Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 14

This last week or so we've been back in London and getting back to our normal lives. Having been paid from the CS, I was feeling a little less broke than normal, but have still been trying to stick to my budget and pay off my overdraft as soon as I can.

Frugal Fails in recent weeks include the following:

1) I bought a pair of black jeans whilst we were away and I was sure they were my size, as the label attached stated they were.  I didn't try them on as I'd bought previous pairs and knew the fit but when I went to put them on, to wear them to work the other day, I realised that they were a size 12, which I haven't been able to wear for a decade.  I was a bit disappointed to say the least.  They didn't cost much, only £8, but I can't return them, as there's not a shop anywhere I know of in the south, so I may have to donate them.

2) I got access to my wage slip on returning to work and was slightly disappointed to see that I don't actually earn quite as much as I had been led to believe.  As I haven't actually received my contract yet, I don't know if there's been an error or I was just led to believe the pay was better than it actually is. I'm not too worried, as I'm just grateful for a paid job really, but it's always nice to earn a little bit more and see the overdraft go down a little quicker.

3) I did splurge a bit this week both on a few items in the H&M sale online and at Primark whilst picking up the H&M order.  One of the items I bought online at H&M was another school skirt for LB though, which was on my list of required purchases.

Freebies and Frugal measures on the other hand have included:

1) I received a few more vouchers from Tesco to use on my grocery shopping.  The first was a £4 off a £30 spend, which got used our first week back in London.  There were also lots of extra points vouchers for things that I regularly buy, so I used quite a few of those on this shop too to gain a couple of hundred extra Clubcard points, which will go towards renewing some of my free magazine subscriptions through the Clubcard scheme.

2) I moved some more savings into a savings bond this month to get a better rate of interest.  The sum is now for all intents and purposes committed for 3 years, to get the interest rate offered, but I can sell the bonds should I need the money out. I've been meaning to commit to this particular bond for a while, but was waiting to see if I needed the money for our new kitchen.  That project has now been put on hold for a while, so I've moved the money to get better returns over the next few years. This will increase my monthly passive income from investments a little bit more, which is always nice to know.

3) I also transferred some more funds into my share trading account and bought some more shares this week too.  The returns on them are better than the interest offered by the banks at the moment.  I know they are a bit riskier, but it's a risk I'm comfortable with, as I'm committed for the long term. Again, this is something I've wanted to do for a few months and I've had the shares I want to buy earmarked and have been watching them for a while. I don't think I'll be increasing my investments much more for the time being though.

4) Whilst looking for shares to purchase, I came across a list of shares that offer extra perks to shareholders and was pleased to see that some vouchers should be coming my way in January on account of my holding some M&S shares.  Not sure what value or how many I will receive, but anything is something.  The shares of one company on the list, that offer such perks, is now being watched with interest, as buying shares with them could save me extra money on something that I'm already paying out for every month.

5) I paid £1 instead of £2.50 for parking when I went to collect a parcel from our local Mall.  It involved a much longer walk to get to the shops, but it was worth it and cheaper than getting the parcel delivered to our home address (although I wouldn't have spent the money I did in Primark if I had done).

I hope you've had a frugal few weeks if that is what you have been aiming for.

Monday, 14 August 2017

This Weekend

This weekend wasn't a particularly productive one at home.  On Friday I did manage to do my Zone cleaning in the kitchen, but failed to do my Weekly Home Blessing, due to doing a more thorough job on the kitchen than I had intended.

Saturday, I was at the CS.  The day didn't get off to a good start as I had to walk the dog, which I don't normally do on a Saturday morning, and as a consequence, I ended up being a few minutes late after getting on the slower of the two buses that take me to work, due to it being the first one to turn up at the bus stop.

It wasn't a big deal as one of the interns had the keys and had opened up, but it did mean that I started on the wrong foot and then due to communication issues, I ended up doing some work that wasn't really a priority for the first hour or two.

The remainder of the day was spent trying to make inroads into a donation mountain, that had accummulated in the two days since I'd been in the shop.  I did my best, but there was still a lot left to sort. It was physically tiring too, so I was pretty exhausted by the time I got home. I had had to spend 10 minutes before catching the bus, trying to find somewhere to top up my Oyster card, as I hadn't had time to do it in the morning and didn't have enough on it to get me home unless I did.

By 10pm I was in bed asleep, after almost falling asleep whilst watching a Spanish Crime Drama on BBC 4.

Sunday, I was up and walking the dog, then out to my usual class, followed by my weekly grocery shop at Lidl and Tesco. By the time I got home it was 2pm, so I didn't get an awful lot else done that day, save for a bit of washing, the ironing and cooking a roast chicken for supper.

Today, I had to drop in to our local mall after my class at the gym to pick up some items I'd ordered in the H&M sale. I tried them on whilst there to save another journey if I didn't like the fit, but they were okay thankfully. 

I did have an extra little splurge in Primark whilst in the Mall and bought a large bottle of perfume for daily use, as I'm almost out of the small one I bought from there a few weeks ago.  I also bought a new back pack, as my current one is suffering from some serious wear and tear, and a new pair of black jeans to replace the ones I'd bought whilst we were away that were the wrong size. Some of my older pairs of black jeans are now looking very faded and a bit scruffy for work, so they'll be relegated to cleaning and gardening wear. I spent £25 in total, but they were all things I needed for everyday and work use.

This afternoon, was my only opportunity to go ahead and buy the new shares that I wanted to purchase, as I'm working or otherwise occupied on the other weekdays this week when the Stock Exchange is open, so I prioritised this task over cleaning.  I think I'm going to roll over all the cleaning to next Saturday, when I've got a full day for cleaning and packing before we go to France for a week next Wednesday. The house isn't especially dirty, so I'm not worried about leaving it for a week. Sometimes life happens and you've got to put it on the backburner.

I'm working Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week I think and on Thursday there's a little gathering at my old shop in the afternoon, that I'm hoping to attend.  It will be nice to see everyone and catch up.  I spoke to my old manager on the phone last week for the first time in a month, as I needed some help with something and he was very kind and patient in assisting me.

For the rest of today, I'm hoping to pop to the allotment to harvest some crops and then have a bath after supper, ready for work tomorrow. I hope you've had a good weekend.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Errand Day

Thursday here was Errand Day, which is the only part of the Flylady system that I got completed on this particular day. As usual, I'm pretty tired after a couple of days at work, so I don't always feel like full on cleaning.  My first day off is usually about resting and decompressing, so I'm hoping to get on with some cleaning tomorrow, namely a Weekly Home Blessing and some zone cleaning in the kitchen or Zone 2.

After my class at the gym in the morning, I had a parcel to pick up from the Post Office Depot, which contained some silicone ice cube trays that I'd ordered on eBay weeks ago, to replace our current novelty shaped ones that I'm now donating.  (They did come all the way from China!) I was  happy with them as they were pretty sturdy, unlike some floppier ones you can buy, which spill water over the sides when you try to carry them to the freezer. They were good value too.

I also needed to do a top up shop for some groceries we were out of, which necessitated calling in at both Lidl and Tesco, but some things weren't available in one or other shop.

When I got back I spent most of the rest of the day doing some personal financial stuff. I've decided to move some of my savings into other investments, as the interest rate where they are is diabolical.  Some are going into some bonds for a few years and some are going to be used to buy some more shares, so I was transferring monies, checking bank statements, that sort of thing. I probably won't do this again for at least another six months, as I don't want to take too many risks with my money and I don't want too much of it tied up for too long either.

The main reason I did it on this occasion, is that we've decided to put the kitchen extension on hold for a while, as building costs are going up and up at the moment and OH wants to concentrate on paying as much off the mortgage as possible for a while. I'm very happy with the decision, as I wasn't too sure about spending the amount it was going to cost and I wasn't looking forward to the disruption either. We'll probably just do some minor renovations ourselves instead for the time being.

