January 14

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Gimme Some Hygge

Week 2 – January 14th, 2019

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

‘Tis the season to be snuggly. The weather is not inviting,  so why not make like the Danes with their hygge and get cosy indoors?

Hygge involves actively creating a comforting environment in which to sit out winter. Just turning up the central heating doesn’t cut it. You need snuggly throws, wholesome food, good company… and warm, twinkly lighting. A log fire is, of course, the gold standard, but keeping out your festive fairy lights would help too. And there are always scented candles – twinkly lights and comforting aromas in one swoop. You could descend on Ikea for cheap tealights. Or, you could get your cosy on  by creating your own. That way you get to be on-trend and on-budget. Have a go at my Teeny Tiny Teacup Candles or Luxury Scented Candles.

Wax melts at a fairly low temperature, making this a child-friendly activity. Make candles with the kids and that’s you nailed hygge and a new, cheap family activity without actually leaving the house.

(If you want to read a less cosy take on hygge, read The Hygge Conspiracy by Charlotte Higgins.)

It is way too early in the year to do any gardening but the perfect time to start planning how to save money by growing your own when spring comes around. Click here to find out how to save money – and avoid wasting it – in the garden this year.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on how to make preserving work for your purse.


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 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.

July 11

One Week Of Thrifty Habits – Monday 11th July To Sunday 17th July

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New PageIt’s the third week of the month and time to Preserve Something and to Review Your Spending. If you are planning a trip to a pick-your-own farm to get juicy fruit for jamming, take a look at my guide to getting your money’s worth from a PYO here.

Are you heading off on holiday soon  – or better yet, there already? Take a minute to think about one of our weekly Thrifty Habits – Buy A Little Treat. Here is my tip for using a cheap treat to bring back that holiday feeling in the dead days of winter.

Smell is a powerful trigger of memories – we’ve all experienced that. Maybe you caught a whiff of perfume that took you straight back to sitting on your mother’s knee, or that special cocktail of linoleum polish and antiseptic floor cleaner that took you instantly back to your earliest schooldays. So why not use smell to anchor you to your holiday? Here’s how.

Buy a perfumed treat to take on holiday – it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be something you will use every day and it needs to be something you don’t use until you are on holiday. So it could be a bar of soap that you use every time you go to the bathroom, or a new laundry detergent that fragrances your holiday clothes. It could be a scented sachet that you keep tucked in your pillowcase, or the shower gel you use every morning. The choice is yours.

Sleeping-Lady-Retro-Image-GraphicsFairy-320x320Now fast-forward to February. It has been raining for a century, and the sun sets each day before you have fully come to terms with the day’s start. That’s the time to buy yourself the same scented treat and use it. Now you wake to anoher grey morning and your shower smells of brighter days remembered. Or you go to bed at the end of a wet day and your bed smells of sunshine, You get the idea. It’s a cheap, simple but very effective way of buying a few extra moments of happiness from your holidays. Try it!


May 9

Five Principles Of Thrifty Living #4 Be Joyful And Generous Not Miserly And Miserable

Why Do You Want To Be Thrifty?


retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comAre you reducing spending so you can avoid debt – and avoiding debt because debt makes you miserable? Maybe you want to cut spending on some areas so that you can keep your money for the things that make you smile. Or do you just want to kick that anxious feeling that gnaws at you for the last two weeks of every month? Whatever your reasons – it’s a safe bet you are hoping that a thriftier life will be a happier one.

Saving our finances should never cost us our souls

But what if the process of reducing your spending makes you miserable? What if it turns out that you hate permanent self-denial, feel bad about exploiting other people/other creatures/the planet for a bargain and hate the drudgery of constantly cutting costs? What if, in pursuit of living cheaply you become…  cheap?

What if the whole process turns out to be soul-destroying? Saving our finances should never cost us our souls.

Saving Money Without Selling Your Soul

Four of the five Principles Of Thrifty Living are about spending less. This one is different. It’s about exercising some choice over how you save money so you avoid the trap of putting your finances ahead of your wellbeing and your values.

