Friday, 30 June 2017

Still Simplifying - June

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Monthly Roundup - June

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

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

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

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

The final tally for spending in June reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 26 June 2017

Monday Catchup

After all the excitement (on my part), of taking everything to the Give & Take on Saturday, the rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful.

On Sunday, I went to my class as usual.  I hadn't booked it, as OH had a cycle race planned and needed the car, but the race was cancelled, so he went on his usual Sunday morning ride instead and I booked a place on my class at the last minute and went along.  I was glad I did, as LB had a sleep over at her friend's house, so I would have been home alone on Sunday morning otherwise and feeling guilty at not going.

Sunday afternoon, as the weather was a lot cooler, I tackled the ironing mountain that I'd avoided in the hot weather last week. I'm always happy to get it done and put away, especially when it's been building up. Other than that, and some washing, I did very little all day, which was nice and inexpensive too.

In the evening we watched The Handmaid's Tale again.  It's quite disturbing, but makes quite good viewing in a weird kind of way.

Today, I was back at the gym, but for just one class instead of my usual two, which meant I was home earlier for a change.  The Wi-Fi has been playing up today, so we've been without it for most of the day.  I can't say I've been too bothered.  I've been pottering around the garden instead.

I'm having a bit of a problem with all of my lettuce bolting, so I've been harvesting the worst affected and am going to keep it in the fridge until we gradually work our way through it.  I've got lots more at the allotment that is bolting too.  It's a nice problem to have, i.e. too much, but I hate to waste any food that I've grown, so I'm hoping we will be able to use it all, if it doesn't taste too bitter.  At times like these it would be good to still have our darling guinea pigs.

Anyway, I sowed some more lettuce seeds for harvesting once everything has been used up.  I'm a bit late, but I never can get that successional sowing thing right.

I popped over to the allotment too today and weeded a little, cleared a particularly overgrown corner at the back and then fed and watered everything.  It only took an hour or so.

In my absence, OH had paid to loaded month's worth of use onto my dongle, so that he could have internet access for his business, and then, lo and behold you've guessed it, our connection came back on, despite an engineer being booked to come and check it out tomorrow. Typical.

This afternoon, I made us a Chicken casserole for supper using a few veggies out of the freezer.  It desperately needs defrosting, so I need to use everything up fast.  Besides, the courgettes are now getting to a decent size so I will probably need to fill it up with this year's crops before long.

I've also done a towel wash today and then washed my trainers in the washing machine.  They come up a treat. I really need a new pair, but I'm taking good care of my current ones instead and making them last until my birthday in October, when I can either get OH to buy me some new ones or buy some with my birthday money.

Tonight, I'm going to tackle the linen cupboard on the landing, which I didn't get around to last week. It shouldn't take too long, as I've decluttered all of our old towels already.  It really just needs everything pulling out, cleaning inside, and then everything putting back.

On the top is a big box full of LB's baby things that I can't yet part with.  I'm going to go through it again and see how I feel about everything.  I might be able to part with a bit more.  The rest I'm going to seal in vacuum sealed storage bags to minimise the space they take up. I got a couple of packs of them from Poundland earlier in the month and they seem to work well enough.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Going to the Give & Take

Saturday was finally the day of another Give & Take event in our borough.  I've talked about these events a lot over the last couple of years, because they have been the main way that I've been donating a lot of the 'stuff' that I've decluttered over the last few years.  I do send better quality items to the charity shop, but for regular run of the mill items, they mainly go to these events.

For anyone new to reading this blog, the Give & Take events are recycling events organised by our local council.  The idea is you take things you no longer need or want at 11 am, they get set out on tables etc. according to category, i.e. household, clothing, books, etc. by volunteers and then at 12 noon the event opens proper for anyone to come and take anything they want for free. It's a great concept, especially for low income families, who can't necessarily afford to buy everything they need, and for people like me with excess 'stuff' they are only to happy to give away.

As I've mentioned, I've been attending these events for a few years now, usually with a car full of stuff, but I have taken items home with me on occasion too, although not so much recently.  I decided that at this particular event, I would try to come back and look around to show you how it works.

Before I got there, here was the pile of stuff we had to put in the car.

This is about the usual amount for me lately, but hopefully not for much longer as the house is feeling much more clutter free now.

All of this stuff has been sat on the bed in the spare/sewing room for the past 3 or 4 months.  I'm was so looking forward to taking it, so that I can have the room back and get on with some sewing. As you can see from this photograph, I've got a pile of cushion inserts awaiting the making of new cushion covers.  I'm looking forward to getting on with them.

Here's how the room looks now:

Almost normal, although still a bit cluttered.  I need to really go through this room and declutter some of my crafting supplies at some point in the near future.  For now I'm just enjoying seeing it emptier though and more accessible.

Anyway, back to the Give & Take, I enrolled OH and LB's help this time and got them to come with me because it's so much easier to unload the car when there's a few of you.  This event was slightly different to normal because it was held in the park under marquees.  Here's an overall view of the event at the beginning being set up:

Here's where you leave your donations.  This marquee is where you Give & Take from.

There were other marquees at the event, where you could learn to fix broken items and mend your own clothes,

or fix your bike.

There was also a food stall encouraging less food waste, where they were making free food to give you ideas of how to use food that was nearing it's due date.

We dropped off our donations, parked the car and then went for brunch at a local cafĂ© before continuing down the path through the park to the market.  After a mooch round, we came back the same way to get back to the car, so I popped back into the Give and Take tent, you can see how busy it is.  Much of the stuff had already been taken by 12.30 pm, with people pulling trolleys full of it home.

There wasn't really anything that I wanted or needed left in there, but I did come away with these books,

plus an A_Z of  Birmingham for LB (not pictured), as she's hoping to go to university there.

Normally these events take place in schools or community halls and it was the first time I've been to this one in the park, so it made a nice change.  There was plenty of footfall from people out in the park or heading to the market. In all a great event.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Week So Far and a Flylady Update

Well, the week got off to a bit of a surprising start when OH decided to buy us an air conditioning unit. Now, we are usually the last people to do such a thing, I hardly ever use the air conditioning in the car, preferring to open the windows and our house tends to stay pretty cool even in the summer, but the recent heatwave was taking it's toll on us, (32 degrees C here on Monday) even though we weren't spending much time outside in the heat of the day.

OH, who was feeling particularly uncomfortable in the heat, decided to have a splurge and invest in a mobile AC unit for use around the house. He ordered it online on Monday morning and I picked it up from B&Q on my way back from the gym.  It was interesting to note that virtually every customer I saw in B&Q was buying some sort of fan and they had sold out of the remaining AC units, so we obviously weren't the only ones suffering. Anyway, the unit was a little larger than we expected and quite heavy too, but now we've got it up and running, we are really appreciating the benefit of it.

