Monthly Archives: July 2011

car bootin’

A couple of weeks ago I went to my first car boot sale for about 3 years. It was great. I didn’t rummage for clothes – I was looking for toys for Baby. You know, the kind that cost about £20 but kids grow out of within a few months. People kept telling me that the car boot sale was a source of treaure in this regard so off we went. We weren’t disappointed. I bought four toys (all in perfect working order) plus two pop-up books and spent a grand total of £8.80. The best buy was a Fisher Price Cookie Jar Shape Sorter which usually retails for around £18 and which we got for £2. Baby loves this.

I also got myself a couple of things…a sweet little vintage tin (I’m in two minds about this – it might end up going in the gift box) and a gorgeous vintage book from the 1950s about British wildflowers.

It was a good car booting experience and Baby liked the morning out tramping around in the field as much as anything else. I’ll defintely be going again (but only if the weather is good)!

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Wedding season: Part 2

Okay, how many people have had this exact reaction to getting a weding invitation (for a wedding they are actually going to go to): ‘Yay! Oh. What am I going to wear?’.

This is my reaction every time. I look horrible in dresses. Really. Skirts don’t look much better. Just once I would love to go to an event wearing a posh frock and looking good in it. Just once. Is it too much to ask? If I could find ones that fit me properly I would wear them all the time.

Anyway, as you’ll know from my last post, we’re off to a wedding soon and I’ve spent weeks contemplating the state of my wardrobe. My initial reaction was that I was going to get creative with what I already have because I’m trying not to spend money unnecessarily on clothes. Then I thought ‘Oh sod it, buy something new’. Then I looked at my bank account, laughed and then despaired. Finally I dug out my one frock, tried it on and, as before, it fitted like a charm. I got it either 4 or 5 years ago (I forget) from the Great Plains online sale (which is always amazing FYI). It cost me £12. It isn’t the latest cut or the current fashion but it does look about as good as anything is going to look on me at the moment. The only trouble was, I didn’t have shoes that would go with it or a cardigan which I would definitely need…

You might remember me mentioning being excited about being given a cardigan recently. This is because, not only is it very lovely and something I will enjoy wearing a lot, but it matches the dress exactly! Yippee. And phew. Which just left the matter of the shoes. I’ve been scouring the online sales and asking friends with the same size feet but no-one had a pair of brown or tan shoes with a decent size heel (but not too high or spindly as I will be carrying Baby) and with an ankle strap (the only kind that will stay on my feet). Nothing. Nada. And then last I went into a local New Look and found shoes that exactly fit this description, just one pair left and in my size. A miracle! And only £9. Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any better, I took them to the till only to be told that they had actually been further reduced and would only cost me £6!!

Having the new shoes and the new-to-me cardigan makes me feel like I actually have a whole new outfit and I’m really looking forward to wearing it. I’ll be teaming it with a Pilgrim necklace that I’ve had for a few years and so the only money I’ve had to shell out for my ‘new’ wedding outfit is £6. I am one seriously happy bunny…

Whilst we’re on the subject of dresses and sales and clothes shopping I must confess that I have actually ordered a new dress (it won’t come in time for the wedding but that’s fine). I’d been eyeing it up on the Great Plains website for a few months. It is a very, very plain, sleeveless black dress that could either be dressed up or down and is so plain it won’t date too quickly either. The LBD isn’t something I have in my wardrobe and I’ve been keeping an eye out for one for years. It may well not fit and unless I love it I will be sending it back. But I live in hope. When I first saw it, it was £66. I thought I’d wait and see if it got reduced when they had their sale. It did – to just over £30. Hmmm, I thought. And resisted. And then I checked back a couple of days ago and it was still available in my size for £16.50! I am trying not to get too excited about this as dresses rarely look right on me but this one would be so perfect for so many things if it does. I’ll report back…

Categories: Budget beauty, Shoestring Weddings | 1 Comment

7 week challenge: Week 1

Okay – one week into the 7 week challenge and I have managed to do the following:

Weight loss:

  • I’ve done 5 x 10 minute kickboxing workouts from the DVD and two Davina workouts of around 35-40 minutes. In a week. Me! I actually feel better already.
  • Lost the 2 pounds I’d put back on again. I now have 8 pounds left to go to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight (AGAIN!!).
  • I’ve also bought a pair of trainers reduced from £49.99 to £29.99. They are really comfy and have gel soles which are great as my ankles tend to play up when I’ve been exercising (they’ve been fine since I got the trainers so it was well worth the spend). I’m also considering buying some cod liver oil capsules (to help my joints which object even to sedentary life, let alone exercise) but I’ll see how I get on.


