Things To do Free With Kids

The time has arrived and the six week holidays are upon us. Is it just me or does everyone think they just come around so quick too!

If you’re anything like me, you haven’t planned anything yet and the current state of my bank balance means I’m going to have to be super creative in order to ensure my child has fun and make those all important memories, because well basically, everything we do this Summer needs to be free.

And because parents have to stick together, I thought I would share my research of things to do with you all to help make your Summer with the kids as fun and cheap as can be!

  1. Exploring in your local town. Leave the car at home and go explore all those places you may miss if in the car
  2. Go to the library. Library’s in the UK usually hold free events for children to get involved in, like reading challenges and lego club.
  3. Bake a cake or/and cookies with the ingredients you have in the house.
  4. Board games. Dust off those board games and let the kids whip you at Monopoly!
  5. Arts and crafts. This category is endless! Colouring, building things out of recycling, painting
  6. Build a den using old sheets.
  7. Find a free local pool and go paddling, if your town doesn’t have one find a lake and take a picnic.
  8. Plan a walk to the next town.
  9. Go on a bike ride.
  10. Building lego.
  11. Meet friends at the local park.
  12. Camp outside in the garden if you have a tent. If not, camp downstairs in the living room.
  13. Play hide and seek.
  14. Garden party on the lawn with a picnic.
  15. Movie night.
  16. Teach your kids how to play cards.
  17. Go hiking.
  18. Ask your child to teach you how to play their game; Fortnight, Minecraft, Robux.
  19. Do a book club with your child, read the same book and talk about it after.
  20. Colour their hair with food colouring
  21. Get the paddling pool out, if you don’t have one have a water fight.
  22. Go to the beach, if it won’t cost money to get there.
  23. Do an outdoor treasure hunt and look for certain trees, insects, shops, wildlife etc. Make a card up for your child so they can cross off the items when they see them.
  24. Check out what’s going on in your local community for free events.
  25. Go to the skate park.
  26. Check out the museums to see if they are doing any free entry days.
  27. Feed the ducks at the local park.
  28. Football or another sport in your garden, at the park or in a local field.
  29. Watch the planes takes off at an airport.
  30. Star gazing outside on blankets.
  31. Have a dance party. Get your best clothes on and dance away!
  32. Have a makeover.
  33. Play dress up.
  34. Do an online fitness class; combat, yoga etc.
  35. Let them plan and cook a meal.
  36. Wash the car.
  37. Teach them how to garden. Maybe give them a part of the garden that they can look after and grow things in.
  38. Go wild berry picking.
  39. Rock painting.
  40. Do a jigsaw
  41. Learn a language with your child online.

That’s all I can think of for now, if you have any that I can add, please let me know in the comments below 🙂

Money Wise Talks 24/03/2022

Wowsers! What a week!

Not going to lie, but I’m on cloud 9 at the moment. Everything, and I mean everything this year is falling into place… amazing job, better salary, better work life balance and potentially a new *BLEEP*!

Sorry, I still don’t have the *BLEEP* 100% yet so I’m still keeping it under my hat. It is costing me serious amounts of cash though, even now before everything’s been confirmed. It’s making my anxiety levels hit the roof! All this money just passing through my fingers like water.

However, on the flip side of that, my general spending is so low right now (must be the fear of getting further into debt that is scaring me) and I’m on fire with no spend days and just general spending! I definitely should have done a no spend month this month!

I spoke last week about getting back into doing money challenges as I feel these really work for me and over the last week I’ve been thinking of things I can do. This is my plan

  • Save 1p a day challenge
  • Eat for £10 a week challenge – and see how long we can go for
  • April no spend month

I’m going to make the trackers for these and will upload them and let you know when these are available via my Instagram account.

Save 1p a day challenge

Pretty obvious what I need to do on this challenge but I am going to save all the money into a jar and not touch it until the challenge is up. I already have a jar where I keep my 1’s and 2’s so will use these as part of the challenge. I’ll get these counted tonight and will share the start of the challenge tomorrow via Instagram and then weekly on this blog.

Eat for £10 a week challenge

I want to only spend £10 a week on food for me and my daughter. This will cover 7 breakfasts, 5 school packed lunches, 5 lunches for me (I work from home), 2 weekend lunches and 7 dinners. This does not include toiletries, cleaning supplies or pet food. I’m sure I can do it, but will need to meal plan and be creative with the food I already have in my cupboards. To be honest, I want to get rid of so much out of the cupboard and I’m hoping by doing this, we can eat through some of the food that never gets eaten.

