Archive for May 2013

Want free cinema tickets?

free cinema tickets uk I am not a film buff, but if you offer me free cinema tickets and it’s a film I think would be interesting to watch I’m going to accept. A lot of people don’t seem to realise that you can get free cinema tickets, although you are limited to 2 free tickets for each account registered at See Film First. If a group of you wanted to go see the same film I guess there is nothing stopping all of you registering at See Film First.

The advantage of these freebie film tickets is that not only are they 100% free, but you also get to see films before they are on general release nationally. This Sunday morning  I took my daughter to see The Big Wedding at the Odeon Sheffield. As usual it was fairly quiet at the cinema with less than half the seats full, so there are obviously a lot of free cinema tickets still available for these events.

Money Saving Tips – gas & electricity bills

money saving tips This week I decided to look at ways I could use money saving tips to reduce my household bills and generally do a quick stock take of where my family’s finances are at. My house is a 4 storey Edwardian detached property and despite my best efforts to reduce our energy consumption we are still a high energy user. I’m pleased to say that by only having the heating on when needed and encouraging the use of showers instead of baths the gas and electricity bills are starting to come down, but not fast enough!

I don’t know if you saw the news that it’s predicted the average annual energy bill will be bigger than than the average annual  mortgage payments within the next 12 years so I thought it was a good time to review whether I could save any money by switching to a new energy provider. I have been with First Utility for the last few years and been very pleased with the service, but at the end of April they withdrew the tariff I was on and switched me to a more expensive one.

So I went online and had a hunt around to see which was the cheapest gas and electricity provider for me by entering my energy usage for the last 12 months. I used a number of different comparison sites to ensure accuracy. According to the comparison charts Spark Energy could save me £999 a year but having seen they featured on Watchdog and have a terrible customer service record I didn’t think this was a good choice.  So in the end I plumped for npower signing up through Energylinx which will reduce my bills by £577  a year and earn me £32 cashback at Quidco. I subsequently saw I could have earned £60 cashback at Quidco by switching to npower direct, so I could have done even better!

So in terms of money saving tips I’d advise to always review your utility bills regularly and see whether you can shave any money off them. However, I would never recommend using money saving tips that are going to cause you stress so if you see a provider has a poor customer service record with a lot of online complaints avoid them. True you may save more money in the long run, but if you have to spend hours on the phone you are wasting your valuable time when you could be doing something much more pleasurable.

I’ll be looking at other household bills I’ve managed to reduce in future blog posts. If you’ve recently reduced your own energy bills feel free to leave a comment and share your tips too.

 

Become a mystery shopper and earn extra cash

What is a mystery shopper?

A mystery shopper is someone paid by market research companies to check on customer service in their clients establishments and the good news is you can become a mystery shopper. The assignments you will be sent on range from popping in to your local garage to visiting hotels and restaurants. You will then typically be asked to give feedback on your visit along with submitting a scanned copy of a receipt for items purchased. Payment for assignments ranges from £5 to £40 and will be paid direct in to your bank account.

How to become a mystery shopper..

Sadly there are a lot of mystery shopping scams out there. A genuine company will never ask you to pay a registration or admin fee to sign up with them. If you would like to become a mystery shopper and earn some extra cash I’d strongly recommend you register with Market Force  which is an international company with a long record in consumer evaluation. If you are in the States the Mystery Shopping Providers Association also lists companies looking for mystery shoppers at mysteryshop.org.

You won’t earn a fortune mystery shopping, but by becoming a mystery shopper you are contributing to the improvement of customer service at local businesses. You’ll also be compensated for your time and effort so it can be quite interesting.  Why not register and give it a go?

Cut price hair cuts at Barnsley College

In an effort to cut my outgoings even more this week I’ve been looking in to cut price hair cuts. My hair has been coloured a variety of shades since I was the tender age of thirteen so I wanted to find somewhere I could get my hair cut and coloured at a budget price.  I’ve tried leaving longer periods between hair appointments, but this has resulted in my kids begging me to go to the hairdresser as my appearance gradually degenerated in to unkempt cave woman with issues.

The other options I’ve trialed have been alternating between visiting an expensive salon and a cheaper one at varying intervals and just having my hair cut by a hairdresser but colouring my hair at home. My home hair colouring has been hit and miss with some very patchy results so I wanted to find somewhere that would give me the cut price hair cuts I desired and colour my hair at the same time.

Well today I went and had my hair cut at the local college. The cost for a cut and colour was £21. This is a quarter of the price the expensive salons charge locally and less than I would pay just for a cut in a cheaper salon. The college as well as offering cut price hair cuts and hair treatments also offers budget beauty treatments.

So was my cut price hair cut and colour a disaster? Well sorry to disappoint but I  was very pleased with the end result and will be going again in the future. Students are supervised by their tutors at all times so the chances of your cut price hair cuts turning in to cut price disasters are slim. If you’ve a local college I’d definitely recommend giving them a call to see if you can further the education of the next generation of hairdressers at the same time as getting yourself regular cut price hair cuts. Some local salons also offer this service if you volunteer as a model for trainees so it’s well worth asking.