It supposedly costs 12p per hour to run, but we'll call that a conservative estimate, as it probably costs more. At the end of the day, I'm not going to argue. OH works from home every day, so he's the one who suffers most when the house gets hot in a hot spell.  If he wants to splash out, let him I say. I'm sure that we'll all benefit, especially me being a woman of a certain age who gets very hot these days and the dog, who is also struggling somewhat to keep cool. On walks we're having to go out as early as possible and stick to the shady side of the street/park.

On Monday afternoon, I did the last little bit of work I needed to do at the allotment to bring it up to scratch for the inspection on Tuesday. It was looking pretty tidy and fully cultivated when I left it, so at least it should be easier to maintain now. Please note the bare soil allows space for large plants and perennial fruit bushes to grow. Here's a final photo:

As it was still forecast to be in the 30's on Tuesday and Wednesday, I decided I would wear my cut off jean shorts to the CS. (Please note they're not short cut off shorts, just knee length).  It made such a difference not to wear full length jeans. (I can't wear a skirt as I cycle to the station on my bike which has a crossbar) and I felt more comfortable all day, although still way too hot.

The manager came back from his holiday and I didn't mention cutting my hours, as I didn't want to bombard him on his first day back.  I'll try to speak to him next week.  One funny thing this week, was that someone left two bottles of Cava outside the shop for us on Wednesday.  A strange donation, but very welcome.  We will enjoy drinking it at an upcoming staff party, for one of the volunteers who has been there for 10 years later this year.

Anyway, on Thursday it was nice to stay home and be able to get on with my own stuff.  I did my usual class at the gym and then afterwards, used the morning for an Errands and Anti-Procrastination Day. (Flylady speak!) I did a couple of jobs I've been putting off for months i.e. taking some rubbish to the tip and dropping some bags and boxes off at a local CS and then I had to take my library books back and pick up a parcel from the Post Office Depot.  It felt good to get these things done.

This afternoon, I harvested some petit pois from the garden, pottered a bit and then did some financial stuff that I've been neglecting lately. I'm currently trying to get a statement on a couple of preserved pensions, that I earned whilst employed for a few years in the Civil Service and the NHS. I've been making enquiries with the relevant bodies, so that I can calculate what I need to put aside in the next 15 years pension wise, in order to ensure I've got enough to live on in retirement. I'm hoping to get a response soon.

Friday, I had another stay at home day, it's the cheapest option when I'm on a tight budget.  If I go out, I will spend money. I made it my Flylady day and cleaned Zone 4, our Master Bedroom. I focussed on cleaning the shelves on OH's side of the bed and found a few things to donate. I then wiped down all surfaces, vacuumed and mopped throughout, before working my way down the stairs and through the house for my Weekly Home Blessing. I did it a day early this week, so I'm free to go to the Give and Take today. I still need to clean out the linen cupboard on the upstairs landing, but should find time to do that tomorrow afternoon.

This month's Give and Take event is in a park near to a popular local Saturday market, so we're going to drop all our donations off when it opens at 11am and then go for brunch at the market.  I will then return to the event after 12 noon, when you can help yourself to items that have been donated, have a look around and hopefully take some photos to show you what these events are like.

I'm so looking forward to giving all this stuff away, but sometimes, in my enthusiasm to offload all of the stuff I've decluttered, I forget to take any photos, so please bear with me if I fail to do so again.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 9

Frugal Fails this last week or so include:

1. I didn't pick up a free travel sized tube of Cordosyl toothpaste when I visited the dentist this month.  I was too embarrassed to ask, which isn't like me.  As I won't be going again for at least 6 months, I missed an opportunity, albeit a small one, as they are great for travel and when you run out. (In all honesty I was a bit distracted at the time and didn't book my next appointment either.)

2. I succumbed to buying a new pair of flip flops in a CS near to the one where I volunteer. The reason I couldn't resist them is that a) they were black and b) they were my favourite brand of flip flops, namely Gandys. They only cost £6 and are brand new. I've mentioned this brand before, as they raise money for orphans in Sri Lanka, after the founders were orphaned themselves in the Boxing Day Tsunami. I've wanted a black pair for a while, so at a bargain price, I'm very happy. Here's a picture.

Frugal Measures and Freebies lately have included the following:

1. I used a £4 off a £30 shop at Tesco voucher on my grocery shop this week. In effect, this just about paid for some small Father's Day gifts for OH, which I hadn't really budgeted for this month.

2. I bought LB's school uniform for next year this week, as I received an offer by email of free postage, which saved me £3.95. I guess this could be considered a Frugal Fail too, as it did take me well over this month's budget. On the other hand, they would have to be bought between now and September and it means I'll be ahead of myself in this respect, if not in a budgetary sense. 

In all honesty, she needs to wear one or two of the shirts for the remainder of this school year, as her current ones are now so disgusting that I don't want her to wear them anymore and can't wait to recycle them for rags. In addition, I avoided the rush of parents buying them over the summer holidays, often leading to them being out of stock and I got them quickly without any last minute panic.

4. I got out the remainder of my travel sized Cordosyl toothpaste towards the end of this month, to try to tide me over and avoid spending another £4 over on this month's household budget for a new tube. This didn't actually last me until the end of the month, so I'm now having to use the regular toothpaste that OH and LB use, but it shouldn't cause me any harm for a couple of weeks.

5. I kept to a very strict budget and list for the last grocery shop of the month to try to limit any overspend as much as possible.

6. I used up the last £1.10 of my M&S voucher to buy a cold drink on the way home from the CS the other day, when it was the hottest June day in the UK since 1976 (when I was 10, incidentally). I had to just add 5p cash to pay for it, but at least I used it all up. Talk about penny pinching!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Weekly Flylady Update

Yes, I'm still hanging on in there with the Flylady system, although I have to admit that it has mostly been put to one side this week, whilst I've been tackling the allotment.

Coincidentally, after my post about last Monday's allotment visit, I got an email from the Allotment Society telling me that there would be another inspection of our plots this today, for the judging of the best plot/site competition, and although I'm not in the least interested in winning anything, we were asked to tidy up our plots and the paths surrounding them, as I guess there is probably a prize for the tidiest/best site or something. 

As a consequence, the plot has received three more visits this week, after which I've completely caught up with the weeding, planted out any remaining plants I had to put in, cleared the paths and just generally brought it up to scratch. Everything took a bit longer than I thought it would and I just didn't have the energy to do it all in one visit, so it's been a bit of an allotment marathon, but it's done now and it's a big relief.

