Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Good Week

It's  been a good week this week, despite my small losses at the beginning of the week.  I haven't lost anything since, save that an eBay parcel I sent got lost in the post, but it was a very inexpensive thing to replace for a customer, and it is so rare for anything to go amiss in my experience anyway.  It makes me grateful for our postal services.

My sister in Australia says that postal services there are dire and things always go missing.  I've had my parcels to her go missing too, so I know from personal experience and don't like to post things now.

My two days at the CS so far this week have gone okay. It's quite interesting as the new manager puts up our weekly sales results on the staff notice board, so we can see how well the shop is doing with regard to it's targets. It's quite interesting reading and nice to have access to them, as it makes you feel more involved.

We've got a staff Christmas dinner planned at a restaurant near the shop next Monday evening. There isn't a huge budget for it, and I wouldn't expect there to be, but the fact that there's one at all, is quite encouraging in terms of feeling making volunteers feel valued.

Today, I've spent the day at home, save for going to the gym, going out to do a bit of top up grocery shopping and post some more eBay parcels.  It's been nice to just enjoy time in my house pottering.

I haven't been using the dishwasher for a few days, because I was awaiting an order I'd made which included some dishwasher tablets.  It was late coming, (10 days from placing the order due to Christmas and Cyber Monday I guess) so I ran out, but was loathe to spend any more money on more tablets, so had to make do washing up by hand.  (I ran out of dish soap too, which was also on the order, but relented and bought another bottle to see me through until it arrived today)

It wasn't a great hardship, but it was a bit annoying. However, I was very disappointed when the parcel arrived today, as the box was all squashed and leaking the dish washing liquid all over the contents. Luckily, it only contained household, food and toiletry products, but if it had contained gifts,which I sometimes purchase from this particular company, they would have been ruined.

I promptly sent off and email letting the company concerned, know what had happened. I'm not really the complaining type, but when a fifth of the bulk liquid you've bought ends up all over the other contents, they need to know.  The delivery company were at fault in this instance, as the box looked like it had been dropped from a height. I'm waiting to hear back, but here's a couple of photos I took of the box and contents. A lot of the card board packaging of the other products was slimy and soggy.

Not impressed!

Anyway, on a brighter note, tonight, we're heading to our local mall for John Lewis's yearly Christmas shenanigans for loyalty card holders.  It's more for OH to do a bit of Christmas shopping, as most of mine is done. I'm thinking of returning what I bought for my sister last week at the Oxford Street store and exchanging it for something else, as I'm not sure it's her kind of thing.  If we're lucky we should get a glass of fizz and a chance to look around the store without it being too full.

How's your week been?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Losing Things and the Monday Shop

Monday is always a busy day for me. After walking the dog, I do two classes at the gym and then head off to do the weekly shop.  Today was no different, but I got a bit annoyed with  myself for the second day running.

Yesterday, I dropped my woolly bobble hat at the gym on leaving and when I went back to ask if it had been handed in, it hadn't. I was very disappointed as it was a nice one I'd bought from ASOS last year, which is probably why someone has picked it up and kept it.

Today, I managed to leave my filter water bottle at the gym and didn't realise until I got back from doing the shopping tonight, too late to go back and see if it had been handed in.  By the time I go back there it will be far too late and they'll have disposed of it.  So I'm feeling doubly annoyed with myself, as I paid £10 for it at the Ideal Home Show last year and I liked it.

I'm just hoping I don't lose anything else this week, apart from the marbles I've obviously already lost, of course. I'm hoping that losing a favoured glove on a dog walk a few weeks ago will make up the three and I won't have to part with anything else I own and like in the near future.  It's one way to declutter I guess.

Anyway, the grocery shopping took a bit longer this week, as I did a detour to Home Bargains and Poundland. A few festive items found their way into my baskets, including a little 1ft artificial tree for LB. She said the other week that she'd like a tree for her bedroom and as Poundland were having a clearance sale of old Christmas stock, I got a tiny one, complete with decorations (and two small table cloths for me to use as fabric), all for 50p each. I just need to get her some tiny lights to go on it now.

I also bought a new basket for the dog from Home Bargains, as she's taken to sleeping in our room most nights and her current one is too big and takes  up too much space. The new one is nice and compact and will be good to double as a travel basket. It was pretty inexpensive, so it wasn't too much of a budget buster.

