Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas & Plans for 2009

My thoughts are now turning to the Christmas break, a lovely time to relax, spend time with family and just enjoy the time off from the 9-5.

There's wrapping to be done, mince pies and mulled wine to enjoy, friends to see - so much on! Yet I still try to find time to plan my ideas for the year ahead.

My plans at the moment are as follows, just whilst they are fresh in my mind. 2008 has been a year for 'homemade' and I have learnt so many skills. From lemon curd, rice pudding, chutneys etc, to more usage of my slow-cooker and spending more time planning ahead. In 2009 I am hoping to:

- Fine tune these aspects even more - this includes: Shopping for more items in the 'Reduced' section, whereby I will freeze more items to slow cook with. My husband loves cooking bread so hopefully we will experiment lots of new and tasty varieties in the new year.

- Make my own liquid soap (easier than making normal soap, which seems far too scary for me!)

- Make my own washing up liquid (more natural and less expensive than shop bought).

- Only buy new if really needed - otherwise search the Freecycle site, local second hand markets and re-using items we already have if they can be repaired.

- Save all coppers into a 'Food for Christmas 09' pot - and the same for silvers. We did this this year and it's great as December is so much cheaper then.

- Save all vouchers earned from surveys etc for Food & Drink next Xmas. We have done this for 2 years now and December is actually our cheapest month of the whole year as a result.

- Do even more 'Free Clicking' online - see right hand menu for details - as this earns me over £350 per year, for a few clicks a day in any spare time I may have.

- Eat less processed food - we make most of our own food as it is, but to cut out what we can in terms of 'lazy' eating when in town shopping.

- Buy second hand clothes if they are good quality, rather than new. I am a petite size, so this is hard for me but I have found a few bargains here and there. Whereas I was spending £15-£25 on a top, I have found items for £5 for example. It does not need to be on every item, but at least where possible.

- Make more chutney, learn how to make jams and jellies, cordials etc. These add such a fantastic element of luxury and cost so little compared to processed store bought.

- Buy more good quality bedding items that may last 10 years rather than one or two and try to choose items that will wash/wear well no matter what.

- Grow more of our own herbs and vegetables. Learn about seeds / best tiems to plant etc.

These are just what I can think of so far.

What are your ideas for the coming year?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Home Sweet Home

I am hoping that 2009 will be the year we can finally buy a place of our own. I guess we hanker for the responsibilities that so many already have but don't enjoy... The possibility of having a space you can call your own, place things where you want, rent out to others if you like and generally take responsibility for. I used to own and then sold, so I am fully prepared to do it again.

This time round though we are in a position of power, as FTB generally have such a better outlook right now. *However* what is different this time is that the banking sector not only caused this crisis, but now fails to help FTB get onto the ladder to begin to solve it. OK, so some may say this is a simplistic view, but consider this: Have the banks lost out? They earned billions over the last 10 years and paid themselves fat bonuses and large share dividends. Then the tip of the iceberg hit with the credit crunch and bad mortgage debt. Now we find they are going cap in hand and getting handouts from the government as well as interest rate reductions.
The governments round the world have bailed them out. However, none of these benefits are passed on by the banks us. Instead they are lining their coffers and 'preparing' for a time when they can pass the money on, presumably a good 6 months from now.

Savers are seeing their rates fall with immediate effect, and yet mysteriously mortgage holders are seeing a 'delay' or even most times no saving at all as their mortgage 'doesn't apply' to the falling rates. Yet again more cash in this 'gap' for the banks to save up and keep.

So what can we do? The banks are clearly protecting themselves at this point, and claiming no responsibility for what has happened in these past 12 months. Following on from bailing them out, the government is on one hand asking them to pass on the savings to us, and on the other, forcing them to be far more careful and accountable with transactions.

Time will tell, but at this point I imagine that 2009 will all be aout 'Cash Is King'. as the old saying goes. With the likelihood of more job losses and the much heavier stages of recession, we all need to reconsider our priorities. Will that new TV be feeding us next year? I know I look at purchases differently, with a 'what if I have no job this time next year' angle.

So my point is, we're saving like crazy for a place to buy, yet if that doesn't happen at least we will benefit from a cash cushion which will be far better for us than any new items we may buy, or expensive trips/meals out. I will sleep better at night knowing we are doing all we can *now* to prepare for the coming storm.

If we are however lucky enough that for us there is no storm, at least there will be a nice cold Gin & Tonic in the garden we can call our own...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Christmas Madness or sanity?

Well the season has truly begun! Time to set up trees, get the bulk of Christmas present shopping underway and even start giving some thought to the Christmas meal. We’re looking forward to the break and all the festivities, however this year we have agreed to have a limit to what we spend on eachother – this way we both know there will be no overspends! Amongst family we agreed no presents to save us all some money, but for children etc of course there’s no limit.

Our Christmas food and drink will again this year be courtesy of cashback sites (click the links on the right hand menu if you would like to know more). I believe I have beaten last years amount made – and remember this is all made entirely free, from simply clicking on internet sites. My estimate will be £360 made from free clicking. Next year I will up the limit and hope to make more but it all depends on how much time I have to dedicate to it.

In addition to cash made from clicking, we have received over £100 in vouchers throughout the year, from Pigsback, stationery companies and also from competitions etc. We chose to receive these in Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Next and the Burtons group. This will be spent in Marks & Spencer (£50) and Waitrose (another £50). I will buy Xmas bits and pieces but as we are away for most of it this year, I will try to buy staples with this cash too, such as tea, coffee, marmite, rice etc. Personally, I then also received approximately another £50 in vouchers which was used for birthdays and clothes etc.

Overall, from money saving activities and ideas, we have been able to give ourselves a £600 raise in vouchers and cashback, plus approx £1,500 in other savings, meaning that over £2,000 has stayed with us, rather than being passed on to other companies or being wasted! Food waste has been a big thing for me the last 4 months or so and it really has made a difference.

