Sunday, 31 December 2017

Home Again and Happy New Year Wishes

Our week in Yorkshire passed in the blink of an eye, and yesterday we travelled back to London to get back to our normal, everyday life. It's been a strange Christmas, mainly due to OH's father being in hospital.  He is still in the hospital, but is doing a little better. 

OH may need to travel back up to Yorkshire in the next week or so to help out, if needed, but with three of us and the dog, we were too many to stay with his mum for any length of time.  She has enough on her plate at the moment without us all under her feet and roof.

When we got back last night I rang my Manager at the CS to volunteer to work today to give him a break, as he has covered for me over Christmas, but he was happy to work himself today and I agreed to go in for a day next week, although I am still officially on leave.  I'm not making a habit of it, but with the other Deputy not currently at work, I felt it only fair to try to help out.

Apparently, he's had to close the shop quite a bit over the last week due to a lack of volunteers, which hasn't been great, but doesn't surprise me as we were struggling right up until Christmas to secure enough volunteers to open every day.  It sounds like he's got a big recruitment drive planned when I get back to work proper.

As a consequence of not going in, today I am going to get myself organised at home.  Get some grocery shopping done for the New Year and beyond and finish unpacking and putting away everything we brought back with us this Christmas.

We didn't really do much shopping whilst we were away.  We tentatively ventured out to the shops on a couple of occasions after Christmas, but I only really came away with discounted Xmas items such as cards, wrapping paper, gift bags, money cards, etc., that will be put away with all the Christmas decorations ready for me to use next year. I just wasn't interested this year in starting my Xmas shopping early. 

I've decided that I'm changing how I shop for Christmas in 2018, as I don't want to have to store things all year round and in any case, by the time Christmas comes around again, things I might have bought in the sales don't always seem so appropriate.  Besides, I'm going to be giving many more cash gifts or gift vouchers, so that people don't get things they really don't want. As the children in the family are getting older, they seem much happier with this arrangement, which means I only really need to shop for a stocking filler or two from now on.

We received mostly consumable gifts this year, which I'm very happy with, although we got way too many chocolates and food items. I've got enough gin and prosecco to last me a good few months, which is fine by me.

My phone from OH didn't arrive until after we'd left London, so was kindly looked after by our neighbours, which is embarrassing after my rant in a post a few weeks ago. I haven't got it set up yet, but intend to do so over the next few days.  OH also bought me a few books that I'd asked for which always makes me very happy. 

On account of not getting the phone in time, he gave me some money to buy a few extras in the sales, but I just bought a new sports bra, a few pairs of nice socks and a candle or two to use throughout the year. I really didn't need or want anything else.

I've put on a few kg over the holidays, but once I get settled back into regular eating, work and exercise habits, I'm sure it will drop off again.  It usually does. I'm now looking forward to a New Year full of new possibilities.  I had a very eventful year last year, with losing a young friend at the end of last year, trying to reorganise my finances and eventually starting my new job and trying to get a reasonable balance between work and home life, which I'm not sure I ever did.

I'm sure there will be more changes to come this year, especially when my contract ends at the end of March. I like change though in a work environment, it helps to keep you on your toes and helps prevent you getting in a rut.

Let us hope that most of the changes and challenges we face this year will be positive ones and that our hopes and wishes for the year may be met or even exceeded.

Wishing You All A Very Healthy, Happy, Peace Filled and Prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A Restful Christmas

We're having a lovely restful Christmas in our hired cottage.  It's very cosy and comfortable. Just big enough for the three of us and the dog, who you can see here has made herself at home. Here's a couple of pictures of the living room. 

There's a definite horsey theme due to the fact that it's situated in the grounds of a Polo Club. We stayed here last year, but in a different property, when my sister came to visit from Australia, and had a lovely stay then too.Although there is an open fire, we've only lit it once.

After such a frantic lead in to Xmas this year, mainly due to working, we've spent some lovely down time here, some of which I've spent completing this lovely jigsaw puzzle of Dicken's London.  I do love a good jigsaw.  So good for clearing the mind and passing time slowly.

I remember when I was a child and excited for Christmas to come.  It seemed to take an age to roll around.  I often used to spend the time completing jigsaws. A lovely old fashioned tradition that seems to have all but disappeared.  Occasionally, we get back to it and feel better for it.

We spent Christmas Day with OH's family and yesterday, we were planning a lazy free day with no visits. Unfortunately, we had some bad news in the morning when we woke up.  OH's father was taken ill overnight and was taken to the hospital, so we headed out to visit him later and take OH's mum home.  Very unfortunate, but he's doing okay and it's better that we're here to be able to visit him and help where needed.

I've been quite picky over my TV viewing this Christmas. So far, we've watched the Muppet Christmas Carol on Xmas Eve (because you've got to watch at least one Dickens film over Christmas). I then stayed up late to watch The Great Gatsby and was so pleased that I did.  I loved it.
Boxing Night we watched both Little Women and The Minaturist, which I loved and can't wait to see the conclusion of tonight.

Yesterday, I Skyped my sister in Australia and we had a nice long chat. I'd left her a video message on Christmas Day, when she hadn't answered.  It felt like being the Queen and delivering a Christmas message to the nation. Technology is amazing isn't it.  Watch out YouTube, I might even start my own channel.  (I don't think so).

I still need to visit my sister who lives locally and we're meeting up with some friends for a dog walk later in the week. Today, OH is out cycling with some friends from his cycling club. Later we'll probably have a potter around the historic market town, which is a couple of miles down the road or maybe go visit his dad or my sister and her family.

Simple pleasures are definitely making me happiest this Christmas. 

