Saturday, 30 September 2017

Monthly Round Up - September

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

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

Anyway, here are the figures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Donated - September 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

57) One book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

103) One ceramic jug - no longer needed.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

It's A Jungle Out There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here's the results of our efforts:

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

This Weekend

This weekend I haven't been working for a change and so I have enjoyed staying home and concentrating on getting some outstanding jobs done.

The first was catching up with some laundry and ironing, which seems to build up very quickly when I'm out of the house a few days a week.

I did have good intentions of catching up with some Flylady Zone cleaning in our bedroom and finishing off my Weekly Home Blessing upstairs, but in all honesty, I just wasn't feeling it this weekend. 

I did do one job in the Master Bedroom zone and that was to get out all of my winter wardrobe, make decisions about what I wanted to keep and what was going to be donated and then pack away any summer clothes.

Of course, as soon as I did this almost, we got some more warm sunny weather!

The main thing I tackled this weekend was the back garden, which was looking very overgrown and neglected.  With OH's help we managed to get it back in order and take all the garden waste to the tip. I have created another post on this subject to show you the before and after.

On Sunday, there was a local Jumble Trail in our neighbourhood and I saw a few stalls setting up whilst walking the dog.  I was intending to have a wander around some of the stalls, but then LB wanted some money to go out for the day, so I gave her the cash I had on me.

When I thought about it, I figured that I spend my working days sorting through everybody's jumble effectively, why did I want to spend my weekend looking through more.  Besides, there wasn't really anything I wanted, so I decided to stay home instead and not spend anything.

Having said this, I did venture out to the garden centre on the way back from the tip, for a few bits to aide the garden clear up, but they had been on my wish list for a good while, so it felt good to finally get them.

Talking of my wish list, I also managed to cross one other item off my wish list this weekend by giving something I already had a make over, which I posted about the other day.

In all, quite a productive weekend, but it could have been more so, had I had the inclination.  I think I'm still recovering from the 7 day stretch at the CS.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

A Small but Useful DIY

For a while now, I've wanted to try to find some kind of storage solution for all of the condiments that I keep next to the stove top in the kitchen.

For many years, I had a small plastic tray that I stood them all on, but during a purge on unnecessary clutter in the kitchen earlier this year, when I first embarked on using the Flylady system, I decided to donate the tray.

Instead, I started using a small wooden box with two compartments and a handle, that I had previously used to store stationary in my kitchen office area. Having disbanded this kitchen office, the box was freed up and put to good use.  I think I'd bought it at a car boot or CS originally and had painted it with white eggshell paint, but it was now looking a bit chipped and tatty and didn't really fit in all that well with the kitchen scheme, so I was on the look out for something more permanent to replace it.

After a couple of months looking in TK Maxx at possible solutions, I came to the conclusion that everything I'd seen was a little flimsy and what I was already using was probably my best bet.  The wooden box was solid and sturdy, just the right size for everything I needed to keep in it and was easy to carry across to the table at mealtimes, as it had a sturdy wooden handle too.

The only problem with it, aside from the tatty paintwork, was that it's bottom was a bit scratchy and I was concerned it might scratch the kitchen table.  As a consequence, I got to thinking how I might resolve both of these things in giving it a bit of a makeover.

As is often the case with my makeovers, I forgot to take a before picture of the box, but I proceeded to repaint it using some black chalkboard paint that I had left over from other projects. The paint has a nice matt texture and should fit in with any potential future kitchen scheme. It was also pretty quick drying too, which made it a very quick DIY, as I just painted it straight over the eggshell without any sanding necessary.

To resolve the scratchiness of the bottom of the box, after giving it a coat of paint, I glued some wool fabric that I had in my stash onto the bottom of the box, so there'll be no more scratchiness and no scratched kitchen table.

It's not perfect but the makeover cost me nothing save a little time, and I'm very happy with the results.  Just goes to show that what we think we need can sometimes be right there all the time waiting for a bit of inspiration to transform it.

Here's a picture of the finished box and it's contents both on the table and in it's usual place on the kitchen worktop:

Friday, 22 September 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 16

This last couple of weeks I haven't had too much time to concentrate on living frugally, as I've been out of the house for most of every day, working at the CS.  However, a few frugal and not so frugal things have occurred, quite a few with a timekeeping theme to them.

Frugal Measures and Freebies

1 - I got a free ride to work the other day as the Oyster reader on the bus wasn't working.  Result.