Choose Joy Over Misery

RetroNewYearsGraphicsFairyFrugality has enormous potential to make us miserable – not least because focussing most of your time and attention on money is never terribly healthy. And cost-cutting that also cuts all the pleasure out of life is a waste of effort – we humans rapidly lose interest in doing things that make us miserable and stop doing them. (That’s why gym memberships when you hate going to the gym are always a doomed purchase.) If you want to make thrifty living an effortless habit you also have to find ways of making it a joy – or you will effortlessly fall into the habit of not bothering.

Click here for this week's free Thrifty Habits Planner
Click here for this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner

So find ways of saving money that also enrich your life. Grow some of your own food and enjoy a connection with the natural world. Make something you would otherwise buy and enjoy the glow of getting creative. Try a new free or cheap activity every so often and savour the variety in your life. Team up with other thrifters – in real life or online – and enjoy the company as well as the advice you get. Take time to applaud your own thriftiness – everything you do to cut your costs shows that you are resourceful, smart and determined so big yourself up for it.  Hold onto your values and do thrifty in a way that still lets you do you.

Choose Generosity Over Miserliness

The thrift that does not make a man charitable sours into avarice. [M.W. Harrison]

When you don’t have much there are two ways you can go. You can take the miser’s route – focus on what you don’t have and hold tightly onto what you do. Or you can take the generous way – focus on what you do have and use it to make yourself and others feel good. Being a miser may result in more money but it won’t make you rich where it really counts.

Tartan Thrifty Be Joyful And GenerousSo share what you can with other people, and take heart from the research suggesting that people who share their money feel happier than people who don’t. Don’t exploit other people to get the lowest price. Don’t exploit yourself either – by overloading yourself with budget-busting tasks or by endless self-denial. Be kind to yourself – buy yourself a little treat now and again. Don’t just set yourself savings goals – set yourself spending goals to focus on what your money is going to do for you. Find a balance between being careful with your money and being Scrooge.

Getting that balance right is the key to developing thrifty habits for the long-haul that truly make your life better.

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Joyfully And Generously Thrifty

These weekly, monthly and annual habits are the ones to get into if you want to embrace joyful generosity and avoid miserly misery.

Each week

  • how to buy happinessBuy yourself a little treat to keep your morale up

Each month

  • Share Something so your own thrifty journey does not stop you from connecting with other people on theirs
  • Grow Something  so you get food in a way that lowers your costs while raising your pleasure
  • Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity so that avoiding more expensive outings does not become boring

Each year

  • Set Savings Goals to remind yourself why you are trying to cut back your spending
  • Set Spending Goals so you are clear what your money will be doing for you over the next twelve months
April 25

Buy A Little Treat

Why Buying Yourself A Treat Is Not A Waste Of Money

Tucked into a little, non-prominent spot on the Thrifty Habits Planner is an unexpected weekly habit – Buy A Little Treat.

Say whaaaat?! I thought we were trying to save money here, not fritter it away!
retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comWe are, we are, but… Let me tell you something everyone who has ever been on a diet knows: you can only be good for so long. Sooner or later everyone cracks. And what happens when a conscientious dieter cracks and eats one fun-size Milky Way, in defiance of all their good intentions? Uh-huh – they lose the plot and follow their tiny slip-up with an enormous blow-out. After weeks of rigid self-control, one tiny lapse cascades into a non-stop calorie spree.

money mumA bottle of wine and an entire donner kebab later regret sets in… too late. Money diets are no different – if you are in constant denial, you will eventually crack and once you do, your budget is likely to get blown right out of the water. Weight loss programmes frequently build in daily or weekly food treats to help us manage our boom-or-bust tendencies. I firmly believe a thrifty spending regime needs the same. Without the tiny release of little treats we all turn into pay-day millionaires each month – delirious with wealth after weeks of self-control.

treats reassure us that, even though we are cutting back our spending – however drastically – we can still enjoy life

Gretchen Rubin, in her hymn to habits, Better Than Before, argues for the “Strategy Of Treats”: “When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command—and self-command helps us maintain healthy habits. (Read on Psychology Today.)  That applies as much to healthy money habits as it does to healthy eating habits. When we are in constant self-denial, thrift becomes drudgery and our motivation plummets. But treats reassure us that, even though we are cutting back our spending – however drastically – we can still enjoy life. And that keeps us going.