April No Spend Month

After a month of huge spends because of the *BLEEP* and my daughters 10th birthday, I need a reset and a no spend. However, my daughter is off for two weeks in April so I am going to set aside some cash for that. I also have a meal planned with friends at the end of April and I’m not missing that either. However, the rest of the month there will be no spending on;

  • Clothes
  • Toys
  • Takeaways
  • Food outside the weekly budget

You may be wondering why I’m still prepared to spend money in the half term and to go out with friends and I want to explain that I don’t want us to stop doing the rare things that we enjoy. It’s just not the point for me or the reason I do these type of challenges and no spend months. For me, it’s to get out of the habit of careless spending. I mean if I was out every weekend with my friends, well that would be another matter but I’m not. And I don’t know about you, but getting four friends together that all have children and some having husbands well it’s a task in itself. So when we’re all free and want to see each other we go for it. As for my daughter, this is her childhood and I want to spend the holidays with her making memories and if that means saving a very small part of my income for these times, well that’s what I’ll do.

I think it’s important as well, if you’re on a debt pay off journey, like I am and you’ve been on it years because you have a single income or whatever other reason, you need to have some elements within the journey that you look forward to. For me it spending time with my daughter and not saying no all the time and seeing my friends every now and again. Yes it may take me a little longer to pay down the debt but I want to live as well as be debt free.

What I Have Spent This Week

£10.18 Macdonalds

£6.34 Asda

£1.40 Co-op

£7.63 MoonPig

£15.87 Morrisons Food Shop

£31.00 Hair

£10.00 Cash out

£23.97 Cinema for 3

£10.92 Vet

£18.49 Trampoline pole

£33.00 Ninja Warrior

£200 Daughters birthday present – New bike

Total £368.80

Total spend on food was £33.29 which isn’t that bad at all, and that includes the takeaway. The cinema, Ninja Warrior and new bike I have paid for by pulling £300 out of savings. So although my emergency fund will have decreased, my debt hasn’t increased which is perfect. I hope to pay that back in dependent on what my salary comes out at for March. I’m hoping for great things from my salary this month so I better not be disappointed.

The trampoline pole was a replacement part from the damage to the trampoline in the recent storms. I was surprised at how easy it was to fit. Let the free entertainment continue 🙂

Moonpig cards were just because I left it to late to post someone’s birthday card. I thought if I did it via Moonpig it would get there for the next day so that’s why I was happy to pay the higher price. Anyway, it turned out it still got there 3 days later and late so I would’ve been better just buying cheap and posting it myself. I’ll know for next time!

Hair was just the usual root top up for me. This is the cheapest I can get my hair done for as I don’t have it blow dried, it’s just left wet. Last year I used to go every 3 weeks because I hated the sight of grey. Especially when it went completely white during lockdown and our hairdressers had to close. However, by me going every four weeks, it saves me an £124 every year! Amazing really that these small changes can add up to so much!

This time next week, I should know if the *BLEEP* is going ahead so I’ll of course let you all know on here all the ins and outs. But until then, have a great week.

H

Money Wise Talks 17/03/2022

It was my Nana’s 90th birthday at the weekend and she had a lovely party where we all got together again. It was nice to see the family under better circumstances following the death of my brother and us all attending the funeral a week last Monday.

We laughed and cried together and reminisced the old times when the people we love very much were with us.

It was a 4 hour drive to my Nana’s and back, which although was worth it – the petrol costs were out of this world!

That coupled with the ‘new’ gas and electric bill going out on Monday of £146 made me wince. I know we are all in the same boat but putting everything up at the same time when people are stretched is just horrendous. Although I have debt and a single income I feel incredibly lucky I have money left at the end of the month and can make overpayments on debt, some people aren’t that lucky and I’m generally worried about what our situation will be like by the end of this year. It makes me feel really sad.

I dug out an old smart meter box that was installed a few years ago to see if I could try and keep a handle on what the daily costs were for gas and electric. It does install a little dread when you put the kettle on and see the pound sign start to increase. That being said, I’ve heard both positive and negative things about these smart meters and although I can’t tell at this stage whether it’s a good or bad thing to have one but it is making me more mindful. For example, seeing the sun out today made me think about getting a load of washing that could dry outside. I mean, I know this stuff isn’t going to make me a millionaire but every little helps doesn’t it?

I decided the other day to have a little mission and try to find different things to cut back on with the cost of gas and electric going up and below is what I tried and what tips people gave me;

  1. Wear fingerless gloves in the house. Great for anyone working at home on a laptop.
  2. Wear leg warmers. I actually love this and embrace my inner Flashdance. 🙂
  3. Wear a dressing down.
  4. Use hot water bottles when at your work desk, on the sofa or in bed.
  5. Wear a woolly hat indoors. This really keeps you warm!
  6. Extra blankets and/duvet on the sofa and/bed.
  7. Turn all plugs off at the wall apart from the fridge freezer (and internet, if you need it for work).
  8. Close all doors.
  9. Use draught excluders.
  10. If your freezer is not full, fill it with cardboard as it runs more efficiently when full (tip from someone who used to work for a utility company).
  11. Turn the thermostat down in the day and have on for 30 minutes to an hour when family is all together.
  12. Make tea in a flask to save putting the kettle on every time you want a drink.
  13. Don’t use the tumble dryer or dry your clothes on a hanger until 90% dry and finish it off in the dryer for the last ten. minutes. This is great for keeping towels and other things fluffy and soft.
  14. Batch cook so you make a number of meals in one go, to save using the oven or cooking every night.
  15. Meal plan so you can have days where you don’t use the oven at all.
  16. Wear more layers.
  17. If you have a duvet that fits together as two parts, separate it and put a duvet cover on each part and this traps the air between the layers and can keep you warmer.
  18. Swap the electric tooth brushes for battery ones or non powered.
  19. Tuck curtains behind the radiators.
  20. Put curtains up over doors.
  21. Turn off radiators in rooms you don’t use.
  22. Use energy saving bulbs.

