Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Buy Nothing New For Me Challenge - January

Okay, so it's been an interesting month. I knew this was going to be a difficult challenge for me. I like shopping, and now I'm working, I do like to treat myself a bit more. (Well, a lot more actually and this was part of the problem).

I think I more or less have everything I need at the moment and I can't say that I want for anything in particular, but there is always something that causes me to twitch and in this, the first month of this new challenge, it was a book.  This book:

I bought it from a local Charity shop in December for £2.50. The New Year came around and as usual, I wanted to start the year reading a book that could inspire me, so I picked up this book to read.  Malcolm Gladwell wasn't an author I was familiar with, but the cover notes appealed to me.

Well, what a book! Three quarters of the way through it and thoroughly enjoying it, I hit upon a chapter about plane crashes, of all things. Well, it just really blew my mind and that was it. I was on eBay buying three other titles by the same author. I just couldn't help myself.

Granted, they were all pre-owned books, offering free postage and totalled less than £9 in total outlay, but I still broke with the challenge, albeit not strictly according to the wording, as they aren't new, but they are new to me. I've already read one of the three, which was quite interesting and am looking forward to reading the other two at some point this year.

Anyway, it's done and I'm not going to beat myself up about it, because I consider books like this to be an educational investment, so I'm just going to enjoy reading them.

Here are the three books I bought:

I did actually buy a few other non-consumable items this month, most of which were from the CS where I work. The things that weren't from the CS  included a new salad spinner from Poundland (£2),  (ours was getting a little bit old and manky - it gets a lot of use) a cushion from ASDA (£7)- a birthday present for LB, to decorate her bedroom and some more coat hangers from Primark (£4) for LB, as she didn't have enough to hang all of her clothing. Luckily, I'd already bought most of her birthday presents before this challenge began.

The other items I bought this month include the following:

From the CS - I bought one jigsaw puzzle (£2.99) (new and unused and probably an unwanted Xmas gift) and six pairs of new socks, (£5.95) which I'm going to give to OH for his birthday in May. A lovely 2018 Eric Ravillious calendar (£2.99) for the living room, a phone holder cuff (£1.99) to wear at the gym, so that I can use my phone's pedometer to record my steps when I'm doing classes. I also bought an inflatable neck pillow (£1.99) (also new and unused) that I will use on our trip to NYC next month and some heavily (70%) reduced Xmas items (£4) that were in the shop sale to use next year.

From eBay - I bought a few things in an attempt to spend some Paypal monies in my business account before I close it.  These included a silicone cover for my new phone (£1.28), a felt phone case for my new phone (£1.55) and a hi-vis cover for my backpack (£3.95) for when I'm riding my bike to and from the bus stop on dark mornings and at night on the way home.  There was also the bedside cabinet (£15) I bought on eBay too, of course.

Not a perfect start to the challenge, but better than I thought it was going to be and most of the items were pretty small and I would say important, for reasons of safety, health or prevention of damage to things (including me).

For the most part, I didn't really miss going to shops other than mainly supermarkets this month, and in fact when I did visit the mall to take care of some business at the bank, I couldn't wait to get out of there. I just didn't want to go into any of the shops at all, but I realise that I do need to be careful not to overcompensate and spend too much in the CS (and on eBay) instead and also overspend in other consumable budgets such as household/food, etc.  I guess at least what I am spending in the former is going to a good cause and doing some good and the latter will get used up eventually. If everyone just stopped spending money, then the country would be in a pickle, so a bit of expenditure is ok.

Talking of which, the book I'm currently reading does suggest that money needs to keep moving in order to do good in the world, so reading that did make me feel a little better. More about the book in question in another post.

Hopefully, next month I will be a bit more successful on this new challenge.  I think I've developed a definite habit of spending money that is harder to break than I imagined. I'll keep trying though. Practice makes perfect after all.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Free 250 in 2018 - January

I've previously talked about how after three consecutive years of decluttering 1000 things from our house, that I don't think I'll be able to find so many more unwanted items to donate this year, so I have set my yearly total for this ongoing challenge at 250 items in 2018.  I'm calling this challenge my Free 250 in 2018 challenge, as intend to set free another 250 items into the universe, where they will hopefully be taken up and put into use by someone else.

