Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Freebies, Frugal Fails and Measures 6

Once again here's a list of my Frugal wins and fails this last week or two.

Firstly, Frugal Fails were as follows:

1. I threw away some out of date food items from my baking drawer and cupboards this month.  I don't normally do this as I hate to waste any food, but the items in question were at least two or more years out of date or never get used, and I don't want to attract pests or vermin, that might contaminate other food. I'm done with keeping things that are past their best or that we don't actually like and want to eat.

2. We didn't manage to use the free tickets I'd got for the Cycle Spin Festival at Olympia this month, as OH was far too busy workwise to be able to take a day off to go and wasn't really too bothered either. (N.B. This could alternatively be seen as a frugal measure, as it prevented us spending any money there.)

3. On a recent day out in London, I left my favourite umbrella somewhere, not sure where so I can't retrieve it.  Very annoying, as I will need to replace it at some point.

Recent Freebies and Frugal Measures have included the following:

1. I managed to get a bit creative and recovered a small ottoman in my bedroom to co-ordinate it with a larger ottoman and a cushion cover.  This cost me nothing, as I had the fabric and everything I needed to do it in my stash.  The result was that the room feels a lot more co-ordinated now.

2. I cut up an old t-shirt and some old jersey fabric to use as dish cloths. (Just as well really, as I'm getting through quite a few at the moment on the Flylady programme!!)

3.  I read a really good book on money that I bought from the CS, called 'Your Money or Your Life', by Joe Dominguez and Vicky Robin. It has really made me think about money in a different way and is seriously helping me to be more mindful of my spending and saving. (More in another post)

4.  I used an £8 off a £40 spend voucher at Waitrose last week, to help buy OH a bottle of Single Malt Whisky and some fancy chorizo for his birthday.

5. I used a £6 off a £40 spend voucher at Tesco to get money off my groceries last week too.

An Enjoyable Monday

I enjoyed Monday. I did just one class at the gym. The regular teacher was away, so someone else was covering, as was the case last week.  I was a bit disgruntled when I first got there last week, as I was expecting our regular instructor or her usual cover, but the person covering this time was new to me.  Her class, though less intense, was quite enjoyable. I enjoyed it more this week, as I knew what to expect.  I'm not so good with surprises, but it is actually nice to have a change from time to time. We'll all be in for a shock next week, when our normal teacher returns and we have to up our pace to keep up with her high energy class.

After class, a few of us retired to a nearby restaurant for coffee and a chat.  It was lovely to spend an hour just chatting about life lately. We should do it more, but we don't.

When we all parted ways, I headed off to a different supermarket than usual, to finish my grocery shopping.  Waitrose this time, as I had another voucher for £8 off a £40 spend, which is just too good to pass up, despite the supermarket in question being a lot more expensive.  I shopped very carefully and got quite a lot for my money, so I was pretty happy. I've spent the food budget now, although I should have more or less enough food to take us through to June.  I will probably just have to buy a few bits at the beginning of next week and I can always spend some of the M&S voucher which has £52 remaining on it, as I haven't used it yet this month.

When I got home, I chilled for a while, catching up on a bit of online and offline reading (courtesy of a free newspaper I got from the supermarket). Eventually, I moved myself to do a bit of zone cleaning in our bedroom. 

Today, I decided to clean out my wardrobe.  I started by taking everything out and seriously considering what I wanted to put back in again. There were still some autumnal/spring clothing items in there, so I bagged them up and put them in storage, leaving just a few very light sweaters to use in the summer months. I found about 5 items of clothing I no longer wanted and another 5 items of costume jewellery.

I proceeded to clean both the inside and outside of the wardrobe, before returning everything I was keeping in there for the summer. There were quite a lot of empty hangers leftover, so I stored some of those away too, as they jam up the rail in the wardrobe and make access to the clothes more difficult. 
There is virtually no colour in there which is something I might need to work on in the future when funds allow. I'm not too good at wearing colour these days though, so I'm happy with the simplicity of what's left in there, save for the excessive number of shoes, which I need to work on.

Whilst in the bedroom, I decided to clean off the pendant lamp which was really dusty, change the bed linen and clean the windows and mirrors before calling it a day.  It took a couple of hours to do all of the jobs, but this was fine as I didn't have anything else pressing to do, so it felt like time well spent.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

This Weekend

This weekend has been pretty chilled really.  Saturday was OH's birthday, so after he'd taken the dog for a nice long walk in the morning, we left her at home and headed out for the day.

