The Angelicscalliwags Challenge: Week 1

Be still my beating heart.
Be still my beating heart.

Sorry, snapped that photo yesterday and I couldn’t resist.   The children are so blessed to have Gary as their father.

For the rest of the posts in this series see here

So the angelicscalliwag challenge is to pay off our mortgage early.  Why on earth is this on a home school blog?  There is a reason I have chosen to include this on my blog, which will become clearer as the months pass.  Without giving away too many specifics, here are our goals and a few figures (but not too many!)

Primary Goal: To pay off our mortgage by the end of 2017

Whopping, great unrealistic, but might happen if we throw heart and soul into it goal: To pay off our mortgage by the end of 2015 (the year Gary turns 40.  I turn 40 the year before so that wasn’t really an option!)

Short term goal to help bring about longer term goals: To pay off an additional £3000 ($4500) by the end of 2013.  For some this may seem like nothing.  For us it is enormous.  In order to do it we need to find about £100 per week.  Gasp!  We are already paying back double the amount we were paying before Christmas, and that has been hard.  Finding any extra money will be tricky.

Which leads us to…

Very short term goal in order to bring about short term goal: Save £100 per week in real money, which on a Friday we transfer to our mortgage account

Being of the personality who can get overwhelmed by the big picture, my whole life is reduced to a series of small pictures.  Far more manageable!  My very short term goal is my small picture.  Each week I will only concentrate on that, and how much I managed to put into the account that particular week.  I will also share tips on how I managed it.  Once a month I will number crunch and allow myself (and you) a peek at the bigger picture.

What we have been doing this week

  • Setting up our tithe by direct debit so we are not tempted to forgo it.
  • Setting aside an amount for giving to others to bless them.  This sounds very sweet of us, yes?  But we do it, in fact, for less selfless reasons.  When we are sticking to a close budget (which we have needed to in the past when we were in Ireland)  we know from experience that sometimes the budget can start to matter more than the people.  This is squewed thinking on our behalf!  So putting this blessing money aside at the beginning of each month will prevent history repeating itself.
  • Ensure any small individual debts are paid.  I can think of one very small one.  We want to start this owing no one but the bank.

Yes but Claire, have you actually saved any money?  Well, yes we have.  We put £100 towards our mortgage yesterday.  This is how we did it this week:

  • I saved £85 on groceries and shopped my pantry.  We’re all out now so I’ll need to think of something new next week! Money saved: £85
  • Cutting down miscellaneous expenses.  These are things we buy, which whilst nice are not necessary.  Money saved: £15

Because of the extremely low grocery budget, only made possible by a few stock piled items, this week has been quite simple.  We have little food in our pantry and our fridge and freezer are almost empty!  Next week will be a little harder, I’m sure.

Plans for next week

  • This week I want to reduce our grocery budget by £30.  Our grocery shop includes food for 7 people (one a growing boy who eats as if there is no bottom to his stomach, and Gary, who works at a fairly heavy manual job and requires large meals, and me.  I just eat a lot!); food and bedding for 2 cats, 1 dog, 2 rabbits and 2 fish; and all our cleaning and beauty products.  This is where the bulk of our savings will be made, but gradually. Possible savings: £30
  • Since the cancer, Gary and I decided to have a baby sitter in order for us to spend a bit more time with each other.  We both feel it is a luxury we can easily do without and in many ways prefer being snuggled up at home.  Baby sitter cost: £15  Cost of date: £20  Possible savings: £35
  • Miscellaneous items bought throughout the week.  Basic plan is to have at least three no spend days, when no money will even leave the house let alone our hands!  Possible savings £35

What are the children doing this week?

As you know the children are on board with all of this and have come up with fantastic ways to contribute to paying off our mortgage.  I’m so pleased we included them because it truly wouldn’t be so much fun without them.  (note: I’m thinking Gary might protest at my use of the word ‘fun’.  I’m not certain he thinks it’s fun exactly!  He will, give him time!).  The children however are having a ball:

  • They plan to make up a sealed jar to put all our pennies in, which we will open at the end of the year to help reach our £3000 goal
  • The girls want to start a scrap book to contain ideas for a treat for all of us if we manage to get it paid off early.  Everyone has voted on a trip around the Mediterranean!
  • Each child has come up with one very doable thing to contribute financially to our family mortgage pot, which I will share next week.

What am I reading?

The Money Secret by Rob Parsons is the book I recommend to anybody who might need a bit of financial guidance.  We read this as we were moving to Ireland and Gary was on 50% less salary.  It helped us to  not just survive but to thrive.  Simple but powerful.  And has the added bonus of being easy to read because it is in story form.  The children are going to read it next and I know they will enjoy it as much as me!

I am also browsing through this website.  A very, very frugal British woman, who has paid off tens of thousands of pounds worth of personal debt and is now making headway with her mortgage.  Full of (sometimes blunt-you have been warned!) wisdom and insights.

Frugal Tip #1

This is one of those tips I have been doing for years but for some reason unbeknown to me stopped doing last year.  It is a tip some might question if it is worth it.  I’ll show you it is.

Our family gets through one hand wash (250ml), one shower gel (250ml) and a third of a bubble bath bottle(750ml)  each week.  Each bottle costs £1.49.  They are all from the same range, it is a supermarket’s own brand and I buy it because it’s quality is very good and I love it.  Plus the fact it is olive green in colour and matches our towels (but that’s a whole different story!).  Each week this would cost us about £3.50.  However, I buy one 750ml bottle of bubble bath and decant 250ml into the old hand wash bottle and shower gel bottle, leaving me with the 250ml of bubble bath.  I spend about £1.50, saving £2.00.  Every three months or so it is on offer for £1, increasing the saving to £2.50.  Needless to say I stock up!  Again, is this worth it?  At £2.50 per week, that is £130 per year.  Over three years that is £390 and over five years it is £650.  The bubble bath we use for our hands and shower works just the same, smells heavenly and is the product we would choose to use even if we had lots of money.  We are therefore saving £650 over the five years effortlessly, and decreasing the rubbish we throw out.  To me that makes it worth it!

