Greetings! How to never spend more than £1.50 on birthday cards

Remember the days when you made a beeline for the nearest Clintons’ for your greeting cards? Then Paperchase came along for those wanting a little more style.

The only cheap alternative was the local market stall, and cards there tended to be flimsy as blotting paper with designs that wouldn’t look out of place on your gran’s walls.
Well, not anymore, bargain seekers.
Now, you can get your birthday cards from all manner of places, and the very good news is, you no longer have to fork out £3+ for one.

 

With racks of affordable cards springing up everywhere from supermarkets to bargain stores and even outdoor shops, competition is fierce. Which means, prices are going down and quality is going up. So much so, that I now flatly refuse to pay more than £1.50 per card, or £2 at a push.

Here are my top tips for the best bargains.

B&M
The snob in me assumed these cards would be on the lower end of the quality scale but I couldn’t be more wrong. Give them a try and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Mountain Warehouse
Probably the least obvious place to look for a Happy Birthday card, but if you happen to be browsing for waterproofs and camping stoves, you’ll also find a small but perfectly pleasing stock of cards (usually near the counter.) These are such good value that I now find myself heading to Mountain Warehouse just for their cards, many priced just 99p and excellent quality and design. Like these:

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Marks & Spencer
Gotta love M&S for their brilliant range of cards, and true to the brand, they are always pretty chic in design too. Marks is my number one port of call for all cards, because you know they’ll have one for every occasion, and there’s always a good selection of £1 ones, like these below. And, if you happen to pass the fresh cookies on the bakery stall while there then so be it…

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Supermarkets
Yup, everyone knows you can get cards from Tesco, Asda etc, but they really have improved in quality of late. I particularly recommend the blank ones. Get a stash in and whip them out for any emergency occasion.

Asda had a 3 for £3 offer on when I bought these beauties below:

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Wilko
Aha! Bet you didn’t think you’d see this on the list. And I confess, neither did I, but while searching for cheapie party favours for my son’s birthday last year, I chanced upon the cards. And low and behold, I grabbed myself a 10-pack of Thomas the Tank engine and another of Peppa Pig for just £1 each! Not only does that make them my absolute cheapest buys, but they are on good sturdy card and brilliant to keep in stock for when the rush of parties kicks in.

Multi-packs
Paperchase is one of my favourite shops. The beautiful cards, the pretty notebooks, the gorgeous journals…. I could spend a fortune kitting out my stationery needs in there. But, alas, their single greetings cards are mostly priced outside by boundaries.
However…. they do some very satisfying multi-pack sets. Not by the card stands, but usually futher back by the party invitations or look for “Notecards” if shopping online. The price per card works out very well, and again always good to have in stock in the cupboard (I think by now, you realise how forgetful and last minute I am that I need such a stock!)

I bought this adorable pack of children’s birthday cards, with the lion in a hot-air balloon and the princess castle. I think, but my memory is hazy, they cost £6.50 for 8, making them 81p each.
Currently got my eye on these beautiful Siamese cat notecards, below, at £8.50 for 10 – so 85p each. I’m also eyeing up the black and white cityscape pack, by Five Dollar Shake, which cost £8 for 6 and would suit any grown up birthday or thank you note.

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Cuddle Fairy

 

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When a money-saver is married to a money-waster…

It is perhaps the most frustrating situation for a dedicated money-saver … being married to someone who is less than organised with their finances.

But opposites attract, and like all aspects of marriage, compromises and understanding are essential. Money matters are one of the major causes of marital disharmony, leading to between 35% and 57% of divorces, depending on which study you read.

There is nothing more frustrating for the frugal partner to see her other half splurging cash on unnecessary luxuries, but equally, one who might be described as “too generous for their own good” will wince at a penny-pinching spouse’s way.

But whichever side of the financial fence you sit on, no matter how rich or poor, there are some basic rules that everyone should follow. Even if one of you is a saver and the other a splurger, you’re bound to agree on one thing: No one likes to throw money away unnecessarily.

  • Keep an eye on renewal letters. This must be one of the easiest ways to throw money down the toilet. You know the scenario, the car insurance letter drifts onto the doormat, you take a cursory glance while hurriedly packing the kids off to school and instantly forget all about it the moment you “file” it away in a safe place. A month later, you’re outraged when the direct debit leaves a bigger than usual hole in your account.

*But the good news is, it’s really easy to prevent this price hike, so long as you take notice of the renewal letter and act. Have a quick look at a comparison site to see what you could be paying, then call your original company and ask what they can do. Say you’re really happy with their service, you’d like to stay with them but you don’t want your bills going up. If you’ve seen a better price elsewhere, tell them.

Three times I’ve done this in the last year, and it’s worked every time. Companies don’t want to lose your custom. And if they can’t bring the price down, then go elsewhere.

With contracts which don’t come up for annual renewal, for example TV and broadband services, it’s worth checking in every so often to see if they can do you a better deal. eg I wanted to cancel a couple of parts of my BT TV/Broadband package, and without even having to ask, the operator offered to bring my monthly fee down. FullSizeRender (1)

  • Spread the costs. Paying a big billin one go, like TV licence or car tax, is usually a cheaper option as monthly direct debits often incur a sneaky extra charge BUT if you haven’t got the cash in the first place, then splitting into manageable monthly chunks might be more worthwhile in the end. I do this with pretty much all my big bills, like car tax and insurance, because paying it out in one go would either plunge me further into overdraft or put more money onto my  credit card, and the interest on that would cost more than the little extra I pay for the privilege of doing direct debit.
  • Don’t go to the shop every day. I do a big supermarket shop once a week, and granted we do often need extra “bits” but Husband is a habitual shopper – it gives him a break from working at home all day and an excuse to get out. But it also means he is far more likely to snap up unnecessary impulse buys. Usually snacks! Which is not only adding to the weekly cost of food shopping but adding unnecessary calories too.
  • Use cash wherever possible. If you’re puzzled as to where your salary disappears to, it probably means you’re blindly paying out on your debit card more than you think. The odd Starbucks latte on Contactless here, a few beauty essentials swiped through the tills there … it all adds up. You might not think you’re guilty of this, but you almost certainly will be. Just tot up your extra purchases on your bank statement if you don’t believe me. One way to test yourself – and save money – is to withdraw a set amount in cash for your disposable income per week. And don’t use your card AT ALL. You’ll soon realise just how often you swipe at the tills.
  • Know what’s in your bank account. I reckon I check my online account every other day – sometimes daily – and could tell you within say £30 what’s in there. I know exactly what day each standing order and direct debit leaves my account. Husband, however, visits his online account far less and is therefore surprised by how little is left when he does check in. This is a constant source of frustration for someone who basically calculates what we’ve got and what we can spend every day.FullSizeRender (2)
  • Check you haven’t already got something before you buy it. Whether it’s a roll of wrapping paper, a tape measure or a garden water spray, it just makes sense to search at home first to make absolutely sure you haven’t got one before buying another. This doesn’t occur to money-splurgers whose brain process goes something like this: See natty new kitchen item looking all shiny and tempting in the shop, think “We definitely need one of those,” buys said item (using debit card).