First stop was the local Nike store, to buy his birthday present of a new pair of trainers.  I'd budgeted £200 for his present this month, as I still owed him a decent Xmas present.  I'd already bought a few items including some single malt whisky, a book, chocolate, coffee, chorizo, socks - mostly consumables.  In all honesty, he has almost everything he needs. 

The trainers he chose were probably the most expensive in the store, but I expected them to be as he likes good quality and the latest trainer technology.  As a consequence, there wasn't anything left in the budget to get him any cycle gear, but he was happy enough with his new trainers.

Whilst in there, I managed to source some trainers and gym t-shirts for me at a reasonable cost.  I didn't buy them, but I know exactly where to go next month to buy at least one t-shirt, when I've got some money in my budget again.

From there we headed into town, well the City of London to be exact. We managed to find free parking in our favourite spot near St. Paul's Cathedral and then went for a pub lunch before walking across the footbridge to the Tate Modern. We had tickets to see the Giacometti exhibition there, which we enjoyed.

When we came out of the Tate, we both felt really tired. It's always quite intense going around an exhibition and it was pretty busy.  Before heading home, we stopped off for a coffee/hot chocolate in Starbucks at the back of the Tate.  You get a great view of the back of the gallery from there and can see the controversial viewing gallery. We find the rear of the building much more interesting than the front facade.

Later, I took the dog for a walk and then collapsed in front of the TV until I started nodding off at about 9pm, when I decided to head off to bed. I think I must be getting old.  I find the crowds in London more exhausting to negotiate the older I get.

Today, was much more normal.  Up and out with the dog, class at the gym, followed by grocery shopping at Lidl.  Sometimes a tried and tested routine is reassuring. I have noticed, however, that the grocery bill in this store is consistently higher these days.  Gone are the days when I could do a weekly shop for just £40.  It's more like £60 + these days.

This afternoon, LB went out to meet a friend, so I spent the afternoon at home and started on my Zone 4 detailed cleaning in our bedroom.  I cleaned the shelves next to my bed, as they were very dusty.  In the process, I managed to declutter over 30 books and a few other items, so it was a very productive afternoon in terms of simplifying.  That was probably the worst job that needs doing in the room, so it felt good to tick that one off and possibly be able to get more done later in the week.

I cooked us a chicken casserole for supper and after catching up with my weekly fix of The Durrells, I emptied the ironing basket ready for the week ahead and then it was off to bed.

It's been a good of a weekend, but I'm ready for a new week. LB has two theatre trips with school this week and then it's half term next week. A busy week for her. I'm doing just one class at the gym tomorrow and then a couple of us are heading off for a coffee in a local cafĂ© to have a catch up, which we haven't done for a while.  It will be a nice start to the week.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Flylady Update Zone 3

Zone Three got off to a slow start this week due to the fact that I did very little on Sunday, which was day one. I didn't actually start until late afternoon on Monday, as I was out and about for most of the day. When I got back, I watched a couple of videos on YouTube, which helped to motivate me, and got straight on with cleaning the bathroom.

Luckily, as I've mentioned in a previous post, our bathroom is tiny, so I decided to deep clean the whole room in one go.  It took about two hours in total.  All of the tiles were cleaned and grout scrubbed clean, the shower screen was cleaned and I razor bladed any limescale deposits off the bath. The shelves and windows were cleaned, the floor mopped and towels changed. It felt good to get it done.

The only jobs I didn't do were to use my vinegar and water spray on the windows and mirror to get them streak free and to try to remove some mould from one of the walls. The former I did later in the week, the latter I tried with a bleach spray, which didn't work, so I'm going to make a paste from bicarb and vinegar and try that next. (A tip from The Home Handbook)

I was at the CS for the next two days, and on the evenings on my return, I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm to tackle LB's room, plus she spends most of her time in it, so it is difficult to get access unless she's out at school.

Thursday, as mentioned in my last post, I spent some time at the allotment, although I did do a 2 minute Hot Spot clearance in the hallway, removing and relocating some items that were cluttering up the shoe bench. As a consequence, I had just today to give LB's room a thorough clean.

After walking the dog this morning, I got straight into cleaning the room. It was pretty dusty in places, so I started with all of the shelves and book cases, pulling everything out to clean behind and underneath, before replacing the contents. I pulled most of the furniture out and cleaned behind it too, and had a go at the windows, outside and inside, and although it was difficult to clean the outside of them from the inside, I did my best.

I hadn't quite finished by the time LB came home, so I got her to help me in a last push. She managed to declutter quite a few soft toys and dolls clothes that she has now outgrown and some more of her unwanted clothes too. I eventually completed the job, which wraps up Zone 3 for me this week.