I hope you're having a lovely restful Christmas.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Getting My S--- Together

It's Thursday, and it's my day off.  I have one more day to work before Christmas - tomorrow, and then we head off to Yorkshire on Saturday.  As a consequence, today I'm trying to get my s--- together. I did a bit of laundry and ironing at the beginning of the week, but there's much more to do, before I can be sure that everything that we might need to take with us is available.

Today, I've cleared the kitchen table of several weeks worth of accumulated c---.  (Excuse my terrible language in this post). I've pinned up the Christmas cards that have been sat around the kitchen worktops for weeks. (My faithful old wreath finally went on the front door this week, thanks to OH.  It will be coming down before we leave, so was hardly worth it, but there you go.)

I've put a basket of ironed clothes away, taken a load of dry washing off the dryer and done a load or two of washing and hung them out. I've started to pack the clothes I'm taking with me and put aside a few other things that I want to read or work on whilst I'm away. 

I will be tackling what's left in the ironing basket, in order to complete the clothes packing, after I've done some personal banking and completed six month's worth of shredding. (I don't like to go away without doing it).

The recurring theme this Christmas has been hampers. One arrived a couple of days ago from a work associate of OH.  It was a nice surprise and made him feel appreciated.  I'd just finished the last mince pie today, when another arrived.  We've not yet opened it properly. We know that OH's mum has made us a hamper to take to the cottage we're renting in Yorkshire over Xmas, because she wants us to drop in for it on the way and I have a feeling that the cottage owners themselves will have left us a bit of a hamper when we get there, as they did last time we stayed in one of their cottages and it wasn't even Christmas.

Why did I bother to buy the things I did to take with us? Crazy, I should have known better.  I'm not complaining, just making an observation.  It's very nice to receive all of these consumable gifts.  At least I won't be desperately trying to find a use or cupboard space for them in a couple of weeks time.

Tonight, I'll be ironing, packing, wrapping, cooking supper, having a bath and pampering myself a bit and just generally mentally preparing myself for my final day at work this year.  It's been a crazy busy week and a crazy busy last six months.  I can't believe so many people are still doing or just starting their Christmas shopping. It never ceases to amaze me when I meet the last minute shoppers in our shop, and I'm sure there's many more to come in yet.

I've got a couple of presents left to wrap, but I should be able to do that in five minutes flat.  LB did all of her own and all of OH's wrapping for him yesterday, when she finished school for Christmas.  Bless her. I'm dreading trying to squeeze them all in the car for the journey.  I've decided that some of our bigger gifts are staying here over Christmas, as there's no point taking them all the way and then bringing them back again.  They aren't really expensive ones, but just bulky ones, so we're going to open them on Friday night when I get back from work, as a pre-Christmas treat. We'll still have plenty to open on Xmas Day.

I'll try and post again before Christmas day, but if I don't manage it -


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 22

This last week or so, I haven't really been doing that much spending, save for a last few Xmas presents, but here goes for probably my last post of this kind before Christmas.

Freebies and Frugal Measures.

1) I received a free small box of chocolates with an ASOS order I placed this week.

 There were only 4 chocolates in it, but it was still a nice surprise.

2) I used a £5 ASOS loyalty voucher towards buying a new watch, as one I'd dug out and started using again stopped working and I couldn't get it going even with a new battery.

3) I'm still in the black with just a week to go before Christmas, which is a first for me in a good few years.  It's great to know that I'll be heading into 2018 debt free and I intend to keep it that way.

4) I avoided spending any money on a Christmas jumper by making my own DIY one.

5) I managed to collect free Christmas foliage and saved spending money on any from the supermarket like I usually do.

6) Whilst grocery shopping at Waitrose to use another £10 off a £50 spend voucher, I spotted the wreath I had bought from a CS a week or so ago for £4.50, being sold for £20.  What a bargain I got.

Frugal Fails

1) I cancelled a class at the gym this week at the last minute and had to pay a £3 fine as a consequence.

2) I had to buy another plastic bag in M&S, as I forgot to take one with me when we went to the mall.

3) I lost my pedometer/watch at work and had to buy both another watch (£12) and another pedometer (£2.99), as I do like to keep track of both time and my steps at all times.

4) I got charged twice for something I only bought one of in the supermarket, but didn't realise the error until I'd left the shop and it was too late.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Super Frugal Saturday

Yesterday, the second to last Saturday before Christmas, I spent being super frugal.  I didn't go out shopping, in fact, I didn't spend a single penny.  I stayed home and cleaned the house instead.

Not very exciting I know, but it's a job I haven't done for a good few weeks and I just couldn't face going away next week and then coming back to a super filthy house. The kitchen floor was particularly bad and was the final straw that shamed me into it.

Anyway, I did a thorough Weekly Home Blessing, which I haven't done for a month at least and now the house feels back under control. I don't actually know where I got the energy after a busy week, but I found it from somewhere. It made staying in to watch the Strictly final even more pleasurable,  just cosying up in my cleaned home.

The only time I did leave the house, was to let the dog take me for a walk.  Yes, it was that way round.  She took me on a very urban walk, of course, as she likes nothing better than to roam the streets of London looking for food. Bless her.

The traffic was nose to tail everywhere.  It made me very happy that I'd spent the day at home. I do enjoy an afternoon walk around Christmas time, taking in everyone's Xmas decorations and preparations. It feels very festive.

Later, I used up some ready rolled puff pastry, that was shortly going out of date, to make some mince puffs. I'd bought it a couple of weeks ago, but just hadn't got around to making them.  I've still got a pack left in the freezer, which I may take up to Yorkshire and thaw out on the way. Here they are:

Today, I did my last class at the gym until the New Year, followed by my last normal grocery shop of the year.  We only needed enough to last us until Friday night/Saturday morning, so the list wasn't too extensive or expensive. I managed to use another £10 off a £50 spend voucher at Waitrose, which was a bonus.

