The debt free community

The debt free community, like every community, has secrets that aren’t really secrets at all. They sound obvious when said out loud but not many people realise them until they are said. So I am going to share my own experience. The beauty of this is my experience won’t necessarily be the same as someone else’s but it is no less true.

A ridiculous amount of time goes into maintaining an account

Hours upon hours goes into growing and maintaining an account. Coming up with ideas for posts and then creating them takes massive amounts of time. There are hugely talented people who make it seem effortless. Their wit and clever way with words are so consistent across their posts that it is easy to believe they were born to be on social media.

Fact is those people spend large quantities of time carefully planning their content. Bringing knowledge and inspiration to people on a debt free journey isn’t rocket science but it is bloody hard to keep up the pace.

Do you remember trying to write answers in school about what the poet might have been feeling? Or why the author chose to use alliteration? It’s easy to waffle and say nothing. It’s hard to bring consist value to a community.

Talking to followers and being social takes time.

Again this is obvious and yet it has to be said for it to be made obvious. Chatting to people and learning from their experience is one of the best aspects of having a social media page. It just takes time.

When you are at a party and trying to have a conversation with 3 people it takes time to communicate affectively. If you have 3 ten minute conversations there’s a half hour gone without you even realising it.

The debt free community is growing here in Ireland. Some of the pages have over 10k followers. I can’t imagine it is easy to stay on top of all those conversations.

There is a ludicrous pressure to be perfect with money

I can not stress this enough but everyone in the debt free community is fallible. I started my page with over €40,000 of debt. My husband and I worked as a team and paid it off bit by bit.

We are back in debt.

We have no emergency fund.

Our sinking funds are empty.

Essentially we are back to square one and it is ok. We made an informed decision to go back into debt and we will work together to clear it again.

During any debt free journey it is safe to say everyone stumbles from time to time. Forgetting about a bill or an unexpected expense are nothing to feel shame about.

The harsh reality is there is tremendous pressure on members of the debt free community to never make mistakes. The pressure is self imposed but that doesn’t minimise the emotional toll. During March I made the biggest mistake of all. I buried my head in the sand and didn’t bother to make any sort of budget. I didn’t admit to it until I had found a way to fix it. Since then I have made the same mistake twice more.

Creating products takes courage

Anyone who has a product for sale, be it cash envelopes/ cash binder/ wallet/ budget book/ calendar/ meal planner/ stickers/ pens/ clothing etc, has had to face their fear of failure head on.

Now that is 100 percent true of any business owner. However it takes a whole other level of badass to save their hard earned moeny and take a risk on themselves when they have openly shared their own financial journey.

I have spent 100s of hours working on products and I have not found the courage to have them produced. Simple truth is the men and women who have made small business in the debt free community have dug deep and fought their natural desire to protect themselves from failure.

If there is a member of the debt free community you have bought from and enjoyed their product please do leave them a review.

Trolls are everywhere

For the most part the debt free community is a wonderful place. Cheering each other on and learning from each other is the norm.

Unfortunately there are still trolls who enjoy nothing more than bringing misery wherever they go. I have seen members of the debt free community get bashed on Facebook after their newspapers articles, viral videos and radio appearances grew traction.

It is easy for bored people to hide behind a keyboard and send hurtful messages privately.

Thinking about walking away from the debt free community

At one point or another everyone you follow on social media has wanted to jack it all in and say to hell with it.

The people you follow share their opinions and advice out of a need to help others. That takes it’s toll. There is only so much of yourself you can give to another before you start wondering what you have left for yourself.

There are members of the debt free community that have boundaries in place to protect their mental wellbeing as well as their privacy. Those people are smart. Please always respect other people’s boundaries. They have them in place for a reason.

Money is not the most important thing

I know that sounds counter productive but the thing is the debt free community is not driven by a love of money.

Instead it is driven by a want to make things better. Money management is a only a tool. No one wakes up one morning and says to themselves “I’d like to be bored stupid for the next 3 years”.

Paying off debt is dull as dishwater. The only reason anyone does it is so they can reduce the stress in their life or give their family a better life or so they can travel and have a wonderful time.

It isn’t the love of money that drives them. It’s the want of change.

We all have “Fuck it” days

Do you honestly believe that someone who has a debt free Instagram page magically always sticks to their budget? No they don’t!

How many times have you had money set aside for car tyres or an upcoming birthday and then your day goes to hell in a hand basket and you borrow from those savings? Yep, same here. It’s chocolate and takeaways for me. I will borrow €20 from a sinking fund and promise myself I’ll pay it back. I never do.

I’m human and it happens.

The debt free community can be a bit much

I haven’t been feeling happy in myself recently and my money management went right out the window. As a result I found taking part in the debt free community grated on my nerves. I didn’t bother to interact or watch anyone’s stories.

If I don’t have the interest or will power to look after my own money you can be certain I don’t have the interest in someone else’s money management. How many times have you thought you were the only one that felt that way?

Everyone shares the good things they did that day to make progress. (In fairness it is a way to stay accountable and I have done it myself.) No one wants to come on and be a Debby Downer with one failure after another. Social media is a highlight reel, it isn’t real life.

Imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a pain in the neck. Feeling like a fraud because you’re doing well and your page is growing is bad enough but it is worse when your real life is up in flames and everyone on social media thinks you’ve it all figured out.

Remember everyone you follow on social media still has to use the toilet. They are human. A large proportion of people on social media, in my experience, feel like someone is going to out them at some point for being a massive fake.

