Friday 30 April 2021

April Budget Update

I haven't done a budget update for a couple of months, mainly because March was a bit of a disaster and I overspent quite badly on food and myself due to buying some new boots and a hair styler, plus there was the cost of some Easter gifts.

Anyway, thankfully, this month has been much better and I managed to keep within the food budget for once. The home and household budgets didn't fare so well though, mainly due to a bulk household/beauty order and buying some garden chairs and shelves. Both of these categories were over the budget by at least 100%. Other budgets were not fully spent though and made up for half of these overspends meaning just a £50 overspend overall.

My total expenditure was around £200 less this month, which was great, but I don't actually know where this money went, as I didn't put much more into savings, just £30. Maybe more was spent on credit cards last month, that were subsequently paid off this month. I have managed 18 no spend days this month, which is the most I've managed thus far this year, so that was progress.

My net worth calculation this month benefited from some shares recovering their price a little after the Pandemic and Brexit took their toll, which made me very happy. I should also be getting some good share dividends this month, which will add a good sum to this figure next month.

This coming month there is OH's birthday, so I'll have some expenditure there. I've also had a bit of expenditure already on some knee supports after having a little accident this week. I'm also not going to be able to cycle to work for a while, so I will have to pay for bus fares for a week or so too. Hopefully, there's nothing else too onerous on the near horizon though.

I hope you've had a good month financially.

Friday 23 April 2021

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

I've been back at work just over 2 weeks now and I'm slowly but surely getting back into the swing of things.

It's strange how just a few months away from your job and you forget how to do the simplest of things. I'm not quite in the zone yet and back up to speed with stockroom work, but I'm sure that given a week or two more, I will feel like I've never been away.

Donations are coming in thick and fast now that people realise we're taking them again and it is taking some effort to keep on top of them on daily basis, in spite of not having that many volunteers at the moment. I'm sure it's the same for most charity shops. Recruiting and retaining volunteers is always so vital to success. I'm certainly very grateful for the few stalwarts who are helping us to open each day at the moment. They are invaluable.

The Shop Manager finally returned to work this week. Once again, I felt palpable relief at being able to hand over the reins. I'm quite capable of keeping the shop running in his absence, but don't relish feeling the burden of responsibility, albeit shared with my colleague. Today, is really the first day off that I've had since returning, where I don't feel I have to think about work at all and can just enjoy my free time. Sounds silly, but there it is.

On another note, it is so good to see Central London coming back to life after so many months of deserted streets. I really do hope that things get busy again soon and that London get's it's buzz back. I'm sure it will as it is a really resilient city. Often on my way to work I notice businesses that are no longer trading, or To Let signs on buildings that were formerly occupied.  There are also many buildings being refurbished and building works galore, which I guess is a positive.

London as a whole, has felt like a totally different place in the last year and it made me feel sad at times, to see it so quiet. It was a novelty at first, of course, but then it just felt slightly depressing. It's usually such a vibrant city and it just felt like the life had been sucked out of it. In a few months time, I'll probably be complaining about how unbearably crowded it is again. Let's hope so anyway.

For now, I'm just happy to be back where I'm happy to be, doing a job I enjoy and chatting to the different people I work with. Small pleasures, better appreciated for having had them taken away for a while.

Sunday 18 April 2021

Lockdown W/E 17th April 2021

It's been an interesting and slightly eventful week and although we are coming out of Lockdown, it's not really officially over yet.

Work wise, I've enjoyed getting back into the daily/weekly swing of things, working in the stockroom, sorting and pricing donations ready to go in the shop, has been for the most part enjoyable. Most of the less interesting preparatory work of getting the stock take done and preparing the shop for re-opening has now finished and I can now focus on my usual duties, which is what I enjoy most.

I had to go to work much earlier one day to be present for a collection of stock, so I used the extra couple of hours to clean the shop windows, which we hadn't had time to do before we actually opened.  Ridiculous I know, but the stock take took the majority of our time and was a priority, as it had to be done by a certain date. Saturday, was unsurprisingly the busiest day of the week for donations and many donations came through the door. Many of them will still be awaiting me when I return to work on Tuesday, so I can see next week being a much busier one.

On my days off, I've still had to deal with a few work issues at home, but I think I've finally broken through and got on top of things. I had some IT issues to sort out and then did a thorough de-cluttering of my work email, which felt very satisfying. I've also had a few phone calls and emails to send, but nothing too onerous. I know it's just for the first week or so until the Shop Manager is back and takes the reins again, so I don't mind too much.