2 - I used a £4 off a £40 spend voucher at Tesco this week when grocery shopping.

3 - I received a bunch of £8 off a £40 spend vouchers from Waitrose through the post, so I may be diverting part of my weekly grocery shop there for the next few weeks. Having said this, I do find this store to be more expensive for many things, so I shop very selectively there.

4 - After another watch failure this week, I managed to dig out an old Swatch watch which had stopped working after I'd worn it to the gym and it had got sweaty.  As it was a nice watch in otherwise very good condition, I stored it away and when I got it out again, it seemed to have dried out and once a new battery was put in it, it worked a treat, so I didn't have to buy a new watch. I've learned my lesson wearing watches at the gym.  I take them off now to preserve them.

Frugal Fails

1 - I needed to order a new natural concealer last week and the only place I could find the one I use was on Amazon.  Unfortunately, my usual source, who doesn't charge for postage, has stopped selling the brand I use, so I was forced incur Amazon's £2.75 postal charges which hurt. I think that I will either have to find another brand to use or a new supplier in the future.

2 - Three months after purchasing a lifetime watch battery warranty from Timpson's for £20, it has been rendered useless. After two months with a new battery, my watch stopped working again.  I got the battery replaced under the warranty, but was told that if it stopped working again, the watch would have to have a service (costing who knows how much!).  Anyway, lo and behold two weeks later my watch stopped working again. As I only paid £16 or so for the watch, I'm not paying out more money to get it serviced, so I'll be disposing of it.  The up side to this story is as previously mentioned in the Frugal Measures section. The moral of this story - don't buy cheap watches!

3 - OH ordered an alarm clock from Amazon over a week before we went on holiday to France.  It hadn't come by the time we went away, so we thought it would get left with neighbours.  Sadly, the delivery agent left it on the doorstep whilst we were away and someone helped themselves to it.  I then had to buy another alarm clock, as I needed one for work.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Two Lovely Days at Home

I've spent Monday and Tuesday at home this week, pottering around.  It's been bliss and I feel human again. I feel like I've been living in some sort of twilight zone for the past week.  I don't want to have to experience that again.

I had to rely on OH a lot to keep things running smoothly at home.  I was fortunate that he works from home, otherwise we'd have been eating at 9pm every evening, the house would be a tip and no one would have been able to attend a meeting at the school nor make sure LB got home on time in the evening. 

Even so, it did put a strain on family life at times and caused stress over silly little things. I guess I've got my first taste of how difficult it is for families, where both parents work full-time, to keep all the balls in the air. It doesn't take much for them to drop to the ground.

What I really didn't like is that for all of my daughter's 14 years, I've been fortunate enough to be there for her after school and in the holidays, and during this last three months I haven't and it didn't feel good. I know I need to let go and let her be more independent and the job forced me to do that, but at times I felt like I was letting her down.

The only upside to last week, was that I lost 6lb in weight just through sheer busyness and lack of time to snack.  Not an ideal way to do it, but it's nice nevertheless.  I will probably put all or some of it back on now that I'm not working quite so crazy hours.

Anyway, that said, these last two days have been lovely. The first day was mainly taken up with food shopping and cooking us a nice joint of roast beef, that we hadn't had time to cook in the previous week.  That felt satisfying.

The second day, I got down to some blog writing, dealing with my personal finances and also had a nice long walk with the dog before embarking on starting my Flylady Weekly Home Blessing. I only managed to complete downstairs, but it felt so good to restore a bit of order and cleanliness to our home. It's amazing how much dirt and dust gathers in the corners in just a couple of weeks.

I finished my two days off by putting a wash on and catching up with the ironing.  It wasn't too bad as I'd emptied the ironing basket before starting my full week of working, so there were only 3 or 4 loads to iron, which didn't take too long.

Friday is my next day off and I'm going to try to use it to finish off my WHB upstairs and then do some Zone cleaning in Zone 4, the Master Bedroom. I had to consult Flylady Diane's videos to figure out where I was up to in the Flylady stakes, so much have I lost contact with the programme in the last few weeks. There's not a lot to do in the bedroom, just change the bedding and a bit of dusting really.  I may use the opportunity to get out my winter clothing and put away some summer clothing now the weather has turned colder.