A money-saver’s brain would have followed this pattern: Sees natty new kitchen item looking all shiny and tempting in the shop, thinks, “We’ve already got something similar at home” and leaves shop empty-handed.

  • The same goes for being prepared on every occasion. So, if it’s bitterly cold and you’ll likely to need your gloves, look for them before leaving the house instead of resorting to buying a new pair that you probably don’t even when your fingers turn blue. (I admit to being a bit of a failure on this one, particularly with sun cream which I never seem to remember and end up with bottles of the stuff from every daytrip in the summer)
  • Stop buying lunch out when you could make it at home for a fraction of the cost. Pity the money-saving half who wakes up 20 minutes earlier just to assemble cheese and pickle sandwiches and Tupperware boxes full of snacks so she/he doesn’t have to resort to splashing out on the canteen/snack machine/local Pret a Manger. And pity her/him even more when their other half continues their wasteful ways of throwing £5-£7 a day on their plastic box of sushi or gourmet sandwiches. One of the simplest ways to cut monthly costs is by making your lunch, which could save around £100 – and that could cover your utilities bill.
  • Don’t buy things when you’re broke. This sound so obvious, but the habitual money-splurger has no such self-control and even when facing a scarlet-red minus figure on their bank balance, will still suggest shopping for garden furniture, or booking a holiday, or going away for a night, or a trip to Ikea… These things can wait, let’s pay our bills first and maybe next month we’ll be on a better footing. Yes, I know, I’m a terrible bore.
  • Pay penalties on time. Even better, don’t get them in the first place. Parking fines and speeding fines are the biggest waste of money, and what’s even worse is the punch-in-the-gut feeling that you brought this fine on your own stupid self. Do everything you can to avoid them, but if you happen to slip-up then make sure you cough up within the initial period, before the charge hikes up and you find yourself even more out of pocket.

Here endeth the lecture.

 

Mudpie Fridays

How to cut costs on weaning

The obvious way to cut costs on weaning your baby is to cook your own meals rather than relying on shop-bought pouches and jars.
But there are a few other corner-cutting ideas to bring down costs. Here are just a few:

– If you’re going to use pouches and jars – and let’s face it, they are blimmin’ handy especially for eating out – you can stretch them further by cooking up some pasta or rice at home and using half a pouch as a sauce. Spreading a spoonful of baby food onto toast is another way of making them last longer.

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– There’s nothing wrong with an “And Toast” meal. Not for every meal, but as a light tea, they are great. Team it with scrambled egg, peanut butter (assuming no allergies), grated cheese, tuna mayo, egg mayo, Marmite and even occasionally, jam. This sort of meal also encourages them to feed themselves (if they’re not already Baby-led Weaning babies), and gives you some hands-free time (to clean up the mess they will inevitably make with this!)

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– If you’re using follow-on formula, don’t buy into packaging. I started off on Aptamil for the sole reason that I thought it looked good. The packaging had drawn me in. But I soon moved my little one onto Cow & Gate. He didn’t seem to care and it costs £1.50 less per packet than Aptamil. When they hit 12 months, you can move them onto ordinary full fat milk.
– The same applies for pouches and jars. Ella’s pouches are so cute and funky, but you pay a premium for them. Try cheaper ones and see what you and your little one think. They might love them just as much, and if they don’t then at least you’ve tried. Always look out for offers.

– You can also use your own leftovers, or just portion some off your own meal. This is particularly useful in cafes and restaurants – instead of ordering a child’s menu, which is likely to be far too big a portion for a weaning baby or even a toddler, just skim off some of your own meal and ask for a spare plate! And remember, Tesco Clubcard Boost points can be used to pay for meals out at places like Pizza Express. We ordered two pizzas between myself, husband and 3-year-old, and 11-month-old had a good old go at a small piece too.

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– Have a good look at your snacks. There are so many baby and toddler snacks available, an entire aisle-full in fact. But check out the quantities, ingredients and prices and you might find a cheaper alternative on the ordinary aisles. For example, baby rice cakes and ordinary plain, unsalted rice crackers are pretty much the same, except for perhaps the flavouring, but the ordinary adult plain ones are a fraction of the price.

  • eg Tesco own brand Goodness Apple Rice Cakes (40g) cost 85p while Organix Raspberry and Blueberry cost £1.20.
  • BUT, you can buy a 130g pack of Tesco Free From Wholegrain Rice Cakes for just £1 – that’s more than 3 times the weight of Tesco baby rice cakes for just 15p more. Before you worry about the salt content, these have just 1% salt and obviously eat in moderation. Yes, they’re bigger and they’re not flavoured but you just break them up into small pieces and spread something like hummous or peanut butter on them. Your baby WILL NOT CARE if they’re not circular!
  • The same goes for breadsticks. Annabel Karmel cheesy breadsticks cost £1.30 for 50g. Not going to break the bank. But again using Tesco for guidance, you can buy a large 125g pack of ordinary Tesco Original Breadsticks for just 69p. That’s 2.5 times the weight, for a little over half the price! These contain 0.1g salt per 100g so again perfectly fine, in moderation, according to current NHS guidelines stipulating the maximum amount of salt for babies under 12 months is 1g of salt a day, while 1-3 year olds should have no more than 2g. No baby or toddler is going to eat 100g of breadsticks anyway!
  • And don’t even think about buying those tiny snack packs of raisins. What a rip off! At Tesco (apologies to other supermarkets, but this is just for guidance), you can buy a 500g pack of Californian Seedless Raisins for £1.54. Meanwhile, a multipack of those lunchbox packs will cost £2.19 for 6×42.5g packs (Sunmaid Raisins). You’re getting a total of 255g weight in the snack packs, which is just over half of the large pack, yet paying out 65p more. All you need to do is dish out the same weight – 42.5g  – from the large pack, into a small Tupperware box or even a freezer bag and you’ll get 11.7 snack packs out of it.

– Personally, I never bothered buying any baby cereals. I simply used Weetabix, or own brand equivalent, or porridge. Much cheaper.
– Fruit pouches and pots are really handy for desserts and for adding to porridge to cool it down, but you can make your own really easily by simply bobbing a bit of fruit in a blender. Make a big batch and freeze it into portions.
– Try own brand yoghurts and fromage frais. I started off getting Petit Filous, just because that’s the brand you associate with fromage frais and weaning babies, but a six pack  (47g each) costs £1.50. Now, I buy my boys 6-packs of Tesco Everyday Value Fromage Frais (55g) for just 42p. Less than a third of the price of the branded desserts and each pot is bigger.

And finally, it hardly needs to be said but batch cooking and freezing into portions is a good way to keep down costs. Once your little one can manage bigger lumps, it also means you can freeze family sized portions which is handy when you’re short of time (or simply can’t be faffed to cook from scratch) and just chop the baby’s meal into smaller pieces. Voila, as they say.

