Monthly Archives: September 2010

Days 8 to 11

I spent £3.50 on a pear tart on Monday and that’s been it so far this week! I’ve spent the rest of the week doing free things – reading my library books, going for walks, visiting friends and family and going to baby massage. I might just be able to save something at the end of this fortnight…

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Days 6 & 7: A £25 weekend

It’s been one of those lovely weekends that come along every now and then. Nothing particularly spectacular happened but it was just really, really good. Maybe it was down to the gorgeous, crisp and sunny weather…

 Yesterday Baby and I went to the library to return books and hired two DVDs for a week and then trotted off to the local second-hand bookshop. I found a book I had been looking for for nearly a year for £2 – I love it when that happens. It was exactly what I went in there looking for. I went to my parents for a visit where they played with Baby while I had a coffee and read the first couple of chapters of my new book, then Husband came and met us and we went for a walk in the sunshine. Later on some friends came over for dinner – the first time we’ve had people over on a Saturday night since Baby has arrived.

It was blinkin’ freezing when we woke up this morning so Baby popped in our bed for a cuddle until the heating had kicked in (as she does most mornings to be fair…did I mention I love maternity leave?). Since Husband doesn’t work Sundays I was able to have a shower that lasted more than two minutes (I’ve got it down to a fine art now) and then made chicken curry in advance for dinner with some extra to go in the freezer. Then we all wrapped up and drove in convoy with some friends to a town nearby. We had a long walk by the sea (stopping for hot sausage rolls and tea) and then through some gardens where we happened upon a brass band playing to a small crowd. The rest of the day was spent drinking tea with friends and family, making Baby laugh (not difficult – she thinks everything is funny) and then reading my new book after she went to bed. Perfick.

I’d have paid a great deal more for it, but the weekend cost less than £25 even though I hired two films and bought a book, some elderflower cordial, take-out, tea, sausage rolls and an ice-cream. Nice!

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Day 5

Baby and I went to our (free!) post-natal group where we were supposed to be learning about ‘treasure boxes’ (apparently the hottest thing going in babyland). In fact, the babies spent the entire session completely entranced by a huge sheet of crinkly silver paper which they rolled around on and gummed to their hearts content. Other free things included going for a walk, reading my library book and visiting my parents. No spend at all!

Categories: Baby, Shoestring Fun | 1 Comment

Days 3 & 4

Day 3: A fairly low spend day yesterday – about £1.50 on biscuits as I had a few Mum and Baby friends over during the day. Lots of playing with rattles and attempts at tummy time. I only know one baby that really likes tummy time but the heath visitors keep telling us how important it is so we keep persisting! 

Day 4: Today I spent just under £10 in Co-op which mostly went on food (yoghurts, bacon, grapes etc) but also included a hair conditioner which was reduced to half price. It was a good day for free stuff. We have a place on a free six week baby massage course which Baby loves. Today we were learning about tummy massage (odd. I doubt I’ve ever typed the word ‘tummy’ before and it has popped up twice in this post…) – cue lots of farting babies and giggling Mums. There are even chocolate biscuits at the end…I’m easily pleased. Later on I dropped into the library and managed to get another book that I really wanted. Baby and I spent the afternoon laying on the playmat – she chewed stuff and I managed to read a few chapters inbetween singing songs and kissing chubby cheeks…

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Day 2: Looking after the pennies

Husband has a habit of scattering coins around the house. Its not something I do – they tend to stay safely in my wallet! I’m always picking them up and throwing them in a little box and, when its full, I put them in a jar that sits on the bookcase. Yesterday I sorted through them and now have all of the coppers in the jar, all of the 20 pences in one purse and all of the 5 and 10 pences in another purse. When the jar is full of coppers I’ll take them to the bank to be changed up. The purse of 5 and 10 pence pieces is now going to live in the glovebox to be used for car parking and the remaining ’20 pence’ purse is a purely random saving project I’ve started. I hate scrabbling for change to get a parking ticket (or worse still, having to drive away when I realise I don’t have any) so this should make things a bit easier!

It was another gorgeous, sunny day in my neck of the woods so Baby and I drove over to see everyone from my office and we all went out for lunch in a lovely little cafe that has a walled garden with chairs and tables dotted about the place. Later in the afternoon we went to a town nearby. I bought an ice-cream and then pushed the pram, containing a sleeping baby, along the seafront. I wonder if all the walking will counteract the ice-cream (and the fact that lunch was an egg and bacon bap washed down with a strawberry milkshake?!). I’m thinking yes. Total spend: £6.70.

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Frugal Fortnight: Take 2

Since the first Frugal Fortnight didn’t really pan out I thought I’d give it another go to launch Project £1k!