A few more items of food got bought today and put aside for Christmas, including an expensive tin of posh nosh for the dog, three bird flavoured, duck goose and turkey. She'll be eating better than us on the day.  I also picked up some brandy sauce, but as yet I haven't got us any pudding to go with it. The final items were some chocolates for the tree, which I'm hoping to put up next weekend.

As it was the first shop of the month, I probably bought more than I usually do, as we'd run out of a few things and I was a bit more relaxed about throwing things in the trolley.  Only two more grocery shops before Christmas now and only one more Monday at the gym, as the final Monday before Christmas all classes are cancelled, so that will probably become my main Christmas shop day, save for picking up any fresh bits nearer the time.

Tonight, I had a relaxing bath to ready myself for the week ahead at the CS and I put the finishing touches to my Christmas cards. They're all getting posted out tomorrow, because I'm sick of them sitting in a pile on my kitchen table.  I posted my sister's cards for her today. She left them with me when she returned to Australia.  It was cheaper to do it that way, than for her to send them from the other side of the world. After tomorrow, I will just have a few to hand out at the CS and then I'm done for this year.  (Hooray!!)

I'm off to bed now, to read and get an early night for a change.  Have a good week.

Friday, 2 December 2016

A Trip to Town

Thursday, as I mentioned in a previous post, I spent the afternoon in Central London doing a spot of last minute Christmas shopping.  The main reason for going in was to avoid a £6 delivery fee on my Fortnum and Mason order, but I did need to pick up a few presents too, so made an afternoon of it.

I caught the bus in, which takes a while, about an hour from where I live, but longer coming home, (90 minutes) as it is much busier and the bus much fuller.  For £1.50 per journey though, it is super inexpensive, if you have the time and patience for it.

Anyway, I digress. The bus took me straight to Oxford Street itself, so I hopped off at Oxford Circus and wandered down, stopping in a couple of stores that I needed to go to.  I managed to get one present, but my second stop was unsuccessful, another attempt to avoid delivery costs.  I wanted a particular CD from HMV, but unfortunately they didn't stock it, so it was back to ordering it online when I got home.

I then reached John Lewis and took in their Christmas Window displays. I have to say, in my humble opinion, these were the best of the ones I saw this year.  They were so cute, tying in as they did with their Christmas advertising campaign. I didn't take any photos, as I only had my phone and can't download photos from it, so apologies for no pictures.

Selfridges next, and although their windows were glitzy and glamorous as always, they didn't quite do it for me quite so much.  I went into the store though, but was unsuccessful getting what I wanted, as when I saw it in person, I wasn't too impressed.

Anyway, I took myself down South Moulton Street and most of the length of Bond Street to find my way to Fortnums.  I enjoyed looking in all the expensive store windows, but wasn't overly impressed by much of the merchandise, far too ostentatious for my liking. I guess some people live a lifestyle that requires such trappings, I don't.

I popped into Fenwick's for the first time ever and found it quite interesting in there.  I am sometimes a bit put off going into some of the more expensive designer stores, as they tend to have security men on the doors and sometimes they even follow you around the shop.  Not my idea of a pleasant shopping experience.

Unfortunately, in this day and age anyone who doesn't appear to be wearing blatantly expensive designer labels, seems to be viewed as a potential shop lifter. Very sad and depressing, but I know from experience in the CS, that people do go out with the intention of stealing, in charity shops or high end stores, it makes no difference.

I was reminded as I passed the Royal Academy, that there's an exhibition on that we wanted to visit on Abstract Expressionism.  I made a mental note to ask OH to try to book us tickets to visit on Christmas Eve, as we always like to go into town for the day when we stay in London for Christmas, as it makes us feel particularly festive.

Eventually I got to Fortnums and it was super busy. As I was picking up an online order, I thought it would be very quick, which it would have been if I'd gone to the right place. I ended up queuing for 15 minutes in a line to order a hamper and you can only imagine how long each customer was taking. It's bad enough deciding what to buy at home on your computer without sitting down with an advisor in store to make up a hamper.

When I finally realised my error, once redirected, I had my order and I was out of the store within a few minutes. I have to say I found the service was impeccable, unlike some stores I visited during the afternoon.

Having collected my order, I made my way along Regent Street and popped in a couple of stores on my way back to John Lewis on Oxford Street, where I bought a couple more presents and used the ladies before getting the bus home. My bus leaves from the street down the side of the store, making it a super convenient last stop.