 

Good luck!

x

Mudpie Fridays

42 ways to entertain kids for less than £10

Our little boys aren’t yet school-age, but it won’t be long. My oldest will start school in September 2017, and while I might now think a 6-week break must be wonderful, I know from plenty of friends that it can also be difficult to find activities to fill the summer holidays.
So, I thought I’d test my creativity and think of 42 things to do for less than £10 each, that’s one activity per day for the six-week break. Some of them are completely free, others require a few low-cost craft or baking items and others are reasonably-priced day trips. I’d say they’re mostly suitable for pre-school and primary school age children. Prices correct at time of publishing.

Sunny day activities:
1. Our go-to cheap day out is a trip to the local park where the boys can play on the playground, then we have a short walk before feeding the ducks and heading to a cafe for a cuppa and a TCTC (toasted currant teacake). Costs about £6 for 2 adult teas plus two teacakes to share, the boys have tap water.
2. A walk in a deep, dark wood. Getting our three-year-old to walk very far is a trial, but if there’s something for him to look for then he breezes along without complaint. A forest walk is the ideal setting for hunting down imaginary Gruffalos, snakes, owls and foxes. For older primary school children, you could compile an I-Spy list beforehand of things for them to spot en route. Or get them to make up their own forest story, taking it in turns to think up a line of the story.
3. Sports day. Gather together any sporting apparatus you have lying around, like a bat and ball, small beanbags, cones, football, hula hoop etc and devise your own sports day. Works really well if you invite a few little friends over. This summer you could let them watch some of the Rio Olympics and get them excited about doing their own track and field events.
4. Have a picnic. Get together with a few friends and head to your nearest park with your children and eat al fresco. Very young might like to take their teddies along and serve their furry friends with plates of food, while older kids could take a football or rounders bat and ball for entertainment.
These bright plastic plates and cups from Wilko’s are just £1 for a set of four cups or plates. Bargain!

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5. Pavement chalks. These chunky Crayola ones are just £6.29 from Amazon
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crayola-Washable-Large-Sidewalk-Chalk/dp/B00AHAJGYO
Let them loose on the patio or the pavement, mark out hopscotch or targets to hit with a ball. Or just draw pictures!
6. Get the paddling pool out! Endless entertainment for excitable children in the summer. If you haven’t got one, there are always good deals at the big supermarkets. This one, below, is just £10 from Tesco.

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7. The beach. When the sun is shining – or let’s be honest, even when it isn’t – there are few pleasures as great as paddling in the sea and building sandcastles. Take a picnic and you’ve got a really cheap day out, even if you do throw in an ice cream or fish ‘n’ chips.
8. Pooh sticks or skimming stones. Head to your nearest stream or lake to play these games. Breaks up a walk nicely.
9. Outdoor art class. Pack up your paper and pens and head to a forest, a park or even an urban area and get your little ones to draw something that catches their eye. If they’re not into drawing then let them run free with your camera phone and promise to print out the best at your nearest Boots.
10. Water guns/water bombs. Prepare to get very wet and have a huge laugh in the process. Cheap ones available at places like pound shops, Home Bargains, B&M and supermarkets.
11. Paper airplanes. If you’ve never made one, just search online and you’ll find plenty of easy instructions.
It might not be a full day activity but if you help your child to make one out of plain paper, then get them to colour it in and fly it, you can probably fill up a morning.
12. Let’s go fly a kite. Obviously you’ll need a windy day and a kite, but these can be pretty reasonable. For example, the Gunther 1159 Children’s Kite (below)  gets 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon and is just £10.

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13. Treasure hunt. This will require some planning but it’s worth it. No matter how big your house and garden, you’ll be able to find nooks and crannies to hide clues, and depending on where you live, you might be able to sneak some into public areas too. All you need is a little imagination and a prize at the end.
14. Gardening. Especially useful if you do need to sort the garden out and can involve your child in planting and watering.
15. I-Spy. Take a trip to any town, or into the countryside, or even just take the boredom out of a long drive by making a list of items to spot beforehand and let your child find and tick each one off. A little prize at the end might be nice too.
16. Get on your bike. If you haven’t got one, have a look on eBay as well as local second-hand selling sites, eg on Facebook, or ask a friend if you can borrow theirs. There are also plenty of places where you can hire bikes and helmets and follow a safe route.

Rainy day activities
17. Bake cupcakes. Kids love helping to weigh out ingredients, stir the mixture, watch them grow in the oven and decorate them. All you need is flour, sugar, butter, eggs, icing sugar, paper cake cases and some sprinkles, all very cheap items, and you’ve got a morning of wet weather entertainment. If you haven’t got a cupcake tin then just whack all the mixture into a baking sheet and cut it into slices after it’s baked.
18. Visit the library. We absolutely adore going to our local library. A trip generally starts off with playing with some of the toys there, then maybe doing some colouring and then actually reading some books when the boys have quietened down.
19. A jigsaw with a twist. Hide the pieces round the house and play a game of warmer/colder to find them. Complete the jigsaw as you’re going along or wait until you’ve found all the pieces.
20. Home cinema. Taking the kids to the actual cinema can be a costly affair but a cheaper version – and some might say, equally fun – is to have a home cinema afternoon. Spread duvets on the floor, close the curtains and put a film on (If you haven’t got a DVD you fancy or an on-demand TV service like NetFlix then supermarkets always have DVDs on sale for around £5). Buy some microwave popcorn for the occasion – which is entertaining in itself – and settle in.
21. Around the world at home. This takes a little planning but will be educational as well as fun. Theme a few rooms of the house by country, so for example you could start with France in a bedroom with a breakfast of croissants (if you don’t mind the mess!), then Spain in the lounge for flamenco dancing and Italy in the kitchen, making pizza for lunch. In each room, get the kids to colour in that country’s flag on plain A4 paper, and teach them a few basic words (easy to find on the internet).
22. Dress up day. If you haven’t got a dressing up box or any specific make believe clothes then just raid your wardrobe for hats, scarves, dresses, shoes, ties, shirts etc and encourage them to put on a little play.
23. Facepaint/beauty box. Little girls – and some boys – will love to delve into any old make up you can find lying around the drawers. Painting toe nails is a nice activity, either doing their own or yours. Facepaints are available at pound shops.
24. Indoor beach. We do this one quite often and my three-year-old loves it. We spread a picnic blanket out on the floor, put up a golfing umbrella to act as a parasol (no superstitions here!), grab a clean bucket and spade, a couple of books and spread out a blue towel at the edge of the picnic blanket for the sea. You could even have an indoor picnic to really create an atmosphere.

