Budget Christmas

As promised, I thought I would share with you some of my homemade budget Christmas ideas.

I will often make just one or two things one year and give it to everyone, and the next year make a different thing and give it everyone so I can keep track of who has received what. (And also avoid giving people the same thing year after year after year as that gets super old and boring very quickly).

Obviously in posting this, some of you may get a preview of what’s coming your way this year, so it won’t be a surprise, but try and forget about it by Christmas anyway!

Not only are these ideas generally fairly cheap, especially if you have saved up your jam jars all year or found things for free on local freecycle groups, but they are also usually much appreciated by the recipients as they are thoughtful and homemade. Many of us these days get inundated with “tat” at Christmastime – lovely to get gifts but I think almost all adults (and most kids) will get at least one gift that will go straight to the charity shop in January! More and more people are keen to not only save money but also reduce the need for more “stuff” that will clutter up their homes. (I always keep a list of things I genuinely want or need for myself on hand so if anyone asks me what I want I can direct them to things I have been specifically wanting like a new casserole pot or a trivet etc to avoid too much random stuff!).

Anyhow, hopefully these ideas will not only be good for your wallet but also for your environmental impact! And if you don’t have your own jam jars, bottles or containers, first check places like freecycle and local facebook “hand me on” type groups, as it’s likely you can get it for free, but if not, places like Ikea and Hobbycraft or Wilko often have cheap jars, bottles and containers you can use.

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School!

Just like a whirlwind the summer holidays are over and the new term is upon us!

In most atmospheric fashion the glorious sunny weather we’ve been having broke on the first day of term and it has rained ever since. Reminds me of my own childhood when summers seemed to be full of long, hot, golden, sunny days and going back to school meant wet, damp, autumnal weather…

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The Cost of Living Part 2

Last time I focused on food and cooking, but lots of people have been asking me lately if I’m coping ok with the cost of living crisis, so I thought I would share what else I am doing to cut costs.

First of all I am thankfully on a fixed-rate mortgage for another year so I do not need to worry about my mortgage going up for at least another 12 months.

Secondly, I am lucky that we have had such a hot summer, so I haven’t needed to put the heating on since the end of March! That has certainly saved me a lot of money and means that the increased gas rates have not affected me much as yet. As I have continued with my increased payments I now have a few hundred pounds in credit with the energy company and in fact we were away so much in August that my bill actually went down last month!

However, as the incoming price hikes loom, and the uncertainty of how much it will cost us to heat the house we have made several contingency plans. Most of them are old-school moves!

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Camping in Wales

At the end of August we topped off our holidays with an amazing camping trip in Wales.

Firstly I should say that I love camping, but over the years I have built up my selection of camping gear so we can camp in comfort and style….

Here is my spacious 5-man tent and gazebo….. (both are air tents as on consultation with single parent friends these ones are the easiest to put up on your own – no poles needed!). They are amazing and I can confirm that I can put it up on my own in about 15-20 mins – VERY easily and with no fuss. HIGHLY recommend an Air Tent in case you are shopping for tents… Mine are both Quechua ones but I believe there are other brands with a similar function these days.

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Seaside Holiday with the Fam

We’ve just got back from a lovely family holiday by the seaside, although it was slightly fraught by the end!

We went to Deal in Kent where my mum’s partner’s family have been going every summer for years. It was a lovely chance to see lots of extended family members and for the kids and cousins to hang out too.

We were all scattered about in different AirBnB houses near each other so constantly popping in and out of each other’s houses, and there was plenty to do.

The kids swam in the sea almost every day, and we went to the park, shopped in charity shops, spent an afternoon in the penny arcade trying to win crap prizes, spent a morning in the leisure pool going down flumes, had brunch on the pier and gin and tonics at the pub, and ate fish and chips on the beach.

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Going OUT-out

Well now, after the last stressful post things vaguely calmed down a bit.

We had a lovely visit with Grandma and Grandad, even though I was so exhausted I didn’t do a whole lot! The girls had fun and we did some fun activities, and I also got to pick up my glorious new armchair for the living room (it doesn’t go at all with the Curtains of Glory but I have stopped caring about trivial things like that – I’m Reverse Marie-Kondo’ing my life – not getting rid of a thing but buying things that spark joy, and my new chair sparks SO MUCH JOY!).

When we came home I had a very rare, proper night OUT-OUT.

I realised I hadn’t been properly out in the evening without my children since my 40th last July, (except once in November maybe?) and before that probably not for a year or so, so it is a very rare occurrence.

It was a nice posh dinner for my friend’s birthday, at a lovely pub outside of Oxford.

Now obviously I should have driven myself there, but when it’s your only night out in a year, and you’ve paid for a babysitter, you want a bloody glass of wine or three!

However the night did get fairly expensive – taxis to and from the pub were not cheap (although a kind friend agreed to come by cab with me and share the cost). The pub was lovely, did really nice food and wine, but again, not a cheap dinner! Plus the cost of the babysitter and it came in at a really expensive evening!

However I really enjoyed myself, and apart from the odd anxious call from daughter 1 about daughter 2 not going to bed, and worring about what a hard time the poor babysitter was probably having, it was WONDERFUL.

I felt really grown up and relaxed and had a marvellous time and I really needed it just for ME.

Will definitely be trying to have a few more nights out here and there if I can, though probably more local with cheaper taxis next time!

Bicycles, Doorbells, and Washing Machines

So, after my week or two of running around after the kids feeling hot, tired and sweaty, things actually did get significantly worse.

  • On Sunday the washing machine died again, for the billionth time.
  • On Monday we woke up and discovered that we had been robbed.
  • On Tuesday the insurance company told me they wouldn’t pay out so I bawled and swore and cried at them in a very unsightly way.
  • On Wednesday I was so tired I thought I might die, but things cheered up and my bestie Betty came to visit which helped a lot.
  • On Thursday the washing machine company finally caved and conceeded I needed a full refund and a new machine.
  • On Friday my elderly neighbour rang my doorbell at 6am over and over again, waking us all up, as she couldn’t find her handbag and clearly had no idea what time it was.

In other words we are having a bit of a time of it!

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Hot, tired, busy, sweaty, exhausted….

Well it’s been an intense few days!

The heat has left us all knackered and hot and sweaty and grumpy, struggling to sleep and overall pretty tired. I caught A’s cold so that’s not helping either.

We have been setting up letterbox contact for S, which is a managed process via social services where we can write a letter and send up to 4 photos, once a year, to her birth parents and siblings. We have no idea if they will write back or not yet… S was really keen to do this and excited to be able to make contact with her siblings again, but doing it also stirred up a lot of really big emotions for her, and it was quite an upsetting process. We ended up doing her letters on Sunday night, it was so hot that A wouldn’t go to sleep and S was really upset and missing her birth family and so it was a fairly tough night all round. No-one got much sleep and it was quite a tense night in the house!

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