My £249 maternity allowance has landed in my bank account and my budget is off to a good start. I’ve decided to cut my Tesco delivery down to once a fortnight rather than keep having it every week. I started getting food delivered once Husband went back to work after Baby was born and I was too derranged through lack of sleep to even contemplate a supermarket run. My plan now is to stock up on storecupboard/heavy/bulky items (as well as things like meat to go in the freezer) when I’m having a delivery so, on the weeks inbetween, I can just pick up fruit, veg, milk and so on when I’m out and about.

Today I made a meal plan for the week based on what we already had and then did a small shop for around £15. I picked up some extra things as Co-op had a good selection of food marked down nearing their expiry dates. Amongst other things I got a half price quiche, which we can have for lunch tomorrow, and a chicken and bacon pie which is now in the freezer. Lately I’ve really appreciated having things like this in the freezer as I still don’t have time to do as much cooking as I used to and am knackered by the evening. I’m sure I’ll get back in the kitchen eventually! For the time being I can’t even contemplate making my own pastry…

Since the sun was shining in that gorgeous way it can do in September, I popped Baby in the pram and had a wander around town calling in at the library. I managed to pick up two books that I really wanted (yay!) and also enquired about their DVD hire. There appears to be an unecessarily complicated coding system with coloured stickers (only complicated because there is no sign or notice explaining which colour sticker represents which price band) but, basically, I can hire DVDs for either £1, £2 or £3 per week depending on how new they are. It seems like a good deal, particularly with the darker evenings on their way.

Now I’m off to read a chapter of my library book before bed…

Categories: Frugal ideas | 2 Comments

Project £1k

I guess the title of this post kinds of gives away where I’m going with this! Following my last post, I’ve been making a few plans. I’ve mentioned before that I’m at my best (from a financial point of view) when I’ve got a specific goal to work towards, whether that be wanting a holiday, needing to pay something off or save a particular amount. The goalposts change as life meanders on. This time last year I was working full time and earning a good wage so I could have saved £1000 in two months. Now I’m at home on maternity leave looking after my lovely baby (which is bloody brilliant by the way) and that obviously isn’t possible. Any long term readers (bless you for sticking with me through the disjointed ramblings of the past few months) will know that I saved a chunk of cash to get me through my maternity leave. I’ve been dithering because the money I saved is my monthly contribution to the joint account and that means making a savings plan is kind of tricky because, really, I’d just be not trying to spend what I’d saved rather than saving any ‘new’ income. This might not make any sense but I, at least, know what I mean! To keep things simple I have set up a standing order so the correct amount of money goes into the joint account once a month for the duration of my maternity leave – which was the purpose of saving these funds for in the first place. This means that I can ‘ignore’ this account and focus on what I can save from my maternity allowance. This is all exceptionally dull but I wanted to be clear about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.

I’m giving myself the goal of saving £1000. For now, I’m not giving myself a deadline for when I have to save it by – it’s just a figure to give me a bit of focus. I hope that, in the future, I’ll be able to extend this to £2k or £5k – perhaps I’ll even write a post one day titled ‘Project £50k’, who knows? My progress will probably go up and down a bit as I go along. If I need or want to spend some of it then, quite simply, I will. Over the next few months, various expenses will be coming up: my trusty leather Converse trainers have just started leaking (noooooo! Just when I’m getting used to pounding the streets with a pram instead of tottering around the office in heels), a relative from Australia is visiting for a week and we’ll be doing lots of outings, there’s the dreaded C-word (that’s Christmas by the way) and also a special piece of jewellery I’d like (more on that another time). So, while money will go into the ‘Project £1k’ fund, a bit will also be coming out here and there. The aim is to get the savings ball rolling again and to try and get into a slightly more inventive mindset.

Let the saving commence…

Categories: Money Management, Saving | 3 Comments

Starting to make long term financial plans

Over the last few months I’ve been contemplating my attitude towards money and comparing it to that of other people, some who I know in person and others whose blogs and books I’ve read since starting Shoestring Alley. Some people unashamedly want to be richer and others are trying to live on substantially less, sometimes downshifting to barely living on anything. I’m facinated by most people’s stories though I’m not really sure where I fit in.

The thing is this. I don’t believe money makes the world go round and I don’t want savings for the sake of having money in the bank. HOWEVER. Without adopting a very particular kind of frugal lifestyle I can’t seem to escape the fact that I need money to live the life I want. Based on this I’ve roughly realised that:

  • I don’t need to buy clothes all the time/regularly but I do like buying them sometimes. Sometimes a new top is just what the doctor ordered. I’m pretty good at sticking to occasional purchases these days. I also like buying accessories as they are cheaper updates than clothes though, again, these days I’m much better at sorting through what I’ve already got and rediscovering things. At the moment I’m happy with the balance I’ve got here: new things occasionally and only when I can afford to buy things without using any kind of credit.
  • I can’t pretend I don’t buy books because I do. Some people collect pottery or stamps or have pets or join gyms. Me – I collect books. Mostly they are second-hand and I do use the library a lot. Since I re-read books frequently and enjoy lending them to other people (and it’s a cheap hobby to be frank) I’m okay with my level of spending on this.
  • Going out: For lunch, dinner, to see a film, have drinks or whatever. There are loads of things you can do for free but I also like the things that cost a few pennies from time to time too!

