Monday, 19 June 2017

Weekly Flylady Update

Yes, I'm still hanging on in there with the Flylady system, although I have to admit that it has mostly been put to one side this week, whilst I've been tackling the allotment.

Coincidentally, after my post about last Monday's allotment visit, I got an email from the Allotment Society telling me that there would be another inspection of our plots this today, for the judging of the best plot/site competition, and although I'm not in the least interested in winning anything, we were asked to tidy up our plots and the paths surrounding them, as I guess there is probably a prize for the tidiest/best site or something. 

As a consequence, the plot has received three more visits this week, after which I've completely caught up with the weeding, planted out any remaining plants I had to put in, cleared the paths and just generally brought it up to scratch. Everything took a bit longer than I thought it would and I just didn't have the energy to do it all in one visit, so it's been a bit of an allotment marathon, but it's done now and it's a big relief.

Here are the newly cleared pathways:

My neighbour cleared one of the paths (top picture) and I went over the cracks with a great little paving slab weeder tool I have, to get as much of the weed roots out as possible, which should mean less weeding between them in the future. It works a treat. You can see the tool in question in the picture above.

Just to show the difference, here's one of the other paths between plots not yet cleared:

What, you might be forgiven for thinking, does this have to do with Flylady? Well, I've decided that my allotment has been my other room of choice this month under the Flylady system, and consequently only the bathroom and the allotment got my attention as part of this week's Zone cleaning. 

I did do my normal Weekly Home Blessing on Saturday, which takes care of a quick tidy, vacuum and mop in every room of the house, so I did enough to keep on top of things. To be honest, there wasn't really any build up anywhere anyway, (save for the spare room, which it isn't easy to clean at the moment) so it is looking pretty okay generally. It does make me feel a little lazy though, as I don't feel I've done an awful lot this week in the house.  Maybe that is the point, you don't actually have to, you just have to do 'something' as opposed to nothing, on a regular basis. In any case, I like that the system has the flexibility to include the garden and allotment at all, as both are important fixtures in my everyday life.

Next week, I'll be working in Zone Four, the Master Bedroom. The only part I didn't clean last time were the shelves on OH's side, so this will be the focus and then just a general dust, vacuum, mop and change of bedding.  I will also try to clean out the linen cupboard too, as it is on the landing just outside the bedroom door and needs some attention. (and I was going to do it last week, but didn't!) In any case, it shouldn't be a great deal of work.  From now on, now I've settled in to the system, I'll probably just post weekly or even monthly, as I don't want to bore you all too much.

A Chilled Weekend

It's been a relatively quiet weekend here.  LB had a busy social calendar and was sleeping over at a friend's party on Saturday night and there all afternoon on Saturday too.  She then had another party for another friend on Sunday afternoon, so it was just me and OH around for most of the weekend.

I used Saturday morning to catch up on all my cleaning for the week, doing the Weekly Home Blessing and zone cleaning the bathroom.  I scrubbed the floor and cleaned out the extract fan as I mentioned I wanted to. I did a load of laundry which I line dried and after that I was finished, so I headed out to complete the weekly shop at our local Lidl - I'd done part of it on Friday at Tesco.

I'm finding that I prefer to grocery shop on Friday/Saturday now instead of Sunday/Monday. It can be a bit busier, but once you start to change the day, you run out of food by that day the next week so you have to do it. I think I got into a habit of going shopping after the gym, but Sundays were so busy in Lidl that I started to hate it, so it's nice not going to the supermarket in my sweaty sports gear for a change, not having to fight my way round and looking a bit more civilised.

On Saturday evening, OH and I decided to head to a pub on the canal for a drink and a burger.  It was nice to sit outside with a shandy and the dog and just chill watching the world go by. On the way back, we popped into the allotment to water everything, on account of it being a scorching hot day.

On Sunday, I went to the gym as usual and then was able to relax and potter for a change, as all I needed to do was change the bedding, do a white wash and to do the ironing. I managed the former two, but as it was way too hot to iron, I gave that task  a miss and instead I spent some time sitting reading a book I got from the CS last week, entitled 'Clutter Free with Kids' by Joshua Becker. It might just help me decide what to do with more of LB's old toys. I'm enjoying it so far.

