economising update…

I haven’t done a post for ages on our economising so thought a bit of an update in order.

It is slow progress but at least there is progress.  I have now moved our savings into higher interest rate accounts, although the rates are still comparatively low, but any interest is better than nothing.  These savings will help to make our pension go further in the future when we stop working so it is important for us to make the most of what we have.

One of the best rates for us at the moment is actually the Flexclusive saver from Nationwide  paying 5% gross over the year.  It is one of those regular savings account where you save up to £500 a month and this accumulates over the year – you cannot put in a lump sum at the start.  At the end of the year you have to close the account and start again.

On the spending side I have managed to balance the books so to speak and deal with the outstanding paperwork.  I think it took me longer than the two hours I am trying to set aside each week and last week I did not do anything at all deciding instead to go in the garden.

I have sorted out all our new outgoing payments such as the increased Council tax and my yearly parking contract and have fixed the utility bills for a while though these need constant watching for better deals.  I find it tiring to have to search around on the internet and compare all the time – thank goodness we don’t have to do this for the mortgage.

Since the New Year I am still planning a menu for the week although it is often a bit of a rushed flexible list; however, it is having the required effect and cutting down on any waste food.  I have also started planning and taking a packed lunch to work – mostly I have a mixed salad, a cabbage and carrot slaw with walnuts (homemade by OH) and then some protein – a piece Nut Loaf or Quiche or just a boiled egg – sometimes it is leftovers.   This saves me about £3.50 a day.

I  have two months overtime to claim this payday a total of about 50 hours so quite a nice boost to the savings pot although I have a few items I want to buy and I might even treat myself  – perhaps a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment.

When we go out we have been making the effort to pack a picnic – actually I am enjoying these and have a few recipes to try that I can freeze in individual portions.  Tomorrow we are going up to North Yorkshire with a picnic to see my granddaughter and visit the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park at Grewelthorpe.  I have a feeling the plant nursery is going to be far too tempting perhaps this will be my treat rather than a massage!

Sainsbury’s have been very good recently and keep giving me a triple points coupon and the reward points are already building up again – I have now got £64.24p.  Morrisons have also given me a £5 coupon to spend (we tend to get our petrol here).  It will come in useful when we go to Scotland as the two supermarkets in Stranraer are Tesco and Morrisons.

And the not so economical

I had a bit of a spending spree last week on items that I had run out of or worn out and a few that had not been planned for but caught my eye  – this is the list;-

  • I needed some face cream and I use Neal’s yard which is not the cheapest but it suits my sensitive skin
  •  one or two gorgeous little outfits for my granddaughter from Sainsbury’s £18
  • a white top for work from Sainsbury’s £10
  • some new Tayberry Mucker gardening boots £35  from the internet as my old ones are wearing out.  They are a bit like moon boots but very flexible with comfy fur-lined soles – I wouldn’t be without them so much better than my old wellies.

Tayberry Mucker Boots

  • a bird house from Sainsbury’s £8 and OH has put this in the garden, attached to the top of a pole. I think the pole cost more than the bird house!

 

We also bought a few items for the garden last weekend from the Garden Centre with my birthday tokens (some National Garden vouchers) which covered the cost and although I could have been thrifty and grown my own herbs I felt it was just nice to treat myself and the large bottles of feed / bug spray will hopefully last a very long time – here is the not very thrifty list:-

  • A Gazebo to go in the shady border £35
  • some organic seaweed feed £7.49
  • an organic greenfly spray £6.99
  • a courgette plant, some mint and fennel £5.49
  • a posh garden fork by Burgon and Ball £9.99
  • a paving knife also by Burgon and Ball £9.99I love my new shiny stainless steel hand tools – my old fork has hardly any wooden handle left it is so worn – but must be well over 20 years old.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend x

catching up…

You name it I am catching up with it, even at work, and this is one of the reasons I am behind at home because of the amount of overtime I am doing after work and some weekends, preparing for our firm’s year-end – if we exceed targets we get a bonus – simple as that – I would be happy though with just getting some sleep!

Last Thursday I had a day in the garden – catching up on the weeding – it was heaven to be outside in the warm sunshine.  Apologies for the poor quality of photo my battery was about to go!

