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!

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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?

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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

 

Have you really budgeted for everything?

be-prepared

Hello Dear Reader,

Sorry, if you’re seeing my blog in capital letters. I didn’t type it like that. There’s some sort of glitch in WordPress that I can’t fix right now. My apologies. 

I had a bit of a chat with folks on Facebook about this. I was inspired when you contacted me Dear Reader, no more details than that but I thought I’d open the debate on this one. If you don’t budget for everything then those little bits and pieces can and will just pop up and catch you out and the next thing you know is that you’ll be spending money.

So, do you really budget for everything?

Here’s what I’ve got to budget for over the next twelve months.

Dog’s booster injections

Four trips to the vet in France before we come home each time – 32 euros each time for all three.

Two dental check ups and any subsequent treatment.

Eye test and any subsequent change of prescriptions and need for new glasses

Four ferry trips to France about £1200!

Four Christmas presents and four birthday presents

Car/home/French home insurance

Replacing my hair straighteners (feel free to send me yours if you don’t use them 😉

New work clothes/shoes next August for September for both of us.

Wood for the fire here and France.

Taxe Fonciere and Habitation in France, one payable by October and the other by December.£780

Materials for stud walls and two doors – for France

Materials to build a new shed here.

Paint for our utility room and down stairs loo floor and walls.

£500 a month to go into a long term savings account.

£250 a month to go into an immediate savings account, mainly to pay for the French water/electricity/tax/garden maintenance/renovations.

I think sometimes, we don’t take the time to think ahead at the year and budget for everything. We’re mostly on top of the bills, the housing costs, our food cost, the expense of transport, whether that’s rail season tickets or the running cost of a car. We also know, we do don’t we? how much we have spare each month after the immediate bills are paid.

If you have children at home then I remember well, in the days when I was less financially astute than I am now that costs can and will creep up if you’re not ready. If you’re a parent can you all join in and leave comments about the ‘fund raising’ over the year. You’ll know about World book day, Children in Need, CLIC sargent, Christmas parties and schools can often have information on their web page. I remember those dreaded letters in the bag! (Seriously, they used to make me seethe, I barely had money in those days to feed and clothe them, let alone give money away!) So, let’s help each other out of this one.

Then there’s family issues such as weddings, but remember, you can always say no. We turned down every invitation for years as we couldn’t afford to go. Now, I can admit, I don’t like weddings at all and still don’t go but not many people are like me. There’s Christmas, again, we don’t like it and don’t bother with either but most people do and it’s 91 days until Christmas so if you haven’t made financial arrangements, you have three salary payments to put what you can aside.

If it happens every year, then it needs to be in the budget every month or you’ll have to have the front to just say no and having done that, I know it’s tough. We stopped going to ‘works do’s’ in all the years we couldn’t afford to go and now we still don’t go. We budget differently and it is tough saying no but it can be done. If you want to go then it needs to go into the budget. £25 Christmas work do? You better get saving £2.08 a month.

If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you’ll know I’ve given up having my hair dyed and it was partly an economic decision as the white roots came through every three weeks. It cost £750 a year to get my roots done professionally. Now I just factor £25 a month for a hair cut and have saved £450 a year. As you can see from the list above, that money will be subsumed into the budget very easily. I intend to spend some of that money having more fun instead of coloured hair. Today, we went to see the new Brigit Jones film. It was the first time we’d been to the cinema in seventeen years. I wish I could have pressed pause when I went to the loo! Next month, we’ll do something else as well, I’m eyeing up the Cornish Pirates rugby home fixtures and we’ll go and see them.

So, if any of us are going to get on top of finances and on top of our budgets then we have to budget for everything that we’re going to spend money on any way. You can of course decide to not spend money which is more or less what we’ve done for years or you can be realistic and set aside money every month so you’re not squeezed by: new glasses, a costume for World book day, the office whip round for the retiree, new tyres for the car.

Over to you Dear Reader, if you’re a parent or work in a school, what can families financially prepare for? Also, leave a comment about anything any of us can be financially prepared for?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

 

Sixty is the new fifty

 

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Hello Dear Reader,

Getting older is a real privilege and it’s a growing club of really happy people. I turned fifty without feeling ill, without any ailments and really feeling good about life. Fifty is really young and many people of that age still have young families, have active careers and even change careers and start new ones. It’s no wonder then that many people in their sixties are feeling really good about life.

I make no secret that we want to retire early at sixty and really make the most of life. From what we can see, people are having a great time of it. They are using their time to get out walking, take up creative hobbies such as crafting, love their gardens and often, like the people we met in France, move and start a whole new life after retirement. From what I can see, they are having a great life and we’ve got all that to look forward to and that more than anything makes us stick to our thrifty lifestyle to make sure we’ve made the very best financial arrangements we can. We met really energetic people who’d retired and then rebuilt a house whilst learning French, building skills, how to run a small holding and make new friends in a country that was new to them. Instead of feeling tired, everyone I met was invigorated and had a great time. This really led me to believe that sixty is the new fifty. Well, I am fifty and don’t intend slowing down when I get there but using my retirement to travel, read, learn and explore.

