Friday, 30 November 2018

Christmas Shopping - The End is in Sight

On Thursday this week, I decided to head out and do a bit more Christmas shopping.  There was one person, whose present I hadn't bought and needed to get, plus I needed a few stocking fillers for OH and LB.

I found myself at TK MAXX and Poundland, the former being perfect for the unbought present and the latter for the stocking fillers, although some of these were bought at both places.

I managed to find most of the things on my list, but I have to admit that a few extra things ended up in both baskets.  At TK MAXX I threw in a couple of things for OH to buy me for Christmas and I also found these lovely glass ornaments for the Christmas tree. I couldn't resist as they were so unusual.

Everything else consisted of gifts for others though, so I didn't fare too badly.

At Poundland, however, this wasn't the case.  I threw two jumpers and a pair of jeans into the basket from the clothing section. I needed a couple of jumpers to wear for work, as I've recently donated a couple to the Give or Take, because I didn't like how they looked on me.  The sweaters I bought were £12 and £8 respectively and the jeans £10. They fit pretty well and I've worn them for work today. I also wore one of the jumpers today too, but embarrassingly, whilst on the bus to work this morning, the girl sat behind me tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that the price tag was hanging out of the back of my coat.  I was very grateful to her for letting me know.  Many people wouldn't have bothered.

Anyway, I digress, another treat that I bought for myself at Poundland was this Airwick Christmas Tea Light Advent Calendar.  It was a little pricey for my liking at £5 for 24 tea lights, but as a Christmas treat, I thought it was excusable and I don't actually have any seasonal scented tea lights to put in my tea light holders, so I indulged. I've now got 4 advent calendars to open (one paper, one chocolate, one tea light and one digital) and an advent candle to light every day. That will keep me busy for the next three or so weeks.  You can tell I like this time of year and enjoy counting down the days, can't you?

I spent the most I've ever spent at Poundland in my life, namely £70.  I had real difficulty fitting everything on the till scale, as it all kept falling off and causing the assistant to have to come over and reset the self service machine.

There were, of course, other things in my basket too such as this book (I don't think I've read it), wrapping paper, stocking fillers for LB and OH, some food and some dog treats, so it was a real mixed bag of a shop.

At the risk of sounding a bit of a tightwad, Poundland is actually fast becoming one of my favourite destinations to shop, but I do try to be very discerning with regard to what I buy there.  I try to avoid plastic junk of any kind and things that won't last two minutes and are a false economy.  They are getting better and better with regard to the quality of some of the things they sell though. I've bought some great lipsticks from there recently and I'm often very impressed at what I can get for my money .

I probably won't be doing much more Christmas shopping now.  I've just got to buy a pair of trainers for OH (but he needs to come with me to choose them), get a few bits from LUSH for LB and an intern at work (who has been an absolute star these past couple of months), collect and pay for a few things I've set aside at the CS and then I think I'm just about done, which is fab, as I wanted to have my shopping finished by the end of November.

December will be all about buying the food and other things we need this Christmas, as we're staying put in London this year until about the 27th or 28th and we're all pretty happy about it.

How is your Christmas shopping coming along?

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Monthly Round Up - November 2018

For the first time in a couple of months I ended up overdrawn this month, but by less than £100, which wasn't too bad.  I blame Christmas coming at me like a juggernaut and the fact that I paid off the sofa covers this month, which was a major expenditure.  Here are the final figures for the month:

Food Budget - Overspent by £65.  No real excuses here, just a bit over indulgent.

Household Budget - Overspent by £37.61. A stock up trip to Home Bargains accounted for some of this overspend, as I'm now very well stocked up on most of the toiletries I/we use.

Miscellaneous Budget - This budget came in 54p under budget this month, which was good as it included a meal out with a friend, plus sending off the Operation Christmas Child box.

My Personal Budget - This budget was overspent by £24.37. I bought a few items of clothing from M&S, and the CS, plus a few small treats from TK Maxx.

LB's Budget - Overspent by £9.97, mainly because I bought her some clothes and jewellery from the CS this month as a treat and I also paid £20 towards some new glasses for her at the opticians.

