Renovating in France on a budget 


Hello Dear Reader,

Today, I’ve given the bedroom walls two coats of white emulsion, sanded the skirting boards and given then two coats of eggshell. Scrubbed down the shower room walls and given them the first coat of paint. My thrifted side tables have had a third coat of paint too. We have painting to finish but it’s all just tidying from now onwards.

We want to get all the major jobs done by the end of the day tomorrow so we can get onto the fun easy parts. There’s snagging to do but a massive day of work has made such a difference. We’re also pleased that we’ve kept costs to an absolute minimum.

DB fitted the balustrade today that he’d previously painted. Everything needs a light sand and a final coat of paint. He has lights to fit, doors to hang and we have to move furniture around and tidy. We’ve got to keep going even though I’m fed up of renovations and just want to go out and visit about five places I’ve got on my list. Fortunately, none of them are going anywhere so I can save the for trips in the future. 

When I look at the photo above, I marvel at everything he’s done: cutthe hole in the floor, customised the stairs to fit, built the stairs, built the wall and built the balustrades. DB – you are a star! I am so proud of you xxx

It’s slow going but we are getting there.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Feed me I’m tired! 


Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve pushed ourselves hard today and set a deadline for getting this round of renovations complete. We had some pine trees down when we bought the house and the logs have sat in the garden for 18 months. I don’t want to burn them as the resin can damage a flue liner. However, stored for three years in the dry, they are fine and won’t damage a chimney. We offered the ‘green wood’ on Facebook and today, the loveliest couple came with a big van and took it all away. We helped them load their van and found out that they have lots of land where they season wood until they need it. They left us a nice bottle of wine, they have plenty of wood for a few years in the future and our garden is much tidier. It’s always great to meet new people.

As soon as they’d gone, we went back to painting. New plasterboard soaks up paint and it took for coats of paint to get an even finish. We bought Dulux over with us from the UK as French paint is so much more expensive. Tomorrow, I’ll buy some stain to paint the stairs to match the other woodwork in the house. 

We do bits and bobs then get out and about. I’ll do out and about tomorrow and I’m excited about going to Emmaus.

After loads of work, I needed good old fashioned comfort food and made Corned beef hash

To make this:

6 medium potatoes- chopped and boiled until just soft.

3 onions sliced and fried in two tbsp of oil until soft.

1 tin of corned beef, cut into cubes.

Add the cooked potatoes to the pan of fried onions.

Resist the urge to turn, allow it to catch and crash slightly.

Add the chopped corned beef and mix, pat down and continue to cook.

Don’t stir and allow it to crisp.

Cook the top half by placing the pan under a hot grill.

Serve with steamed veggies. Eat, put your feet us and have an early night before all the hard work starts again tomorrow.

We are getting there but soon we’ll have two fully renovated bedrooms, stairs and third floor hallway.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx

Wood heating in France

Hello Dear Reader,

We had our firewood delivered today and the farmer just tipped it by our garden gate which I knew he would. Next, we threw it log by log into our garden no of course it got warmer and warmer. I don’t mind any sort of weather except wind, no one likes that. I’ve a shed full of logs to shlep up the garden, up the steps, round the side, then the back of our house and into our shed where it needs stacking. 

We are surrounded by forests in Brittany and wood is the main source of heating in rural areas. It’s reasonably priced and we bought wood that was cut three years ago, dried and stored in an airy barn. It’s dry and ready to use. I bought over a tonne. 

I enjoy the whole process of heating with wood: it’s prepayment so I can be warm and dry our clothes and not worry about cost, it smells lovely, it’s great exercise and it’s carbon neutral. We had a lovely surprise when the neighbour’s visiting teenage grandchildren came out to help us throw the logs into the garden, how charming. 

It’ll take me a while to move it all over a few days as well as aching muscles but it’ll be worth it to have a well stocked wood shed. I’m off to limber up and then move some wood. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

On your marks, get set, paint! 


Hello Dear Reader,

I’m now back on top form and I’ve painted whatever I could today. We want to finish the painting tomorrow so we can make a start on installing the banisters. I’ll paint them before we install them as they are so fiddly. The dark grainy photo above is the inside wall of the spare bedroom, the light was fading. 

