tackling the paperwork mountain…

I am not used to working Thursdays now so it was a bit of a long week for me last week waiting until Friday for a day off work.  Due to the Birmingham visit on Tuesday  I had to work on Thursday which has recently become my cleaning day – so no cleaning done.  Dilemma then when I woke up on Friday morning – do I clean today instead or do the paperwork that is normally designated for Fridays.

 

The paperwork won!

It is a sit down job and I was quite tired by Friday morning so cleaning seemed far too energetic and I had a ‘ladies who lunch’ date with my friend which I knew would break up part of the day.

Surprisingly my desk was reasonably tidy and I got stuck in.  First job was to write a to do list – I now use Todoist as I can’t install Microsoft works on the Mac – it was the closest program to the one I had but not as good and I refuse to pay to upgrade to the premium service.  The list seemed never-ending in fact so long that even if I retired tomorrow I feel sure I would not get to the end.

So then I did a shorter version to capture the really urgent tasks but it still looks a bit daunting.

Having assembled a frightening list I then made a note of any upcoming appointments and put reminders in my diary.  I also checked the September birthdays and made a mental note to see if I can find suitable cards from my supply to save me buying any more.  I have more than enough blank cards in my craft cupboard and just need to find some time to make some and this would be a good economy as I spend far too much on cards over a year.

Then it was down to bill paying – the plumber for the recent radiator leak (yes I know more water problems),  the roofer (who has done a small repair for us to prevent a future leak) and Yorkshire Water for our water bill (it seems a little ironic that we have to pay so much for water when we seem to attract more than our fair share of free water into our lives in the form of leaks and floods!).

Whilst online transferring the payments I did a quick check of our bank statements to assess our situation.  We have of course spent quite a bit on paint and new furniture recently for the bedroom we have just decorated – I didn’t set a budget as such but I always know when something is more than we should be spending.  The wardrobes were our dearest item and then the drawers and the small bookcase but the two blinds were very reasonable at £16 and we made the wardrobe door handles.  The duvet cover with pillowslips only came as a pack of two at £32 making them £16 each, the fleecy throw was £4 and a few picture frames at £3 or £4 each.  Everything else we already had.

Within our usual day-to-day spending there is always room to economise more.  The dearest item by far this week was the petrol we bought for the journey to Birmingham.  My neighbour has recently been sent three Sainsbury’s 12p off petrol coupons,  I go there every week and they have not sent me or OH any – so feeling a trifle miffed about that.

I am however still taking packed lunches to work so saving a good £10 a week there even allowing for the extra food on the weekly shopping bill.  I have a £20 gift token for Boots so I will wait until there are offers on the brands I use or put it towards a new hairdryer – mine stopped working one day recently, the same week as the iron died on me!

We have just changed gas providers from Npower to EDF for a cheaper deal – the electricity is already on a reasonable fixed rate and with our BT line we pay up front for the year which is cheaper and try not to go over the hour with our calls which are free for the first 60 minutes – difficult when you have 2 daughters, a mother and a sister (and not forgetting my brother) who all like a long chat.  I will just have to start keeping the timer by the phone and cut them off after 55 minutes!

As I can’t reduce most of the bills any further I can only look to the housekeeping and transport costs – food, petrol, cleaning and toiletries to make more savings.

 

Over the rest of the weekend I extended sorting the paperwork to a mammoth session of decluttering and streamlining the files in the office.  I am not sure where the mountain of paper came from to throw out but the files are so much lighter now.  There is far too much paper to shred – I can’t put it in the recycle bin as too much sensitive information so we will take it on holiday with us to Scotland and have a bonfire at the cottage.

 

So after my sorting out session everything is in order and up to date,  I even managed to set up the log in account for my new workplace pension.  We have always preferred the ethical funds for OH’s pension where we have been given a choice and it has performed well over the years so I was pleased to find I could choose an ethical one with our workplace pension provider.  I am not sure I will accrue very much between now and retirement but I won’t be refusing the ‘free’ money paid in by my employer and the government as every little helps!

My next job is my heap (I exaggerate not here) of magazine cuttings – I am not sure why I find such a pleasure in hoarding articles and pictures torn from magazines.  I spend time neatly filing them into folders – all subjects – gardening, craft, health, decorating ideas, recipes etc but now I have a whole shelf full of files dedicated to magazine cuttings plus the heap waiting to be filed.