 

Everything in the sunny bed is suddenly growing at a rate of knots and will soon be in full bloom.  I have peonies with nice fat buds and even the two most recent additions look like they have a swelling flower bud.  They have not flowered since I bought them two years ago – a bit temperamental – I am not even sure what colour they are.

I spent quite a bit of time in the shady bed at the other side of the garden – here the soil is poor despite the amount of compost we dig in the subsoil is not far from the surface.  The fence between ourselves and the neighbour’s garden is a bit of a problem as last year our new neighbour decided to remove every last shrub and flower from his garden in favour of all grass.

The fence was a run of 6 foot high sturdy trellis panels and the planting here was once one of my favourite spots.  The shrubs planted on both sides of the trellis intertwined and mingled together and formed a good screen whilst allowing the wind coming down off the moors to blow through.

On our side we have a Cotoneaster horizontalis and Hydrangea Peteriolis climbing the trellis –  whilst on my neighbours side there was a beautiful variegated Kalmia and various other shrubs that spilled through to our side.  However, not only did he dig out all his shrubs but he chopped off all our climbers growing through to his side – result  – our climbing plants died back almost to the ground.  As you can see they have now started regrowing but at the moment our privacy has gone.  Then our neighbour filled in the trellis with additional slats and then highered the whole fence – result –  a bit of a mess, although I suspect it looks better from his side.

 

I have been trying to stop the climbers growing through the fence and getting the chop once again this has been a tricky operation as climbers like to climb and twine themselves in and out of the trellis.   Then I had the idea of stretching some windbreak fabric across the bottom half of the fence to protect the climbers low down and we will add wires at the top to encourage the climbers to stay on our side.  We also bought a free standing Gazebo to match the one on the sunny side of the garden and we will grow Honeysuckle on this to fill in the space in the middle of the bed and make the garden private once more.

Hopefully by the end of the summer we might have some good growth.

back home and back to work…

I have been back home now for over a week but not had the time to put pen to paper (so to speak), not that I have anything very exciting to say – life has just been rolling along in the usual non-eventful way.

I spent a lovely few days in the woodland garden in Scotland rumaging around in the undergrowth like a wayward squirrel but this was followed by a few stressful days on my return to work which has thrown up that question again of ‘just how long do I intend to go on working’?  I am a few years off collecting my state pension but to tell the truth I don’t feel I want to work to sixty six as life is short and there are new challenges I would like to attempt before I get too old and creaky!

So I am in deep thinking mode at the moment which has been robbing me of quite a bit of sleep.

On the domestic front…

We have a number of projects on the go – far too many – both at home and in Scotland.  I should have named this blog My Double Life or Coming and Going – some days I wake up and don’t know which place I am in!  We never intended to have 2 homes for long but the flood at the cottage has delayed our plans to move up there.

Here at home we are decorating my younger daughters bedroom to use when my granddaughter comes to stay. It was a bit tricky taking a decent picture and didn’t help facing into the light that floods in from the Velux in the roof.

 

bedroom makeover

As you can see it is looking quite dated now with the lacquered pine that has mellowed and yellowed over time and is in need of a revamp. My daughter and her friends loved this room with the mezzanine sleeping platform over the shower room accessed by a ‘Samba” staircase.  You can lay in bed at night and see the stars.

The other end of the room has a normal window overlooking the back garden.  The room is quite narrow only about ten feet wide as it is directly above the garage and laundry room.

bedroom makeover 2

Sometime in the nineties whilst at art college my daughter added the stencilling feature to the staircase but this is really past its prime now.

Nineties stenciling

So it will be covered up and all the pine wood painted to give it a whole new cleaner and fresher look and bring it up to date.  More posts on the makeover later.

In the garden in Scotland…

By the pond

I spent more time around the pond – cutting back the Fernery and clearing the water of dead leaves.  We added a plank on top of the two wooden posts I discovered beside the pond last time so we can sit there, have a cuppa, and admire the garden – I planted a few more Primula in and amongst the stones and transplanted lots of Foxgloves into the wild flower patch just out of sight of this photo.

I have the Fuchsias  to prune back at the edge of the pond but then we can sit back and wait for everything to grow and flower.

