Monthly Archives: December 2010

Plans for 2011: (Part 5) Me, Myself and I


See this photo? I took this when we were on holiday last year. I used to eat so much fruit that this platter didn’t even last me the week. Right now, there is a bowlful of distinctly manky looking fruit in our kitchen that has sat untouched for days and days and days. Not only is this wasteful but it kind of says everything about my current eating habits that needs to be said.

I need to pay more attention to food in 2011, making sure that I eat the right things and that I eat enough (more focus on meals rather than snacks and so on). I mentioned that I’m going to be doing more in the way of meal planning again which ought to help. At the moment I look, frankly, a bit crap and I know that eating better will go a long way to improving this.

My weight loss has come to a bit of a standstill though since I’ve lost just over three stone I haven’t got too far to go. I’ll weigh myself next week and see exactly how much further I’ve got to lose but it should be under 10 pounds which ought to be fairly do-able.

2011 is also going to be the year where I put a little bit more of a budget aside for a few things. A couple of weeks ago I caught sight of myself in the mirror in an unguarded moment and I wasn’t happy about it. My coat looked distinctly tatty and threadbare, my hair looked demented and I looked haggard and suddenly several years older than I actually am. Yes, I’ve had a baby and, no, I’m not getting enough sleep but still. I’m not particularly vain but I also don’t like looking a total mess. I promptly hit the sales (right up there with my least favourite activities like putting petrol in the car and ironing) and bought myself a new coat (and put the old one straight into the local fabric recycling bin so I wouldn’t ever be tempted to wear it again).  I also bought some decent shampoo for blonde hair (mine is suddenly looking alarmingly dark), a hair mask and some brightening face primer. I’m not going to go mad buying a lot of stuff (because I’ve spent too long decluttering to want to fill my house up with unused rubbish again) but I am going to make sure I’m not wearing mad, ratty old clothes/shoes and have a set of products that work for my skin and hair.

Hopefully I’ll see an improvement before too long!

Categories: Budget beauty, Goals | 2 Comments

Plans for 2011: (Part 4) The old grey matter

I need to jump-start my brain. It was quite good once upon a time. I’ve mentioned before that I did my Literature degree through the Open University. I still read a lot (as in 2-3 books a week) but mostly a very non-intellectual mish-mash of things. Also I tend to re-read the same books a lot. I know some people can’t re-read books but I do. I developed an aversion to reading for a while. A fairly common reaction, I think. Basically I spent 6 years studying like a maniac (on top of a demanding full time job), graduated (with first class honours no less) and then promptly shunned the printed word in favour of learning to play bass guitar in a band. It’s what we all do…right?!

Anyway, in 2011 I’m going to try and get my brain working again. I thought about setting myself particular goals but I think doing that will just turn it into a chore. Thus I’m going to take it month by month and see where my good intentions take me. Also Frugal Trenches is starting a Classics book club (the first book is Emma by Jane Austen) so I’m joining in with that. I’m thinking about revisting Plath as a starting point for this part of the 2011 plan…

Categories: Book love, Goals | Leave a comment

Plans for 2011: (Part 3) The Shoestring Kitchen


I’m planning on getting back into the kitchen as much as I can in the new year. This is partly out of necessity and partly out of desire. I felt as though I just started getting ‘into’ cooking a bit more and then got swept away into Babyland (most willingly I should add!). However, Baby is now getting into lots of different foods so it is the perfect time to get my pinny back on (note to self: buy pinny). Speaking of Baby, she loves being in the kitchen. This had been a bit tricky as our kitchen is the size of a large cupboard but she is just about in a high chair now (I say just about because she’s not that keen on it so far). Once she doesn’t mind being sat in it, I can set her up in the doorway where she can see what’s going on. So far she’s had to watch from low down on her bouncy chair which hasn’t been ideal as she likes to see what you are doing properly. I digress. The long and short of it is, I can probably manage to spend a bit more time in the kitchen again…

Food is going to have a bit of focus in 2011:

