Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Doing

I've seen about the place that folk are choosing a word or concept to carry them through 2014. After not a huge amount of thought mine is going to be something along the lines of "action" or "doing". I seem to have done a lot of planning and talking recently and now is the time to do something too. 

Yesterday I was chatting to someone I know from an exercise forum I used to visit and I swore to her (or myself) that I would not be having the same conversation this time next year as we were having right then. That's all about doing. I am fully equipped but having the right stuff doesn't mean anything if I don't use it.

As for NYE can you believe I have to go to the charity shop. Ha! I am secretly hoping that it's really really quiet, quite the opposite of doing, but I am allowing myself one final day of lazing. 

Best wishes to everyone.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Updated Lists and Choices

I was a bit all over the place before. 

After flip-flopping I decided to use the Christmas gift money to replace the (already replaced) money used to buy clothes last month, so that's packed away in the savings account. 

The January shopping list is shorter now, we don't need a shampoo bar (our shampoo issues are long and tedious) and Dan picked up a pack of wraps for 19p earlier. I don't know if I mentioned it the other day but Father gave me some turnips, so they're hanging up in the garage for whenever I do something with them, Dan can't eat them so it'll be a steam and freeze affair when I have space in the freezer. 

The January grocery list now looks like this - 

bunny veg
onions
mushrooms
leeks
carrots
potatoes
other veg (whatever's cheap or looks good)
bananas
other fruit

milks
sandwich filling

bread
pitta

chilli flakes
butterbeans
passata
cereal (3 boxes)
tea


Countdown to "The Big One"

I've cut out another single use item, toilet cleaner. Recently I bought a bottle of pine disinfectant and when I read the blurb it said it can be used the clean the toilet. Excellent. I'm not usually an anti-bac, disinfectant person but I have the bottle and it's already had a load of use, even if it's not massively eco-friendly. When we were first cutting down on spending I tried all the frugal tips, vinegar and bicarb for cleaning came up all the time. True, they do the job but it's not a cheap way to do it in my experience.

We're totting up our savings targets and things for next year. It's a lot. I'm really happy because our master "to buy" list is pretty short. This list is everything we "need" for the year ahead - clothes, shoes, work stuff, DIY things and all that. The only things on the list this time are the big things, which we know won't happen like a replacement kitchen and flooring for the living area. That's ok. We're planning on a fairly quiet year generally because we have a couple of really big events to attend. 

Dan has also pointed out that this time next year I will be nearly 40. I'm not a bucket list/ 101 places to see before you die type of person but if I want to do something involving a rabbit sitter then it's more likely to be a goer if I'm 40 rather than 39 or 41 (people are more likely to say yes to my request). Dan is doing the sums to see if my big want is a possibility so we shall see. Budget squeezing is going to be even more severe if so, hooray!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

December Groceries Roundup

Today was not a no spend day but it was a "get a few things crossed off the list day". Breaking our normal rule we went to the shops, although it was really, really quiet so it didn't feel like we were at the sales, few people, no queues, no nothing really. 

We used the Christmas gift vouchers and a bit of cash to buy some stuff we were after - craft storage for me , work clothes and new trainers for Dan and a new rug for the buns. Not exciting but there you go, I'd rather use a voucher for a shop I don't usually visit to get these things than to part with my own cash. The quilt storage is very nice too, it's a big bag for me to stash everything in at the end of the day, if it doesn't quite make its way into the cupboard it still looks good in the room. It's massive and very sturdy.

We also bought groceries, we spent £9.92 including a big (reduced) quiche for Dan, it's a very rare treat these days so why not. So we are well over the £90 target, but we already new that. We're just under £128 which is still less than the "real" budget of £190. As I said the other day, we shouldn't need too much next month, although I need to add toilet paper to the list. The pantry is still well stocked and little stocking gifts like bags of dried fruit and nuts are a great addition to the breakfast cupboard, so thanks to everyone for them. Oh, Dan found a quid this morning too, bonus!