Later today, I'll be ironing, starting to pack, and then cooking us a simple family Christmas dinner at home, as we probably won't get chance to do this in Yorkshire, as we'll be out and about visiting most of the time, and it's not so easy in a different house with different appliances. First of all though, I'll be watching a cheesy Christmas movie, which has become my new Christmas tradition on Sunday afternoons in December.

I hope you're having a relaxing Sunday.

Hope you have had a lovely weekend too.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Home Day

Thursday this week, was one of my days off, and after the Christmas meal the previous evening, I was very happy to stay home and catch up with things around the house. With just one week left until we go up to Yorkshire, I needed to spend some time on laundry, so that I can start to get packed.

I'm working right up until the day we leave, so I want to pack most of what I need well before our day of departure, so we can get an early start on the journey, which I anticipate will be long and possibly busy on the roads.

After a pretty awful night's sleep on account of noisy people wheeling suitcases and talking at loud volume at 5.30 am in the street outside, I got up and went out with the dog. Just as I stepped out of the front door, I had a lucky encounter with a neighbour, who was snipping branches off a holly bush which was on the back of a lorry.  It had been cut out of someone's garden and was about to be hauled away.  I asked her to cut me a few stems too, and I picked a couple of flowering ivy stems on my dog walk, to make this very simple arrangement when I got home. 

I probably won't need to buy any Christmas flowers or foliage now, which will save a few pounds.

Anyway, I hurried off to catch what turned out to be my last Zumba class of the year.  I wasn't really in the mood for it, but felt better afterwards, as it blew some cobwebs away. It was also nice to see some people that I wanted to wish a Happy Christmas to.

The rest of the morning and afternoon was spent at home.  I had a parcel coming from ASOS.  I had used a £5 loyalty voucher towards a new inexpensive watch (don't ask, me and watches are a disastrous combination).  Anyway, I settled for this Casio one.  Very simple and functional, which is all I need.  I just can't function well without a watch.

I also added a couple of small bits to the order to qualify for free shipping; some more sports socks for LB and a small gift for her birthday in January.  I received a small gift myself in the box.  These coconut and almond chocolates, which was a nice surprise.

It was a day of receiving other parcels in the post too, as I'd ordered a couple of small things on eBay, one of which was this book, which will be my holiday reading this Christmas.

Once my parcels had arrived, LB had come home, I'd made a DIY ugly Christmas jumper for Christmas Jumper Day at work and I'd caught up with some housework, we then decided to go to the local mall after an early supper and do some last minute Christmas shopping (well, OH's last minute Xmas shopping to be exact, to look for/at phones for me!).

The mall was okay considering how close it was to Christmas, but it was a useful outing as a couple of phones did appeal to me. All in all a pretty productive day. By the way, here's a picture of the Christmas jumper.

I didn't have a star for the top of the tree, so a brooch had to do. It worked great except that despite carefully sewing all the baubles on, three of them still came off and had to be reattached with safety pins.  A bit of a punk rock Christmas jumper in the end. Never mind, at least it didn't cost anything to make. OH, incidentally, hated it and made me promise never to wear it in his company.  Grinch!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Thank Goodness it's Friday Night

It's Friday night and I just got home from work.  I'm finished for the week now, thank goodness. I do love that Friday night feeling, knowing that I don't need to go back to work until Monday. I don't always get it in this job, but when I do, it's great.

It was a crazy day in the shop, busy, busy, busy.  The footfall in the shop is pretty amazing really, so there's very little time to get bored.

I managed to spend most of the day off the till, which made a big change for me lately, so I was able to actually get stuck in to some work in the stockroom for once. There were still a good few interruptions though.

The staffing situation just keeps lurching from what we think is a bad situation, to one that's even worse. If we manage to keep the shop open all of next week it will be quite an achievement with the very few staff left to man it. Both the Manager and myself are just hanging in there as long as it takes to get to Christmas day.

Tonight, I'm dog tired and just very glad to be able to stay at home for a couple of days.  I'm definitely sleeping in tomorrow morning. I'm not going anywhere.

As previously mentioned, I've been invited to the Christmas meal for my old shop next Tuesday.  The Manager rang me today and I just need to confirm with him tomorrow that I'll be going. Having another evening out in what will be another crazy week, is a bit mad really, but you've got to enjoy yourself too. All work is very dull.

Until Monday, I'm going to put work to the back of my mind and just relax and enjoy my free time. I hope you guys have got a relaxing weekend planned.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

A Nice Evening Out

After a very busy couple of days at the CS, last night was our Christmas meal at a nearby Turkish restaurant. There were about a dozen of us in attendance, as a few people dropped out at the last minute, but it was a good number.

I got a bit of a shock when we sat down at the table, as we had been given the Christmas Menu, which was double the price of the menu I'd seen on line when I booked.  As our budget was pretty low, I had to speak to the proprietor and make sure we were eating from the appropriate menu for our budget and they were very accommodating.  I was still surprised to see that the prices were different from those I'd seen online though, as they must have been out of date on the app I used.

Anyway, although it turned out to be a little over budget (bearing in mind that we were eating in Central London, it was a miracle we found anywhere so nice, that was so reasonably priced), the Manager seemed happy enough and we all enjoyed a very lovely meal with great service.  We all tucked into a selection of meze dishes as an appetiser, followed by our own individual choice of main.

Even those who were not sure about eating Turkish food seemed to enjoy it, which was good to hear. Everyone seemed to get along very well and enjoy themselves.  Most of us were there until 10.30 pm, by which time I really had to go, as I had an hour's journey on the bus ahead of me.

I got to bed at about midnight, relieved that it all went off so well, especially as I'd been charged with organising it. Having never done anything like this for work before, I was pleased that everyone enjoyed it so much and I can now relax and enjoy the rest of the lead in to Christmas at work.

