October 14

Thrifty Things To Do This Week: Whisky Marmalade and Money For Nothing

Week 3 – October 15th, 2018

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending

It is the week to Preserve Something. Nature is shutting up shop for winter but Mamade prepared fruit knows no seasonal limits and makes tasty marmalade with none of the faff. (Actually, I am not opposed to the faff because it makes the place smell amazing for hours. but, honestly, I think the end product is just as good with a tin of Mamade.) If you pot up a few jars of marmalade now they should have matured nicely by Christmas, ready for gifting or for guzzling on Christmas morning. You know, to offset the chocolate.

You can up the gourmet factor considerably if you buy a cheap bottle of whisky and add a splash to your marmalade just before you pot it. And if you need further inspiration for using the rest of your whisky (beyond the obvious…) then take a look at How To Turn A Ten Pound Bottle Of Aldi Whisky Into A Hamperful Of Tasty Treats.

Since it is also the week to Review Your Spending, take a look at Money For Nothing to see if you could get more for your money with loyalty cards.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and a plan for a frugal but fabulous festive period.

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

 

October 8

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Do Something Wild

Week 2 – October 8th, 2018

It’s the second week of the month: if you can make the time, Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity and Grow Something.

The foraging season is almost over so if you are stuck for a free family activity to try this week, take the kids outdoors to pick brambles. (That’s blackberries if you live outside of Scotland.) I have very fond memories of doing this with my grandpa in my childhood. You can read everything he taught me about brambling with kids in Grandpa’s Guide To Bringing Home The Brambles.

As well as gathering brambles you could take time to pick up beech nuts, pine cones, conkers, twigs,etc. Once home pile them into jam jars, vases, bowl – whatever you have to hand. More seasonal than flowers and completely free. If you want the conkers to keep their shine try buffing them with vegetable oil on a square of kitchen roll.

For more ideas to help you go wild outside, take a look at The Wild City Book, packed with ideas to turn time outdoors into an adventure, or a science experiment, or an art workshop…

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner,

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

 

September 24

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Save Money In The Kitchen

Week 4 – September 24th, 2018

It’s the fourth week of the month: if you can make the time, Write a Budget and Share Something.

This is the week of the month when I am most likely to eat into my overdraft or crack out my credit card – pay day is only a few days away but we need to eat NOW. But I have found, over and over again (I would be embarrassed to give you the exact number of times…) that a quick but thorough sort through our cupboards, freezer and fridge usually shows that we hardly need to buy any food at all. What we actually need is to eat what is already there.

So, armed with a notebook and pen I make a list of what I can find and then draw up a meal plan that uses those ingredients and keeps food shopping that week to a minimum.

Finding a menu that embraces the fag end of an old brie, some vacuum packed beetroot we bought by mistake and a tin of anchovies is not easy… (Bright Pink Risotto, in case you are wondering, The anchovies went into a pasta sauce.)

It is worth it though, because it gives you all your meals for the final week of the month without having to spend more than you have. And if it is worth it for the last week of the month, then, actually, it’s a good idea for every week.

Thing is, without the immediate choice of overdrawn or underfed, I don’t actually bother to check what is in the cupboards. So the compromise I have settled on is to keep a running tally of what’s in my cupboards. Once in a blue moon I run a stock-check of our food supplies and use it to set up a simple stock list on the door of the freezer. That way I can see at a glance what food we don’t have to buy.

Recently I bought some very cheap mini dry-wipe boards with magnets on the back from Home Bargains that are perfect for the job. The magnets mean they are always handy on the door of the fridge. Better still, the pen is also magnetised and has a little sponge eraser in the cap so that I can always lay hands on it easily. I use the other one to keep a running shopping list – anyone who uses up something adds that to the list and when Tartan Dad or Tartan Boy or I run to the shops there is a ready-made shopping list to take along. At only 89p to stop me buying food we don’t need, I think they are a thrifty bargain.

 

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, instructions to make deliciously fragrant luxury candles and a recipe for Apple And Custard Cake. See you then!

September 17

Thrifty Things To Do This Week: Free Food From The Urban Hedgerow

Week 3 – September 17th, 2018

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending. If you only preserve one thing this month, make it Mulled Apple Jelly – sweet, sharp and spicy, it is delicious with sweet and savoury food, making it the perfect all-rounder.