Here's the list of items being set free this month:

1) One plastic storage box - no longer needed, as I downsized my fabric collection in December. (You know you're getting somewhere when these start to leave the house)
2) One rucksack whose interior pocket zip broke. (Sounds like a poor excuse, but this pocket fulfils a very important function for me on a daily basis, so I needed a bag with a zip that works)
3-12) 10 Christmas decorations, culled when I put everything away at the beginning of the month.
13) One PU purse that quickly became a bit scruffy - I went back to using an old leather purse instead, which seems to stay in better condition, despite regular use.
14-15) Two handmade cushion covers that I replaced when I made some new ones earlier in the month.
16-18) Three cushion inserts that are no longer needed.
19) One necklace of LB's that she no longer wants to keep.
20) One bunch of new and unused window envelopes that I just don't use.
21) One coat that is now surplus to requirements.
22) One bottle of orchid mister - I've given up on keeping orchids, I seem to kill them every time.
23) One pair of ankle boots sent to be recycled.
24) One crossbody bag I no longer want to keep.
25) One salad spinner, a bit old but still working.
26) One double quilt cover and matching pillow cases.
27) One fitted valance sheet.
28) One rag rug.
29) One t-shirt mangled by the washing machine, that will be cut up and used as yarn for my knitted rag rug. (which I'm making very little progress with)
30) One book sold on eBay.
31) One hole filled pair of OH's socks sent for recycling.

A pretty good start to the year considering the reduced number of items in this year's challenge.  Having said this, it seems to me, that every time I look around my house, there's still just way too much stuff in it. Hopefully, this means there are many more things I can donate or sell this year to reach or possibly even exceed the target.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Make £2,018 in £2018

After reading a post on Money Saving Expert the other day, in which Martin Lewis was encouraging readers to earn/save an extra £2018 in 2018, I decided that I might give it a try and see how I get on. 

In my particular version of the challenge, I'm counting any money saving/earning measures that I might take this year and how much they actually save/earn me, so if I use a voucher on a normal shop or a specific necessary purchase, I'll include the saving that arose by using the voucher. 

Similarly, if I sell something on eBay, I'll include the financial gain after fees and postage have been taken into account.

It is my intention to post monthly with the results of my efforts to show my progress in this challenge, so here's my January post. (Despite the fact I only started the challenge on the 26th of the month).

1) I saved myself an annual credit card fee of £32 by cancelling my business credit card this month.

2) I saved myself £55 in bank charges for the year on my business account, when I closed it this month, as it's no longer financially viable to use it.

3) I sold a book on eBay that was a Christmas gift, but not quite what I expected and wasn't something that I wanted to keep. It earned me £4.27 after fees/postage deducted.

Total saved/earned this month - £91.27 - not a bad start.

In a more concerted effort to get on board with this challenge, I have listed a number of items on eBay, whilst there was an offer on to only pay fees when you sell. This saved me quite a bit of money in listing fees and as can be seen above one item did sell within a couple of days. Hopefully, more of the items I listed will sell in the next few weeks and I'll have some more money to add to next month's total.

Wish me luck with this one, as it might be a tricky one and if anyone else wants to join me, please feel free.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Some Cleaning and a New Addition to the Bedroom

By day three of my four days off, I was starting to feel a lot more energetic.  OH had headed off up to Yorkshire on the train, and I headed off to a Zumba class at the gym.

I popped to the bank after my class to hand in the letter to close my business account, nipped into the Post Office to post my sister's birthday card and then on the way home I spotted something in a second hand furniture store that set me on another path.

I recently decided that I'd like a proper bedside cabinet, and ideally one to match our main bedroom furniture which is solid oak and from Habitat. There were a pair listed on eBay, but they were already bid up to £80 and they were out in Surrey somewhere.

Passing the second hand furniture shop, I saw a bedside cabinet from the IKEA Malm range, which matches some other pieces of furniture in our bedroom, so I thought that it might be a better solution, but priced at £25, it seemed quite expensive for the condition it was in.

When I got home I looked in the IKEA catalogue to find that new it would cost £40, but I didn't really fancy putting it together myself, so I took another look on eBay and found one reasonably locally. I offered £15, which was accepted and I just had enough out of the residue in my business account to pay for it.  I arranged to pick it up the same night.

The main reason I wanted a bedside cabinet, was to free up the small shelf that I found on the street and painted, as I wanted to use it in the kitchen for my kitchen office.  Having wound down my business, I don't need to keep so much downstairs by the kitchen table anymore, so this was the perfect choice for this spot, as it holds everything I need and also frees up space around the table.

Also, it's not visible from the door as you enter the kitchen, so it creates a much less cluttered look as you walk in, which is all good when I'm attempting to simplify things at home.

Before picking up the item, I decided to do a big clean of the kitchen, which was long overdue. It felt so much better to get on top of things in this room, as I just haven't had much time or inclination to do any cleaning lately.

The next day, I had the whole day free to clean and do laundry.  Apart from dog walks, I had nothing else planned.  The first job was to clean the cabinet I'd collected the night before. Once I'd done that, I decided to start the cleaning in our bedroom, so that I could put it in there.