I realise I have a problem and as an example of how chronic my addiction is I have articles on health issues I don’t even suffer with…well not yet anyway!   I have more diets than I could possibly try out and more craft ideas than I would even want to attempt – after all why would I want to crotchet a hot water bottle cover really when I can’t even crotchet!  In my perfect life I might consider it but when it takes me all my time to go to work, shop, cook and clean a crotchet hot water bottle cover is probably on the end of my do to list.  (Just checking I did add this on to the end of my list!)

So I am resolving to be ruthless – my OH is not convinced – he knows me and my cuttings well!  Watch this space…

 

 

 

 

 

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hot off the labeller…

After all the decluttering, reorganising and reshuffling of the last few days I have everything labelled to perfection – even my dear hubby –  (though he doesn’t fit neatly into any of my storage boxes)!  You can imagine what he has to say about my labelling but for all his jokes he is able to find things and more importantly put them away afterwards.  I actually quite enjoyed myself – sad I know!

 

Labelled Storage

 

Most of the garage is done now and we can actually move about in there and find things.  We have a few things to sell, a few to give away and a few to mend or just attend to.  So we started a jobs tray for me (see below) and a jobs box (much larger) for OH.

This is as it stands today:-

  • drill a hole in the bottom of the decorative hanging bird feeder – a present from 5 years ago and still waiting a drainage hole.
  • hammer the parasol holder into the ground by the patio
  • Glue the pottery ducks beak on – obviously it is not frost proof as it drops off each winter – a gift from my mum – he is hidden behind the ivy at the moment!
  • replace the socket in the office
  • Screw in the vine eye hooks to the fence for the climber
  • add the wire
  • plant the Xmas tree
  • feed and weed the lawn with one of the 4 boxes of lawn feed!
  • clean the copper rings with Brasso
  • clean the brass plant mister with Brasso

During the clear out I came across the drawer with flower arranging tools.  I am not a flower arranger  – I generally go for the just picked and put in a vase natural look but occasionally I have made gifts with flowers and so I keep a drawer with a few tools, tapes and florist wires.  The vintage flower frog below was discovered amongst my mother in-law’s things and I decided to keep it.  She used to go to flower arranging classes.  I may never use it but somehow it reminds me of her and how creative she was and it is such a delightful little object and packaged in its own charming little box.Flower arranging tools

Vintage flower frog

 

Some items from the shed that are not affected by the weather have had to be rehoused in the garden.  Not knowing where to store my terracotta pots, some of which are vintage from my dads garden shed, I searched around and found this handy little place inside my Victorian cloche that belonged to my father in law.

Terracotta pots

It is a few years since I grew any vegetables – I gave up my little plot, which is now flower bed, a few years ago when I began working full-time.  Looking at all the lovely veg I see being grown on some of my favourite blogs I decided to buy a Courgette plant and grow it in one of my large pots. Courgette

 They are quite decorative vegetables and already I have flowers appearing with the beginnings of the Courgette behind them.  As I was too late for Sweet pea plants this year I also bought a few left over pea plants from a local nursery and have planted these into another pot with some willow stems for support.

Herb pot

The strawberry pot which again came from my dad’s garden has Chives and a few stray self seeded flowers

The Fence

Remember the fence saga – here is a catch up picture – the climbing hydrangea is blooming and once the wires are in place I can tie it back to the fence and hopefully by next year it will cover the mishmash of fencing and all will be well again.
Climbing Hydrangea

The Obelisk (which I previously called a Gazebo!! – it’s my age) is now in place and planted with Honeysuckle – Lonicera Scentsation  – cream and yellow flowers with a long flowering season and a wonderful scent.

Honeysuckle

Just in case you got the idea from my recent moan about the fence that we didn’t get on with our neighbours – well actually we are good friends and I can totally understand that he isn’t a gardener  – I am just a bit too precious over my plants!

Potted geraniums

As part of the garden tidy up I bought one or two summer bedding plants to put in pots – I do like these wooden crates such a shame they don’t last – I might line it with polythene and grow some herbs in it for the summer.

Birdhouse

The new bird house now has a zinc roof to protect it from the weather – another job off the list.

eating outdoors

After all our hard work we put up the parasol and had lunch outside – perfect.

How are you enjoying this warm spell?

Back soon x

 

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

 

 

 

So much to do and so little time to do it…

…was it Pooh Bear who said that…or was that about eating honey – Oh if eating honey was my only task!

I have set aside what time I have this month to Focus on completing and following up on the previous three.  To recap: I spent January focusing on my finances, February focusing on simplifying and decluttering my space and March focusing on a Spring clean.  I now have a list of left over jobs to tackle from each month and only two weeks of April to complete as we will be away for Easter and beyond.