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25. Tidy up. If there are certain chores that need doing, then getting the kids to help and making it seem like a fun activity is a win-win situation. A nice idea is to sort through their toy boxes and get them to choose a couple of toys to give to charity, explato them why that is a nice thing to do. Then trundle off to the charity shop and let them choose one item to buy.
26. Disco day. Buy a packet of glow sticks for the kids to wave, get them in their disco gladrags and turn the stereo up for a spot of dancing. This works well over Glastonbury weekend when you can watch some of the performances while dancing or playing air guitar.  If they’re into Strictly, you could always find episodes to show on the TV and get them to copy the dancing in each. Encourage them to use their imagination and choreograph their own dance to their favourite song.
27. A roll of wallpaper liner provides great amusement, and costs around £6. Get them to lie flat on the paper and draw round each other, then fill themselves in with crayons or pens. If you really want to be educational, you could use it to fill in all the body organs (for any budding medics, maybe?) Get them to do a graffiti wall by writing their names in big letters and colouring them in. Or draw the outline of something yourself and get them to fill it in with colours and any crafty bits you can get your hands on – feathers, sequins, buttons etc.
28. Layered jelly. Living in Yorkshire, we’ve been to a fair few country shows and amongst all the competitions, I’m always intrigued by the layered jelly in a glass section. I’ve never tried it but it looks fascinating. Simply buy in a few different colour jelly packets, make one colour up and put a thin layer into the bottom of a pint glass, wait for it to set, then add a layer of a different colour and so on. If you start in the morning, and have general playtime while each layer is setting, you should have a fantastic looking dessert ready for teatime.
29. Alphabet drawing or play dough. Giving kids a theme can make an activity a bit different and more of a fun challenge, as well as prolonging the amount of time they might sit still and do it! Go through the alphabet, drawing a picture that begins with each letter, or really test your sculpture skills by doing the same with playdough.
30. Papier mache modelling. All you need is old newspaper, wallpaper paste and some balloons to make papier mache heads. Once they’re dry, you can paint them, add faces and wool hair or whatever you fancy.
31. Puppet show. You can use the papier mache heads on sticks, or try making sock puppets, then encourage your children to plot a play for their new characters.
32. Teach them a new card game. There are a few ideas here:http://www.todaysparent.com/family/activities/10-kid-friendly-card-games/

Days out and local activities
33. Garden centre. Fast becoming my favourite weekend activity. So long as there’s an aquatic centre with loads of fish and some bunnies, plus a cafe, you’re sorted for an afternoon of free entertainment (plus the price of a cuppa). Alternatively, you can always head to the nearest Pets at Home!
One local garden centre which has particularly impressed us is the Tong Garden Centre, near Bradford. It has a massive Grasshoppers outdoor play area, complete with preschool section, a traditional playground, motorised cars and the very brilliant jumping pillows. It does cost to go into this, but at £3.50 per child, it is similar to the price of a soft play centre and well worth it.

 

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34. Ikea. It’s not only heaven for adults, but kids can enjoy the place too. There’s usually a children’s play area, often outdoors and indoors, and you can always bribe them with a hotdog or a doughnut at the end. Young children can push their own mini trolley and the kids’ section is a delight. If you’re actually doing some serious shopping you can always get them involved by testing out the comfort of the chairs, giving their opinions on styles and colours, measuring items with the free paper tape measures and filling out the order forms.
35. Find your nearest ice cream farm. These are often free entry and usually have a playground, so you can spend a good afternoon there and only fork out for an ice cream.
36. Head to a local castle. If you plan in advance, you could buy a couple of foam swords to re-enact a battle scene. Some will have dress up boxes and special activities to keep kids interested.
37. Find a free public paddling pool or lido. We’re lucky to live near Harrogate which has the fantastic Valley Gardens and paddling pool, a really great day’s entertainment.
38. Museums and art galleries. Whatever your interest, there is sure to be a museum to suit near you and they are mostly free entry. Up here, we’ve got amazing places like the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (£8 for all day parking, free entry), the National Railway Museum in York,  as well as the wonderful Media Museum in Bradford, all free entry, and many more. Art galleries can be just as entertaining, and it’s a good thing for children to start going to them when they’re young. Take their paper and pens and get them to copy their favourite drawing.
39. If you’ve got a budding plane spotter in the family, why not head somewhere to watch them? Were lucky to have the Multiflight cafe near Leeds Bradford Airport and I’ve also taken the three-year-old to Chocks Away at Hawarden Airport, Flintshire, where you can even watch the enormous Airbus Beluga if you time it right.

40. Pound shops. Give each child say £5 and let them choose five items at the pound shop, then spend the rest of the day playing with the new toys.
41. Fetes, festivals and carnivals. I don’t know about you, but where we live, the summer calendar is jam-packed with local shows and one-day festivals, all free entry. Then it’s up to you how much you want to spend on the tombolas, cake stalls and bouncy castles!
42. Local swimming pool. Always a good option, no matter what your child’s ability, and won’t break the bank.

Mudpie Fridays
A Cornish Mum
3 Little Buttons

Why saying ‘bye to the Jumperoo is so bittersweet

Hooray, someone came to buy the Jumperoo. It has been gathering dust in the corner of the room, taking up space that could safely accommodate an extra armchair or a substantial sideboard.

Little Mister hasn’t really used it for a couple of months. Not since he discovered crawling and cruising and found his independence. Of course he didn’t want to be stuck in a chair just observing the goings-on in the lounge, he wanted to be free to explore whatever he fancied (mostly turning the Freeview box on and off much to his older brother’s annoyance).

I have persevered in sticking him in his “baby jail” a few times, y’know when I’ve needed to go to the loo  or answer the door without fear of him eating the fake coals on the gas fire in my absence. But he has increasingly shown his displeasure, arching his back and turning rigid so I can’t physically manhandle him into the seat or, if I do succeed in forcing him in, immediately crumpling onto his hands and sobbing great big drama queen tears at the injustice of it all. It’s like he’s finally figured out the ruse. I can imagine him thinking (in a Stewie from Family Guy voice) “This isn’t about me having some bouncy fun after all, this is about you trapping me and ignoring me! Well I’m not playing anymore, mother.”

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So I should be pleased to say goodbye to the enormous thing, and delighted that I’ve managed to flog it for £20 when I bought it second hand for £30.

But I couldn’t shake off the queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. My little baby, my last baby, isn’t really a baby anymore. He’s found independence, he’ll be walking in the next couple of months.

Soon I’ll be selling off the steriliser and the Perfect Prep formula machine (also bought second-hand). Then he’ll go down to one bottle of cow’s milk a day and the health visitor will try to persuade me that he really needs to swap that for a cup, but I’ll be reluctant because that will mean I can no longer cwtch him up in the crook of my arm while we stare into each others’ eyes and he gently pulls my hair or pokes my teeth with his pointed finger.

His babyhood has whizzed by in an instant and I just want to hit the pause button for a while.

As I was preparing the Jumperoo for its new owner, I panicked that I hadn’t even filmed my little boy in it. I frantically searched through the videos on my phone and was relieved to find a couple, but even they don’t really capture him at his bounciest and most delighted. What if I forget that beautiful, wondrous smile, that giggle of sheer pleasure when he jumped about so enthusiastically? I haven’t filmed him enough, I haven’t taken enough photos. It will never be enough.