Home Budget - This went £106.96 overspent, on account of my buying myself a cordless stick vacuum this month. I paid for this on my credit card, so it will be paid for out of next month's wages.

Travel For Work Budget - This went £5 overspent as I used some credit to go out and about a couple of times on non-work related jaunts.

Christmas Budget - I budgeted £300 for Christmas this month, but only ended up spending £177.82 which meant this budget came in £122.18 under.  Just as well really to help cover some of my overspends.

Going into December I think I'm in an okay position to stay in the black this Christmas, or at least have only a very small overdraft, but I will try to avoid this. I have budgeted another £300 for Christmas, but I'm not sure that I'll need to spend this much money, so any left over should go towards paying off my credit card and overdraft. I should also receive my pay rise from work, which I've been informed is nowhere near as much as I was hoping for.  It is frankly a pathetic amount, and equates to a pay cut I suspect when inflation is taken into account.  Every extra bit of money helps though.  I'll keep you posted on whether I manage to stay in the black this Christmas.

I hope your budgets weren't busted like mine this month.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

A Quiet Black Friday Here

As the title suggests, it was a very quiet Black Friday here.  So much so, that I didn't venture out to a shop and I didn't spend a penny.

I was working on Thursday and it was a very busy day with lots going on.  The two new Deputy Managers were both working and the Shop Manager came in so we could all have a meeting together. 

In addition, I spent the last two hours of the day creating one of our Christmas shop windows, trying to choose suitably sparkly clothing and accessories, attach fairy lights and decorate the small tree (I got help with this from our intern). The resulting window, I thought, looked quite pretty, but I didn't really get chance to take a photo, as by the time I'd finished it was time to close up the shop.

Consequently, on Friday I was feeling a bit frazzled and couldn't really face getting stuck into anything at home or going out anywhere shopping.  Instead, I had a quiet day at home trying to devise a Christmas music playlist for the shop, watching a Christmas movie and starting a jigsaw that I'd bought a few weeks ago.  I needed something to help me wind right down from work and shopping just wouldn't have done it for me.

I may venture out today with OH in an attempt to buy his main Christmas present, (he would like some new trainers) if we both feel like it, or we may just leave it until another weekend.

On Wednesday this week, I had arranged to meet a couple of friends from the gym to go out to lunch and catch up. Unfortunately, one friend wasn't feeling well and had to cancel, so the remaining friend and I decided to make a change from visiting our usual restaurant and meet at Canary Wharf instead.  It's probably a year since I've been there and I always enjoy visiting, especially as there were lots of twinkling Christmas lights, making it feel very festive.  We had a lovely Vegan burger at the Gourmet Burger bar, a good old chat and had a bit of a mooch around the shops too.  It made for a very pleasant afternoon.

Talking of restaurants, on Sunday night after I'd finished work, OH and LB came into town to meet me and we all headed off to a local Italian restaurant to eat.  I deliberately wanted to try this restaurant, as this is where I have now booked our shop's Christmas meal.  The food was good and the prices were within our budget, which is the most important thing. Last year, after arriving at the chosen restaurant, we found that the prices were more than the menu I'd found online, which wasn't ideal, as we have a very defined budget to spend. Anyway, I now just need to telephone the restaurant manager and confirm the booking/prices and then it will be one less thing to think about in the coming weeks.

Other things I did this week included posting off Christmas cards to my sister in Australia. I thought I'd missed the last posting date, but I think I confused economy parcel post with air mail for letters. As I only send cards these days, it is much easier and much less expensive these days too.

I also spoke to my other sister, who lives in Yorkshire this week, and we had a bit of a catch up and a discussion about Christmas presents for our respective daughters.

In all, it's been a mildly productive week.  I bought a few more Christmas presents, both from the CS and whilst out grocery shopping and paid a visit to Poundland, where I bought the contents for a Christmas Eve Bucket for LB.  It will include flavoured popcorn, chocolate, a drink and a movie.  I always buy her pyjamas to open on Xmas Eve, but this year I decided to make her an extra little something, after getting the idea from a YouTube video.  I hope she likes my choice of movie, Footloose with Kevin Bacon.  She likes 80's fashion, so I'm hoping she'll like a good old 80's movie to watch.

