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Guest Post: How we cut more than £10k from our annual spending!

How we cut more than £10k from our annual spending, without even noticing!

Guest Post from Ryan Storey – How we cut more than £10k from our annual spending, without even noticing. I have been blogging for a while now at kakeibo about cost saving strategies and generally living a frugal lifestyle, but it wasn’t until a friend really challenged me on the benefits of these strategies, that I actually took the time to work out the overall impact to our family finances. I was absolutely blown away when I added it all up! There were some strategies that I was really pleased with when I found them, that honestly didn’t amount to much when I added them up over the year, but the cumulative saving came to £10k and I almost couldn’t believe it. I’ve outlined the strategies below so hopefully others can benefit from these too. I found it very useful putting them all together in one place, like a warm fuzzy metaphorical pat on the back, maybe you should try doing the same and give yourself some well-deserved credit too!

How We Cut More Than £10k From Our Annual Spending

Before I get into the detail, it is probably helpful to have a bit of a background to give these some context. I have briefly outlined our situation below:

  • Age: 32
  • Married with two children – my daughter is 3 and my son is 4 months old
  • Essentially a single income family, my wife stays at home with the kids, but does do a bit of work around pre-school times as a PA from home
  • I work in London and commute about an hour every day
  • I am an accountant, with a passion for financial education, seeing the benefit it has brought me so far
  • I am constantly shopping around and thinking of ways to save money – I treat it like a game
  • We have had significant debt in the past ~ £35k, which we have now predominantly paid off – more on that later…

I think it is important to say that the savings that we make are reinvested in other things, like home improvements and maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. There is a common misconception that living frugally equates to living like a pauper. The key for us is maintaining a lifestyle that we can afford, being more disciplined about each purchase we make, but living the life that we want to live. It is a fine balance, because like dieting, if the life you build is not sustainable long-term, then you are more likely to slip back into bad habits.

The B word…

I feel like I need to start with a brief bit about budgeting and monitoring finances – many people have a budget, but what is often missed is regular monitoring of your spending against your budget, both within the month and following the month, to ensure that you are staying within your means. I see budgeting as past, present and future.


I review expenditure following the month compared with the budget and revise my budget going forward if things are changing, i.e. fuel prices going up and spending more, I make an adjustment for that. The budget is only as good as the day you set it, you need to keep tweaking it to make it reasonably accurate. I also use this to categorise expenditure and then start working through each item and seeing if I can either cut down, or get a better deal. That is basically how I found most of the strategies in the first place, i.e. being motivated to go and do some shopping around. 


Ensuring that you stay within your means and budget, results in avoiding borrowing money to see you through the month. I update our budget vs. actual during the month at least once per week, and reign in spending if it is getting out of control. This could be a time consuming exercise, but last year I transitioned all of our budgeting and monitoring from a basic spreadsheet, to a cloud-based accounting package called Xero. It downloads your bank transactions and using AI categorises most for you to just review and accept, which has automated a huge amount of this process and given me back about 12 full days per year when I add up the time saving. The subscription does cost me money (approx. £60), but based on the savings below, assistance in keeping us in our budget and the time saving, this was an investment I was willing to make.


I run a rolling 12 month budget and deliberately budget monthly so that costs like holiday, birthdays, Xmas and other big outlays such as car service etc. are captured in the proper months. This helps me work out what I need to save each month to make sure that I am then not short in those months. This also helps me to forecast for other transactions that we are planning and see if it is feasible, like buying a sofa, or washing machine for example. It is better to work out that it is not possible in a spreadsheet, than signing up and realising that you have run out of money!

For more on budgeting, check out our detailed blog post at -> I’ve made a Budget, why do I still have no money?

Our cost cutting strategies – tried and tested!

So, without further ado, here is a summary of our cost cutting strategies in no particular order and the total that they will save us over the coming year:

Caveat: Some of these are specific to our circumstances and won’t be possible for all, but the concept remains the same – if it is a big cost, think about how you could save money, even if that is just changing your routine or behaviour. 

Mobile phones – this is my favourite, as previously there just weren’t really any options to reduce this cost drastically unless you could afford to buy your phone outright (or chose to not have a smartphone of course…). The other reason I have been raving about it to friends and family is because of the way that contracts have been sold in the past does not clearly demonstrate how much you are ending up paying for the phone, which I think is unfair to the consumer. Using, I will have saved £150 on my phone this year (£300 over the life of the contract), but I will also use for my wife when her contract is up in September too, which will save another £50 this year.

