Sunday, 27 February 2022

Financial Round Up - February

February, has been another month where I had a lot of outgoings and very little discretionary spending. I'd spent a lot on credit cards in January for LB's and my sisters 60th birthday, and these expenditures had to be paid off this month, in order that I didn't have to pay any interest.

In addition, LB was due to go to the dentist for a checkup and I had budgeted for the possibility that she might need a filling or two. In actuality, she didn't even need her teeth cleaning, so this was a win and the check up only cost me £24. This meant that there was a little room in the budget, which I then used to book her an appointment for an eye test, which was also due. 

She needed some new glasses, as she had lost hers on a night out on her birthday last month, so she was making do with some old glasses, but the prescription wasn't strong enough and she desperately needed some new ones.  I had to pay upfront for the glasses, which cost £124, more than I had hoped. She'll get them next week, all being well.

With regard to other discretional spending, I spent more this month than last month. I think that being on a tight budget for two months led me to a bit of break out spending on a couple of occasions.  Not large sums, but when added together they did add up to almost twice as much as last month.

I took another week off work towards the end of February. Once again, I found myself with very little money to spend on my week off, so I didn't end up doing anything particularly exciting. I mainly stayed home and spent lots of time sewing, which in itself was quite a treat. At least this didn't actually cost anything and I got to finish a project or two.

We were going to go away for a weekend whilst I was off work, but the first weekend Storm Eunice hit, so it wasn't good timing to go to the coast. It also coincided with half term, so prices were exhorbitant and availability was limited. In the end, we didn't bother, which did give me and OH more time to spend on projects at home. Besides, it's no fun going away when you have no money to spend.

In terms of the budget, most of the categories for this month were overspent, some by more than others. Two categories came in under, these being food and home.

Food - £384.83 spent (Budget £400)  = -£15.17

Household - £67.72 spent (Budget £50) = +£17.72

Misc - £168.87 spent (Budget £50) = +£118.87 - This expenditure included LB's new glasses at £124.

Home & Garden - £11.57 spent (Budget £50) = -£38.43

My Personal - £97.41 spent (Budget £50) = +£47.41 - This expenditure always includes gym classes which I spent £32 on this month.

Gifts - £67.26 spent (No budget currently)

On account of my credit card expenditure this month, I'll be having another low spend month in March, but there will be room for a small amount of discretional spending, which might help me avoid any more unbudgeted lapses. March, however, is a long month, so I can't promise budgetary success, as I know myself well enough by now. To try to distract myself from spending I'm going to continue to focus on finishing some sewing and other projects in March, energy levels willing.

In addition, I will be putting £50 away each month from now on, towards paying for Christmas and birthday presents, to avoid getting into this ridiculous situation again at the beginning of next year. I guess sometimes, you just have to dig in and get through tough financial patches. Forward planning helps, and that's why I intend to do more of it going forward. Being on the back foot financially, is not a comfortable or enjoyable place to be.

I hope that February has been a good month for you financially.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Enjoying Another Week Off

My week off  this last week, got off to a good start on Sunday, in that I was able to spend the afternoon machine quilting rows on an unfinished quilt project from last year. It felt so nice to do something creative, as I just haven't had much time or been in the right place mentally for it lately. 

I got a bit frustrated at times, when I made mistakes and had to correct them, but eventually it was done and I could move onto the next stage of binding it. I always enjoy this stage, as it's like putting the finishing touches to something you've worked on long and hard and is very satisfying.

I picked up a couple of freebies on the dog walk on Sunday, from a local Little Free Library. Someone had put some seeds in there, so I took a packet of tomato seeds for OH and the book for me. He has already sown these. You can't beat finding a freebie now and again. Especially when you're on a tight budget.

On Monday morning, there was another storm raging here, with high winds, but I headed off to Zumba regardless and then went on to do the weekly shop. As it was the last shop of the month, I tried to keep it to an absolute minimum, in order to stay on budget as much as possible. I had a £2 voucher to use at Lidl and a £4.50 voucher to use at Tesco this week, which both came in handy. 

I did, however, get tempted in the Middle of Lidl, and spent £12 in total on a squirrel proof bird feeder, a vest and some leggings.  The leggings are definitely going to be returned, as I don't know what I was thinking there, but the other two items I will keep. I think being on such a tight budget this month, has definitely led to a few lapses.

On Tuesday, our dog was due at the vets to have an operation. This was, of course, a big source of stress. She needed some teeth removing and some lumps too, one of which had grown quite big. I busied myself sewing for much of the day, trying to stop myself from worrying about her. I was glad when we got the call to say we could collect her. She looked very dishevelled and confused, bless her. We don't take putting her through this lightly, but her teeth were causing her pain and needed attention.

On Wednesday, I took LB to the opticians for an eye test.  The two pairs of glasses that she eventually chose, cost more than I had anticipated, as there always seem to be added extras to pay for. The bill came to £124 and that, of course had to go on the credit card, which is thoroughly depressing as it leaves me with another big credit card payment next month. I'm hoping that this is the last month this year when this will be the case. I really didn't think I'd be entering a third consequetive low spend month this year, but such is life.

The remainder of Wednesday afternoon was spent working on the binding of the quilt I've almost finished, whilst watching the last available episode of Sanditon on iPlayer and then later, I cooked up some offal for the dog. After her ordeal at the vets, it was the least I could do, bless her.

On Thursday, I managed to finish the quilt I'd been working on which felt great. I've done a separate post about it, for anyone who's interested.

In the evening, I had arranged to go and see the reading of a new play in Victoria. A few other people that I knew had also been invited, so I met up with them there and we had a really lovely evening catching up and enjoying the play. 

On Friday, we made the decision not to go away for the weekend. Prices and availabilty just weren't ideal due to it being half term, and to be honest, we have so much stuff to get on with at home currently. We may go to France for a week in April instead, if I can get some time off work.

Having made this decision, this meant that I still had four full days left of my leave to try to finish a couple of other sewing projects and maybe do some work in the garden. I'll make a separate post about these last few days of my week off.

Friday, 25 February 2022

Lockdown Quilt Project Update

Back in March 2021, during the third Lockdown here in the UK, I posted about a new quilting project that I had started, mainly to help keep me sane, but also to try to use up some of the fabrics in my huge fabric stash. 

The project itself, was to make another king sized quilt for a bed, but this time I used brick shaped paper pieces to create the different fabric bands of the quilt top. I did this, because it would take longer to complete and keep me occupied during the last few weeks of Lockdown.

I did a bit of work on it before returning to work in April, but for the first month after going back to work, I didn't really pick it up at all. Once I got back into the routine of work, I started to enjoy doing a bit of work on it in the evenings whilst watching TV or on my days off. I always find it very therapeutic to hand sew anything. 

This last week, when I've been off work, I've managed to find the time to finish this project. I just needed to add the backing, quilt the large rows and then add the binding. It felt good to finally get it finished.

The project itself involved creating approximately 600 paper pieces that I hand cut, basted and then pieced together to form the quilt top. It was a lot of work, probably the most pieces that I've ever pieced together for a quilt top, but I really enjoyed the process.

I used mainly ditsy prints from my stash, including the odd vintage Laura Ashley print and I enjoyed selecting the fabrics. It was a real stash buster, which was very satisfying.

Once I'd hand sewn the quilt top, I could remove the paper and sew the finished quilt top to the vintage green woollen blanket that I used as wadding. You will see it here in the photograph, underneath the finished quilt top.

Once the quilt top was finished, it took a good six months before I returned to the project, as things at work just got too busy. Also, I didn't have a fabric in my stash that was wide enough to use as a backing fabric.

Eventually, I decided to use a red mini polka dot print fabric that I had enough yardage of, to piece together and make a backing from. The join didn't show too badly, once the respective parts of the quilt were machine quilted together. This saved me from buying any more fabric, which I was reluctant to do, as I still have so much in my stash.