I hope you've had a good and productive week this week.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A Couple of Upgrades for Our Home

As mentioned in yesterday's post, after a week of intense work, I indulged in a little bit of recreational retail therapy yesterday whilst out doing the weekly grocery shop.  Now I know that this is a dangerous habit to get into, but most of the items I bought were Christmas presents, along with a couple of natural make up/toiletry items for me and the following two items for our home.

Both items are upgrades in that the first, this lovely plastic tray with a coastal houses scene on it, replaced a much larger tray that I had previously donated.  We don't use a tray that often, but it is handy to have one and the previous one was so large that it didn't fit in any of the cupboards. As I'm trying to keep counter clutter to a minimum, it wasn't working for me, so I sent it to the Give and Take. This one however is smaller, lighter and easier to carry with the handles and can be tucked into one of the cupboards.

It also goes quite nicely with the only artwork in the kitchen, this lino cut print of  coastal houses and at £3.99 was also good value.

The second purchase (or purchases) was a set of three glass storage jars that I bought to replace the previous IKEA jars that I'd been using for a while to hold dog food, treats and biscuits.  I really liked the simplicity of these, with their silicone stopper type lids. They weren't cheap at £16 for the three, but I think they make the dog food corner of the worktop look a lot better and allow very easy access to the contents.

The IKEA jars will now be returned to their original home in my sewing room to store various sewing notions.

Here's the before

and now the after.

It has been nice to have a little spare cash to make small but satisfying changes to the house.  As we may be redecorating the kitchen soon, I think these items will enhance the finished look eventually.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Back in the Land of the Living

Well, at last, I'm back in the land of the living and not virtually living my life in the charity shop. It's such a relief to finally have a day to myself at home, to do whatever I want and trust me, I'm only doing what's absolutely necessary and thus giving myself time to recover from the exertions and stresses of the past week.

My week in charge of the CS didn't get off to a very good start.  I woke on Sunday morning, my first day of a seven day stretch feeling distinctly unwell.  I had a headache, felt dizzy and nauseous and could hardly lift my head off the pillow.  I contemplated still going in and doing what I could, but I knew I would spend the day with my head on the desk, trying not to fall over. I had no option but to call the manager and ask him to cover for me and then take the following Sunday as part of his week's leave instead.

He was very gracious and supportive and as he didn't have any plans that particular day, he went in. I then spent the day in bed dosing myself up with paracetamol and trying to sleep off whatever lurgy it was that I had. (Vertigo or some sort of virus I thought, but it was in fact vertigo after all) I wasn't even well enough to get dressed or walk the dog.

By Sunday night I was feeling better so my week started proper on Monday.  Monday itself wasn't a great day, Tuesday got worse, but from Wednesday onwards things settled down and I got more into the swing of things.  I still had vertigo for most of the week, but managed to work in spite of it and it ended up being a busy week. Every day was pretty busy, in fact, and as a consequence I ended up on the right side of the sales targets, although I was pretty exhausted by Sunday night. The terrorist incident on Friday led to my receiving a concerned phone call about some of the staff from overseas.  It was a strange day.  Needless to say, we didn't hang about that evening.

OH came to pick me up from work on Sunday night and brought the dog with him. We sat outside a pub and had a drink before walking back to the car through the park and heading home. It felt so good to be free of the shop for a couple of days.

Today, I've had to do a big food shop as we were running low on food, I had a nice leisurely walk with the dog and have pottered about at home. I have to admit to a little splurge at TK Maxx whilst out shopping, but mostly on Xmas gifts and a few things for the house.  I'll do a little post on what I bought in the next few days.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping I feel a bit more recovered and can start to do a bit of cleaning in the house.  It's tidy enough, but has got a bit dirty over the last couple of weeks, so needs some attention.

Although I learned a lot about what I was capable of this week, with regard to the CS, it has made me more sure that I really don't want to work full time in the field for the time being. If a part time job in the right shop became available I might apply, otherwise, I'm back to volunteering and I will have a whole new appreciation of the freedom that brings in comparison to being paid to work there.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

An Afternoon on Sanibel Island

By way of a show of support for all of the people currently recovering from Hurricane Irma, I'm posting this post that I wrote about part of our holiday in Western Florida a couple of years ago. It never got published at the time and has sat in my drafts box as a reminder to me of our wonderful holiday. What better time to post it and show the beauty of the this part of the world.  My prayers and good wishes are with everybody affected both in Florida and the Carribean and I wish everyone well in aftermath and with the forthcoming clean up efforts.

