May 22

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – School Uniforms On The Cheap

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

It’s a five-week month, which means we get to slip in an extra week of thrifty habits – so this is the week to Tackle One Big Spend or Take Stock. How about doing both? If you take stock of kids’ school supplies now it will allow you to start tackling the Big Spend of kitting them out next session while you still have time to shop around for the best deals. You can find out how to do a school uniform audit here and how to take advantage of summer fayre uniform stalls to bag a bargain blazer here. Don’t forget to think about stationery, lunch boxes, etc. too.

May 17

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Elderflower Preserves

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, which means it’s time to Preserve Something and to Review Spending. When you dig out your receipts and/or delve into your bank statements for the last three weeks, think back to this month’s post on clarifying your values before you draw up a budget. Are the things your money has been spent on in line with the things that really matter to you? Are there areas you are spending on that are not really worth the money to you? And are there areas you want to spend money on but don’t?

As for preserving something…

Elderflower Preserves

I think they smell of sherbet; Tartan Dad thinks they smell of cat pee. We both agree that elderflowers make their presence felt – and they are present everywhere from rural hedgerow to urban wasteland. So why not make something for (almost) nothing with the frothy, fragrant (?) flowers bursting out in parks, gardens and railway banks all around you this month and next?

British Larder has a lovely recipe for elderflower and strawberry cordial or you can find a plain cordial recipe here. You can dilute it with cheap carbonated water as an occasional drink (it is mostly sugar so not for everyday glugging) or pep that up with a splash of vodka if you want a sparkling drink with a kick. Or you could use it to flavour Eton Mess or fold into gooseberry fools or make delicious. magazine’s elderflower jellies

And if you still have blossom to spare, try a batch of classic elderflower champagne for a sparking wine that is ready in weeks. Nearly-free fizz – what’s not to love?

April 24

How To Budget, Part 1

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 final week of the month – time to Share Something and time to Budget before your pay comes in and you start spending without a plan. Over the next few months I am going to go into more detail about exactly how you draw up a budget.

How To Budget – Laying Your Foundations

Budgeting is about making sure your money covers the things you really want it to cover, juggling various needs to make sure the things that really matter to you don’t get left out in the cold. So before you even begin to crunch the numbers, it is vital that you clarify what you really value.
One reason budgets so often fall by the wayside is that they aren’t a true reflection of what we really want and need. We only really get behind something if it really matters to us.
Imagine, for example, that you are budgeting for huge mortgage payments towards a beautiful home when what you really value is time with friends and family. Over time you find that coffees, meals out, weekends away, gifts, phone bills, and a whole heap of other “keeping in touch” costs eat into the money you budgeted for you mortgage.

Does that mean you are bad at sticking to a budget? Or does it mean that your budget did not reflect your real values? Remember that one of the Principles Of Thrifty Living is to Work With The Real Not The Ideal

A budget that reflects your true values is going to be a lot easier to stick with in the long run so it pays to start off by looking – realistically – at what your values are.

Getting Real Value For Money – Finding Out What Matters Most To You

Take time to sit with a pen and paper and list the things that matter most to you. Remember that values are ideas not items or spending areas. So don’t just list what you want/need to spend money on – for example, ‘rent’. Instead list what matters to you in life – for example, ‘freedom’, ‘family’, ‘flexibility’, ‘security’…  Any of these values might be met by paying rent but paying rent is not, in itself, of value to you. Ask yourself whether the thing you are about to write down serves a purpose or is an end in itself. For example, you might realise that ‘career success’ is not intrinsically valuable to you, but helps you get ‘social status’. In that case, ‘social status’ is what you really value – so that’s what you write down.

You can get more advice about discovering what you really value at www.mindtools.com and download a free Core Values Workbook at www.dawnbarclay.com. Once you know what you really value, keep thinking about whether you are really getting value – your value – for money as you draw up next month’s budget.

