Cheap cheap!

If your like me, there is NEVER enough money in the bank, especially at this time of year. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is still paying off the xmas spending spree and with kids who need new coats, shoes and school stuff every 5 minutes, its a tough time.

But alas, do not fret! There is hope. I have made a list of all the tips and tricks I have picked up along the way and I’m sharing them with you to ensure we all have the chance to get comfortably out of the red this year.

1.) http://www.moneysavingexpert.com…..From free anti-virus software, to free pull ups and body shops freebies, there is something for everyone on this site. Cheap wine deals, supermarket coupons and even restaurant deals can be found here. All this combined with Martin’s advice on how to get the best out of everything, from mortgages to credit cards makes this website invaluable for those on a budget.

2.) O2 Priority…sometimes it pays to be with the right network. We go so much for free by being with OT at Christmas . From wrapping paper, star wars stickers, bags of chocolate coins, kids craft boxes and story books. Even now, you can get lunch from boots or Whsmith for £1, free cookies, chocolates, Mr men books for £1, free hot drinks at selected chains, 50% off Valentines bouquets from Debenhams and so on. The offers are amazing!

3.) On the subject of Valentines day, or any special event for that matter, check out wowcher.com. They do amazing offers on all different kinds of experiences. How about a spa experience this V-Day? Or in need of a wedding photographer? If your after something more permanent, they even do deals on lip fillers, lipo suction and tattoo laser removal!  I quite fancy the afternoon tea for 2 at Regents Park myself, or the super car driving experience with 80% off!

4.) On that note, don’t go out for a meal without some kind of voucher or deal. Rather than saying you can’t afford to go out, check out the offers you can get and pick something you and your bank balance will enjoy. Pitcher & Piano are currently offering 1 free drink and Zizi are doing 30% off mains!

5.) Its time to plan your meals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be exact! You don’t HAVE to have shepherds pie on Monday, it could well be Tuesday. The world will not end. And if you have ingredients that could make a variety of different meals, write all those ideas down. It just means when you get home you don’t have to spend energy being creative (lets face it, by Wednesday that’s no longer possible) and you know what to get out the night before. Did I mention, it saves money? We’ve saved at least £30 last month by planning what to buy for dinners. For 99 cheap family meal ideas, head to foodnetwork.com

6.) Buy in bulk at the supermarket. A few weeks ago Tesco were doing an offer of 3 medium chickens for £10. That lasted us ages and meant we were able to make a variety of different meals. In addition to bulk buying, freezing your leftovers is a brilliant idea. Even if its just one portion of the meal, it means that one night a week all you have to do is defrost something and everyone gets to pick what they fancy, rather than being told whats on the menu.  Plus, that’s one night you don’t have to budget for.

7.) Charity shops are golden. Ok, I admit, getting new things does come with its own sense of smug satisfaction….but finding a bargain does too! As a family, we have managed to find all the Night Garden characters, including the train, for a fraction of a price they were new. They weren’t old and flea bitten, they were freshly washed and in need of a new owner. We’ve also found a brand new Micky Mouse soft toy, barbie dolls, nursery rhyme books, musical toys and lots of puzzles to entertain our brood, for hardly any money.

8.) Do I really need that? That is the question. If your anything like me, I can plan what to spend my entire wage on in an hour. By the next hour, I’ve forgotten half of it. Its clearly not that important then! Make a list of all the things you really want and keep going back to them in moments of weakness.

9.) An app called You Need a Budget allows you to track your spending every step of the way. You input all the things you spend your money on a month….petrol/water bill/food…and then at the end of the day/week/month you assign each expenditure to one of the categories. Its really simple, even I can manage it. It allows you to track how much you really spend on each section and you may even find you’re under spending in certain areas. We found it really useful, but its something you do need to keep up with.

 

10.) Lock it away in an ISA! Protect the money you do have by locking it away in an ISA you can’t touch more than few times a year. Those kind of savings accounts tend to accumulate the best interest rates too. Alternatively, get a decent bank account that gives you money back. The Santander 1-2-3 account is amazing, if used properly you can make up to £530 a year. See moneysavingexpert for more info.

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I think you should brush your leg hair…

The above is a direct quote from my 5 year old. Yes, it was that bad.

Sitting on the sofa, watching call the midwife on catch up today, I realized something. No matter what the year, there is always pressure to be a ‘yummy’ mummy.

The first time my husband and I went on a date since having our son, I had literally no idea what to do. Neither of us did.

I remember being so utterly excited I felt like a kid at Christmas. I bounced around the bedroom. Our son had a temperature and we had been verging on calling the whole thing off, but we held on through sheer determination and thank god we did. The minute the babysitter arrived, he perked up. The thought of eating anything he wanted, doing anything he wanted and being able to stay up until whenever he wanted was too good to miss.

I ran to my room, still smelling like calpol and vicks and tried to find something to wear. I couldn’t think what I used to wear when I went out. And when I finally remembered, none of those things appealed any more- I wasn’t sure if they would fit, or if I would look too overdressed. In the end, I found a dress I used to love and a pair of black leggings that I knew didn’t have any holes in. The dress was a lot tighter than it used to be, and the leggings had some stains on that I’m pretty sure were child’s snot- but I sucked my stomach in, refused to look too much in the mirror and scrubbed the stains with a dish cloth. I was ready.

My other half took a bit longer than me, and appeared to be having similar issues. “Darling,” he said, “my clothes appear to have shrunk”.

Eventually, we left. I couldn’t WAIT. Neither could our son- he was basically pushing us out the door. Freedom was needed, not just for us apparently.

The actual date night wasn’t the most exciting…we went to the cinema and got a burger. But it was a question-free burger, one we ate in absolute silence, savoring every quiet, hassle-free mouthful. The cinema was packed, and I nearly fell asleep. The film wasn’t even that good, and I don’t think we spoke a word to each other until we left. It was total bliss.

I didn’t feel like a yummy mummy that night. But I didn’t care.

Things have changed though, since that first, beautiful, night of freedom. I think I remembered who I used to be, my old ‘standards’ of living.

Since my son has started school, I seemed to have bumped into a lot of mums who take the whole ‘yummy mummy’ thing to the extreme. I’ve met woman who look airbrushed as they do the school run. I’ve met women that apply a full face of slap and bling themselves up just to stay at home. How much stress must that be?!

And then there’s my old friends. They seem to be back in touch a whole lot more now and our lives are going in totally different directions. They travel to exotic places and take selfies in front of starry nights. I stay home and go to bed at 9. They have so many selfies, they make albums of them. I take pictures of tractors and trains to show to my son. They spend hours in the shower. I spend about ten minutes. They spend all day letting their nails dry. I…don’t.

After a lot of reflection, and three months make-up free, I decided enough was enough. I might not make as much effort as my single friends, but I will make some effort. Just because I’m a mum doesn’t mean I have to give up on looking good. I’m fed up of shying away from the mirror in the ladies or looking jealously at other people who have no bags under their eyes. I am female, and luckily for me, its socially acceptable for me to cheat and wear make up.

So that’s what I do now. I started with a hair cut and a set of cheap earrings that go with anything. I have ‘work’ outfits that I can fling on quickly every morning. They are mostly dresses and leggings that I keep well away from snotty noses. I picked ones that smooth my curves but are colorful, so I’m not always in black. My son helps me do my make-up (he ‘rubs’ my foundation in) and I pack my lunch bag the night before. I’ve decided to loose a bit of weight, so I’m packing apples instead of crisp. I don’t spend hours on my hair. I stick it up into a high pony and let it dry like that all night, so its voluminous the next day (needs a bit of taming). I do my nails once a week- usually Saturday night, and normally that’s just a clear gloss coat. I also manage to pluck my eyebrows once a week now, and sometimes if I feel I have enough energy I treat myself to a face scrub.

All in all I spend around 20 minutes a day preening now. Which is a massive change but honestly, I can’t actually believe I used to spend as long as I did!

I may not be the ‘yummiest’ mummy, but I am much happier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His favorite ‘spot’

As a child, I am told I was hard to control.

What I’ve always taken this to mean was my parents were too weak to follow through on a punishment and as a result, my behavior was never brought under control.

Well now I’m ready to eat some humble pie. It seems like you do a lot of that when you have kids.

It turns out, children are basically impossible to control.

Sure, you can decide on ‘techniques’. You can watch the Three Day Nanny and as much of Jo Frost as is physically possible. You can read all the books under the sun. You can even-dare I say it- watch other parents and naively promise yourself you’ll never make the same parenting mistakes as them.

But when it comes down to it, you will. Because you will be so utterly frustrated, you’ll use what ever you’ve got.

When we put our child on the spot, he laughs. If he doesn’t laugh, he’ll have a chat with you. Unfortunately, he can see everything from his spot on the stairs. I think he regards it as his throne. It’s his favorite place in the house.