In other news, I got a shock at the beginning of the week when I received a summons for Jury Service. I can't say I was happy about it, as it isn't something I relish, but I don't really have a choice. I'd been summoned once before, just before Christmas several years ago, but didn't actually have to serve on a jury at that time, as many of the cases didn't proceed, it being so close to Christmas. I can't imagine that it will be the same this time around. Many people might relish the opportunity, but it's not really something that I find myself looking forward to.

Anyway, as a consequence, I'm going to be away from the shop for at least 10 days in a few months time. I did consider trying to defer, but I didn't really have a valid enough reason, so I'm probably just going to proceed on the date I've been summoned. It has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works with regard to work,  and I don't know how my Manager will feel about it, but what can I do?

Apart from this, I've had a reasonable week. I managed to catch up on some ironing and laundry on my days off, had lie ins reading my book and did a weekly shop towards the end of the week, but that's about as much as I managed.  One good thing, has been that my no spend days for the first half of April have been pretty good. I've managed 12 so far. My restraint may yet fall to pieces in the latter half of the month though.

The weather has been quite good too, although a little chilly and I've had a few nice long walks with the dog, when I've not been rushing out to work.

The garden is coming to life again too and greening up considerably, which always feels promising. The small maple that I bought during the first Lockdown and which seemed to die off suddenly, has come back to life and looks very pretty. I've moved it and I am hoping it will fare better in it's new position.

In addition, the amaryllis I bought before Christmas is finally flowering for the second time and looking very lovely on the windowsill.

I haven't done much sewing this week. I just haven't been feeling it really, but it will keep. 

It feels good to have an occupation outside of the house again. Life feels like it is slowly getting back to normal, for us at least, but I still haven't set foot inside a shop, other than the one I work in or a supermarket. To be honest, I don't have a lot of spare cash to spend and other than a few bits for the house, there isn't really much that I need at all. 

I did place an order with Big Green Smile this week for 3 large boxes of dishwasher tabs, which were on offer 3 for the price of 2. I recently tried some new eco dishwasher tabs, but they cause deposits of calcium on glasses, so I've had to go back to my previous eco brand and I won't be budging again. I only swapped because the new ones weren't each supplied in a small plastic wrapper. I ordered a few eco skincare bits too, partly to get free delivery, but also as I've decided that I need to be more thorough in my skincare routine as I get older, so some collagen face cream, hyaluronic face serum and peptide eye gel are all heading my way, which is quite exciting. It wasn't expensive - maybe £25 for the lot and I qualified for a free facial oil from the same brand, if they still have any left. I also bought a 5 litre bottle of white vinegar for pickling for £8 as I use it all the time. A bit of an outlay at £65 all told, but should keep me going for a while.

LB went to the pub with friends for the first time this week, now she is officially 18.  She seemed to enjoy the experience. She also celebrated a couple of friends' birthdays in small gatherings outside and got another university place offer, so she's had a pretty good week.

I hope you've had a good week too.

Sunday 11 April 2021

Coming Out of Lockdown W/E 10th April 2021

This week started with my feeling a little bit more productive. Knowing I only had two days left before returning to work, did give me more motivation to finish off a couple of tasks on my To Do List. 

When I got up on Easter Sunday morning, I didn't need to take the dog out, as OH had taken her, so I immediately got on with sorting out the spare bedroom/sewing room. This room has been a general dumping ground all through the last year and it's ironic that I started sorting out this room at the beginning of the first Lockdown and finished this (hopefully) last Lockdown sorting it out once again. 

Having finished the painting of the linen cupboard on the landing, there were a couple of boxes that I could return to the top of it. This in turn created space around my sewing table, so that I could get to the shelves and clean them and the table, which had become very dusty in the intervening period. It felt so nice to get some order back into the room. 

Whilst there is still a whole pile of stuff to take to a Give and Take when they resume, this may still be months away. There is, however, much more room now to move around and I could finally put my new sewing machine in there and will actually be able to use it at my sewing table. It felt like being able to breathe again. 

There was just one corner that I still couldn't get to, but I'll tackle that when all the unwanted stuff has gone.