I utilised one of the fabrics I used for the top, to bind the edges of the quilt and I'm pretty happy with the result. It's not perfect, but it's only for home use, so I can live with a few flaws.

Here's a picture of the finished quilt:

As you might have gathered, I really enjoy making quilts. It is a happy place for me. There is no better feeling than sleeping snuggled under a quilt you've made yourself. What better way to enjoy fabrics that you love, than to wake up underneath them every morning. They make for a very cosy night's sleep and they make me smile, as I recall the satisfaction I got from making them.

I've already started on my next hand sewn quilt, but I do need to finish a couple of unfinished projects before I really get stuck into it. I'll post once I make some progress worth photographing.

Monday, 21 February 2022

A Quilting Rabbit Hole and a New Quilting Project

On Sunday evening, after an afternoon of working on my current quilt project, I slipped down a quilting rabbit hole on YouTube. I'd read an article earlier in the day about a quilt that had sold at auction for just under $88,000. 

It was amazing to see that quilting is finally being taken seriously as an art form and that vintage and antique quilts with certain provenance are selling for such amazing sums of money. The article mentioned various quilters whose work is very collectable. One such group of quilters was the Gees Bend Quilters of Alabama, USA.

I'd never heard of this group, as I've never really looked into the history of quilting, save for what I've seen at exhibitions and in museums, so I decided to look them up on YouTube where there were numerous videos about their quilts and their lives. Very interesting too. Some of their designs are quite abstract and very colourful. I was fascinated.

I decided to make a YouTube quilting playlist, so that I could save lots of quilting videos and watch them at my leisure, which is what I've been doing since. It only takes having a bit of free time for the quilting bug to get hold of me again.

In other quilting news, I ordered a set of hexagonal quilting templates on eBay last week and they arrived today.  Here's a picture of the full set which cost £5 including postage. I thought this was a bargain.

There are various ways you can use them, although they didn't come with instructions. I guess the inside of the hollow hexie is the paper size and the outside the fabric size. Anyway, I won't be using a template for the fabric, I just pin the paper pieces to the fabric and cut around them. I picked one that seemed to be the best size for my new project and I've already started to use it to cut out some paper pieces for the project.

I do love all the different stages of doing a hand sewn paper pieced quilt. The initial cutting out of paper pieces, which I can do whilst I'm watching YouTube videos, then the choosing and cutting out of the fabric pieces. The hand pinning and basting of the hexies, followed by hand sewing them together to make the quilt top. (I often do these latter bits whilst watching TV). I think the parts I like the least are attaching the wadding and backing, as these to me are the trickiest bits.

Anyway, the design for the new quilt is called Diamond Field I believe, and it's believed to date back as far as pre-Civil war in the US, although I believe it was named in 1932. It's similar to Grandma's Flower Garden, but instead of flowers, you create diamonds with the hexies and place them on a one colour background.  

There's an example of a similar quilt to the one I want to make which I found on Pinterest. You can see it here The hexie they've used for this one, however, is much larger and the background a different colour to the colour I'm going to use. I love the simplicity of the design. I may make it as a bed quilt, a lap quilt or even a wall hanging. I'm not sure which yet. I guess I'll just see how it goes.

I haven't chosen the fabrics I'm going to use for the diamonds yet, although I have pulled a few out of my stash to see how they might go together. The background fabric I'm using is dark grey and the size of the quilt will depend on how much of it I have left after finishing making a chair cover with it.

It was originally a large pair of IKEA linen curtains. I used one curtain to make the majority of the chair cover and I still need to use part of the second curtain to make the chair cushion cover. Whatever is left after that, will be used for the quilt, hence why I can't really gauge the size until that project is finished, but it doesn't prevent me from getting started, which is very exciting.

I'll keep you posted on progress and show you some of the diamonds when I've actually made some.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

A Bit of a Catch Up

The last couple of weeks have been a bit busy, so I didn't get around to posting.