House & getting organised

  • Arranged all of the things on the mantlepiece in the bedroom
  • Went through the massive collection of Baby’s plastic cups, got rid of the ones she doesn’t like drinking out of or that were looking worn out and reorganised a shelf in the kitchen cupboard so they actually have a place to go!
  • Packed away most of the tiny tupperware pots I used while Baby was having purees and so on. They will be easy enough to access if I need them but I just have ‘out’ a few which I can use for making packed lunches and snacks.
  • Re-organised where our recycling goes. It is now tucked away neatly in the cupboard under the boiler (where Baby can’t get at it). Ditto the plastic thing that I keep carrier bags in.
  • Moved a slab of seriously heavy marble out of the living room  which has been driving me mad for about 5 years (don’t even ask).
  • Sorted out the chest of drawers in the living room
  • Put all of Baby’s first birthday cards in a large plastic envelope and tucked them away
  • Made a 4 portions of tomato, courgette and basil pasta sauce to go in the freezer

And now on to week 2!

Categories: Getting organised, home improvements | 4 Comments

Wedding season: Part 1

It seems that wedding season is in full swing; a time when British brides pray not for summer sun but simply for it not to hammer down with rain on bare shoulders and marquees in fields. I recently read a post over at Notes From the Frugal Trenches about receving an invitation to a wedding that came with a pretty outrageous set of demands. Fortunately I don’t know any people like this but I can’t deny that attending a wedding can be a pretty expensive business.

Have you ever declined a wedding invitation because of the associated costs? We were invited to a wedding a few years back by a girl I went to school with about 20 years ago and hadn’t seen since. We ran into each other at a mutual friend’s wedding. It was fun to catch up but then she began insisting we came to their wedding which was being held only a few weeks later. It was awkward because I just didn’t want to go. Is this mean spirited? We wouldn’t have known anyone else there, I didn’t really know the bride (we played a few times as 7 years olds) and it would have taken up a whole weekend. Never mind the fact we would have had to buy outfits and spend a fortune on accomodation and petrol. And then there would have been the gift we’d have had to get which is really hard when you don’t know anything about the bride and groom so have no idea what they would actually like. None of which would have mattered if it had been close friends, but for people we don’t really know? Ummm… I also declined an invitation a few years ago from another old school friend for much the same reasons. It was going to be a posh ‘do’ that would have required a new outfit and all the rest. We hadn’t seen each other for about 10 years and had barely managed to exchange Christmas cards in that time. I just didn’t see the point. Cor, writing this post is making me feel seriously bah-hambug! Anyway…

The only other invitations I have declined were for two weddings last year, though only because they were within a few weeks or so of Baby being born and I suspected I wasn’t going to be up for it (Correctly I might add. I really, really wasn’t). However, we have been invited to a wedding this summer that we are going to be attending. I doubt we’ll know anyone else there (how we know them is a bit of a long story) but seeing two people we like very much getting married is going to be great. The only thing I’m not sure about is the gift. Unless there are specific requests I nearly always give a photo album for a wedding present. This is based on the theory that wedding photos get a special album but the honeymoon photos can end up being a bit of an after-thought. Paperchase do really beautiful ones for around £20 and I’ve seen lovely ones from £15 – £25 in lots of others stationery shops. However, more and more people seem to be asking for money. I’m not really sure how I feel about this. There seem to be a lot of notes included with invitations saying that you don’t need to bring a present but, if you do want to give something, please give cash. I get that you don’t want your house filled up with a load of weird crap you wouldn’t have picked yourself but I still feel a bit uncomfortable about it. How much are you supposed to give?! 

I’ve heard of other couples asking for people to pay for their own meals at the reception (instead of a gift) or for money towards their honeymoon etc. I’ve also heard a lot of mixed reactions to these requests. In response to paying for your own meal, I’ve heard ‘Great idea.’, ‘I might do that if I get married because I would be able to invite more people’ and ‘F***ing cheek!’. Ah, it’s so controversial isn’t it?  

Is it mean-spirited to turn down wedding invitations? How much money should you give if asked? And what do you think of the new ‘rules’ of gift requests now that the tradtional wedding gift list seems to be a thing of the past?