When I got up this morning, feeling a little worse for wear, I read my emails only to see an invitation in my inbox for the Christmas meal at my old shop, so I may be going along to that next week. It will be a great opportunity to catch up with everyone.

Today, I'm so happy to be spending the day at home, catching up on my own life and work around the home.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

A Little Christmas Shopping Spree

On Tuesday last week, after spending Monday afternoon and evening putting up the Christmas tree and decorations, I decided to run a few errands, which included taking a box and bag to the local CS, as there were Christmas items in them that I thought they'd be able to sell in the next couple of weeks.

Whilst dropping them off, something in the window caught my eye.  As I'd gone out without any money, I asked if they could hold on to this particular item for me and I'd be back a little later with some money to buy it.  Thankfully they said they would.

I returned home, grabbed my bag and within half an hour I was back at the CS.  I decided whilst there that I may as well look around the whole shop.  Big mistake.  I managed to spend £15 including the item I originally went in for. 

The item in question was a lovely wreath.  I had just the spot for it above the shelf that OH put up for me the other week.  The hook from the picture that had previously hung there was still in situ, and made the space look bare and  unfinished. 

The wreath filled the space perfectly and gave the room a lovely festive feel. At £4.50 I thought it was a rather nice addition to my Xmas decorations (although it is a little plasticky when you look at it more closely).

I'm afraid I didn't stop there. I've been wanting to buy some new baubles for a while and was intending to visit TK Maxx and buy some fancy ones this year, but in the end I managed to dress the tree with what we already had. 

When I saw this box of white and silver glass baubles for £2.50, however, it seemed too good to miss, so that came home with me too. I'm in the process of changing up my Xmas décor, so I'll gradually add to what is now left after lots of decluttering, as I see things I like.

Talking of adding, I bought this fancy glass bauble from the CS too for £1 and this brand new glitter twig star for £2, which is now hung on the living room door.

I did also buy a couple of other things, one of which was this sweet little white ceramic vase/jug for £2.50. It will look great with a sprig of holly or other festive foliage in it.

I also bought two books for £1.50 (as I've run out of anything interesting to read) and this tiny Santa and reindeer ornament for 50p, which I have a very specific use in mind for. I'll let you know at some point what it is, but to give you a clue it involves using up some of what's left of my stash of Xmas fabric.

So another CS haul post, but with a (White) Christmas theme this time.

On the subject of Christmas, I popped into Primark that same afternoon and bought myself these cute Christmas earrings to wear at the shop over the next few weeks, as I like to make an effort to get into the Christmas spirit at this time of year.

I enjoyed my little splurge and it was the only chance I had that week to do any non-grocery shopping of any kind, so I made the most of it, as I was back at work the next day for most of the remainder of the week.

How are you doing with your Christmas shopping?

Monday, 11 December 2017

A Productive Week

By my current standards, last week was quite a productive week for me. I've been so tired lately, that on my days off, I haven't really achieved much at all, but this week was a bit different.

On Monday, the Christmas tree and the decorations went up.  This made a massive difference to how I felt about Christmas and has tipped me into actually enjoying the build up rather than feeling overwhelmed by it.

On Tuesday, I finished wrapping all of the gifts I have bought to date.  I still have a few more to buy this coming week, but I'll try to wrap them within a couple of days of buying them, so that everything is ready and prepared for our departure to Yorkshire.

Wednesday, was the least productive day on a personal level, as I was back to work and feeling a bit overwhelmed again.

On Thursday, I finally managed to get into the leave system at work and book my time off over Christmas. I was getting desperate to do this, as it's now only two weeks away. This was a big weight lifted, after 6 months of trying and failing to get it sorted.

On Friday, I managed to write most of my Christmas cards. There were a few I didn't get around to, mainly because I ran out of actual cards and had to buy some more from the CS on Saturday. I also bought the stamps I needed to send them.

I telephoned my sister on Friday night too and we caught up on each others news and made arrangements for what to give each other's daughters for Christmas, which was very useful, as I intend to finish my Xmas shopping this week.

Finally, on Saturday I posted off most of the cards I needed to send. I love that feeling of putting them in the post box and knowing the job has been (almost) completed for another year.

As a consequence, on Sunday, I could just take it easy and enjoy a homey day around the house. I think I'm going to need most of my energy at work from here on in, so it's good to get things sorted at home.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Slow Snow

Like many others, we woke on Sunday morning to snow falling outside.  A lovely sight.

The kids in our street were out on the street throwing snowballs and laughing.  OH was out in the back garden with the dog, throwing snowballs through LB's open bedroom window!  Fool.

Anyway, the dog loved the snow, surprisingly.  She was so excited, tail wagging, barking, wanting to play. It was so cute.

I cancelled my class at the gym, as I didn't want to venture out on the roads and I had the feeling that the instructor may not either, with two small children in tow.  I'll have to pay a £3 fine, but it is worth it to just stay home and enjoy the novelty of snow.

I ventured out to the local park with the dog.  Everyone and his dog were out and about walking and enjoying the snow.  There were so many snowmen.  The dog loved just running around and snuffling in the snow.

I happened across an outdoor church service on a local estate that I pass through on my way home, with carol singing and mince pie flavoured biscuits, which was a treat.  I found myself singing along to a carol or two.

When I got back I made myself a bacon sandwich for lunch and a cup of tea.  Bliss.

I like the snow.  It makes everyone slow down.  Cars move more slowly and carefully, people stay home and spend time together rather than rushing around.

I was pleased that Thursday had been my errand day, as I didn't need to shop for groceries or do anything really.  I could just stay home and chill in front of the fire, catching up on Strictly from last night and watching a Christmas movie. What better way to wind down from a busy week at work.

