Thursday, 30 November 2017

Monthly Round Up - November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The under budget areas were as follows:

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

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

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

How was your budgeting this month?

Monday, 27 November 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 20

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

Freebies and Frugal Measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frugal Fails

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A Better Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you believe in serendipity?

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Twenty Things to be Grateful For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 20 November 2017

My Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Wardrobe Renewal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Time for a Haircut and Reflections on Working Life Lately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Returning to the Mall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 19

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

Freebies and Frugal Measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frugal Fails

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 November 2017

Ticking Things Off the Wishlist

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

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

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

2) Spend another £50 on clothes for LB.

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

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

5) New speakers for the stereo system (?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Weekend

This weekend has been another weekend focussed on decluttering more stuff. Having the weekend off work and after LB's mammoth declutter last weekend, I spent some time on Saturday morning going through all of the items she donated and then recorded them here on the blog, as part of my challenge to declutter 1000 items this year. I'm currently at 897 items and I am hoping to increase this figure by the end of the month. So close, it would be a shame not to have a last push and meet the target.

Later on Saturday, we decided to head to the local Mall, which we rarely do.  I needed to return something I bought last week, that I decided just wasn't me, OH wanted to start looking for a phone for me for Xmas, I had another £8 off a £40 spend at Waitrose voucher to use, so I wanted to do part of the grocery shopping whilst there and make good use of it and we decided to have supper out as a treat, in an effort to make the most of my having the weekend off.

Only trouble was, when we approached the Mall, there were crowds of people all milling around on the pavements. Straight away, I knew something wasn't quite right. LB checked the internet and it transpired that the mall had been evacuated due to someone letting off a firework in John Lewis, which triggered the fire alarms and a subsequent evacuation, which apparently led to a bit of a panic and stampede to get out of the building.

We were so grateful that we arrived just after it had happened and not before.  As a consequence, we turned around and came home, instead choosing to eat in a local restaurant.

When we got home, I put my feet up with a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine and watched Strictly.  I completely missed it last week due to working all weekend, along with all it's controversy.  In fact, it was that that put me off watching it on catch up, but it was nice to get back to it this week.

Anyway, on Sunday it was the Give & Take, the second this month, this time run by a different organisation than usual and in a completely new to me venue.  The giving time was 11.30am, so I had to forgo my usual Sunday class at the gym (it starts at 11am), as I just wanted to get all of the stuff out of the house whilst I had the chance.

On the way back, I did the grocery shopping, so I was organised in time for going back to work today.

I can now give the spare room over to Christmas.  I took the decorations and wrapping paper out of the loft last week, to stop me buying more when I already have lots. I went through everything in the three boxes and bags again and a few more things found their way into the donation pile that I took this weekend.

The spare bed is currently covered with all the Christmas gifts I've bought so far (Not LB's or OH's) and that need wrapping, plus all of the wrapping paper, decorations, etc. I'll probably start wrapping things up soon and get ahead of myself.  Why wait?

I also spent time this weekend catching up on housework, laundry, ironing, etc.  and I also spent some time preparing more stock to sell on eBay. Sales have been going quite well over the past two months and I've decided to use the proceeds towards my new sofa covers.  There's a way to go before I can buy them, but I'm hoping that I'll make enough money outright to cover the cost.

Anyway, it was nice to get back on top of things this weekend, although I didn't get around to cleaning upstairs.  I'll do that in the week. One step at a time and I'll get there eventually.

How was your weekend?

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Xmas Poundland Haul

I know it's not particularly the done thing these days to do a Haul post, but I thought, as I've recently done a bit of a shop at Poundland, I'd just show you some of the things they have in their store this Christmas, that I thought were worth spending a pound (or 20) on.

Here goes:

Firstly, I bought these two large gift bags for a couple of LB's presents that are a bit bulky. One is particularly awkward to wrap, so these should come in useful.  I thought these designs were really cute and the colours are ones that I know she'll love.

These little Christmas lights always seem to come home with me.  There were some new copper designs this year, which tie in nicely with some of the gifts I've bought LB this Christmas.

These copper glitter dots, should also come in handy for Christmas wrapping.

These were the Christmas wrapping and tissue papers that I bought, one of which matches one of the gift bags. (Sorry, it's hard to make out the designs because of camera glare, but the one on the left has flowers and figs on it and the one next to it, fir branches on a dark pink background.

The copper geometric paper is one that can also be used year round for birthday and other gifts.

I also bought these cute crackers, that don't have any silly plastic gifts in them.  They just have some Xmas selfie props. I like the nutcracker designs too.

At least they're virtually completely recyclable.

Finally, apart from a standard Cadburys Advent calendar, I bought these two cardboard decorative stars, which at two for £1 were very inexpensive.

