Sunday, 20 March 2016

Why it pays to put creative work on hold (sometimes)

In my younger years I used to regularly buy fabric just because it was pretty and took my fancy, and even though I had no idea what I'd actually do with it I knew I would do something eventually. I amassed a huge bag full of fabrics and about four years ago I decided that, despite no prior experience, it would be a good idea to make a patchwork quilt. I figured I had a sewing machine, a stash of fabric and a basic grasp of measuring so what did I have to lose?

Over the course of about eight months I frequently sat and traced shapes onto fabric, cut those out, stitched them together. I did it while I sat in front of the TV watching Grey's Anatomy, or Parenthood. Sometimes I'd have a friend over and we'd take turns using the machine to work on our different projects. Gradually I built up more and more panels then the project would get stashed away for another rainy day.

Some time passed and I realised I hadn't touched the quilt for almost two years. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I was pretty poorly and knew I'd be spending the day in the Sofa region watching TV, so I decided to get my quilt box out from the back of the wardrobe and do a little bit of sewing. I figured I might at least cut the fabric for another row of panels if nothing else.

10 hours later I went to bed having traced, cut, and sewn two more rows of panels and it's now starting to resemble something like a blanket. I feel extremely proud.

That's 280 panels so far, with another 120 to go before I even start thinking about the back of it. Who knows when I'll work on the quilt again, but it felt important to acknowledge that sometimes life gets in the way of our creative projects. Since I last sewed a panel I have moved house twice, changed jobs, launched my wedding celebrant business, launched the Bookish Blether podcast, learned to drive, started my coaching diploma. All were projects that required time, money, and/or focus that took me away from my quilt.

But it's ok to stick projects on hold for a few months, or even years, until the timing is right again. If one project takes priority for a while, it might even be essential to put others on hold, or you face the prospect of bumbling along never quite completing anything. This was definitely the case when starting my wedding business. I had to set up a website, write copy, design branding, purchase business cards, make contacts within the industry, all before the bit where I actually do the work of being a celebrant. The majority of my couples have found me through my website so if I'd put this work on hold to sit around and make a quilt the business wouldn't be as successful as it is today. It's only March and I've booked 75% of my target for 2016 with little marketing.

I also realised often feel pressure to work on projects that have a certain level of visibility; a business, a newsletter (*plug* sign up for mine), a podcast, workshops etc etc. That's a pressure I place on myself and as a result it's now rare to take time to do creative projects that are just for me. Personal projects don't have to be for anyone but you, and there's real pleasure to be had in creating something with your hands, whether that's a meal, or a painting, or a few panels of a quilt.

I don't know when I'll work on my quilt again, but I'm glad I've made some progress this weekend and hope I'll see it again before too long.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

I used to be kind of a bitch

I used to be kind of a bitch. Not an out-and-out, running my mouth all over town bitch. But a secret bitch. I hate conflict so I wasn't exactly starting fights but in my head I was a pretty nasty person. I was judgmental, I was spiteful, I was jealous. Naturally I didn't realise this at the time but in my late twenties I noticed something major had changed in my attitude.

I grew up in a wonderful small town in Hampshire surrounded by fields and friends. I loved school, and I did pretty well, but I felt awkward and ugly and believed I’d never get a boyfriend whilst simultaneously believing I would marry Leo DiCaprio. Hey, it could still happen, right?

At 15 my family moved to a farm in the middle of Aberdeenshire and I hated it. New house, new school, no friends. Like, NO friends. I was the odd one out, the weirdo kinda goth kid, I was the ‘English bitch’ (despite being born in Scotland). I did as much as I needed to to pass my exams and then left at 15 to head to college.

