The Angelicscalliwags Challenge: Week 4

I had a rare moment of self-awareness this week.  Not spending (copious) amounts of money on coffee brings a certain clarity of thought.  In a life where this is an infrequent occurrence I grabbed hold of it (this new self-awareness), and after introducing myself to it I found myself mulling it over during the week and came to the rather disturbing conclusion that I am somewhat of a wasteful being.  You might ask what brought about this acknowledgement and why, oh, why did I deem it necessary to ruminate over all week?  I happened upon this blog.  Whilst not entirely my cup of tea, having much in it about South End Politics, its author is incredibly likeable for her sheer grit and lack of inhibitions saying it as it is, or was in this case.  A year ago she and her two-year old son were surviving off very little money and she had to feed the two of them with £10 per week.  She often went without food so her son could eat.  And here I am bemoaning the fact that I can’t now buy my lattes in order to pay off our mortgage (in the interests of honesty I was spending between £10-£15, occasionally more a week on fresh coffee).  Do I know how blessed I am?  Actually, I really do.  But it put some things into perspective for me.  Every day I have a choice.  I can spend money or not.  Jack (the lady who wrote the blog) had no choice.  It is the choice which makes the journey more palatable and in some ways exciting.  I have a goal which is to be debt free and owning our own house.  Jack’s goal was one of survival and I’m sure she is one of many all over Britain.

That being said my goal remains the same.  Being out of debt can only be a good thing.  In addition there is a very specific reason Gary and I are doing this, which I have not shared (one day maybe).  But instead of being a namby-pamby I’m going to emulate Jack and get myself some mettle.  Where from I know not, but find it I will.  This has been altogether too easy so far.  Julie made a comment a couple of weeks ago saying this project would really make me think hard about where each penny goes.  She was right.  I have isolated  two glaringly obvious ways our family can save a lot of money straight away if we only had some self-control.  One was my coffee habit, which is now no longer and the other is our snack habit at night-time.  Have you noticed how both are to do with putting something in my mouth?  Sigh.  It explains a lot.

The challenge is on to pay off our mortgage in 2 1/2 years (mad goal) or in 5 years (sane goal).

For the rest of the posts in this series see here

How did we do this week?

What with chickens, car insurance, household insurance and the village fair I really didn’t think we would be able to do it.  But I’ve got grit now (or at least I’m making a concerted effort trying to find some) so I just went ahead and transferred over the money to our mortgage account and I will endeavour to find ways to cut in order not to go overdrawn next week.  So yes we did put away £100 to pay off our mortgage but it was done with prayer and hope.

What have we been doing this week?

The most thrilling thing by far has to be the chickens, of which we have three.  We had arranged to collect them on Friday at 320pm.  By about 8am that morning excitement had reached fever pitch.  The children were slightly on edge all day as they tried hard not to let it get the better of them  They failed of course.  They’re only 10.  I’m 38 and persistently fail at keeping my excitement over the smallest things in check, so I didn’t really expect them to manage.  At last we picked the birds up, brought them home, put them in their pod and left them there for an hour to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings.  An hour!  Do you realise how long an hour is to children who had waited all day for their hens?  One hour later (to the second) we all trooped outside to let the chickens out and to see what we could see.  We stood in breathless anticipation waiting for our new egg providers to hop out.  Only them didn’t.  After about 15 minutes, waiting had become a bit samey for the children and they gave up all hope and wandered back inside again.  A huge anti-climax to their day!

What have the children been up to?

Apart from almost meeting their untimely end by exploding with excitement over the above chickens, much has been going on behind the scenes.  T11 now has black currants and raspberries beginning to form.

His peas are doing well; we have had his marigold petals on our salads twice this week and his tonics continue to brew on the kitchen window sill, alarmingly  looking  more like urine as each day passes.  He has decided to branch out into dried herbs.  Not one to sit on his laurels when he has a cunning plan, he took some cuttings and hung them up on the beams above our dining room table.  Ten minutes later, after he checked them for the bazillioneth time, he asks how long it will take.  After hearing it could take a few days he sighed.  More waiting.