 

this and that…

February has almost been and gone already.  I cannot even think what I have been doing but I know I have been busy doing it!

I warn you now this is more of an update and not a very exciting blog post – feel free to leave now…

Earlier this month we had a few days in our new caravan…a few very wet days and then snow when we got back home here in Yorkshire.  This weekend it has been extremely wet and windy and I don’t know about you but I feel I am in desperate need of some warmer sunnier weather, especially to wake up to.

Cottage renovations aside we are planning a bit of a whole house revamp here in Yorkshire – inside and out  – starting with the airing cupboard of all places.  This may seem a strange place to start but recently we had a new Combi boiler installed and the hot water tank upstairs was removed.  The upside is we have a large empty space but the downside is that the airing cupboard is no longer warm!

Mr I. has spent many a day inside this tiny space sanding and painting and fitting new shelves and  a small tubular electric heater to keep it warm so I can carry on airing the clothes and linens after I have ironed them.  I already keep spare toilet rolls and lightbulbs in here and the aim is to store the towels here too.  To get the job done quickly Mr I. bought Quick Drying gloss – this was a big mistake it is definitely not as good in finish and quality as a normal gloss and it is still slightly tacky one week later – thankfully it is only the airing cupboard.

As well as the airing cupboard we are redecorating my younger daughters bedroom (she left home in 2002) and we have never updated it in all that time!

We are installing some fitted wardrobes in this room so last Friday we had another visit to Ikea – our third in two weeks – not because we had a lot of shopping to do but because on previous visits I couldn’t decide on the style of doors for the front of the wardrobes we had gone to buy!

As usual I thought I knew exactly what I wanted until I got there and then found I needed time to have a rethink.  In the end I did buy the wardrobe doors I had first decided on and they have been delivered and are in our living room waiting to be put together.  I am looking forward to having a place to store my linens  which are in our main wardrobe at the moment.

Feeling Frugal

The menu planning and shopping has gone better than expected – my shopping bill is definitely lower, our meals more nutritious and we have even produced a few leftovers for my lunch at work to keep my daily spend down too.

Boots have to their 3 for 2 and a five-pound off coupons at the moment so I am stocking up on my basic face creams and a new mascara.   I haven’t compared my spending yet with this time last year – that will have to wait for a free hour next week when I can sit down and look at the budget.

Today I set up a new savings account with 5% interest which is a good rate given the low rates at present and I am trying to rearrange better utility deals one by one.  Not a job I enjoy doing but hopefully will produce some significant savings.

The To-do List

I have been concentrating on reducing my list of tasks and trying to give myself only 5 a day so that those awkward ones don’t get left undone and keep recurring.  This week will be even busier than last as I have a training seminar to attend in Leeds and I am involved in a fund-raising evening on Thursday after work.

On Monday I have a job to sort out at Kwik Fit who serviced my car and did the MOT and somehow entered my Vehicle number incorrectly.  This has caused a problem at DVLA and guess who has to sort it out!

I have also a few items of shopping that I think will be cheaper from one of the bargain shops or Wilkos rather than from Sainsbury’s or Boots so I will make the effort to go shopping at lunch time.

I have quite a few birthdays for March so I had better start looking for cards and gifts so they are not last-minute.

Well my time is up now  – hopefully It won’t be another month until my next post!

Have a good week x

 

Tidy Friday…and catching up with myself

At last it is Friday and my day off or rather a day to get down to some tidying and cleaning, paperwork and planning.  Such a lot to fit into so little time.

This morning my book prize arrived from Sue and I have now put it by my bedside table ready for some early bedtime reading.

Book Prize

 It was tempting to sit down and start reading this morning but I really need to get a grip on my messy house.  I am having to work all hours at the moment as my colleague is off sick for a few weeks and I am doing both our jobs but this means not much is getting done outside of work hours.

I spent an hour or two this morning stripping our bed and putting things away – my usual TIDY FRIDAY – I don’t know how it happens but at the end of a week I find many things that belong upstairs end up downstairs and vice versa – I think perhaps it is the little dust fairies who run round in the night moving everything around and sprinkling their fairy dust everywhere!

After my mammoth putting away session I went into the office to look over the pile of paperwork.

