:
- Remember good content is the key, so write when you feel the buzz and keep them for a rainy day…
- You can re-purpose old posts with an update.
- Be topical – respond to a news article or story and share on relevant social media.
- Use Quotes to inspire yourself or others, make them beautiful and always credit where/who they are from.
- Review something relevant to your work that you already own.
- Ask for ideas with a poll or questionnaire.
- Encourage Guest Posts to come and add an article to your site for you.
You can read and watch or just do one or the other. As I’m easily distracted the video is likely to be longer than just reading this!
Take your pick – and I’d love your feedback on which works best for you…
Throughout the process of starting The Frugal Family, I have enjoyed lots of ‘moments’ to consider plans, the future, who I am, what I’m grateful for and all that sort of fluffy stuff. One thing I have always held very dear, is my love of nature and the environment and animals (I actually do hug trees when possible) – these values have been with me since I was a child, and they are part of how I view the World. Recently I’ve been focusing on why it is important to me, how I live that value and where I can do better.
It also started me thinking about how other people started their ‘green’ lifestyle, so I thought I’d ask them…
First up is a fellow #ethicalhour member Sabine Harnau:
“OK, let’s watch something on Netflix,” I sighed, trying to protect my hot salami pizza from Sandra’s kitten. Her sofa embraced me with its rough linen fabric, and I was looking forward to a chilled-out evening. Instead, I was flushed with hot anger as I watched cows suffering in sheer endless meat factories. And a pang of desire for small stripy aubergines, farmed the traditional way. That pizza didn’t taste all that good anymore.
Why we had decided to watch Food, Inc. will forever remain a mystery. But it changed my life. I spent the next days in shock at how little I had known about the stuff in my fridge. First, I made small changes to my diet and swapped products for their organic counterparts. I also vowed to invest as much as I could afford into buying higher quality, eco friendly goods. Since then, I’ve gone pescetarian, organic (as far as the market allows), switched to 100% renewable energy and embraced slow fashion.
My most recent step has been starting my own company. This means I can do the work I love to help other conscious companies thrive.
Sabine heads up From Scratch, a customer service consultancy with a mission: to make excellent communication accessible to all. The best insights from linguistics, psychology and user research are distilled into effective writing, training that truly empowers teams, and customer satisfaction programmes — tailored to each business. From Scratch is constantly looking to tread more lightly on the earth. It’s also a proud member of the #EthicalHour community of ethical businesses.
Mandi also made significant changes after watching TV (see it’s not all bad ;)):
I watched a few documentaries around the same time on off grid living, the dangers of sugar and processed foods and the impact of the food industry (esp. large scale agriculture). All of this in conjunction with living in a completely unaffordable city and having had our 3rd child we have decided to take whatever control we can into our own hands minimize our impact while in the city, feed ourselves ACTUAL food and we hope to start a small homestead when we can afford to buy. For now we are learning all we can about doing what we can at home but we hope to have our own small farm, raincatching system, beekeeping, solar power etc. 🌻
You can check in with Mandi on her blog BigTinySteps.
I have to admit to avoiding watching TV and Film that I know will upset me, some I feel have moved away from informative documentaries and have deliberately been made to shock, with even a sense of salaciousness in their production. I do see the great importance of letting people use all their senses to understand the processes used to create all of the things we use in our everyday lives in the rich nations. It’s sometimes hard to know when to tell kids the various things I want them to know, and how much detail to give. As I’m a veggie, but Mr F isn’t – I will let them choose for themselves. They have been veggie until they can express and opinion, we have always explained what the food is made from and then they can choose. Our son is a strict veggie, our daughter has tried a few things from Daddy’s plate, but is 99% veggie and getting more concerned about animal welfare as she gets older. It will be fascinating to watch them grow and learn and make their own choices – I see such care in them about the World and such curiosity it’s wonderful!
Hanna Pumfrey had a epiphany at work:
Sustainability became important to me after a few years living and working in the city. I would watch the rubbish bins in my office fill up every day with paper cups and lunch bag wrappers as we all rushed blindly from meeting to meeting, completely unconscious to the amount of waste we were contributing to landfill daily. I thought there must be a better way to do this!
After some research I realised that with just a few small changes we could all start to make a big difference to our environment. But as time poor city dwellers with demanding jobs and equally as busy personal lives, living sustainably with the current options and information we have can seem very difficult.
I decided to create Flor + Cesta to make it simple for people. To give people the tools needed to become a more conscious consumer, without a radical lifestyle change.
