Monthly Archives: April 2010

Resuming plan Shoestring

Finally I can make a proper budget plan for the month ahead! It is still going to be a couple of months before our finances settle down (no-one can tell me exactly when my maternity pay will start – I just have to see when it starts turning up in my bank account plus in a couple of months Husband will take home less due to paternity leave etc) but at least I will be able to set a new budget at the start of each month. This has been difficult for a few months because there has been so much going in and out that we’ve had to have a more flexible approach to it all. It is something of a relief to have got so much ‘done’ (in terms of sorting out money owed, getting most of the work done at home and getting everything ready for the baby) that I can get back to ‘normal’ financial planning.

My budget for May is going to be as follows:

  • £40 a week for food (£160 total)
  • £40 a week general spending (£160 total)
  • £60 petrol
  • £50 contingency
  • I’m not sure how much petrol money I’ll actually need this month since I’m only working for one week but since my due date is getting ever closer I’ll be trying to make sure the tank is topped up. Hence the contingency fund may well be spent at the petrol pump this month.

I’m quite flexible about the distinction between the food budget and the general spending fund. If I’d like some extra groceries, or if we have people over for dinner etc, then I’ll happily top up the weekly food budget from my general spending fund. The most important thing is to try not to spend more than the above unless something crops up that the contingency fund can’t cope with.

I’ve also had a look at my savings jars and purses which have been sadly neglected for a while. The idea is that if there is anything left over either at the end of the week or month then I’ll add to one of these various funds. I have one for holidays, one for clothes, one for Christmas and one for general/random treats. I should point out that these jars/purses are now empty and need to be started again from scratch (though I do have one or two things tucked away for Christmas in my gift boxes). Thus I am geared up and ready to resume Shoestringing action!

Categories: Budgeting | Leave a comment

Plan for the day

I’ve got a day off today so I’m going to attempt to be at least semi-productive with the time off! A list of things to do keeps nagging away in the back of my head so it would be good to get a few things crossed of it. I’ve been using the last few days of holiday to take a day off each week so, for the last few weeks, I’ve been working four days instead of five which has helped with the tiredness a bit. Next week is my last week at work and then I’m on maternity leave.

After a quick tidy up and putting some washing on the plan for today is:

  • Order rain cover for pram
  • Sort finances and make a plan/budget to last until the end of the month
  • Sort through box of baby things that have been lent to us
  • Finish packing hospital bags (and write list to keep next to it of things to go in at the last minute such as camera, mobile phone etc)
  • Write shopping list and meal plan for next week
  • Sort out ‘to read’ shelf again

I’m intrigued by what the few weeks of maternity leave will be like on the run up to baby arriving. This time last year the prospect of a few weeks at home would have been very different! I get bored but run out of steam quite quickly yet if I don’t make the effort to do things I get cabin fever. It doesn’t help that I can’t seem to find any good books to read either. Over the last week or so I’ve re-read a few old favourites but they won’t keep me going for long. I might need to make a trip to my favourite second-hand book shop. I don’t know how my book collection gets jumbled up so quickly but it does, hence today I am going to have a quick tidy up and re-establish my shelf of books I own or have been lent that I haven’t actually read yet. I’ve also ordered myself a treat – The Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver so at least I can keep myself entertained by trying out a few new recipe ideas (since I’ve got to cook/eat anyway). It should arrive later this week. The other thing about not working full time is that I won’t necessarily have to do one big shop a week. Since we eat quite a lot of fruit and veg it would actually be better to do two smaller shops a week so I can see that my meal planning and budgeting will end up being adapted somewhat. I still can’t imagine not being at work though!

Categories: Getting organised | 1 Comment

Packing my bags

Nope, I’m not off on holiday. I’ve started getting my bag ready for the forthcoming trip to the hospital. In the last fortnight two of my friends have had babies. One was in hospital for a single night while the other was in for five days which just goes to show how tricky it is to know exactly how much stuff to take. Most of the literature I’ve been given recommends having your bags packed and ready to go by the 34th week of pregnancy but I can’t pack everything yet because some of the things I am planning to take will be needed in the meantime. Advice on what you need varies a lot so I think it depends on whether you tend to prefer to travel light or to pack the kitchen sink. I usually fall into the ‘travel light’ category but there still seems to be a lot of ‘stuff’ that is necessary!