Here are the newly cleared pathways:

My neighbour cleared one of the paths (top picture) and I went over the cracks with a great little paving slab weeder tool I have, to get as much of the weed roots out as possible, which should mean less weeding between them in the future. It works a treat. You can see the tool in question in the picture above.

Just to show the difference, here's one of the other paths between plots not yet cleared:

What, you might be forgiven for thinking, does this have to do with Flylady? Well, I've decided that my allotment has been my other room of choice this month under the Flylady system, and consequently only the bathroom and the allotment got my attention as part of this week's Zone cleaning. 

I did do my normal Weekly Home Blessing on Saturday, which takes care of a quick tidy, vacuum and mop in every room of the house, so I did enough to keep on top of things. To be honest, there wasn't really any build up anywhere anyway, (save for the spare room, which it isn't easy to clean at the moment) so it is looking pretty okay generally. It does make me feel a little lazy though, as I don't feel I've done an awful lot this week in the house.  Maybe that is the point, you don't actually have to, you just have to do 'something' as opposed to nothing, on a regular basis. In any case, I like that the system has the flexibility to include the garden and allotment at all, as both are important fixtures in my everyday life.

Next week, I'll be working in Zone Four, the Master Bedroom. The only part I didn't clean last time were the shelves on OH's side, so this will be the focus and then just a general dust, vacuum, mop and change of bedding.  I will also try to clean out the linen cupboard too, as it is on the landing just outside the bedroom door and needs some attention. (and I was going to do it last week, but didn't!) In any case, it shouldn't be a great deal of work.  From now on, now I've settled in to the system, I'll probably just post weekly or even monthly, as I don't want to bore you all too much.

A Chilled Weekend

It's been a relatively quiet weekend here.  LB had a busy social calendar and was sleeping over at a friend's party on Saturday night and there all afternoon on Saturday too.  She then had another party for another friend on Sunday afternoon, so it was just me and OH around for most of the weekend.

I used Saturday morning to catch up on all my cleaning for the week, doing the Weekly Home Blessing and zone cleaning the bathroom.  I scrubbed the floor and cleaned out the extract fan as I mentioned I wanted to. I did a load of laundry which I line dried and after that I was finished, so I headed out to complete the weekly shop at our local Lidl - I'd done part of it on Friday at Tesco.

I'm finding that I prefer to grocery shop on Friday/Saturday now instead of Sunday/Monday. It can be a bit busier, but once you start to change the day, you run out of food by that day the next week so you have to do it. I think I got into a habit of going shopping after the gym, but Sundays were so busy in Lidl that I started to hate it, so it's nice not going to the supermarket in my sweaty sports gear for a change, not having to fight my way round and looking a bit more civilised.

On Saturday evening, OH and I decided to head to a pub on the canal for a drink and a burger.  It was nice to sit outside with a shandy and the dog and just chill watching the world go by. On the way back, we popped into the allotment to water everything, on account of it being a scorching hot day.

On Sunday, I went to the gym as usual and then was able to relax and potter for a change, as all I needed to do was change the bedding, do a white wash and to do the ironing. I managed the former two, but as it was way too hot to iron, I gave that task  a miss and instead I spent some time sitting reading a book I got from the CS last week, entitled 'Clutter Free with Kids' by Joshua Becker. It might just help me decide what to do with more of LB's old toys. I'm enjoying it so far.

I'm hoping that weekends will be more like this in future, now the Flylady system is starting to work it's wonders. How was your weekend?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

CS Update

It's been a while since I did an update of life at the CS.  This is probably because it's just been moving along without too much drama. The manager has started taking another day off each week, which he is entitled to, but just couldn't take for the first six months, due to lack of volunteers. 

The difference recently has been that we have both more volunteers and also that we have had two full time interns, who can be left in charge on his days off, one of which falls when I'm at the shop.  It has been working well for the few weeks it has been happening, but he's away this week for a long weekend, so the system has got disrupted for a couple of weeks.

I have to say, that I'm actually currently rethinking my volunteering.  I do enjoy it, but recently I seem to have been stuck on the till far too much.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy meeting the customers, talking to them and doing till work, but not all the time, both days I'm there, week after week.

I should really say something to the manager about how I feel, but I don't like to cause ill feeling and the interns need to learn about the management of the shop, which they probably don't do so much on the till, so I've just let it go. I am a volunteer at the end of the day and should just go where needed, but it does get a little boring sometimes to do the same thing, especially when no one really even offers to swap for a short period to give you a break from the monotony.

In any case, that is not the main reason I'm reconsidering my position, there are a few.  One is the travel.  Although financially compensated, the hour it takes each way is a drag. I don't like travelling on the train, (although it's better than the Tube because it is direct and air conditioned) because it's quite crowded and there's always a bit of a scrum for a seat, if you get one at all.

I don't know what it is about public transport in London these days, but it seems to bring out the worst in people, me included probably, although I do try to be considerate of anyone needing a seat more than me, to the extent that whilst trying to offer my seat to someone the other day, someone else jumped into it!

To be honest, I now remember why, when I looked for a job after first moving to London to study, I chose to work outside of the centre, so I could drive out to work and not travel in for it. I hated the stress of commuting then and I'm feeling the same now after a year of it.

The second reason is that, as with all charitable businesses I guess, targets for sales and gift aid sales increase year on year, and this puts pressure on staff and volunteers to meet these targets. I'm not suggesting that this shouldn't be the case as not to do so would be going backwards, but I can see that the pressure to perform, does affect the behaviour of those responsible for the targets and sometimes the way they speak to you. That's all I'll say about that. I don't know if this is a countrywide issue, or whether it's a London thing, or just the shop I work in thing, but it seems to seep in every time and kind of chips away at the experience for me, as I try to do my best, whatever the target.

In addition, I'm finding two full days per week, quite a big commitment in the summer months.  LB will be breaking up for the summer holidays soon and I'd rather be at home with her, even if she's out with her friends, at least I know where she is and what she's doing. The allotment too, is a big commitment for me in the summer months and although I'm currently managing to fit work there in, it is to the exclusion of doing other things I want to do.

Anyway, I don't know what, if anything, I'm going to do. I'm still applying for jobs when I see them and I may end up trying to get another volunteering role nearer to home, with less travel involved. I may just carry on as normal or even reduce my hours during the summer months to one day per week. We'll see.

Friday, 16 June 2017

A Bit of Contemplation

I've been a bit contemplative lately. I've been contemplating the last three months on my new strict budget. I can't say it's all been plain sailing.  I do struggle on a day to day basis, wishing sometimes, there was room for me to just go out and blow some cash on a bit of recreational/therapeutic shopping or spending, but there isn't and I can't. Maybe it's just as well, because these are the sort of habits I'm working hard to change.