With mixed feelings, I have to report that the mouse that never went near a mousetrap, finally succumbed to one this week.  We felt a little sad, as it had almost become part of the family, but it's not really ideal nor hygienic to have mice in the house.  I hate to kill any of God's creatures, but some creatures are not so welcome in our homes. RIP mousey, I hope you had a good life and enjoyed your stay whilst you were with us.

This weekend I'm not working, so I will probably catch up with housework, tackle the ironing mountain and continue with my jigsaw.  Not very exciting, but enough for me at the moment.  LB starts her mocks next week and is busy revising, so we're all very home centred at the moment.

I hope you had a good week.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

New Sofa Covers at Last

As mentioned in my last post, the new sofa covers that I ordered back in October, arrived this week.  They took far less time than I thought, as initially I had to wait until the fabric came back into stock and then the covers had to be made up, before being shipped out from Australia I think, or maybe it was Singapore.  I'm not sure which, but it was the other side of the world.  Why was that, you might ask?  Not very eco friendly.  Well the sofa in question, was one we bought from IKEA over 15 years ago, which has been discontinued for probably 10 years now.

Over the years, I've looked out on eBay for new covers and one new set did come up, but seemed expensive at the time.  If only I'd known how much I would end up spending on some, I'd have snapped them up.  Anyway, after researching, there were a couple of companies that made covers, one in Europe, one in Australia.  I ordered swatches from each and checked out all of the reviews online and the ones that we liked best, that also seem to get the best reviews, came from Comfort Works in Australia, which is where I placed the order.

I was really impressed with the service, they kept me updated along the way, save for dispatch, which made it a nice surprise when the parcel arrived this week.  The covers were beautifully packed in a drawstring bag, inside a box.  It was like opening up a subscription beauty box.

I finally managed to get them on the sofa on Saturday. I didn't want to put new covers on the sofa in a room that was dirty, so I made the effort to do a full clean of the reception rooms, and then with a bit of help from OH, I managed to get the new covers on.  The base cover and the back cushions fitted perfectly, but the base cover was so snug, it was difficult to get on, hence why I got OH involved.  It looks great though.  The large seat cushions were slightly loose in places, but I can live with that. 

Overall, I'm thrilled, it's like having a new sofa, and knowing I've saved this sofa from going to landfill is even more satisfying.  Here's a couple of pictures of the room before and after.  The creases need to drop out yet, but I think the new covers make the room seem a lot more cosy and pulled together.



(I was watching a sneaky Christmas movie whilst cleaning the room!)

I'm now driving everyone mad, making rules about not eating on the sofa or letting the dog jump up onto it, but after paying nearly £350 for them, I'm sure you'll understand why. I think my annual wage rise, which we get in a lump sum next month, should cover the majority of the spend.

Our next big expense in this room, will be to buy a new armchair in a co-ordinating fabric, but I think that will have to wait until next year now. When we do, we will, of course, be giving the current one away to a Give or Take for someone else to make use of it.

I'm now looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations up in a couple of weeks time, which will make the room seem even cosier and lovely and festive.  I'll post again, when I've done this.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

A Crazy Week

It's been an interesting week. Lots of crazy and good things happened to make it so.  Here are a few of them:

On Saturday, LB and I headed out to a local(ish) Sixth Form College to look around on their Open Day.  She is taking her GCSE's this year and has to consider what she is going to do next. Unfortunately, her current school is not teaching one of the main subjects that she wants to study at A level, so we're considering other options. 

This place was great and really impressed me. She would be able to do all of the subjects she wants to do here and it is only a half hour bus ride away. It would also be a great stepping stone to university and a completely different experience from school.  It was nice for just us two to have an outing and I'm pleased that I went. It will be interesting to see what she decides to do. I'll keep you posted.

On Sunday and Monday, it was great to get back to the gym and do a couple of classes. I haven't been able to attend many lately due to work commitments, so this was a positive and made me realise how much I've missed them.