I started the Frugal Office page after realising the massive impact that office culture can have on the environment, and the relatively simple steps that any sized office can take to reduce the negative impact. The ‘Greening Up Your Office’ series has been so interesting to research, and I’m working on number four on ‘Stores’ so about to get some Frugal Family goodies to hand out… possibly pencils made from recycled jeans – how cool is that?!?
Two and a half years ago, just after my son was born, I entered some sort of contest (I don’t even remember what the prize was). All it required of me was to make a promise to my child. My promise was “to do all in my power to make this world a better place for him”.
I really took it to heart & immediately went out & got cloth diapers & started my blog. Ever since I’ve been making one continuous change after another to live a more sustainable, clean & eco friendly life as well as grow myself so that i may raise him the way he & the world deserves & educate others to the best of my abilities.
My motto is “improving ourselves to improve the world”.
Brianne Pruitt also made changes alongside becoming a parent:
I went green because I realized what a huge negative impact not being green was having on my health. While I was pregnant I became lightheaded and overwhelmed by fumes from a chemical filled cleaning product . I started by switching out all my cleaning products. And then that led to learning more about how skin care and food affect me, and changing all of that too.
I have a FB group where I post info from a lot of resources as well as what I do personally to live green.
Becoming a parent is the most life changing experience, and I do feel that the concern we have for our children does affect how we feel about the World – I for one don’t want my grandchildren to have to go and live underground or on Mars… There are lots of links on here to really inspiring women doing great things for great reasons, please check them out and share the power we all have when we focus on what the change. Obama made it cool again, but Ghandi said it first ‘be the change you want to see in the World’… I’m pretty sure Michael Jackson said something similar too…
We couldn’t let today go without a shout out to World Vegetarian Day – five out of the six members of The Frugal Family are veggie and so it’s a big part of our world. If you’d like to learn more, or complete the Challenge set by the organisers of the Day you can check out this article on their site.
Being vegetarian isn’t especially challenging in today’s society, but the main impact on our family is that it does cost more to have a specialist diet. The kids can’t have cows milk protein and so we can’t do our main shopping in the very low cost shops, or we can but then end up in the larger supermarkets for yogurt, dairy free spread and a wider variety of protein options. It may well be that the kids grow up to make different choices and we’ll leave it to them to decide – but for now we are a happy band of green, veggie lovers. I am hoping to add some recipes that we particularly enjoy here. One of our daughters and I used to write a monthly, healthy vegan snack for kids to make in a magazine – I have such great memories of our creations together. That magazine has since ended, but I still have great joy in cooking with all the kids and sharing an interest in what we eat, where it comes from and attempting to encourage them to try new things…
Surprisingly Mr Frugal is a powerful voice in our veggie life, as although it’s not his choice he fiercely defends ours. There have been occasions when this voice has been loud, particularly at buffets and public eating spots where some people are less aware of the utensils or dishes they are using. I really admire people that can see beyond their own choices and support others despite their differences.
If you are not veggie or vegan, you might consider reducing your meat intake along the lines of #meatfreemonday or something similar to help our environment?
You might have read in a previous post that we have a self care fund – created with some savings we made by changing our gas and electric providers with Switchcraft. One of the ways you could give yourself a little treat is by getting yourself one of the ethical subscription boxes available in the UK. This could be a regular subscription that comes at intervals throughout the year, or just as a one off. It’s also a really lovel gift for that friend who has everything… and shares your values as you gift which feels good all round.
We have tried one of the many available and thought we’d let you know our thoughts…
We were surprised and delighted to be sent a LowToxBox – one reason this was so very ‘us’ was that it wasn’t all one type of product, but a real selection for the whole house – in the box was a drink, nibbles, a cotton bag, some lovely toiletries and even a laundry stain remover! Our very favourite feature of the LowToxBox, is that for every box they send they plant a tree and you get a certificate to prove it!
The quality of the products was very high, and everyone was very excited to receive a box of ‘goodies’ there was one product we didn’t really like, but our neighbour thought they were lovely so it’s always good to try new things! The box arrives in recyclable packaging without any unnecessary leaflets sending you to the website if you need any further information about the products themselves. The idea of these subscription boxes is two fold – they are a lovely thing to receive and feel a sense of pampering from, they are also a wonderful showcase for organic, fairly traded, eco or ethical products that you may have never heard of as they are from smaller suppliers and producers.
There are a number of alternative options for ethical boxes, and finding what suits your needs is important.
