Tuesday 28 February 2017

Freebies and Frugal Measures

After feeling a little financially overwhelmed for the first couple of months of this year, I've finally come to the conclusion that nothing but a back to basics approach to my finances is going to help me get on the right track this year. 

As a consequence, I've decided to go 'cold turkey' on any spending other than for truly essential things, i.e. food and household purchases. This means no justifying purchases that aren't necessary and no 'little treats' that add up to too much expenditure.

In addition, whilst in this mind set, I'm going to start posting about any frugal measures I'm taking to minimise spending and save money.

I thought I'd start by listing this week's frugal measures.

1) I used my Clubcard points to order a year's free subscription to MoneyWise magazine.  I've never actually read the magazine before, but I'm hoping that it will be interesting and will help me to save money or at least adopt a more sustainable approach to my finances.

2) I used a voucher at Tesco's on Monday to get £1.20 off my normal brand of toothpaste, which was quite a saving as it normally costs £4. (I know this is an expensive toothpaste (Corsodyl), but it is recommended by my dentist and I do find it very effective and worth paying a bit extra for. And it doesn't contain too many nasty ingredients, which is an added bonus!)

3) I purchased quite a few yellow stickered fresh meat products on my food shop this week.  They've all gone into the freezer and will be pulled out and used the same day, according to my weekly menu planning. This should hopefully enable a few savings to be made this month.

4) I listed some brand new novels on my personal eBay account, that I bought in a set, but don't want to keep, and I am hoping to recoup the cost of the whole set by selling just a few of them as a job lot. The remaining ones from the set I intend to read myself. (They were bought on offer last year as a gift, but I didn't realise that the recipient (OH) had either read them, didn't want to read them or already owned them.) As there was a free listing offer, I took the opportunity to list a few other unwanted items too, so hopefully these might bring in a little cash.

5) I've unsubscribed to more websites that regularly send me promotional emails about their products and sales.  I know who and where they are if I need to buy anything from their sites.  I just don't need the visual temptations anymore.

Nothing too dramatic, but hopefully some of the measures will help.

Monday 27 February 2017

Still Simplifying - February

It's been a pretty similar month this month to last months efforts with regard to simplifying things here.  I've still been focussing on donating anything we don't use or want to keep anymore.  A few things left my wardrobe this month.  They'd been making me feel guilty every time I opened the door, for not wearing them more, but they weren't very flattering on me, so it was time for them to go.

I finally took a box and a bag of items to the charity shop.  The bag was full of Christmas decorations that I sifted out when we put everything back in the loft last month. The box was full of better quality donations that I've been hanging onto for a year now and just never got around to taking.  The sewing room feels a lot more roomy now they have gone.

In total, I managed to donate 74 items this month, which when added to last month's 62 items gives me a running total of 136 items so far this year. I'm aiming for 1000 items again this year, but I'm not too sure if I'll reach this target, as it is the third year running that I've tried to donate this many things. The previous two years I succeeded, but it is getting more and more difficult as I go through the process each year, which is a good thing in many ways.

With regard to my small business, I'm also simplifying there and trying not to buy any new stock.  I've still got so much stock that I need to sell and I'm making a concerted effort to do so.  I made a couple of sales this weekend and listed some more items that I'm hoping will sell pretty quickly, so progress is being made, albeit slowly.

Another aim of mine this year was to simplify an area of my life each month.  This month it has been my finances. I've cashed in the few Premium bonds I had, that I've never won a thing on in 13 years and put the money into a new savings account. The current chances of winning are being reduced anyway soon and as I've never won anything, I think it unlikely I ever will, especially with an investment of only £100. The only people whom I have known to win even small amounts, had thousands invested. I'd probably be better off buying the occasional lottery ticket. Anyway, I'm going to be transferring money into the new account on a monthly basis via Direct Debit at the beginning of each month, so I've made a firm commitment to starting to accrue savings.

I've also purchased some new shares in an attempt at investing for my retirement.  I'll see how they fare over the next few years and if they do well I may purchase more.  If not, I'll probably put it down to experience, although I'm hoping that I won't have to.

In conclusion, there has been progress this month, and I've been reading lots of financial and other self help books to spur me on to making more positive changes in the coming weeks. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday 26 February 2017

February Roundup

As expected, February was another tough month financially. I had a few big birthdays to buy gifts for, and a housewarming gift for another family member starting off in their first home, so there wasn't really much spare cash to do anything much.