On Tuesday I was back to work for three days consecutively.  The first two days went okay, but my last day of the stretch was a disaster.  There was so much going on.  The Manager and Area Manager were interviewing for another Deputy, there was a shop lifting incident and a professional thief using slight of hand managed to rob us of some money.  We caught it all on camera, but the police won't do anything as the amount wasn't large enough. Then to top it all, the till stopped working and we had to shut the shop early. A disastrous day. The things people do to steal from charity shops are just unbelievable. Anyway, one good thing was that the lady who was recruited from the interviews seemed very nice which is hopeful at least.

LB had a difficult week too with a Drama assessment for her GCSE, which by all accounts didn't go too well.  She was quite upset about it, but it only accounted for 8% of her marks, which was a pretty small percentage, so by the next day she had got it more into perspective. Hopefully, it won't affect her results too much if it was as bad as she thought.

Needless to say, I was really pleased to get home and have a couple of days off and be able to spend time talking to LB and catch up with jobs at home. I got an email from my sister in Australia, who I haven't heard from in quite a while, which was nice. I had been meaning to email her, but just hadn't got around to it, so it was good to catch up.

My sofa covers also came this week, bang in the middle of my work days, so I didn't get the chance to put them on and see what they looked like.  I was really excited to do so, but I wanted to clean the living room first, which I managed yesterday, which leads me to another thing that I did this week.

I bought a cordless stick vacuum cleaner. I've been thinking about it for a while, particularly as I hate lugging our Henry type hoover all over the house. I'm done with that if I can help it. I need to make life as easy for myself as possible now that I'm working. The one I bought wasn't too expensive at £120, but it had lots of good reviews, so I'm hoping it will be worth the expense.

That just about sums up the week. A bit of a roller coaster, but we got through it. I'm back at work today, Sunday, but not until I've dropped some more decluttered items off at the last Give or Take of the year and a local charity shop.

I hope your week was a positive one.  Lets face it, we all need some positivity at the moment, especially with BREXIT hogging the news for all the wrong reasons. Next week is new week.  I'm hoping it's a little less eventful.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Shoebox Time Again

It's that time of year when Operation Christmas Child has come around again.  I wasn't going to get involved this year, as a couple of years ago, when I paid online in order to trace my box, they told me that they couldn't tell me where it went, which I found very disappointing and which put me off sending another one.

Anyway, after watching a few videos on YouTube about them and having a rethink, I decided to send one again. It doesn't really matter where it goes, but it is good to hear that someone somewhere has received it.

Before heading out and spending money on lots of stuff, I decided to shop our house for new things that hadn't been used that I could send off. We all have so much stuff these days, that there's always brand new things kicking around that have never been used for one reason. We really are much more fortunate than we realise.

Watching some of the videos, it seemed that many children cannot go to school unless they have the necessary stationery available to them, which is absolutely ludicrous. We buy such things so cheaply here from pound shops and other places and often keep stockpiles of it just waiting to be used in our homes.

After having a conversation with a volunteer at work, whose family lives in a war torn country, she told me that even simple ballpoint pens cost the earth when little reaches their country. Having difficulty affording something so small, that we take for granted everyday, must make it difficult to even write a list/letter or fill out a form.

With all this in mind, I decided to create a box for a 10-14 year old girl, as this was the closest age to LB and I was led to believe from the videos, that fewer boxes get sent for the older children.  On scouring the house, I actually found quite a lot that was suitable to send.  Here's a list and a photo.

1 - A bar of soap - it has to be individually wrapped.
2 - A pink poncho.
3 - A small sewing kit and fabric to make a small bag. I think this came with a magazine or book and I added a few extras to it from my sewing room.
4 - A small pack of coloured paper straws.
5 - A pretty pair of ankle socks with a sparkly bow - I'd bought these as an Xmas gift for someone else, but decided they could be spared.
6 - One small tin of unused  hair ties.
7 - One new pink scrunchie.
8 - A pack of Trump like playing cards - Normal playing cards are not allowed.
9 - A pair of black leather ballet shoes - I bought these for me, but to be honest they were a little small and I can't honestly see myself donning leotard and tights until I lose a couple of stone. Besides, what if they could inspire a girl somewhere to dance or even to wear them as slippers.
10 - Three small unused wooden stamps with a new sealed ink pad.
11 - Two small notebooks, one lined, one plain paper.
12 - Four new pencils, two with erasers on the end.
13 - Eight pretty note cards with envelopes.
14 - One roll of unused washi tape.
15 - One small pot of stick on jewels and googly eyes for crafts.
16 - One small origami set.
17 - Three pretty bulldog clips.

