May 14

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Get Outdoors And Grow Some Food

Week 2 – May 14th, 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.

When we moved into our current home we left behind two large gardens on which I had lavished new plants and a lot of love. Our new home had a garden three metres wide that featured concrete slabs broken up by pebbles mulching a single bed. It was not a promising start to a new eden. A sensible home-owner would have popped in some spring bulbs in pots and maybe a garden ornament and left it at that. I decided instead – because moving house with a change-resistant two year old wasn’t complicating my life enough – to dig the entire thing up and start over. And because that also wasn’t complicated enough, I decided to turn it into a forest garden. Yes, that is a thing. Follow the link to read the second installment of how I turned a concrete jungle into a tiny urban forest garden. If you are looking for a big Grow Something project this month, or a way to turn your existing garden into an ultra-low-maintenance, food-producing paradise, this could be just what you are looking for. If you are not… go to your nearest garden centre and buy some potted herbs. They are always useful and grow anywhere you can catch some sunshine.

If you want to get out in the sunshine (or, you know, just out) this week, take a look at Hands On As We Grow’s post on DIY land art. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s creative and it’s outdoors – what’s not to love? And if the sun is not smiling on you this week… take the kids to the movies. It’s educational (it teaches them how to behave in public places), guarantees you over an hour of sitting in the dark not answering questions or adjudicating sibling fights, and, if you do it right, does not need to cost much. Click here to read How To Go To The Cinema For Almost Nothing.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and ideas for making the most of gooseberries and (free!) elderflowers.

 

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.

 

May 6

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Gooey Deliciousness And Easy DIY

Week 1 – May 7th, 2018

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

Are you, like me, a person who likes a little creative project but has only a little creative talent to throw at it? Or do find yourself driven to DIY by financial need rather than by creative inspiration? Well, breathe easy – there is a website almost custom-made for us. It’s called The Graphics Fairy and you can read all about why it’s the perfect site here.

 

If you have a few minutes to spare, mix up a batch of My Big Fat Chocolate, Ginger And Prune Cookies. They take almost no time to make, freeze beautifully and defrost by morning break-time tucked in a school bag. They also taste delicious. And they contain prunes, which pretty much makes them health food, right?

I will be back next week with a fresh thrifty habits planner and some suggestions for watching movies on the cheap.

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.

April 30

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Budget Wisely And Banish Bad Smells From Your Washing Machine

Week 5 – April 30th, 2018

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

There are many ways to budget – as many as there are people, I suppose – and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Most months, I use a basic spreadsheet. This has the advantage of being quick and accurate and easy to use. Some months, though, my budget is hastily scribbled on a piece of paper and added up in my head. This has the advantage of being free and not depending on my having technology to hand. Occasionally, my budget is done in my head, hastily, on the hoof, right before I pay for something. Because I realise at that moment that I have not yet got round to doing it. That has no advantages at all.

I strongly recommend that you don’t repeat my crimes against personal finance. Make time to budget – by whatever method works for you – before it’s too late to seize control of next month’s spending. Read How To Budget, Part 1 if you want advice on how to get started.

On a completely different note – how about the easiest bit of spring cleaning you will ever do? For a couple of years, the Tartan Family regularly threw out clothing, towels, even bedding that was in perfectly good condition. Why? Because they stank. In spite of repeated washing, they had an unpleasant mouldy odour. They started out fragrant (if a little grubby), went through the machine, hung up to dry… and then were haunted by a whiff of such fustiness we couldn’t stand them. Out they went. I am not, as you may have guessed, a person who relishes throwing things out and spending money on replacements. I am happy to report, though, that I did eventually figure out what was wrong and our washing is now whiff-free. If you want to hear how spending a few seconds – yes, seconds – spring-cleaning can banish bad smells from your laundry, read Spring Clean Your Washing Machine.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and a recipe for goey, chewy, chocolate cookies. Freezable snacks for pennies in only a few minutes.

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!

