Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Attention all mum's and dads! (and people buying baby gifts!)

I got this great tip from a helpful mumsnet belfast local user.
It's the annual Nearly New sale from NCT belfast (UK's largest charity for parents).


Welcome to the Belfast branch of the NCT!

NCT Belfast is pleased to announce our next Nearly New Sale on

Saturday November 3 2012, 10.30 am to 1pm

St John's Church Halls Newtownbreda 374-376 Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 3HX

Come along have some fun: there'll be a puppet show for the children; a cafe for the whole family with home made treats, filter coffee and tea for rest breaks; and of course bargains galore, clothes, newborn - 11 years, toys, baby equipment, books. There will also be a selection of stall holders selling hand made jewelry, cards, Christmas goodies and a whole lot more.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Love, fancy a milkshake at Mickey D's?

So, it's the end of a long week, all you want to do is take the woman you love out for a meal and relax....sadly the bank balance won't really allow that.  What to do?

Well, this isn't a proper budget option, as you need to spend about a fiver each, but it's the principal.  Some people are very happy with the pound saver menu at Mcdonalds, or a friday night out to the sandwich bar at Spar.  Is it wrong we just wanted to go somewhere nice and sit back, and feel as if we weren't living on a budget for once? Our solution, have a meal made from left overs at home (romantic candles optional), afterwards gaze in each others eyes for a little, and when the timings right, wander down to the local fancy restaurant and each have dessert, or splurge and have a dessert and filter coffee!

We went to our local fancier restaurant "Upstairs at Cutters", and each had a lovely dessert and some decaf coffee (not going too crazy) for little over a tener.  Now, it's important when you're reserving your table to mention that you're just having dessert.  In earlier days I have been asked to leave a restaurant because it was their busy dinner hour and all we wanted to do was split a £5 item, an embarrassing situation you'd rather avoid.  But Cutters was surprisingly empty on this friday and was more than happy to accommodate.  We stayed about an hour and a half, and had a great time, and then wandered back home.  Felt great!  For an even cheaper option- do the coffee and mini-dessert option for just under £4 each.  (A lot of restaurants have this, for instance our Belfast on a Budget favourite, "Little Wing.")

Monday, 22 October 2012

Belfasti City Council - budget belfast

just saw this link to the city's take on belfast on a budget, try this link Belfast on a Budget Guide

Halloween Free-dom.

If you're looking for something free to do with the kids or whoever this Halloween weekend, this looks like it'd keep the little ones entertained with enough for the adults to get you through it-

Fireworks Display to end it all, could be good!

If you know of any other free events coming up, let us know!

We're not exactly freegans - but we've a lot to learn from them.

So Sarah being a vegetarian we get asked about our food habits often enough. I've tried going veggie before, even became a veggie for the 1st month of us going out, but it's never lasted, the subtle smell of bacon from a cafe, the scent of a summer bbq in the air, the christmas roast, or nana's Italian meatballs, all draw me happily back.  It has it's appeal, but it's just not for me.

I would however like to someday give a go at being a Freegan. Freegans, often mistaken for even strickter Vegans or something of the like, are rather different.  They eat meat, veg, ready meals, pretty much everything. I've known several during my time, and have eaten very happily freegan at their houses, and I'm still alive and well with not even a dodgy stomach to tell of.

Freegans live for free -at least in terms of what they eat.  They got salvaging in bins and skips outside supermarkets and eat off the food that has been thrown away.  Now it's important to say- WE DON'T DO THIS- right now, so don't worry when coming over for dinner, but they have a lot of resources that are useful such as this page by NY Freegan populariser, Adam Weissman about eating food that is past it's best before date: Health and Safety Issues

I have to admit I was initially a bit squeamish about eating hummus whose best before date was well in last week, or buying tomatoes that say they go off tomorrow.  But in fairness they've all tasted pretty good, and we've been completely well.

Disclaimer: we can't vouch for food safety and eat what you do at your own risk.
Here's a website on best before dates from the NHS: Food Labelling

We do this with veg, chesse and the like, and meats and ready made stuff, as long as you freeze the day you buy them, it doesn't matter the best before date.

