Monday, 20 November 2017

My Weekend

After my recent post about work, I'm pleased to say that my weekend got off to a good start, as work on Friday was a whole lot better than it had been on my previous shift.  I was working with a new colleague who is working the other part of my job in the lead up to Christmas. (It's a full-time post, but I only work 3 days, so she is working the other two).  She seemed very nice and was easy to work alongside. I'm hopeful that we'll get along okay, although it will probably be a rare occurrence for us to actually work together.

There was a small challenge that I'd not actually been faced with before and she was able to help me with it, as she'd had experience of it as a volunteer elsewhere, which was good. In addition, I was working with a couple of volunteers that I get on well with and find very easy to work with, so the day passed in quite a happy blur of activity. These are the kind of days when I really enjoy my job.

There's always more work to do than you can possibly manage to achieve in a day, and although I would have liked to have achieved more, I felt like I'd done a good day's work. I generally enjoy the days that I am in sole charge of the shop, (albeit I was sharing the responsibility on this occasion) as I feel that I can get on with what I consider to be the priorities. On some days there can sometimes be differences of opinion that influence the work I end up doing and make me feel less empowered.

Anyway, when I got home it was our usual Pizza night.  LB was supposed to be staying at a friend's house, but she returned home feeling a little unwell, and spent the night with us instead, which I was secretly happy about.  (Not that she was unwell, but that she was home with us!) We all sat down to watch a series about Donald Trump on the TV, about his past business and personal life, which makes very interesting viewing.  Is anyone else watching it?

Saturday, I spent most of the day just pottering at home, doing some work on my small business and catching up on my personal finances and other small tasks. Later, in the afternoon, OH and I took the dog out for a walk and ended the walk at the pub, where some neighbours were having a farewell gathering, as they are moving out of London shortly. I'm excited for them as they are doing what we thought about a lot but never could commit ourselves to doing, i.e. selling up here and virtually buying a house outright elsewhere.  They have a youngish (i.e. primary school aged) family and they have been finding London way too expensive. 

We had a couple of drinks and wished them all the best in the future, before returning home and then heading out with LB to a local cinema in our neighbourhood, that was crowd funded recently and has been up and running for a while now.  It was our first visit, but it was very comfortable, almost like sitting in your living room, with a bunch of strangers.  A good experience though.

The film we went to see was The Florida Project, about a single mum and her young daughter, scratching a living in Orlando, Florida.  It was a really good film.  A bit gritty, but humorous with it. The ending was a little unusual though.

Sunday, I managed to catch my usual class at the gym for the first time in 3 weeks, which felt good.  I did the grocery shopping on the way home and then just had a very lazy afternoon, doing virtually nothing productive.  I guess we all need down time sometimes.

Today, I was back at the gym again and was able to meet up with a dear friend who I hadn't seen for a month.  We are hopefully having a pre-Christmas meet up for lunch next week, with a couple of others and we will all be able to catch up properly then. When I get back to the gym, I realise how much I miss it and miss seeing my friends, when I can't get there because of work. All work and no play, as they say, makes for a very dull life.

The rest of today, was also leisurely. I did a bit of cleaning upstairs in the bedrooms, but my heart wasn't in it to be honest.  I may do more later in the week or next weekend, as I should be off work again, all being well.

I'm back at work tomorrow, and not particularly looking forward to it.  It's funny how one minute you can be really enjoying something and the next you think and feel completely differently about it. Sadly, in my experience there are far too many people out there who take pleasure in bursting your bubble in life. I think I just might need to try and distance myself from any negativity, which is just so draining of one's time and energy and really doesn't help productivity and progress.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Wardrobe Renewal

After buying a new winter coat this week, I have to admit to feeling a little guilty (only a little) and to make me feel better I decided to look back through my blog posts to try to figure out when I bought my previous winter coat.

It brought me to a post I'd written about creating a capsule wardrobe. That's the beauty of blogging isn't it? You can usually find many of your past purchases somewhere on your blog. In this instance, it told me that I'd bought my last smart coat in winter 2014/5. Okay, three years isn't a great deal of time to keep a coat, but one that isn't particularly high quality or expensive, can be looking worse for wear after three years, so I felt a little better once I'd realised how long I'd had it.

Re-reading the post, I realised that many of the other items in it were no longer in my wardrobe.  The tan brogue shoes were recently donated, as they were so uncomfortable, (big frugal fail) the biker boots have now been relegated to dog walking, along with another pair of ankle boots I bought around the same time or maybe even later and that were hardly ever off my feet, so it seems that this year is a year of renewing my wardrobe, which I guess we all have to do from time to time. The fact that it coincides with me working again and earning money is, of course, relevant too.