Luckily there was very little that I actually needed.  I did buy a bag from ASOS (£15), a pair of skater shoes for the summer (£8) and gym gear (£16) from Primark, but all other purchases were under £5 and mainly consisted of books from the Book People, CS or Poundland.

LB needed quite a few things buying in February i.e. new school shoes (£33) and underwear (£36.50) (This may sound a lot, but I decided to buy her better quality underwear from M&S now she is getting older). She also needed a haircut which cost another £40.

As a consequence of the above, LB's budget was busted by about £60. This is totally acceptable, however, as kids need what they need and for the past couple of months I have hardly spent any money on her at all. She deserves some attention for a change, as she asks for very little.

Inspite of not having any spare cash, my personal spending budget was still busted this month by about £40, because of the things mentioned above, which has been par for the course in recent months. A last minute splurge on a bikini for our holiday in April didn't help, although it was only £13 from Asda, so a good price.  I originally bought two, but returned one and spent the money on food instead, which was much more important.

The only other busted budget was the miscellaneous budget which once again went over by a pretty substantial amount (£75 approx.) This was mainly due to the numerous gifts I needed to buy this month. It was a smaller overspend than last month's though, which was a positive.

The food budget came under by £20, the household budget came under by £65 and the home budget came under by £43, which helped to compensate for the overspends in other areas. Another £100 was put by in savings too, so in all a slightly better month than January, although not by much.

As we go into March, I'm hoping things ease a little.  I will still have to be very careful though, as I am going for an eye test and will probably need new glasses, which will set me back at least £100. I've also got a dental check up and may need to replace a filling, which will  cost at least another £100. These are the main two expenses, so once these are out of the way things should ease up considerably and there should theoretically be a little more room in the budget in April.

Despite the difficulties and despite the fact that it will be essential spending only again in March, I'm feeling optimistic that this is the last year that I will have these money struggles in the early months of the year, as I'm determined to make some changes to some of my spending habits and avoid them in future. I've decided to go cold turkey on any spending other than food.  I don't need anything, so I'm not spending anything this month. I hope you've had a good month fiscally speaking.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Friday At Home

I'm starting to enjoy having Fridays at home.  I think that this is the second or third week running now that I've not been into the CS on a Friday and it makes such a difference to my week.

This morning, as previously mentioned, we took the dog to the vet for her yearly injections.  There were also a couple of things worrying us, one of which looked like a skin tag, but was in fact a tick that had burrowed it's head into her back. 

We took a look at it ourselves the other night and tried to cauterise it thinking it might be a tick, but didn't go too far in case it wasn't.  Anyway, it was dead already when the vet plucked it out, and we're hoping she hasn't caught any disease from the thing.

Horrible things, they scare me.  I can always remember pulling one out of my daughter's leg with tweezers when on holiday when she was little. Urgh! We're thinking of treating the dog with something to repel them, as on many of our walks, especially in summer, she runs through long grass and undergrowth.

Anyway, Friday afternoon was spent doing a few errands. I dropped some old dried up paint tins off at the tip.  I'd had a clear out of the paint cupboard when looking for some paint for a project.  Most of the old samples and some larger tins were beyond use, so I filled a bag with them and finally got rid of them.  I didn't manage to find any paint for the project I had in mind, so I'll have to buy some new paint next month.

I popped into Asda on my way back, as it is very near to the tip, and bought a few provisions for the weekend and beyond and then I called into one of our local charity shops to drop off a box and a bag of donations that has been sat in my sewing room for about a year. At long last the room is now almost looking normal again. 

There are, however, still a few things in there that need donating, such as the tea trolley and there's a bag full of family photos that needs sorting that I've been avoiding for two years. I am getting closer to doing it though, as I actually looked through a lot of them the other week for the first time in many years. 

This is why I need Fridays at home, to take care of long avoided jobs such as these. Whilst in the mood to declutter more this week, I've also been through my wardrobe and donated a few items that I hardly ever wear.  I felt a bit guilty, as some of them were ethical clothing that I've bought in the sales in last couple of years, but never wear because I don't like how they look on me. I just figured it was pointless to keep looking at them every time I open the wardrobe door and feel bad about not wearing them, so they're gone and someone else will hopefully benefit by getting an ethical bargain.

Finally, I also did a bit of a declutter of some more of LB's toys. I checked with her before putting them in the donation box though, just in case.  I also did a bit more decluttering and reorganising of the sewing room and threw out a moth infested wool blanket, that I'd been keeping to use for the wadding of a quilt, plus I put aside a few other things to donate.

Baby steps, but progress all the same.  I feel much better now going into the weekend.

