Finding Contentment While Spending Less Money

Recently, I have come to realise that my level of spending has  pared back significantly over the past months. This has been partly deliberate, as we have been adjusting to living on one income and partly unintentional. Spending less makes you more mindful of the simple pleasures in life, I find. Read on for a few examples of the areas in which our spending has been reduced and how I and my family have felt about it.

Eating Out

We used to eat out at least once (often twice) per weekend. Often we went for brunch on a Sunday for our favourite Eggs Benedict or Eggs Royale. This ritual mainly stopped because finding cafe tables for a family of five including space for a buggy isn’t always easy, plus when I gave up my job the family income meant that making cutbacks on things such as eating out made sense. I’ve substituted the meals out and takeaways with home-made yet still feel like ‘treat’ or cafe-style meals (such as paninis in our panini maker) and we often enjoy eating in our garden during the warmer months. It actually feels more relaxing to do this than dine out with our young kids as it takes the pressure off my husband and I when we don’t have to worry about the kids misbehaving or whining that they are hungry. As an added bonus, my eldest child is now showing an interest in helping to prepare some of the meals and gladly carries out simple tasks such as grating cheese, stirring sauces etc. Kids are never too young to learn to cook and I hope that my other two begin to express a similar interest before long.

My husband and I only rarely go out for date nights these days- mostly for logistical reasons. Family members have started giving us restaurant vouchers for birthday gifts which is appreciated as it gives a nudge to make us get on and book a meal out rather than having a vague notion that we should but never seeing to get around to it.

Reading Material

Then there’s my reading habit, which has always verged on the voracious. I’ve always loved books and have bought at least some from Amazon and charity shops even though I’ve long been a regular user of the local library. Recently though, I’ve cut out buying books completely and started reserving and ordering books online that I really want to read in to my library to collect from our local branch. Happily, this means I remain stocked with plenty of reading material. If there are any that I read from the library and desperately crave to keep, I ask a family member to give me a copy of it for Christmas or my birthday.

Last year I also discovered the RB Digital app which allows registered library users to read a wide range of magazine publications online for free. How did I not know about this sooner?! As well being available in my local area I have been informed by friends in different areas of England that it is available countrywide. This can represent a significant saving on spends for any magazine fan.

Children’s Clothing

Even though I restrict my own wardrobe items and prefer to keep a pared down, semi capsule wardrobe, I must admit that I have a weakness for buying the kids too many clothes. Children’s clothes are so cute, with colourful appliques and designs. Still, when I changed over their clothes at the end of seasons, I felt bad when I sometimes discovered items that had never been worn even once. I really should know better on this front! The best solution I have found to this issue is to keep a simple spreadsheet on the computer and record every clothing item I acquire for the kids in different sizes. I do tend to stock up on good quality clothes in the sales, even in sizes several years too large at times, but if I forget that I have those larger sizes stashed away it’s too easy to end up buying a similar item later on. This spreadsheets also assists with guiding relatives who ask what clothing items the kids would most benefit from being given as part of their birthday presents. Whenever I find myself tempted to buy cute clothes for the kids, I force myself to check the spreadsheet first to see whether the item is genuinely needed or not.

What do you Gain Most out of Spending on?

Finding cheaper or free alternatives to the things we used to spend money on feels rewarding because it means that we can funnel our money towards things that matter more to us- such as holidays. We love going away together as a family, both in the UK and in European countries and we hold some wonderful memories of times spent on past holidays. Everybody’s priorities for their finances will be different, but being mindful of them and having more funds available to direct to them instead of being frittered on things that we are less bothered about makes a lot of sense.

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A Holiday to Holland

Why Visit The Netherlands?

Holland (officially known as The Netherlands) is the foreign country we have holidayed in more frequently than any other in recent years.

Why, you might ask? The primary reason why we favour Holland for our holidays is it’s close proximity to our part of the U.K., in particular the ease in which we can travel to the ferry port in Harwich (45 minutes away), take a convenient overnight ferry crossing before waking up in our destination.

