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.
I was invited to a focus group last night for a sewing magazine publisher; a friend of mine runs a great sewing business Sewing Belle and knew I love to patchwork and sew, so invited me along. It was a perfect storm of visiting grandparents and husband home early to get the kids to bed so I could go… 6pm is not a great time for a parent! I even had a shower and wore something without stains – I felt like a princess. Lately I’m simply too tired to go out, even though I have a number of lovely friends and groups I enjoy – so I have really missed the social interaction and non-child related moments. Not only was cake being served, and some amazing freebies but I really enjoyed being in such interesting adult company. I felt invigorated by the discussions about what a good sewing magazine should contain and felt giddy at the idea that people would value what I had to say – mostly because in the middle of the school holidays I’m hitting a peak of being ignored by the kids. It was a lovely relaxed evening, and home before I turned into a pumpkin too.
I sometimes feel like background noise at home, and as an individual parenting can often make you feel invisible – so it was enchanting to be somewhere I felt so ‘me’. It has confirmed everything I already knew to be true about finding your passions and making sure there is time in the week or month to express them (whatever they may be). I have spent the last 15 years helping other people discover their passions and make plans for how to incorporate them into their lives – I taught time management, journaling, confidence building, how to manage perfectionism and lots more. You would think I would have my own needs totally sorted but of course knowing something and being able to put it into practice are not the same thing – but I have a many pronged plan…
- I’m going to encourage my children to share my passion for making things, they already do lots of crafting so adding in sewing won’t be too hard. It’s then something I can do with them… they seem keen so far having seen the free pattern to make a fabric butterfly in on of the magazines from last night! It’s also a great way to use up scraps and fabrics that are currently in the loft waiting for me to find more hours in the day. This also fits with our frugal habits, and reusing/recycling lifestyle so it feels good on lots of levels.
- I have dusted off my sewing machine and it’s now in an easy to reach location, with just one project alongside so I don’t have to spend ages finding what I want or deciding what to do. When Mr Frugal is studying in September I will start sewing at the same time. When Mr F’s work schedule allows I’m going to attend the evening sewing group again – even if I’m too tired to actually sew!
- I’ve started a new board on our Pinterest Page – Frugal Fun Sewing to help collate ideas and inspiration. Feel free to follow along and share.
- I’m thinking about how to incorporate the frugal aspects of sewing into this website… a new page or an existing one… any ideas welcome x
- I’m going to approach some sewing magazines with ideas for articles and a regular column.
Identifying that I need some time for my own passions is a positive step – now the real effort of making it happen begins…
What are your passions, and how do you fit them into family life?
We are all working up against it in the kitchen, from fussy eaters, dietary needs, time obstacles and the increasing cost of food – I can certainly do with some ideas of how to use what I have better, or just some new inspiration for what works well. I asked other parents what their favourite gadgets in the kitchen were, and this is what they said…
Please check out the links on each name – to see more about them and their kitchen obsessions!
- Kendra at www.mrsdoingmybest.com – I’m all about efficiency and saving time. My favourite kitchen gadget is my toaster oven!
- Darlene at www.babycostsmoney.com – Apple slicer! It slices an apple faster than my ToddlerMonster can change her mind. 🙃 She is big enough to eat a whole slice of apple now, but when she was smaller I would use the apple slicer as Step One.
- Ej at www.redifininghistory.blog – I love my Rival Personal Blender it is my ideal kitchen gadget for creating my favourite, refreshing mixed drinks and fruity smoothies right from my very own kitchen or wherever I tote this lightweight gadget. This affordable, durable personal blender provides me with my own personal size 15 oz. on-the-go travel mug, so I will never go thirsty again!
- Natalie at www.newmommasurvival.com – My favourite kitchen gadget is actually my Pampered chef scraper. I use mainly cast iron when cooking and this handy little tool makes it so easy to gently scrape off food. I also use it to scrape off stuck-on price tags or the labels off jars! It’s the simplest tool but I seem to use it the most.
- Tracy at www.frugalfloridamom.com – I have so many I did a post on this! My favourite is probably my rotary grater.
- Barbara at www.sunshineguerilla.com – I am all about tools made locally or out of eco-friendly materials (as little nasty toxic plastic touching our food as possible). I love best manufacturer whisks, epicurean turners and cutting boards, and reusable sandwich bags and biobags!