Friday 24 February 2017

A Lazy Thursday

After a late night and a not very good night's sleep on Wednesday night, Thursday was a bit of a lazy day at home for me. I got out in the morning with the dog for a bracing walk, thanks to Storm Doris.  It blew the cobwebs away though, so I'm not grumbling, and I found a £2 coin on our walk which was an added bonus.

When I got back from the walk, I decided to get straight on with my new investment venture, as mentioned in yesterday's post.  By lunchtime, I'd chosen the shares I wanted to buy and got it all done and dusted and I now just need to sit back and watch what happens.  It could be a bumpy ride, we'll see.

I just about remembered to ring the doctor's office in time, to get my cholesterol test results today, but no-one got back to me as the practice has it's half day on a Thursday, so I may get a call back tomorrow or maybe even next week now. (I had the blood test on Monday morning.)

I didn't do a whole lot in the afternoon as Storm Doris was raging and I didn't really want to go out anywhere unless I really had to.  It just wasn't worth it, so I stayed home instead. A few bits and pieces got done, but to be honest I wasn't in the mood to do much at all.

Later, after supper I had a class booked at the gym.  I hadn't been able to get into my usual morning class so booked a different class at 8.15 pm instead.  By the time it came around, I didn't feel much like going out, but I was glad that I did, as it was quite an energetic class with a quite new to me teacher.  (I've only attended one or two of her classes before, a long time ago) It made a change and I enjoyed it, but I will hopefully get a place in my usual class again next week.

I made sure I got an early night to make up for the night before and our heading out early today to take the dog for her regular yearly injections and health check at the vets. I've then got a few errands to run, that I didn't do yesterday and then another week will be over. Where do they go?

I have to admit that I'm looking forward to the weekend this week and I'll also be pretty pleased to see the back of February.  I'm starting to feel a yearning for our forthcoming holiday in April, maybe if I start to pack soon, it will make it come around a little quicker.

I hope you've all had a good week.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Taking a Fresh Approach

Firstly, thank you for your kind comments on my last post.  It's something I wrote more than 6 months ago, but felt embarrassed to publish.  However, admitting mistakes to ourselves is an important part of growing as a person, and as I feel more accepting of myself now, so I thought I'd publish it.

Moving on, I've decided that I'm taking a fresh approach to my finances.  As anyone who's been reading lately will know, since the beginning of the year I've been determined to get my finances in order in an attempt to bring us more financial security and generally be more mindful about them.  Don't get me wrong, we're not that financially insecure as it is, but as another blogger mentioned in a post recently and as I've found out this year due to unforeseen events, life is very fragile and the more we can do to shore ourselves up against the difficult times the better.  Besides, who knows what is going to happen in the next couple of years both politically and economically.

As I've already mentioned, the measures I've taken so far this year include setting up a direct debit and new savings account with better interest rate to save on a regular basis, taking out life insurance cover to ensure my loved ones would be taken care of if anything happened to me, moved and closed some small investments that have not and are not likely to actualise any benefits any time soon, and finally, I have also made moves to reinvest any share dividends in more shares, rather than taking the (small amounts) dividend money and spending it or saving it where it gains no interest.

It is the subject of interest that has made me consider a new approach and venture in terms of investing.  Money in the bank is just not earning any interest at the moment.  It is depressing.  The bank with whom I've banked for the past 25 years is constantly cutting interest rates for savers and frankly I'm getting fed up of entrusting any savings to them.

In the past I've been very conservative and played way too safe, but I've decided that I'm going to take a fresh approach and start investing differently for a while and see what happens.  I've been thinking about it for a while and have been encouraged by recent reading material to take a few small risks and see where it takes me.

I read a quote the other day, which said there are three types of people, those that make things happen, those that watch things happening and those that let things happen to them.  I'm trying to be one of the former and aiming not to be so much of the latter in the future.

My new approach involves making a small investment in some stocks and shares.  Now before anyone starts worrying that I might be throwing my money away on some risky venture.  I'm really not.  I've owned shares in a couple of companies for over 20 years now and I'm pleased and fortunate to say that they have gained in value quite considerably over that time.  Not by any skill on my part I might add. 

Some were an inheritance from an Auntie and Uncle who died and were accumulated through my Auntie's employment at a Blue chip company for many years. I don't have a huge shareholding, but I hung onto them and they are really worth a reasonable sum now as they are a FTSE 100 company.  I enjoy watching their progress, and they do sometimes go down as well as up, so I am familiar with the vagaries of the stock market to some extent.