Razors and shaving – I was fed up with how much I was spending on razors and shaving stuff, so I shopped around and now have a King of Shaves subscription, saving me £44 per year. It also comes in the post, so you don’t even have to think about it!

National Insurance refund – it is a good idea to check your payslip, especially if you have changed employers in the tax year like I have. I realised that I had overpaid National Insurance by £261. National insurance is often overlooked, as it is not dealt with on a cumulative basis by your employer if you are under the PAYE scheme. I had to call and write to HRMC, but it is worth it if you can get some money back! This is also a reason to run a tight budget, as it will show up when you are comparing forecast to actual on a monthly basis. 

Multi-car insurance – I shopped around for insurance when my wife’s car was up for renewal, exploring multi-car policies and taking into account the £50 I had to pay to get out of the pre-existing separate insurance I had on my car, I will have saved £622 this year.

Parking for work – I commute to work and have to drive to my local train station, parking at the train station costs £12 per week, but I get up a bit earlier and manage to park on a nearby side street (they would all be taken if I didn’t go earlier), saving £500 per year. Who says the early bird doesn’t catch the worm?!

Train travel – I realised that on renewing my season ticket that if I made a slight tweak to my destination, I would no longer need to pay for tube fares getting to my office. It means that I need to walk a short distance, but that is more than worth it considering I will now save £1,360 over the next year!

Lunches for work – I either make my lunch everyday, or take leftovers (also reducing food waste), but on average cost no more than £1 per day. Before I was spending £5 per day, therefore this is a saving of £900 per year.

Coffee on my commute – I have a coffee on the way to work each morning (I’m up early to get that parking space remember), but since getting a KeepCup for Xmas and taking a coffee from home instead, I will now save £400 this year as a result.

Nappies for my newborn son – we use ‘subscribe and save’ through Amazon saving £38 per year.

Childcare vouchers£300 saved on pre-school fees before my daughter got the free hours, by getting the childcare vouchers through my employer and therefore saving the tax on my pay.

TV & broadband – saved £43 over the year, but managed to upgrade Sky to Sky Q and broadband to fibre on BT Infinity – I could have chosen to just get a discount on my Sky HD package instead, which I negotiated down to 50% off, for a saving of £300 per year, but decided to reinvest it instead. Broadband is one of life’s necessities after all…

Home insurance – shopped around for my home insurance and will save £90 this year by going through John Lewis Insurance. 

Groceries – we shop at Aldi where possible, we do still have to get some things elsewhere, but we save approx. £1,000 over the year as a result. Plus, you get a workout trying to pack your own bags as the checkout assistant fires things through at break-neck speed!

Meal wheel – for my wife’s baby shower present, instead of getting baby ‘stuff’ her best friend set up a ‘meal wheel’, which is basically your friends making you dinners and bringing them over in the first few weeks after the baby is born. It saves both time and money, which are equally important at that key time, but amounted to about £100 saved and immeasurable amounts in sanity. 

Hand me down clothes – with our first child being a girl, we would have needed to buy lots of clothes for our son, but friends and family have donated ‘hand me down’ clothes, which has already saved us at least £100, but will save us a lot more over the year as well.

Breastfeeding – my wife breastfeeds our son, which means we don’t buy formula, which will save us about £120 this year.

Leased car termination fee – I used to have a leased car through my employer. When I left last year I was required to pay a termination fee. It seemed high, so I challenged it, going all the way back to the terms and conditions after lots of arguing and doing my own calculation. They finally accepted a £500 reduction due to their “errors” in the calculation. It is important to know what you are paying for and sticking to your guns if it doesn’t seem right!

Nest thermostat and insulation – I had a Nest Thermostat installed last year, which learns your routines and how your house heats up. We used to have a basic timer on the boiler, which meant the heating was always on for 8 hours per day. Since having it installed there have been many days where it has only been on for 3 or 4 hours instead, even over the winter, giving us a comfortable environment. I will really need to run this for a whole year to determine cost savings, but I think this could help a lot. We also live in an older house, which had no insulation in large sections of the loft. I did some research and insulated it myself on a weekend. It cost me £300 for the insulation, but on average savings achieved by insulating your property can be £600+. Therefore, I estimate £200 saving (after taking into account what I spent) to be prudent over the year.

