Friday, 30 March 2012

Movies for £1 per person

Going to the cinema is something that we like doing BUT these days it is normally confined to someones birthday or other special occasion.  With 5 people in our immediate family it can cost over £40 to go and see the latest release.  Luckily these days most cinemas offer deals (usually midweek) when you can have a reduced rate.
Our local cinema (part of the Cineworld chain) has a good deal every Saturday where they show one or two children's films for £1 per person.  They are not always the latest of releases but for us that doesn't matter so much.  Today they are reshowing Puss In Boots (part of the Shrek series) and A is desperate to go.  In the past we have taken the whole of the R and A's class (about 18 people it was a tiny village school) for a cheaper alternative to somewhere like a soft play place for a birthday party; we then took everyone to a pizza place (they let us bring our own birthday cake) and it was still less than booking a soft play. often has details of this kind of "days out" deal, along with lots of other good money saving advice and it is free.  The forum is also packed with lots of different boards and literally millions of tips and whatever your situation everyone is very supportive so take a look and subscribe to the email for the latest deals right to your inbox.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Growing your own

Having a notoriously black thumb (despite having an honours degree in Biology!) this is one area where in the past I have spent money out and had virtually nothing in return.  However, in the spirit of if you don't try you'll never learn how we decided to give it a go in pots in the back garden again this year.
So far I have spent:
£10 (mini plastic greenhouse from Wilko)
£4 seeds from Wilko (buy 2 get third free)
£1 seeds from Lidl (about 30p a pack)
approx £15
One of the ones I am curious about are salad leaves seed mats from Wilko.  These are a pack of 2 mats which look like coffee filters with seeds stuck in between the two layers.  In theory all you go is put these in an 8 inch pot already filled with compost and sprinkle a little more soil on top.  All you have to do then is water and wait.  Leaves can be picked when the plants are about 2 inches tall and you can take up to 4 harvests from each plant.  The cost of the packet (without the offer) was £1.48 which is about what you can pay for bagged salad at the supermarket anyway.  Should be good for OH's sandwiches instead of greenhouse tomatoes. We shall see what happens...

Check your interest rates on your savings!

It is easy to assume that if you are putting your savings into an ISA then you are getting the best interest rate you can BUT it is always worth checking to see if 1) your ISA is the best rate and 2) there is not another saving account paying better interest.
This year we have swapped to an online ISA (giving us 1% more ) but I have found that I can get a 12 month deal (as a new customer) with ING that gets me 3.03% - that's 0.78% more than my online ISA.  True after this the rate is pants but I can use next years ISA allowance at the end of next March if another deal does not present itself!
So, is it difficult to compare all these savings accounts - nope; is free and presents the info in tabular form for ease of use.  Click here to go to the savings part of the site and check how many other pennies you could be getting on your hard earned savings.

Monday, 26 March 2012


Well we have finally had our first car boot sale.  In glorious sunshine my OH stood for about 6 hours selling most of the stuff we had packed into our people carrier whilst I was on babysitting duty at home.  We had lots of kitchenalia (mainly duplicates from Germany) plus toys and books which we sold for pennies.  The best deal of the day was a whole reindeer skin (OH's from a holiday in Norway decades ago) which went for £40. In total he raised £179!
I also cashed in various other things this week and raised another £236.
At the end of this week I will be able to tally up my expenditure for the month and work out those hidden savings (i.e. the ones from choosing a cheaper brand at the supermarket); it is easy to see the ones that come from vouchers and multibuys but overall savings depend on whether I have also stocked up on too many other things!
One of the things I stocked up on recently was cheap sandwich bags from Morrisons.  Their value range ones are 50 bags for 42p.  Sainsburys ones are normally 60 bags for £1.40.  I use about 1070 of these for OH and the kids lunches across the year.  Sainsburys would cost me £24.97/year Morrisons value ones cost me £8.99 - another  saving of £15.98/year.
Savings to date:£31.88+ £236.44+£179.31(carboot)+£50(float)=£497.73
0.71% of goal

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Juice for school lunches, a price book example.