On the whole though, the new regime is working pretty well.  As usual, I always try to do everything at once, i.e.subscribe to a new life insurance policy, save £100 per month and pay off my overdraft once and for all - instead of taking smaller more gradual steps. I guess the reason for this, is that I feel that at my age, (I'm 50) I just need to crack on with it and get it sorted. No more messing about, I've done enough of that in the past, just do it, as one very famous advertising campaign suggests.

Although challenging in many ways, my new regime is, however, having some decidedly positive outcomes. Whilst trying not to go out shopping and spend money, I've become much more focussed on getting my house in order and keeping it in order, as readers of this blog will have noticed. Okay, it is bordering on the compulsive, but it is making me appreciate what we already have and look after it.  It is also helping to reduce the urge to buy more, because realistically, there's very little we actually need or want.

The allotment has also been another way I have been able to occupy myself rather than go out spending money. Starting to cultivate my new plot has been a bit of a new challenge and is taking quite a bit of energy, but it's keeping me out of trouble and may even save us some money on food when the crops actually grow.

OH often asks me why I don't just pay off my overdraft with savings, and yes, I could do this, but as I've argued in the past on this blog, taking this easy route, doesn't really make me appreciate the damage that overspending and not living within my means actually causes in the long term and it doesn't break the cycle of my behaviour.  I need the struggle to prevent me making the same mistakes, and although I've made them over and over again during my life and even as recently as the last two years, I'm really hoping that this time around the penny has finally dropped, for good. In this sense, this year's struggle is more about forming new habits around money, that don't lead to debt, rather than just paying off debt so that I can build it up again, and I think that as such it is a much healthier approach.

As I've mentioned before, helping me on this journey have been numerous Bloggers (you guys, of course) and YouTubers that I follow. I've enjoyed watching Budget Girl finally pay off over $30,000 of student debt this last month. For anyone, who likes to watch these kind of YouTubers and get inspiration from their budgeting methods, another channel that is also good to watch is Lindsay's Frugal Life, whereby Lindsay, a teacher in the US, is trying to pay down over $80,000 of student debt, accumulated after studying for a degree, a masters and a PhD, I believe. I admire her courage in facing up to such huge levels of indebtedness and just getting on with the process of paying it off.

In addition to the above, I've been doing a lot of reading around the subject of personal finance and I've learned a lot more about money and how to potentially make it work better for me/us.  I was already pretty savvy when it came to spending money, but my problem has always been with restraint.  Everything can seem like a deal too good to miss, even when you can't afford it. I am now trying to practice more restraint and get comfortable with it and it is a challenging process, especially in a world where you are encouraged to just buy what you want, (and even what you don't) whether you have the means or not.

As well as concentrating on reducing my spending, I am also starting to focus on becoming more savvy with regard to investing and saving and it isn't easy, especially with returns as low as they are at the moment. Regardless, I'm working on it here and there and making small improvements on returns to increase my income from investments as best I can.

Like Joshua Becker says about Minimalism, it is countercultural to a large extent to be frugal/intentional and not spend money, some people may and do even go so far as to call it unpatriotic, but is going along with the excess and continuing to buy into consumerism and the myth that we can have it all and more and more and more ad infinitum, a better solution. I think not.

Anyway, I'm slowly learning to develop a new relationship with money, one where I nurture and respect it more and appreciate the difference it can make to your life to be more in control of it and less controlled by it (or the lack of it).

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Allotment Catch Up

As promised, I spent a few hours at the allotment on Monday afternoon.  I walk past the site at least 2 or 3 times per week on dog walks and always take a look to see what needs doing.  This past week the weeds have been bothering me and I knew I'd have to get them under control as soon as possible.

As usual, I forgot to take a before photo, because I just wanted to get stuck in and get the work done, but as I only managed to work on one side in the time I had, the other side will give you some idea of what the weeds were like.  This is the side I didn't get time to work on, save for a tiny patch where I put in the last of the kohl rabi.

The potatoes towards the back of the plot are doing well and should be ready soon.  I'm not in a hurry to dig them up though as that will be another bed that I will have to re-cultivate and weed at regular intervals.  Whilst the potatoes are in it keeps the weeds right down.

Just in front of them, I have a row of kale, then a row of purple kohl rabi and a courgette plant.  The bed closest to me is a flower bed, but it needs a bit of work getting rid of the weeds.  I'll probably do this later in the week.

Unfortunately, many of the weeds are deep rooted and need digging out rather than just pulling out by hand, so it's been another back breaking session.  I'm looking forward to the day when I've eradicated the majority of them and only have a 'normal' amount to contend with, if there is such a thing.  I'm hoping this will happen with regular cultivation and care of the plot.

Anyway, here's the half I dug over this visit.

At the back are some cos lettuce, then some chard, beetroot and fancy lettuce, a cucumber plant and a squash (I think) that has self seeded.  In front of those are the wigwam of climbing beans with some nasturtium sown around them and finally at the front is the fruit bed with rhubarb, gooseberries and blackcurrants.

It's looking better, but still a bit sparse. Hopefully, by the height of summer it will look much better.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 8

This last couple of weeks I've had the following Frugal Fails:

1) I somehow managed to overpay my business credit card and so have a £5 credit on my account.  I know this isn't strictly a fail, as I can just spend £5 on my card to retrieve it, but what a silly thing to do!

With regard to Frugal Measures and Freebies, the following are the latest:

1) I used my last £8 off a £40 shop voucher at Waitrose. These vouchers were much appreciated, as I've been able to stock up on lots of staples that we will use throughout this month.

I've now received more similar vouchers from Tesco, but for smaller discounts and will be using these in the coming weeks.

2) I've started knitting a rug made from strips of jersey cut from old t-shirts, that I rolled up into yarn-like balls. I've been quite pleased with the progress.  Here's a picture. (Please note that the loose ends will be woven in eventually.)

I haven't got quite enough yarn balls to finish it, so it will remain an unfinished project until I throw a few more t-shirts out and can use the fabric from them to make more yarn. I'll keep you posted on progress and post when it's finished.

3) I opened a new regular savings account with my current bank, on which I can get 5% interest for a year. I need to transfer savings from another account into my current account each month, to be transferred into it, but so long as I remember to do this it's worth it, as it is currently earning next to nothing in interest payments where it is.

4) I used some nectar points to get £2.50 off a grocery top up shop at Sainsbury's last  week. It all helps keep me within budget.

5) I used a voucher for 100 extra Tesco Clubcard points on each of four grocery shops in their stores, to gain an extra £4 in Clubcard vouchers, that I can use to renew my magazine subscriptions or on other offers. Most of the shops were just small top up shops on the way home from the CS.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Loving Lately

There's a few things that I've been loving lately, and none of them have really cost much money, proving that simple things can bring untold pleasure. 