Tidy Friday desktop

Even though I try to keep a tidy desk by the end of the week it invariably ends up with bits and pieces strewn across it waiting for my attention.

I sorted through the many leaflets that had dropped through the door – there was one for the local Pizza place, a made to measure blinds offer and a Councillors letter asking for volunteers to help run the local village library  which is under threat.  I only wish I had the time – I can’t help thinking that if I had been able to retire this year at 60 as was the case under the old rules (now it will be 66) I would have had spare time to do this and also look after my new baby grand-daughter.

After sifting through the pile I pulled out anything interesting and snipped the coupons and put the rest for recycling.

Today on the urgent pile I need to look at our house insurance for our home here in Yorkshire and the BT line rental which we pay up front to save £30.  I have still to finish the accommodation receipts for our cottage insurers and find the contents receipts to send.  Probably more than a mornings work in that lot.

It has been quite helpful that I signed up for a Sainsbury’s Credit card earlier in the year as it is interest free on new purchases  until 2015 and I get extra reward points.  It means that we can pay all the accommodation costs without dipping into savings until the insurers reimburse us – we are over £1,000 out-of-pocket from our stays over in Scotland since the flood.

 Working until after 6pm each night for four days a week means I am not spending money at the shops as they are well and truly shut when I leave work.  In fact I had to get my son in laws birthday card and pressie from Sainsbury’s last night.  My daughter tells me he wanted a Christmas jumper so now he has one – a bright red one with an elf and bells on! We wouldn’t want him to feel left out this Xmas!

I have over £155 on my reward points and this week is double up week so if I spend them wisely I can get items to the value of £310.  So far I have bought some clothes for myself and baby L, the Xmas jumper, and some Xmas decorations (will show these another post).  They have extended the range of departments and goods to select from this time and wine is included so I may be able to stock up for Christmas.

You may remember I bought a Lumie lamp last year – and it worked but we put it away during the summer and have only just put it back in our bedroom since the clock change plunged us into those awful dark mornings.   We found last year that the alarm was irratating and unnecessary as the rising sun effect woke us up on its own.  There is one problem though – I prefer our ordinary clock to tell the time – I particularly like a proper clock face to a digital one and I find the light from the digital ones distracting when I am trying to sleep.  Current research has found that sleeping in complete darkness is better for our bodyclocks, unfortunately the Lumie lamp has an illuminated digital clock face which you cannot turn off so I have stuck a circular piece of cardboard over the clock this morning to block out the light!  I will let you know if it works and if it does I will have to think of a more permanent solution.

Lumie Lamp update

 

The bathroom pumps that we ordered to boost the hot water pressure from the new taps arrived by post this week and the bath one has already been fitted and it has improved the flow – so our builder will be back soon to do the basin tap.   Once done we can fit the down lights and the fan and the bath panel and hey presto it will be DONE.  It has almost taken as long as my daughters bathroom 2 years ago.

Bathroom refurb 1

 

Tomorrow me, hubby, elder daughter and partner are going to Masham, North Yorkshire for the day to my younger daughters and meeting up with my hubby’s sister.  We will be celebrating my son in-laws birthday and also my sister in laws recent marriage to her partner of many years.   We sadly missed their wedding celebration in Oxford  because of the flood at our cottage.

It is also our yearly Crisis at Christmas Coffee morning at our local church so I might pop in for an hour before we set off for Masham.  It will be the first year that I haven’t made anything for them but with my extra hours at work and all the paperwork for the insurance claim and my dodgy knee I think I am quite over extended at the moment.

Hope you have a good weekend. x

A Perfect Sunday…

We woke up to heavenly blue skies, warm sunshine and just enough breeze to gently dry the washing.

Washing Line

I took the opportunity of washing everything in sight, including those once in a while items like the mattress and pillow protectors

DSC06366

and one of my homemade quilts as part of my ongoing Spring Clean…

 but now I have the ironing pile from hell to negotiate!

I spent quite a bit of time tidying and cleaning in the house even though I actually longed to be in the garden – but I am being really good so I don’t over strain my back again at the moment.

The mountain of lotions and potions are beginning to stack up like the ironing! Back Aids

Hubby spent most of the day in the garden – cutting grass, trimming edges and generally tidying up.