It fitted perfectly by my side of the bed and neatly stores away all of the books I'm currently reading. It's not in perfect condition, but I was really pleased with it. It feels more grown up and resolved and most of my stuff is hidden in the drawers instead of being visible so it's easier on the eye.

I continued cleaning through most of the rest of the upstairs and by the end of the day, I'd got to grips with a reasonably large part of the house.  The rest I will have to tackle on Sunday/Monday, when I'm next off work.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 2018 - January

After starting these posts last year, I've decided to make these posts a regular fixture on my blog, but I am going do just one post every month from here on in.  So here's the post for January.

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) After coming back to London, this January I stayed out of the shops and sales and off the websites I usually visit, (save for the shop I work in) and as a consequence didn't spend too much money on unnecessary impulse purchases.

2) I received more dividends from the shares I bought last year, which all adds to my monthly passive income total.  I also received some shareholder money off vouchers from M&S. I may try to use some of these, (the ones for food/flowers or the ones to use in the cafĂ©) but others (home and clothes) I might struggle to use on my no spend year unless I use them to buy things for LB, OH or the house. In any case, they don't kick in until next month and last until the end of July, so there's plenty of time yet.

3) OH changed our car insurance provider to save money this month and due to the fact that some points had finally disappeared off his licence and I'm now working, we got a better rate and saved over £100.

4) I stocked up on a few extra beauty items from My Pure whilst ordering a new face cream and dental floss, in order to benefit from free postage, 10% discount and a free gift. All of the items are things I use daily and I prefer to have a spare available to me, due to the fact that I buy most of my natural beauty products online and then have to wait for them to be delivered if I run out.

5) I moved some money out of a very low interest paying account into a higher one to help increase passive income from savings and investments and then requested a transfer of some Isa savings into a higher interest paying Isa account.

6) I cancelled my business credit card and wrote to the bank to close my business bank account to stop incurring the charges when I'm not really using it very much.

Frugal Fails

1) I didn't get so much use out of my gym membership this month, as I had to work quite a few of the days I would normally go to classes.  A bit annoying, but I can't do anything about it, so I just have to suck it up and just go when I can.

2) OH left the dog's collar out in the garden and a fox ran off with it, so we needed to buy a new one this month.

3) My new PU rucksack, bought from Primark before Christmas, and only used for one week has shed three teeth from it's main zip, rendering it virtually useless, as the zip now sticks when I try to close it.  I shredded the receipt before we went away at Christmas and in any case it was probably bought more than 28 days ago. Another example of my buying cheap and buying twice.  Luckily, I already have another bag I can use (not from Primark).  The next time I buy a bag, I'm going to spend more money and get a better quality one.

4) I did make some purchases at the CS and in a couple of other shops this month.  Mainly small very practical things for travel, gym or home use, plus a couple of preowned books and some other items from eBay to use up my business Paypal balance. I tried to stick to things on my wish list that I definitely need, not just want.  Not the best start to my no buy year, but I figure the habit of not buying stuff is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you exercise it, so hopefully by the end of the year, I'll be better at it.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Winding Things Down

Today, I decided it was time to wind down my small business that I've been running on eBay for the last few years.  I've hardly been trading for a while now, and I just can't justify spending money on business banking charges and business credit card fees, when I'm not earning hardly any money. I'm just giving money away to the bank.

A quick phone call to cancel my business credit card saved me a £32 annual fee, which I think is due next month and a quick letter written to the bank to close my bank account, should finalise things, once I've photocopied it and posted it off.  That should save me another £50 this year in monthly charges on my account.

It's something I've been meaning to do for a year or so now.  I let the website domains lapse too, although I never did get around to building a website. In all honesty, it's a relief to be done with it. I will just have one more tax return to file next year and then I'll be back to the good old PAYE system.

The credit cards have been cut up, and I've gone ahead and spent some of the money sitting in my business PayPal account on a few bits that I have been watching for a while with a view to buying. There's still a few pounds in there, but I'll wait for some eBay fees to come out before spending those and closing the account.

The final thing will be to close my business eBay account, which I will do once I've received all of the items I have just bought.  I've already removed the only listing I had active and relisted it on my personal eBay account, which is where I'll be active on eBay from now on.

It's the end of an era, but I did enjoy the experience of setting it all up, learning how to sell as a business, keep accounts and file tax returns, etc., but I'm over it now and want life to return to the simplicity I experienced before.

I should receive a small amount of money left in my business banking account, after it is finally closed, which I've asked them to transfer to my current account. I'm trying to consolidate things and really simplify my business and personal finances this year. Less cards in my purse, less accounts to manage. It's an ongoing process that I hope to be finished with in a few months time.