The above vices are all fairly small ones and hardly excessive by most people’s standards. So far so good. But these are only small things really. I also like holidays. I like seeing new places and going abroad. We won’t be doing much holidaying in the next year or so but it is something I want to continue with in the future. And they don’t come free.

The major ‘want’ I have is a new home. Husband and I have lived in our flat/maisonette for ten years and it is really small, totally unsuitable for a toddler and just not the place I want to raise a family. It could easily be argued that we are very fortunate to have a roof over our heads and own (with a mortgage) our property when some others can’t afford to – this is all true. But then I’m not expecting a mansion (three bedrooms and a garden are about as ambitious as I get) nor am I asking anyone else to give it to me (though that would be nice). The money for this has got to come from somewhere. As has the money for my retirement. I might not have any debt but I don’t have a pension or any substantial savings either.

I’m about to start making a new plan so that I can:

  • Spend as much time as possible with Baby while also earning a wage (from next year)
  • Indulge occasionally in my small vices (clothes, books and so on)
  • Go out sometimes and have a holiday once a year
  • Have money put aside for the future (family stuff, emergencies and retirement)
  • Be able to have a larger home

Watch this space!

Categories: Budgeting, Money Management, Saving | 3 Comments

A vague update

We’ve had a busy week or so, so there hasn’t been much time to keep up with things. I used a free eye test voucher and found out that there has been more than a 50% improvement in my eye sight which is great but also means my glasses are now far too strong. I managed to get in on time with the 2 for 1 offer at Specsavers and am picking up my two new pairs of specs tomorrow – yippee! I suppose if I’d been really thrifty I would have just had new lenses put in my old frames but I’ve been itching for a new pair for the last year (I liked mine when I bought them but I’m beyond bored of them now). I also tend to think that, with specs, if you are going to wear them every day for around two years (which is about how often I have an eye test) a) you need to make sure you have a pair you really like and b) the cost per wear is very low. Which is all very well but it means that yet again I can’t really save anything. I’ve only had to take a little bit out of my general savings fund to add to my maternity allowance to buy them so it has been a low budget week or two out of necessity.

I’ve also seem to have lost track of my weight loss (losing track of things being the theme of this blog for the past few months!) so I weighed myself this morning. Since I started tracking my weight loss on here I’ve lost 10 pounds so I’ve now got £100 put back in my Pounds Lost, Pounds Saved fund. Only 16 pounds to go! Funnily enough, if I’d only gained the recommended 2 – 2.5 stone I would be back at my pre-pregnancy weight by now. I’m not too fussed. To be honest, I’ve not really been following the diet at all, just trying not to go too overboard on the cakes/biscuits. I completely failed at this over the weekend. On saturday Husband took me out for lunch at a seafront pub where I consumed a large plate of scampi and chips. Then I came home and cooked us a massive roast dinner and ate half a cheesecake (not a small cheesecake either). Husband is also about to partake of a health kick (his doctor has suggested he should lose about half a stone) so we’ve decided that we’re going to be as healthy as possible during the week and have treats (ie whatever we fancy) on Sundays (and probably a filthy pudding of some kind on a Saturday night).

Having had a bit of sort out I’m going to have another crack at a Frugal Fortnight starting on Monday…let’s hope I have more success this time!

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The result of the Frugal Fortnight

Ha ha. I spent everything and saved nothing! Oh well. I tried to keep an exact track of my spending but failed. It’s been a tricky time with Baby and sleeping. I keep meaning to write a post on this but, unsurprisingly, never seem to have the time. Basically, either due to teething or a growth spurt (or as I suspect a bit of both), we seemed to go several steps back and I was back to feeding at 11pm, 2am and 5am. This basically meant I had been getting around four hours sleep a night in two, two hour chunks which makes me feel like I am running through treacle for the rest of the day. Anyhoo, this is roughly where my £249 went:

  • Food shopping: £100
  • Petrol: £30
  • Mobile phone credit: £10
  • LoveFilm membership: £12.99
  • Two cardigans: £36
  • Paperchase: approx £10
  • Books: £7
  • Weight loss/Pounds lost, pounds saved fund: £15

This leaves about £35 unaccounted for, going on random things like buying biscuits or cake to take to people’s houses, car parking and, er, mysetery items. I do recall having quite a good stock up on No 7 products as Boots have been doing the £5 vouchers again. I actually have one left which I plan to use before it runs out. I have about £4 left in my account so that should take care of that!

I might not have managed to save anything (apart from the Pounds Lost, Pounds Saved fund) but I did manage to pay for quite a lot of things and have some really lovely treats, like new clothes and stationery, without going overbudget so overall I’m pleased. It wasn’t quite the Frugal Fortnight I had planned but it was good enough! I’ll have a go at it again another time.

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