Fight frugal fatigue with imaginary eyewear!!

Those of you who are also living a long term thrifty life, either to pay off a debt or because times are tight will be very very familiar with frugal fatigue. This affliction sets in sometime after the initial enthusiasm and gusto of taking financial control has worn off.

Making a decision to live a thrifty lifestyle is almost fun at first. The feeling of taking control of any problem is always empowering and a bit thrilling, if a little bit scary. (Writing a blog about it adds an extra frisson!)

The savings we made in those first few months were huge. We had spent years not paying very much attention to where our money was going. Just by making an effort to take notice, removing non essentials, shifting some debts around, finding the cheapest utilities and changing where we shopped instantly reduced our spending by hundreds per month. You can do the same by visiting the Money Saving Expert site and following the money makeover tips.

But, as each month passes, the savings to be made get progressively smaller. You begin to look at ways to save pennies, and to postpone necessary purchases until times are better. Little things start to get you down. The fact that you have denied yourself all month and still not managed to make an overpayment on a debt. Arguing with your partner as they really want to buy something you believe is non-essential, and because you are secretly resentful that they want to buy that lovely thing for themselves rather than asking if you’d like something. Functioning irons and vacuum cleaners are reclassified as luxury items. Having to say no to social occasions. It all starts to feel like too much hard work, and you long to be able to blow some money on some frippery. These frustrations build until you just feel ground down and a bit miserable.

Then to make you feel a bit shittier, summer arrives, and facebook steps up. Friends post all their lovely smiley holiday pictures from far flung destinations, or let you know they’re off to a spa day, because they’ve been working really really hard and they’re worth it. And slowly and almost imperceptibly you begin to get really grumpy at them instead of pleased for them. This is probably the worst feature of frugal fatigue. Resentment. You refuse to press ‘like’ on their status updates; silent protest at their rampant bragging about all the money they have to throw away.

And this is not good or healthy. I was reading a Mummy blog this week, and she introduced me to the concept of Perspectacles. Wearing perspectacles allows the wearer to see things as they really are, and to take the wider picture into account.

My Perspectacles are not designer, on the contrary, they have been fashioned from recycled tin cans. Nevertheless, as soon as I pop them on I can see the following.

1. My lovely gorgeous friends are completely entitled to go on holidays. I too have been on holidays. They’re great! By getting this financial crap out of the way now, I am ensuring that I will be able to afford some kick-ass holidays in the future. Especially once we’ve jettisoned a few kids! (Too dear to take with). When I do go on my kick-ass holiday, I promise not to brag about it on facebook.

2. Not having enough money to go on a fabulous holiday or buy some new clothes for a couple of years is not the same as never having enough money to go on any holiday or buy clothes. There is an end to this. If all goes to plan we will be straight again this time next year. This, actually, makes us really really fortunate. Some people are trapped in real actual poverty for real, for ever, and watching the pennies is not some wussy lifestyle choice.

3. Overspend this month was due to a hefty dentist bill. I can afford to pay the dentist. Which means I will continue to have teeth. This is a good thing although the root planing was not a good thing. It was as unpleasant as it sounds.

4. Having to watch the pennies still feels loads better than the relentless nagging anxiety and stress caused by worrying about running out of money entirely. I am in control. No alarms and no surprises.

5. The future is bright. Our long term financial forecast is good. This is a relatively short term inconvenience.

Having read this post, I now realise that I sound like a totally spoiled wuss. I am tempted to delete this post altogether so that you continue to believe I am a nice lady and not some spoiled, bitter, resentful old cow. However, I’m going to leave it up, as everyone has moments where we need to put our Perspectacles on. Whether it’s worrying about our bodies, our jobs, our families or our health.

And anyway, perspectacles may well just be the best ever made up thing that should be a real thing EVER!

I’m off to visit the dragons den with two tin cans tied together with garden twine to see if I can make me a million……

The Thrifty Paradox.

Since we began our thrifty adventure, I have noticed something very strange.

