We are so excited about this year here at Frugal HQ – we have been making lots of plans, some of which are too far fetched… but some are going to be actually real!! There is much more work to be done before we can share them, but to get us going for the year, if you are just starting out on your ethically frugal life, or want to up your game quickly – here are five really easy things you can do RIGHT NOW to get you into your frugal groove:
1. Check Your Utilities –
You should really make this part of your monthly or annual plan. More details are in our FREE e-book, but you should be shopping around to get the best deal on your gas and electricity (longer term you should be checking/changing all your regular household bills). We use Switchcraft as they do all the work for us! You just sign up, and then they email you before your current deal ends and give you the best choices to move to – no more forms after that initial sign up. You can specify if you only want to deal with the big energy suppliers, or just green or whatever you feel comfortable with. If you use this link we get a bit of a commission, and £5 of that we give to Charity: Water x.
2. List What You Need –
Grab a bit of paper or your phone, and start a list of what physical items you actually need in an average week or month. Then add in special or unusual things like birthday gifts. Then check in with the rest of the family and add their items. You can now have fun finding as many of these items as you can from:
- what you already have – make do and mend, repurpose, upcycle etc.
- what you can make for yourself – cards, gifts, washing powder?
- what you can get on free cycle sites, from friends, skips, schwooping etc.
- what you can actually do without when you think about it, or do less often
- what you can ask someone else to get for you – e.g. as a treat, favour, in exchange for babysitting…
- what you can find in a deal, coupon, voucher, special offer
You will then be left with the items you need to buy, at full price and can make that part of your budget (you have a budget right?). If you know what you are looking for to cover the year, you can make better use of deals and discounts.
3. Sell Unwanted Stuff –
After you have listed what you need, and had a good rummage in the cupboards and shed to find things, you are likely to have also come across lots of things you don’t need/want/like/fit and now is the time to get rid of them. You can sell them, give them away, or swap them but clutter isn’t good for ethically frugal living and it’s not good for your mental health either so start working through it gently. If you can re-gift things to cover some of the items from no. 2 above then do so – just remember to keep a list of who gave it to you before you give it to someone else, this can also be useful if you need to donate to school raffles and other events during the year.
4. Assess the Leftovers –
You can have a cheap food shop in much of January by being more aware of what you already have in the cupboards and freezer and odd tins around the house that you got in the mad dash for Christmas. By using up those leftovers carefully and only buying the additional things you need you should be back on track very quickly. You need to be willing to have a few ‘odd’ meals and we call them UFO’s (Unidentified Frozen Objects), but it’s all for a good cause – YOU!
5. Start Meal Planning –
If you don’t do this already, or stopped bothering for a bit get back in the habit of planning what you and the family are doing for the week and only buy what you need to cover those meals. Remember with back to school you may need to add in lunch box items or after school snacks. We find in the Winter we do eat differently, so get in lots of cheap veg and make up soups! Think about where and when you shop, and also moving ‘down’ towards the value brands on some items. January is a good month to start new habits and start as you mean to go on.
Our theme for this month is to Start Something – January is a great time to gather energy and ideas for the year ahead. Keep in touch using the form below to get inspiration delivered to your inbox throughout 2018 xx
Yes – I really do have some things I do as one Christmas ends, to get ready for the next one. This may sound a bit much, but you will thank me next December I promise, and there is nothing here that is onerous honest.
1. DVD or Book Advent
Over several years of presents and great finds we built up a collection of family Christmas films. We now keep these separately and use them as a sort of advent calendar, so from 1st December the kids take turns to unwrap a Christmas film most nights after school, and weekends. We used to wrap the books as well but that got harder with the age range of children and the number of books we read each night, so they are now just in a pretty box for the Season.
It’s much easier to wrap them NOW before you put them away in the loft, and using the wrapping paper you have saved from the recycling bin, job done.
You can do this unwrapping idea with anything really depending on what you have (or would like to get hold of…) ideas could be books, or chocolate, wine… whatever you want!