I did manage to do a load of washing too, but other than this, not a lot got done around the house, but it isn't too untidy due to us being away.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Back in the Swing of Things

It's Wednesday evening, and we've been back in London since Sunday night. I was pleased to get home and positively looking forward to getting back to work.  I worked Tuesday and Wednesday this week and will be working again on Saturday.

Tuesday was a bit of a shock. There'd been a massive influx of donations in the week I'd been away and the sorting room was piled up everywhere. I can't complain, as it was possibly partly due to my being away, but then we're all entitled to a holiday. The manager hasn't been there most of the time for the past two days, so I've been getting back into the swing of managing the shop myself.

My first day back was a disaster, as there were problems with the card machine which took a while to resolve and took up lots of my time, in addition, I spent a while getting the shop back to how I like it to look and making a few changes to the clothing/accessories displays. 

Today was better, as I felt I actually did some of the bread and butter work that needed doing, although there were still lots of interruptions. I'm looking forward to Saturday, as it tends to be a little quieter without the interns to manage and I can just get on and do whatever are the day's priorities.

I have to say, that some of the interns have improved in my absence and are easier to manage. Others have become a little more difficult, however. There were a couple of absences through sickness today though, which left fewer hands on deck, but I guess this is just part and parcel of any workplace. Having spoken to other managers today, it sounds like everyone is in the same boat.

I'm definitely enjoying being back though and getting back up to speed with shop life, lets hope this continues.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 13

Frugal Measures and Freebies this last week or two have included the following:

1) I decided on a very quick visit to T K Maxx one day a couple of weeks ago, and although I realise this is quite a dangerous thing to do for someone who is trying to stick to a budget, I did manage to find something from my wish list at a very good price.  This set of two Kitchen Aid kitchen towels came home with me for the great price of £3, as opposed to their usual price of £5.99 in the same store.  I love this brand as they are very good quality (I have some already). I'm still sticking to dark colours as you can see, to help disguise any accumulated food stains. It seems to be working as a strategy.

The only other thing I bought was a Christmas gift for someone, which was also on clearance.

2) More free seeds - Perpetual Spinach, Lettuce and Sorrel.

3) I used another £3 off a £30 spend at Tesco voucher on the grocery shop. 

4) I defrosted the freezer, so that I could freeze lots of this year's allotment and garden produce, which saved it going to waste (although some of last years produce from the freezer did have to be thrown away). I'm going to try harder to use it up this year, so the same problem doesn't recur.  I also pickled some beetroot too which I took with us when we went away and have been eating in my salads this past week.

5) I gave a small leather satchel that I had bought for myself, but only used once, to my niece as a birthday gift.  It was in immaculate condition, but I just know that I will never use it again and she loved it, so that saved the money I would have spent on her gift. I did buy her a few small gifts to go with it too.

6) We got a free week's break in Yorkshire this week, by volunteering to housesit for some relatives that have lots of animals that needed taking care of. It turned out to be very peaceful and relaxing, which was just the antidote to our normal everyday lives in London.

Frugal Fails have included:

1) Being overcharged for travel on my Oyster card, which I had a rant about in a previous post. TFL still owe me £7.20.  If I remember, I'll try to claim it back next time I travel on a tube or train.

2) I forgot to take my water bottle to work the other day and ended up buying a very nice donated Klean Kanteen instead.  I don't regret it though, as these stainless steel bottles are beautiful items and seem to keep the water nice and cool.

3) When we went up to Yorkshire for a week, LB forgot to take anything suitable to wear for her cousin's 21st birthday party, so I had to buy her something whilst we were there. I tried to keep spending to a minimum though.

4) LB also needed a wetsuit for a short break she is taking soon with some friends, so I had to purchase one for her, as I didn't know anyone who had one that would fit her that I could borrow from. This cost £25, which was a bit of a blow to last month's budget, but I'm sure it will come in useful occasionally and I can always resell it at a later date.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Visiting Helmsley Walled Gardens

On Friday afternoon, we spent an hour or two in the Market town of Helmsley, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.  The town itself is very pretty, although I didn't take many photos of the market square and surrounding areas, but here's a picture of the pretty beck that runs alongside the town square, which is the other side of the bridge.

After having paninis for lunch at a cafĂ© just off the square and stocking up on a few bits of food at the market, we headed off to take a look around Helmsley's Walled Garden, which sits in the shadow of Helmsley Castle. I can never resist a walled garden, they just intrigue and fascinate me.

You could get a great view of the castle from the garden.

The gardens themselves were beautiful.  They had a lovely relaxed feel.  Not too manicured, with a bit of wildness to them. Some of the borders were beautiful. I just love the contrast of planting with bare walls in this type of garden.

I particularly liked some of the views through the garden, created by the footpaths, doors and other ornamental features.

This wild flower border was exquisite.

I also admired this bug hotel, which actually looked like it might be quite easy to replicate.

There was an area given over to community garden plots.

Made up of multiple raised beds that I assume are loaned out to local community groups and were used to grow all manner of flowers and vegetables.

There was an orchard and vegetable beds growing lots of different edibles.

The greenhouses were also worth taking a look at and incorporated some beautiful floral displays of less hardy plants.

It was a wonderful place to visit on a lovely summer's day and the dog could along come too. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Still Housesitting

We're still housesitting here in Yorkshire and on Wednesday I finally out to a local fitness class. It was a class that I haven't tried before called Fitsteps, a kind of ballroom fitness class.  It made an interesting change to what I normally do, but many of the steps were similar to those you do at Zumba classes, so it wasn't too difficult to pick up the routines.

I combined this with a quick trip into a local town to check my bank balance and do a couple of errands.  I was pleased to see that I have in fact been paid for the month of work that I've just completed at the CS, which is good news.  Hopefully, it will help me pay my overdraft off a little quicker.

Later on we headed out for supper to a local restaurant, which was enjoyable and I got to have a night off cooking on a very unfamiliar to me Aga. When we got back we watched a movie online before retiring for the night.

Thursday morning, I got up early and took a turn at walking the dogs around the fields. It was quite nice to be up and out for a change, instead of lying in bed reading. (I still did a bit of this). After yet more very changeable weather, including some torrential rain showers, we took our dog out to the beach at Barmston, near Bridlington in the afternoon which was very enjoyable to be able to breathe in some fresh coastal air as we walked along the sands. It's a lovely spot and the wind turbines there look very majestic and graceful as they turn.  The dog loved it too, as she doesn't get to go to the beach too often these days.

Today, we head to the North Yorkshire market town of Helmsley for their weekly market and possibly lunch out. I may try to take some photos whilst there for another post.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A Family Visit and a Trip into Town

Tuesday, during our week of house sitting, turned out to be a bit of an errand day. The day started in a leisurely fashion.  I had a bit of a lie in reading a new book.  This current read is an autobiography/memoir by Fay Weldon. I devoured her novels in my early twenties and read many of them.  This book 'Auto Da Fay' is very entertaining so far. Her family background is a very interesting one.

Anyway, after a leisurely breakfast and the completion of a few tasks, we eventually headed out for the afternoon.  We stopped in at OH's parents house for a couple of hours of chatting and catching up with news.

Unfortunately, I found out that a family friend of my family had died recently and the funeral had been that morning.  I contacted the deceased's sister and offered my condolences, which was all I could do at that late stage of finding out and promised to put a card in the post.

In addition, I found out from my sister, that her daughter, whose 21st birthday party is on Saturday had had a rough morning, having woken up with a trapped nerve in her neck, rendering her unable to move.  After some pain relief, she was feeling a bit better, so hopefully she'll be fully recovered by the weekend and her party will go ahead as planned.