April 3

Feed Your Family For Free In Ikea This Easter

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 first week of a new month which makes it the best time to put all the cash you are going to spend this month into individual, clearly marked purses/wallets before you start spending it. It’s also the perfect time to Make Something. What I am making, mainly, is a mess. We had builders in for major moving around of walls last winter and we are still finishing the place off. This weekend’s project was fitting out our newly built-in wardrobe. At the moment, this means having all the boxes that were ine the wardrobe, out of the wardrobe and all over everything. In spite of the mess, after months of dressing out of an assortment of boxes and a rickety rail, I am very very excited. As I type this, Tartan Dad is in Ikea buying more Algot brackets.

Speaking of Ikea…

Free Food In Ikea

Ikea are running their “All The Furniture You Can Eat” deal over the next couple of weeks in selected stores. You don’t actually have to eat any furniture (phew!). But if you and yours eat heartily in the restaurant, on a weekday, after 4:30pm and then buy furnishings in store, flashing your Family Card as you do and handing over your restaurant receipt, Ikea will deduct your entire cafe bill from the price of your furnishings. Yes, you read that right. Mountains of meatballs for free.

Obviously, this is only worth doing if you have already budgeted to spend money on furnishings. Furnishings, by the way, does not apply solely to actual furniture. And if your food bill comes to more than your furnishings bill it’s not such a bargain – so do your homework first and work out how much you are going to spend. It’s also worth checking your items are in-stock when you arrive so you don’t get a nasty surprise after eating.

If you were planning to buy some cushions anyway, and it’s pouring, and you want to get the kids out the house, take them to your nearest Ikea Restaurant, let them have a bit of fun in the play area there, then go do your shopping and get the cost of their dinner deducted. They get meatballs, you get a night off from cooking – everybody goes home happy.

Check that your local store is participating –  click here for terms and conditions and a list of stores that are not participating. And note that this offer is only available to Ikea Family Card holders. The card is free. You can sign up in-store or online, and it’s well worth having – free coffees, cheap meal deals all year, money off everything from cushions to candelabras, and the free-gift-receipt-swipe, which is coming back at the end of the month.

I would be failing in my thrifty mission if I didn’t remind you – sternly – that this is only a good deal if you actually need to spend more than the cost of a meal on furnishings. And if you I didn’t urge you to take a list to avoid getting sucked into extra purchases (been there, many times…) The deal is on until April 14th. Happy eating!

UPDATE – I have now tried this for myself and it worked! Four of us had a filling meal each and got £25 off our purchases. Which went down very nicely, thank-you.

March 22

How To Get A £100 School Blazer For Only £10

How Much Is Too Much For A School Blazer?

How much do you spend on school uniform? When the Tartan Kids both started at a new school last year I was taken aback to find that their blazers alone were going to cost from £65 to £100 each. Too much for a thrifty mama – even if both boys would get the use of some of them eventually.

 

So we explored second hand blazers and found that it was entirely possible to get a £100 blazer for under £10. I have been picking them up in different sizes whenever I see them and now have ten (and counting) good-as-new blazers ready for wear as the boys grow. The best part? Each blazer cost me no more than a tenner. Interested? Here’s how you do it.

Ten Pound Blazer, Five Easy Steps

  1. Pick your second hand outlet. There are many online sources but I have found it much cheaper to use local jumble sales and school fayres/uniform sales. These need to sell everything in a matter of hours so prices are low, making it easy to pick up blazers for under a fiver. The downside? They usually look pretty tatty – which is why the next step is important.
  2. It’s easy to pick up blazers for under a fiver

    Check each blazer over to decide if it’s worth buying. Are stains on the surface or soaked in? Soaked-in stains are unlikely to shift but surface ones can be easily removed by dry cleaning. Are the button holes unravelling;  cuffs fraying;  collars and elbows wearing thin? If the answer to any of these is yes, put the blazer down and move onto the next one.  Are the pockets coming adrift? If you are confident of your hand-sewing, (and can find the time) you may be able to mend these – if not, put that blazer down.
  3. Take your blazers to the dry cleaner. If you wait until you have several, you may get a cheaper deal.
  4. Brand new buttons create a good-as-new blazer from a second-hand bargain

    Replace the buttons – this is the only laborious part of the process, but it is essential because dry cleaning makes buttons look worn. Brand new buttons create a good-as-new blazer from a second-hand bargain. It’s worth bulk-buying replacement buttons – I got mine from Amazon – so you always have enough to make a freshly purchased blazer look good as new. Measure the diameter of the existing buttons to work out which size of button to order.
  5. Remove or cover up any name tags so that the blazer doesn’t return to it’s previous owner by mistake. Add your own. If you are planning to hand blazers down to younger children, get name tapes made up by your surname – that way the tag will be right for whichever one of your children is currently wearing the blazer.