  After all our hard work tea was an impromptu Al Fresco affair making the most of the good weather and

Al Fresco

listening to a chorus of birsong.   The flowers beds are coming into bloom now –  Aquilegia with their nodding heads

Aqualegia

 drifts of pure white Honesty…

Honesty

and Tulips slowly fading to a delicate pink.

Pink Tulips

Even the unwanted visitors didn’t spoil our day.

Unwanted visitors

 

How was your weekend?

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the little things…

How the chaos and clutter sneaks in and builds up

I surveyed my house this morning and took a quick snap of some of the many bits and pieces left lying around to be put away. Thursday is my last day at work and the start of the weekend for me and the day I feel absolutely drained by the frenzy of the working week.  So this is usually the evening when very little gets done as by this time I have run completely out of steam and have neither the intent nor the inclination to do anything but rustle up something quick to eat and then flop.

Although my house may have been tidy on the Sunday evening after the long slog of a weekend’s housekeeping there is always a slow build up of items on most surfaces by Thursday.   My survey this morning highlights the problems I have as you can see from the list of items below…

  • A large unopened letter from Tuesday left on the office desk – it was actually post for my mother in law because we deal with her finances and both hubby and I knew from the size and weight it was one of those dreaded annual report books from the shares company that we never read as we would need to employ an accountant to translate. It unfortunately goes straight into recycle and one day we will write and ask to get this info online. Note: task for task list!
  • The inner peel off lid from the Yeo Valley Yoghurt again on office desk – saying ‘Is this your lucky Lid’?  – well it might just be  – it has a lucky number to enter on the computer to win a Camper van – I cannot pass this over even though I know it is highly unlikely that I would win and almost not worth the effort of doing it but somehow I cannot just bin it! Note: another task for task list.
  • An Ikea leaflet with £15 off promotion – office desk? – correct! – I do keep these just in case there is anything we have in mind to buy and I would put it away in my coupons envelope but I have to figure out how do I remember the offer? For the time being it has just been left lying  around on the office desk.

Coathanger

  • A coat hanger and heating timer left on the back of the settee – the former left by hubby who was up and off to get the London train at 5am this morning. I expect he left it here not wanting to wake me up rummaging in the wardrobe – so we can excuse this…
  • The timer (in the red box) arrived in our house on Tuesday it is to replace the useless one at the cottage and is on our Easter job list but at the moment is waiting for hubby to read the instructions to know if it is definitely compatable with the boiler timer. Note: task for hubby’s task list!

Rotten apple

  • The rotting apple left on the kitchen counter – I discovered this in my fruit bowl on Monday morning as I grabbed an apple to take to work. I put this one aside thinking that I would cut off the rotten bit and possibly cook or eat the rest when I got home… mmmm never got back to it so it is even more rotted now and may just have turned into compost.  Of course I should have sent it over to Sue at 365 Days – £365 she would have it peeled and sliced and turned into an Apple Pie and twenty other dishes in the blink of an eye LOL!  Note task for task list…only joking Sue!!

Spotlights

  • Spotlights left on the landing bookcase – I bought these from Sainsbury’s well over a week ago and left them in the office hoping hubby would replace the spotlights that have gone – I am still hoping!!
  • Tradepoint leaflet left on (you guessed it) the office desk – I have put this where we can see it to remind us to go and pick up a new catalogue at B&Q when passing – problem is I am not sure when we will be passing as we don’t actually ever pass B&Q as it is at the other side of town!

Necklace

  • Necklace left on dressing table (ooops Beauty Station!)– I wore this at work with my black and white outfit yesterday (unusually co-ordinated for me as I hardly ever get as far as adding jewellery) and removed it before bed but it didn’t quite make it to my jewellery box only 5 feet away instead it has spent the night on my dressing table, Beauty Station.   But the reason for this is probably because the jewellery box sits on top of my chest of drawers and the top was covered in a pile of magazines for reading, clean tights to put away, clothes that I had taken off (and should have gone to the laundry basket in my daughters old room as we are limited for space in ours) and didn’t quite make it.

