It’s amazing how quickly things can unravel, isn’t it? The severe toothache and lack of sleep have rendered me fairly useless for the past few weeks; the house has slowly become a bomb site needing more than a surface clean/tidy-up, I haven’t been cooking so things have gone to waste, Husband has been in charge of the shopping and went overbudget (not by a lot but still) and I haven’t really kept up with watching the pennies. On top of random purchases I’ve had to pay for antibiotics and a huge and frightening amount of painkillers which weren’t exactly in the budget (I’m into my second day of not having to take any painkillers by the way. Sod’s law, a completely different filling fell out earlier but it doesn’t hurt and I’ve got a follow-up appointment at the dentists next week so it should be sorted quickly).
So now I need to get back on top of things. I need to get back into the habit of getting up early and getting the housework out of the way for a start. I’d really like to get to the point where I don’t need to do the big Friday evening tidy-up apart from zipping around with the hoover. I bloody hate housework so if I can get it done without having to spend more than a few minutes on it at a time that would be great! Hmmm…what else? I need to sort my money out. Early next week I should be able to transfer the last of the future family fund out of my current account and then switch the whole lot into my ISA. With the money I had saved before March I should be able to max the ISA out for the year. As there are another 8 paydays between now and the end of the financial year I also need to look at finding a regular savings account that pays better interest than my current one. Something with easy access. Suggestions anyone?
Since I am going to try to write 20,000 words for my creative writing project in August I thought that I had better tot up my current word count. I’m on 15,374 words so I need to get to 35,374 by the end of the month.
I’m off to do the big monthly food shop now. By the way, I finally got a response out of Tesco. Did I blog about this already? I can’t remember. There was a lot of going back and forth and Tesco being generally useless. Eventually they sent me a moneycard with £20 to spend at Tesco. I don’t mind this not being a cash refund – I just wanted £20 back for my food budget! I’ll update this post later on and tell you how I got on.
I’ve got quite a few plans for August so, drum-roll please…
SAVING & SPENDING
My next paycheck should equal the completion of the future family fund. Yippee! I’ll be having a look at what this leaves as I want to start my emergency fund as well as to start putting some savings back for the holiday and for Christmas. I’m going to be sticking with a weekly budget of £30 for food and £20 for general spending. The rest will be going on the usual bills and travel expenses.
HOME IMPROVEMENTS & DECLUTTERING: THE MAIN BEDROOM
There is so much that needs to be finished that I’ve started going around in circles and not getting anything done. For the rest of the year I’m going to try a new approach: pick one room/area a month and just concentrate on that. If I finish it in the first few days of the month then I get the rest of the month ‘off’. If I get behind then I’ll just have to hurry up so I don’t miss my own deadline. Obviously if I was struck down with a fit of wild enthusiasm I would go with it and do some extra things but it doesn’t seem likely. For August I have decided that it is best to finish the bedroom. I’ve painted the walls and the ceiling but there is still a lot to be done. I need to finish touching things up and then paint the woodwork so I can put the curtains back up for a start. I also need to do the ‘cutting in’, do a bit more decluttering (ah, just when I thought the room was done), reorganise some storage, maybe repaint some of the furniture and shift things around a bit.
DOING THINGS FOR FREE
One of the best things about Project Shoestring is that it has reminded me of a lot of things I like doing that cost me nothing. Thus…
I’ve been tinkering with a creative writing project. I didn’t mention it before because I do this quite often and then hit a wall after about 3000 words. However, I’ve managed to write just over 12,000 words and I don’t seem to have run out of steam yet so I’m going to keep at it. Fool that I might be for doing so, I’m setting myself a target of writing 20,000 words in August…
Also, my camera seems to have fallen redundant. This is mainly due to the fact that I haven’t been anywhere much during the many weeks of the tooth drama (dental pain + sleepless nights = no fun…still ongoing). I’m hoping things will be sorted out soon and I can go and skip around in the sunshine taking photographs.
My health and fitness plan for July didn’t really pan out – also due to the wretched tooth ache. However, I have lost a few pounds because I haven’t really felt like eating. Not really the way I wanted to go about it but still! No particular plans on this front except I’m hoping I’ve got enough energy to get out and about again and partake in the aforementioned skipping…
Had another go at a bit of decluttering last night in the much feared second bedroom (feared because the room is very small and very cluttered). I have had a couple of goes at it over the last few months; I’ve tidied up all of the paperwork and put it in folders on the bookcase, I’ve thrown out various bits of junk and I’ve got rid of a lot of books. However, it is still very much a work in progress – spare rooms are a magnet for junk and clutter.
