Thursday, 9 January 2014

Top Money Saving Discoveries in 2013

Just a quick post from me today as I'm still on catch-up post Christmas and haven't had a lot of blogging time at my disposal over the past few weeks!

It's only been three months since I started Bristol Bargainista but I'd start off the new year with a round-up of my most prudent discoveries, favourite budget days out and most wallet-friendly purchases over the course of 2013...

1. Lidl

It's might be less convenient than the local Tesco, but buying store cupboard basics in Lidl has shaved pounds off our weekly grocery bill. I stock up on basics like bagels, tinned tomatoes, pasta and rice here and supplement with fresh top-ups from other supermarkets during the week. It involves a bit of extra legwork but a basic shop at Lidl averages out at £60 for us compared to a similar shop at Tesco. The wine selection is well worth checking out too.

2. Mango jeans

I've mentioned my annoyance at jeans costing so much these days in a previous post but I can't bear the thin, poor quality denim that characterises the jeans on offer at most of the high street stores. And since when did it become so difficult to find straight leg jeans? I don't mind a skinny or a boyfriend jean from time to time but as a wardrobe staple I like my jeans straight to slim cut, a shape that seems quite elusive on the high street. Thanks, therefore, to Mango, manufacturer of my favourite jean purchase last year. Their 'Alice' slim fit jeans are made of good quality, durable denim and come in the slightly vintage wash I like best. They're normally a very reasonable £30 but when I last looked they'd been reduced to just £14.99! Take a look at them here.

Beautiful Southerndown Beach

3. Free days out

Some of our favourite days out in 2013 came completely free of charge. The added benefit of a gorgeous summer further facilitated lots of free activities, and we joined the National Trust which helped to fund lots of days out over the summer holidays. We discovered a lovely new cycle route near Bristol, the Strawberry Line, which I really recommend if you and your family enjoy exploring the countryside by bike. We navigated just a short portion of the line, from Yatton to Cheddar, taking in some tranquil countryside on a route that seemed a lot quieter and more child-friendly than some of the other popular cycle paths around Bristol. Find out more about the Strawberry Line here.

We eschewed the packed beaches of Cornwall and Devon and decamped to Wales for our fill of sun, sea and sand. I can't recommend the stunning beach at Southerndown, to the south west of Bridgend, highly enough. Utterly unspoilt and devoid of tacky commercialisation, Southerndown is an idyllic spot, with miles of sand, rockpools and stunning coastal walks. While busy on sunny days it's expansive enough not to feel cramped. Bring money for the car park and come prepared with a picnic. There's just a small shack on site where you can buy tea, ice-cream and fishing rods. Find out more about Southerndown here.

Other highlights included our trip on the London cable cars and a visit to the Imperial War Museum in Manchester. A smaller sibling to the London museum, this northern outpost is free of charge and offers a manageable, well-edited introduction to the world wars for younger visitors, and tied-in nicely with our son's year 5 World War II project. 

The famous colleges of Oxford

4. Guilt-free city breaks

I've waxed lyrical about our family trip to Paris which I reckon came in at under £600 all in, but I made another budget-friendly discovery in 2013 on a trip to Oxford with a friend. Oxford doesn't appear to have any centrally located budget friendly hotels, but what it does have in abundance is colleges. If you visit out of term time (we made our trip in late July) you can stay in the college halls of residence for a fraction of the cost of a city centre hotel. We stayed at Lady Margaret Hall and while the accommodation is basic it is completely adequate for a short stay. I quite liked the academic feel of the place and eating breakfast in the rather grand, wood-panelled dining room - brought back lots of memories of my own time at Uni! 

You can pick up rooms for as little as £40 a night, including breakfast. Most colleges are well located for easy access to the centre of Oxford. Find out more at



  1. Just hopped over from The Parent Game, when I saw your blog on my Tots 100 feed. As a fellow bargain-hunting Bristolian, it's nice to meet you! I especially like the idea of quality, reasonably priced jeans, so I'll be checking those out! :-)

    1. Hello Lucy! Nice to meet a fellow Bristolian! Thanks for popping over to my blog and adding a comment. The Mango jeans are great - I live in mine. They wash really well, keep their shape and have a much heavier denim feel than other high street options. Highly recommended!


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