Monday, 28 January 2008


After a reluctant trawl around my local shopping centre yesterday (I badly need some comfortable shoes - didn't find any) I realised that, although we are at the very end of January, there are still plenty of Christmas gifty things in the shops - all reduced (although not as reduced as they should be in my opinion) and waiting for a good home. I have a theory that as it is soon going to be Valentine's day, the shops will want to clear out all their Christmas bits - so get down there quick and bag a bargain!

Friday, 25 January 2008


If you don’t know where all your money is going (particularly after an expensive time like Christmas) then keeping track of every penny you spend by jotting it down every day for a month (I use my diary) is a very useful exercise. You’ll learn a great deal about where your money goes each week - especially if you get yourself take-away coffees, muffins and sandwiches every day! Economising on even one thing every day may just help you get that Christmas credit card debt paid off all the quicker.

Thursday, 24 January 2008


Okay, so you’ve worked out how much you can spend on Christmas (2 times your monthly disposable income), but just where will you put this money? Well, every little bit helps, so you will want to get some interest on it (well, I would, anyway!).

So, you can decide early on in the year to dump your disposable monthly cash in a savings account for 2 months running, then just leave it to gather interest, or you could divide the sum between 10 months and put a bit in every month – it’s up to you and depends on whether you think you may have any other unexpected costs. Of course if something untoward happens you can always draw it out again – no, don’t even think it!

So whichever way you save for Christmas (or even that holiday you so badly need) where are you going to put your money?

It’s fairly straightforward – if you have less than £3000 per year to save (£3600 from next April), you can put it in a mini cash ISA (Individual Savings Account) in any bank or building society. This will mean that you will pay no tax on the interest. You are only allowed to hold one ISA and are identified by your national insurance number.

Typically, online ISAs pay higher interest rates – but both telephone, branch and online account rates vary and can be anything up to 6.26% (Money Supermarket today’s rates) so do your research and take your pick. If you leave £500 in an ISA for 1 year at 6.25% at the end of that year your £500 will have become £531.25 – which may not sound like much – but at least you haven’t had to do anything for it!

More info

Sunday, 20 January 2008


This is a foolproof way to be wealthier in 2010 and be able to afford Christmas 2010 without debt in January 2011 – if you smoke, give up!

Yes, I know you’ve heard it all before and perhaps your New Year’s resolutions have already faltered, but just listen to the money facts (and I’m not even going to get started on the dangers of smoking).

If you smoke 10 cigarettes a day and give up now, by Christmas you could have nearly £1000* in the bank! (And there are other savings to be made – your life insurance premiums should be cheaper as a non-smoker, too).

Just think what you could do with all that money!

If you need help to stop smoking have a look at Quit (a UK charity that helps smokers give up) or the NHS Smokefree website with local info to help you give up.

*based on an average price of £5.23 per pack of 20 cigarettes.

Friday, 18 January 2008


  • Plan your week’s meals, check your fridge and freezer before you go, make a list and stick to those items only. Your shopping trip will take less time and you’ll spend less money.
  • One exception to the advice above would be if you saw any reduced food items you often use, that could be used at once or frozen for later.
  • When you buy usually “long-dated” foods, like yoghourts, always check the date - you can get caught out – sometimes there are only 2 or 3 days left on them and you may stick them in the fridge and not eat them for 4 or 5 days, by which time they may be uneatable and have to be thrown away. Wasting food is wasting money.
  • Always take a calculator with you – keeping a check on the running total will make sure you keep within your budget. You’d have to if you were paying cash!
  • Buy supermarket “own” brands. They are usually cheaper because less money has been spent on their advertising, “branding” and packaging. If there is an own brand item that you really don’t like, but that you need every week – e.g. baked beans, be prepared to economise on something else to “fund” the more expensive brand that you prefer.
  • Before you leave the shop check your receipt. Check that offers such as “BOGOFs” (buy one, get one free) and 3 for 2s have been charged correctly. Check that reduced items have been correctly charged. Go straight to the customer service desk if you find an error. You may get a refund of twice the difference on incorrect pricing!
  • Check the dates on any coupons and money off vouchers before you go - and use them only if the product is something reasonably priced (i.e. not a luxury item) that you would usually buy.
  • If you have Tesco Clubcard vouchers try to use them on Deals offers (and not your Tesco shopping) as they are worth 4 times the face value used this way.
  • Supermarkets use all kinds of sneaky ideas to make us spend our money – remember, the more expensive brands may be up at our eye-level and cheaper, value brand equivalents down on lower shelves.
  • Don’t go shopping when you are hungry – you will spend more and possibly even buy extra snacks to eat on the way home! If you do have to go shopping on the way home from work, try eating a largish apple or banana before starting your shop.

Do all this and you should see a difference in your supermarket spending – remember a pound saved is a pound earned!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


This is a really cheap recipe which can be varied and added to – depending on what you have*. It is very filling and can be made for under £3 in total (using cheaper supermarket value ingredients). The basic recipe for 4 people is:

1 large onion chopped
2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 eating apple** peeled, cored and chopped roughly into1 centimetre pieces
1 jar of curry sauce*** (around 400-500gms)
100gms (4 ozs) sultanas
2 tins of baked beans in tomato sauce (415g size)
2 tablespoons of brown pickle (something like Branston) if you have it.
200 gms (about 8 ozs) rice washed, then cooked according to packet instructions.

