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Showing posts from April, 2013

Why we are not taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge this year

I was asked this week to see if we could live below the line ie £1 a day per person.  I declined.   Now I want to explain why. Firstly the boys both have school dinners, which cost me £2 a day.  So £20 a week.  Their school dinners are fantastic.  They are varied, nutritious, well balanced and above all they love them and they eat well at school.  I know how hard the school and local authority work on provided this service and if they can not do it for any less that £2 per meal then that leaves little hope for me. I know that low income families get free school meals, but I also know that many people do not qualfy and that finding that £10 per child per week is hard work, but know that it provides them with the ONLY hot meal they will get. I know from experience that I can NOT provide my family with a balanced, healthy and accessible diet on £20 for five days. I cook from scratch most days.  We eat as many fruit and vegetables as I can afford and I can make a chicken go a l

Dumping the tumble dryer and Ecoforce giveaway

We have a tumble dryer, but it broke before christmas and we  couldn't afford to get it repaired, so I have been managing with an old fashioned wooden clothes rail and hanging bedding over the doors to dry, This last would of weeks however, I have been hanging the washing outside and it has been drying much quicker and with less creases, so I am going to take the plunge and instead of getting the dryer replaced I am going to give it away. Ecoforce heard me on twitter bemoaning the fact that I was chasing laundry round the garden as my pegs were not working and very kindly sent me some of their Ecoforce pegs to try and they have been fab. So in conjunction with Ecoforce I have a year's supply of green cleaning and washing up wonder products worth £50 comprising the following: EcoForce Peg Basket x 1 EcoForce Clothes Line x1 EcoForce Pegs x 2 packs Several of each of: EcoForce sponges, scourers, cloths, duster and bag grips Dishmatic Dishmatic Refills x

No Cost Simple Pleasures - Hill rolling

We took advantage of the free weekend at the National Trust and went to Fountains Abbey on Saturday with a picnic. Is there anything much more fun than children rolling down hills? My boys had so much fun, but it really upset me to hear a parent tell their child off for doing it as they would get mucky!

How to make holiday memories on a budget

Some of the most vivid memories I have are of holidays I took as a child with my parents.  These holidays memories are tinged orange and brown, which must have been the colour of the trailer tent we had and the inside of the touring caravan we moved on too!   For my childhood holidays were spent  on campsites such as  Richardson's Holiday Parks .  They were filled with communal shower rooms and midnight walks to the toilet block in my wellies in the dark with a torch.  Of communal washing up areas where we carried all the washing up and one washed whilst the other dried. We had lots of freedom and I even remember being washed in a bucket.  I also remember fantastic meals that my mum cooked on a camping stove and BBQ's.   Days on the beach and sand in the sandwiches   The dingy in a cold sea with a rope attached to it and ice-creams.    These are my holiday memories and they were achieved on a budget.   Nowadays holidays are expensive and you can spend lots

Making wedding season more affordable

Spring is definitely here and that also means that wedding season will soon be upon us.  Like most people out there I do like to look my best when at a wedding and would love to be able to afford a new outfit for each of the weddings over the year, however, finances just do not allow for this most of the time. Firstly I make sure that I look at mid season sales for high end clothes.    At the moment there is some fantastic reductions on  damsel in a dress , which means I can afford a high end dress at a more affordable cost. Once I have the dress that I will look at how I can make it look different for the weddings that I will have over the season.  By mixing up the accessories for each of the weddings I attend I can really mix up a look. It is amazing how adding a different pair of shoes, hat (or fascinator), shawl, cardigan,. jacket, jewelry and handbag you can make an outfit look very different.   However, I do not have the finances to go out and buy these ne

Message in a Bottle - A bottle made from sugarcane

As we live by the sea, this is pretty close to our hearts. We make sure that we always recycle our plastics and the boys and I have been known to pick up other peoples rubbish whilst on the beach and put it in a bin. I love that Ecover are making a stand.  I think that small ripples can make big waves. Cleaning the seas, one bottle at a time. Visit The-Splash for more information and to read our pledge. BTW, this is NOT a sponsored post.  We use Ecover products and I fully support them.