Product DetailsI bought this beautiful book (full price – my secret shame) when I was a student. It took me to a time when ladies kept house with an iron hand. A time when herbal remedies and secret recipes were passed from mother to daughter like family heirlooms. A time when still-rooms and store-cupboards secured survival and pleasure for whole households. A kind of Poldark of the kitchen.

An odd choice for a twentieth-century twenty-something, studying at a city-centre university, don’t you think? Nowadays we don’t need home remedies, hand-made preserves, or DIY cleaning products anymore – we have supermarkets not still-rooms for all that. And – romantic as the notion of gathering in and storing the harvest seemed as I read the book – it was hardly something a city girl like me had the option of doing. Cities don’t have hedgerows bursting with free fruit, do they? Cities have shops.

Sloe Gin And Beeswax” is still on my bookshelves, and I still dip into it for useful advice and sheer escapism from time to time. It is a lovely book and I would still recommend it if you can find a copy – it has been out of print for a while. But since I first read it I have discovered that cities do, in fact, grow free fruit. I have picked all sorts of fruits, completely free, without leaving the city – sometimes without even leaving my local area. For more information about how to plunder the city’s food supplies, read The Urban Forager.

 

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, and advice about finding ‘free’ food in your very own kitchen.

September 10

Thrifty Things To Do This Week: Digging Some Spring Colour And Dogs In Duvets

Week 2 – September 10th, 2018

It’s the second week of the month: if you can make the time, Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity and Grow Something.

Yes, it is Autumn – a time for picking, not for planting. (On that note, free outings don’t come more wholesome than foraging in the fresh outdoors for free fruit – take along some Dogs In Duvets for lunch and it’s a picnic too.)

But it’s not too late to plant bulbs – in fact, this is the perfect time to do it. Right now all the usual bargain outlets (Aldi, Lidl, Home Bargains, etc) are stocked with cheap nets of daffodils, tulips, crocuses, etc. Granted, they don’t offer the wide variety you will get in a big nursery or DIY store. But, in my experience, they grow just as reliably as pricier offerings. Check out mail order suppliers too – they often have great bulk offers, handy if you have a lot of ground to cover.

An afternoon digging in the autumn sunshine now could see you enjoying bright colour in the dullest months of the year. And if you plant some indoors you could even have them flowering in time for Christmas for you to enjoy or give away. Pots of colour, for only a couple of pounds.

 

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, a recipe for Mulled Apple Jelly and some tips on urban foraging. In the meantime, enjoy digging and picking and eating delicious Dogs In Duvets.

September 3

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Make Candles And Cake

Week 1 – September 3rd, 2018

 

It’s the first week of the month: if you can make the time, Put Cash In Marked Purses and Make Something.

I love September And October. They are new pencils and new plans. Crisp mornings foraging for free fruit and fragrant afternoons turning them into jams and jellies. Cosy nights indoors, with the slight threat of winter but none of the wet or the chill.

To be honest, I like November too – bonfires and fireworks and making plans for Christmas. And I am fond of December with it’s twinkles and parcels and sociable feasting…

(In the spirit of total honesty I have to point out that the above is a very edited picture of my autumns and early winters. It’s not nearly as calm, ordered, or reflective as that in Tartan Towers. Still, a woman can dream…)

What I love about this time of year is the anticipation of cosy times ahead. So, with that in mind, my Make Something  project this week is going to be Luxury Scented Candles. Something to give away but also something to enjoy at home.

I first made candles when I was about 7 – which tells you how easy they are to make – and can still remember the fascination I felt watching hard wax transform to liquid and back again. So you could treat this as a fun family activity AND a cheap way to treat yourself to a fragrant and twinkly home.

If you want inspiration to batch-cook a freezer-friendly snack try Apple And Custard Cakes. These are so easy a child could make them – no scales or beaters required. I will be back next week with a fresh thrifty habits planner and some suggestions for enjoying time outdoors before winter sets in.

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

August 29

How To Stop Being A Payday Millionaire

What is a Payday Millionaire?

A millionaire doesn’t worry about whether or not she can afford to eat in that restaurant. She’s hungry, she likes this place so in she goes. When she sees a dress she likes she does not turn over the price tag and wince. She probably doesn’t turn over the price tag at all. She just buys three – one to keep at home and one to keep at each of her holiday houses.