And although we don't eat Freegan, if Skip Diving was a sport Sarah would be an olympic medalist, much of what we have in our home was found in skips and I'm sure Sarah will be putting up a post on her tips for skip diving in the not too distant future.

But for now, happy hunting!

photo credit: Shira Golding via photopin cc

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Flying's Foibles

pic from
Sitting on a plane on the tarmac for 3 hours gives you plenty of time to think of your next blog post.

So, i know it's not a budget thing to do, and let's be honest we couldn't afford it, but it was a commitment I had already made. 

I was spending a day in London for tri-annual meetings I attend as a trustee for an NGO.  I started this when i lived near london, but for many reasons decided to keep it up once i moved back to Ireland.  It's an incredible job and privilege to be a part of it, but the traveling can cause some issues.

So- the plan- get up at 4:45, take the 6:45 plane to Heathrow, and be at my meetings well in time for 9 o'clock, leave there at 6:30 and be back home a little after 9pm.  All was going well, until they made the announcement, 'slight half hour delay' but we'd be in the air shortly.  We boarded half an hour late and then another announcement, 'terribly sorry our slot has been put off for another hour, as there is fog at heathrow', again an hour later 'I'm afraid it's bad news again, we have to wait another hour'.  By this stage we had already been long away from the gate and were just parked somewhere else in the airport.  You could tell some other day trippers were not too happy, and so asked to get off the plane.  We were eventually towed back to the gate and about 6 people got off.  My dilemma, stay on the flight and miss lots of the meetings, or get off and try and get a refund for the ticket.  I asked one of the flight attendants about this, but they didn't know if i could get a refund, but instead gave me a customer care number to ring.  After being on hold for 11 minutes, i finally got through to someone who said, no, no possibility of refund.  So I went to the meetings, which was good, but was very sad to have missed the morning sessions.  The flight back was grand without issue.

Got me thinking about airline travel and budgets- this will lead to further posts guaranteed.

So, wanted to talk here about refunds/complaints and customer care.  Too often us customers put up with quite a lot from corporations mostly because we can't be bothered to complain, or we're just not the type of people to make a fuss.  That's great if you've got all the money in the world, but chances are you had to save for that ticket and aren't about to get on another flight very quickly.

It's well worth complaining.  On one flight that charged me an extortionate fee for a couple pounds of excess weight, I was able to get the airline to cover the entire extra cost (£60 worth) just from one letter.  On another occasion, on a flight where the audio for the film wasn't working, I asked the flight attendant about it and she suggested i write an email, so i did, and I received a 100 USD  voucher from Delta.  

I'm not sure if I'll get anything back from this situation but I'll try.  There's a very helpful Passengers Bill of Rights that has some surprising info about delayed and canceled flights and what you're entitled to, so I'd definitely recommend a look.  

I'll let you know if something comes of this complaint, it's worth a try.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Budget Party...

Every year one of our friends, Matthew, has a wine tasting party for his birthday. We went last year and thought it was such a great idea, and last night was this year's latest notch in the tradition. It's a simple concept, a fantastic way to see friends, have a LOT of drink, and spend much, much less than you would on any given night out.

Here's how you do it:
1. Pick the wines you want to try- for us it was an evening of red wines, from 6 different categories (Cabernets and Pinots, Rioja's, Merlot's, Shiraz's, Malbec's and Blends).
2. Assign your friends one bottle from a category (trying to keep it as even as possible)- Mike and I were asked to bring a 'blend' wine.
3. Once the wines arrive, copy out the description on the back of the bottle and promptly number and cover the bottle (our friends were creative and thrifty and used old wallpaper scraps for this job!)
4. Lay the bottles out in the designated categories- for example, a table for Merlot's, another for your Shiraz's, etc, and lay out the descriptions with the corresponding bottles.
-Easy way to do this is to number the bottles and 'letter' the descriptions. So if you have 5 Merlot's, your bottles are numbered 1-5...the copied out descriptions are lettered from A-E. Make sure the right descriptions are with the right wines!
5. Give everyone a score card and enjoy going round the different areas, reading the ridiculous descriptions and attempting to match the wine you taste with the descriptions next to them.