The first Sunday we were in the US, we visited a very beautiful place near Fort Myers called Sanibel Island.  It is one of a number of islands off the west coast of Florida, and part of it is a nature reserve.

You have to drive over a long bridge to get to the island, I think there might have been a small toll, there are quite a few toll roads and bridges in Florida, but it was well worth it.  The island is beautiful, definitely worth a visit.  At the end of the island is a lighthouse which we drove up to visit.

The beach here was beautiful.  A mangrove beach with beautiful white sand and clear water.  As soon as we set foot on the beach we saw dolphins frolicking in the water, I think there were two or three of them, but I didn't manage to catch a photograph and anyway my phone camera probably wasn't good enough to pick them out.

We settled down in the shade of some mangroves, taking in the view, reading our books and swimming in the ocean for the afternoon.

A sea anenome washed up at my feet. I'm not sure if it was still alive as it didn't seem to cling to anything and kept getting swept this way and that by the ocean as it lapped at my feet.

Apparently this is good place for shells, I saw the odd interesting one, but didn't take it off the beach.

There was also a small fishing pier and lots of families spending Sunday at the beach. A beautiful place, we were glad that we'd taken the time to visit.

Visiting places like this and seeing the wildlife and nature are one of the things I love most about the US and other places we have visited. It costs very little to spend the day somewhere like this, but when you do it is magical.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Getting Back in the Swing Again

It's been a bit of a roller coaster of a week at the CS since I got back from holiday. I had good days and bad getting back into the swing of things on my return. I still am having bad days, especially this week as a couple of issues have arisen, that are testing my patience.

I had my first mini meltdown last week on account of frustration over the non co-operation and team spirit of some members of the staff.  A similar situation with regard to the same members raised it's head yesterday as well and I'm starting to tire of trying to deal with the same issues over and over. It is so time consuming and makes it very difficult to get on with any actual work.

I have to try to keep everything in perspective, difficult as it may be, especially as my Manager is off next week and I will be left to run the shop on my own.  I'm not particularly looking forward to it, I have to admit and it will mean working quite a few more hours. I'm just going to have to get my head down and get on with it.

Talking to other shop managers when they call on the phone regarding different things, it seems like everyone in the area is stretched at the moment, so we're all in the same boat.  It's not much compensation, however, when you're in the thick of it.

I'm trying to stay positive though and just do what I can.  It's all you can really do at the end of the day.  If some things don't get done and sales targets aren't met or surpassed then so be it. I'm not super human and can only work with what I've got, both in terms of resources, hours in the day and manpower.

As a consequence of the above, I might not be posting too much in the next week or two.  Sorry about this, but normal blogging business will resume as soon as my hours get back to normal.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Loving Lately

Well, I thought I'd do one of these posts, as I haven't done one for a while, mainly because I haven't been buying all that much lately (save for since I've been working and have had a little more income).

The first thing I've been enjoying is this perfume that I bought from Primark.  The packaging is a little bit 'Jo Malone' ish, don't you think? Nice and simple anyway. This one is Mandarin and Basil and smells pretty nice.  It's just to wear for work really and at £8 for this 100ml bottle it was a bargain. (I know, the natural product preference has taken a back seat for a while, until the overdraft is paid off!)

The second thing is also from Primark and is this rucksack in pale grey PU. My previous rucksack that I've been using every day for the past six months was from here too, it's similar but is black and is starting to show serious signs of wear and tear.  As they don't do a black one anymore, or not in the store I looked in, I thought I'd have a change and go for grey this time.  At £10, it was also a bargain, especially if it lasts 6 months again. It's a great size for me as it has enough room in it to carry my lunch and water bottle to the CS and has several good pockets inside and out to allow quick access to all my bits and pieces that I carry around with me every day.

Talking of water bottles, I'm liking my Klean Kanteen too, which I bought from the CS. I don't use it all the time though, as I don't want it to get all dented and bashed around. I will probably use it for the gym when my current bottle, which is one LB doesn't use anymore, has given up the ghost.  The only thing with the Klean Kanteen, is that if you try to drink from it on the go, the neck of the bottle is so big that invariably water splashes out and down your clothes.  I found that out to my cost. Not ideal, but it's only water.

