This post starts with a sorry tale. After a pretty chaotic weekend which included numerous fifth birthday celebrations and a Baptism, Team Skinner were joined by some rather unwelcome visitors in the form of head lice. This was my first reaction upon discovery of the lice,
which was swiftly followed by several questions: How did Amelia get them? How would we get rid of them? Did the rest of us have them? What if she has spread the love around all the kids at the party, in church and her cousins? Was there to be a head lice epidemic in east Belfast all because of the Skinner girls? Was I a bad mother? ( This is a daily question no matter what the situation) And why are little children so gross?! ( I jest)
Anyway after the initial shock we launched Operation Anihilate those Lice, which included covering everyone in Hedrin, picking out as many of the bad boys as we could find, hibernating in the house and changing all the bed clothes, cue another load of washing. It was while changing the nasty terry towelling waterproof sheets on the girls’ beds that I had an idea. As I said, the waterproof sheets are ugly and I’ve been meaning to put nicer fitted sheets over them for a while. Now was indeed the time to pimp the girls’ bedding, it might also take my mind off the trauma of the head lice infestation. Come Monday morning I headed to B&M Bargains, I’d spied some cute heart print sheets there a few weeks back. I couldn’t find said sheets when I got there but I did find a lonely red fitted sheet with white stars all over it, how very Cath Kidston I thought to myself, it would be rude not to. So I went to the cash register to pay, expecting the marked £4.99 charge, to my delight the sheet and pillowcase set scanned at £1. The cashier and I looked at each other in disbelief but I thought best to pay and hotfoot it out of there before she enquired further about this ridiculous bargain, so I skipped out like this:
I’ve since located the heart sheets for Phoebe’s bed also, sadly not at £1, and the bedding has been suitably pimped, and fumigated, and Team Skinner lived happily ever after.
My eldest daughter has reached a season in her life when she parties all the time, literally, she has a party every weekend at the minute. At five years old a child is well aware that it is their birthday and even more aware of what type of party they want, as well as the present. Anyway, as it seems to be the done thing to invite the whole class to the party Amelia’s social calendar is raging. The many party invites calls for many birthday present purchases and the need for originality and creativity when choosing the gifts. Due to the sheer volume of parties I try to set a target for myself, to buy the gift on a £5 budget. Thanks to the likes of Home Bargains, this budget allows for nice purchases without breaking the bank.
As a child I used to love to receive gifts with all kinds of treats in them so I like to include a toy, something sweet, something quirky and possibly something homemade, which leads me on to the subject of this post. Of late the girlie parties have allowed me to indulge in a bit of clip making. All that is needed to make the clips is sheets of felt (55p each in my local craft store), clips (packs of 30 from Poundworld at, you guessed it, £1) and my trusty glue gun. I cut out felt circles and cut them into spirals, then I roll the spiral whilst applying glue as I go, then it’s just a matter of gluing them to the clips. For added effect I like to cut out some leaves using green felt and glue them to the clip before gluing the flower. The clips make a nice wee extra to include with the rest of the gift and they let the child (and parent) know that you’ve put a bit of thought and love into the present. Each clip costs about 9p to make so it definitely won’t eat into too much of your budget.
A while ago some good friends of ours dropped round a gift for the newest baby girl in our family. They had been to our local market and purchased a rather funky tie dye vest. Despite her expression here I assure you she loved her rockin vest, the crying was more to do with her Mum incessantly taking photos of her, and less about the outfit choice. I was really chuffed with our friends’ choice of gift having noticed these vests at the market in the past. I had admired them at the time but thought them to be a bit out of our usual price range for baby vests (especially as most of our vests end up covered in toxic luminous yellow poo, what is up with that colour?!). Anyway, having admired said vest many times over the last few months, I thought how hard can it be? Surely I could try my hand at the age old art of tie dye and make a few funky baby gifts of my own. It should be noted that the church that we attend seems to produce a new baby by the week so baby gifts are frequently required. What is more I’ve recently discovered I am getting a new nephew this summer so it seemed like a good excuse to get to work.
One of my favourite shops of late is Home Bargains, I heart the discounters, so I headed there and purchased some baby vests, three for £2.99, and tie dye kits at £2.50 each. As the vests normally cost around £10 in the market I calculated that I could make the same thing, hopefully, for around £1.85, bargain!!! I started on some baby boy vests, I would like to add that the tie dye phase kind of passed me by at school so this was my first ever attempt at the art. It does require a bit of trial and error but I managed to produce some decent baby boy vests. I’m now on to the girlie vests and again I seem to have achieved a two out of three success rate. Not bad. Practice makes perfect as they say so I’ll keep experimenting, after all there is nothing nicer than an original homemade gift.
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing this blog for quite some time now. At first the desire was to share a few helpful tips with fellow mummy friends striving to live on less, the less being statutory maternity pay. But as I spoke to more people about budgeting and being creative when it came to social activities I realised that is it not just women on maternity leave who are counting the pennies these days. It is people from all backgrounds and spheres of life, sometimes the people you least expect to have to budget. Is life really more expensive now or do we simply ‘need’ more? Have we bought into the lie that what we have defines who we are and how successful we are?
While the effects of economic decline are never welcomed maybe the challenges that come with it present us the opportunity to reassess our spending habits and our priorities. This has certainly been the case for me. My husband has had a lot to do with my re-education when it comes to spending. My name is Lisa and I’m a self-confessed shopaholic. While I like to shop I will only do so when I’m ‘getting a bargain’, which I tend to use as justification for my spending when questioned on the itemised joint bank account statement. The Ikea bargain corner justification doesn’t wash with Steve, “It’s not a bargain if you didn’t need it in the first place Lisa.” Alas, I usually end up conceding that Steve is right, while never telling him that of course.
Steve and I both had very different attitudes to money when we first married, largely influenced by the upbringing we each had, but as the years have passed both of us have imparted some financial wisdom to the other. Steve has taught me that buying cheaper clothes frequently is a false economy, it is better to save for a while and invest in fewer good quality statement pieces that look better and last longer. I like to think that I’ve taught him to shop around for those good quality items, to ensure you’re getting the best price for your money. As our life together and our attitudes evolved, our family grew and our disposable income diminished, or so it seemed. It’s true that you live to your means so each time I found myself on maternity leave I had to reign in our finances a bit, truth be known what I really did was just spend the way I should have been spending all along. We changed where we shopped, what we bought, how we ate, what we did with the kids, and while sacrifices had to be made along the way I found it surprisingly liberating. I’m now on my third maternity leave and truth be known our finances look better than they did when I was on full pay, I kid you not.
I know that I’m not alone in my quest to use money wisely so this blog is to be my labour of love for those, who like me, want to be wise stewards over that which they’ve been blessed with. I will endeavour to pass on helpful tips on living well and spending less. As we journey together hopefully we’ll be able to pass on wisdom to one another. My heart is that money will not be something that binds us but rather something that enables us to enjoy life and what we have, to live well, without fear, false expectations and mounting debt.