Others were also an inheritance, but were the result of a windfall from the privatisation of many of the building societies in the 1980's.  They are worth substantially less, but their progress is interesting to watch all the same.

So what am I planning to do?  I'm going to take a sum of money (not a huge sum might I add) and invest it in more stocks and shares using an online stock broking company that offers a share dealing service.  I could invest in one of their funds that choses my stock for me, but I'm not, I'm going to choose my own investments and build my own share portfolio, made up of companies whose shares I want to buy and who I think might have room for growth in the future.

As everyone will tell you, share dealing is a risky business, as they can go up and down, and I'm certainly not encouraging anyone to follow me. I'm not, however, in it for short term gain, flipping shares to make a quick profit, I'm in it for the long term and I don't intend to jump in and out. I'm quite excited by the prospect.  I enjoy following my current shares in the financial press, so this will give me a few more to follow in the future.

I've already opened an account, which cost just £1 to do and as soon as I can arrange to transfer some monies into it I can begin to invest.  I've scoured the UK share index on the London Stock Exchange website and found a dozen companies that I am considering investing in and after a bit more research I'll be ready to go. Wish me luck!

Sunday 19 February 2017

A New Word

I learnt a new word a few months ago. Oniomania - The uncontrollable desire or compulsion to buy things. I'd not actually heard of this word before, but it possibly describes my behavior of 6 or 7 years ago. (Warning: This is quite a personal post and is a bit long and rambling, so feel free to stop reading at any time if you are not interested or are not enjoying it.)

Wikipedia describes this as a mental health condition, that often requires pharmacological intervention. I didn't have any, but what I did do, once I realized that my behavior was compulsive in nature, was to read lots of self help and other books, that documented the stories of other compulsive spenders, to try to understand why I behaved in this way and what it was that made me want to buy things. I can't say whether or not I was a severe case, but I know that my behavior and my compulsion to shop wasn't normal.

I still fight the urge today, but I have become much better at self control. I can't say that I'm cured and perhaps I never will be. It might always be a crutch that I fall back on when the going gets tough (if finances allow, of course). I still think about buying things a lot, but the urges have diminished enormously over the past few years.

Whilst I realize that the rampant consumerism and advertising we are exposed to these days might have fueled this behavior and that many people display this tendency today to some degree, I have to admit that it was a tendency I exhibited and acted upon in earlier periods of my life too.

Probably the first episode was on starting work, in what was a good job in the Civil Service in my late teens/early twenties. Over a period of a few years, I embarked on spending sprees in my lunch hour, managing to fill more than one credit/store card to their limit. I then paid minimum payments on these cards, incurring and having to pay ridiculous interest charges. I find it hard to believe now, that I actually paid all that interest. It seems such a waste of money when I think about it. Now I pay my credit cards off every month and avoid interest at all costs.  It would, however, be better if I used them a lot less.

A few years later, I decided to leave my job and return to full-time education to study for a degree, but with the debts I had to pay off (only a couple of thousand at the time, but still a lot for a young person thirty years ago), I had to wait for over a year until I had paid them back, plus I had to finish paying off a car loan for my first car.

After doing so, I vowed I would never get into debt again, but on a couple of subsequent occasions I have run up similar sized credit card debts, with little to show for them and then subsequently had to pay them off again over an extended period.

The last round of compulsive spending was triggered when my daughter started full-time school and I felt bereft, having stayed at home full time to look after her. One of the things I filled my some of my time with when she went to school, was thrift shopping.

As the house filled up with things that I'd bought (not particularly expensive things might I add), my partner became increasingly concerned about me and the amount of things I was bringing into our home, not to mention how cluttered it was becoming. Although I knew his concerns were justified, I ignored them for a while, the impulse to continue being too strong. Thankfully, for me, it didn't become a big issue in our relationship, as I gradually began to realize that he was right and it had to stop.

I think I survived the experience, because I recognized early enough that I had a problem and managed to find ways to avoid shopping. I went cold turkey on visiting charity shops and increased my visits to the gym which kept me away from the shops.

It helped when we got a dog, as walking her every morning gave me a new routine, not to mention the fact that her addition to our family helped me to recognize that much of the spending was emotional in nature. My little dog unknowingly helped me to take back control of my life. Walking her helped me to slow down and think about my behaviour, why I was doing it and how I could change it.

It's taken me a few years, but I'm gradually getting to grips with it and finding ways to control it. I couldn't possibly have volunteered in a Charity shop a few years ago, as I would have spent far too much money whilst working there, but volunteering in one now is possible because of the effort I've made over the last few years to understand where the compulsion was coming from psychologically and avoiding situations that might trigger it.