Whilst working with the British Seniors Insurance Agency, I was not at all surprised to find out that older people are not just spending money on themselves. The study found out that people in the UK are perpetually parenting with over 50s spending huge amounts on their children and grandchildren – with an estimated £380 million a month spent on treating their children and £262 million treating their grandchildren. On average the over 50s spend nearly £40 a month on their children and £30 a month on grandchildren. Now, these are hard times and younger families are really struggling with the day to day cost of housing, childcare and transport and it’s not unusual for older people to help out their families by lending money, paying off student loans, paying off debts, helping out with car purchases and providing childcare without payment.

It got me thinking about my own family, my parents didn’t need to help me and I haven’t needed to help my grown up offspring. Some of that has been circumstance and everyone always being employed and some of it just part of our own family culture. We’ve always been a family who are open about money and my own children know we have substantial life insurance to make sure they are left a legacy when we’ve gone and we’ve paid into that for twenty years and will until we die to make sure all our funeral costs, legal costs are all paid for and that our children will be left with a generous inheritance even if our property is used to cover the cost of our elderly or end of life care.

Now, I’m often approached by organisations asking if I would write with them and usually I turn them down. This time, I read up and agreed to write about life insurance especially if it’s  tailored for people over 50, like any form of financially planning, I really think it’s essential. You can’t get a mortgage without a standard life insurance policy and I wonder how many people have stopped paying into it when their mortgage ends? That could mean that people in their fifties and sixties don’t have any life insurance policy at all?

I live a thrifty life which those of you who read regularly know is far from parsimonious. We’re having a great time but I happily share our scrimping and saving so we can make financial arrangements for our future. We’ve got great hopes to be comfortable whilst living a happy active life. It’s part of  who we ‘thrifties’  are to put money aside to pay insurance as well as those contingency plans such as over paying our mortgage and having a family budget. I don’t make it my business to tell you what to do and as ever, I write about what we do and what works for us. I always make financial arrangements for insurance premiums are paid asthat makes as much sense to me as writing a shopping list so I don’t over spend in the supermarket. Food for thought?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Post written in collaboration with British Seniors Insurance Agency. All opinions are my own as you know me well enough to know that this is my story

Financial strategies

                       
Hello Dear Reader,

When you play a financial game, which let’s face it, we all need to from time to time or in some cases all the time, we have to think several moves ahead. When you become proficient at the financial game, you start thinking twenty or thirty moves ahead and how that one move an change the state of play at any moment. 

Here’s an example of thinking many financial moves ahead. You have a school age child, you have one move to think of …..how am I going to feed them today? Several moves ahead, childcare, school transport cost, school uniform, school supplies, school trips, out growing uniform, PE kit and you know these ‘moves’ are ahead in the game and yet some of us can get caught out by an opponents move as if we didn’t expect it to happen. One move though and it will happen. 

A financial strategy that can be a starting point for anyone is food planning. We get paid monthly and on my pay day, I buy major purchases for the month. I cook a Sunday lunch every week and my meat for that meal is a major expense. So, this month I bought a shoulder of pork, a chicken, beef brisket joint and a leg of lamb…..that was all frozen. I get three meals out of each Sunday lunch and I’ve planned for the weeks ahead.

Also, when I get paid, I stock up on loo rolls, laundry liquid, dog food, toiletries, all of which are expensive and are bought and paid for when we’re paid. 

Other forms of financial planning we practice are being well aware of insurance renewals, hair cuts, appliance renewal ( every eight years in most cases) car maintenance such as new tyre so and in our case regular holiday trips. There isn’t one case where a cost just happens or creeps up on you unless you ignore those future moves that will happen. 

We’re now planning moves ten to thirty years in the future. We’re planning financially for our retirement which could happen in ten to twenty years. Ideally ten years on a reduced pension or to work on for a full pension. The moves will be partly of our own choosing but the opponent’s strategies are unknown to us but we can assume, health and political will. Even though we can’t predict every move, we can pre-empt that there will be some. It would be crazy to do nothing because we don’t know the future so we think a few moves ahead all the time. 

Now, Dear Reader what financial plans can you make. Start with next week or for the rest of the month. It’s a start.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx 

He’s the king of frugal.

Hello Dear Reader,

My wonderful DB is a money saving marvel. He’s spent over an hour this evening retrieving what’s left from an old lathe and plaster wall. It’s bone dry wood and it’s been the integral part of an internal wall for over a hundred years. It’s going to the tip tomorrow so we’ve helped ourselves. Yes, it was offered to us.

It’s a funny way to spend his free time but that’s what he’s like. The log basket is always full, there’s always kindling, we’re never cold and he saves us a fortune. 

He also rescued cupboard doors and structural uprights too that he’s already sawn into logs and I’m burning some as I type.

The greatest thing we do to save money is stick to our principles together. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx 

Saving my time


Hello Dear Reader,

I think I’m pretty well organized. I’m a list person. I’ve got job lists, menu plans, financial plans, long term financial plans, Housework rota, garden plans, wood piles, sewing jobs and clothes to cut up and recycle. 

I’ve got jobs I do every day, wipe down and sweep the kitchen, clean the loo,sink and shower, make the bed, sweep out and set the fire. I have weekly jobs from cleaning the car, the windows, vacuuming the entire house and washing all the floors.

My job tonight has been to quickly stock take and get a shopping list ready. 

Nothing of what I do is a chore. I keep on top of everything so nothing takes very long. 

This is where I hand it over to you. What makes your life easier? How do you organize what you have to do? How do you fit in your long working day ? Do you stocktake? Menu plan? Have job lists?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx