My Cat is a Jerk

One of his more ‘special’ expressions…

It’s International Cat Day and normally I would be joining in with the thousands of people sharing adorable pictures of their little furry companions across social media today along…

However, my cat is not particularly adorable this week. In fact, he’s a bit of a jerk.

I’ve had Poppy for over twelve years. He (yes, I know it’s a girl’s name – I thought he was a girl until he suddenly sprouted boy bits a few months after I rescued him, and by that point the name had stuck) came to me in a bag along with his sister after a horrible start in his little life. They were five weeks old, far too young to be away from their mother and in a mess – fleas, ear mites, stomach problems – I still can’t believe that they survived the first few months. He was so small that he still had blue eyes and could fit in the palm of my hand. Continue reading


50+ Frugal Ideas to Save Money and Organise Your Finances

Frugal and thrifty ideas to help you organise your finances and save money

Budgeting, saving money and making wise financial decisions was never really something that I was particularly good at. However, a change in my job meant a significant drop in my monthly earnings, forcing me to adapt to a different lifestyle in order to be able to live happily within my means.

Admittedly, my situation was substantially easier to make changes than those with large mortgages and children, but I still had quite a few financial responsibilities that needed to be covered, along with the monthly rent and bills. It took some time, but advanced planning and organisation really helped me to stay on track…

Tips that may help you save money and organise your finances.

Work out a sensible budget and realistically look at where you can reduce your spending. Start with the necessities ie. rent/mortgage payments and bills. For things such as insurance or credit cards, shop around on comparison and finance sites to see if there are any deals available.

Look at ways in which you can reduce your utility bills. Make sure your windows are insulated. Close the curtains to keep heat in. Use a draft excluder. Replace your bulbs over time with LED’s. Turn off electrical items when they are not in use. Put on a sweater or snuggle up under a blanket rather than turning the heating up. In fact, by turning the thermostat down by just one degree you can save a substantial amount of money throughout the year. Open your windows instead of putting on the air con during the summer. Don’t use the tumble dryer for every load of laundry.

Do online banking and pay your bills online – there is often a charge added on for paper bills that are sent to your home.

Pay off the credit cards with a higher interest first.

Set up a savings account and create a direct debit payment into it each month. Cut up the card connected with it to avoid risk of compulsive spending. Even £5 a month will give you £60 by the end of the year.

Work out a weekly meal plan. Shop at low budget supermarkets – I get all of my fruit, vegetables and meat from these each week. If it is available, buy from local markets. Create some meals that require similar ingredients. Cook in bulk and freeze meals in advance. Don’t be afraid to purchase reduced items if you intend on eating them in the coming few days. Use coupons. Take advantage of 3 for 2 offers. Swap some of your usual branded items for store own brand. Re-use your own grocery bags. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water. Cut back on the amount of takeaways you have – one less weekly at a cost of £15.00 would save you £780 in a year. Eat leftovers for lunch or be mindful about how much food you are making. Cut down on the amount of unhealthy snacks you purchase.

Take advantage of cashback offers, particularly on electronics. The Bloke was given a cashback of hundreds of pounds with a purchase he made recently.

Realistically look at the amount of money that you spend on luxury items. Do you buy coffee every single day? What about snacks? Magazines? Cigarettes? Smoothies? Do you drink a glass of wine with dinner every evening? Do you have streaming services? What about make-up, clothes, accessories? Be honest with yourself and work out how much you spend on things that aren’t necessities – the results may be surprising.

Set yourself a No Spend Challenge. Here’s a list of free things to do.

Get rid of any unwanted subscriptions.

Quit smoking – good for the health and the wallet.

Sign up for points cards that can be used to redeem items at a later date. The Bloke and I have a particularly good one from a local supermarket, and last year we used our annual total points to pay for our entire Christmas shopping over a two-week period, along with a few extra presents.

Reduce your mobile phone spending to a lower amount where possible. After I have completed my contract, I always ring my provider and get a ‘sim only’ contract instead as I have paid for the handset – this always reduces my bill by at least £20. You could also switch to a pay-as-you-go. Note: in all of the years that I have had a monthly contract I have never received a call from my provider to tell me that the contract has ended – it is up to you to stay vigilant and not allow them to keep charging the same amount, which they will legally continue to do unless notified. You won’t be able to claim the money back afterwards.

Recycle, mend and get crafty! Sew up holes in clothing, re-purpose old sheets but cutting them up and using them for rags, quilting and handkerchiefs. Upcycle old furniture. Make your own birthday cards, or buy cards during sale periods.

Book holidays online, use comparison sites and talk to friends about potential deals they may be aware of. UK residents, did you know that it is often far cheaper to fly to North America via Europe rather than flying direct? Check out hostels instead of hotels – I stayed in a stunning hostel in Malaga that was about a tenth of the price of a hotel. Before going away, research free things to do in the area local to the place where you will be staying and plan activities in advance. For example, The Bloke and I went to London and did lots of things that cost almost nothing

Walk or use public transport instead of driving. Less expensive, and environmentally friendly! The Bloke and I often get the bus into the city for which we purchase a day saver that allows us to travel on a many buses as you like for £4 each for the whole day – consider this against the average tariffs that are found within most car parks.. When in London, we use our contactless bank cards when travelling on the tube in Zones 1 and 2 – the amount you pay is capped at a very reasonable rate and far cheaper than purchasing a Zones1-4 ticket. If you have a good friend with children of a similar age, discuss the idea of car sharing. What about car sharing with colleagues?

