Ideas to Save Time and Money at Christmas

Stuffed toy reindeer sitting on a sofa

Christmas is fast approaching – that time of year when it is expected that you spend money you haven’t got to buy gifts that other people don’t need or want. I can hear the booing and calls of ‘Baa Humbug!’, but I honestly believe that this is true. I am not a religious person, but I feel that we have moved a long way from the real meaning of this time of year. There is so much pressure on us to go mad, spend lots of money and eat until we pop. But I truly believe that Christmas is optional or at least all of this excess is.

If I ruled the world I would make Christmas like the Olympics – just once every four years. I am not against the time that we are given off over the festive period, as this enables families to spend time together, but often the weather isn’t good and we all just eat too much and then slump in front of the TV for hours. I would rather have the time off when the weather is better, but as I don’t make the rules here are some ideas for moderating the excess that is shortly to come…

Just buy for the children

This is what we have done in my family for years. Once we all got jobs my mum suggested that we stopped giving presents to each other as we could all buy something for ourselves whenever we wanted to do so. I first met Mr Simple, fifteen years ago and he and his parents were still buying presents for each other. When his mother learnt that we no longer did that in my family she agreed that it was a good idea and so now they are ‘present-less’ at Christmas as well.

Keep the cost of each present to under £5 or £10

If you can’t survive the festive season without having several beautifully wrapped packages to open then keep the budget low by limiting spending on each present. There are Secret Santa schemes for several groups that I belong to and there is always a limit to cost of the gift.

Pick one adult, like Secret Santa, and buy for them

My physiotherapist mentioned this to me recently. He is part of a large sibling group, so instead of everyone buying for everyone else, they just buy a present for one of their brothers or sisters and obviously only receive one present. In this way it could be that although you get one present, it may be of more value and therefore something nicer than the several pairs of socks or smellies.

Give the money you would have spent to a charity

If you decide not to do presents, but still want to give something to someone, then give some money to your chosen charity. Find something close to your heart or maybe linked to Christmas, such as one that provides food or shelter to homeless people during this time.

Invest the money

As you won’t be spending as much money as you usually do, put the savings into a high interest savings account or even better, your ISA, in true financial independence style.

Prepare for Christmas 2020

Once the madness is over go shopping and buy cards, wrapping paper, etc. for next year as it will all be on sale at discount prices.

Share the cooking

Instead of one person taking all the responsibility for cooking, share it around and get someone to bring the starter, someone else the dessert, others mince pies, cakes, etc. Just let the host cook the main course, which will be the hardest meal to transport. There may be people who aren’t so good at cooking, but give them something simple to make, or maybe they can just bring the treats such as chocolates, crisps, nuts, etc.

So there we are, a few ways to save time and money at Christmas and hopefully make it all a bit less stressful and a bit less expensive. Whatever you’re planning to do over the festive season I hope have a lovely break.

Frugal Friday

Well it’s Friday again so here’s yet five more frugal things I’ve done this week. I’m not sure that I am going to be able to come up with five every week, but it’s week three and I am still going, so here we are:

Used butter tubs to freeze leftovers instead of freezer bags

Now this is something that my mother does – you get to 50 and you start turning into your mother. Inevitable I suppose. The plastic tubs are easy to stack in the freezer. I put labels on them so I know what they contain. You always think you’ll recognise what’s in it, but I have found out that that isn’t always true. I only have a limited number of butter tubs, so I still use freezer bags, which I of course wash out. It can be a bit fiddly, but it seems such a waste to throw them away after one use.

Turn radiators off in rooms that you don’t use

Turned the heating down in the spare bedroom once my sister had left

For most of the time we haven’t had the heating on recently, even though summer is only visiting sporadically. With my sister visiting though I thought I had better turn up the heating, well turn it on really. When she left, although I turned the thermostat down back to 19C I also turned the radiator in the spare bedroom off so even if it gets very cold the radiator won’t come on at all.

Ate leftovers from the freezer when Mr Simple was away

You may have seen that June was an expensive month for food, but I did spend one week eating out of the freezer. This was because Mr Simple goes away to work, usually for a day or two, but this time it was for a week, so I made the most of the opportunity to keep food simple and ate leftovers that I had shoved in the freezer. I am less fussy than Mr Simple and happy to live on chilli and rice.

