If it had risen in line with house prices over the last forty years, the average weekly shop would now cost £453.

Yep, that’s £453 for food for a family every week.

When Shelter told me this I was absolutely horrified. “Bloody hell,” I said to them, “it’s no wonder I can’t afford to buy a house is it?” Shelter did the research to highlight how for many people in the UK, that classic dream of owning your own home, and providing a sense of security for your  family, is simply impossible. View Post

Today I am taking part in a blog tour. Yes yes, I know, yawn yawn, but pay attention please because this blog tour is promoting a very special book. (Plus you get a nose round the author’s house.)

Lunchtime by Rebecca Cobb is beautiful, her illustrations are adorable and Rebecca herself is lovely. Lunchtime is, as Julia Donaldson said, “Funny and charming – as delicious as the little girl’s dinner.”

"Lunchtime by Rebecca Cobb"

But then I would say all these nice things wouldn’t I?

Why?

Because Rebecca is my step-sister.

I know, cool right? What a talented family we are! (And renowned for our modesty.)

I have already mentioned Lunchtime, but it was in a post that was a bit crowded with other things, like my collection of jugs in the shape of chickens where the milk comes out of their beak, so in this post we get to find out a little bit more about Rebecca and where she works.

"Rebecca Cobb's work place"

“This is what my work space looks like,” says Rebecca. “It is very exciting because a couple of months ago it looked like this”:

"Rebecca Cobb's work place"

“And then we attacked it with a crowbar and it looked like this”:

"Rebecca Cobb's work place"

“And now it looks like this”:

"Rebecca Cobb's work place"

“As you can see it is still a work in progress” says Rebecca, “but compared to the rest of the house, which is a bit of a building site, it is the most finished room. This is also our bedroom at the moment and having a bed right next to my desk makes it very tempting to sit in bed under the duvet to do my drawing, especially when the weather is so cold. But I tried it the other day and instantly fell asleep for 3 hours so I have banned myself from doing that!”

“I mostly draw at my lightbox because even when I do not have it switched on I like the smooth surface of the glass to draw on. I have it right in front of the window and I can look out at the garden which is a bit derelict at the moment, like the rest of the house, but it is full of birds and the next door neighbour’s cats. One of the many brilliant things about moving into our house is that we can now have a pet and I cannot wait to get a kitten!’

Lunchtime is doing a blog tour to celebrate its release in paperback so now you have no excuse for not buying it, even if you are a bit of a skinflint.

Last month I was asked to take part in a spending challenge. I got quite excited initially, imaging a Supermarket Sweep style dash around the shops, sweeping make-up and sweeties into a trolley.

No such luck.

The challenge was actually to reduce the amount of money I spent as part of a project by Voucher Codes called Small Change/Big Difference. The challenge asks you to think about the little amounts of money you fritter away of things like coffees and cake, and to commit to cutting back.

First off you can calculate just how much money you spend on things like this in a year with their special calculator – you put in what you have a week and it calculates your annual expenditure. I felt pretty smug filling it out, as I don’t smoke and don’t drink much, but was quite taken aback by how much I spend essentially just on snacks:

"spending calculator"

Goodness me. It seems like such a lot when you look at it like that doesn’t it? I work from home, so quite often pop to the café round the corner to work for a few hours for a change of scene. Seems like that could be an expensive habit.

Once I had shocked myself into action, I then had to spend two weeks trying as hard as possible to cut back on all those little extras that add up over the course of a year. There were quite a few obvious areas of weakness for me, so here’s how I got on:

Cafes
I do love a nice café. It’s silly, because I know I could just make a cup of tea at home for about two pence, but there is something so much lovelier about having someone else make it for you and enjoying it surrounded by people chatting and laughing. It’s just nice.

For two weeks though, I didn’t go to my local café once. I reckon I saved about £15 altogether, but I’m not entirely convinced this one is worth it for me. Working from home can be pretty lonely, and getting out of the house and being around other people for a couple of hours can make all the difference. £30 a month seems a small price to pay for my sanity.

"Pretty hot chocolate"

Magazines and newspapers
This is definitely a weakness for me. It wouldn’t be so bad if I actually read them, but all that happens normally is that I end up with about four weeks’ worth of Guardian Weekend magazines in a pile, unread. I don’t go out of my way to buy anything, but if I’m at the station or in a supermarket (which doesn’t happen often as Boyfriend doesn’t trust me to do the shopping), I’m quite often tempted to just pick something up as a treat.

For two weeks then I didn’t buy anything. So that’s two Saturday Guardians and probably one or two magazines – £10 or so altogether? Also, because I didn’t buy a magazine, I wasn’t drawn in to one of the ‘subscribe now for 68% of the usual cover price and get a free soap worth £37’ offers. Bargain.

Other miscellaneous nonsense
I tend quite often to shop, much like I eat, out of boredom. This is a risky strategy as I get bored easily. In early January for instance, bored of updating Facebook statuses and writing about goodness knows what, I went online and bought a bone china tea set hand painted with robins.

"robin teaset"

I think you get the point.

For two weeks though I tried my very best not to do this. It was tough, as I was in London a couple of times during the fortnight, each time with a couple of hours to kill in the middle of the day. During my first visit, it didn’t go so well, and I ended up with three miniature mounted photographs of London landmarks. Oopps.

On my second trip though, I did better. I even tested myself with a visit to the V&A museum shop, but resisted the urge to buy anything at all, not even a postcard, although I really quite wanted to buy a lion necklace that was in the sale. I did like this card, but satisfied myself by just taking a picture rather than buying it.

"Jerome K Jerome Quote"

What a good girl I am.

The lion necklace was £45, so I consider this £45 saved.

What are your bad money habits? How much do you think you could save if you cut out just one small pleasure?

Produced in association with VoucherCodes.co.uk

I fear that Belle is getting a little cynical.

She came home from school on Friday with the sad news that this year she hadn’t made it into the school dance troupe. “Never mind,” I said, “I’ve got you a little something to make up for it!”

She looked suspicious.

“What if I had got in?” she asked.

“Well, ” I said, caught a little off guard, “it would have been a congratulation present!”

“Did you buy it or do I have to review it?” she asked.

Damn.

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Like it or not, it’s the time of the year for making well-meaning resolutions. Obviously this year I will be losing weight, getting fit, reading 200 books, donating half my disposable income to charity, that sort of thing.

OK, maybe not, but it’s nice to have a few good intentions, especially after spending most of December eating mince pies and Elizabeth Shaw mints for breakfast. That’s why when I was offered to review Skinny Sprinkles again, and stepped with trepidation onto the scales for the first time in about three months, I thought I’d better say yes. View Post