I'm hoping that weekends will be more like this in future, now the Flylady system is starting to work it's wonders. How was your weekend?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

CS Update

It's been a while since I did an update of life at the CS.  This is probably because it's just been moving along without too much drama. The manager has started taking another day off each week, which he is entitled to, but just couldn't take for the first six months, due to lack of volunteers. 

The difference recently has been that we have both more volunteers and also that we have had two full time interns, who can be left in charge on his days off, one of which falls when I'm at the shop.  It has been working well for the few weeks it has been happening, but he's away this week for a long weekend, so the system has got disrupted for a couple of weeks.

I have to say, that I'm actually currently rethinking my volunteering.  I do enjoy it, but recently I seem to have been stuck on the till far too much.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy meeting the customers, talking to them and doing till work, but not all the time, both days I'm there, week after week.

I should really say something to the manager about how I feel, but I don't like to cause ill feeling and the interns need to learn about the management of the shop, which they probably don't do so much on the till, so I've just let it go. I am a volunteer at the end of the day and should just go where needed, but it does get a little boring sometimes to do the same thing, especially when no one really even offers to swap for a short period to give you a break from the monotony.

In any case, that is not the main reason I'm reconsidering my position, there are a few.  One is the travel.  Although financially compensated, the hour it takes each way is a drag. I don't like travelling on the train, (although it's better than the Tube because it is direct and air conditioned) because it's quite crowded and there's always a bit of a scrum for a seat, if you get one at all.

I don't know what it is about public transport in London these days, but it seems to bring out the worst in people, me included probably, although I do try to be considerate of anyone needing a seat more than me, to the extent that whilst trying to offer my seat to someone the other day, someone else jumped into it!

To be honest, I now remember why, when I looked for a job after first moving to London to study, I chose to work outside of the centre, so I could drive out to work and not travel in for it. I hated the stress of commuting then and I'm feeling the same now after a year of it.

The second reason is that, as with all charitable businesses I guess, targets for sales and gift aid sales increase year on year, and this puts pressure on staff and volunteers to meet these targets. I'm not suggesting that this shouldn't be the case as not to do so would be going backwards, but I can see that the pressure to perform, does affect the behaviour of those responsible for the targets and sometimes the way they speak to you. That's all I'll say about that. I don't know if this is a countrywide issue, or whether it's a London thing, or just the shop I work in thing, but it seems to seep in every time and kind of chips away at the experience for me, as I try to do my best, whatever the target.

In addition, I'm finding two full days per week, quite a big commitment in the summer months.  LB will be breaking up for the summer holidays soon and I'd rather be at home with her, even if she's out with her friends, at least I know where she is and what she's doing. The allotment too, is a big commitment for me in the summer months and although I'm currently managing to fit work there in, it is to the exclusion of doing other things I want to do.

Anyway, I don't know what, if anything, I'm going to do. I'm still applying for jobs when I see them and I may end up trying to get another volunteering role nearer to home, with less travel involved. I may just carry on as normal or even reduce my hours during the summer months to one day per week. We'll see.

Friday, 16 June 2017

A Bit of Contemplation

I've been a bit contemplative lately. I've been contemplating the last three months on my new strict budget. I can't say it's all been plain sailing.  I do struggle on a day to day basis, wishing sometimes, there was room for me to just go out and blow some cash on a bit of recreational/therapeutic shopping or spending, but there isn't and I can't. Maybe it's just as well, because these are the sort of habits I'm working hard to change.

On the whole though, the new regime is working pretty well.  As usual, I always try to do everything at once, i.e.subscribe to a new life insurance policy, save £100 per month and pay off my overdraft once and for all - instead of taking smaller more gradual steps. I guess the reason for this, is that I feel that at my age, (I'm 50) I just need to crack on with it and get it sorted. No more messing about, I've done enough of that in the past, just do it, as one very famous advertising campaign suggests.

