30 ways to save £1

I’ve seen lots of fun posts recently about ways to save £1. These are full of great ideas so I thought I’d take my turn. Money Supermarket have asked bloggers to share their money saving tips and one lucky blogger will win £2000!! Find out more here.

So, I present 30 ways to save £1!

  1. Always write a shopping list before you go to the supermarket. This is probably my number 1 money saving tip and saves me loads of money each week!
  2. Plan your meals for the week to make sure you only buy what you need and minimise waste!
  3. Batch cook things like bolognaise and curries so you can stash a couple of portions away for nights when you don’t want to cook.
  4. When eating out with small children, don’t waste money ordering them a seperate meal which they probably won’t eat. Just ask for an extra plate and create a toddler dinner from whatever the grown ups are eating.
  5. For a cheap way to decorate your house, keep pretty cards or postcards and frame them. No-one will know its not a proper picture!
  6. Close curtains early to keep the heat in your home.
  7. Buy a water bottle, fill it and take it out whenever you go out. Saves buying one out and about for at least £1 per bottle.
  8. Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  9. Learn how to do some basic repairs to your clothes so you can get more wear from them.
  10. Bake cakes and biscuits for the tin – much cheaper than buying them!
  11. Buy second hand toys and books for your kids. They don’t know the difference!
  12. Have a present box or cupboard so you can pick up bargains when you see them and never have to panic buy a gift!
  13. Sign up to cashback sites like Quidco.
  14. Take a packed lunch when you go out for the day rather than buying food.
  15. Shop around before all purchases, you can save a lot of money!
  16. Learn how to get better fuel economy from your car and make your petrol go further!
  17. Don’t park in the town centre, there’s usually a cheaper car park if you are prepared to walk 5-10 minutes.
  18. Get organised and make sure you always pay your bills and credit card off on time so you don’t get any fines.
  19. Deal in cash not cards. It really makes you think twice about unnecessary spending.
  20. Get a piggy bank and chuck in your spare change once a week. It will soon add up.
  21. Let your kids get creative and make cards and presents for relatives. The kids will have fun and the gifts will mean a lot more.
  22. Keep a price book so you can check when your favourite products are on a great offer and stock up!
  23. But don’t stock up on more than you need. Its not a bargain if you end up chucking it away!
  24. Cut coupons from magazines to save a few pennies on your shop.
  25. Use your local library. Free books and cheap DVD rentals.
  26. Stop buying magazines and do your reading online instead.
  27. Days out don’t need to be expensive. Head to the seaside or the park with a picnic and enjoy the fresh air.
  28. Pick up a reward card from any shops that offer them.
  29. Check you have the best deals on all your bills. Sometimes it pays to switch.
  30. PIck up pennies that you find on the street – keep looking and eventually you might find £1!! 🙂

So that was my 30 ideas. Have you got some of your own? Why not do a post yourself if you are a blogger, or leave a comment if you’re not!

Disclosure: Money Supermarket have kindly offered to pay £1 for each tip up to £30


Our first Library visit!

Last Friday Pumpkin and I had a bonus day together as she had only just recovered from a sickness bug and hadn’t quite been clear for 48 hours so couldn’t go to nursery. We thought we would make the most of it and do something we had been meaning to for a while – we went to the local Library.

Pumpkin loves books and so do most toddlers I know! We have a huge pile of books at home (some bought new, others from car boot sales, charity shops and gifts). But we still seem to get bored of our books. We read them so many times and then want to move onto the next! Borrowing from the library sounded like a great idea.

I checked out our local library website and saw that Friday afternoon was Under 5’s Story Time so off we went!

Pumpkin already had a library card of her own which we were given when we went to register her birth when she was 2 weeks old! It hadn’t been used though so when we arrived I asked the librarian about what Pumpkin could borrow. It turns out we can borrow up to 10 books on her card – that’s more than I could carry! Better still, there are no late fines on a children’s ticket so if we are a few days late with the books we won’t have to pay. And the lovely librarian assured me that they are well practiced at repairing books so not to worry if something got damaged in our care! How fab is that?