However, this reason of practicality is closely followed by the hospitality that the Dutch people have unfailingly shown us. Even though I endeavour to learn and practice a few simple phrases of the native language wherever I travel (and my eldest daughter has developed an interest in doing the same thing), as soon as the Dutch twig that we are British they instantly switch to flawless English. It may be a generalisation, but we have always found the Dutch people we have encountered to be a sociable bunch, often keen to start conversation and fuss over our young kids.

Historic Cities and Beautiful Countryside

Although the Netherlands is a densely populated country, with the roads fairly heavy with traffic most of the time as a result, the drivers are courteous and law abiding which removes much of the stress for British drivers, especially if a sat nav is also used to locate your destination. There are numerous historic towns and cities that account for housing the majority of the population, leaving great swathes of lush green countryside dotted with ubiquitous Dutch windmills and grazing cattle, intersected by canals and rivers in this country where much of the land has been cleverly reclaimed from the sea.

dutch street-2641196_1920 copy

Perfectly Presented Homes

Whenever we passed through residential areas, I was struck by how beautifully presented the dwellings were. Even balconies adjoined to modest apartments that overlooked main roads were personalised with vibrant flowers in window boxes and comfortable outdoor furniture. On terraced streets, benches were often positioned just in front of homes so that the owner could relax in the evening sun with a book. Windows facing the street are usually adorned with pairs of matching plants or lanterns for the appreciation of passers-by. The sense that homes are set up for the benefit of passers-by is heightened by the fact that many people leave their curtains drawn open long into the evening (if indeed they get closed at all), affording a clear view of the front room for anyone who cannot resist taking a look. Me? Guilty as charged!

Admirable Architecture 

I also adore traditional Dutch architecture, which is evident even in modern home designs- with large panes of glass (less frequently divided into smaller sections than windows here in England), cute gables and red roofs.

Everywhere was immaculate- the smooth roads (even in narrow village streets), the complete lack of litter and dedicated cycle lanes that were well used by people of all ages from commuters to work to young children cycling with their parents to school and toddlers in trailers on cargo bikes created an air of a highly civilised, well-functioning  society. I couldn’t help feeling a little envious of some of these things, that were undeniably streets ahead of my homeland.

amsterdam arch arch bridge architecture
Photo by Marko Zirdum on Pexels.com

 

De Efteling Theme Park

We visited (for the third time!) a theme park called de Efteling, which is practically an institution in Holland. The park is structured around a fairytale theme, with a fairytale wood complete with replica houses from many fairytales and the respective characters found within them, such as Little Red Riding Hood poised knocking the the door of her grandmother’s house, while the wolf disguised as grandmother is propped up in bed and visible through the window. There is also a large, realistic-looking oak tree that speaks. You have to see it to believe it! As well as the fairytale forest area there are a multitude of imaginatively designed rides for all ages, from incredible dreamlike fairy themed Dreamflight to the thrilling Baron 1889. De Efteling is a huge park and takes two or three full days to do justice to the many attractions on offer. We stayed overnight at the Efteling Hotel (excitingly constructed in the shape of a castle) to enable us to easily fit in two full days at the park.

Beekse Bergen Holiday and Safari Park

After that, we moved on to a holiday park called Beekse Bergen, in the North Brabant region of Holland close to the city of Tilburg. This park is centred around a large lake and has many wooded areas where the mobile homes are sited, which created a sense of tranquility as well as privacy. The trees also encouraged many types of birds: we had a pair of ducks that took up residence right outside our mobile home for the duration of our stay, to the delight of my children who enjoyed feeding them. We all felt ourselves start to relax as the calming influence of our surroundings took hold. Playgrounds are dotted all around the site, which pleased my kids as they rode their bikes around and frequently stumbled upon new ones to explore. There was a great indoor pool complex on site, with several slides and water features in the pool for under fives as well as a lazy river and larger slide.