You have to spend to save.

Yes really.

The secret to our improving financial position is that I am spending money more frequently. I feel I should explain.

When we first started trying to tackle our worsening financial position, we convinced ourselves that if we were just more disciplined, bought fewer things, went out less, said ‘no’ more, then it would just happen that we would spend less and the debt would go.

This is the impression given by TV shows such as Spendaholics, where people are given £40 for the week and told to get on with it and then, as if by magic all of their problems disappear.

But, month after month we made no inroads. We ended up each Christmas in exactly the same position as the previous, in fact usually worse. And we we’re cross, grumpy, and feeling deprived.

(Christmas is my personal financial line in the sand…I’ve spent the last three in a state of abject panic. I will know I have succeeded in turning things around when I can get through a whole Christmas break without crying).

This ‘no spend’ , ‘be more disciplined’ approach simply did not work.


Just like when on a diet, you can’t cut all food from your life, you still have to eat. Trying to eat nothing at all just leads to crankiness, cravings and an unhealthy relationship with food. It also leads ultimately to bingeing. The key is to eat an abundance of the right quality foods in the right proportions, at the right times.

So it is with spending. Unless you really want to take up a no spend challenge (I know people do, but I consider them to be financial anorexics) you have to spend something. The children need school uniforms. We all need food. Friends have birthdays. I have a birthday! I like going to the theatre. I enjoy meeting friends for coffee. I need to drive a car. Our hair grows and we don’t wish to look like scarecrows. And Christmas happens every year, God dammit!

The secret for me has been to be more mindful, and to take more opportunities to buy. Yes. I shall say that again. I shop more.

When I was trying to avoid all spending, I would only go to the shops when a purchase became absolutely necessary, leading to panic buying. For example, the kids uniform would all be bought in one mad panic the day before school started. No surprises here but shops don’t tend to offer discounted goods the day before school starts. They also tend to not have a lot of stock left. I would end up paying inflated prices on things that weren’t quite right. Now, when I see that there is an offer on an item of uniform, I’ll buy it and put it away for when I need it.

Previously, if a friend had a birthday get together, I would rush to the shops that morning, and buy something in such a frenzy, that the gift was neither prudent or appropriate. I have now assembled a little box of ‘thoughtful gifts’ that I have picked up in sales, markets and on the internet.

The internet is great for picking up bargains. Facebook pages such as Facebay and Bargain Buys for Busy Mums regularly post details of hugely reduced items. It was via this page that I learned of the massive reductions in a House of Fraser sale. I managed to pick up 10 children’s Christmas gifts for £50. Full price on these items would have been £150. I also bulk buy items such as loo roll and washing powder from sites such as Groupon.

In addition to being a more cost effective way to shop, a further benefit of this is that it has put me back in touch with my local community. I live in a beautiful midlands market town but I rarely visited our town centre, more frequently choosing to get in the car and drive to the nearest retail park.

I now cycle to the town centre regularly and find that the items I can pick up outside of the usual high street stores are unique, and reasonable. I have made other connections too. While picking up some sausages in the local butcher, an old school friend served me, and we got chatting. In addition to serving meaty delights, she had recently set up as a mobile hairdresser. She now cuts the kids hair at a fraction of the cost of our old salon.

I often hear people say that they don’t have the time to shop like this. And that used to be my reasoning too. I felt I was far too busy, and I genuinely thought I was saving time doing everything by the seat of my pants. But I now feel I SAVE time by shopping in this way. I already have the kids uniform. I don’t have to waste a whole day dragging them reluctantly around the shops, and then find time to go back and pick up the bits I’ve missed. Likewise birthday gifts, hostess gifts, Christmas gifts etc. It’s easy to mistake feeling rushed and panicked for being busy. I am busier with work than I ever been and shopping in this way has actually freed up a huge amount of time and more importantly mental energy.

I Would love to hear your thoughts. How do you shop?

Lots of love

The Thrifty Ninja xxxx

Re-CYCLE-ing. (With beery bribes and barter)

I love cycling.

