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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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, decorating, homestEAding, trEAsury

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

 

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.