Monday, 31 December 2012

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Sales and The New Year

How Did I Do?


Well I managed to restrain myself completely and entirely and have spent a grand total of £0.00. 

Nada. 
Nothing. 
Zilch.

Now , I have nothing against the sales. Not at all. In fact I think approached with caution and a with good plan, you can save yourself a great deal of money on items you need for the months ahead. However, I also know, from experience, that you can get dragged into the black hole of having to get a bargain. You end up trawling the shops and online sites for tat treasures you never planned on buying , just because the price is appealing and they have your size left.

But - there is always a but isn't there. I have been hankering after some Ash boots or wedge trainers all year and have restrained myself because of the price. If I can source  a pair within a budget, I may cave. I have set aside money from my e.bay sales to buy some so watch this space. These are my favourites:



 













 

There is a reason for my frugality this year. 2013 is the year we plan to launch into our big extension on our house. We have been saving for a long time for this project and it is not a small one by any means. We wanted to avoid getting ourselves into debt to do it so caution with money at this stage is necessary! We plan to take down a large detached double garage and a lean to garage that is attached to the house. The existing small kitchen is going to become a study and the footprint of where the two garages were will become a 26' kitchen and then a lobby, a utility and a smaller garage. The planning permission has gone through and builders are quoting as I write. I am beyond excited, if a little apprehensive. I will keep you informed of progress and bargains I manage to find on the way!

It's amazing how much willpower you find when you have a goal to work towards. I think I am the sort of person who works best with structure. I need organisation, goals, and targets to work towards. I can become easily demotivated otherwise and with 3 children our lives can quickly descend into disarray and chaos. I do like to take the opportunity to set myself some new goals going into the New Year. Although these tend to be along the lines of :

"I would like to discover some more family recipes "  and " I would like to try and create some time in our schedule for me to go swimming" rather than,

" I must try 2 new recipes a week"  and " I will swim 3 times a week" - I would fail straight away with direct goals like this.

I am working on some realistic goals at the moment to help me organise our budget and household going into the New Year and I will share them shortly.

Do you set New Year Resolutions ?


Saturday, 29 December 2012

December Joliebox

 Better Late than Never

I received Decembers box a bit late as my card details hadn't been updated. My fault! I thought I had a 6 month subscription with Joliebox, but it seems I have a year, so I am going to keep it going for a little longer and see if the contents improve from the last few months. JoileBox have recently become a Birchbox company and I am hoping that may have an effect on them. Some of the boxes have been absolutely superb, but others have left me wondering about the value for money. I didn't even bother posting about Novembers box I was so disappointed in it. Here's a quick picture anyway. The total value came to way less than £10 and the products were pretty basic. That's all I'm going to say!






 The JolieBox subscription was a birthday gift for me, but over a year I am wondering whether I would rather have the money it totals up to to spend on one big item! However, the flip side is , I love getting a little box of treats each month through the door and have found numerous uses for the products I don't want.

 December's box

A lovely external box as usual .I do love these little boxes. Sturdy and pretty and so useful for storage and gifts!



A white inner bag this time. These bags are also reusable for cosmetics, toiletries or for keeping things together in your handbag. My daughter uses them for bits and pieces when we go out too.




The contents this month:


  • Bellapierre Shimmer Eye Shadow Powder - Mine was blue which is a colour I don't wear, but a good product to have in the box anyway.
  • Dr Duve Hand and Decollete Cream - 2 sample packets of these. I am happy to try these out as they have hyaluronic acid in - always a winner in my eyes!
  • Agua de Colonia Concentrada - a lemon, lavender, geranium, eucalyptus and rosemary cologne. This is overpowering , but in small amounts I rather like the lemony aroma.
  • Color Club Nail Polish - 'Put a pin in it' . A shimmery pink colour. I like this.
  • Olay Regenerist Cream - again.
  • Natural Honey Body Milk - moisturiser. Thick and creamy. Another nice product.
  • I love....Cosmetics Lip Gloss. A nice lip gloss, but I have rather a lot so this will be gifted!
  • Also in the box two bars of Lindor Chocolate. I need chocolate like a hole in the head at the moment of course, but if I must I will try these...... Yum Yum.
Ok so I like this box. I think for me a box must have a few full size products that I will get full use out of, a couple of new sample products to try and write about and a surprise or two. So this delivers on all fronts.

