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, budgeting, drEAming, fEAsible, hEAlth, healthy eating, my goals, random thoughts, trEAsury

Think, think, think…

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?  ~Winnie the Pooh

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days (and that is always dangerous!) and you may have noticed the lack of posts and no usual Friday Fling – I have been time poor (as one might say these days).   My post today has been initiated in part by reading the recent posts of other bloggers where I was inspired, not only by their goals, but their determined action and also the fact that many aspects of their lives they wish to improve sound just like mine.

I am sure you can identify with this yourselves but I also sense from reading many of the blogs I follow that like me there is an underlying deep desire to want to stop the world for a while to savor the moment – to live with and enjoy the changing seasons – to celebrate our days and have fun and involvement with our families and friends and the wider community.  I know that I keep trying to refocus my time and energy to reconnect, re-order and re-size – I often feel I am becoming disjointed, chaotic and everything seems far too big to handle in so little time.

Now before you continue I suggest you may want to go and make yourself a cuppa and perhaps even a snack – a healthy one of course (or a flask and sandwiches for any slower readers) as this is going to be a l-o-n-g post!

So, I thought, there are a lot of us all going in the same direction and it is good to have both encouragement and useful advise and tips along the way and the blogging world certainly provides this.  Of course the fundamental question for me – yet without an answer – (but I am working on it) is ‘Why are so many of us in this same position of wanting to reduce and organise our stuff, make better use of our time and feel in control of our lives and finances?  In short change the lives we seem to be living for the one we want to live – mostly by getting away from the constraints we feel modern life has imposed on us – without losing the aspects of it that have developed which are good.

This then led me to my other question ‘How do we cope with the never ending change often thrust upon us by the society we live in today’?   I didn’t ask for the credit crunch and recession (I had no idea the banks were in such deep trouble) but I have to find a way through it – I didn’t ask for heaps of junk mail to land on my doormat each day (I prefer to save the trees and not use printing inks full of solvents) but once I have them I can’t easily dispose of them without checking that I am not missing a good offer  – I didn’t ask for technology to develop so fast that it now invades my life and at the same time makes it impossibly demanding on my time – when I wake up to find 100 emails in my inbox each day but yet I hardly ever receive a handwritten letter from a friend I question whether all this is truly progress.

In her post of August 22nd Laura from movetoportugal.org made the following list of the goals she is working on (I hope you don’t mind me re-posting this)

  • Downsizing (which includes reducing our impact)
  • Finishing the house
  • Health and weight loss
  • Frugality (and money)
  • Moving to Portugal

If you exchange Portugal for Scotland in my case this could well be my list and I suspect the first 4 items could be most peoples.

One target I feel I need to put into place ASAP is to lose a few pounds in weight and also gain a few £’s in savings and it was this particular notion that generated my further train of thought.

Health

Now I might be on my own here (I suspect not though) but interestingly my experience is that if I were to switch these two targets around to read ‘Lose a few £’s in savings’ (by spending too much) and ‘Gain a few pounds in weight’ (by eating too much of the wrong things) I would not have any problem in reaching my target within a very short space of time!

I believe the main reason for this is that I would not have to restrict my normal actions in any way.  I would not have to avoid temptation to eat rubbish or spend money – both categories of my life that seem to come naturally where diets and budgets do not.

So the million dollar question is ‘How do I turn this around so that I can eat and lose weight and spend but still save’?

My answer is that I probably cannot (at the moment) but again I am working on this and I will implement a plan and I will take action.