There are only so many ways to slice a turkey

There are only so many colours in the rainbow and only so many ways you can spell cheese. Everyone will talk about the same topics. Don’t believe me, check out my Instagram page and then look at your favourite debt free community page. I guarantee you the same topics will be covered.

How to cut food costs, what is a sinking fund and the importance of an emergency fund will crop up without fail on every account.

The thing is no one wants to be thought of as copying someone else. A few times I have been about to post something and decided to postpone it because it was the same topic a friend has just covered.

Further reading

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Cook once eat twice

A great way to save time and money is to cook once eat twice. That is cooking enough to do two days instead of having to cook from scratch every day.

Protein is expensive. Therefore I decided to include meat in all of the meals below. The meals are adaptable to suit vegetarians, vegans and your own taste preferences.

I have based all costings on Aldi’s website to keep things simple. Shop around for the best value for your family. Also please note the prices are correct at the time of publication but may change.

A week of dinners

Start by making a list of dinners that you and your family like to eat. Plan dinners around what you already have and need to use up. Generally in my freezer there would always be stewing beef, mince and chicken.

  • Beef stew with potatoes
  • Chicken casserole with mash
  • Beef stew with mash
  • Chicken casserole with rice
  • Mince beef curry with home made chips
  • Roast pork
  • Mince beef curry with rice

Shopping list for the cook once eat twice method

Make a shopping list while you’re coming up with your dinner ideas. This way you won’t be guessing what you have already. I can’t tell you how many times I bought unnecessary ingredients before I started this method.

It’s also a simple way to avoid extra trips to the shop because you forgot an ingredient. Therefore you have a better chance of sticking to your meal plan and budget.

With Aldi’s click and collect feature, on their website, I was able to see the prices of the products. I could then decide what was the best value for money for my family of four.

However I didn’t include salt, pepper or oil in the shopping list as I would always have them on hand.

MealBeef stew with potatoesChicken casserole with mash/ riceMince beef curry with home-made chips/riceRoast pork with mash and vegetables
IngredientsStewing beef, potatoes, carrots, onion, mushrooms, garlic and a stock cubeChicken, onion, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, milk, flour/ corn flour and butterMince beef, onion, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, curry powder, broccoliPork, carrots, broccoli and cabbage
Accompaniment ingredientsExtra potatoes for mash, butter and milkPotatoes, butter and milk
Potatoes and a dash of oil
Potatoes, butter and milk
Priced on Aldi’s website. Prices are accurate at time of posting but may change.

Please note in the example above only one bag of carrots was included.

Cook once eat twice meal plan

Write a meal plan that makes sense to your needs. I don’t mind eating the same thing two days in a row, however if you prefer variety then mix the meals up.

Keep left overs for the days you are busy in order to make the most of the -cook once eat twice- method.

A variation of this method would be to *freeze the second portion for another week. You might do this in order to avoid eating the same thing twice in a week. Above all do what works for you and your situation.

Key elements to cook once eat twice success

Use fresh ingredients first

Avoid food waste by using fresh food first in the meal plan. Use food with a longer shelf life further into the week. This decreases the chance of food going to landfill.

You may need to organise your meal plan based on the use by dates of the meat. *Freeze short dated meat if you know you won’t use it before it spoils.

***Always follow health and safety guidelines for freezing and defrosting raw/ cooked meat safely.***

Store ingredients properly

Store your ingredients correctly and you will keep meat and vegetables fresh for longer.

Taking carrots out of the plastic bag, for example, and storing in the fridge on a clean, dry tea towel will prolong the freshness.

Likewise storing your potatoes in a cool dark place will help them to last longer. Potatoes are best stored in a container not made of plastic.

Another way to get the most of your vegetables is to chop and freeze them. Garlic freezes really well and defrosts is minutes.

Store left overs safely

If you want to use the cook once eat twice method then you need to store the food correctly.

Always allow food to cool completely before it goes into the fridge or the freezer. Use a suitable container to store the food, for example, the Pyrex cook and store dishes. I like to use these containers for casseroles, shepherds pies and mash because they can be used in the oven and in the freezer. It reduces the amount of dishes to wash!

Further reading

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The best money saving tip

The best money saving tip is simple and anyone can do it. Reduce your contact with advertisements.

I remember while I was studying early childhood education years ago the topic of marketing came up. It was eye opening to learn how insidious it really is.

Disclaimer: I have not studied marketing and I am not qualified in the topic. The following blog post is my opinion only and not fact!

It’s not your fault

It’s not your fault if you struggle to curb your spending. We are a product of our environment. Being bombarded with both obvious and subliminal advertising everyday is bound to take a toll on our spending. Remember marketing is big business for a reason. It works.

If it didn’t work marketing wouldn’t be the lucrative industry that it is.

Let me give you a quick example. You start playing a game on your phone to while away some time. It’s relaxing and you enjoy it. After a certain amount of time you either pay for the ads to go away or you get regular advertisements for other games. The reason those ads are there isn’t just to get you to pay for them to go away. It’s a two for one special for the marketing team. Either way they win.

You will either pay to make the ads go away or eventually you’ll click into the next game out of curiousity. This increases their opportunity to advertise to you.

The other games advertised will most likely be free to play games with in-app purchases optional.


Take Fortnite for example. What a gold mine that is. It’s such a simple yet genius business model.

Kids want to play on it because it’s all their peers talk about. The colours are fun and vibrant. The pace of the game is quick and exciting. Limited edition characters create a sense of urgency.

The game itself is free to download but to get the cool accessories and battle pass you need to pay money.

You pay money for something you will never touch in real life and within a few days the novelty has worn off. Then your children are looking for the next accessory.