The manager is back in the shop today and I'm not sure what he'll make of the massive influx of donations that it was hard to wade through with very few volunteers this week. I'm sure I'll find out later this week. For now, I'm just going to put it to the back of my mind and enjoy the pause and stillness that snow brings.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Errand Day

After a couple of busy days working at the CS whilst the Manager was away, today, I had a day off and decided to make it my Errand Day for the week.  I thought I might need to work in the afternoon, but I just about I managed to secure enough volunteer for my fellow Deputy to keep the shop open without me, so, as a consequence, I was pleased to have some free time.

LB was off school, as she'd been unwell overnight, after eating something out of date bought from a local shop.  As I write, OH is on his way back there to complain.

Before I could set out on my errands, I spent most of the morning at home, looking out for her and doing other small jobs, whilst OH took the car for it's MOT and did his various errands. 

I used the time constructively by catching up with Sophia on YouTube and listening to her tell her very poignant story of what it was like to live in New York at the time of 9/11, amongst other things. A sad story at this time of year, but one that makes you stop and think, as well as one that we probably all need to be reminded of from time to time.

When OH got back (MOT went well thankfully), I headed out to do my errands. I had some parcels to take to the Post Office to return some items I'd ordered to ASOS. The plus side of this, was that my expenditure on myself last month will be reduced, as some of the items I'd ordered I decided weren't for me, for one reason or another. My credit card bill should now be lower this coming month, as a result of the refunds I should receive, which is all good.  I bought some stamps whilst there, to send off my Christmas cards, once I've actually written them. (Not my favourite job, but I'm trying to be organised and pro-active).

As I'm working tomorrow, I decided to do a grocery shop today, so I wrote a shopping list in preparation and made a weekly meal plan for next week, to make sure I get everything we need for the week. This will free me up on Sunday and Monday to finish any Xmas shopping and keep on top of the house before returning to work on Tuesday next week.

I did most of the shopping bar a few items and then had to head home as it was gridlock on the roads due a very nasty incident that had caused one of the roads to be closed off for further examinations. It meant crazy, crazy traffic everywhere, as it was a main route out of Central London that was affected. I was glad to get home.

I'm trying hard to make the most of any free time I get and keep on top of things at home, which is difficult sometimes.  Every small achievement feels big at the moment.  Getting the tree up and decorations up felt huge, especially when I'm tired after work. I now know how hard it is for working mums, who have been doing this for years.  I've had it easy by comparison, staying home to raise LB. Everyone has different circumstances and it's good to see life from another's point of view sometimes.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 21

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) Having received more vouchers from Waitrose this week, they will become the recipients of my grocery shopping business in the lead up to Christmas, in order for me to benefit from using them.  As I've mentioned before, I am not loyal to anyone, especially where discounts are concerned, I just go wherever I get the best vouchers.  I am, however, very careful what I buy at Waitrose, as I do find some things can be quite expensive in their store. This week I used the big one, which was £12 off a £60 spend.  It made a dent, as I spent £107, so paid only £95 and got my free Sunday newspaper too through their loyalty scheme.

2) I started this week reasonably well, by acquiring 3 books for OH for Christmas on eBay, for less than £10. They were all in very good condition too. He knows I am sourcing them this way and is more than happy about it, so why pay full price in a book shop, well, other than to keep them in business, of course, which is important too.

3) I made my totally cost free Advent candle this week, which is working very well.  I've never used an Advent candle of any description before, so it is a totally new experience for me. I've also started using my digital advent calendar from  I bought one for myself and one each for my two sisters as a gift the other week.  They cost less than £3 each and are interactive with games, videos and activities, so they will keep me entertained in the lead up to Christmas. I also bought a chocolate Advent calendar from the CS when they went on sale yesterday as a treat to myself.

4) I found a couple of nice quilt covers at the CS this weekend for £2.99 each. (They're only inexpensive ones)  One for LB's bed and one for ours.  I'm really pleased with these, as I was going to spend up to £30 for one for LB alone. They look hardly used and smell like they just came out of someone's washing machine.  I'll wash them myself though before using them just to be sure.

5) Some items I paid for on my credit card at the end of this month, didn't show up on my bill this month, which means that I have longer to pay for them, which is a bonus at this time of year.  I did deliberately leave purchasing the items in the ASOS 20% off sale until the last possible minute, in the hope that this might happen and it did.  I'm an arch manipulator of my credit card bill.  It comes with years of practice.

Frugal Fails

1) I had to purchase another 9p reusable plastic bag this week at Lidl on account of using all of the bags I took with me in Waitrose. I did manage to utilise a box, but still needed an extra bag when I couldn't find a second one.

2) On checking my receipt from my weekly shop at Waitrose, I noticed too late that I had been charged twice for something by mistake, which although it only cost me an extra 40p is annoying, and I also didn't get a discount on a the purchase of two items that according to the shelf were on offer at 2 for £3 which cost me another 74p.  Small amounts I know, and mistakes do happen, but they shouldn't advertise a discount for multiple purchases, if they're not going to be applied at the till point.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Getting Christmassy

After spending a very lazy day on Sunday, due to unexpectedly not being at work, on Monday I figured it was time to get down to some cleaning, so that I could get the Christmas tree and decorations up.

I haven't been doing much Flylady cleaning at all for the last few weeks, as the last thing I've wanted to do on my days off is housework, but with Christmas only a few weeks away, I thought I'd better show willing and get the house in some sort of order.

I started in the living/dining rooms and gave them a blitz, as it is in these rooms that we put virtually all of the Xmas decorations and the tree. To be honest I got a bit grumpy in the process, as I got tired towards the end and really didn't much want to do it.

I have to admit that I really don't like putting up the Christmas tree.  It's far too fiddly and if I'm honest I'd prefer a real tree any day, needles and all.  Once it was up and decorated though, it looked okay, save for being sat on a small table, to protect it from the dog who in the past has crunched her way through some of the decorations. At least now that job has been done, I can relax and start to enjoy Christmas. Here's a picture of the finished tree and the odd other bit of décor.