The errands that I needed to do on this day, were to purchase her birthday present and to ensure that LB had something suitable to wear for the party, which meant a trip into town in Hull. I decided to compromise on LB's clothes and to buy her a school skirt that could double as part of her party outfit. I bought her a couple of different tops in the sale at H&M to go with it and she was sorted taking me just £10 over the budget, which seemed reasonable enough. I still need to purchase another school skirt for her when we get back to London, but I can probably leave it until September, as I'm most of the way to completing the purchase of her uniform now and she's got at least one of all the items she needs to return to school.

Once the shopping errands were completed, we headed the 30 miles or so back to the house and the animals. There are so many different jobs to do in looking after them, that it is quite tying and disappearing for a whole day is quite difficult. It makes a big change from our normal everyday lifestyle in London though, which is good and the country air and quiet surroundings means that I sleep well and wake up feeling very refreshed and rested, which is just what I need at the moment.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Settling In

We're currently in Yorkshire and settling into our home for the week.  The family members, for whom we are house and animal sitting, have departed for a week's holiday in the Ballaerics and we now have their huge house and garden to ourselves. It's very quiet and private here, so it's wonderfully peaceful and restful. I'm looking forward to doing lots of reading and dog walking, of course.

Talking about dogs, our dog has also come along, and is enjoying the freedom here, compared to life in London and is making herself very at home. Needless to say, none of the chickens dare come into the garden with her around, as she has been known to chase them, having not been brought up with them and trained to live in harmony with them.

We spent our first day housesitting just rattling around the house. In the morning, we headed into a nearby market town to stock up on food for the week and do a few other errands. In the afternoon, we just took it easy, settling into to our new accommodation.

OH and LB are getting used to the routine of feeding and caring for the animals here, namely two ponies, two dogs, chickens, fish in the pond and one cat. I'm responsible for the house and food, although I will probably help with the animals.

I don't like to post any photos of the house on the internet, as it's not our house, but here are a few shots of the garden and some of the animals.

(We're not looking after the sheep, this field is loaned out to a local livestock owner)

The weather here is incredibly changeable, with sunshine one minute, heavy rain the next, then sunshine again. It's not prevented us from doing anything thus far and we're enjoying the peace and quiet and the change of scenery.  Who wouldn't?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Donated - July 2017

This month got off to a slow start, mainly due to starting my new job and being focussed on that, but I have managed to build up a bit of momentum towards the end of the month, as I got more settled in at work.  It wasn't, however, that great in terms of number of items donated or parts of my life simplified. Here's a list of the items donated this month.

1. One decorative ink blotter - never used, nor likely to be.
2. One home made wool fabric wreath.
3-4. Two wine glasses - These were placed on our gate post by the people who live next door.  However, OH wasn't happy to leave them there in case someone smashed them on the path or pavement outside our house, which could lead to our dog getting injured, so I brought them in and put them in the Give or Take box.
5-12. Eight books culled from LB's bookshelves.
13-24. Twelve books culled from my crafting bookshelf in the spare bedroom - I've decided to streamline my collection, as I do less and less sewing and crafting these days.  There's still a good selection left though, for when I need them.
25. One bottle of essential oil that I'm not too keen on the smell of.
26. One long sleeved school shirt that LB refuses to wear, as she gets too hot in it.
27. One fabric holdall of LB's recycled for rags.

Not such a good month in terms of simplifying and decluttering and when added to last month's total, my total so far this year now stands at 575, which is actually only 6 behind target, so it's  not too bad, despite the number being low this month.  I am, however, finding it harder and harder to find things to donate or recycle, which is a good thing, but I'm not sure if I will reach the target this year unless I make a concerted effort at some point to let go of more stuff.

Next month, I still need to declutter the sewing room/spare bedroom if I get the chance and it maybe time to tackle the cupboard in the hallway again and see if I can part with more of the things in there. My clothes may get another cull too, as there are still some items that I just never wear and some that are past their best, that I could recycle or repurpose. It will all depend on how much time I can muster to tackle these areas.

In terms of simplifying, I was relieved to get the freezer defrosted this month, as it is a job that has need doing for months now. I'm determined not to put things in there that we will not use in future and keep it's contents simple and ones that get used up regularly. At least when we return to London, this job won't be one I will need to do as part of my Zone 2 cleaning.

I'll keep you posted about progress in next month's post.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Monthly Roundup - July

It's been a busier than usual month, so expenses have been a bit higher than I would like, but there have been some compensations such as actually being paid to work at the CS (although I haven't received any wages yet).

Anyway, here's the damage, which is quite a bit worse than the last couple of months:

The Food budget went over by £9.39, mainly on account of my not being very careful on my last shop of the month and throwing a few inessentials into the trolley. They will get eaten, even if it's not this month.  I haven't, however, bought much to go in the freezer, as it was my intention to empty and defrost it before we went away at the end of the month, which I did.

The Household budget was well overspent this month by £47.16. This was mainly on account of my stocking up on natural makeup and beauty products via a My Pure order this month and also due to stocking up on a few other toiletries in Home Bargains at the beginning of the month.

The Miscellaneous budget was also overspent by £50.25. This was exclusively due to travel expenses for my new job, which amounted to around £60. I will be factoring these into next month's budget, so it shouldn't cause the same problem next month.

My personal budget was overspent by £16.15. This was mainly due to unplanned expenditure on a few clothing items for my new job.

LB's budget was over spent by £27, as I treated her to a new blanket for her room from the CS, I got her fringe trimmed and I needed to buy her a shortie wetsuit for an up and coming trip away with some friends.  The amount I'd actually budgeted, was all spent on a new school bag for September.

Finally, the Home budget was also overspent by £6.70 due to ordering some new ice cube trays from eBay, which I'm still waiting for and a little unplanned splurge at TK Maxx on some new kitchen towels. They were both on my wish list though, so I'm not too concerned.

In spite of all the overspending I did still manage to put £135 towards my overdraft, which was £15 less than I'd hoped.  The reason I still managed this, yet was overspent everywhere, was that this month I received two child benefit payments, which was just how it fell, as it is paid every 28 days, so I received a little more income than I expected. I had also, for the first time, allowed a bit of room in the budget for overspending. Nevertheless, a sizeable dent has been made in my overdraft debt, which you can see on the update to the diagram I made last month. There's still a way to go though.

I'm still not sure if I will receive my wages at the end of this month, if I don't, OH is lending me the money until I do and then I'll pay him back at the end of August when I do finally get paid.

Next month, I have some extra expenses, namely more school uniform to buy for LB and a 21st birthday present to buy for my niece. Other than this, there's just the added travel expenses for work to factor in.

As we are spending a week in Yorkshire, I will probably spend a bit of money on booking a few classes at local leisure centres and I will probably also spend some money in one of my favourite local shops (Boyes), as I'd like to get some underwear from there and maybe some more skinny jeans, which I've bought there in the past and like the fit of. I also want to replace the umbrella that I left and lost in the Nike shop the other month, as this was originally purchased from there. Other than these things, I'll be buying wish list only items if I can manage to stick to it for yet another month.

I am aiming to pay at least another £100 off my overdraft next month, but this may increase depending on whether I get paid this month end and potentially have some surplus cash.

On a positive note, expenditure has gone down this month, income from investments has gone up very slightly and after receiving a pension statement for my civil service pension, my overall estimated future pension payments have also gone up, which is encouraging. I'm hoping to get monthly spending down further still over the coming months and keep it at a much lower level going forward.

I'll keep you posted of future progress.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Give Me A Break

Yesterday (Thursday), I finished a consecutive 3 day stint at the CS. I wasn't sorry to finish this week. It's been exhausting, as some (well, one in particular) of the interns have been quite difficult to manage and I am happy to take a step back and get a break from it all.

