Saturday, 28 March 2015

Can I earn £10,000 in a year without getting a job? - Progress update.

This year I set myself the task of earning £10,000 in year without getting a job (read more here).

In actual cash terms I'm not doing brilliantly.  We have had one student so far this year who was with us for 8 weeks at £129 a week. In total we were paid £1032 (this does not take into account our costs - extra money spent on food, water and heating).  Plus we have been renting out our garage at a price of £65 a month - a total of £195 so far this year.  So I have made £1227 this year.  I have £8773 to go with 9 months left.  That is £975 a month ish!!

I am doing lots of the ground work though so that we can make more money in the future.

Renting out our spare room

In our spare/ student room we only had one bed, but it is a decent sized room and I have been looking for another bed for a while now.  With two beds we can rent to two people and charge more.  

I recently found a bed being given away on on local Facebook giving group and the lovely Mr ETL went and picked it up for me and brought it home.  Unfortunately the bed isn't great - it smells of cigarette smoke and the mattress is not in good condition at all.  I think with a bit of airing/ scrubbing with bicarbonate of soda or vinegar the base will be ok though and I am continuing to look out for replacement beds and mattresses being given away on free groups online.

In the meantime I am going to use the bed as a prop. I want to advertise the room to rent on Airbnb and the sooner I get the pictures up the sooner I will get some interest.  If I get a booking and I can't find a free mattress/ the base doesn't smell good enough in time I will go and buy replacements from a charity shop. Before I take the pictures I have a bit of work to do though as I need to rejig the furniture in the room a bit (as you can see in the picture above the beds are a bit too close together at the moment), get some matching bedding and put some more pictures on the walls. I have found some lovely bedding and pictures in charity shops recently, but the bedding doesn't match, so I will keep looking! I also found a headboard being given away on Freegle recently which goes nicely with the bed.

Aside from renting out the room through Airbnb I have also been signing up to more agencies who place students with host families.  I am now signed up with 4 or 5 of them and will keep going until I rent the room out one way or another!

Renting out my car 

I have been feeling much more enthusiastic about renting out my car recently as I think they got the price wrong on the website originally.  I thought I was only going to make about £10 a day, but now it looks like I can make around £20 a day and that has motivated me to get going with it!

I have been following the tips on the Easy Car Club site for renting out my car.  I put stickers in my car windows showing that the car is for rent, I have requested promotional flyers through the website, which people renting out their car can personalise and have printed and sent to them for free. I have also been telling everyone that I know and meet about it. With both my Easycarclub listing and whole house Airbnb listing I have shared the links to Facebook and asked friends to share my links. Loads of people have been helping me by sharing them with their friends and I'm hopeful that someone will rent out my car :).

At one point I thought I was going to rent it out and I spent an afternoon cleaning the car out. Unfortunately it didn't come off in the end and since then I have been trying to maintain an level of cleanliness in the car.  If someone was to rent it out now, it wouldn't take long for me to clean. The initial wash I did of my car was pointless though (read more here) - my recommendation is that if you are going to rent out your car, don't wash it until you have a rental booked!

A student has been filming me recently for a documentary for her Masters degree and she said she has been looking to rent out a car and my car was much more reasonably priced than the ones she has been looking at (you never know I might have a customer there). I don't know the market, but if you are looking to rent a car you might find Easy Car Club a cheaper option. If you are going to sign up to the website then use this code zo520m and you will get £10 off your first rental!

On car advertising

I phoned a few companies about this and chased them up and although they were enthusiastic I haven't actually had any success. I can't bring myself to push this at the moment as I am so busy doing other things. When I meet or speak to people I think might be interested though I mention it so you never know I might have some luck at some point :) 

Renting out extra storage space

I have been promoting the fact I have storage space to rent on Facebook and to my friends.  I have a friend who is currently paying around £40 a month for storage and she has managed to negotiate with me to pay me £25 a month to store her stuff instead, which she will be moving in soon.  I'm happy, she's happy and it's all good.  I just need to clear some space for her stuff!  Better get to it!

Renting out our whole house in the holidays

I've been advertising it like mad on Facebook as I mentioned earlier.  I have also been smartening the place up a bit  - mainly with curtains as mentioned here and here and new pictures.  I have been finding amazing paintings and pictures in charity shops - in particular at the YMCA shop at my local council recycling centre.  I paid £2 the other day for an original painting in a frame! I also found some wallpaper lining paper there  - I paid £1 for two massive rolls.  It was perfect because I had previously found 5 rolls of matching wallpaper in a different charity shop (which I paid around £6 for).  I plan to wallpaper one of the walls in my OS's room.  I am not going to get a chance to put it up before the Easter holidays though and unless the kids want to help do it, I think I will wait till afterwards :). I could do with some lessons as well as I have never done wallpapering before.