Plus as you can see from this blog the following steps have helped me a lot:

- Making chutneys, curds etc
- Batch cooking to freeze various portions
- Shopping last minute in supermarkets to get reduced items
- Creating and using my PriceBook (see right hand menu)
- Using cashback sites and Free Clicking to the maximum (see right hand menu)
- Buying presents as and when throughout the year so that I don’t pay high prices at Christmas or on last minute impulse birthday gifts for example
- Re-using wrapping, getting creative round the house by recycling rather than buying new
- Buying clothes and items for the home from charity shops. This applies only to very good quality items and has saved us a lot of money.
- Buying during sales, and planning ahead.
- Using a cashback credit card then paying it off in full each month, gaining cashback at 1% on everything I buy.
- Getting a free Orange SIM card so I can go with a friend to see half price movies on a Wednesday. I loaded it with £10 over a year ago and I still have lots of credit as each text costs pennies and I go perhaps twice per month.
- Using discount vouchers for meals out etc – almost all restaurants have begun to offer these this year in a big way and this has influenced where we eat out at least 50% of the time.
- Using discount vouchers for clothes, homeware etc.
- Work extra in self-employed capacity – a few hours per week can really add up and is well worth it for anyone who can do this

All of these steps have made a massive difference which we will definitely carry on in 2009 in a big way.

If you have any suggestions as to what we can all do, or special steps you are taking, please do leave a message as we could all do with more ideas in these credit crunch times!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Making Liquid Soap

I'm on a roll! Yes, a couple of nights ago I used a £0.20p bar of soap, to create 2.5 litres of handwash - and it worked!

- One grated bar of soap (I used Castille, from the £0.99 store - 5 bars for £0.99)
- 2.5 litres of boiling water (maybe more, add if needed)
- Aromatherapy oils
- Jojoba oil or olive oil (if desired)

Pour grated soap into water, melt. Check next day and if still not liquid enough, remelt and add more water if needed. I used a potato masher to mash the liquid get it quite smooth!

At the point when it's cooled down add jojoba (or oilive oil, which you may already have), as well as some drops of your favourite essential oil. Do not do this whilst still hot as the oils will evaporate.

I used lime which I love for a handwash smell. I have also purchased soearmint, grapefruit, tea tree, jasmin and honeysuckle oils on ebay for my future projects involving soap and washing up liquid etc.

Next use a funnel and pour into handwash pumps or squeezy bottles (if you intend to use more as a shower gel)...

Might be a little messy, but for the same of some time, you can make enough for yourself and friends and family too. I found a nice bottle in a charity shop for £0.99p which I will fill and then seal with a cork and nice ribbon and a tag. The handwash will have to be quite liquid for this to work. Alternatively you could buy or re-use a squeezy bottle and put a homemade plastic label on. Might be a nice gift for someone, and saves them £2-£3. Plus less plastic, and less chemicals too - everyone wins!

So for £0.99p you could make 12.5 litres of handwash - makes you realise how much money and plastic is wasted by buying storebought all the time!

I also use this as shower/body wash - you could add jojoba oil or olive oil for extra luxury moisturising qualities.

My next project will be to make some washing up liquid - anyone have any deas? Do drop in and comment x

Clean, Clear and Crystal!

Today I’d like to focus on saving money on household cleaning. We used to use liquid tabs in each wash, without even thinking about it – very expensive! I then started to read up on reverting back to washing powder after reading a few posts on MoneySavingExpert and thought I would give it a go. The reason I had stopped using washing powder was the fact it left white marks, and I guess, the marketing for cute liquitabs had worked on my feeble mind… so pretty, so easy, no mess!

Once we switched back, I thought our savings stopped there – but after more reading and research, it seems folks cut their washing powder in half and top it up with half of soda crystals. I knew nothing of this but started to buy the stuff too – and it’s saved us a fortune! We now add half a measure of washing powder and half of the SC, this works a treat. As we live in a hard water area, it also softens the water which is good for the washing machine too.

More info can be found on the DriPack site:

I buy mine from Tesco online for roughly £0.50p for one KG and it lasts a long time, although this will vary of course as to how many washes your household does per week.

An excerpt from the above DriPack site:

“Soda Crystals should be used in every wash. Simply add the required amount to the detergent drawer, along with your usual washing powder, or directly in to the drum. Soda Crystals soften the water, so that less of your detergent is needed to do the water softening. This not only saves you money on detergent, but it will also help remove stains from your clothes and fabrics.

But the benefits don't stop there. Soda Crystals will help prevent limescale and other build up in your machine and hoses. Using Soda Crystals instead of biological washing powders, also helps minimise the impact on the environment.“

You can use SC all around your household from the washing machine, to cooking (!) and preserving colouring in your veg! And all for £0.50p – who knew! So get out there and spend (under) £0.50p for your wallet and the environment too…

Monday, 3 November 2008

Comfort food - make some & feel the warmth!

That's right - make some yummy homemade treats to celebrate Autumn! I discovered how easy lemon curd and rice pudding are to make, thought folks on here might like to try making some too!

Homemade Lemon Curd

• 1 large juicy lemon, grated zest and juice only
• 75g caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• 50g unsalted butter

Put sugar and grated lemon zest in a bowl.

Whisk the lemon juice together with the eggs, then pour this over the sugar.

Then add the butter cut into little pieces, and place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.

Stir frequently till thickened - about 20 minutes.

Pour into sterilised jar and lid (washed glass jar then carefully dried and placed in a warm oven upside down for 15 minutes - lid can be boiled in water).

Store in fridge – lasts around 4 weeks if you can get it to stick around that long!

Costs: Lemon: £0.20p, Sugar approx £0.25p; eggs approx £0.30p, butter £0.26p.

