Thrifty Thursday

There’s a difference between being stingy and being thrifty! I don’t wanna be stingy, you know, the one who didn’t get a round in cos they waited until last go and everyone went home by then. Or your mate who splits the bill individually with a calculator when they’re only having a main and thier share is £6.95 but is happy to split the bill equally  when they’ve had a starter, steak, cheese board and ordered an extra bottle of wine.. haha of course we all will know a few of these folk… I don’t want to become stingy but I do need to have a bit of a look at where I’m spending money ‘willy-nilly’ (as my mother would say).

I have to admit it, I’m someone who spends too much on stuff, I have too much stuff, but I’m trying to be a bit more thrifty! So I’m making up some money rules for myself…

Rule 1. Use it all up

Cosmetics, lotions and potions… I have only one face but have 10 (or more) half pots of creams. I had a clear out of my bathroom cupboards to discover that I’m an advertiser’s dream, fooled by every wrinkle diminishing claim. I have about 10 pots of half used wrinkle creams.. day cream, night cream, youth serum… the lot.  I’m not sure if any of them work to be fair but I’m going to use them all up before I buy another! The same applies to the 3 bottles of £25ish foundations I have. I’ve also found the eye liner sharpener so I can stop buying a new eyeliner when I can’t find a sharp one (genius). I don’t know why I insist on buying 2 shampoos, 2 toothpastes and 2 deodorants? I’m probably underestimating this but I’m thinking that using up what I already have will save me about £25 a month (and my cupboards will be tidier).

2. Make a food shopping list

I’m a food waster, so this is next on the list. I’ve been trying out online shopping; to resist the urge of buying extras with my food shopping. I’m trying to be organised by writing a one week meal planner that can be doubled up so the shopping lasts 2 weeks. So far it’s going ok, one of the things that puts people off online shopping is substitutions but for me it’s a bonus; I like surprises. I’ve had my prosecco upgraded as the one on offer must have ran out (result) and I got a bigger pack of mackerel because they had no small ones left. I did get a tube of squeezy ginger instead of a parsley plant but I sent that one back for a refund. I am spending less, but I’m also trying to diet so having less in the house is a good thing. Rather than shop every week I’m stretching the shopping over 2 weeks and I’ve been spending about £100 every other week… instead of every week!

3. Spend no money at work

£260 a year at work on Diet Coke…. oops. This sounds like a lot of you add it up. This is bad. No more Coke from the man in a van who pulls up at work. I’m not cutting it out all together but ordering packs of cans is cheaper than an overpriced bottle 5 days a week…

4. Make the most of free things

Whilst I’m trying my best to be frugal I’ve taken advantage of some free stuff I’d normally pass up on. Like the shower gel and shampoo at a recent hotel stay, I’d normally use a bit of the little complimentary lotions and potions then leave them…. assuming open bottles go in the bin but in this hotel the shower gel read ‘best shampoo you’ll ever steal’ so I thought, you’re right.. I’m taking it home.

I’ve also been trying for some home grown veg… I managed one courgette and some still green tomatoes. I do however know a lot of folk with apple trees and an abundance of rhubarb, both things I wouldn’t usually eat; so would turn down the offer of a bag full. This time however I’ve decided to swap the fruit in my oats from over priced berries to some good old fashioned British garden fair. I’ve prepared and frozen the lot in portions ready to chuck on the oats. I slow cooked the rhubarb with a tablespoon of sugar and slow cooked the apples with a squeeze of honey and some wild blackberries I even picked on my walk home from work. I had to freeze the rhubarb and apples flat on a tray of grease proof paper in dollops just big enough for a portion, then popped them in a plastic freezer container. The rhubarb overnight oats are delicious, I’m trying the apple and blackberry in the morning!

5. Sort the bills

This one was a big deal, I should probably write a hundred lines ‘don’t pay too much on the bills’. I’m talking the every month drainers on the bank balance. I’ve made a couple of fairly big changes but I must remember to check every bill when it’s due to be renewed. The mortgage. I knew the fixed rate was due to run out, I made some enquiries early (4 months) and honestly I was a little disappointed when I looked into this one, I’d seen some great rates but when you look into them further there’s a lot of extra costs to consider, fees, legal, valuation blah blah blah. I had already asked my existing mortgage company what they could offer, it was ok however I thought I could do better somewhere else…. but then they sent a letter offering me a change in the rate straight away- 3 months early so I signed up, the rate was slightly higher than others I’d seen but with no fees and then an extra 3 months at the lower rate it was definitely the best option. Yippee £100 a month in my pocket.  I’ve also saved £50 a month by saying goodbye to all of those extra channels that I didn’t even watch anyway.