LB came to the shop yesterday, as I needed to put her on a train at Kings Cross, to travel up to Yorkshire, where we will be meeting up with her again on Saturday afternoon. She caught the bus into town and I went out to meet her at the bus stop.  I was in charge of the shop, as the manager was at a meeting.  It took only 10 minutes or so to collect her and get back to the shop. I carried on working for half an hour whilst she waited in the office, and then in my lunch hour, we headed by tube to the railway station for her to catch her train.

When I got back and tapped out of the tube station, my balance on my card had gone down from approx. £20 to £10, which is very steep when the maximum for one day's travel in Zones 1 and 2 is £6.60. Today, I called TFL and it transpires that the system got confused when I spent only a short time at Kings Cross and charged me for two unfinished journeys, even though I did finish both journeys, as I had to tap out to get through the tube station barriers and into the railway station.

Anyway, the crux of it is, that TFL now owe me £7.20, but I have to travel by train or tube again to get it back.  I explained that I use the bus and don't use the train/tube currently, but the only other alternative is to register online, giving my bank details, so that they can give me a refund.  I don't want to do this, however, as I don't feel I should need to.  I'm happy topping up with cash or a card at the station and don't want them to have my details online.  It's just more risk to me. As a consequence, they are holding my money until I travel by train again, then I have to ring them the day before and get them to action the refund when I use the card to travel by train. I told them it was completely ridiculous, but they don't seem to get it and are holding my money hostage. Talk about frustrating.  It just seems like a scam to me, to get you to register online.

I think you can tell that I need a break from London.  I'm feeling stressed by things here.  It will be bliss not to have to negotiate such complicated systems and people for a while. To me life is simple, go to work, do some actual work, come home and spend time with those I love - but others seem intent on making it much more complicated.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. Today, I'm trying to tie up loose ends.  I've collected a parcel that LB needs when we get back from Yorkshire.  The very next day she is heading off away for a few days with some friends.

I'm in the process of defrosting the freezer and will then be blanching vegetables from the garden and allotment, ready to freeze once it is running again.

I'm also catching up on ironing, so that I can pack for our week away. I've sorted out which books I'm taking - all five of them. It's quite a rural location that we're going to, so there should be plenty of time for reading and chilling. I just need to check out the classes at the local gym and sign up for a few online for while we're there. I can't wait to load up the car tomorrow and just go.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Flylady Monday

Today, was one of the days that I don't usually work, and after having a pretty lazy day yesterday, I decided that I'd better pull my finger out and get some Flylady cleaning done. 

This week I was working in Zone 5, which is the Living Room and I also needed to complete my Weekly Home Blessing, so after attending a class at the gym, then taking LB to get her fringe cut and after watching a couple of Flylady videos to motivate me, I knuckled down and actually got ahead of myself for a change.  I did this by cleaning the living room, dining room and hallway, as next week, whilst we're away, it will be the turn of the dining room and entrance hall and I didn't want to miss this zone cleaning out altogether.

It probably took me about 3 or so hours in total, which is a fair amount of time, but it felt good to get it done, as it means that when we get back from our housesitting in Yorkshire, it will be the turn of Zone 2 (the kitchen) and I can get straight on and do that. Besides, I don't like going away and leaving a dirty house behind, although it might be a bit dirty again by Saturday.

I'm working tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday this week, as I need to do all of my hours before we go away on Saturday. On Thursday, LB is meeting me in town, as I need to put her on a train to Yorkshire, where her Auntie or Grandma will pick her up at the station.  She's going up early to spend a couple of days with her cousins before they go on holiday. I'm a bit nervous about letting her travel alone, but she's got a first class ticket on a direct train and I'm going to put her on the train myself and ask the first class hostess if she'll keep an eye on her. She's pretty independent and sensible, so I'm sure she'll be fine.

The week we get back, she's heading off with some friends for a few days, to stay at their Grandma's house in Hampshire.  I'm pleased that she's busy with her social life and not bored this year in the holidays, especially as I'm working this summer, but I'll still  miss her while she's away. I know she'll have a great time though.

We have a family holiday planned for August, when we're going to France for a week, during which OH is competing in a cycle race.  We've hired a large house with an indoor pool and a large garden, so it should be relaxing and apart from food, petrol and taking the ferry, the accommodation will be our main expense, which means it shouldn't be a particularly expensive holiday again this year.

By the time we get back from that holiday, we will be into the last week of the summer holidays and it will be a mad dash to get everything we need for her going back to school.  It's amazing how fast the weeks go.

Here in London, the summer exodus has started already and it's great.  Traffic is manageable and the streets near where we live are virtually empty.  It's amazing how many families completely decamp for the summer.  We're not complaining though, as it makes getting around a whole lot easier. I like London during the summer holidays.

Anyway, I'm going now, to do the last job on my list before I'm back at work tomorrow, namely the ironing.  There's not a lot, so it shouldn't take too long.  I'll post again soon.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Bit of a Catch Up

Well, it's Sunday and I don't feel like I've done hardly anything today.  I was working Friday and yesterday, so I guess I've been recovering from the physical exertion of that.  I did walk the dog this morning, do a class at the gym, complete the weekly shop and then cook a roast, but otherwise, I've not done a whole lot.  I guess I am entitled to days like that, but a few boxes in my bullet journal didn't get ticked.  Never mind.

I thought I'd do a bit of a catch up with regard to my new job. It's going okay. I am finding the people management side of it tricky, as most of the volunteers/interns are quite young and it is quite difficult sometimes to keep them on task.  I'm working on it.

The current manager in post, has suggested a new system of giving some of them more responsibility on a day to day basis. They are management interns and are there to learn how to manage, so they need to be given the opportunity to take charge of different aspects of the shop and I along with the manager, will then oversee their efforts, helping them as is necessary.  This sounds like a much better approach, as they will get much more from their time in the shop, the more they engage. We'll see what happens.

I am enjoying the work.  Everyone has put in a lot of effort over the past couple of weeks to get on top of the back log and the sorting room is now looking so much better and less overwhelming.  It should make life much easier going forward. The manager himself has been driving this reorganisation and it is beginning to pay dividends.

Friday last week was a bit stressful, as a couple of situations arose in the absence of the manager, so most of my day was taken up trying to resolve them satisfactorily, albeit temporarily. In comparison, Saturday was a dream, as there were only a few long term volunteers and both of us paid managers on duty and we were able to do a whole lot of work without many distractions. It was bliss.

I'm gradually building up the stamina to deal with the physical nature of the work.  It's taken a few weeks, but I am finding it easier physically as the weeks go by.  Having said this, the day after I've worked, I am often not capable of doing much at home, possibly through tiredness. I'm so pleased that I didn't offer to work full time, as it would definitely have been too much.

I enjoy the bus journey to and from work though, much more than catching the train.  Instead of having to jostle for a seat in a crowded train carriage, I have a whole bus seat to myself all of the way in to work and can open a window and take a breath of fresh air if I wish (although the buses are air conditioned), listen to the radio on my earphones, people watch or just peacefully prepare for or decompress from the day's work. It takes a little longer and I often miss a bus, as I lock my bike up, which is eternally frustrating, but the whole travel situation is much less stressful. I actually enjoy getting the bus.

I'm working three consecutive days this week before we go away on Saturday for a week.  We are housesitting for relatives, looking after their animals while they go on holiday, so it should be a pretty relaxing week. I'm not sure what I'll come back to, but I'm trying not to think about that for the moment.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Allotment Update

As promised I thought I'd post an update about the allotment. I haven't really visited much in the last two weeks, due to starting my new job. I did manage one visit to water and harvest, but other than this I didn't do any work on the plot.

As a consequence, when I visited on Sunday afternoon the weeds had started to grow back with abandon in places. After harvesting any crops that were ready, I decided that it was time to do a bit of work and spent a couple of hours removing the weeds. I managed to get half way around the plot in that time, which wasn't too bad.  Here's a picture of how the plot looked when I left. The side I dug over is on the right.