If you spend anytime round the hardcore American style thrifting sites you will come across pricebooks. The basic premise is that there is often a slight variation in price amongst the big supermarkets and so by buying  at the one which works out cheapest for a particular item, rather than say the supermarket that is the most convenient, you can save pounds across the year.
Of course in reality it is not possible to go to visit several supermarkets each time you shop; time, and (especially in the UK) fuel, mean that a little compromise sometimes has to be made.  However for those items which store well it is worthwhile knowing which store to stock up in.
In order to do this you need to be a little organised and keep a record of prices and stores for the products you buy together with the unit price; this allows comparisons between different sized packs - and will give you a baseline to see if that special offer on a substitute product is still value for money.  Lowtech implementations of this are just a notepad and pencil; or you can go all up market and use a computer spreadsheet or even smartphone.  Adding a date as well as a store name and unit price can also allow you to spot any seasonal variation in prices.

So can it save you significant amounts of money?

As an example, I live in a rural area and so have to travel to the supermarket; the ones I have to choose from (in order of distance) are Sainsburys, Morrisons, Tesco and Adsa.  I have three children who will (from September) need cartons of fruit juice in their packed lunches.

Since living in Germany Capri Sun fruit juice is the one they would choose - these come in a pack of 5
Sainsburys -£2.81 ; cost per drink = £2.81/5 = 56p each
Morrisons -£?
Asda - £2.48 ; cost per drink =£2.48/5= 50p each
Tescos -£1.50; cost per drink =£1.50/5=30p each

Now across the year I buy 3 (kids) x 5 (school days per week) x40 (school weeks per year) = 600 drinks
By buying the CapriSun at Tescos rather than Sainsburys for one year I could save:
56-30 = 26 pence per drink
600 *0.26= £157.20 per school year!

Even when you factor in the additional cost of travelling to Tescos (8 miles away)  rather than Sainsburys (3 miles away) that is a significant saving across the year on just one item without even changing brands; It costs about £2 more (round trip) to go to Tescos rather than Sainsburys, so if I stocked up when I went I could maximise the savings I make, especially as the trip to Tescos is always combined with something else these days anyway to justify the deisel.

However I can go even better than that.
If I substitute the supermarkets own small cartons of juice instead of Capri Sun (which even my children agree tastes just the same, we did our own taste test to be sure)

Sainsburys (pack of 3) 89p - 30p per drink
Morrisons, Asda, Tescos (pack of 3) 45p
(To be fair Sainsburys own is not the basics one.)

Now if we do the comparison for 600 drinks at 15p each instead of 56p each
saving per drink =56-15p per drink=41p
600*41p=£246 a year!

If you are not sure if all this hassle is for you (and lets face it we can all just want an easy life from time to time) the website will do the hard work for you across the stores Asda, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tescos, and Ocado.  You can use it on an item by item basis, or type in a whole shopping list (if you can't be faffed with driving all over the place) and compare the bottom line on the whole basket.  I am told it is clever enough to even suggest cheaper substitutions.
Right, I'm off to work out other things I buy on a regular basis......

Savings- refund on Nursery fees (closure due to illness)£9+ £5.00 (small change jar)

Monday, 19 March 2012

Pinteresting Recipes:crockpot bacon and cheese potatoes

The groceries part of the budget allows the most wriggle room for us saving normal expenditure without compromising anything.  Normally we spend about £150-£200 per week; for a family of 5 plus one cat for all meals including lunches and drinks. Toiletries and household stuff also comes out of this budget but I tend to stock up when I can (hence the £50 a week variation!).
Whilst one of the ways we can save is by buying our usual fare when it is on offer, the best way to drive the bill down is to combine this with substituting cheaper recipes for some of our more expensive ones.
Pinterest is great for inspiration in this area and this post from Stockpiling Moms caught my eye.  Cheap ingredients and I use the slowcooker which is better on fuel than the oven; win-win.