The fact that big YouTubers have cottoned onto the cult following that Fortnite has only makes the vicious circle more vicious. Now you have kids watching other people play video games such as Fortnite and wanting to be as cool as the YouTuber and so buying the skins they see on YouTube.

Marketing and kids

Have you ever wondered why fast food chains were able to have toys associated with movies, for their kids meals, prior to movies being released? It’s a chicken and the egg situation. Which came first the merchandise or the movie?

Occasionally movies are made after merchandise. A team of experts create merchandise with small children in mind. Then a movie is made to drive sales. A long advertisement.

Think of it this way, what toys do your kids gravitate towards? It’s the ones with their favourite characters isn’t it? If the choice was between a Peppa Pig umbrella and a generic umbrella then Peppa is winning all day every day. If you’re still not convinced think about your child’s favourite clothing. It’s the Captain America t-shirt they want to live in, isn’t it?

I came across this post on the national library of medicine’s website when I was doing research for this blog post. It says a child is more likely to enjoy a healthy fast food option if it was tied to a movie. Think about that. A movie can influence your child’s eating habits.

It is not only children

Adults too are prime targets for marketing campaigns. The Kardashian family have found a way to sell products without consumers noticing they are being marketed to.

Social media is one of the greatest ways to sell products and to advertise. Take the Kardashian model. Showing behind the scenes content and inviting the consumer into their homes through snapchat and Instagram creates a sense of connection. We are more likely to buy from someone we know and trust.

Think about the people you follow on social media who are selling products. Focus on the ones who are doing really well for themselves like Jordan Page for example. She’s an incredible woman and admired by so many of us. But she is a brilliant business woman too.

Jordan shares snippets of her family life and gives honest advice that helps families world wide. She’s credible because she only promotes products she believes in. She’s accessible because she shares on both Instagram and YouTube. We can rely on her because she shows up when she says she will and she posts consistently. None of that is an accident. It’s smart business practices.

Support the people you want to support

Now you are more aware of how subtle marketing can really be. It is not always loud and flashy. It is not always patently obvious (Lego movie, we see you!)

Marketing done naturally is powerful. It has the ability to come between you and your saving goals. Advertising isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If we didn’t have advertising we wouldn’t know what was available to us.

Support the people and businesses you enjoy or feel a connection to. That could be a kick-ass single mama who is building a budgeting and organising business from scratch. It could be a devoted family man who shares his small carpentry business on TikTok. Or maybe its a hilarious family who share their day to day lives and sell merchandise to support their small business.

I used to follow all of the beauty YouTubers because I enjoyed their content. Jaclyn Hill was my Achilles heel. I enjoyed her content so much that I wanted to support her and found myself buying her suggestions. Nothing wrong with that so far, except I wasn’t even wearing half the makeup!

When you follow someone on social media or when you make yourself available to advertisements be aware of it. Give your support to people and businesses you actually want to support.

The best money saving tip is

The first money saving tip is unsubscribe from marketing emails. The ones you signed up to for a 10% discount or for free shipping with your first order. Take the temptation away. You can look for the best prices when you actually need them. Decide when you want to visit their website on your own terms. You do not need to know about every sale.

Arguably the best money saving tip is to unfollow social media personalities that persuade you to spend money thoughtlessly. Unfollow anyone on social media who doesn’t bring value to your life or who isn’t in-keeping with the person you want to be. You determine what valuable content is. It doesn’t have to be someone dull who spouts educational facts all the time. Just someone who you can relate to and is either living the life you want to live or working towards it.

Bonus money saving tip:

Skip advertisements on your normal television programs. If you do not have the option to fast forward through them then get up and make a cup of tea or run to the bathroom etc.

I realise the irony in me telling you to avoid advertisements where possible and my blog post then containing advertisements. This is an ideal opportunity for you to realise how often you are marketed to. Now you can make an informed decision about who you are supporting.

Further reading

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5 dirt cheap meals

I don’t know about you but I’ve been thinking about ways to keep food costs down. At this stage cutting food costs is not the aim of my game. I just want to keep them consistent. So I had a think and I came up with 5 dirt cheap meals.

None of the ideas are ground breaking or wildly exciting. However, that said, I find sometimes we over complicate things. I wanted meals that were nutritious, quick and cheap.

Protein is often the most expensive ingredient. Therefore I decided to include meat in the majority of the meals. If you are vegetarian or vegan most of these meals can be adapted to make them suit your needs.

For simplicity’s sake I have based all costings on Tesco’s website. Shopping around for the best value for your family is advised! Also please note the prices are correct at the time of publication but may change.

5 dirt cheap meals

  1. Eggs, baked beans, toast and orange juice
  2. Pasta with a tuna and tomato sauce
  3. Home-made pizza and chips
  4. Cottage pie
  5. Home-made soup and bread

Eggs, baked beans, toast and orange juice

Eggs are a fantastic source of iron and orange juice contains vitamin c to help our bodies absorb the iron. Baked beans and toast contain essential ammino acids. If that doesn’t sell you on the idea of eggs and beans for dinner what about price?

An egg per person is €0.26

1/4 of a can of baked beans per person is €0.10

3 slices of toast per person would be approximately €0.10

250ml of orange juice per person is €0.38

The total would be €4.23 for the ingredients, with half a loaf and 2 eggs left over to use on another meal. The total cost for the meal itself would be €3.34 or €0.84 per person.

A delicious and healthy meal that can be cooked in a few minutes on a small budget!

Pasta with a tuna and tomato sauce

Beef and chicken are expensive. A great alternative that pairs brilliantly with pasta is tuna.