After spending most of the morning in the sewing room, I went downstairs to find that it was a lovely sunny day. Whilst having some lunch and catching up on watching a few YouTube videos, I continued with creating rectangles for my new quilt and then I decided to do a little work in the garden whilst the weather was good. I proceeded to dig over both of the raised beds and added some fertiliser in readiness to put my dahlia tubers in next month and for OH to sew lettuce seeds into later the same day. 

I then decided to tidy up the front garden. The path still had leaves that needed clearing and the ivy on the front wall needed trimming. It didn't take long. 

I did the dishes and a couple of loads of laundry and then decided to spend an hour in the hammock reading a new book. A pretty busy around the house and garden Easter Sunday for me. 

As Easter Monday was my last day on Furlough, I decided to spend it doing a much needed deep clean of the kitchen. For once, I started with the oven, mainly because it's the dirtiest job, and also if I focused on it first, I knew I would do a proper job. I don't think I've cleaned it so well in a long time, although it did but me behind a little. I also prioritised cleaning out the fridge. I stopped at 6.30pm to cook an Easter roast. We didn't have it on Sunday as LB was out meeting friends. 

Later in the evening, I finished as much of the kitchen as I could, LB cut my hair and I carried out some self care in readiness for returning to work. 

Tuesday, after hardly sleeping the night before, I dragged myself out of bed to get ready to go to work. The bike ride in was great, but I'm not as fit as I was, so it took a little longer. Work itself was okay. There was a lot to do this week and the Shop Manager isn't returning for a couple of weeks, so I just had to get my head down and get the work done in time to re-open on Monday. 

It was good to get back to the shop though and have a change of scenery. I'm looking forward to settling back into a regular work routine over the next few weeks. Wednesday and Thursday, I was back at work again and by Thursday, the cycle ride was taking it's toll after three consecutive days. 

Anyway, we managed to get everything done that we needed to, rallied a few volunteers to open most days next week, worked our part-time hours over the three days, thus finishing for the week, until the shop can re-open on Monday. An intense 3 days, but job done. 

Friday, I was happy to be home and to have a free day. In the morning,I had a lovely long lie in and read my book for the first time since Monday. Then I got up to take the dog out. It was very sad to hear that Prince Phillip had passed away. 

After lunch, LB and I headed to ASDA to do a top up food shop and then we called into Poundland. I hadn't been for months and decided on the spur of the moment to go in and have a look. I managed to spend £33 in there, which was crazy. 

Some of it was for LB, some bits for the garden and house, some food and dog treats and a couple of items of clothing for me to wear to work. I remembered why I hadn't shopped there for a while - I spend far too much when I do. 

Saturday, I had a very lazy day at home, which is nothing unusual. It's been a busy and eventful week, in which I've enjoyed getting back to work, but it has been quite tiring too, especially after so long not working. I'm sure I'll get used to it again though. I hope you've had a good week.

Saturday 3 April 2021

Lockdown Diary - W/E 3rd April

The week started with another very quiet Sunday. I did very little, mainly just spent time sewing my quilt, which I enjoyed. We started watching I May Destroy You on iPlayer this weekend and it's quite hard to watch, as it pulls no punches, but very good indeed. We also watched the second episode of In the Line of Duty, but it always seems to be the same plot repeated. I'm pretty sure we'll stick with it though.

I ordered some new garden chairs and some solar garden lights on Saturday night, ready for some warm weather. The ones we currently have are not in very good condition, so they found their way to the tip later in the week. The new ones weren't too expensive. Just lightweight aluminium directors chairs. We've had one before and found it very comfortable.  Here's a picture of one of the ones I bought :

I thought about buying a new wooden garden set of table, chairs, etc., but it's hard to get hold of them at the moment, as some places have sold out and others seem very expensive. We decided to just settle for a couple of practical, comfy chairs instead, as the garden needs a lot of work. We may splash out on something better when the decking has been replaced. I bought these from eBay. I ordered them on Saturday night and they were delivered on Monday lunchtime.  Very quick service.  They are very comfortable too and OH and I got some use out of them on Monday, as it was lovely and sunny so we sat outside for a little while eating our lunch. It felt very therapeutic. I'd like to spend more time outside this summer if I can bear the heat.

On Monday afternoon, I finally moved myself and got around to doing some cleaning. I left it until 4.30 pm though, so only got the front living room cleaned and the entrance hall. The back reception room is cluttered with stuff that doesn't belong there at the moment, so it will have to wait.

On Monday night we watched the final episode of Unforgotten. Not wanting to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, I'll only say that I was sad at how it ended.

