Voucher Codes And Frugal Parenting

I can kick myself if I think about all the years I spent shopping on line and never once knew about voucher codes and discount sites.I spent years paying full price for things, when really, it turns out, there was no need.

Often times, especially if you’re buying from a small business or an independent retailer, you won’t find any codes online, but it’s always worth trying as larger companies often offer discount codes with specific websites, especially those geared to parents. 

Tip when searching for voucher codes: Have a look at the website, i.e. Marks & Spencer and see what they call the box where you’d type in the discount code (usually on the checkout page, so you’ll have to have something in your virtual basket). If they call it coupon, search for Company Name Coupon code, if they call it discount, search for a discount code, if they call it a promotional code, as M&S do, search for promotional code as the company will often offer the code using the same terminology as their website requires it. 

Say I want to see if there’s a free delivery code – I loathe paying delivery for anything, and will pay more for a product that comes with free delivery, rather than paying for postage! So, whether I’m ordering food, drinks and groceries or clothes or even homewares from M&S, I’ll simply Google something along the lines of “Marks and Spencer Promotional Code Free Delivery”. One of the first websites that comes up is MyVoucherCodes .co.uk, which is exactly what you’d expect from the name: a listing of current voucher codes that can be used at that vendor. Again, different websites receive different offers, and many will have exclusive offers specifically for their readers. It’s worth doing a quick scan of the results in your Google search – obviously you don’t want to spend two hours finding a code that’s going to save you £2.

If you are a savvy bargain hunter and deal shopper, you may be rolling your eyes at me right now, but I know so many people who still pay full price for everything they buy. I rarely do, so I’m  hoping sharing this with you will help you save a bit of money here and there on the things you were going to buy anyway.

Making Money At Home (Part 2)

In part one of my guide to Money Saving at Home, I ran through a bunch of simple changes that together could add up to hundreds of pounds saved every month without any significant sacrifices or much real impact on your quality of life.

It’s all about reducing unnecessary spending, making sure you’re getting the best possible value for things you are spending money on, and eliminating waste.

However, clutter around the home represents another form of waste: wasted space. Most of us are guilty of hoarding to some degree, a point that has come home to us in particular recently with the arrival of a new face in the household a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday I wrote about saving money in your home. Today I want to look at a different approach to the same thing – making money with what you have at home. You can’t sell off everything – well, unless you are trying to – but many of us have a lot of clutter, and lots of stuff we really don’t need anymore.  That can all come in handy when you need a little cash flow boost.

  • About The PlayPennies AuthorsLook at your hobbies and see what you could turn to profit: sell paintings at a local coffee shop, grow something in your garden and join a co-op to swap food, use stamping to make cards, or beads to make necklaces – whatever you enjoy doing, look at it and see if you can turn it into a little bit of profit.
  • Getting rid of unused or unwanted clutter not only frees up valuable space, which is valuable enough on its own, but can also put some very real cash in your pocket, which could make all the difference in the world if you’re going through some tough times financially.Decluttering isn’t difficult or complicated, either: simply look around your house and see what you don’t need and don’t use. See what you can do without and what you wont even miss. As people we’re surprisingly good at blocking out problems we can’t solve, to look past, around or even through piles of clutter we don’t know what to do with. The trick is to take off these filtered specs, see things for what they are and be disciplined enough to say goodbye to all those things you’ve always said you’ll use “one day”, but never have.

    Look through toys, baby clothes and equipment and see what you can sell on ebay, at your local NCT Nearly New Sale, or Mama Markets. Use social media to find a local selling group (we have one on Facebook for our local area). If there isn’t one, start one.

    Look at your DVD and music collection, and use a website such as MusicMagpie to declutter and make some money too. I managed to sell my old dvds with musicmagpie which meant the pile on top of the DVD player is now in our DVD folders, and the unwatched films have a new life elsewhere.

It may not solve all your problems, but clearing out space gives you room to breathe and think and getting a cheques in the post won’t hurt either – even if you use that money as a ‘bonus’ to do something nice for yourself and your family, giving you the energy and motivation to continue being thrifty in other areas.

And I think that’s an important point – compare money saving to dieting. If you go ‘cold turkey’ you might find yourself binging a few days later, undoing all the good you’ve done to that point. Rather focus on specific areas, and go from there making money saving a way of life, rather than a crash diet.