I requested a transfer of some Isa savings today into a new Isa account that pays more interest. I also requested a copy of my pin for one of my credit cards. As a consequence of not remembering the pin number, I could only use the card for online shopping and I received a letter this morning telling me that if I didn't activate a new card they'd sent me by the end of the month, I would need to close the account.  I was tempted to do that, but this particular card is one I can pay online, whereas my other credit card doesn't allow me to pay it online, so I prefer the convenience of the former.  I may yet cancel the latter and just manage with one card. That would make a lot of sense now I'm shopping a lot less.

Anyway, I'm slowly getting there, bit by bit. I guess that sometimes we complicate our lives, and then uncomplicating them takes time and effort. Hopefully, the effort will be worth it in time and money saved, extra interest earned and more simple and easy to manage finances eventually.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Financial Filing

Yes, it's that time of year again, i.e Tax Return time, and for the last three days, I've been getting my financial affairs in order.

The first and most pressing job was my tax return, which I've all but completed.  I just need to confirm one last section before I file it and then pay my voluntary National Insurance contribution, which I began doing last year when it first became possible to do so at the same time as filing your tax return.

Last year, after paying my NI contributions, I didn't actually receive any confirmation that it had been received, so this year I rang the NI offices to find out if they had received it, before making another payment.  It turns out that they did receive the payment, but only credited me with 3 weeks worth of credit for the year.  As I speak, they should be trying to sort it out for me and I should receive some confirmation by post in the near future, of what has gone on.

A very nice lady at the NI offices did advise me to open a personal tax account on HMRC's website, which I didn't realise you could do, in order to track my NI contributions in future.  On her advice, I did so and it makes it so easy to check how much NI you have paid to date, how much you need to pay to qualify for a full pension, etc., so I will be using it more regularly in future.

Once I'd taken care (or almost) of the tax return, I set about preparing next year's accounts too, up until the current time.  This makes it so much quicker when January comes around, as it is mostly already done, with just a few months worth of figures to add to complete it.

I also carried out a year's worth of financial filing.  I'm kind of organised, but I don't file my statements away each month, instead I store them all in a file box and when the time comes to do my Tax Return, I sort them into date order and file them away. Don't ask me why I use this system, but I do and it works, but it means that in January I have to have a good sort out and get on top of everything.

Having done these tasks, I then decided to do a bit more financial juggling.  If you've read my posts in the past year, you'll know that I'm now out of debt and living in the black and have been trying to increase any income I receive on savings by moving things around to get the best interest rates possible. 

I'd done this with some savings and am now getting better returns, but there were still some accounts that were barely earning any interest at all, one of the main ones being a building society account I opened over 10 years ago, to pay some share dividends into. These long held shares now mostly pay dividends directly into this account, so I need to keep it open if only for this purpose, but there was a sum of £1000 or so in there that was earning 0.1% interest, which was diabolical.  This equated to £1 per year. I knew I could do better elsewhere.

Today, I decided to remove most of this sum into my current account, from where I will decide the best place to invest it.  It may make a temporary move to another account before reaching it's final destination in a few months time, where it will be earning more than where it originally was.

I've been meaning to do this task for a while, but just never got around to trudging down to the building society to do it.  Now it's done, I can move it around via internet banking, from the comfort of my own home. It was just as well I did it really, as in the process, I discovered that the account was still registered at my old address, where I lived over 10 years ago, so I was able to update my records at the same time, bringing the account bang up to date.

Over the next few months, I will be doing a bit more juggling of savings, as certain short term interest rate deals expire, in order to get the best interest rates I can going forward and hopefully will continue to increase any passive earnings I am making on my savings and investments in doing so.

Tracking this passive income, is something I started to do back in May after reading a  financial advice type book that talked about how to do it and I'm happy to say that my passive income has almost doubled since then. It's still a very small sum and is a very long way from being enough to live off, but just knowing that I'm doing what I can to increase it on a monthly basis, is very encouraging and motivating too. When it reaches a sum that I can comfortably life off, barring any financial disasters, I should be financially independent, so this is definitely something worth doing to propel me towards and keep me focused on this goal.

So, it's been a busy few days and I have a couple of other tasks that I need to investigate once I finish writing this post, one of which is to try to minimise my gym membership payments, by possibly changing to a different type of monthly membership which could halve my payments.  I'll keep you posted with progress on this one.

Are you making any financial changes this year?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A Birthday Saturday

I wasn't working at all this weekend, which was a bonus, especially as it was LB's 15th birthday this Saturday.  She had arranged a meet up for a bunch of her friends in a local park, so I bought them some snacks and drinks to enjoy whilst they were there.

She seemed to enjoy the presents that I'd bought her, and the rest of her present from both OH and myself was money.  As a teenager, she much prefers to get money to spend how she wishes, than things, which is all good.

We've booked a week in New York at half term in February.  We've wanted to take her for ages, but never got around to booking it.  OH has booked our flights and we're supposed to be staying in an apartment belonging to someone he knows through work, although we'll be sharing it during working hours, as it is currently being used as an office. 

This will be a bit weird, but we'll probably mostly be out and about sightseeing anyway and alternative accommodation in New York is astronomically expensive, and quite small by comparison.  If the worst comes to the worst and we don't like the arrangement, we could always book a hotel for a few days when we get there. I'm just hoping that the weather isn't so bad that our flights are cancelled either way or that it will be impossible to get around once there.

As a consequence of the above, LB is very excited.  She's getting her birthday money in dollars, which also has the added advantage of preventing her from spending it before we go. She can't wait to go thrift shopping in NYC and I'd be very interested in visiting a few thrift stores myself out of curiosity.

Saturday morning we took LB out for brunch at a local restaurant, on her own request. The afternoon she spent with her friends and then theyof them came back to our house to hang out later and have a piece of her cute birthday cake, that I bought from ASDA. She's just now taking an interest in vinyl, but loves music, so this was perfect.

On the way back from the restaurant, I made a point of dropping into a couple of local green grocers, to buy most of our fruit and veg for this week, in an attempt to cut down on the plastic waste I usually accrue at the supermarkets. I should do this every week, but I've got into the terrible habit of the convenience of one or two stop shopping at big name and value supermarkets. It's a habit I really need to break this year, for things such as fruit and veg anyway, as they are packaged in so much plastic these days, that it is obscene. I did go out to the supermarkets later to get the rest of our shopping.

With the grocery shopping done for another week, I settled in for the afternoon to finish emptying the ironing basket, which had built up since we went away at Christmas.  It felt so good to get it up to scratch and feel on top of things again. The same can't be said for the cleaning, but I may do some tomorrow before I go back to work on Monday.

I'm not sure if I'm going to the gym tomorrow, as the system for booking has changed and I didn't get a place this week.  You can now book 20 days ahead instead of 7, so all classes get booked up and the waiting list, which used to bump you up into a class dependent on where you were on it, is now a complete free for all, which makes it virtually impossible to book a place when one becomes available. 

It's a real mess, worse than before. I can't understand why they introduced it.  Probably because of a few complainers.  Let them suffer the consequences, is what I say, and they will if they're not on it when it comes to booking 3 weeks ahead. Crazy. Now everyone will just book everything for three weeks and cancel as necessary, and then let the unlucky rest fight it out for the places that crop up due to cancellations.  So stressful.

It really has made me think seriously about cancelling my membership, but I'll hang on for a while and see if it all dies down after the January rush to the gym.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Life Afloat

I've been meaning to write this post for months, but I had to wait until I had a phone that had a decent camera, that also made it easy to upload photos.  Having got a new camera for Christmas from OH, I decided to get on with it.  So here goes.

One of my favourite pastimes when I'm walking the dog along the canal near where we live, is to see the different types of boats that people make into homes here in London. They are so varied in size, shape, type, age, etc.

Some are very short, compact and bijou to put it politely.

Some are incredibly long.

Some are just strange.

The orange one is a kind of small submarine type vessel. 

(Apologies for the finger over the lens here and the fact that I didn't zoom in - I hadn't worked out how to use it at this point.)

Some look like pleasure crafts of various kinds.

(Here's our little dog)

Some look like tug boats.

Many are traditional canal boats, of course. (Some with very cute names and side hustles)

Some are narrow, as is traditional on the canals, hence the name narrowboat.

Others are much wider and barge like, allowing much more living space.

There are quite a few very ramshackle affairs.
(I forgot to photograph any of these)

But some are very slick minimal hipster conversions, complete with shiny stainless steel, solar power and modern paint jobs.

I am constantly amazed at the diversity and resourcefulness of those who live their lives afloat on the canals of London, and due to the licensing laws of the canals, many of them have to move every two weeks. As a consequence, a regular stream of different boats appear all year round, creating an endless supply of fascinating tiny homes to observe.

I think I probably view life afloat through slightly rose tinted spectacles.  I'm sure it's cold and damp in the winter, but to me, the smell of wood smoke gives the impression of them being cosy and warm, with no room to keep lots of clutter.

Do you see canal boat homes where you live?

Monday, 8 January 2018

Back to Basics

On Saturday, I finally took down the Christmas tree and decorations. I seem to be reluctant at both ends of Christmas, reluctant to put up the decorations and reluctant to take them down. I'm sure I'll get used to the bareness of the house within a few days, but I miss those twinkly lights, making the room feel cosy.  Maybe I should keep a set back to use all winter.

Luckily, it's LB's birthday next weekend, so a few cards about the place will fill up the room a bit more.

Anyway, the decorations are back into the three or four storage bags, one for wrap, one for wreaths, one for decorations and one for the tree.  I did manage to declutter a few more items whilst I was packing everything away, which is all good.

I was reading somewhere the other day how if you want to be eco friendly, you should stop using plastic trees. It really didn't make any sense to me. 

If you've already got a plastic tree, why throw it out and stop using it.  Surely it's more eco friendly to continue to use it and then you wouldn't need to ever buy another or a real one.  Besides, many Charity shops (like ours) don't actually accept Christmas trees in January, as they don't want to give room to them for a year, before anyone is likely to buy them. So, despite preferring a real tree, I'm going to keep our artificial one and continue to use it, whatever anyone says.

After reading a great post on Where the journey takes me about re-using Christmas cards, I cut up those cards that seemed to make good Christmas gift tags and put them with my wrapping paper ready for next year. Here's a couple of pictures of the ones I made. 

A bit of a mixture, but I'm sure they'll look great on gifts with a bit of added ribbon.

After a quick dust and hoover around, it's like Christmas never happened. Oh well, I'm sure it will come round again soon enough. Best get on with 2018 now.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

My New Phone

Anyone who's read my blog for a while, will probably know, that I'm a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology.  In an attempt to bring me into the modern age, OH bought me a new phone this Christmas. It's the same brand as my previous phone, but with a much better and more current operating system (if that's the right term to use).

It's a very nice phone, but I don't know if I'll make good use of it's potential.  It has, however, caused me to get to grips with a few new apps, which is a good thing. I've joined What's App, which is very useful for contacting LB when I need to. I feel like I've finally joined the party, although I don't really know what to do with myself now I'm there, if you know what I mean.

I've also signed up to Castbox, which is an app for listening to podcasts. I came across it after watching a new favourite YouTuber Gillian Perkin's video on Android apps that she uses. It's working for me and I've subscribed to lots of interesting podcasts that I can now listen to on the bus to or from work.

Yesterday, saw me listening to the end of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Gretchen Reuben and then another with Cheryl Strayed, author of that wonderful book I read a couple of years ago, Wild. Very entertaining on the bus journey to the shop.

I'm know I'm going to really enjoy indulging in this new activity, as it will provide a little pocket of me time on my commute, which should make the journey pass a little quicker uses my commuting time more efficiently too.

Other than this and the fact that I've downloaded a pedometer app, so I don't need to buy another one, I don't know if it the phone is going to change my life too much. Although, having a camera whose pictures are easier to download should make life easier, and I'm looking forward to using that more now that I have it.

Are you like me and need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the present day when it comes to technology?

Friday, 5 January 2018

Making Again

Yesterday afternoon, after bemoaning the fact to other bloggers that I hadn't done any work on any creative projects for a while or really done much at all with my time whilst on annual leave, I decided that there was no time like the present and headed up to my sewing room.

It's still full of Christmas stuff at the moment, namely the Christmas decoration boxes which are waiting to be refilled, once I get around to take down the decorations. In spite of this, I was still motivated to get on and start a project that I'd been meaning to do for at least 6 months, namely making some new cushion covers for the living room.

I have so much fabric and decided that after four years or so with the same cushion covers, it was time for a change.  I'd picked out some suitable fabrics and put them aside and I finally got them out and started work.

I didn't intend to finish the covers that day, but after completing a couple, I decided to just carry on and make the other two that I needed.  They're not perfect (far from it), but they will freshen up the living room as we move towards spring.  The print on the fabric is a tulip print, which seemed appropriate, and the colours are pretty. 

I made envelope style covers, as I didn't have any co-ordinating zips and didn't want to spend any money on the project or have to go out to get any. After having mismatched cushions in this room for years, they are all now co-ordinated which feels a lot more grown up.

Whilst I was at it, I also decided to make a new cover for the footstool, that would tie in with the new cushion covers, as it was previously covered in the same fabric as the old cushion covers.  I decided not to use the same cushion fabric this time, as it had a cream background that could get dirty easily and the footstool cover isn't removable, it's sewn on.

Instead, I used some of this dark navy print velvet fabric that I've had in my stash for years and which used to part of some old curtains that I purchased second hand.  I had heaps of it. It's nice and tactile and cosy for the winter months and shouldn't show up any dirt. (Fluff and dog hairs, but not dirt!) In addition, I won't necessarily have to make another one should I replace the cushion covers again.

I now just need to make a new runner to co-ordinate. A pretty productive and frugal afternoon, whereby I get a bit of a new look in the living room, without spending any money.  Result.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Feeling Ready

I'm still on two weeks' leave from the CS and I have to say that I'm not really making the most of my time off.  I just don't seem to have any motivation to do much at all. It's not necessarily a bad thing.  I view it as a sign that my mind and body maybe just need the rest and I'm letting them lead the way.

It's quiet here in London, I don't think everyone has returned following the holidays, especially where I live. There's hardly anybody about, which in some ways is nice, especially on those days when I go out with the dog and don't want to see or speak to anyone.

I did do a bit of cleaning yesterday, mainly in the kitchen, which made me feel a bit better.  I'm feeling very reluctant to take down the Christmas decorations though.  They make the living room feel cosy and I'm not looking forward to how sparse the room will look once they're gone. I'll probably leave it until Saturday and do the Twelfth Night clear up. OH, can't wait, he's looking forward to it.

I've been having some gastric problems too since New Year's day.  I think my body might be telling me to stop eating red meat, as the issues seem to occur when I've eaten it. I virtually cut it out altogether last year and have subsequently relapsed, so I need to try to cut down again.  It's difficult when other people in the household enjoy eating it and I don't want to get into making different meals for different people.  As a consequence, I've been looking through recipe books this morning to get some ideas of things I can make and eat that will agree with my digestion more and that everyone will be willing to eat.

I did my first class of 2018 at the gym this morning, and felt a bit better as a consequence. I just need to shake off all of the Xmas overeating, which I vow not to do each year, but still continue to do and just get active again. I feel like a sloth. The last of the food gifts have now been eaten, so from here on in it should get better, providing I don't buy any unhealthy stuff in.

I officially start back to work on Sunday, which suits me as it's a short day. I am probably going to go in tomorrow for a few hours though and help with the backlog that's built up over Christmas.  It will be good to go in without any responsibility and find my feet again before I start back proper. I think I'm ready to get back on that particular horse and move forward with it again.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

My Try to Buy Nothing New Year in 2018

As the title of this post suggests, I think that I am going to attempt a big challenge in 2018, one that I'm not at all sure that I will be able to meet, but one that I will attempt non the less.

I am going to try to attempt to buy nothing new for myself this year and see how far into the year I get with it. I've read a few posts and watched a few videos towards the end of last year, where other people are doing similar things and these have inspired me to have a go.  At the moment, I want nothing and seriously need to start saving some money, so it should help me with these aims.

I think the excess of Christmas has also made me feel like exploring this kind of avenue and I felt particularly inspired by David's post on Raptitude.com, about going deeper not wider in 2018.

Of course, there will be lots of things that I will be buying new, i.e. groceries/household/toiletry products and other every day necessities, but I'm going to try to avoid buying anything new for myself that doesn't fall into these categories, unless I  get lucky and find something new in a Charity shop and thereby benefit a good cause.

I will still be buying new items as presents for other people, for birthdays and other celebrations, but even here, I will try to buy presents that are either consumable, so won't add to the number of items entering our or their house, or I will try to buy some things second hand or new from charity shops. If, however, someone wants something specific, I will be buying it new for them, as I don't feel it is fair to inflict my beliefs onto others.

In addition, one of my aims this year (with OH's help) is to redecorate our house, so any items I might need to buy in order to do this are also excepted from this challenge.

Lets see how far I get with this.  I will keep a record of all the items I do buy new and will post about them here on my blog to hold myself accountable. I'm not necessarily expecting to get through the whole of the year this way, but it will be interesting to see if I can last at least a month or two without feeling the twitch.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A Slow Start to the Year

Well, 2018 got off to a slow and relaxing start and I'm not complaining one bit. I started New Year's day pottering around, putting away Christmas gifts/items bought whilst we were away and just generally doing a little re-organising of the sewing room.  I managed to part with some more Christmas fabrics that I no longer want to keep or use too, which was a bonus.

I did some washing and laundry too, before getting myself ready to face the day. I did forget to have any breakfast though and as a consequence forgot to take my thyroid medication, which wasn't a great start, but I'll just take a little more for the next 3 days to make up for it.

I didn't do a whole lot for the remainder of the day, other than working on my personal finances, so that I could start the year off on a financially sound footing and taking down any old calendars ready to put up new ones.  A very gentle start to the New Year.

I do have lots of aims for this year, but I don't make resolutions any more. I just list the things I would like to have achieved by the end of the year.  It worked for me last year and I managed to achieve most of the items on the list, the ones that mattered most to me anyway.  Here are some of the items on this year's list:

Remain debt free and living within my means.
Declutter 250 items in 2018.
Continue to read at least 1 book per month.
Reduce online spending.
Save at least £150 per month.
Keep following the Flylady.
Take up Swing Dance - there's a class locally that I want to join.
Reduce cholesterol.
Reduce weight.
Redecorate/Improve House.
Save at least £50 per month into a college fund for LB.
Grow more food.
Buy less, want less, live more simply.

There are several more on the list, but some are a little more personal and I don't actually want to publish them in this post, but there's plenty in there to keep me busy, many of which were on the list last year and were accomplished or part-accomplished, and which I want to continue with or expand on this year.

Others may occur to me along the way too, so the list is not exhaustive and is open to amendments.

Today, has been pretty much in the same vein, save for the fact that I emptied the ironing basket and posted off something that I'd sold on eBay. I think I really just needed some down time, not actually doing anything, in order to recuperate from the last six months of working. I'm now starting to feel better and a lot more relaxed and once I've done a bit of cleaning and taken the decorations down, I think I'll feel ready to go back to work.

How did you start the New Year?

Monday, 1 January 2018

Donated - December

Well, it's the last month of the year, and according to my calculations at the end of last month, I still needed to declutter 97 items to reach the 1000 total I set myself at the beginning of 2017.

So, did I manage it?  Here goes:

1-2) Two old phone cases donated by LB.
3) One small satchel donated by LB.
4-8) Five items of clothing donated by LB.
9-16) Eight Christmas ornaments that I no longer wish to keep.
17) One kit to 'make your own' Christmas crackers that I'm not going to use.
18) One pack of Xmas cupcake boxes that I'll never use.
19) One Xmas cupcake stand that I'll never use and that came free with a magazine.
20-23) Four new and unused paper Xmas decorations that I bought in a sale a few years ago, but will probably never use. (As you can tell, I've been a bit ruthless with regard to the Xmas decorations - I just don't want to keep things any longer if I'm unlikely to use them)
24) One Xmas craft item that I bought very cheaply and never used.
25-33) Nine pieces of Xmas fabric that I no long want to keep and will never use.
34-35) Two individual Xmas cards that I bought in sales, but have never used.
36) One bottle bag I don't want to re-use but someone else might.
37) One lightweight sweater that I no longer want to keep.
38) One top I bought from the CS and don't for the life of me know why as it looks awful on.  Luckily it was only £2.99.
39) One gym t-shirt recycled for my rag rug.
40-55) Sixteen magazines I've read and don't want to keep.
56) One book I've read and don't wish to keep.
57-58) Two Christmas decorations I don't want.
59-61) Three pieces of underwear of LB's recycled for rags.
62) One pair of OH's socks recycled for rags.
63-65) Three unwanted gifts - I know this sounds ungrateful, but I believe in donating gifts I am not going to use, as they may be perfect for someone else, just not for me. Incidentally, I'm perfectly okay with people doing the same with gifts I've given them, if I've not chosen well.
66-70) Five gifted food items that were donated to the food bank, as we don't want to eat them.
71-73) Three hair clips - new but surplus to requirements.
74-85) Twelve part used or new toiletry/perfume items donated by LB that she doesn't use.  These will be taken to the next Give & Take, as they probably would be no use to a CS due to being part used.
86) One dressing gown of LB's which was replaced with a new one this Xmas.
87) One glittery nail varnish bought to use for Xmas, but which is virtually impossible to remove.
88) One jigsaw bought over the holidays, but not completed. It's not one I want to tackle again, and only cost £1.99, so is being donated.
89) One book I requested for Xmas, but just wasn't what I thought it was going to be.
90) One video that came free with some hair clippers. (Yes, a video - it's been sat in the box for years)
91) A part pack of tea lights I bought to use over Christmas, but which aren't very good, so I won't use the remainder.
92) One travel toothbrush case that no one uses.
93-98) Six unread books that I'm not going to read.

So, with a lot of help from LB this year (I couldn't have done it without her efforts), I did just manage to donate the 1000 things I challenged myself to donate in 2017. I know that I will struggle to be able to reach such a large total in 2018, as three consecutive years of decluttering have reduced the excess a lot, but I will still be setting myself a target to help me manage the amount of  stuff we have and bring into the house. As a consequence, a more realistic amount of 250 items will be the target next year.

I hope that if you have been trying to declutter items from your home this year, that you've had lots of success and are reaping the benefits of a more organised and tidy home.

Here's to keeping life even more simple in 2018.