Monday, 30 April 2018

Monthly Round Up - April

April has really flown past this year. As a consequence, I haven't spent nearly as much money during the month that I normally do, just a pretty basic month.  It feels so strange to have money left in my account at the end of the month, and not just a few pounds either.  It's unprecedented for me ever. I'm going to leave it where it is for now, as I do potentially have some plans for it when I'm ready.

Anyway, here's the breakdown of spending for the month of April:

The Food Budget of £400 was overspent by £63.85. The main reason for this is that I did next week's food shop early, because I didn't have the car to do the shopping on Sunday.  As a consequence, the cost of next week's grocery shop, which would ordinarily come under the May food budget, has been included in this month's budget. Aside from this, the vouchers from Tesco and Waitrose that I've used this month, have definitely helped on the grocery shopping front this month.

The Household budget of £50 went over as usual by £36.79 .  I don't ever seem to be able to keep this category within budget. Perhaps I need to increase the budget. If, on the other hand, I keep the budget low, at least I'm striving to keep my spending down in this category. This month's over expenditure was in part due to the fact that I spent more on dog food than was strictly necessary, by buying a few bags of our dog's favourite dry food towards the end of the month, whilst I was in a supermarket that sold it.  This should keep us going for a couple of weeks into next month though.

The Miscellaneous budget of £50 was also overspent by £11.25, mainly because of a treat I bought for the interns at work to thank them for their hard work during the shop Spring Clean.  I did buy a few things for the garden and allotment this month too, which was the largest area of expenditure in this category this month.

The Home budget was £21.89 overspent due to buying LB a new clothing rail, buying a new umbrella stand and a new bread bin from the CS for the kitchen when it's finished. OH also bought a new lampshade for my new living room lamp, which was good of him.

My Personal budget of £25 went over by £30.94, mainly on account of my end of the month retail therapy haul and buying quite a few pieces of make up during the month.  I did also buy myself a new silver ring and a book from a CS this month and a few bits and pieces from Primark (T-shirts, socks, etc).

My Travel budget for work was slightly underspent this month. Although the full £40 was put on my Oyster card, I did end the month with a positive balance on it to carry over into May.

Finally, LB's budget of £25 remained completely unspent this month. I didn't class the £10 spent on the clothes rail as coming out of her budget, as it was more of a home expenditure.

As you can see from the figures, it's been a spendy ish month, but in spite of that, I've lowered my expenditure by over £100 compared to last month, so I'm pretty happy on the whole with my progress. I'm gradually finding it easier to practice not spending money as time goes on, save for on what I consider to be necessary things.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Sunday Morning Markets

This Sunday, I didn't go to the gym as I usually do.  OH had taken the car to go to a cycle race, so I cancelled my class and decided to take it easy instead.  I rarely miss a Sunday class, so it was a treat not to go.

Rather than just stay at home, I decided to head out to Columbia Road Flower Market with LB.  She often likes to go to nearby Brick Lane on a Sunday morning, so I managed to persuade her to come with me by promising to buy her lunch from the infamous Brick Lane bagel shop.

We hopped on a bus which took us pretty close to the Flower Market. As always, the flower market was packed.  We didn't walk down the centre, past all of the flower stalls, as flowers weren't my reason for going.  Instead, we snuck down the back of the stalls, to where the small shops are near the old dairy yard.  It was here that I'd seen something that I needed many months ago, when I last visited.

The item I was looking for was this wicker umbrella stand for our downstairs hallway/vestibule.

We've been using this metal 1950's version for several years now, and although it looks quite cool, I find it very irritating, as when you lift it up to clean underneath, the umbrellas slip through the gaps between wires.  I wanted a better solution and when I saw these baskets a while back, at a reasonable price, I knew I'd be back to buy one, as they just keep everything contained and tidy and easy to move when cleaning. The old stand will now be winging its way to the next Give and Take.

Once I'd made the purchase, which was the main reason for our outing, we headed off to Brick Lane to get bagels for lunch.  I had to have the salt beef, of course, which is just the yummiest thing ever.  LB went for cream cheese. It was just 70p for a cup of tea, and it must be one of the cheapest cups of tea in London.  Great value and definitely worth queuing down the street for. (The queue moves very fast)

We continued down Brick Lane, munching our bagels as we went, checking out some of the vintage stalls, before heading back to the bus via Box Park, which is a collection of containers made into pop up and other shops on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Shoreditch High Street.

I couldn't resist a look in Superdrug's Pop Up Vegan Beauty shop.  The make up looked really nice and I treated myself to a couple of their velvet matte lipsticks and a concealer.  It wasn't until I got on the bus that I realised that I'd qualified for a £3.50 discount for buying two lipsticks, which meant that they cost just £5.25 each, which was quite reasonable.

One was an orangey red and the other a hot pink, both perfect for summer.  The pink was not a colour I'd worn before, but I really like it and it's good to have a change every now and then. I also qualified for a free canvas shopping bag for spending over £15, which will always come in useful.

So, I did end up spending more money this weekend, but the things I bought were things that were either on my wishlist or will get used on a daily basis over the summer months.  Besides, it is pay day tomorrow, so I don't feel too guilty treating myself at the end of another busy month.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

A Productive Saturday Morning

I've been complaining for a while now that the house is a mess.  Whilst OH has been working on the kitchen, I decided that there wasn't any point cleaning the rest of the house, as the dust would gravitate to other areas.

By last Sunday/Monday, OH had done the messier jobs, i.e. filling and sanding the walls, sanding woodwork and worktops, etc., so the amount of dust being created had reduced a lot. As a consequence of this, and the fact that the messiness of the rest of the house was getting me down, I decided to do a Weekly Blessing this morning. It's been a good few months since I've done this, with one thing and another and just generally being busy at work and not having the energy when I got home.

As soon as OH was out the door with the dog, out came the hoover, mop and multi-surface wipes (Sorry, I know these are not very eco friendly, but they are very convenient sometimes) and I was off.
I started off in the two reception rooms.  We've been eating all our meals in the front room for the past few weeks, so side table surfaces were messy and crumbs of food had been dropped on the floor. It took an hour or so, but it was soon back in order, which felt great.

The hall, vestibule and downstairs toilet were completed next and then I did a quick hoover round upstairs. I'd cleaned LB's room last Sunday when we rearranged it, so I didn't venture in there, and besides she was still in bed. I left our bedroom and the upstairs bathroom to be completed tomorrow, when I've got a bit more time. I just hope that I do get around to doing them, as they really do need a clean.

I now feel like I've got most of the house under control again.  It was really affecting my mental state with everything being such a mess.  I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed a lot, and just felt like everything was spiralling out of control.  It was affecting my working life too, as it was making me less able to cope with the stress at times. At least I've regained a bit of control now and I'm feeling much better, lets hope the coming week at work improves as a result.

Do you ever feel like this when your house is a complete mess?

Friday, 27 April 2018

A Shopping Day

Today, I spent the afternoon shopping, for food mostly. I went to Waitrose on this occasion as I had some £10 off a £50 spend vouchers to use up.  Although I only grocery shopped last Sunday, I don't have the car this coming Sunday and will be back at work on Monday, and as I didn't want to hit the supermarket on Saturday, I went today to buy groceries for next week. Such are the vagaries of ever changing work days.  Fixed days to work would make life so much easier, but it's not my lot unfortunately.

Anyway, it was nice to drive out to a large Waitrose for a change and have a change of scenery. I managed to bag the odd bargain, such as some Benecol yoghurts for 99p (they're normally £2.70). I bought three packs, as they've got a month on them before they expire.

I also got a free daily newspaper and the Waitrose magazine for free, as well as my £10 off. It was also useful to be able to pick up a couple of bags of the dog's favourite dry food.  She's very picky, but she eats one that I can buy in Waitrose.  All in all a good shop and we should be sorted now until the latter end of next week, save for picking up some more milk.

On the way home, I decided to stop off at a local TK MAXX. I know I'm not supposed to be spending money on new stuff at the moment, but I needed some retail therapy.  I've been very good this month and have hardly bought anything other than food.  As it turned out, I bought very little.  I was looking for some new tea/coffee canisters for the kitchen, but didn't actually find any I liked.  Instead, I just bought one very cute white tea cup on clearance, a summery shade of nail varnish and some new perfume.

I'm almost out of perfume. I've been using up some old bottles that belonged to LB and I'm down to the last one, so it won't be long before I need some more. The nail varnish was completely unnecessary, but not a huge indulgence.  We all need one from time to time.

There's been a few things going on at home and at work this week that have upset me, so I just needed a little outlet for my feelings and shopping felt good.  I know this is a dangerous and slippery slope, but I managed to control myself to a large degree. I didn't even need to put the items I bought on my credit card this month, as I'm finding that I actually have money left at the end of the month these days.  This constitutes a dramatic transformation with regard to my finances and is still a novelty for me.

I think I scratched the itch. The test will be whether I spend any more money over the weekend.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

What a Difference.

What a difference a bit of sunshine makes. As I've been travelling home from work the last during the last week, people have been spilling out of the many London pubs and bars I see on my journey home, happy to relax in the sunshine after a day at work. I'm almost envious, but am just happy to get home after a long day at work.

Things have been busy at work lately and even when I'm not there I've been thinking about it quite a lot, which isn't great. I've been getting to the gym on and off which helps, have spent some time in the garden sowing some more lettuce seeds into the raised bed, taken the time to hang out some washing on the line, to hopefully help me get a bit more vitamin D and have been getting on with more work on the allotment too.  As a consequence of all of the above, I haven't been blogging much, so I apologise for that.

It's been so lovely to have some nice weather even though it's now turned a little colder. I just love to see everything in the garden greening up a bit.  It makes me realise how much I've missed the sun and how it affects you both physically and mentally. I feel so much more motivated to get things done on a sunny day.

The kitchen is coming along very slowly at the moment as OH hasn't been feeling too well recently.  He's okay now though. One of the paint colours we bought is way too dark. Two out of the three were okay though. We're hoping to mix a lighter shade with the one we don't like and create a better colour, rather than just not using it.

In other areas, life has been progressing.  The car has been serviced and although it needed £300 worth of work doing, we've paid out very little in repairs on it in the six years we've had it. The things that needed doing were just general wear and tear, i.e. brake pads and discs and window screen wipers. It's been cleaned and valeted at the garage which is nice too, as we never seem to get around to doing it ourselves.

The dog has also had her fur stripped at the groomers and is now carrying a much lighter coat, which she seems grateful for now the weather has turned warmer.  She's seems a lot more perky on walks now which is good.

I've been doing a few small sewing jobs recently, that were piled up in the sewing room for months. Just some small repairs to a few items, but it's nice to get it done and get the items back into circulation in the wardrobe.

Talking of my wardrobe, I've now completed the changeover to my spring/summer wardrobe. Once I've got the ironing pile down, I'll be able to put the rest of the chunky knitwear into storage until the autumn.  My wardrobe feels lighter and less cluttered as a result.

LB has had another major decluttering session in her room.  I bought her a clothing rail from the CS the other day and it led to a reorganisation of her room and the donation of many more things that she no longer uses or needs.  She's so much better at this than me.  It will all add to the items leaving the house this month although the actual items won't be leaving until the next Give and Take.  I just missed one this last Saturday as I was working, but I'm sure there'll be another one soon.

I've also been making some curtains for the changing rooms at the shop.  I've used my old kitchen curtain for one and I've made a second one from the same fabric. (They won't fit in with the décor once we've repainted the kitchen).  I won an auction on eBay for 30 curtain rings and hooks.  They're quite expensive to buy new, so at just over £5 these were a bargain and I should be able to claim the money back from the shop. The new curtains should look much nicer than the current ones, once I get them in place.

We had a Spring Clean in the shop this week, just the shop floor.  We had to close the shop for most of the day and it was very intense trying to get everything cleaned, as it is quite a large shop.  I was in charge of cleaning the shop front, shutter, windows and window displays and then vacuuming and mopping most of the shop. I'm so pleased that we only do it once a year, as it was quite exhausting.
We've changed around quite a few of the rails and shelves, which makes the flow of the shop much better.  It's been hard work though, so I'm glad that I've now got 4 days off before I'm back at work.

I now need to spend some time on the house which has been sadly neglected lately.  I also need to re-apply for my job which has now been advertised internally. I'll be glad to get to the end of May, when the recruitment process should have been completed, whether I'm successful or not. At least I can then just get on with things one way or another, instead of feeling like I'm in limbo.

Anyway, this has been a bit of a long catch up. I hope all's well with you guys.  I have just spent most of today catching up on sleep and blog reading, which I've been too tired to do after work lately. It feels good to be back blogging and I'll try to keep posting as and when I can.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Free 250 in 2018 - March

March was a mixed month in terms of decluttering.  It was in part a month of replacing some old things with new things, as well as decluttering items that are surplus to requirements or that no longer serve a purpose.

I did do a purge of one of the kitchen cupboards and decluttered some surplus crockery, but other than this the things I'm freeing this month are things that I've replaced with superior versions on the whole.

Here goes:

1-6) Six surplus mugs decluttered from the kitchen.
7-8) Two surplus egg cups decluttered from the kitchen.
9-10) Two woollen snoods/infinity scarves replaced by two much nicer ones bought from the CS.
11) One old quilt cover and matching pillow cases that no longer fit the new bedding I bought for LB this month.
12) One pair of trainers which I replaced several months ago, but couldn't bring myself to declutter.  Having not worn them since, it seems pointless to keep them.
13) One lamp replaced with a new one that suits the décor better.
14-15) Old pillows washed and put aside for the next Give and Take.
16) One book listed for sale on eBay, as I don't want to keep it.
17) One top sold on eBay.
18) One unwanted Xmas present given away as a gift.
19) One other item of old stock from my now closed down business sold on eBay.
20) One never used lunch box of LB's.

When added to last month's total of 46 the current total so far for 2018 now stands at 66 items.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Allotment Tales - April 2018

Towards the end of March, on a rainy Tuesday, when heading out of the house with the dog for our regular morning walk, I noticed a very nice pallet in next doors front garden, which I assumed they didn't want.  I made a mental note and when I came back from the dog walk, I knocked on the door and asked if I could have it for my allotment. They very kindly agreed and I carried into the house and put it in the garden. Here's a picture of it:

I say a very nice pallet, because as you can see, it's slats were very evenly placed and it looked the perfect size to make a small deck for my allotment. I had the idea of making a little corner, where I could put a chair and a plant pot or two and sit and relax between bouts of digging, especially in the summer months.

I'd wanted to do this at my last plot, but never actually got around to clearing a space to do it, but because my current plot is lovely and small, closer to home and much more manageable, it's easier to find the time and energy this time around.

It took a few weeks before I could progress any further with my idea, as for the next four days OH was away and had taken the car, so I couldn't actually take the pallet to the plot, as it was way too heavy, even just to take around the corner. In addition, after quite a lot of rain, the ground was very muddy, so I thought I'd wait until the weather dried up a little.

In the meantime, I decided to staple some weed suppressant fabric to the underneath of the pallet to stop lots of weeds growing up through the slats .  This also meant that I could easily move the pallet around if I wasn't happy with it's position. I needed to buy some more fabric, as we didn't have any left from when we renovated the garden.  OH ended up buying me some from Amazon.

In addition to the decking, I also found this rattan raised bed like surround on the way to the gym the other day.  Someone had thrown it out, so I popped it into the car and brought it home.  I took this to the plot too and it made a lovely little raised bed next to my decking.

Here is a picture of the decking and raised bed in situ.  I bought and planted some dahlia tubers in here, as I'm intending it to be a small cutting garden area. I also bought a rosemary plant, and some small violets from B&Q at 20% off and potted them on to decorate the deck. I may  remove some of the soil from underneath the decking and add it to the raised bed so the decking doesn't sit quite so high, but is set into the ground, as it feels a bit like a stage when you're sat on it.

Whilst I was at the plot I decided to finish digging it over. It took a few hours, but I was glad to get it all done and ready to plant and sow into on my next visit.  Here's a picture of the plot as it looked when I'd finished.

It feels good to get more structure into the plot and get all of the hard digging work done.  It's now a ready for me to get busy growing in. I think I might start by sowing some sunflowers behind the deck and see how they grow here, as I can tie them back to the fence. At some point I want to plant something that climbs here, to give me a bit of a privacy on what is a very public site.

Next month, I'll let you know how things are progressing on the growing front.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

A Chaotic Week

It's been a strangely chaotic week.  OH has been pressing on with repainting the kitchen, which virtually renders it out of bounds, save for cooking/preparing food or putting on a wash.  As it was the hub of our home, all general activity/eating now takes place in the living room, which is currently in chaos. Hey ho.

As I've been feeling pretty rotten this week, (another cold - two in the space of a month) I've spent a couple of my days off in bed, which hasn't been great.  I think I've got myself very run down and am feeling pretty exhausted. I've still been at work this week though, so have dragged myself there snuffling and coughing for my usual three days. Probably not the most considerate thing to do, but a couple of volunteers already have colds. I'm now feeling over the worst and finished my last day for this week yesterday.

The kitchen is now looking very white, as well as very empty. (Save for the decorating tools/equiptment) We haven't yet chosen a colour for the one wall that we will be painting a colour on. We're planning a trip to pick and possibly mix the paints we require for this wall, the cupboard fronts and the floor this morning, which is quite an exciting prospect. I'm just waiting for OH to return from a dog walk and we'll be off.

By the way, thank you Catriona, you were indeed correct, the new IKEA doors won't fit our cupboards, so you saved us a lot of hassle by mentioning this on my last post about the kitchen renovation.  OH is going to repair and repaint our current doors instead, all being well. It's a lot of work and will probably take a while, but it beats having to replace every cupboard carcass.  It seems so wasteful somehow. How inconsiderate of IKEA to make such wide reaching changes to their kitchens. Obviously trying to drum up new trade now everyone has reached 'peak stuff'.

OH is now painting the woodwork on the windows and doors, before re-sanding and oiling the window sills and worktops.  Here's a little picture of the work in progress.  A very blank canvas.

(Although this photo was taken on a very sunny morning, it looks very dark in our kitchen, despite all of the windows)

We're also looking for new light fittings and a new tap, preferably one with a pull out spray for easy cleaning of the sink. Very American, as I've seen lots of YouTubers with these types of taps and I like them. It will be interesting to see how they function in practice.

Workwise, it's been a strange week.  The manager was successful in being reappointed for another year, so my job will be advertised soon and I will need to reapply. I've been having a wobble on account of feeling so tired, but I think I've been talked round and will go ahead and take the plunge. We'll see what happens.

As a consequence of the above, life is in a bit of turmoil at the moment, not in a serious way, just in a day to day functioning kind of way.  We're getting by though.  At least we still have kitchen facilities and it's not a total stripping out of everything kind of renovation.

I spent most of my day off on Thursday ironing.  I couldn't decide on a place to set up the iron and ironing board all week and eventually today settled on the living/dining room, although it seems to cause a lot of condensation.  I've more than halved the ironing pile, but there's still a basketful to do over the weekend.

It was nice to just stay home and spend a little time with LB.  She'll be back at school on Monday. I took her to the opticians in the afternoon for an eye test and to order some new glasses.  (She broke her newest pair months ago!) At least this has been achieved this Easter holidays, if nothing much else. I'll keep you posted of further progress in the kitchen.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Free 250 in 2018 - February

I was about to publish my Free 250 items in 2018 post for March, when I realised that I didn't actually post this challenge post last month, so here it is. February items set free and sent out into the universe were as follows:

1) One Zatchels satchel that I have hardly used, sold on eBay.
2) One old phone case, replaced with a new one.
3) One glass from a candle that I used up.
4) One sewing magnet - new in packaging, but unable to sell due to damage. I already have one in my sewing kit, so I may as well donate this one.
5) One sweater bought from a CS before Christmas - a purchase that I promptly regretted.
6) One unwanted Christmas gift sold on eBay.
7) One small wooden bead box - no longer needed.
8) One new unused phone case bought for my old phone, for when my existing case wore out, but is now too small for my new phone.
9) One New York Guide book which is now very old and out of date.
10) One bra recycled because it was wearing out.
11) One pair of sports socks recycled because of holes.
12) One snood donated - replaced with a new (second hand) one.
13) One pair of walking boots of OH's recycled - worn out and leaking and replaced with new ones.
14) One Jack Wills card wallet bought in a set with my last phone case, but never used.  It is not something that I want to use, so I've listed it on eBay and it should hopefully cover the cost of my buying one I actually liked.
15) One book donated to a local CS.

As you can see, things have really slowed down on the donation front, which I expected this year.  In my defence, due to being away for part of the month in NYC, I didn't really have much time this month to do any serious decluttering anywhere in the house.

When added to last month's total of 31, my grand total for the year going forward is now 46 items. Still just about on target.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Getting into the Garden Again

Thursday morning, last week, I woke up to bright blue skies and sunshine, which was just what I needed. I was getting very fed up with grey, damp days and needed a sign that warmer weather was on its way.  Well, I got it.

After walking the dog and rushing off to a class at the gym, I came straight home to find that OH had started work on the kitchen renovations.  Unable to sit at the kitchen table and get lost in a YouTube rabbit hole, I ended up venturing out into the garden.

It's quite normal on the first sunny day of the year, for me to finally get around to washing my dirty garden pots from the previous growing season and that is what I set about doing. I always like to do this job when I can feel the sun on my back and that was definitely the case on this occasion.

It took a couple of hours, but eventually every dirty pot was washed.  I threw out any cracked pots and put aside any non-black pots for taking to the next Give and Take.  I've decided I'm only keeping black pots, don't ask why.

I also decided to tidy up the area at the end of the garden. My potting table was looking very worse for wear, as some of the wood on the top had rotted and broken, but after removing some roofing felt that I used to cover the table top, it will hopefully dry out and I'll be able to repair it and make use of it a little longer.

I haven't actually sown any seeds into pots yet this year, but at least now that all of the pots are clean, once I've bought some compost, I'll be able to get on and do this.

Progress has been made, albeit limited. 

In the meantime, OH has been working hard prepping the kitchen walls.  I had removed lots more things to enable him to get on with the work and it made me realise how much junk and clutter we still have lurking in some of the cupboards.  I can feel another purge coming on soon, because how much stuff do we really need?

Certainly not as much as we've got, because half of it just sits in the cupboard and doesn't even get used from one year to the next.  Not for much longer I can promise you that.  Keep reading for some more serious decluttering coming soon.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Finally Doing Some Home Renovations - The Kitchen

After several years of not really doing anything to our house, basically since we had the basement refurbished back in 2012, we are finally getting around to doing some work this year.  The planned kitchen extension, was put on hold after quotes of £80,000 plus were received to build out into a side return and this made us rethink our plans.  Did we really want to extend our mortgage to pay for this when we are almost at the point of seeing ourselves being able to pay it off in the next few years? Instead, we have decided to renovate the interior of our existing kitchen, which is looking a bit shabby and in need of some TLC.

When we last renovated the kitchen, probably 7 or 8 years ago, we didn't spend a huge amount of money, and to be honest we're going to be spending even less this time around, but hopefully a bit of updating will make the space feel much fresher and be much more practical for everyday use.

We're essentially replacing all of the cupboard and drawer fronts, kick boards, etc., re-painting the window/door frames/sills, re-painting the walls, painting the wooden floor and tiling splash backs where necessary. A few other small changes will also be made to the internal fittings in the cupboards and drawers to make the space much more usable and easier to access.  It's often small changes like these that can make the most difference to how you use a space on a daily basis. All things considered, I'm quite excited about this.

I spent a good part of yesterday clearing the window sills and packing away all of the pictures and knick knacks that usually adorn the space, so that OH can get to work this week on prepping for re-painting the room.

Later in the day, we organised a reconnaissance mission to IKEA, to check out cupboard fronts and other necessities for the refit. It was hellishly busy as you might imagine in the school holidays, but amazingly, we managed to agree on colours and styles and OH will be ordering these online for delivery when the painting has been done.

The kitchen is currently looking unusually bare, which I am actually quite enjoying.  I may decide to put back fewer items once the renovation has been completed, as it will mean a lot less to dust and clean. I didn't manage to take a photo of how things looked before the work began as I was rushing out to the gym this morning, but I'll keep you posted with our progress.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Earn/Save £2018 in 2018 - March

Month three of this challenge and it has once again been better than I expected, largely due to some changes in our household expenditures. I've continued to sell a few bits on eBay, listing a few more things using a no listing fee offer that was valid this month. (There seems to be one every month, but I'm not complaining)

1) eBay sales this month totalled £16.64 after fees and postage had been deducted.

Total Earned via eBay this month - £16.64

2) I used the last of my Tesco club card reward vouchers, some money off  £50 spend vouchers and one other money off voucher, to save money on groceries this month.

Total savings from Tesco vouchers this month - £19.00.

3) Whilst perusing Money Saving Expert's weekly email, I noticed that Martin Lewis had blagged a 20% off everything code at Holland and Barrett, which was even valid on things that were already half price.  I also had a 75p reward voucher to spend with them, so I ordered two 900g packs of dates for OH and two packs of milk chocolate coated dates (also for OH for Father's day and his birthday) and by using both discounts and the free delivery on offer, I saved £3.83 in total. During a very busy week at work, this really helped me, as I didn't have to schlep to the shop to buy these items.  Double win.

A relatively small sum, but better than paying full price and we should be stocked up for a good while now.

Total savings from Holland and Barrett - £3.83.

4) OH arranged us a new fixed rate for our mortgage with our existing building society, as our current fixed rate expires in a couple of months and we'd be put on a higher variable rate.  He managed to get us a reduction on the current rate of 0.55%, which although not a huge drop is better than nothing.  It should save us nearly £290 over the remainder of this year and more going forward from there and avoids the hassle of producing all the paperwork required to change to a new lender.

Savings made from mortgage rate switch - £290.

5) A voucher pinged into my inbox one day this month, from eBay, to save 20% off a £20 spend in certain categories on the site. As I needed some anti-plaque dental powder for the dog, I decided to use the coupon to buy a larger than normal bottle, which meant that I saved £5.60 and won't have to repurchase this for quite a while.

Savings made with eBay coupon - £5.60

6) I found £5 whilst out walking the dog this month.  I know this isn't strictly earned or saved money, and is a bit random, but I thought I'd include it in the challenge anyway as it was unexpected income.

Money found - £5

All of the above made a grand total of £340.07 this month, which when added to the running total so far this year of £256.85 means I've saved/earned an extra £596.92 so far this year. Not too shabby so far, but things will get trickier from here on in.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 2018 - March

Over the course of time, I am gradually getting better at spending less, although some months are better than others.  Working almost two full weeks during March helped this somewhat, as it kept me out of shops other than one splurge visit to TKMAXX and the CS itself, of course, but I haven't really seen much in the shop lately that has tempted me. Getting outside and working on the allotment and garden has also helped minimise spending this month too.

I'm trying hard not to be repetitive in these posts, repeating things I post on my Earn/Save £2018 in 2018 challenge, so I'm not posting actual money saving measures here that I post in that challenge, instead I'll be concentrating on other frugal measures here that maybe didn't earn me money, but stopped me spending any.

Freebies and Frugal Measures

1) OH and I bagged up lots of free compost from the park to put on the allotment to enrich the soil.

2) I managed to fully sow the raised beds in the garden with seeds I already had, so didn't need to go out and buy any this spring, save for one pack of bean seeds.

3) I received some more money off weekly shop vouchers from Tesco, to help with next month's food budget.

4) I bagged up all the fallen leaves on the decking in the garden, to rot down into leaf mould over the remainder of the year.  I use these once broken down to enrich the soil in our raised beds and borders over the winter.  I've done this for the past couple of years and it all helps to make the soil more productive and costs nothing.

5) I acquired a pallet from my next door neighbours, to make a small decking area at the allotment.  This will save buying more pavers to do the same job.

6) I found a big black plastic plant tub on the street whilst out on a dog walk this month, which came home with me and will be very useful to pot on plants into at some point.  It even has handles to facilitate moving it around when it's full of compost, which is a bonus.

Frugal Fails

1) I bought lots of bulbs to put in the garden late last year, as I wanted to enjoy some colour this spring.  However, due to all the inclement weather and just being generally busy at work, I never got around to planting them and when I got them out of the cupboard this month, some of them had just rotted away to dust. What a waste!  Anyway, I did plant the ones that seemed okay, but the proof will be in the growing.

2) I did the same as above with my potato seeds and they sent off great long shoots that have probably diminished their productiveness, so I ended up buying some fresh ones to sow in the allotment.  I may try growing the old ones in some sort of containers in the back garden, rather than throw them away.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Goodbye, March and Good Riddance

Well, I can't say I'm sorry to see the back of March this year.  It's been a tough month in many ways, with lots of challenges, some of which took me by surprise.  I was expecting it to be a tough month, due to the fact that I knew my manager was off for two separate weeks, but a few things happened that made work even more of a challenge than it usually is.

On Friday night, I was so pleased to get home from work and just chill (after picking up the dog from the dog walker's that is). I was not going anywhere and was happy to collapse in front of the TV with some pizza to watch a film about Hank Williams on Netflix. It was pretty good.

On Saturday morning I woke early, read for a bit and then fell asleep again until nearly 9am, which is virtually unprecedented for me.  OH was due back from his cycling jaunt in Girona last night, but was delayed due to a fire at Stanstead airport.  He was put up in a hotel overnight and is due back any time, but I'm still waiting to hear from him.

As a consequence, I had to take the dog out this morning, (OH usually does the Saturday morning walk) and I also had to go to the Post Office to post some eBay parcels. Whilst out, I found this huge black plastic pot put out for the bin men to take, so I picked it up and brought it home with me.  It will be great to grow potatoes in in the garden at home and then possibly for potting on a gooseberry bush. I'm always happy to pick up a garden freebie.

In the afternoon, I did a grocery shop before the supermarkets closed on Easter Sunday, I was surprised how many yellow stickered items were available.  I more or less filled the freezer with enough meat and fish to last us a couple of weeks. Staying in for the morning also had it's advantages, as two parcels I was expecting from eBay purchases both came, which was good. Nothing exciting, just regular toiletries and things we use.

I'm off work today and am due back at work on Easter Monday, but only until 4pm thankfully. It was pretty quiet when I worked on Good Friday, so I expect it will be the same on Monday too. I am then working again on Tuesday, but after that I will be off until Saturday, so I should get some housework done later in the week.  This weekend, I'm just chilling at home.  I don't want to go anywhere or do anything much after a busy week.

It's unusual for us to stay in London for Easter, but I'm happy we are staying put this year and am going to make the most of it, by relaxing as much as possible. It's also lovely and quiet in London, as many people decamp to other parts of the country during the Easter holidays from school and the traffic is much reduced.

I hope you guys are having a great Easter weekend.