Pumpkin could not believe her eyes when she saw all the books on the shelves. I think she was a bit overwhelmed and was wondering how quickly she could pull them all off the shelves! I let her play while I selected some books for us to take home. I was really impressed by the selection.

Then it was Story Time. The librarian sat on the floor surrounded by cushions and beanbags and we sat down to listen as she read some library books to us. There was a range of stories and Pumpkin really enjoyed it, especially the audience participation bit! We lasted about 20 minutes of the 30 minute session which didn’t seem to bad for a 16 month old!

Our library has become super modern since I last visited and we were able to use the self service book check out system. Easy peasy and very quick!

The four books we borrowed have been read several times each day since Friday and Pumpkin loves to put them back into the canvas bag I have designated as our library bag! We will go back in a week or two and change them for another 4 books so she always has a changing supply of books. Of course there is no reason that we can’t borrow the same book again in a couple of months if she finds any favourites (I Won’t Bite by Rod Campbell springs to mind!).

I plan to build trips to the library into our schedule more often and hope that it will help to cement Pumpkins love of books and carry it on through her childhood.

Check out your local library for free events, information and a range of services (while I was there I managed to borrow an Energy Monitor for free as I saw a poster!).

Weaning: Common Concerns Discussed by HiPP – the Weaning Experts

We weaned Pumpkin last year, starting just before she turned 6 months old. I remember feeling very confused, not knowing whether she was eating enough, did she have enough variety and so many other questions. The lovely people at HiPP have answered some common questions which many parents have. 

Weaning is an important stage in your baby’s development – it helps them to develop the skills needed to really enjoy eating food in later life – although it can be a messy business!

Below are some common concerns shared by mums during this time:

1. When do I start?

The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and it is advisable to wait until then; however some babies may be ready earlier than this. Signs which suggest they might be ready include;

  • Hungry even after a feed
  • Showing an interest in food
  • Sitting without support
  • Puts toys/fist in their mouth

Weaning should never start before 17 weeks, even if these signs are present and should have started by six months. If unsure, get a professionals opinion.

2. How do I start?

The key is to prepare. You don’t need much equipment but you will need:

  • Bibs
  • Small baby bowls – or you can use cups, plastic lidded pots or ramekin dishes
  • Small, shallow, rounded baby spoons
  • Baby wipes, muslins or tissues
  • It’s easier if you can sit your baby somewhere such as a bouncing cradle or reclining highchair suitable for a young baby
  • Some suitable starter food.

Try to pick a time when it is quiet and your baby is content – after a feed is usually good.  Spoon a tiny amount of food out into a bowl and place your baby in a chair or on your lap. At this point a bib might be useful! Put a small amount of the food onto a plastic spoon – and offer it to them.

At first your baby will still be getting all of its nutrition from milk so don’t worry if they aren’t interested or don’t have too much.

3. Organic, non-organic, healthy, home-cooked – ARGH! What to choose?

Home-cooked baby food is often seen as the ‘gold-standard’ but some parents just cannot afford the time needed to do this. In this case shop-bought can be a good option as it is designed specifically for babies.

The decision regarding organic or non-organic is a matter of personal choice however we at HiPP strongly believe organic food offers babies a better start.

The most important thing is that you are happy with what you choose – and remember you don’t need to stick rigidly with one thing.

Obviously, foods for your baby should be healthy – with low levels of salt and sugar, no artificial colours or preservatives and plenty of fruit and veg.

4. How is this baby-led weaning different to conventional weaning?

Conventional weaning works on a principle of offering smooth, runny foods from a spoon to babies from the start; initially offering small amounts but increasing these as weaning continues; then introducing textures to provide a gradual transition from milk to family meals.

With baby-led weaning (BLW) the focus is on letting the infant learn to feed themselves from the start by offering a range of soft, well-cooked fruits and vegetables as finger foods and letting them suck, chew and swallow them at their own pace.