What I Spent Last Week

£42.41 Takeaway for 4

£8.87 Macdonalds

£49.46 Petrol

£45.00 Faulty wiring on car indicator

£71.96 Petrol

£3.60 Vinted refund

£15.00 Jellycat Toy

£16.23 Cat litter, cat biscuits and sweets

£45.99 Dry dog food

£10.00 Cash spent on food shopping

£10.00 Next – tights for party

£62.00 Next – Dress for party

£15.00 Cakes for Mothers Day

Total £395.52

Extra expenses due to petrol and the party but only £70.00 put on the credit card for my dress and tights. I plan to pay that off as an extra payment when I get paid next week. With hopefully a little more too.

Takeaways were down this week as well which is great. I have decided to do only have one a week, although last week I did two which was down to circumstances as opposed to me just being lazy. I have decided that we will go for a Macdonalds on Thursdays as it’s usually a late finish due to a club my daughter goes to.

£121.42 spent on petrol to include 400 miles round trip up North and a 500 mile round trip down South! I was given some money towards petrol which I used on the food shopping and to put even more petrol in.

£45.00 on faulty wiring on my cars indicator. 😦 … after I paid £100 for tyres last week. Hope this car isn’t going to cost me loads again like last year!

£3.60 back to a customer on Vinted. They weren’t happy with what I sent, apparently it had a small hole in which I’d not noticed. To be honest I had sold them in the week my brother died so my head was all over the place and I clearly hadn’t checked them well enough. It’s certainly not my style so I refunded it immediately, told her to keep them and apologised profusely.

£62.22 on pet food (plus a small bag of sweets for the chilc). I tend to buy anything relating to the pets in bulk so it’s good quality food at a cheaper price. Same for cat litter and cat biscuits.

£15.00 Jellycat for a toy for my daughter. She had an outstanding school report after me attending a parents evening and I said I’d get her something as a treat. I also spent £15.00 on cake treats for Mothering Sunday! A close friend who is a chef and has his own business makes these incredible edible flower pots and they are so cute and taste amazing! We had them last year, so when I saw he was advertising them again, I knew I couldn’t pass on them. Will show you the pictures when I pick them up.

Finally, I have something up my sleeve that is so big that’s it’s going to blow you all away! But I can’t tell you yet because I don’t want to jinx it – sorry for the huge carrot dangling moment. I can let you know in a week or so even if it falls through. What I will say is this a dream for me, one I have been manifesting for years, with the universe pulling what can only be explained as so many strings, so if it pulls off, I am going to be ecstatic, shocked and grateful. Keep everything crossed for me 🙂

Hope you have a great week,

H

How to Plan a Christmas Budget

It’s January, so let’s talk Christmas!

Ha Ha – No really!

It’s the New year and the perfect opportunity to reflect on the previous year and of course the Christmas spending!

  • Did you stay in budget?
  • Did you have enough saved for everything you wanted to do?
  • Are you saving now for Christmas?

If you answered no to any of the above, I would get your thinking caps on and start planning Christmas now in January!

For a few years now, I have saved a monthly amount for Christmas in an instant access account. I have a regular payment, known as a standing order, that leaves my bank account a few days after payday every month and is transferred straight into the account. I don’t have to think about it as it’s automatically done.

If you have followed me for a while, you’ll realise I am still tweaking this amount to suit our needs and still haven’t quite got it right – but I’m getting there!

My intention is to have an amount that covers absolutely everything, so cards, presents, wrapping paper, postage, Christmassy days out and gifts that I always forget about until the last minute – teacher gifts, pets and stocking fillers!

The ultimate goal for me is to complete Christmas without a single pound spend on a credit card but this is going to take some serious planning. I still think it can be done though.

Over the years, I have made a list of everyone I wanted to buy for and put down an amount of what I wanted to spend. Although this has worked for most part, I have never given myself an amount as a contingency and also never thought about including Christmas days out and activities.

As you know, Christmas activities are usually super expensive anyway so this needs to be definitely factored into the budget. And it’s something we always love to do so I’m not prepared for us to stop doing something we get so much out of.