Re-mortgage – Last year we were planning on re-mortgaging our existing property, to reduce our monthly payments, take advantage of the ridiculously low interest rates and pay down credit card debt. We had the house valued as part of the process and actually ended up selling, moving to a bigger house paying off all our debt and getting a lower interest rate. It is important to say here that I used a financial advisor to help me with this process, which I would strongly recommend for any significant financial decisions like that. The result is that overall we are now £300 better off each month, therefore a saving of £3,600 over a year and have more space and a better quality of life. Much less of our hard earned cash goes into making interest payments.

Drum roll for the net total saving over the next year…..£10,318!

Hopefully you too can utilise some of these and make savings yourself. Are there any great cost saving strategies that I have missed? Let us know and get involved with the conversation on social media:


Twitter: @puzzlingpieces

Instagram: @kakeibo_gram

Thank you Ryan for your great post. If you have any amazing ways to save money then do leave us a comment with your suggestions or pop over to Ryan’s site for more tips. 


Fun Summer Activities to Do at Home

Fun Summer Activities to Do at Home By Ty Schmidt

It’s something everyone always told me would happen, but I didn’t believe until it happened to me. My dear 18-month-old son has developed into something they all said he would. A sponge. From the ground up, that is what he is on a daily basis. He picks up everything, from words and actions to a general understanding of all things happening around him. And while this is super (just what any parent of a toddler longs for during those sleepless nights of newborn-hood), it comes with its fair share of considerations.

Among them is how best to keep this young mind occupied with all things learning while he’s awake. He still sleeps enough to make most adults envy him, but how do you engage him while he’s awake. If your answer is PBS Kids or Disney Junior, you’re not alone. But you shouldn’t have to live that way, and neither should your toddler. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with Doc McStuffins, Mickey Mouse, the Wild Kratts, or Curious George. Each show has its own empirical charm. Yet there is more you can be doing with these warm summer days than learning how George most efficiently packages a grocery bag.

Summer Activities for kids

Live a little this summer by keeping these fun summer activities in mind:

DIY season. With the exception of the dead of winter when literally nothing else is going on, summer is one of the best times to get those creative juices flowing. Siphon them into something meaningful with a do-it-yourself theme to at least one day a week this summer. It doesn’t even have to be the same day. Just choose one day a week when you indulge in all things creative (like a homemade water slide) and really bring it to life.

Summer loving. For most of us, summer is a time that involves making the most of water. As a Midwesterner, one comes to appreciate the water of summer, be it in pools, water balloons, water tables or basically any form. Find ways to embrace the simplicity of water this summer. You won’t regret it.

Camp comes home. Channel your inner child and embrace what he or she shares with you about fun things you did to stay occupied in the summer months. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but things like a family campout in the backyard or family game night outside can fill those hot summer nights with a purpose that breathes life into everything you do.

Get cooking. I didn’t cook much with my mother growing up, and I wish I had. While I refuse to live vicariously through my children, I have already decided to involve them more in the food preparation for our family as they grow old enough to understand the purpose behind what they’re doing. From chopping the ingredients to a fresh homemade salsa, to understanding what grows in our garden, it is never too young to start teaching little ones about where food comes from and the importance of eating well.

For more ideas and inspiration, head to Fun Summer Activities to Do at Home

Guest Post: Bump to Breastfeeding in Style

Bump to Breastfeeding in Style – my top tips

Emma Downie, full-time mum to Elsa (2yrs) and founder of Milk & Mummy, stylish online maternity and breastfeeding clothes boutique, shares her tips for being a stylish mummy.

1.      Don’t shy away from bold colours while you’re pregnant – embrace them! This is a time when most women feel really confident about their figures and a bright bump looks fabulous. I love our Hattie dress  which looks equally great on the beach with flip flops or glammed up with heels for a wedding.

Milk and Mummy Hattie Dress

2.     During the last few months of your pregnancy choose dresses and tops that are fitted, rather than A-line, over your bump as they do tend to be more flattering. This is why our Clarisse top is perfect as it has a gathered band at the hem which clings around your hips to give you extra definition.