The benefits of BLW are that babies do it themselves, creating less stress for parents and the infant and the self-feeding encourages better hand-eye coordination. The downsides are that progression can be slow, which can cause babies to lack vital nutrients they are no longer getting enough of from milk.

The benefits of conventional weaning are that you as a parent can control the amounts eaten by your infant, and be confident that they are receiving the optimal nutrition they need to grow.

5. My baby is at weaning age but is showing no interest in foods

All babies are different. By six months most babies are starting to show an interest in foods. If they are not then try offering foods before a feed when they will be might be a little hungrier. Alternatively you can hand them a spoon and let them explore to gain an interest. Make sure they are at the table when others eat so they can learn from what others are doing.

Due to the increased amount of certain nutrients needed past 6 months it is important weaning has started by then. If you are concerned that this isn’t happening then contact your health visitor.

6. How do I move from smooth to lumpy foods?

Around 7 months is the time when lumps can start to be introduced. At first, start with softer lumps by mashing ripe fruit, cooked veg and fish. Some babies don’t like the lumps at first and can spit them out or look like they are gagging on them – but persevere as they will get used to them. Try fork-mashing foods first before trying foods with specific lumps in.

7. How much should they be drinking now that they are weaning?

Once weaning starts more fluids are generally needed.

Once your baby is starting to have 3 ‘meals’ a day the amount of milk given, and number of feeds, can start to be reduced and non-milk drinks given. As a guide, 6-month old babies will generally still need around 500-900ml of milk a day.

From 6 months unsoftened tap water is ideal for babies. Once weaning is well-established a milk feed can be swapped for fruit juice at a mealtime. It should be well diluted (one part juice to ten parts water) and given with a meal – as the vitamin C will help to absorb iron in the foods.

8. How much food should they be eating?

Babies are born with the ability to ‘self-regulate’ their intake – this means that they will know when they have had enough! Offer food three times a day as well as usual milk feeds and let them guide you. If they are giving obvious ‘enough’ signs, such as closing their mouth or pushing the spoon away repeatedly, then they have had enough.

9. How will I know about any allergies?

It is normal to worry about your baby having an allergy but luckily these are quite rare, however you should not be avoiding any foods for fear that they may cause an allergy unless your GP or dietitian has specifically asked you to.

If you feel your baby might have an allergy or intolerance then it is important to note down what was eaten and what symptoms occurred. Do not feed your baby any product with the suspect food in it until you have sought reassurance from your doctor.

10. Can I wean my baby onto a vegetarian diet?

Yes, babies can be weaned as vegetarians – however it is important to make sure the diet is well-balanced. This means making sure that they will be getting all of the nutrients which usually come from meat such as protein, iron and vitamin d, from other sources.

Weaning infants should, as a guide, be getting two servings of protein rich foods per day such as lentils, beans, tofu, soya or egg. If possible these should be eaten with a vitamin-C containing food or drink to help absorb the iron in these foods.

Thanks to HiPP for that fab weaning guide. Stay tuned for a review of their Stage 1 foods.

Do you research your Christmas buys?

How long do you spend researching your Christmas shopping before you buy? According to a survey carried out by Poundland, 40% of consumers will spend at least 10 hours in December looking for Christmas bargains, before they commit and buy a product. This time will be spent purely on research to make sure they are getting the best possible price. What a savvy lot of shoppers we are!

The research goes onto look at household and grocery shopping and found that five out of 10 shoppers visit at least three different stores each week for their essentials. The same number said that before the recession hit they were more likely to be loyal to a brand or shop. Now, getting the best deal overtook loyalty.

Jim McCarthy, CEO at Poundland comments: “It’s clear that when shoppers feel squeezed, brand loyalty becomes less important than getting the best price. Supermarkets change their offers all the time; it leaves consumers confused and pushes them to shop around before making a purchase. By contrast, with one single price point, shoppers can be savvy and budget as they fill their basket, making it easier to work out whether they’re getting a bargain. There’ll also be no shock with the final price of their basket at the till point.”

Take a look at these price comparisons to see some of the bargains on offer at Poundland.