Crazy isn't it, how much you can find, if you actually bother to shop your own home first.

I added quite a few more items, mostly bought from Home Bargains, to make the box a little more appealing, such as a pencil case, water bottle, pens, ruler, pencil sharpener, large notebook, glue stick, sweets, a ball, soft toy, hair band, necklace, harmonica and a cute fluffy face mask amongst others. A couple of these things were bought new from the CS.

It's amazing just how much you can get in a shoe box. It kind of reminded me of a scaled up version of competitions we used to have at school, to see how many things we could fit into a matchbox.  I loved doing this when I was a child.

Hopefully, the recipient will enjoy the contents of this box. I wrapped up the box in Christmas paper, popped in a hand written card, said a little prayer and then took it to a local drop off point and sent it on it's way. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

An Annoying Start to the Week

After spending Monday and Tuesday of this week at work, it was lovely to get home on Tuesday night and know that I had two days off to spend at home. The week didn't start well, with a bit of an incident on Monday morning.

Basically, there was a stand off between a grocery delivery van (I won't name the company here) and another motorist on the street outside our house.  It lasted from when I took the dog out at 7.50am until I got back at 8.30am.  Both vehicles were refusing to reverse out of each other's way and instead sat there for 40 minutes blocking the road and blocking in our car.  I was really disgusted.  I tried asking both parties to move, but neither would yield to the other.  In the end I threatened to call the police.

Anyway, OH came to the rescue and calmly asked the motorist to reverse (I wasn't so calm), so he could get our car out to go to an appointment and to her credit she did, but the grocery van was completely unhelpful.  Needless to say, I made a strong complaint to the company concerned.  The driver claimed they were not allowed to reverse due to safety concerns, but I suspect that it was more a case of him not being able to, which makes me wonder whether he should have been employed as a van driver in the first place.

It didn't get my week off to a great start and was quite stressful. I've never seen anything so ridiculous in my entire life, especially from a well known company.  Since when was it written into the highway code that motorists have to yield to grocery delivery vans, they are not public service vehicles, nor emergency service vehicles.  They were completely deluded.

Anyway, the remainder of my two days at work weren't too bad, save for another shoplifting incident. I did feel a bit overwhelmed on Tuesday, as we received so many donations.  I know it's a good problem to have, but when you're responsible for processing them and are already overstretched, it can seem so onerous. I'm sure we'll get on top of everything though, eventually.

On a more positive note, our shop has been allocated another part time temporary Deputy Manager's post for 7 weeks to cover the busy Christmas period, which is a big plus and very unexpected, so we were happy to hear that news.  They just have to be recruited now.

For my first day off yesterday, it was the usual catch up.  I did a top up grocery shop and took an item back to TKMAXX that I'd bought, but that wasn't suitable.  I managed to throw a few more Christmas presents into the trolley, which was good.

Today, I'm staying closer to home, doing laundry etc. It's almost enjoyable to stay home, potter and do housework after being out at work. I quite enjoy the contrast and staying home on my days off, stops me spending lots of money unnecessarily.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A Bit of a Tangle

This weekend has been a strange one. After working on Friday, I spent the most part of Saturday, doing a little task I'd brought home with me from work, I say little, but it took a long time.  The job itself was to detangle 30 necklaces that had somehow got themselves into one big almighty knot.

I wouldn't normally bring anything home with me from the shop, but in this instance, these items were all new and from a quite pricey costume jewellery brand and were well worth untangling in order to get them put on sale in the shop in the lead up to Christmas, as they would make great gifts.  I just don't have the time at work to sit and unknot jewellery, nor do I have a volunteer whose time I can feasibly use to do the job, so I felt it was the best option in the circumstances and with the agreement of the Shop Manager I brought them home.