This also got me to thinking about whether my style has changed over the last few years.  I don't think it has much, I'm still wearing black jeans and t-shirts, with a jumper and scarf added in the colder months. I'm beginning to feel a little tired of my style though and now I'm working and getting out and about in the world more, that I'd like to up my game a little, make a few changes and a bit more effort.

I bought a new skirt from the CS last week. It's from the brand Long Tall Sally, and although I'm not tall, I like the length and fit on me and I like the design. It's quite flattering too. I think it cost £9, which isn't too bad. I haven't worn it yet, as I tend to go part of the way to work on my bike, which would be impossible wearing this, so I'll have to save it for a day when I take the car to the bus stop (usually a rainy day!) I sometimes wonder if the way you dress at work affects how people regard you.  It would make an interesting experiment, especially in light of recent events. (See yesterday's post)

Anyway, I think I'm going to take a slightly different approach to dressing for work in the lead up to Christmas.  My previous formal winter coat is going to be my go to coat for going to work and yes, I think I might start wearing skirts again or  the pair of navy Primark culottes that I also bought from our shop recently, especially on days when I do need to ride my bike part of the way.

One thing I definitely am not, is a person who wears blouses. I've tried to find one's I like, but I feel like they just do not suit me at all. It's a pity, as there's some pretty ones out there, but every time I try them on I either don't like the material or the look of them on me. I'm thinking of starting to shop at stores like Cos to get garments that are quite simple, but well structured, in the hope that I can find things that look okay on me. Does anyone have any ideas or tips? All will be gratefully received.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Time for a Haircut and Reflections on Working Life Lately

On Thursday, I decided it was time for a haircut.  I hadn't had my hair cut since just before I started work, back in July.  After a particularly bad day at the CS on Tuesday, about which I can't go into any detail here, I decided it might be useful to boost my confidence, which is currently at rock bottom.

After catching my usual class at the gym in the morning, I went along to a Supercuts salon, which is where I normally get it cut and as there was a queue of six people waiting, I realised it was just not going to happen there. Instead, I decided to go to a tiny little salon around the corner.  I'd taken LB there for a fringe cut for the exact same reason back in the summer holidays.  Luckily, the stylist wasn't busy and was happy to do the job.  Half an hour later I was walking out and back to the car. It looked much better and  I came away feeling much lighter and in a better mood and also pleased that a very nice self-employed lady had received my money and not some big chain of albeit budget hair salons.

Back on the  subject of work, I'm keeping my options open with regard to moving on from where I'm working at the moment, partly because it has become a little less enjoyable of late, despite the general success of the shop and partly because my contract ends at the end of January.

I like the charity I work for, but some of my experiences of volunteering and working for them have not been entirely positive.  I'm trying not to blame the organisation, but it may turn out to be a cultural problem within the organisation, or maybe it's just me that incites a certain sort of behaviour in others. I hope not, as I try to be respectful of everyone I work with. Maybe I'm a bit too easy going and people think they can take no notice of me. Whichever, it may be time for a change or I may just go back to being a volunteer, whereby I can then decide when and if I work. Sometimes, keeping life simple can be the best policy, although I would sorely miss the financial independence that being employed brings.

Don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy the work I do.  I love recycling things that people no longer want and sending them off at a reasonable cost to a new home where they can be used and loved, but I don't love some of the attitudes and behaviour of some of the people I find myself working with. I guess it will be the same anywhere. Maybe the answer is to challenge these aspects of the job rather than walk away from them, but I don't always feel wholly comfortable doing this and I don't want to make things worse for myself either.

On a lighter note, the trip to the hairdressers did also facilitate my buying of this lovely little chrysanthemum plant in the market for £1.  How could I resist it for that tiny price?  It will certainly brighten up the house in these darker winter days.

So, another job ticked off the list.  To be honest it was good that I was inspired to go this week, as the longer opening hours at the CS in the lead up to Christmas are starting proper next week. I doubt I'll have the time or inclination to get my hair cut once they get going, as I'll be too exhausted on my days off.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Returning to the Mall

I returned to the mall yesterday, to do the errands that I couldn't do at the weekend due to the emergency evacuation.

First thing on the list was to return a scarf to Primark. I bought a very colourful scarf, but it wasn't really something that I'd wear, as I tend to wear infinity scarves and this wasn't one.  I decided to exchange it for a few bits that were needed instead, i.e. a new bra for LB and some new pillowcases.  A few other very small Christmas stocking fillers for LB found their way into my basket too.

Next stop was Lush for LB's requested items on her Christmas wish list.  I threw a couple more items into the bag too, so there's a few surprises there for her. Hopefully she'll like them.  This concluded my Christmas shopping for LB, save for some chocolates which I got later from Waitrose.