When we lived in Germany we could safely cycle with the children through bike friendly streets. Cyclists actually have priority over cars at junctions (yes you read that right) and cars give riders ample room when overtaking. The cycle trails were extensive, well maintained, and liberally peppered with beer gardens for refreshments . During the summer months, I barely used the car at all (not least because I was full of beer!)

Fast forward a few years, back in dear old blighty, and our bikes hardly ever leave the shed. We have been burgled so many times that we have to keep them hidden in a padlocked shed. Propped behind a lawnmower and some furniture, and chicken stuff for chooks we no longer have (god rest their souls). So inaccessible are the bikes that it has become our habit to hop in the car. And yet we live in a tiny and very flat city. Most of our local journeys could easily be cycled and sometimes, it would actually be quicker than a car journey.

This car habit has negative implications for our health, and my pocket.

So, the first step to rekindling our love of cycling is to ensure that we can all actually get to the bikes. We need somewhere safe from burglars, safe from the weather, and that is easily accessible to the kids.

We need a bike shed.

A quick look on ebayzon revealed that you can pick up a good one for £150. And in years gone by I would have forked out. But, this is the new me. How could I build one for less? With no building skills whatsoever?

Hello bartering and freecycle. I may not be able to build anything but I can sew, cook and keep children happy. These are my special skills.

My friend has a dog food delivery business and always has pallets hanging around. In return for my making 10m of bunting for a float in a local parade, she donated some of these pallets to my cause. I put a wanted out on Freecycle for items and was gifted some roofing felt. My brother, who is a wiz at making stuff, agreed to come around and bring some bits of old wood lying around in the back of his van and to have a go at designing and building something. We agreed that in return for a days labour, I would bring him unlimited quantities of beer and tea, keep him well fed and his kids happy. My husband and children were willing apprentices and on a lovely sunny afternoon everyone worked together to built the best bike shed the world has ever seen.

I am thrilled with the result, and throughly enjoyed the process of family and friends coming together to create something. It felt a bit like an Amish barn raising but with beer and electricity. We even had an official opening ceremony with bunting and cupcakes.

I estimate that if the kids and I use our bikes for every journey of less than 2 miles, we will save about £20 per month in petrol. But much more importantly we will be healthier, fitter, and every time I go to my bike store, a little bit smilier.

Rat a tat tat….

My daughter is 13, and is growing so fast that she no longer fits in her cabin bed. She rolls over and her knees bang the sides. She stretches and some trinket from her shelves will end up in pieces on the floor.

It is time to build her a new bedroom, fit for the young woman she is becoming with a bigger bed and some grown up furniture. Maybe even a dressing table, and perhaps a telly. Thirteen was the age the boys got their first telly, as she keeps reminding me. How times have changed! Back in my day, we didn’t even have a family telly, until I was 13, never mind our own personal viewing device.

Anyway, last weekend, we set about decluttering her room with a view to selling some of her stuff to raise funds for the transformation.

Now, please bear in mind we are not hoarders. I usually go through this process at least once a year, usually before Christmas to make way for all the tat that Christmas inevitably brings. But this felt different. This time, my daughter seemed happy to part with objects, books and toys from her earliest years that she previously wanted to hang on to. Some special items she kept, her special teddy ‘golden-bear’, a golden Wenlock from our trip to the Olympics, a battered copy of Guess a how Much I love You, a musical box with a townscape of Munich (where we lived for a while). We had lovely warm snugly conversations about the happy memories these seemingly insignificant items brought forth.

Some things she refused to part with. Some she lingered over, and then decided they could go. But what really shocked me was that all of the things that she did not hesitate to put to the boot sale, the things she did not linger over for a single minute, were all without exception Christmas gifts. Usually stocking fillers, or things I’d bought to make the pile of gifts look a bit bigger, or to even the piles up a bit as one kid’s pile looked a bit bigger than the others. Or something I’d bought because I felt guilty as one kid had more spent on them, or some other spurious panic induced, guilt laden reason.