April 23

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Get School Uniforms On A Budget

Week 4 – April 23rd, 2018

It’s the fourth week of a five week month, which means you can squeeze in a couple of less frequent habits – if you have the time, Take Stock and Tackle One Big Spend

How is the weather with you today? Cold and wet with no hint of summer over the horizon? Bright and breezy and settling in for a beautiful Spring? Four seasons in one day?

Whatever the weather this week, warmer days are ahead. (Warmer is a relative term: I am not predicting a heatwave.) Which means it’s time to check whether you have summer school uniform in the right sizes all ready to burst out on the first balmy day. And if you are going to do that quick check, you might as well run a full School Uniform Audit. Once you have made time to Take Stock of the uniform you do have in, why not go a step further and Tackle One Big Spend by planning how to fill the gaps in your school kit thriftily rather than panic-buying at full prices on the last day of the summer holidays?

 

It is possible to get school uniforms on the cheap without compromising on quality – check out outlet stores for quality brands; keep an eye open for sale rails; check out uniform stalls at school fayres for second hand items in good condition. White shirts are fine second hand, so long as they have not been washed so often they have developed that grey tone. Polo shirts depend on their original quality – some keep their colour and shape well, others become pale and saggy after a few months of washing. For items that don’t have to show the school crest, supermarkets are a cheap source but be warned: if you have more than one child at the same school and hope to hand down uniform, cheaper brands don’t last so well. Weigh up whether it will be cheaper in the long run to spend more on items that can be worn by two or more children. I find that second hand trousers are rarely worth the price but school shorts, skirts and dresses are worth buying – no knees to wear through. Second hand jackets vary – always check zips, cuffs and fabric for wear and tear.

Over the last few years I have saved us hundreds of pounds by buying the Tartan kids’ mandatory school blazers second hand. You can read about how to bag a bargain blazer here. Even if you buy all your uniform brand new, it is still cheaper to do that when you have time to shop around for the best prices. Don’t forget to think about stationery, lunch boxes, etc. too.

Get a plan in place now and you will be ready to take advantage of school uniform stalls at summer fayres, online offers and the racks of new uniform arriving in supermarkets in late June.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and a look at how to budget and banish bad laundry smells.

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.

 

April 16

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Work Your Receipts To Max Your Cash

Week 3 – April 16th, 2018

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

Reviewing your spending – taking time to go over your receipts or bank statements and work out where your money is going – saves you money by helping you stay in control of your own spending. But… could it help you save money in other ways too?

I have been reading 6 Simple Ways  To Save Money By Tracking Your Receipts on Wise Bread. It has given me some ideas for how to make more of this thrifty monthly habit. I love the idea of using my receipts to actually make money once I have used them to help me save money and spend less. Take a look and see which ideas you could try.

Think this all sounds like too much hassle? Set yourself a time limit – fifteen minutes, say. Nothing seems like too much effort when you only have to spend quarter of an hour on it. Or do it in the advert breaks while you watch TV. Tiny effort, big results.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on how to kit kids out for school on a budget.

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.

 

April 9

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Get Big Savings From A Tiny Garden

Week 2 – April 9th, 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.

It is Spring! Officially!! No matter what the view out your window might be telling you today… I used to find this a pretty blah month before I got into gardening. Now I notice all the tiny little signs of life around me with keen interest because they are the start of the countdown to gardening season. But they are also the sign that our lives are poised to expand back into the outdoors, after months cooped up inside. I need no encouragement to get outside but the Tartan Kids are a little harder to persuade. When Tartan Boy himself was very wee he needed no further persuasion than a scavenger hunt. He would do anything for a clipboard and a pencil. Tiny Tartan is a tougher nut to crack – he still gets the clipboard and pencil but he also gets a Smartie for each item on the list that he finds. Tartan Boy also gets one, which motivates him to help his little brother find some of the trickier items. Even in the great outdoors there is a place for bribery and corruption… You can find lots of different printable scavenger hunts for Springtime and beyond on the Tartan Thrifty Do Something board on Pinterest.

