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Family Budgeting Tips

Family life has been one long lesson in how to stretch, save, and budget the resources we have. I think over the years I have read every piece of advice on how to make the families pennies go that little bit further. Being self employed monthly income fluctuates, making it hard- if not impossible- to formally budget. Here are some of the tips I have learnt along the way, divided into the different areas of family financial life! The Big Things I have a spreadsheet with all the direct debts that have to be paid each month. I know how much will come out when. I then look at the incomings, and lay aside the sums required throughout the month. Missing direct debts is a costly business! It is vital mortgages, council tax, etc are covered. These things affect your credit score if they are not covered. And credit scores follow you around for years. Deal with the big things first. What is left is what you have to live on- if you like it or not! Food The brand challenge is quite famous now, as a way or reducing food bills: the idea is if you normally buy the premium brand, go down to the next cheapest, and so on. Most people find that going from Heinz, say, to Tesco, is not a problem and saves money. I also suggest the Supermarket challenge! If you are use to Sainsbury try Tesco, if you shop in Asda go to Lidle. I started to shop in Lidle, and found an impressive reduction in my shopping bill. Like the going down a brand I tested the products bit by bit, and discovered the prices may be less, but the quality is not necessarily inferior. In fact Lidle’s nappies are better and cheaper than Tesco (in my opinion). There are still items I cannot buy in Lidle, or prefer from Tesco (Tesco is our closest, so naturally the supermarket I would use!) so I do one Tesco shop a month, and stock up on those items, and buy the rest from Lidle. Make a meal plan. I do not always do this, when I don’t I usually end up doing extra “little” trips to the shops, and usually buy things I don’t need! Having an idea what I need for a weeks meals reduces what you spend. Cook from scratch! And don’t buy shop cakes and biscuits: make your own, they are far cheaper and taste better. Try cheaper cuts of meat, casseroling them will make the meat tender. Add pulses to...

Frugal Ideas of Family Activities this Advent

I love Christmas, I love the run up to it all. And now we are in December it is time to throw ourselves into the festive spirit. Year in year out Christmas comes, and the financial pressure mounts- it’s all just so expensive! But Christmas is not about how much we spend, it’s about family, love… worship, Christ. I want to create the memories of fab Christmases, but I don’t want to feel totally stressed by the financial pressure. So here are some Christmas ideas to bring joy to the home, but not break the bank! 1.Make Christmas Tree Decorations Make a salt dough ornament: 2 cups flour 1 cup water ½ cup salt 1 tsp instant coffee Mix the coffee into the water (this gives a bit of colour, leave out if you like). Then mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the water, and knead into a dough. Use cookie cutters to make Christmas shapes. Put a hole in the top with a straw or pencil. Bake in a cool oven- 170° for about 1 hour 15 mins, until the dough is hard. When cold decorate the shapes and tie for cord to them so they can hang off the tree. 2. Visit a Christmas Market Even if you are not buying, they are really beautiful! 3. Homemade Christmas Presents These have the double benefit- do something for someone else, plus you make someones present. We have annual stand-bys in the this department- both curtesy of Nigella Lawson! Her Christmas cookies, and her Chilli Jam. The Chilli Jam is gorgeous, I make sure to make enough to have a small jar for us! 4. Christmas Crafts! I loved Christmas crafts at school, and this is a time of year you can make lots of different Crafts and use them to decorate the house! I found this site a few years ago- don’t be fooled by it’s appearance, it is a goldmine of great craft ideas for Christmas Audrey’s Christmas Page 5. Christmas Letter Writing I write a Christmas letter every year to send out in Christmas cards, this year The Girl will be doing likewise. She can tell distant family and friends what she has been up to this year. 6. Christmas Card Making Honestly I can’t be bothered by cards. Mass produced, bits of card, that clutter up the mantle piece. I object to having to spend money on something that is going to end up in the recycling box. BUT I do like something that has meaning. When children put some effort into making cards...

Nature for the Soul

When the deciduous or broadleaf woodlands are alive with the color of Spring and Summer, and wonderfully noisy the symphony of bird song, there is no finer place to be. As the colors of Summer pass and the days cool the woodland is wonderfully mellow, as well as breathtakingly beautiful. Even during the grey Winter months, when the ground is frozen hard and everything appears lifeless, even in these barren months the forests retain a certain beauty. As many know by instinct, science is beginning to prove: exposure to nature is beneficial to mind, body and soul! And it is especially beneficial to children. Country Parks and wilderness areas has something to offer all the family. The gentle walks are a perfect way to start a new exercise regime, especially if your fitness levels are quite low. And the play areas offer outlets for children of all ages, helping you to see your children increase their activity levels in a fun way! Research has shown that regular contact with nature is highly beneficial to childrens’ emotional, mental and physical development. Children with ADHD are soothed by regular contact with nature, resulting in them achieving higher levels of concentration. Nature experiences also boost children’s immune system and aid brain development: with improvements in observational skills and reasoning. In fact studies show that nature experiences better stimulate a child in all areas of development when contrasted to indoor experiences. Furthermore research seems to suggest the greener the better! In new research Dr. Stephen R. Kellert of Yale University has found “Play in nature, particularly during the critical period of middle childhood, appears to be an especially important time for developing the capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and emotional and intellectual development.” The thinking behind the theories is that nature, is full of interesting stimuli that trigger our involuntary attention, we cannot help but notice the beauty of our environment. However, our brain is not laboring to notice these things, unlike a city where we are constantly concentrating on our surroundings, e.g. is that bus about to run me over if I cross the road! Therefore in nature our brain, although receiving stimulation, is doing so in a natural, gentle manner, without the having to make a conscious decision to do so. Thus our brain can enter a more relaxed state. There has been an emphasis lately on the need for children to enjoy less structured play experiences in the open, and to climb trees, and to be less constrained. Children today are too insulated form “danger” and miss out on a healthy...
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