These gifts hold no intrinsic meaning for my daughter. Which is quite a revelation, because for me, buying gifts at Christmas is a way to show the children that I love them. Now, these gifts are not the only way I show my love. I am not trying to buy their affection with gifts because I starve them of my time. It’s simply that I love to see their faces on Christmas morning when they see that Santa has been (yes, he still comes here). I cannot imagine them having a Christmas where there aren’t mountains of gifts to open. And they do love opening them and the ritual of it all. They are not ungrateful or spoilt, but they don’t really love the gifts. They don’t REALLy love the gifts because the gifts don’t mean anything. The gifts are just stuff. Tat.

Which is interesting because I put myself under enormous pressure at Christmas time to buy the right gifts, as I am sure many women do. I usually end up in a total exhausted meltdown, and with high levels of anxiety at whether we can afford it all. Christmas is no fun for me, and all because I am trying to keep everyone else happy and make memories. But you can’t force happy memories.

So, this Christmas I am going to try and take the pressure off myself a bit. I don’t quite know how I am going to do this yet. I really can’t imagine a Christmas without mountains of gifts. Heavens, that would be bloody awful!! And I’m not going to just give them money either. I know some parents do, but that feels so cold and heartless.

I will find a way to ensure that each gift this Christmas has some real meaning or purpose, so that they don’t end up in a boot sale during Summer 2015.

Counting the cost of a great day out. Oops.

I have just had a marvelous day out with a group of wonderful women celebrating a friend’s birthday. We dined out (twice in one day!) We took taxi’s. We drank more than a few cocktails. We chatted, we shopped, we laughed and we cried. I wouldn’t change a single moment of the day. As the Mastercard advert would say: spending time with good friends? Priceless.

Except it wasn’t priceless at all. In fact, not only did I individually spend more than I would on a weekly food shop for all five of us, the husband also ordered an expensive takeaway as I wasn’t home to cook the tea.

There were loads of ways that I could have reduced the cost of the day. I could have just not gone. I could have joined them after lunch. I could have insisted on a more reasonable restaurant. I could have asked for tap water. I could have skipped cake. I could have walked. I could have left a curry in the slow cooker.

How on earth can I call myself a Thrifty Ninja when I deliberately chose not to take any of the frugal options open to me. Am I a fake? Hopelessly deluded? Doomed to failure? No. Just human, and quite frankly, I fancied a day off.

I have decided to treat the day as a positive learning experience.

1 Own up and move on.
The money is gone. I have written it’s loss down in the money book under ‘social’. I can’t get it back, but I can ensure that future ‘social’ spending is reduced accordingly. It will probably even-out over the course of a few months as long as I don’t make a habit of it.

2 It could have been worse
The fact is I could have spent an awful lot more. Visiting shops during leisure time is deemed to be an enjoyable hobby by many women and I could have bought a new lippy or mascara and convinced myself it was a little treat. I didn’t. In fact the visit to the department store made me realise how pernicious marketing is. I was overwhelmed with the promises to make me younger, more beautiful, thinner, sexier, more sophisticated and successful in return for outrageous amounts of money. And, while I am on the subject, how can a cushion cost £50? It’s just two bloody squares sewn together!!!!! Like, SERIOUSLY!!!

3 Take Advantage.
During our girly day, we visited a vintage fair. Secreted beneath a Farrah Fawcett Majors thermos flask and a Chewbakka mug, was a beautiful 1970’s floral curtain. £8 for 4 metres of florid exuberance. I have already covered an old chair with it, and intend to use the rest to put together a few cushions that I will sell. Apparently, people will pay £50 for two squares stitched together. Who knows, I may even end up making a profit on the day!

Now, does anyone want to buy a cushion?

I would do anything for thrift….but I won’t do THAT!!

I wrote in my last blog about how much I am enjoying developing new skills that have enabled me to save a little bit of money. These have included grooming the dog, building a bike shed, and mending a loo seat. Heavens, I have even cut my own hair this week.