For example if you want to focus on your beauty regime – you may like to try the Pip Box – this is full to the gunnels with cruelty free beauty products –
“The Pip Box is a new beauty box which promotes only cruelty-free beauty. For every box sold they donate 50p to the charity Animal Free Research UK. Named after the founders dog Pippa, The Pip Box has a brand mission to help end cosmetic animal testing through promoting cruelty-free beauty by ethical beauty brands and spreading awareness about cosmetic animal testing. Shipping to the U.K and across Europe, the boxes start from as little as £13.50 per month (plus p&p) and always contain 5 full or travel sized beauty items. There is also a vegan friendly plan available.”
If you sign up and use the code BONUS you will also get an extra item in your first box (while stocks last)!
We have also discovered the Art Tiffin – a subscription of art materials and inspiration – how Finding Your Passion is that?! This is a very new social enterprise, and will be planting trees and supporting mental health charities as part of their mission. Having taught a number of creativity and wellbeing courses I truly believe there is a link, and would seriously encourage you to do creative things as much as possible whether that’s with the kids as well or just for you doesn’t really matter, just let your creative juices flow!
On an equally lovely, but more specific note there is the BuddyBox from the Blurt Foundation – these are intended for people having a tough time with their mental health and are filled with feel good items. Again you can get just one, or a subscription or send them to someone else who may be in need of a hug in a box.
If nature and plants are more your thing, and you have a bit extra in your self care fund you might like to investigate the BloomBoxClub – who send out beautiful plants to enhance your environment either inside or out.
For the Foodies you can’t go far wrong than a subscription box from VeganKind – full of lots of lovely vegan treats and new products you can choose your package from £10 upwards.
For those of you in the USA there is a great group of ethical and environmental subscription boxes listed here that may be of interest?
If you have come across, or make another box then do let us know we are always keen to promote ethical, eco and healthy options as part of our #selfcareseptember series xx
Wow Parenting is tough, I mean really – crying in the night tough… but then it’s also breathtaking and awesome, often all in the same day!
We have four young children, and for someone who never saw themselves as a mother it is often a surprise – the responsibility is endless as well as the decision making, negotiating, demonstrating, shouting, asking, showing, helping, planning, shopping, explaining, refusing, pushing (swings), educating, supporting, feeding, cleaning, dressing, finding, playing, feeding (yes, again) not the mention the clean up after all of these… And I LOVE it – mostly…
This mix of exhaustion and wonder can take a real toll on your mind and body, and having spent 15 years teaching people how to recover and retain positive mental health; I feel really strongly that parents need support to keep themselves balanced. I hope that those years of experience mean that I can offer a unique viewpoint and some practical ideas on how to help yourself to a few moments of selfcare. Rest assured that doesn’t mean I’m a know-it-all parent who never looses her patience or grabs a bottle of wine at 10am and puts it in the fridge for later. I’ve cried in front of the kids while they argue about putting on their shoes for school even though it happens EVERY DAY!! What makes good parents is not the perfect pinterest picture of children eating quinoa… it’s that you care what sort of job you’re doing, and strive to do better. That you still get up in the morning and start the groundhog day of shoe discussions…
Below are six easy ideas to try and build into your regular life, so they become a normal activity – more self care ideas are on the way as we grow our new page Frugal You.
• Make up a bottle of water/juice/squash when you go to bed and put it in the fridge, get it out with the milk in the morning and make sure you drink it through the day – and go to the loo too!
• If you find you miss meals as you sort the kids and forget yourself then get a box of healthy (ish) snacks and make sure you eat something at least every 3-4 hours. Get used to packing a snack for yourself as well as the kids, or have the same as them!
• Get some sleep! I’m writing this having been up at 3am every morning for the last week – I get the irony but it’s still one of my goals. Take an early night when possible, or just read a book in bed but you have to rest.
• Stop writing lists of things to do – there are hundreds and always will be. Have one sheet/diary for everything or create a ‘command centre’ on a cupboard door/fridge so it’s all in one place. Look online for some ideas, and make use of the FREE Ta Dah! Idea here, this allows you to list what you HAVE achieved today that you are probably not appreciating.
• Have something that is just yours – get a shoebox and fill it with a creative project, manicure set, face pack, new recipe, book, magazine or a new CD just one thing that is for you, that you enjoy. Make time once a week (more if you can) to have at least 30mins with your box. Just you and the activity you’ve picked, you can then change it each week or keep it the same – whatever, it’s your thing.
• Ask for help when you need it – we are not in this alone, if there is no one to offer practical help then get a virtual gang together. There are no prizes for struggling or being a martyr – if we all supported each other in our times of need how lovely would parenting be? In my experience, people like to help you out – it makes it easier for them to ask a favour later!