Homemade jar of lemon curd for around £1 - can't beat that!

How about making some for relatives this Xmas as inexpensive gifts? Just save some pretty jars and enjoy the look on their faces when they have some freshly made lemon curd on toast!

Another favourite for me has to be delicious creamy rice pudding. I made this yesterday afternoon for us to have after a Sunday roast and it's amazingly easy and so tasty you will want to make lots! It can be frozen as well, or if you can bear it, given to friends and family!

Slow cooker rice pudding

For a 2.5 litre slow cooker:

• 25g butter
• 100g pudding rice
• 100g sugar
• 1 litre milk
• grated nutmeg

For 4.5 litre slow cooker:

• 40g butter
• 150g pudding rice
• 150g sugar
• 1.5 litres milk
• grated nutmeg

My slow cooker is 3.5 litre so I followed recipe #1.

Butter inside of the crockpot
Add all ingredients
Cook on low for 4 or 5 hours depending on how thick you want it
Stir halfway through cooking time

For added yummyness, put your portion under a grill with some brown sugar on top. If desired, add some homemade lemon curd for that extra touch!

Cost:Pudding Rice: £0.10p, milk (longlife semi skimmed) £0.55p, sugar £0.50, butter £0.13p, nutmeg £0.3p.

£1.31 total and made us 5 portions @£0.26p per portion approx.

You could make it more luxurious by adding clotted cream or evaporated milk but I loved it naturally creamy. The longer you cook it the creamier it is.

Again this could be cooked for relatives or friends for Christmas... start looking for and saving pretty containers!


Monday, 27 October 2008

Dropping temperatures and the Icelandic Freeze

I don't know if any of you are affected by the drama in Icelandic banking right now, but we have been. These past few weeks have been a stressful rollercoaster ride, with hopes high for updates from the government, hopes low when we have found there are yet more delays. Yet now things seem to be moving faster, with the latest update on Friday 24th from the FSCS that by the end of November, everyone should have their cash back via electronic transfer. I breather a sigh of relief for now and can turn my attentions back to this here blog...

Seems this week temperatures are set to drop below double digits - so it's time for the yearly hunt for scarf, gloves (will I find the set of 2 this year?)and even the big ol' coat in the cupboard... I have resisted the urge to fish it out from the depths of 'Winter Clothes', but I can see that this week I will have to. This coat is warm, and made even warmer still by the fact that I bought it with proceeds from Cashback Sites - see the right menu - so it was totally free! My Autumn boots were also free, both items to last a good 3 years each.

You may think - 'What - how can I do that?'. Well it takes time and effort to start off and get used to it, but I do recommend you take a peek at my articles on Cashback, as most things you buy online can give you cash back via special sites. You can also even get cashback for your time - clicking away, to earn free cash.

This is the perfect time now that nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping - why watch TV when you could be counteracting this credit crunch madness? In 2008 I will have earned at least £400 from this, a nice payrise especially if you save the cash and let it work extra interest for you.... just don't put it in an Icelandic bank! But still, Christmas is made easier as I save up all the cash and in December decide how it will be spent. A great time for some luxuries and then also to spend in the January sales (mind you, sales seem to be at any time these days).

So what are your plans for the months leading up to Christmas?
Do you have any money saving tips you want to share?
Let's all think of how we can save cash and protect ourselves against further price increases and tumbling stock markets.

Wrap up warm and look for those chunky toasty clothes!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Autumn now, Xmas next - scary!

Well the cold is definately settling in now, and in our household we had held out until 1st October to put the heating on... it finally happened on the 4th, this Saturday, as it was quite chilly. Here are some points we have been talking about which may help you...

In August we called our energy supplier and switched to a fixed tariff for gas and electric, I guess for us it's worth the peace of mind. I have also made sure they are going to take a bit more from my Direct Debit every month, to cover the fact we will start to put the heating on more now. Could you benefit from switching suppliers? Even if not, what about a fixed tarff so you get no nasty surprises? Also to avoid some of those, why not set up or increase your direct debit, so you know you will have enough for gas/electric when the bill comes? Paying by DD saves money as they usually give you a discount, and it also allows you to save paper/postage stamps/ envelopes and those horrible big bill days. I love DD and wouldn't go back!

We also decided this weekend we would look at our goal for the next 6 months, which is to really bolster up our savings, as we are hoping to buy a place next Summer. We keep our eyes peeled on the markets but for now we are waiting and seeing, like so many other millions out there. For now we are holding fast with our Icelandic bank called IceSave but we're glued to any news about the Icelandic economy.

In September was interviewed on a local radio station as a first time buyer and what my thoughts were - and in a nutshell, I explained that whereas family and friends used to look down at us for now being 'on the ladder' yet, now they see it as a wise move that we are renting and saving, waiting for more sensible prices to come along. We have friends who bought last summer and are probably now in negative equity - not a pleasant prospect for anyone. In time we will hopefully see some more acceptable prices that reflect people's real wages and with some luck, a balancing of the current market turmoils.

We also took the opportunity last week to cancel our joint gym membership and buy a second hand cross-training machine, which just barely squeezed into our flat. At £60, this is the cost of our joint membership, so in October it has already paid for itself. I have also sourced some free weights for my husband from FreeCycle, which he is happy to collect as there was no spend involved. This has saved us £720 a year and even if I join again in Spring, it is still worthwhile. For now I am using the machine almost daily, sometimes twice a day, because the weather and effort of travel are no longer an excuse!

We bought a counter top freezer for £20 too, which again, just about squeezes into our kitchen, but we feel for the cost will easily pay for itself and much more. We can now batch cook and obtained some free containers from a recent work take-away meal. This means so much to us - and easier dinners from now on. It would also allow us to make homemade pizzas for example in advance and then pop them in the oven which is extra lazy as making them from fresh (pre-bought base) only takes 5 minutes... I can now take advantage of more Buy One Get One Free offers!

