Our house renovation dream

A Thrifty Christmas

Having completed on the house in early December, we literally didn’t have a penny to spare to splash out on Christmas presents, so set ourselves a £150 budget for 20 people and 3 children. The kids had the vast amount of that budget spent on them, with presents we actually bought. The rest we made. Here’s how we did it.


Candle Logs


1. Got a friend with a woodburning stove? Good. Steal some of their logs.

We took 10 from Lec’s woodshed.

2. Buy a circular saw attachment for a standard drill.

3. Drill holes into logs around an inch apart, or however you fancy. Paul made ours in the bath – it’s a bit of a messy job. Wear eye protection for goodness sake.

4. Add cheapy tealight candles from Ikea

5. Tell those you’re giving them to, to use them outside (because they’re not exactly fire proof…but look fantastic!)



Vanilla Vodka and Cranberry Gin

1. Mix a litre of vodka with two vanilla pods in a large bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for a month, stirring from time to time


1. Mix a litre of gin with a box of cranberries in a large bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for a month, strirring from time to time.

2. Decant into glass bottles from Wilkinsons (ours were £1 each) – make sure you sterilise them with hot water beforehand.

3. Make a nice little tag from brown cardboard – (I use an Amazon box), tie with string. Job done.



I like my wrapping to look consistent and beautiful, I spend a lot on it normally. This year, I only spent on craft paper and raffia from Paperchase. Total cost <£5

1. Make use of people’s abandoned amazon boxes. My team go through hundreds, I pilfered a load.

2. Wrap up your candle logs and flavoured vodka in boxes to make them easy to wrap

3. Wrap in craft paper

4. Use a kids stencil and a brown felt tip pen to stencil people’s names onto presents

5. Add raffia as ribbon and either add a tag, or a paper flower, or both

Sorry for the low-res image but here’s an idea of what it looks like:





Salt Dough tags – dead easy to make.

1 mug salt

2 mugs plain flour

1 mug lukewarm water

Mix it all together, in a bowl, roll it out with a rolling pin. Cut out circles using a bottle top or an actual cutter if you have one, use the end of a pencil to create a hole in the top. Leave to dry for a couple of days. Write on them with a biro and thread them to your gifts with string.

Have a thrifty Christmas, it’ll be the best yet.



Stripping walls back to brick

To get started on this project, we needed to remove all the plaster on the walls and take everything back to brick. Most of the walls in our house have had render applied directly to the walls and over the years this process has been repeated so the walls were a bit of a lumpy mess. Our walls also suffer from some serious damp issues which we’ll be resolving with a professional, read expensive, damp course pretty soon. (more…)

Mortgage Retention Explained

In amongst all the boring stuff you have to go through to buy a house, a truly annoying thing can come up: the mortgage retention.


A retention is where your mortgage lender withholds a proportion of your mortgage until you have completed certain works on the property. The type of works can vary, for us it was a full re-wiring and a damp course. (more…)