NewYearChampagneGraphicsFairyWhat I am saying here is not that we should lose control and blow the budget on treats – I am saying that we should take control and set a budget for treats. Yes, in the short term, we will spend a little more. But in the longer term, we will spend significantly less. And where an unplanned binge-spending session leaves you feeling bad, small, frequent, affordable treats make you happy. Who doesn’t want some of that?





March 7

How To Buy Happiness

Once you can afford to feed, clothe and house yourself, each extra pound makes less and less difference to your sense of well-being.”  Liz Hoggard, Making Slough Happy

Money can’t buy you happiness, right?

Wrong, according to Jonathan Haidt, author of the excellent The Happiness Hypothesis who insists that  “those who think money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop.”  And then goes on to show how smart spending choices will make you thrifty and happy.

Tartan Boy ClimbingNow, I love Thrifty, but I love Happy more. Isn’t Happy what Thrifty is really shooting for? Why are you cutting your spending? Freedom from the misery of debt? A good life at a lower price? Saving up to live out a personal dream?  Whatever your reason, it’s about being happier. It’s always about being happier.

So, what should we be doing with our money, to maximise our Happy? I have been exploring the world of Positive Psychology and here is what I have learned.

How To Buy Happiness

  1. Invest in variety not volume.  It’s not the expense of a new thing that delights us – it’s the newness, the change from what we just had to what we have now. So frequent, small treats will create steadier happiness over time than occasional big purchases. Treating yourself little and often could make you more contented than saving up for one big expense.
  2. Invest in doing not having.   Activity, according to positive psychologists, brings greater and longer-lasting pleasure than possessions, especially activity that we share with others.
  3. how to buy happinessInvest in creating rather than just consuming.  Making things makes you happy. Buying things, not so much. Cook things, grow things, make music, design a web site, redecorate your home – whatever works for you.

    “Joy’s soul lies in the doing” (Shakespeare)

  4. Invest in your health. It’s harder to feel good when you feel bad. Money spent on nutritious food, a comfortable mattress, shoes you can walk in, etc, is money well spent. (Note to self: money spent on fancy wine is a less secure investment in lingering happiness.)
  5. Invest in relationships.  Spend money on connecting with others (meeting friends for coffee, travelling to visit family, sending a birthday card, etc.) rather than on competing to have the best, biggest, most luxurious and most expensive of everything. We are hyper-social animals and we need to feel connected to others more than we need to keep up with the Joneses.
  6. Invest in community: share.  Studies show that people who share more are usually happier than people who don’t.  Perhaps it’s because it reminds them how lucky they are to have more than others; perhaps it reassures them that they have something of value to offer to others; perhaps it helps them feel involved with the rest of the human race.  Perhaps we just feel good when we do good.  Whatever the reason, in terms of buying happiness, it’s a great investment.


Thrifty Habits PlannerClick here for this week’s Thrifty Habits Planner. It’s free – what could be thriftier than that?

November 14

How To Fill A Bulging Christmas Stocking Without Busting Your Budget

Christmas Stockings – A Thrifty Essential

christmas-santa-graphicsfairy010I still remember the outrage with which I greeted my mum’s suggestion that, since none of her “children” were even in their teens any more, we could, maybe, just not bother with stockings this year. I was horrified – didn’t she realise that the little bits and pieces in our stockings each year were part of the very fabric of Christmas? Hmmm?

the little bits and pieces in our stockings each year were part of the very fabric of Christmas

I was reminded of this ten years later when Tartan Dad had a year out of work and we were approaching a very budget Christmas. We did our sums and worked out that we had enough left to either buy each other a gift or a stocking – but not both. It turned out my thirty-something self was no keener to do without stocking fillers than my twenty-going-on-five self. So we ditched the “tree presents” instead – and had a lovely Christmas morning without them, opening our stockings.

santaThat year, more than ever, we needed the abundance of little fripperies that fill a stocking. We needed them because we were carefully, painstakingly sticking to our budget to avoid going into debt – we had enough of everything we needed but we did not enjoy an abundance of anything. Just for one day, we got to be greedy.

santa's faceWe needed those little stocking-fillers because, while our budget allowed us to save up for the big, important things we needed, it did not allow us to just buy little things that took our fancy as we walked round a shop. But our stockings were full of those – all the little things we had routinely denied ourselves every other day of that year.

santa chucklingAnd we needed those fripperies because, in a year of living sensibly, they were a little ray of silly, luxurious fun. Living on a budget is a serious business but sometimes we need to cut loose a little or we will lose the will to keep going.