My husband agreed to buy a hair trimmer a while back so I am now designated hairdresser! Each time I cut his hair he puts the cost of a haircut in a savings tin, which is great and I have to admit, the first cut was scary but now it's not so bad!

So there you go - some ideas to keep you going as we head into Autumn - I would love to hear what you are up to and what tips you have!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Clearout for Autumn

With the UK weather treating us to wind, rain and flooding again, it seems a good time to admit that Summer is truly finished - I don't want to pin my hopes on September!

I have now collected some items round the house to donate to charity, and promised that we will not buy many new things for September and October unless we really, really, really need them. Given that we need nothing desperately, this should go ok, although clothes are excluded from the deal... in any case, we have cleared lots of old unwanted clothes too, to allow space for new items.

This the perfect time to review dvd's, cd's, clothes and books that may be sellable, and that we don't want anymore. It might even be taht we can make enough profit for example, so we can put this towards the cost of Christmas.

In saying that, I am also happy to buy items, if and only if, I believe I can sell them on ebay or Amazon. I recently purchased a £2 brand new terramundi ceramic piggy bank jar with tags, which sold on ebay for £7 plus postage. I made £5.20 clean profit right there... needless to say this has gone into my snowflaking account!

As I read recently in a book, imagine that the clutter you have at the moment is actually taking up valuable space and so it's 'costing' you £70 a month, which you could be making in food and gift savings on purchases, or ebay sales. That made me sharpen up my act pretty quickly, as we live in a small flat!

Anyway, my recommendation to you is that given the current weather, you take the time to make space for the new season. Space to start buying Christmas presents you might see at a good price, to stock up on food that may be on special offer, to buy items to sell on and generally get yourself some more value from space in your home.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Small steps, big payoffs

Well September has started without a hitch – new budget, new start.

Shopping wise, we are again taking part in MoneySavingExpert’s monthly grocery challenge and have set ourselves £120 budget for the month, covering 2 adults. This includes food, wine, any cleaning materials. However, as my hubby won lots of wine last month for reaching sales targets, we should be ok, and as I bulk shopped for quite a few things in August, that will also help. Cleaning wise we don’t spent much in supermarkets, as you will see below.

Small stuff we have started to do in the last 2 years, that doesn’t ‘hurt’ much:

Downgrading from brands – I have never been a brand lover but trying the supermarkets own has started to feel easier, we try bread, tinned items, and much more. I find that especially with tinned items there’s much money to be saved.

Using Freecycle and other networks – when you need something, you ‘put the word out’ on networks like that and you may find someone has it as junk that they need to get rid of!

Squirreling / snowflaking savings – At the end of each month, if we have any money left, it gets put into savings. Sometimes I even do this during the month and save as I go… makes a surprising difference, the odd pound here and there. I used to do it so that £53.89, would mean I would transfer £3.89 to savings. I have an IceSave savings account for this and keep tabs of what that total is made up of in a spreadsheet. For our joint account, anything in there at the end of the month goes to our ISA.

Printing vouchers – It’s true that so many more restaurants, bars, brands and leisure companies are trying to get our attention now. I have found more eat out vouchers in my e-mail inbox than anything else recently. So when I want to go out to one of our favourite eateries, we choose the place that has the best vouchers on at the time. This for us is Yo Sushi, Ha Ha Bar and Strada and you can’t turn around these days without at least one of them having an offer on. My friends are all into this as well now to save some cash, I like to think I have converted them! Of course there are also supermarket vouchers and other money saving opportunities on travel and more...

Household cleaning – A while back I discovered a) soda crystals and b) that washing powder is cheaper than liquid powder overall for washing your clothes. So by pouring boiling water into the tray prior to washing, and mixing half the normal amount of powder, plus half soda crystals, my washing is much, much cheaper, and with the boiling water treatment, no white marks.

I am also a huge fan of Stardrops if you can find it – around £0.70p for one bottle and as it is concentrated it will last you a long, long time. Use is sparingly diluted in water for most household cleaning. I like to add a little to a spray bottle with some aromatherapy oil, fill up with water, and use this for all kitchen cleaning. SD is also great used neat for stubborn kitchen stains and so much more. Just type in ‘Stardrops usage’ into Google and you will get the idea! Best £0.70p you have ever spent and I have even given it to friends and family!

I am also a convert to baking soda, now available in 500g boxes from Tesco for £0.99p. I order mine online and save on carrying it home…

Making your own – We have started to make our own bread and yoghurt, as well as keeping our own basil, parsley, thyme, a chilli and a red pepper plant. It’s a small start in a small flat, but we’re happy and will see what else we can do in time.

Top notch savings – We ensure we both have the best ISA account rates, so that interest is growing on our savings at the highest level it can. Once both our ISA’s are full, and we have therefore kept the taxman from taking any of that money, we then save to the best instant savings accounts. I rarely have the patience for fixed term deposits, the only exception being a deal that IceSave did recently, and my account matures in November on that one. I will then return to normal instant savings with them. By transferring money electronically each month, the transfer hits faster and so starts to earn quicker. I can’t recommend highly enough that you start transferring a small amount per month into savings, as soon as you get paid. ‘Paying yourself first’ is an essential building block in getting some money saved up for rainy days. You never notice it, and it should be a priority for anyone who has no debts to pay off.

I will add more tips as I can think of them but do drop your own comments here so we can share money-saving ideas!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Piggy gives you money for once!

That's right - I found a way last year to get piggy to pay me for once. This comes in the form of site called Pigsback.

This site allows you to click some of it's 'Bonus' boxes throughout the week, and clicking each one credits you with £0.5p. This gives you roughly £0.70p per month, around £8.50 a year or more for free.