It was a good afternoon out, but by the time I got home at nearly 7pm I was pretty exhausted and not really fit to do much else but collapse in front of my computer and order the one present that I couldn't get in person.

Maybe next year I'll get it all delivered, but then again, I might not, as it just wouldn't be the same and it wouldn't allow me to see the Christmas windows and lights and soak up the pre-Christmas atmosphere on one of the London's most infamous streets. A crazy place, but you've got to love it just a little bit.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

CS Catch Up and Feeling More Festive

It's been a good  couple of days at the CS.  We've been very short of staff, i.e. just me and the manager for half  of each day, due to some unexpected staff absences, but we've got by okay.

I've spent most of the time on the till, which isn't my favourite thing to do in the shop, but I'm happy to go where needed. I find the time passes a little slower when I'm on the till and Tuesday was quite a quiet day, probably because it was the second to last day of the month and people were waiting to get paid. Wednesday was a bit busier though, which was good.

I'm gradually getting used to the change in pace at the shop.  I do sometimes find it a little slow after the speed at which I used to work. On the plus side, however, I am feeling a lot calmer when I'm there and much less stressed for the most part, which is a very good thing indeed, so I'm not complaining, although it probably sounds like I am.

Last week, I got involved in setting up the Christmas window display, which was fun.  No pictures though I'm afraid.  It's now starting to get a bit busier on the Christmas cards and other products front, which I enjoy.  I like keeping the shelves stocked up.  It's like playing shop, although it's not playing, it's for real.  I've not really worked in retail since I was a teenager, so to me I still find it quite a novelty.

From this week, I'm going in on Fridays too, just up until Christmas and it's been my own decision.  I helped out the previous manager by doing quite a few extra days when needed, so I'm happy to help the current manager in the same way for a few weeks during a busy period. I'm away between Christmas and New Year, so I like to make up for it, although I'm not expected to.

With most of my Christmas shopping done, going into the shop keeps me out of trouble with regard to spending, unless something comes into the shop that I can't resist that is.  Besides, I now almost always get away at a time that suits me and makes the commute less stressful, so I'm more than happy to do it.

Today, once I've done my usual class at the gym, I'm heading into town to pick up an online order from Fortnum and Mason (a few stocking fillers for family) and doing a few last minute bits of Christmas shopping.

Following this, I should only have OH's main present and a few sweets to buy, but he needs to try his present on before I buy it, so we need to go on a special shopping trip for that one. The sweets can probably be picked up with the grocery shopping over the next few weeks, so I don't need to make a special trip for those.

Actually, I tell a lie, I still have a niece to buy a present for, but she often prefers the money, and I'd like to get something for my sister this year, as she made such an effort for my 50th birthday, that I want to buy her a little something to thank her.

Now the weather has turned colder, I'm starting to feel a bit more infused with Christmas spirit, especially when I go out early with the dog and everywhere is white and frosty.  I love it, so crisp and clarifying. LB's chocolate advent calendar came out this morning and I'll probably get the decorations out this weekend or next.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Monthly Round Up - November

Another pretty disastrous month on the financial front, but hardly surprising with Christmas around the corner.

I didn't really budget very well for the festivities this year, partly due to unexpected events and partly due to overspending during the course of the year. Oh well, can't be helped. You just have to tot it all up, pay it off and get on with it, making sure you're more careful in future.

At least my personal budget came in under this month, although only by £6 or so.  I didn't intend to spend as much as I did on myself, but a few spontaneous purchases at the CS got the better of me.

Another budget that came under this month was the household budget which was £36.52 under. This is the best it's been all year I think. (I have to say, though, that it will probably be over budget next month, as I'm placing a couple of orders for natural hygiene and household products, as we are running low.)

It was excellent news in the home budget this month, as nothing got spent in this category and it came in at £50 under budget. I do need to buy a couple of things in the forthcoming months, so am hoping to wait until the January sales and get them then. I am going to write a list to remind me of what we need, so I don't randomly purchase other stuff just because it sounds like a good deal.

LB didn't need much buying for her either, especially with Christmas and her birthday on the horizon, so another £33 under budget here.

You may be thinking at this point that things went pretty well, which when you look at the figures, they did really, but the Miscellaneous budget was totally busted, as I overspent by £73 here, mostly on Christmas presents/cards/postage and transport related costs, so nothing that I could have avoided.