You will find the list of tasks under April if you click on the Focus 2014 tab above or click here

I have been a busy bee this weekend whizzing through some of those little jobs that hang around – you know the ones I mean the non-urgent tasks that seem to roll over on the task list from one month to another.  If you don’t suffer from this ever then please leave me your secret in the comment box!

Since last Friday I have managed to  –

  • get a spare garage key cut £5.50 (ouch!), only on the list since last month
  • take my paper scissors to be sharpened £3.50 (I thought this was reasonable as they will last a while and it saves buying any new ones), on the list since January
  • laminated the clock change instructions to keep handy in my car and the compost layering ‘recipe’ to nail to the underside of the compost lid, as well as the musical sheets that are part of our musical crackers game ready for next Christmas get together,  on the list since January
  • cut back part of the front lawn that had crept over the driveway, on the list since last September
  • weeded the front bed where my lovely tree had been that succumbed to Honey fungus and is now ready for new planting,  on the list since February
  • finished copying over the old videos that we want to keep on DVD discs,  on the list for over a year
  • hubby took the sink trap off for cleaning (the fact that he didn’t screw the half bowl trap back on properly and I flooded out the cupboard below tonight – we won’t mention!), actually not on the list but we had a drain smell occur this last week
  • sent another bag of clothes to charity,  not even on the list
  • washed my black winter coat,  on last months list
  • washed all the cleaning cloths and dusters,  on the list for ages – the pile has just got bigger (they definitely breed)
  • balanced our finances, trying to do this at the end of each month no matter what
  • located the bottom of the ironing basket, this is on my weekly list but often has to be abandoned

and that was as well as the usual cleaning, washing  and tidying but it does feel good to not have to roll them over again.

 

I must say that the parts of the house that I have simplified, decluttered and cleaned are a real pleasure to be in.  I do need to work on my routines to keep up to this level of tidiness, cleanliness and clutterlessness (is there such a word?)…and most of all I need to keep a tight hold on the purse strings to avoid buying and bringing unnecessary bits and pieces back in.

Having said that there are certain items I am looking to buy or even make and as I go through each room simplifying and decluttering I am making a list of these items.  That may sound strange when my mission is to get rid of things but I also want to enhance my new space and make it decoratively pleasing to be in.

One of the items I am on the look out for is a small pretty wicker basket to contain my use up toiletries – so I can leave it out in full view and remember to use them.  At the moment they are in a Muji plastic tub but it would be nicer to have them in something a little more decorative than functional as I am sure it will be an ongoing container, even this plastic one

Small Faux Rattan Storage Basket

Google Images

from Lakeland would be better but I would like to avoid plastic and prefer a white-painted wicker one.

For anyone out there doing the same decluttering / tasks / spring clean how is it going for you?

 

Have a good week x

 

 

 

 

Financial Focusing update #2

 My task today was to look at all the money that has accrued by way of Vouchers / Gift cards / money owing / reward points and store returns still to do and then have a quick sort through all the coupons I have collected to see what might be useful.

This is how I store my coupons and vouchers  – I use one of those clear plastic A6 size envelopes.  I also have one to keep my receipts in for those items I am going to return or exchange.  They are small enough to drop into my bag and this way they are all in one place.

Coupon Holders

 A quick round up below of what I would term credits and rewards to come

Gift Cards / Reward Points / Monies to bank

  •  Wallis Gift Card                                        £8.95
  • Debenhams Gift Card                              £5.00  valid until Jan 31st
  • John Lewis returns                                   £119.00
  • Xmas Gift Money to bank                      £55.00
  • Lottery Scratch Card winnings            £1 (from Hubbies stocking filler)
  • Gardening Token                                             £5.00
  • Morrisons Miles Voucher                      £5.00
  • Tesco Vouchers                                         £7.50
  • Owing from brother                                  £15.00
  • Reward points Sainsbury’s                    £ 81.64
  • Reward Points Boots                               £23.59
  • Total                                                               £326.68

 Wow £326.68 is a nice little sum – I will get free groceries for a week or two by using my Sainsbury’s reward points and I can use the Boots points for toiletries needed.  The Tesco vouchers I will hang on to for the Double up exchange and with the Wallis and Debenhams cards I will get either a birthday gift or a treat.