A payday millionaire also spends without thinking about it – but only when she has just got paid. After a few days of joyful splurging, she reigns it in sharply and lives like a pauper for the rest of the month. Mainly because a few days as a pretend millionaire have left her with barely enough to get by…

Does this sound like you? It certainly sounds like me.

Why Does Payday Bring Out Our Inner Kardashians?

I can’t tell you why your spending goes stratospheric when you get paid but I have been doing a lot of thinking recently about why mine does. I think it comes down to five things.

  1. I want to play. I have been very grown-up and sensible and responsible with money for several weeks but now my inner child would like to come out to play. She wants to just run about without fear of consequences. She lives in the moment and at this precise moment she has plenty money!
  2. I want to reward myself. I have kept our finances afloat for another month and now I want some recognition for that. I deserve some recognition for that. So, emboldened by the reassuring number of pounds in my paycheck, off I go to treat myself.
  3. I want to relax. I feel like I have been in a permanent state of financial emergency for weeks and now that it’s over I just want to completely relax my guard and not have to think – carefully – about every spending decision. Actually, I don’t want to have to think at all about any spending decisions  – so I just don’t.
  4. I want to feel secure. More than anything, I want to feel like I have enough – more than enough, in fact. I want to feel like I am definitely not just one bad spending decision away from financial disaster. I want to feel that I can spend carelessly without any harm. I want to feel that it is safe, at last, for me to take my eye of our bottom line. And, for a few days, relaxing my guard does make me feel that way. It’s a good feeling. And then it’s not.
  5. I want to make things happen right now. The last few weeks I have been stopping things from happening. Expensive things. It feels pretty negative after a while. Now I want to inject fresh life into my wardrobe, or set up a little holiday or get Tiny Tartan a new bike, or organise a girls’ night out… I want to make things happen. I want to be the driving force. I don’t want to be the brakes. And spending on things I have held back from makes me feel like I am in the driving seat. Somewhere inside I know I am about to turn off the money again – but that makes the need to use money to make changes all the more urgent.

 

How do you fix it? I don’t know yet, but I suspect that recognising the need my payday splurges serve is the key. Because it is all about emotional need. Things we actually need in the real world (new tyres, a new work outfit, etc) go in the monthly budget. No, the splurging is about meeting my own internal needs. They are valid needs but splurging is not a sustainable way of dealing with them.  So my challenge for the next few months is to try to find other, non-spendy ways to meet those same needs.

At this point, I would love to give you a list of ways to stop being a payday millionaire. Hell, I’d love to give me that list. What I have at the moment is some vague ideas, slowly forming in my head, that I will refine and try out over the next few months. And then I will get back to you and tell you what worked for me – maybe it will work for you t00. What about you? If you have any ideas, please add them as a comment.

 

August 20

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Get Kids’s Shoes For Less

Week 4 – August 20th, 2018

It’s the fourth week of a five week month – if you have the time, Take Stock and Tackle One Big Spend

It’s that special time of year when I need to start the annual battle to kit out the kids’ feet without kissing goodbye to a small fortune. Joy. This has been a Big Spend for us for long enough, though, that I have developed some ways of tackling it. You can read everything I have learned about Cutting The Cost Of Kids’ Shoes – written a few years back – and then you can pause and smile wryly at my naive assumption that this was all there is to keeping shoe-shopping to a sensible budget…

I thought I had it sussed. The kids were kitted out in new shoes that protected their little feet as well as my small budget. Then Tartan Boy hit adolescence and the goal posts moved overnight.

Suddenly it wasn’t enough that the shoe was the right size – it had to be the right brand too. A branded shoe is never a budget shoe – they start out at a ridiculously inflated price and no 50% off sticker can bring it down to the same level as a discounted shoe that started out at a lower price. So branded shoes were a step too far for me. But non-branded shoes were a leap over the cliff-edge of cool for Tartan Boy. Problem.

You can read how I (almost) solved it in What To Do When Your Kids Want Branded Shoes And You Want To Stay On Budget. Although, to be honest, it’s less a problem you can solve, more a curve you can try to stay ahead of. So if you have any other secrets of sane shoe shopping, I would love to hear them. Please share them in the Comments below.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on how to avoid being a pay day millionaire.