 

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I know I can’t cling onto all the baby stuff forever. We haven’t got the room for a start, and besides, wouldn’t it be just as sad to have a constant reminder sitting in the corner, grown out of and unused? So I’ll start to say farewell to all these baby accessories, just as I’ll have to reluctantly say goodbye to the baby phase itself. But I’ll try to keep hold of the memories, through photos, videos and through my diary, so I can still return whenever I want. And although I know this next stage will be just as exciting and delightful as the last, I think it’s okay to feel a little sadness too.

 

xx

 

Cuddle Fairy

 

 

DIY party or soft play?

When it comes to kids’ parties, the obvious choices are either hiring a church hall or similar function room, having a traditional party at home (*shudder*) or opting for soft play.

We went for the church hall option to celebrate our eldest little man turning three. But as I stacked the third car boot full of toys, balloons and food, I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth we hadn’t just booked a soft play!

The stress and hassle involved in putting on our own party was substantial, whereas friends who had sensibly booked into the local soft play just breezed in half an hour before the planned start, armed with a cake and party bags (some even paid extra for the venue to do that too). The saving in terms of time was immeasurable. I bet they even had time to blow dry their hair that morning, lucky things.

But which works out best financially? Well, here’s a breakdown of costs.

DIY:

  • Venue: Our beautiful church hall was really atmospheric and cost just £51 for 3 hours, which included an hour to set up and half an hour to  clear away. (They gave us the final half hour for free so the party itself lasted two hours). Here it is, not on party day but on polling day.

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  • Food. Well of course, we massively over-estimated how much 16 small people would eat. In fact, as I’ve now learned, they’re mostly too excited at these events to bother with much more than a triangle of sandwich and a handful of Party Rings. I’d estimate we spent £19.53. The breakdown on the food looks like this:
    • Two loaves white bread = £1.70
    • 2 party packs of Party Rings = £2
    • Let’s say third of a jar of peanut butter and the same of jam = 70p
    • One third of a block of cheddar = 75p
    • Half a pack of ham = 80p
    • Two dozen homemade fairy cakes = £1
    • 24 Gruffalo cake toppers = £1.99
    • Bowlful of raisins = 77p
    • 2 punnets of strawberries = £4
    • 1 box of Cadbury’s Fingers = £1
    • 3 carrots, sliced into sticks = 12p
    • half cucumber, sliced into sticks = 24p
    • multipack of bear-shaped crisps from Aldi = £1
    • 2 for £3 boxes of brownies and caramel shortbread (for the adults) = £3
    • 2 pints of milk (for teas and coffess) = 75p
    • Probably around 10 tea bags and a few spoons of coffee  = 50p
    • Say a third of a bottle of blackcurrant squash = 45p
    • 1 pouch Kinder Choco-bons, reduced at Co Op (for pass the parcel and musical statues prizes) = 75p
  • Invitations. Totally FREEEEEEE! Yup, I took advantage of the Gruffalo invites on http://www.gruffalo.com and printed them off myself. The little host coloured them in and I hand delivered them.
  • Decorations. Okay, I did go a little wild here. As wild as you can go with tablecloths and paper plates. But instead of opting for plain coloured cheap ones, I splurged on Gruffalo-themed ones as it was a Gruffalo party. These set me back £13.75 for a party pack of cups, plates, a table cloth and napkins from eBay. I also bought two plain green table cloths from Asda for £2 to make sure the entire table was covered. Nope, I didn’t go completely crazy and buy 3 Gruffalo table cloths, that would have been a leap too far.

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  • I also forgot my senses when it came to the balloons and bought a helium cannister from Hobbycraft (I had no idea you could even do this!) It was actually on offer for £20, perfectly filled 16 balloons – one tied to each child’s chair and then tied to their party bag as they left – and to be honest, they looked so amazing, I thought the cost was well worth it. Plus a supermarket bumper balloon pack for £2
  • As it was a Gruffalo party, I couldn’t resist a 4″ Gruffalo key clip for the Pass the Parcel prize, but it did set me back £5.85
  • I also bought 6 Gruffalo badges to wrap inside the different layers of the Pass the Parcel, and these cost £5.50, again from eBay.
  • Party bags. Sense prevailed when it came to the actual bags as although I would have loved the gorgeous Gruffalo ones, I couldn’t justify the huge mark-up and instead opted for the amazingly cheap 15 for 99p from B&M. (Did I ever mention how much I love B&M??) Just in case you’re wondering, we had 16 kids and that included our 10-month old, who didn’t get a party bag.

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  • The goodies inside the party bags cost a grand total of £18.93. Whoops! I hadn’t even realised they had cost this much until I calculated it all for this blog. Each bag contained a jointed plastic snake, a bag of white mice and a multi-coloured owl crayon. (Get it?) BUT, even if we had gone to soft play we would have incurred this expense ourselves, or paid around £1.50 for the venue to provide them.
  • The cake. My mum – you know, the incredibly talented member of my family – made an AMAZING Gruffalo cake and gave it to us as part of our son’s birthday present. I’ve no idea how much it cost her or what this would cost if you hired a professional to do it, but again, we would have incurred this same fee if we had gone to soft play.

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And so, the grand total ….. drum roll please.

I spent a total of £139.55

 

Option 2: The soft play option

The average price per child at our local soft play centres is £7.50. This usually includes a party of between 90 minutes to 2 hours, party tea, invitations and sometimes a free coffee or tea for each adult.

We had 16 children at our party, but one was under one and wouldn’t incur a cost at soft play. For 15 children, that would set me back £112.50 

No need to buy any decorations as that’s all done for you. Just bring the cake and the party bags. Let’s assume I would make the same party bags for a soft play party to make it comparable, which is £18.53 plus 99p.

That makes the grand total of the soft play centre = £132.02

Now that is a surprise! I could have saved myself all that hassle of decorating a church hall, all the stress of making sandwiches and cutting up carrot sticks that morning, and all the time and energy to pack the cars with loads of toys and blow up balloons AND save £7.53.

However, I admit I did go very wrong on my budget. I got carried away with all the gorgeous Gruffalo stuff when I could have saved pounds on buying plain paper plates, cups and napkins. I also should have kept an eye on what I was spending on the contents of the party bags. Both Tesco and Asda have plenty of party bag fillers and when I was looking, they were on offer of 3 for 2, or similar. It wouldn’t have kept with the theme, but really the kids wouldn’t have given my careful attention to detail a moment’s thought.

Having seen how little toddlers actually eat at these parties, I could have also cut down on my food spending. Although, to be honest, I think catering for an entire children’s party of 16 for less than £20 is not too bad.

My Pass the Parcel was a bit extravagant, again because I fell for the Gruffalo gear. Had I just bunged a few mini packets of Haribo between each layer and spent no more than £3 on the main prize, I could have shaved a LOT off my Pass the Parcel bill. And finally, there was the helium cannister. Another splurge (for a so-called money saver, I do get carried away sometimes), but do you know what, the kids absolutely loved having a balloon on each chair and they were thrilled to take one home each so I don’t regret it.