A couple of weeks back I tweeted about some bargains I’d found in a new 99p shop in town. Before that I hadn’t really considered buying groceries from these discount retailers, but it was a real eye opener! I spent £5.94 on groceries that I normally buy in the supermarket which would usually cost me over £11. Having seen the bargains on offer in Poundland, I will be paying a visit next time I’m in town to see what I can save.

The beauty of these shops is that the fixed pricing means you can easily keep track of what you are spending as you fill your basket. Of course, you always need to do your research and make sure that you are getting a bargain. There are really good deals to be had but there are also things which might be cheaper in the supermarkets. I’ve just started keeping a price book which allows me to see the best price I can get a certain item for. This means that I can look up Pumpkin’s favourite Ambrosia Rice Pudding 4 pack of snack pots and see that they are £1.49 in Tesco so the ones in Poundland are worth stocking up on!

What’s in a list?

First, a quick update on Operation Back to Work! I’m ploughing on steadily with the house tidying and de-cluttering. I’ve been eBaying, donating to the charity shop and Freecycling lots of excess clutter. I’m also doing quite well with the ironing mountain – thank goodness for 4OD and the BBC Iplayer which are keeping me sane! Christmas and meal planning have been on the back burner as last week Pumpkin was poorly for the week and we found ourselves in coping mode! But all is well again and my cheeky little pumpkin is back to health so I can carry on.

One of the most important tools that I use to get organised is a To Do List. Writing a to do list is a great way of focussing my mind and making sure I achieve what I need to. Here are some top tips on writing to do lists.

  • Make it fun. I like to write my lists on some fun stationery (I am using this pad at the moment). I use coloured pens to write my tasks and cross them off when they are done! It might seem daft but it makes me smile! 
  • Make it achievable. Don’t set yourself up to fail. My pad has space for 16 items on it and I would never want a list to be longer than that. I like my lists to be completed in a short space of time (a daily list or a tasks to complete this weekend) so you get the satisfaction of completing it.
  • Break down tasks. I get real motivation from crossing items off my lists so I like to break down big tasks into smaller chunks. For example my daily list today includes laundry so I have listed sorting washing and loading the machine as one task, and hanging up the wet washing to dry as another.
  • Add some me-time. Most parents have a hard time making time for themselves. Add some ‘me-time’ activities to your to do list and make them as much of a priority as the chores. I’m reading a fabulous book at the moment (The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain since you ask!). I want to make time for a couple of chapters later on so I added it to my list  along with a visit to the gym.
  • Keep the list visible. I keep my lists on the desk next to me or if I am out and about I keep it in my pocket so I can check it at any time. Make sure you review the list often and enjoy ticking off the tasks as you complete them.
  • Life happens. Life happens is the phrase I use to myself when plans go out the window. Please don’t put too much pressure on yourself  and accept that sometimes the best laid plans go wrong. Last week when my daughter was ill I hardly achieved anything around the house but instead I comforted my poorly daughter which was a much bigger priority than the housework. You can always move the housework to tomorrow’s list!

Hope these tips are useful. Let me know what you think of to do lists in the comments. Maybe you are like me and can’t live without them, or maybe you keep it all in your head.

Children’s Party Planning on a Budget

Last week Pumpkin turned 1 and we had a fab party with family and friends to celebrate. I wanted to share some tips with you for children’s parties on a budget. I should confess, some of these lessons were learnt the hard way but overall we are happy with how the budgeting went.

1. Consider Sharing the Costs

This may not be possible in all circumstances, but our NCT group had three babies born on consecutive days. We decided to hold a joint party, inviting our NCT friends and a few extra family and friends each. This was a great way to share the cost and planning of the party. Think about sharing with family or friends.

2. Frugal Party Food

In my experience, people never eat as much at a party as you would think. There are so many other distractions that the food isn’t a huge priority. Think about the timing of your party. Ours ran 2.00-4.30pm so all we needed to provide were snacks. We went along the lines of afternoon tea – home made scones, cupcakes, biscuits etc with tea or coffee, and a selection of soft drinks. For the babies we had some of Pumpkin’s favourite snacks – cucumber, grapes, rice cakes etc. Ask people to help out with the preparation. Plenty of people offered to make cakes for us saving both time and money.