Just the memory of us at Christmas spending £24.00 on four marshmellow sticks that we roasted over an open fire and had covered in chocolate still sends shivers through my ‘trying to be frugal, without ruining Christmas’ brain. I mean, I want to do these things – occasionally as treats but also want them to be accounted for. Even if they have to be labelled as the category, ‘the most ridiculous things to spend – NO BLOW, your cash on’!

Wouldn’t it be lovely to save an amount for Christmas and NOT use it all up so you had some left to roll over? I mean that would seriously be the dream.

So, let the planning for Christmas commence!

1) Write a list of people you want to buy for. Remember to include pets, neighbours, teachers and anyone else who usually forget (if you’re like me anyway!).

2) Set REALISTIC budget/s. I say realistic because there is no point in thinking I am going to be really good and only spend £10 on this person, if in reality, the last ten years you’ve spent £100 on them.

3) Add a small budget for contingencies and slight over spends. YOU’RE NOT PERFECT AND THAT’S OK! You don’t have to use it but it’s there as a Christmas emergency fund if you need it.

4) Think about what activities you would like to do at Christmas (if any) and price up how much it’s going to cost. What I found last year, is by leaving the booking of these activities till Summer it meant they were booked up or the prices went up so they were super duper expensive . In fact, last Autumn when I tried to book Lapland UK, it was booked up completely for the whole of December! So last Summer, I ended up making a diary note for January this year to book for the coming Christmas. That’s how far advance you need to think about these things. Another thing, by booking things out of season you may get them cheaper. WIN WIN!

5) Check your wrapping, cards and Sellotape stock. What will you need to buy? Could you buy it now out of season cheaper?

6) Check what you spend on food and alcohol last year whilst it’s still fresh in your mind and use that as your food budget.

7) Are you planning to buy the family matching pj’s this Christmas? How much will they cost and add this into your budget.

8) What were the costs from the kids activities this year? Parties, donations, fairs etc. How much did that cost?

9) Do you already know of some expensive gifts that people may already want, that you can start saving for now?

In answering all these types of questions, it will help you to have an idea of the type of Christmas you want and most importantly can afford, without getting into debt – or further into debt.

I have made another couple of trackers for saving for Christmas, which as always can be downloaded for free. This one is Saving for Christmas in 12, for if you want to save on a monthly basis. You can colour each part as your savings grow.

This Saving for Christmas in 52 is if you want to save weekly, so it will have 52 pictures to colour in – Coming soon!

I find seeing savings grow or debt decreasing visually using trackers and money pots really encouraging for me and it keeps me motivated. See if it works for you. I’ve even got my mum into them now, ha ha ha!

In 2020 I saved £40 a month and 2021 I saved £50 a month. Both of these amounts haven’t worked for me so don’t be afraid to get it wrong and try again. Maybe this year I’ll get the amount right!

This year I’m going to save £80 a month. I’m still tweaking my list of who to buy for and what budget I want to spend on each person. I’m even considering not buying for some this year. Not in an awful way but I feel I have to be realistic. I also hope this year I don’t over spend at all. In 2020 I over spend by about £900 and in 2021 I overspend by £300. And unfortunately it all went on a credit card 😦

But although I overspent, I still noticed a huge difference in my attitude towards money and the choices I made this year compared to last. I was more thoughtful on what I spent the money on. For example this year I said no (to myself) to buying the matching family pj’s, amongst other things. And noticeably, I spent £600 less than the previous year.

So I’m definitely not there yet, but I’m getting there!

What do you think about starting Christmas Planning early? Nuts or Definitely good to do? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading

H

Setting End Of Year Goals

As the end of the year draws closer, it’s time to think about what I want to achieve in the next 12 months and beyond.

In previous years, I have always made a list of goals on New Years Eve and placed them in an envelope ready to open on New Years Eve the following year.

It’s something I have always done privately and never shared. But as sharing helps me to focus and keeps me accountable, I thought this time I’d share a goal with you and provide you with some tips on how you can go about planning your end of year goals too.

When I worked in the corporate world of banking, having a plan to achieve goals was fundamentally one of the most important tools you used. It underpinned future promotions, showing managers what you were capable of and gave you a pathway to help you achieve what you want. It can also be applied to personal goals, for example if you want to lose weight or retire.

We spoke about goal setting a lot in banking and from my early banking career I was shown that I should always keep my goals SMART.

SMART is an acronym for – Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. It’s used so you can see exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals.

It turns your dreams into reality

SMART is explained in more detail below;

S – Specific

Don’t just generalise and say I want to be debt free or I want a new job. Be more specific and write down exactly how you are going to achieve this.

For example, you may want to be debt free, get a new job or start a new business. You may even want to retire early.

  • Will you try and increase your income, if so, by how much?
  • Will you look for another job or start a side hustle?
  • Will you need to gain extra experience?
  • Are there people who could mentor you that you could contact?
  • Are there courses you could do to help you stand out from the crowd?
  • Will you need further education or qualifications?
  • What is your outstanding debt? If you want to pay it off in 2 years, how much will you need to pay off each month to reach your goal?