It just goes to show that we went over budget because we over bought. But there's been no waste as we were careful with the fresh stuff we bought. There are a few bits hanging around but they'll all be used up by the end of next week. As a New Year's Eve treat we have some Indian-style party snacks. MIL had them in the freezer for Wednesday night but we didn't eat them so they came home with us. We can have half on Tuesday night and the other half during January when the month seems long and the nights very dreary.

Next month I'll be listing everything I buy from the grocery budget so I have a proper idea of what's what. It could be dull, you have been warned. 

Friday, 27 December 2013

Another Christmas Bonus

No spend days.

I don't think there's another time of the year where it's so easy for us to avoid spending! We bought petrol and oil on Monday and nothing since. Our shopping list for tomorrow is bunny veg, bread and mushrooms. We could do without two of them if push came to shove. I love it.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

£90 Shopping List

Trying to cram all the food gifts we received into the pantry I decided to use my new mini notepad to do the pantry inventory and work out the basic shopping list for next month. I was very happy to see we're still very well stocked so I won't be feeling the need to run out to the shops, now there's a relief. Luckily, one of our gifts was a set of jars of chutney, very useful for lunchtime. I'm not fully sure what we're going to do with the hamper of ginger products but I'm sure they'll come in useful somewhere along the line. 

Not included in the £90 is £16 for hay.

bunny veg
onions
mushrooms
leeks
carrots
potatoes
other veg (whatever's cheap or looks good)
bananas
other fruit

butter
milks
sandwich filling

wraps
puff pastry
bread
pitta

chilli flakes
butterbeans
passata
cereal (3 boxes)
tea

shampoo bar

The shampoo bar will take a chunk out of the budget but it's needed. We don't need any other household products so it'll be an inexpensive month in that regard. £90 feels very doable, but I say that every time!



Wednesday, 25 December 2013

We Even Got A Change Jar

We seemed to receive a lot of presents this year. Bunny-related stuff was at an all term low, rugby items doubled from last year, toiletries down, pyjamas and hats up, books constant. All very practical.

One of the bunny items came in a small, sturdy looking box, with a Q on the top and front. " "Q" for "quid" " said Dan, "It can be our sealed pot". So it is. Bonus gift and the sender didn't even know it.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Busy Relaxing

We're in the car as much as the house at the minute. This morning is a car check, top up anything we need in the winter emergency bag, then load up with presents and off we go again. Dan loves driving and I love being in the car, especially now I have my "Mr Noisy" neck pillow. I am looking forward to Friday though when we can spend a whole day at home.

The rabbits found their Christmas present, so that's already had a good chewing. It's still a bit odd to think it's Christmas Eve but here it is whether I'm ready or not! One of my favourite things about where we are is the amount of churches nearby, hearing the bells on Christmas Eve is always a pleasure and makes me very happy indeed. 

The good thing about today is that reality is on hold. It's just all about today and tomorrow, not really discussing the plans for next year or thinking about how this year has been. It's just about Christmas Eve, whatever that is. 

Best wishes to anyone reading, stay safe and find time to be happy!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas Bonus

A wee while ago Dan's step mum mentioned that they were going to the Opera House in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool to see the musical "Scrooge" with Tommy Steele. So we said we'd come along too. It was the matinee performance and we thought it would be a little bit cheesy but ideal for getting us in the festive spirit. I apologise wholeheartedly to all concerned for the first part. It was sensational. Tommy Steele was amazing, everything about it was just wonderful and everyone had a great time - even the little boy behind us who was a little scared of the ghosts. Perfect venue, perfect crowd, perfect production. 

The second Christmas bonus arrived in the post. A brown envelope doesn't bring good news all that often, less still one from a solicitor. Again, how wrong we were. It contained a cheque, which must be one of the best things to be popped through the letterbox. It was something to do with the purchase of this house, very much a surprise as we've been here for nearly 4 years. It was less than £100 so not a massive amount, but a very welcome boost to the savings pot. 

Dan's mum has given us a cheque too, it's to cover both Christmas and birthdays for both of us. We're torn over what to do with it. On the one hand we could just have the cash or we could save it. Spending it is always tempting, especially after the demise of the laptop but saving is tempting too. I recently bought a pile of new clothes, the cash for some of this came out of one of our savings pots so I think I'm edging towards putting my part of the cash into that so it feels like I received a whole new wardrobe for Christmas. A very nice brain teaser. 