With pasta sauce you have options. You can either make a home-made sauce or use a cheap jar of ready made tomato sauce. I prefer to make our own because it allows us greater control over what goes into our meals.

It doesn’t take long to make and can be as full of vegetables as you like.

Ingredients you will need include:

500g pasta would be €0.50, giving a large serving of 125g per person for €0.13

Tin of chopped tomatoes is €0.35

2 cloves of garlic would be approximately €0.05

2 onions would be approximately €0.20

100g mushrooms would be about €0.30

A table spoon of dried mixed herbs would be about €0.05

2 tins of tuna €1.98

The total would be €6.14 for the ingredients, with plenty of ingredients left for other meals such as home-made pizza. The total cost for the meal itself would be €3.43 or €0.85 per person.

Home-made pizza and chips

Pizza and chips don’t have to be expensive or unhealthy.

The Caribbean Dub aka Santis has a video of how to make your own pizza bases for as little as €0.20 each! The link for the video is here.

The other ingredients you’ll need are:

2 onions would be approximately €0.20

2 cloves of garlic would be approximately €0.05

Tin of chopped tomatoes is €0.35

100g mushrooms would be about €0.30

2 carrots would be about €0.20

Table spoon of oregano would be about €0.05

500g mozzarella is €1.98

1kg potatoes are €0.49 and a drizzle of oil would be about €0.10

Again you will have ingredients to use for other meals left over. The cost of this meal would be about €3.93 or €0.98 each per person.

Cottage pie

Cottage pie is one of those hearty meals that can be super nutritious and be cheaply made.

The other ingredients you’ll need are:

1.5kg potatoes would be about €0.74

3 carrots would be about €0.30

100g mushrooms would be about €0.30

2 cloves of garlic would be approximately €0.05

2 onions would be approximately €0.20

1.028kg mince beef is €3.90

It is worth noting that cheaper mince beef generally has a higher fat concentration. This can be strained after cooking if you wish, use caution as this will be extremely hot, using a colander and a container. Do not strain straight into your sink as it will cause a blockage!

The cost of this meal would be about €5.49 or €1.38 per person. The nice thing about this meal is it can be made early in the morning and just reheat for the main meal.

Home-made soup and bread

Last of the 5 dirt cheap meals is a simple but nutritious vegetable soup. Cheap, delicious and reasonably quick to make.

The ingredients you’ll need:

500g potatoes €0.25

2 cloves of garlic would be approximately €0.05

2 onions would be approximately €0.20

3 carrots would be about €0.30

Stock cube will be about €0.05

Approximately 2 tablespoons of flour will cost roughly €0.02 and a knob of butter about €0.05

Using the remainder of the loaf of bread works out at about €0.35

The cost of this meal would be about €1.22 or €0.31 per person. Zero food waste and a healthy meal that costs next to nothing.

Meal plan based on the 5 dirt cheap meals

I’d like to draw your attention to the order the meal plan is in. Starting with home-made soup and bread means the fresh bread is getting used first. Then the eggs, beans, toast and orange juice. It was a deliberate choice, because the bread will suit toasting better on the second day. After that each meal leads to the next, without it being too similar and repetitive.

In summary the cost to make these 5 dirt cheap meals, based on the ingredients used, is €17.41 for a family of four. There will be ingredients left over for other meals and the cost of these is not included in the €17.41!

The following is a shopping list of all the ingredients mentioned..

  • eggs
  • bread
  • beans
  • orange juice
  • 2x tins of chopped tomatoes
  • pasta
  • mushrooms
  • mixed herbs
  • oil
  • butter
  • 3kg potatoes
  • carrots
  • onions
  • garlic
  • 2x tins of tuna
  • oregano
  • 500g mozzarella
  • minced beef
  • stock cubes
  • flour

Zero food waste

By now you have probably realized that this meal plan is made not only with cost in mind but with an aim for zero food waste. Reducing the amount of food you send to landfill is a key component in keeping your food costs down.

It doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. This meal plan is full of delicious and healthy meals with minimal cooking effort required.

When you make your meal plan make sure to include a day for leftovers.

Further reading

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Stocking up

Stocking up is one of those topics that is on the tip of many a person’s tongue right now. It’s really no wonder with inflation sky rocketing and a war going on.

Bulk buying or squirreling away a few extra items a week/ month isn’t just a great way to save money. For some it is a safety net in case they fall on hard or are too unwell to get to a shop.

**Disclaimer!!** I am not encouraging anyone to spend beyond their means or to hoard food. Also this blog post is not to encourage anyone to panic buy.

Should people stock up?

Look at it this way frugal living and bulk buying generally go hand in hand, and for good reason. Getting the best quality products you can afford at the best price possible is a no-brainer. Getting enough to last until they go on sale again or until they are due to expire just makes sense.

That said you don’t want to be left with a whole load of food or household supplies that are only fit for the bin because you over bought. That’s, simply put, not very clever.

What can be stocked up on?

There is no sense in stocking up on food or goods that don’t have a long shelf life. The essence of frugal living is to spend money wisely and not fritter it away foolishly.

Think of non-perishable foods that you know for certain will be eaten. Below is a list of products that can be stored for a relatively long period of time and should you wish to stock up on are stored easily.