Although challenging in many ways, my new regime is, however, having some decidedly positive outcomes. Whilst trying not to go out shopping and spend money, I've become much more focussed on getting my house in order and keeping it in order, as readers of this blog will have noticed. Okay, it is bordering on the compulsive, but it is making me appreciate what we already have and look after it.  It is also helping to reduce the urge to buy more, because realistically, there's very little we actually need or want.

The allotment has also been another way I have been able to occupy myself rather than go out spending money. Starting to cultivate my new plot has been a bit of a new challenge and is taking quite a bit of energy, but it's keeping me out of trouble and may even save us some money on food when the crops actually grow.

OH often asks me why I don't just pay off my overdraft with savings, and yes, I could do this, but as I've argued in the past on this blog, taking this easy route, doesn't really make me appreciate the damage that overspending and not living within my means actually causes in the long term and it doesn't break the cycle of my behaviour.  I need the struggle to prevent me making the same mistakes, and although I've made them over and over again during my life and even as recently as the last two years, I'm really hoping that this time around the penny has finally dropped, for good. In this sense, this year's struggle is more about forming new habits around money, that don't lead to debt, rather than just paying off debt so that I can build it up again, and I think that as such it is a much healthier approach.

As I've mentioned before, helping me on this journey have been numerous Bloggers (you guys, of course) and YouTubers that I follow. I've enjoyed watching Budget Girl finally pay off over $30,000 of student debt this last month. For anyone, who likes to watch these kind of YouTubers and get inspiration from their budgeting methods, another channel that is also good to watch is Lindsay's Frugal Life, whereby Lindsay, a teacher in the US, is trying to pay down over $80,000 of student debt, accumulated after studying for a degree, a masters and a PhD, I believe. I admire her courage in facing up to such huge levels of indebtedness and just getting on with the process of paying it off.

In addition to the above, I've been doing a lot of reading around the subject of personal finance and I've learned a lot more about money and how to potentially make it work better for me/us.  I was already pretty savvy when it came to spending money, but my problem has always been with restraint.  Everything can seem like a deal too good to miss, even when you can't afford it. I am now trying to practice more restraint and get comfortable with it and it is a challenging process, especially in a world where you are encouraged to just buy what you want, (and even what you don't) whether you have the means or not.

As well as concentrating on reducing my spending, I am also starting to focus on becoming more savvy with regard to investing and saving and it isn't easy, especially with returns as low as they are at the moment. Regardless, I'm working on it here and there and making small improvements on returns to increase my income from investments as best I can.

Like Joshua Becker says about Minimalism, it is countercultural to a large extent to be frugal/intentional and not spend money, some people may and do even go so far as to call it unpatriotic, but is going along with the excess and continuing to buy into consumerism and the myth that we can have it all and more and more and more ad infinitum, a better solution. I think not.

Anyway, I'm slowly learning to develop a new relationship with money, one where I nurture and respect it more and appreciate the difference it can make to your life to be more in control of it and less controlled by it (or the lack of it).

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Allotment Catch Up

As promised, I spent a few hours at the allotment on Monday afternoon.  I walk past the site at least 2 or 3 times per week on dog walks and always take a look to see what needs doing.  This past week the weeds have been bothering me and I knew I'd have to get them under control as soon as possible.

As usual, I forgot to take a before photo, because I just wanted to get stuck in and get the work done, but as I only managed to work on one side in the time I had, the other side will give you some idea of what the weeds were like.  This is the side I didn't get time to work on, save for a tiny patch where I put in the last of the kohl rabi.

The potatoes towards the back of the plot are doing well and should be ready soon.  I'm not in a hurry to dig them up though as that will be another bed that I will have to re-cultivate and weed at regular intervals.  Whilst the potatoes are in it keeps the weeds right down.

Just in front of them, I have a row of kale, then a row of purple kohl rabi and a courgette plant.  The bed closest to me is a flower bed, but it needs a bit of work getting rid of the weeds.  I'll probably do this later in the week.