Magpie Monday - A tea set

We are avid tea drinkers in The Mad House.  In fact I am often called a tea monster.  I love the whole routine you have with tea.  I love making it with leaves and it seems the boys are joining me in my tea drinking habit. We have switched to decaf so they can. We were walking past the church charity shop in the village and we happened upon the lovely tea set below.  perfect. 2ix tea cups  saucers and tea plates.  It also had a milk jug and sugar bowl.  It cost me £10, which was a little more than I would have paid, but we adore it and the boys egged me on! Perfect for our little family as they tea cups are not tiny and I adore the pattern .

Anniversary songs for Will and Kate

Panasonic are looking for light-hearted playlists to celebrate the Royal couple's second wedding anniversary on the 29th April.   Now I am not sure about light hearted, but two years already!   MadDad and I have been wed for over 18 years and rather oddly we do not have a special song.  So I am not sure I am in any position to do playlists, but I thought I would give it a try. So Firstly My Life Story and 12 Reasons Why. I adore this song and always have.  I like to think that Will will have his own reasons why he loves Kate.  But "She leaves the pie and always, always eats her greens" is one that MadDad loves about me! Today was a fairytale - Taylor Swift I have to admit that my wedding day was the BEST day of my life and who can resist a little Taylor Swift and this is just perfect.  Magic in the air and fairytales.  Most weddings are just that. Better together - Jack Johnson Never a truer song in my opinion and I( hope that Will and Kate feel the same.

Get 2 free packs of Huggies Baby Wipes

Quidco are offering you the chance to get two free packs of Huggies Baby Wipes.  OK, so my boys are way past the baby wipe stage, but this is a great offer.  Too good to be missed really and I am going to use my two free packs of Huggies Baby Wipes to clean the Minimads  football boots . To learn more about how you redeem this exclusive offer, click here . What is Quidco? Quidco is the UK's largest cashback website.  It has  over 3 million members and more than 3,500 retailers.  Basically it you shop through Quidco it is like being paid to shop.   Not only is it a cashback site, but you get special offers and discounts via Quidco too, just like the Huggies offer above. They are also on twitter too @Quidco  

Stationery Magazine - FREE online magazine

I have an admission to make "My name is Jen and I am a stationery addict".  I have a real fetish for stationery and I have since being at school.  People can really make friends and influence me with lovely stationery and a quality cup of tea! Stationery is a bi-monthly trade magazine all about stationery!  It is free online, whoop de do.  The cover does not show you a hint of what is inside for its pages are filled with lots and lots of stationery goodness. Soon I will never have to subscribe to a paper magazine again.  I keep finding lots of online  freebie magazines .  Do let me know of any you know of in the comments so I can feature them too.

Comparing credit cards - What to look for

Although I am as thrifty as I can be, due to being unwell in the past and MadDad having to take unpaid time off work we do have debts, specifically credit card debts.  Although we have not added to these debts for the last three years we still haven't managed to pay them all off. Learning to live within our means due to still paying off these outstanding balances is hard and every so often we make sure we compare credit cards  to ensure that we have the best type of card for us. In order to decide what is the best card for you firstly you need to understand what you use a credit card for.  Are you like us and have an outstanding balance on it that you are trying to pay off without adding to it?  Perhaps you want a card that you can use for your purchases on a month to month basis and will always clear the outstanding amount. Transferring a debt to pay off - Balance transfer cards For us we look for a long term balance transfer with the smallest interest rate

What Playtime Has Taught Me

When our 4-month-old flat-screen and HD television came to a rather abrupt and unexpected end under a deluge of (quite artistically plastered I have to say) E45 cream, it was a blow, but I managed to pull through. (There is now always - praise the Lord - the iPlayer and I keep the laptop tucked away in Drawer 3 under a pile of old t-shirts in our bedroom where it sleeps snugly and safely, away from those prying little, cream-smearing fingers). When our pine kitchen table underwent the kind of metamorphosis you only see in science fiction flicks and turned into one of the giant yellow and purple rectangular toadstools from Alice in Wonderland, that put off dough rolling for a while, but in the end I found another solution. (I bought another, less antique and more plastic kitchen table. I know, I know. Hey, I am nothing if not practical. Not sure Kirsty would go for it, mind). When the red Givenchy dress my husband gave me for our 10th wedding anniversary was transfor