Friday, 20 December 2013

January Menu Plan

Blimey, here we are already. Even though it's really just another month it feels quite difficult to do this plan. I suppose it's all bound up in the intentions and desires to make a good start to the new year and all that stuff. 

One thing we are planning to do is to have a roast or similar on a Sunday, at least until the rugby season starts. I'm also putting simple stuff on a Tuesday. I don't get back from the shop until 5 so minimal prep is the order of the day. It's basic, it's simple, it's using what I know we have in. When stocks run low I'll probably look for some new recipes but I'm not a foodie type so eating the same tried and tested things each time works well for me, Dan is the same, it works well even if it might bore others to tears!

1. leftovers - there's bound to be something
2. risotto/fried rice
3. chestnut pie w mash
4. plaki w lentil grill

5. roast
6. stirfry w. noodles
7. spaghetti
8. out
9. leek & butterbean crumble
10 lentil and mushroom curry w rice
11 cajun spiced wedges w falafel

12 roast
13 mushroom stroganoff
14 enchiladas
15 jambalaya
16 lemon and herb tart w patatas bravas
17 chickpea balti w baked bhajis
18 roast veg pasta

19 roast
20 lentil, garlic and butterbean stew w bread
21 orzotto
22 chilli bean bake
23 spicy bean balls w tomato sauce
24 stirfry
25 pizza

26 roast
27 pasta bake
28 shepherdess pie
29 l/o
30 chickpea balti (fr)
31 empty the fridge one pot

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Having an Old Friend For Dinner


Tonight, unless the weather threatens to take over the town, I am venturing out to meet an old friend. I haven't seen him for 13 years so who knows how it will go. The thing is there's no real catching up to be done. We started chatting again on the old social networks so there's no news and no surprises really. None of the "oooh, you've changed, look at your hair" etc. 

In one sense it's good I suppose and in another sense there's no anticipation, it'll be just like a normal interaction only we sat in the same pub for a change. Weird.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Joining The Club

Twinkly tree, pinecones and lanterns, a ceramic snowman filled with chocolates, nuts in shells, citrus fruits, babycham, black forest cake, sprouts, Tommy Steele, glittery jumper, pomegranate juice, spare room filled with stuff. I think that's the full checklist and yet there's something missing.

I'm not feeling festive. I'm very happy and excited but not about Christmas, just about things in general - rag rugs, lino prints, another quilt, lovely husband, seeing a friend for the first time in 13 years, birthday, snowdrops, coal tits, flannelette sheets, yellow nail polish. It's probably better to be excited about that stuff than the other way round though. 

I think the Rugby League World Cup threw me out. One minute it was the start of October then all of a sudden it was December. Plus the RLWC was so amazing almost anything else falls by the wayside. And it's too warm, no good at all. 

I have sent two cards. One to my friend in The Netherlands, that happened because I always send it early and I was in the first flush of excitement about funtivities. The other is to my mum who would be very cross if there was no card. She'd rather have a card than a gift. So that's that. I think part of my problem is that I'm too organised, everything is very calm and just gets done, there's no losing of tape, I don't have to dig out the wrapping paper (due to my dislike of the wrapping paper curse). Everything is ready to go and I think rather than some festive feeling I'm missing feeling spontaneous. 

On the plus side, I used the till at the charity shop yesterday! I have yet to learn the ins and outs of Gift Aid but one step at a time. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Food Log

bunnies add to the romance


First of all, I was wrong in my comments yesterday, we became debt free in 2006, saved for 2 years for a car which should have taken us to December 2008 but only took until the end of August. Phew, cleared that one up. Thank you Dave Ramsey.

I've been having a look at my online supermarket receipts (thank you Booths) and it's an interesting read. Obviously I don't buy everything from the supermarket so, just out of interest, I'm going to go back to keeping a note of everything I buy. Just to check I really am sticking to the budget I say I am and to keep an eye on anything naughty that's sneaking into the trollop. I know how the budget's going this month as there's still £98.07 in the grocery account so I'm still just under budget but we'll go over and probably end up around the £110 mark again. But that's fine, happy with that. 