  • Tinned foods such as tuna, peas, beans and tomatoes
  • Dried goods such as pasta, rice, and flour
  • Herbs and spices
  • Jam, marmalade and preserves
  • Toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel and soap
  • Toilet paper, bleach and household cleaners
  • Sugar and honey
  • Breakfast cereal and porridge
  • Toothbrushes
  • Washing detergent and dish soap
  • Nappies and wipes
  • Tin foil
  • Dilutable juices
  • Sauces such as ketchup, mayonnaise and
  • Freezer friendly foods such as cheese, bread and meat
  • Gravy and curry powder
  • Passata, tomato puree and pasta sauce
  • Tea and coffee

Please be careful to store bleach and household cleaners as directed by the manufacturer.

Downsides to stocking up

Like everything in life there are pros and cons to bulk buying. The pros of stocking up are obvious enough. You get the products you need at the best price, if you are unwell you can avoid the shops while you recover and reduces fuel consumption by avoiding going to shops every day. What are the cons though?

  • It’s not always affordable. It costs money to bulk buy and not everyone has the means to do it. Items such as shampoo and rice oftentimes are priced better per unit in larger quantities. However not everyone can afford to spend €10 on shampoo in one go.
  • Wasteful if not used prior to expiry.
  • Storage space can be difficult to organise. Again not everyone has the space to make bulk buying an option.
  • Temptation to over-buy. It can be hard to walk away from a great deal even if you don’t need it. Self discipline is needed.

How to stock up

Keep an eye on the items you are buying regularly. Take note of the price you are currently paying and pay close attention to the items in your home that you can’t be without.

Armed with this knowledge you will be able to make informed decisions as to which special offers are actually of value to you.

One of the simplest ways to stock up is to look at the price per unit. Sometimes you will get more for the same money by going with a bigger packet or two smaller packets.

Another option is when you are doing your regular grocery shopping pick up an extra item or two. You don’t need to go wild and buy huge amounts in one go. Build your pantry/ freezer up slowly.

Take advantage of buy one get one free and half price offers if they are items you know will get used.

Consider setting up a sinking fund for bulk buying. Buying industrial or catering sized packets, such as chicken breasts, and decanting into more manageable containers can save a lot of money. In the case of the chicken you would be splitting the packet up into meal sized portions and maybe freezing them.

As always know your budget and stick to it. Shop wisely and never shop on an empty stomach!

Etiquette of bulk buying

Be considerate, buy what you need but don’t empty the shelves.

If an item is on offer it is ok to buy what you can afford but remember others would like the opportunity to take advantage of the offer.

Further reading

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Cheap days out

In this post we will focus on cheap days out that won’t break the bank. Unfortunately I have not been able to include places in the Munster area as I have not had the pleasure to visit there yet. Fingers crossed in 2022 that changes!

Prices included below are accurate at time of publication but may change. Please check the relevant websites for the most up-to date prices before travelling!

Lough Key Forest Park

Lough Key forest park is a firm favourite in Co. Roscommon. It’s no surprise, when it is a place of natural beauty, that it is so popular. There is plenty to keep everyone happy with activities such as Zipit, Boda Borg and the Lough Key Experience. If you are hoping to avoid paid for activities Lough Key has acres of woodland to explore and there’s even a Fairy bridge to see!

A picnic and €4 for parking is really all you need for a wonderful day out.

Eagle Rock

If you are a lover of hikes and looking for your next adventure then the Eagle Rock in north Co. Leitrim is a must for your list.

This is one of the toughest hikes my family has done. Our youngest is 6 years old and managed it (he’s basically a mountain goat) but it is a hard hike to do. You will need water and lots of it. I would recommend bringing a packed lunch so you can spend as much time as possible at the top admiring the view. If you can safely and easily bring a picnic blanket with you it would be worth the effort.

The view is spectacular and the sense of achievement is un-believable.

The Devil’s Chimney

The Devil’s Chimney in north Co. Leitrim is another amazing hike with a spectacular view. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in Ireland. The trail is steep with viewing points dotted along the way that act as rest stops. Again it would be best to bring a picnic but as the hike itself is reasonably short the picnic could be eaten back at the car if you didn’t want to bring it up the trail with you. Water for drinking to stay hydrated is absolutely necessary however.


If you want a cheap day out, that isn’t a hike but is stunningly beautiful and gloriously tranquil, then Glendalough in Co. Wicklow is worth a visit.

Parking is €5, and aside from a packed lunch, is the only expense of a day out in Glendalough.

Bring what you need to enjoy a day outside in nature – hiking boots/ book/ football/ picnic blanket or even a small radio if you wish.

There are walking trails for every level, from very relaxed stroll to adventurous hikes and everything in between.

Queen Maeve’s Grave

Another hike in Co. Sligo. Queen Maeve’s grave is the final resting place of the mythical Iron Age queen who ruled Connaught.

Knocknarea Mountain is a steep walk but it is suitable for most hikers. The hike itself takes about 40minutes to get to the top but with spectacular views you will be in no rush back down.

To make a full day of it you could also include a trip to one of Sligo’s lovely beaches. A whole days fun and fresh air for the price of fuel and a packed lunch. Now that’s a cheap day out!

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey in Co. Galway is located in the heart of Connemara. Originally built by a wealthy man named Mitchell Henry in celebration of his beloved wife, Kylemore Abbey has been the home of an Order of Benedictine nuns for the last 100 years.

A family ticket is €38 and it is well worth the money. With Victorian walled gardens, pigs, a wonderful forest walk and access to the country home included in the price.

I would advise to bring a hat and something to keep flies off your face if you go while it is warm. The Victorian walled gardens and the pigs are particularly prone to the flies.

Belvedere House and Gardens

Belvedere House and Gardens in Co. Westmeath is possibly my favourite place we have visited since we started paying off our €40k debt and saving for a mortgage. At €18.40 for 2 adults and 2 children it is seriously good value for money.