The first has been my orange blossom bush, which has recently flowered beautifully.  I caught this photo of it when it was on the point of going over, but it has been glorious and it smells divine.  Next door's rose bush used to intertwine with it, making it even more fabulous, but they've recently cut it down.  I suspect partly because all the flowers were coming over to my side of the fence, which is fair enough.

The next thing I'm loving is my diffuser.  It was gift from OH for my 50th last year (I asked for it), and I use it almost every day.  It's ceramic, so it's quite attractive as these things go, and it is a great way to use my essential oils to make our home smell lovely.  I usually switch it on in the kitchen every night once I've finished the washing up and let it infuse the room with the smell of eucalyptus or whatever oil I want to use.

For the last couple of weeks, I've really been enjoying harvesting and eating our home grown lettuce.  One particular variety I grew got a bit infested with green fly, which had to be washed off, but more recent crops and varieties have been fine and I've been filling our bowl as soon as it empties.

I've also been loving that peaches and nectarines are back in season.  I don't bother to buy apples in the summer months, although there's the odd one still in the bowl here, as I just buy these when they are a good price in Lidl.  These doughnut peaches were 69p for 5 and the doughnut nectarines 89p for 10 this week.  You just can't beat filling your fruit bowl with these fruits in the summer months.

One last thing that I've been enjoying have been these lentil crisps from Lidl.  At £1.19 for 6 packs, these are ideal for packed lunches when I go to the CS or for an easy quick snack and they taste great too.

Donated - May 2017

I'm a bit late publishing this post this month, on account of procrastinating about counting the items in a bag of toys we donated, but here it is.

This month has been an excellent month on the decluttering and donating front.  Flylady's zone cleaning has led to a lot of decluttering from several rooms in the house, including the dining room/second reception room, the kitchen, LB's bedroom and my bedroom. As a consequence, the following extensive list of items has accumulated over the month, some of which were taken to the charity shop, but the majority of which are awaiting donation to the next Give and Take day later this month.

So, here is the list for May:

1. One book I no longer want to keep.
2-6. Five items of clothing that LB no longer wants or don't fit.
7. One unused jar of children's craft glitter sprinkles.
8. One concert programme from the 1980's.
9-10. One ruler and one poster - surplus to requirements.
11. One bag of foreign coins taken to the CS to be resold to collectors.
12. One guide book for Greece borrowed from a volunteer at the CS - returned to said volunteer.
13. One bag of children's embroidery yarn and canvas.
14. One small leather satchel (used only once) put aside to be gifted to my niece for her birthday.
15. One pair of gloves - no longer wanted.
16-17. Two coat hangers.
18. One tray - rarely used and too big to fit in a cupboard.
19. One book of cocktail recipes - never used and unlikely to be.
20-21. Two cake tins - hardly ever used.
22-30 Various dusters/cloth bags put in the rag bag for recycling.
31-32. Two cans of spray cleaner for cars - a gift never used nor likely to be.
33. Sticky fly trap - bought but never used. (This was a frugal fail as I needed one later in the month!)
34. Sample of colour collecting sheets for the washing machine - will never be used as I always divide clothes into darks and lights anyway.  Might be useful to someone else.
35. One knife rack for the dishwasher - never used nor likely to be, as I hand wash most knives.
36. End of a roll of rubber draw lining - I haven't used it in six years and probably won't use it in the near future. Besides, it's looking a bit yuck, as there was a leak in the under sink cupboard where I kept it so I threw it away.
37. One plastic jug with lid - a bit beaten up and no longer used.
38-44. Seven pieces of fabric I no longer want to keep in my stash.
45. One can opener that no longer works - thrown away once replaced.
46. One more knife with a damaged handle.
47. One spaghetti measure that I never use.
48. One cheese slice that I never use.
49-52. Four baking cutters that we no longer use.
52-54. Three recipe books that we don't use.
55. One melamine tray - I no longer have a use for this.
56. One glass bottle with stopper - I have too many of these.
57. One single oven mitt - I hardly ever use this.
58. One novelty Xmas eggcup.
59. One flask that never gets used.
60-67. Eight metal S hooks that I don't have a use for.
68-69. Multi-phrase stamper and ink pad.
70. One sudoku book, part completed - given to a lady at the CS who enjoys these puzzles.
71. One silk cushion cover.
72. One cookery book I no longer want.
73. One picture in a frame.
74-5. Two baby blankets.
76. One book.
77. One laundry basket.
78. One small purse - no longer needed.
79. One vintage vase.
80. One bracelet - unwanted gift.
81-87. Seven more items of clothing donated by LB.
88. One pair of worn out trainers kept as spares, belonging to OH - recycled now he has his new pair for his birthday and can use his current ones as spares.
89-120. Thirty two books decluttered from my bedroom bookshelves.
121-127. Seven decorative/other items decluttered from my bedroom bookshelves.
128- 177. Fifty soft toys, games and dolls clothes donated by LB.

This month a total of  items are leaving the house to bring the total so far this year to 492. It's been a great month and this means I'm almost half way there, but it will probably get a lot more difficult from here on in.

Monday, 12 June 2017

This Weekend

This weekend has been a good one.  We haven't done anything special and I've stayed home for most of it, but I feel like I've caught up on a few jobs that I've been avoiding for a while.

Having finished any cleaning I wanted to do on Saturday morning, this left me with some time to do other things.  The first thing I did was to harvest all the blackcurrants on my bush outside the back door.  I harvested 2lbs of fruit and then proceeded to make a jam from them.  I didn't have quite enough sugar, so decided to do a reduced sugar version without a proper recipe, so the end result wasn't quite as set as I'd hoped, but so long as it doesn't grow mould it will get eaten.

I used some of it to do another small task I'd been meaning to do for a while, namely use up some pastry mix that I had decluttered from the kitchen cupboards a few weeks ago, and make some tarts. I managed to make 41 tarts from just the one pack, which was pretty good.  These will go down well with cups of tea over the next week or so and I've finally emptied the jar that had been sitting on the kitchen worktop to remind me to use it, for over three weeks! Result.

Once I'd done these tasks, I decided to do my weekly grocery shop a day early, as the fridge was almost empty, so I headed off to Lidl. An £86 shop later and we were stocked up again.  When did Lidl become so expensive.  I don't know if we're just eating more or prices are going up, but gone are the days of £40/£50 weekly shops here.  We do eat a lot of fruit, so maybe it's that that is pushing up the bill, and that's before we leave the EU with it's cheap supply of fresh produce. Food will possibly inevitably become more expensive.

OH was cycling this afternoon, in a race in the City of London, I was going to go and watch and LB and her friends were going to come and head to a gallery, but we decided not to go after recent events in Central London, so OH went on his own.  I don't like to change what I do because of the terrorist threat, but for the moment I just want to stay close to home on a weekend.

