bEAching, celebrations, cottage garden, crEAting, fEAsible, fEAsting, holidays, mEAndering, taking stock, trEAsury

drEAming…January – did I blink and miss it?

I feel like I have been ‘off the circuit’ for months rather than days and January has whizzed past so fast that I never got to post the list of my intentions for the month but I will try to capture the best bits in a quick summary.

 

  • fEAsting –

    Celebrate Burns Night – as you can just about see from the Polaroids above a great night spent with 6 friends, 3 Haggis (one vegetarian), 12 Scotch pies, 2 Macaroni pies and a heap of tatties and neeps not to mention plenty of gravy and wine whilst singing along to the tunes of bonny Scotland –  I even made the Cranachan this year – it was delicious and although hesitant at first everyone gave it the thumbs up – just a touch more Whisky next year!

 

  • trEAsury –

Buying a new car – after much deliberation and contemplation and counting the pennies – here she is my new car ‘Hetty’ Hyundai.

 

After 16 years driving the same car day in, day out she is taking a bit of getting used to especially as she is much higher than my old Citroen Saxo and at times I am feeling a little travel sick.

I am sure we will settle in together soon!

  • crEAting –

Making birthday cards for January birthdays – they had to be quick and simple so I used some brightly coloured ink pads and these tiny flower stamps and just dotted the flowers around – each one is slightly different.  They also made good Thank you cards too.

 

  • fEAsible –

taking stock and planning but first the reading and researching – with the long dull winter days what could be more perfect than getting warm and cosy and reading – most of the books below have been borrowed from our local library.  I am interested to cut down our spending as much as possible both to save money and to simplify my life by owning less stuff.

The book titled Deep Country by Neil Ansell is an excellent account of a man who takes himself off to live in a cottage in a remote part of the Welsh Hills for 5 years where he has no modern conveniences such as electricity or running water, no transport and no phone.  His nearest neighbours are just the wild creatures – fauna and flora of the surrounding woods and fields – I was captivated by this book – not only because he describes in detail the amusing behaviours of the birds and animals he comes across on his daily walks, but part of me was envious of this simple but rich lifestyle.

 

 

  • mEAndering –

The ‘Italian Job’ – booking the accommodation and flights for our trip to Italy in April for our niece’s wedding.

This task was both a chore and a delight – looking at the beautiful pictures of the region from Venice to Verona and deciding where we wanted to stay and what we might do and then the difficulty of making all the travel arrangements to get everything to join up.  Now everything is booked apart from a taxi to take us to the wedding ceremony – for that we will have to email the hotel for advice.

  • bEAching –

My final intention for January was to have a few days at the cottage (caravan) in Scotland – to check the place over and also begin clearing out the undergrowth in the upper wood – not forgetting buying the haggis for Burn’s night.  We set off on the Friday with snow lying on the ground in Yorkshire and we heard on the news it was bad at Shap but the M6 was still flowing so we decided to risk the journey knowing that we could turn back or put up in a hotel if need be.

As it turned out the worst bit of the journey was actually only 6 miles away from here going over the moors to Manchester and the stretch of the M62 by Scammonden – there was nothing around Manchester itself.

As you might expect it was a very cold night in the caravan – the temperatures had dropped to almost freezing but thankfully we have double glazing and central heating.  We put the electric blanket on to air the bed and even after we switched it off we stayed toasty warm all night.

On the Saturday it was a gloriously sunny day with blue skies and an even deeper blue coloured, calm sea.

 

We had a leisurely breakfast and a trip into our nearest town Stranraer to change the empty spare gas bottle – with the cold weather it is always best to be well stocked.

We had a potter around the town – I bought a couple of birthday gifts for the January birthdays and a very large family sized pack of Persil on offer at Tesco for £9 (Morrisons had it on offer at £10!) – I like a bargain.