The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and it is clear they enjoy their work. There is something for everyone at Belvedere House with a zipline, playground, folly, breath-taking gardens and the house itself.

Definitely a place you could spend the whole day and enjoy quality time together without spending a fortune.

Wild Ireland – Arctic Experience

While the Wild Ireland– Arctic Experience in Co. Donegal doesn’t necessarily fit the topic of cheap days out, it is in my opinion worth a mention.

It is more on the expensive side at €12 for an adult and €10 for a child. It is not every day you get to see a real life bear going about its business or be within 10 foot of a wolf. With cute squirrels and monkeys also to see there is something for everyone to see. The paths are wide and fairly flat making it an easy walk from one encloser to the next. There is no sense of urgency so you can see the animals at a leisurely pace and really enjoy the experience.

One thing to beware of is the gift shop. It is, like all gift shops, extremely expensive. That is just something small to keep in mind.

Castletown House

Castletown House in Co.Kildare is one place I wish I could recommend more. While it is stunningly beautiful and the staff are both knowledgeable and friendly, the facilities are lacking.

The toilet facilities are far below the expected standard. If you can overlook that aspect then you could share a family day out that everyone will enjoy.

The parkland is gorgeous and easily accessible to everyone.

At the time of publication Castletown House is closed for the winter. Therefore prices cannot be included.

The Japanese Gardens and National Stud

The Japanese Gardens and National Stud are again on the more expensive side for cheap days out. At €13 for an adult and €7.50 for a child (online only prices!)

However there is something for everyone with long relaxing walks, horses, beautiful manicured gardens and a playground.

Aside from the admission fee really all you need is comfortable walking shoes and a packed lunch.

Equipment I recommend for cheap days out

Most likely you will have these items lying around your home, or you will have something you can make do with. However if you do need some recommendations, the following are all items I have used and found the quality to be excellent. Please remember to budget for items you want and only spend what you can afford to spend.

  • Gelert picnic rug
  • Yeti 30oz tumbler great for taking hot or cold drinks with you. I had ice on the beach for hours in my yeti tumbler!
  • Stanley adventurer cooler this is the one I have. On reflection if I was to buy one again I would buy the bigger size.
  • Stanley flask fits our needs for now with only two adults using it.
  • Ice packs – I use bog standard ice packs. I got ours in Asda.

At present I have not found a water bottle that I could recommend.

Further reading

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Survive living on the dole

Social welfare or “the dole” was never meant for anyone to thrive on. It is all about survival and nothing more. In this blog post lets look at 7 tips to survive living on the dole and look at ways to budget within your means until you can get back on your feet.

7 tips to survive living on the dole

  1. Check that you are in receipt of all that you are entitled to.
  2. Make a list of your essential bills and essential living costs.
  3. Write a realistic budget, allocating every euro a job.
  4. Sinking funds are an essential and should be treated as a bill.
  5. Aim for zero food waste.
  6. Charity shops and free cycle sites for clothing and other non-food items.
  7. Ask for help if you need it.

Check that you are in receipt of all that you are entitled to

To check that you are in receipt of all that you are entitled to speak to someone in your local citizens information office or look online on the citizens information website. It is also worthwhile to speak to someone in your local social welfare office for clarity on any benefits you believe you may be entitled to.

Make a list of your essential bills and essential living costs

Take out a pen and piece of paper and write down every single essential bill. I’m not talking about Sky and Netflix. I mean car insurance, electricity, heating, phone etc. Be cut throat with it. Now the same thing with your living costs such as food, fuel and housing. You need to know what they are, what they cost and how often you need to pay.

Write a realistic budget, allocating every euro a job

Go further, give every cent a job. To keep your head above water you need to take writing a realistic budget seriously. Surviving on the dole is hard but surviving on the dole and adding debt is a recipe for disaster.

Pretend your rent is €73.49 per week. Instead of rounding that number up or down to an even number you should write that number exactly as it is into your budget. A few cent here and there don’t seem like much but they could mean an extra loaf of bread or another litre of milk.

Sinking funds are an essential and should be treated as a bill

Sinking funds will save your bacon if you are diligent in filling them. Getting by on social welfare usually means you can’t leave it ’til the last moment to save for big expenses like home heating and Christmas. Where would you pull the money from? It just wouldn’t work.

Instead you need to know what large expenses you have coming up. Then set aside regular amounts (sinking fund) in order to have the money to pay for that expense.

Aim for zero food waste

Cut out any food items from your shopping list that tend to make it to the bin. Make a meal plan based on what you already have in the house and then make a shopping list based on that meal plan.

Consider going meat free or reducing your meat intake for some of the week. Cutting down on the amount of meat you consume will greatly reduce your food budget. Be sure to include protein alternatives such as peas, beans and lentils!

Buying own brand products is a massive money saver and will help your food budget go further.

Another simple way to reduce your food waste is batch cooking. Preparing meals in advance reduces the chance of you buying expensive convenience foods and it will also help keep your electricity bill down.

Charity shops and free cycle sites for clothing and other non-food items

Clothing can be expensive. A simple solution to avoid the big price tag that comes along with new clothing is to shop new to you (charity shops and online market places) or to use clothing from free cycle sites.

Baby things, toys, furniture, household items etc. can all be picked up for nominal sums of money. The trick is to make a list of the things you really need and set a budget for them. Then keep an eye out for them. Don’t get side tracked and pick up items you don’t really need.

You don’t need to live a spartan life or go without to survive living on the dole. You do need to be aware of what money you have available to you and spend it prudently.

