Monthly Archives: March 2009

Day 5: Seeing clearly!

Trying to find one thing to do every day towards a thriftier lifestyle has really been focusing me on what I need and what I can do. For a while I’ve been considering cancelling my contact lenses. They arrive by post every three months and I pay a monthly fee of £18. I don’t wear contacts as often as I used to and hardly ever to work. While I was sorting through the bedroom and bathroom I found upopened box after unopened box. I think I have enough to wear a pair every day for about three months! Since I only seem to be using about one set a week I really don’t need to be paying for more – I’ve got enough to last me a long time. So, I phoned up and cancelled them. As I’ve only just received a box my last payment won’t be until the beginning of June. However, once that is out of the way I’ll be saving £18 a month. I’ll probably sign up to get them again but not until I’ve nearly run out. I doubt this will be much before December so, this year, I could be saving up to £126.

One of the reasons I liked getting my contacts through Specsavers is that it entitles you to half price specs but I really don’t need a new pair. My currents specs are fine and I also have another pair that I like but because one of the arms needs to be fixed I haven’t worn them for ages. When I’m next near a Specsavers I’ll take them in to be mended. This will be much cheaper than buying a new pair – even at half price!

DAILY TRACKING

Prescription £7.10 & 50p towards a colleagues birthday cake – both from general spending fund (total £7.60)

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Financial management/Making use: saving £18 a month by cancelling my contacts until I use up my current supply
Categories: Make do | 1 Comment

Day 4: Shoestring holidays

This is going to be the first year in over a decade that we aren’t going to go abroad for a holiday – not even a weekend break. It wasn’t any easy decision to make but the fact is the recession isn’t going anywhere, the pound isn’t doing great against the euro and frankly, I’d rather have the money in the bank right now. The prospect of a new place to explore has always been the thing that keeps me going through the working year. Just the thought of cobbled streets, warm evenings sitting outside, amazing food and ancient sights usually manges to lift my spirits while driving to work on a miserable, rainy day. Alas, this year it is not to be. But I can’t feel too bad about it. The thought of having those funds as a bit of security in these difficult times actually makes me feel more relaxed than panicking about airport taxes, holiday insurance and new bikinis! So a UK holiday it is.

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We’ve booked a week off in early summer and are going to plan some days and evenings out. Living in the Westcountry, we are lucky enough to have hundreds of tourist destinations right on our doorstep but we hardly ever make use of them. I plan to put aside some extra spending funds so we can have a really good time that week and not worry about sticking to our usual budget. We have also booked a cottage for a week later in the year. It is in a stunning location and the price is fantastic so it gives us something to look forward to while knowing that we aren’t breaking the bank. I’ve used the money I was going to put back for holidays this month and the £50 saved from last month to put down a deposit. If only I could put a deposit on some good weather!

DAILY TRACKING

Whipping cream  – 84p from general spending fund (Husband has baked a cake for our friends birthday but we need a filling!)

Biscuits – 44p from general spending fund (it was my turn to buy in the office)

Desposit for holiday – £156 from holiday fund

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Considered spending/Financial management: Booking a UK holiday instead of going abroad
  • Making use of what I already have: Booking a week off to have a holiday at home and making the most of what the area I live in!
Categories: Shoestring Fun | 3 Comments

Day 3: Picnic

Woke up and decided that the sunshine was too good to waste so we cobbled together a picnic and jumped in the car…

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…parked up, had a mini ramble and settled down on our rug. We were surrounded by gorse bushes, whose coconut scent seemed incongruously exotic in the English countryside (lovely though).

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Admired the view for a bit and then ambled home…

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DAILY TRACKING

£1 for parking – from general spending fund

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Free stuff: Going for a picnic (and not buying an extra food!)
  • Financial management: I’ve moved £200 into my savings account. I don’t have a specific target this month (due to the annoying 5 week month pay thing) but I’m hoping to save at least £400
Categories: Shoestring Fun | Leave a comment