I used to spend a lot of time in this room as, firstly, it was where the computer lived and secondly because it was where I did my all of my studying (I did my degree part time over 6 years alongside my job). There isn’t much in there; a built-in wardobe, a futon sofa bed, a small bookcase, some book shelves, a 2 drawer filing cabinet, a chair and a tatty but very useful old bureau. The room has largely been abandoned as I finished my degree in May last year and then the PC died to be replaced by a laptop so we didn’t need to go in there to use the internet. However, I have been hankering after the space – particularly after reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own!
Last night, I fished out the huge tangle of leads behind the bureau and finally removed the broken printer, the two PC speakers, the keyboard and the mouse. This left the top of the bureau completely clear for the first time since we got a computer. The difference is amazing – technology is sometimes very ugly! And so I am beginning to get my desk back which should be handy as I have a few projects in mind.
It wasn’t a ‘proper’ declutter as I threw a lot of the junk that I don’t know where to home into the filing cabinet and also into a plastic container on the shelf. I’ll probably have a bigger purge when I decide what colour to repaint it. I’ve been thinking of a soft grey-blue but I’m not sure of the exact shade. I don’t want to make it look cold and uninviting. Until I paint the walls and the furniture I can’t replace the carpet, which has been attacked by moths. However, I’ve made enough of a start that I can start to use the room again and it looks better already!
Tooth update: Am still in agony. The denitist is mystified. The pain wakes me up at least once a night – I can’t work out exactly where it is coming from. I have mostly worked half days this week as I’ve either been at the dentist having things done or at home in bed trying to catch up on sleep. Beginning to wonder if we’ll ever figure it out…
At the beginning of the month I mentioned that I was going to try using my debit card instead of taking out cash. When I started this blog, and my own personal shoestring revolution, I decided to take out cash on payday for food and spending. I alter my budget slightly from month to month but I seem to have settled at around £120 for food and £80 for spending. It worked quite well for a few months but then those coins started burning a hole in my purse and I started buying silly stuff like packets of biscuits. This annoyed me because a) it isn’t good for me and b) it is a waste of money. So I switched back to using my debit card to see how I would get on. It worked fine for the food budget but not so much on the spending.
The first week or so was fine but then not having any cash got irritating. We have dress-down Fridays at work and, in return, we all put a donation into the chairty pot. Some of my colleagues also do draws and mini-cake sales for charity and I kept having to borrow 50p or £1 here and there to take part, then remember to go and take money out and pay them back. I think the best plan is to carry on with the debit card until the end of the month and then switch back to cash.
I seem to have totally lost track of my spending this month. I think this is due to a combination of using the debit card instead of cash and also the mad toothache. By the time I’ve dragged myself through a day at work, dosed up on painkillers, I just haven’t been in the mood for checking my banking and doing much planning when I get home.
That said, I’m trying to switch my brain back on (despite the ongoing, unresolved tooth saga) and I’ve started to think about my financial plans for August. My thoughts are running along the lines of:
- Christmas: I’ve bought presents for most of my friends, though not Husband or family (who I prefer to buy for closer to the time in case there is anything they would really like). I figure that I’ll need about £220 to finish everything off which means I need to put back £55 a month for August, September, October and November.
- Holiday: We are going on holiday in October (remember I booked one here in the UK earlier this year?) and I need to pay the remaining 50% of the cottage hire plus put back some spending money.
- Funds for the future: I should be able to finish my ‘future family fund’ next pay day and then I want to start an emergency fund. I’d like towards around £3000 for this but I’ll do some sums first.
Has anyone get any good tips on getting mini-savings funds organised? How do you keep yourself inspired to keep going and not just blow the lot?!
Well, it is official. I really do have the best dentist in the whole world. The tooth is out. Went to work and had a manic morning trying to cram a days work into 3 hours (not quite successful but close enough) and then drove to the dentists having decided quite firmly that I was not going to think about it at all. A particular effort considering I had two comments this morning that gave me the fear. Comment 1 (overheard as dental receptionist asks a colleague) ‘Is 15 minutes long enough for an extraction?’ 15 minutes?! How long does it take to remove the average tooth??!!. Comment 2 (from well meaning colleague): ‘Oh, it’s one of the back ones. You’ll probably need stitches…’. What, what what??!!!!
Lost myself in a hilarious magazine article as I was waiting. It contained tips taken from a book written in 1955 about being a good wife. I can only imagine my husbands reaction if I greeted him at the door with a ribbon in my hair and then lead him to the sofa, propped his head up on a pillow and took his shoes off for him. Actually, he’d probably be delighted though I doubt he’d notice the ribbon…
Thus distracted I calmly listened to my dentists advice about aftercare and braced myself for a repeat performance of the last time I had a tooth out. The actual event was vaguely surreal. He had the clamp thing on my tooth and swayed my jaw from side to side, like he was doing a salsa dance with my tooth. Then there was the tiniest crack (like the first single bite into a crisp) and the whole thing came out in one go. How amazing is that?