In addition, you get bonuses for signing up to things (you can later unsubscribe if you want), sometimes worth £1, £2 or more, which takes your yearly free earnings up to much more.

So this estimate can rise to £25 per year for nothing! If your partner does it too, you could get a free £50 a year, just from clicking bonus boxes and signing up to things.

On top of this you can then earn money back on purchases you make via the site. Let's say you want to sign up to Lovefilm for postal dvd rental, this gives you £12.50 cashback to your account, just for signing up! There are so many others, buying clothes, music, make-up, gifts, dvd's and much more.

Last year I earned £60 from the site, and my husband earned roughly the same - this was with no spending. Just the freebies! In 2008 this rate has come down due to less deals, but it is still FREE money to be earned and top up your bank account.

Well worth it. You get this in the form of 'Rewards', which I choose to receive in voucher format for shops like Boots, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose etc. I then use these for Christmas. This saved us alot on the Christmas expenses last year as you can imagine.

If you are interested or want more info just drop a message on here. I am also happy to refer you if you would like, just let me know, and you can then go on to refer friends and family.

I recommend you use an e-mail account set up especially for cashback site join-ups, ie, it may get more spam than your usual account.

Remember - get piggy to pay you for once!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Free Money in your mouse - yes, really! cash? Yes. Make cash from just clicking sites online - no catches, but some (easy but medium to longterm) work involved!

I have now released my latest & updated guide to clicking on the internet. It earns up to a massive £3.59 a day if you follow my sugested clicks! The text below is an explanation on how to get started - contact me via the MSE Link below if you would like the daily routine itself.

The key is:
1) to click every day if possible and
2) be patient as it can take a week or so to show up
3) look at this for the long term

If you take it seriously the next 12 months will be a great chance to get free cashback for clicks for any goal you have. If you also buy your pressies, clothes, gadgets and more via the cashback sites, you will of course earn even more cash on top! I make most of my free cash from just clicking though!

The basic concept:
You can make money daily, from clicking.
Websites will pay you small cash amounts as incentives to click on their links so they can show you their products. You can click on these every day and earn money. You do not need to buy anything. If you click over a period of time, these amounts add up and you can then cash-in what they owe you. Simple - but involves daily clicks and self-discipline!

You must be prepared to put the work in for all sites and to wait at least 12-14 weeks for the money on each site to start to look like anything significant! Remember - this is a long term thing and patience is essential as it can take a week or so for the first cash to drip in so do be patient and read on...

From the cashback sites below I made over £375.89 in 2007 for free + £120 in vouchers (hubby and I do it) from Pigsback so I'm very chuffed indeed (with more pending as I type). I have made NO purchases, just clicking away slowly but surely.

You DO need to be disciplined though to get this free cash & it helps to have a goal in sight - for me it was that Christmas 07 food & booze was totally FREE and funded by cashback sites ;o) and I DID IT!

I can e-mail you the guide and I am sure my cashback routine will help you out even if only small amounts here and there they do add up and when you get the payout it will all be free so I think it is worth it for 15-20 mins a day (or more time = more money if you have the time). I can also e-mail you an automatic cashback calculator to help you see your earnings build up as you go - change it as you like.

Step 1 - Join Up

I recommend you join the sites below (PS: feel free to use the referral links, or if you prefer you can go directly to the sites if you do not want me to refer you). Each site has been selected by me because they are good earners - I have dropped a few over the last few months and the list below are the current updated best in my view:

Get £££££ bonuses straight-away for signing up to these sites!

Here are some links for signing up to the main cashback sites if you are not already signed up:

MoneyBackMadness £10 bonus join-up!

Non referral –

Loyalty Shopper

Non referral –

We Promise To ** NEW - like Quidco **

Non referral –

Get Pounds Back

Non referral –

Cashback Rewards

Non referral –

Cashback Chief £2.50 bonus sign-up!

Non referral –

Quidco (not a referral link)

Remember to click the activation e-mails per site to fully start your cashback membership of each site and get the bonus welcome money per site (where applicable).

Remember when you have registered for WePromiseTo, to sign up your debit or credit card details for the OFFLINE shops, you can earn cashback on the high street at:

- Superdrug
- Cineworld
- Halfords
- Little Chef

and more coming soon - just by shopping on the high street! If you have registered your cards, those companies will then automatically put up to 3% back into your online WPT account, even though you shopped on the high street.

This is the first time I have seen this feature and it's great!

Also, remember that they do a monthly draw, whereby you can win cash from their Honesty Pot.

Step 2 - Be Disciplined

I have an A4 guide - just e-mail me for a copy. On it I have shown what amounts you earn per click, this way you never forget anything. Remember that the guide is what I have at the moment, you should check each cashback sites yourself as time goes on as there will be new clicks added that are not shown on the enclosed routine. Don't miss out on new or extra clicks!

Do the clicking religiously every day for around 15 minutes (you can choose to do more, or less) and the amounts will build up. If you start to feel lazy or can't be bothered at any time - think of the final goal - what will you use all that free money for? Set your goal and maybe stick a photo next to the A4 Guide as a reminder. Could be a weekend away, Xmas food or Xmas presents, a spa day, paying off debt - anything. Sign up to all the enclosed sites and do it for at least 12 weeks and it will be worth it because you can then start to transfer cash to your savings account, sometimes sooner. Of course as well as clicking, buying through the cashback sites will also increase your cashback to fantastic levels.

Before you go to each cashback site:
Clear Your Cookies

It's important to always clear your cookies between each cashback site just in case, so I have included that as well as a reminder on the sheet. How?
To clear your cookies go to Internet Explorer > Tools > General > Browsing History > Delete Cookies.
Also if you are on a cashback site that allows you to click on the same link twice, like High St Web for example, click once and follow through, then clear cookies, then click again and follow through so it tracks twice.

I also find it helps to save all the cashback sites to your favourites in the order they are listed on the A4 Guide too.