This evening I settled for starting to pack the changing bag and choosing which baby clothes to take – an excuse to play with tiny doll sized things as much as anything else. The nursery is coming together quite well. The cot and chest of drawers are in place, the room has been redecorated and various mystifying pieces of baby equipment are gathering on shelves and in drawers. We’ve almost got everything we wanted to get before she actually arrives – one last jaunt around the shops at the weekend should do it. After not spending very much for quite a long time it has been odd to be in buying mode of late, what with getting things for the nursery and doing all of the home improvements. I’ve still got a couple of weeks left at work though I’ve been using up some holiday time so I can have four days weeks which helps a bit as, predictably, I am increasingly tired. People keep telling me to get as much sleep as possible though the fact is I haven’t slept straight through the night since sometime in September and it seems to have been a long time since I managed to get more than two consecutive hours of sleep. Maybe once I’m on maternity leave I’ll actually be able to do the whole daytime nap thing, who knows? As for tomorrow, I’ve got the day off so I’m planning to do a bit of cooking for the freezer and maybe  a spot more packing!

Categories: Baby | 3 Comments

A quality bargain

There is a good argument to be made for spending a bit more on better quality items over cheaper versions, even if it sometimes might mean going without something for a bit longer while you save up for something. The idea is that a better quality item will last longer (or maybe perform better) therefore it will actually work out to be better value for money.

I remembered this a couple of days ago when I was in a local, independent department store. When Husband and I got engaged nearly twelve years ago my grandparents gave us some money with the instruction to go out and buy a really nice set of towels. This was much appreciated as we were young enough to not really have much house ‘stuff’ yet and so I duly went out and spent every penny on a lovely set of lavender coloured towels from the aforementioned department store. Over the years we have bought other towels but they are nothing like as nice as those originals which, by the way, are still going strong all this time later. They wash well and are deliciously thick and soft. Amazingly they also look in much better shape than the ones bought in more recent years.

Over the last year or so I’ve contemplated buying another set of towels (as some of the newer ones are beginning to look a bit ropey and thin) but decided against it as I didn’t ‘need’ towels. Now I’m glad I waited. I hadn’t been in the same department store for years until the other day when I realised they had a massive sale on. All of the towels were half price and, in addition, they had an offer of buying three and getting a fourth for free. I managed to get £50 worth of towels for just under £20 – what a bargain! They are of exactly the same quality as the originals, are dreamily cushiony and feel utterly luxurious to the touch.

While I’ve been trying not to spend money on unnecessary items I really did think this was a great purchase and it was a good reminder that sometimes it really does seem better to buy something that costs a bit more. Of course in this particular case it was still cheaper than buying towels in some other places because of the great offers! Maybe there is something to be said for shopping in sales after all…

Categories: Frugal ideas, Home Economics, home improvements | 3 Comments

Seasonal food and clearing the freezer

Just about every bit of pregnancy related literature recommends stocking up your freezer with homemade ready-meals to save time (and make sure you actually get something to eat!) during the first few weeks with a new baby. I’m a fan of making ready meals for the freezer anyway so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. We currently have quite a lot of stuff lurking in the freezer that has been there for a while and needs to be used up. Thus I am going to spend the next week or so trying to clear as much space as possible, not to mention freeing up some containers. Our freezer is part of a fridge/freezer combo and has four good sized drawers so there should be plenty of space to get a good store in. Once that is done I can have a bit of fun planning what to make and maybe even trying out some new recipes.