I don’t regret any of it because my little lad had a ball, and that made it all worthwhile. But maybe we’ll go for soft play for child number 2 …..

 

xx

A Mum Track Mind

Christmas in Spring

The April/May birthday bonanza

April is jam-packed with birthdays in this house, and because my little one is an April baby, I made friends with mums who had babies at a similar time.
And not only does that mean nearly every weekend from mid March to the beginning of May is booked up with soft play parties (sometimes two in one day!), but it also means we have a LOT of presents to buy.
I reckon we need 10 presents, so thank goodness for B&M. It’s just down the road and stocked to the rafters with brilliant presents for little ones at bargain prices (I’m not being paid by them, I promise. Maybe I should be…)

I’ve budgeted for £5 per child. This may sound stingy, but remember, we’ve got 10 to get in total. Plus I’ve also got my own dad’s birthday, a friend’s six-year-old and one of my oldest friends to buy for as well. And another friend has just had a baby! For me, April is almost as expensive as Christmas.

The £5 guide price – I won’t say limit incase I spot something brilliant for £6 or so – may seem low, but toddlers are easily amused and you can actually get your mitts on qute a lot of entertaining toys for that price. I think most parents in our group of friends are on the same wavelength, judging by what they say and what they are buying.

So here’s what I managed to get:

– A 12-car carry truck – £4.99 (I actually bought 3 of these as they are so brilliant)
– A tub of plastic animals for £3.99 – available in Safari, Farm and Dinosaurs (I bought 3 of these too)
– Battery-operated toy dogs that walk and somersault. You can still buy these! I adored mine when I was little. £4.99
– Princess dress up set including tiara, necklace, clip on earrings and plastic shoes – £4.99
– A two-foot high StormTrooper for a Star Wars fanatic – £16.99 (but he’s a special friend, plus his parents gave our son a lovely present that was definitely a lot more than £5)
– Plus 3 rolls of wrapping, including Thomas the Tank Engine and Peppa Pigs ones for 99p each.
– And one birthday card for a grown up for 59p, and is not cheap looking at all.

Other good ideas for reasonably priced presents for toddlers could be:
– a bubble rocket, which I think is from Hobbycraft. My son got one for his birthday and it’s brilliant. You jump on the air-filled plastic block and it shoots a plastic rocket into the sky. If you fill the base with bubble mix it will blast off with a trail of bubbles behind.
– play dough plus shapes and cutters
– Happyland/PlayMobil or Duplo toys to spark their imagination
– A mini space hopper. Our boy was given one which is yet to be blown up but I know he’ll love it.
– Bath toys – always a good choice. I’m bored of our bath toys, plus most of them have disgusting black mould inside them and I’ll probably end up chucking them out soon.
– Books.
– Colouring pens and colouring books
– Clothes. Boots MiniClub has a good deal on for 2 for £8 on boys and girls basics, while Next has fab polo shirts for boys on offer for 2 for £10 (correct at time of publishing).

How to do a Baby Show – without blowing the budget

The Baby Show hits Birmingham NEC next week and no doubt thousands of mums and dads-to-be will descend on the arena in search of some bargains. And no doubt, many of them will also come away with items they never imagined they needed – and may be destined to hide away in a cupboard without ever being used.
And I’m speaking from experience.
At six months pregnant, I trooped off to the Baby Show in London’s Excel, alone because I knew Mr MoneySaver would say no to most of my intended (and frivolous) purchases. I made a LOT of mistakes when it comes to budgeting. Yep, I admit it, I got sucked into the whole baby bonanza and was spat out a lot poorer the other end.
So, here’s where I went wrong and what you can do to avoid my mistakes.
1. I didn’t make a list. Amateur mistake! Instead, I just popped along all wide eyed and gullible to every saleperson’s patter without any thought as to what I actually needed.
And this is why I came away with reusable washable lambswool breast pads. What??
In fact, I bought two pairs so that I would be covered (literally) when one pair was in the wash.
I NEVER used them. Not once!
2. I didn’t do any research on the items I planned to buy.
I knew I wanted some sort of sling or baby carrier but hadn’t put any thought or research into it. This is odd because I relentlessly scoured information on other big purchases, furiously Googling reviews on prams, sorting through Which? recommendations for car seats and consulting forums on the most reliable maternity jeans. Yet, I went in completely blind on the baby carrier issue – and basically fell for the first sales pitch I heard.
It was, admittedly, a very good sales pitch, delivered by a very calm earth mother-type. I even tried one of these stretchy wraps on and saw how easy it was the assemble with a plastic doll at my chest. But guess what, when it came to a fragile, wriggly real live baby, I couldn’t figure out how to work the thing and being a first time mum, I had no confidence in my origami skills or the ability to keep this baby safe.
I think I used it a handful of times. (There was a silver lining in that it turned out to be from a faulty batch and I got my money back, but it could have been £60 down the drain)
3. I didn’t know the secrets and tricks.
Some – or maybe all, I don’t know – of the pram and pushchair sellers will flog their display items for a fraction of the price at the end of the show.
I wasn’t aware of this, and let me tell you how frustrated I was to learn that the Uppababy representatives had ex-display models on offer for, I think, around a quarter of the price but they were only available to those who could pick them up at the end of Sunday’s show. I was working on the Sunday and had no way of getting there. VERY FRUSTRATED, and that’s an understatement.
If you’ve got your eye on a certain item and you know there will be sellers at the Show, there’s no harm asking about ex-display goods. The Uppababy Cruz I wanted had literally only been on display for 2 days – it was basically brand new.
Just make sure you’re available at the end of the show!
4. I underestimated my own strength.
I hadn’t intended to buy baby wipes. I mean, why bother going to the Baby Show to buy wipes when you can get them from any supermarket, right? But then someone very convincing told me all about the brilliant qualities of Water Wipes. I was convinced.
Oh but if you buy seven packs, you get this great discount. Oh, yeah, okay, sounds brilliant. I’ll just cart seven heavy packs of wipes on two tubes, on my own, in two carrier bags, to reach central London to meet my husband and his friends in a pub, where I will need to stow my purchases all evening before lugging them back home on the bus. And that’s just what I did – at six months pregnant. To save about £4!!
5. It’s okay to give in to some cute things – so long as they’re practical and not too expensive.
There are so so many adorable items at the Baby Show, and if you’re pregnant, it’s really very hard to resist. I did have some willpower and as I didn’t know the sex of our baby, it was easier to avoid all the gorgeous outfits. Instead, I satisfied my craving for cutesy things by buying six dribble bibs in funky patterns. They were gorgeous AND useful, they didn’t break the bank in the slightest and I’m still using them for baby number two now.
At least that’s one thing I did right!
Baby Shows are great if you:
a) know what you want and keep to a list
b) take someone else with you to rein in your spending and provide a sounding board.
c) drive there if you’re planning on buying a lot of stuff
d) don’t get sucked into buying things you never considered before. If you didn’t think you needed it prior to some salesperson pitching it, you don’t need it.
e) set yourself a budget and keep to it
And lastly, don’t stay too long. These places are massive and full of people and they suck all your energy out, even if you do stop half way for drinks and snacks. Don’t be tempted to go round all the stalls “just one more time”, get in and out in a couple of hours maximum, before you lose the will to live.