However, I have realized that there are some things I am simply not prepared to compromise. However much they cost, and despite the fact that hard cord thrifters may consider me to be a rookie lightweight, I am simply not prepared to budge on these important essentials.

In no particular order these are:

Eyebrow shaping
A well groomed brow takes years off a woman. Better than Botox, more effective than a facial. I have tried plucking. OW! I only got as far as completing one before taking to my bed with a migraine. I have tried home waxing, but ended up with a slightly perplexed lopsided expression. So, threading at my local salon it is, even though they look down on me like I am some kind of unkempt bag lady when I walk in. Clearly, not their usual class of customer.

Dog poo bags
Yes yes, I know. Hardy thrifters use pound shop nappy bags. But you can see the poo through them!! ARGGhHhH!!!! And, even worse, you can FEEL the poo through them!! No. No. No. I need industrial strength poo bags with the approximate thickness and transparency of a yoga mat. Thank you. I knew you would understand.

My dentist
He is not NHS. He is a private practitioner. I know that the standard of treatment given by the NHS is second to none and as could save myself a small fortune by transferring to another dentist. But I am not blessed with strong teeth, and I have a real fear of that chair. He is the only man who has ever managed to fill my molars without having to knock me out first. He is really kind and gentle and I trust him, so he stays.

My hobby

I sing in a choral society that has pretty hefty membership and show fees. Getting there involves quite a drive, and so there are petrol costs. There are lots of free choirs nearer my home that I could easily join. But over the years I have made many good friends, and joining together for a good old sing is balm for the soul. The benefits for mental well being have been proved by science and everything. So singing stays! Tra la la.

What are you not prepared to compromise?

Lots of love

Thrifty Ninja

You say potato…..I say….Can you get that cheaper?

My husband and I are very different people and 99 per cent of the time, this is a very good thing. We are like salt and pepper, he is the Yin to my Yang and all of that.

When it comes to our attitudes towards money however, we are so different that it can sometimes quite difficult to reconcile our views. We have worked hard to come up with a coherent and workable financial plan, and one that won’t end up with a visit to a divorce lawyer.

Our difference in attitude has been perfectly illustrated by a little incident that has happened on our holidays this week. Before I share with you, I should just like to point out that neither of us are “right” or “wrong”. I’m not sharing this to point out how wonderful I am, or how terrible he is, or vice versa.

So, what happened?

The zip on his Samsonite suitcase broke.

Is that it? I hear your collective disappointment.

Yes. Really. That’s it.

My initial response was to fiddle with the zip a bit (whilst pulling my best zip expert face) and assert that it’s still functioning well enough, and since it is hand luggage it will never be out of our sight and so there is probably a good 3 or 4 trips left in it. And we have several hand luggage sized suitcases to use when it ultimately and inevitably takes a trip to its final destination, suitcase heaven. If we ever really do need another small suitcase, we can pick up a good one from TK Maxx for about £20.

His response was to spend several hours meticulously researching hand luggage on the internet and he found the ideal replacement for £200. His justification is that he flies frequently with work, and so needs something that is up to the job, will last a long time, and very importantly, looks professional. (Such a shame that this is one of his criteria, as I found a great Spider-man one on Ebay for £5!).

Impasse. He will not be moved. Several lengthy and heated discussions ensue, and eventually, he reluctantly finds another suitcase that will do, for £90.

Now, in his mind, he has already sacrificed himself to our thrifty cause to the tune of £110. He has ‘saved’ £110. To my mind, £90 is still more than the £20 I would spend, and therefore he is about to ‘waste’ £70.

I see the £70 as a sum of money we now can’t use somewhere else. He believes that there is no point in working if you can’t buy nice things with your money. I do kind of agree here. Who doesn’t like nice things? But I really don’t view a suitcase as a nice thing.

Neither of us is right or wrong, but what to do?

