There’s no doubt that over the past year I’ve gone ‘out’ far less than I used to. We used to go out for dinner or go to the cinema an awful lot, not to mention going to gigs and so on. Funnily enough, we’ve still been able to see our friends just as often. In one way or another, most people seem to be feeling the pinch these days. Between us and our friends there have been job losses, pay cuts, increased housing costs due to moving, babies being born and new parents having to adjust to lower incomes and lots of other things that have meant there has been less ‘going out’ money all round. Luckily this means we’ve all been pretty much in the same boat and everyone seems more than happy to be doing their socialising at each others homes rather than sitting in pubs buying endless rounds, going out for expensive meals and so on. I still like to go out (I go stir-crazy otherwise) but I’m oddly more content than I’ve ever been.
Despite serious job stress for both Husband and I (in terms of staying employed/being paid less/having to work more hours for nothing extra and so on) I’m actually less stressed out than I was a year or two ago. Perhaps it is because our debts are paid off. Or because I’ve finally got my finances sorted out, have stopped wasting money and have learned how to save. Whatever it is down to, I can tell I’m more relaxed on the whole. Its funny because, if you read this blog, it must seem like I am doing very practical things all of the time, like planning meals, studying my finances and decluttering. While this is true I bizarrely seem to have more leisure time than ever before. The only way I can account for this is the following:
- I’ve got rid of so much stuff I didn’t need that I can now store a lot of things properly. This means things don’t get into such a big mess so I don’t have to spend so much time tidying up.
- Because I keep organised with my finances I don’t need to spend much time on keeping everything ticking over.
- Because I have a meal plan I always know what I am going to make and have the ingredients to hand so I don’t need to waste time faffing about or making trips to the shop or getting a take-away. Incidentally, I also don’t need to spend time working out various diets because my weight (pregnancy aside of course) stays the same as I eat better and hardly ever buy snack food.
- I do a couple of 10 minute ‘blasts’ of housework a day. This means a one hour proper cleaning session once a week keeps everything under control instead of needing several hours to get everything sorted. I don’t notice the odd 10 minutes work but I certainly notice having so much extra time freed up from dull chores.
These are the only things I can think of that would explain why I seem to have more time! The decluttering is an ongoing thing but surfice it to say that I do have more free time and maybe this is why I’m more relaxed. As I said, I do still go out – I just do it a bit less than I used to. Instead, I’ve entertained myself for free, or for very little money by:
- Walking: I never used to enjoy this particularly but I’ve learned to like it. I discovered that if I take my camera out with me I find the whole thing more interesting. It has now got to the point that, if I haven’t been out for a short walk at some point during the day, I get twitchy and headachey.
- Cooking: Again, something I never used to enjoy. I gave my kitchen a good sort out so it was much easier to use and then set about trying to learn to cook more things. This began out of necessity (I had cut my weekly food budget drastically) but I could more or less say it is a hobby now. I stopped trying to make complicated things and settled for learning lots of basics. I go through phases where I am more ‘into’ it than at other times but I find that getting new recipe books out from the library keeps me interested.
- Reading: I’ve always been a big reader which really is a cheap way to entertain yourself! I used to buy around 8 books a month. I still buy them sometimes but not anything like as often. I go to the library most weeks (unless I’m feeling ill) and stock up. Even my small local library has a good selection.
- Movies: Ah, I do love them. I am a member of LoveFilm. For just under £13 a month we usually manage to get around 10 DVDs a month. Also, a local shop rents DVDs for 99p on Monday and Wednesday evenings – it’s worth looking around for similar deals. If we know we’re staying in on a Saturday night then we tend to save a DVD to watch.
- Photography: I do love my digital camera. I bought it about a year ago and it was worth every single penny. I haven’t taken many photos since the pregnancy nausea kicked in but I expect I’ll be at it again before long. I have some great photography books that haven’t looked at in years which I really must get out. While I loved film, the brilliant thing about digital photography is that (once you’ve got the camera) you don’t need to spend any money to enjoy your photos. That said, it is nice to get some printed from time to time.
- Music: Well I guess this is pretty specific to me as I am in a band. I need some new strings for my bass but, other than that and a contribution towards the hall where we practice, it doesn’t cost me very much at all. It is also a great way to have free nights out and hear other bands! In terms of listening to music, I’ve already mentioned that we recently bought a stereo to replace our broken one. We’ve already used it loads.
- Radio: I bought a digital radio about 18 months ago (we’d never been able to get a signal before) and I love it. Particularly when cooking or doing housework. Much better for a bit of background noise than the TV!
- Pampering: See earlier entries on my ‘home spa’!
- Telephone: Yup, I’ve got one of those great deals where I can call landlines at any time of day for absoloutely nothing. I also now have a ‘Freedom pack’ on my pay-as-you-go mobile so I get 100 minutes free talk time to call mobiles. This has made it much easier to stay in touch with people. However, I tend not to use the phone too much at home because I seem to spend my whole working day on one in the office.
- Writing: Another free past-time. If I’m not posting here on my blog, I’m often writing emails or even having a go at one of my many creative writing projects. I’m also a big fan of snail mail and have a couple of friends abroad who are similarly keen.
- Learning: I love learning new things. I might do another free online course with the Open University this year. There are actually loads of courses around that I’d like a go at but I think that learning how to look after a baby is going to be my biggest challenge in 2010!
- Sewing: Anyone who knows me and is reading this is probably falling around laughing at seeing this heading in any way connected to me. They’d have a point – I am rubbish and I have no patience. However. I do have a mother who sews professionally (and has a very cool work room full of sewing machines and pretty threads). And I now have my very own sewing kit so you never know. I might actually make something! Actually, I’d settle for being able to alter a couple of things, like the duvet cover I bought five years ago in the wrong size…
- Gardening: Gah! I don’t have a blinkin’ garden and I so want a go at growing some food. We face north so I can’t even even grow herbs in a window box because everything dies due to lack of sun. But I’ll see if I can find a sneaky way of doing something this year.
- BBQ/Picnic: More of a summer thing really but I love it when we get a big gang together and have a late night BBQ with a fire and a couple of drunk people playing guitar. Everyone brings a bit of food so it hardly costs a thing.
My leisure time is much more centred around being at home or in my local area. Not only is this considerably cheaper but I never seem to be bored – something I am practically phobic about. I wouldn’t begrudge spending money on a new hobby or doing a course. I guess I’m just lucky that most of the things I like doing don’t cost very much! I also love the fact that I have actually done more of the things I used to just talk about doing, like writing and taking more photographs.
Things are bound to be different again this year. Baby is due in early summer and so, all being well, I’ll be at home for the majority of the year. I’ve no idea what this will be like as not only have I never had a baby before but I’ve also worked consistently since I was 18 (I did my degree part-time alongside work so I didn’t even stop for that!) and the longest I’ve ever had off work was a fortnight in 2001. Oh the times, they are a changin’…