The outside has had a coat of paint, the walls have had a coat of emulsion and I’ve sanded and eggshelled the skirting boards. It’ll all get more paint tomorrow.

Painting over the stairs gives me the jitters but it’s got to be done. On my next trip, I’ll bring some hard wearing floor paint for the treads and risers; maybe a blue grey.

The stair rails have had three coats of paint and have been sanded in between. I keep reminding myself when I’m picking paint out of my teeth that doing it all ourselves is saving us a mass of money. When it’s done, I can do the pretty bits and renovate some furniture and hang pictures, you know, the fun bits. 

My only colour scheme is always white, white and white. It’s the cheapest paint you can buy. When it gets tired or grubby, just go over it with more paint and anything goes with it. It’s simple and bright and never goes in or out of fashion. 

Next summer, we’re really looking forward to painting the outside of the house. That’ll involve long ladders and nerves of steel and a few clean pairs of pants but it’ll all get done eventually as time and budget allows.

Keeping clean on a budget 

                       

Hello Dear Reader,

Not knowing how to do something does not make someone stupid. People grow up unable to cook, budget, make do and mend, thrift and so on. They are not stupid. There are some experiences that people don’t have until they need to and then they have to learn. No one should ever be condemned, shamed or blamed but some people haven’t had the experience of keeping clean on a minuscule budget. Currently, in the U.K. Families are having to cut back on hygiene as they can’t afford to keep clean. Now, we can add hygiene poverty to, heating poverty, food poverty, water poverty and period poverty.

I’m not referring to issues such as buying cheaper shower gel but not being able to afford to heat water or pay the water bill! People of my age remember the Rayburn, parkray or emmersion heater being cranked up on a Sunday night, pushing the financial boat out to fill and turn on the paraffin heater in the bathroom and that was the weekly bath! The rest of the week was a ‘strip wash’. Younger people, may never have learned these skills.

Hair was washed in the bathroom sink with two ‘fill ups’ for a couple of rinses and that was that. Now, I’m not suggesting anyone relives the 70s and 80s with me as I think people are genuinely cleaner now for a daily shower. However, people are living in desperate times where  food and living costs means they have very little money for personal hygiene.

Here, for what it’s worth are my tips and feel free to ignore them.

Basics – I don’t buy a lot of toiletries and happily use soap bars, shampoo, talc and anti perspirant and I buy those in Poundland. Even cheaper versions would be a litre of bath gel which is no different from shower gel for 50p. I used it for years and topped up shower gel bottles and hand wash pumps. I currently use Vosene shampoo from Poundland but I used to use Tesco everyday basics shampoo that’s 50p a litre. I buy anti perspirant for a Pound and get through a can a week. Lidl and Aldi have really large cans for 79p, that I pick up when I’m there. The only other product I use is Aldi’s moisturiser for £1.69 and that can last me almost a month.

Water costs – I live in the South West Water area and we have the most expensive water in the UK so I’m used to saving water. I have a gas boiler which heats water on demand and have previously owned an electric shower which also heated water on demand. I have the cheapest tariff for gas and electric and I pay by direct debit. I never leave a tap running, I’m used to jumping in a cold shower and not wasting water whilst it warms up and washing head to toe, including my hair in under five minutes and jumping out. Here in France, we have a tiny hot water tank and we still have to have very quick showers so we can get two showers out of one small tanks. 

Short of water and means of heating it. If you have a prepayment meter and you have the lowest of incomes then a shower is not an affordable daily option. Growing up, many of us didn’t have showers and managed to keep clean.


Above, is my bathroom sink (from our previous home, before we downsized) and I kept a bowl in the sink as I used the water to flush the loo. I used to keep a kettle on the landing and use a kettle full of boiling water to warm up a bowl of cold water. 

First, I’d wash my hair and then in the second rinse water, wash myself from top to bottom with a flannel and bar of soap.  I used to put the loo lid down, place the bowl on the floor to finish by washing my feet. Again, the water went down the loo. Three bowlfuls would be the most I’d need, that’s about seven litres of water. I went to work fresh and clean and I used to shower twice a week. 