Back at the caravan the sun was out and it was such a lovely afternoon we put on our gardening gear – fleece joggers, padded jackets, hats, scarves and boots and looking like arctic explorers went up into the upper wood to do some clearing.  We have to do the wood clearance at this time of year whilst the undergrowth is not growing.  We pruned the elders that spring up in any bit of a clearing and had a go at the brambles.  Elders make good shredding or should I say Elder branches go through the shredder easily, they are straight thin branches and not thorny like Hawthorn.

The large spider legged pond cover we bought last year in a sale from Agriframes seems to be doing the job of keeping the leaves off the pond – I presume the wind from the recent gales must blow straight through the structure as there is no way to anchor it down but yet it had not moved an inch – luckily.

 

 

There are bulbs coming up everywhere in the garden and snowdrops well in bud.  To my horror though the three-cornered leek is everywhere you would not even know I had dug up so much of it last year even to the point of digging out every last tiny bulb over a 2 metre area – even the ones that were like microscopic beads.  To no avail – it has spread over winter with a vengeance.  So it is back to searching the internet for a remedy – surely there is a pesticide for this persistent pest of a weed.

 

There was a surprising amount of colour around the garden –  the Mahonia Charity and Viburnum in flower…

 

 

Berries still remain on the Hypericum…

 

 

and elsewhere evidence of shoots bursting into life…

 

or about to…

 

 

The light eventually faded and we had to come inside – I made a nice hot 2 day lentil curry for tea to warm us up whilst OH promptly fell asleep and snored blissfully on the sofa after a job well done!

Opening the curtains on Sunday morning confirmed the weather we could hear from inside the caravan – wet, windy and cold – not a day to venture out and certainly not a day for the garden.  We had to turn our attentions to amuse ourselves inside.

For me it was plotting and planning as well as reading a stack of magazine articles I had clipped in my recent clear-out interspersed by just watching the waves as the sea crashed around at the bottom of the garden.

By the end of the afternoon the weather was a little warmer and calmer but the light was fading fast so still no chance of gardening.

At tea time I began to collect our bits and pieces together ready to pack for leaving on the Monday.  We had to be in town for 11am as the local Osteopath (with the magic touch) was going to work on fixing my bad shoulder before we travelled home.

I know the main problem with all my muscles is due to lack of exercise and I will be taking small steps to address this soon.

I actually feel quite pleased with myself that I completed all my intentions for January – I decided this year I would try and focus on one project at once – unfortunately it was unavoidable that planning the Italian Job and buying a new car collided a bit but thankfully they both got sorted.

In a day or two I will be posting my intentions for February so stay tuned.

Back soon x

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budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