The other side of the plot is more densely cultivated, so the weeds aren't as abundant, but I did go back to tackle them today and cleared most of them.  I also sowed salad and fennel seeds into any gaps that had arisen.

Here's a picture of the vegetables I harvested on the initial visit on Sunday:

(Please excuse my very muddy boots and leopard print hareems! - Strange gardening attire, I know)

 and the vegetables harvested today:

I have to admit that we're struggling to eat everything, so I desperately need to defrost the freezer to be able to store some of it.

I've now harvested the last of the early lettuce crops both at the allotment and at home, and although I've sewn more, none of it is really anywhere near ready to harvest.  We have one more week here before we go up to Yorkshire for a week to housesit for relatives, so I might just be able to make what we have last until then and hopefully when we get back some more will be ready.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 12

It's been an expensive month this month, what with starting a new job and having to pay for things that I wouldn't normally budget for. i.e. bus fares, clothing for work, etc. This has led to a number of frugal fails this post, but I'm taking it on the chin as next month, I will be able to adjust the budget to account for these expenses.

Frugal Fails this post are as follows:

1) I went further over on my personal budget this month, to buy a reusable water bottle that would fit into my handbag, for taking to work. (I only had a large one).  It has been very useful though, as it is incredibly hot in the sorting room at the shop, despite numerous fans going, so it has been helping to keep me hydrated. I never usually drink much water, save for at the gym, so it's making me drink much more, which is a good thing.

2) I also went over on my Misc. budget on account of paying out over £ in bus fares to work this month.  Luckily, I think there was some room in the budget, which should still allow me to pay as much off my overdraft as I wanted to this month.  I'll know better by the end of the month.

3) The Household budget got busted on account of my having to place an order with My Pure for some natural toiletry/skincare products that I'm running out of.  I needed facial wash, dental floss and concealer, but threw an eyebrow gel and a face cream into the basket too, as by doing so, I got the facial wash for free and they will be needed at some point in very near the future. I haven't stocked up like this recently, but I figured it will save me from having to place another order for the next couple of months.

Frugal Measures and Freebies

1) I got the free natural facial wash as mentioned above, by ordering an extra couple of items I use regularly from My Pure.  The whole order was also subject to a 10% discount with a voucher code, which saved another £3 or so.

2) I used another Tesco £4 off a £30 spend voucher on groceries this week when doing the weekly shop.

3) I got a print out of my journeys to work, just to check how much I'm paying each day in bus fares.  I was happy to see that one day, the card reader on the bus didn't charge me for my journey both ways for some reason, so I got a free day's travel.

4) I received a dividend pay out on one lot of the shares I bought a few months ago.  Not a huge sum at £11.90, but it was more than I would earn in interest in the bank and it will go towards buying some more shares in a different company, when I've collected enough money in the account.

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Halfway Point

Well, it's the halfway point of the month, and I'm halfway through my first month in my new job, so I thought I'd do a little post about how I'm faring.

Budgetwise, I'm not doing so great, as already most of the budgets are overspent, some by quite a bit, some by just a little.  I have still got money left for food for the next two weeks though and I'm trying hard to empty the freezer, so am buying as little new food as possible these next two weeks. Hopefully, I might just scrape through and still save as much off my overdraft as I'd hoped (i.e. £150) despite all the added expenses of going out to work this month.

On the job front, I'm two weeks into the temporary contract and am finding my feet a little more at work.  I still find it difficult to manage some of the younger members of the team, but am trying to be a bit better at delegating.  A lot of the time I tend to do things myself, as it is easier than standing around listening to excuses or looking at blank faces, but I know this is unsustainable and I need to get others to help with the jobs that are less popular.  It's a learning curve that I knew I would face from the moment I accepted the job.

On the positive side, the sorting room is looking a lot more organised and much of the backlog in there has been processed, so it is gradually becoming a lot less overwhelming, although the rate at which donations come in and the clothes are replaced on the shop floor is still a big challenge, as many more items have to be sorted, prepared and put out each day than I'm used to.

I find that I enjoy working on weekend days a little more, when there are far fewer volunteers and the commute to work is much quicker on the bus, due to no-one venturing out in London early on a Saturday morning. When I get to the shop I can work without the many distractions of supervising a large number of volunteers and it is the one day that I am able to make a cup of tea and drink some of it. (I never drink it all!) This does have the down side, however, that with less (wo)manpower, fewer items get put out in the shop, as you have to complete the whole process on your own .

On the home front, the cleaning has slipped a bit. I just didn't have the energy to clean the bathroom last Wednesday, so I'm carrying that job over to today, when I will be doing my Weekly Home Blessing.  I don't think rooms will be as deeply zone cleaned going forward, but so long as I keep on top of the main jobs, doing something is better than nothing. I am now beginning to understand that it's not necessarily time, but energy that is lacking when you go out to work, especially when the job is very physically demanding. The mind is willing, (sometimes) but the body isn't on the days when I'm not at work.

On the decluttering and simplifying front, I haven't really done a whole lot.  I did go through the book shelf in the sewing room the other day and pulled out a dozen books I no longer want to keep. I also went through LB's book shelf and pulled out another few books she didn't want too. I can't see there being a large number of items decluttered this month, but you never know, I might get a second wind in the latter half of the month.

With regard to the garden and allotment, I have managed to do occasional visits to water. The rain we had last week helped a lot, as it reduced the need for visits.  I did spend a couple of hours on the plot yesterday, weeding and harvesting.  I got about half way round before coming home.  I'll probably try to get back there again towards the end of the week, energy levels allowing. We've got quite a few vegetables from the plot waiting to be eaten now, which is good. I'll do a separate post about this.

We had a lovely day at Wimbledon last week. We watched a Men's Doubles quarter final and a Mixed Doubles match and then had a wander around the outside courts to watch some wheelchair tennis and some of the youth matches. We tried to get on Henman Hill to watch the end of Johanna Konta's match with Venus Williams on Centre court, but it was just too busy and there was nowhere left to stand, so we went back to our seats in Court One.

We did manage to meet up with my friend from the gym, who had tickets for the same court on the same day and we sat watching with her and her friend for the last couple of hours which was nice. Attending Wimbledon is a lovely day out, but the journey home is a long one for us on the Tube and quite exhausting. We got home at 9pm.

I hope you're having a good month so far.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Work and Play

I've had a busy couple of days, firstly catching up with work around the home and getting back on track with the Flylady system after working and volunteering so much last week. By Monday night I was almost there, just the bathroom to clean today, on one of my non-working days this week. 

I've decided to cut myself some slack this week and not clean a second room of my choice this month, as on Thursday, OH and I have got tickets for Court One at Wimbledon, so we will be out all day and I want to get a bit of me time today and not spend all day cleaning again. I'll be working Friday and Saturday, so no time there to do an extra room. That's the beauty of the system, that you can do that if you so wish.

Yesterday at work was manic.  There were 4 new work placement students, 2 new interns and a couple of volunteers that I hadn't yet met. I can see I might have difficulty in remembering everyone's name going forward. In total, on the morning shift, that made 16 of us, which is crazy, but it is a big shop, so can easily accommodate us all in the sorting room and on the shop floor. Another three volunteers turned up in the afternoon too, to take the total to 19 staff working in the shop on one day, although not all working at the same time.

It does, however, make for a lot of work getting done and I can now see progress being made in how I want the clothing sections of the shop to look (my main remit). Hopefully, once we get on top of what is a bit of a backlog in the sorting room, we'll be 'flying' at the shop too. I've got a couple more small changes planned for the shop floor, but am waiting for the right time and opportunity to instigate them. Luckily, my manager has given me the freedom to implement any changes I deem necessary, subject to his approval, so I feel very supported in my endeavours.

Today, I'm spending the day in quite a leisurely manner, decompressing from yesterday. My only tasks are to take it easy and recuperate, clean the bathroom, walk the dog and make some supper.  I'm sure I'll find other things to do, but for now that's enough for my shop addled brain.