I am not doing any zone cleaning tomorrow, as we are going into town for the day to celebrate OH's birthday. I may do a bit of cleaning on Saturday morning, just to hoover and mop the hallway, whilst OH takes the dog for a walk, but apart from that I don't have any other tasks to complete.

From Sunday, I will be cleaning in Zone 4, which is our master bedroom. I'm actually looking forward to tackling this room, as it hasn't had a good deep clean for about a year, since we got our new bed.  I've already completed some of the tasks recently, such as vacuuming the mattress and turning it, and I gave the tall boy a very thorough clean not long ago, so they won't need doing this month.  I also vacuumed the underbed storage the other week, so won't venture in there this month either.

Ideally, I would like to clean the bookshelves in the alcove on my side of the room and deep clean my wardrobe inside and out.  If I have the time I'll do more, but I'm trying to be realistic and not go too mad, as it can be quite exhausting to try to do everything in one week. So long as I manage the above mentioned tasks, I'll be happy and will tackle OH's side of the room and his wardrobe next month. I'll let you know how I get on.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Allotment Day

I thought it was probably about time that I posted another allotment post, although I have to say that there isn't an awful lot going on down at the allotment just yet.
I decided to visit today, because there appeared to be a break in the weather, before what is supposed to be a rainy few days over the weekend, so it seemed like a good opportunity.  The Flylady zone cleaning was put on the back burner, and I headed over to my plot instead.

Some of the seeds I've sown on the plot so far haven't actually germinated well, so there's not actually much to show for the work I've put in there. The lettuces have probably been the most successful sowings, but the potatoes are coming along well too, thankfully.

The broad beans got blackfly infested due to my not pinching out the tips early enough, and the onions seemed to be rotting already, probably on account of disease being in the soil from the previous tenant growing them.

Not the best start, but such is gardening and to be honest, I'm not really bothered about growing onions or carrots, as they are so cheap in the shops and very prone to disease and pests, I'd rather grow crops that are more expensive to buy, such as salads, beans and fruit.

I still had one bed and the area around the compost bin left to weed this visit, plus a few more weeds had sprung up where I'd weeded before, so I cracked on with getting them under control again.

That's the problem with starting again on a new plot.  You inevitably inherit particular challenges from previous tenants and in this case, I've inherited some very persistent and quite deep rooted perennial weeds, that take a bit of eradicating, as any little piece of root left in the soil tends to shoot and regrow.  I'll get there eventually, but it might take a bit of perseverance.

I took some kale plants with me that I'd grown from seed and planted them out, once I'd done as much weeding as I could manage. They should be pretty hardy. There's just a couple of paths left to finish weeding, but after three hours of digging I just didn't have anymore energy to tackle them and by this time it had started raining quite heavily too.

At least the climbing bean and sweet pea seeds, that I sowed on my last visit a couple of weeks ago, have started to germinate, which was encouraging.  The plot still looks pretty bare compared to more established plots on the site though. I guess I've just got to be a bit patient and give it time.

Apologies for the lack of photos, I took the camera, but unfortunately the battery needed charging. Big fail. I'll post some over the weekend.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Mid Month Update

Well, I'm now half way through May and as mentioned in a previous post, I've been a bit spendy so far this month, which has not really been ideal.  There were quite a few things I just couldn't resist buying at the CS at the beginning of the month, but thankfully my impulses have now calmed down and I'm managing to resist temptation a lot more.

Having said this, I did have a small splurge at Home Bargains this week to buy lots of toiletries and a few other bits and pieces, which did just about max out my remaining budgets.

There were a couple of unexpected expenses that arose this month.  LB needed a scientific calculator for an upcoming Maths test and with her GCSE's coming up in the next couple of years, it was a good time to just buy her one. It only cost £9 though, which wasn't too bad.

In addition to the extra £15 school trip that I needed to pay for this month, another trip was arranged that cost another £10. These two trips, LB's calculator and a couple of other things I bought for her has meant that her budget has gone way over this month, but this couldn't be helped and it has come under for a few months now, so I'm not too worried about it.

I won't, however, be able to buy any of her school uniform for next year this month, as I'd hoped, but it will wait. To budget for this, I may start putting any future excess from her budget into a separate account, until there's enough money to place an order with the uniform company.

Aside from spending on LB, I also needed to purchase a couple of expensive toiletry/make up products for me this month, as in addition to running out of perfume, I ran out of both shampoo and foundation. As I use natural products, it was costly to replace these and although I bought a small travel size (15ml) of the foundation to try to get me through the next few months, it still set me back £13.50 and the shampoo I use costs £10.