However I must say I was equally as delighted with my Christmas present from my five year old girl ( TK Maxx bargain)


...and the surprise present from my OH who is learning to check my pinterest pages for hints.


My main present from my OH was a new lens for my camera. I was fortunate enough to win £500 just before Christmas and instead of allowing this to get swallowed up in the black pit of family finances, we decided to use it to replace my Cannon camera which is on it's last legs. I am now the proud owner of a Panasonisc G5 with an extra  45 - 150 lens from a generous hubby for Christmas. 




I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas. I spent half of it in bed with a throat infection so not our best - oh well. 

Here's to a wonderful 2013!!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

My Years Favourites

Boxing Day Beauty Buys

I have spent this year trying to find some alternatives to some of the more expensive products I have previously used. I have had success with some, others not so much. I think the conclusion I have reached is that sometimes you can find an alternative that is equally as good for half the price, other times it is worth spending that extra bit for a fabulous product! 

So here are my year's finds and favourites...enjoy!

  • Dermalogica - Skin smoothing cream and daily microfoliant. However many times I try something new I always return to these two fantastic products. I have been using these for years and nothing compares! I buy them from Look Fantastic when they have a deal on to get them at the best possible price.


  •  Soap and Glory make up range.  1. "It's all about Prime" eyeshadow primer - a brilliant little primer that intensifies eye shadows and keeps them in place all day. 2. "Trick and Treatment" concealer to cover those black under eye bags! I've needed that this year!! I get these at Boots.



  • Bad Gal Benefit Lash - A superb all round mascara - have repurchased this twice from Boots  and still happy! 



  • Orly Top 2 Bottom base and topcoat - This is the best one I have ever tried. It really does help sustain my nail polish for longer. You can get Orly polishes and nail treatments from Cheap Smells.



  • Stila bronzer and highlighter - this is a lovely little product that I rely on to bring some winter colour to my very pale face! Look Fantastic stocks Stila products.



  • Hydraluron moisture booster - if you haven't tried this yet - do!! It goes under your usual moisturiser and really does improve skin texture over time. Now hooked! This can be purchased at Boots .


  • Elvive Extraordinary Oil - best anti frizz, calming, hair product on the market. I love , love , love this product. Easily available at Supermarkets and drugstores.



  • Essie nail polishes - the colours of Essie polishes have me capitivated and the fact I can pick them up from Superdrug is even better! Superdrug Essie Polishes



  • My most recent discovery - KMS makeover spray. A brilliant styling, revamping tool without buildup! Another staple to be added to my cabinet! Cheap Smells has a great price on this product.

  • Bourjois Colour Pots - I have a few of these as alternatives to my Mac eye shadows. They are not the same as Mac by any stretch of the imagination, but with a good primer they are fantastic little shots of colour and at a 3rd of the price a few of these will do thank you very much! Wait for a 3 for 2 offer and get these from Boots.


I could go on ...and on and on ..... but these are probably my top new discoveries or old favourites. I have a list of items I am now itching to try. Thats the problem with reading blogs - you read about so many tempting things!! 

My advice with beauty products is if you are unsure always see if they have a sample size you can buy first or if buying from a counter ask for some samples to try. Always look for money off vouchers and codes and check the prices online to see if it is any cheaper to order your products, taking into consideration the cost of posting compared with petrol and parking etc to drive into town to buy them. Don't rule out buying through cashback sites either. Some sites such as Quidco give up to 8% cashback on purchases at Boots and you still get your points on your card too. It's a win, win! 

What is your favourite Beauty Product of 2012?

Monday, 24 December 2012

The night before Christmas



I love Christmas Eve. I find the part when you look forward to an event is almost always more exciting than the event itself.  Once the day has arrived it goes so quickly and in the blink of an eye, the presents are unwrapped , the turkey is carved, the queen has spoken and the grandparents are happily snoring on the sofa. 

Done and dusted for another year.