Although I plan to try it pretty much as is if it works OK I guess you could substitute cooked chicken or sausage for the bacon.

Savings to date: £10.50 (petrol voucher) + £7.38 (multibuys on groceries)= £17.88

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fuel Prices - can we afford cars in the UK any more?

Fuel prices in the UK are at the highest ever.  The Government is under huge pressure to reduce the duty on fuel by even 1p per litre and the cost per litre continues to climb ever nearer £1.50 per litre for diesel (in my case).  With a whopping £250 per month going on fuel for myself alone - never mind OH we are in fuel poverty from Diesel, not counting other amenities.
So what can I do to reduce this bill.
Obvious but cut unnecessary journeys.  A round trip to the supermarket for something I have forgotten is a staggering 24 miles.  Or if I think of it in terms of fuel up in smoke £4.80 (assuming 20p per mile to make the calculations easier!).  There is also the saving that you make from not buying the extra things that the supermarkets tempt you to buy when you pop in for "just a loaf"; my pop to the shops trips usually cost about £15 a time.....
Cleaning unnecessary stuff out of the car.  Less weight less fuel used.
One of the tips often touted is to never fill up the fuel tank (again less weight less fuel).  This is one I won't be using as modern diesels have an additive that gets squirted into the fuel to make it burn cleaner every time you open the filler cap.  It is calibrated to assume that a full tank goes in each time and at about £50 per litre for 4-5 litres is expensive to have to refill; not to mention that the particle filter or the cat will get knackered too and could land me with a garage bill for 1000's.
Driving style.  "Driving like a saint" can cut the cost per litre dramatically.  Basically only press the accelerator when you really have to (hills are wonderful things providing you are going down them!) and think ahead, if the car can slow under engine breaking without you pressing the break pedal that is more effective too.
In the wake of such high petrol prices some supermarkets are offering a few pence off per litre when you spend over the threshold amount.  One that was most recent was Morrisons where a huge 15p litre was in return for a £60 spend, hopefully this time limited offer is one they will repeat.  In my case this equates to about £10.50 if the tank is nearly empty and is well worth having providing that I needed to send the £60 in the first place.  This is the voucher that I am off to cash in today and will be the first savings to go into my new account.  Over the course of the month I intend to write down other fuel costs and anything saved on the £250 monthly budget will go into the savings earned.

savings to date=£0

Need an Income to get an Income

Since my son was diagnosed as autistic last year we have been startled by the statistic that only 1 in 6 autistic adults in the UK manage well enough in the community to hold down a full time job.  Pretty frightening when you consider that many typical offspring also cannot afford to leave home because of student debt and high house prices etc.    So what do you do when faced with the possibility of financially supporting your children not only for  your lifetime but for theirs as well?  Add to this the double whammy that supporting a children with autism needs a lot more extra time for visits to therapists etc. (not to mention a preschooler thrown into the mix)  and having a standard employer becomes a nightmare.
What I need is a passive income - that is one which will bring in the pennies but not require  the effort of standard working hours or putting it another way earning money whilst I do other things- the holy grail for many I suspect!
I have decided that the long-term plan should be to become a landlord and  therefore be able to pay a management firm to manage a property for me - very little effort on my part so it ticks the "passive income" box, but fiendishly expensive to start.  Lets face it I can't buy a house outright (no real savings!) I can't get a mortgage (no income so not a risk the mortgage companies will take) so a lost cause perhaps?
Never one to give up at the first hurdle I have set myself the challenge of saving £70K over the next 10 years by unconventional means; car boot sales,e-bay,etsy, and hopefully other sources as and when we find them.  All this without compromising the quality of life we have now!  Maybe just for once I have bitten off more than I can chew - we shall see!

savings to date  - £0