Walked into town

We live just a mile from a small town, but despite that I am often tempted to drive in if the weather is bad. Last Saturday it was lovely and warm so I walked there. I had to carry some heavy hardbacked library books, which wasn’t ideal, but on the way back I only had one small paperback.

Exchanged plants with a friend

This was not something instigated by me, but by my friend, who I know through work. She very kindly offered me two everlasting sweet peas and in exchange I gave her some lemon basil. This is such a good way to get free plants. We have foxgloves in our garden that seed themselves every year. I always pot some seedlings up for the annual village plant sale and this year I also gave some to a friend in the village.

Let me know your frugal activities from this week and don’t forget to check out the other posts by Cass, Emma and Becky.

Five More Frugal Things

I decided to link up with up with Cass, Emma and Becky again in their weekly ‘Frugal Friday’ linky. Here are my five frugal things:

Ate frozen pizza when we needed something quickly instead of getting a takeaway. This idea comes from Liz Willard-Thames aka Mrs Frugalwoods. On Wednesday I go to a pilates class and Mr Simple was meant to be cooking dinner, but as the weather was dry he wanted to try to finish pointing the garage wall. Instead of spending money on a takeaway we had a frozen pizza and salad. I always keep a few pizzas in the freezer. At three pizzas for £4 you can’t go wrong and to be honest, they’re okay.

Used a Tesco voucher which was for spend £70 and get £7 off. I painstakingly went around the supermarket with my calculator adding up my groceries until I got to £70, buying toilet rolls to take me over the line, as this is usually more than I spend in a week.

Not everyone will want to do this, but not flushing the toilet will save you money

Didn’t flush the toilet. You may say ugh!, but when there’s only me and Mr Simple looking at each other’s wee isn’t that big a deal. Solids do get flushed though you’ll be glad to know.

Made pesto with basil from the garden. I went a bit overboard a little while ago with sowing some lemon basil seeds. They were out of date and so I thought that they were unlikely to germinate – how wrong I was. Despite having sold two pots (making a grand total of £3) and given some away, we still had loads left, which was starting to flower, so I made some pesto. We had it with some spaghetti, spiralised courgette (to get some extra veg into Mr Simple) and a green salad – delicious.

Make a notepad by reusing the backs of old letters

Cut up letters I received in the post which were blank on one side and used them for note paper. I usually cut the A4 sheets into four pieces and hold them together with a large bulldog clip. Despite many things being electronic now we still get quite a bit of snail mail and so I think that I am unlikely to run out of notepaper anytime soon.

How has your week been? Have you managed to make any savings?

Five Frugal Things

This week I decided to link up with up with Cass, Emma and Becky in their weekly ‘Frugal Friday’ linky. Here are my five frugal things:

Discovered my mysupermarket on moneysavingexpert and signed up for alerts so I know when the groceries that I buy regularly are on sale. I have been having a serious look at our food budget and trying to think of ways of saving money without reducing the quality of the food. I am also trying to save time, so am considering a monthly delivery of non-perishable items and then shopping weekly for the rest. Hopefully that will make the task less arduous and I won’t be lugging so many bags of shopping around every week.

Took my lunch to work with me every day. This is probably easier for me than some people as I work at home a couple of days a week. Therefore I can just walk into the kitchen at lunchtime to make something rather than having to prepare it in the morning or even the night before.

We all need to wrap up in this lovely summer we are having

Put a blanket on the bed over the duvet instead  of putting the heating on. I always have this on over the winter as I feel the cold more than Mr Simple, but like in most parts of the country summer has not arrived. I am trying to resist putting the heating on in June therefore we are sitting with blankets over us or at the weekend lighting the wood burner, which at present is fuelled by trees that we cut down from garden i.e. cost = £0.

Hung clothes up to air after wearing once instead of putting them in the laundry. I always used to sling things on the chair next to my bed and if they stayed there for more than one day, by the time I wanted to wear them next they were so creased I couldn’t go out in public in them. Now I make an effort to put t-shirts and blouses on hangers and leave them hanging on the wardrobe door to remind me that I have worn them before. Trousers and skirts just go back in the wardrobe and only get washed when I have worn them several times – so far, no one has told me that I smell.

Collected rainwater in the butts in the garden to use to water the plants instead of using the hosepipe. Mr Simple installed two water butts next to the greenhouse a few months ago and with all of the rain that we’re having they are full. We could have done with this rain last year when we had the lawn laid and had to spend a fortune on watering it to keep it alive in the heatwave. I am hoping to greatly reduce our water consumption this year.