Ask for help if you need it

Ask for help. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that someone else needs the help more than you do. You will know when you need help, make sure pride doesn’t hold you back from asking for it.

People to reach out to would include..

  • local charities such as St Vincent De Paul
  • citizens information
  • your local community welfare officer.

Additional support

This could be the time to look at doing a course to upskill or retrain.

Springboard provides courses for both people in and out of employment. Courses may be subsidized or in some cases free of charge.

Further Reading

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Emergency Fund in Ireland

An emergency fund in Ireland is essential. It is something most of us know we should have but many of us don’t have one. Lets break it down into manageable pieces and finally understand all there is to know about an emergency fund.

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is money specifically set aside for when something goes wrong in order to avoid going into debt to cover that emergency.

Wow! That was a mouthful. What does that mean?

In simpler language it is money you save for when the proverbial hits the fan so that you don’t need to go into debt.

The “so that” part of the last sentence is the key piece of that line. Technically if you have credit available to you and an emergency crops up you could use that line of credit. However that would only make a bad situation worse. Now you would have the initial emergency and more debt.

Instead an emergency fund means you have money saved up for say an unexpected doctors visit and can afford to pay it without worrying about where the money is coming from.

Are there any downsides to an emergency fund?

Having an emergency fund protects your money and gives you piece of mind. It does have a downside though. You have to be disciplined enough not to spend it willy-nilly.

Yup, that’s the only downside. Money you need to keep.

That sounds daft because it is such a simple idea. The reality is it can be difficult to leave a large sum of money in your account and not spend it.

How to save an emergency fund in Ireland

  1. Decide how much you need to save
  2. Decide where you will save the money
  3. Write a realistic budget and focus your goal on your emergency fund
  4. Cut back on unnecessary spending and save that money towards your emergency fund
  5. Increase your income and save the additional income towards your emergency fund
  6. Don’t spend that money except for when you really need it for an emergency

How much do you need?

This will be different for everyone and there is no one size fits all amount. What sort of emergency do you want to be able to cover? A few hundred euro will cover an appliance breaking down but it won’t cover job loss.

If you are getting started with an emergency fund it would be great to start with a few hundred euro and build on this as you go along. Getting an initial €500 together and working towards €1000 will give you some protection against a small emergency.

To define the amount you need for an emergency fund you should look at your essential bills and anything in your life you would need to survive.

  • Housing costs including any insurance payments
  • Heating
  • Electricity
  • Any minimum debt payments such as car payments
  • Food
  • Fuel
  • Health costs including prescriptions and any insurance costs
  • Any contracted bill payments

3 or 6 month emergency fund?

After you save the starter emergency fund you can start looking at your job security. If you work for public service for example you might find you only need a 3 month emergency fund. If you work for the private sector or are self employed a 6 month emergency fund might better suit your needs.

Only you can decide what is best for your situation and what you feel most comfortable with.

Other factors that might influence the size of your emergency fund would be relationship stability, personal safety within your home, how happy you are in your work, extending your family etc.

What you don’t need to include in your emergency fund

Lets be real if the worst happened and you were made redundant in the morning you wouldn’t need everything that is currently in your budget. There are wants in there that could be done without while you got back on your feet.

Again this is something only you can decide upon. What I might consider essential you might consider a luxury and vice versa.

Where to save your emergency fund in Ireland

You need to be easily able to access your emergency fund without days or weeks of a wait time. Consider where you can save your money that is easily accessible but that you are unlikely to spend it without thinking it through.

Your day to day bank account is easily accessible but are you going to be tempted to dip into it when you see a clearance sale? Do you need your savings to be kept in a specific savings account so you almost forget it’s there?

Write a realistic budget

Write a budget that you can realistically stick to and make saving an emergency fund your goal. Any money above your essential bills and sinking funds could be allocated to saving an emergency fund.

Cut back on unnecessary spending

For a short length of time you could reduce the amount allocated in your budget to wants and redirect that money towards your emergency fund.

You don’t want to do this forever but a few weeks or months with less personal spending money is do-able.

Cutting back on take-aways, paid for activities and aiming for less waste in your life are all simple ways to save money.

Mrs Hawkins House blog has a great blog post titled – How to survive a no spend month. If you are looking to cut back and save for an emergency fund in Ireland or really anywhere in the world this is a wonderful read.

Increase your income

Overtime, a second job, paid online surveys, mystery shopping or starting your own small business are great ways to raise some extra income that you can earmark for your emergency fund.

If those options aren’t available to you maybe consider selling any unwanted items or clothing you no longer need for extra cash.

Keep your emergency fund for an emergency

This is hard to define because it will vary from one person to the next.

A medical emergency is a clear cut emergency but what about if your television breaks?

On first glance you might say a television is a luxury that you can manage without. That’s fair. Someone who is taking care of a loved one with special needs or bed bound might say a television is an essential tool in their home.

Only you can define what an emergency is.

That said Christmas is not an emergency. That is an annual expense that you can budget for or set up a sinking fund for.

Further reading

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Married life and money

One question that crops up all too often is how to get a partner on board with better money management. Married life and money are so intertwined that it’s vital to find a system that both are happy with.

How do you get your partner to stop wasting money?

  1. Have a conversation about your goals as a couple and how they might be achieved.
  2. Show them results.

Talking about married life and money

The key with this is to have a powerful why. If you remember the blog post – Your why – you might remember that your why is the secret ingredient to getting better with money organisation. If you want your partner to change their spending habits they are going to need a reason to do it.