Once the house is looking great, I'm going to request free professional photography from Airbnb. My friend told me about it and she has been run off with her feet with bookings after having it. Find out more about that here.

I have had some interest from people about renting out the house during school holidays but no definites.  We are very lucky as we have relatives we can go and stay with for short periods if we do manage to get a booking, which is great as we can be flexible over exact dates.  We also have a tent which I got for free from Freecycle which we could put to work if the need arose. I need to test it out first though - it is an old massive, bulky 1970's one and it doesn't have a waterproof cover.  I have been told that as long as there is an inner sheet and an outer sheet and they aren't touching it should be ok though...

Can I make the rest of the £10,000 this year?

I hope so :).  If I could rent out my spare room to two people for £800 a month, my house for a couple of weeks at around £1000 a week and continued with the garage rental of £65 for the rest of the year plus an extra £25 a month for some more storage we will be looking after soon I would make £9610. If you add that to the £1227 I have already made, that would be a total of £10837 (before any expenses).

If I don't meet my target for the year for whatever reason I will be disappointed but I won't be too upset. There is a fair amount of effort and a learning curve involved in getting these things up and running - signing up to websites, advertising the fact that I am renting out my car and home etc in the right places, getting my car and home etc in good order (fit for renting out) and getting regular customers established.  I have been putting the effort in and even if it doesn't pay off fully by the end of the year, it definitely will in the long run as I plan to keep going with these side hustles on an ongoing basis. So I am pretty happy with my progress so far and am looking forward to seeing how much money I actually manage to make by the end of the year!

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Friday, 27 March 2015

Keeping the heat in and the light out!

I've been spending a lot of time smartening up my house recently and one thing I have found that has made a big impact is changing the curtains. Apart from a couple of rooms most of the curtains in our home had been bought for previous homes and gone with previous decor. They were functional, but not beautiful. I have been very lucky with finding 'new' curtains, having found some gorgeous animal print curtains for YS's room, some lovely dinosaur curtains for OS's room, and some beautiful beige patterned curtains for our bedroom (all in charity shops at a combined cost of £33). 

I just had one room left that I wanted to change the curtains in  - our kitchen/ family room. The Natural Curtain Company must have been reading my mind (or maybe just my blog :) ) because they got in touch and offered to send me some of their thermal black out lined curtains from their ready made curtain range.  I chose a lovely set of blue stripy curtains as pictured above.  I felt slightly guilty about getting new curtains, but I really like the company. On their about us page they say that the curtains are all made from natural fabrics (where possible) and everything is made in the UK.  They are not cheap, but they are good quality and will hopefully last for years to come.  They don't just do ready made curtains they also have a made to measure range.  A big bonus as well is that they sell curtains with thermal black out lining.

With all our curtains it is really important for us to have thermal black out curtains or lining behind them as they keep the heat in and the light out! The thermal images below illustrate how well thermal lined curtains keep the heat in and what a difference shutting them makes!

Top tip: Keep your curtains open when the sun is shining and as soon as it goes dark (don't wait until you go to bed) shut the curtains.This will help to retain the heat of the day in the room and will mean your heating system has less work to do in the evening which means energy savings!

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Thursday, 19 March 2015

10 eco-friendly alternatives to wet wipes!

What is the problem with wet wipes?  Well the big news story today is that apparently too many of us are flushing wet wipes down the loo, where they are causing drain blockages and if they manage to break free into the sea, some marine life will mistake them for food.  The tragedy of this is that they will have full tummies but zero fuel in them and can die as a direct result of eating wet wipes. Apparently our beaches are littered with wet wipes coming in from the sea. So we are all being encouraged to avoid putting wet wipes down the toilet or ideally to avoid using them altogether. 

I used wet wipes when my kids were babies (I have never flushed them down the toilet though).  I started out using cotton wool and water, but at some point I switched to baby wipes.  I bought a supermarket own brand fragrance free eco variety of babywipes and I gave zero thought to the level of eco-friendliness of those babywipes beyond the word on the packaging. This was in spite of them costing around double their non eco-friendly equivalent.  Once I had them in the house I found loads of uses for them - cleaning floors, toilets, bins, dirty shoes, wiping messy hands and faces, the list was endless. Every week I was using around 2 packets of babywipes at a cost of £156 a year.

Right at the beginning when I started this blog and was looking for ways to make savings in eco-friendly ways, I looked at my babywipes a bit closer and realised they were not eco friendly at all. They come in plastic packaging, they are not biodegradable (and actually contain plastic themselves) and contain a complex chemical ingredient list.  The only difference between them and their non-eco friendly counterparts are that in the eco ones 2 ingredients are organic.  That does not make them eco-friendly and they were a big waste of money. Even the wet wipes which are biodegradable are still not good, because they will take a long time to break down. They won't biodegrade in landfill and if flushed down the toilet can still cause blockages and harm to marine life.