The self-imposed shopping ban

How to not spend money at the shops.

Maternity leave forces every family to pull their belts in another notch or two. For us, this has meant a self-imposed shopping ban.
Don’t misjudge me – I am far from being a shopaholic. I’m too tight for a start and there has never been a time when I’ve had enough spare cash in the bank to be able to splurge without furiously checking price tags and weighing up whether I really need that new top/dress/pair of shoes/adorable but impractical necklace ….

But since Number 2 was born last July, the only shopping I’ve carried out, apart from groceries, has been absolutely necessary (or accompanied by a huge serving of guilt).

So, how do you carry out a Self-imposed Shopping Ban? Well, it’s like this:

Rule 1: Do NOT enter any of your favourite high street clothes shops. This is mainly aimed at adult shops as it has sometimes been necessary to pop into a children’s shop. And when I say that, I mainly mean the children’s aisles of Asda or Tesco.
Now, this rule sounds pretty obvious. You don’t want the temptation of buying any unnecessary items? Don’t put yourself in the position of being tempted.

I am not exaggerating when I say I have no idea what this season’s fashions look like. I have no idea whether Warehouse is full of florals, if TopShop is stocked-full of distressed boyfriend jeans or if Oasis have banished oversized shirts to “oh so 2015.”
I actually can not remember the last time I browsed the rails of a womenswear section of a department store.
This makes me a little sad and out of touch, but seriously, there are few things more disheartening than browsing all the latest beautiful fashions and not allowing yourself to buy a single thing.
Maybe this is just me. Perhaps some (admittedly very disciplined) girls can enjoy the pleasure of window shopping without feeling the downer of leaving empty handed.
This rule does have its problems, and the biggest one is feeling like a total trend-evader when it comes to socialising with real, fashionable friends. The solution, I suppose, might be to study fashion blogs and cobble together outfits from the sad looking contents of my wardrobe, or if all else fails, borrow something from a more on-trend friend. (I’ve got a wedding coming up when this might be a solution).

Rule 2: Do NOT under any circumstances click through to sales.
You know I love a bargain, right? On a daily basis, I have to almost physically restrain my mouse-click finger from taking me into a situation similar to one of a dieter in a chocolate factory. Jeez, every day I get bombarded with emails promising “massive discounts”, “huge reductions”, “30 per cent off everything” and have to immediately delete before the devil in my ear gets its way. Then there’s the obstacle courses that are Facebook and Twitter, TV adverts and billboards, all yelling, “Come on in, the discounts are lovely.”
The exceptions to this rule are if a) there is something we need for the house or children and I’m on the lookout for a deal and b) if I need to buy a birthday present.

Rule 3: Make use of every item in my wardrobe. I’ve blogged about doing this out of necessity when the Only Pair of Jeans gave up the ghost, but I’ve tried to continue the mission simply to make me feel like I have a variety of outfits to choose from. Nothing is more likely to send me rushing to Leeds Trinity, credit card in hand, than feeling like I’m wearing the same thing day in, day out.

Rule 4: Lattes and lunches are out.
Maternity leave, especially in the early days, is all about mum dates, decaff Americano in one hand, Millionaire’s Shortbread on the other, wedging your baby up to your boob with your knee. But it all adds up money-wise, especially if you happen to have a toddler as well and need to feed your coffee habit at a soft play centre and bribe him with Pom Bears.
As much as possible, I’ve made an effort to eat lunch at home before meeting friends, arrange playdates at pals’ houses or opted for picnics in the park (yes we are having al fresco sandwiches in the snow, sweetheart). Long journeys have involved foil-wrapped sandwiches and a Thermos of tea, and days out with the toddler have meant being more organised and taking as much of our own food as we could morally get away with.
But, it would be a pretty miserable life if we couldn’t occasionally indulge in a day trip AND lunch in the cafe, and maybe even an ice cream as well, but I reason that all my scrimping and scraping justifies the occasional treat. And do you know what, it tastes even sweeter when we do indulge (I just have to banish those nagging guilty thoughts.)

Rule 5: Make do and mend (or rather, get your mother to mend)
Thank goodness my mother is a domestic goddess with a roomful of needles and buttons and a willingness to patch up and perfect any of our decaying clothes. It’s mainly the boys’ stuff. They lose buttons on things like I lose matching pairs of socks. Mum’s also amazingly skillful at knitting and dressmaking which has come in rather handy for kitting out my pair of rogues in lovely handcrafted outfits. Cheers mum!

Rule 6: Raid the messy drawer
I don’t know if everyone’s got one, but there’s a whole plastic storage bin of spare cosmetics, samples, hotel miniatures from daysgoneby and random, often regretful, purchases gathering dust in my bathroom.
You know the sort of thing. The latest must-have hair product that was absolutely definitely going to make my locks look like Jennifer Aniston and was banished to the drawer after a couple of uses. The tiny bottles of shampoo you snaffled from the last mini-break because “they always come in so handy”, then never considered them since. The eyeshadow palette some well-meaning relative gave you for Christmas a few years back. The bronzing beads that were totally impractical in any make-up bag as they always spilled out and coated everything with brown dust.
Yep, I hoarded all those things …. and they have finally become useful. Each time I ran out of moisturiser, blusher, eye cream or whatever beauty fix I absolutely couldn’t live with out, I first rifled through the messy bin and nine times out of 10, I’d find something that “would do.”
It means that in the last year, I have only bought one mineral face powder, one concealer, one tube of eye cream and one moisturiser (excluding shampoo/conditioner/shower gel/toothpaste which are necessities).
I think that’s a pretty small amount of cosmetics spending. And the messy drawer has become a lot less messy.

I don’t know when I might allow myself into a proper shop again, or browse the online clothes rails, let alone actually buy something. Who knows what will happen when it finally happens? If you hear of reports of a crazed woman tearing her way through Leeds Trinity or possibly just balled up in a corner rocking through sheer sensory overload, then you’ll know the ban has lifted.

‘Til the next time xxx

 

Cuddle Fairy

The £100 Baby Challenge

How to spend just £100 (*or thereabouts) on your newborn.

What? Is this even possible??
When I was pregnant with my first son, a male boss (who works in the finance department – you’ll see the relevance in a minute) told me that I shouldn’t spend more than £100 on baby goods.
Of course I chuckled politely – he was a boss, remember – but in my head I was laughing hysterically.
£100!! Oh, hahahaha HAHAHA. What century was this man living in? Most good travel systems are about five times that price and that’s just for starters.
Then there’s the Moses basket, cot, monitor, bath thermometer, room thermometer, Gro Bags, large muslins, small muslins, nappy bag……

After having our second boy – and with our money belts on the tightest notch – I started wondering whether it was actually possible to get the basics for baby on such a small budget.