So how have you saved money this week? Let me know in the comments below and please have a look at the other posts as well.

May Spending

Spring is definitely here and summer is on its way

It feels as though as summer approaches I am attending more social events. I don’t have a big group of friends and as you would expect from the title of this blog lead a fairly simple life. The village in which we live has an active social committee and so there are a programme of events throughout the year which I try to take part in.

I have also met up with ex-colleagues. We keep in touch every couple of months and as you can see from how much I spent, go to a fairly cheap eatery for some food and a chat. Friends came to visit and we cooked lunch instead of going out.

I also attended a local fund-raising event to raise money for twinning activities. The nearest town is twinned with a place in France and this has waned over the years as the members of the society have got older. Now they are trying to revive it and are looking for new blood. With my love of France it was an ideal activity for me to get involved in. At the moment it will just be attending events to publicise the revival of the twinning, but eventually there will be the opportunity to host visitors from France and join a trip to the French town to stay with a local family and see the sights.

So, let’s look at the figures…

Another good month on progress with the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £571.00 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £540.06. The standard amounts came out of our joint account for bills, one of which was our gas and electric bill with Octopus who we switched to last year. They were recommended by Money Saving Expert and Which and I have found them really good. All of their electricity is 100% green and you can carbon offset your gas. If you were thinking of changing then click here to check them out and if you sign up both of us get £50.

This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £79,207.36

House value is £476,283 (according to the Nationwide House Price Calculator) which is an increase of 9.49% since we bought it.

Savings stand at £33,514.34. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA has been up and down this month and by 31st May I had made a loss of £54.85.  Saved £185.00 to Vanguard and £250.00 to Nationwide.

Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing a grand total of £4.35.

Try to use up ingredients that have been hanging around for a while.

Food £133.29 which included a quarterly order of dried fruit and nuts. I felt as though I had some expensive weeks this month in terms of food, but the cupboards are looking a bit bare as we had let them run down so I had to stock up. I was trying to make an effort to use up those strange ingredients that you’ve had for years and that are lurking in the back of the cupboard. This month it was a packet of sundried tomatoes which I think we bought in Italy over six years ago. I soaked them in some boiling water and used them in a lasagne recipe.

Petrol £115.35– slightly under budget as I took the train a few times. That gets refunded so I don’t count it in my expenses.

Pilates – £32.00 – this is quite a lot, but I really find it beneficial and don’t want to skimp on something which is good for my health.

Toiletries £25.36.

Presents are something that I haven’t budgeted for, but need to do so.

Miscellaneous £68.54 which included £30.00 in presents, spending on the garden of £9.45 and seeing gardens £10.00. Meal out with friends £9.40 – a bargain. Just ordered a wrap and fries and drank tap water.

Expenses from bills account – expected annual expenses

Holiday balance £94.75. We are about to go to the Yorkshire dales for the week. Unfortunately the weather forecast isn’t good, but we are renting a lovely cottage so will have plenty of room to hang up our waterproofs after a day on the hills.

Travel insurance £23.06 for a holiday to Italy. I usually get annual insurance as we have a couple of holidays abroad, but this year I didn’t bother as Mr Simple and I are staying in the UK this year. My mother and I are celebrating my 50th year by going to the Italian lakes in September. My insurance is unusually high due to my heart condition which I have to declare. Mr Simple, who is fortunately fit and well, can get annual insurance through his bank for £30 per year.

One year of physio sessions equals a holiday in France.

Physio sessions – £64.00. These are to help with problems in my neck and shoulders, mainly caused by poor posture and too much time on my computer. When I have a week’s leave my shoulders feel fine, but as soon as I go back to work they feel tight again. The physio has given me exercises to do to strengthen the muscles in my shoulders, but I am not always a good student and forget to do them. I recently realised that my annual budget for physiotherapy of £1152.00, is the equivalent of our yearly holiday in France. This year we aren’t going there, but I worked out that if I make more of an effort to do my exercises and don’t have to go to physio anymore, then we can go to France without any increase in the budget. This is a good example of how daily habits can help you to achieve your goals and dreams i.e. daily habit = physio exercises; goal = save £1152.00; dream = holiday in France in 2020.

Received some interest of £28.70 from a savings account which I emptied some time ago.

Had £65.55 left over and paid this into my Vanguard ISA.

So any observations or suggestions? How was your May?