Step 3 - Start Clicking

Once you have joined the above sites you will get some free bonus cash straight-away (up to £22.50 if you sign up to all sites), others are later when you cash-out.

Then simply start your daily routine at whatever time you like and click away at the same time-ish each day. Remember - generally you need to click through, then carry out a search, then click on an external result/site for the cashback to work properly. You must also ensure you delete cookies between each cashback site.

Each site allows you to see your total (see enclosed for an example you can modify) so I know how much I have earned across all of the sites.

You need to be self-disciplined each day and make sure you do it so the free cash is slowly building up across all sites. For me, I like to take Sunday off! Each day I do my clicks between 8:00 and 8:15, just 15 minutes, before I start work. You can choose whatever time suits you but I'd say a day off is needed so I chose Sunday ;o)

Step 4 - Get Paid
Then when you have reached each sites' payout level, you will get paid! Check each sites' terms but you can request to get paid directly into your bank account or Paypal, but I don't do that as it costs money to send it to Paypal and as an avid MoneySaver every penny counts!

When you get paid by each site pop the money into your ISA or savings account so you can spend it on something special. Then start building the money up again with more clicks! OR if you don't trust yourself not to spend it... save it all year and then cashout...

PS:When you have reached your payout level on Moneybackmadness they pay you £1 for each month you don't cashout, which is great. I rollover my payout each month I can for the extra £1! I think they allow 4-5 months so it's £4 or £5 free!

Top Cashback allow you to withdraw any cash that has cleared, no minimum payout level, which is fab ;o)
Loyalty Shopper update every Wednesday for your earnings (sometimes Thurs or Friday)

More Free Cash/Vouchers

I would also recommend you join Pigsback if you are not already a member. You get vouchers to spend in stores such as Waitrose / John Lewis / UCI / Top Shop and more just from clicking and spending no money. I earn around £10 every 5 weeks and so does my husband - we have £120 from 2007 alone and used it towards Christmas.

Please let me know if I can refer you to Pigsback and I will do so asap - just let me know your initial, your surname and your e-mail address.

Here is the MSE thread that I have set up all about this guide & the daily clicks full of Q&A’s and tips etc:

Please subscribe to the thread ;o) I can then e-mail you the spreadsheets and list of clicks that go with the guide.

Please do ask any questions on the thread so we can all benefit - I will be there to help and once you get set up you will be flying, possibly earning £25 per site every 3-4 months or so or maybe even in less time / earning more money depending on your routine / extra items you buy etc. An MSER helped me to get into this so I would like to help others too - don't be afraid to ask questions there, even tiny or 'silly' ones.

Enjoy the free cash & hope to see you on the above MSE dedicated thread if you have questions!

Please do the above and do not post your e-mail here if possible, and if you do, delete it as soon as you have posted it, so spammers can't see it. Thank you.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Snowflaking - the way to go this Winter

Well today I thought the weather was suitably miserable to talk about Snowflaking. This isn't the actual snowflake discussion (I mean, surely it won't snow *properly* this year), but the humble small amount of money saved.

'Snowflaking' is an American term for saving small amounts here and there. For the £13 you got from a cashback site, the £8 you saved on a meal out because you had a voucher, the £10 you got from a relative for a birthday gift or for Christmas. Even the little savings pot we all have on the sideboard (well, all of us addicted to not wasting cash!) - that can go in the Snowflaking account too.

Step 1 - Identify the first debt that you want to to pay off.

Step 2 - Begin looking for any way you can save or make small amounts of money. Don't worry if they're too small - that's why they're called snowflakes.

Step 3 - To 'find' these snowflakes you can do things to reduce your regular outgoings and save the difference. You can also use things like gift money and cashback as snowflakes.

Step 4 - When you have a snowflake in hand, throw it at the debt you targeted in Step 1. One way to do this is to make frequent, online payments of snowflake amounts. I do this and it works very well. Just find a decent savings account to place it in as that interest will be important to compound what you are earning in the account!

Step 5 - Continue to find snowflakes wherever your can. The power of this system is in repeating it frequently. After a while you will find that it has become quite addictive and a game. That's when you can make it really work for you!

Step 6 - Visit for more information and inspiration!

I have done this all of 2008 and it works well - I have a spreadsheet where I make a note of all the 'hidden' money I save each month to my savings account, amounts that I wouldn't usually have noticed. This is from vouchers, cashback that I would usually have just spent, half price movies on Orange Wednesdays, free movie previews and much more and much more.

I hope you already so something like this and that the idea of it will enhance your system, or get you to start ASAP - Christmas is coming, and Snowflaking from today could pay for Christmas 2008!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Making dinner time easier

Hi everyone. Today we had a leisurely stroll to the local market - very little spend. All I got was an old fashioned bottle for £1.00, an original HP Sauce glass one, which I thought would look nicer than my current fairy liquid bottle! I saw on a programme where someone used an empty bottle instead of their boring washing up plastic one and thought it was a fab idea.

We then wandered along to TK Maxx and found a 350 count pima cotton fitted sheet in a mocha colour for £9.99 which I thought was great - it has a luxurious feel to it. We also got a fan-style metal steamer for £2.99 to place on top of pans. We used to have a dual layer bamboo one, but in our old flat it went musty due to humidity. Plus it took up loads of space so this metal one takes up far less (it's an expandable one) and can also go in the dishwasher.

For the remainder, I shopped for bits and pieces. I try to plan ahead 2 weeks worth of dinners, so we both know what's for dinner each night and you don't have that feeling of it being a hassle... it's not only worked well in terms of reducing hassle, it saves cash and time too. I print out some A4 calendar sheets for an entire month and *try* to fill it out as much as I can with ideas (downloadable from here). I then use one of the Nobo drywipe boards, and a drywipe pen to write out 2 weeks of food from the A4 paper sheet.