I try and keep things pretty simple if I can.

There's still some cleaning to do in the kitchen, bathroom and in our bedroom, but I'm not going stress out too much over it, as it can wait if I don't get it done this week.

I'll be quite pleased when all the Christmas prep is done and dusted and I can just get on with enjoying the lead in, although we really haven't got much planned this year. A good excuse to actually think up some Christmassy things to do and get on and do them.

How are your plans for Christmas coming along?

Monday, 4 December 2017

Donated - November

Here's this month's list of donations to the CS or Give & Take and a few other items that were recycled for rags.  Most of the following were decluttered by LB this month, and a handful were my contribution, so big thanks to LB for her hard work on the decluttering front this month.

1) One homemade bean bag - no longer used and taking up way too much space.
2) One pair of bathroom scales - replaced with a digital pair.
3-4) One box or Hama beads and storage box.
5) One plastic lidded storage jar.
6-7) Two DVD series bought from the CS, tried but that I'm not going to watch.
8-9) Two unused rolls of Xmas tape.
10-14) Five different types of Xmas gift bag - I'm not going to use these in the near future, so I may as well donate them for someone else to use.
15-18) Four Xmas decorations that I don't use.
19-24) Six items recycled for rags or yarn.
25-28) Four Dandy/Beano comics.
29-31) Two holdalls and a rucksack.
32) One writing set.
33-34) Two phone cases.
35-49) Fifteen CD's
50-51) Two unwanted Xmas gifts.
52) One Make up Mirror
53) One freebie diary
54-56) Three colouring books.
57) One set of stencils.
58) One pair of jogging bottoms.
59-68) Ten items of clothing and footwear.
69-79) Eleven items of Build a Bear clothing.
80-85) Six items of doll's clothing/accessories.
86) One small suitcase.
87-89) Three pencil cases.
90-112) Twenty-three books
113) One origami set.
114) One decoupage set.
115) One grey polo necked jumper - Don't know why I bought this one as it just does not suit me at all.
116) One tin of water colour paints.
117) One pair of hareems recycled for my rag rug.
118) One gym t-shirt recycled for rags.
119-120) Two  packets of unwanted seeds.

Not a bad total for the month, better than some this year.  When added to last month's running total for the year of 783, I have now decluttered a total of 903 items this year.  That leaves just 97 items still to donate to meet this year's target of 1000 items.  I need a 100 fling boogie this month to see if I can reach this target by the end of December. Wish me luck.

A Little Splurge at the Local CS

On Thursday of last week, I had a day off and popped to the gym to catch a class in the morning.  On returning to the car, I realised that I wouldn't be going anywhere, as a scaffolding lorry was stationery in the middle of the street where I'd parked and was blocking my exit.

As a consequence, I decided to pop into a nearby charity shop to wait it out. It was one of my old haunts.  I don't go in very often these days, but I often stop to look in the window when I'm passing whilst walking the dog.

Anyway, I went in and spent a lovely half hour wandering around the shop.  I didn't spend too much, but you know me, it's hard for me to come out empty handed once I've entered.  I didn't actually have any cash on me and the minimum spend on a card was £5, so I'm afraid I spent £5.75, but I don't regret it as all of the things I bought were lovely and quite unique. 

So, here goes with a little CS haul:

First this Vogue pattern for making 8 different bags jumped out at me.  It is complete and unused and at 75p was a complete steal.  The bag that appealed to me was the one that is knotted in the picture at the bottom.  So simple to make, it reminded me of the Japanese art of wrapping with fabric, Furoshiki and I thought it might be a simple way to use some of the fabric in my stash.  We'll see.

The next item that caught my eye was this black wool cape. (It looks grey in this picture, but is in fact black or very dark grey) It seems to be minus it's hood, as there are buttons on the back for one, but it didn't have one.  Anyway I tried it on over a big sweater  with a big snood and really liked it.  Ideal for days when I don't want to wear a big heavy coat.  This could also be folded up easily and put in a bag if I want to peel back layers. At £3.50 this was a bargain too.

To make up the £5 I also bought this patch for LB, which goes perfectly with some trainers I bought her for Christmas.  I think she'll like it and for 50p it's not a big gamble.

Finally, I saw this little or maybe not so little pure wool brooch on the counter for £1.  It was brand new and perfect to pop on my new cape. It was made in Orkney, Scotland.  How adorable.

A lovely little haul, even if I so say so myself. I just need to be careful not to get hooked again.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

DIY Xmas Advent Candle

After all the overspending lately, the other night I decided to do a very frugal DIY for a change.

Whilst watching Diane in Denmark on YouTube, talking about Christmas in Denmark and the traditions they follow, I decided to follow her suggestion to make my own Advent candle.  What a good idea, thought I and headed off to find a simple candle to transform.

It wasn't a huge transformation, but with the aide of a ruler and a permanent marker pen, here is my effort at a truly frugal Advent candle. (I was going to use a more festive red candle, but I only had two and I use these to decorate at Christmas.  Anyway, I saved them for this purpose and used a white one instead, as I have heaps of these just sat in a tin in the dresser drawer)

Whilst I know that buying an advent candle isn't expensive (£1.99 or thereabouts in many shops), even saving a couple of pounds can be very satisfying and I wouldn't otherwise be using this candle, so it is a much better solution than buying a specially made one and it's burning down a treat. Besides, no one is going to see it but me and you guys, so who cares.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Giving Up on the Budget until 2018

That's it, after my post yesterday, I've made the decision that I'm giving up on my budget until 2018.  Christmas has just run away with me. I've been trying hard to stick to it, but am finding it increasingly difficult, as you can tell from my monthly posts. I just need to step away, spend what I have to spend during this next month and then just try to start afresh in the New Year.