We ended up having well over 20 bottles of wine and even with everyone going round, there was some left over by the end of the official 'tasting' (which, by the way, we did not score very well on). Some people brought cheese and crackers as well, which added an extra classy element! And because we knew this was coming up, we were able to keep an eye out for good offers on wine and found a great bottle (ie had a security tag) half off AND managed to get loyalty points for it. So we ended up getting more than a little merry, having a lot of fun and spending less than we would have buying even just two drinks down at the pub. Plus, we can now say in snooty voices that yes, we have indeed been to a wine tasting before...

*thanks to Matthew and Sheena Dick for a great idea and for hosting (and Matthew and Sarah for having birthdays), and to Dave Dick for the picture!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Black Box Bargains

We got back last night from a great story telling evening with the folks from 10 by 9 (
It was held at the black box, one of Belfast's most unique venues (and the site of our 2nd real date).

Just wanted to mention the often overlooked Green Room.  It's their cafe section, open 5-11 Thurs-Saturday and has some truly great value options.  You can get a nice size slice of Pizza for £1.60 for cheese and £2 for pepperoni  and a beer/pizza combo for £4.  Not bad - will file that one away for a rainy evening that won't burst the bank.

Here's their link:

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Just saw this website- has plenty of UK based budget tips.

Check out this post on ways to re-use all those teabags we all get through.

Target Time for Reductions!

One of the things we'd like to do through this site is give practical tips for finding the best deals.

Each supermarket towards the end of the day will drastically reduce their items that are about to go off. Some reduce their items by more than others, we want to find the shops that reduce the most, have the best variety and then let you know when they do this, as they don't usually advertise this time.

We've found that due to Northern Ireland's limited Sunday opening times, Saturday evening can be the ideal time to find the best reductions.

Marks and Spencers, Lisburn Road: 6:30-7pm
-This sometimes has very good reductions on ready meals, and on baked goods.  You can get a bag full of specialty scones/pastries/crossiants and the like for 50p.

Marks and Spencers, Forestside 6:30-7pm
-Not a huge selection of reductions on our attempts, some meat items and some reduced ready meals, but not reduced by a large enough margin.  Only a pound off here and there, we want to proper reductions.

Sainsburys, Forestside 6:30-7pm
-Staff explained that they aim to have reductions by 6:30 but sometimes if staff is low they'll be done by 7pm.  They have a great selection of reduced vegetable produce.  We got a 2kg bag of sainsbury's finest potatoes for 54p, sainsbury's finest carrots for 24p, a mango for 49p (down from £2) and fresh beets reduced to 36p from £1.60.

We'll add more over the next few weeks, comment and let us know about the shops in your area.
Happy Hunting!! (we might just see you there).

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Our Budget car needs a Budget Clean

Well, one of the perks of marriage is that sometimes the 'not nice' parts of your life come into focus.  My car is actually not too bad for a '96, but Sarah is absolutely right, it's a complete mess.  Now that it's also her car it's time for a VERY deep clean.  The cheap hoover that came with our rental house wasn't up for the task so we bit the bullet and went to a petrol station for their industrial powered one.  However we decided we didn't want to fork out the 3-5 quid for the standard car wash which doesn't always do a good job anyway.  So, the plan became to wash it at home.

Our question was, do you need to go out and by specific car wash soap, or can you make your own cheaper? Seems like half the sites say yes you can make your own but the other half say don't if you wax your car as it'll take the wax off.  Well, we're going to take the risk and do our own.  For the recipe we're using follow this link:

My car's not too fancy, but honestly do this at your own risk! ;)

(side tip- we went to one station first to try their hoover, and it didn't work, worse than the one at home, so we complained -something we're learning we have to do- and they gave us our pound back. Can't waste even one! it's your money so fight for it!)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

How to really live in Belfast on a budget

So, we've done it.  We met not quite two years ago at a dinner party, and now, in a whirlwind we've been married (twice!) honeymooned, travelled across the world, and have finally returned to beautiful belfast- and we're broke ;)  But we're not going to let that get us down, we're channelling our inner 'extreme couponer', harking back to money saving strategies of our student days and are committed to finding out how to live in this great city as cheaply as possible.  We'll document our discoveries here, so check back regularly, and in the meantime if you've any tips already discovered please feel free to comment and share them!