Now, I shower daily, have enough hot water, enough toiletries but I’m mindful that people are going through tough times. Local foodbanks are grateful for donations of any: toiletries, sanitary protection, laundry products, loo rolls and cleaning products. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Painting vintage furniture 

Hello Dear Reader,

Im a great lover of all things second hand and I love French charity shops! On our last trip to Emmaüs, we bought three pieces to dot around the house and today, I’ve been sanding and painting and it’s been great fun. The furniture cost under 20€ a piece with some bits being as little as 5€. We bought water based eggshell paint in a vintage colour to mimic, Farrow and Ball’s ‘old white’. It was half the price and almost the same in colour.

I used a small palm sized electric sander to remove the top coat of varnish and then sugar soap to remove any last traces of grease. The sugar soap comes in a spray which I used to coat the furniture liberally and then, using hot water, a cloth and making sure I used rubber gloves, gave it a good wash and then allow it to dry.

It’s really important to use thin coats of paint and allow it to dry for two to four hours, depending on atmospherics, between coats. Remove any handles before you sand and then paint. 


Here’s the results of one small table that we’ll use as a bedside table. Now it’s your turn. Any upcycling furniture painters out there? Do you prefer chalk based paint? Or, like me, eggshell? If so, water or oil based? Have any of you had any luck with charity shop furniture?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Spring clean your family finances


Hello Dear Reader,
I posted this in 2015 and read it again today. No matter where you are on your money saving journey, I still stand by this as a way of checking your finances to ask, “Where can I make some simple tweaks?” There are plenty of really easy way to spring clean your finances and here are just a few options.

Feed your family the thrifty way!

Always check what you have in your house first. Can you create meals from what’s already in the fridge, freezer or store cupboard?
Next create a simple meal plan. Work with your family and children so everyone is involved.

When you’ve taken stock of your cupboards and made a meal plan, use http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk to shop around for the best deals.

Please Freeze! Also make the most of your freezer and save any leftovers!
Power up! Check your energy suppliers and usage.

Simple changes to LED lighting will reduce your electricity bill.
Get the slow cooker out and use that for a few meals a week.

You can cook two meals at once and keep one in the fridge or freezer ready to be microwaved when needed.

 Hang your clothes outside to dry whenever you can, even if only for a while and finish them in the tumble drier.

Shorten your showers by one minute, I promise you won’t notice the difference.

Bright Idea: Use price comparison websites to compare energy suppliers and find the best deals for your area. Switch if you have to.
Make yourself at home and save on essentials.

Check out price comparison sites to compare your phone and broadband. Are you getting the best deal or can you reduce this monthly bill?
Mobile phone tariffs. None of us use all the minutes, texts and download that we pay for. Contact your supplier and renegotiate a cheaper deal. Or, if they can’t offer you anything, give notice and go to another supplier altogether!

Tune in to savings on satellite TV. If you live in a cable area, look at price comparisons to see if you can get a better deal. You could also get a ‘Freesat’ box and enjoy all of the available channels for free!

Hit a savings Home Run: Ensure your Household insurance is right for you. Never just renew your boiler cover, your home and contents cover or accidental damage cover. Always pay for one year only and ensure you check you’re getting the best deal before you renew. Keep paperwork proving your no claims and if you’re a careful householder, look at raising your excess if it’s within your budget so you pay less for the insurance.

Simple Swaps for Super Savings
These won’t hurt at all!
Treat out – If you eat out, cut it back to once a fortnight or once a month.
Take aways – Try the supermarkets Chinese or Indian ready meals. You could fake it altogether and buy frozen battered fish fillets, frozen oven chips and tinned mushy peas. All of a sudden the Friday night fish supper will be a fraction of the cost.

Clever coffee – Can’t do without your coffee? Taking your own coffee to work will save you hundreds of pounds a year. If you do have the occasional coffee out with friends, see it as a treat!

Pack a lunch – even if you just pick up a supermarket meal deal of £3 a day this works out at £730 a year! Why overspend when you can pack a lunch from home and take it with you?

Gym membership – it is time to swap any membership that doesn’t get used. Instead use weekly passes when you have the time or use YouTube and exercise at home. There are hundreds of trainers who want to share their fitness tips with you for free!

Now, that didn’t hurt at all did it?