Thrifty Christmas Stockings

ChristmasRetroShop-GraphicsFairy1No surprise then that I am still a huge fan of Christmas stockings. I am not a huge fan, though, of the way the cost of filling them can spiral out control faster than Prancer, Dancer and Dasher taking Santa on an emergency trip to Toys-R-Us. Some people spend more on Christmas stockings than I spend on the kids’ main presents. And when I say ‘some people’ I mean even otherwise thoroughly thrifty people. OK, I mean me. Readers I am Tartan Mum and I am an uncontrolled stocking-stuffer.

Christmas Stocking Planner 5Or I was, until three years ago when I finally found a way to take control of our Christmas Stockings. I used to just buy until I had what felt like enough stocking-fillers at what seemed like a vaguely filler-y price. Then I would get a shock on Christmas Eve when it turned out to be way too much to fit in our stockings. And an even worse surprise when I finally added up the total cost. I needed to set limits that gave us bulging stockings without stretching our budget to bursting point.  The Tartan Thrifty Christmas Stocking Planner was born.

The Stocking Planner – Christmas Under Control

A simple system for setting a budget, keeping to it, and building a well-balanced stocking

The Stocking Planner is a way to plan and keep track of our stocking-fillers so that I buy lots of very cheap fillers interspersed with a few more pricey items rather than lots of pricey items interspersed with the odd cheap one. It has stopped me buying too many gifts at too high a price, as well as making sure there is some variety in the value of the fillers in our stockings.

Christmas-Fairy-Image-GraphicsFairy-597x1024It has also helped me figure out what the appropriate budget for our family’s stockings is – because that’s different for each family. There is no government-approved minimum stocking spend – just what fits your lifestyle and finances. Think a little structure could help you stay on budget this year? Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Set A Top Spending Limit For Stocking Fillers

You need to decide what is the highest price you are willing to pay for a stocking filler. So – imagine you are shopping. Your kid* suddenly spots – and demands – a £50 doll’s house.  You have not budgetted for a doll’s house and £50 is a lot of money so you probably say no without a moment’s thought.

What if it was a £40 toy? Still no without needing to think about it?

What about £20? £10? A £5 plush toy? What if it was a £3 comic your kid was pleading for? A £1 sticker pack? A 50p novelty chocolate?

retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comSomewhere on that sliding scale there was  a point where you would stop saying no without thinking and would start to think – however fleetingly – about whether you could just buy it. So what was your threshold? What was the last point on that sliding scale where you wouldn’t have to think about whether that was too expensive or not?

That threshold price – that’s the price for the top level of your Christmas Stocking Planner. You are going to buy one item at that price for each stocking. Any gift that costs more than that gets parcelled up and put under the tree. Anything that costs less is a stocking-filler.

Step 2: Set the rest of the prices for your stocking-fillers

Each level should be cheaper than the one above it. So if your top price is £5, for example, that will mean that your next level is, say, £3, the one after that £2 and so on down to 50p. That gives you five little 50p gifts, four gifts at £1 each, three at £2, two at £3 and one at £5. That’s a total of 15 gifts for £23.50 per stocking. Click here to download a copy of the £5 planner.Christmas Stocking Planner 5

If you opt for my planner with a top price of £3, and a bottom price of 20p, your stockings are going to cost you £13 each. Click here to download a copy of the £3 planner.Christmas Stocking Planner 3star

If the most you can spend per item is £1, then your stockings are going to come to just £5.30 each. (Don’t believe you can fill a decent stocking for a fiver? Come back next week and see how to do it.) Click here to download a copy of the £1 plannerChristmas Stocking Planner 1star

If none of these plans suits your price range you can download a blank planner here to price up as you see fit.

All of my planners have space for 15 gifts. That number suits the Tartan Family, but if you and yours like a fatter stocking, adapt it by adding an extra row (or more!) at the bottom. Because the lower rows are the cheapest you will up the quantity without hiking the price greatly.