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

 

August 13

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Preserve A Plum

Week 3 – August 13th, 2018

It’s the third week of the month: if you can make the time, Preserve Something and Review Your Spending

Are you partial to a plum? It’s not a fruit I have ever heard anyone go into raptures about although it is one that grows well in the UK. I am fairly neutral – I will eat one if it’s there but I won’t hunt one down if it’s not. But I will go to some effort to pick them in quantity because they make all sorts of delicious and cheap preserves. Delicious, cheap and easy.

Plums, damsons and their wild cousin the sloe all contain exactly the right balance of acidity and pectin (a fruit protein) to make it easy to get a set. And the same acidity means that they make sweet preserves that have an interesting flavour rather than a blanketing sugariness. They can stand up well to stronger savoury flavours too, going well with strong cheese and red meat. Plums and damsons should be ripe about now, sloes a little later in the autumn, and if you have a tree you can plunder, or a source of very cheap fruit to buy in quantity, take a look at Plum Preserves – 5 Delicious Things To Do With Free Fruit.

However you preserve your plums, be sure to use The Jam Labelizer to pimp your plum preserves with a free label design. All you have to do is download your label, save it at whatever size your jars need and print a whole sheet of them. Remember only to use the designs that are flagged up as free to print yourself. If that is too much work, try The Graphics Fairy’s Free Printable Jam Labels.

 

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on shopping sanely for kids’ shoes.

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

 

August 6

Plum Preserves – 5 Delicious Things To Do With Free Fruit

I am undecided about plums. Bought in the supermarket they seem to have been picked weeks before they are ripe. Hard, sour, with an annoying tendency to suddenly race beyond ripe all at once – they are too tender for lunch boxes, too sour to eat without sugar and, frankly, lacking in flavour.

If you have a source of plums fresh off the tree though… Oh yes. A very different fruit indeed. Yielding and honeyed, quite unlike anything you can purchase in a punnet. The problem is, though, that if you have access to a plum or damson tree then you have access to more fruit than you can possibly eat before it starts to rot. Which is where preserving comes in. Plums are easy to preserves and the results are delicious. If you see cheap plums right now – or better still have a free source – remember that plum jam on a pancake in November is worth some effort in August. Here are five of my favourite things to do with plums.

  1. Make Jam. Plums and sugar alone make an excellent jam – in fact the natural balance of acidity and pectin in plums makes for jam that is not only delicious but very easy and straightforward to make. But this sweet concoction can only be improved by the addition of cinnamon, as in BBC Good Food’s recipe for Cinnamon-Scented Plum Jam.
  2. Make Chutney. If you prefer something more savoury than sweet, why not turn your glut of plums into chutney? Chutneys are simplicity to make – no fiddling with sugar thermometers or waiting to reach setting point. Put your ingredients in a pan, bubble over a low heat for a long time  – done. And the results are delicious with cheese or for dipping poppadoms into. Try Pam Corbin’s recipe. And remember that the most important stage with chutney is the one where you leave the jars in a cupboard for a few months so the ingredients can all mellow into each other.
  3. Make Plum Leather. Somewhere between a fruit pastille and beef jerky but very much nicer than this makes it sound, fruit leathers are a handy standby for lunch box treats. Try Olia Hercule’s recipe.
  4. Make Damson Jelly. For me, damson is the queen of jams (gooseberry is king, if you are wondering) but even I find the chore of removing all the stones a bit off-putting. This is where damson jelly comes in. As with all jelly preserves, all you have to do is cook the fruit – stones included – down to a mush and then leave it overnight to drip into a bowl. The resulting liquid is boiled up with sugar to make the jelly. Jars of intense, sweet jelly and not one moment of fiddly stone-removal. This recipe works with sloes and plums if you have them instead. Jellies work just as well with roast meat as with a round of toast – a truly multi-tasking tracklement.
  5. Make Plum Cheese. This uses the same technique as a jelly – boil up your fruit, strain, add sugar and cook till it’s ready – so there is no fiddly stone-removal. But the result is a firmer preserve that can be turned out of a mould and popped on a cheese-board. It’s like the pricey quince cheeses you see in delis, only with plums. And cheap. Try Larder Loves’ Plum And Lime Cheese.