A few other items made it into my basket and almost but not quite through the till, including a very cute naughty elf, but I managed to resist at the last minute and left them at the till. He may come home with me another time.

I think I will definitely get the Christmas bags and boxes out of the loft now, so I don't spend any more money on things I probably already have plenty of.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

LB's Big Clearout

Last weekend was quite a productive one in a couple of ways.  I was busy at work and managed to get quite a few things done, despite shortages of volunteers and LB was busy at home sorting through everything in her bedroom and doing a mighty big declutter.

I was surprised when I got home on Saturday night to see that she'd amassed 5 black bin bags full of rubbish and a big trug full of items to donate. I was pretty impressed, but as always I do like to go through the black bags and make sure she's not throwing away things I might want to donate or keep. 

Having done so, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was actually very little to pull out and donate instead. She's obviously more careful these days and thinks more about whether things can be reused or sold on, which is good.

I did, however, pull out some of her old school books and magazines.  The magazines I mostly recycled as they were really old, but a few Beano and Dandy comics will get sent to the CS as they can be quite popular.

The half-used school books that she didn't want to keep, I have removed any blank pages to use as scrap paper for writing shopping lists. Here's a picture of the pile before:

And after:

It took a while to get through it and I've still got paper from the last time LB did a mass declutter and I did the same thing, but I just can't tolerate perfectly usable paper going into the bin. It should last me for years.  I just clip a bunch onto a bulldog clip and use it on a daily basis for list writing, then keep topping up as it gets used up.

There were a few other school books that I insisted she keeps, as they may be useful for revision later and a few others I kept for sentimental reasons, but the majority were decluttered.  The bin bags were be taken to the tip on Tuesday and her bedroom looks so much tidier and bigger now with so much taken out of it.  She did a really good job.

On Monday this week, I wasn't able to make it into work, as LB was unwell and OH was out at an appointment in the morning, so I spent the day going through her pile of items for donation.  I sorted them into three piles; Recycling, CS and Give & Take and stored them in the spare bedroom.  There's lots of books, a few items of clothing and toys/other items. 

I haven't totalled up how many items she's decluttered yet, I might do that job this weekend as I'm not working and there's another Give & Take tomorrow, so it should really help to boost my donated total this month and probably almost get me to the target for the year.  She's done me proud this year, as she has really decluttered a lot over the course of the year. I'm just happy that she's beginning to understand that less is more in many ways and I hope it will help her in the future.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Feeling Guilty

I'm feeling a little guilty as I write this.  I did a very petty thing today.

You have to understand, that I'm not a petty person generally.  I'm pretty easy going, would help anyone if I could, but sometimes, just sometimes, I get the feeling that I'm being taken for a ride, or in this instance, that OH is and I decided to stand up for us both.

For a good while now, due to OH working from home, we've been having parcels for both our neighbours and sometimes others in the street, delivered to us whilst they're out at work or just out.  They never warn us that they're expecting them and ask us would we mind taking them. They seem to just assume that it's okay to let the delivery men knock at our house, knowing my partner is likely to be in, and leave them with us.

It's happened a lot in the last six months and I've been getting a bit irritated by it, mainly because whenever we have a parcel coming and we're not in (which is rare, might I add, as we make sure one of us is in, if at all possible), they get sent to the Royal Mail depot and OH has to get up early and get there to collect them before a huge queue develops.

On one occasion, an item OH ordered a week before we went on holiday but never came, was subsequently left on the doorstep for someone to steal, which they did, incidentally! Anyway, the worst occasion in recent weeks, was when in the same day, we were given one parcel for one neighbour, two for the other and our Royal Mail parcel ended up at the depot!

It's one of those irritating consequences of internet shopping. Yes, it's very convenient to have your shopping delivered to your home, but if you're going to do so, make sure you're going to be in.  If you are going to be out at work, have some manners and ask your neighbour if they don't mind receiving it or why not just click and collect?  There are plenty of shops around here that facilitate the picking up of parcels on the way home. I know because I've used them, to avoid inconveniencing anyone else.

It doesn't seem to cross anyone's mind or make them feel guilty that OH might be busy working in his business, often concentrating on complex drawings, and he has to interrupt his work or lunch to answer the door to take charge of their shopping.

Anyway, today, I had a day off, OH was out at an appointment and I was getting down to business doing my WHB (Flylady speak for Weekly Home Blessing).  I was just starting work on the living room and I heard an engine switch off, and a knock next door. I waited, knowing that the next move would be to knock at our door and they did. I ignored them, they knocked again, I ignored them again and then they took the parcel across the road to someone else.

Now I did feel a bit mean, but delivery drivers are also to blame in this situation, as they rely on the good will of neighbours, sometimes on way too many occasions. In addition, many times, they don't even inform the neighbours that they've left the parcel with us, so they never come to collect it and we have to resort to chasing around after them to free ourselves from it, which is even more annoying.

I'm sorry, but it's just plain rude and I'm afraid my good will ran out today. I've been telling OH not to answer the door for a while, but he's too soft and always caves. I stood my ground today as a matter of principle. We're not some public convenience, there for everyone else to abuse.

You may think I'm unkind, so be it, but sometimes you have to make a stand, if only for your own peace of mind. I'm sure the neighbours won't even know that I refused to take their parcel, but if I do it often enough they and the delivery drivers might get the message and make their own arrangements.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Christmas Shopping

Well, now Bonfire Night has been and gone, we're in the run in to Christmas proper. As documented in other posts, I've been buying a few Christmas presents here and there over the last few months and I am pleased to say that LB's presents have now almost all been bought, bar a few bits from Lush, which I can pick up the next time I'm in the mall.

My focus now will be on OH's presents.  He is much more difficult to buy for, as he rarely wants anything, save for cycling clothing or equipment, which is very pricey and he's very particular.  I've already bought him quite a few smaller things, but the big ticket gifts he would like this year, a long sleeved cycling jersey and a new drill, are the main things I now need to purchase.  I'm just waiting for him to research the exact ones he wants.

I've decided that for most of the other gifts I'm giving, I'm probably going to give vouchers or money, plus some sweets or consumables of some kind. Most are for teenagers (or adults who can be difficult to buy for), and if LB is anything to go by, they tend to just prefer money anyway, instead of things not of their choosing that they don't really want. This way, money and time don't get wasted and they have the fun of spending it however they want to after Christmas.

It probably sounds like a bit of a cop out, but I've put so much thought and effort in in past years and still felt like the gifts I bought didn't really hit the spot.  I just don't want to do it anymore. Besides, I myself don't want anything from anyone, so reducing the gifts I give, is a good way to reduce unwanted gifts coming back, or so I'm hoping.

Lets face it, although it's nice to receive gifts, if there's anything I want, I just buy it for myself these days and I'm much pickier than I used to be about beauty products I'll use, so quite often I  recycle unwanted gifts by (discretely) re-gifting things, if I'm not likely to use them.  It all seems such a ridiculous waste at times.

Anyway, I'm now more than halfway through the £100 Xmas budget for this month, so maybe only one of OH's gifts will get bought this month and the rest will have to wait until December, but I'm hoping you won't find me madly trawling the shops at the last minute. I'm hoping that I'll more likely be serving those that do in the CS.

Talking about trawling the shops, today, I popped into Poundland for a couple of things and spent £21, mostly on Christmas wrapping/tissue paper/gift bags/decorations/fairy lights/crackers and an advent calendar for LB. They do have some quite nice items in there at the moment.  I probably should have got the wrapping paper out of the loft before I bought anymore, but I wanted some more modern paper for LB's gifts and they had some nice designs, so I bought some more anyway.

In future years, I'm going to take a leaf out of Flylady Diane's book and buy quite plain wrapping paper that can be used all year round and then jazzed up with Xmas ribbon or other decorations to make it more festive at Christmas. 

I also bought some digital advent calendars today, one for me and one each for my two sisters, from the Jacquie Lawson website.  That is my Xmas gift to myself and the two of them this year, as we don't generally buy one another gifts. I hope they'll enjoy them.  I intend to use and enjoy mine.

I'm starting to get a bit excited about Christmas now and feel a bit more festive. How are you feeling?

Friday, 3 November 2017

Donated - October 2017

After having such a good month last month on the decluttering front, I wanted to keep up the momentum throughout October, especially as I still need to declutter over 250 items to meet my yearly target of 1000 items and also because there's a couple of Give and Take days coming up locally in the next two months, so the more I can get out of the house, the better.

Here's my progress on the challenge this month:

1) One black PU rucksack - donated as replaced with a new grey one.
2) One pair of trainers only used for gardening - no longer needed, as I've demoted a couple of other pairs of boots to this job.
3) One glass bowl - no longer needed.
4-5) Two glass candle jars, one with lid - cleaned and donated.
6) One green recycling box - taken to the tip - damaged.
7) One door mat - taken to the tip - vomitted on by the dog!!! (and was also old and damaged)
8) One book - I've tried to read it but can't get into, so it has to go.
9) One new phone case - a duplicated present for LB last year, both OH and I bought it for her.
10)  One lovely virtually new pair of Joules tan brogues, probably the most uncomfortable pair of shoes I've bought in a long time.
11) One pair of slippers of OH's that he doesn't like.  I bought him a pair of croc type slip-ons from the CS to replace them, for when he needs to go out into the garden when the dog is being noisy.
12) One peg hanging clothes airer - replaced with a new one as several of the pegs had broken and it didn't hold as much washing as I needed it to.
13-23)  Eleven items of clothing donated by LB after a wardrobe declutter. (Some of which she later sold on DePop).
24) One black leather cross body bag I no longer use.
25-29) Four glass tumblers - I've recently bought some new ones from the CS to replace these.
30) One book - that I've read and am not keeping.
31) One pair of jersey harem pants repurposed and used as fabric yarn for making my rag rug.
32) One part used can of hair spray that I didn't like using.
33-36) Four magazines that I no longer need.
36-38) Three collectables that I decided to send to the CS.
39) One plant saucer that I don't have a use for.
40-57) Eighteen vintage collectables that I've decided to sell on eBay or donate.
58-60) Three old t-shirts I never wear.

As you can see, I didn't do quite as well this month as I did last month, but 60 is a reasonable amount of things to donate at this stage of the process, as the majority of  easy things to declutter have left the house.

When added to the total last month of 723 items, the total donated this year now stands at 783.  I now have two months to try to find the remaining 217 items to complete this annual challenge. I'm not sure if I'll be able to successfully do this, but I'll do my best and with a bit of help from LB who is having a major declutter of her bedroom this weekend, I might just be able to reach the magic 1000 figure by the end of the year.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Monthly Roundup - October

This month has been pretty disastrous on the spending front in most areas and I can't blame anyone but myself, as I've just relaxed my attitude once again, after so long being on a tight budget in order to pay off my overdraft. I didn't actually go into the red again, but I do have a smallish credit card balance to pay off next month. I have, however, had the expense of paying for LB's Duke of Edinburgh award this month, which at £220 wasn't cheap and made a dent.

Most of the budgets were over spent this month as follows:

My Personal budget of £25 was over spent by £143.09. (Hmm, yes, I did treat myself to a few new clothes.)  I promised myself that I'd spend £100 on clothes for myself once I'd paid off my debts, but I spent a bit more than this amount, mainly on some basics such as two pairs of jeans, a sweater, socks, a new coat, a new nightdress, new t-shirts and new gym clothes to replace some pretty worn out ones.

The most I spent on any one item was £20, which I don't think is extreme. These things should keep me going for a good while. I don't really feel like I need to buy anything else now and working with clothes at the CS, I don't feel that inclined to shop for them when I'm not at work these days. Besides, with Christmas on the horizon, there's now no room in the budget for much else.

LB's budget of £25 went over again by £48.72, mainly due to buying her some new underwear, pyjamas and a few items of clothing, plus some toiletries and giving her some cash during the month for spending money and gifts for friends birthdays.

Again, I promised myself I'd spend at least £100 on clothes for LB, once I'd paid off my overdraft.  I need to spend at least another £50 on her in the coming months, but there's not too much she needs at the moment. I'll probably wait until the January sales and spend the money on her then, as she'll get more for it.

The Household budget of £50 went over by £33.19, mainly due to buying a few make up products for me this month and other extra toiletries for other family members. Everything else I spent was the usual dog, household and toiletry products that I buy every month. 

The Xmas budget I set this month of £60 went over by £51.14 this month, which was mainly due to buying a pair of trainers that LB wants for Xmas, using a 15% off birthday voucher from ASOS. I figured I might as well use the discount now, than let it go to waste and pay the full price nearer Xmas. I also found a couple of Xmas present bargains that were too good to ignore, or were offers that might not arise again before Xmas. Next month this budget goes up to £100, followed by a rise to £200 in December.

The Home budget went over by £1.21. I did, however, manage to replace a few things that needed replacing this month, namely some drinking glasses, the replacements for which I got from the CS, a whisk, a sink tidy and some other bits and pieces that will come in very useful.

The Miscellaneous budget of £50 was over by £2.59. A few small gifts needed to be bought this month here and there, which comprised the main expenditure here, plus a coffee out with friends, which was a rare treat.

The Food budget of £400 was over by £22.66. No excuses here, I just wasn't adhering to the budget as well as I should be.

The only budget that came under was the Travel budget for work of £60, which came under by £15, which is surprising considering that I worked and travelled on several extra days in my Manager's absence.  Perhaps this budget is set a little high, but I'd rather that than too low.

A slightly more relaxed month in terms of spending, but I can't afford to continue in this vein and need to rein it back in next month, especially with Christmas around the corner.  I'm hoping to go back to minimal spending and stick to my budgets next month.  We'll see how that goes!!!

On the positive side financially, I did start to put some money aside for LB's college fund this month, i.e £50 and I will continue to do so every month from now on.

In addition, from next month, I will also be contributing to the pension scheme at work, which will set me back around £100 per month, but as my employer pays in another £60 or so, this seemed too good to miss out on. I definitely have a large hole in terms of my work pension, due to staying at home with LB for the past 14 years, so I need to do something to help fill it now that I'm working and earning again.

Hoping for a better month next month, I hope your financial month was a good one.