If you don’t reply, he’ll just give you running commentary on what your doing. He’ll even sing.

None of this is what happens when you watch Jo Frost now, is it? You see the children screaming and shouting, clawing their way off the spot. They cry and beg for a juice, they need a poo, their sorrrrryyyyy please mummmyyyyy…..

Not our boy. Oh no. Happy as Larry.

WHAT THE HELL??

The only screaming and shouting that comes from putting our little angel on the spot, is from us! (well me really)

Out of sheer frustration, I find myself descending into a child like state myself. If he makes his trade mark whinge sound, so do I! I do it because I know this to be the only thing on the planet that appears to provoke a feeling of dislike from him! He has a habit of screaming when he’s angry, and yep, you guessed it, I’ve been known to do it back. Or he’ll clap in your face- I guess to intimidate you. So yeah, done that too. He absolutely hates it when I do anything he does to me, back to him.

It’s awful I know. I’m an awful parent. Of this, I am aware. My husband has enough self control not to get to this level. I don’t know how, but I just thank god one of us remains sane.

This is not what I imagined will happen with the spot. What am I doing wrong? What else can I do? I really feel like he controls me and not the other way round. How much more Jo Frost can I watch????

 

 

The Parent Tool box…

So, since taking on the challenging of parenting, I have come to realise there are several pieces of ‘equipment’ that every parent needs. Call them the tools of the trade, if you will. But without them, you might well end up eating soup out of a pan and trying to console yourself your not the worst parent in the world for forgetting to bring something for the harvest festival…

 

1.) Plenty of clean sheets 

Not just for the child, but for you also. Because when they are done wetting their own bed, they tend of crawl into yours and do the same.

2.) A carpet cleaner

For all the poo, wee, vomit, boggies, spilled drinks, squished beans, bits of play dough and anything else you can think of that will inevitably work its way into your carpet

3.) Unisex wrapping paper

For ALL the birthdays kids friends have. And add to that, plenty of ‘just encase’ cards

4.) A baby sitter

An essential to life with children. If you have a new born, even an hour away just to sit with your partner (and fall asleep), without continual crying.Lets face it, a life without sex, sleep and adult conversation can be very hard- so have a few hours break every now and then

5.) Access to your emails, all the time

In order to avoid being the only mum who turns up without anything for the harvest festival, its best to have instant access to your emails so you can always know what parent mail is demanding of you

6.) A dishwasher

I don’t own one. And its the BANE OF MY LIFE. I don’t know how other parents have homes so spotless and dirty-washing-up-free if they don’t own one of these. I do not have one of these homes. I try, I really do. But there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up!! Sadly we rent, so the unless the magic washing-up fairy visits, I will shall forever be playing the game of clearing the sink, or yes, I will end up eating soup out of a pan because I have no bowls left…again

Intro

So I have news: I am a step mum!

I have a five year old boy who lives with myself and my partner and who we, jointly, bring up. We spend our time, money, love and energy on this child. The same cannot be said for the woman who gave birth to him.

So far, our dedication has brought with it many trials. As a former single gal, they have mostly come as a shock to me. Although I knew, in theory, what I was getting myself into, I wasn’t REALLY prepared. I knew there were trials, many, many trials….but I didn’t know they would come so thick and fast.

One weekend we are dealing with explosive diarrhea at 2am and I’m half naked, showering said child down in the bath while my other half changes the bed. The next, he’s projectile vomited and again, needs hosing down.  I don’t think I’ve ever gagged so much. Is this the smell of parenting?

There’s also the emotional toll that step parents especially, have to go through. While my step-son is happy for me to take him to the park (while his dad recovers himself from last weeks bug), make him lunch and buy him sweets, he’ll cry at the thought of sitting next to me on the sofa. While I spend my money on birthday presents and re-arrange my work life in order to meet his child care needs, I ultimately have no say in important decisions in his life.

Step parenting is REALLY REALLY hard. It’s a massive shock to the system. I am only just realising that really, nothing, will ever be the same.

The one thing I have hang on to is I have a very good role model. My dad is actually my step-dad, and has been around for about 20 years of my life. I love him very much and I know I can go to him about anything- although the love I have for him is different from the love I have for my mum, it makes it no less real. So this is my goal- and I will get there one day with my step-son.

According to statistics there are 7000 full time step-parents out there. So if your reading this and your in a similar position, I hope that you find this blog helpful in some way. I want you to know, your not as alone as you might think! And as I share my journey, please feel free to chip in- the one thing I know is, without support, this journey is very lonely.