trEAsury…a good start

Snowdrops

Birthday Card

We are now on day 8 of the new year and up to yesterday all we had bought during the week was milk and a bunch of flowers and box of chocolates for a birthday gift.  The card I made having a really good time with some tiny flower stamps I had bought a while ago but never used.
Total cost for first 7 days £11.   January is quite a heavy month for birthdays  – I have seven to buy for.
Yesterday we had to go to the supermarket for a few bits for my lunches and some fresh fruit and vegetables.  I was very organised and arrived with my menu plan and list in hand feeling confident that I was going to spend within my budget of £50.
After the first two aisles I came across a number of our usual grocery items on offer but not on the list such as coffee. 
Dilemma.
In the end it seemed right to take advantage and stock up –  otherwise it will be a while before the offers come round again.
  • The very large Lurpack was down to £6.00 – we decant this into a butter dish which I quite like doing anyway – more elegant on the breakfast table than a tub – and a tub this size is not at all pretty – but it does last us for ages.
  • The seeded flat breads which are like Pitta breads are great for filling with salads for my lunch and these had been marked down to 80p for six.
  • The instant Lavazza which is normally extortionate price of £4.50 (but hubby’s favourite) was down to £3 a tin so I splashed out and bought 3 which should last us until the offer comes round again.
  • I also bought a couple of cartons of Napolina Pasata at 60p carton and a good pantry staple for making lasagne, chickpea bake or adding to any winter warming casserole.
  • We needed water filters and we were in luck this week they were reduced – I can only afford them when they are on offer but I do like filtered water – since I had the high levels of radiation a few years back it has left me with a very heightened sense of taste and smell like you get when you are pregnant.  They were reduced from £21 to £14 for six and we make them last 9 months so about £1.55 a month, which is well worth it for me.
So in the end we spent £72  – £31 on the offers.
Over the weekend I have been looking for new ways to maximise any rewards points, offers and freebies.  Reward points work well for me and the Nectar card at Sainsbury’s is the one I use most.  I haven’t really taken much notice of the online account before – but I ventured on there to order a new card as mine must be more than 20 years old and a bit worn out.  Yes I hate to say it but this little bit of plastic is heading for the landfill!
Whilst having a browses around I found I could get 200 points on my next shop and all I had to do was click to load the offer straight on to my card.
Brilliant.
So I have now bookmarked the login on my sidebar for easy access and this is one account I shall keep checking into more frequently.
I then logged onto the Boots Advantage card site and found the same – not only have I £34 in points to spend but you can load any personalised offers straight to your card.  Why didn’t I know this before?  I wonder what else I am missing.
To boost the coffers over the January period I have a children’s outfit to return to M&S for a refund of £18 and my brother owes me £10 – he will just need a nudge about this.
As you can tell I will be trying to spend as little as possible other than food during January.  I even managed to avoid the magazines whilst in Sainsbury’s – I could see them out of the corner of my eye beckoning me with promises of losing 10lbs in 2 days or was it 2lbs in ten days or making me happy, less stressed, better dressed – none of these things would be difficult but I have heard it all before in last years magazines that I bought  – the ones that cost me over £100  – and did they make a difference – nope – none that I can detect.  I am still the same old me!
I have plenty of clothes for work and my new boots and old winter coats are still good. 
If I need anything it would be a plain black top, preferably a fine knit jumper, that will go with a few patterned skirts that I have and will give me another three outfit options to wear for work.  I bought the skirts ages ago but have never found a suitable top to wear with them – but there must be one out there and it seems a bit wasteful to have the skirts hanging there doing nothing.
Note to self – buy clothes in outfits then I am not stuck with oddments that don’t go with one another.
Back soon x

 

 

being thrifty, budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

tEAsury…reflecting on last year’s budget

The Budget – the breakdown – the facts – the truth – the satisfaction and the panic!
Last year my Focus word was ECONOMISE to reflect a change in our circumstances and a need to tighten our belts.
I have one of those all singing all dancing software programs on my computer called Microsoft Money (no longer available).  You just enter each receipt using the appropriate bank account if you have more than one and assign a category.  Once the information is in you can then produce any number of reports that track how much you have spent and even where you spent it.  The program allows you to customise the data to produce reports and spreadsheets split into weeks, months or years and I am able to compare this year to last year or the previous ten years if I wanted.
So I have entered all my receipts for 2017, balanced all the bank statements and run some comparison reports with last year and some in-depth reports (these are helpful when you see a frighteningly large total and want to know what the heck you spent so much on!

 

Looking over my spending report we did manage to economise in a few areas but not all and in some cases we have been running to stand still because of inflation.  There are some bills you just cannot reduce such as the Council tax which for our area was £73 more this year than 2016 and we live in a fairly modest house.
I will summarise some of the savings and failures of the general household budget.  I won’t be including the decorating and maintenance costs as we all know these are expensive and all I can say is that we have tried to buy wisely and keep within our means.
So how did we do –

General household bills

We reduced both our gas and electricity bills and also the house insurance by carefully swapping deals and suppliers and using less – a saving of £322
Our water is now metered and remains fairly constant if I am careful of our use such as always washing full loads and using the quicker washes.  At least it has not increased.
The TV license increased by £1 – just as well it is a small increase as there is very little on the box sometimes.