Sell, sell, sell! Do you have unwanted items around your home that are in good condition? There are endless stores that will buy unwanted electronics, DVD’s and Blu Rays, gaming systems and games. Why not declutter some of your possessions and attend a car boot or host a yard sale? What about selling specialist items and collectibles on places like eBay?

Save a fortune on clothing by making your own, asking a favour from a crafty friend or purchasing them from charity shops. Buy materials from your local market.

Do you love make-up? Research into dupes for the more expensive items. Note – do not purchase fake products that have the same logo (these often contain harmful chemicals) – look at high street brands with the same colour palette or purpose as the designer ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for samples with any purchases that you make.

Look out for free events that are happening in your local area. Take advantage of cinema tickets or meal deals with insurance companies that you use.

Instead of paying for a gym membership, go outside!

If you are going out with friends, it may be cheaper to meet at someone’s house and have a few glasses of wine there first before spending exorbitant amount in bars and restaurants. Or, save even more money by hosting a pot-luck get-together, during which everyone brings a dish to your home.

Book train tickets weeks in advance. If The Bloke and I want to go to London, for example, we purchase tickets weeks ahead when there are offers for advanced single tickets and we travel very early in the morning when prices are cheaper. We also take advantage of the annual sale with a particular train company where tickets can be purchased for £4, as long as you travel at a specific time.

Join a library and borrow books from friends instead of purchasing them.

Cue angry parents: Be mindful of how much you are spending on children during celebrations. A three year-old child does not need £250 worth of presents and a birthday party with a £100 cake. Do you remember what you received for your third birthday? I once went to the birthday party of an incredibly loved and very cute toddler and he was blessed with an unbelievable amount of presents. He opened them, smiled and yelled a bit and then spent half the day with a cardboard box on his head. Think about it.

Worried about having to purchase gifts? Buy gifts after Christmas for the coming year. Create a gift draw that can be filled with things that are purchased during sale offers. Reuse gift bags. Cut out old cards to create gift tags. Look out for free gifts that come with purchases. Make crafty presents – a friend of mine used her sewing skills to craft a gorgeous tee-pee for her friend’s child for their birthday. And… re-gift unwanted items (gasp!)

Do you have a talent or skill that could earn you extra money? Can you sew, craft or play an instrument? Do you have great computer skills and an understanding of social media? Note: In the UK you have to declare any money made with HMRC and will possibly be liable to pay tax for any work that you are paid for.

Getting married? Here’s how The Bloke and I got married for less than £5,000.

Don’t be afraid to say that you can’t afford to go somewhere or do something. It’s always difficult when friends earn more than you do and may live a more extravagant lifestyle, but there’s no shame in saying no to something when you don’t have the money.

Be mindful of every single thing that you purchase. Before you buy, ask yourself if you really need it and be honest.

What about you guys? What advice do you have for saving money?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to follow my Facebook page, my Pinterest page and my Instagram page

A Wonderful Week and a Wedding

Last week was wonderful.

The Bloke and I watched Matilda on Monday night at Birmingham Hippodrome. I’d heard endless good things and was intrigued to see how it transferred to the stage, and in many ways it didn’t disappoint. The set was incredible, the songs and choreography were great and some of the actors in particular (Bruce Bogtrotter, Miss Trunchbull and Miss Honey) were fabulous. However, it wasn’t completely my thing – I’m an enormous RENT freak and the shows that I have enjoyed the most have much more of a rock inspired content (Rock of Ages being one of my favourites) and while the child actors were certainly talented, I found it difficult to totally understand their dialogue at times. There was also a technical hitch in the second half which caused the show to be suspended for a little while, so by the time it finished it felt excessively long. It’s certainly something that I’m glad we had the opportunity to watch, but probably not something that I would rush to see again.

Continue reading

Cheat Days and Chinese Food

The Bloke and I made a decision a few months ago to change our dietary habits. We were both in a food rut – eating poorly, snacking often and gaining weight to the the point where we were both at our heaviest and most unhealthy. 