So here goes
(* this doesn’t include nappies as that’s an ongoing purchase or formula as not every mum uses it.)

To make this a fair challenge, I haven’t included any borrowing from friends. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to borrow your whole nursery from friends and family but you might not be in this position so for this hypothetical challenge, I’ve decided to count lending out.
All my “purchases” are from local second hand forums and eBay. Prices correct at time of publishing.

“Don’t bother” items. These are the ones we’ve all bought but strictly speaking you don’t really need.

– Bath thermometer (our mums used their elbows, if it was good enough for them…)
– Room thermometer – keep check on your little ones temperature by checking their chest. Plus you’ll probably get given a free basic one by a midwife/health visitor/in Bounty pack
– Monitor. Ooh tricky one but if we’re going to be tied to such a strict budget then we’ll just have to keep the telly volume down and our ears pricked. (* My first monitor was only a tenner from a Nearly New Sale)
– Nappy bin. Use an ordinary pedal bin or swing top and nappy bags or old carrier/charity/freezer bags
– Nappy bag. Ahhh, this is problematic. One of the best things about late pregnancy is swooning over the lovely nappy bags on offer with all their useful compartments, then filling it and organising so it’s just so…. Only for it to be in complete disarray within days of the baby coming along. BUT, strictly speaking, it’s a luxury. Pretty sure you’ve got a backpack or a large handbag in your wardrobe that would do, even if it doesn’t have as many compartments as you might like.
– Bouncy chair. Um, well, this is very useful for being able to put a newborn down. This is getting hard now but it’s not an essential.
– Baby bath. Use the sink when they’re small enough to fit in it, then the big bath and simply hold them up. I used to lie the boys down in the big bath from about 2 months old, in shallow water that just reached their ears and they loved the freedom of wriggling around and kicking their legs.
– changing mat. Use an old towel on the bed or the floor.

OPTION 1:

Ok so, the main issue here is going to be the car seat as that’s an essential and the most popular brands (like Maxi Cosi Pebble)  are going to take up more than your £100 budget.
To complicate matters, car seat manufacturers don’t recommend buying second hand as you can’t be sure if it’s been in an accident or suffered any internal damage which may affect its safety.
So, what to do?

Well, this one from Mothercare is currently on offer for just £45. It’s suitable from birth and goes rear facing and forward facing up to 18kg (about 4 years old) so not only is it a bargain but it will last you too.

That leaves us with just £55 for the rest. EEK!
But don’t panic. Newborns don’t really need that much stuff at all. Somewhere to sleep, some way of travelling, something to wear and you’re pretty much there.
I found this second hand Mamas & Papas Swirl pushchair on eBay in blue, including a footmuff, for £27.50, plus £8.75 postage. It’s suitable from birth but for that price, you’ve got to compromise – you can’t put a car seat on it and it doesn’t allow rear facing but it’ll last a long time. That’s £36.25, which takes us up to £91.25
And we still need somewhere for baby to sleep….. If only we lived in Scandinavia where new mums get given a cardboard box full of stuff for newborns, and parents can use the box for baby to sleep in for the first few weeks.
I could cop out and suggest safe co-sleeping, but let’s plough on.
Over on Freecycle, I found a cot in need of  a good home. Yes it’s typical to put your tiny tot in a Moses basket or at least a crib, but there’s no reason they can’t go into a big cot – they might just look and feel a bit lost in there. Rolled up blankets or towels will make them feel more secure in such a big space.
It does however pose the problem of a mattress as it’s the freebie cot doesn’t come with one and it’s recommended you have a new one for each baby anyway.
The cheapest I could find was a foam one from Ikea for £15. (Personally, I chose spring mattresses for my little ones as I feel they’re more supportive but this is hypothetical …. and extreme!)
Total: £106.25
 
Plus: The Basics
And we still need some clothes. For the benefit of this challenge, I would say to buy no more than 5 vests and 5 sleepsuits plus snowsuit/coat depending on season, as that would be enough to get by for a few weeks, even though you would be doing a lot of washing, and the chances are that you’ll get given loads of stuff by wellwishers anyway. You can probably get the lot from a charity shop or nearly new sale for a few quid. Spend no more than £10 on these.
Try Asda or Tesco for a pack of two fitted cot sheets for £7 and a sleeping bag for £12. (Maybe put another sleeping bag on your wishlist from friends and family otherwise there will be a lot of washing).
Total for basics = £29
 

TOTAL = £135.25  

OPTION 2:

If you can be absolutely sure of the history of a car seat – maybe by buying from a friend, or friend of a friend, or someone trusted on a local forum then you can look at second hand, which makes this a lot easier to stick to budget.
I found this Mamas & Papas travel system – including car seat and isofix base, plus rearward and forward facing options on the pram for just £50 on a local forum. Bargain!
I found a beautiful crib on eBay for local pick up, 20 mins drive from where I live, for just £15. Again we need a mattress. A foam Obaby one for £10 will be just fine.
Now we’ve spent £75 on giving junior somewhere to sleep, a way of travelling round and a car seat.
Add in the Basics for £29.
And voila!


TOTAL = £104 


OPTION 3: 

This Nania car seat, suitable from birth, from Asda is £42.50.
Then maybe just forget about the whole traditional pram/pushchair dilemma and opt for baby wearing for the first few months instead. Taking your baby by sling is good for him/her as they feel secure next to you, and you won’t have to clog up part of your house with a big travel system, so it’s win win.
Join your local sling library and you’ll be able to hire a sling of your choice for a few pounds for a couple of weeks. At my local library, you can hire a sling for £5 for two weeks. So let’s say this challenge is to kit your baby out for the first two months, that’s £20.
Total so far: £62.50
I found a second hand Cosatto wooden crib, like this one, for £15 on a local forum. I think a crib is a more cost effective choice for a newborn as they grow out of a Moses basket so quickly. A crib can last six months if you’re lucky. Again we’ll need the £10 mattress.
Plus The Basics for £29.
Total = £101.50
WOOHOO!! We did it. Okay, we scrubbed a lot off the usual “must have” list but in reality a lot of those current “must haves” aren’t really so essential. And our baby will be wearing the same limited wardrobe for his/her first few weeks (until kind-hearted friends and family step in with their gifts). There’s going to be a lot of washing involved for their clothes and bedding, but the baby will be fine. It will be clothed, housed, have some means of travelling about and really that’s all you need.
Of course, like any expectant mum, I did indulge in such luxuries as a nappy bin and a couple of sleeping bags and I’m glad I didn’t have to stick to such a rigid budget … but I am surprised to see how much you really can keep costs down if you really want to.
Perhaps my boss had a point after all….
Mudpie Fridays