But...... Christmas Eve always seems to hold that magical sense of childlike excitement. I love the little rituals with the kids that have been passed down from my parents to me and now from me to my children. All the lights and candles glittering around a clean and gleaming house, a fridge full of food  and drink to look forward to, a pile of presents waiting under the tree and empty stockings hanging expectantly by the chimney. The children , for once look picture perfect in their new pjs grasping hot mugs of chocolate. Then tiptoeing out to sprinkle reindeer food on the grass to light Santa's way and placing a mince pie, carrot and some brandy by the front door.  The children still insist on using the same stockings they have had since they were small. A Thomas one for my 11 year old, a fluffy penguin for my 9 year old and a stripy sock for my 5 year old.

All those special traditions, simple and childlike that make the memories of the future...






Whatever your plans are this Christmastime - Have a lovely, lovely time! Xxx


Susan Boyle - Silent Night

Friday, 21 December 2012

Frugal Friday

Being Frugal without being Cheap.


I was utterly delighted with my first proper successful shopping trip to Primark a few weeks ago. I posted a picture of myself decked out top to toe in all my  Primarni glory! However, and there always is a however isn't there?, I always have in the back of my mind a voice of caution playing as I don't want to fall into the trap of buying cheap for the sake of cheap. I prefer to mix and match my items when I can and be a bit individual. I find buying items at charity shops an ideal outlet for this. They are usually good quality, but cost next to nothing. A no brainer really. Don't be afraid to be unique and be yourself. Don't feel you have to follow the crowd and get the latest items that are on trend because everybody else has. Go with what you choose, what suits you and your budget.

"Be yourself ..." quote

I believe this stands true for most products whether it be food, clothing, beauty or home goods. It is a case of being wise with your money, but getting the best possible outcome. Having a wardrobe or a house full of cheap items will look like just that. Cheap. Although, if you mix and match, your cheap items take on a life of their own:

  • Dressing up a Primark outfit with a Whistles scarf and your best boots make it look a cut above. 
  • Making sure the meat you buy is a good quality and you haven't compromised on the freshness of your other products when you cook. Adding plenty of herbs and spices can create an expensive tasting, healthy meal for next to nothing. 
  • Beauty products can be sourced cheaply from places such as Cheap Smells or alternatives found from Superdrug for your Spa favourites if your budget is tight. These often do as good a job as their more expensive rivals. 
  • Throwing a few designer cushions on an Ikea sofa make it look unique and individual.

Make your choices where the costs can be cut, where they don't make too much of a sacrifice. Be prepared to spend a little bit more in those areas that really matter to you. Life is to be enjoyed. For me enjoyment comes out of making the best out of our hard earned cash! I tend to shop around for designer clothes, if thats what I want. If I want a particular brand of a beauty product, I hunt down the best price. When I am planning to buy something for around the home I always check for vouchers and money off codes first. 
There are ways of getting the items you want for much, much less. Being careful and frugal with your money does not mean being cheap. It means getting the best for your money - squeezing every last ounce out of every penny you earn! Sometimes it means saving, not spending until you can afford what you need ( or oftentimes, want!).

Try out these sites for cut price deals on designer items:

Brandalley
Cocosa
Ventee- Privee

Try these sites to cut those food bills:

MoneySaving Expert
Beforeishop


Try these sites for money off beauty products:

Cheap Smells

Look Fantastic


Try these sites  for money off vouchers:

Savoo

My Vouchers Codes

Hot Deals


Look into signing up to a cash back site - you can shop at main stores like Boots and get 8% cash back and still receive your points.

Quidco


And a word of caution as we head into the sales. 

Sale - Angle 2
  • Don't buy it if you don't want it, just because it is a bargain
  • If you don't go you won't spend
  • Don't get swept along and regret it later
  • Keep the receipts - you can return things you regret buying later
  • Don't buy the dregs of the sales just because they are under £10
  • Set a budget, write a list, stick to it
And best of all:

  • Avoid the sales altogether - some lovely Spring wear will be in the shops soon - save for that instead!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

What is Christmas about?

Christmas Crackers

This is the last in the series of my Christmas Cracker posts where I have been talking about ways to keep the costs of Christmas under control. If you want to read any of the previous posts please click on the links here:

I think we would all agree that the easiest way to cut costs at Christmas is to step away from the mayhem that surrounds it all, simplify what you do and most of all enjoy those people who make up the fabric of your life and are important to you.