The final category that got overspent this month was the food budget.  I don't quite know why, but it was nearly £150 overspent.  I really can't figure out how I came to overspend so badly here, but there you go, it just got out of hand somehow.  Some of it was due to eating out on days out or buying wine for social events, but the rest was just extra food in the cupboards.  I definitely need to rein this budget in this month, in spite of it being Christmas.  I've already made my Christmas food shopping list and I'm hoping to stick to it and not add anything else on, as we really don't want to over indulge too much over the festive season. We will be away visiting for a few days towards the end of the month, so this should help.

In all honesty, I'm expecting another disastrous month next month and then to hopefully get back to some semblance of normality by February or March, which is a bit of a depressing thought, but that's the reality of it.

I hope your budgeting outlook is far more positive than mine.

Monday, 28 November 2016

A Really Good Read

On Friday morning I finished reading this book that I picked up at the CS.  I nearly didn't buy it, but I'm so pleased that I did.

It's taken a few weeks to finish it, but I have to say that it's one of the best books I've read in a long time.  It's not a new book and was published 8 or more years ago, but everything in it is still relevant today, if not more so.

It kind of sums up my thoughts about the current rampant consumerism we are encouraged to enter into in so called developed nations today.  I think, as the book suggests, resistance is growing, but we're still a long way off turning things around. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to be connected to lots of you bloggers out there, who don't ascribe to the spend, spend, spend mentality that afflicts us as a nation and that is very reassuring and encouraging.

Perhaps it will take another downturn to make us fully realise the error of our ways and appreciate what we have already, instead of constantly searching out the next best thing.  Who knows, but this book has certainly crystallised how I feel about 'stuff' and mindless shopping and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of reading it.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

In a Funk

I've been in a bit of a funk this week (bad mood for anyone who doesn't know what I mean). I don't quite know why, as no one particular thing has happened to bring it on. Maybe it's hormones,(although I hate to say this, it may be true) or maybe not, but for some reason I was on a bit of downer for a few days.

I just felt a bit underwhelmed I guess by the thought of Christmas and the presents I've bought for people, annoyed with myself for always running out of money before the end of the month and generally feeling distinctly unenthusiastic about everything. I don't know if anyone else ever gets like this, but I do from time to time and it often comes right out of the blue.

Anyway, on Saturday I had a bit of a moan to OH about it and then started to listen to myself.  It really didn't sound good.  I took the dog out for a walk to take my mind off things.  It made me feel better. When I looked at her little cute face and she was being cheeky and playful, it helped to snap me out of my funk and start to pick myself back up again.

I'm incredibly lucky.  I have a nice home, great partner and daughter, very nice friends and fellow bloggers, a really cute and well behaved dog who I adore, no serious money troubles, I participate in voluntary work that I enjoy, have lots of interests I really love and there is plenty of food in the cupboards  (although everyone always complains that there isn't!). What more can a person want or need and what gives me the right to feel in a funk about life when I have all of these great things.

Anyway, a day later I'm feeling much better. In part, I was worrying that the Christmas presents I've bought for LB weren't very exciting or surprising, even though they are for the most part, what she has asked for. (I'm trying to be practical/less wasteful and buy things she wants, rather than things I think she might want that don't always really get used).

I'm sure that lots of parents feel this way just before Christmas.  I often do and tend to have a last minute panic that sometimes causes me to rush out and buy more, but I don't want to do that this year. It's not the answer and I  can't afford to do it either.

Instead, I found a great idea on YouTube today for a gift I can make, that has made me feel a lot better. It was an idea to make a memory jar for someone and in it put 12 ideas for things you can do together to make new memories.  I sat down and did this for LB for Christmas.  It should be a nice surprise for her and hopefully she'll like it.

Some of the things in it don't cost anything really, such as a girly pamper session together, a girly night in watching a film with snacks, breakfast in bed, etc.

Others include spending money, i.e. shopping trips to favourite or new untried destinations, a cinema/theatre trip, a visit to Starbucks (she loves it), a day out thrift shopping, a cut and blow dry in a salon.

The idea is for us to do one of the items together each month.  A way to make Christmas last the year, spread the cost and give us both experiences to enjoy together.

Yes, shopping does feature in a few of them, but what teenage girl doesn't like to go shopping every now and then, not to mention what mum doesn't like to go shopping with her daughter on occasion.

I feel a bit better about her presents now, as I know we have lots of treats to look forward to throughout the year and it will also make me consciously do more things with her too.