Work, has been okay. A couple of weeks ago we had another visit from the charity's Visual Merchandiser, who always cheers me up. The shop closed for a day and we moved around of some of the sections. It was a lot of hard work, but the shop looked good afterwards.

We haven't been getting that many donations lately, so things have eased up a bit and I got the chance to do lots of different things and more corners of the stockroom got cleared. I'm now on another week's annual leave until 1st March, so it's nice to have some time at home again, catching up with unfinished projects and keeping on top of housework.

Yesterday, I worked on an unfinished quilt project for most of the day. I'm hoping to get it finished or at least get to the point where I only need to hand sew the binding onto it, as that can be done when I'm watching TV in an evening. It feels good to be making progress with these things again, as they've been kicking around untouched for months now.

A couple of weeks ago, we had new sash windows fitted to the front of the house. Here's a picture of the house before:

and after.

It doesn't look that different in the photographs, but it should be a lot more economical now we've got double glazing. It is also much more soundproof which is an added bonus.  The whole front of the house now needs re-painting and the dead climber needs removing from around the upstairs windows, but we'll get around to it eventually.

Everywhere inside, is now covered in a layer of dust, but I'm not cleaning it up until OH has finished off the trims on the inside of the windows, upstairs and down, as more dirt and dust will build up while he is working on them.

In the last couple of days, I've started a new health kick. I'm not going to say much about it at this point, as I may not stick to it, but I'm hoping to form new habits that will help me lose weight and that will just generally help to make me feel better about myself. We'll see.

I've got  a few things planned during my week off and we're hoping to get away for a couple of days towards the end of this week. We were going to go this weekend, but Storm Eunice hit, so it didn't seem a good time to go to the coast. Also, it's currently half term and prices are sky high with little availability.  It would be good to have a little break though. 

I hope that you all came through the stormy weather without too many problems.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

First Week Back at Work

You might be able to tell that I'm now back at work, as the blog posts have slowed down somewhat. I mentioned my first day back on Tuesday in a previous post.  On my day off on Wednesday, I was really tired, despite sleeping okay.

I ended up spending the afternoon in bed reading a new to me library book by Lucy Worsley called Jane Austin at Home. It's a really interesting biography of how Jane Austin's life was really lived in the different homes in which she lived, her influences, what activities occupied her time (besides writing, of course) and the education she received as a girl in Georgian England. Information therein has been taken from letters she and her family wrote and other family accounts of her life, plus it references the books she wrote and that have been written about her and the lives and careers of her siblings and other family members. I'm really enjoying reading it.

In between chapters, I fell asleep for a couple of hours. It felt wonderfully self-indulgent to sleep during the afternoon, as I didn't actually get much time to snooze and relax on my week off, as there was so much to catch up on at home.  The back reception room was full of the new sash windows that were delivered earlier in the week, waiting being put in, so it wasn't possible to get on with any ironing. Instead, I holed myself up in the spare bedroom upstairs.  I paid the price for that afternoon nap in the evening, as I didn't sleep a wink.

On Thursday, I was back at work again. My first priority was booking some more leave. I've booked a week off at the end of this month. I've got a couple of things planned that week and we might get away for a few days this time.

I didn't dive into processing the donations today either. I decided to spend an hour re-organising parts of the stockroom and getting out the last of the winter bags of clothes that we'd put away last year. They needed to go into the shop, whilst there's still a chance of them being bought and pricing them was another task I completed later in the day. 

I probably really annoy anyone who works with me, as I'm quite particular about how tidy I like the stockroom to be when I'm in it. No one really keeps it that way when I'm not there, it's just an ongoing one woman battle against chaos, but it keeps me feeling like I have some control. I just don't function well when I'm surrounded by mess and chaos. Anyway, I managed to eat my sandwiches at 4.30 pm instead of 6pm, which is the usual, so I was kinder to myself today.