Free Weekend at the National Trust - 20 and 21 April

We love  The  National Trust, I am just  sad that our annual pass has run out, however, they are  offering  free admission 2 0 and 21 April to over 200 places nationwide.  Simply  download your free visit voucher   and pop along to your favourite Trust place to enjoy the best of spring.  Why not take a look at  what’s on   and start planning your free visit. Make sure you pack a picnic and flask to make it an even more affordable weekend.

It’s spring – Refresh your bedroom with these design ideas

With winter gradually retreating into the rear view mirror (not that you’d be able to tell by the recent bout of cold weather) and spring beginning to emerge, many people’s thoughts turn towards revamping the home. The prospect of a new year encouraging a fresh start, along with the mid season sales making it more affordable, make it one of the most popular periods to freshen up surroundings. Why not start your home makeover with the room where you wake up every morning? Here are some suggestions for the best ways to give your bedroom a new look. My new bedroom shelf that we put up at easter  Choosing your style The main question to ask is what kind of style you want for your bedroom. Perhaps choose a timeless, traditional country bedroom, where old-style wood furniture and natural colour schemes are emphasised along with plenty of layered, embroidered bed linen and vintage-looking cushions. Various pieces of handicrafts and ornaments also contribute to the ‘lived-i

Explaining the horror to children

This morning, MadDad and I sat down and told both the boys, who are eight and nearly seven of the horror that happened at the Boston Marathon last night.  MadDad had deliberately decided to go in late to work, so that we could tell the boys ourselves. We didn't want them to find out about it at school or worse still on the news. We kept it very concise and told them the bare bones. We told them that there had been two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and also a fire at the library in Boston and that at least three people had died including one child and that over a 100 people were injured and that possibly other people would die too. When they asked why it had happened we had to tell them that we didn't know.  That sometimes people do not have all the answers. Mini quietly replied "there are bad people in the world". Out of the mouth of babes, yes there are bad people in the world. How do you explain something of this magnitude to childre

What Are The Advantages Of Having An American Fridge Freezer If You Have A Family?

Families have big demands when it comes to eating, which means big demands for food storage. An American fridge-freezer has plenty of benefits, but what are its best assets when it comes to family use? 1.    Big One of the main advantages of American fridge-freezers is that they are big. This means that they are great if you have a large family and need to store lots of food, but also means that you can take advantage of any supermarket deals and offers that are available, thus saving you money in the long run. It also means that you’ll be creating less rubbish as you won’t have to constantly throw things out to make more room. 2.    Safety As one of the alternatives to an American fridge-freezer is the chest freezer, it could be argued that the American model is safer if you have small children. It can be easy for children to hurt themselves with a chest freezer if they are reaching down into the bottom to get something out, especially with them having to hold the

Student Finance Tips- Money Management

It is a long long time since I was a student  however, I think that good financial housekeeping is often learned and ingrained during those student years so I have asked a fellow blogger who is a Student to give me a hand and she is going to do a regular monthly Student Finance Tips post. So let me hand you over:   Hello! I am Siân, AKA HelpfulMum . I am a full-time mature student and hope to give you some money-saving advice and tips for managing your money as a student. I think I should concentrate mainly on money management first. I think I should concentrate mainly on money management first. You will be paid in three instalments of your student loan. One in October, one in January and one in April. The instalments in January and April will be the biggest (it was in my experience anyway). The only exception to this is the final year, when the April payment will be lower. What I have found works best for me is to have two separate accounts, one where the l

The tongue of concentration

They both have "the tongue of concentration".   Does your child?

