fEAsible, intentions, monthly review

fEAsible…February review

I thought January went quickly but February was also a bit of a whirlwind.

I was a little disappointed with my accomplishments in February – I can see now that I set myself too many tasks for the time available partly due to not allowing enough time for the planning of and attending the funeral – but the main reason for my lack of action must be to do with the fact that we had a sudden notification of our Legal Aid audits at work and to cover all this additional work that an audit entails I had to do extra hours and also go in on one of my days off so we could meet the deadlines.  But I will not bore you anymore with the details – it is just enough to say I found February challenging.

So a quick round-up of how I performed with my February intentions –

  • appEArance –

I can only own up to the fact that I failed miserably on my appearance category and my attempts at self-care, such as booking an appointment with the optician and exercising after work, did not materialise in fact I have been so tired this month I have caught myself a few times asleep on the sofa supposedly watching TV but actually recovering from the day.

 

  • mEAndering –

Our meandering this month took us down memory lane as we doubled up our sad trip to the funeral in Cirencester with a visit to Cheltenham – a real treat and we plan to go back for a long weekend as soon as we can. So this intention was fulfilled and enjoyed.

Unfortunately we have run out of weekends to go up to North Yorkshire and with all this snow it won’t be any time soon.

  • crEAting –

Nothing exciting to show on the creating side – I was really disappointed not to have started my hen print tea cosy by now – this will have to roll over to March – but I did get to make a Valentines card (it was a bit of a cheat though – a heart stamp, a blank card and some red ink) still it is the thought that counts!

  • rEArranging –

My main decluttering and simplifying projects were to get rid of the accumulation of ‘stuff’ in the downstairs toilet that we are turning into a pantry and to make a start in our main bedroom prior to decorating.

The big news is (and I am very pleased with myself for this) that I actually, with the help of dear hubby and advice from a few bloggers, managed to get two items listed on eBay  – one has already sold (some bathroom fitments that we had for the cottage but no longer need) and the other (a brand new curved shower screen to fit the bath we no longer have since the flood) has an interested enquirer from Surrey –but I have no idea how we would get it to him – so may have to relist this one.  Anyway now I have gone through the procedure and understand it a bit more I just need to repeat!

In our bedroom I wanted to improve on the space and reduce the contents before giving it a good spring clean.  I have put all my hubby’s clothes into the new wardrobe in the spare room and he has taken all the natural wood hangers because I decided that DH finds things easier if everything is hung.  So now everything is hung – jumpers, t-shirts, shirts, suits and jackets.  His jeans are the only items of clothing that remain folded and these are in one of the pull out Muji  drawers within the wardrobe fitment, together with a drawer for his working clothes for gardening and DIY.

His underwear and socks are presently in the bedside drawers on his side but I have plans for these.

So now I can spread out and have the whole of the wardrobe in our bedroom for myself – but I had no hangers.  I know it is lavish to buy hangers when they come free with garments but I like nothing better than opening my wardrobe doors in a morning and having uniform hangers looks more orderly to me.

After debating with myself whether or not I should buy the space-saving skinny velvet hangers (and I can see the merit in these) I finally decided on the white wooden IKEA ones for two reasons (well maybe three)

  • The skinny velvet ones in TKMAX come in packs of different brands so might not be repeatable should I need more.
  • The packs I looked at all seemed to have a few  damaged hangers in them and some had missing hooks so I questioned how long they might last as I wanted this to be a once and forever purchase like my natural wooden hangers that I have had for donkey’s years.
  • They never seemed to have white ones and for some reason I just fancied white.
  • Although the white wooden ones take up more room the clothes keep their shape better on them and I just like them – so good enough reason to buy them.
  • They are wood and not plastic so environmentally friendly.
  • Having the wooden ones meant fewer hangers will fit in the space and therefore I will have to limit the number of clothes I can keep so I will always know when I need to stop buying.
  • They are cheap for the quantity I needed – I bought 7 packs of 8 hangers – so I can hang 56 garments.