UK Cashback

I’m a big fan of UK Cashback sites and as you can see from the screenshot above at my favourite cashback site Quidco I am well on my way to achieving £1000 in cash back. Cashback sites work by paying you back a proportion of the money you spend online with different merchants. The money is paid direct in to your bank account at regular intervals. You can even set the level at which you wish to get paid say once your cash back reaches £10 or £20. Some merchants will pay you back in cash more than the value of the item you have purchased to try to attract you to their sites.

The disadvantage of all UK cashback sites is that you must order goods by clicking on links at their sites to track your purchase and in some instances the tracking software does not work so you will not get paid. Cashback may also be declined by the merchant for a number of reasons so please be mindful that you will not always get your cashback as advertised.  However, if you have shopped around and already made the decision to make an online purchase checking a  UK Cashback site before you proceed with your purchase doesn’t cost you anything and will usually result in cash back you wouldn’t otherwise have had so you haven’t got anything to lose.

I love Quidco

If you have decided to live a more frugal lifestyle there are lots of things you can decide you no longer need and can do with out, but food is not one of them so to reduce your food spend you are going to have to look at cheap meals you can cook.  I like to look at cooking cheaply as a challenge – the more mouths you have to feed then the more money you can save.

sausages-onion-gravyHaving been hood winked in to feeding my family horse meat recently (thanks  Asda corn beef) I decided to look at different options for buying meat. I no longer trust the supermarkets and when I looked at buying my meat from farm shops with high welfare standards their prices were outside my budget. I want to be able to cook cheap meals for my family but I do not want to compromise on the quality of the ingredients I am using. Cheap meals shouldn’t have to mean feeding your family horse!

I did some searching online and discovered Westin Gourmet which lets you order gourmet meat online at competitive prices. My first order was for 20kg of chicken breasts which entitled me to 18 free sausages and free delivery. This may seem a lot of chicken to order all in one go but my oldest son and a couple of his friends have already bought 6kg of chicken from me at cost price so I have a mini meat co-operative now.

Earlier in the week I’d used a £50 e-voucher earned by accumulating nectar points against my weekly shop which I had delivered from Sainsbury’s and which came to just under £13, so had lots of ingredients waiting to make cheap meals for my family. Sausages are always popular in our house so I decided that had to be the first thing I tried from my Westin Gourmet order.

Step 1 – I chopped up 1.5kg of onions from my weekly shop and gently fried them for 30 minutes adding a dessert spoon of  sugar to maximize the sweetness of the onions.  You have to make sure you constantly turn the onions to avoid them sticking and burning so no wandering off! When the onions had caramelised nicely I put 2/3 of them in a container in the fridge to make quiches the next day when I had more time.

Step 2 – Brown the sausages. I did this in a frying pan turning the sausages for an even colour, but you could be healthier and oven cook them.

Step 3 – To make the gravy take your already caramelized onions and add them to a pan with  a heaped spoon of plain flour. Mix these together then pour in approximately a pint of boiling water with a beef stock cube dissolved in it.  Simmer the mixture on a low heat until your gravy starts to thicken.

Step 4 – Serve your sausages and onion gravy with freshly cooked vegetables. We chose to use carrots, runner beans and mashed potatoes as that’s what we had in.

If you are vegetarian or vegan this meal could easily be adapted for you by using vegetarian / vegan sausages and making the onion gravy using a non meat stock cube.  Onion gravy also is a great accompaniment to nut roasts and burgers.

Happy cooking and I’ll be sharing another cheap meal recipe with you soon featuring the left over caramelized onions.

Hi and welcome to my new frugal living blog. I am Frugal Living Mum a mother of 5 children based in Barnsley. I’ve had the good fortune to live in a household with a very healthy combined six figure income and I’ve experienced the challenge of living below the poverty line.  I am self employed and have seen my income fall recently, so along with a lot of families my personal finances fall in to the “could do better” school report category. If you are in a similar situation and looking for ways to save money or make your money go further this is the blog for you.

frugal livingAs a child growing up in the 1970’s my mother fell firmly in to the aspirational self sufficiency movement. When other families were tucking in to the all new ready meals my mum was showing us how to grow plants and bake our own bread. At the time as a child wanting to be like every other family I did not appreciate the valuable life skills she was teaching me. Now I am eternally grateful for her investment of time and effort as a parent. She gave me a lot of the tools needed to start my frugal living journey which I’ll be sharing with you.

My personal idea of frugal living is living well for less; I do not wish to live like a pauper but I do want to get the most I can out of the money I  have.  My idea of what “living well” means will of course be different from yours so frugality is very much a subjective term. Some people practice frugal living to reduce debts, to live within restricted means or as a way to save towards the lifestyle they want in the future. Whether you have decided to give living frugally a try permanently or temporarily I hope you will gain some new ideas from the blog.

My next blog posts will be showing you how to save money on your food bills including cheap meals for the frugal family.  Nothing too advanced and no special equipment needed!