Easter card

  • Opened Easter card left on living room units – I picked this up off the mat when I walked in last night and was so excited to receive a hand written envelope that I just had to open it there and then. It was a homemade Easter card from a friend which reminded me that I must return her recent email as well as send her a card.  Note: task for task list.   I then put it on one side to go and take my coat off and make a drink before starting the tea.

I won’t bore you with the rest but you get the gist and even though I have places to put some of the above and systems to deal with them it is often the shortage of time on a workday evening that keeps me from attending to such things. So I am beginning to wonder if I have the right systems in place.

With this in mind for May I have chosen Developing my Systems to be my Focus for the month and I cannot believe given my track record that I am already planning this.

Putting systems in place

We all have systems don’t we whether they work for us or not. Some we deliberately set up but a large part of our routine is done through habit, both good and bad, and if we don’t develop a habit consciously then we develop one by default and that is often the start of a bad habit in my experience.

So I wondered how good are my systems – do they help or hinder me and could they be done better and most of all could they free up some much-needed self time and stop the feeling of Thursday night burn-out.

If I considered the running of my home and life as a business and the success or failure of my business was in direct relation to how efficiently I manage the day-to-day running then I ask myself ‘am I a good manager or should I sack myself’?

To know the answer to this I reasoned that I have to look at what my systems are now and if they can be improved. I am very much a systems person but not so much a routine person if that makes sense – that is I like things to be done in a certain way or order but I don’t necessarily do the task or maintaining when I should be doing it. For instance I might find myself blogging rather than using that time to cook a homemade meal and one which we are eating earlier rather than later.

In my job I deal with figures all day, adding them subtracting them, percentagising (is that a word?) them and checking them. I tackle each part of my workload like batch baking for the freezer. I am able to keep on track at work because most of my work has a deadline. I am sure my boss would not approve if he found I was planning my menus or blogging instead of billing the Legal Aid files! I stick to doing what I should be because I know I have to.   However, it is different at home as I am my own boss but this is where I fall down because I do go off and work on the wrong thing at the wrong time – now why is that?

To be clear on what my ‘Job Description’ is and of the systems involved I have tried to group the things I do into areas I have responsibility for and this has been my first stumbling block – how to categorise them in a meaningful way.

This is what I have come up with so far

Household and garden management

  • Cleaning
  • Laundry and clothes care
  • Sorting
  • Organising
  • Decorating
  • Gardening – lawn care and plant care
  • Stock control

Financial and Paper management

  • Earning
  • Budgeting
  • Bill paying
  • Saving
  • Document management
  • Purposeful Filing
  • Library stock control

Personal management

  • Wellbeing
  • Healthcare
  • Personal care
  • Socialising
  • Blogging

Meal and food management

  • Menu planning
  • Shopping
  • Cooking
  • Stock control

Wow – you can see why being a working housewife and mother is a full time occupation and I don’t have to include childcare on my list like some of you might!

Have I missed anything and how would you categorise all the things you do in your home and life?  Oh and let me know if you have got some good systems going…

I did wonder if meal planning should be part of household or a separate category and decided it is quite a large category to manage in itself so have kept it separate.

Recently I have been reading about Flow and Lean – some of you may have heard of these concepts.

5s’ has developed from lean manufacturing concepts in warehousing and they are…

Sorting, setting order, systemic cleaning, standardizing, and sustaining

this discipline ensures that money is not wasted to poor organsination or process.   Disorganisation costs money. Each process, from housekeeping to inventory transactions needs a formal, standardised process to ensure consistently outstanding results.

Sounds good to me so I wondered if I could adapt this lean process in some way to meet my requirements.

So in May I am going to get to grips with my systems. Each will get an in depth review and then a possible makeover. For the rest of this month in preparation I will be undertaking a time and motion study really looking at three areas

  • the way I do things,
  • why I put off doing things and
  • could I do them better?

a possible fourth would be could I put off doing them altogether!!

Now please excuse me while I go and put away a few items and get the place relatively ship shape again as well as look at making some Easter goodies and cards.

 

This weekend we (that is me, hubby, daughter No1 and her partner) are all going up to my expectant daughter No 2 to help her decorate and declutter her little cottage ready for baby’s arrival.

 

Have a good weekend x