It’s always great to hear of your financial overhauls and how you keep your finances and budgeting in check.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Coping with the cold!

wood-stove

Hello Dear Reader,

It’s going to be a cold winter! I know what you’re thinking! Alaska is cold, Britain gets a bit parky. I shall rephrase that. It’s going to be a cold British winter. Our houses are not designed to keep us warm, well mine isn’t. It’s made of any old stones piled up with mortar and even though the walls are thick and solid, the cottage still gets cold. We moved in 2013 and have had mild winters since then and I’m really feeling the cold.

I could, should I choose to, turn on the gas central heating and leave it on and just pay for it. We live on a budget and choose not to have the heating on too much. When we do it’s set to 18.5C and that keeps the house from being chilly but I wouldn’t call that warm. We do lots to keep warm.

At the weekend, we light the wood stove and use a fan to push the warm air around. We open and close doors so we can move air around the house. We collect pallets and cut them down and add them to our firewood supply which helps stretch the budget as the pallets are free. We buy our firewood in the summer and stack it away and we spend £120 on fire wood a year. We use the wood stove to dry our laundry which keeps our electricity bill lower.

We use old-fashioned simple methods to keep warm. I’m feeling listy at the moment so here’s a list.

  1. Close all the curtains as soon as we get in.
  2. Hang thermal curtain linings on the back of the already thick curtains.
  3. Wear layers indoors. I get home and change out of my work clothes into something warm and cosy. I wear socks, slippers, a thick jumper and jogging bottoms around the house. Underneath a couple of t-shirts and I’ll stay warm that way.
  4. Duvets are not expensive so I have one under the bottom sheet in my bed and one on top, so I sleep in a duvet sandwich.
  5. Go to bed earlier by an hour and watch TV in bed or read or catch up on blog reading. I don’t need any heating at all them as I’m warm in there.
  6. We have sealed double glazed doors and windows so we don’t have any draughts but if I did have draughts, I’d use draught excluders to ensure I didn’t get them.
  7. We keep quilts and a blanket or two in the lounge and cover ourselves up so we stay extra warm.
  8. We keep a warm room. Instead of running our central heating, as we just don’t need it, we heat one room, in our case the room with the wood stove.
  9. I don’t heat the bathroom, when I shower, I keep the towel close by so as soon as the water is switched off, I can get dry in the residual warmth of the shower cubicle and get out dry and step straight into my dressing gown.
  10. Plenty of hot drinks, it definitely works.
  11. Keep moving and keep busy – easy for me, I’m a proper figit! There’s always something to be done.
  12. When I cook, I leave the oven open when I finish to let the heat into the room.
  13. On sunny days, I make the most of any warmth coming in and keep the curtains wide open.
  14. Snuggle up with nearest, dearest and dogs. We have a little two-seater sofa but two big humans and three little dogs can be found cuddled up together.
  15. Wear those summer strappy tops as vest tops underneath. A pretty substitute for thermals but just as efficient.

Over to you. How do you keep warm and keep the budget in check?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

 

 

 

Productive Sunday

Hello Dear Reader,

It’s been a lovely relaxing day where we can indulge in hobbies. I’m sewing ‘Yooosta-Bee’ bags out of fabric that used to be something else. They used to be jeans, curtains, pillow cases, clothing or duvet covers. Now, they’re repurposed into something more useful.

DB builds things out of wood that used to be pallets! We need another wood shed and he’ll keep dismantling pallets until we have enough free wood to make one. It’s not great wood but it’s fine for sheds.  

We need another wood shed as the wood is seasoning under tarps at the end of the garden and it is a bit scruffy. I’m sure other frugals can identify with this as our gardens are for work more than looking at.

If anyone’s interested and to help me work through a stash of thrifted fabric, I will have Yoosta-Bee bags for sale when I’ve made a few. Some are cheaper, some more than others due to size, how long they took to make or the fabric.  It’s great to be back at my sewing machine and to have a whole week of pottering about at home along with some DIY.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Should I increase the amount I save?