Categories: Shoestring Weddings | 2 Comments

Getting on with it (at last)

Well, I’m off to quite a good start today. A couple of weeks ago I dug out my meagre collection of exercise DVDs (some never used but bought a few years ago in a fit of brief enthusiasm). I’ve been walking past them and tidying around them ever since and I finally got around to actually putting one in the DVD player! Admittedly it was the easiest one – a collection of five 10 minute kick boxing workouts. I’m often intimidated by the idea of committing to a 30 + minute workout – I am phobic about getting bored and exercising is right up there with putting petrol in the car and doing ironing in my book. Anyway, I actually did the first 10 minute workout before going to work this morning. I hope you’re impressed – I was. It was actually alright. It’s very easy to find 10 minutes. In terms of doing something you don’t really want to do, 10 minutes is a great time frame! It did highlight the fact that I really do need a pair of trainers. I’ve been putting this off for ages because it seems like such a dull way to spend money. However my ankles really hurt after I’ve been for a long walk and I’ve been meaning to look into getting some since last year. More on this once a decision has been made…

Since today was a day in the office (thus busy enough) I picked a couple of easy things to do towards my 7 week challenge. First up was doing load number 1 of washing (20,000 to go). Second was sorting through a pile of magazines. Not exactly taxing but necessary since I’m moving thigns around in the living room and there won’t be room for a stack of mags. I don’t buy many anymore but I do like Red magazine each month and I mentioned in earlier posts that I had bought a couple of interiors magazines. You might remember another earlier post where I created files for magazine articles that I wanted to keep. I spent a happy hour ripping out things I wanted to keep (everything from ‘4 ways to work a stripey top’ to the latest ‘must reads’) and tucking them away. There are still a couple of magazines left to be sorted but I’d already been going for an hour (I got a bit sidetracked by reading the articles) and ran out of steam. By the way, I can recommend keeping a few simple files for articles. I know some other PF bloggers cut out spending on magazines completely. However, I really like a few plus often find that you can free ones from stores such as Tesco or Boots which have recipes and other interesting articles. I get my money’s worth by keeping the articles I really like and reading them again! At the moment I seem to be buying Red magazine just about every month and maybe another magazine (such as Slimming World or an interiors mag) every other month. At this rate I reckon my average annual spend to be under £50 which I am happy with.

Somehow it is 9.40pm (got sidetracked again by the new blog ‘themes’ from WordPress and was perplexed by how odd my header currently looks. I will deal with this another day…). Husband cooked so I’m on washing up duty. I’m going to try to get it done in the next 10 minutes, as well as doing the lunches, so I can crack open a ‘new’ book and have a read before bed!

Categories: Getting organised | 2 Comments

A budget bookworm

You might remember that I’ve been trying to keep track of which books I’ve read so far this year. I only remembered to record one for June though I’m sure I read at least 5. However, other than that glitch I’ve kept up with my little record pretty well. It seems I’ve read over 60 books so far this year, more than 50 of which have been new (ie not re-reads) which I’m pretty impressed by as it can be so hard to find good, ‘new’ books and authors! If you are a voracious reader like me you might encounter the same problems – namely if you read a lot of books fast it can a) get expensive and b) get difficult to find new stuff to read that you actually like. Here’s how I’ve managed so far this year:

  • Using my local library and seeing what they’ve got in stock. Also…
  • Ordering books through the library instead of buying them. It costs 50p to order a title online and £1 if you go in and ask them to do it for you.
  • I’ve bought second hand books from car boot sales, charity shops, second hand bookshops and via Amazon for much less than the cover price
  • A friend recommended that I sign up to Goodreads . I haven’t actually used their website (which is pretty amazing) but I pour over the newsletter they email me each month. It keeps me up to date with what is coming out and I’ve read loads of books that I wouldn’t have know about otherwise.
  • Use the features on Amazon – everything from their recommendations, to other readers ‘Listmania’ lists and the stats on what other customers have bought who have viewed the same items as you.
  • I keep a list in my filofax (which goes everywhere with me) for when I hear about books or authors I want to check out. Once or twice a month I go and place an order at the library or see what is available for 1p plus P&P on Amazon.
  • I’ve said it before but I do buy new if one of my favourite authors releases a book. I want to make sure the publishers know they should keep publishing them!

It struck me that I should do a top ten list out of the books I’ve read so far this year but as soon as I thought about it I realised how hard it would be. However, I’m going to give it a go, so – in no particular order:

  1. Becoming Queen, Kate Williams
  2. The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly
  3. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Schaffer
  4. Room, Emma Donoghue
  5. Daphne, Justine Picardie
  6. Remarkable Creatures, Tracey Chevalier
  7. The Empress of Ice-cream, Anthony Capella
  8. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  9. Madame Tussaude, Michelle Moran
  10. My Last Duchess, Daisy Goodwin

Special mentions must go to The Postmistress, The Passage, The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly and also Jodi Piccoult. My favourite re-reads have been Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling and Marianne by Monica Dickens.