Drying herbs to crush
Drying herbs to crush

C10 has worked like the Trojans to get an area in our garden prepared for the hens.  I’m liking this new work ethic and may have to seriously consider using chickens as a bribery for more hard work in the future.  I know, I am a corrupted parent.  Anything that works, right?

C10's very shy hens
C10’s very shy hens

L11 has flowers and is picking.  She is in L10 heaven and a very happy bunny.

What have I been up to?

I gave up coffee.  Frankly I think that is more than enough to contend with in one week.  I had a headache and was (a very tiny bit) grumpy for a couple of days, but surprisingly I haven’t really craved it.  I began drinking it shortly after B2 was born, to keep me awake and get me through the day after 15+ night wakings from our new blessing.  I was exhausted and coffee helped.  Gary, until he learnt of the dangers a few months ago, was drinking caffeine based fizzy drinks to help him.  You do what you have to.  Now she pretty much sleeps through, so really it is a good time to give up as the need for it isn’t there anymore.  A wonderful friend offered to fund my coffee habit so I could concentrate on the mortgage.  Thank you Hillary for such a thoughtful offer!  My mum is donating a latte once a week when we go for our grocery shop together.  This I thought would be wonderful and it was.  All this to say I had one latte yesterday (heaven!) but I have spent no money on coffee at all and have saved Gary and I £15 per week, £780 per year and over five years £3900.  Gulp!

I made the laundry liquid and have used it a couple of times with seemingly great success.  I will post the recipe if it continues to work.  Thanks Tonyia!

I think the biggest change this week has been in my attitude.  I have seen things as they are.  It is no surprise to me that I focused on making my own products instead of stopping certain habits which could save me much more than home-made products ever could.  I mean, who doesn’t want to dabble in making things? And who on earth would get excited about giving up some of life’s little pleasures?  However, Jack’s blog made me see the wood for the trees.  I have a choice and I intend to choose wisely.  This is not forever. In fact, if we straighten our backs and apply ourselves, it may only be for 2 1/2 years.

Frugal Tip #4

Don’t ever buy chickens!

Yesterday we spent £84 on three birds and all the paraphernalia they need.  If we had needed to buy the housing as well we would have been set back a further £380 at least.  They are going to have to lay a whole heap of eggs to pay that back!

What am I reading?

Apart from Jack’s blog, I have been perusing the Economides blog, which is linked to their book.

If I take one thing away from all their advice it would be to decrease the amount of times we go shopping.  They go once a month, which would require more organisational skills than I currently possess.  Although I shop once a week with my mum, Gary is often sent to the local shops in-between our weekly shops, for snacks and milk (we get through an inordinate amount of milk a week!).  Reducing the amount of times he goes out will be one of my goals this week.

A blogging friend of mine very kindly sent me some information about a company she works for, who also operate in the UK.  Unfortunately I didn’t meet the social networking criteria but I thought it might be helpful for other stay at home mums out there to make a bit of money.  Ashley writes:

The one that I am now working for is called Leapforce.  I have no idea if they are solely a US company or if they have international companies as well.  Their web address is: .  In a nutshell, you rate websites and web searches.  It is very boring, I won’t lie.  However, you sit down at your own computer to do this at any hour of the day that you want for as long (or little) as you want.  As long as you complete 200 tasks (which has been fairly easy to do in less than 10 hours per month) for every rolling 30 days.  I guess I should state that I don’t get any compensation for telling you this ( so as not to raise the ol’ red flag), but just wanted to share it from one mom to the next.  I know there are never enough hours in the day to get done what I would like to get done, but I find that I can find a little time every other night or so to do some work after the kids go to bed.

Ashley has said that if anyone has any questions she would be happy to help.  There are no set up fees or selling and other home-schoolers have used it as a reputable company.