Our #selfcareseptember series is intended to offer snapshots of tips and ideas you might be able to try, from other parents and experts who know a thing or two about selfcare and its importance. This page is aimed at families, but in reality most families have one main caregiver who does the bulk of the kiddywrangling and housekeeping. In the same way that people working a 9-5 job need a break at the weekend, and kids have a weekend away from school – so the main caregiver needs a break on occasion from the daily routine. Families need to work together to set up times when kids get special attention, but also when parents get a change of scenery and responsibility.
Take a look and see if there is anything that you could add or change to your already full plate. If you have a tip you’d like to share then that would be lovely too.
Parents are superheroes in many ways but you can’t pour from an empty cup.
We are so busy right now as there is just so much money saving to be done and we are bursting with ideas and inspiration! The current series is called #selfcareseptember and was sparked by the exhaustion following the school summer holidays, every day we are highlighting a frugal or free top tip for looking after yourself as you navigate the maze of frugal family life – I sincerely hope it helps you to reconnect to something that helps you relax and find yourself again. I have certainly been reminded of a few things I could be doing… and there is lots more to come.
In addition to this we are about to launch our free e-book (it’s just being checked for spelling mistakes) – which is our 7 Starters to Frugal Freedom, and should save you over £1,000 if you complete all the steps. It’s what we did in 2016 and have continued this year as well. This links, in my head at least, to the idea of self care and frugality. One of the compromises we made when becoming a more ethically frugal family was to stop a number of the ‘treats’ we had as part of our self care plan. It turns out that these expensive options didn’t work any better than the frugal ones in terms of relaxation and winding down, but I am conscious that there are occasions when self care might cost money, or that a treat is in order after a stressful period or experience. The challenge then becomes to find the money for something special.
One way we have decided to allocate money for ad hoc splurges is by keeping some of our savings from these 7 Starters in a separate pot. For us living a more frugal life was about much more than reducing our bills, it was about reducing our environmental impact and increasing our activity as a family as well as living and sharing our values.
We have decided that any money we save from moving our utilities annually will go in our ‘treats pot’. Last year we saved nearly £300 using the Money Supermarket online system, it was OK and met our needs at the time, however you have to go through the process as each tariff ends and we forgot as there was so much happening during August! Having missed the deadline we were put onto a standard tariff which is not usually the best rate and had to start the whole process again. It’s another thing on the ‘to do list’ isn’t it? While the savings from changing energy suppliers can be substantial the work involved can make it one of the chores we put off – which isn’t great for any frugal family.
Then – quite by accident – I came across a new kid on the block called SWITCHCRAFT, and they do all the hard work for you, it’s bliss! I completed the very simple form online to join their service. You need to have your last bill or a note of the amounts you currently pay either monthly or annually and immediately you are offered the range of alternatives, we chose a green energy supplier as this suits our ethos but you can search via the big six suppliers or on a number of criteria that suit your needs. We have saved another £325 this year – from moving off the standard tariff we were on, as well as securing our payments for the next 18 months. What appealed to me in particular was that Switchcraft will now move us whenever a better tariff comes along, working with our contract end dates to email us the best option at that time – we just then agree or not and they do all the work – savings in disguise!
Our new energy company Green Energy Networks have impressed us with a nice introductory email and a Welcome Pack explaining our policy and their systems, they have dealt with our previous supplier and we haven’t had to do anything more than the initial Switchcraft sign up. So far, so good! We are so happy with Switchcraft that we have partnered with them, so if you would like to use any of the links on this post to change your energy suppliers we will get a small commission (at no extra cost to you) – you could save £££.
To keep our values at the heart of this website we have decided to donate £5 to charity: water for every one that moves their gas and electric using our affiliate link.
The £325 is now in our ‘self care’ pot, Mr Frugal is going to spend some on going to watch his football team next weekend, and I have a sewing course I’m thinking of booking on for the weekend after. All made possible due to changing our energy supplies, it took about 10 minutes to find the information we needed and complete the online form. Worth. Every. Effort.
The first day back at school is an interesting experience for parents, and a great time for people watchers! There are many kinds of parenting and there are very few rights and wrongs, but the joy or pain of that first day is one of the noticeable differences between parents. I am aware that I’m in the minority in that I get a bit upset at the start of school – not that I don’t want them to go because they need it and love it – but because it means I have less time with them and frankly, less influence and that’s not my favourite thing.
Are you a puller for extra hugs or a pusher into the line and celebrate kinda person??