I studied TV production in a class with only one other woman, a wonderful woman but my total opposite. She went to fancy clubs, was friends with footballers, worked in a designer clothing store, looked incredible. Naturally I was jealous. I was really into music and made friends at gigs, mostly guys. I dated some awful men who seemed wonderful at the time. I drank what seemed like a normal amount but I now recognise was way too much. Every time I met women I just didn't seem to get along with them. I believed they were judging me, excluding me from their cliques, bitches to the core. On nights out I felt like women ignored me but in hindsight not once did I initiate a conversation with them. If my guy friends got a new girlfriend I was privately livid, because of course she'd hate me and of course she'd ban me from seeing my friends, and of course I'd be rejected from our group. This never actually happened. I didn't make an effort with the friends of my boyfriends because I assumed they were all secretly lusting after them, a threat to our relationship.

I believed all women were bitches and all women hated me. But the bitch was me, and I can see now that my bitchiness was the pure product of two things:

  1. Jealousy
  2. Insecurity

I was jealous of what other women they had, the friends around them, the life choices they made, the clothes they wore, their beautiful hair, the holidays they took, the in-jokes they shared, the confidence with which they carried themselves.

And I was jealous because I was deeply insecure. I didn’t feel confident, I worried about my looks, I was always seeking approval. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I always believed my boyfriends would cheat (sadly they often did). I didn't have much money. My insecurity made me feel like everyone was out to get me. That people were laughing at me, that anything they had or did meant I was being kicked down.

Around 23 things started to change. I worked in a ski centre and the women I worked with were all older than me, much more carefree and much less interested in drama. I began to see the world through their eyes. Life was for adventure and adventure meant being open to conversation with whoever you met. They weren't out to get me, they had their own shit going on, but I was welcome to be a part of it.

In 2008 I started blogging and suddenly I was making friends with women beyond my tiny social sphere, women who were older than me, younger than me, from all over the world. And they were so damn supportive it blew my mind.

Truthfully, I only realised I used to be a bitch when it dawned on me that I'd stopped being one. Somewhere in my mid-late twenties I got really good with myself. I had a job I loved, a boyfriend who makes my heart sing, a bit of money saved up. I had a small group of close friends who I felt very comfortable around. Getting good with myself peeled away those layers of insecurity and the jealousy slipped away too.

Suddenly women were not my natural sworn enemies but my potential best friends. I was interested in everything they had to say, wanted to know how they'd come to be themselves, where had they been, where had they shone, where had they fucked up? I was no longer jealous, I was in awe. Twitter amplified this, I was able to chat to and meet women who'd I'd have never otherwise had the confidence to speak to. As my confidence grew I wanted to connect with more people, and connect them with each other so I started running a few events.

I met so many women who made me understand I wasn't alone in my experiences. They too had felt excluded and insecure. They too had been the odd one out. They too had felt that horrible feeling that you'll never be as good as anyone else.

A weird thing happens when you feel jealous and insecure. When you don't like yourself you become so so toxic that you don't see that you can be happy, and then there's nothing worse than other people's happiness. Other people's happiness is a slap in the face. A personal insult.

I remember standing in a supermarket in 2007 and seeing a magazine cover which showed Britney Spears shaving her hair off and hitting a photographer with her umbrella. At that moment I knew I was part of a bigger problem. I'd spent years gorging on celebrity gossip and for the first time I could see the consequences of media intrusion and the role I played in it.

The world gives us so many opportunities to hate on other women and I now refuse to take them. I mean there are people whose ACTUAL JOB is to criticise other women (I'm looking at you Daily Mail staffers). We've got enough shit to deal with without ripping each other apart at every opportunity.

Sure, sometimes there are pangs of envy, that's a natural way to feel when a friend gets a book deal, when one quits her job to travel, when another gets an incredible (and well deserved!) promotion. But that feeling of envy is tiny compared to the feelings of pride and admiration and respect and happiness that flood my brain when I see women doing well.

Jealousy holds us back big-time. It limits our potential, stops us seeking opportunity, keeps us small. I now know that other women's success doesn't inhibit mine. The only person who inhibits my success is me. We can all do great things, even greater if work together, encourage each other, and keep our inner bitch at bay.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Blognix Retreat 2016

This weekend I went to the Blognix Retreat for a weekend with some incredible bloggers and I'm feeling so inspired that I simply must write about it!