3.     When it comes to breastfeeding, regardless or not of whether you own nursing clothes, think about how you’re going to feed in your clothes before you leave the house. This might sound obvious but I know a few mums who got caught short out and about and had to find a changing room to feed in as they had to remove their entire dress to feed their baby!

4.     I’m bound to say this but it’s true: breastfeeding clothes will make your life simpler, so invest in a few. It doesn’t have to be many items; just one fabulous everyday dress and a couple of flattering tops can make a huge difference. They might seem expensive at first, but when you consider how intensively you will wear them when you are breastfeeding, the cost per wear is actually quite reasonable. And beware, not all nursing clothes have fuss-free nursing access. Test the nursing access before you buy and make sure it’s easy to operate one-handed! This is my must have nursing summer capsule wardrobe:

Milk and Mummy

Alice dress

Milk and Mummy

Nancy vest top

Milk and Mummy

Gemma top

5.     Accessorize! This is the cleverest way to update and revitalise that top you seem to wear most days! But avoid dangly jewellery for obvious reasons. Scarves are fantastic for nursing mums. They brighten up an ordinary outfit and can also give you some extra modesty when feeding in public. A bold, statement ring looks great and can also be a reminder of which side to feed from next – just swap it to your other hand after a feed. If you wear bracelets go for stretchy ones or leather cuffs as they are softer around a newborn.







Creative Ideas for Toddlers

Guest Post by Paul from

Creative ideas for toddlers

Early childhood is a vital point in life when it comes to your child’s social, intellectual and emotional development.

A large percentage of learning will take place in the first 6 years of your child’s life. Your child’s capability to learn will continue for the course of their life but will not be as intense as it is in these years.

As a parent what you do and what you expose your children to will have a major effect on their development, they need positive learning experiences to aid with development and what will effectively be the foundation for further educational progress.

In the past art has not been seen as a fundamental part of the educational process, more of a treat or leisure activity but in the more recent years it has come to light the importance of basic creative activities and learning to understand and value visual elements that are now essential parts of the building blocks for your child’s future development.

Visual Learning:

Most of what we learn estimated at 80% is from what we see; Drawing, sculpting with clay or creating a collage all help develop visual and spatial skills.

For example most toddlers these days would be able to operate a smart phone or tablet all before they can even read a sentence. This is all achieved through the child taking in visual information be it a colour, a picture or both and associating it with an action.

Hands and fingers are the best place to start when it comes to art tools, then it will be on to the brushes, crayons and chalks.

It’s not advised to rush your child into creating anything particular. Allowing them to choose what they would like will actively encourage decision making and individuality. It is also a good idea to let them play with pliable material such as play dough or clay which can be bent, rolled or shaped in to pretty much anything, developing reasoning and think skills and creativity.

Our Djeco Light Clay Super Heroes is a fantastic creative light modelling clay kit from the Djeco art and craft range, perfect for the younger children.

Djeco Light Clay Super Heroes uses the colourful cardboard pieces which can be stuck into the naturally drying modelling clay to create enjoyable Super Hero characters. The light clay included in this modelling kit is easy to work with so young children can easily make shapes, Straightforward fun to keep them entertained for hours and increase their creativity and visual learning.

Motor Skills:

When it comes to motor skills a lot of the movements used in the making of art, for instance scrawling with chalk or crayon, holding a paintbrush or cutting shapes out are all essential areas when it comes to your child’s fine motor skill development.

Using scissors will help develop your child’s dexterity which will ultimately be needed for writing. Drawing with chalk or crayons is ideal for gaining skills in holding and grasping as well as increasing their visual insight and imagination but always a good idea to limit the variety of colours so at the same time not overwhelming them.

Djeco Animals cut outs are a fantastic activity for younger children. Each of the animal pictures have dotted lines around to guide. Simply cut around the dotted lines for lots of pictures that can be used for making mobiles, creating scenes with paper and glue or even labels for presents.

Encouraging concentration and hand to eye co-ordination perfect for developing motor skills the Djeco Animal cut outs make a perfect small gift or party bag filler. The Djeco set comes in a beautiful little box to store your cut outs and contains 50 images to cut out.

Decision Making:

Art education has now been proven to improve critical-thinking and strengthen problem-solving skills.