Unfortunately, many of the weeds are deep rooted and need digging out rather than just pulling out by hand, so it's been another back breaking session.  I'm looking forward to the day when I've eradicated the majority of them and only have a 'normal' amount to contend with, if there is such a thing.  I'm hoping this will happen with regular cultivation and care of the plot.

Anyway, here's the half I dug over this visit.

At the back are some cos lettuce, then some chard, beetroot and fancy lettuce, a cucumber plant and a squash (I think) that has self seeded.  In front of those are the wigwam of climbing beans with some nasturtium sown around them and finally at the front is the fruit bed with rhubarb, gooseberries and blackcurrants.

It's looking better, but still a bit sparse. Hopefully, by the height of summer it will look much better.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Freebies, Frugal Measures and Frugal Fails 8

This last couple of weeks I've had the following Frugal Fails:

1) I somehow managed to overpay my business credit card and so have a £5 credit on my account.  I know this isn't strictly a fail, as I can just spend £5 on my card to retrieve it, but what a silly thing to do!

With regard to Frugal Measures and Freebies, the following are the latest:

1) I used my last £8 off a £40 shop voucher at Waitrose. These vouchers were much appreciated, as I've been able to stock up on lots of staples that we will use throughout this month.

I've now received more similar vouchers from Tesco, but for smaller discounts and will be using these in the coming weeks.

2) I've started knitting a rug made from strips of jersey cut from old t-shirts, that I rolled up into yarn-like balls. I've been quite pleased with the progress.  Here's a picture. (Please note that the loose ends will be woven in eventually.)

I haven't got quite enough yarn balls to finish it, so it will remain an unfinished project until I throw a few more t-shirts out and can use the fabric from them to make more yarn. I'll keep you posted on progress and post when it's finished.

3) I opened a new regular savings account with my current bank, on which I can get 5% interest for a year. I need to transfer savings from another account into my current account each month, to be transferred into it, but so long as I remember to do this it's worth it, as it is currently earning next to nothing in interest payments where it is.

4) I used some nectar points to get £2.50 off a grocery top up shop at Sainsbury's last  week. It all helps keep me within budget.

5) I used a voucher for 100 extra Tesco Clubcard points on each of four grocery shops in their stores, to gain an extra £4 in Clubcard vouchers, that I can use to renew my magazine subscriptions or on other offers. Most of the shops were just small top up shops on the way home from the CS.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Loving Lately

There's a few things that I've been loving lately, and none of them have really cost much money, proving that simple things can bring untold pleasure. 

The first has been my orange blossom bush, which has recently flowered beautifully.  I caught this photo of it when it was on the point of going over, but it has been glorious and it smells divine.  Next door's rose bush used to intertwine with it, making it even more fabulous, but they've recently cut it down.  I suspect partly because all the flowers were coming over to my side of the fence, which is fair enough.

The next thing I'm loving is my diffuser.  It was gift from OH for my 50th last year (I asked for it), and I use it almost every day.  It's ceramic, so it's quite attractive as these things go, and it is a great way to use my essential oils to make our home smell lovely.  I usually switch it on in the kitchen every night once I've finished the washing up and let it infuse the room with the smell of eucalyptus or whatever oil I want to use.

For the last couple of weeks, I've really been enjoying harvesting and eating our home grown lettuce.  One particular variety I grew got a bit infested with green fly, which had to be washed off, but more recent crops and varieties have been fine and I've been filling our bowl as soon as it empties.

I've also been loving that peaches and nectarines are back in season.  I don't bother to buy apples in the summer months, although there's the odd one still in the bowl here, as I just buy these when they are a good price in Lidl.  These doughnut peaches were 69p for 5 and the doughnut nectarines 89p for 10 this week.  You just can't beat filling your fruit bowl with these fruits in the summer months.

One last thing that I've been enjoying have been these lentil crisps from Lidl.  At £1.19 for 6 packs, these are ideal for packed lunches when I go to the CS or for an easy quick snack and they taste great too.