Making the road to success less bumpy

How I saved money on maternity leave, or my top ten tips for hoarding, washing, and visiting posh parts on Mondays

Walk into a supermarket and you’ll immediately be hit by advertising promising buy-one-get-one-free, discounted and half price offers, to the point where it can even feel, well, like they’re acting a tiny bit desperate. The odd thing is that we know the supermarkets are out to make extra money out of us, but we’re going along with it. So what do you do if you really need to save money on your shopping, long-term? My top ten tips for hoarding, washing, and visiting posh parts on Mondays are below, but first, some rules, if you want them.

1. Some don’ts and won’ts. Don’t buy stuff you won’t use, even if it’s on special offer. Don’t buy stuff you dislike just because it’s cheap. Don’t buy stuff you won’t have room to store even if you use it all the time.

2. Don’t take my word for it. I’m not an expert, I’ve just done this before. Get some advice from experts like Martin Lewis. You can see his 30 tips for supermarket shopping here including the downshift challenge, where you find the item you usually buy and downshift to a cheaper one. (If you usually buy branded baked beans, go for own brand, for instance.) His advice on how to stop spending is here. Scroll down to print out his Money Mantra card.

3. Get into the list-making habit! Do the basics. Make a menu, make a shopping list, know your budget, know what you need to buy regularly, follow Martin’s Money Mantra!

4. Quadratic equations anyone? Do a bit of maths. ‘Can you get it for £1?’ is a good rule of thumb when scanning the shelves, but then you’ve got to ask if £1 represents good value. Offers aren’t always good ones. Is it worth buying two – when you end up spending more – in order to save 20p, for instance? And work out how much something is by volume – the shelf ticket usually tells you. If your bottle of hand-wash is £2 for 500ml and therefore 40p per 100ml, that’s cheaper than the 150ml bottle for ‘only’ £1. On the other hand, a bar of soap is cheaper still.

5. Want Christmas dinner for 10p? You’ll have to work at it! We probably have to accept that we’re not going to beat them at the game they play, unless we’re very savvy and put a considerable amount of time into it, like teenager Jordan Cox. He managed to buy Christmas dinner for 10p but he put time into doing it. Supermarkets save us time by putting everything we want to buy in one place. You’ll have a different (and more interesting) experience shopping on the high street, but it will take longer. How much do you cost per hour? Is it worth spending time and money travelling across town to a different supermarket, or spending ages online, in order to get something £2 cheaper? On the other hand maybe wandering the high street or doing lots of treasure hunting online is worth it because it’s fun.

Bearing all that in mind, here’s how I saved some money during my maternity leave: my top ten tips for hoarding, washing, and visiting posh parts on Mondays.

Put your hoarding habit to good use. We happened to have a carnivorous Continue reading

How to find a creative job

Ten small steps you can take today

  1. Join twitter and follow lots of your favourite organisations. For writers that might be NAWE, English Pen, Arvon, Spread the Word, and the Poetry Society, for example. Continue reading

Small Steps Novel Writing

Here’s an extract from my ebook on novel writing. Essentially it applies the Small Steps Method to planning a novel:

What does it take to write a novel?

Most novelists (those you can get to talk about it!) will tell you that writing a novel involves 7 main tasks:

  • Finding inspiration, that is: practicing your craft, reading, observing.
  • Planning, that is: deciding what to write, either in great detail or in an unformed way.
  • Writing, that is: getting words down on the page.
  • Editing, that is: playing around with your material until you have something you like.
  • Proof-reading, that is: reading through the work to check for mechanical errors and consistency.
  • Selling, that is: pitching the work to an agent and / or an editor.
  • Marketing, that is: doing readings, writing a blog, creating a website, and doing everything you can to shift copies of your book.

They don’t all happen chronologically. I had no idea how to plan a novel Continue reading

Niggles, bugs and grateful lists

Here’s a free extract from the book:

Thank you Angel Paths for reminding me to post about Grateful Lists!

The niggles and bugs exercises

  1. Write down every small niggle that annoys you, interrupts you, frustrates you or prevents you from doing what you want to do. Create some small steps to do something about any niggle that’s in your control.
  2. Keep a bugs diary. Note anything at all that bugs you. Create some small steps to help you to de-bug anything in your control. Continue reading

Small steps to £25,000

What if you needed to raise £25,000? Seems impossible, right? Break it down! and ask yourself “What could I do today?”

Better than a poke in the eye with a wet fish (or light a candle instead of cursing the darkness): Raising £25,000 is the same as raising £2,500 10 times. Break it down. Raising £2,500 is the same as raising £250 10 times. Raising £250 is the same as raising £25 10 times. (And of course, if you happen to be raising money for a good cause, asking everyone you know to ask everyone they know to give £2.50 is better than a poke in the eye with a wet fish.)

How to make £250 this week What could you do today, tomorrow, the day after that? The prospect of saving up a large amount can be daunting, but you’ve got to start somewhere and I bet you could do one of these:

  1. Find something in your house worth £25 that you don’t use to auction online.
  2. Look at your bank account and make a saving of £25 by cancelling a subscription or membership you don’t use.
  3. Save £25 on your shopping by making a shopping list, Continue reading

Looking after a baby small steps

I’m a beginner when it comes to parenting. Ever since getting pregnant 2 1/2 years ago I’ve been learning on the job. Here are my top twenty looking after a baby / toddler small steps – the things I wish I’d known in advance:

  1. Music works brilliantly in lots of situations: sleeping, calming, playing.
  2. When another parent offers you a bag full of old towels and you wonder what you’ll use them for: say yes.
  3. Get loads of muslin squares.
  4. The baby world is awash with people trying to sell you stuff you don’t need. Find out about the equipment you really need and do some price comparison. Use the Continue reading


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