I am determined this year to enjoy my children over Christmas. So often we find ourselves bowing to the demands of others, spending too much money because it's expected and precious time slips through our fingers. We are considering creating a new tradition next year when our extension is finished and we have the space. Instead of spending all of Christmas with people we hardly see all year, we are thinking of having an open house on Boxing Day for our friends and neighbours who are on their own over Christmas instead. We do have rather a large family and it is difficult to get it right with everybody. Yet again this year I have displeased some by putting the needs of my children first. Oh well.

 I've been keenly aware this year of my children growing up and the innocent years passing. It only seems so recently that my eldest boy was pushing trains around his train track and demanding yet another train story be elaborately created. I cannot even remember when the last story was told, when that stage passed, but it did and all of a sudden here he is at secondary school with a life I hardly know about. It reminds me to cherish those moments that we so often find tedious or repetitive with our young ones, as those are the ones we miss when they've passed. 

This Christmas I intend on watching my children open their gifts. I don't plan on spending my whole day racing around after everyone else. I want precious memories to cherish.

We are spending Christmas afternoon at my mums and everyone is mucking in by bringing a part of the meal. So we can all help, it splits the cost and everybody gets to enjoy time together. Low key is the order of the day. I am really looking forward to it.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, I wish you a really happy and fun filled time surrounded by the people who matter to you the most. 

Nativity scene

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

KMS Makeover Spray

Wednesday Beauty Buys


As a follow on to last Wednesdays beauty post I have another Makeover Spray to bring you. This seems to me to be less of a traditional 'dry shampoo' and if any of you have preconceived ideas of products that leave a powdery residue or grey build up of product then think again!

I love this product. It is light and fresh. It gives your hair a real boost when it needs reviving or a wash ! It smells fresh and citrusy, not at all artificial. I have also been using it just as a styling product to add volume too.

I have tried a number of products that fall under the umbrella of 'dry shampoo/makeover sprays" , but I am sold on this one now. It does exactly what I need. It revives my hair, but also gives extra body and boost when needed. It retails at £14.50, but you can buy this product from Cheap Smells for £10.50.


 



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A reminder......

Of how fragile life is 


I haven't felt this tired since my boys were little years ago ( they are 9 and 11 now)

My 5 year old girl  slept through the night at 6 weeks old and never looked back so that doesn't really count.

My 11 year old has asthma that flares up when he gets a cold.

He used to be in and out of hospital regularly, but as he has got bigger his airways seem to have coped better. Unfortunately this lulled me into thinking we were out of the woods. 

I wasn't prepared for the onslaught last week.

Poor kid.

He has struggled along with inhalers for a few weeks and finally we decided it wasn't getting any better and went to the doctor last Tuesday. It wasn't our usual Doctor, which meant he didn't want to listen to me because of course I am only Mum and am not a Doctor. 

He refused to give him the prednisolone treatment which would have cleared his chest in a few days. He put him on antibiotics and sent us home.

Three troubled days and nights later my boy could not string 3 words together, walk up the stairs in one go, drink a drink without choking, or sleep for longer than 15 minutes. 

He. Cannot. Breathe. 

I phoned the surgery as soon as it opened and told the receptionist my child cannot breathe and needs a prescription today please.

She says she cannot get it to me until Monday - 3 days time.

Excuse me again?

I will not print my reply, but in my defence I was lacking in sleep, my child was unable to breathe and she was being incredibly stupid.

I did finally get past her and talk to my own GP who is superb , trusts me with the care of my son and faxed me the meds straight away .

So. Grateful. For. Him. 

He saved us an unnecessary trip to hospital which is always distressing and unhelpful.

So my boy is now sleeping, still sounds like a train and I am watching him like a hawk , but I will get some sleep as I know the meds are working and he is breathing more easy now.

Tough week, but with recent events in the news, it is nothing in comparison and I just feel incredibly grateful that my kids are safe and with me.



X


Monday, 17 December 2012

Santa Baby

Music Monday - What's Playing on Your Ipod This Week?

On mine it is Kylie Minogue and Santa Baby



Friday, 14 December 2012

Frugal Friday

 When being Frugal simply isn't worth it.

In this financial climate when the majority of us, if we are prepared to admit it, are looking for ways to cut back our outgoings, the awkward question does pop up of 

" Is it worth it this time? "

Is there a time when it is better to spend more on something ,when you are trying to be frugal with your hard earned cash?