Days 1 & 2

I had a good potter around town today. I started off at the library (and got three brilliant looking books) and then went to Boots AGAIN (I’m becoming quite the regular). Mum gave me a £5 No. 7 voucher and it expires tomorrow so I went and got another reduced toner for my stockpile and picked up some cotton wool which I’m nearly out of. Then I took a stroll to a little antique shop that sells heartbreakingly gorgeous vintage jewellery. After drooling over diamonds and sapphires for a bit I switched my attention to the postcard section. I love, love, love old postcards. The unused immaculate postcards hold no interest for me – I’m into the ones with writing on the back that conjure up a lost era or give an intrguing glimpse into someone’s life from long ago. I got two great ones today. One is for me and the other is going in my gift box. 012 I have a friend who also likes this kind of thing and I have bought her a book for her birthday – I thought this would make a unique bookmark! Honestly, I can’t express how much of a kick I get out of these things. Here’s what one said:

My Dear Flossie, What has become of you, I have not seen or heard anything of you for about a month, have I offended you, oh what is the matter? I might come down one evening next week. With best love from Alice

Who is Flossie?! What did Alice do to cause such offence? I am riddled with curiosity. It is postmarked 1905 so I suspect my chances of finding out are slim. Here’s what the other one said:

Dear Lott, We are absoloutely dying for the holidays to come. It seems ages since we saw you both. So delighted Mr Vine is coming down. Am looking forward to a jolly time. Ripping weather here the last few days. Hope we shall have it in Aug. Do write soon. Busy harvesting now. Love from us all xxxxx

I can’t quite make out the postmark on this one though I think it is 1911. What were they harvesting? Why does no-one say ‘ripping’ anymore?! I’m going to try and reinstate it from this very moment. Anyway, I could have bought a hundred but I held firm and stuck with these two. As if to reward my restraint the chap in the shop let me have both for £1!

I spoke too soon about the sun being out on schedule. I was about 10 steps away from my front foor when the rain began. Fortunately it didn’t last long so I was able to have a walk on the beach. The sea looked incredible – really dark from the heavy rain clouds but full of sun sparkles…

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I was going to put £10 in my Christmas jar this afternoon but I decided to actually buy some things instead. A while ago I made a note of two books that I thought two different friends would like so I had a look on Amazon. I found new copies of each at very discounted prices from Amazon sellers – result!

I suppose that as I’m basing the April challenge (see ‘April Goals’ tab at top of page) from when I got paid I’d better include yesterday in todays daily tracking entry!

DAILY TRACKING

Friday March 27th:

Large shop at Tesco – £64.82 from food budget (leaving £85.18)

Saturday March 28th:

Boots £3.80, Antique shop £1, DVD rental shop £6.02 = £10.82 from general spends fund (leaving £89.18) £7.80 from Christmas fund

From the challenge-a-day list:

  • Financial management: Buying 3 things for my gift box
  • Financial management: Making 6 portions of vegetable curry and 5 portions of pork casserole to go in the freezer which means less food needs to be bought through the month
  • Free stuff: Going for a walk on the beach
  • Free stuff: Going to the library
  • ‘Good’ spending: Using the £5 voucher to get my toner for £2.30 instead of £7.30

So more than one thing today!

Categories: Shoestring Fun | 3 Comments

The April Challenge

Well, it is only 10am and I’ve made a pork casserole and there is a vegetable curry bubbling away on the hob so I’m taking a moment to think about how to plan April. I know it is still March but my pay days don’t exactly fit in with the conventions of the calendar! I thought I would wait until the 1st to kick off with my April challenges but by then I would be nearly a week into my months budget and, since this blog is primarily meant to be about managing my finances, it doesn’t really seem to make sense.

I did pretty well with my March goals – I saved £500, I started my holiday and Christmas funds, I stuck to my budgets, I sorted out all of our household paperwork and I decluttered our bedroom and bathroom. I didn’t, however, declutter every room. But it’s close enough for me to be happy 🙂

Keeping this blog has been really interesting –  allowing me to see what areas need to be adjusted and giving me a clearer picture of what I am trying to do. I think I’ve proved to myself that I can still save more than ever before and still have a few treats. It has also revealed to me which treats are important to me and which I can live without! I said at the start that my goal was to stop spending, start saving and make the most of what I have. This still holds true, though it seems I am able to do a little bit of spending without compromising my goals overall. This will work if what I do buy is thought through in advance and is something I really need or will genuinely get a bit of fun out of! However, these extra spends will only take place if I have achieved my savings first – I’m keeping my eyes on the prize.