- Kendra at www.omahalulagirls.com and Sybil at www.mamasandcoffee.com are both in love with their Instapot. The speed and size makes for brilliant family meals with low fuss.
- Kristal at www.lattesandlittlehugs.com – Not necessarily a gadget, but I love mason jars! They can be used for a million different things, from a muffin cup holder to a Margarita mixer!
- Nicole at www.theprofesssionalmomproject.com – I love my soda stream! Makes fizzy water in 3 seconds.
- Surya at www.thecrazybusymom.com – Not sure if it’s a gadget or not, but I actually love my bread machine. Fresh bread in an hour! And I use it to make my pizza dough or dough for rolls. Set it and forget it!
Here at Frugal HQ we actively encourage the kids to take a role in planning and preparing meals, shopping and cooking. It’s an important skill to learn and once the Summer chaos is over we’ll be taking a close look at all things family frugal and food related. Hope this was interesting… I’ve just dusted off the bread machine and discovered you can make jam in it… who knew!!
It occurs to me that this is perhaps more of a milestone than I had appreciated as despite many glorious highs and deep, dark lows over the years I have never thought we wouldn’t make it through those moments together, and get to the other side. I suspect no one else would put up with either of us! So, while speaking with Mr F I wondered out loud how we’ve managed what so many people haven’t…
Below are our collective thoughts about what has meant we got to this wonderful day – and hope to get to 30 years and more.
Laugh – you have to have a sense of humour to live with any human being for any length of time. If you share the same delights and see the funny side of things together that’s a double bonus, but whatever makes you laugh you need to make sure happens for you often.
Talk and Listen – there is MUCH that we don’t agree on, and regularly have to agree to disagree… but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge when something is important to the other person and respond accordingly. You also need to check in with each other often, life with a young family or a busy job means you may go for days or weeks without really communicating effectively and frustrations or fears can build quickly. We learnt this the hard way as a military family before email or texting, good old fashioned letters meant we could go for many days without hearing from each other. I really feel that has had a lasting impact, and we now appreciate that we can talk face to face.
Hold hands – there must be physical contact and connection. Humans need physical touch, and what makes a relationship different from just a friendship is usually the intimacy… so do that, as much as you can – and if you can’t then talk about it while having a hug. It’s an important part of early relationships and easy to loose sense of with children and little alone time while you both awake. Turn off the tv and put your phone down once in a while x Demonstrating affection while out and about and in front of the children also gives them a good sense of how a positive relationship works, and can be very comforting. It’s also hugely embarrassing at a certain age – but that’s no reason to stop 😉
Play the Long game – we have seen lots of couples spend so much time and money planning a wedding, but not a murmur about the day after and beyond. If you really are committing to this one person for the rest of your life you need to think about how that might go!
Keep a list – it’s very easy to mentally check off all the annoying habits of your partner, we all have them and without a happy list they can beprrak any relationship. So make sure you also keep a happy list…the things about that person you love and admire. I’m regularly driven crazy by Mr F having a long shower with the door locked on school days while I try to get four kids dressed and ready, but that doesn’t outweigh the amazing things he does for us all, his generous nature and adventurous spirit. Whenever I feel frustrated by a small event I try to list in my head all the much more important qualities and actions that I love in him.
Take a break – when two people get married, they are still two separate people, with their own interests and passions. It’s healthy to take some time to be your own person, especially if you are parents and time and attention are already stretched in many directions. This might mean joining a social group, having the odd afternoon or night away or meeting up with friends. It’s important to pursue your own goals, working together to make sure everyone has space at some point. You also need some time as a couple if you are parenting, it’s so easy to forget that once the kids leave home it will be the two of you again – and you may not recognise each other!
We are no experts, and have had disagreements and fallen out many times, but we are both committed to each other and our family and helping each other to be their best – more on this when we start our new topic about Frugal Self Care after the holidays x
Despite living on an island surrounded by water, it’s still an incredibly precious resource and yet we are one of the highest consumers in Europe and seem unaware of the urgent need to start becoming more water use savvy.
So, here are 5 simple ways you can save some water in the Summer – this is still important even if it’s raining!!
- Put lots of water and ready made drinks in the fridge. No need to keep running the tap to get cold water now x
- Put ice cubes in the freezer so you have a good supply for a heatwave.
- Use paddling pool water to water plants, and only water the garden early morning or evening to avoid evaporation. You should also collect rain water to use for the garden with any kind of water butt.