Speaking of which, last year I wrote about trying to pay more attention to eating fresh produce that is actually in season. There must be something about Spring that gets me thinking like this because when I looked up the post (you can read it here) I wrote it in the same week in April last year that I was looking it up this year. Sadly I didn’t consciously stick to it. I am hoping that, despite the many distraction on the horizon, I should be able to look at this maybe once a month to see what is actually in season here in the UK. I’d love to say I would exclusively shop for locally grown produce but that would mean going without some of my favourite, favourite foods like nectarines which I’m afraid I just can’t resist. However, a few steps in the right direction must be better than no effort at all. Last year I put together the following list of things to look out for in April but please feel free to leave a comment if you know of something else that is good this month:

  • celery
  • potatoes
  • radish
  • rhubarb
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • watercress
  • peas

I was excited to see rhubarb on the list (rhubarb crumble!) but haven’t actually managed to track any down yet. It did inspire me to pick up some celery though which, even though I really like it, I don’t often think about adding to my shopping list. I’ll try to do a shopping list once a month for a bit of inspiration.

Categories: Baby, Seasonal food | 4 Comments

Keeping busy

I’ve been a bit quiet here in blogland, mainly because things have been very busy and also because normal shoestringing activity has temporarily been suspended. Activity on the home improvement front continues; the new flooring has gone down in the bathroom, the nursery carpet has been laid, we’ve taken a load of stuff that can’t be recycled or re-used to the tip and painting work has begun on the entrance hall. Work has also been keeping me busy and there hasn’t been much time for plotting and planning. Also I can’t make many financial plans because I still don’t quite know what I’m going to be getting paid and when etc. Plus I’ve been having to spend money on getting various things done/replaced so I think I’ll have to wait another month or so to see how the dust settles!  Since most of my blogging revolves around budgeting (and the impact this has on the various things I consume, like my food shopping) there’s not too much I can post about at the moment.

Everything is slowly coming together though. The improvements around our home are increasingly discernable as are the effects of decluttering. I’ll blog about this once I’ve got a bit more time. I am really excited about going on maternity leave next month and trying out a different way of exisiting – I’ve never been away from the workplace for an extended period of time and it presents a whole new set of challenges and opportunities. As for the reason for my leave, I can’t even begin to write about how exciting that is. Our baby is a very busy one and she keeps me amused me all day long with her frequent bouts of mysterious activity. I’ve still got a couple of months to go but time really does seem to have sped up. Keeping busy really does seem to help. Not only do I get the benefits of getting things done but it doesn’t leave me much time for sitting around getting overexcited about the whole thing. Not that being excited is a bad thing, far from it, it’s just that it is a quick route to frustration when you want your baby now and she just isn’t ready yet. So keeping busy is the order of the day for many reasons. On that note, I’m off to sort through some other bags of junk that have emerged from who knows where…

Categories: home improvements | 2 Comments

The war on stuff

I can see another big sorting out and decluttering session is on the horizon. The spare room is in the transitional phase between being the spare room and a nursery. The walls, ceiling and woodwork have been painted and Dad came up and laid the carpet for us yesterday. As yet there is no actual furniture in the room. What is in there, however, are piles and piles of ‘stuff’. The ‘stuff’ has now crept out of the spare room/nursery and has started to drape itself all over our bedroom in the manner of an obsticle course. I even noticed a rogue bag or two of ‘stuff’ has snuck downstairs (possibly during the night?) and has lined itself up in the living room. ‘Stuff’ is sneaky – you have to watch it constantly otherwise it will have its own way and create chaos.

This stuff is of the worst kind – it doesn’t fall into any clear category (ie books, clothes etc). It comprises completely random items that, upon individual inspection, a) cannot be thrown away and b) have no place to call home. Thus I find myself picking up various objects, looking at them and then putting them back down thinking ‘I’ll, er, deal with that later’. Well, later is now. It has to be done so I might as well just get on and do it and then I can stop thinking about it. And, you know, other benefits like being able to get to my wardrobe and bed…

Categories: Decluttering | 2 Comments


You might have noticed that just a few hours ago I wrote a post about doing some washing. Guess what? Now the washing machine is playing up, leaking all over the floor. I know I’ve said this already but I have never had such a run of things breaking and going wrong. Off the top of my head, since Christmas we’ve had to deal with the following:

  • Husband’s car died & had to be replaced
  • Lost my company car and had to use my savings to buy one
  • Borrowed car died
  • My ‘new’ car needed to go back to the garage
  • Front foor lock broke
  • No hot water in bath
  • Bathroom taps needed to be replaced
  • Boiler needed to be mended and serviced
  • Shower broke and we had to buy a replacement and get it fitted

This is on top of all of the other work we’ve been doing and repairs of things that have been broken for longer. Now I’m stuck trying to decide between getting an engineer out to try and fix it (notoriously expensive and not always able to provide a long term solution) or to cave in and buy a new one. Typical that this should happen just when we’re about to have a baby – the number one time that people say you really need a washing machine in good working order! I really don’t want to spend a lot of money on a repair that doesn’t really solve the problem if we then have to go out and buy a new machine – kind of a false economy. The trouble is that they are so expensive…

I’ve kind of given up thinking about savings. What with all of the things on the above list going wrong we didn’t have much choice to but to use what we had to get everything going again. I’m just so annoyed that yet another expensive thing has cropped up. Obviously in the scheme of things this isn’t a major problem. It is just aggravating and disheartening. In the same period of time I’ve had a massive pay cut and lost my company car, have had to start a new job hence losing my right to 90% of my usual pay for the first 6 weeks of my maternity leave as well as any other perks and have had to spend what took me a lot of time, effort and work to save. I’m not exactly back at square one but I feel like I’ve gone back a hundred steps right at a time when we’ve got a lot of extra expenses and I’m about to say goodbye to my full time wage. Don’t get me wrong – I know that I am very, very lucky in more respects than I can begin to count. However, this doesn’t mean that the broken washing machine isn’t really pissing me off. Because it is. By the way, did I mention my feet are so swollen I only have one pair of shoes that fit me and they are trainers so I can’t wear them to work?

So, the plan? I’ll just do what needs to be done and see what we have left at the end of it. And then start all over again…

Categories: Budgeting | 4 Comments

White wash

The drawers for the nursery are arriving next week so I can start unpacking things and putting them away soon. We’ve been given lots of clothes for the baby plus we’ve bought a few things ourselves. I trotted to the shops yesterday and bought some non-bio clothes wash so the first load is on at the moment. We seem to have a huge amount of stuff but it spans a fairly wide age range so it will keep baby going for quite some time. Today I’m trying to get all of the white things washed. Although we were told at our scan that we are almost certainly having a girl we decided to buy some neutral things as you never know – hence we have a selection of plain white babygrows and so on. There are also towels, blankets and bedding…

As with just about every aspect of pregnancy there is a lot of contradictory advice out there about what you ‘ought’ to buy, what you ought not to buy and how early everything needs to be ready. I tend to think that the most important thing is sticking with what seems right to you (and to be discriminating about where and who you take advice from!). One of my friends got everything ready a couple of months in advance (which was just as well as her baby was 6 weeks early) whereas another only started writing a list of what to pack for the hospital once her waters had actually broken (a week after her due date). In neither case did the world come to an end. Personally, I’m enjoying playing with the tiny, doll sized clothes and blankets and have found that getting everything ready in advance is half the fun. Yesterday I read something (don’t ask me where – I can’t remember) that the whole nesting phenomenon is actually a good way to prepare yourself psychologically for the arrival of your baby. The research done suggested that parents of premature babies were sometimes thrown by the sense of feeling unprepared to bring their babies home (aside from any other complications from having a premature baby of course). I don’t know how true this is but it is a theory that makes sense to me. As a first timer there is an awful lot of new stuff and lingo to get your head around. I want to be able to unpack everything and at least skim read the instructions before baby arrives so I have a vague idea of what it is all about. I’d also like everything to be set up and ready to go a good month in advance, not just because I like the idea of it being done but because I am getting more tired as each week passes and want to be able to pack in as much rest as possible in those last few weeks!

Categories: Baby | Leave a comment

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