April Challenge

I’ve decided that I am going to follow the lead of the lovely Frugal Trenches with a spot of daily tracking and am also going to challenge myself to do one thing every single day until the end of April that will take me a step closer towards my goals. These things will mostly be of a thrifty nature such as: 

  • Making the most of what I already have: Making over something that no longer provides a function but could do with a bit of work, home improvements, decluttering (no, I haven’t given up on that!), organising my things better so I can find things I need and make full use of them, reading books I own but haven’t read yet and so on
  • Doing things for free: This is linked to the above really, but I see this including getting out and about a bit more (I live in a gorgeous area and I don’t go out for walks nearly enough), keeping up with my library visits and any other things I might discover along the way
  • Financial management: keeping on top of my finances in general, making sure I am putting back money for my different ‘funds’, trying to make a bit extra through selling things I don’t need anymore or buying things to go in my gift boxes
  • Considered spending: I’m giving myself a budget to buy two books this month and will also buy something new (and brilliant, obviously) for my wardobe if I have funds available after completing my savings for the month. The rationale behind this is that this will prevent any feelings of deprivation that might lead to a full-scale shopping bender! I want to slowly build a better wardrobe over time, preferably full of things that aren’t going wear out in a nano-second. I have £20 a week for general spending (going out or whatever) though I have a little bit on top of this left in case of last minute or special occasions.  

There’s the plan! I’ll be back later to make my first daily tracking entry. And, to top things off,  it looks like the sun came out right on schedule…

Categories: Goals | 3 Comments

A good food shop

At last – a reasonable shop! Today was pay day which meant the monthly trip to Tesco to stock up. I got a massive stash of fruit and vegetables (sadly minimal in last weeks shop), two blocks of my favourite cheese (cheese! I am so happy/easily pleased) and tonnes and tonnes of other stuff. I’ve topped up my storecupboard with lots of tinned tomatoes, olive oil and other essential bits and peices. My aim is always that I only need to pick up fruit/veg/meat/dairy on a weekly basis after doing a big shop once a month.

After the last big shop I decided it was pointless having one budget for food and another for non-food items so I’ve put it all together. It is more this month as, with the way my pay days fall, it is going to have to last me 5 weeks, instead of the usual 4 (I hate 5 week months!). At £30 a week (for both of us) my budget is £150. Today’s shop came in at £64.82. I was really, really pleased with this as it included a couple of extras not on my list including frozen raspberries, extra cheese and a bottle of pear cider for Husband. This means that I have around £21 left a week for food shopping. I expect this will go up and down depending on how much meat I buy. My freezer needs stocking up with home-made ‘ready meals’ again. If anyone feels like sharing any recipes that freeze well I’m all ears!

I dashed around and did most of the housework after work before rushing off to do the shop (leaving Husband with hoover in hand!). It isn’t the most exciting way to spend a Friday night, I know, but it is SO nice to wake up on a Saturday morning in a clean, tidy house with plenty of food ready and waiting. It seems to get the weekend off to exactly the right kind of start. All I need now is a bit of sunshine around midday…

Categories: Getting organised | Leave a comment

More reading: Living on £1 a day

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This is one of the two books I treated myself to this month and I really, really enjoyed it. The author set herself the challenge of living on £1 a day for a whole year. Her only additional spending was the rent for her room. Literally everything else was paid for from her £1 a day allowance.

Apart from a handful of people, Kath didn’t tell her friends, family and colleagues what she was doing for the first 6 months to see if any of them noticed – none of them did. She managed to get by through scouring the supermarkets in the evening for marked down food, taking advantage of free samples in shops and sending off for free samples and taking part in surveys. She also swapped clothes with friends, discovered jumble sales and managed two holidays during the course of the year.

Luckily for Kath, she was living in a city (Bristol) where she managed to find lots of free activities virtually every night and weekend (often including free wine and a buffet) and salons looking for trainees to try out their budding hairdressing and beauty skills. This isn’t really an option for me living where I do (and hitch-hiking isn’t my cup of tea either) but this is a really fascinating insight into her personal journey and what is actually possible.