We decided not to follow a specific plan or count calories. After watching the documentary ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ on Netflix we were inspired by the idea of a diet of no processed food. We took it a step further based on the fact that I seem to have developed a minor lactose intolerance and The Bloke has rosacea and cut out sugar and dairy too. So, for the last few months we have eaten nothing but fruit, vegetables, nuts, white meat and fish, except for the occasional cheat day that we allow ourselves the chance to eat what we want. We usually don’t eat past 6.30pm, have extra smoothies if we are feeling particularly hungry or have food cravings, and our snacks consist of fruits, nuts and vegetables too. Instead of focusing on the idea of a ‘diet,’ we consider it to be more of a lifestyle change. Continue reading

The Kindness of Neighbours and Arnold, the Pot-Head Rescue Tortoise

I was too busy telling Arnold how handsome he is to take a picture, but stick a pair of shades on this one and you get the idea…

I live in a street of terraced houses on both sides. The residents are a mixture of home-owners and renters, mainly comprising of young families, professionals and retirees. Generally (aside from my next-door neighbours who appear to be in training to become the next big DJ’s) it’s pretty quiet. We say hello, put the bins out for each other, take in each other’s packages, but aside from that we all pretty much keep ourselves to ourselves.

Today, The Bloke and I heard shouting outside. A man was pacing back and forth and banging on the doors and windows in front of a house across the road, getting more and more agitated when nobody would let him in and eventually he lost his temper. He kicked down a piece of the front wall down and launched it at the door with such force that it flew open, and then he ran away. Continue reading

50 Useful Tips to Boost Your Organisation and Productivity

50 useful tips to boost organisation and productivity

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small amount of money if you make a purchase from any of the Amazon links included

A routine is incredibly important to productivity, motivation and organisation and a morning routine (even if you aren’t a morning person) followed by further preparation in the evening is more likely to encourage a successful day. 

Avoid focusing on the idea of perfection. There’s no such thing. Avoid getting caught up in fussing over the insignificant.

Plan your month in advance. Using a calendar, phone, diary or Bullet Journal, map out your month. I like to see an overview of everything on one page, so I create a linear list in my Bullet Journal for the entire month of dates when I have an appointment, event and a birthday to remember. I duplicate this list onto a single piece of paper that I put up on the wall at home. This allows me to see at a glance when I am free and gives me the opportunity to get ahead for times that will be busier than others. 

Create a meal plan, buy and cook food in bulk and freeze as much as possible. It’s surprising how many healthy meals can be prepared using minimal ingredients and frozen afterwards in Ziploc Freezer Bags and Food Storage Containers and even Mason Jars ready to use later. Here’s an incredibly useful list of ideas. Continue reading

Victor: The Second Eden East Novel from Sacha Black

I always like to promote the accomplishments of members of the blogging community, and I was delighted to see that Sacha Black (author, blogger and brainchild of the Annual Bloggers Bash) launched her second fiction novel – Victor – yesterday. I was on a writers retreat with her a little while ago when she was in the process of finishing the final draft of this, and I learned so much about how much it takes to create a novel from scratch just by listening to her conversations with the others authors… mind blowing.

Victor is the second novel in her Eden East Fantasy YA Fantasy series, following Sacha’s best-selling debut fiction novel, Keepers.

Victor by Sacha Black

When Eden East kills someone, she expects them to stay dead. It’s only polite, after all.

Exhausted from battle and finally bound to her soulmate, all Eden wants to do is attend university and spend time with Trey. When her demon-ex, Victor, suddenly returns from the afterlife, Eden’s convinced he’s out for revenge. The last thing she expects is for him to ask for help, especially when he’s being controlled by evil forces.

But when an enchanted lock and key go missing, she’s no longer sure who she can trust. If Eden can’t find them in time, not only will her life, and her heart, be torn apart, the very world she lives in could be destroyed – forever.

Victor will transport fans of The Red Queen, The Young Elites, and The Lunar Chronicles to a world unlike any other… Continue reading

A Summer Catch-Up

I was delighted at the fact that I regained some of my blogging mojo recently, only to then promptly trek up north to spend some time with family and friends for four days, most of which I didn’t have access to the internet.

A little while ago I received an invitation from some friends to meet up for a meal in Manchester. I’ve known them for twenty years, meeting them when I was sixteen and studying at sixth form college, and a few of us have kept in touch and meet up on an annual basis. I realised that it would also be a good opportunity to spend some time with my mum and sister, who I haven’t seen since before Christmas, and also arranged to meet my oldest friend (who lives in the city centre) for breakfast on the morning when I was travelling back. Continue reading

Getting My Mojo Back

National Writing Day

It’s National Writing Day and for the first time in almost a month I actually have the urge to write… I was having a discussion with a bloggy friend a while ago and he talked about needing to get his mojo back. That’s exactly what my problem has been – my mojo up and left without saying goodbye.

I haven’t properly been near the blog for almost a month aside from to share my stuff for my daily checklist – the longest period of time spent away from it since starting Suzie Speaks just over five years ago. It wasn’t necessarily a planned break, I just found that I had nothing to say, the Black Dog stayed around for longer than usual and it did me good to get away from everything involved with it, instead spending some time on the new(ish) project that I have been working on.  Continue reading

A New Phase for The Bloke and Learning to Work Backwards

It’s been an interesting few weeks. I decided to focus my attentions on areas outside of my blog primarily and get a fresh perspective on various aspects of life that weren’t as positive as they should have been. I was full of ideas of where I could go and what I could do, and started by feeling motivated.

And then I got drunk, and it ended up being far more therapeutic than anything that I had planned. Continue reading