Cards and Gifts

I was also surprised that we saved on cards and gifts – family gifts by £100 and friends by £76 – this is mainly due to careful buying and not because of any reduction in the number of friends or family we have.

Clothes, Accessories and Footwear

We have seen a marked reduction here – I spent £336 on clothes an average of £28 month which is half what I spent the previous year but then we did have the wedding that summer and I was the bride’s mother.  OH did even better and only spent £110 over the year.  I don’t think this is too bad considering I need clothes for work.  Most of my clothes came from Sainsbury’s – they have a large clothing section and have a 25% off quite frequently.  I have noticed though that some clothing that would have been £16 or £18 is now hitting the £20 mark.
I spent less on footwear than other years too and some of the casual shoes I bought came from Sainsbury’s but my new winter boots were well over £100 –  I bought the same ones as I had last year because they fit well (I do have to wear good footwear that is well padded, very low or no heel and a thick sole as I have a problem with my feet and have to wear orthotics if they don’t have the right support and comfort built-in which tend to be in the dearer makes such as Gabor, Ecco and Sketchers).  I also had to invest in my new gardening boots which were £30 so this took the total up to £289, which sounds a lot to me for shoes but my footwear spend was balanced out by OH buying no new shoes at all!

Housekeeping

On the housekeeping side our grocery, cleaning and some toiletries costs came in at £63 a week – this was a disappointing figure and is not what I had hoped for I was looking for a figure around £50 and this is one area where I feel that even after all the bargain hunting and taking advantage of only buying whilst a product is on offer we have been running to stand still with the large price hikes we have been seeing.
I did take a packed lunch to work most days which reduced the spending in this area but will have increased the total spend on food a bit as obviously the extra food has to come from somewhere.
We did reduce our food waste a lot – I stopped buying those pots of salad like cloeslaw as they seemed to be out of date before the two of us could finish them and I have been adhering to a menu plan each week most of the time.
I continue to buy organic where I can so I know my shop will already be more expensive than most people – but Sainsbury’s do a good own brand organic range which are reasonably priced and I do get reward point coupons for them quite often.

Fuel, transport, car maintenance, insurance, MOT, car parking contract and anything car related

This must be one of the most expensive outlays – it is frightening how much it costs to get about and then to park when you get there.  All I can say is we always shop around for insurance deals, buy cheaper supermarket fuel (never on the motorway) and use those money off / reward point coupons if we are lucky enough to get some.  Other than getting rid of the cars or not going anywhere I am not sure what saving we can make.  My little runaround is already 18 years old and I am not sure what is holding it together but it is fine to get me to work, carry the weekly shopping and take me to places locally.  For anything else we use my hubby’s bigger car.

Books and Magazines

I really believed I had cut down on magazines and thought I was only buying an occassional one when we went to the cottage (we have no TV or internet there so I tend to read) however, the budget report shows a different story and I managed to buy no less than £107 worth of magazines and those magazine books during the year.  Curious to find out more I looked at the in-depth report and this is how that figure is broken down –
  • Psychologies x 2
  • Top Sante x 2
  • Natural Health x 1
  • Gardeners World – May edition for the 2 for 1 entry to gardens card
  • Daphnes Diary x 2
  • Country Living – turning a hobby into a business (book magazine)
  • Gardeners World Plants for Shade (book magazine)
  • Womans Weekly Garden
  • We Love Craft – I don’t even remember this will have to have a search of my bookcase!
  • Build  and Home Build (for our cottage renovations)
  • Country Homes and Ideal Homes pack ( a supermarket offer whilst at the cottage)
  • Healthy Food Guide (another book magazine)
  • What the Doctors Don’t Tell You x 2
  • Country Homes Christmas
  • Christmas House Beautiful
You can see where my interests lie and I obviously need to avoid the magazine aisle!
On the positive side I have acquired Brownie points using the Library to take books out to read rather than buying any.
In actual fact I have so much to read here in the house anyway that I could probably get away with never buying or borrowing a book again for many months.  It is just habit that I will wander into a bookstore and especially The Works where it is cheaper to buy a book than a magazine.  Stationery shops also have this effect on enticing me in to spend.