For those who might not know, Blognix was founded in 2013 by my lovely friend Elizabeth of Rosalilium and it's a collective space for bloggers from all backgrounds to get together and share experience and advice in a really supportive environment. There's a great Facebook group, weekly chats on Twitter (#Blognix) and this year they held their first retreat where over 60 of us descended on the lovely Hellidon Lakes spa hotel near Daventry for a weekend of talks, inspiration and relaxation.

My friend Amy and I took a half day on Friday then drove up. This was the first time she'd been in my car (I'm quite a new driver) but it went pretty well and despite the fact that my SatNav made me drive through central London on a busy afternoon we have a good sing-song on the way up the M1!

A photo posted by Amy Jones (@jimsyjampots) on

Here's me looking like the Scottish Widow overlooking the lovely rolling hills.

After we arrived we headed straight to the pool for a swim followed by a good session in the steam room and jacuzzi.

Saturday was the main event so Amy and I got everyone registered along with Rebecca from Lawyer in the Making then we headed into a day of workshops followed by dinner and drinks.

A photo posted by @hollyjunesmith on

On Saturday afternoon I ran a workshop called Time Management for People Who Want to DO ALL THE THINGS. Basically, how to get your shit together when you've got a million different priorities. I was told that time management was one of the things Blognix attendees wanted the most help with so I was delighted to be able to help! 

Here I am pointing at my own face and explaining why I do so many different things.

This is my obligatory Leo DiCaprio slide - I never give a presentation without one. It's also me talking about limiting beliefs and the bullshit we believe that stops us achieving our goals.

Here's my favourite slide (My point: Beyonce's hours and your hours are not created equal!)

A photo posted by Cassy Fry (@cassyfry) on

I love running workshops and enjoyed it so much, extra special thanks to those of you who gave me really lovely feedback afterwards. I love helping people take control in their own lives so this felt like something seriously special!

All of the workshops and sessions were great and covered really diverse topics like creativity with Jen Lowthrop, Accounting for bloggers with Raj Dhokia, Getting Started on YouTube with Amy Jones, Self-Care with Laura Agar Wilson, and how to launch a digital product with Ximena de la Serna. I loved that there were a mix of sessions and because the bloggers cover all sorts of niches from fashion to finance, parenting to photography, there really was something for everyone.

It's basically impossible to go to a Blognix event and not come home with a bunch of new pals. Everyone is so friendly and supportive, it was great to see people swapping tips and sharing ideas, especially those who might not have otherwise met each other. I know I'm not the only one who came away with a big to-do list! I'm now even more motivated to get a website set up for my coaching work and have even decided to run a webinar of my session so follow me on Twitter if you want to hear more about that! Or sign up for my newsletter!

Elizabeth and Raj put a tonne of work into making this an amazing event and it was such a honour to be a part of it. Normally my brain switches off about 5pm on a Sunday and doesn't come back on until it's time for work on Monday but tonight I'm firing through my to-do list and scheduling time Already looking forward to the next one! You can see all the tweets from the weekend on the hashtag #BlognixRetreat

I know I recommended lots of things to lots of people over the weekend so here's a list:


I recently wrote a whole post about my favourite podcasts hosted by women but here are some I definitely mentioned this weekend:
  • Being Boss - A fantastic show for creative entrepreneurs, I feel so inspired after every episode. 
  • The Longest Shortest Time - A parenting podcast that's not just for parents. This show covers so many aspects of what it means to be a parent, or trying to be one, or trying NOT to be one.
  • Death, Sex, and Money - This podcast covers different stories each week, always on the theme of death, sex or money. The Brooke Shields episode about her childhood and post-natal depression is incredibly frank and honest listening.
  • IRL UK - Rhiannon and Anna are HILARIOUS and in this show they talk about insane real life stories from magazines and papers. Always cheers me up!
  • Bookish Blether - This is my show. It's amazing and I am in no way biased :)
Useful websites

