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so I may need to visit another store and use another voucher in the next two weeks before the remaining vouchers go out of date.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?

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Xmas Poundland Haul

I know it's not particularly the done thing these days to do a Haul post, but I thought, as I've recently done a bit of a shop at Poundland, I'd just show you some of the things they have in their store this Christmas, that I thought were worth spending a pound (or 20) on.

Here goes:

Firstly, I bought these two large gift bags for a couple of LB's presents that are a bit bulky. One is particularly awkward to wrap, so these should come in useful.  I thought these designs were really cute and the colours are ones that I know she'll love.

These little Christmas lights always seem to come home with me.  There were some new copper designs this year, which tie in nicely with some of the gifts I've bought LB this Christmas.

These copper glitter dots, should also come in handy for Christmas wrapping.

These were the Christmas wrapping and tissue papers that I bought, one of which matches one of the gift bags. (Sorry, it's hard to make out the designs because of camera glare, but the one on the left has flowers and figs on it and the one next to it, fir branches on a dark pink background.

The copper geometric paper is one that can also be used year round for birthday and other gifts.

I also bought these cute crackers, that don't have any silly plastic gifts in them.  They just have some Xmas selfie props. I like the nutcracker designs too.

At least they're virtually completely recyclable.

Finally, apart from a standard Cadburys Advent calendar, I bought these two cardboard decorative stars, which at two for £1 were very inexpensive.

A few other items made it into my basket and almost but not quite through the till, including a very cute naughty elf, but I managed to resist at the last minute and left them at the till. He may come home with me another time.

I think I will definitely get the Christmas bags and boxes out of the loft now, so I don't spend any more money on things I probably already have plenty of.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

LB's Big Clearout

Last weekend was quite a productive one in a couple of ways.  I was busy at work and managed to get quite a few things done, despite shortages of volunteers and LB was busy at home sorting through everything in her bedroom and doing a mighty big declutter.

I was surprised when I got home on Saturday night to see that she'd amassed 5 black bin bags full of rubbish and a big trug full of items to donate. I was pretty impressed, but as always I do like to go through the black bags and make sure she's not throwing away things I might want to donate or keep. 

Having done so, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was actually very little to pull out and donate instead. She's obviously more careful these days and thinks more about whether things can be reused or sold on, which is good.

I did, however, pull out some of her old school books and magazines.  The magazines I mostly recycled as they were really old, but a few Beano and Dandy comics will get sent to the CS as they can be quite popular.

The half-used school books that she didn't want to keep, I have removed any blank pages to use as scrap paper for writing shopping lists. Here's a picture of the pile before:

And after:

It took a while to get through it and I've still got paper from the last time LB did a mass declutter and I did the same thing, but I just can't tolerate perfectly usable paper going into the bin. It should last me for years.  I just clip a bunch onto a bulldog clip and use it on a daily basis for list writing, then keep topping up as it gets used up.

There were a few other school books that I insisted she keeps, as they may be useful for revision later and a few others I kept for sentimental reasons, but the majority were decluttered.  The bin bags were be taken to the tip on Tuesday and her bedroom looks so much tidier and bigger now with so much taken out of it.  She did a really good job.

On Monday this week, I wasn't able to make it into work, as LB was unwell and OH was out at an appointment in the morning, so I spent the day going through her pile of items for donation.  I sorted them into three piles; Recycling, CS and Give & Take and stored them in the spare bedroom.  There's lots of books, a few items of clothing and toys/other items. 

I haven't totalled up how many items she's decluttered yet, I might do that job this weekend as I'm not working and there's another Give & Take tomorrow, so it should really help to boost my donated total this month and probably almost get me to the target for the year.  She's done me proud this year, as she has really decluttered a lot over the course of the year. I'm just happy that she's beginning to understand that less is more in many ways and I hope it will help her in the future.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Feeling Guilty

I'm feeling a little guilty as I write this.  I did a very petty thing today.

You have to understand, that I'm not a petty person generally.  I'm pretty easy going, would help anyone if I could, but sometimes, just sometimes, I get the feeling that I'm being taken for a ride, or in this instance, that OH is and I decided to stand up for us both.

For a good while now, due to OH working from home, we've been having parcels for both our neighbours and sometimes others in the street, delivered to us whilst they're out at work or just out.  They never warn us that they're expecting them and ask us would we mind taking them. They seem to just assume that it's okay to let the delivery men knock at our house, knowing my partner is likely to be in, and leave them with us.

It's happened a lot in the last six months and I've been getting a bit irritated by it, mainly because whenever we have a parcel coming and we're not in (which is rare, might I add, as we make sure one of us is in, if at all possible), they get sent to the Royal Mail depot and OH has to get up early and get there to collect them before a huge queue develops.

On one occasion, an item OH ordered a week before we went on holiday but never came, was subsequently left on the doorstep for someone to steal, which they did, incidentally! Anyway, the worst occasion in recent weeks, was when in the same day, we were given one parcel for one neighbour, two for the other and our Royal Mail parcel ended up at the depot!

It's one of those irritating consequences of internet shopping. Yes, it's very convenient to have your shopping delivered to your home, but if you're going to do so, make sure you're going to be in.  If you are going to be out at work, have some manners and ask your neighbour if they don't mind receiving it or why not just click and collect?  There are plenty of shops around here that facilitate the picking up of parcels on the way home. I know because I've used them, to avoid inconveniencing anyone else.

It doesn't seem to cross anyone's mind or make them feel guilty that OH might be busy working in his business, often concentrating on complex drawings, and he has to interrupt his work or lunch to answer the door to take charge of their shopping.

Anyway, today, I had a day off, OH was out at an appointment and I was getting down to business doing my WHB (Flylady speak for Weekly Home Blessing).  I was just starting work on the living room and I heard an engine switch off, and a knock next door. I waited, knowing that the next move would be to knock at our door and they did. I ignored them, they knocked again, I ignored them again and then they took the parcel across the road to someone else.

Now I did feel a bit mean, but delivery drivers are also to blame in this situation, as they rely on the good will of neighbours, sometimes on way too many occasions. In addition, many times, they don't even inform the neighbours that they've left the parcel with us, so they never come to collect it and we have to resort to chasing around after them to free ourselves from it, which is even more annoying.

I'm sorry, but it's just plain rude and I'm afraid my good will ran out today. I've been telling OH not to answer the door for a while, but he's too soft and always caves. I stood my ground today as a matter of principle. We're not some public convenience, there for everyone else to abuse.

You may think I'm unkind, so be it, but sometimes you have to make a stand, if only for your own peace of mind. I'm sure the neighbours won't even know that I refused to take their parcel, but if I do it often enough they and the delivery drivers might get the message and make their own arrangements.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Christmas Shopping

Well, now Bonfire Night has been and gone, we're in the run in to Christmas proper. As documented in other posts, I've been buying a few Christmas presents here and there over the last few months and I am pleased to say that LB's presents have now almost all been bought, bar a few bits from Lush, which I can pick up the next time I'm in the mall.