  • MEAL PLANNING: This has totally, shamefully gone out of the window. I’ve got some new ideas on how to make this a bit easier but it has got to be done because a) it is so much cheaper, b) if there is a plan to follow then Husband will do quite a bit of the cooking and c) if I have to spend one more evening where we keep asking each other ‘What on earth are we going to eat tonight?’ I’m going to scream…
  • LEARNING AND EXPERIMENTING: I really want to be a better cook. That seems a vague statement I know. What I’m aiming for is to be able to make a good selection of things (main courses, soups, cakes – all sorts) really well. As in, I’ve made them so many times I know exactly what I’m doing and they taste good. So the plan is that, by the end of 2011 my recipe folder has lots of new tried and tested entries that I can come back to again and again.
  • EATING IN SEASON: I’ve skipped quite a few months on this (apologies) but I’m going to get back into doing a monthly post after researching what is in season. Then, suitably armed, I’ll try and work as much seasonal food onto our plates as possible.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. We did – and the first properly white one I can remember. The snow vanished yesterday thankfully. I really enjoyed it but we were mostly trapped in the house, the novelty of which wore off after a couple of days. Anyway, now I’m getting my plans sorted out I’m looking forward to the New Year!!

Categories: Frugal food, Goals | 2 Comments

Plans for 2011: (Part 2) Finances

Finances, as ever, are going to be playing a key part in my plans for 2011. I’ve seen PF bloggers do fantastic looking spreadsheets laying out extensive, well worked out plans and have come across other resolutions such as saving a certain amount or percentage of income. I can’t really plan far ahead as my finances will continue to be very much up in the air next year. For the first month I will still have maternity pay, then for three months I will have no income and then I will be going back to work though (what with tax and what-not) I don’t know exactly what I’ll be getting paid each month until I see my first wage slip. Throw in the fact that we might end moving and end up with a totally different set of expenses and it all goes a bit ??????!

Undeterred, however, I am still resolved to save as much as I can and to keep an eye on my spending. With this in mind, my 2011 financial plan of action looks a bit like this:

  • Spending Diary: I know a lot of books and blogs advise keeping a spending journal for a short while so you can get a clearer idea about where all of those pennies go. However, I’m borrowing an idea from Mum who has bought a 2011 diary specifically to record her spending. I’ve tried recording my spending in my Filofax but I keep clearing out old sheets and scribbling notes over everything and it doesn’t seem to work. I’ve bought an A5 size diary (for the budget-friendly price of £1.49) and am going to record everything I spend FOR A WHOLE YEAR. I’m going to try to make the time once a month to tot it all up – and maybe again at the end of the year. It would be kind of interesting to know what I spend on food, for example, or clothes during the course of an entire year.
  • Saving 20 pence pieces: I’m rubbish at saving money in jars these days. I can’t seem to motivate myself to keep up with it. However, for the last couple of months I have been getting quite good at putting 20p’s in the piggy bank (pictured above). I decided on saving 20p’s because it is a small enough amount to not really notice (and I would really notice it if I had to empty out all of my £1 coins for example) but 20p’s add up pleasingly fast. Thus I am resolving that every time I come home I check my wallet and put all 20p’s into the pig. What I will actually do with my pig money has yet to be decided…
  • Project £5k: Because (yippee!) I’ve just managed to complete Project £1k – and before Christmas too! It is now safely tucked away in an ISA. I won’t be able to save much more until I’m back at work (and I might need every penny for a house deposit) but, all being well, I shall be cracking on with trying to get my savings up to £5k.

There will be other plans that will effect my saving and spending but I’ll cover those in the next few posts!