Impossibilities are merely things which we have not yet mastered

Charles Chesnutt

Thrifty Thursday Linky Party at!


  1. This is all really inspiring as are all your posts. Quite simply i think you are amazing and your beautiful children are simply lovely. Don’t stop the date nights though I will happily come and babysit for free and you can always just go for a walk or a post dinner coffee! Let me know whenever!!!

    God bless


  2. Keep going girl! I am avidly following all the way in South Africa. Fantastic goal to have and I am a firm believer in short term sacrifice for long term gain. GO for it!!

      1. Just something I (have) to do this side, part of my little man’s medical issues involves a tendency toward eczema due to allergies. I find bubble baths are a no-go for us and have always washed him in pure acqueous lotion. But to make the water smell nice, I have always used lavender essential oil. 5 drops to a bath and the water is so lovely. Perhaps forego the bubbles completely for the next couple months?

      2. I’ve got enough put aside to keep us in bubbles for at least 6 months but after that I might see if they’ll notice it gone!!
        When I was growing up I used lavender, so relaxing and such a lovely smell- he’s a very blessed little boy!

  3. I would have posted that picture too, it’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

    I also water down the hand soap just a hair, so it’s easier to wash off. It saves a bit more money, and a bit of water (which in turn saves a bit of money).

  4. again thank you for your inspiration, we too are thinking of paying our house before retirement and you gave me the courage to get going, one of the first thing I did about grocery shopping is to cut down on meat and various cheese which are the most expensive part of our weekly shopping, I then have to be creative with cooking because I have a hungry husband and still 4 “kids” between 19 and 24 to feed, including 2 boys…and provide enough protein for those men!!!!but I’m learning….by the way we live in Switzerland…in case you wondered…thank you so much for your blog.. God bless Myriam

    1. Thank you, Myriam. I know I will find this hard going especially cutting our food budget (we’re typical foodies in this household!), but it’s such fun to know others will be doing it alongside me!
      We can encourage each other!

  5. That’s a beautiful father-and-daughter photo! It’s always good to have a clear idea of where and how we spend our money. 🙂

  6. Love your post supermom, I am your number one fan!!! Can’t wait for your next post! Thank you I am so inspired!!

  7. This is inspirational. Looking forward to your ideas. I find going out locally, with no money, is particularly helpful in avoiding spending. Obviously, not something to try when going a distance but it does prevent us visiting the park cafe quite as often as we might otherwise!

  8. I don’t know if you are doing this already but, it was new to me and quite difficult to get used to. I live on CASH. In the past I would debit a lot or use my charge card. Now, I leave sufficient money in the bank account to pay for the automatic withdrawal items, such as my electricity/gas bill. I have opened an account at another bank, not so convenient to get to, where I deposit money once a month for savings towards car repairs, home insurance, etc. I realize this does not sound like using only cash, yet. However, I have cash on hand for groceries/household products, pet care, gasoline, “school” expenses, etc. We get paid once a month so the money has to last. Each segment gets its own “envelope” and I do NOT borrow from one to put into another if I overspend. I just do not buy then. So, I might be out of grocery money but have money in the gasoline fund. Too bad. Be creative and make do. It works for me and has done so since Jan. 2012. I have managed to pay down a lot of debt. Unfortunately, there was a lot of debt, besides the mortgage, so it will be a much longer process. Each (end of) month I look at what we have accomplished so as to be encouraged and not focus on how far we have to go.

    I, too, am feeding 7 people, one husband, one 14 year old with a hollow leg, one invalid who is a picky eater, three girls, and myself. There are all kinds of food allergies that I have to contend with – milk, soy, eggs, honey, walnuts. It can be a challenge. My grocery allotment is large, but I do not think I could pare it down any and I am not trying to, at the moment. I need these children to eat healthy and fresh fruit and vegetables can be costly, even in season. The milk/soy allergic child needs a milk substitute which costs nearly $5/litre. (I am not complaining, just explaining.)

    In the midst of all this ramble, I was trying to say that I use cold hard cash for my “daily” expenses and it is working for us.

    Myra, from Winnipeg, Canada, where it is cloudy and drizzly.

    1. A really great idea Myra! We do that already except for our grocery shop when I use my debit card. Certainly a goal for the future, only I would have to take my calculator along to make sure we didn’t go over budget.

      1. How do you do it now? If you pay be debit, do you not worry if you go over budget? Or do you calculate it at the store? The grocery money “envelope” works fine for the first 2 weeks of the month because I do my major shops then. I have two stores that offer customer appreciation days (10% off) during that time. By the middle of the month I have to count the money each time I run into the local store for milk, etc. It takes a while to get used to it, but it works for us. I actually pull out a plastic ziplock bag and count out the money at the cashier. I have done this for a while now so they are used to it. I just say (if they look curious) that I can only spend what I have. I always get positive, encouraging comments from the cashiers. Of course, I am a grandmother and they probably think I am a crazy old lady!!!! Some days they would not be too far off the mark! 🙂
        Myra, from Winnipeg, Canada, watching leaves unfurl (almost visibly) because of the drizzle

  9. I love how your energy comes across in everything you post about! So excited for you in your challenge 🙂 Love the piccy too – perfect post header!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.