  1. Buffer - Get the app, install the Chrome extension and schedule useful articles and links to tweet even when you're not online.
  2. IFTTT (If This Then That) - This site let's you create 'rules' (or they call them recipes) that automate your online life by connecting your favourite apps. Click publish once - send your posts everywhere!
  3. Flux - This nifty piece of software adjusts the light on your screens as it gets darker, removing the harmful blue light that keeps your brain alert - this is a must if you work on your laptop and phone in bed! (I actually use an app called Twilight on my phone and it does the same thing!)
  4. Bullet Journal - This is the to-do list method I am obsessed with and mentioned in my talk. I'll do a post on it soon but in the meantime the BuJo website (never BJ, for obvious reasons!) has great intros. The notebook I use is the Leuchtturm 1917 dotted in Azure. I will never use another notebook again (but don't hold me to that!) 
TED Talks (Watch while you do the dishes!)

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

A Letter From Another Mother


A letter from my Mum is instantly recognisable. Plain white envelope nabbed from Dad’s office supplies, addressed in her beautiful cursive handwriting, contents that don’t quite fit. The contents never fit because usually she’s posting some photos she’s dug up from somewhere, or a hastily folded article from the local newspaper my Grandad reads. On this occasion, the envelope contained a note from her, and another letter on yellowing paper. More beautiful cursive writing, fountain ink long since dried, from a mother other than my own.


I attend a meet up for people working in charities where I meet Rosie, a brilliant woman who is about to become a mother herself. A few months later I move to Glasgow, I'm invited to join a book group and when I turn up she’s there too. Our friendship grows, and some months later we’re in a West End pub drinking cocktails after an event. Talk turns, as it often does, to where we grew up and how we came to be where we are today. I mention I first lived in a tiny East coast town called Inverbervie and Rosie slams her drink down on the table and shouts “I’m from Inverbervie!” As we reminisce, mainly about the Bervie Chipper, Rosie unpicks a memory from her past and realises we’ve met before.


Over the years I have amassed a huge collection of beautiful stationery, all tucked neatly away in what I affectionately call my “correspondence box”. Wherever I go pick up a few pretty notecards, often by independent designers, with best intentions of sending carefully crafted missives to friends. I imagine my notes landing on doormats, delighting recipients and bringing much needed joy to their days. My ego knows no boundaries when it comes to letter writing.


I live in a house in Inverbervie with my Mum, Dad and my baby sister. Halfway up the stairs is a small mezzanine with a room off to either side and on the right side there is a window into a bedroom.


Rosie remembers this window. Remembers visiting our house. Remembers that my sister's name is Rhea and that we played together as kids.


I move to London. Away from my friends.


One of my best friends moves to New Zealand. Within a year another moves to Mallorca. I don't when I'll see them again, when I'll hug them tight or read their kids a story. I don't know when we'll next share a bottle of wine and a table full of seafood, as we often do. Seven of us create a WhatsApp group simply called *clap emoji*. We are extremely proud of ourselves.


We live in Hampshire and my Mum receives a letter from a friend, a friend who is dying. She says she's feeling well just now, very very happy, the kids are doing great and they're planning a trip.


Rosie gets me to ask my Mum if she knew hers and I text her immediately. "Yes" comes the answer and we are all delighted by this new information. Rosie says she's sorry to say that her Mum died when she was younger and I realise with a heavy heart that I knew this, a faint memory of my own Mum's sadness rising to the surface.


I move to Aberdeen, leaving behind friends I've known since I was five. We stay in touch, have the occasional phone call, we visit a couple of times, we head off to college and our new lives and our new memories. We grow apart, add each other on Facebook, occasionally say hi, occasionally occupy each other's thoughts. It takes a while, but I make new friends.


A letter from my Mum is instantly recognisable. Plain white envelope nabbed from Dad’s office supplies, addressed in her beautiful cursive handwriting, contents that don’t quite fit. This time the contents are a selection of photos including one from a day we visited Rosie's family. She and I are squished together on a sofa with our sisters, six of us in total. I email a copy to Rosie and we marvel at how cute we are and how much her youngest sister looks like her youngest daughter.


I unfold the yellowing pages and read the beautiful words that address my mother so sincerely.