All in all a good start to bill slaying but I’m not sure if being frugal is really going to stick!

Free wild blackberries

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My garden sanctuary… painting the roof

Not quite a she-shed but definitely my garden sanctuary. I have managed to get the roof of the arbour painted with a brush taped to a stick (well a lantern hook). Whilst my neighbours watched on in amusement… it looked funny but it did the job. I had to use a couple of different sized brushes to get into the hard to reach bits!

DIY extended paintbrush

The aurbour had a couple of purposes, one was to block out a gap in the neighbours fence with a view straight to their kitchen door so there’s no more views of the neighbours in their nighties letting the dog out, and the other was to catch the late afternoon sun and this corner was the best spot!

It took some digging and rearranging of the garden, as I mentioned in my previous post to fit the arbour in the right spot.. but I hadn’t thought through painting the roof… I’m only 5’2″!

I’ve added a couple of tall plant pots either side, one with an acer and one with bamboo that I got for bargain prices in the sales. I’m hoping the plants grow a bit to hide the fences some more.

Best thing is walking home from work on a sunny day (rare I know but today is one) and taking off my shoes and heading out across the grass for a peaceful moment to myself in the sun.

Corner arbour sanctuary

Painted corner arbour

 

Painting the arbour

I thought that painting the garden furniture would be easy! It turns out that outdoor paint is much runnier than chalk paint….

I’ve picked a couple of Cuprinol paints, Silver Birch and Country Cream to paint my corner arbour… but getting it done is taking an age. Trying to catch a dry day is tricky with this years British summer. It’s August and rainy. The paint instructions suggest 2 coats no longer than 8 hours apart, I’ve managed to get most of the arbour painted with just the roof to go. Rain is forecasted this afternoon so I’m not sure if I should risk it!

The painting has been a bit tricky to get into all of the nooks and crannies, and as I’m painting with 2 colours I’ve had to be careful. I started with the cream, thinking that any splashes could be easily covered by the grey… good job as there was lots of drips. I had to use masking tape where the 2 colours meet up- leaving about an hour before taking the tape off. It’s not perfect but much tidier than my cutting in.

I’ve opted for the cream inside so it’s bright when you’re sitting in the arbour and it’s a lovely contrast with the silver birch. I can’t wait to finish the roof but the rain won’t let me! I’ve got a string of solar lights to hang up and I’m on the lookout for wooden bunting to paint in the same colours as the corner arbour. I just hope I can get it finished before the end of summer!

These are the paints used:

Drying Lavender

After enjoying a few days of Summer and then what seems like a month of rainy days I’ve decided to bring some of the garden indoors; lavender.

I have lots of roses in my front garden that have been clearly loved and looked after for years, so I’ve been adding to the garden around them. I googled to find out the best companion plants for the roses, and lavender seemed to come up as a good option. It’s also got the added benefits of ground cover and a wonderful scent! I planted around 10 lavender plants last year to my garden border and this year they’re starting to fill out.

With all the rain we’ve had I haven’t even cut the grass around them for a couple of weeks and I’m waiting for a sunny day to tidy up around them and for a picture. I’ve been trying to find out how to dry some lavender to keep the smell and the purple flowers in a vase indoors.

Apparently the easiest way to dry them is to simply cut a bunch and hang them upside down in an airy space for a couple of weeks (not cutting into the woody bits of the stems or the lavender won’t grow). Seems straight forward, so I have a little bunch hanging on my mantelpiece until they’re dry enough for a vase!

Drying lavender

A sunny wine spot to fully enjoy our (2 day) British summer

Garden wine spotcorner arbourSo I haven’t really been very bloggy in a while. After the bathroom and stairs the house is all homely and there’s only a few cosmetic improvements to be made to my house (indoors). So I had a little chill out and have been enjoying the luxury of breathing in  without the dust! YEY.

Outside however is another story. After living in flats with yards, having a garden was high up on the ‘must have’ list when I was looking for a house. Maintaining said garden has been right at the bottom of the to-do list. It’s funny that as soon as I got a garden, everyone I knew became an expert at gardening and have been dishing out advice for the last year. Advice to which I’ve just replied ‘the garden is next years job’ whilst in my head I’ve been thinking ‘F-off can you see the state of inside, do you think I care what the weeds are doing?’. Anyway the time had come to tackle the garden….

The thought of getting in a gardener is amazing, the thought of paying someone is not. This garden will be transformed with my very own little not-so-green fingers.