I was very happy that it rained yesterday, as the garden and the allotment both needed a good soaking and it saves me visiting the plot to do the job today. The garden now looks much more green and lush. I wasn't quite so happy about the rain when I got soaked at the bus stop and riding my bike part of the way home last night, but it was a small price to pay for a bit of cool, fresh air, as opposed to stifling heat. I'm looking forward to putting my boots on to walk the dog this morning for a change.

After this week, I have two more weeks at the shop before we go up to Yorkshire for a week to house sit for family. We're looking after ponies, dogs (one of whom is about to have a litter), a cat and chickens, as well as the house! It should be a relaxing change of pace though, but I'm trying to get as much done at the shop as possible before I go, which is why it is so full on at the moment.

In the meantime, there has been no opportunity to spend any money, which has been very good for my budget and hopefully this should continue for the next couple of weeks and see me through this month, hopefully on target with the budget. I guess while I'm working to earn money, I don't always have time or opportunity to go out and spend it, which is an added bonus that I could get used to.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 11

This week I spent quite a bit of money, as soon as it came my way. Most of my spending happened on account of a couple of trips to the local mall to get my hair cut in readiness for a job interview and any subsequent spending has been on groceries only. So here goes:

Frugal Fails:

1) I bought two new tops and a pair of pumps that weren't budgeted for, to wear to work at my new job.  Well, strictly, I purchased one for the interview and a similar one because I liked the first one and then saw a sweet pair of (not very comfortable when you wear them for a long time) pumps.  In total I spent £15.50, as I bought a small bottle of perfume too, for my handbag. (Yes, natural intentions temporarily on hold at the moment, as I can't afford the expense) I didn't know I'd got the job when I bought these items, but now I have, they should come in very useful.

2) Unfortunately, I may have just missed the payroll deadline to get paid at the end of this month from the new job, so it might be a tight month next month while I'm waiting to be paid at the end of August.  I'm sure OH will help me out if necessary.

More positively:

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) I used a couple of small Tesco vouchers  to get a little bit of money off a loaf of bread and some cherries this week. I told you I had no shame when it came to money off vouchers. I also used another of their £3 off a £30 shop vouchers on my grocery shop this week.

2) I used a 20% off voucher with ASOS to buy LB's new school bag for the next school year. (More early uniform shopping!) I had budgeted for it this month too.

3) Within the Home budget, I bought a fab pair of oil and vinegar bottles from Lakeland for just £5.79, which was a great price.  These were on my list of things I needed to buy for the house and I was willing to pay up to £15 for some, but these came in well under budget.

4) I did a huge food shop the week before I started my new job, partly because I figured if I got the job I wouldn't have so much time to go grocery shopping. Stocking up meant that we were able to get through quite an intense period, without running out of food. I will be meal planning simple quick meals for the days that I work, so that either OH can make supper if he so wishes or I can do it quickly when I get in late.

5) I caught the bus to work every day, which cost £3 in total each day, as opposed to £6.60 on the train/tube.  This more than halved my travel costs and as I don't get expenses for them now, it's all good.

6) I packed my own lunches to work each day, so I didn't spend any money save for travel expenses. I intend to continue to do this for the duration of the contract.

7) I got my wristwatch mended this month.  It needed a new battery and the back had to be removed with a special tool, so I had to take it to a watch repairer.  It would have been £15 for a new battery (insane!), but lifetime battery replacement was £20, so I went for that instead and just hope the watch will last me at least another year so that I get my money's worth.

8) The allotment is finally producing vegetables.  We harvested lettuce, courgettes, a kohl rabi and some climbing beans this week. Plus more salad and a few onions from the garden too.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sunday Catch Up

It's been an intense week and today has been the first real chance I've had to reflect and keep you updated on all that's happened this week.

I attended the new shop on Wednesday to do some last minute paperwork regarding taking up my new position as Temporary Deputy Manager, and was told that I could start straight away if I wished.  As I was already there, I thought, why not?  I spent the afternoon throwing myself into a task given to me by the manager to change some displays around.  In a way it was a good thing as it took the edge off starting the new job.

I agreed to complete my hours that week by working the Thursday afternoon, then full days on Friday and Saturday.  In total, this meant that one or other CS was honoured with my presence on five days last week (albeit most of it paid).  Hence, why it was intense.

The manager left me to close the shop on Thursday afternoon and I was left in charge on Friday on his day off, so it was a bit of a baptism of fire.  I survived to tell the tale though, but by Saturday evening I was completely shattered. All I could do was to walk to the pub with OH and the dog and have a beer.

As a consequence, I didn't do my normal class at the gym today, instead I decided to take it easy, do some grocery shopping, come home and potter about my house, catching up with jobs (particularly ironing) and just enjoy being at home for the day.  It was lovely. Going out to work has given me a whole new appreciation of my home. Flylady has, of course, taken a back seat, but I'm hoping to catch up on the days I'm not working this week.

Thankfully, I'll be working just my three full days this week and I will be relieved to get into a proper routine at last, although my working days will vary from week to week. I start back on Tuesday.

It seems to be going okay, although I don't like to say too much, as it is very early days. I have to admit that I was pretty overwhelmed for the first couple of days, but by Friday, I was starting to get a handle on things and decided I had to get over any doubts and fears and just get on and do the best job I could.

I managed to travel to and from the shop by bus most days, which saved me money and meant that at least I could get a seat and sit down for the duration.  Mid week mornings are the hardest, as the buses get packed and stop at every stop on route, so take much longer.  I cycled half the way on Friday and caught the bus further along the route, but had to stand right at the front with the driver until a seat became available a few stops later.

This week, during the week I'm going to try to cycle even further along the route, to a place where lots of people get off the bus and see if that's any better.  Most of the way is on cycle routes and small quiet roads, which isn't too bad. The cycle home is tough after a busy day, but I'm sure I'll build up my stamina and get used to it in time.  It really is the best option available, to avoid being like a sardine on the trains/tube and to provide me with the quickest, cheapest journey and the most autonomy.

On Saturday mornings, however, the bus takes no time at all, as the streets of London are virtually empty before 11am. I got to work in just 30 minutes, as opposed to nearer an hour or more on weekdays. It makes working weekends seem much more appealing than during the week.

The travel is still a learning curve, but I've got choices, which makes it more bearable. I'll keep you posted with regard to progress in the job as time goes on.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Fortnightly Flylady Update

Well, it's been two weeks since I did a Flylady Update post and a few things have happened in between posts. The main thing being that I was offered a temporary part-time paid job for the charity that I've been volunteering for, which I have accepted. I don't know yet what bearing this might have on my keeping up with the Flylady system, but it will be a good test.

Two weeks ago, I posted about it being the turn of the Master bedroom to be zone cleaned. I was then intending to clean out the linen cupboard, which I did manage to do one evening.  Nothing really then got done for a full week in Zone 5 (the living room), as I couldn't muster up much enthusiasm for it and the excitement around going for a job interview distracted me completely from the task in hand. I did, however, carry out my Weekly Home Blessing over the weekend, so at least that got done.

Anyway, on Monday this week, whilst still waiting to hear whether or not I'd got the job, I figured I'd best get on with it, as if I did get the job, I might nt have time later in the week. (I knew they wanted someone to start asap) By this time, cleaning in Zone 1 had come around again, (the dining room/second reception and entrance hall) so I decided to just knuckle down for the afternoon and cleaned both within a couple of hours. (They are adjoining rooms).

It was just as well really, as the call saying I'd got the job came soon afterwards.  To celebrate I went out into the garden and tidied up my veg beds, harvesting the remaining lettuce to last us through the week, planting out some tomatoes and marigolds and clearing away the petit pois which had gone over. I intended to go to the allotment too, but didn't have enough time, so that got done later in the week.