My focus now will be on OH's presents.  He is much more difficult to buy for, as he rarely wants anything, save for cycling clothing or equipment, which is very pricey and he's very particular.  I've already bought him quite a few smaller things, but the big ticket gifts he would like this year, a long sleeved cycling jersey and a new drill, are the main things I now need to purchase.  I'm just waiting for him to research the exact ones he wants.

I've decided that for most of the other gifts I'm giving, I'm probably going to give vouchers or money, plus some sweets or consumables of some kind. Most are for teenagers (or adults who can be difficult to buy for), and if LB is anything to go by, they tend to just prefer money anyway, instead of things not of their choosing that they don't really want. This way, money and time don't get wasted and they have the fun of spending it however they want to after Christmas.

It probably sounds like a bit of a cop out, but I've put so much thought and effort in in past years and still felt like the gifts I bought didn't really hit the spot.  I just don't want to do it anymore. Besides, I myself don't want anything from anyone, so reducing the gifts I give, is a good way to reduce unwanted gifts coming back, or so I'm hoping.

Lets face it, although it's nice to receive gifts, if there's anything I want, I just buy it for myself these days and I'm much pickier than I used to be about beauty products I'll use, so quite often I  recycle unwanted gifts by (discretely) re-gifting things, if I'm not likely to use them.  It all seems such a ridiculous waste at times.

Anyway, I'm now more than halfway through the £100 Xmas budget for this month, so maybe only one of OH's gifts will get bought this month and the rest will have to wait until December, but I'm hoping you won't find me madly trawling the shops at the last minute. I'm hoping that I'll more likely be serving those that do in the CS.

Talking about trawling the shops, today, I popped into Poundland for a couple of things and spent £21, mostly on Christmas wrapping/tissue paper/gift bags/decorations/fairy lights/crackers and an advent calendar for LB. They do have some quite nice items in there at the moment.  I probably should have got the wrapping paper out of the loft before I bought anymore, but I wanted some more modern paper for LB's gifts and they had some nice designs, so I bought some more anyway.

In future years, I'm going to take a leaf out of Flylady Diane's book and buy quite plain wrapping paper that can be used all year round and then jazzed up with Xmas ribbon or other decorations to make it more festive at Christmas. 

I also bought some digital advent calendars today, one for me and one each for my two sisters, from the Jacquie Lawson website.  That is my Xmas gift to myself and the two of them this year, as we don't generally buy one another gifts. I hope they'll enjoy them.  I intend to use and enjoy mine.

I'm starting to get a bit excited about Christmas now and feel a bit more festive. How are you feeling?

Sunday, 5 November 2017

CS Update

Well, it's been a couple of weeks now since the manager came back from his holidays and it was a relief to relinquish the reins, however, now our interns have left, as I thought, I have spent most days on the till filling in gaps in staffing.

We've had to train more volunteers to work on the till, which has been working well so far and everyone seems to be happy to do so thus far. We'll see if this stays the case.

Although quite a few new volunteers have or will be starting very shortly, there may still be gaps some days, which is okay as I like to work the till from time to time. Generally, I enjoy meeting our customers who are for the most part very polite and friendly.

I didn't, however, have a great day the other day. It started off well enough by my getting to work early, as a bus diversion had cleared, making my journey to work easier. A few small issues here and there irritated me and then an inebriated customer was just plain rude and then actually swore at me. Needless to say I wasn't impressed.

Later, I have to admit that being informed that in the run up to Christmas, the shop will be open even later a few days a week, was a bit of a blow to say the least.  I should have seen it coming.  I must be so naïve to have missed that one. Considering I already get home at 8pm on a normal day, staying open an extra hour is going to be tough for me.  I really can't do it more than once per week. It's just not fair on my family. I'll just have to see how it pans out. Just when I thought things might be getting back to normal too.

Anyway, I'm now working for the whole weekend and Monday too. I'd like not to have been working today, as there was an Autumn clear up day at the allotment, but unfortunately, it couldn't be avoided, so I had to dip out of that. I'm not altogether too bothered (I actually quite enjoy working weekends, as it's a different vibe in the shop) - it's just that it's not great for family life really.

LB has had a major declutter of her bedroom this weekend, which resulted in 5 black bags of rubbish.  I've spent an hour this morning going through them and pulling out blank sheets from old school books to use for shopping lists, etc.  It will last me at least 5 years, as there was so much of it. There were only a few things that I retrieved to keep which is progress for me. It did feel a little like a busman's holiday though, rooting through black bags at home as well as at work.

Anyway, it should bolster the donation total this month and there should be a good pile for next week's Give and Take. (Two within a month is very unusual).

I'll catch up with you guys  later in the week.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Donated - October 2017

After having such a good month last month on the decluttering front, I wanted to keep up the momentum throughout October, especially as I still need to declutter over 250 items to meet my yearly target of 1000 items and also because there's a couple of Give and Take days coming up locally in the next two months, so the more I can get out of the house, the better.

Here's my progress on the challenge this month:

1) One black PU rucksack - donated as replaced with a new grey one.
2) One pair of trainers only used for gardening - no longer needed, as I've demoted a couple of other pairs of boots to this job.
3) One glass bowl - no longer needed.
4-5) Two glass candle jars, one with lid - cleaned and donated.
6) One green recycling box - taken to the tip - damaged.
7) One door mat - taken to the tip - vomitted on by the dog!!! (and was also old and damaged)
8) One book - I've tried to read it but can't get into, so it has to go.
9) One new phone case - a duplicated present for LB last year, both OH and I bought it for her.
10)  One lovely virtually new pair of Joules tan brogues, probably the most uncomfortable pair of shoes I've bought in a long time.
11) One pair of slippers of OH's that he doesn't like.  I bought him a pair of croc type slip-ons from the CS to replace them, for when he needs to go out into the garden when the dog is being noisy.
12) One peg hanging clothes airer - replaced with a new one as several of the pegs had broken and it didn't hold as much washing as I needed it to.
13-23)  Eleven items of clothing donated by LB after a wardrobe declutter. (Some of which she later sold on DePop).
24) One black leather cross body bag I no longer use.
25-29) Four glass tumblers - I've recently bought some new ones from the CS to replace these.
30) One book - that I've read and am not keeping.
31) One pair of jersey harem pants repurposed and used as fabric yarn for making my rag rug.
32) One part used can of hair spray that I didn't like using.
33-36) Four magazines that I no longer need.
36-38) Three collectables that I decided to send to the CS.
39) One plant saucer that I don't have a use for.
40-57) Eighteen vintage collectables that I've decided to sell on eBay or donate.
58-60) Three old t-shirts I never wear.