Step 3: Take A Reality Check

worried gift-giverYou need to check what the total cost of your stocking plan is and multiply that by the number of stockings you will fill. Now take a good, hard look at that figure – can you afford that this year? If the answer is yes then skip to Step 4. If the answer is no you need to decide carefully how much you can afford to spend on each stocking and reduce your top price and all the prices below it.  Your stockings will have just as many items in them; only the prices will be different.

Step 4:  Get Ready To Shop

Once you have picked the planner that suits your unique circumstances print one out for each person. Whenever you buy a stocking-filler, note it in the box for its price-point. That way you will be able to see at a glance whose stocking is full and whose still needs stuffing. And you won’t accidentally buy everything at your top price. (Been there a few times!)

Christmas Stocking Planner £5 part filled

That’s it. A simple system for setting a budget, keeping to it, and building a well-balanced stocking. I hope it works as well for you as it has for me!


retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.com*What if you are filling stockings for adults, not kids? Imagine you are shopping and you spot something that [insert name] would just love. At what price would you buy it without hesitation? And at what price would you pause to think about it? That’s your threshold price – the top price you will spend on stocking fillers for adults.


HandNoticeVintage-GraphicsFairyMore Christmas Posts


How To Fill A Christmas Stocking For (Around) A Fiver

5 Ways To Make DIY Stocking Fillers – When You Have No DIY Skills

1 Cheap Pic-n-Mix, 10 thifty Stocking-Fillers



January 25

One Week To Payday: Take Control , Take Stock and Take A Moment To Share

“The sense of being in control is central to happiness.  Keeping on top of your finances is usually a much more important recipe for happiness than trying to make lots of money.”  (Liz Hoggard in Making Slough Happy)

money mumI started the month by writing a rough budget, and setting up systems to nudge myself towards spending less.  Now I am taking a moment to bask in the happy glow this has created.  I have felt more in control of our spending because, thanks to making my bank’s website my homepage, I got in the habit of checking our bank accounts every day.  And using little mini-wallets to hold cash for different areas of spending meant I didn’t constantly worry about whether I could afford what I was spending.  Keeping all our receipts has been an eye-opener though – I was way off on what I thought we spent on different areas.  I have used this to set realistic (ish) targets for next month, rather than writing an ideal budget that doesn’t reflect how we actually spend our money.   I have taken control of our finances and I am feeling a teeny bit smug.

HandNoticeVintage-GraphicsFairySo, to make sure I keep it up, I am introducing a new, monthly habit.  In the last week of each month, set a budget for next month’s spending  before the money comes in.    You can download a really comprehensive budget planner over at Diary Of A Frugal Family.

Another new habit for the last week of each month is to Take Stock.  One of my guiding principles is to Quantify Your Assets and it makes sense to do this before I plan our spending and saving for the coming month.  So I will audit our food supplies before I plan meals, try on all my clothes and work out some new outfits with them,   before treating myself (just a little) in the sales, make lists (I love a list!) of what we have already in the flat,  and whatever else helps me to pay attention to what we’ve got, rather than focussing on what we can’t afford right now.  This won’t just make me feel a little happier, it will save us money I might have spent on things we already have.

When I thought about how to buy Happiness earlier this month I resolved to try to share a little of what we have – if only to remind us that we are so much better off than we think.  Living frugally can become a selfish pursuit, enjoying bargains at other people’s expense, thinking only about what I have to do without rather than what other people are doing without, envying people who have more (or at least appear to).  We live in one of the richest countries in the world and are by no means poor (around the national household average, if you were wondering) but because I am always focussed on whether we have enough to last to the end of the month I never think about giving some of my carefully managed money away.   Well, as of this month, that will change:  my final new monthly habit is to share what we have left. 

Sotzil:  Isabela Pacheco, daughter of Pedro Hu Pacheco and Isabe logoThat sounds pretty generous, eh?  Actually, the bank account is only just in the black and no more (this is a big improvement on the whole of the last year).  But there is some loose change in most of my little mini-wallets and I am off to see how much it adds up to.  Just a tennerFive quid?  Can we scrape together £2.50 to give a homeless person back a little of their dignity?   It’s a fairly pathetic start, but it’s something.