Saturday was rounded off by catching up with a recorded episode of The Handmaid's Tale, before this week's episode on Sunday night came around again.

This is a photo of the garden after I'd finished tidying and of OH with his feet up after cleaning his bike and leaving it out to dry on my raised beds.

Sunday, after coming home from the gym (and not having to do my weekly shop this week) I decided to get stuck in to some gardening at home.  I haven't really done much work in the garden in recent weeks, so it felt good to get out there again.  I swept the decking, which was a bit littered with leaves and petals after recent high winds, planted out my tomato plants into the grow bags I'd bought last week and fed them and my homemade hanging baskets, one of which is pictured below. They're coming along nicely.

The vegetable beds are looking better with plenty of things growing.  I harvested some kale this weekend to have with a roast on Sunday.  It was very tasty. All things considered, I'm pretty happy with what I achieved this weekend.

The priority in the coming week will now be the allotment, which is looking a bit weed filled again. I also need to plant out my cucumber plants and some sunflowers that are lined up in readiness (and currently being propped up by the clothes line to stop them snapping in the wind).

How was your weekend?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Flylady Weekly Roundup

I've been kind of struggling with my zone cleaning this week.  As it was the beginning of a new month, I got distracted at the beginning of the week, doing some financial stuff and didn't really get around to doing anything. In addition, I've also been distracted by UK events lately, as I've mentioned before.

On Thursday, however, I used my Zone Cleaning as a distraction, on account of it being Election Day.  I didn't want to think about UK politics, it's so depressing, so instead I decided to tackle probably the most difficult task that was facing me this week, namely cleaning the bookshelves in the dining room.

I hadn't done this task for at least a year, if not two, when I did some deep cleaning, and it was the one thing that I didn't tackle last month in this room.  Out came the step ladders and every book was removed from every shelf, the shelf dusted and washed down and the books returned. 

I managed to get OH to part with some books and I decided to let go of a couple, so between us 13 books got added to the donate pile, which is better than nothing.  We do both like our books and find it hard to let go of them.

This job is not one that I relish, as some of the books on OH's side of the fireplace are really heavy. I don't think it will be a job I do too regularly.  Maybe once or twice a year at most is probably enough.  I made sure I pulled most of the books to the very front edge of the shelves, so the dust will only gather at the back and not be visible.  Cunning trick!

The remainder of the room got a vacuum and mop and other than dusting and cleaning the light fitting, that was it for this room this month.

On Friday, I decided to tackle the living room.  This isn't too onerous a job, even though it gets used regularly, so I was able to finish it in a couple of hours.  I had a sort through some of the quilts I had made, that I store in the blanket box and decided to let go of a couple as there were quite a few, plus some throws that we use regularly too. Other than this, there wasn't anything to declutter, so it was just a case of dusting, vacuuming and mopping.  On this occasion I pulled out some furniture that I didn't last time and cleaned behind and underneath it, and I also cleaned away all cobwebs and cleaned the light fitting, which I didn't do last time either.

I feel like I've now finally caught up with myself again, as I was getting a bit behind and can now spend some much needed time in the garden and at the allotment this weekend.

Next week, it's Zone 3 and I'll be deep cleaning the bathroom again.  I think that this month I'm going to get on my hands and knees and scrub the grout between the floor tiles, as this is the job I didn't do last month.  Luckily, it's the tiniest room in the house! Also, there's quite a bit of dust in the extract fan, so I might try to hoover that out. It shouldn't be a big job though.

I was also going to tackle the spare bedroom/sewing room, but it is so full of donations that I need to take to the Give and Take later this month, that I'm going to leave it until after they've been taken. I may, however, do some tidying on the landing upstairs and clean out the linen cupboard instead this month and then I'm going to enjoy some free time away from cleaning!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Still Simplifying - May

This month, I've just been continuing in the same vein as last month, thoroughly cleaning and decluttering the house, room by room.  I finally started the Flylady's detailed zone cleaning and this has helped me sort out more things to donate and really get down to keeping only the things we need, like or use on a regular basis, more particularly in the kitchen, my bedroom and LB's room.

LB's room, for example, still contained lots of outgrown toys that I haven't decided what to do with.  We did declutter a large bag of toys, but many of the remaining ones were quite expensive, which makes it hard to just donate them and I'm not sure I want to sell them, so I'm still thinking about what to do with them. I did, however, clean a few of the larger plastic toys thoroughly, by putting them in the bath and spraying them with the shower hose, so at least if I do decide to sell them, they are looking a lot less dusty.

Next month, I haven't really got any major simplifying plans lined up, but I will be zone cleaning in the spare room/sewing room at some point, so I will probably try to have a good declutter in there. The bed is currently laden with donations waiting to be taken to the next Give and Take, the date of which is 24th June, so once I can take everything, it will make a big difference to this room.  There is a box and large storage bag of items to take to the charity shop this month, but it won't made a huge dent in the pile.

Other than tackling this room, I don't have any other simplifying plans, unless any occur to me during the month.  I may have a cull of some of the books on the shelves in the dining room/second reception room, as this room will be zone cleaned in the first week of the month and I know that I am unlikely to read many of the books again. I think, perhaps, that it is a good time to let go of some of them, as the house will get very dusty if and when any building work commences, and they will need to be packed away or covered to prevent this.

I'll keep you updated on progress.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Book Review - Your Money or Your Life - Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

A while back, I promised a review of this book that I recently bought from the CS. I'd heard about it on YouTube and in the blog world, so was interested to read it and see if it had anything to offer me in terms of improving my financial situation. This post is a long one, so it may not appeal to everyone to read it.  If you persevere, however, you might find it useful, as I did this book.

This book was first published in 1992, (the edition I read dated from 1999) and is based on the financial program followed by the author Joe Dominguez in the 1960's, to free himself from 'wage slavery' and achieve financial independence.

The program itself is a 9 step plan to transform your relationship with money and achieve said financial independence. The main premise of the book is that money is time out of your life and the authors pose the question that, if you had a choice between money or your life, what would you choose?

This book suggests that both are possible and that you don't have to be a slave to money for your lifetime.  Instead, with a bit of financial planning and frugal living, you can actually free yourself from a job you don't enjoy and get your money working for you, so that you can do the things you want to do in life.

The authors suggest that work dominates our lives and there seems to be no real choice in life, but to work the majority or our waking hours, in pursuit of money we need to live or enjoy the hours outside of work. They suggest that there is another way and by following the nine steps in their program you could be more financially independent and have more choice in how you spend your time whilst here on this planet. Here is a summary of their 9 steps:

Step One - Making Peace with the Past.