Friday morning here was rainy, so the dog wasn't keen to go out early. Instead, I did the washing up, sorted some laundry, had a leisurely breakfast and pottered in the garden pruning a few plants that needed it. Eventually, we got out for a two and a half hour walk!! (That's just how long it took, as dog is very slow these days). That was the morning gone. 

In the afternoon, I decided to sign up for a 6 week free trial of Readly, which is a magazine/newspaper subscription app. I kind of got lost down that rabbit hole for the afternoon, but I did find a few interesting magazines to read. I rarely read magazines, as they are so expensive to buy. After the free 6 weeks, it costs £9.99 per month.  Not sure if I'll continue to subscribe. I'll see how much use I get out of it, but it is nice to find something to read on afternoons when I'm not at work and it is more sustainable than buying paper magazines, although I do love them.

Later, I watched a TV programme on iplayer about Jane Austin and her connection with the county of Hampshire. It was originally shown on Channel 4 and was presented by Mariella Frostrup. It tied in nicely with the book I'm currently reading that I've mentioned above.

On Saturday, I was due to work from 10am instead of 12noon, as the Manager wanted the day off. I didn't have many volunteers working with me, but we managed. To be honest, I prefer working with just a few people, as sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming when there are lots of volunteers working who all need to be assigned tasks and taught how to do them in many instances. We had a good day with regard to sales and I was able to do a variety of tasks. For the most part, I was working alone in the stockroom, which I don't mind at all

I managed, with the help of a new volunteer, to get the winter scarves replenished, as we need to get as many sold as possibly in the next few weeks, before the weather turns warmer. The boxes of scarves in the stockroom had been seriously overflowing, so I was able to get them back under control, which felt good.

Later, I also priced a whole heap of gloves that had built up, so we had plenty of those on sale too. They tend to sell quite quickly, once they get out onto the shop floor.

I also sorted through the heaps of shoes that had accumulated and sent a few bagsful to other shops and put some in storage for the summer months. This helped get this area under better control too, so this side of the stockroom looked a lot better by the time I'd finished. It felt like a productive day. I need to price some shoes in the coming week, but I didn't have the time on this particular day, as I also needed to process Gift Aid donations and re-organise a couple of other messy parts of the stockroom.

I left feeling like I was getting things back in some sort of order at least, for how long, I don't know. I didn't over do it though and ate my lunch at a reasonable time too, so I'm making progress.

Currently, we are watching Ricky Gervais's After Life and I am quite enjoying it. We started season two this evening and then watched one of three episodes of a documentary about Andy Warhol that we'd recorded.

My sleep pattern is very disturbed at the moment. I keep waking up really early, sometimes 4 or 5 am and am not able to get back to sleep. It leaves me quite tired the next day. I'm hoping it doesn't continue for too long.

I hope you've have a good week.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Back at Work After My Week Off

As I've mentioned in a couple of posts, last week I was off work, as I needed to use up some annual leave before the year end. To be honest, I was in desperate need of some time off after working over Christmas and New Year.  The build up to Christmas in any retail environment is very intense and unrelenting and I think I was virtually burnt out by the time I did go on leave.

I don't think I realised how burnt out I was, until I got away. It took a couple of days to acclimatise to being off work, and I didn't do a great deal during this time. As the week wore on, I decided to use the opportunity to get the house up to scratch. It has been very neglected in the last few months. All of my energies have gone into work and there's been very little left over for the house. Getting it clean again and back in some sort of order has made me feel a lot better and more in control of things.

We were going to go away for a few days toward the end of last week, but as I got stuck into the cleaning, it didn't seem so important.  I may regret this, as it would have been good for blowing away the cobwebs, but I should be taking another week off in the next few weeks, so perhaps we can get away then. For now, getting back on top of things at home seemed more of a priority, as the state of the house has been weighing me down both mentally and physically lately. Only by tackling it did this weight lift.