Categories: Budgeting, Goals, Money Management | 4 Comments

Plans for 2011: (Part 1) Home

I’ve been plotting away on my plans for 2011. It seems to be a varied collection of ideas – some big, some small, some specific plans and some vague intentions. I’ll try to do a post on each on the run up to New Years Eve! Today I’m kicking off with one of the big obvious ones…

You might remember that we spent the first few months of the year in a frenzy of home improvements. This was because a) we wanted to get things done before Baby arrived and b) we want to sell up and move on. It is going to be Spring before we know it and time to be on the market. I am dreading this. We tried to sell before but, sadly, it was right at the time when the news was full of plummeting house prices and economic uncertainty and it just didn’t happen for us. What did happen, however, was that loads and loads of people came to have a look. Without saying too much about where we live (being anonymous and all) our maisonette is in a really interesting, historic house and I think a lot of the viewings were people just wanting to have a nose around. I know this blog might make it seem like I am super tidy and organised all of the time but I’m really not. And I hated, HATED having to try and keep it in show-home condition all of the time. Hence my sense of dread. There are all sorts of reasons why is might not have sold (aside from the state of the market at the time) and we’ve done our best to address what we can. However, there is still a lot of work to be done and we’ve really got to get on with it. To that end, as I type, Husband has a paintbrush in hand. We have a massive under-stair-cupboard in our entrance hall that has been rammed full of crap for years. He has spent the last three days taking things to the tip, creating new walls and a kind of false door out of tongue and groove and a ceiling. He has also bought a very nice coat rack which will be going up sometime in the next week. This will look so, so much better than it did before. I’ll try and take a photo when he’s finished! At least that will be one job off the list…

Anyway, I am really hoping that 2011 is the year we get to move. It isn’t going to happen without some effort though, so the plan is:

    • Finish decluttering and reorganising every single room (so it looks good and so we don’t end up moving a load of crap with us when we eventually go) and a major cleaning operation


  • Making and executing a plan of final improvements (replacing the knackered, old front door is probably the most major thing I can think of)
  • Getting valuations and choosing the right estate agent
  • Finding out about mortgages; how much we can borrow, who is has the best deals and so on

I am planning to dedicate January to the first item on the list. Moving is probably the most important thing on my ‘to-do’ list for 2011 so I’ve really got to get on with it!

Categories: Goals, Home Economics | 2 Comments

Cleaning the slate

I’m still tinkering with my 2011 plan but one thing is for sure; there are a lot of things I want to get done before the New Year. My to-do list is becoming ever-more terrifying. I get to the point where I’ve crossed off half of the items and then I need to start all over again because a host of other things suddenly crop up that also need to be done. In a similar vein, I keep thinking I’ve worked out my finances, have done all of the spending I need to do and then BAM, a load of other ‘must have’s’ crop up. I think I may just have to accept the next few weeks will be a bit here, there and everywhere and it will all be sorted soon.

As we are planning to put the house on the market sometime in Spring we need to finish off our redecoration/renovations. This needs to be planned and budgeted for properly. For now, I’m going to try to attempt to give the whole place a thorough ‘Spring’ clean and get it all a bit more organised. And, yes, there will be more decluttering! I have no idea exactly where I am going to fit all of this in. I suspect my evenings are going to be getting a lot busier! Hopefully I can get enough done to start 2011 with a clean slate…

Categories: Ramblings | Leave a comment

2011: Domestic with a capital D

I’ve been contemplating what I want to do next year. In fact, the last couple of weeks have been taken up by trying to get things done before Christmas. I like to start a new year with a clean slate – finances organised, house tidy, clean car, a vague plan of some kind. I don’t know how much of this I’ll manage this year but I’ll give it a go! By the way, where is the time going? I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Baby is SIX MONTHS OLD this week. Six months! On one hand the time has gone really, really fast. On the other hand it feels like so, so long ago that I was pregnant and counting how many days overdue I was. Anyhow, I realised I had the world’s longest ‘to do’ list and have been powering through it for the past few days. It is still quite long (I won’t bore you with it) but I’ve done the most pressing things and can manage to get the rest done at a reasonable pace. It might all get done by the end of the year…