We're going to stick with an aim of £90 for January. As I said yesterday we're not hitting that goal but it's always in mind which has been helpful. If I upped the ideal goal to £110, which is around what we're spending then I'd probably still go over. It's one of those games, fools no-one but is helpful anyway. 

Father in Law has offered to take us out for tea on Saturday so that's another couple of quid saved. There's a lot of veg hanging around so it looks like a batch cook is in order tomorrow, along with a tidy of the freezer. It's been a case of "stash and dash" in there recently so a jiggle and inventory might be useful. It's mainly bread and things I think but who knows what delights await?

I love the real Christmas tree, it looks and smells amazing, so happy with it and Dan loves it. He has been the driving force behind getting it so I'm glad he likes it as much as he does. As you can see from the grainy photo, we've had to add a rather municipal looking fence around it to keep the buns, especially White Bunny away from it as she thinks it's rather tasty. That's not saying a deal though as she finds soft furnishings, skirting boards, shoes, peanut butter, me and carrier bags tempting too. I don't know what she'll make of the Festivus pole. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

2014 Planning

It will be more of the same with some things done differently! We've slightly adjusted the amount going straight into savings so there's more than we're currently saving but we're going against the grain and getting rid of the annual expense fund. We've had one for coming up to 10 years and it doesn't really work for us any more. We may return to this system of budgeting in the future, but not next year. 

It was ideal when we were paying off debts and we needed to know there was a separate account for car stuff, vet bills, gifts and things like that but that's not where we are now. We've been working to a budget since 2003 when we had the lightbulb moment so over the years we've jiggled and adjusted things so it works out that we have one biggish expense per month - January is nothing, February Dan glasses, March pre-paid prescription, April loads of birthdays, May car stuff, over the summer my glasses, any work on the house and the boiler service, October car tax, November bunny vaccinations, December Christmas. So we can just deal with those expenses from the main budget because we know they're coming. If there's an emergency there's the emergency fund to fall back on. 

We're not going to reduce the amount going into the grocery budget account but it looks like we can do well on far less than the £190 a month we thought we were struggling on. We haven't stuck to £90 for the past two months but having it as an aim has been great as we've been much closer to it than we would have been otherwise. The surplus cash has been stashed into my ISA for a nice little boost. 

If it ever stops raining I'm going to nip out for a sealed pot. I started a change jar but it has already been raided for change for car parking, so a sealed vessel is needed!

We're not having a not-holiday next year but we are heading south for a wedding, assuming we can find someone to babysit the bunnies. We've never left the buns overnight before but we really want to go to the wedding so fingers crossed. We're also both invited to the stag do in London but whether that happens or not I don't know. I very much like the idea of going to a stag do as I've never been on one before, with being a woman and all that so it's very tempting. We shall see. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

saturday

9am

where am I? In the car on the prom
what's the sky like? Blue and grey
what am I wearing? Neon skirt, beige top, grey leggings, grey converse
what's motivating me? gift shopping and collections of jelly babies, submarines, things made from pianos and sci fi games at the Grundy. 

2pm

where am I? at a garden centre
what's the sky like? very grey with fast moving clouds
what am I wearing? as 9am
what's motivating me? a cup of tea and an iced bun, vegetable seeds, freebies

5pm

where am I? in the kitchen
what's the sky like? not visible but the weather sounds awful
what am I wearing? pink trousers, bunny jumper, slippers
what's motivating me? bargains from the FYC pop up shop, spaghetti, Parks and Recreation

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Descent

the evidence


I have nothing to report.

The Christmas tree is in the house but still undecorated, it is under attack from the white rabbit. The money is bobbing along as it tends to do. We've bought a selection of gifts, including a tattoo design colouring book for my mum. She likes a spot of colouring in and I doubt she'll have seen this one. There are boxes of decorations all over the place, I think we'll do something with them tomorrow. 