I'm just looking forward to when the seasonal spending is over and I can get back to normal life and a normal monthly budget.  At this time of year, the demands on one's finances are just too overwhelming, working or not. I know I have a choice to spend or not, but it's difficult to suddenly stop buying presents for people who may by now have bought one in return.

Anyway, I'm sure everything will work out okay and I still will be trying to keep spending to a minimum, but I'm so tired of posting overspends every month, that I won't be publishing a round up in December.  I'm taking a break from making readers suffer the details of my overspending habits and I'll be back with hopefully more positive posts of this kind from the end of January.

Good luck with your budgeting over the Christmas period.  I wish you all so much more success with your budgets than I've been achieving recently.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Monthly Round Up - November

Here we go with another monthly roundup. I tried really hard this month to rein it in, but as you'll see from the figures below, I didn't succeed.

Most of the budgets went over again this month, not by huge amounts (except one or two), but over never the less.

I'll start with the worst offence, which was my personal budget (surprise, surprise).  I'm finding it hard to keep the lid on this one, as I've been renewing my wardrobe lately and this has led to quite a bit of expenditure in this area.  My budget of £25 went over by £202.34 (Yikes!) Part of this was the new winter coat £63 and a haircut £28, but I did also spend £30 at Primark, £30 at the CS and also bought some shoes from ASOS, which I may yet return, as I haven't quite made up my mind about them.

The next worst budget was the Xmas budget which was set at £100.  I went over by £90.25, £50 of which was in an attempt to use some good money off vouchers at Waitrose, which ran out this month.

The Misc. budget of £50 went over by £50.85, mainly because I bought a few birthday gifts for LB, whose birthday is in January plus I spent £20 on a Christmas meal out with friends.

The Household budget of £50 also went over, but only by £7.38 which wasn't too bad.

The Food budget of £400 went over by £42.91.  I did buy a few bits of food for Xmas over the month, so this probably accounts for some of this.

The home budget of £20 went over by £1.19, but I did buy a new fitted sheet and some pillowcases, some storage boxes and a new clothes drying rack this month which seems a lot for such a small amount of money.

The under budget areas were as follows:

The travel for work budget of £60 came in under budget by £21.

LB's budget of £25 came in at £16 under. (OH will, however, be buying her a pair of Dr Martin Shoes for school next month, that will set him back over £90)

Not a wholly successful month again, but I'm hoping to get back on track eventually. (Can't say exactly when though)

How was your budgeting this month?

Monday, 27 November 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 20

Here's a summary of this last couple of week's efforts to be frugal.

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) I used two more £8 off a £40 spend vouchers at Waitrose, using them to mostly buy lots of edible gifts for people for Christmas. One was used for the last grocery shop of the month, but I shopped very carefully, as it's very easy to rack up a big bill in this store.

2) OH cut LB's fringe himself, which saved me paying for it to be done at the hairdressers.  It was long overdue and he did a good job. I'll get it all cut properly in the Christmas holidays when it's quiet.

3) I bought this brand new still in packaging set of these IKEA SKUBB draw organisers for £3 from the CS. 

I needed some more of these to organise my sweaters and gym gear. My clothes are all, as opposed to just some, now looking much more tidy and organised, which I find helps when it comes to putting away the laundry.

4) This last few weeks, I've been regularly buying bits and bobs of food to go towards Christmas, whilst out doing our weekly grocery shop. I'm hoping it will help spread the cost and mean we don't miss out anything essential when doing a big shop on Xmas Eve, by which time some things might even be out of stock. (We're travelling to a cottage in Yorkshire on 23rd December, so we will have to do most of our shopping on 24th December).

5) I used a £5 loyalty voucher from ASOS to go towards a birthday present for LB whose birthday is three weeks after Christmas and OH took advantage of the Black Friday 5 day sale to buy some Dr Marten's for her for school, which saved over £20 off the normal retail price. This definitely made them better value. I'm hoping that they will last her the next two years as she is very heavy on shoes and the heels on these shouldn't hopefully wear down too quickly.

6) I received two free packs of seeds with my Kitchen Garden magazine.  Unfortunately, they were aubergines and leeks, neither of which I like or grow, so I'll be donating them to the next Give & Take.

7) I bought an online Visual Merchandising course on Udemy for just £10 on Cyber Monday.  It has 43 lectures on the subject and provides you with a certificate on completion.  A complete bargain, as it normally costs £40. (I was due to go on a course at work, but my manager is now going instead, so I thought I'd take it into my own hands to become more educated in this area and for £10 it's worth doing). I'm actually quite excited as I've never done an online course before.

Frugal Fails

1) I impulse bought a new winter coat whilst at the Mall, and then had to buy a 5p bag in which to carry it home, as the bags I had with me weren't big enough.  I try not to impulse buy, but on this occasion I was really happy with the coat, so I'm not giving myself too hard a time.

2) I had to buy another 10p plastic bag to carry home more shopping from Waitrose.  I really hate doing this, but on occasion (albeit they have been more frequent recently) I have to do it.

3) I bought some boots from ASOS a couple of months ago and after only a few wears the heels are almost worn down.  This is very annoying. I've found that it seems to happen quite a lot with shoes these days, both mine and LB's. I am convinced that manufacturers don't use hard wearing enough heels, expressly so that you have to buy more pairs of shoes.

I know this because I got some shoes re-heeled for LB once and the cobbler used non-heavy duty heels and they wore down very quickly too.  For a bit more money it's definitely worth getting heavy duty ones, and manufacturers should be using these as standard. It's very disappointing and shoddy. I will be replacing them with the aforementioned heavy duty heels although I am annoyed that I need to do it so soon.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A Better Week

It's been a better week at work this week. I've not really posted all week, as I was working on four days instead of three, which included two half days to plug gaps. As a consequence, this didn't leave much time for writing blog posts or doing much else apart from catching a few classes at the gym.