Most parents looked so relieved to be getting their kids back to school you have to wonder if the Summer break is just too long!? I have had a number of stressful jobs and situations, and I do think parenting is the toughest job out there – and to do that without a break for six weeks, 24hrs a day is just plain hard. I’m exhausted! The kids are in need of some new people their own age to interact with, and their own space to play in. Maybe the holiday is exactly the right time so that kids want to go back, but we are on a countdown to Half Term already. Of course I still have two toddlers at home, so maybe for me the ‘kids at home’ is less of an impact, and not having the older ones here is a more significant change… it certainly is a challenge for me to have the right clothes ready on the right days and to all be fed, read and out by 8.20am…
What we have done differently this time is in our preparations for being back in school – and that’s because our family project is having such an impact on all aspects of our lives – is to think about how we do things, and what we can do better from an environmental perspective. We had already moved from sandwich bags to reusable boxes and water bottles last year, we try to walk as much as possible and reuse uniform from larger friends – our School Uniform Ideas are here if you missed them x It also happens that this week is #ZeroWasteWeek, and we’ve been particularly concerned with how we can reduce our waste in terms of school life. We have two new pinterest boards that we’d like to share, one is Frugal School Life and one is Zero Waste (this is a group board if you would like to share some ideas x).
If you have some hints and tips to reduce waste in school and home please drop us a comment here x
I hate this week of the year, really I loathe it. The ‘Back to School’ aisle in the supermarket was full before school was even out for the Summer, and I don’t want to think about going back until we’ve all had our break.
The downside to my refusal to deal with going back to school at the start of the holidays is that by the time I feel ready to think about it the shops are a barren wasteland of all things school and the Halloween and Fireworks have taken over. This poses a number of problems, one of which is my stress levels! We are very lucky that in our school the kids only need themselves and an easily gettable uniform, with a lunch box if required – no pens, pads, calculators and all that.
However, I have a lovely checklist to see what we actually need to get – and some great places to get them.
So, this is how I do Back to School:
- Print off my checklist
- Have a mass dressing up session to see what still fits, and tick off accordingly
- Get the uniform bag out the loft and see what it contains – with yet more dressing up and ticking. This is items of uniform given to us by lovely families from school with older kids – you need to foster such relationships as it will save you heaps of money. Our school is pretty easy going uniform wise, but people have also given us the branded jumpers and cardigans too which makes a massive difference to our budget. Other sources for free or reduced uniform include:
- Asking family members with older kids.
- Trawl of the charity shops for school uniform, they get out all their stocks in late July/early August and if you need a specific branded item you need to stay local, but for generic grey trousers or pinafore dresses ask your friends and family to also keep an eye out.
- Going ‘halves’ with other families, for example some supermarkets do great deals for PE kit items but in packs of 2… well we only ever need one of everything PE related, so go halves with our neighbour!
- Go and get the kids feet measured at a reputable shoe shop… I do feel that the kids feet are important and these shoes see a lot of action at school every day so I like to buy good quality ones that should last. I don’t necessarily get them in the shop however – there are outlet stores to check and the world of online choices. We did go the cheap shoe route one year, but the soles came off after just one month! People often gift hardly worn (but outgrown) shoes on free sites, or sell very cheaply on local sites or car boots at this time of year.
- If you have a larger family like ours you could save the horrors of shopping by investing in your own feet measuring tools. You can also download free cut outs to measure feet from StartRite.
- Check if your school has a second hand shop, and if not offer to start one. This could be online with a Facebook Group very easily and helpful to the whole school community.
- Be sale savvy – some shops have amazing sales of school uniform, but often at times when it’s not on your radar. You need to become more conscious of when these occur and then can buy the next size up at every opportunity. With the random weather patterns in the UK we have needed all seasons all year round so I buy whatever I can find and add extra layers as necessary!
- Don’t get lured into buying everything in one hit – kids grow at different rates and you may not need everything at once for September. Check what they actually need for that first few weeks. Depending on the weather you could leave getting a tracksuit until the October half term maybe? This helps spread some of the costs out.
- Try to establish a laundry schedule that reduces uniform needs, so you don’t need 5 of everything… who am I kidding??
- Remember you can add cycle shorts/tights under a dress that is bit shorter than you would like.
- Get sewing and turn trousers that are too short into shorts. You may also be able to shorten long sleeve shirts that have had the cuffs and elbows ruined.
I am about the enter my week of Back to School here at Frugal HQ and so I may well discover new and interesting things as I weave my way through again, which I promise to add on here. While I love school and learning and all of the wonderful adventures of life school starts, I’m not a great fan of having to be out of the house at a set time and in set clothes and I REALLY don’t like homework! So, part of my own way of managing the new routine is about helping myself and the kids to deal with the schedule of school – but more about that next week.