I am not in a position to recommend this company as I have had no dealings with it, but I have also seen it mentioned by other home-schoolers as being a good work from home option.  Proceed at your own risk!!

What will we be doing next week? 

  • My main goal is to spend the pennies only when I have nothing in the house that I can use instead.  This will include everything from food, to household products, to schooling materials.  No money will be spent unless it is necessary to do so.
  • Controlled snacking(!)

I will be interested to see if this change in attitude actually keeps any pennies from being spent.  We’ll see.  I think the challenge is about to get a bit harder for all concerned!


  1. Claire, once again I am filled with appreciation for the way you write! I’m always interested in what you write about but really I think you could write about breeze blocks and I’d still be riveted.
    I love how when we focus on a challenge we always get more out of it than we originally thought (self-insight in particular usually!).
    Thanks for brightening my day, as usual!

  2. There are far too many blogs out there that sparkle in the glow of the photo-shopped ‘life’ that they portray and that we often think is real… and then end up comparing with our lives full of everything that doesn’t sparkle… your blog and your honesty are so refreshing Claire. I am so grateful I stumbled across it! I have always had a deep-seated desire to own chickens… I grew up in the ‘platteland’ (Afrikaans for country) and we had a smallholding. If I had been there I promise you I would have scaled RIGHT over you, your kids and anyone else in the way to get to see those chickens! I am truly loving this series. We are now attempting to get together a rather enormous amount of Pounds and with the sorry state of the Rand it is proving a challenge that we actually will not make on our own if it were not for God. So I am following AVIDLY all the tips and frugal hints you are putting up. Well done to your young man on his gardening endeavours. Before I studied Nursing (and even after) I had a few businesses (tiny but my own) and you cannot believe the valuable life lesson you are teaching him. If only more people would realise that if they have LIFE and are physically able, they are able to make a life for themselves. Entrepeneurship is a skill that children need to be taught very early. Well done!!!

    1. Thanks Liezel. You are very blessed to have grown up in the country. As a child I always dreamt of living in the middle of nowhere, and that dream hasn’t waned with time. Thankfully Gary feels the same way, so maybe someday….

  3. I lreally enjoy reading your thoughts about this whole project! I’m loving reading a real person’s take on cutting costs for a goal.

    I’m also in awe of your cutting out coffee…..when I think about maybe giving it up, I start to imagine myself crumbling to dust in a shrieking vortex like the guy at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.

    1. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be (my children may beg to differ!). The guilt I felt at spending the same amount on coffee as Jack had to spend on food for herself and her little boy may have had something to do with it though….

  4. Thanks for sharing so much insight of your project, Claire. I’ve often contemplated about keeping chicken but the set up cost is too high to justify it, even though the experience of owning chicken and collecting the eggs are much better than just getting them from the shops. That’s a lot of saving from your coffee, by the way. 🙂

    1. I know! It’s a bit embarrassing to even have to admit it! You can understand maybe why Jack’s blog affected me so much. I spend more on coffee than she did on food! Yikes!!

  5. I love the fact that I can picture the events as they happen in your house. It’s always good to laugh and I really laughed out loud this morning as I read about the antics. Glad G37 has given up the drinks. They’re bad news. Looking forward to hearing how things go with the chicks. Love to you all. xxxxxxx

  6. I feel the same was as Lucinda – always interested in what you write! I can’t relate to a need for coffee, but certainly to realizing I spend more on perhaps trivial things than others do on the basic necessities, which can be rather humbling. Love reading about T11s ingenuity with herbs and can”t wait to hear about how things work out with the chickens!

  7. Wow, what a week you’ve had! And all without coffee?!
    chickens are so fun, and entertaining. enjoy them! the eggs will be wonderful. I know, there’s debate on whether they pay for themselves, but I think it’s worth it.
    We have raspberries and dewberries coming on. So exciting!
    Tell your son the dried herbs are soooo worth the wait. We dry basil every year and I love love love it.
    (stopping by via Hearts for Home bloghop)

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