Volunteering in the CS has been a big test for me, as I have spent the last few years keeping out of charity and other shops as much as possible, and only shopping when I need something.  I rarely 'go shopping' these days, save for weekly food shopping, unless I need something specific. In fact, when I do visit my local mall, two hours is more than enough in this particular environment, before I start feeling overwhelmed by it all.

I'm no psychologist, and if someone has a similar problem that is affecting their lives detrimentally, then getting external help might be necessary. I'm grateful that for me it wasn't needed, but it is a battle I wage every day, especially now internet shopping makes it even more easy to shop, without even getting up from the kitchen table and I have had and still do have lots of moments where I give in to temptation.

I also quite often buy things from the CS in which I volunteer, but I try to stick only to things we definitely need or that I feel are educational and in doing so, I am hopefully saving us money, improving myself as a person and preventing waste and more clutter in the long term (not to mention giving to a good cause).

I'm still working on my behavior patterns. I am trying to keep away from websites that trigger spending, unless I absolutely need something. I have made a point of unsubscribing from many, to avoid temptation altogether. I also write a wish list of only the things I need, which as the year progresses, I work on until there is very little left on it at all.  I think I'm finally beginning to realize that there is little I actually do need, and thus I am gradually becoming more satisfied with what I already have.

My daughter, too, is getting used to the reduced shopping opportunities and I think my progress has been good for her, as she now shops much less too. I should hate to pass this compulsion on to her.

I'm hoping that I get to a point eventually, where I feel more normal and I don't feel I want or need to shop as strongly, although this is perhaps a little unrealistic, as there will probably always be something that needs to be bought, especially with a growing teenager, a household to maintain and a keen interest in gardening and other hobbies.

I hope that you don't feel I have shared too much in this post.  It is quite a personal account of the past few years of my life, and I have thought a lot before pressing the publish button. It has been written to help me and anyone else who may find they can relate to some of the things I've mentioned and to enable readers to understand where I've come from and how far I've progressed in the last few years.

It's also been written as a kind of thank you, for the kindness and support I've received from the blogging community, which has been a great help in my journey, so a big THANK YOU to you guys. You know who you are.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Small Business Update

I haven't really mentioned my small business in recent posts, save for mentioning that I was filing my tax return the other week.  The reason for this has been that I haven't really been putting much time and effort into it, mainly due to new commitments such as the CS, but also because I've been thinking of winding it right down in the near future.

I've never really made big profits from it, it's been more of a hobby business than anything else, that kept me occupied when I spent so much time at home, but as I've got busier outside of the home, it has taken a toll on any profitability.

Christmas trading this year was way below what I normally manage, mainly due to the fact that I made some changes to what I sold that didn't really work out for the best, I spent a lot of time at the CS not really applying myself to the business and the fact that there is just more competition out there than when I first started.  A steep and disappointing learning curve, that I just put down to experience for this year.

After procrastinating over my tax return yet again in January, I started thinking that I might close down the business by the end of the financial year, so that I didn't have the hassle of it, but I'm now thinking that I might continue with it a little longer, as I still have stock to sell, stationery to use up and I still need to file a tax return to voluntarily pay my National Insurance contributions each year, so maybe continuing isn't such a big deal and does have the bonus of bringing in a little money.

I'm not, however, spending much money on new stock, nor any longer printing and sending out business cards (a total waste of resources and money for me, as I don't even have a website) and I am generally trying to run the business super efficiently and cut out any waste, literal or financial. I'm still thinking about diversifying slightly, but haven't found the right products just yet.

One product I did diversify into has been selling quite steadily and is now bringing me in some profit, so I'm still looking for other opportunities. I do enjoy the challenge of it, but I don't think I'll ever make a million from it, put it that way.

I will probably continue doing most of my trading over the Christmas period and then just keep it ticking over the rest of the year, unless I find a particularly popular product to sell that sells well all year round. I'm happy enough with this arrangement for the time being and when I've got time and feel inspired, I like to try to find new products if I can find them at the right price.

The whole process of starting a small business has been an interesting and wholly positive one. It's not something that I ever thought I would have done, so I'm glad I did, as it has given me an understanding of lots of different things that I otherwise wouldn't have had. I was so scared at the beginning, but there wasn't really any reason to be, so long as I kept my spending in check and did what was required of me by law, such as filing my tax return and generally keeping my customers happy.

I'm not a big risk taker, so any business I do run will have to grow gradually as income allows. I'll keep you posted if things take off beyond my wildest dreams (I'm not sure they will), but for the moment, things are just plodding along nicely and if I make any money from and can reduce the stock that I am currently holding, then I am pretty happy, as it's not really costing me anything.