                    

Store Coupons and Vouchers

  • M&S reward card  – buy 2 more greetings cards and I will get one free
  • Points and money off various products at Boots
  • 20% savings at WH Smiths
  • 0.81p off next Tesco shop by 8th Feb
  • 0.24p off next Sainsbury’s shop
  • A free cup of coffee / tea from my local garden centre

My Sainsbury’s Double Nectar points coupon expired today but I need to spend over £90 to qualify so sorry Mr Sainsbury I will not be spending that much in your store for the foreseeable future!

So far this January I have spent

 Groceries – £99.83

– we are in week 3 now so that is £33.28 weekly average.

 Lunches at work – £16

–  I work 4 full days so I am going to try and buy 2 lunches and then make 2 to take with me.

 Supplements –  £18.47 (Inc £2.50 voucher)

–  I bought Aloe Vera juice for my digestion and Effamol capsules

 Stationery – £12.07

–  I invested in a roll of wrap paper reduced to £1.80 for birthdays this year.  I also found a small magnifier to keep in my purse – very useful.  I bought a triple pack of Pritt stick on offer £1 each and a pack of A5 laminating pouches.

Computer items –  £14.50 Ink and £7.35 Mouse

 – Black printer ink  (run out) and a small mouse for my laptop computer from Wilkinsons

Entertaining –  £16.24 on drink -1 rum, 1 Vodka 4 x diet coke

                              £33.75 on food and nibbles.

  – At the weekend we entertained a couple of friends who we couldn’t see over the Christmas break and this came in a little expensive.  I know they like Vodka and Baccardi and coke so we had to stock up in case they asked for this.  Unfortunately they decided to stick to white wine and just the coke this time!  No doubt the spirits won’t be wasted.  I didn’t have time to make any food myself and had to rely on the supermarket party type food – not a cheap way to buy.   However, it did provide us with lunch and dinner the next day and we managed not to open the rum and Vodka and drown our sorrows on the overspend.

Generally I would have preferred to have had a completely No Spend month but for the things I did buy I shopped around for a good deal and used offers and vouchers where possible.

How are you doing with the January spending?

PS  Thanks to Dar over at An Exacting Life for your very helpful chart it is just what I needed to ensure we come out of our freezer predicament without poisoning ourselves – after all who wants to make themselves sick!

Monday is the new Friday…

…well for this week only as I have been at home today instead of Friday.

And what a gorgeous weekend.  We spent Saturday in Shrewsbury visiting my mother in law at her care home.  As usual we had a stop in Tarporley, Cheshire for lunch and walking along the main street I noticed the decorative writing on the outside of this old black and white frame house.  I love the words written under the window sill and thought perhaps this form of graphic art might prove quite popular with today’s fashion for writing on the inside walls of your house.

Writing on the wall

I have no idea what it says but here is a closer look – it was written in 1585

Window Sill Tarporley

After an early lunch at The Old Fire Station we drove on and arrived at the care home about 1.45pm only to find that my mum in law has taken to having a nap after lunch and doesn’t usually wake until 4pm – some power nap!  We had no choice but to go down into the town and have a look at the shops while she was in her deep slumber and return later.

I have always enjoyed shopping in Shrewsbury – it is a delightful town, full of independent shops and compared to my home town of Huddersfield there are a huge number of ‘fancy goods and gift’ shops to browse around.  However, after my seventh giftie shop some items were starting to get a bit repetitive and I did wonder who buys all this stuff, because although some of it is lovely it is also fashionable and will no doubt be out of fashion just as quickly.

Because we had plenty of time to kill we ventured into the Church of St Mary’s at the top of the town – inside is the most beautiful stained glass window  – like a colourful patchwork quilt, sadly this picture really does not do it justice.  It is one of those breath taking moments when you stand before it.

Stained Glass window

I worked last Friday on my day off – urgent business at work.  So today I decided to sort out one or two of those little tasks that I have been meaning to get around to.

  • I collected a letter from the sorting office in Holmfirth that required a signature and managed to run in and out to avoid any parking charges, saving 40p.
  • I rang Persil to find out if their Persil Original Non-Bio liquid was still available as Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Wilkinsons no longer stock it.    I was pleased that it is still available but only in Waitrose, Lloyds Pharmacy and by internet from Ocado.  I can see I will have to stock up on this as our nearest Waitrose is 30 miles away. Luckily the number was a freephone so cost nothing to ring.
  • I ordered 2 new filters at £1.20 for both our Russell Hobbs kettles (one at home, one at the cottage) which have had a good descaling inside.  Cost £5.39 including postage.
  • I returned my Library books on time whilst passing through the village.  Cost nil

Whilst I was out and about I called to see my newly retired brother who never knows what day it is now!  My purpose was to discuss Christmas…and presents in particular.  We decided last year that as a family we wanted to do something different about Christmas present buying.  With there being so many of us in our family now and growing it was taking quite a few shopping trips and a lot of ‘what on earth can I buy them’ moments.