3. Entertainment

For a baby’s party, the entertainment can be kept simple. We decided to hire in some soft play equipment for the little ones. We found a couple of local companies and realised the importance of shopping around. The first quote was for £100 but then I found another company through Facebook which had a larger selection of equipment for just £50 – half the price. We also took Pumpkin’s walker, a few of her toys and her play mat so we could set up a toy corner. Remember that things can get broken so its probably best to leave expensive toys or your child’s favourites at home.

4. Pick a Theme?

A theme can be a huge help with party planning as it keeps you on track and allows you to think creatively. As our party was the weekend before Halloween it seemed obvious to go with that as a theme. We mixed in Halloween napkins with plain white, picked up decorations from Poundland, Tesco and Sainsburys. For example Tesco had witches hats and masks for 20p each which we dotted around the room. It really helped to cement the theme for only a couple of quid.

We really wanted some helium balloons and instead of £8 for number ‘1’ shaped balloons we chose Orange and Black star shaped balloons for £1.25 each from the cheap card shop. We kept them individually weighted and allowed the older children to take them home at the end of the party.

5. Call in Favours

Do you know any friends with skill you could call on? A friend made personalised bunting which hung as decoration and doubled up as a gift. Another friend had a bouncy castle we were able to borrow for free. Ask around, people are always generous.

6. What Can Be Cut?

Assuming your budget is limited in some way, you may find that you just can’t do everything within your budget. We chose not to do party bags as the guests ranged from baby’s to 10 years old which made them difficult to plan. Instead, at the end we gave away the balloons and some of the Halloween decorations to the older children. We invited parents to take some left over cakes, biscuits and sweets which used up a lot of leftovers. Just keep a cheap roll of food bags (try Wilkinsons or Lidl) for people to fill.

I hope this has given you some ideas. Please feel free to let me know your top party planning tips in the comments!

Mums Mall Guest Post: New Parents Guide to Finance with a New Baby

Today I am delighted to bring you a guest post from mum’s mall on finance with a new baby. Enjoy!!

Having a baby is a joyous occasion that is not without its own stresses and strains. Finances can present a particularly large concern for new parents, especially as the cost of raising a child continues to climb. This guide is designed to take the fear out of financial planning with a new baby.

1. Examine Your Current Financial Situation
• Budgets, Maternity Pay, and Debts

2. Costs To Consider
• Where Your Money Goes For The Next 18 Plus Years

3. Seek Out Sources Of Financial Benefits
• Tax Credits and Grants

4. Save For Your Child’s Future
• Savings Accounts and Investment Schemes

5. Save For Your Future
• Pensions and Savings Accounts

6. Plan For The Unexpected
• Emergencies and Insurance

7. Shop Smart
• Second Hand Goods

8. Train Your Child
• Raise A Smart Saver and Spender

9. Reevaluate Your Financial Situation
• Returning To Work

Examining Your Current Financial Situation:
Start by formulating a budget based on the income that you would have once your baby arrives. Be sure to include all of your monthly bills and expenses as well as pocket money for entertainment and pleasure.

Talk to your employer now to find out what benefits you will receive, as far as Statutory Maternity Pay or Paternity Pay, and how long they will be paid. Many employers will pay over the legal minimum. If you are not entitled to SMP, inquire about other benefits that you may be eligible to receive.

Look for sources of waste and excess spending that you can cut out now to save money in the long run. Try to eliminate any existing debt that you have before your baby arrives.

Costs to Consider:
Raising a child is an expensive undertaking. Expenses will vary from family to family, so you will need to consider where you can cut back and save. Items that you need to plan for include childcare, schooling and educational expenses, food, clothing, personal care, toys, hobbies, bedroom furniture and accessories, recreation and entertainment, holidays, pocket money, driving lessons, and medical bills.