Christmas

Christmas has become a lot cheaper for us since we started the Not so Secret Santa within the extended family.  The budget is £50 per person so a £100 spend for OH and I and we spend a further £25 to £30 on the two relatives children and a bit more on our granddaughter.  The Secret Santa stocking within the immediate family is £20 each (£40 for the two of us) and another £10 for the one at my work.  We always give our two daughters and their partners a sizeable cheque for Christmas rather than any gifts they might not want.
The few gifts for our friends we were able to find a 3 for 2 offer.
A grand total of around £300 which does not include the two gifts of money to our daughters.
The bits and pieces such as the cards and wrap came to £20 and is an area where I could make more of my own.
Our real four-foot Christmas tree with roots was a bargain and cost only £17 with the coupon and we can plant it in our Scottish garden later this month.   We decided to put some old lights on the tree when the more recent ones failed instead of rushing out to buy new ones.
The postage for non local cards and one parcel amounted to £30 which was a bit of a shock – not sure how I can get around this expense other than hiring a pigeon to deliver!  I sent them all 2nd class but it was the 4 Australian ones that hiked the price up considerably.  I do have half a book of stamps left though for sending birthday cards.
Perhaps I will try buying a book of stamps throughout the year to spread the cost.
So there you have it  – not brilliant but not a disaster – there is room for a challenge in this years budget somewhere.  I don’t profess to be a frugal blog by any means although I do like to read them and take on any useful ideas.  My aim is to set and stick to a reasonable money-saving budget so that we can increase the amount we save ready for retirement and to free up some of our income for the decorating.   It goes without saying that I am on a mission to reduce our stuff and limit the stuff coming in to our house so not buying things we don’t really need is very important and in itself should save us money.
In my next post I will set out some of my ideas for my new budget!
Back soon x

 

being thrifty, sEAsons, trEAsury

sEAsons…oh the weather outside is frightful

Here we are the 3rd December it’s bitterly cold outside and snow keeps threatening and the countdown to Christmas has really begun.

Little L has sent her letter to Santa and we have all completed our family ‘Not so Secret Santa’ wish lists and passed them on to the relevant person.

This year I am buying a gift for my son in law and my OH is buying for my sister – she has a wish list as long as your arm but that makes it easier to pick a few things to the value of £50.  The big present swap and family party will be in two weeks time and I am generally in charge of crackers, games, silly hats and the music.

But first things first – I have mum’s photo book to finish and the computer is playing up – soon it will be me with frustration.

I have my fruit soaking ready to make my cake today and we bought a Christmas tree from Waitrose last night, a nice bushy 4 or 5 foot rooted one and it comes with a large red pot for £35 and all we have to do is bring it into the living room and decorate.  We used my £18 off a £90 shop voucher and also got a bargain on 3 gifts at £10 which were 3 for 2 (which conveniently brought the gifts into my £7 limit)  and also managed to find one of my sisters gifts – a stick blender.

To make up the £90 I also stocked up on a few items I can only buy from Waitrose and a few that we normally buy in Sainsbury’s that were on offer here.  So I was quite pleased with my purchases and the savings I made – the total came to more than £90 but with the coupon and £10 saving on the gifts I think I got quite a lot for the money.

Next Thursday mum arrives to stay and try out the brand new guest room – I need a heated underblanket for mum to replace the two hot water bottles she used to have.  This item is proving difficult to purchase as stock in the shops is low – everyone must be having one for Christmas, but I did manage to buy my plain white duvet cover for the new bed and a new plain white sheet for our bedroom as one of the two sheets had ripped right through in the last wash because it had worn so thin.

To finish the room we need to put up a picture or two and find a bedside table, but apart from that it is ready to go.

If I get time at the end of the day I will compose my Christmas letter that I usually send out to update relatives and friends and perhaps write a card or two.

Back soon x