- Ask your water company for a HIPPO or similar device to cut down the amount of water you flush down in the toilet. If it doesn’t freak you out too much, you may also practice the song… ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow. if it’s brown flush it down’ to keep flushing to a minimum.
- Get any dripping taps replaced – this can save as much as 5.000 litres of water a year, often just with a new washer…
We got a bit uncomfortable about the water we used in the paddling pool during the Summer, so came up with this solution which we all feel good about. Think hard about your water consumption during the hot weather, it’s likely to go up and that’s not great for the planet. It’s just simple ideas that can make a big difference. Teach your kids to turn off taps and cover up the paddling pool at the end of the day so that the water is clear and leaf/bug free in the morning, you can do this with a fitted sheet or a tarpauling depending on the size of the pool. We also use an old sieve to clear out any debris, and the water that goes in has the last at least a week.
Let’s hope the weather improves enough to need one!!
I keep singing Elton John songs today ‘Don’t wish it away’ is the line I keep repeating… As most schools in England break up for Summer tomorrow (we are going on until Tuesday!), and I can feel myself start to ‘brace’ for it – I’m also conscious that I don’t want to wish it away, I’m making a real effort to practice parenting mindfulness – in between yelling ‘I’ve asked you to get your shoes on’ obviously – and it seems to be working. Having said that I have the flu and am quite dosed up on medicines so it could also be that that’s working…
My Thursday Thought links with our tip of the day, no. 16, to think about how you will preserve the memories of this Summer? We like to make a scrapbook of each year as a family, I’m running quite a few years behind schedule as the kids are so time consuming, but I do take a lot of photos, and now so do they to capture the moments of their lives and our family adventures. How to arrange them for posterity is a tricky subject as our walls and cupboards are already full and the digital photo frame is already one child out of date! I’ve enjoyed using Instagram (we have a daily pic and spend if you’re interested x) to keep track of what we’re getting up to but that is all digital again. Keeping items that are made is also hard as there is so much, so we have started to wallpaper our loft with the kids artwork, and it should be a while before we run out of space.
Saving for the Summer isn’t all about money, it’s also about saving those memories and experiences. You may remember a precious moment from your childhood, and it will be a unique memory to you – we are trying to find ways to cherish those. Let me know how you save all those wonderful moments in your family x
As our new series Staying Sane in the Summer continues, it’s made me realise just how much planning I do for school holidays – I’ve never written it down before and I was genuinely surprised that I could fill every day in July with ideas! I do find myself more able to enjoy time with the kids when I have a back up of activities, lots of ideas, know what’s available locally and some fixed points in the holiday for certain events. I don’t dread them like some families do (that’s not to suggest I don’t find them exhausting…). Today I mention some of the things we’ve had from school, the NHS provides brilliant resources via their Change4Life program to reduce childhood obesity – these ones are based on the LazyTown TV show that our kids have loved – so much free fun to be found.
Another aspect of planning the time is that you can see where busy and quiet times will happen, we like to have down time to just watch tv or play as it’s supposed to be a holiday… if you can see when you have free activities planned it’s nice to then just have days at home in the garden or making forts.
I’m trying to enjoy this process of planning – rather than looking at it as a chore I’m focusing on having precious time with the kids, we’ll have about 18 Summers with them before they don’t want to be seen with us (probably less than that!). When I thought of it like that it didn’t seem enough time at all, as they saying goes the days are long but the years are short… enjoy this Summer xx
The Staying Sane in the Summer series is a gallery of tips, ideas, links and downloads to help you plan and manage the long School Summer Break. I really hope it helps you to enjoy feeling more in control of the time and to have fun with your family without worrying too much about the cost as most of the things you will be doing are going to be free or very frugal. Kids really don’t need much money spent, they like fairly simple things – it’s often adults that go for the most expensive options as they may have lost confidence in their ability to stay sane with the children home for that long.
Welcome to our new series Staying Sane in the Summer – every day in July I will share an idea, task, download or suggestion to get things going for the Summer Break.
Today is a download of a calendar to help plan for July and August. Whatever you do planning is really essential to make sure you take advantage of all the free fun to be had, and also to make sure you have a good mix of activity and downtime. It’s also nice to tick the days off!
Remember EVERY DAY there will be a useful item here on the website – so stay in touch.