This step involves firstly looking back at the amount of money you have earned ever since you first started working. They ask you to include part-time jobs you had as a teenager, fulltime jobs, side hustles, all paid work undertaken and calculate exactly how much you have earned in your lifetime so far.

I must admit that I did question the need for this step, but the authors warn against skipping steps. Although I was reluctant to actually do this step, as I don't have any records and really can't remember what I earned when in the past, I did make some rough calculations although they probably weren't very accurate.This was all I could do really.

The authors also encourage you to create a balance sheet for what you have to show for all the money you have earned. Combined, these two activities are a bit of an eye opener and did help me to comprehend this step, as you get to realise how much money you have completely wasted in your life so far, which in turn helps you to make a commitment not to repeat the same mistakes going forward.

Step Two - Money Ain't What It Used To Be

In this step, the authors ask you to work out exactly how much you currently earn. Your real hourly wage, as opposed to the one you think you're earning.

To do this you have to take into account all the money you spend on work - getting there, dressing the part, keeping up with colleagues, socialising when you're not at work to wind down from it, or shopping to treat yourself at the end of the week or in your lunch hour, etc. This was a really interesting step, because they argue that once you take all of the above into account, your hourly wage plummets to ridiculous levels and this does make you wonder if it is worth all the effort.

In this step, they also encourage you to track every single penny and see where all your money goes, which itself can be very enlightening.

Step Three - Where's It All Going?

This step is all about discerning your unique spending and income categories for each month, in order to ultimately work out your monthly expenses. They ask you to convert the dollars (or pounds) you spend in each category, into hours of life energy, using the real hourly wage computed in the previous step.  This helps you to contemplate whether the things you purchase or spend money on, are really worth the life energy you are spending to pay for them.

Step Four - How Much is Enough?

This step asks you to consider what fulfilment you receive as a consequence of the money you spend each month.  Was the expenditure in line with your life values and how might your expenditure change if you didn't have to work for a living? In addition, it encourages you to ask how much is enough? Do you really need everything you think you need?

I have to admit that I found the activities you were required to do in this particular step a bit onerous and didn't actually complete them, but I did enjoy reading the chapter, as it does make you consider what the important things in your life are and what is worth spending money on and what is not.

Step Five - Seeing Progress

This step required you to make visible your life energy by making a wall chart to show your income and expenses each month. On the same graph, you plot two different lines, the amount of income you receive each month being one and the expenses you pay out the other. By doing this on a regular basis, paying attention to it and by following their 9 step plan, they argue, you will gradually see your expenses reduce and your earnings increase and the gap between the two lines on the graph will represent money you can save and invest.

In their words, 'financial independence is money in the bank'.

Step Six - The American Dream On a Shoestring

Step six focuses on the pleasures of frugality, minimising spending and basically saving money.

It provides hundreds of examples of ways you can save money in every area of your life. By so doing, you can lower your monthly expenses, increase your consciousness in spending, and thus learn to 'choose quality of life over standard of living'.

Step Seven - For Love or Money: Valuing life energy

This step focuses on work, how to value your life energy and increase your income. In this chapter they consider the purpose of work and how we can redefine it and get our life back. They also consider the implications of such a course of action and suggest new options for paid employment to maximise your income, whilst keeping it consistent with your health and integrity.

Step Eight - The Crossover Point - The Pot of Gold at the End of the Wall Chart

This step was probably my favourite step of them all. It provided a lightbulb moment for me. For this step, they ask you to plot any income you receive from investments or savings onto the same graph as the one with your monthly income and expenses.

By doing so, you can visualise how you are working towards financial independence and how, as this investment income gradually increases, you can gain financial freedom. When your income from investments crosses the point of your monthly expenses on the graph, at this crossover point you have enough investment income to cover your expenses and everything over and above that you earn is your choice, as it is more than you actually need. You have thus 'broken the link between work and money -  in your own life' and it is time to celebrate. If you so wish at this point, you can stop working for money and do other things instead, such as volunteering on projects that give you greater satisfaction or spending time with those you love.

Okay, you may say, but how on earth am I ever going to save enough, to earn sufficient income on it, to support myself, especially with the vagaries of the financial markets, inflation, low interest rates, etc. Well, I can't guarantee that you can, but they do give you some options to consider in Step 9.

Step Nine - Managing Your Finances

This step suggests ways of managing your finances in order to achieve your financial independence. As such, it talks about ways of investing your capital to get returns and income, how to make sure you have six months expenses available as a cushion, and how the surplus funds, as a consequence of continuing to practice the nine steps, can be used to compensate for emergencies, inroads of inflation and replacement of high value items or re-invested to produce an endowment fund, etc.

In conclusion, this book was a great read. I have bought myself some graph paper and I have started to plot my progress. It may take a long time, but it will be an interesting journey.  Even if I don't reach the ultimate destination, attempting the journey is important to me and definitely worth the effort.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a financial expert, nor do I profess to be. This book is written with the American market in mind, but it's ideas can equally be applied to the financial market here in the UK. It is not a get rich quick type of book and I am not suggesting that anyone follows the financial advice it offers, but it might help anyone in other ways who are wanting to achieve more financial freedom.

This review has only briefly summarised this book.  There are much more detailed explanations of each step, which make very interesting reading and I would definitely recommend reading it if you are interested in, as the title suggests, 'transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence'.

My only regret about reading this book, is that I didn't read and act on it 20 years ago.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 7

Here we go again for another episode of Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails.

Recent Frugal Fails were as follows:

1. I got so hot and thirsty on a couple of Wednesdays that I've worked at the CS, that I've bought a fizzy drink on the way home to refresh myself.  I never ordinarily do this, but sometimes it just has to be done. I need to try not to make a habit of it though.

2. I paid £2.99 for a fruit fly trap at Lakeland, which just doesn't work. (Be warned)  It could have been worse, as the original cost was £5.99 and I got £3 off with a voucher.

Not too many fails, which is very good news.

Freebies and Frugal Measures recently included:

1. Using another two £8 off a £40 spend vouchers to get money off my groceries at Waitrose this last couple of weeks.  It's meant changing my shopping routines a little, but it was worth it for the savings, which were double those offered using some Tesco vouchers I had. I love it when the supermarkets compete for your custom using vouchers off your shopping.

2. I used part of the Waitrose money off saving to buy a new pair of oven gloves for the kitchen, which I've been needing for a while.

3. Also as part of shopping at Waitrose, I made sure to use my loyalty card to get a free broadsheet newspaper each time I visited and on one visit a free cup of tea too.

4. I started harvesting lettuce from the garden last week. It should save me at least £2 per week from the grocery budget, for as long as we have any available.  Not a huge amount, but every small saving helps.