I'm loving my new domed transparent umbrella that I bought when I was in Yorkshire to replace the one I left in the Nike shop.  With all the rain we've had in recent weeks, it has come in useful.  I like the fact that it is domed and doesn't blow inside out easily, and I also like the fact that I can see through it and see where I'm going.

Finally on a media front, we've just finished watching a Spanish crime series called 'I Know Who You Are' which was broadcast on BBC Four recently.  It was quite complex in terms of the plotlines, but enjoyable. I'm currently watching 'STRIKE - The Cuckoo's Calling' and enjoying that too when I get the chance to watch it.

On a daily basis I'm loving listening to BBC Radio London in a morning, when I'm sat on the bus on the way to work.  It's useful for transport news in London and for just generally keeping me up to date with news stories in the capital. Vanessa Feltz's is great in a morning with her phone in talk show about London, life and topical issues in the news, which is entertaining. I put on my earphones, switch on the radio app on my phone and I'm in a little world of my own for the hour's bus journey. Bliss.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Review - The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason

One of the books that I read whilst on holiday in France, was this book that I have heard quite a lot about on YouTube and have always been interested in reading.  I ordered a copy from eBay for a couple of pounds and took it away with me as a holiday read.

It is quite an old book, first published in the 1950's/60's, and is quite small and thin too, so didn't take too much reading, but I'd argue that it's contents are still as fresh and pertinent today as they probably were then. 

The book uses allegorical stories of characters living in ancient Babylonian times, to encourage the reader to take themselves to task over their finances, to enable them to live a good and prosperous life. It is almost biblical in tone, but it was a very interesting read and the main ideas that I took away from it were as follows:

The Seven Simple Rules of Acquisition:

1 - Start thy purse to fattening
2 - Control thy expenditures
3 - Make thy gold multiply
4 - Make thy dwelling a profitable investment
5 - Guard thy treasures from loss
6 - Insure a future income for yourself and your loved ones
7 - Increase thy ability to earn.

The above rules are all pretty self explanatory and Glason goes on to talk about and give examples of how these rules and the Five Laws of Gold can help anyone to accumulate wealth and maintain it going forward into the future.

The Five Laws of Gold

1 - Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put aside not less than one tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.

2 - Gold laboureth diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as to the flocks of the fields.

3 - Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.

4 - Gold slippeth away from the man who invests it in business or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.

5 - Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who followeth the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

The stories that Glason uses in the book to illustrate these laws are interesting. In his final chapters of the book, he uses a story to encourage the reader to make work your best friend.  Do good work, he argues and it will bring you good things.  You will not get ahead by shirking.

Simple words and rules, but they are ones that we can probably all apply to our finances and lives in some way, if we are not so doing already.  I hope you find this review helpful and I would recommend anyone to read this book.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Donated - August 2017

I'm still finding it tough to find things to donate, so once again the list isn't that long this month. Here's the items I have managed to find that will be leaving or have left the house this month.

1) Black collarless jacket - I don't like how this looks on me, so it's time to say goodbye.
2) One pair of size 12 black jeans bought in Yorkshire due to being wrongly labelled - Lets face it, I'm unlikely to ever be this size again, much as I might want to be.
3) One penguin silicone ice cube tray - replaced by regular cube-shaped ice cube trays.
4) One fabric storage basket - a gift that I don't have a use for.
5) One pair of very worn denim dungarees of LB's - recycled for the fabric.
6) One pair of salad servers - I've only kept these for when guests come.  They never get used and we rarely have visitors these days, so they're going. I have some metal tongs we could use for the same purpose should we get any visitors.
7) One book - I've read it, but don't want to keep it.
8) One half empty bottle of conditioner I no longer and will not now use - thrown away.
9) One gym top that I rarely reach for.
10) One lightweight coat that I have now replaced, as it was getting a bit tatty.
11) One DVD I borrowed from the Little Free Library that will be going back there.
12-14) Three plastic storage boxes I don't have a use for any longer.
15) One glass candlestick - surplus to requirement - I'm less interested in excess decorative items these days.
16) One decorative ceramic vase that I no longer wish to keep.
17) One Ryvita tin that I no longer need.
18-23) Several unused toiletry items from a gift set that aren't wanted by anyone in the household.
24) One plastic case - no longer needed, but may be of use to someone.

When added to last month's total of 575, I've now donated 599 things this year and am officially lagging behind with regard to the target of 1000 items for the year.  I am, however, hoping to make better headway next month as I am intending to do some more decluttering in the spare bedroom/sewing room, which is long overdue.