We went to the beautiful Winter Gardens last night to a gig, I was most certainly one of the oldest people there which was fun. I think some of the audience who rolled their eyes at all the old folk as they waited to see Panic! At The Disco and we waited to see They Might Be Giants in Manchester the other week, ha! We're back there next weekend for a bit of Tommy Steele, oh yes. 

I am home alone this evening, Dan is off to a hotel somewhere for workplace funtivities. I will be here with a box of Maltesers and some Babycham. As you can see I really do have Babycham, saw some the other day and thought "why not?" After all, it's the happiest drink in the world!


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

My Temple, My Castle

You can't change one thing without everything else having to jiggle up and that's what's happening this week. Still reeling from the shock of our spending on Saturday I've had to address a couple of things - mainly why do I eat and drink so much when we're out with this one particular friend? Don't do it with anyone else. 

Anyway, as I've been busy pondering and doing things differently it's meant that other things have to be done differently. I got up today and the house was like a bombsite. So the basic things have been neglected a little, easy to remedy and done already, that's just a case of first things first. I now have a wardrobe full of clothes*, a house that is getting there, lovely friends and family, a couple of savings accounts that are starting to fill up, a hobby or two and now a day out playing shops (thanks to Mum for that fun way to describe it). Now I need to look after my body. I think everyone by now has seen the weightloss challenge issued over at Frugal In Bucks and while I don't know if I'm in, I'm certainly thinking about myself again. 

My days are starting to take on a little structure - not too much but just enough so I feel like I have tome for things. At the minute I have all the time in the world but no time in particular so I haven't been making anything a priority, now everything is a priority! So, basic household stuff, exercise, shower, everything else will be the order of the day. Although it does beg the question what am going to use as a doorstop if I'm using my weights?

Next thing to face up to is the financial stuff, but not today, I have to lift things up and put them down again for a bit. 

*well, 60 items of clothing in total

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

New Things

Along with the surprising realisation that I would really have liked to be a florist a couple of other new things have come about this week. Firstly, next year I will make a rag rug. We don't have any proper flooring in the living room (can't decide what to go for) so we have a mish mash of rugs, not in a beautiful cool magazine house way just in a "it's what we had in" way. Plus I'd like to make a rag rug. 

Wore some of my new things out on Saturday and felt great. 

A new thing arrived last night, a real tree. We have never experienced a real tree at home before, either as small folk or as adults. Every year we say we're going to have one and every year we talk ourselves out of it due to the cost. Not this year. Last night we headed out and bought one. The house smells amazing! Yes it probably is a waste of money but I don't care, it's a beautiful thing, even if it is just in a bucket of water with no baubles on at the minute. 

The pretty new only-three-weeks-in thing is today at the charity shop. First week I was really bored, then skipped a week due to lack of communication, last week was ok, I neither loved nor hated it - plus the nasty woman totally ignored me so I was happy about that, saves me having to involve myself with any unpleasantness. So this week who knows, I'm not not looking forward to it so that's good and maybe I will be unleashed on the till this week. Won't that be exciting. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Cost Of Going Out

We went out on Saturday afternoon for drinks with one of our friends. We spent £100. Good grief. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Realisation

I must be feeling festive as I bought pine bathroom cleaner today, something I never do. So some decorating is going to take place this evening. All the components of Christmas dinner are bought and ready to go.

Everything feels very smooth and as it should be, there's lots of time to do what I want to do and what I need to do. The churning seems to have stopped even though the trail of paper and hay is endless. Money is a little wonky but by the end of the month there will be a straight edge. The end of the month seems very far away and I like that. I'm just bobbing along but on a course, not out of control. 

And it's the weekend, fun times ahead!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Rebrand Update

The rebrand so far has been as much about buying as it has been about doing. I think we're out of the buying phase now and it's more about using what I've bought. I love the new wardrobe, for the first time ever none of the new stuff is second hand. I usually like a rummage as much as the next person but that wasn't what I needed this time round.