5. More free seeds.  This time borage, cape gooseberries and red basil.

6. I bought this lovely small orchid from Tesco the other day, reduced from £5 to just £1.65, to replace one that seems to have died on me.

7. I've worked two consecutive weeks at the CS and have not bought anything, which is good for me.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Craft Room Decluttering and a DIY

A couple of weeks ago,  I found myself with some free time one Monday afternoon, on account of not needing to do any additional grocery shopping, and as a consequence, I decided to do a bit of decluttering in my sewing room and start a small DIY project.

The first thing I did was empty a small laundry bin that was filled with fabric.  I decided I didn't want more than half of it any more and put it on the donate pile.  Probably about 6 or 7 pieces were donated, the rest I relocated.

At the same time, I decided to look through my stash for some fabric to make some new cushion covers for the living room.  I just feel like brightening the place up a little for the summer months.  I found a few fabrics that could possibly work, and tried them in situ to help me narrow it down to one or two choices, setting them aside for when I can find the time to make them.

In the process of looking for fabric, I came across some of the fabric that I used to cover the top of the ottoman in our bedroom.  There was a piece that was exactly the right size to fit the stool under the dressing table to make it match the ottoman. It's a vintage Sanderson floral fabric, that has a beautiful cabbage roses print.

Although I liked the fabric that was already covering the small stool/ottoman, I wanted the room to be more co-ordinated, so I decided to re-upholster it in the matching fabric. Here's what it looked like before.

As you can see it's a lovely vintage floral fabric, but this was my first DIY upholstery project and the finish wasn't great, as I put too much wadding under the fabric.  Once I'd pulled it out, the original wool wadding was still there, so I just used that on its own and it looks much better.

I re-used the same lace to finish off around the edge, as it was a good colour match for this fabric too. I'm very happy with the results and the fact that I now have a lovely co-ordinated bedroom.

My next DIY job, when I get the chance, is to make the new cushion covers for the living room. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Monday, 5 June 2017

A More Productive Weekend

This weekend has been a bit more productive one than last week, on Saturday anyway. I think I must have just needed a few days to take stock, before getting back on track.

I spent most of Saturday doing my kitchen or Zone 2 cleaning and my Weekly Home Blessing. The kitchen took the most part of the morning. I needed to clean away as much of the flyspray that I'd been spraying everywhere to rid the house of the fruit fly infestation.  I think bar a few isolated flies, which I'm now tackling when I see them, we seem to be rid of the problem. I won't leave them in future, now I know what the outcome can be.  Having a full on swarm is no fun at all.

Anyway, I worked my way around the kitchen, re-cleaned all the window sills where lots of the dead flies had dropped, cleaned the windows inside and out this time, cleaned down all the worktops and cupboard doors and then vacuumed and mopped the floor too. I didn't need to do inside the cupboards or clean the oven or fridge interior this time around.  I'll tackle them thoroughly again next month.

I did do a few extra jobs on my way round.  One was to take down the kitchen curtains and wash them for the first time since making them, probably two years ago now. I was a bit worried that they or the linings might shrink, as I'd never washed them before and they are cotton, but they were okay luckily.  They are now ironed and re-hung.

I also cleaned off the blackboard and rewrote the reminders and cleaned out another corner that I had missed last month. It's so much easier cleaning this room regularly, as it just doesn't get as grimy.  I don't know why I've never done this before.

Later as part of my WHB I vacuumed and mopped through the rest of the house. I even found time to finish a little DIY job that I started a couple of weeks ago, which felt satisfying.  (A post on the subject is coming up soon)

Sunday, I didn't really do anything.  OH was out all day at a cycle race, LB had friends round and it got a bit cold outside, which meant that I didn't want to garden, so I spent most of the day inside watching Netflix and YouTube and chilling out. Naughty, but nice.

This week, as previously explained, I'm reverting to cleaning Zone's 5 and 1, the dining and living room, instead of doing them last week. Now LB is back at school, I should find it a lot easier to motivate myself to clean on the days when I'm not at the CS and can get back into the zone again.

A Strange Week and a Shopping Day

It was a strange week here, last week.  The Bank Holiday weekend was very quiet.  LB was off enjoying herself with her friends every day, and the half term week was pretty much more of the same. 

I felt a bit redundant if I'm honest. It's just as well that I was working at the CS for two days during half term holiday, or I would have been twiddling my fingers at home waiting for LB to come home. (Well, maybe not, but you know what I mean).

I guess we're facing another transition in the household, whereby LB is getting more and more independent and busy with her own social life, leaving me feeling a bit surplus to requirements. OH is busy with his business or cycling, so it doesn't affect him much, but I've been feeling it a bit.

Please don't think for a minute that I begrudge her her independence. I really don't.  I'm very grateful that she has found her tribe, and that she is happy to hang out with them. After all, you want your children to be happy, social creatures. I guess I'm just learning to let go.

I did get to spend some time with LB on Thursday afternoon.  She met me from my Zumba class at 11am and we headed to the high street where we live, to do a few errands.

We visited the central library, where I took some books back and borrowed a whole bunch more.  I seem to have got through the stock of non-fiction books that interest me at our local library, and this library is much bigger, so I found lots of books I liked here.

Consequently, I took home 7 personal finance books, which should keep me going for the majority of this month. A couple of them are on the subject of finances in retirement, which isn't pertinent just yet, but I'm doing some research, to make sure I'm getting on the right track with regard to investing for retirement.

We also did a bit of shopping and June's budget took a bit of a hit, as I bought LB a few bits in a couple of shops, using money from her budget, of course.  I also bought a couple of things for me, which wasn't so good, as I really didn't need this new pair of black suede sandals, but wanted them because they I liked the way they looked on and they were new (in a CS).

I wore them for the rest of the day and they're pretty comfortable, so I think I'll get good use out of them this summer and hopefully beyond.

I also bought myself a t-shirt to wear at the CS this summer.  It's light and a bit transparent, but can be worn with a vest underneath. I get so hot now the weather has warmed up and really need more and lighter clothing to wear on a daily basis. 

Finally, on my busman's holiday, I also found this lovely little photo frame in the CS for £3.50.  It's from The White Company. It is new and unused and I thought it would make a nice Xmas present, but I may actually keep it for us and put a photo in it.

The rest of the afternoon, was spent doing a mammoth grocery shop at Waitrose, Lidl, ASDA and Poundland, whilst LB went off to meet her friends again. A bit of a shopping marathon really, but I have probably bought enough food to make meals for at least the next two weeks, save for topping up on a few fresh items weekly. It felt very nice to stock up again, as things had really got down to the bare bones at the end of May.

When I got back, I spent the afternoon and some of Friday doing a bit of financial housekeeping to get me set up for another frugal month. (Hopefully!)