I got a little distracted by a new Monki clothing shop that had recently opened in the mall.  I've bought their clothing online from ASOS before now, so couldn't resist a look.  I should have known it would have been fatal and it was as I ended up buying this winter coat.

My old coat, which I was wearing on this shopping trip, is starting to look a bit shabby and bobbly and has no hood.  This one seemed a perfect solution and I really like it.  It's nice and oversized, so I can wear thick sweaters underneath it too. At £60 I didn't think it was bad for a winter coat, even though I will look a little like Paddington Bear in it.  I'm hoping it keeps me warm enough, otherwise I'll just have to layer up.

Final stop on my shopping trip was Waitrose, to spend another £8 off a £40 spend voucher. I decided to use it to mainly buy lots of chocolates and consumable stocking fillers for Xmas presents, so quite a few more gifts got crossed off the list.  I also bought a few food items to use now and some to put aside for Xmas.  I'm collecting some dry goods together to soften the blow of the Xmas grocery shop. The branch I went to didn't have the best choice for the chocolates though, so I may need to visit another store and use another voucher in the next two weeks before the remaining vouchers go out of date.

Although I spent more than I expected due to stepping into Monki, I'm pretty happy with my purchases as I managed to pick up quite a few outstanding items.  I'll definitely be over on the Xmas budget again this month, but I don't mind if it means getting some things at a better price than I'll be able to get them next month.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 19

It always seems to me that life gets expensive in the lead up to Christmas, with less frugal bargains to be had. Or maybe, I just haven't made enough effort to look for them these last few weeks. Anyway, here goes with my summary of frugal and not so frugal measures this month.

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) I paid into my work pension scheme for the first time this month, in order to try to make some provision for my future finances. My employer pays a good amount into it too.  It's as good as free money and surely must be worth having even though it meant that I was paid less.

2) I used a 10% off voucher plus free delivery to order an item from LB's Xmas wish list. I saved £2 plus the £3.99 delivery charge, which saved me the bother of  a trip to the local mall to get the same item myself, so I'm happy enough.

3) I hand mended a few items of clothing, so I can now put them back into circulation and wear them again.

4) I made an effort to ensure that we ate down the freezer and cupboards this last couple of weeks and tried to use most of the things in them that have been hanging around for a while.

5) I used an £8 off a £40 spend voucher at Waitrose the other day, which allowed me to buy OH a bottle of single malt whisky for Christmas, for well under £20.  Result.

6) I bought some envelopes from Poundland for my small business and instead of paying £1 for 18, I managed to find two packs of 15 plus 5 extra free, so I got 4 extra for my money.  Not a massive saving, but every little bit of money saved helps.

7) I cut up lots of LB's old school exercise books that she was throwing out, to make a heap of scrap paper for list making. I certainly won't need to buy any for a good long time now.

8) I managed to remove a longstanding mark on our stereo speaker using a solution I had in the house, which saved me from replacing them and buying new ones.

Frugal Fails

1) I paid £3 in bus fares to travel to our local mall to return an item I'd bought elsewhere the day before and to use a voucher at Waitrose. It wasn't a wasted journey though, as a few more Christmas presents came home with me, all paid for from this months Xmas budget.

2) I had to buy another 10p bag for life this week at Waitrose, as I didn't have enough bags with me to carry home the shopping.

3) I bought more Xmas wrapping paper, although I already have loads, but I did want some new designs this year, so I don't mind too much.

4) I bought another silver ring from the CS this week, and this time it was a bit on the large side, although it seemed to fit when I first tried it on.  Anyway, I ended up buying a small device on eBay for a couple of pounds, to help it fit more snugly so I don't lose it.  I really like it though, so I'm happy enough now.  At least I can wear this one.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Ticking Things Off the Wishlist

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm a great believer in keeping a Wish List, of those items that I want to replace or need to buy for around the house or for any other reason. I find it actually helps to control my spending, as whenever I go out shopping, I try to concentrate on what is on the list and try not to get distracted into impulse spending on more stuff that I don't need.

I've done a bit of ticking off this week of a few small things on the list. To be honest there's very little left on it at all. Currently, all that is on it is the following:

1) New sofa covers for the large sofa in our second reception room (£300) - yes, it's a biggie, but we've had this sofa for over 15 years and we love it as it's long and deep and very comfortable. We bought it from IKEA years ago, but it is now discontinued, so I can't get covers from there, although they can be bought from other companies. (Obviously other people feel the same way about it as we do) Anyway, I want to keep it for years more, but the beige sofa covers are marked in places and I'd like some new ones.  It's not essential, but it would be good to save up and get some.  I may, however, change my mind about this, so it's definitely a backburner item that will take a while to save for.

2) Spend another £50 on clothes for LB.

3) Slip on plimsolls for the spring/summer - my old ones are very shabby now, but I live in these in the summer months and want to find another pair I like as much as my current ones, which I bought from ASOS.  Still looking!

4) Established plants for the garden (£100-200) - I'm thinking of re-planting one of the borders in the spring and want to buy large plants to replace some that I want to remove. Again, there isn't a hurry for this one, so it can wait until spring now.

5) New speakers for the stereo system (?)

6) Paving slabs to make paths on the allotment (£30-50).

Everything else that was on the list has now been bought, which is all good, although small things do sometimes get added on here and there.

This week, OH bought one of the items for me.  It was a new cover for the record player. Several years ago, I made the grievous mistake of setting down a plug in air freshener on the lid, which subsequently leaked and damaged it like this:

A while back, I found a new one on eBay for £40 and was saving up my Paypal balance to buy it.  When I told OH, within minutes he'd found another online for £25 plus £2.50 postage and bought it himself, which was kind of him.  It came the other day and has made a big difference. 

Here's what it looks like now, restored to it's former glory:

I was also going to replace the speakers, one of which I likewise damaged with the same air freshener.

Whilst replacing the lid cover, I got to looking at it and gave it a scratch and realised that the speaker casing is aluminium and the mark might scratch or rub off. The speakers belonged to my father who was a serious music lover and are a set of old Bang and Oulfson speakers.  I didn't really want to part with them and I tried one last attempt to get the mark off with some alcohol solution.  It worked and it now looks so much better, so I'm keeping them.

To celebrate, I put on some vinyl, which I haven't done in a long time. It's such a wonderful medium through which to listen to music. It takes me back to being a teenager and listening to LP's at home on the stereogram.

Anyway, another thing crossed of the wish list. Do you use a wish list to help control spending?

This Weekend

This weekend has been another weekend focussed on decluttering more stuff. Having the weekend off work and after LB's mammoth declutter last weekend, I spent some time on Saturday morning going through all of the items she donated and then recorded them here on the blog, as part of my challenge to declutter 1000 items this year. I'm currently at 897 items and I am hoping to increase this figure by the end of the month. So close, it would be a shame not to have a last push and meet the target.

Later on Saturday, we decided to head to the local Mall, which we rarely do.  I needed to return something I bought last week, that I decided just wasn't me, OH wanted to start looking for a phone for me for Xmas, I had another £8 off a £40 spend at Waitrose voucher to use, so I wanted to do part of the grocery shopping whilst there and make good use of it and we decided to have supper out as a treat, in an effort to make the most of my having the weekend off.

Only trouble was, when we approached the Mall, there were crowds of people all milling around on the pavements. Straight away, I knew something wasn't quite right. LB checked the internet and it transpired that the mall had been evacuated due to someone letting off a firework in John Lewis, which triggered the fire alarms and a subsequent evacuation, which apparently led to a bit of a panic and stampede to get out of the building.

We were so grateful that we arrived just after it had happened and not before.  As a consequence, we turned around and came home, instead choosing to eat in a local restaurant.

When we got home, I put my feet up with a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine and watched Strictly.  I completely missed it last week due to working all weekend, along with all it's controversy.  In fact, it was that that put me off watching it on catch up, but it was nice to get back to it this week.

Anyway, on Sunday it was the Give & Take, the second this month, this time run by a different organisation than usual and in a completely new to me venue.  The giving time was 11.30am, so I had to forgo my usual Sunday class at the gym (it starts at 11am), as I just wanted to get all of the stuff out of the house whilst I had the chance.

On the way back, I did the grocery shopping, so I was organised in time for going back to work today.

I can now give the spare room over to Christmas.  I took the decorations and wrapping paper out of the loft last week, to stop me buying more when I already have lots. I went through everything in the three boxes and bags again and a few more things found their way into the donation pile that I took this weekend.

The spare bed is currently covered with all the Christmas gifts I've bought so far (Not LB's or OH's) and that need wrapping, plus all of the wrapping paper, decorations, etc. I'll probably start wrapping things up soon and get ahead of myself.  Why wait?

I also spent time this weekend catching up on housework, laundry, ironing, etc.  and I also spent some time preparing more stock to sell on eBay. Sales have been going quite well over the past two months and I've decided to use the proceeds towards my new sofa covers.  There's a way to go before I can buy them, but I'm hoping that I'll make enough money outright to cover the cost.

Anyway, it was nice to get back on top of things this weekend, although I didn't get around to cleaning upstairs.  I'll do that in the week. One step at a time and I'll get there eventually.

How was your weekend?