  • Cook rice according to the instructions on the packet.
  • Meanwhile, fry the onion in the oil or butter in a large saucepan, until soft, keeping covered.
  • Add the apple and stir, cooking for a further 5 mins.
  • Add the curry sauce, scraping the jar out well! Stir the curry.
  • Put a couple of centimetres of water in the empty jar, screw lid back on and shake well, add this water to the curry mixture.
  • Add the baked beans, pickle and sultanas and stir well.
  • Keep on a low heat for around 15-20 mins.

To serve drain rice, divide between 4 plates and heap the curry into the centre of each.

* You can add any left over, cooked vegetables to this curry – just stir them in half way through the cooking time.

** If you have a slightly soft and wrinkly old apple lurking at the bottom of your fridge, this is the ideal recipe to use it up in!

To stretch this curry a bit further, add a tin of chopped tomatoes (or chop a tin of tomatoes yourself) stirring in half way through cooking.

*** Try and stock up with jars of curry sauce when they are on offer.

More Frugal Recipes!

Monday, 14 January 2008


Petrol costs anything from 101.9p - 103.9p per litre within a 5 mile radius of my home - for those of us that still think in "pre metric" that's around £5 per gallon!

Yes, petrol prices are going up and no, we don’t seem to be able to do anything about it – or can we? Just go to this site, enter your post code and sign up for a regular weekly email which will tell you the price of the cheapest petrol at your nearest petrol stations. Of course, it’s not worth driving somewhere to save money on petrol, but it is worth calling in somewhere to fill up if it’s on the way to or from work, for example. Those small savings will add up over a year!

Sunday, 13 January 2008


If January sees you strapped for cash and wondering where the next penny is coming from – take a look at this site – it’s fairly simple and quick to enter a few details and see if you are missing out on any benefits that you are entitled to. You never know – just a few pounds more a week could make all the difference!

Saturday, 12 January 2008


If you’ve been watching TV at all this week, you can’t fail to have noticed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver campaigning for free range chicken. Hugh’s Chicken Out website, gives simple instructions as to how to stretch that chicken into 3 tasty meals, serving 4-5 people, with very little waste.

Meal 1 is your roast, meal 2 is chicken risotto and for meal 3 there are several options; fried chicken with potatoes and anchovies, pasta with chicken, bacon, peas and cream or french beans with tapenade and chicken.

Frugal, tasty and cheap even after paying the little bit extra for a free range bird!

More here

Sunday, 6 January 2008


Well, here it is – 6th January 2008 – and how much have you spent so far? I have spent the grand total of £9.31 on the following:

  • A really nice cream bath towel from the charity shop (£1).
  • £5 on postage to post a book I’ve sold on Amazon (for much more).
  • £2.98 on 3 books from the charity shops (to sell on Amazon).
  • 0.33p on a first class stamp to send a birthday card.

I know all this because I’ve kept a record of it in my diary - yes, well, you may think that’s sad, but I’m saving up for something and writing down everything I spend each day concentrates the mind wonderfully!

Here are some things you can cut out in order to save money:

  • The January sales – just don’t go –it’ll soon be spring – who needs more last season’s winter clothes???
  • Those expensive take-away coffees – get up earlier and make a flask.
  • Take-away lunches – ditto – make your own lunch.
  • Cancel your gym membership – yes, I know we all need to shape up this time of year, but you can put on your favourite CD and dance around for an hour – or go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes everyday – much cheaper!
  • Stop buying chocolate – it undoes all your efforts at shaping up!
  • Stop using the plastic – draw a small amount of cash out every week and see how long you can make it last.

Saturday, 5 January 2008


However much you want to spend on food, drink and presents at Christmas nothing, nothing, nothing about Christmas is worth getting into debt for. Spending does not equal happiness (especially when the bills arrive in January). After all, it really is the thought that counts – and the thought that counts with me is that the credit card companies and banks won’t be making a single penny out of me at Christmas (or any other time of the year!).

Debt advice specialists are advising this simple way of affording Christmas:

  • Work out all your monthly outgoings (mortgage/rent, bills, food, petrol, fares, etc.)
  • Work out what you have left per month (this is your “disposable income”).
  • Double your monthly disposable income - and that is the total amount you can spend on next Christmas. So if you have £100 disposable income left every month – you only have £200 IN TOTAL to spend on next Christmas!
  • For 2 months put that sum away in a savings account. Only use this money for Christmas!
  • Make a list of everyone you have to buy for in a small notebook you keep with you. Start looking out for presents now in sales and in charity shops. Note down the price of anything you buy and keep a running total – this way you will be sure not to exceed your budget for Christmas.

If this sounds harsh, then the alternative is even harsher – getting deeper into debt every year – and, worse having absolutely nothing to show for it!

So give it a try – especially if you are one of the 4.4 million who are still paying for Christmas 2009!