My answer would be a resounding Yes.

There are times when being frugal for the sake of being frugal is not worth it in the long run. Some products, whether it be food, clothing, beauty or household goods are worth investing in. Buying the cheapest product in some cases will not serve your budget well in the long run. If products are not well made they break or wear out sooner, hence costing as much or more. 

Food

In my house, if I go too cheap, I find I begin to compromise on the content of foods and that for me, with a growing family and our health being important, is not worth the sacrifice. I find that if I buy cuts of meat that are too cheap , certain members of my family will not eat them, so there is more waste, again not a good use of my money. I try to take the middle ground, cutting costs where it is not noticed so much. I try not to waste anything. If fresh foods, such as veg are coming to the end of their life I will make a soup or cut them up and freeze them. The joys of freezing food means that you can use up most of what you purchase, freeze it into meals, soup or veg portions and it doesn't sit in the fridge or larder going off. I have an organic veg box every other week - I squeeze every last drop out of this box! The veg is just so tasty . I will top up on some things, but my OH loves his veg and is particular about what we use. So out of respect for him I try and make this an area not to cut my costs. It is about finding that balance of tasty, healthy food at a reasonable price.

yeg box

Clothing

Cheap clothing is not always the best buy. I will always look at the fabric, stitching and quality of what I am buying and make a decision if it will last, or whether I should spend more on a substantial, longer lasting item. I knew when I purchased my Primark coat that the belt was not of a good standard. Within a day the metal surrounds on the belt holes had worked loose. However, I had taken this into consideration when buying it and the rest of the coat seemed well made so I got it. Sue from Susie So So had the fab idea of using a black leather belt instead. I'm going to do a post to get you to help me to decide the best belt and get Susie to give her opinion ( shes good at these things!! Check out her blog!) I have tried a few already and someone told me today they assumed the coat was designer! However, I do think if you are not convinced about the quality then go up a price bracket or label and compare the quality. Of course higher price does not always guarantee better quality. I also think that the joy and pleasure you get from saving up for a certain coveted, designer item and then buying it can never be underestimated. If you are like me, then that item will get cherished for years and earns it's keep ten times over. 


P1000050
Primark Coat

Beauty

You can save in this area, but it will be a case of trying products out to see what suits you . You will need to look at the content of products and make decisions on where you are happy to compromise. This is an area where I mix and match again. I find if I buy facial products that are too cheap , my skin will react. I have found that I can compromise on some styling products with my hair, but when it comes to shampoo and conditioner I tend to stick with a good branded product. At the moment I am in love with the Liz Earle shampoo and conditioner for dry hair. I do cut costs on items such as shower gels and soap and look for offers and deals on family products that we all use. When it comes to make up items, I do love high end products, but will admit there are alternatives for a fraction of the price if you shop around, that are almost as good. A treat every now and then is lovely, but 'keep it in check' is now my motto, having been a product junkie for many a year.

'One' of my make up bags!


House Goods

Ok , so this is where I may need help. By house goods I mean things like washing machines, driers, cookers, fridges, furniture etc. I often buy our kids furniture from ikea, but know it will be replaced after about 5 years. I got a good white chest of drawers from there 4 years ago which is still going strong, but wasn't cheap by ikea prices. I do think you get what you pay for around the home. Our sofa was expensive and is 15 years old and still immaculate. However, our fridge was a cheap one and needed replacing after 6. I'm on my 4th hand held mixer in 3 years - would a 'kitchen aid' have been halfway paid for with that and still be going strong? However, the way I do cut costs on furniture is to go to second hand stores and auctions and buy solid wood furniture for barely anything and revamp it ( when I have the time) . Maybe it is similar to clothing? It is a case of examining the quality and going from there!?

This is a toy chest that cost me £10 from a local junk yard. Cost me £3 for the fabric and I used paint I had in the garage. It is a beautiful toy chest for my little girls room!

So how do you decide when to save and when to splurge?

BEFORE



AFTER



Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Food

Christmas Crackers

The Food!