Seeking Benefits:
Check out any tax credits that may be available to you as parents. Government grants are available to assist you with heating and insulation improvements to your home as long as you meet certain qualifying factors. In the unfortunate event that your child dies due to stillbirth or neonatal death, financial assistance is available for you during this difficult time.

Saving for Your Child’s Future:
It is never too early to start saving for university and career training. Create a nest egg that can grow with your child. Other options include junior ISAs, children’s savings accounts, Stakeholder pensions, and stock market investment schemes. Ask grandparents and other family members to make birthday and holiday contributions rather than buying expensive presents for your child.

Saving for Your Own Future:
If there are gaps in your State Pension qualifying years, consider making National Insurance contributions to boost your State Pension. Look into the Pensions Advisory Service’s National Insurance contributions planner for assistance. If you have other pension schemes, be sure to check whether or not you can continue making contributions whilst at home with your baby.

If you do not already have your own savings account or investment scheme, now would be an ideal time to start paying into one. Small contributions add up.

Plan for the Unexpected:
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Start an emergency fund that you can dip into if needed. Consider various types of insurance to invest in, should you lose your job, become ill, or die. If you have not already drawn up a will, do so immediately to ensure that your child is provided for in the future. Look into life assurance and income protection plans.

Shop Smart:
Try to borrow baby items whenever possible and shop second hand stores. Many hand-me-down items are still in great condition and will save you a fortune on things that you will only use for a certain period of time. Do not cave in to the pressure to have all of the latest designer items for your child.

Train Your Child:
It is never too early to begin teaching your child to spend money wisely. Be a role model of good spending habits. As soon as your child is old enough, teach him or her how to put money in a savings account. Help him or her to understand the wisdom in sacrificing now to save for the future.

Reevaluating Finances:
If you decide to return to work, look into childcare benefits, tax credits, and other financial assistance that is available to working parents.

Do not worry, panic, or stress over your financial situation. Set reasonable goals, and speak with a financial adviser if you need additional guidance.

This post was written as a guest blog post by mum’s mall – a specialist price comparison site for maternity products, toys, kids & baby clothes featuring over 50 online stores. Find mum’s mall on Facebook and Follow mum’s mall on Twitter.

Sleeping Soundly (Now!)

Pumpkin is 6 months old and has just discovered the art of rolling over. After many failed attempts, and many hours of me sat holding her favourite toy just out of reach (or the sky remote, chocolate bar etc!) she managed to get from back to front. For a split second there was a look of pride on her face at her achievement. But then she remembered that she doesn’t like to be on her front…. and the crying started.

During the day this is not too much of a problem. Someone is always on hand to encourage her to roll back, or to move her to her back. The problem came when she started to do this at night! Pumpkin is normally a great sleeper, regularly managing 12 hour stints with not a peep all night (although she does take a while to settle sometimes – I don’t want you to think she is perfect!!).

As I put her down for bed after a bath and bottle, she started to thrash about and roll over – then cry as she wasn’t comfortable and she was too tired to roll back herself. This also happened in the middle of  the night when she would stir, roll over and wake herself up (and then us!).

I asked some friends for advice and was recommended to buy a sleep positioner – a contraption which holds the baby in place in their cot while they sleep. Now being a cheapskate (sorry I mean a Spend Less Mummy!!) I decided to find a cheaper way to achieve the same goal. A quick Google found me the answer.

How simple is this?

Just 2 rolled up towels, one either side of where the baby sleeps. This is enough to keep the baby in position and discourage them from rolling and moving around the cot. The towels are placed on the mattress, and then the sheet is fitted over the top.

Sorry, this stage doesn’t photograph very well. You may just be able to see the rolled up towels under the sheet. The result is a cosy space for baby to sleep, with shallow sloping sides which stop the baby from rolling over.

As you can see, Pumpkin approves!

Our evenings and nights have been much quieter since I added the positioner to the cot. It prevents Pumpkin from rolling over when she is falling asleep or in the middle of the night and means we are all getting a much better nights sleep!

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