She is feeling well just now, very very happy, the kids are doing great and they're planning a trip.

It makes me see my Mum in an entirely new light. I recognise how hard it must have been for her to move away from her friends, to keep in touch only by letter or the occasional phone call. To find the time to sit down to write despite being a full time Mum to three girls who had a lot of activities to do. I realise how hard it must have been to lose a friend in her 30s. I know she lost touch with a lot of friends from Scotland, friends who didn't have or make time to write back, and that she felt like she was always the one making the effort.


My sister moves to Australia, following in the footsteps of my other one who has settled out there with her husband. I cry my eyes out at the airport and feel in physical agony on the train back to work not knowing when I'll see her again.


I open my Twitter DMs and send a message. "My Mum has been having a clearout and she's posted me a letter that your Mum sent her in 1993. Would you like me to send it on to you?" Rosie says that'd be lovely and a couple of hours later it's in the mail.

I feel grateful that we've stayed in touch and that it's so easy for me to pass on this letter from her mother. I feel grateful that I still get post from my own. I romanticise the act of letter writing, picturing myself with a steaming cup of coffee, an empty desk and a clear head. I picture myself pouring my heart out onto paper, but I don't sit down to write, don't confess my deepest thoughts to a distant friend, don't send letters because I don't need to.

I open *clap emoji* group and tell my friends about the letter, and that I am grateful I can speak to them whenever I want to. I tell them we must all live to be 100 and they agree. We make plans to live on a commune in France. We share heart emojis. We are there for each other in an instant.

I speak to my sisters in Australia every single day. I speak to my *clap emoji* friends almost every day and cherish the nights where everyone posts a quick update or a selfie, what they're eating, what they're drinking. I love the fact that I can see the view from my friend's house in New Zealand, that I can see how quickly all the kids are growing and share in their happy times. I love that if I am stressed or upset I can have a moan and be comforted instantly. The thought of pouring my heart out in a letter and having to wait weeks or more for a response makes me worry what I'd be carrying around in the pit of my stomach that whole time.

I am so grateful for technology, and the ability to stay close to my friends even when we're thousands of miles and months and months apart. And I'm grateful that my Mum kept a letter for 23 years so I could realise just how lucky I am.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Awesome Podcasts by Awesome Women

I’ve been listening to podcasts for almost 10 years now and, while I started out with the likes of Ricky Gervais, Adam & Joe, and This American Life, this is no longer a man's world. A huge number of women are getting into the podcast game and it's amazing to hear so many voices and opinions on all sorts of stuff. No matter the subject, I especially love shows hosted by two women who get to shoot the breeze together on whatever they are passionate about. It’s a bit like overhearing a coffee shop conversation that you desperately want to be a part of, but way less creepy.

My faves are those where women combine serious shit with their personal experiences, and a dash of whatever mad nonsense celebs I'm half interested in are up to these days. Fortunately, there are some great ones out there and so I wanted to share my current faves.


This show is hosted by the hilarious duo Rhiannon Evans and Anna Alfreda Lewis who are obsessed with those Real Life Stories you see in magazines in the dentist’s waiting room. We’re talking women who got pregnant by ghosts, blokes who’ve shagged tractors, creeps breaking into houses to tickle the anuses of their sleeping victims. Yup, all true, all bonkers.

It’s foul mouthed, nausea inducing, and completely scandalous but it makes me laugh so much and has quickly leapt to the top of my episodes to listen to!

Start with: Any episode and a clean pair of knickers in case you pee yourself a bit.

Call Your Girlfriend

Podcast queens and long-distance besties Ann Friedman and Amintou Sow host this show which is the A+++ of the lady-pod world. In each episode they talk about whatever takes their fancy that week, mostly around feminism, pop culture, current affairs and the world of menstruation. This year they’re upping their game with the addition of regular Phone-a-Friend episodes bringing the voices of even more awesome women to the podcast world.

They’ve also just launched their very own newsletter, The Bleed. Sign up now!

