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.

Birthdays, Presents, And The Great Taboo

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘birthdays’? I think of themes, of décor, of food, a table full of sweet treats and being super excited – me, that is. I’m sure Ameli will be more into it this year too.  And of course, presents. As a Blogging Mama, we receive more than our fair share of goodies through the letter box, and my kids think it’s Christmas every other day. I’ve been struggling with this for the past six months or so, and have drastically reduced the toy-related reviews that I’ve been doing, because honestly, the fact that my child had zero appreciation for her toys really bugged me.

If you get something fun every couple of days, you’re not going to appreciate the big things, like birthdays and Christmas, are you? Blogging and a bit of savvy organising have meant that for Ameli’s birthday this year, I’ve bought and popped a dolls house in the cupboard. However,  I’ve been able to get her a gorgeous play kitchen for her birthday now, so I’ll put the doll’s house away for Christmas, I think. She always makes a beeline for kitchens and the related toys at other people’s houses, and she’s going to be over the moon.

Presents are a sensitive issue with a lot of people though; something of a taboo. I was speaking to a friend recently who has the largest collection of wooden toys, yet her mother-in-law will arrive with some large, plastic monstrosity at every visit. These toys often ‘disappear’.  Since you have to put up with the toys once the visitors leave, I totally understand her reasoning, and have done the same on an occasion or two.

Right now, I’m wondering about Ameli’s third birthday. Do I give people a list of toys that we’d like? Something that can complement what she has – like furniture for her dolls house or pots and pans for the new play kitchen? Or do we ask for Amazon vouchers? (I love Amazon vouchers, because then I can buy things we need as we need them. I receive a few pounds worth for Aviya’s babyshower and a few weeks ago used them to buy new nappy wraps, because she needed them. That’s a gift I was grateful for, and I think of our friends every time I put a new one on her!)

Rather than a bunch of stuff she’ll probably rarely play with, I’d ask people to contribute to dance classes for her, or pay towards playgroup fees, or put it in the girls’ bank accounts to save up for later.

It’s not as much fun as unwrapping a present, I know that, but buying toys for children should be done in conference with parents, shouldn’t it? Or is that just one of the things that we learn to put up with when we have children? I know prescribing gifts annoys some people, some find it even rude, but when you don’t have money to give your children the things you really want to, isn’t it better to ask than to half-heartedly receive?

Week 31: Festivals, Friends And London 2012

We’ve had a crazy busy week here – I seem to say that a lot, and that’s probably a fair indication of why we’re in August already and my head’s still back in March somewhere!

Day 201 – Visiting

We have a fantastic ‘tribe’ of friends here. Sometimes I support them, sometimes they support me. Sometimes support is just in the form of a chat over a glass of water while our babies play together.

Day 202 – Nozstock Festival

We had our first festival with the girls, and had a simply amazing time. I love this picture. My adventurous two year old, giggling at Daddy being the shortest person around (aside from me) because that’ s not usual. We loved Nozstock – you can see some of our other photos here.

Day 203 – Nozstock Day Two

I love these pictures of Martin with his girls. We are often out and about without him, so it’s awesome to share some time together as a family.

Day 204 – Big Baby Girl

My baby is growing up! How’s it happening so fast? We spent a rainy afternoon at indoor play.

Day 205 – Lego Friends

Have you seen the new Lego Friends range? I was so not keen on them when I first heard about them, but I’ve totally changed my mind. We have one of the sets, and while it doesn’t ‘fit’ with Duplo, that didn’t stop us from building a Duplo House, perfectly sized for the bed with shelf, cupboard with pull-out drawers, a drum kit, basket and the daintiest flowers. It’s superb. There’s a figurine that comes with it – Mia – who has become Ameli’s best friend. It’s brilliant! I was worried it would be dumbed down Lego, but I really don’t think it is. It just adds another dimension of play, and while it’s meant for older children, I’m loving the fine motor skills and dexterity learning that’s coming with it for us.

Day 206 – London 2012

We’ve been to the London Olympics, and actually got to watch not one, but two games of Hockey! It was fantastic. I wrote all about our visit to the Olympic Park last week, and added a whole bunch of other pictures, so won’t repeat it all here, but we had a simply superb time! I must admit, I don’t really miss living in London, but I do miss some of what it offers, and how with the right set of circumstances you have so many options available for ‘free’ (like if you have a travel card, you can spend a day in one of a host of museums for nothing.) Visiting London is still amazing and I often feel the thrill of excitement that led me to wanting to move to England in the first place. The Olympics, all the effort that’s been put in to it, and all of that, it’s pretty amazing – and one of the greatest things is the number of London discount vouchers available, I guess because there’s so much going on – which means you can treat a trip to London like a holiday. If you’re heading to the Olympics this week, don’t forget there’s more to the city than just the -admittedly spectacular – Olympic Park!