I am now drinking a cool cup of tea and contemplating a nap as he has told me to rest for a few hours which should stop it bleeding. Tooth thus departed, normal Shoestringing action should resume shortly…
I had a look on my blog dashboard at the terms people have used to find my blog. Most people found me under variations of Shoestring Alley but here were a couple of ones that surprised and amused me. The most popular term, after the blog name, appears to be ‘frilly umbrella’ (remember when Husband bought one by accident?) and the next most popular has been ‘forget-me-not pic’. I am intrigued – particularly over the avid searches that appear to have taken place in search of a frilly umbrella. Did they want to buy one or just look at pictures? Anyway. The search term that made me laugh the most? ‘Mr Whippy Vermouth drink’. I’ve never heard of such a thing but it sounds REVOLTING!!
Everything has gone a bit topsy turvy over the past couple of weeks and most of my plans have been put on hold. Why? Blinkin’ toothache. Yup, the same tooth that was causing problems a couple of months back. I’ve had a lot of dental work over the years and none of it frightens me…except getting a tooth pulled out. I had to have one pulled out due to overcrowding 14 years ago. It did not go well. But it looks like I’m out of other options so I need to make an emergency appointment for tomorrow. I haven’t had a full night sleep since…? It can’t be good to keep taking the amount of strong painkillers that I’ve been getting through and they aren’t even really working now anyway. Action must be taken! So, on the shoestring plans front, not much has been happenening at all. Hopefully I’ll be back on form after seeing the dentist again…
Some lovely blogging folk have dropped my recently but I’ve been crazy busy (and consumed with mad toothache) and have only had chance to glimpse some great blogs that I hadn’t heard of. And I’m losing track! So if anyone would like to go on each other’s blogrolls drop me a line and I’ll tryo to catch up with everyone!
I mentioned a few posts ago that I ordered some things in the sales online. Well, they arrived and some have already gone back. The first things I ordered were a top and a dress from Great Plains. The top was reduced to £15 and was a perfect fit so I was really pleased with it. The dress, alas, was not so good. Despite the fact that both Husband and a friend who was over when I tried it on said ‘Wow’ I didn’t keep it. I felt like it drowned me and made me look 2 dress sizes larger than I actually am. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror and paused at the bust-line the first thought that popped into my head was ‘matronly’. Not exactly how you want a little black dress to make you feel! I don’t want to give space (or cash) to things I don’t really like so I parcelled it up straight away and took it to the post office to be returned the very next day.
The second order I made was for shoes. One pair is great. They are almost flat (just a tiny, tiny wedge heel) with an ankle strap and a peep-toe and made of very, very soft tan leather. I had been eyeing them up for a while and was thrilled to see that they had been reduced from £55 to £30. Definitely keepers. The other shoes were gorgeous but seriously painful through some mad design flaw. I was a bit annoyed when I realised that they didn’t some with a return form. My options were to either pay for them to be posted back by registered mail (how much would that have cost?!) or to take them back to a store within 14 days. Since Husband was making a trip to our nearest ‘big’ town I caught a ride and returned them in person for nothing.
My orders had come to around £100 but as I had returned the dress and a pair of shoes I had £50 ‘back’. Since I was in town I decided to indulge in a rare spot of shopping. I did quite well. I got a long sleeved, slim fitting black T-shirt from Gap for the princely sum of £8.80. Don’t ask how someone with a 50% black wardobe didn’t have a version of this most basic of items – I don’t know myself. Next I wandered into Accessorise and spent ages picking things up and putting them back down again. I kept seeing things I could get for my gift box – gorgeous twinkly purses, cocktail rings, silk scarves…but I didn’t. I always keep my filofax on me and inside is a list of gifts I have already bought and for whom. After a quick look I realised that I have already bought birthday and Christmas gifts for all of the friends that might have liked this sort of thing so there was really no point. Instead I bought myself a seriously gorgeous scarf (blues, pinks and golds) reduced from £22 to £12. I also picked up a pair of stud earrings which exactly match the scarf and were reduced to a fantastic £2. Out the £50 I had got back, I had only spent £22.20. So, clearly in the mood for playing with fire, I stepped through the doors of Paperchase. My first visit in I don’t know how long. I was very restrained. I have used up all of my A4 notepads so I bought myself a new one (I have a specific project in mind that I will be using this for but I’ll come back to this another time). My next purchase was 3 postcards (1 to go in a frame, the other 2 to be used as birthday card/gift tags). I spent a long time hovering over the notepads which, as a serious stationery addict, have always been my biggest weakness. I spent ages looking at pads of all sizes, think how nice it would be just to have a little one to go in my handbag but then also thinking about how I didn’t really want to be buying notepads I might not need or to start carrying too much crap around with me again. Then I remembered my beloved filofax that lives in my handbag anyway and decided to buy a little packet of coloured notepaper to go inside it instead – the perfect solution. Finally I picked up a sheet of cute cupcake stickers that I thought would look nice on birthday cards. My total came to £9.30 which, for me – the stationery addict – is restrained and remarkable in the extreme.