Free Days Out With the Extra Card

If you stay three or more nights at Beekse Bergen you are given an Extra card which allows you free access to a number of attractions owned by the Libema group. This includes the safari park adjoining the holiday park (one of the largest safari parks in the Benelux region, it offers visitors the option to take a bus safari, car safari, boat safari or explore on foot to catch sight of as many animals as possible), as well as a couple of other zoo type places within an hour’s drive. See image below (borrowed from inyourpocket.com) Also included is Speelland (Playland), a small scale theme park aimed at children aged under twelve with bouncy castles, adventure play equipment as well as a few rides. Speelland is accessed by boat across the lake which adds to the sense of adventure for young children. Image below of Speelland borrowed from Tilburg.com.

We were very fortunate with the weather- a heatwave made it feel almost conceivable that were in the Mediterranean rather than the lowlands of northwestern Europe.

Have you visited the Netherlands before? Prior to having children, I had visited Amsterdam several times, but never ventured beyond the capital. Now I have caught the bug, I can’t wait to start planning our next Dutch getaway for next year.

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6 Tips For How to Stay Feeling Chic During the Summer

During the last month we have experienced a heatwave here in the UK, even though it’s technically still Spring. In many ways I adore the warmer months of the year and feel more alive during them- the longer, lighter days feel full of promise and offer more opportunity to get out and enjoy life than the winter months. The warmer weather is all the more welcome given the protracted winter we experienced this year, too.

However, I have found in recent years that the heat tends to make me feel a little… well, hot and bothered at times. I suspect this feeling also boils down to having three small people to run around after, too!

No doubt other women feel a similar way so I’ve compiled a few tips to help stay feeling fresh and chic during the summer months.

1. Suncream

Yes, I know this one is so obvious it shouldn’t even need a mention. Yet I have to confess that there have been occasions when I have forgotten to apply suncream to myself, even though (or perhaps because) I am a stickler for ensuring my kids are always slathered in the stuff. My awkward skin type of oily yet sensitive makes finding a suncream that neither breaks me out in spots nor flares up redness something of a challenge. My best solution so far is Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid, which I buy from Amazon. It comes available in several different SPFs, from SPF30 to SPF110 (nope, that’s not a typo).

photo of woman in a sunflower field
Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

2. Style a Hat

Hats offer unbeatable protection from the sun, and anyone who has suffered the horrors of heatstroke will agree that it is worth wearing one to protect your head from the powerful rays beaming onto your head if you are going to be out there for hours at a time. There are many choices of style available which will vary somewhat according to what is in fashion on a given year, but classic straw or fedora and raffia hats come in a range of colours with a huge range of ribbons and trims available.

3. Banish Thigh Chafing

Ugh, what could be more irksome than chafing thighs? There are plenty of expensive products out there offering to solve the problem, but I find that a small amount of coconut oil applied to the problem area of both inner thighs works perfectly. If you do a lot of walking then you may need to re-apply it halfway through the day but that’s all.

The other option is to wear very short shorts underneath your dress or skirt. You could keep any laddered tights from the winter and snip the lengths of them off from mid-thigh, as this also prevents the friction.

4. Painted Toenails

Ok, ok, so this one doesn’t exactly offer any type of bodily protection from the heat but it will give you a boost each time you look down and catch a glimpse of your perfectly painted toes. There seems little point in bothering to paint toenails in the winter but when they are on show so much in summer they always addd a touch of glam, especially in a bold, bright colour and matched with your fingernails.

woman wearing yellow spaghetti strap top and round sunglasses
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

5. Sunglasses

Sunglasses get donned by the Italians at the merest hint of sunshine, any month of the year, as I couldn’t fail to notice when I lived there. The general rule seems to be: the bigger, the better. As well as providing crucial protection for your eyes from the potentially damaging rays of the sun, sunglasses up-cool any outfit so are a must have accessory.

6. Matt Face Powder

No matter how well you apply your makeup in the morning, a high temperature can have it all slipping and sliding off your face in no time at all and leaving it shiny. This is not a look most of us aspire to, so setting your morning makeup with pressed or loose powder can help make it last a little longer and re-applying the powder a couple of times a day is a must. I like to start with a mineral powder foundation in the morning such as Lily Lolo’s.

I hope you found these tips useful and would love to hear any of your own. How do you stay feeling cool and chic during the warmest part of the year? Please do answer with a comment below 🙂

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