The experience gained when creating a piece of art when having to make decisions

When it comes to making a piece of art there will be a lot of decision making involved in the process providing plenty of experience exploring, thinking, experimenting and trying new ideas all of which will benefit your child in all future aspects of life.

Permitting your child to make these choices lets you show respect for their opinion at the same time not losing your position as the parent.

Practicing basic choice making will eventually lead to your young ones being able to take control of their own lives. If your child is not allowed to make these decisions now, they might not be able when it really counts.

The Melissa and Doug Blue Colouring Book is ideal, allowing your child to choose not just what to colour in but what colours it’s going to be. The jumbo multi themed colouring pad has 50 pictures printed on high quality bonded paper. Ideal for crayons, markers, paints and pencils.

Dinosaurs, vehicles, football, pirates, princesses and many more themed pictures to colour.

If you found this information useful and want to see more products ideal for inspiring your child’s creativity why not visit our site

Guest Post: Dealing with Nose Picking habit in toddlers

Guest post by Amanda Kidd on Dealing with a Nose Picking Habit in Toddlers.

I was largely upset at my child’s annoying nose picking habit. He started to pick anytime, anywhere. Dealing with the habit was even more embarrassing in front of the guests, or any public place for that matter. Then, I thought of consulting his pediatrician (although I was reluctant due to my apparent stupidity!). I was relieved to know that this habit would go away gradually. However, careful monitoring should accompany at all stages, before he gives up the habit completely.

Like the many pesky toddler habits, nose picking is one that usually goes with time. However, when it is there, you may want to remove it. It is quite often that you can find a child nose picking, only to raise a frown form the parents (the mothers may better reveal this skill). You may feel humiliated by this act of your child. However, before you jerk your child’s finger out or try out any of the “not so advisable acts”, know the reason for nose picking. You would be at the rescue end when you know the cause behind such a taboo activity.

Rhinotillexomania (nose picking in Greek) can be due to many reasons. Your child can pick the nose due to an infection or allergy. Alternatively, it can be simply done due to stress, nervousness, curiosity or a pass time. You should determine the exact cause for your child. If there is an allergy or infection, medical advice is necessary. Habitual nose picking is a risky behavior and demands caution. It can cause harm to the blood supply, which is shared by the brain. Medical advice directs to avoid any infection near the “danger triangle” (area from the corners of the mouth to the nose bridge, together with the nose and maxilla). This condition, however, rarely arises due to the usual nose picking habit.

Usually, nose picking goes away as kids begin to grow. You can help them combat the habit by referring to the harm it can do. You can simply say that it could cause bleeding (kids are particularly conscious about blood). Distract your child when he/she shows picking tendency. You may direct him to play his favorite game of finger puppets. If the child acts a little stubborn, take him/her to the pediatrician. Let your doctor do some detailed talking; kids usually abide by what the doctor says. You may ask your child to use tissues instead of the finger. Children with allergies have a feel of heavy flow of mucus and crusting. This attracts them to pick their nose. Changes in environmental conditions can direct kids to pick. Use a humidifier if that is the case.

Pressuring the child to stop nose picking may worsen the situation. More than often, it has been found that toddlers enjoy doing something, which they are told not to do. Triggering a power struggle will only make the situation worse. Be patient! When you get an indication for the picking tendency, divert the child’s attention. Distracting the child’s attention is not quite difficult if you are careful enough while dealing with them. You can engage his/her fingers for some productive work (give a rubber ball to squeeze at or a puzzle to make). Ask him/her to slowly blow the nose if it irritates. Sometimes, a nasal spray is helpful in treating a nasal congestion. Keep the hands of your child clean by washing with a proper soap and water. This would minimize the possibility of getting any external infection (through dirty hands). Trimming the nails on a regular basis is also helpful in avoiding germs getting onto the child’s body. Ask your child to use a handkerchief whenever he/she feels like picking the nose. You can also ask him/her to use the bathroom. This would also discourage the habit as the child may refrain from the repeated discomfort of visiting the bathroom.

Repeatedly convey the message that nose picking is not good. Your child will get the message when the same thing is said continuously. It is important that even if all your efforts fail, you do not give up. Your child will combat the habit at the appropriate stage.

About the author: Amanda Kidd is an avid writer and blogger. She loves kids and hence, amongst all, parenting excites her the most. She also writes on different aspects associated with cancer like cancer care and various cancer treatments.