So what are the alternatives?


  1. Baby wipes for reusable cloths - these can be dampened in advance and kept in a water proof pouch if you are going somewhere with no toilet facilities. 
  2. Cleansing and makeup remover wipes for olive oil and a soft cloth.  Olive oil is a great makeup remover.  Apply it with your fingers and wash it off with a flannel.
  3. Hand and face wipes for flannels or make use of the sinks at public toilets if out and about 
  4. Wipes for cleaning or dusting in the kitchen or bathroom for reusable washable cleaning cloths
  5. Antibacterial wipes ditch them altogether - overuse of antibacterial agents may be contributing to antibiotics becoming less effective.  If you are worried about bacteria in a particular area wipe with vinegar.
  6. Floor wipes for a mop or reusable floor wipe solution.
  7. Wipes for cleaning the kitchen bin lid, toilet or other particularly dirty areas with for reusuable cloths or waste paper from your recycling bin e.g. newspaper or tissue paper
  8. Wiping down muddy or dirty clothes and shoes while out and about for: taking a change of shoes and clothes out with you for the journey home and putting the dirty ones in a washable reusable bag. If you don't have any with you deal with it when you get home.
  9. Cleaning muddy shoes at home with wipes for cleaning them with reusable cloths
  10. All over wipe if you don't have access to a shower (not something I've done, but apparently some people do) for a wet flannel which you could keep in a reusable bag.

If you have any other uses for wipes that you have an alternative for or want to find an alternative for let me know in the comments below and I'll try and help!

If you are wondering if washing reusable cloths negates the eco-friendliness of using reusable wipes, then my answer is this. To produce disposable items takes water and energy and then they end up in landfill. To reuse items takes water and energy but then they don't end up in landfill (especially if they are made from natural fibres as they can be added to your compost heap at the end of their life). Plus you don't need to buy cloths - just chop up old towels and/or sheets like I did (read more here)

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Friday, 13 March 2015

There's still time!

It's Mothers Day on Sunday and although I'm not into the commercial hype I know my mum would be upset if I didn't give her a card and a present or at least make some effort. Plus she does deserve some appreciation as she is a great mum :).

For a gift I gave her these lovely biscuits - Fortnum and Mason Violet biscuits. Had I bought them and had they not been open they might have made quite an impressive gift.  As it was a friend was giving them away on my Foodsharing Group (read more about that here) and she had opened them, tried them and not liked them.   So not quite such an impressive gift then...   However I didn't want the biscuits, I only asked for them with my mum in mind as I knew she would like them and she did (I did mothers day a bit early and gave them to her last weekend).  So there was some thought that went into it, plus a bit of luck and good timing on the part of my friend giving away the biscuits.
Feeling slightly guilty about giving her some biscuits I got for free I decided that I should make some effort with a card and set to work to make her one. I made the card pictured below with scraps from previous projects (shh don't tell my mum). I keep leftover bits of card in a plastic wallet and this is the first time I have actually remembered to use them up.

If you are thinking of making something similar you still have a bit of time left to do it.  To make the flowers you need to chop out the shapes pictured above and stick them on.  To make them symmetrical, fold a piece of paper in half and draw half the flower on one side. Then cut the flower shape out, through to the other side and you should have a symmetrical template. I drew the letters freehand and cut them out.  After I did it I realised it is best to draw the letters backwards so that the pen doesn't show when you turn them over.  Luckily everything except the N and the 1 looks the same when turned over so I only had to redraw those two! It doesn't matter at all if the flowers/ letters aren't perfect - it adds character! 

After I made the card I needed to put it in an envelope. I hoard envelopes from letters we receive as I use them to make note pads for my fridge (read more here) and for writing shopping lists on.  I took one of the envelopes and then upcycled it to fit the card as pictured below:

  1. I put the card in the envelope and then folded the envelope at the edge of the card
  2. That left a fold mark in the envelope which I cut down. I then folded over the envelope at the top at the other edge of the card
  3. I cut the top layer of the fold I made in step 2 and laid it out.
  4. Then I chopped it off at the side.
  5. I shaped the top of the envelope to create a flap to seal down
  6. I stuck scraps of yellow card around the edges and folded over to the back on the sides as one edge needed sealing.  I put more card on the bottom as there were some numbers on it that needed covering up.  I decided to match it up on the top as well.  
  7. Then I put my card in the envelope wrote on the address, stuck down the flap and popped it in the post.  Hopefully it will get there in time!
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