M – Measurable

How will you measure your progress? Weekly or monthly? And how will you track this? If you’re on a debt payoff journey, will you review it each time you’re paid? Or at the end/start of the month when all the bills are paid?

A – Attainable

Are your goals reachable in the time limit you give yourself? What are the limitations, if any? Is there something in your way to stop you? If you want to be debt free in a year, can you afford to make the monthly payments to make this happen, or do you need to earn more, review the budget or get another job? If you want to go for a new job, will you need to find childcare? And if so, could you afford it?

R – Relevant

Do your goals align with your long-term plans of what you want to achieve? If you want to be debt free, why? Is this so you can reduce your working hours, give up work or afford to buy a bigger house?

T – Timely

Set a realistic end date. If your end date is a few years away, it may be helpful to break it up into monthly and yearly updates so it keeps you motivated. There’s no point in saying you want to be debt free in 1 year if you don’t have enough disposable income to make overpayments. In this case, you’ll need to either earn more or extend the end date.

When setting goals;

1) Write down all the goals you want to achieve in your life.

You may find goals on your list you won’t realistically get to for years but put them down anyway. I always look at immediate goals and those I want to accomplish first, followed by those within five years and then ten years.

You may find you have a really long list and this is good!! Some goals may feel unachievable right now but that’s ok.

Put them where you can see them. I have a notice board in my bedroom so I see them as soon as I wake up in the morning.

2) Put the goals into categories

For example, if you have a number of goals linked to health, like drink more water, go to the gym and lose a stone put them all under a ‘health’ category. I have categories for my main job, my side hustles, health, debt, saving and investing.

3) Look at your list and highlight what you want to achieve the most/first.

You may find that goals on your list naturally follow each other. For example, if you’re paying off debt, need to save for a deposit and want to buy a house, these would in most cases naturally follow each other but that being said, there is nothing wrong with paying off debt and saving for a house at the same time. It all depends on individual circumstances.

4) Take your first goal and apply the SMART acronym.

5) Review your goals regularly and at least every year.

I always feel that my mind naturally wants to review my goals every year before the New Year starts, but you can do it whenever feels right for you. It’s ok for goals to change and for new ones to be added. It’s also ok to have a break and take some time away from the focus. I am a goal orientated person and like working towards something but not everyone is like this. It’s your journey and your life so you do what’s best for you.

Here is an example of one of my goals.

Goal: Debt free

Specific:

I want to pay off £16,695.42 as soon as possible. I can afford £800 a month so it will take me 1 year and 7 months to pay off.

  • This calculation is worked out by £16,695.42 / £800 = 20.9 (months)
  • 20.9 / 12 = 1.74 years
  • If I can increase this payment to £1000 a month, it will take me 1 year 4 months
  • If I want to be debt free in 1 year, I need to pay £1391.29 a month (16,695.42/12 months).

I will do this by:-

  • Using all income earnt from; my courier job, Vinted sales, CMS (Child Maintenance Service) to pay towards the debt, this will be mostly be overpayments.
  • Reviewing the budget and cutting any expenses.
  • Once I start being paid monthly (from the end of January), I will be drawing food and petrol amounts out in cash for the entire month.
  • Take my cards out of my phone wallet and not carrying them at all times.
  • Continue to do no spend months through out the year.
  • Contribute to sinking funds monthly to avoid large expected bills, like MOT and vet bills.
  • Weekly meal planning
  • Daily spend tracking

Measurable:

Every month when I have made my three credit card payments, I will check the overall balance and add it to a spreadsheet so I can see the amount decreasing. This motivates me. I also post my progress to my Instagram page because I find the finance community inspires me to keep going.

Attainable:

£800 a month to debt is achievable on my current income. I have a plan in place to go for a promotion and plan to increase my emergency fund to £2000 first as a priority. My car cost this amount in 2021 in repairs which impacted my payments made towards debt so I don’t want that to happen again.

In January my income will be changing from weekly to monthly so I need to leave enough to cover this before making overpayments on debt.

My side hustle of being a courier has now become a second  job. But I can still do this without needing extra childcare because I take my daughter along with me.

Realistic:

Becoming debt free will allow me to buy a bigger house in a nicer area. Currently because of the debt payments, I am unable to borrow enough on a mortgage to achieve this.

Timely:

One year 7 months, although seems forever away is achievable and is the worse case scenario. My debt free debt is July 2023.

I think it’s important not to be disheartened when you finally see the date (like I am). You will achieve your goals. Honestly, seeing that date makes me feel down but before I used SMART, I’d only made a generic goal of ‘being debt free in a year’ which when you look at what the monthly payment is to achieve this, it was an almost impossible task – almost, because nothing’s impossible, right?