“Lets save money for the craic” isn’t going to wash well. What is something you both have been talking about for ages? “In a few years it would be lovely to take the kids to Disneyland” probably isn’t a big enough why. Think bigger.

“Imagine being able to finally visit your family in Canada and while we are there we could… fill in the blank…” is more likely to work.

Imagine being able to finally visit your family in Canada and while we are there we could…

Why is that more likely to work?

Because the goal is centered around something they would love and something you both gain from. A trip to Disneyland for the kids might be enough of an incentive if the kids are pestering you both and secretly your partner has always wanted to go. Otherwise it is unlikely to motive a big change like organising your money.

Generally speaking humans are by nature a selfish lot. We are motivated most by how something benefits us.

Other advice about having a money conversation?

  • Pick a suitable moment to have the chat. When your sister and her family is en route for a visit is not the best time. If the kids are running around like jungle animals during a stampede it is not the right moment either. Choose a time when you both can focus on the conversation and aren’t in a rush to be somewhere.
  • Avoid placing blame! This is not easy especially if you are feeling frustrated but for this conversation to go well you need to refrain from playing the blame game.
  • Reassure your partner that the things they value will be incorporated into the budget. Taking all the fun things in their life away won’t encourage them to stick to a budget.
  • Allow them to share their concerns and really listen to what they are saying. Pay attention while your partner speaks and stay off your phone!
  • Talk about what each of you consider essential and what can be removed from your expenses.

What if talking doesn’t work?

Show them it can be done but don’t make it a secret.

If they are adamant it can’t be done then explain that you intend to save some money by implementing a budget and sticking to it. Avoid having secrets around money. You want your partner to be invested in this and they can’t be if they don’t know you’re doing it.

If you are responsible for the food shopping, for example, set yourself a budget and stick to it. Challenge yourself to save money for a goal such as an emergency fund. Then when you need an emergency fund and they are panicking you can calmly explain that you have the money.

People are oftentimes more trusting in something new when they can see results. Seeing you work on tackling a goal and achieving it should bolster their confidence to get on board and start organising your money together.

Married life and money are hard to get balanced right but when they are in harmony life is that little bit sweeter. It is worth the effort to find a compromise now and avoid rows in the future.

Further reading

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Reduce your electricity bill

Electricity costs are on the rise and a major source of concern for most of us. In this post we will look at 9 ways to reduce your electricity bill and save some money.

9 ways to reduce your electricity bill

  1. Batch cook
  2. Use appropriate lighting
  3. Turn off plugs with the switch when not in use
  4. Fill the kettle appropriately
  5. Don’t overload your appliances
  6. Wash clothes when dirty or needing a refresh
  7. Dry your laundry naturally
  8. Take shorter showers
  9. As needed replace lightbulbs and appliances with the most energy efficient option you can afford

Batch cooking

Batch cooking reduces electricity because you are using your cooker to it’s full potential. Instead of putting one thing in the oven you cook several meals at once. Getting the most value for money with your electricity and reducing the amount of electricity you use overall in the month.

Use appropriate lighting

Lighting your house up like a Christmas tree is a waste of electricity. Use lighting that is appropriate to your task. Switch off the ceiling (big) light when the room is bright enough to not require it. Instead use smaller lamps for specific tasks, with lower level wattage bulbs, to save electricity.

Turn off plugs

It is not enough to unplug a socket. If you want to save electricity you need to switch your plugs off at the socket when they are not in use. Current will still be going to the socket and wasting electricity otherwise.

Fill the kettle appropriately

There is no need to be boiling extra water. This is not a more is more situation unless you intend to keep the water hot in a decent flask.

However if you are a big tea drinker and go through several cups in short succession a tea pot is a great way to reduce the number of times you turn on the kettle for a hot drop.

Don’t overload your appliances

If you over fill your fridge or freezer they have to work harder to run. That’s burning through electricity at a higher rate than is necessary.

The same is true of your washing machine and dryer. If you overload them you clothes won’t wash or dry efficiently and you will need to run the machines longer to get the desired effect.

Wash clothes when dirty or needing a refresh

There is no need to wash your clothes after every single use. It wears your clothes and washing machine out quicker and wastes electricity.

Also be careful to only put a wash on when you are certain you’ll have the time and inclination to dry them. If you leave the freshly washed laundry in the washing machine too long you will need to rewash them and it is a waste of electricity.

Reduce your electricity bill bonus tip

Washing your clothes at a lower temperature will save you electricity because your machine won’t have to heat the water to such a high temperature. The same can be said for shorter wash cycles. When the machine doesn’t need to work hard it uses less electricity.

Dry your laundry naturally to reduce your electricity bill

Tumble drying your clothes is expensive. If you want an easy but truth be told less convenient way to reduce your electricity bill then drying your laundry naturally is a big one.

Making use of a washing line outside or a drying rack inside are two ways to dry your clothes naturally. Not only will you save money but your clothes will smell fresher too!

Take shorter showers

Shower for hygiene instead of self care. Taking shorter showers will reduce your electricity bill because you are heating less water. Self care is important and if yours is the shower consider mixing it through with alternative self care methods to reduce the frequency of longer showers.

Reduce your electricity bill bonus tip

Turning down the water heater by one degree will save you money and you shouldn’t notice any big difference in the temperature.

As needed replace lightbulbs and appliances with the most energy efficient option you can afford

Replacing your lightbulbs and appliances with better eco friendly ratings is a great way to reduce your electricity bill and see some big savings. However you don’t want to be spending money replacing perfectly functional items in your home. Instead replace with the most energy efficient option you can afford when needed.

Further reading

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