Actually that is seven reasons!

I will post some pictures soon of my wardrobe rearrangements.

  • fEAsting –

    Valentines – with the unexpected audits at work I had to work on Valentines day so it didn’t happen for us – we did exchange cards and a small gift but no special meal. Pancake Day was the same but I am not going to stress about it we will just celebrate it another day instead – I can always eat pancakes anytime of the year!

 

  • trEAsury –

My intentions for February on financial matters was to start looking at our pensions and getting some advice, continue to limit the grocery weekly spend, save some money on cards and gifts and replace some of the money I used to buy the car.

Pensions –this has moved forward a bit – but only a teeny bit and it is vital that we get moving on it – we have now booked an appointment with the government ‘Pensionwise’ free advisor for some initial advice and are then also looking at a seeing another IFA that has been recommended –  if we can afford him!  We have always gone for ethical investments and they have, contrary to advice in the past, done better than the ordinary investments that have been imposed on us by various employers – so we are quite pleased but now it is a gamble when to start drawing on them and how to get the best from them.

Grocery shopping –this worked out at £57 a week for the month so £7 a week over the budget I have set but I did buy quite a few offer items and we now have enough coffee to open a coffee shop.  Prices in the shop are continuing to rise so it is a bit of a battle to keep the weekly spend down.

In general I have been making my birthday cards but whilst here at the caravan I actually bought 2 birthday cards from WH Smiths with the 25% off discount card – I find making birthday cards for men much more difficult and gave in and bought them!  I have done much better on the gifts side and managed to get a number of gifts in the sales at very reasonable prices.

The Flexclusive saver account has only just matured so as soon as the interest is added I can now move this into my long-term savings to build this up again after the hole the purchase of the new car made.

 

So that is everything for February accounted for – we didn’t manage much of a tidy up in the garden at home but a good start on the woodland garden in Scotland and only the weather being against us has now delayed this.  I have set my intentions for March and will be posting these in a day or two.

Kalo mina ~ Have a good month!  (An expression the Greek people use to wish each other well at the start of every new month – so my daughter tells me).

 

 

 

 

 

drEAming, fEAsible, general chit chat, taking stock, trEAsury

expanding time, expanding work…

Even though I have four days off work now I seem to struggle to get everything done in the house that I would normally have done in the 3 days I had before.

This suggests to me that Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” has some truth in it!

It may be down to the fact that having more time has allowed me to do each task in some depth – whether it is the mountain of paperwork or the dusting each job now is being done very thoroughly and at last I can see the paperwork pile reducing to the point where I will be working on the ‘stuff’ that I receive during the week – rather than working on last week’s, or last months or longer.

I have been doing more than my set 2 hours recently on the financial tasks and what I term ‘paperwork’ as we have got a few important items to attend to which require careful reading and even more careful decisions – ones that will affect us financially long-term – I don’t know about you but I find these quite difficult.  If I say the word Pensions you will probably know what I mean.

Gradually I have cleared out a lot of old papers from the files and I have reached the point where I am completely up to date with the filing and can now do it as I go along.  I have also spent quite a few hours entering receipts and logging our spending on our Money Program on the computer.  Every account is now fully balanced and the advantage of this program is that I can run reports that will tell me how much I am spending each week in any given category – it would even tell me in which shops I spend the most money – the possibilities are endless!

When I have gathered all the information I can begin to look at making any reductions and adjustments. I am expecting a few shocks when I see the totals so far for the year.  Spending the odd fiver a week on something can add up to quite a lot over the year.  Items like magazines are typical of this kind of spending (even though I believe I have been very good recently and picked them up and then put them back on the shelf again one or two have accidentally fallen into my trolley!).  And then there are birthday cards and gifts this is always a category where the figures creep up but I have managed to buy some nice gifts at very reasonable bargain prices.