I returned to work on Tuesday this week.  I can't say that I was looking forward to going back, the main reason being, that I don't seem to be able to find a good balance lately, between doing enough and doing too much. I push myself to work relentlessly hard when I'm there and it leaves me feeling very depleted.

After spending some time thinking about my situation at work, I went back feeling a bit more detached than usual and ready to stand back a little and not overdo it. I want to try to stop pushing myself so hard to do everything that needs doing, to the detriment of my health and wellbeing. 

Anyway, when I got back, there was a massive stack of Gift Aid donations to sort. I tackled what I could that day, but I didn't push myself quite so hard and I spent some time tidying the stockroom, as I hate to work in a messy space. I didn't get everything done, but I felt okay about it. There were a few new faces which was good, and an ex volunteer popped in to say hello too. I worked with one new volunteer who was lovely.

What I particularly enjoyed about going back, however, was getting back on my bike. I've missed the extra exercise I get by cycling to work. Although I did a lot of cleaning last week, which is physical work, I have been much more sedentary and I needed to get myself moving again. It is also a good stress buster, which is an added bonus.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

January 2022 Money Roundup

This month has been a tough one, as I'm sure it has been for many people all over the country. I entered January with £500 on credit cards after Christmas and facing two big expenses this month, namely my sister's 60th birthday and my daughter LB's birthday. 

As a consequence, I knew it was going to have to be a very tight month, with virtually no discretionary spending. This, however, is very hard to maintain, so a few things might have been purchased during the month, but not very much.

In terms of the budget, several categories were well overspent, and others were underspent. Food, for example, which I allow a £400 spend on, was well under budget at £315.70. It helped that we had quite a bit of food left over from Christmas. I'm not sure that I could keep it this low for a second month, but I'm going to try.

Also underspent was the Home category, on which I allow £50 spending each month. This month, I only spent £16.87. The Misc. category, which has the same spending allowance, was also underspent, but only by a small amount at £43.38 spent.

These underspends covered the cost of the overspends in a couple of categories. The Household budget, which again is £50, was overspent by £54.94, mainly because of a bulk order of toiletry and household products that I made in January. I only place these orders a couple of times per year.

Spending on myself, which is also set at £50, was also overspent by £28.25. The majority of my spending this month has been on gym classes and £20 of the overspend was what it cost to pay for the renewal of my yearly membership at the gym. As far as I'm concerned, attending the gym is non-negotiable, so I don't regret this spending at all.

Unsurprisingly, by far the biggest spending in January was on gifts, where I spent over £300, and as a consquence my credit cards have taken a bashing again this month. In all fairness, it was an unusally expensive month, so hopefully next month it won't be quite so bad, as I only have one, less expensive gift to pay for and a visit by LB to the dentist and possibly to the optician to accommodate in the budget. I'm hoping that these visits won't be too costly, but one never knows.

As a consequence, I'm going into February facing down another tight month. I once again have £500 to pay off my credit cards, which doesn't leave much money for the everyday spending categories, so I'm going to try to keep spending as low as possible again. I will need to use my credit cards again, towards the end of the month, but I'm hoping expenditure on them will not be to the same extent as this month. (By the way, I do realise that spending on credit cards to get through the month isn't ideal, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get through).

This year's Christmas financial hangover was caused by dental and optical costs in October and November, the first since Lockdown. These costs were necessary, but came at a time when I am usually using any spare cash to buy Xmas presents. 

To avoid a repeat this year, I'm going to put aside £50 per month, from March to cover birthday and Christmas gifts, as I want to be in control of my finances in 2022 and I don't want to end up in this position again next January. Anyway, I got through it, and hopefully, by the end of February, which is a shorter month at least, I will be in a better position and will be able to enjoy myself a little more in March.

I hope you've all had a good month financially and it hasn't been a struggle, especially with the current rising cost of everything. If it has been a struggle, I hope you came through okay and that February will be a better month for you. If, like me, you're still a bit under the cosh, keep persevering and hopefully we'll all eventually come out the other side.