Start with: Our Top Female Blowhard, mainly for the incredible interview with Ruth Ann Harnisch on living philanthropically. (From 26:15)

Being Boss

This podcast for creative entrepreneurs is hosted by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon who are both experts in design, branding and digital biz. Episodes focus on topics like managing your finances, growing your audience, building a brilliant web presence. They also regularly feature amazing guests like BrenĂ© Brown, Tara Mohr and Brooke Castillo.

Oh man I love this show so much, I always come away with a list of inspired actions. They also have a ton of great resources and worksheets on their website

Start with: The very beginning and get psyched for learning a lot!

In more recent episodes, this one on the Value of Staying Small was really useful to me.

SRSLY is the pop culture podcast from New Statesman editors Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz. Like Call Your Girlfriend they cover whatever they damn well like but with a leaning towards TV, film, books, and internet culture. So smart, so funny, so want to be their best friend.

Start with: The Friends Special which I loved so much especially Why Ross Is The Worst.

Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton host this show for Buzzfeed and cover race, gender, politics, pop culture and interview a ton of great people including Lena Dunham, Marlon Wayans, and Margaret Cho.

They have such an great dynamic and are natural podcasters. I could listen to them for hours and they always challenge the way I think about things, for the better!

Start with: The Betrayer of the Patriarchy where the ladies interview tech superstar Anil Dash.

From the awesome team at Book Riot, fellow book nerds (and redheads!) Rebecca Schinsky and Liberty Hardy give us a run down each week of what’s new in the world of books. This is my GO-TO place to find out about upcoming releases and though it’s US based it gives me plenty of time to get hyped up for new books before they come out in the UK.

Start with: The latest episode so you can top up your wishlist today!

Bookish Blether

Last year I started this podcast about books and reading with my awesome friend Nicola. Each episode covers what we’ve been reading, what we’ve been buying, and a different bookish topic from childhood faves to movie adaptations, reading slumps to reading splurges. We’ve been going for just over a year and we are so psyched to get together and chat about books every fortnight.

Start with: Our latest episode, what we’re looking forward to reading in 2016.

What podcasts from women do you love?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

My Word of the Year for 2016

I’ve seen a few people write about their Word of the Year and am completely in love with this idea. You choose one word, one quality, one vision to focus on for the next 12 months. One word to drive you towards your goals. Gotta love that kind of clarity!

While I’m normally one for making quick and confident decisions I wanted to let this one linger for a little while, beyond the usual January impetus to IMPROVE ALL THE THINGS. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that if I’d been forced to choose a Word of the Year on January 1st that word would have been Cheese.

So I started with three words written down in my bullet journal:
  • Connection
  • Growth
  • Question

I’ve come back to these three words often over the past month and it's amazing how the mere act of writing them down has subconsciously inspired action. Despite January being a quiet month, I’ve done a whole lotta connecting. I’m not talking networking here, I’m talking big ole’ Deep and Meaningfuls. I’ve made some new friends, set up a tonne of Lady Dates. I’ve had some serious and important family chats. I’ve had frank ‘What do we want 2016 to look and feel like’ discussions at work.

And Growth feels like a natural evolution from Connection. The more people I meet the more I think, the more I read and study the more I top up my brain and my heart with awesomeness. To me, that’s growth. Knowledge, inspiration, connection, it all leads to a bigger, better me.

So Connection and Growth seem to be looking after themselves, and that leaves me with Question.

As a digital project manager asking questions is a big part of my job, but I want to get better at iterating. What’s going well here? What could be done better next time?

As the owner of a wedding business I ask these questions a lot, constantly aiming to improve the service I offer. What more can you offer? How can you work smarter?

As a woman with a voice and many, MANY, opinions I want to get better at understanding and expressing myself. What happened in the past that led to this viewpoint? What bollocks are you carrying that gets in the way of your future? What’s your truth here?

As a woman who is all about looking ahead to the future I want to be the one driving, not just sitting back and allowing it to happen. Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there? What’s the first step? What now? What next?