I know our food spending is working out at about £50 a week – we eat well usually in the sense that we buy as much organic food as we can and a lot of fruit and vegetables and make a good many of our meals from scratch (though this does not necessarily mean we always make healthy meals!).  When pushed for time we will often compromise and buy the main bit of the meal ready-made like Nut Cutlets and add a plateful of vegetables.

With more attention to our menu planning I know I could reduce this by another £10 easily.  I have noticed that the price for having a drink or lunch out is creeping up and although it is a nice treat now and again it does add up to quite an amount over the year.

I have some additional points vouchers for Sainsbury’s for items that I would usually buy which is good and I was handed another 5 x points voucher this evening to put towards my full shop next week.  So my total rewards value now stands at £101.44 which I am saving towards Christmas or one of their double up events if they run it again this year in November.

Stay tuned for my next update. x

decluttering, drEAming, fEAsible, financial focusing, general chit chat, managEAble, organising, rEArranging, trEAsury

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…

 

 

 

 

 

being thrifty, fEAsting, food shopping, getting things done, hEAlth, healthy eating, managEAble, meal planning, trEAsury

a relatively good start…

With menu in hand I completed my Sainsbury’s shop last night after work and felt quite pleased with myself, especially as I limited myself to a hot chocolate without a little snack (I would usually have a scone to keep me going).  Even though I was aiming to buy seasonal British grown produce I noticed the  cabbage was actually grown in Spain!  My trolley was mainly vegetables with a couple of loaves of bread and a few groceries – the ones we were running out of and one or two on offer.  My total bill came to £32.21 for the week – so I am quite pleased with that especially as we are eating better than when I spend a lot more!

shopping

This was all the fresh veg that I needed to add to the bits and pieces in the fridge to make my selected weeks menus.  The cheapest item was the Kiwi fruit at 30p and the dearest the dozen mixed sizes free range organic eggs at £3.70.  I need five for the Spiced Chickpea bakes and the remainder will carry over for next week.  The herbs were on offer and I will be able to freeze what I don’t use.  In the end I decided to buy a ready pack of Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato for £1.

Fresh Veg

Last night we had the Mushroom Stroganoff unfortunately when hubby made it he forgot he was making Stroganoff not risotto and mixed the rice into the mushroom mixture – but in the end it tasted the same!  Tonight we had the veggie stew with roasted chickpeas and butter beans a good warming winter dish – we both enjoyed the new recipe but perhaps the sweet potato and butternut squash made it a little too sweet for me so I would need to make slight adjustments next time.  The other draw back is it does not make enough for 2 meals – the leftover portion will however do for my lunch.  I will have to think of something to fill the empty slot for our tea tomorrow or move everything forward a meal.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s last night I had some returns – I had bought a snuggly throw for the bed at the caravan to keep us warm overnight.  It was a knitted cream blanket with an acrylic sheepskin style underside.  I never thought to check the washing instructions when I purchased it and was rather shocked to find it was not washable.  When I found the receipt to take it back I noticed I had been charged twice for this item.   As it was part of my weekly shop at the time I had not thought too much about my bill seeming a bit dearer than normal and had not checked the receipt afterwards.

So when I asked for a refund of the throw I had bought  I mentioned to the lady at Customer Services about being charged twice and confirmed that I had only bought one – after a bit of a quiet moment and a few umm’s and argh’s she agreed to refund me the money for both.  I thought this was very good of them as I had no way to prove I had not bought two at the time.  So well done Sainsburys for the goodwill gesture – but I will be checking my receipts more throughly in future.

We are certainly getting back into a routine again, all though we are well into January now, and a few of those stubborn little tasks are being crossed off the list.  I booked the car in for the MOT and service on Friday  and made a dentist appointment for the same morning. 

 I am not sure if the car or my teeth will require any major repairs – I hope not as I need to make economies in all areas of my spending.