We have agreed on a Secret Santa system where each person only buys one present worth £50 for one other member of the family.  Most of us are in couples so the cost will be £100 to us but that will be it.   Only the younger children up to 18  will be excluded and we will buy presents as usual for them but will probably join together to do this.  We will each produce a list of most wanted items as a guide for the purchaser.  I must say I am really looking forward to this new system and one of the great things is we will receive less stuff.

So all in all quite a productive day.

What are your plans to (if any) to reduce the Christmas Budget?

 

You may like to read about my September Challenge at Re-routed

Just day to day stuff…

The sun streamed through our bedroom window this morning and it felt good to wake up to the warmth and light after so many miserable gray days, but… and isn’t there always a but, why is it still so cold outside?

On the 23rd we will be celebrating my sisters first wedding anniversary and I cannot believe it was a year ago that she got married nor that it was a gloriously sunny day.  I have the card all ready to go – I wanted a special one for her so chose it quite awhile ago.

Work was just as busy today preparing claims to submit to the Legal Aid Agency for payment – this side of our work will reduce very soon as Family and Divorce, Debt and Benefit advice are to be taken out of the Legal Aid budget and no longer available unless there is domestic or emotional abuse.  I am not sure how low wage earners will pay a solicitor for their divorce or contact issues, our firm is introducing a fixed fee which might help certain groups to be able to afford to have legal advice.

Has anyone been to Boots recently?  I went yesterday to use a No7 voucher for some face cream as well as buy a pot of Epsom Salts and some of the Flexitol Natural Heel Balm which is brilliant for cracked or dry heels.  I couldn’t help but notice that the shelves in the store are looking quite bare in places and there was a shortage of a number of products so I came away without any Epsom salts or the Heel Balm only the face cream.  I expect the recession is hitting the shops quite badly now Christmas is over but I hate having to make more than one trip to buy something especially when the assistants cannot tell me when new stock is expected.  On the good side I am getting quite good at saving money these days as I always remember to visit the Advantage Card machine first to see what other discounts or extra points are on offer.  Not only did I get £5 off my face cream but an extra 150 points were added to my Advantage card giving me a total of £28.55 to spend (this will certainly cover my Epsom Salts and Heel cream if they ever restock).  I even got another £5 off voucher.

Cream Sachets

Becoming economically minded has meant that I have made a big effort to use up as many toiletries as I can over the last few months, even those little free trial sachets of cream that are stuck inside magazines that I have collected and kept.  I have a sensitive skin and use un-perfumed creams out of choice but the sachets are useful for my neck and decolletage area so nothing is wasted in this household.  If I have a product I am not keen on I find a use for it somewhere, even old bubble bath is good for washing hair brushes and rollers.

When I arrived home from work tonight there was barely any time left to do any housework other than a quick tidy round in the kitchen and prepare the Leek and Potato soup with added Butter Beans for protein.

Leek and Potato Soup

Luckily there was no post today so no immediate paperwork to attend to.   After tea I flopped on the sofa and relaxed in front of the TV for an hour, working longer hours really takes it out of me but my job is very demanding at the moment and I hate working in a muddle.  I will even need to go in on my day off on Friday to do a Webinar training programme ready for the big Legal Aid changes on the 1st April – (someone needs to know what we are doing and which new forms to use and you can bet if it involves a government body it will be as complicated as they can make it)

It is now time for bed and a look at what I need to do tomorrow.  I am trying to limit my To Do list to 5 items each day – this way I keep focused and have an achievable list.

On my list is

  • another visit to Boots after work to spend my £5 off voucher on more face cream (might as well stock up on this).
  • check out prices of Dettox wipes and TCP in the pound shops and Wilkinsons.  I use the Dettox wipes at work to clean my desk, keyboard, phone and door handles every Monday to begin the week.  I like to have a clean and tidy workstation it has a calming effect on me.
  • put in a load of washing – black jeans and work wear from the cottage that has been hanging around too long.
  • take the orchid plant food to work and feed plant
  • ring my friend to see how she is this week

Tea will be –  Leek and Carrot pasties with Potatoes, Roast parsnips and peas.

Time for bed again have a good day tomorrow.