It makes me a laugh a little that I have so many of these tools like SMART in my head but I never really applied them to my debt free journey. And I don’t even know why. Maybe I thought it motivated me more to feel I only had one year left of this incredibly hard debt pay off journey. But actually when I think about it, it makes me feel more sad at the end of the year when I haven’t reached my goal.

But now I have set a SMART goal and know my debt free date is July 2023.

And although it seems like forever away, its a goal that should be achieved based on my presumptions above. My debt free date of July 2023 is at the end of the day the worse case scenario. I’m always going to try and make it happen quicker, as I’m sure you all will too!

Good luck

H

My Recommended Books for Reading

These are my list of books I have read that I would definitely recommend for those who are looking to increase their knowledge with finance, investing or general banking. I will keep adding to it, so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a post!

1) Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

2) 5 Day Weekend by Nik Halik

3) One Up On Wallstreet: How to use What You Already Know To Make Money In the Market by Peter Lynch

4) The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, Luke Daniels

5) The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

6) It’s Not About The Money by Catherine Morgan

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalise a purchase. I will only recommend products I have used, which I feel will benefit you. Thank you for the support.

Elf on The Shelf on a Budget!

This is a special post to all the parents out there who will very soon be having a special little visitor to join them in the Christmas cheer. And if it’s anything like ours, it will be causing lots of mayhem and mess!

If you’re like me, I spend nearly every night in December going to bed with not a care in the world and just as I’m about to nod off, I’m woken up by a jolt of “Oh No, I’ve forgotten to move the bloomin Elf!”. Or in my case – two bloomin Elves!.

Please tell me it’s not just me that does this?!

As parents we must be mad! Why do we do this to ourselves and make our lives harder at the busiest time of the year by having an Elf. But then seeing my girl’s face light up each morning is definitely enough for me! Almost lol!

I don’t know about you. I always start off super creative on the 1st of December and then as the month moves on so does my motivation, creativity and will to live. Last year Chippy and Buddy our Elves got stuck in the Christmas tree for a few days as I forgot to move them, opps! And the worse part, there was me thinking my failings had gone unnoticed by my daughter, until one day when she told me the Elves were boring and she didn’t want them to come again. Ha! Now I know she didn’t mean this but it made me wake up to the serious responsibility I had of chief Elf planner and mover and from that day forward I promised my elf (sorry couldn’t resist) I would not be so crap next time.

This year is the next time – so here’s to being the best Elf mover around!

This year, so far, I’m organised. We are still in November, most of my Christmas shopping is done with the Christmas fund and not debt and I have an Elf plan. And even better than all that, I thought I’d share it all with you too! Sharing is what Christmas is about of course – oh and presents and definitely prosecco 😊.

I have come up with or found 24 things our naughty little Elves can get up to and included some pictures (below) and a list of what you need to use and/or buy (under December 24 activities).

The pictures I have taken in one spot in the kitchen but I will be moving the little naughty elves around the house.

I have also made little cards to print and put together a shopping list so you can get everything in before December 1st (Below)

Most of the items I bought new and I noted the price I paid on the list. Anything without a price I already had at home. Everything I bought came to approximately £20 and I got the items from Tesco and Home Bargain. You could get them cheaper still if you shopped around.

December Elf’s activities:

December 1 – Elf brings the advert calendar

What you need – Advent calendar

Print – Look who’s Back!

December 2 – Elf plays hungry hippos

What you need – Pack of skittles (use a handful), Kinder Happy Hippos (5 pack)

Print – We Love Hungry Hippos!

December 3 – Elf burst out of cereal box

What you need – Cereal

Print – Make sure you eat up!

December 4 – Elf between two pieces of toast

What you need – Bread toasted

Print – I was cold, but now I’m toasty

December 5 – Elf playing jenga with chocolate fingers

What you need – Chocolate fingers

December 6 – Elf in bathroom sink drawing smilie face with toothpaste

What you need – Toothpaste

Print – Make sure you brush your teeth!

December 7 – Elf drawing funny faces on pictures

What you need – Black sharpie

December 8 – Elf in a roll of toilet roll which they have drawn a funny face on.

What you need – 3 marshmellows, icing stick black, chocolate drops, mini matchmatchers

Print – Do you wanna build a snowman?

December 9 – Elf rainbow magic

What you need – Skittles

Print – Just add hot water for Elf rainbow magic

December 10 – Elf making snow angels in flour

What you need – Flour

Print – Let’s make snow angels!

December 11 – Elf snowball fight with toys

What you need – Scrunched up bits of paper, other toys.

Print – Snowball fight!

December 12 – Elf cooking eggs in the pan

What you need – Haribo/Other gummies shaped like eggs

Print – Eggs anyone?

December 13 – Elf put tape across bedroom door

What you need – tape

December 14 – Elf has hidden candy canes

What you need – Candy canes

Print – Can you find all the candy canes?

December 15 – Elf zip wiring across the room

What you need – string

Print – Weeeeeeeeee!

December 16 – Elf has hidden a treat underneath a cup, but which one!