As you can see, I didn't do quite as well this month as I did last month, but 60 is a reasonable amount of things to donate at this stage of the process, as the majority of  easy things to declutter have left the house.

When added to the total last month of 723 items, the total donated this year now stands at 783.  I now have two months to try to find the remaining 217 items to complete this annual challenge. I'm not sure if I'll be able to successfully do this, but I'll do my best and with a bit of help from LB who is having a major declutter of her bedroom this weekend, I might just be able to reach the magic 1000 figure by the end of the year.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Monthly Roundup - October

This month has been pretty disastrous on the spending front in most areas and I can't blame anyone but myself, as I've just relaxed my attitude once again, after so long being on a tight budget in order to pay off my overdraft. I didn't actually go into the red again, but I do have a smallish credit card balance to pay off next month. I have, however, had the expense of paying for LB's Duke of Edinburgh award this month, which at £220 wasn't cheap and made a dent.

Most of the budgets were over spent this month as follows:

My Personal budget of £25 was over spent by £143.09. (Hmm, yes, I did treat myself to a few new clothes.)  I promised myself that I'd spend £100 on clothes for myself once I'd paid off my debts, but I spent a bit more than this amount, mainly on some basics such as two pairs of jeans, a sweater, socks, a new coat, a new nightdress, new t-shirts and new gym clothes to replace some pretty worn out ones.

The most I spent on any one item was £20, which I don't think is extreme. These things should keep me going for a good while. I don't really feel like I need to buy anything else now and working with clothes at the CS, I don't feel that inclined to shop for them when I'm not at work these days. Besides, with Christmas on the horizon, there's now no room in the budget for much else.

LB's budget of £25 went over again by £48.72, mainly due to buying her some new underwear, pyjamas and a few items of clothing, plus some toiletries and giving her some cash during the month for spending money and gifts for friends birthdays.

Again, I promised myself I'd spend at least £100 on clothes for LB, once I'd paid off my overdraft.  I need to spend at least another £50 on her in the coming months, but there's not too much she needs at the moment. I'll probably wait until the January sales and spend the money on her then, as she'll get more for it.

The Household budget of £50 went over by £33.19, mainly due to buying a few make up products for me this month and other extra toiletries for other family members. Everything else I spent was the usual dog, household and toiletry products that I buy every month. 

The Xmas budget I set this month of £60 went over by £51.14 this month, which was mainly due to buying a pair of trainers that LB wants for Xmas, using a 15% off birthday voucher from ASOS. I figured I might as well use the discount now, than let it go to waste and pay the full price nearer Xmas. I also found a couple of Xmas present bargains that were too good to ignore, or were offers that might not arise again before Xmas. Next month this budget goes up to £100, followed by a rise to £200 in December.

The Home budget went over by £1.21. I did, however, manage to replace a few things that needed replacing this month, namely some drinking glasses, the replacements for which I got from the CS, a whisk, a sink tidy and some other bits and pieces that will come in very useful.

The Miscellaneous budget of £50 was over by £2.59. A few small gifts needed to be bought this month here and there, which comprised the main expenditure here, plus a coffee out with friends, which was a rare treat.

The Food budget of £400 was over by £22.66. No excuses here, I just wasn't adhering to the budget as well as I should be.

The only budget that came under was the Travel budget for work of £60, which came under by £15, which is surprising considering that I worked and travelled on several extra days in my Manager's absence.  Perhaps this budget is set a little high, but I'd rather that than too low.

A slightly more relaxed month in terms of spending, but I can't afford to continue in this vein and need to rein it back in next month, especially with Christmas around the corner.  I'm hoping to go back to minimal spending and stick to my budgets next month.  We'll see how that goes!!!

On the positive side financially, I did start to put some money aside for LB's college fund this month, i.e £50 and I will continue to do so every month from now on.

In addition, from next month, I will also be contributing to the pension scheme at work, which will set me back around £100 per month, but as my employer pays in another £60 or so, this seemed too good to miss out on. I definitely have a large hole in terms of my work pension, due to staying at home with LB for the past 14 years, so I need to do something to help fill it now that I'm working and earning again.

Hoping for a better month next month, I hope your financial month was a good one.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Increased Productivity At Home

This weekend, productivity on the home front has increased, which is very encouraging.  Removing all of the things from the spare room really gave me a boost and I started to look around the room at the small piles of sewing  jobs that needed attending to.

There were a couple of cheap scarves that I'd bought from Poundland, whose ends I wanted to stitch together to make infinity scarves, so now that I could reach the plug to switch on the sewing machine, I did these. There were also a couple of small hand sewing repairs to make to a couple of  items of clothing too, which got done and the said items finally got put back in the wardrobe.

I also managed to cut up a few old pairs of leggings to make another big ball of black jersey yarn to knit my fabric scrap rug with.  There's still a few t-shirts left to cut up, which I'll do another time.

The room is now looking decidedly less cluttered, which makes me want to spend more time in there when I next get the chance.

On Sunday, I finally got around to spending a little bit of time on myself.  My eyebrows were looking ridiculous, so they got re-shaped to help me face a new week. When things get crazy, it's the little jobs like these that get overlooked and it feels so good to finally do them.

On Monday, I was also a bit more productive than usual too.  I woke really early, probably because of the clocks going back and decided to get out of bed and do the ironing.  This made a great start to the day, as it got me ahead on my jobs for the day.

After doing a class at the gym later,  I came home and caught up on a bit of paperwork and some personal finances and then this was followed after lunch, by doing my Weekly Home Blessing. It took a few hours, but it was nice to get the house back into shape before going back to work on Tuesday.

The only job I didn't get around to doing over the weekend was the allotment.  There's still a bit of clearing and weeding left to do, but I'll maybe make time to do a couple of hours there on Thursday, ahead of a planned group clear up of the site on Sunday next.

I hope you've all had a productive weekend too.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Keeping Track

This last month, I've been trying to keep track of both my health and fitness a little more.  Now I've paid off my overdraft, I treated myself to a pedometer to track my steps.  It's something I've wanted for a while, but couldn't justify the expenditure. 

I didn't go for an expensive blue tooth one, as my phone is useless and wouldn't be able to connect to it.  Instead I spent just £15 and bought one that I can wear as a watch/bracelet that tracks steps, calories and sleep (although I don't wear it in bed) and so is pretty basic. 

To be honest, I suspected if I got a complicated one I might have difficulty using it or get bored with it after a short time and it would be a waste of money.  This one, however, now set up properly, is doing a great job on a day to day basis.

After tracking my steps for a few days this week, it seems that on days where I work and walk the dog I do an average of 11,000 steps.  On days I don't work and walk the dog or work but don't walk the dog, it's more like 8000.

On Sunday, I did my first class at the gym wearing it, so I was excited to see how many steps that racked up. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to pick up the steps I made in class very accurately, so I'm going to try again at my class this morning and wear it slightly differently to see if I get more accurate results.  I'll let you know.

I mainly bought the device to see how many steps I do at work, with all the running up and down the stairs.  I have to say that the days I've worn it this last week haven't been typical days, as I've been more static either on the till or stood pricing and steaming clothes, so I probably haven't done as many steps as I would in a more normal day. I'll try again this week and see if it's any different.

I'm adding the results to my bullet journal so that I can compare results on different days. It might make interesting reading on particularly busy days.

The second health tracking device I've acquired recently is a blood pressure monitor. This was a birthday present from OH (I asked him to get me one!) You can tell I'm getting on a bit now.  My main reason for wanting one is partly due to having high cholesterol and partly because a close family member has just been diagnosed and medicated for high blood pressure, so I want to be able to keep an eye on it myself at home, as I rarely visit the doctors. In addition, work can be quite stressful too, so I want to make sure it's not creeping up over time. 

So far the results have been encouraging.  I'm going to try to take it once or twice a week, once resting and once after an exercise class and see the difference.

In addition, OH has recently purchased a new set of digital bathroom scales.  He doesn't like my old ones with a dial, as he doesn't think they're accurate and he's very weight conscious being a keen cyclist.  I will probably donate my old scales to the next Give & Take and just use his.  There's no point in having two. I'll just have to get used to weighing myself in kg instead of lbs and oz.

I'm not sure how long the health tracking will go on, but it'll be interesting for as long as it does.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A Busy Saturday Morning

This weekend, I spent my Saturday morning doing one of my most favourite things in life, getting rid of stuff. Yes, it was Give & Take Day again and I had yet more boxes and bags to take along.  Just 4 or 5 this time, instead of a car full, plus a few boxes and a bag for the local CS. All the stuff I've collected together leaving the house. Yippee!

Before doing this though, whilst still in my nightdress, I decided to try to find a way to display some collectables that have been sat in my hall cupboard for years. I liked them, but just didn't have a place to put them. In the process of getting them out and trying to display them in various places around the house, I came across a few items I wasn't particularly bothered about keeping and decided I could let them go, so another 3 or 4 items got added to the CS pile.

In addition, I decided that another 18 items I was going to try to sell on eBay.  I don't usually sell things on my personal eBay account, as it is just too much hard work, but I've made an exception for these items, but if I haven't got around to listing and selling them by January, then I'll probably just donate them.

In the process of all this, I got out and unwrapped, a shelf that I'd bought at IKEA and intended to use, but which has sat in the corner of our reception room for over 6 months.  After trying a few different combinations of display, I eventually settled on one.  OH then finally put the shelf up and here's the result:

And here's a close up of my favourite ones:

These are all muramic plaques made by John Clappison when he worked at Hornsea Pottery in the 1960's and 1970's. They're probably not to everyone's taste, but I just love the quirkiness of them, so it's finally great to display them all together in one place.

I've got some more Hornsea muramics to display in the house, but I need the right display method, and I haven't found it yet, but progress has been made, which is all good.

Anyway, eventually I got myself ready, got everything in the car and took them to the various drop off spots.  I also stopped off at the opticians to get my glasses mended, as the arm fell off last weekend and I just couldn't be bothered to schlep up the road to get them mended at the beginning of the week when I was off, so I did it whilst already out and about.

The final things I managed to drop off were some clothes for recycling which went in the TRAID collection point and a small electrical item that went in the electricals recycling bin.

Ironically, whilst dropping off the last box at the CS I was approached by a lady who was looking for the Give & Take herself, so I was able to give her accurate directions to the venue and help her on her way to donate her car full of stuff too. Serendipity, perhaps?

In any case, it was very satisfying to get all this stuff off the spare bed and out of the house and meant that I could finally reach the plug to switch my sewing machine on. So, watch this space, I might even get some sewing done in the very near future.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Back in The Thick of It

Well, it was back to the CS yesterday after an absence of 5 whole days of domestic bliss. I was a bit apprehensive about going back, as being at home for such a long stretch, I was back in my little comfortable bubble of domesticity and going back out into the crazy, often overwhelming and unpredictable world of charity retail, I knew was going to burst that lovely bubble in seconds.

It did too when I saw the amount of donations received in my absence. I didn't feel like I got a lot of work done.  There were lots of distractions pertaining to doing evaluations for our latest interns who were leaving. I spent most of the rest of the day working on getting clothing out into the shop, as there was no-one else to do it and tidying up the clothing already in the shop, which after 5 days, was somewhat random in it's distribution on the rails. 

I have to say that I'm very particular about how I like to display the clothes in the shop, it being my main remit. Both my previous managers were sticklers for having a tidy and appealing shop, and I've inherited their standards and like the clothes to be hung on the right type of hangers, to help keep things tidy and prevent them dropping off all the time onto the floor. (They still do though!). 

The way I see it is that it might be a charity shop selling second hand items, but it doesn't mean that everything should look second rate. Rails rammed with so many clothes on them that it's difficult to look through the rail, can be very off putting from a customer's point of view, so I like just the right amount of items hung in the shop. 

Needless to say, getting my ideas across to other volunteers can be challenging at times, and it shows when I've been away for a few days and have to systematically go through the rails to get them how I want them again. I'm sure they think I'm mad, but I can't help it.  If I'm going to do a job, I want to do it well.  Anyway, once I've done that I feel like I'm back in the swing and can really get on with all the other jobs that need doing, which is what I'll be focusing on tomorrow.

As mentioned above, our two interns left yesterday, who have been with us for four months, so we will now be quite short of volunteers on some days, at least until some new ones are recruited and trained.  I can see in my crystal ball that I will be spending more time on the till in the very near future. This isn't so bad though, as I quite like it now and again and I am well practiced enough to be able to do other jobs in between serving customers, especially if I get myself organised and set myself up with things to price and put out beforehand.

I'm putting a positive spin on it and kind of looking forward to the challenge. I'll keep you posted on how things progress.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 18

This post there hasn't been a lot to report lately, as I've been working quite a lot and have not had much time for being as frugal as possible, although I guess working does help, as I don't have the time to go out and spend money either for the most part. Here are the frugal measures and fails that have occurred recently:

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) I used £7 and £5 off a £50 spend vouchers at the supermarket for my first two grocery shops of the month.  They were both pretty big shops, mainly so that we'd have plenty of food in the house for when I got busy at the CS, to provide lots of options for quickish meals when I got in.

2) OH repaired the worst of the rotten decking in the garden to help make it last another couple of years or so and prevent either of us falling through it. He's also done a couple of other niggly outstanding jobs around the house recently, which is good.

3) OH bought me some new trainers for my birthday, plus another item from my current wish list, which meant that a couple more things were crossed off it without my having to spend anything from my budget. I asked for quite an inexpensive pair of trainers, so I got a few other small gifts too which was, lovely.

4) I managed to buy LB some cans of Arizona Iced Tea at Lidl for 79p each, that she had asked for for Xmas. We paid over £2 for one of these when we went to the cinema the other week.

5) One pack of Cherry Tomato seeds from a gifted magazine subscription.

6) I've sold quite a few items on eBay in the last month, which has provided a bit of extra income.  Some, of course, went on fees and postage costs, but some is also straight profit and adds to the coffers. I'm happy to sell as much as I can at the moment, as it declutters the stock from the house. I'm no longer buying any new stock in a concerted effort to reduce the stock I already hold.

Frugal Fails

1) I forgot to cancel a class at the gym one Sunday when I was working and incurred a £3 fine, which really annoyed me.

2) I didn't take enough bags to the supermarket on a few occasions and had to spend money for a strong bag and three 10p plastic bags to carry shopping home, which I almost never do normally.  Another very annoying oversight, that I'm conveniently blaming on being so busy.

3) A virtually new pair of brogues that I bought a couple of years ago, but have hardly worn, had to be donated to a CS. After trying to wear them for work one day, they hurt my feet so badly, that I had to take them off and borrow some boots from the shop. Said boots felt so comfortable by comparison, I was almost tempted to buy them, but they were just so ugly. Anyway, the offending shoes just aren't worth keeping if I can't wear them for work, so away they go to a new home. My feet incidentally were still recovering two days later. Not good.

4) I treated myself to a new silver ring on eBay, but when it came it was a touch small and not comfortable to wear.  I was a bit disappointed, but I'm keeping it to see if after I lose some more weight it might fit better.

Staying Home Instead

Well, our planned trip to Amsterdam didn't happen this week.  Our dog sitter was fully booked up and getting accommodation with a dog was virtually impossible and would have incurred vet visits for injections, etc., so we stayed home instead.  We considered hiring a cottage in the UK for a couple of nights, but then decided that we would just be going away for the sake of it and not to somewhere that we really wanted to go, so decided not to bother.

In any case, I was glad to stay home, as I'd seen little of the house for the past two weeks and had lots of chores to catch up on before going back to work this week. Going away would have set me back further and created lots more laundry to boot.

So, the past three days have been all about catching up on chores; dog walking, laundry, ironing, Weekly Home Blessing, grocery shopping, a bit of impulse shopping (!!!), etc. Not wildly exciting stuff, just the stuff of normal life really, which can be comforting and reassuring after a busy period.

It's been nice too to spend more time with LB, who has been off school this week for half term. Just hanging around at home with my loved ones has felt like taking a break.

Today, is my last day off before I head back to work for two days. I've got a couple more jobs to complete in order to feel like I'm back on track, i.e. clearing the remainder of the allotment and finishing the pruning in the garden.  I also need to get my glasses mended as the screw holding one of the arms on fell out the other day and I lost it.  I'm hoping the optician will be able to make a speedy and inexpensive repair to them.

This Saturday, there is a Give and Take event on a housing estate up the road, so I'll also be gathering all my donations together and taking them there.  There isn't a huge amount this visit, but finally getting these things out of the house is always very satisfying.

With the busy run into Christmas at the shop almost upon us, it will be good to feel like I'm on top of things at home. I'm currently trying to plan my Christmas shopping too, so that I don't leave it all until the last minute.

Apologies for lack of blog posts lately, but all work and no play has made me a very dull blogger. I'll do my best to rectify that in the coming weeks if I can.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Enjoying Some Time at Home

Well, after my post yesterday, there was change of plan. LB was heading out to try to arrange her Duke of Edinburgh voluntary placement at a charity shop in the next borough, so I decided to go with her and we had a girly afternoon out together.  I'd say shopping, but we didn't actually do much.  I bought a few groceries, but little else.  We had a coffee together in Starbucks which was nice too.

Anyway, the CS concerned told her they had too many volunteers at the moment and to try again in a few weeks. I really felt for her as I could tell she was really disappointed and had set her heart on working there.  They are a fancy and very trendy vintage style CS, which is why she wants to work there.

She tried asking at another shop too, but they didn't take on under 18's for voluntary work.  Anyway, she may end up working at the shop I manage at this rate, she'd definitely be welcome there I'm sure, it's just a long way for her to travel. I'm trying to let her sort it out for herself.  She knows she can come to us if she wants to.

The rest of the day I took it easy.  After an afternoon dog walk, I sat and watched Strictly for most of the evening.  Bliss for me as I've worked every day of the last 2 weekends.

Today, I was back to the gym for my Sunday class.  It felt good to get back there after a two week absence. This was followed by a small grocery shop at Lidl, during which a very loud shouting match started between two customers at the till. To be honest I was all for one of them, who was being hassled by someone in the queue and she more than put them in their place. Good for her. I spoke to her later and she looked very upset by the whole incident, as one would be.

Anyway, I had a stroke of luck whilst in Lidl, as they had something on offer in their American week, that LB wanted for Christmas, namely an American brand of iced tea, that she'd tried whilst we were in the States. I managed to get her half a dozen cans at 79p each (they can cost up to £3 in some shops) as part of her Xmas present, so another gift was crossed off the list.  I did, of course, buy her a couple of cans to drink before Christmas too.

This afternoon, I really am going to start catching up on some jobs around the house. It's always the case after a long stretch of working, that it takes me at least a day to recover physically, before I can even think of starting to clean and sort out the house. It's probably both a mental and physical thing. I almost feel like a stranger in my home at the moment, so little time have I spent here recently.  I can't wait to get it back in order again. The fact that it's blustery outside also helps, as the best place is definitely inside this weekend.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

I'm Back

It's been a busy couple of weeks, but my two week stretch of managing the CS in the Manager's absence has now come to an end, and I'm very relieved. As you might expect, things didn't go to plan and I ended up working several more days than initially expected. (Surprise, surprise).  This time, however, it was due to ill health of another member of staff, which couldn't be helped, so I just had to suck it up and carry on regardless.

I got a surprise call from my Manager yesterday, who knew nothing about the events of the past week, and offered to come back a day early and work today, otherwise I would be there again.  I was very happy to hand over the reins and get back to my own life. The good news, from subsequent discussions, is that I should get my days back in lieu, when I get the chance to take them.

This morning, I've had a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, and I am having a leisurely Saturday morning surveying the devastation around me that is the house (It's not that bad really, OH has been keeping on top of it for me) and deciding what I'm going to do with myself now I've actually got some longed for free time.

It's a bit wet outside to do any work at the allotment or in the garden and there's supposed to be a storm later today, so I guess I will probably spend most of the day getting to grips with the house and laundry.

As it's half term this week, we may be going away for a few days to Amsterdam.  I'm not back at work until Thursday and I've wanted to revisit the city for a while now, so it would be a good opportunity to get away and just chill out a bit.  I haven't been to Holland for at least 20 or even 30 years, so I'm quite looking forward to it.

I think we'll be taking the ferry to France and driving from there (it's a four hour drive), so one of my tasks this afternoon will be to look for some accommodation.

Other than the above, a dog walk and watching Strictly are the only other things I've got on my to do list for the day and I'm very pleased about that.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 17

This last two weeks, I feel that I have finally made progress toward living a debt free life.  Having had paid work for the last few months has been a major factor, and whilst it's had it's problems, I am grateful that I've had the opportunity to do work that I essentially enjoy and get paid for it.  So here's the frugal and not so frugal progress of late:

Frugal Measures and Freebies

1) My paid position at the CS has been extended for  a while longer until the end of January I think, but I'm still waiting for confirmation of dates. There are however a few issues to iron out in the next week or so, which I'm not really at liberty to go into here. Subject to these, it will be good to continue to earn some money for a bit longer.

2) I paid off my overdraft this month and I am now debt free, save for any money owed on my credit cards, which I use for online shopping. These balances total just over £200 and will be paid off next month as always. I now intend not to use my overdraft facility going forward, although I will still use my credit cards on a monthly basis to order online and then continue to pay off the balance each month.

3) I've had a few dividend payments on my shares this month, which have added up to far more than I would get in interest on the money.  This has increased the amount of passive income I receive each month, which is all good. There's quite a few more due next month, which is good too.

4) Two packs of free seeds this month, parsnips and sweet peppers.  I think that my subscription to Kitchen Garden has just about come to an end, so I'm not expecting many more of these freebies in the near future, unless I decide to use my Tesco club card vouchers to re-subscribe and I'm not sure if I want to do this.

5) I attended my first Manager's meeting and training day for the CS last week and got a free lunch of sandwiches and fruit, which saved me buying anything, as I didn't take anything with me. It was quite interesting to put a face to some of the other managers in the area. Also, I got to come home at 4.30 pm instead of 6.30 pm and the bus journey was shorter, so I was home at a reasonable time for once.

6) I started listing again on eBay for my small business, which has been a bit dormant for the past 6 months.  I decided to make the most of the lead in to Christmas, which has traditionally been a very busy time for me. I've made a few sales so far, but have noticed how much more expensive eBay's fees are this time around.  I'm doing it more to declutter the stock, rather than make lots of money, but if I do make some money it's a bonus. The things I've sold so far have more than covered the fees incurred to date, so I'm pretty happy at this.

Frugal Fails

1) Despite starting to benefit from paid dividends from my shares, the value of them has been falling lately.  I'm hoping it's not a sign of things to come with the economy, although it does look that way.  I'm not too concerned, as I'm intending to keep them in the long term and they should rise again over time.

2) I ordered a pair of winter ankle boots from ASOS last week. I've put this as a fail, as it wasn't budgeted for. My current boots are looking very scuffed and a bit battered and need to be relegated to dog walking and allotment duty.  Going out to work now, means that I do need to pay a bit more attention to what I wear and the image I project whilst at work, although when working in a CS the pressure to look immaculate isn't that strong. Even so, there does come a time when things need to be replaced and I think I've had my current boots for nearly 3 years and have worn them constantly.  In addition, I find them quite slippery on pavements in wet weather, which isn't ideal and I've nearly come a cropper on a few occasions.

3) Whilst attending the CS meeting last week, I purchased a cup of tea from the café on the premises, not knowing that if I'd gone straight to the meeting room, there was free coffee, tea, orange juice and food available.  Never mind, I'll know if there's ever a next time. Also, I bought a bottle of wine to give to my old manager to thank him for supporting me, but he never turned up to the meeting because he was on a course elsewhere.  I'll have to give it to him another time, if it doesn't get drunk by OH that is.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Sunday Night/Monday Morning

After working all weekend, I was met from work on Sunday night by OH and LB and the dog, who came into town to pick me up.  We stopped off at the pub again down the road from the shop, had a bit of refreshment and then headed to the car to go home, via a new to us Italian restaurant in another part of the borough where we live.  It was nice to sit outside and eat and watch the world go by on a busy London street, especially when I'd seen little but the inside of the shop for three days.

Following on from Sunday night, Monday morning was a busy one.  I was up and out with the dog, and had to collect my bike on the walk as I'd left it near the bus stop the day before on my way to work and had too much wine to cycle it home after the restaurant.

Then it was off to the gym for Zumba.  I had realised on the dog walk that I'd not attended or cancelled a booked class at the gym yesterday and thus had to pay a £3 fine.  Very annoying.

A couple of friends and I had pre-arranged to go for a coffee after the class in a local Turkish restaurant, to catch up properly, instead of in passing.  It made a nice change to have time to chat freely.  I ordered us all a plate of humus and pitta bread, mainly to facilitate my using my debit card, as I didn't have any cash and there was a minimum £10 spend. It was my shout this time around and now that I work and earn more money, it was great not to worry about paying the bill. I felt like a grown up for once.

Next, I headed off to do the weekly grocery shop. I got a text from LB whilst out, saying that she needed to use a  head lice treatment when she gets home! Urgh, I itch just thinking about it. She's not had head lice for a good few years. I had to get the required medication whilst I was out and her bedding and the towels will all be changed once it's been done.

The grocery shopping this week got a bit out of hand, as I kept throwing a few extras into the trolley to get us through the next couple of weeks of busyness at work. I'm not sure if I'll get chance to do another big shop for two weeks, so I made up for it. As a consequence £97 was spent, even after using a £5 off voucher. I also paid a visit to Home Bargains, which is always dangerous and bought a few Christmassy bit and bobs for various people and the house, plus some needed toiletries. I couldn't believe it when the bill came to £45.

Tonight, I'm just taking it easy.  It's Morrocan meatballs with cous cous for supper and I might try to catch up with Strictly, which I completely missed this weekend. Plus there Rellik to watch too.  OH and I have our suspicions about who has done what in it.

Tomorrow, I hopefully have a free day and lots of ironing and work at the allotment to do. I might even do an allotment post if I remember to take the camera and actually get there. I hope everyone has had a good weekend.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

A Slow Week and Some Good News

It's been a slow and steady week for the most part this week.  I wasn't working at the CS until Wednesday, so I had 4 lovely days off at home just relaxing and doing what I wanted to. I managed to get back to the gym on Sunday and Monday, which was great.  It was nice to catch up with friends I haven't seen for a few weeks and lots of news was exchanged.

On Tuesday, I went to see the nurse at my GP clinic. I needed a smear (TMI), a general health check and some bloods taken for cholesterol and thyroid function. It was good to get everything taken care of in one visit, especially now I'm working.  Anyway, I got the results today and everything was normal, save my cholesterol which as I've mentioned before is currently high.  The GP gave me a year to lose some weight and try to get it down, and I'm happy to say that it had come down from 7.1mmols to 6.4 mmols, which was very good news.  The best birthday present I could have (it's my birthday next week). I know it still needs to come down further, but it's encouraging that it is finally going in the right direction in a more significant way.

On Tuesday night, we had tickets for a live recording of Jools Holland's TV show, which is filmed in a studio in Maidstone, Kent.  We were hoping LB could arrange a sleepover with friends, so that we could go, but in the end it didn't happen, so we went out for tea instead.  The tickets were free, so we didn't lose any money. It would have been a very late night too,especially with work the next day, so it was probably just as well we didn't go.  Maybe we'll be lucky enough to get tickets again sometime.

Work on Wednesday came as a bit of a shock after 4 days off. The manager leaves today for his two weeks leave and there's still a question mark over whether I'll be getting any help to run the shop in his absence.  As the day wore on, he had arranged to meet with a couple of candidates who might be able to help, and one of them seemed to be available, which meant the day ended on a more positive note. I'm hoping it will all be confirmed and arranged by the time I go in tomorrow.

Today, I was back at a different gym again, for another class that I've not managed to attend for a couple of weeks.  Again, it was good to see people I haven't seen for a while and I enjoyed the class. The rest of the morning I spent doing a some work on my personal finances, so that I know where I'm at with them. 

I had to pay for LB's Bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition next year, which is costing £220. OH gave me the money to cover it though.  As part of the award, she needs to do 30 or 60 hours of voluntary work.  There was talk of her coming to the shop with me, but I think she's found another opportunity closer to home.  It was good that she sought it out herself.

Today, I also paid my allotment fees for the year, my credit card bill for the month and then started to put some money in a savings account for LB's university fees and living expenses, should she choose to go, and I'm going to do this every month from now on, now that I haven't got any debts to pay off anymore. It's never to early to plan for this and even if she decides she doesn't want to go to university, the money will be there for driving lessons, to buy a car or rent a flat or whatever.

This afternoon, I popped out to do a few errands, such as posting off some birthday cards and doing a bit of clothes shopping for the coming season.  I bought a couple of black sweaters, (one thick, one thin) two black tops for work, black socks and another pair of black jeans for work. Very boring to wear the same colour all the time I realise, but I just enjoy wearing black and although I tried on garments in other colours, they just didn't look quite right to me, so black it was. I also bought a new night dress from M&S, yes black again, but with multi-coloured birds printed all over it. It's so pretty.

Whilst out and about, I banked a couple of small cheques in the building society that I've had for a few months, and topped up my Oyster card in readiness for the next couple of weeks at work. It's one less thing I'll have to worry about on the way to and from work.

Tonight, I cooked a chicken casserole for OH and I and later I'll be having a shower in readiness for going back to work tomorrow. I'm working all weekend, but am quite looking forward to it, as I haven't worked on the weekend for a few weeks and it's usually less hectic and much more enjoyable than during the week. Let's hope so anyway.

OH has also been busy this week and has completed the repairs to the decking, which is now looking much better.  The new wood will take a while to tone down and blend in with the older wood, but it looks a lot better and more to the point is a lot safer to walk on now.

Anyway, I hope to catch up with you again in the next week. 

Have a good weekend.

Monday, 2 October 2017

This Weekend

It's been a quiet, gentle and totally normal weekend as they go, the first I've had in a while. I had a list of things that I intended to do, but do you know, I didn't do many of them, and that's fine with me.  Sometimes you just need to step away from to do lists and just enjoy your free time, and I haven't had much chance to do that lately, so this weekend was all about this.

We didn't really go anywhere, save for the garden centre again as OH needed some wood to repair the decking and I needed some compost to plant my bulbs in. We also got some bark to top up around the garden as it constantly gets dispersed into the borders by the dog.

We dropped a few things off at the tip, the result of my doing a bit more pruning last week. I've just got two fruit trees to prune the tops of and the bulbs to plant into pots and then the garden will be taken care of for the winter, save for sweeping up leaves and storing them until they make a leaf mulch.  I did this last year and the three bags rotted down nicely and now have been used to top up the raised beds.

So, much of this weekend was spent indoors.  I did a Weekly Home Blessing, organised my finances, did some more eBay listings, some ironing and cooked us a roast dinner on Sunday evening.  I managed to get to my class at the gym for the first time in a few weeks on Sunday and then did the weekly shop on the way home, so I'm all set for the week now.

It's going to be a busy few weeks from Thursday as the manager of the CS is going on leave for two weeks and I will be taking the helm again.  I'm determined not to work 7 days a week on this occasion, as it just totally exhausted me the last time around.  I may be getting some help from another shop in the vicinity, but nothing's confirmed yet.

My birthday also falls within this period, so I'm sure we'll be doing something to celebrate the occasion. I have to say that I'm already looking forward to November and October has only just begun.

My temporary contract at the CS has now been extended until the end of December, but it is possible that someone else is going to be working the 12 hours of the full-time post I'm covering, that I'm not working, which should help things a bit, especially in the lead up to Christmas.  I was asked if I wanted to work full-time, but I just couldn't make that commitment at the moment, as the days are long ones and it would put too much strain on family life.

As a consequence, I may not get much time to post in the next few weeks, but as soon as things return to normal again I'll be back.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Monthly Round Up - September

Well, I thought this was going to be the final monthly roundup whilst working as a paid employee at the CS, but as it happens, my contract has been extended for another 3 months until the end of December, so hopefully this will have a positive effect on my finances going forward.

My aim this month was to pay off my overdraft, before my birthday in October and I'm pleased to say that I did achieve this. In addition, however, I did spend quite a bit more than I intended to this month, mainly due to a few expensive necessities that had to be bought, a few indulgences here and there and some retail therapy after a particularly intense stretch of working whilst the Manager of the shop was away.

Anyway, here are the figures:

The Food budget came in under budget by £103.03, mainly due to OH accompanying me on the weekly grocery shop one week and paying for the groceries, which was very good of him. I did offer to give him the money back, but he didn't want it.

The Travel budget for work of £60 also came in under budget at £50, despite 7 days of travel one week, which was good news.

Sadly, the good news ends there.  All other budgets were overspent as follows:

My Personal budget went over by £72.22, mainly due to buying a couple of t-shirts for the gym and some new ankle boots from ASOS, plus various small items that I purchased over course of the month which tend to add up to quite a bit by the end of the month. The t-shirts were on my wish list though.

LB's £25 budget was smashed at £48.71 overspent.  This was due to buying her new trainers and other items for returning to school, so it wasn't as if I could do anything to avoid it, as they were all things she needed. I'm intending to spend some money on some new clothes for her next month, now I'm debt free, as she hasn't had a lot bought for her this year. I am willing to spend up to £100, so long as she can find things she likes and will wear regularly.