2. Food List
Or use the shopping receipt to start you off… If you are being super organised you might keep a file with such lists in so year on year you build up a great database of resources. You will never forget the cranberry sauce again…
You could also include any new ideas you have seen or been treated to by others, you could keep recipes here and we also have a list of non-food items e.g. we like to find a colouring in table cloth.
The more organised you are the better to take advantage of any deals you see in the run up to the big day – you can save a lot of money by buying in advance in sales throughout the year, or spreading the cost by adding things to each weekly shop over the Winter months.
3. Cut up your Cards
If you received Christmas Cards you can reuse them for lots of things by getting them ready NOW, which also means less going into the recycling; ideas might include:
• Cut up for present labels
• Used to make new Christmas cards (this is what we do…)
• Cut up for kids crafts (sorted into animals or colours?)
• Cut out non-Christmas bits for Thank You cards
• Cut out for hexagon patchwork foundation piecing – New Year, New Hobby xx
4. Keep a Present List
To save trying to remember what you got for everyone this year, so you don’t duplicate next year jot a list down NOW (if you like the idea of this Christmas Planning File, add this in x) and then you don’t have to remember. Mr F is a bit of a spreadsheet fanatic, so we have all our lists on the computer and then can share the load of thinking, buying, making, organising etc . This is also really useful as my brain works in curious ways and I now have a place to save a good idea that comes to me in April for a Christmas present. Another advantage is that if I’m planning on making things or doing crafts with the children I can add anything I need to buy well in advance of December itself – and like the food list, I can make use of free recycling sites and sales.
If you are a present re-gifter, please keep a note of where each gift you will be ‘re-homing’ has come from. There is NOTHING worse than getting a gift you gave someone coming back to you… we have a family member who doesn’t keep a list – and we take bets on who will get what from last year!!
The year we had baby four on the 21st, I can’t remember much – but luckily I had completed all my lists in advance and could leave Mr F to it – unsure what day we would all be home and when baby might join us!
5. Clothes Clear Out
If you have festive clothes, before you put them all away for next year, just have a quick check of sizes and condition. With four children our Christmas clothes have had a good innings, but this year we have given our new baby items to a friend, and at the end of this year anything under age 2 can be given away. It is another quick job you can do NOW that you won’t have to do next December. This might be true of slippers, dressing up costumes, festive hats etc.
Our family really hopes your family has had an amazing break, and that we will continue to support and inspire you in 2018, we have such exciting plans – bring it on!
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.
Just to see which medium people prefer I’ve also done this same article as a video!
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…
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.
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.
Today is the start of our new series ‘Staying Sane in the Summer’, everyday in July there will be something useful, frugal and mostly green to help you manage the Summer Break. Even if you don’t have school age children most toddler groups are term time only, as are the free childcare hours so pretty much every family has to figure out how to balance kids, work, fun, budget and all that jazz.
Later today will be the first instalment… see you later!
watching my 5 year old singing Status Quo in the worlds smallest school choir… go girl!
New set of funny evaluations starts later today under the banner of
Unexpected Parenting #
first one will be published at 3pm, just in time for the school run here x
Book a relaxing break they said, it will be good for you they said… Of course once we are there it will be brilliant, but getting ready for a self catering holiday with four kids is not child’s play, especially when the kids are at home needing you. I have lists to tick off but it’s been pretty hellish frankly!
We are leaving today, and I’m about to put on a 30min wash…all because I have a bad back so normal chores couldn’t be done let alone the extras for hols – the second we leave the house it will be so wonderful BUT we have to navigate that last bit. Hold your breath Mr A!
That really stressful,
last bit of packing,
super excited kids,
forgotten items, ‘
‘you can’t take THAT’,
packing the car,
praying for dry weather,
checking the list,
counting the kids,
feeding everyone random leftovers,
do last years sandals fit?,
sending off pets,
last quick list check,
finding the emergency 2am tumble dryer socks,
peeling children off the ceiling,
re-packing the car 🙃,
Happy Holiday Monday!
I had been keeping a pregnancy diary as part of this blog, in conjunction with a great new magazine. Sadly the Editor of that magazine has some health problems which have meant a hiatus in production. However, if I don’t keep up with the articles, I suspect I will forget many of the unique experiences, so think I will continue The Pregnancy Files… watch this space!