After watching Flylady Diane's video the other day, I realised that due to the beginning of a new month falling last week, two zones needed to be covered, so I'm a bit behind.  This week we are back in the kitchen or Zone 2, so I'll be trying to do some work here in my free time this week.  I managed to clean the cupboard fronts and patio door windows before heading off to work the other day. I still need to  clean the inside of the windows above the sink and the window sills, as I've been spraying the fruit flies again (which leaves a residue) and then just cleaning worktop surfaces for this month. I'll try to do these jobs when I do my Weekly Home Blessing on Sunday. I was hoping to defrost the freezer, but there's too much food in it still, so I'll have to wait until I can get everything eaten down.

Now my house is in better order, through using the Flylady system, I feel much better prepared for returning to the world of paid work, so I'm very grateful that I did all the Flylady cleaning when I did. Maybe it even brought some opportunity my way, who knows.

Whatever happens, I'll keep you posted about how things go.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Preparing to Re-enter the World of Work

It may have come as a bit of surprise to many of you, to hear that I've been offered a part-time temporary paid job for the charity that I've been volunteering for during the past 15 months and I can't quite believe it myself, as it happened so fast. As I've already mentioned, I'm both nervous and excited about this new challenge, not wanting to let anyone down is my main concern. I just want to do my best, and that is what I told the current managers at the interview.

I'm not sure when I start, but I do need to go in and see the area manager at lunchtime today, to complete some paperwork, so that I can start as soon as possible. The situation is that the permanent shop manager is being seconded to another post temporarily for three months, to cover the absence of another staff member. The current deputy manager is stepping up to cover his post and I am being employed to cover the deputy manager's post until the permanent manager returns in September.

It's going to be a big learning curve for me and although I am apprehensive, I want to do a good job and help keep the shop running as smoothly as possible. It's a larger shop though, with a lot more throughput of donations and space to display them and it's definitely going to be a challenge, but one I'm looking forward to.

The temporary nature of the job is great for me, as it will allow me to find out if I'm really cut out for working in this field or not, with no longstanding obligation. Who knows how it will turn out. I hope well, but one never knows. I'm trying to keep a level head and approach the job in a sensible, practical fashion, mainly so I don't get too overwhelmed, but what it will be like when I actually get in there is anybody's guess.

My current manager has been very supportive, putting me forward for the job, allowing me to leave at such short notice and generally encouraging me to give it a go and see what happens.  He seems to have every faith that I'm capable of the job, which is very reassuring and helps to give me confidence and is also offering me ongoing support which is much appreciated. I have learned a lot from him since he came to the shop.  He has a completely different approach from that of the original manager and I have come to appreciate his calmness and level headed approach to the work, which has been a big influence on my approach to the job. Yes, sometimes it gets stressful and pressurised, but I'm hoping it doesn't always have to be like that and it is possible to keep things running pretty smoothly. We'll see what happens.

I  have also gained valuable experience working with the original manager of my current shop, who had some very nice qualities and a very strong work ethic, which has taught me to try to work as efficiently as possible, whilst paying attention to detail and following company protocols and maintaining a sense of humour. I'll be taking the knowledge that I gained from her with me too, to help me in the new job. I feel very lucky to have had two very different, but very accomplished mentors over the past year or so, and experience that can hopefully help guide me through some of the pitfalls.

Travelling, to a completely different part of London is going to be interesting.  I was starting to feel a bit fed up of the commute to my volunteer job, but there are various ways I could journey to the new job, including multiple combinations of bus, rail, underground, bike, etc.  I could even try a different one every week if I wanted to, until I find one that suits me, but it is likely that the underground will be travelled for at least part of the route, so I've got to get used to that change, as I understand that it is very hot and crowded in the summer months. I'm hoping to minimise this mode of travel as much as I possibly can, to just a few short stops on one line.

I'm still intending to take my lunch with me daily and try to spend very little money whilst at work. I've been informed that there are some very nice small public gardens not far from the shop, should I need to get away from the shop environment on my breaks.  This might be very useful for helping me to reboot during my longer working hours. 

In addition, I will, of course, have to pay for my travel expenses once I'm a paid employee, so trying to use less expensive travel options might factor into my journeys, time allowing. The bus, although cheaper, takes a long time, so I'm not sure it is an option on it's own, but perhaps combined with cycling part of the way it may be. There are some pretty good cycle routes that take me completely off the roads for quite a big part of the way, and I'll be trying these out in the first few weeks. I really enjoy the freedom of cycling at least part of the way, which wasn't so much of an option in the past, but is now, which is good. It'll be good exercise too.

The shop itself being bigger, will also be a challenge. I am given to understand that it is very physically demanding, because of it's layout and the fact that there will be a lot of going up and down stairs with bags of donations/recycling, etc.  The fact that I'll be working for the same organisation is reassuring though, as it will make the transition easier than if I were moving to a different charity, with different protocols and rules.

I'll let you know how everything progresses, but I must warn you that I may not be able to post quite so often as I have been doing lately, although I will definitely continue blogging.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A Funny Old Week

It's been a bit of a rollercoaster of a week this last week. I had two pretty bad commutes home from the CS, one due to a broken down train, the other the result of an exchange of words with another passenger that I won't go into, but which wasn't an enjoyable encounter.
Anyway, after that on Thursday I hit an impasse and was having a bit of a crisis. As I said a few weeks ago, I was really struggling to enjoy my work at the CS at the moment, due to the lack of variation in my day. After a lot of thinking about it, I decided that I would have to talk to the manager and either cut my hours or see what else could be done.

I hope I'm not coming across as being a diva, it's not really like that. I'm pretty easy going, but I just felt a bit marginalised on the till all the time I'm there and it's not really making good use of my skills. It was also just killing the experience for me if I'm honest. No one probably realises how I feel, because I don't complain or moan about it, I just get on with it.

Anyway, on Thursday, exhausted by the stress of it all I took myself off to bed for a nap in the afternoon and when I woke up I discovered a voice mail from my manager.  I was a bit concerned at first, but it turned out to be a potential paid temporary job opportunity at another shop in London, that he wanted to let me know about.

After a bit of toing and froing, I decided to apply and arranged to go to said shop for an informal 'chat' with one of the managers there on Saturday.  On Saturday morning I headed off to a local mall for a haircut (it was long overdue) on account of the 'interview' and then from there headed into town to the shop.

The 'chat' lasted a couple of hours and seemed to go reasonably well, although I wasn't sure I'd get the job, as they were looking for someone full time and I stressed that I could only work part-time for a maximum of 3 days per week.  With the summer holidays coming up, I'm just not prepared to work more than that, as I want to spend some time with LB. I had to be very firm on that point, for both my sanity and for the smooth running of family life here.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got a call today and I've got the job.  I've got to go in on Wednesday to expedite some paperwork, so that I can start as soon as possible.  It's very exciting and  nerve wracking in equal measures, but I'm looking forward to a new challenge in a much larger shop and with more responsibility. The job itself is for just 3 months, which over the summer isn't ideal, but sometimes you've got to take an opportunity where it presents itself and run with it.

Wish me luck, as I need all that I can muster.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Donated - June 2017

After the mammoth amount of donations I accumulated last month, mainly whilst doing the zone cleaning, this month, I was not really expecting to find anywhere near the same amount, but I did my best regardless.  The following are the items I did manage to declutter this month.

1. Slightly chipped, but still very usable Pyrex casserole dish - surplus to requirements.

2-5. Four unwanted items from OH's wardrobe - donated or recycled for rags.

6. One wool jacket belonging to OH - donated.

7-19. Thirteen books from the dining room - donated.

20-21. Two handmade quilts that I no longer wish to keep.