So, I ask myself, ‘Why is it so difficult’?  Well for me in particular (yours may be different) I could identify a number of reasons:-

5 reasons I find eating healthily and losing weight difficult

  1. I am not huge by any means and I am only talking about losing half a stone (mainly around my spreading middle) but it is creeping up gradually and as I have to take Thyroxin daily (I had to have my Thyroid removed in 2008 due to cancer) this has had some bearing on my weight gain over time. Getting the medication stable is a work of art in itself – too much and I get palpitations and ‘jittery’  too little and I gain weight and become tired.
  2. We consume far too many buns and treats at work for all kinds of occasions – birthdays, back from holidays, getting married, getting divorced, passing exams, weather too hot, weather too cold – at our firm whatever reason we can find to celebrate and treat ourselves we will!  This is so different to when I started work back in the early seventies where you all stopped for a 10 minute tea break  twice a day and didn’t snack and graze at your desk.  Birthday buns and the like were just not on the agenda in those days – a simple Happy Birthday was usual and treats and rewards for other events never happened  – unless it was the day you retired!
  3. Having to cook ready meals or quick egg and chip type meals because I have worked late, or not been shopping after work, or too tired to make a meal from scratch and not having enough of anything in the cupboards and fridge to scrape together a meal.  Even my best made plans can go wrong when I have unexpected overtime and cannot then go to the supermarket.
  4. Eating more than I need and snacking.  Have you noticed just how big our dishes are these days – cereal bowls, plates and cups are huge in comparison with the ones I grew up with.  Costa and others sell their drinks by the bucket and have you seen their new super-sized Bourbon and Custard creams (Wow), the average 5’4″ woman weighed 8st 6 lbs with a 26″ waist in the 1950’s and 11st 2lb with a 34.5″ waist in 2006 – I think as a nation we could be overeating a little bit and need to control our portion size!
  5. Having a desk job for the last 13 years.  Some days I find that I have hardly moved off my chair especially if my colleague goes to fetch our lunch.  Email is quick but means I can ask anyone anything from my desk whereas when I first began work I had to physically go and find a person.

10 reasons I find controlling my spending difficult –

  1. Constant changing of fashions and ‘in’ colours – anything from clothes to glasses to household items and furniture – and the sheer abundance of choice out there.  It is very tempting to go and browse in TK Max, Laura Ashley or Ikea and then convince yourself you need this or that.
  2. Escalating food prices.  Basic staples and healthy foods can be some of the dearest products.  Vegetables can be dearer now than buying a pack of cheap chicken legs.
  3. We have more snacks and lunches out – if we go out for the day or go our nearest shopping centre we always stop for a drink and a snack just to recharge.
  4. Our money has now to stretch to fund things like printing inks for the printer, water filter cartridges, packs of printing paper, mobile phone top-ups and DVD discs to mention a few.  When we first married none of these items were required.
  5. Our utility bills and insurances have seriously increased over the years and continue to increase substantially each year.
  6. Constant storage problems and the cost of buying storage items to solve the problem of keeping and organising ‘stuff’.
  7. We spend more on Christmas and Birthdays than perhaps we once did partly because our family is growing and partly because I buy for quite a few friends at work – I am not particularly objecting to this – it is just a fact and an expense.
  8. Savings interest and pensions are just not reaching the same returns therefore we either have to save more or prepare for a retirement with less money and work for longer.
  9. Paying by card is somehow more detached than paying with cash.  We use a debit not credit card but I still think it encourages you to spend more.  If you only have cash in your pocket and no other means of paying you have to tot up whats in your basket before you get to the till.
  10. Lack of time can increase my spending – resorting to expensive ready meals – having to grab items rather than having time to shop around and also that old dilemma – if you don’t buy it today you can’t go back and find it still there tomorrow.  I often buy things impulsively that I regret just because I can’t really decide if it is suitable for what I want but feel if I leave it and then decided it is what I wanted it would not be there when I returned to the shop. One of our recurring frustrations is when we take too long to decide over something only to find it has then been discontinued.

This is not a finite list but I am sure that many of you will identify with some of these points.  Some of them I can do little about – such as Council Tax – but for the rest I will look at my options and create a plan.

It is clear that I need to turn around how and what I eat and how and what I spend so that it is as normal as the habits I have now.  I think it all boils down to the feel good factor –  I need to transfer the feel good of a quick fix chocolate biscuit (high calorie) onto the feel good of an apple (low calorie) and likewise the feel good of spending onto the feel good of saving.

I will now need go and do more thinking before I can proceed and formulate a plan.  Watch this space…

I would love to know your thoughts on the subject and any suggestions you might have.