It’s time to start thinking about your garden if you have one, or your balcony, or even your windowsill. There is no space so tiny that you can’t grow something in it. A few years ago I set out to turn my very small concrete jungle into a tiny forest garden, so pretty you could eat it.  I spent several months building up layers, starting with trees and other tall structures to add height. The idea is to grow a garden that looks good enough to spend time in but that also saves you money by providing some food. In a patch our size it was never going to make us self-sufficient, but it could give us a lot of fresh herbs, and some fruit and  vegetables.

Since then, it has been flattened several times by winter storms, trashed by several months of building work inside the flat, then neglected while I devoted the next year to redecorating the flat. Even the worms in the worm bin turned up their tails and died during a temporary spell in a patch of sunlight. But the bones of it are still there – the trees took root, my perennials are pushing up through the soil as I speak and my herbs are thriving even though they do need a good trim. I am looking forward this summer to getting it back on track. What are your plans for your patch – however small – this year?

 

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and a suggestion about how to use the shopping you have already done to save you money.

 

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.

 

April 2

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Make Or Bake?

Week 1 – April 2nd, 2018

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

How does making something help you stay in control of your spending? Two reasons – one obvious, one less so. The obvious one is that making things yourself will allow you to get them without paying so much. The less obvious one is that it is fulfilling – and people who feel fulfilled are less likely to try to make themselves feel good with purchases.

In that sense, it doesn’t really matter what you make as long as you enjoy doing it – because just stopping yourself from “comfort shopping” is already saving you money. The important thing is to have a creative project of some sort on the go that you can dip in and out of through the month whenever time allows. The other important thing is to make sure that time does allow – so pick a project and then plan when you going to work on it. You can find lots of great ideas for crafty projects in It’s Always Autumn’s lovely list of 25 Amazing DIY Gifts People Will Actually Want.  Nobody will be checking to make sure you give your makes away though so why not take the chance to treat yourself for next to nothing?

(Disclaimer: I won’t be making any of these 25 makes this month. I will be building a fire-surround. I have never built a fire-surround before. I am not entirely sure that I actually can. This will either save me the cost of fitting a brand new (entirely off-budget) fireplace or drive me to comfort-shop to soothe myself after I fail to successfully build a fire-surround. I will, however, have fun trying – and that’s a good enough reason to Make Something.)

If you want a really quick make, though, you can’t beat a little simple home-baking. In the time it takes you to put on your shoes and head to a cafe you could knock together a whole batch of scones, for example. Making your own means you can enjoy them straight from the oven, warm and dripping with melted butter, for just a few pence. And you will still have some left to freeze and use for snacks later. Try the Tartan Family’s favourite recipe for Humiliating Scones. It makes a light, intensely cheesy scone that is delicious hot or cold. They were christened as Humiliating Scones when a very young Tartan Boy decided that scones, lovingly cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter by his mum, were a little beneath his dignity. The heart-shaped cutter got the heave but the scones have remained a family favourite.

I will be back next week with a fresh thrifty habits planner and some ideas for springtime family outings.

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.

March 27

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Set Spending Goals That Make You Happy

Week 4 – March 26th, 2018

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

I write a budget every month, and think of it as an arithmetic task. Something to keep my head busy but not my heart. If you are building a thriftier lifestyle, budgeting has got to be your foundation. But I have gradually come to understand that you do have to listen to your heart as well as your head when you plan how to spend your money.

The point of being thrifty is not just to make numbers add up. Ultimately it is about making your life better, about making you and yours happy. Avoiding debt, making sure you can afford to eat, building up savings just in case… These are all ways to make your life less miserable, more happy.

Trying to make yourself happier is always a good aim but is it one you think about when you are drawing up a budget? Personally, I think in terms of what I have to spend. I think about the boring stuff – utility bills, mortgage, car repairs… I treat them like they are foisted on me, not things I have actually chosen. But they are things we chose. And we chose them for a reason, even if it is lost in the mists of time. We chose them because we thought they would make us happier. When you draw up this month’s budget, try to think about how much happiness each item on it will bring you – and decide if that is good value or not, to you.