Who says that business has to be big to be worth anything anyway? I will always argue that it has been good for the experience that it has given me if nothing else, although I admit that I am speaking from the privileged position of not having to turn a great profit to live on.  I do, however, have nothing but admiration for those people that do manage to do this, as it is definitely not as easy as one might think.

Friday 17 February 2017

A Better Week

I've had a slightly better week this week.  It's amazing what a difference having a totally free day can do and having LB off school meant that I could get some errands done that involved her.

The week got off to a good start on Monday. As there was just one class to attend at the gym, which incidentally was taken by a different teacher whose classes I love, some friends and I were able to take time out afterwards at a local cafe and catch up with each others news. This was the first time we've had the chance to do this so far this year.

I also got some errands done with LB in afternoon, including finally getting her some underwear that she liked and was comfortable to wear on a daily basis.  Result. We also managed to collect her new glasses from the optician and I booked an appointment for me to go for an eye test next month whilst we were there.

Finally, on Monday I also attended my GP about getting my cholesterol levels re-tested. Whilst there I booked an appointment to have some blood taken next week and then I'll ring for the results a few days after it's been done.

I'm currently thinking of changing my GP as we now live further away from the surgery and parking is a problem. There's a surgery a five minute walk away from our house, which OH has registered with, and I'm considering doing the same for LB and myself.  I collected some forms to set the ball rolling this week, so more items ticked off my to do list.

One fail, however, was that I couldn't get LB's school shoes re-heeled this week, as they were too far gone. I should have got them done before they got so bad. Anyway, I managed to order her a pair from ASOS using a £10 off voucher they'd sent me, which helped soften the blow.

I worked my two days at the CS on Tuesday and Wednesday, during which very little else got done as I just don't have the energy after a day in the shop. A new volunteer started work this week and I'm hoping this will mean I can go back to just two days per week again from now on.  We'll see what happens.

On Thursday, I did my usual class and then went out with LB to do some more errands.  We managed to sort out the incorrect title she'd been given on her bank account and got it corrected.  I deposited some change I'd been saving up for her and a cheque from cashing in her few premium bonds, into her savings account and we are now just awaiting a new debit card with her correct name on it so she can start using her new current account and get her pocket money paid straight into it.

In addition, on our outing on Thursday she managed to get her hair cut and completely restyled to incorporate a fringe where none was before.  She really likes it, despite having ignored my constant protestations that she should get it done.  As a consequence, she's going back to school next week a very happy bunny.

On Friday, we went out again to do a bit of top up shopping and I managed to find two very good value bikinis at ASDA of all places for our forthcoming holiday.  I'm hoping they last longer than the much more expensive one I bought from ASOS a couple of years ago, which broke on only the second occasion that I wore it. I haven't tried them on before writing this post, so they may need to go back yet, but fingers crossed they'll fit okay.

When we got back, I did a bit more digital housekeeping.  I finally transferred over my photo's from OH's laptop, so that they are all now on my new laptop and I can use them to list items on eBay and for my blogging, etc. I also managed to get blogging again which I've done little of this week.

Slowly, slowly things are getting done.  So long as progress is being made on a weekly basis I'm a very happy bunny too. How was your week?

Monday 13 February 2017

This Weekend

This weekend has been a mixed one.  On Saturday I took it easy in the morning, enjoying a weekend lie in reading my current book, doing a bit of housework, emailing my sister in Australia,reading blog posts, etc.

In the afternoon, OH was keen to go to the Zaha Hadid exhibition at the Sackler Gallery in Hyde Park.  As it was the last weekend of the exhibition, we took the car into town to take a look.   It was pretty busy. I guess that many other people must have had the same idea. The exhibition itself was free and was very interesting, so was worth heading out for.

We took the dog with us, leaving her in the car until we'd come out of the exhibition, and then we took her for a walk around the lake in the park.  We stopped off for hot chocolate, as it was perishing cold.  Stupidly, I'd not put enough layers on and it did affect my enjoyment a little.  It was good to get out and about and into town though, despite the awful traffic. It's something we should do more often really.

On Sunday, we had our normal stay at home kind of day after our regular gym classes/cycling and doing the weekly food shop at Lidl.  I tackled the two week old pile of ironing and got it all done and put away in between catching up on YouTube videos and creating a couple of long overdue blog posts. Just the kind of Sunday we like really. Nothing special, but lots of down time just doing our own thing, getting ready for the week ahead and spending as little money as possible.