However, in terms of 2011, I can’t quite make up my mind what I want to be doing. There are two major things that are going to happen. Firstly we will be, once more, trying to sell our home and buy another one. Secondly, I will be going back to work. There are other things planned too including a course I want to do and the possibility of a long weekend away with some friends.  But those aren’t exactly the things I mean. I like to have a bit of a project on the go (as long term readers will probably have noticed by now!). I read something recently (don’t ask where – I can’t remember) that people are happiest when they are working towards something. Anything really, it doesn’t matter what so long as they feel like they are growing or achieving in some way. This really made sense to me. For example, with the Shoestringing, I feel better about it and am more efficient at it when I am working at it in quite a conscious way. Also (luckily) I don’t have particularly grand ideas about achievement these days. It’s not so much about my studies or my career or my earnings (now very low!) but about things that I get a kick out of learning to do or feeling like I am doing something well.

On this subject I’ve been considering all sorts of things: learning to sew or knit, getting better at cooking, a new financial project, finding ways to be healthier, reading more/doing a bit more studying. We’re going to have very little in the way extra funds and Baby is the priority. This means that any plans have to cost very little, can be done from home or in our local area. There will (hopefully!) be a time in the future where we have more money and can go abroad and do other things again but 2011 is necessarily going to be Domestic with a capital D. I’ve even contemplated having a different challenge for each month of the year – from a random collection of ideas such as a Virginia Woolf month to a month dedicated to finding the perfect cookie recipe. I’ve also contemplated working it all out on a quarterly basis…I just don’t know. Thus I’ve been a bit quiet around here again. I’m still mulling it all over.

Have you got any plans for 2011? Or any ideas for me?!

Categories: Goals | 2 Comments

Going back to work

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been slightly plagued by the calendar. Why? Because I’ve been aware of how much of my maternity leave has already gone. I’ve now been off work for seven months and that nagging voice in the back of my head kept telling me I needed to negotiate terms for going back.

Here in the UK there have been a lot of changes to the rules governing maternity leave – pay, length of time etc. I had only been working for the company for just over 4 months which has meant that I have been being paid Maternity Allowance (at just over £120 a week). This lasts for 39 weeks…and runs out in February. Eek! However, it has been really important to me that a) I take as much time off to spend with Baby as possible and b) that when I do go back I work less hours also so I can spend as much time as possible with Baby. I should also add that c) it is really important that I have an income as we can’t afford to live on Husband’s salary alone and certainly would never be able to get a mortgage again if I didn’t.

I’ve obviously been thinking about this a lot over the last few months but particularly over the last few weeks as the time where this needed to be sorted out by was getting ever closer. With that in mind I carefully thought over what would work for me, what would be fair to the company I work for and what the financial implications would be so I had a point at which to start discussions. The trouble was, the more I thought about it, the more nervous I started to get. What if they said no? What if they were put off by the amount of time I wanted to take off (even if it is my legal right to have 52 weeks leave, it doesn’t mean a company is going to be happy about it)? What if they said it had to be full-time or nothing? Argh! Deciding to take the ‘rip-the-plaster-off’ approach I called my boss this week and asked if I could call in to talk about it all.

He couldn’t have been nicer or more supportive. I saw him the same day I telephoned and it was all sorted out by the end of the meeting. I am going back in 5 months, part-time. I’ll be in the office two full days a week and then working from home two days a week (for 4.5 hours a day). This means I will be working roughly 2/3 of the time I was previously. This is perfect as it means I will be available for four days a week (so not so very different from my previous five days) which is good from their point of view. From my perspective it is good as I will have one whole day with Baby during the week plus two half days. PLUS, as I won’t have to commute on the half days I will be able to finish work and immediately be back on Mum duty.

Very luckily for us, my parents are going to be providing childcare so I know that Baby is going to be in the best possible hands. On the days when I am not working in the office I can either work from my house or my parents house so I’ll be very close by!

Now that everything has been settled I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and I can enjoy my five lovely months of pure Baby. Oh, and for the eagle-eyed among you, you might have twigged that this means from February I have no income at all for about three months. Yup. Nada. Watch this space for some extremely frugal times!

Categories: Baby | 5 Comments

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