22. One recipe book - no longer needed.

23-24. Two silicone ice cube trays - replaced with more appropriate ones i.e. moustaches and penguins replaced by regular cube shaped ice cubes - a touch wasteful, but definitely more grown up and the donated ones will hopefully be useful to someone else.

25. One book donated from those in the kitchen.

26-27. Two more books - one read, one I don't want to read.

28-29. Two magazines - read.

30. One pair of flip flops.

31. One balsa wood aeroplane model - OH's!

32-33. Two jigsaws.

34. One book I'm never going to read.

35-36. Two school shirts recycled for rags.

37-50. One electronic Leap pad reader in carry case with 12 books and cartridges.

51. One battery operated remote controlled children's car.

52-53. Two packets of seeds (free with a magazine) that I'm not going to use.

54. One magazine - read.

55. One cushion cover.

56. One pack of fragranced drawer sachets - I used the matching drawer liners and they smelled very unpleasant to me, so I don't want to use these.  Someone else may like the smell though.

The final figure for this month was 56 items, which added to last month's running total of 492, means that at the halfway point of the year, I've managed to declutter 548  items, so I'm currently on course to meet the 1000 item target, that I set myself to declutter this year, if I can keep up the momentum that is.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 10

This week's Frugal Fails included the following:

Hooray! There were none that I can think of. ☺

Frugal Measures and Freebies this week included:

1) I bought myself a new ironing board cover online in the John Lewis clearance sale. At £6 it was a bargain. Only trouble was, I paid £3.50 for postage, as I didn't want to spend £30 for free click and collect or £50 for free delivery and I didn't want to visit the mall either which would have cost £3 in bus fares, unless I went on my bike of course. (but if it wasn't in stock it would have been a waste of effort)  It still came in less than the price I was expecting to pay for one (i.e. £15), so I'm pretty happy.

2) I used the £5 credit balance on my business credit card to buy a few groceries in the last week of the month. It came in very handy to tide me over, besides, it's not like they'll be paying me interest to be in credit.

3) Whilst at the Give & Take at the weekend,  I received a free sample of a product called Sugru which is a mouldable glue a bit like Playdoh that dries hard and can be used to repair things.  It comes in various colours. We picked the one called mossy green which almost matches the paint in our kitchen. There's lots of different ideas for things you can do with it on their website and in the booklet that came with it. An interesting concept.

4) More free seeds - unfortunately, two of the three I'm unlikely to use so I'm donating them.

5) I used a £3 off a £30 shop voucher at Tesco this week.

6) I had a nightmare commute home from the CS the other evening when a freight train broke down on the line, preventing all trains getting through.  As a consequence, I had to take a tube and another train to get home and when I got out of the station it was raining hard and I got soaked.  Luckily, the Big Issue seller outside  the station provided me with a plastic bag so I didn't get my bum wet.  A very kind gesture from a very nice man.

The consequence of all this was that my journey cost more money and I didn't want to pass the cost onto the CS, so I asked to be recompensed by London Transport, which they did.  I won't hesitate to ask again in the future if I face disruption again.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Still Simplifying - June

This month, I've continued in small ways in my quest to simplify our lives more and live with less stuff and less disorganisation, the latter, in particular, in relation to my finances. I've not been able to declutter anywhere near the amount I managed last month, but nevertheless, I've still found a reasonable amount of things to pass on to others who might be able to use them.

The main area that I've managed to focus on this month has been my finances.  I've opened a new regular saver account to benefit from 5% interest and will be transferring savings not currently earning this amount of interest into it each month for the next year. It's a little bit of hassle, but worth it to make better returns on my money.

Another financial measure I've taken this month, is to try to track down the value of my two occupational pensions.  I've obtained a statement on the one from the NHS, which was available on line, after I obtained an activation code for the site in the post.  This was quite encouraging.  The second from the Civil Service, I am still waiting for.  I originally emailed Capita, who were the last known company responsible for it, but apparently, it is now being managed by some other organisation, so my enquiry has been passed along.  Hopefully, they will respond to it eventually.

The purpose of doing the above, is to see what shortfall I need to make up in the next 15 years before I retire.  Both the above pensions include a lump sum payable and monthly payments start at age 60. I also have a (very) small personal pension, which starts at age 55, but it's value is very insignificant, although that too provides a lump sum. I'm assuming that I will be able to use these and any savings I accrue to buy some sort of annuity in the future, to give me a reasonable income in retirement and I am still intending to pay my National Insurance contributions voluntarily each year, to qualify for a full state pension (if it is still available in 16 years time).

As a consequence of the above, I feel like I've made some progress this month.  The other main area of progress in simplifying my life has been the allotment, which I'm now up to scratch on and the maintenance of which is now much easier, now it is fully cultivated. Having a plot almost on my doorstep is now starting to pay dividends, as I can get to it very easily to water, weed and harvest, so as a consequence everything grows much better and things don't go over as easily between visits and go to waste.

Next month, now that I've taken all of the donations to the Give & Take, I'll be focusing on simplifying the sewing/spare room, as I can now more easily get access to everything, both for cleaning and decluttering purposes.  I'm looking forward to spending some time in this room next month both being creative and re-organising it.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Monthly Roundup - June

Financially, June has been a slightly better month, although not by much, mainly on account of it not feeling quite so long as July.

I didn't manage to pay off as much of my overdraft as I'd hoped this month, mainly because I used some of the money I was going to use, to buy LB's school uniform for next year.  As mentioned in a previous post, I got offered free postage to buy it early, so I took advantage of it. To be honest, I hadn't really budgeted properly for LB's school uniform for the next school year, so I've revised my saving strategy to fully account for the expense and to include the expense of Christmas this year, which will mean it will take me a little longer, (i.e. to the end of the year) to pay everything off, but I'm okay with this, so long as it's gone this year and I can start 2018 debt free.

I did pay off another £50 approximately this month, so I'm happy enough for now.  At the end of last month, I actually made a chart of my debt to enable me to visualise it going down each month.  I shade out the amount paid off each month starting from the top down and when the chart is fully coloured in, I'll be debt free. I'll post a picture of it each month as I colour more of it in.  Here's this month's chart:

It's not that clear in the photo, but you get the drift.

The final tally for spending in June reads as follows:

I was slightly over budget on Food, spending £6.35 over the allotted £400.

Similarly, I was £4.96 over on my Personal budget on account of purchasing the flip flops!

Household went over by £11.42, mainly due to bulk buying toilet cleaner this month. There were also a few small things that I bought from Poundland early in the month, that I probably didn't really need to, but never mind.

LB's budget went over by £76.44 - £67 of which was uniform and the rest was another trip with school, that I hadn't budgeted for.

The Home budget came in at £3 under this month and the Misc. budget came in at £9.27 under which both helped to make amends for overspends elsewhere.

Excluding the uniform, the overspends weren't too high, which was pretty acceptable.

I had my dentist appointment this month, whereby I paid £59 I had budgeted for a clean and polish and I also sent some money to my sister for my nephew's birthday. These were the only extras I had to pay for this month.

Next month, I'm being more realistic.  LB needs a new school bag for next year, so I'll be including that in the budget, and adjusting what I'm able to save accordingly. It is the most expensive thing left to buy and she has a particular brand in mind.

As I don't buy her that much these days, I've agreed to buy it for her, providing that I can buy it from ASOS. I've got a 20% off voucher code to use in the next two days or so. They are trying to lure me back into spending on the site, as I haven't purchased anything in a while.  I'm happy to accept their voucher, so long as I use it for something that I would be buying this year anyway.

Other than this expense, I haven't got any extras to pay for next month, although it will be the summer holidays towards the end of the month.  I'm hoping to pay at least £150 off my overdraft, which will be fab if I can do it.  I'll keep you posted.

With just a bit more attention to what I spend in the first week or so of the month, I think I can bring everything in on budget, I just need to flex that budgeting muscle a little bit more next month. I'll let you know how I get on.