I started with some weeding and quickly discovered that flowerbeds  are hard work and grass is definitely the way to go! So, I’ve been gradually flattening out the flower beds and putting down some grass seed. Some of the flowers have been fighting back though and once a flower has given me some colour I’ve not had the heart to grass it over. I’ve had some beautiful poppies pop up adding a wonderful touch of red and pink to the late spring days, but they only seem to last a couple of weeks. I’ve also got some bright red, yellow and orange roses that have won me over.

Orange roses

Roses in the front garden

As the longer summer days started I realised that the sunniest spot of the late afternoon was a back corner of the garden filled with some large bushy shrubs… growing on a bit of a slope. The perfect spot I thought for an early evening wine.

I didn’t have myself down as a landscape gardener and I asked a few people if they thought I’d be able to flatten the ground out and add a bench… no was the prominent answer. That tree will never come out was another. It took me all day with a little spade and some rolling around of the border rocks but I did manage to dig the shrubs out, level up (ish) the ground and even make some steps from some strategicly placed rocks. I’ve chucked a bag of bark on top to try to keep the weeds at bay. I even replanted the big shrub, I think it’s a butterfly tree… it looked dead for a few weeks after moving but it’s now started to grow some purple flowers. It’s been hard work has this gardening lark and I always hiss a little when I hear the neighbours lawn mowers going because I know I have to do it too; or the jungle will take over again! The best bit was with the money I didn’t spend on a gardener I’ve spent on a corner arbour to sit and enjoy the sun… and some wine. On the downside it has rained since I got it so I haven’t been able to paint it but hey, when the sun gets out I’ll be enjoying the sunny rays and a glass of vino verde and I guess I’ll be mowing the lawn and weeding forever!

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Planting grass seed
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Digging everything out

The wine garden spot

Hessian Potato sack cafe curtains

I had planned on simply hanging some potato sacks up, with a café tension rod and clips, for my kitchen curtains. It turned out that the potato sacks I’d bought weren’t long enough for this (I didn’t measure first). Anyway, I’ve had a little bit of a cut, sew and play and I’ve repurposed some potato sacks into some cafe curtains.

I decided to make the curtains with hessian to let some light in whilst having a rustic feel. I then thought that some print on the hessian might look nice- which led me to potato sacks. I found some French potato sacks and bought a pack of 3…. thinking I could just hang them up and be done with it. They did look ok but didn’t cover enough of the window so instead I started to unpick the sacks.

Potato sack curtains
Cafe curtains with potato sacks, this try they weren’t long enough.

I unpicked the stitching to open the sacks up, making wider curtains and then cut one in half to sew to the top of the other 2 sacks, giving me the extra length.

The top is simply folded and clipped into place with clip rings. That’s it, potato sack curtains. The edges even have a lovely pattern where the string has been unpicked.

I already had the clips (Flerise store 40-pack Black Matte Metal Curtain Rings with Clips (1″) (1”, Black)) and the tension rod (Speedy 100-150 cm Tension Rod, White), so my new curtains have cost me about a fiver, The French potato sacks I upcycled . I think these sacks would have looked great too:

Potato sack curtainsPotato sack curtainsUnpicking and sewing potato sacks together

February resolutions

I’m not usually one for making New Years Resolutions because I generally don’t keep them at all. I’ve also had a gloomy January full of a long lingering cold that’s left me a little bit flat! Now that February has arrived and the nights are slowly getting later I’ve got a bit more of a skip in my step and am looking forward to some longer spring days.

I’ve decided on a February resolution to be more money wise and less wasteful. Now, don’t get me wrong I am definitely a recycling, upcycling maker kind of girl but this doesn’t always come at a low cost. I usually buy old furniture to upcycle and whilst this is often cheaper than buying brand new from shops I do it because I like a decent piece of sturdy furniture and for the shabby chic look of a finished piece rather than for the money savings. Then on the other hand I’ll happily throw out perfectly good items without thinking about it, or I’ll be entirely cash wasteful by getting a £10 taxi to a meeting cos I just couldn’t be bothered to walk then take a long £2.50 bus journey (I did this today, prompting my resolution). Im not very consistent in my thriftiness. I think I keep forgetting that last year I resigned from a very well paid job, professional reason is noted as ‘to achieve work/life balance’ after working 60+ hour weeks, actual reason is that I just hated my job. I have to remind myself that my current job for a charity does not give me so much disposable income!!