The week ahead is a busy one.  LB is off school as it's half term.  I've got a few jobs that I need to do with her through the week such as take her for a haircut and go to the bank with her to sort out her new bank account. I also still need to collect her glasses from the opticians as they are now ready and also attend my GP for a follow up about my high cholesterol.

We're not going away this week, but we have booked a bargain week away to Crete in the Easter holidays.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I've never been to Crete before, and it's always quite exciting going somewhere new. I'll be taking just a carry on again, so I might start packing early as I always do so that I can fit everything in that I need.  I like a challenge.

How's your weekend been?

Sunday 12 February 2017

Loving Lately

I haven't done one of these posts for a while, so I thought I'd indulge myself a little.

The first thing that I've been loving have been these Thinsulate 40g insulated gloves.  I've never actually had a pair of gloves like these before and they are so warm and toasty.  Far superior to the cheap woollen gloves I usually buy from Primark, two pairs for £1.  They've come in very useful in the recent cold weather and although they were quite pricey, even when bought new from the CS, they have been worth every penny during the cold spells we've been having lately. I just hope I don't lose one of them.

The second thing I've been loving lately is this small cross body bag that I bought from ASOS this month. It arrived the morning of my friend's funeral, so was perfect to take with me on the day and is a great size for nights out, holidays and other special occasions.  I managed to use a £5 loyalty voucher which enabled me to buy it for just £15. I'm very happy with it as it is a perfect size to take my purse, phone and keys making it a perfect addition to my longed for, but not yet quite complete capsule wardrobe.

A good film that I've enjoyed recently has been this one starring Will Smith and his son Jaden.  I purchased it from the CS and watched it the same night.  Both heartbreaking and inspiring in equal doses and based on a true story. I'd definitely recommend it.

On Netflix, I've recently really enjoyed watching the crime series River, which stars the actress Nicola Walker who I've also been watching recently in ITV crime drama 'Unforgotten'.  In River, she plays the deceased colleague of a detective trying to find her murderer. This series is set in and around East London where I live, so I also enjoyed identifying some of the places where it was filmed. A great series, which I'm sad to have finished watching.

Finally, I have to say that I'm really enjoying reading books at the moment, mostly of the self help/development variety.  I know this genre of book isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I find them strangely appealing and we get so many of them coming through the CS.

My latest favourite has been 'Living the 80/20 Way' by Richard Koch which tries to guide you in living your life by taking account of the 80/20 principle, whereby 20% of the things you do bring you 80% of your happiness. It is an idea that fascinates me, namely that much of our lives are spent doing things that bring us very little pleasure or satisfaction. I read a previous book of his on this subject last year and enjoyed it and this book was no disappointment either.

If you've enjoyed any of the above or find any of these favourites appealing.  Let me know.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

CS Update

It's been a pretty exhausting week so far. I've worked two days at the CS and have another day yet to work on Friday, because the manager is on holiday for the week. It has been pretty tiring, mainly because I had two young student volunteers from a local college working with me for both days.

It was a new experience for me to be almost completely responsible for supervising other volunteers, especially young ones.  They were nice girls, but it was mentally and physically tiring trying to think about and instigate what needed doing in the shop, whilst overseeing two new volunteers.  Without their help, however, the shop wouldn't have been open, so we were grateful for their efforts.

I did have help from other experienced volunteers over the couple of days I was there, but I was mainly responsible for opening/stocking up the shop and supervising/delegating work to the girls.

One thing I have felt particularly brassed off about this week, has been the amount of theft that goes on in the shop. Every week it seems like at least one quite expensive, designer item gets stolen. Usually, when the staff are distracted by a queue of customers or a full shop.  It's making me more and more cynical. The perpetrators don't seem to care whether the clothes are security tagged, which some are.

I'm convinced they must have their own strong magnets at home to remove the tags without damaging the clothes. Such are the tools of the trade of a professional shop lifter. I think there's a mentality that thinks that because the shop gets given things for free, that they are entitled to take them for free.

Anyway, this aside, things seem to have gone okay so far, although there's a question mark over whether I will be able to open the shop on Friday, as there are no other volunteers available to work with me. I may be getting someone from another shop to help, but I'm not sure yet.

On a positive note, we have had a few enquiries this week from potential volunteers.  It will be interesting to see whether or not they become actual volunteers in the near future. I do hope so.