Of course we change things around but at least it removes the headache each night of thinking about it. It means either of us can get home and start dinner, because it's planned out and all the ingredients have been bought. Having the month view also helps buy food in advance if we see any deals like 2 for 1, or BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free). My husband is happy to menu plan and to be honest comes up with more creative things than I do, so that's a definate plus to make sure we're eating varied meals. Before I go shopping I check the drywipe board and look for any underlined items, as that means we don't have the item at home. I then write up the shopping list and only buy what we need, which means spending less and throwing away less.

Friends have commented on it, and I think maybe they think it's a tad OTT, but it works and ensures we waste less and only buy what we need. On average, saves us £60 a month compared to when we did not use it. So, who cares what anyone thinks, for £720 a year extra in savings!

Here is a meal planner link - I will add more as I find interesting links:

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Lavender dreams... and cotton luxury?

I have recrntly started to read a book called 'Home Comforts' which is a classic home-keeping book. I am far from the traditional homekeeper, so I was interested to learn more - you know, the questions you *can't* ask anyone else as you want to seem like you know it already... and I should, really!

Anyway, I rented it from my local library, and have it for at least 3 weeks. The chapters are all clearly defined and although I have skipped some (as they are not relevant to our small flat), I can see it being a valable resource so may try to see if I can buy it sometime as an investment. I was given Delia's 'black' basic recipe book on that basis too and have found it extremely helpful.

The main thing I was interested to read today was about the importance of the right bed linen. We have never spent that much, often going on price rather than anything else, as you often wash and replace that I have found a few fitted sheets do us fine, having lasted several years. But it has made me re-think this - are our sheets that great at £5.99?

I find one is too thin and I hate having to use it (in fact I generally leave it til last if I can) as it is skinny, scratchy as a result and I could feel the matttress underneath. Even last year when we invested in a matress protector (from Argos, around £7 I think), we still find it our least favourite. This has happened with a duvet cover too, which has gradually lost colour and is less soft than I would ideally like, regardless of adding any softener to the wash. However, I should add that it must be 3 years old now - or is that just me being a modern consumer and not expecting it to last more than that?

For Summer we mostly use cotton (a mix of cotton and poly) like most folks, then in Winter I like flanelette.

So now that Summer seems to have deserted us here in the UK, I am wondering if now is the time to try and find some bargains for next Summer's bedding, as what we currently have will do us fine for now.

It might be that Egyptian cotton really is worth the hype, I don't know, but that's probably where I will start researching. It seems that a set for a double bed can be bought for around £25 - including the fitted sheet, flat sheet and 2 pillow cases.

However, then there are the different 'levels' - 180, or 400 threads per inch? It's a minefield! Anyone with any thoughts on this please do share them, as I'd love to treat us to something new but don't want to spend too much, or in contrast, too little on something that is near-enough what we already have.

In the meantime, I have followed the book's advice on airing the bed all day whilst I am at work. I have pulled back the covers fully and opened our window at the top as far as it will go.

I also have a lavender spray that I made with water and a few drops of essential oil. I keep this by the bed for nights when I cannot sleep of just need something soothing or refreshing to help feel sleepy and relaxed. This is also good lightly sprayed in the air above the bed to freshen things up until the next wash.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Make your own Homemade Yoghurt

This recipe makes around 1 litre of delicious yoghurt (900ml if strained through muslin cloth fot thicker yoghurt).

Slow Cooker Yoghurt

• Place 1 litre semi skimmed milk in your slow cooker (I use longlife milk)
• Gently whisk in 5 tablespoons live yoghurt (as Starter yoghurt – a small Yeo 150g pot seems to be enough)
• Whisk in 2.5 tablespoons milk powder
• Cover with a cloth & lid
• Set on LOW for one hour
• Turn off and leave overnight

Please note that this can also be done in a switched off warm oven (after you have used it for a meal, say), if you do not have a slow cooker. Still needs to be covered with a cloth and lid and left overnight.

The longer you leave the yoghurt to develop, the thicker and more 'yoghurty' it will taste.

If you like it thicker (like Greek Yoghurt)

Then sieve through a muslin cloth for 1.5 hours & refrigerate (I buy 12 big sheets of muslin off Ebay for around £5, this then makes 48 sheets worth - this can then be washed and reused).

This can then also be used as the starter yoghurt a couple of times.
Each time you will need to add more starter tablespoons (ie: 2nd batch, will be 6-7 tablespoons and 3rd batch will be say 8-9) with slightly more powdered milk each time.

I have not successfully managed to make a 2nd batch this way yet - any comments most welcome!

This is delicious with honey and pine nuts or walnuts, or with fresh fruit, great on cereal and also perfect to go with curries or sauces that would normally need coconut milk, which is more expensive.

It’s also green - you are also reducing travel miles as well as packaging, by making your own yoghurt.

The initial cost is around £0.50 for milk, £0.55 for yoghurt and say £0.10 for powdered milk. This is just £1.15 for 71 litre of yoghurt. Even less when you make the 2nd and 3rd batches! In the shop you would pay up to £3.00 for 1 litre...

I would love to know what you all think if you give this a go!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Strawberry emerges!

Ok so it's not the most exciting thing to anyone else, but the one strawberry we have is starting to blush and resemble a fruit, instead of a green nobbly thing... so here you go - for us it's a major moment!

Also the dill is coming along nicely as you can see, so although it will take some time, I imagine some nice Winter dishes will be complemented with this hopeful batch... and we simply placed the seeds in a strawberry plastic container from the supermarket, so there was no need to spend cash on the pot.

I have had a busy weekend so am very tired, but my husband made some fresh bread this afternoon, which technically cost us nothing this week, seeing as we bought the main ingredients from last weeks budget. With the price of bread going up and up, I think he's enjoying making it himself and producing something almost for nothing. It's cooling as I type and only our second ever loaf, so this shows anyone can make it!