Are you looking for guaranteed car finance

What do you do when the time has come to look at changing the family car?  Over on The Mad House, I have discussed  what  I look for in a family car and how I have been lusting after a Honda.  In the past when we have purchased a new car we have opted for the finance provided by the car company and you can also get  guaranteed car finance from Honda UK . I am lucky in the fact that MadDad works in finance and understand the difference financing options, but it can be a minefield when you are looking to finance a new car. There are lots of things to consider.  Do you want to own the car at the end of the finance deal?  Do you want your Honda to have a guaranteed future value and many many more. So I sat down with MadDad and we looked at the options available and here is my Thrifty Mum explanations.  Do you want your car to have a  guaranteed  future value, so you can either buy it outright at the end of a finance period, trade it in or hand it back with no extra costs?  If

A guide to making a girl's dress

In the past few years sewing has come back into fashion and now making your own clothes is seen as a trendy way to show off original style. Making clothes for yourself and your kids is also a great way to save money, as you can buy patterns and fabrics for a fraction of the cost of a shop-bought item. Girls dresses are one of the simplest things to make and a great starter before you start creating your own wardrobe. By making clothes for your daughter you will be making a substantial saving, which can then be used to splurge on one-off special items, which are perfect for spoiling your little one on her birthday or for a special occasion. Designer clothing for little princesses can easily be bought online, so even if you don’t live in a city with access to designer stores, you can shop for your favourite designers from your home! Before you splurge, make some savings by creating a wardrobe of dresses for your daughter. Can I start with something simple? Yes! If you are new to

Clothing on a budget

While shopping is fun, getting a great deal can be even more exhilarating and rewarding. Fortunately, with today’s wide variety of retailers and designers, it’s more than possible to buy stylish, quality clothing for everyone in the family – even if you’re on a shoestring budget. When you carefully budget your money, plan ahead and shop wisely, it’s easy to pick up pieces without feeling guilty about spending. Shop Around Before heading to the mall, write out what you plan to buy. That way, you’ll be less tempted to over spend. When making big purchases, such as a new house, you have to shop around and take your time. Unless it’s a great deal, chances are you will not act on it immediately. The same goes for clothing. Scour different stores and websites until you find the item you want at the price that fits your price range. Don’t forget about newer stores. While there are plenty of established stores, there are several new ones on the rise that can be just as great. Invest

Asbestos in schools

Did you know that  life-threatening asbestos is more prevalent in the UK than anywhere else in the world.?   This was news to me and I can imagine will be of interest to any parent out there.    Why not take a look at the infographic below.  If you want to see it in a larger format then visit  Spencers Solicitors website , they produced thi s in  In support of International Asbestos Awareness Week (1-7 April). Infographic by Spencers Solicitors

Gatherings - FREE online magazine

Before long you will be able to  cancel  all your paid for magazine subscriptions as more and more free online quality magazines, ezines and ipad compatible magazines are coming available. Gatherings Magazine is a seasonal online publication to inspire your creative life! Each issue spotlights articles on crafts, food, interiors, vintage collecting, and style with the intent to foster creativity and delight the senses. Not only a visual treat, but Gatherings collects real-life stories from seasoned professionals pursing creative careers as impetus for your own dreams. Such a feast for the eyes and even better you can download it on to your ipad!

Frugally entertaining children in the car

I don't know about you, but both my boys can get board on journeys in the car and there are times that I curse the fact I taught them how to play i spy!   So instead of verbal eye spy, I created a sheet that I printed off and laminated and then give them whiteboard pens to mark off the items.  The competition is to see who can fill in parts first.   If you click on the image below, you can enlarge it to print off yourself. Some of our other favorite in-car or travelling games are: I don’t spy (just like I spy, but the opposite)  Who am I? Where you have to guess what job the person does without them using the title. ie I help people, I work in a hospital (Doctor) Count the cars, ie find 48 white cars I spy using a colour I went to the shops and I bought….. This is an entry in to the  Tots100 Jolly Journeys competition  in conjunction with Travel Supermarket.  Take a look at their UK car hire, as this is where they will be displaying some of the best ti