One whole day and two nights later and they were all untangled and ready to go back to work to be priced and put out on sale. OH even helped me out, as it got to a point where I just wasn't getting anywhere but frustrated, so he stepped in and did the last few.  A couple of chains inadvertently snapped whilst I was trying to detangle the knot, but on the whole, I think it was a worthwhile exercise and they should hopefully raise quite a bit of money over the festive season.

There was another large knot of cheaper necklaces that still needed detangling at the shop, but I managed to whittle these down by half yesterday, whilst I was at work and they are now out on sale.  Seems to be a running theme at the moment. At least I didn't have to bring these home with me too.

The rest of the weekend, was spent watching Strictly, ironing, walking the dog and generally taking it easy.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

A Mixed Bag

After my week off, I returned to work last Sunday, to what seemed to be a stockroom that was under very good control, which was a nice surprise.  My two days working at the beginning of the week went okay and I got caught up on one job that I'd not had time to tackle properly before I went off on leave, which was also good. There'd been a bit of drama in my absence, I won't say what, but I'm hoping it's now blown over or will have very soon.

On Tuesday, I booked myself into a different class at one of two gyms I've been attending for a while. I haven't actually been to the usual class at this venue for a while, as I got a bit fed up with it.  Returning again, I was starkly reminded why I'd stopped going. I don't think I'll be going back.  It's just a vibe there that I'm not enjoying.  As a consequence, I've spent part of my days off researching other classes I can attend in other venues. I think it's time to change things up properly. I've been doing the same things for way too long, I definitely feel I need a change. I'll keep you posted on how successful this is as I try out new classes.

On Wednesday, I had to go out to do the weekly shop early, as from Friday I was supposed to be working 5 days in a row and wouldn't get chance to do the grocery shopping.  (The rota subsequently got changed when the Manager decided not to take some leave he'd booked). I combined the grocery shopping with a bit of Christmas shopping and managed to complete the gifts for a few more people on the list.  It definitely felt like I'd made progress, which is a relief. There's still a couple of tricky gifts to buy, but I'm getting there and hoping to be done with it all by the end of the month.

In addition to doing some Christmas shopping, I managed to spend the birthday money that OH had given me at TK MAXX.  I bought this lovely Fiorelli bag, which will be my next handbag for daily use.  I'm still using my current one, but I always like to line up another one, as they frequently wear out, get too scruffy/dirty or handles split, etc., as a consequence of so much use. 

I'm really happy with this one, it has pockets in the various places that fit my needs perfectly (I particularly like this zip pocket on the back for my Oyster card - I have one on my current bag) and it looks quite smart for work and days/nights out too. It's PU, not leather, which is a plus, and at £35 I thought it was pretty good value.
I also bought myself these Guess sunglasses too.  Don't ask why, I just liked them and decided to treat myself to a nice pair. They were expensive for me at £20, but for a designer brand, it wasn't a bad price. (I don't usually go for designer brands at all, but I just liked the style of these)

Finally, I bought this necklace for £1.70 which I thought was very cute. It will be good to wear for work and was a snip.

I bought one other thing, namely some Guess ear buds, but I haven't yet decided if I'm going to keep these for myself or give them away as a Christmas gift to a niece. The jury's out on that one.

Talking of Christmas shopping, I opened an email the other morning offering 30% off one of the presents I bought for LB the other week.  Don't you just hate it when that happens. I'm trying not to think about it. A more positive email I received this week, however, informed me that my sofa covers are now being made and will be posted out soon, which is very exciting.

This month is going to be a bit busy.  We've got a couple of appointments to see different school sixth forms for LB, there's a Give & Take I need to attend to donate another big box of stuff we no longer need, LB has an eye test appointment to attend, there are possibly interviews for a new part-time manager at the shop again this month, some friends and I are arranging a pre-Christmas meet up and then the usual Christmas shopping/card writing nonsense.  I'm sure it's the same for everyone at this time of year.

I'll try to post as often as I can, but posts may be a bit irregular.