On Tuesday, I needed to get up a bit earlier and get out to my allotted appointment at the local tip. I took the dog with me and after I'd offloaded our bits of worn out junk, I took her for a walk. The man at the tip asked if my sewing machine worked and I said that it does sometimes, so he set it aside to try out. I hope he keeps it or passes it on to someone who can use it. I'm done with it, but someone might be able to get it working better than I managed of late.

I had all good intentions of cleaning again today, but it was so lovely and sunny, I just couldn't face it. The solar lights I'd ordered had arrived by the time I got home, so OH and I put them up over the hammock at the bottom of the garden. Here's a picture of them lit up at night:

I've since added a few tealights around the hammock, which make the area look really cosy and LB has been enjoying sitting out in the hammock in the evenings by candle and solar light.

A Cherryz order I'd placed on Saturday also came on Tuesday, which was very quick this time, as I've always waited up to 10 days for it in the past. For anyone who doesn't know, Cherryz is the online equivalent of Poundland. I mainly use it for snacks and other cupboard staples. I usually place one order per month, as I look forward to receiving the parcel, so that's my excitement for the month over and it's not even the first of the month!

In the afternoon, I decided to relax in the hammock in the garden and read my book for an hour, as I'd not had time in the morning to read it. I'm lost if I don't get at least half to an hour of reading done each day. It was very relaxing in the sunshine, apart from falling out of the hammock and grazing my elbow. I figured there'd be time enough for working hard when I get back to work and was determined to at least enjoy a bit of time in the garden this Lockdown.

On Wednesday, it was payday, so I decided to do a big grocery shop before the Easter weekend. I didn't want to leave it too late or the shops would get busy. I arranged for OH to walk the dog, so that I could get away early and be back in time for a work Zoom call at 2pm. The supermarket was busy. I forgot how busy it gets in the mornings, when they are picking the online orders. I won't be going at that time again in a hurry.

By the time I'd got home and unpacked the shopping bags, it was time for the meeting. I can't say I was particularly happy as I came out of it, but that's another matter that I won't discuss here. I did a bit of financial paperwork in the afternoon and I was happy to see that my finances were looking better than they'd looked for over a year, mainly because the share prices are slowly returning to pre-Covid/Brexit levels. It's hard to believe what a year it's been when I think about it. You couldn't have made it up if you tried.

For the rest of the afternoon, I decided to read my current book and try to finish it before the month end. It was The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and I agree with Marlene of PoppyPatchwork that this book was a really good read. By finishing it, I managed to read 10 books this month, which is a record to date. I delivered them all to the Little Free Library on my dog walk later in the day and took away one book that I will add to my fiction shelf.

Thursday was very uneventful, save that I received a lovely box of goodies from my sister for Easter. They were mainly biscuits and sweets, which was nice as I rarely buy biscuits and I'd already bought us some eggs. I didn't do much, just continued with my sewing.  The cleaning just wasn't happening. I wasn't feeling it.

On Friday, I was a little more productive in that I actually got around to doing a deep clean of the bathroom and downstairs toilet. LB was home and had promised to clean her tip of a bedroom, so I joined in and did the bathroom. The bath and tiles all needed a thorough clean to get rid of some limescale, so it took a couple of hours, but it felt good when it was finished. In the meantime, OH did some more painting in the downstairs vestibule in the afternoon, so it is now virtually finished, thankfully. There is just the door of the vestibule cupboard to prime and paint and the coat hooks to put back up and it's done. I can't wait, as I will then be able to put everything back in it's proper place, instead of being spread around the house.

Saturday, I finally put my mind to finishing off the varnishing of the linen cabinet. There was just one side and the top of the lid left to do, plus a second coat on the front doors. I was glad to finish it at last, although it didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped. 

I also finally got around to making some chocolate crispy buns topped with mini eggs for the Easter weekend. I contacted a work colleague to find that he was going to be at the shop when I start back on Tuesday, which was good news. Other than these small things and a bit of sewing on the quilt, it was a quiet and uneventful day. It was just too cold outside to spend any time in the garden, but it's great to see that things are slowly coming back to life. Looking forward to some consistently warmer weather, that's for sure.

It was odd to think that this was my last full week on Furlough and that next week things will change dramatically when I return to work. I'm ready for it and looking forward to going back to work, as I've just become a total zombie during this Lockdown. I really desperately need to get my mojo back. I'll let you know how it goes next week.