Some of these expenses, combined with this weeks trip to Home Bargains, where I stocked up on mouthwash, distilled witch hazel, small packs of tissues and cotton pads, served to take care of the rest of the household budget for this month. I may go over a little, as I will probably need to buy some more dog food and toilet rolls before the end of the month, but hopefully, it will just be a matter of a few pounds over.

With two weeks to go, my personal budget is overspent by £8.77, LB's is over by £18.44 and the Home budget is £2.14 overspent. I still have most of the budget to buy OH's birthday/belated Xmas present this week. He's decided on a new pair of trainers, plus some small cycling items, so we'll be going to check out the local Nike and cycle store for those and I've bought him a few other bits too.

There's just over £2 left in the Misc budget and 36p left in the Household budget, and I've got at least £60 left each week to spend on food, so things aren't too desperate. I may even be able to claw back some of the overspends from the food budget if I'm really careful. I'll let you know the final tally in my monthly roundup.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Loving Lately

I haven't done a post for a while on my current TV, Netflix and reading favourites, so here goes.

As far as viewing goes, I've been enjoying the following lately:

1) The short series now finished on Channel 4, 'Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners'.  In this series, the OCD cleaners were sent over to the US to help out some serious hoarders and grime gatherers.  I think there were only 3 or 4 shows in the series, but as always, I really enjoyed this show, which always and in this instance, combined with the Flylady, inspires me to clean my house.

2) I am currently and have for a few weeks now,  been enjoying 'The Durrells' on TV on Sunday evenings.  It's just one of those wonderful Sunday evening TV programmes that is so easy and enjoyable to watch and Keely Hawes is just fabulous in it.

3) LB found a new series to watch on Netflix the other week, namely Girl Boss, which I've been really enjoying watching with her. (Although some bits aren't all that appropriate for a 14 year old to watch).  It is very loosely based on the book Girl Boss, the story of Sophie Amoroso and her successful internet clothing business. I've heard it slated in some places, but I've found it pretty enjoyable to watch and I don't think it's meant to be taken too seriously.

4) On Sunday, having done lots of cleaning all week, I was looking around on Netflix for something to watch whilst doing the ironing.  I came across a series called 'Anne with an E', which is a remake of the Anne of Green Gables story.  It is wonderful and I will be continuing to watch this over the next few weeks.

5) For any fans out there, there's also another new series of The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt starting on Netflix on the 19th May, so I'll definitely be watching that too.

6) Finally, of course, I'm loving Friday evenings in the company of Monty Don on Gardener's World, to get me in the mood for gardening over the weekend.

Lots of good viewing to be getting on with, whenever I fancy a bit of escapism.

On the reading front are the following favourites:

1) I'm currently reading 'Your Money or Your Life' by Joe Domingues and Vicky Robin, that I bought from the CS the other week. I've heard this book recommended in various places; on YouTube, in blogs, etc. In all honesty, I was wondering if I would find this book at all useful, as I've read so many financial self-help books so far this year, and thought it would just be more of the same, but actually, this book is really interesting and really gets you thinking about the value of money and what it actually is.

Originally written in the 1960's it has been linked with the voluntary simplicity movement in the US, which started around this time.  It's contents, however, don't date and it's still as potent now as it was then. The basic premise is that money represents the hours of your life spent to earn it and it encourages you to think about whether the things we buy are really worth the time they take, to earn the money to pay for them. 

In addition, it takes a look at what your real earnings are, once the costs of working are factored into the equation.  In this sense, it makes you take a look at your actual hourly rate, which may not be as much as you think, once you calculate how much you are spending as a consequence of going out to work, keeping up appearances in the workplace or escaping from the daily grind.

This book also encourages you to identify what is your 'enough'. The point at which your needs are met and you experience fulfilment and can stop seeking more in order to be happy. It's a very thought provoking book, in a way that other books of this genre haven't been. I'm thoroughly enjoying it's approach, which consists of a series of steps to follow that should lead you toward FI or financial independence.

2) Another book that I've just finished reading is the The Home Handbook.  I purchased this book at Poundland for £1 and I've really enjoyed reading it.  It was a very easy read, which you could pick up and put down very easily. It has some wonderful advice for the managing and cleaning of your home on a room by room basis.  Definitely worth the investment and a definite keeper, as a reference book for all of those tricky household cleaning dilemnas.

So these are the things I've been loving lately.  What have you been enjoying lately?