I think the diversity of  the personal finance blogs out there prove that people don’t need to be in the exact same financial situation to find other people’s experiences interesting and inspiring. Some people are trying to get out of debt, some (like me) are starting to save, some are looking for ways to cut back, some want to downshift, some are still enjoying their shopping but are finding ways to be more savvy with their purchases. So while I wouldn’t have the stamina to live on £1 a day like Kath, I still found plenty of interesting ideas and food for thought!

Categories: Book love, Frugal ideas | 2 Comments

Shoestring has shopped!

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Yup. I hold up my hands and confess. I have shopped. I knew exactly what I was doing. It was premeditated. I thought it through. I have no excuse.

Except.

I had £17 left in my account and another £15 left in my general spending fund. I have saved my planned £500 and I have stuck to my budget. I could have saved the £32, but I didn’t. I ordered and paid for the DVD that I wanted (it is coming out next month) and I also ordered some new underwear. I could say that I didn’t have to have it, but my favourite sets no longer fit and it has been driving me mad. Recessionista mentioned a sale over at M&S, both in store and online, so I had a peek and managed to get three items for £18 including postage and packaging. Do I feel guilty? Nope. I don’t regret a single penny!

Sorting through my clothes has made me think about my wardrobe in general. I actually hate clothes shopping (I know – shocking isn’t it?). I have trouble finding things that fit (my chest/waist/hip measurements fall into 2 or sometimes 3 different sizing categories depending on the shop) which usually means that I get fed up and go home empty handed. Shoes are also a problem as, if they don’t have the right kind of straps, they fly off my feet. I don’t know why.  A couple of years ago a shop assistant didn’t believe me and ruined several pairs of shoes by sticking weird scratchy grips inside them and making me try them on. They all came off. I love ballet shoes but I literally step right out of them the second I try to walk. Even the ones with elasticated sides. Ditto court shoes. Ditto anything, in fact, that doesn’t have a strap of some kind. This means that I currently own two pairs of summer shoes – one scruffy pair that is falling to peices and the other pair which have towering heels, reserved only for special occasions that involve a lot of sitting down. This isn’t really on as I have a job where I need to look smart, not to mention the ability to walk without fear of breaking my ankles.

So where is all this leading, you might ask? I’m not sure exactly. I’ve told myself I can buy two books a month – maybe I should try to buy one item of clothing a month. I really like the idea of building a small but perfectly formed collection of decent quality clothes and shoes. Slowly. Carefully. With great deliberation! Perhaps I could use any money I make from selling my old clothes towards a couple of nice pieces or, like this month, if there is a little bit left over I could buy one nice thing. The thing is, I don’t want to get sucked into the spending zone again. Or the zone where I buy things that don’t fit and end up being given away unworn!

Categories: Budgeting | 4 Comments

Recipe for April

I’m still thinking about what do for April. I’ve been being pretty good with my cash for the past couple of months and am trying to think of ways to stop me from becoming complacent. It’s so easy to think you’ve got it all sorted and, before you know it, you’ve bought two magazines and are eating a packet of biscuits while loading up an online shopping basket. Or maybe that’s just me. Though, this month, the only thing I’m guilty of is the biscuits (and I don’t even like them that much. See? Complacency!).

So, I’ve now been filled in about the daily tracking which seems like a good place to start, though I’ll wait until the first of the month to get going on it (hopefully the fact that this will be April Fool’s day will have no bearing on my success).  But I feel I need to do a bit more. Maybe commit to doing one thrifty-type action every day for the whole month as well???

On a totally different subject, does anyone remember the Be-Ro recipe book?

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I love my Be-Ro recipe book. I still have the one bought for me as a child and recently bought the up-to-date version. This little book contains everything you need to know about good old-fashioned baking from pastry to simple cakes. I rediscovered its delights last year and was amazed at how easy it is to make shortcrust pastry. It is a really great guide for the basics of baking. Best of all, at only £1.50 including postage and packaging, it fits in nicely with a shoestring budget! 

Check it out at: www.be-ro.com/f_about.htm

Categories: Book love, Frugal food | Leave a comment

Daily tracking?

Calling the lovely folk of blog-land: I keep catching glimpses of talk about daily tracking – anyone fancy filling me in on what this is all about? I’m beginning to think about my April goals…

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And that’s all from me. I’m off to write a letter of complaint. I just need to find the address of whoever took the sun away and replaced it with wind and rain…

Categories: Goals | 4 Comments

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