Day 207 – The Day After The Night Before

After the awesomeness of last night, I didn’t get home till 3am, and a 5km walk later. To say today was a bit of a write-off would be an understatement. At the same time Aviya is teething, and drooling all over the place. Normally cuddles are the order of the day, but after 2 hours of sleep? One tired mama 😉

Thank you for joining us for our week in pictures!

See what other mamas around the world have been up to:

 

Money Saving Through Discount Sites

Before I had children, I never knew of the existence of discount sites, coupon codes, vouchers or anything like that. If I ever got anything at a discount, I was really happy about it. I started working for PlayPennies and suddenly a whole world opened up to me for the first time. Now I don’t think I can quite recall the last time I paid full price for a non-grocery item!

Odd as it seems to me now, I know there are still people out there who don’t know about these sites and don’t realise that with a bit of planning, you don’t have to dig quite as deeply into your pockets as you thought.

As an example, there was an offer recently at a chain store for a dolls house, reduced from £20 to £4.99. I have been looking for a dolls house for Ameli for ages now, but haven’t been able to afford it. This was too good to miss, so I bought one. I also bought another, because there are enough friends on our list who will be having birthdays soon, and quite frankly, nothing I can buy for under £5 is going to compare to this!

Now, I don’t have the time to trawl website after website every day to find the best deals, so that’s where companies like Groupon, My Voucher Codes, PlayPennies, Zulily and others come in – they kind of do the hard work for you, and you just sift through what you want and don’t want.

Of course, it’s not a bargain if you didn’t want it or don’t need it, so if you don’t want to sign up for emails, newsletters and RSS feeds from these sites, you can do something else that never occurred to me: do a Google search.

Say for example I want to buy my daughter a pair of shoes from Clarks, rather than just paying the full fee and postage, do a search for something like “Clarks Voucher” or “Clarks Discount Code” (it’s also worth searching independently for free shipping, i.e. “Clarks Free Shipping”) and seeing whether there are any valid discount codes. If you can unexpectedly receive your postage free, or 20% off what you were expecting to pay, just by doing an additional search, why not?

I really don’t believe that parenting has to be as expensive as people make it. In fact, I know it doesn’t. The best advice I can offer is to have a bit of money in your account specifically so that when you see something that is a good deal, you can grab it up, and put it away.

I have on more than one occasion woken up on the day of a second or third birthday party and found I don’t have a present for the child in question. A stop at a toy shop en route to the party normally means we arrive there late, stressed and having purchased something for the full price. With a little planning and a spare corner at the top back of my wardrobe, I now always have something that would be suitable, saving my sanity, and my pocket.

Do you have any money saving tips or favourite websites you depend on? Please share in the comments below!

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?

Trains And Trainsets – What To Choose?

I’m actually looking for a little bit of advice today.

When we were preparing for Squidgy’s birth, we were advised to ‘make sure that the new baby brings a present for big sister’. Apparently it’s meant to appease the jealousy monster. Personally, I think this new adjustment is going to depend on many more factors than merely what present is brought, but I wasn’t going to argue too much with the wisdom of those gone before, and we had wanted to buy Ameli a train set for ages, and thought this was the perfect opportunity.

So, we looked around and eventually found a train set on sale, and bought it. I wanted to be particularly careful that the set we bought would be Brio compatible as that seems to be the measure against which all wooden train sets are judged: Are they, or are they not, Brio compatible. And if they are, they should by default be compatible with each other.

So we bought a train set, and the morning after Squidgy was born, we popped her in a Moses Basket next to a train set in a box, and when Ameli came downstairs, we told her her sister had brought her a present.  She was ecstatic and her and daddy immediately set about building this set.

So now my question is this… or my questions, as the case may be: how much do we buy? How big do we make the set? Do we stick to one type, or do we mix and match among the compatibles? Have a look at these lovely Brio Train Sets from The Wooden Toyshop and you’ll see what I mean. There are so many options to choose from, and so much you can build on, but what would you recommend as the ‘basic’ necessities for a fantastic make-believe railway?