Even though I have been working towards a tight capsule wardrobe I abandoned everything I've ever read about minimalist shopping, I needed an open mind to allow me to be focused. Having everything (as long as it was grey, black or silver) as an option made it simple to choose the best items for me. I even bought four bottles of nail polish to replace the one I've just finished instead of keeping just the one and using it all the time. That simple thing, costing less than £9 feels like a real luxury and as such is exactly what I was after to energise myself. I rounded off the shopping with some comfy insoles for my new boots, some shoe polish and a grey bag all from the Army and Navy shop.

I had a shift at the charity shop, the unpleasant woman was leaving as I arrived which made everything far more relaxing. It actually put me in a very lighthearted mood as she made a point of ignoring me when she was saying her goodbyes, nice to know I can stir such emotions in a virtual stranger! The shift was OK, I think when I am on full duties time will go much faster and it's a good excuse to force me out of the house for a walk. Whether or not I've lost weight I don't know but I do feel better and less sludgy so that's good enough for now.

The house is coming on well and feels very light and bright, quilting is back on the menu, I bought some printing materials yesterday, not a totally new thing but something I haven't done since college. Weirdly it popped into my brain that when I was a teenager I wanted to be a florist. I went down the academic route and hadn't thought about that whim for over 20 years. I don't know if it's an avenue I want to investigate now but maybe a flower arranging course could be an option.

At the opposite end of the glamour spectrum I was out in my pyjamas this morning, the compost bin took off across the garden and I didn't want it to do any damage to the houses. I also had to scoop up all the compost and decomposing stuff to stop that flying around too. Probably not the most fun task of the day.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

November Savings

After the dust settled there was £40 from the grocery budget to put into savings. I'm very happy with that. I was £73 under budget as £32 something went on the voiles and poles for the living room.

This month is starting well, along with the £40 from last month I put £20 from this month into savings, it's gone now so I can't be tempted to spend it. Hopefully there will be another £50 to shove into the bank as I'm not having my hair cut this month, the window cleaner didn't come last month so that cash carries over and a few other things. Dan dug out the money box so the change jar is up and running too. I've also reinstated my "break glass in case of emergency" £20 envelope, in case of emergency!

We had a £3 Waitrose voucher so we nipped in as we were nearby, resisted the temptation to see the voucher as bonus cash and stuck to buying basics. So far for December we've spent £11.88. Despite the fact that my brother and his girlfriend might come for the weekend I'm very confident we can stick to the budget. We went to a vintage/craft fair on Sunday (no photos, it was waaaay too busy) we picked up a couple of gifts so we're starting to get it together for Christmas. Phew.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Fast Change, Slow Change.

Sometimes changes have to be slow, like the chugging along of paying off debts, losing weight or learning new things. Other changes aren't like that, for me those changes are usually the things that help to kick start the slow burning changes. I reached a point where the idea of staying the same was worse than the idea of changing and I faced up to the fact that to arrive at the changes I want things had to change. I can't change my life without changing how I live it.

Recently I've been feeling invisible and that's not a way to feel, when there are things to be done  it's even worse. So, even though it seems contrary to all our financial goals we took some cash out of savings and I have a whole new wardrobe. For some people clothes and things aren't important and I didn't think they really were for me until I saw myself and realised that how I looked didn't represent how I see myself. And at that moment it became important.

Ten years ago we started our change, we faced up to our financial situation and did a lit of things very quickly but change. This slow change came about when I admitted I couldn't cope with my job so I stopped doing it. It was very irresponsible of me and it was a huge and terrifying change but it lead to great things.

That way of working doesn't work anymore though and no matter how we try to squidge those old ways of working into our life now it doesn't work. Willing something to be a certain way when they can't be so is a waste of energy. Doing things differently is the only way. At the minute our goal is less tangible than previous goals so in some ways it's harder. In other ways it's easier as we have more options. There's not a great deal to say about most of our savings as they just happen. I'm excited about what we do and don't do in the next year to create some more dynamic savings though, it is all about what we choose, not what we ban.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ribbon Wreath

As promised, here's a picture of the finished, slightly bonkers looking ribbon wreath. It's like the night here so hard to take a lovely photo. 


I also have a choice to make. I have to choose one chocolate treat. Do I go for caramel tree decorations, coins or those balls of chocolate with a white crispy shell? I like them all but just can't choose between them...