If you have a good memory, you are done. Store your blazers until they are needed. If (like me) you have a memory like a sieve, keep a list somewhere of the sizes you have and the sizes you need. That way you will always know, when you spot a second-hand blazer, whether it’s a bargain you need or an expense you don’t.

 

 

March 13

Artisanal Preserves At Aldi Prices

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

It’s the third week of the month – time to Review Your Spending and to Preserve Something.  Have you ever made jam, or jelly? Chucked together a chutney? Slung sloes and sugar into gin? Or can you see no reason to bother? Traditionally, preserving was about making a seasonal glut last through leaner times without a fridge or freezer. Today, preserving is still about taking advantage of things when they are freely available – or even available free. What could be more thrifty than that?

strawberry glam jarsIn my case, I got into the habit of preserving as an attempt to supply Tartan Towers with frugal treats – artisanal preserves at Aldi prices. Something nice for (almost) nothing. I figured that, if life gives you lemons, you might as well make lemon curd. And, in a year of trying to preserve some cheap fruit and veg each month I learned that, as long as I followed The Thrifty Preserving Rules, I could have jam tomorrow for pennies today.

 
Want to try it for yourself? This is the perfect time to start thinking about it. Granted, there is not much freely available at the very end of winter/start of spring, but that makes this the perfect time to get all your supplies ready for a year of frugal preserving. That way, when you get cheap strawberries at a pick-your-own farm you can turn them into Strawberry Glam right away.

 
I have been known in the past to throw fruit out, mouldy and un-preserved, because I never did source enough jam jars. Don’t be like me: be organised instead, and start stock-piling jars now for re-use. A good wash in hot soapy water disinfects them thoroughly enough but it’s best to use fresh lids. These are usually a standard size and easy to buy. Alternatively, use wax disks and cellophane tops fastened with a rubber band. These form an airtight seal which stops your preserves going off and are much cheaper than buying new lids. Once you open them, though, you can’t reseal the jar.

Whichever you choose, the time to buy them is now. That way, you won’t have to dash out to the nearest (and inevitably most expensive) supplier mid-jam-session next July.The Thrifty Preserving Rules

March 6

Free Family Fun

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 Page

It’s the second week of the month – time to Grow Something and to Try A New Free Activity. Exploring new free activities lets you increase the number of options you have for days when the kids (or you) need entertaining but you have nothing left in the kitty to cover it. It’s also just fun to try something new every so often. So, since the (alleged) arrival of spring is upon us, how about the grandmammy of all free activities – a walk outdoors?

 

Now, I am always swept away by a tidal wave of indifference from my kids when I suggest a walk. But we have found that the simple offer of a clipboard and a printed checklist of things to watch out for motivates them. Or at least distracts them from moaning…

Buggy And Buddy have made it very simple by picking out 30 free printable scavenger hunts for you to download and take along but a quick search for “printable scavenger hunt” on Pinterest  will give you plenty of other options. You can have a lot of fun making your own too – or letting the kids make up one for the grown-ups.

On a practical note, a clipboard for each child stops fights breaking out over who holds the sheet and a cheap propelling pencil means no sharpening and nobody coming home with an inky moustache. Clipboards can be as simple as the back of a cereal box taped to your printed scavenger hunt – making this a truly free activity. Happy hunting!

 

February 20

Simply, Slurpily Thrifty

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 PageThis week’s monthly habits are to Budget and to Share Something. If you are new to budgetting and wondering how difficult it will be take a look at What Downton Abbey Taught Me About Thrifty Habits.