2806_beakglassmoneybox4

Hello Dear Reader,

Can anyone really afford to save? Would anyone really want to? I mean you only live once, so if I save all I have and die next week do I want to be the wealthiest corpse in the graveyard? I could get run over by a bus tomorrow! What’s the point of working if I can’t have a good time? Do I really want to be a killjoy? Wouldn’t you rather have the money when you’re young rather than when you’re old?

You know what? I’ve heard it all and I still don’t give a ****!

People live a lot longer and are making the most of their lives no matter what age they are so I’m not going to listen to the naysayers and I’m not only going to save but I’m going to increase my savings.

I was struck by the recent findings that many British people have less than £100 of savings whilst some people with an income of £13,000 per year have on around £1000 of savings. I’ve had some tough financial times in my life and struggled to get from one end of the month to the next, keep a roof over my head and feed my children. I used to have to save to buy them clothes, shoes, Christmas and birthday presents. All my savings went to buying the everyday things that we needed. We then had times in our lives where we earned more, played the rising property market and borrowed only to have to face a property crash and a lot of debt that we had to pay back. Now our life is level and we can save for tomorrow, rainy days and a big storm if we need to.

We’ve made the choice to spend less than half of our earnings so we can save. Our savings could be spent on a new car every other year, or a much better car. Our savings could be spent on long haul holidays, clothes, meals in restaurants, a newer house, a bigger house or a house in a much better postcode. Instead, we choose to live in a cheap neighbourhood, to have a modest car, to cook at home, to have what we need and live what might seem to some as a simple life.

This month, as every year is my frugal reset. I’ve pressed the default button and need to really get back to spending less and saving more. It’s also about putting something aside for later.

Now I know life is really tough for some of you. It’s shit it truly is! You work all hours, your husband works all hours and still you just make the mortgage payment every month! I can’t suggest for one moment that you save, make any more adjustments and I wouldn’t dream of it! I can only talk about me and from experience.

When we had to make every penny count as we had no choice. We did what ever it took! DB worked the day shift and I worked two week nights and two late day shifts on the weekend in a care home. That was the only way as our incomes didn’t stretch to day care or baby sitters for the children. It was, at the time, the only way. There was no fun money. There was money for clothes for growing children, the mortgage, the bills and nothing else. We went no where, we did nothing and no, it wasn’t any fun for our children and I’m sure looking back at their childhoods it was really quite austere with parents who just worked and survived. When I hear of families doing the same now with not so much as a cinema trip to look forward to, I truly know how crap that is. So, before I get any comments that some families can’t save……………I know, I’ve been there, we all just got by!

Now things are different and we have choices. We choose to live in a small cottage that’s heated by one wood stove, we choose to get pallets of the industrial estate and cut them down for kindling, we choose to chop our own wood, we choose to save for holidays which are a luxury that once I only dreamed of.

I’m going to keep my no spend month going. I really need very little. I know how lucky I am, how comfortable I am. We live debt free with two incomes and can afford to save. We also over pay the mortgage which we see as another form of saving. Even now, supermarket own brand tea bags will do, value products will do, discount store clothing will do, homemade and second hand will do. You see, I can remember like it was yesterday when we couldn’t afford anything for DB or myself at all, I also grew up with very little, had very little until I was 37 when I started work as a teacher and got a monthly salary. Before then, I earned minimum wage, had irregular hours and relied on getting extra shifts if I was lucky. It’s that perspective that makes me realise how lucky I am to have the choices I have.

If you have choices, if you earn a bit more than minimum wage and you can cut back there are ways you can get into a savings habit. It’s really important to save regularly and then live on what you have after savings have been deducted. You could start by building an emergency fund and what you decide is an emergency is up to you. Our dishwasher died after twelve years and two repairs and it wasn’t an emergency to replace it, we now wash up in a bowl and boil the kettle on the gas stove or wood stove if it’s lit. However, if the car needed a major repair, that’d be an emergency or we wouldn’t be able to get to work and we’d dip into savings for that.

Currently I’m saving for: tax bill on our French home (Fonciere already paid, habitation bill yet to arrive), four ferry trips to France over the next twelve months and to build some dividing walls. We are also putting money aside to repair and replace anything in our home here. Our life is so different now and our saving priorities are about preparing for our long term future.

I can’t suggest that everyone can save, I know that’s not a choice everyone has but if you can, I hope you do.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx