Saturday, 29 September 2018

Monthly Roundup - September 2018

A busy month workwise this month, which has had the added advantage of keeping me out of the shops for the most part, but even so, it has been an expensive month one way or another, as you'll see from the figures below.

I'm afraid the majority of budgets went over again this month, but here goes anyway:

Food - This budget went over the £400 allocated by £82.70. I did a big shop in the last week of the month to replenish the cupboards, after a couple of weeks where I only bought the weekly basics, due to being at work so much, so this is the main reason for this. Some of these purchases will last well into next month and if we needed the items we needed them and that's that.

Household - Again the end of the month shop saw me replenishing items such as dishwasher tabs, dog food and wash liquid, that should see me well into October, so this was the reason for some of the £66.96 overspend in this category this month. I also stocked up on some make up and dental hygiene products too, which should last me a good few months.

Miscellaneous - This budget was busted by £67.87 due to a 6 monthly dental appointment which cost £80, as I needed an x-ray and a scale and polish on this visit. Fortunately, I won't need to pay out anymore for another 6-8 months, as no treatment was necessary, which I'm very thankful for.

Travel for Work - This budget was over by £20 this month for two reasons.  One was that I was working for 5 days per week for two weeks, whilst my manager was on leave.  The other was that on one of those days I forgot my Oyster card, as I'd left it in my jeans pocket after a night out with friends the night before.  As a consequence, I had to buy another one which cost £5 and then I had to top it up with a further £5 for my journeys.  The alternative was to spend a half hour or more returning home to get my original card and being very late for work, so I paid the price of my error. The extra card will come in useful for when people come to visit and need a card.

My Personal budget was also over this month, by £15.62, which is good for me as it's usually much more.

Other budgets fared slightly better:

LB's Budget - This was under by £15.

Home - This was under by £16.01.

Overall, I was happy enough this month.  Sometimes, when you're very busy, for whatever reason, you make choices that aren't particularly frugal, but are nevertheless very convenient and I think I fell victim to this kind of thinking this month. Having said this, it did help smooth the way in what was quite a stressful month.

Hopefully, next month will be better. No extra work journeys, in fact, I've got a week off for half term, so the travel budget should be well under. It's also my birthday next month, so I might acquire some money to treat myself with, rather than overspending on my personal budget. I've also budgeted for some Xmas gift money to help spread the cost of Christmas and stay in the black. Christmas shopping starts proper in October, although I am hoping to buy as many gifts as possible from the CS this year.

How was your budget this month?

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Long Time No Blog Post

Hi there, apologies for not blogging lately, I was working two weeks solid whilst the Shop Manager was on leave and this week, since he's been back, I've still been trying to get back to normal, as I'm still recovering physically from the extra exertion.

My two weeks in charge of the shop went okay, the first week being worse than the second, due to several unexpected events, such as an audit of the shop, which we knew was due, but it was just my luck that it happened in the Shop Manager's absence.  I don't know the results of it yet, but I did my best in the circumstances (of being very short staffed and overwhelmed with donations).

In spite of the shop having had a sale on for the past month, I also had to deal with quite a few unpleasant shop lifting incidents in the manager's absence.  I say deal with, but there's not much you can actually do (the Police aren't really interested), so all you can do is ask people to leave the shop and not come back. There were at least six different occasions on which this happened, which does upset me quite a bit, as we try so hard to make money for the charity, but people think they can just come in and help themselves. The shop is quite large too, and it's layout does make it difficult to see parts of it and what is going on in said parts. With few staff and volunteers it's very hard to prevent theft and it's an ongoing problem that we have to deal with on a daily basis.

Anyway, needless to say, I was happy to see the Manager on his return and hand the reins back over.

I did manage a nice evening out with friends from the gym in the midst of all the work. We took a couple of bottles of Prosecco to a local restaurant where you can pay corkage and had a lovely meal together, catching up on each others' news after not seeing much of each other for most of the summer months.

As a consequence of being so busy at work, the house is a mess and I haven't had the energy to do much about it as yet.  I've got a few days off over this coming weekend, so I hope to get more on top of it then. The kitchen cabinet doors arrived this week and as I speak, OH is working on them ready to put them on the cabinets, hopefully this weekend.  Once they're on, there's just a new fridge freezer to order and a new microwave to buy and it's finally done.  I'll do a post should that day come this side of Christmas.

Talking of Christmas, we've decided to stay put in London this year, as LB and OH want to spend it at home. I'm okay either way, but it will make a nice change not to travel and spend it in a rented cottage or someone else's home. I can indulge us a bit and buy some nice treats that we can enjoy. Workwise, it will mean that I can work right up to Christmas Eve which might be interesting (or not). I've also just read on Google that there might be some severe weather between Christmas and New Year this year, so we might have to do our visiting before or potentially risk getting stranded.

The past few weeks, like everyone else (or so it seems), I've been watching The Bodyguard, Killing Eve, Vanity Fair and more recently Strictly, of course, although I did vow that I wouldn't watch it this year, but I can't seem to resist once it actually comes around. Cooler nights make for cosy nights in front of the TV, something we've not done much of lately, but being a bit of a homebod, I'm more than happy to do.

I have managed to catch some classes at the gym in the last few weeks, as the shop had to stay closed for two days per week on Sundays and Mondays whilst the Manager was away. I have, however, stopped going to my Thursday class for now, as I'm just not feeling it lately.  I need to seek out some new classes I think, that can give me more flexibility when it comes to work and in any case, sometimes a change can be a good thing.

That's most of my news I'm afraid.  Not very exciting, but I am starting to get excited about Christmas now I know we're staying put. We're already selling Christmas products in the shop, which is insane, but they do sell well to visitors to London, so I understand why they sell them so early.

I've been booked to attend a much belated Management induction course for work for a couple of days in late November, which will include an overnight stay in a hotel.  I've not had to travel anywhere for work purposes for over 20 years, so it should be interesting.  There's also the possibility of attending a trade show at Olympia in London with a work colleague next month, which should also be an interesting outing, so there's plenty going on, in addition to the usual manic lead in to the festive season.

I'll try to blog a bit more in the coming weeks and keep you posted on any life/work progress.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Book Review - NO LOGO by Naomi Klein

Last month, the book on my bedside bookstand was 'No Logo' by Naomi Klein. I'd had the book for at least a couple of years and it sat on my bookshelf waiting until I was in the right frame of mind to read it.

It's not the easiest of reads, in that it is quite a thick book, with very small print and is a very informative kind of book that takes quite a bit of concentration.  It is, however, very well written and a really enjoyable read on account of it being so interesting.

The book charts the rise of capitalism and it's use of marketing, how adverts and marketing have now begun to invade virtually every aspect of our lives (probably more so in the US where there is widespread advertising and promotion in schools and colleges). Klein argues that there is now very little public space not given over to marketing by large global corporations. 

These same corporations, she argues, who are encouraging us to buy their life enhancing products, have in turn eroded job opportunities, by ceasing to employ people to manufacture said products in their own countries and are constantly engaged in outsourcing the production of their goods to cheap labour forces in far flung places, to both lower their operating costs and wring out ever larger profits.

As she points out, corporation after corporation have jumped on the outsourcing bandwagon, leaving a distinct hole in communities in terms of manufacturing employment, secure jobs with proper benefits and a means of earning a decent living for thousands of people living in the US and other developed countries. In addition, she notes how the development of the zero hours contract has eroded job opportunities further, forcing many people to live on or below the poverty line, whilst still being bombarded with marketing enticing them to live the good life, when they struggle to even put food on the table.

Klein also researched the factories in various parts of the world where production is now taking place and describes the conditions for the workers working in these factories, who are largely young women with nimble fingers, and who far from earning big money, which they might be led to believe, can hardly afford to send money back to their families in the countryside. Klein suggests that they are essentially trapped in dead end jobs, working 12 hour days in cramped conditions with few employment rights or trade union protection.

The book goes on to chart the consequent rise of the ad scamming and anti-capitalist movements that have grown up in opposition to these large corporations and their marketing machines, and how they try to subvert the adverts produced in an attempt to highlight the real power of the corporate world and the effect it is having on the life, health and everyday experiences of people the world over.

The issues that she tackles in this book are not new, although they probably hadn't been talked about much in the late 1990's when her book was written, but the way she writes about them is fascinating. It does make you wonder what might happen in the future.

This is not a depressing book, as essentially Klein is suggesting that the world is changing and people are becoming more and more aware of the ways that corporations are manipulating them with false promises of the good life.  She argues that many people are now beginning to fight back and find their own ways to express resistance to the big brands, such as refusing to buy their products or wear their logos and support the corporate hegemony.

I enjoyed this book so much, that I can't wait to get my hands on more books by this author.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Changeover

Although summer is not yet strictly over, and despite the fact we've been promised warm weather well into September, the last couple of days have definitely had a more autumnal feel about them.  Particularly yesterday, when I was out early with the dog before going to work, there was a definite chill in the air.

Whilst it didn't require me to wrap up in sweaters, scarves, hats, etc. I did go to work wearing a jacket for the first time in a long while. It was strangely reassuring, that the British weather has returned to normal after such a swelteringly hot summer.

As a consequence, when I was putting away the laundry this morning, I decided to bite the bullet and get all of my autumn/winter clothing out of storage and start putting away some of my summer items too.

I always enjoy a seasonal wardrobe changeover. I love finding things that I forgot that I had and I look forward to wearing them in the coming months. For example, I forgot that I'd bought myself a new winter coat last year, so I was thrilled when it came out of the bag.  I'd also forgotten about the black velvet jacket I bought in New York in February and I look forward to wearing that too.

The wardrobe is now looking a little full, due to the bulky nature of the items it now holds.  I had to remove the hanging shoe storage that I'd bought to house all of my sandals and flip flops, but which is not needed for the colder seasons and which gave me an extra 6 to 8 inches of hanging space.

The woolly hats and scarves haven't found a home yet.  It's too early to bring them downstairs, where I usually keep them in a wicker shopping basket on the shoe bench, so they'll have to hang out upstairs until they're needed.

I combined this activity with a good clear out of all of my clothing drawers, finding quite a few items that I no longer wanted to keep.  The items for donation were mainly t-shirts that I don't like or wear hardly at all, plus some leggings that I never wear. A few items were donated from the wardrobe, that I don't really like or wear either, leaving me with just the clothes that I think will be used going forward. 

I still do have lots of clothes that hardly ever see the light of day (mainly skirts), but I can't quite say good bye to my skirt wearing days.  It's too much like the end of an era.  Maybe I should just toughen up and accept that they're not for me anymore, or at least the one's I've got aren't, but I just can't bring myself to do it.  Perhaps another time I may actually have the courage.

Anyway, it feels good to have gotten the job done, it's one less thing I'll need to do in the busy lead up to Christmas in the shop.

Have you broken out your woollies yet?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Going Round in Circles

It's been another interesting week at the CS. Things seem to have picked up a bit since the weather has cooled a little and the summer holidays have ended, and our customers seem to be coming back in good numbers.  I think the fact that we currently have a sale on has something to do with it, but I'm not complaining either way.

My manager goes off on two weeks much needed leave at the end of this week and true to form we have another potential staffing crisis, as the new Deputy is also leaving. He has found another job, full-time instead of part-time hours, which he really needed.  It can't be helped, of course, but it does feel like we are just going round in circles, trying to recruit for the remaining hours of my position.  It would probably be much easier for a full time person to be appointed when the job comes up next year and I suspect that it might be advertised as such, if we don't find someone who is happy to stay with only the part time hours available.

I'm not sure when the new DM leaves, it could be this week, next week or the end of the month, but potentially I could be left holding the fort for two weeks alone again.  Thankfully, this time around the manager is not expecting me to work 7 days each week and therefore I may be closing the shop on the two quietest days, which won't go down well with customers, but can't be helped if we don't have the staff to run the place.

The volunteer situation is also unfortunately still dire, but we are trundling on as best we can for the moment. This past week or two, I've been spending an awful lot of my time at work steaming and putting out clothing, as there really isn't anyone else available to do it, and the shop requires a lot of regular replenishment, especially whilst the sale is on.  On the days I'm not there, I have to hope some gets done or I have to prepare some clothes in advance to ensure that new stock goes out.

It's tiring, but at least I currently have more control over things, such as the quality of the stock going into the shop. The problem is, that when I'm preparing the clothing I have the opportunity to find items of clothing that I like myself, that lead me to buy more things from the shop.  (Please note, that I don't price the things I buy myself, another member of staff has to do that for reasons of transparency, etc.) It's usually just clothes to wear for work, but it's not currently good for my bank balance.

Anyway, we had the Charity's Visual Merchandiser in the other day to dress our windows in accordance with the charity's current campaign, which was interesting.  He's very funny and hails from the same part of the country as I do, so we have a bit of a laugh when he comes around.  He saved me the job of re-doing the window anyway, and I'm grateful for any help that we can get.

I'm back at work tomorrow and am fully expecting to be very busy as you can imagine. As a consequence of the above, I might find it a little difficult to post in the next couple of weeks, but I'll do my best to still publish the odd post here and there.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Loving Lately

It's a long time since I've done one of these posts, so I thought I'd indulge in one for a change.

I haven't been buying heaps of stuff lately, mainly just clothes for work or our holiday, but I did buy something that I'm really enjoying using, namely this iPod speaker/player that was on sale in our shop at work.  I like the fact that it's not huge and is pretty portable, so I can easily move it around every room in the house.  It even comes complete with a European plug and a pouch for travel. The sound quality is pretty good for my needs too, so I'm really happy with it for just £16.

On the subject of music, I've not been able to play music at home for a while, save for the radio or vinyl on the record deck, as we just haven't had anything to play it on.  As a consequence, I dug out both my and OH's old iPods this month, which haven't been used for years and got them working again. LB made me a music playlist for the shop, as I was getting bored with listening to the same music all the time and I can now play my iPod there and at home too.  She's really good at selecting good music, as she's really into it, so I've been able to listen to some great new to me artists which I'm really enjoying, plus some old favourites of mine. 

I now need her to make lots more playlists to fill both iPods up. I might even set myself up with an iTunes account and do some playlists myself.  That really would be stepping out of my comfort zone, as I'm such a tech dinosaur. I've made myself an Afro/Latin/Zumba playlist on YouTube when I realised that you could do this and I've been playing this at home too, so music has found it's way back into my life lately, which is a good thing. In the process, I've been amazed at how many views some of the artists have had to their videos.  Some even go into billions. It's a whole other level and just proves how well music communicates across continents, nationalities and age groups.

Other things I've been enjoying lately have been the things I've bought to wear for work.  In the last couple of months, I have bought myself a couple of pairs of harem type trousers from Poundland of all places. They cost just £8 each, but have colourful prints on them, which has added a bit of colour into my usually all black wardrobe. The fabric is a lightweight polyester, which is a little cheap, but they are so comfortable and easy to wear for work, that I went to buy a second pair after wearing the first pair for a few weeks.

When I team these with long black t-shirts and some costume jewellery to create my basic work wardrobe, I feel both sufficiently smart and comfortable, but also feel like I'm dressed in something practical that allows free movement when lifting, carrying, sorting, etc. It's made getting ready for work in the summer so much easier, as I have one less decision to make about what to wear and it has stopped me getting too hot throughout the work day. I'm almost going to miss wearing them when the weather gets colder and I'm going to need to wrap up a bit more.

Finally, I've really been enjoying my latest read, which was this book by Naomi Klein called No Logo.  It's about globalisation and how people have become mobilised to protest about the human rights atrocities perpetrated in the name of capitalism, by some of the world's largest multi million dollar corporations.  It is one of the most interesting books I've read to date and is very well written. It was written in the late 90's, so some things have changed since it was written and some things have not. I've already started watching subsequent books she's written on eBay and I can't wait to read more of her work.

In addition, I listened to an episode of Desert Island Discs Podcast that Naomi recorded with the BBC and it was really interesting to hear her talk about her family background and her life.

What have you been loving lately?

Sunday, 2 September 2018

A Productive Day Off (For A Change)

Thursday, was one of my days off this week, and for the first time in a few months, I felt that I actually had a productive day off.

It started with sending LB off to a festival for a few days with a friend and her family.  She'll be gone for 4 days, so I thought I'd use the time to do some cleaning at home, on the days when I'm not at work.

After walking the dog, I was booked into a class at the gym, after which I had to do a bit of top up shopping to see us through to the weekend.  When I got back home, after having lunch, I spent some time on my personal finances (and blogging), due to it being the month end, before finally getting around to some of the housework later in the afternoon.

There was washing to do, hang out and take in, laundry, washing up and other things to put away, bins to empty for collection tomorrow morning and a few other small things that I've put off doing for a while. By the time I'd done these, it was getting quite late, so I only managed to vacuum a couple of upstairs rooms and part of the stairs before supper was ready.  I didn't continue later, as the couple next door have a very young baby and I didn't want to disturb them, so it will have to wait now until the weekend.

After supper, I turned my attention to pickling some beetroot that has been in the fridge for two weeks now (I've missed having any to put in my salads this week), and making some small apple crumbles from some of the apples that OH's mum gave us last week when we visited.

Unfortunately, some rhubarb that I'd harvested a few weeks ago and wanted to make jam with, was way past it's best and had to be composted.  I hate wasting food, but jam making takes quite a while and I just never found the time to do it.  I've still got some rhubarb left on the allotment though, so I might still be able to make some in the next few weeks.

Finally, I had a shower and washed my hair ready for work the next day.

Not a mega blitz, but I did a lot more than I've done for a good while, possibly in part because of it being much cooler outside, which helped to make me feel a bit more energised. Getting on top of the house again is another reason that I'm looking forward to cooler weather this autumn, although I think we've got a few more weeks of warm weather still to come here.

Anyway, I felt better for not collapsing in a chair, getting lost down a YouTube rabbit hole or binge watching Netflix on TV and being unable to motivate myself to move, so progress was definitely made.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Earn/Save and Extra 2018 in 2018 - August

This month I have managed to save/earn extra money as follows:

1) I saved £4.50 by utilising some Tesco Club Card and other vouchers this month, when I did a grocery shop. 

Although I've previously mentioned not using supermarket vouchers, I meant this mainly with regard to Waitrose vouchers, on account of the store being much more expensive than other supermarkets for many items.  I do shop at Tesco from time to time, as Lidl doesn't sell some items that I buy on a regular basis and these therefore have to be bought elsewhere.

Total saved at Tesco this month - £4.50.

2) I sold a few more items on eBay and made £18.83 after fees and postage had been taken out.

Total earned on eBay - £18.83

Total saved/earned this month is £23.33, which when added to the total at the end of last month of £807.31, means that I've now earned/saved an extra  £830.64 so far this year.

With four months to go on this challenge, I am still hoping to get to at least the £1000 mark for the year, which would be a good enough achievement for me.

I may start trying to ramp up eBay sales in the lead up to Christmas, if I can get my act together, as I'd like to earn enough money to buy some new sofa covers in the next few months. (More in another post)