There really is no point in arguing, it is only a suitcase after all. Ultimately, this single purchase will not send us spiralling to financial ruin. The fact that we are discussing this purchase with each other is a very good thing. Good financial management involves making these micro-decisions every day, and each one won’t make us or ruin us. As long as we keep our eyes on the bigger picture then I am sure that all will be well.

And at least I can be confident that I will never find myself in the embarrassing position of having to retrieve my underwear from the floor of some departure lounge!!

Does this ring any bells with you? I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to comment.

Supporting Teens to Realise their Financial Dreams

This blog was started not so long ago with the intention of merrily charting how my husband and I went about saving a sum of money to go on an adventure holiday with our three teen children. Easy! That’ll make an interesting read I thought. I can chart our travel research and our saving tips.

First things first, as we surveyed our finances, we realised that we are carrying quite a lot of debt, and so my attention quickly turned to how we should pay it off. I like a challenge, I’ve made a plan, and I am confident it will be done. No worries.

Now, as we know, life is what happens when you are making other plans, and whilst my head has been buried in budgets, travel research and side hussling, one of my lovely boys has been offered the opportunity of a trip of a lifetime to Tanzania, with an organisation called World Challenge. The project aims to build young people’s personal and social responsibility through a combination of physical challenges, and participating in charitable projects.

I am genuinely thrilled for him, and pleased that he has signed up for it so wholeheartedly. In order to go, he needs to raise nearly £3000 over the course of a year. The organisers are keen to emphasise that the young people need to raise this sum for themselves, and that it isn’t gifted by parents. (No chance of that! Ha ha!) It is a brilliant way of teaching them about resourcefulness, entrepreneurship, deferring gratification, and ultimately, financial literacy.

We have jointly worked up a list of ways he can make the £3k, which include services to friends and neighbours such as babysitting, gardening, and teaching the family elders to use computers (he is very patient). He is a great baker, and intends to join me at car boot sales selling cakes. Car washing, bag packing, and organising a party are all on his list. I have encouraged him to think of the £3k as 600 x £5. This makes it feel more manageable. He has made a chart with 600 little squares on his wall to plot his progress. He has researched the best bank account that will give him the best rate of interest.

In short, I have no doubts that he will achieve his goal.

Which is a bit of a bittersweet realisation for me, as I have to acknowledge that his travel dreams are not the same as mine. He is a young man about to enter the world in his own terms. The Tanzania trip will take place during the window that I had earmarked for our family adventure.

My wish was for us all to have one long family holiday together before my children grew up. It seems I am too late. They are grown up. And I could not be prouder.

Mother’s Day…groan..

This Sunday is Mothers Day.

I have a real problem with Mother’s Day. Not the idea of celebrating motherhood; of course we deserve a special day all to ourselves. But I have a massive problem with the endless adverts telling me what I REALLY want for Mothers Day. They tell me that I should not be happy unless I have received some form of indulgent pamper package, a massive bouquet, and a weekend away. And some hair straighteners. And smilier, frecklier kids. Anything less is a poor show, quite frankly.

Of course, the implication is that if we do not spend buckets of cash on our Mothers, we do not love them. It is also a triple spending whammy, as not only am I being told I need to spend oodles on Mum, and Mum -in-law in order to prove my love and respect, but also my husband (ie. me really, as it’s a joint account) should spend a fortune on buying presents on behalf of the kids. Like they really actually care.

What I REALLY want, is, well, nothing. I will genuinely be more than happy with a nice card, some daffs, and for the kids to cook Sunday lunch and wash everything up. Without arguing. Likewise, when the kids were younger, just a ‘day off’ from chores, and a chance to go to the loo alone were hugely appreciated.

Of course, the advertisers realise that this is actually, probably, what the majority of women really want, and so they have engaged in a game of double bluff with the men-folk. “Don’t trust women when they say they don’t want anything” they shout. “She will never forgive you” “Women always say one thing and mean another”.

Which as we all know, is mysogenistic claptrap.

Honey, if I say I don’t want a gift, I really don’t.