Make Soup

I like a thrifty habit that requires minimum effort but delivers real savings. Here’s one so simple you might never even have thought of it: make soup. Soup fills you up very cheaply – which means you can reduce the size (and cost) of your main meal simply by serving soup as a starter, or reduce the size of your lunchtime sandwich by serving a flask of soup on the side. Our grannies knew this – how did we forget?

Making soup doesn’t even have to take time or effort. Tip some frozen veg into a slow-cooker in the morning, add water and a stock cube, switch it on and then forget all about it. By dinner time you have a steaming pot of delicious vegetable soup. It cuts the cost of your main meal – in fact, add bread and cheese and it is your main meal – and it provides an extra one of your five-a-day. What’s not to like?

It doesn’t even have to be a daily thing – just making one pot of soup each week will lower your grocery bills. If you make a big enough pot you can eat it over several days – perhaps as a good, thick main meal on the first day, thinned down on the second day as a starter, and then with a sandwich for lunch the third day. Or with cornbread. Or a cheese scone. Or…
And the best part? It’s a great introduction to cooking your own food if that’s new to you. Soup is all about texture and flavour. Learning which textures work together, and which flavours bring out the best in each other is the essence of all cooking. And cooking your own meals will save you and yours big bucks.

Want some inspiration to get started? You can read about my struggle to get into this Thrifty Habit and the simple recipes that helped me in Very Lazy Soup and Thrifty, Lazy, Tasty Soup. Happy cooking!

 

 

January 16

Getting Back To Thrifty Basics

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 has been an unusual autumn/winter for us. We embarked on a building project to transform Tartan Towers from a two bed, one bathroom flat to a three bed, two bathroom one (at the expense of lots of cupboard space). The build was due to last a few weeks but ran to five months, during which we lived on site. All our daily routines were disrupted; all my thrifty habits were demolished as thoroughly as our internal walls.

 

So now the builders have gone and I am rebuilding the little web of everyday thrifty habits that supported our attempts to live within our means. It has shown me two things. Number One – these little habits save us a fortune and we still really need them. Number Two – trying to get into a whole bunch of thrifty habits again all at the same time is Too Hard. We need to focus on our thrifty basics before we add everything back in or we will collapse in the attempt.

 

So, if you too have got out of the habit of saving money without thinking about it, or if you are new to the idea of getting into thrifty habits to help you save money without really trying – make life easy on yourself. Start by just picking a couple of habits that you can easily include in your normal routine and focus on them. Give yourself an easy win to boost your morale. And only add new ones every few weeks to give your first couple time to bed in. If you are starting from scratch, Nudge Yourself Towards Spending Less, and then focus on the habits that help you to Take Control. Just not all at once.

drunken prune liqueur in glass bottleIf you are sufficiently on top or your daily and weekly habits that you can rise to tackling a couple of monthly habits too then remember to Review Your Spending and Preserve Something. Or at least start kitting yourself out for a year of making your own deli-worthy preserves. Personally, I will be focussing on preserving my sanity as we unpack our old life and put it away in our new home.

 

November 28

Stocking Fillers And Why Every Thrifty Family Needs Them

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

 

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

No surprise then that I am still a huge fan of Christmas stockings. Stocking fillers are the over-the-top big sister of the Thrifty Habits Planner’s weekly treats. Small, frequent treats help you to stay thrifty the rest of the week and a whole stockingful of little treats can help to keep you on the thrifty wagon all year.

ChristmasRetroShop-GraphicsFairy1I 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 came up with a Stocking Planner that allows me to structure how much I spend on each stocking and how many items I put in each one. It helps me to avoid over-buying for some family members and underbuying for others. It also helps me to avoid spending three times as much as I meant to. If you feel you could do with a little structure for you festive spending, you can read about How To Fill A Bulging Stocking Without Blowing Your Budget This Christmas here. Good luck!

 

HandNoticeVintage-GraphicsFairyChristmas-Fairy-Image-GraphicsFairy-597x1024More Christmas Posts

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