What you need – paper cups or you could use plastic ones, treat

Print – Find the hidden treat

December 17 – Elf making a sledge and wants help!

What you need – Candy canes, Santa chocolate, 4 finger kit kat, chocolate coins, fredo

Print – Lets make a sledge together

December 18 – Elf on a swing

What you need – Swing and string, or use empty loo roll

December 19 – Elf hanging from the letterbox with Christmas card from Elf

What you need – Christmas card

December 20 – Elf making Christmas biscuits

What you need – large biscuits, icing tube, laces, dolly mixtures, haribo

Print – Lets make a Christmas biscuit

December 21 – Elf in a bath of balloons

What you need – Balloons, black pen

Print – Find me and pop the balloons

December 22 – Elf toasting a marshmellow over a candle

What you need – Marshmellows, candle, cocktail stick, chocolate digestives

Print – Lets make s’mores

December 23 – Elf made a gingerbread house

What you need – 5 pieces of bread, Jar of ginger, gingerbread house (optional)

Print – Hey, I made a gingerbread house!

December 24 – Elf leaves Christmas box and goodbye note

What you need – Whatever you fancy, I usually leave some Christmas PJ’s, popcorn, sweets, hot chocolate

You will also need to print the Elf Shopping List and the Elf Print Cards 1 and Elf Print Cards 2

Mini Debt (Pay Off) Challenge!

As you may have read from my recent Money Wise Talks 07/10/2021, I have decided to do a Mini Debt (Pay Off) Challenge between now and Christmas.

I want to clear the rest of the balance of £1567.25 from the MBNA card as the 0% interest free period ends 31/12/2021. The finer details around how this amount came about can be found in the Money Wise Talks 07/10/2021 blog post.

If I don’t clear that amount by that day, the interest will default to 29.93 %. I could transfer the balance again but really want a new challenge to refocus me in paying the debt off. I have been on this debt journey so long now that I’m starting to get fed up of it. Can anyone else relate?

To get me in the mood, I made myself a funky new Pig Savings Tracker which you can also download for FREE below. Cute isn’t it!

There are 20 lines on the pig tracker, so each line is worth 1/20th of the total. To work out how much each line is worth just divide the total by 20.

My total on the MBNA card is £1567.25, so each line is worth £78.37 (1567.25/20) .

Every time I make some extra cash, I will put it in a spare online savings account I have attached to my current account and when I get £78.37 I will transfer it to the credit card and colour a line of my pig in. If you have paid off all your debt and have savings goals, you can use it for that instead!

As I mentioned before, I have been a little deflated recently whilst on this ‘paying off debt journey’ so wanted or maybe needed to spice it up a bit by focusing on a lesser number than the massive amount of £16,363.74 and adding a little fun of course. There is also a little bit of pressure and urgency as the deadline is the end of the year.

I just want to be debt free. I just want to start the next chapter.

In all honestly, I think it will be tough to do. I’ve just had some bad news (again) about the maintenance I receive so it looks like that money won’t be coming in, so I’ve decided not to rely on it anymore. If it comes in, bonus. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Sad news is, I’m now effectively down £200 a month.

The timing is awful being so close to Christmas but thank goodness I saved money every month since last December. At least Christmas won’t be ruined.

Anyhow, yes it will be tough. Going to try my usual tricks of selling, match betting, possible more delivering and being more frugal.

After my last no spend month, I realised I was a little spendy on Monday and Tuesday’s even though I do our weekly shop at the weekend so I’ve now taken my debit cards out of my phone case. I will only use them now on the one day I need to draw out cash for shopping and petrol.

Hoping this will be enough to clear it.

Why not do something similar with me and download the Pig Tracker for FREE. Tag me on Instagram so I can support you and you can support me and GOOD LUCK!

What I Learnt From My No Spend Month

I started strong.

I had my No Spend Challenge Sheet, my budget for food and petrol was set and I’d planned no other expenses for the month.

I was ready for it.

Each Friday, I took out what I needed for the week – a total of £50 (£30 food shopping, £20 petrol)

It went ok, but I didn’t do as well as I did in January this year.

However, I will take what I’ve learnt and look for areas where I can improve.

The No Spend Month ended with:

12 – No spend days (17 days in January)

7   – In budget spends

11 – Out of Budget Spends (6 days in January)

No spend days

Looking at the No Spend Challenge Sheet, I had at least 2 no spend days a week and these were mostly on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  

In Budget Spends

My in budget spends were mostly done on a Friday when I do our usual food and petrol shop. My daughter is out at a club so I can do it in peace. I always spend more when she’s with me! It also leaves us Saturday as a fun day. I do try and get both the food shop and petrol on the same day.

Out of Budget Spends

My out of budget spends consisted of hospital car parking fees, last minute drinks and snacks when delivering parcels and a last minute trip to the fair – fairs are my thing!