Those are some of my ‘top’ tips for saving money and if you can, making money, and getting through the difficult months.

Now please, share some of yours with me?

Money Saving At Home (Part 1)

I have mentioned before that money is a little tight around these parts at the moment, since my hubby hasn’t been working full time for a few months now. I realise that looking around me, many people are facing the same or similar circumstances, and there’s a repossessions warehouse near where we live that’s recently acquired more land to build extra units – which can’t bode well for the area, or the economy… or in fact the families affected.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ways of tightening those imaginary belt straps, and realise that I’ve written a lot for others on money saving, but never for myself. So here are some of the money saving ideas we’ve implemented in our home. Part one will focus on ways of reducing your monthly outgoings, while I’ll look at some ways of generating cash from things already in your home in a follow-up post.

I would love to hear some of your own ideas, too – they may help me, or someone else, feel a bit less financial pressure in these tough times.

Admin DayDepending on just how dire your financial circumstances actually are, you’ve probably already covered the first wave of belt-tightening exercises worth thinking about: you’ve given up your morning cup of coffee from whichever local vendor you support, saving you up to £60 a month on coffee. Then there’s the muffin you’re no longer having, which is saving you another £40 a month.
You’re not slipping a bottle or two of wine into your weekly shop just for the sake of it, and you’ve cut down on evenings out, or imposed a firm spending limit. You’ve probably also reduced how often you go out for dinner, while take-away menus are now recycling fodder and you do your grocery shop with a shopping list and calculator in hand.

So now we’re looking at more hardcore savings, right?

  • The first thing to do is take out your bank statements for the last three months, and go through them. Look for anything you don’t recognise. I did that and found a £9.99 a month subscription for an online movie website I hadn’t used in over a year, but was still paying for.
  • I also found a payment for home insurance for a house we haven’t lived in for more than a year (despite my having cancelled it). This kind of thing may be refundable, in some circumstances, so look into that. Even if not, it reduces your outgoings going forward, in this case to the tune of £15 a month.
  • Make sure to do it for all accounts too, not just your main bank account. For example, I found a credit card we hadn’t used in some months had racked up a bit of money owing again, thanks to payment protection insurance I wasn’t even aware I’d taken out. I cancelled that, and in fact the credit card itself, as it had a way too high an interest rate for my liking.

A morning’s effort saved us almost £30 a month.

  • Next, look at your outgoings, such as gas, electricity, water and so on. You can use a website like uSwitch to compare energy prices , home communications, mobile phone packages and insurance prices. According to uSwitch, you could save over £1,000 a year – which is obviously the best case scenario, but still, any saving is good news.
  • Groceries represent a huge outgoing for most families, and I’ve been chatting to people recently to find out what they spend on food. The definition of ‘necessities’ varies from family to family, and ‘essentials’ are as changeable as the people who use them, so it’s difficult to set down a one-size-fits-all spending target.For ourselves, if we can keep our shopping to between £60 and £80 a week, I’m happy. Considering that includes things like washing tablets/powder, cleaners and toiletries, it’s a bit of a tough ask at times! That’s for a family of 2 adults and 1 eating child. I’ve had an ask around on Twitter, and with a few exceptions, families like ours do seem to spend the same as us. One family had their bill reduced to £45-odd a week, and another admitted to around £90 a week.

We have found two things that have made a huge difference to our shopping outlay (interestingly, the £45 family do the same things with regard to food!):

  • First – getting an organic food box delivered once a week, with all our vegetables for the week. On a rare occasion we might need to top up with some onions, potatoes or similar staples from the supermarket, and because we’re selective fruit eaters, we buy fruit as and when we need it, but for the most part, our weekly food shop now doesn’t include any vegetables.Our organic food delivery is full of locally produced, seasonal vegetables, and we’re often exposed to things we wouldn’t normally have picked off the shelf, which means we’ve discovered wonderful new foods as a result.

    Just how is that money saving? Well, the vegetables in those boxes last two weeks, on average. The bagged salads will easily last a week in the fridge. The same thing from the supermarket is generally wilted within a day or two. Vegetable bought from the supermarket rarely last the week. So, our food wastage is significantly reduced and we don’t throw out as much as we did in the past.