Here are some things I really would like for Mother’s Day, and they are all free:

A lie in
No washing up
No laundry
Cups of tea on demand
A trip to somewhere beautiful to walk the dog, preferably with sunshine
Some home made biscuits or other delicious thing
The chores to be done, as if by a magical fairy
To hear that I am loved and appreciated.

Xxx. Happy Mothers Day to all you wonderful Mums out there. I’d love to hear how you will be celebrating Xxx




Cheap Days Out With Teens

It is with great fondness that I look back on my children’s younger years, and remember how happy they used to be with a trip to the park, or a splash in the puddles, or digging up some worms.   If you have to spend money to have some fun with little children, then you are having the wrong kind of fun.

Fast forward a few years, and it is a little bit harder to keep my kids happy for free.  Well, that’s not strictly true, as they are very happy playing on the X-Box all day, and that’s free – but it’s not acceptable.

Firstly, they are adults now, and have to pay as such.  At well over 6 feet, and with facial hair, I can’t pretend that they are 12 any more.  (That’s my boys by the way, my daughter does not have facial hair – she is keen that I point that out to you.)  Secondly, as young adults with their own minds, they are instantly dismissive of anything that I suggest – and so I have to think outside the box a little.

However, we have still managed to find a few days out that are either free, or that offer great value for money.  It goes without saying that now we are focussing on saving every penny we can, we will be doing more of the following…….

Art Galleries and Museums

We are based in the Midlands, and are seriously blessed with some wonderful FREE exhibitions and galleries.   Walsall Art Gallery has an amazing Jacob Epstein collection, and as I write I am just back from a Grayson Perry exhibition in Birmingham. FREE!!   We also regularly catch the train to other cities, and visit the FREE! jewels in their crowns.  Did I mention that these are FREE! – although you probably should donate something in the box at the end – for Karma.

There are some seriously fab free museums and collection in London – our favourites are the National Portrait Gallery, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.  With our family railcard, we can get to London for £20 return, off peak, if booked in advance.

Although my kids often have a moan about going to a gallery, they are never bored once there, and usually find something that stimulates some discussion on the way home.  An exhibition at the Tate St Ives, depicting humans ‘intimate’ relations with animals stimulated quite a lot of discussion as I recall……

National Trust

Ok – not free. But a year’s family membership with one adult is £45 and children are classed as under 18’s.  So this does offer excellent value for money.   There are some stunning properties throughout the country, and I don’t think we will run out of places to visit.   Membership also means that we can get free parking in a variety of Natural Beauty Spots, and can camp in some fabulous areas of natural beauty.

Leisure Passes

Our local leisure centre offers a family leisure pass. The children get their own card, and so can go independently of their embarrassing parents.  They get a third off fitness activities including badminton and swimming.  Which means they can afford to pay for the activities out of their own money.  Result!


We don’t go to the cinema very often any more, as it is still a very dear night out. We tend to have film nights at home, with home- made popcorn, and a movie or box set from Netflix or Virgin.   However, it is nice once in a while, particularly for a big blockbuster movie, and there are ways to reduce the price of tickets.  Odeon are currently offering 2 for 1 on tickets, and the Orange Wednesday 2 for 1 cinema tickets promotion is another good way to halve the cost.  You can also buy cinema tickets with a Tesco Clubcard.

And of course – we take our own sweeties and drinks!

Tesco Clubcard

I don’t shop in Tesco’s any more, as I find it way too dear, and the bogus ‘promotion prices’ make my brain ache.   However, we always get petrol from Tesco’s to collect the Clubcard points, and as the husband does a monster commute to work, this adds up to some serious pointage.

My points have been used to buy a family railcard, purchase train travel with Red Spotted Hanky, and also entrance fees for some amazing days out that even my recalcitrant teens have enjoyed, including Camera Obscura, the War Rooms, the Falkirk Wheel, and Dynamic Earth.  Have a look on and see what you fancy.

I’d love to hear how you save money on days out with your teens.

Ta ta speak later.