I'll keep you up dated on progress.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Back to Work with Flylady

We had a lovely relaxing week in France, beautiful hot weather, great accommodation and wonderful scenery, but when all's said and done, I'm always happy to come home to my own house and get back to work keeping it in order. 

Call me crazy, but we miss our home and our little dog when we're away and it was strictly no dogs at the rental property, so unfortunately she couldn't come with us.  Our dog trainer/carer did keep sending us photos of her, so we knew she was okay, which is always reassuring.

Anyway, once home there was a lot of catching up to do Flylady wise.  I couldn't get started for a few days as I was at work for three consecutive days when I got home, but first chance I got on Sunday, I was back on the Flylady bandwagon doing a Weekly Home Blessing, which hadn't been done for at least 3 weeks. It made a start.

I'll be trying to catch up on a zone by zone basis over the next few weeks, probably doing a slightly deeper clean than has been done in recent months, to get back on top of everything, but it's going to be a busy two weeks as I'll explain in another post.

It was interesting visiting France, the French people do seem to have a very good lifestyle and enjoy the finer things in life. It may have just been the weather, but life seemed very relaxed and unhurried.

In spite of visiting a few of their very nice cookshops, I didn't really buy very much at all whilst there, as there just wasn't really anything that I needed.  I did buy a jam strainer, a pair of steel stud earrings and supply of Marseillaise soaps for general use, in a couple of scents that I really like, but other than this, I spent very little other than on food. Our holidays definitely don't include much shopping for souvenirs or other items.

On the contrary, living out of a suitcase on holiday always inspires me to get rid of more things when I get home and this holiday was no exception. A bit of distance from my belongings always help me to recognise things that are surplus to requirements at home. This mindset was aided by reading Marie Kondo's 2nd book 'Spark Joy' whilst away too, which is helping to inspire another round of decluttering now I'm home. (More in another post)

I'll keep you updated on Flylady progress.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 15

After a few splurges, documented in my round up post recently, for the past two weeks I've been quite frugal, mainly as a consequence of working quite a bit and not having any time to spend any money on anything and secondly as a consequence of going away for a week to France.  Here are the Freebies and Frugal Measures from this period:

1) I called London Transport on a day I was due to travel by train again and got them to activate my £7.20 refund on my Oyster card.  I used it when I was invited to a little gathering at my old CS and had to take the train there. The refund covered the expense of going and buying a Big Issue from the seller I used to regularly buy it from when I volunteered at the old shop.

2) I found a five pound note whilst walking the dog.  I always feel a little guilty picking notes up off the street, but I know that if I didn't the next person to come by would. Anyway, I put it to good use topping up my Oyster card for fares to work.

3) I used a £6 off a £40 shop at Tesco to stock up when we got back from France. I've got a couple more of these vouchers to use during the remainder of this month.

4) I got a small pay rise this month so my wage slip was a nice surprise. Part of it was due to the pay rise and part due to working my first full month. (I didn't start work until 6/7th July so my first wage slip at the end of July was a bit lighter)

5) I bought a great Christmas present for LB from the CS yesterday.  It was a brand new copper coloured angle poise lamp for her bedroom, at half the retail recommended price. I think she'll really like it. It will be a surprise for her anyway and buying some presents now  when I see them will spread the cost a little.

6)  Free seeds this month with my Kitchen Garden subscription: Kale and Spring Onion.

7) My passive income from investments and savings increased a few pounds again this month.  It's going in the right direction, but is a very long way from making me financially independent.

Frugal Fails have included:

1) I bought some shares, then the very next day they dropped in price by 20%, when their half yearly trading report was issued, which wasn't very positive.  They were very inexpensive shares, but I lost a small amount of money just the same. Hopefully, some of the other shares I bought will make up for the loss if these don't rise in price again. Such is the nature of buying shares. I just have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth.

2) I bought a drink whilst doing the weekly shop this week because I was so thirsty and hadn't bothered to fill up my water bottle at the gym before I left.  I don't do this often, but sometimes needs must.

3) I had to spend £3.85 on my lunch for the first day back to the CS after our holiday, as we got home at midnight after a nightmare journey starting out at 8.45am.  We just didn't have any appropriate food in the house, so I bought a sandwich and snack on the way to work. Actually, this was a double fail because I could probably have got better value if I'd got a meal deal instead.