In discussion with the Manager, I've decided to take two weeks off at Christmas, as I have quite a few days of leave to use up before my contract ends in February and unless my contract gets extended again I will struggle to take it all.  I may, therefore, also have to take most of January off work, which actually wouldn't be an altogether bad thing, as I could do a good spring clean and also do my tax return which will be due at the end of the month.

The shop has been getting visibly busier this week with people starting to buy Christmas cards and presents and Secret Santa gifts for colleagues, which has been good for business.

I spent the whole afternoon on Friday clearing shoes from the shop floor, that had been out for a good while and hadn't sold for whatever reason and sending them to other shops for another chance to be sold, then pricing more and placing them out on the shelves.  It's a job I do thoroughly maybe once every few weeks, and takes quite a while, so it was good to get it done before the Christmas rush starts proper. They will probably just get topped up weekly from here on in, as there may not be time to do it again before Christmas. It has at least made a serious dent in the mountain of shoes in the stockroom, although I suspect that it will have risen significantly again when I go back to work on Tuesday.

I've now got used to the amount of stock that there is all the time in our stockroom. It's something that might overwhelm some people when they first start, and it often gets worse when we are short staffed, but after a while you just get used to it and are thankful, because if we didn't have it we would be in more trouble.

I was hoping to go to a meeting next week at which all of the shop managers in the area will receive training on visual merchandising.  Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to go, as it is mandatory for the manager to go and we can't both be spared, but I have printed off the workbook from the computer and am reading my way through it.  It has some interesting ideas.  Some of the ideas I've already implemented without even knowing, but others I could do at some point before I leave.

Although I've had my difficulties in this job over the last six months, I do recognise that it is a great shop to work in for many reasons and now that I'm coming to the end of my contract and starting to think about what I will do next, it is a hard act to follow in terms of job satisfaction. If I make a move, which I'm not sure I will yet, I want it to be in the right direction. We'll see anyway what happens. Another opportunity may present itself between then and now.

I like to believe in the notion of serendipity and that the right thing finds you at the right time.  I see it happen all the time in the shop and I experienced it a lot when I shopped in charity shops more in the past. People often find just what they were looking for. I love it when it happens. That is part of the magic of working where I do, seeing the joy that the donated items sometimes bring to their new owners, however short lived it might turn out to be. At least they've not paid full price for it.

Do you believe in serendipity?

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Twenty Things to be Grateful For

Following in the footsteps of Kezzie and her recent post, which I thought was a lovely idea, here are my 20 things to be grateful for.

1) Having a lovely warm home to come back to after a day's work. Like Kezzie I really appreciate this one, as on a daily basis commuting to work, I see so many people who don't have this luxury.

2) My little dog, who helps to keep me sane.  I just look at her on our walks and smile.  She makes me just want to squeeze and cuddle her.  (She hates this though, as she is very feisty, independent and not needy at all and will only tolerate it if she gets a treat) She is so cute and lovely (but also very annoying at times, especially when she's barking in the garden).

3) That I get paid to do a job that benefits people who need support and help in life, for whatever reason.

4) My allotment, which is my little place of meditation and reflection.

5) That no harm came to anyone on Oxford Street yesterday.

6) That we live in a democracy which gives us freedoms that some people can only dream of.

7) My gym classes and friends that help keep me fit and healthy and clear my mind of the stresses and strains of daily life and work. (When I can get to them)

8) The generosity of the many and varied people who donate so many wonderful items to our CS, which makes my job so interesting and satisfying.

9) The hard work of all the volunteers that work in our CS shop week in week out.

10)  The wonderful and vary varied British weather, which keeps us on our toes year round and provides a topic of conversation between strangers on a daily basis.

11) Sophie from My Great Challenge and Diane from Diane in Denmark on YouTube, who are my daily inspiration for keeping on top of things at home.

12) The wonderful bloggers whose posts I read every day and who connect with me here on my blog.

13) Our local council waste and recycling department, who do a wonderful job in our borough of keeping the streets clean and recycling as much of the waste as possible in very creative ways.

14) Our wonderful free at point of entry NHS, that will no doubt be working hard this Christmas to take care of those who need their expertise. We are so lucky to have this and need to be grateful for this every day.

15) Our liberal and egalitarian society, which accepts people from all backgrounds and tries it's best to treat everyone the same. (Some people may argue that we are too liberal)

16) The London Transport buses that run frequently, are reasonably priced, provide me with a seat and get me to work on time every day.

17) The customer who pointed out that I had undercharged them by £10 the other day when I misread the price ticket on one of the articles he bought. (I am not, however, grateful for the customer who last night set off the fire alarm, because I had locked the door at 6pm so more customers couldn't come in and he couldn't get out - it took 30 minutes to silence the alarm as it had a fault!!!)

18) Ebay, which is an amazing way for people to find whatever they might want, no matter how obscure it might be or where in the world it might be.  I am in awe of this invention, but then I am biased, as I have in the past and still do earn money from selling on the site. (Although, I have to add that I do think that their fees are a little steep these days.

19) My dog walking friends/acquaintances who sometimes share walks with me, as well as their news, gripes and grumbles about daily life, who also treat my dog kindly and whose dogs my dog likes to socialise with.

20) Last, but certainly NOT least, OH and LB who bring joy, love and support to me on a daily basis and which makes me very happy.

Monday, 20 November 2017

My Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Wardrobe Renewal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Time for a Haircut and Reflections on Working Life Lately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Returning to the Mall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 19

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

Freebies and Frugal Measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frugal Fails

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 November 2017

Ticking Things Off the Wishlist

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

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

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

2) Spend another £50 on clothes for LB.

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

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

5) New speakers for the stereo system (?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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