I overspent by £46.10 on the Home budget of £20 this month, buying a few unplanned things after a little bit of retail therapy was required. I did, however, buy; a new alarm clock, which was essential, some Tapas dishes from Home Bargains and a serving dish for making Tacos from the CS, as well as the items mentioned in the retail therapy post at TK Maxx, most of which were on my wish list. Towards the end of the month, I also spent just short of £20 on compost and spring bulbs at the garden centre.  I will look forward to some nice flowers from the bulbs in the spring, although I haven't actually planted them yet.

The Household budget of £50 went £49.76 over, mainly due to a bulk order of cleaning and food products from Goodness Direct, a stocking up on regularly used toiletries at Home Bargains and the purchase of a few other natural cosmetics for use by me. This does, however, mean that next month, there shouldn't be very much to purchase in this category, save for regular items such as toilet rolls, dog food, etc.

The £50 Miscellaneous budget went over by £24.21. This was mainly due to buying quite a few small Xmas presents that I hadn't actually planned or budgeted for, transferring some money to my dormant business account to cover fees and having to get a new door key cut for LB. At least I got a head start on Christmas!!

In conclusion then, I was over spent by quite a bit this month, but my wages from the CS does mean there was more money coming in.  As mentioned, I managed to completely pay off my overdraft this month, which is great news and I even had a couple of hundred pounds left in my account at the end of the month.  The only debt I now have is the balance on my credit cards, which I use for internet purchases and which will be paid off once the bills come in and then I should be completely living within my means.  Tbey currently have a combined balance of less than £200, so the money left in my current account more than covers it.

This is good news for me and a long time coming.  I've paid off my overdraft before, only to run it up again, because I didn't have the right mind set.  I'm hoping that this time around, I'm in a better place and will stay out of debt permanently. Having halved all of my budgets in an effort to pay my overdraft off quicker, I could now put them up again and may do so next month, as it would be more realistic.  I'll see what happens. I have also budgeted for buying Christmas presents over the coming few months, so I should now be able to have a debt free Christmas this year and start the 2018 New Year debt free too.  Hooray!!! - That's my debt free scream!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Donated - September 2017

This month got off to a pretty good start in decluttering terms for a change.  Knowing that I had very little time to declutter this month due to work commitments, I took any opportunity I could to do what I could when the feeling took me.

On my first Sunday morning back from France, after 3 consecutive days of working at the CS, I woke up early at 6.30 am and in the spare bedroom (I'd slept in there due to a party in a house at the front - the noise made it difficult for me to get to sleep) and immediately got the urge to finally get stuck into some decluttering. I was up on a chair sorting through boxes of fabrics and rearranging the storage in the room, which was incredibly cluttered.

As a consequence of an hour or so's work, I managed to declutter over 75 items which gave the total a big boost this month.  Here's the list of items leaving the house.

1-52) Fifty sewing patterns and the basket that they are stored in. - I really aren't doing any clothes making anymore, as I don't have the time and my style choices have changed somewhat since I bought many of these or kept them from magazines.  I'm just not going to ever make them.  I kept a few favourites that I might use at some point, but my collection was reduced to about a dozen.

53-55) Three ceramic ornaments - cute but surplus to requirements.

56) One wooden wine box used for storage - no longer needed.

57) One book.

58) One picnic basket - used for storage, but no longer needed.

59) One plastic lidded storage jar - no longer needed.

60) One string of fairy lights - no longer wanted.

61-63)  Three old school skirts of LB's now replaced and recycled for rags or my rag rug.

64-69) Six tea towels that I'd collected - I am disbanding my collection.  A couple of dark coloured ones I kept and removed to the kitchen for use.  The pale coloured ones I washed and took to the CS to use there, as I won't use them and I don't want to keep them.

70-72) Three new and still in packaging Fragonard towels that I bought from a jumble sale but don't want to keep or use. Let someone else enjoy them.

73-75) Three vintage cushion covers that I just won't use and no longer wish to keep.

76) One ceramic bowl that was a gift and that I hardly ever use.

77-100) Twenty four pairs of old socks of LB's - recycled for rags.

101) One t-shirt of LB's - no longer wanted.

102) One painted terracotta plant pot - no longer needed.

103) One ceramic jug - no longer needed.

104-106) Three magazines I don't want to keep

107-120) Fourteen items of clothing and shoes that I no longer want from my winter/summer wardrobes.

121) One more painted terracotta plant pot - no longer needed.

122- 124) Three old gym t-shirts (that I've now replaced) that will be cut up and used in knitting my rag rug.

A much better month this month.  When added to last month's yearly total so far of 599 items, the total for this year now stands at 723 items, with three months to go.  Let's hope I can now make a concerted effort and reach that 1000 item target for 2017.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

It's A Jungle Out There

For once, I'm not talking about the workplace, I'm talking about our back garden.  After months of neglect on my part, it's looking like a jungle.

There were cobwebs everywhere, rampant blight on the tomato plants, dying bean poles and overgrown fruit trees and shrubs facing me every time I ventured out into it. Something had to be done.

On Saturday OH and I decided that the job was long overdue and got stuck in clearing the mess. The raised beds were stripped of all the blighted tomato plants and dying beans.  That made a big difference.  I set to pruning the fruit trees and shrubs back a bit. I say a bit, but I was my usual brutal self once I got the loppers and pruning shears in my hands.  I left the sunflowers in situ, as they were still gloriously in bloom, but that was about it.  Everything else got the chop. The only things I didn't manage were the very tall branches that required a step ladder to reach.  I'll get these another day.

The blackcurrant bush outside the back door was pruned right back and looked a lot better for it, the green house was cleared of more blighted tomato plants and the boxes into which I'd intended to sow more salad were emptied and taken to the tip, freeing up more space on the decking. I've decided that less is much better, especially when I'm not putting the containers to good use.  The soil in them was thrown into the raised beds, so didn't go to waste.

I harvested the overgrown rhubarb and made some crumbles with it, pruned the gooseberry bush and then tackled the orange blossom, whose branches were reaching high up into the sky. There's still more to do on this bush, but I made as start.

The blueberry bush which was looking pretty desperate and whose soil was covered with moss, was re-potted into new ericaceous compost that I got from the garden centre,  and into a new larger pot and the decking was swept and moss removed.  It's starting to rot in places now, so isn't in great condition.  We were leaving it for when we did the kitchen extension, but now that isn't going ahead, we might have to replace it or repair it.

I almost can't believe how neglected the garden had become.  I had such good intentions at the beginning of the season, but life happens and things don't always pan out as you expect I guess. Working out there, I realised how much I'd missed doing garden jobs over the summer. There's something so satisfying about getting it how you want it.

Anyway, here's the results of our efforts:

Back under control again. It felt good to get out there and reclaim it for ourselves once again.