    Also, because we don’t have to buy new veggies every two to three days, it cuts down on the number of times we head to the supermarket in the first place, meaning I don’t spend the £10 – £15 on spontaneous buys that I used to probably two to three times a week.

  • Second – learn to cook what you have, store what you don’t eat, and eat through the kitchen for one week a month. What does that mean? It means prepare the food you have on hand, and learn to create recipes from what’s in your kitchen.This can be really hard at first, and rather hit and miss, especially with new ingredients, but practice makes perfect. When you need three carrots for dinner, chop all six and put the other three in the freezer. (Label it so you don’t defrost the grated swede thinking it’s mashed potato…. Trust me. It’s nowhere near the same thing in a shepherd’s pie!)

    One week a month – probably the last week – eat through the kitchen: open up your freezer and see what’s there and work on clearing it out. Look at the tins in the cupboard, the pasta and so on, and eat it all before it goes past it’s best, and you throw it out anyway.

It takes a little planning and a little extra effort, and sometimes imaginative cooking and gracious diners, but saving £60 odd pounds on that last week’s grocery bill is a huge saving at the end of the month.

What have you done around the house to help you save money?

Next time: How to make little pots of money to top you up through the roughest patches.

For great posts and ideas from the Natural Parents Network on money saving, look at the list on this page.

Tuiss – Energy Saving Blinds

*This is a sponsored post*

Our last house in London was a lovely place. It was large, by London standards, and it was light and airy. Unfortunately in the winter, that was also it’s problem: it was very, very cold. Considering how cold it has been this winter, I was very glad we weren’t there as without double glazing, it must have been freezing.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know I’m pretty keen on environmentally friendly living, so when I was approached to write about energy saving blinds, I thought it a good opportunity to find out more, because now that I’m not returning to full time work, any chance of saving money works for me!
So, what are money saving blinds?

Well, Tuiss blinds come in three energy saving choices – 9%, 12% and 15%. According to their website, “The installation of these blinds can reduce the total household energy usage by up to 9%, 12% or 15%, a huge benefit when even the best performing windows lose five times as much heat as the same area of wall.”

Apparently, the plastic backing on the back of the blinds also reflects the heat of the sun back out before it has a chance to convert to heat, causing sun facing rooms to be cooler.

Heat loss through windows is greatest at night so pull these thermal blinds down, conserve energy and save money to boot.

The 15% blinds can save you up to £133 a year, 12% can save up to £110 a year, and the 9% blinds can save you up to £77 a year.

As for the blinds themselves, they are 100% polyester and has been especially designed and coated to be thermally efficient. The manufacture of the fabric isn’t particularly environmentally friendly but once the blinds are put to use they bring real eco benefit by reducing energy consumption – unfortunately I can’t find a comparison to say how long they have to be in use to cancel out the effect of their manufacturing.

Packaging for Tuiss blinds is as environmentally friendly as possible while still protecting your blinds. All of the cardboard used is recycled, the sticky tape uses a waterbased glue and the bubble wrap is biodegradable.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has used energy saving blinds. Have you found them to save you money? Do leave a comment and let me know!

Why Breastfeeding Should Make Sense

Before I was pregnant I knew nothing about babies or breastfeeding. Honestly, it was Greek to me. Well, no, because I understand some Greek. But it was a whole other world.

Since having my little girl 11 months ago, however, everything has changed. So for just a few minutes here, I want to ignore what I’ve since learned about the health benefits of breastfeeding and ignore the nutritional value of formula versus breast milk and focus on the practicalities of breastfeeding in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way.

I know some people medically cannot breastfeed and everyone has a right to make their own decisions on how to feed their children, and I’m fine with that, but it really fascinates me that anyone would choose formula feeding over breastfeeding for two simple reasons: effort and money.
Read more: Why Breastfeeding Should Make Sense

10 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Money

My husband, nine-month old daughter and I have been travelling around for nine weeks all told this summer. We have camped, stayed in hotels and cabins and for one week, with family. Here are some of the top things we have done to stretch our budget as far as possible:

Read more: 10 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Money

January’s Tortures Life Detox

January has always been a detox month for me. I can’t remember where it started, or when, but for a pretty long time now, January has been where I made up for the excesses of December by spending no money, drinking no alcohol and eating healthily. It’s not a resolution, so much, as a habit.

Read more: January’s Tortures Life Detox