I might be being a little premature when I say I’ve started to prepare for a thrifty Christmas 2018 but I have saved a baby Christmas tree from the garden bin. I’ve hidden the reindeer pot with some twine and I’m planning on keeping the baby tree alive until next Christmas. This could be a real challenge as every plant I have ever touched has unfortunately died…. but for now this is my little reminder to think of the thrift (ignore the almost dead mint plant in the background; it doesn’t indicate much hope for the baby tree).

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Kitchen renovation

Kitchen before and afterI’ve just been looking back at pictures of the kitchen before and after the refit. We lived with the existing kitchen for about 8 months before the refit started, so in the meantime we gave the kitchen a little makeover to make it more cosy to live in.

We had a free standing fridge so the first thing to do was make some space for it. The kitchen had a breakfast bar type seating area so we took this out to get the fridge in.  We freshened up the cupboards with some white paint and we changed a couple of the ugly doors to curtains. This is easy to do using a net wire and hooks. The curtains were made with iron on hemming as my sewing machine was still packed away- and they were only ever temporary. I have to admit to loving the way the temporary kitchen looked, but there was no doubt that the cupboards needed to be replaced.

Kitchen makeover
Temporary kitchen makeover with curtains on the cupboards.

We added some Georgian style French doors made by a local company to let some more light into the kitchen. The kitchen units are a cream shaker style with a rustic wooden top and Belfast sink, adding a bit of a traditional country feel to the kitchen. The tiles are in shades of cream, white and grey to compliment the fake tile laminate floor. I love the laminate flooring, it was a great find and not at all what we were looking for I’ve never seen a patterned tile effect laminate floor before and everyone always comments on it.

Tile effect laminate floor

The kitchen has had a full makeover, and I’ve upcycled the table Upcycled table update…. now painted and fresh and the welsh dresser My upcycled shabby chic Welsh Dresser (drinks cabinet really) and the only little problem I have is that I somehow dropped the plug for the Belfast sink down the waste bit… and I can’t get it out! Oops.

kitchen makeover

Bathroom makeover

My bathroom renovations have all been completed now. Yey! I had deliberated over taking the wall out between the bathroom and the loo in an earlier post Decisions, decisions… should the loo be in the bathroom or should the loo just be the loo? But in the end, having a roll top bath won me over.

Rolltop bath and watercan shower with shower curtain

The bathroom and loo are both pretty small (so small that I can’t even manage to get a decent picture). I really struggled to find any bathroom design ideas for such a small bathroom that didn’t look all squashed in but then I found a roll top corner shower bath that answered the questions about how to fit a roll top bath and a shower into the small bathroom. I’ve picked out quite vintage looking tiles to give the room a nice old fashioned feel, and opted for a part shower screen and a shower curtain (I want it all) the tiny loo also now has a high level cistern.

From start to finish the job was stress, stress, stress. I got a bit irritated when people said to me ‘it’ll be worth it in the end’ as I was sleeping in a child’s bunk bed at my parents house due to a lack of a toilet for what seemed like forever. We used workmen that we’d used in the past and they were great, extortionate (I always think I’m paying too much) but really diligent. They fitted our kitchen and we were really impressed with the work, they do everything from start to finish, leaving the place decorated and new. We got other quotes for the bathroom but we couldn’t find anyone else we had the confidence in.

One of the main issues was that the tiles didn’t arrive on time, causing us problems having the tiler booked in…. but it all worked out in the end. I’m still not entirely convinced that leaving the loo separate is the greatest idea, as although we don’t intend on selling the house, if we had to; I wonder if having a loo and bathroom in one would add value? But for now I get the joy of relaxing in a big tub, or have a long shower with a lovely powerful watercan shower and retro shower curtain!

Bathroom makeover
Roll top corner shower bath

Separate bathroom and loo before and after

DIY chalk painted chairs

I’ve just been adding some detail to my white chalk painted chairs. The chairs weren’t in very good condition when I started, they took a lot of cleaning and 2 coats of chalk paint with 30 minutes drying time between coats.

The seat pads were broken with metal sticking through, I had to replace them with new wooden inserts, new foam and I’ve reupholstered with some grey and yellow polka dot cotton fabric- the fabric was attached with a staple gun.


The dining chairs are really sturdy so I’m pleased that I’ve managed to upcycle them. They’ve got some nice carved detail to them so I’ve painted this with grey and yellow paint to make it stand out. I’ve distressed the chairs with a sanding block around the edges, I’ve been a bit heavy handed with the sanding but I really like the ‘distressed’ bits to be clear rather than looking like accidental scratches.

I think they look really pretty with the polka dots and white, so now I’m gonna have a sit down and a cup of tea!

DIY chalk painted chairs

DIY chalk painted chairs