My out of budgets spends fell mostly on a Monday and Tuesday. This will either be me popping to the shops because I’ve forgotten something on the weekly shop I did at the weekend or going for treats.

8/11 of my out of budget spends were done on weekdays.

I think it’s important to understand your behaviour when it comes to spending. When you buy, what you buy and why you spend the way you do.

My Plan Going Forward

Remove my debit cards from my phone case – this should stop me from the last minute spends at the shop. I only need my debit card on a Friday when I’m drawing out the money I need for the week. Having it in my phone case is asking for it to be used!

I have added to our budget a small pot of money of £20 a week for fun. This means if the fair comes to town, we have a little to spend!!

Be more organised and take snacks we want to eat when I’m delivering parcels. I do make us food every week for when we are out delivering but when it comes to eating it, we never fancy it! We always fancy a Greggs though! And a vegan sausage roll and bottle of pop every Sunday doesn’t cost a lot, so I am going to continue to buy this but what I will start doing it making sure I leave enough room in the normal weekly budget for it.

I don’t believe this small treat a week will hinder our long term goals. But the continuous deprivation might.

A few more Tips

You need an emergency fund before you try a no spend month or year because if something breaks and needs to be repaired urgently, you’ll end up breaking your no spend to fix it!

Analyse your No Spend Month! Look for spending patterns, worse (spendy days) and triggers. This will all help you understand why you buy!

How did you get on? Let me know in the comments below.

Meal Planning On A Budget

When you’re looking at cutting costs and saving money you should definitely try meal planning.

The amount of time and money this has saved me over the years is unreal! It keeps waste to a minimal and you can make sure your family is eating a good mix of healthy foods all whilst on a budget.

Like most things when you start out, it can seem overwhelming at first, but I promise you, once you’re in the swing of things you wont look back!

Here are my top meal planning tips to get your meal planning off to a great start;

1) Get your cupboards organised

I organised my cupboards so the same items are together – soups, tinned veg, rice etc. It just makes it easier to see what you have instead of having everything flung in. I also use plastic trays to make it easier to pull things out (definitely worth doing for packets and spices).

I did the same for my freezer. I have three drawers; bottom is meat/meat free/fish or main meal items, middle is frozen veg and the top is leftovers, bread, lollies and anything miscellaneous.

2) Write a list of everything you have

Go through all cupboards and the freezer and write down everything including the best before date. Anything that needs to be used up first highlight.

3) Make a list of your favourite meals

With your family sit down and make a list of all your favourite meals. Include everyone and it will make everyone feel like they are all getting something they like and it’ll save tears at mealtimes. If the children won’t eat what you want to eat, try and swap out the main component so you all get what you like but keep the same trimmings.

I did this when my daughter ate meat and I didn’t. We both had the same veg and potatoes but she would have chicken and I had quorn.

4) Choose 5 meals from the list that you love to eat

I think this is one of the key things that keep the costs down and minimises waste – we only eat what we love, and we don’t have seven different meals a week. For example, the picture below shows a typical week of meals for my daughter and I;

You can see from our meal planner that we work around the same main meals each week. At the moment it’s sausages, quorn fillets and pizza which we then put with various veg, salad and chips.

And every few weeks/months or whenever we are bored, we change it up but still keep to 3/4 meals each week and just repeat them. I know this won’t work for everyone but for us we are eating our favourite meals every night, there are no tears at dinner time from my daughter refusing to eat her meals and there’s no waste …

That’s win, win win if you ask me!

Even if you wanted a different meal each night, by meal planning you will still save money and reduce your waste.

5) Plan your meals around the food that needs using up

Each week check your food list and plan your meals around the food is going to go out of date to make sure it’s not wasted.

I think that’s why we eat so many salads – I love salad and so does my daughter but if I buy it I want to make sure I don’t end up with any waste. Like salad, other key items that will need to be used up are fresh veg and bread. Remember to still check longer shelf life products too.

6) Meal Planning Time

On the shopping day, grab your meal planner and your favourite list of foods and decide what day you want each meal. Check the fridge freezer and cupboards to make sure you have those items in whilst at the same time checking items that are going out of date. I try and use salad at the start of the week and frozen veg at the end, making sure we are eat the fresh items first.

Use the Meal Planner Shopping List to write items down you need to buy but remember to check that there isn’t a substitute item you already have that you could use up before buying.

Tip – Stick the planner somewhere you can always see it. When you run out of something, write it down on the shopping list straight away and you won’t forget to buy it.

This will also save you time each week.

The Money Wise Mum

7) Use My FREE Meal Planner

To help you on your way, you can get your hands on my meal planner for FREE . If you love it, please tell all your friends and tag me on Instagram or Facebook, I’d love to see you all using it!

It won’t be long before you will see your food bills cutting down each week.

Meal planning for me;

  • Saves me money
  • Less waste
  • Less stress in deciding what I want to eat
  • Ensures my family eats healthy meals

How has it helped you? Let me know in the comments below