So this month my grand shopping total has come to £77.10 and for my money I have got:
- a very pretty and flattering teal/turquise top
- a black long sleeved T-shirt
- a pair of smart leather summer shoes
- a scarf (casual for once, rather than dressy)
- a notepad
- 3 postcards
- cupcake stickers
I am really pleased with every single purchase as I know I will get good use out of all of it and that I really, really like every single thing. And it still came to less than my ‘original’ shop!
Have you bought anything recently that you’ve really got a kick out of? Go on, ‘fess up!
One of my ‘categories’ in the 100 day challenge was ‘Making the most of what I already have’. Doing this plays a big part in the move towards spending less. My recent decluttering bender (still a work in progress) not only made me realise how much stuff I had that I didn’t need or want anymore but also made me realise how much stuff I had that I liked but just wasn’t using. This included everything from items of clothing to cake tins. When you’ve got a lot of ‘stuff’ it tends to get into a big mess – you can’t find anything. Once you’ve eliminated a lot of the clutter you suddenly find a load of great stuff that you just forgot you had. It’s like getting a host of new things to play with!
I generally found that the things I could make better use of were either items I had forgotten about or things that needed to be mended, such as:
- Mending clothes: By doing very small and easy things, like replacing buttons and sewing on beads, I brought a few items of clothing back to life. They were in perfectly good condition but I never wore them because, well…they needed mending. It’s a good idea to go through all of those drawers and pull out everything you don’t wear because it needs a hem sewing back up or a button sewing back on and just do it. It really doesn’t take long. I equipped myself with nothing more sophisticated than a single needle, some black cotton and a pair of kitchen scissors.
- Looking after your shoes: When Woolworths closed I bought a half-price shoe polishing kit that contained brown, black and clear shoe polish along with a cloth and a brush. There were a couple of pairs of shoes I hardly wore because they were scuffed but they looked as good as new once they had had a polish. I also found a great place locally that re-heels shoes. I took one pair in (again, I hadn’t worn them for over a year) and had them re-heeled for £7.50. Much, much cheaper than buying a new pair. That said, some shoes are beyond a bit of TLC, in which case – bite the bullet and get rid of them!
- Books: I love buying books and own a huge amount that I have never read. Despite this I keep buying more and more! I cleared a shelf on a bookcase and put all of my unread books together. Since I did this I’ve spent a lot less on books as I know I have a great selection ready and waiting and I don’t have to root around trying to find them. Also, I have a library card which I make full use of!
- Stationery: I know I’m not alone in buying lots of notepads. I decided not to buy anymore until they were all used up. I went through the house and got them all together, then ripped out and recycled all of the pages that had been used. This created a massive pile of ‘new’ notepads, (even though some only had a few pages left in them).
- Bathroom products: I had masses and masses of bathroom and beauty products. Sorting through it all really taught me where a lot of my spare cash had been going. Boots was always one of my favourite lunch break destinations. In January I resolved not to buy anymore products until something ran out. I prefer shower gel over soap but at the end of the day it does the same job. I had 6 or 7 soaps that had come with gift packs etc and never used. My supply is still going! I’ve had to replace very little so far. I still like the idea of buying this stuff. But I am sticking to the plan of buying no more until I actually need to.
- Food: I had a good sort out of my kitchen cupboards and found a lot of products coming towards their use by dates so I’ve been making a real effort to use them up before they go off. I’ve also been making a meal plan every week which means I know exactly what I need to get when I go food shopping. Doing this results in very little waste. I used to end up throwing a lot of food out which is wasteful on more levels than I can go into. Surfice it to say that these days, when I empty our compost bin (it gets collected where we live), it only contains tea bags, apple cores, vegetable peelings and egg shells.
I know a lot of folk are making the most of what they have in other ways too. Some are selling the fruits of their decluttering missions and generating a bit of tax-free income while others (the clever, crafty ones) have made gorgeous cushion covers from scrap fabric and old shirts. I know one man who can take a piece of wood and turn it into a unique shelf or even a simple piece of furniture. I read a great book about living without a salary (see my review under ‘Shoestring reading’) which had some amazing ideas in it. It’s quite addictive once you start thinking about how you can readapt or rediscover things you already have. I’m keen to find more ways of making the most of what I’ve got so…
Any ideas?? How have you been making the most of what you’ve got? Re-organising things? Mending stuff? Finding ways of making things go further? I want to hear from you!