Tonight, I've managed to do a few household tasks and am intending to head to bed for an early night with a good book.  I've got a day at home tomorrow and  I've managed to book a Zumba class at the gym at the last minute, due to a cancellation. Other than that, walking the dog and the need to empty the ironing basket and post a parcel, I can do what I please for the rest of the day. Bring it on.

Saturday 4 February 2017

Weekly Roundup

Another week has flown by, and although I try not to rush and stress, I just can't seem to understand where the time goes.  As previously mentioned in yesterday's post, it's been another eventful and quite an emotional week, as it was my friend's funeral midweek. I took the day off from the CS, in order to go with a couple of friends from the gym. It was tough and tear filled, but it was always going to be.

LB also had her parent's evening this week, so one night was spent talking to all of her teachers. The feedback was very encouraging, however, and we were proud of her efforts at school.  She is just coming up to choosing her GCSE options, so it's an important time for her.  She's made her decisions and the teachers seemed to reinforce that they were the right ones for her, so we were pretty reassured.

On Friday night, on my way home from the CS, I met LB at the opticians, where she was attending for her eye test. She needed a slightly different prescription, so is getting a new free pair of glasses on the NHS. (Thank you NHS) Whilst waiting to go in, I enjoyed trying on a few pairs myself. I found quite a few new styles that I liked, which got me thinking about when I needed an eye test (I've been going to a different optician).

When I got home and looked it up, it turns out I was due one in December, so when I pick up LB's new glasses next week, I am going to book myself in for a test, with a view to getting a new pair of specs.  The frames I saw were just £39 which was reasonable, but this doesn't, of course, include lenses or the eye test itself.  It will probably be more like £100 all in, so I will try to arrange it for March when my finances will allow.

In other news, I scored some bargains in M&S the other day whilst collecting an order for some new underwear for LB.  They had the remnants of their sale, which by now were very heavily reduced and there was a box full of birthday cards, many of which were either 9p, 19p or 29p. Diehard bargain hunter that I am, I just couldn't resist and for £4.71 I bought 29 cards, (some of which were quite fancy) which should keep me going for at least 3 years. Luckily, LB has lots of friends' birthdays to buy cards for and who doesn't need birthday cards to send to people throughout the year. (Despite signing up for Jackie Lawson e-cards this year, there are still people I need to send a paper card to, as they don't have email addresses or I don't know their email addresses)

Talking of birthdays, I had a couple of presents to buy for upcoming birthdays this week, so I placed a small order with the Book People.  In order to spend enough to qualify for free postage, I treated myself to another book by Marie Kondo called Spark Joy, which I am looking forward to reading.  A couple of books on the order I am giving as Christmas gifts next year, so a bit more early Christmas shopping was completed. There won't be any more done this month though.

Next week, I'm working at the CS for three days again, as the manager is on holiday for the week. It should keep me out of trouble, so long as everything runs smoothly and there's nothing in the shop I feel compelled to buy.

With everything that has gone on this week, I forgot to book my classes at the gym for next week and they are now all booked up, which is very frustrating. I'll have to keep checking for cancellations or it will be a very slack week on the exercise front. If the worst comes to the worst, taking a break might be a good thing.

I hope you guys have had a good week.

Friday 3 February 2017

A Very Sad Day

The other day it was our friend's funeral.  I wasn't looking forward to it.  The cards had been sent, the flowers ordered and we just needed to pay our respects and celebrate her life. A few of us from the gym went along. By a strange twist of fate, a couple of other people from the gym were waiting outside to attend the funeral that followed, not knowing that we were inside.

The service was very touching.  A bit of an emotional roller coaster, but some beautiful and fitting tributes were paid, which made us both laugh and cry. She would have liked that. I also learned lots of things I didn't know about her, which was lovely.

I came away with a lovely order of service, complete with some beautiful photos of her and her lovely family to keep as a memento. It's funny how death often throws up questions that you never took the time to ask when the person was alive and I'm quite a nosy, curious person too.

I managed to speak briefly with a few of her close friends and neighbours when we returned to her house for refreshments. Some lovely caring people, that have been supporting her partner and family. I felt reassured, as having never met him, I didn't feel in a position to approach him, but I did write a letter to express my deepest condolences.

Having met him, I can see that he was perfect for her in many ways, which in some ways makes it much sadder that their lives be ripped apart like this, but in other ways, I feel very grateful that she found happiness with him and I dare to hope that he will be able to cope, with the support and love he is receiving from the many people around him.

Life can be very cruel. We make plans, but fate/God often has other ideas.  All we can do is love each other, appreciate what we have on a daily basis and not sweat the small stuff.

RIP dear friend, you made a difference to many peoples' lives and you will be missed.