We're following Delia's recipe, as we found that the recipe on the back of the Somerfield 'strong' white flour pack didn't work as well (it was too yeasty, they suggested 2 tablespoons of dry yeast, Delia uses 1 teaspoon and also lets it sit and bubble with warm water up prior to starting the recipe).

As you can see, it's just cooling on our grater as we don't have a wire rack, but this works just as well and saves on buying anything fancy. I am looking forward to trying some of it in a while, perfect as a little snack before we have tuna gumbo - this is a delicious and easy dish:


3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped, then cooked
1 chopped white or red onion
1 clove chopped garlic
2 tomatoes, chopped
Small bowl of sweetcorn (frozen is cheapest but small tin would work)
Handful of peas
1 tin of tuna
Handful of green beans, topped and tailed, cooked/steamed
Some black olived, de-pipped!

Fry onion and garlic then tomatoes, when done place in a big bowl. Heat sweetcorn & peas (just pouring boiling water over them does the trick) and drain the cooked sweet potato. Then pour these into the bowl with the cooked green beans. Mix all the ingredients together, add olive oil and seasoning (oregano and paprika work very well). Add a couple of tablespoons light mayo and the olives, serve with mixed leaf salad. Delicious!

Free financial whizzy applications

Here's a useful selection of applications that can be downloaded for free, to use towards budgeting, investing, calculating interest, compound interest and so much more:

Free financial applications

Friday, 8 August 2008

Are you a saver or a spender?

Click here to read an interesting article on savers.

It seems many of us couldn't survive more than 7 weeks if we lost our job!

I think the ideal is 6 months wages, which would cover you for a while, takes time to get to that amount but it would allow you to feel a bit more relaxed...

I think we'd manage around 3 months each at the moment, so still much more to be done.

Rail - Easier - Cheaper...

I have found a brand new way to save money on rail travel, since no longer serves our area (and that used to be £1.50 per trip to London sometimes, we saved lots of cash).

The site is called:

I found I could book each leg of my trip separately, which is the only annoying thing as I would have liked to do it all in one go like a 'shopping basket'.

Still, I only paid £5 one way to London, and another £5 for the return trip the next day. Plus this £10 includes booking fees and posting to my home. Technically the tickets were £3 each though! The service was very quick too, tickets arrived within 3 days of my online order.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Homegrown veggies - for first timers!

We're not gardeners. We kill plants, with too much or too little love. However, with the price of food rising by the week, we're starting to reassess whether we couldn't learn to plant a few seeds. We only have a small patio garden, it has enough room for a few pots though so we thought it would be worth a try.

So, last Wednesday, we took a trip to the local B&Q and got some compost, some seed trays, seeds for Kos lettuce, small carrots and herbs. We also got some Chilli, but unfortunately it's soo late to plant those now.

Our carrot has taken longer but started to sprout too:

And here is a picture of the dill - still not sure what to cook with it but it will be nice to have it available when we need some:

We also bought a ready-grown pepper plant for £10.50 at a local flower shop, which has around 14 peppers on it, so this should save quite a bit when they have start to hit fully grown size.

We bought a strawberry plant which so far shows one perky strawberry, here's to hoping the next one will come up soon or it will be a short lived fruit salad!

Sadly we missed the correct time for planting tomatoes, but my next stage will be to try and plant potatoes, which by all accounts just needs a deep box with holes for the water to drain, and plenty of soil!

All in all, we probably spent £27 on everything.

Cutting the cost of... cutting hair!

We recently bought a hair clipper with all the extras for £19.99, this will have paid for itself once Damon uses it another 2 times as he was paying £8 per visit to the local hairdresser. It's a good quality Remmington Titanium with 13 pieces, we got it from Argus but we should probably have used really to get the best price, however, he was wanting to get it done there and there... I have convinced him that now each time that haircut time comes around, that £8 will go into savings for Christmas, when we're off to see my Mum in Portugal for Christmas and we can really enjoy that money treating her and her husband to a special meal, money that otherwise we wouldn't have had.

Pricebook for shopping

Here are some pics of my shopping pricebook - this has saved me an absolute fortune! I did not believe it would at first, but actually over time it's a valuable exercise.

I got it in Sussex Stationers for £2.99, it's mostly blank which I found was the best format for me. I write each item in the correct section (it's alphabetised) and then I write where the item came from (Sainsburys, Co-Op etc), the weight, price and the eventual price per Kg. This way when I see a deal, I can check if it's the best price I have paid, or there's somewhere else I could get it cheaper. It's great to use and then note the prices, as they work out the price per kg for you ;o) I also always note when that price was a 'Deal' as opposed to it's normal cheapest selling price.

Today as an example, Co-Op have Utterly Butterly on BOGOF (Buy 1 Get 1 Free) for 500g. This makes the price per kg on the deal £1.36, so 500g is just £0.68p which is a great price. Plus it can be placed in the freezer.

I have been writing in mine for around 10 weeks now and I can honestly say it's saved me around £40 by now, all for £2.99 and a bit of elbow grease!

You may also be interested in meal planning to save more cash - see my 'Making Dinnertime easier' post - you can also download this meal planner:

Money Saving With Martin

My first recommendation would have to be that you join to save loads of money. Martin Lewis will then send you a weekly e-mail on Wednesdays with all the latest UK news and deals - vouchers off and much more.

Wow - I have my own blog - what a concept! I like the idea of having a place to share info and learn too - feel free to join in!

The reason I set this up is due to a site called Down To Earth (linked to on the right). Rhonda inspired us to live a simpler, easier life, despite the fact that we live in the UK, in a very small flat.

So I thought this blog could be a place for others in the same boat to share tips and ideas on how we can all make more out of less... and spend less so we can enjoy life more.