Read How To Buy Happiness to get you in the mood, or listen to Michael Norton’s TED talk on the same subject. I will be back next week with a recipe for Humiliating Scones. How can you resist?

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!

March 20

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Make Your Own Rhubarb Gin

Week 3 – March 19th, 2018

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

In fact, this is as good a time as any to remind yourself why you are reviewing your spending at all – and why storing all your receipts is a vital part of that process. Click here for more information. It is impossible to be truly in control of your own money if you don’t actually know where it is going so I consider these to be two of the most vital thrifty habits. At one point we even had a counter-top device for storing ours, split into categories. To be fair, this was not so much because we needed to be that thorough, as because we had found an old theatre ticket dispenser and needed an excuse to use it. The old ticket holders were just the right size for receipts and it looked lovely sitting in our kitchen. These days I keep them rammed into an old pencil case in a kitchen cupboard. And – quite honestly – some months I don’t even do that. I have been at this for so long that I can get through a month or two without watching it too tightly. If something changes in our circumstances though (moving house, changing job, major illness, going on holiday…) I get right back on it, because those are the times when our regular spending habits drift. When I find that our spending is unaccountably high one month I go right back to storing every receipt and reviewing our spending to pinpoint where our money is leaking from. If you are just setting out on your journey towards being thoroughly thrifty, don’t skip these ones!

This is also a good time to make rhubarb preserves, as pink stems unfurl vivid green leaves in forgotten corners of garden up and down the land. I have an enduring passion for rhubarb. In my childhood it was quite normal in springtime for children to be handed a cup of sugar and a stick of rhubarb as a sweet treat. We would dip the sharp rhubarb sticks in the sugar and then bite off the frosted stem tip – a divine mixture of sour and sweet that was wonderful on the taste-buds but terrible for teeth. It has been almost forty years since I last tried this, and my mouth is still watering just thinking about it. If you want a slightly more sophisticated (and long-lasting) way to enjoy sugary rhubarb, try turning it into jam with the River Cottage rhubarb jam recipe or make your own rhubarb gin with The Craft Gin Club’s recipe. It is incredibly easy to make and requires no cooking or specialist equipment. If you want something more savoury, try Delicious Magazine’s idiot-proof rhubarb chutney recipe.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and advice on how to buy happiness.

 

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.

 

March 12

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Get Your Money’s Worth From Your Council Tax

Week 2 – March 12th, 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.

When I first began Tartan Thrifty I wanted to give myself a system that made sure I used all the strategies that had helped me save money in the past, all the time. I spent ages listing everything we had ever found useful, and deciding what made the cut, what didn’t, and how often each strategy needed to be used. And that’s how the Thrifty Habits were born. This week’s habit – Try A New Free Or Cheap Activity – was not on the list. Largely because most of my thriftier lifestyle choices had been embraced before I was a parent and understood the vital necessity of having an arsenal of affordable activities up your sleeve if you are to avoid being shanghaied into spending your entire month’s food budget on one outing to a soft-play centre just because the kids were clamouring and you didn’t have a better idea.

I wanted to develop some better ideas.

The only problem was… the month I first introduced this habit to our routine, we had zero fun money. Whatever we did had to be completely free. And that’s when it dawned on me that, maybe, we were already paying for something the kids could do through our Council Tax. I like getting the benefit of what we have already paid for only a tiny bit less than I enjoy getting something for free, so I looked it up. You can find out how much of an eye-opener this was in Getting Thrifty With The Council Tax. Since then we have enjoyed hundreds of days out that we were paying for anyway.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and some ideas for preserving rhubarb. I have never preserved rhubarb: if I have rhubarb, I want it in a crumble and I want it now. So I am hoping next week’s post will finally  make me develop some self control…

 

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.