These are all questions I ask the wonderful people I coach, and this year I want to ask them more of myself. To understand my motivations, to improve the ways I work, to meet more people. So that’s it. My Word of the Year for 2016 is Question. Here’s to 11 months of self-awareness and deep-dive understanding.

What's your word of 2016?

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Stopping Shopping: 5 Ways to Save Money This Weekend

I'm now 9 days into my 4 month shopping ban and so far it's been absolutely fine. January is always a tight month anyway, especially if you get paid before Christmas and then if feels like there are fifteen years until the next payday.

It's been a quiet week socially, I've been getting stuck into coursework and a few wedding scripts but last night we did go to the cinema to see The Hateful Eight, which is only £4.99 at our amazing local cinema Peckham Plex.

My boyfriend is great at meal planning so we had something home-cooked for lunch and dinner every day this week except Friday where I bought Chicken Katsu Curry from my local favourite place. One lunch out a week is a massive reduction and I didn't have coffee or croissants from Pret at all.

I've also been thinking a lot about how I got on with the shopping ban the first time round, and how much I liked finding quick ways to save more or small changes that had a big impact. So here are some ways to save money asap:

1. Review your direct debits

If you have online banking you can see all your monthly direct debits in one place and it's worth checking to see what you're automatically paying for each month and whether you could cancel anything. Obviously don't cancel your electricity or phone bill but it might be worth shopping around for a cheaper rate. It's 2016 so you might be paying for a bunch of digital subscriptions too; Netflix, Spotify, Patreon, Podcasts, club membership etc. Consider whether you still need these or could possibly cancel for a few months. Oh and by the way, if you watch all your TV on streaming services rather than live, you don't need a TV licence so you could save around £12 a month.

I've had a look at my direct debits and realised I'm still paying £2.99 a month for insurance for my iPod, which I rarely use now. Not only that I've had it over 10 years so that insurance has cost me over £350! Cancelling asap!

2. Read for free (or less)

Last year I spent around *whispers* £650 on books which is quite excessive even for an avid reader like me but there are lots of ways to save money here. Join your library, you'll need some ID and proof of address but you can start borrowing straight away. Take part in #TBR20 and commit to reading 20 books you already own before you buy anything new. Switch to a subscription for your favourite magazines. It's a bit more up front but you can save around 30-50% off the cover price by paying in advance. Or why not start a magazine swap, if you and a friend read the same ones, buy a couple each and swap halfway through the month.

3. Plan a 'Use it up week'

If you're like me you'll have all sorts of stuff in your cupboards and freezer but still look around and say "there's nothing to eat". I write a quick list of all the things I can see and plan a few meals that need no additions or just some fresh fruit and veg.

I also recommend a rummage in the reduced bit of the supermarket, especially if you have a freezer. There's often a lot of fish or less popular veg at very low prices. Last week I bought two celeriac for 2p each on a Sunday afternoon and we've since had Celeriac and Celery soup, roast lamb with root mash and the rest was chopped and frozen for later.

4. Switch up your social life

I love meeting up with friends for a catch up at the weekend which usually means food and then probably a bunch of drinks too. But if the whether is nice I love taking a long walk instead, grabbing coffee or a juice along the way while we have a big chat. If the weather is grotty head for a free museum or gallery. Could you host dinner instead of going out, or have a board game night with snacks? Lord knows we've got plenty of booze leftover from Christmas to use up!

5. Get decluttering

OK so while this might not save you money, it will potentially create more space in your home which means less to maintain, tidy, clean etc and more time to spend on the things you really enjoy. Having lots of stuff around makes me feel a bit weighed down so I'm a huge fan of the quick clearout, and the power it has to make you feel productive. Challenge yourself to fill a bag this weekend and take it along to a charity shop.

Not sure where to start? I suggest clothes you don't like anymore, books you'll never read again, and DVDs, anything you got for Christmas that you immediately thought "WTF am I supposed to do with this?"

I want to say a massive thanks to everyone who's been so encouraging about the shopping ban, and inspired to make some changes too. If you've got suggestions for how to save money quickly be sure to let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.