Now Christmas isn't Christmas without a good nosh up I'll admit that! I love a well cooked Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, but you know what's coming - I don't like what it can cost.
christmas dinner

However do not dismay. I am not about to pour cold water all over the upcoming festivities. On the contrary, I want to bring reasurrance that we can still enjoy  ourselves, but not overspend. There are ways to enjoy your food over this festive period without going overboard and ending up spending way too much and throwing out far too many leftovers.

 Over the past few years I have cut back more and more with regard to how we approach the festive period and I can honestly say it has not made it any the less enjoyable. I have said it before and I stand by it - We work hard for our money and although we are in a fortunate position now of not being hard up, I don't want to waste what we do have to spend. 

You can almost see the pound signs appearing in the eyes of retailers as Christmas approaches and I am sure months of planning have gone into how best to maximise their profit during this time of year. Now, I am not against people making a living, particularly the smaller traders, who are pricing their products honesty and fairly, but are still being suffocated by the larger Supermarkets. However, I do resent having every spare penny  I own squeezed out of me until there is nothing left. I like to start the New Year with money in my pocket, not that feeling of having spent too much.

So, here are my suggestions to keep the food budget in check over Christmas and some ideas of how to minimise the cost of the Christmas dinner.

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare! Plan what you can ahead of time so you can decide where and how you are going to spend your money.
  • Write a food shopping list. Take 10 items off.( Yes I did say that!)
  • Do not 'panic buy' huge quantities of food. The supermarkets are shut for a very small amount of time. You. will. not. run. out. of. food.
  • Write a menu plan for over the Christmas period. Include any entertaining you are doing and set a reasonable budget. Now see if you can cut it by at least 10%. Here are some menu plans and costs  from Tescos Real Food Christmas Challenge 2011
  • Plan what treats you are going to buy. Don't go overboard. Limit your treats - do you really need crisps, peanuts, chocolate, wine, beer, cakes, biscuits, mince pies, endless nibbles..... 
  • If you can't decide let each family member choose one reasonable item.
  • Shop as you would normally. The same store and the same brands - just adding in what you need for your extra entertaining and Christmas meal.
  • Don't be tempted to buy a higher brand or shop at a more expensive supermarket than you would do normally!
  • Wine often works out cheaper if you buy it in a box. The down side of this is you need discipline if you have wine on tap in the fridge! Check out MoneySavingExpert for wine deals and vouchers.
  • Plan a menu for your Christmas dinner and cost it out. 
  • Shop around for the best prices.
  • Check for deals, coupons and vouchers online for supermarkets and local traders to cut your budget further.
  • If you have a smaller family don't buy a whole turkey. Go for the cheaper option of a turkey crown instead.
  • Don't buy pre prepared pigs in blankets and all the trimmings etc. It will be cheaper to make your own.
  • Work out how much food per head you need for the Christmas dinner and buy just enough, not double! It will still be too much!
  • You don't have to stick firmly with tradition. e.g A chicken is cheaper. Do you really need a Christmas pudding if no one eats it etc
  • Look up some tasty, but inexpensive festive recipes to try out.
  • Get visitors to muck in and bring a dish/drink/a box of crackers so you are not providing the whole meal.
  • A homemade soup and rolls with leftovers is a cheap and welcome meal on Boxing day after the indulgence on Christmas Day! Don't feel you have to cook another masterpiece. I love a Christmas sandwich done properly - warm homemade bread, turkey, stuffing, a bit of bacon and slice of sausage, some crunchy salad leaves and a smear of cranberry jelly. YUM.
  • The three day rule - Christmas eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Once these days are over return to your usual menus. This is better for your waistline and your pocket!
  • Freeze any leftovers that can be frozen so you can use them later and not waste them.
  • Make some meals beforehand and freeze them so you aren't left over the Christmas period tired and worn out wondering what to feed your hungry brood. A stock of basic meals like meatballs, lasagne, steak pies and chilli are inexpensive and so useful to have as a back up in the freezer.
  • Get some supermarket own brand ice creams, cones and assorted sprinkles to make some quick and cheap puddings for hungry children.
April 7/2010 Ice cream homage#christmas #sandwich #srs #businesshomemade chicken tortilla soup

Check out my other Christmas Cracker posts:

4.  Christmas Outfits

What advice would you give regarding spending on groceries at Christmas?

*Photos Courtesy of Wylio