What are the best books you’ve read this year?

Categories: Book love, Frugal ideas | 3 Comments

The 7 week plan

Following my last post, it is clear that I can’t keep letting the same things that need to be done keep going, well, undone. I’d really like my weight to be sorted and the house to be finished because day to day life is busy and challenging enough without having these others things weighing me down. Thus it seems that I need to just get them done and accept that it might not be the best fun in the world for a very short while but then it will be sorted. I am going to give myself a deadline, not just to spur me on but to be the light at the end of the tunnel – a fixed point to look at and tell myself it will all be done by. I am giving myself 7 weeks because, firstly, it should be more than enough time to get it all done and, secondly, because that will just about take me up to our weekend away. It would be great to go on holiday knowing that everything is sorted out and to set off feeling good in my own skin. I’m going to do an update on all of it once a week for 7 weeks and I really hope that on the final one I’ll be writing a post that says the weight has finally gone, everything from the freezer to the paperwork is organised at home and the house is ready to go on the market!

I’m starting tomorrow for no other reason than I already have plans today including, YAY!, going to see the last ever Harry Potter film tonight. I am so excited. I haven’t actually been out for the evening since January. Six months! So I am also starting tomorrow because there is no way I’m missing out on the popcorn…

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Give me back the ball

I want a cleaner. And a PA. And a personal cook. I can afford to pay about £5 a week. Anyone interested?!

I am seriously fatigued at the moment. This seems to have been the on-off theme of this blog for the last 18 months or so. I’m the kind of tired that reminds me of the early days of pregnancy (no, I’m so not pregnant again) when my my entire being felt like it was made of jelly. Too many things to think about, too many things to do and no concievable time / energy reserve to get it all done. The diet is going disasterously. I think I have put on two pounds. I am currently fed up of:

  • being way bigger than I used to be. I was philosophical about it at first (I’ve just had a baby etc etc) but it’s gone on too long. Now I’m just p****ed off with it.
  • having an unfinished house. There are two broken doors propped up in the hallway, the front door needs another coat of paint, the painting in the bathroom needs to be finished, there is crap everywhere and there is never time to deal with any of it.
  • lack of food in the freezer. I haven’t had chance to do any batch cooking for weeks and we’re back to scratching around in the kitchen saying ‘What’s for dinner?’. I so cannot be bothered to cook right now.
  • being disorganised. The house is a tip, I’m only just keeping on top of our finances, there is a huge pile of paperwork that needs to be either filed or dealt with, I need to do about 100 loads of washing, I have no meal plan and my head is quite possibly about to fall off.

I write this list not merely to have a whinge but to demonstrate that if you’ve ever read this blog and thought I was one of those smug ‘got it all figured out’ types then you’re sadly mistaken! I’m either very much on the ball or I literally have no idea where the bloody ball is. Right now, I’m not sure I’ve even ever seen the ball. I think the ball is possibly mythical.

Is all this leading somewhere? Hmmm. I think it might be. Sometimes things need to get really crap before I can really deal with them. Watch this space for either a major ‘sorting it out’ plan or a blog overhaul where I chart the effects of my decision to live like a pig in a hovel for a year…

Categories: Getting organised | 4 Comments

Where do you buy clothes?

I’ve blogged about this before but I still often find myself wondering where I ought to be buying clothes from. There are a lot of ethical issues involved in the manufacturing of the clothes that hit our high streets but where do you buy if you can’t afford boutiques and bespoke? Most high street shops seem to have a set of policies in place regarding the conditions and pay of workers but do they ever actually check that the factories are adhering to the agreement? I know there is a great argument for shopping in charity shops but does the fact that the item has been recycled (which is great) make up for the fact it was made under who knows what kind of conditions? Just because it is from a charity shop doesn’t mean that it wasn’t made in a sweat shop. I really don’t know who to believe when it comes to ethical trading. I’ve noticed quite a few shops selling ethical lines but, to me, all this does is highlight the fact that the rest of the stock must be unethically (is this a word?!) produced! A few years ago it wasn’t too hard to get a bit of guidance online as to who to support and who to avoid on the high street. Now it seems that every store has some sort of policy in place regarding the working conditions, pay etc of the workers in the factories where the clothes are produced. But how are we supposed to know how much of it can be believed? Or has there really been a massive shift due to consumer demand (I’d love to think this was the case but I think it is unlikely somehow).

It has left me more confused than ever as to where to shop. At the moment, and I know this is probably wrong, but once I’m on the shopping on the high street, I’ll shop almost anywhere because I tend to think that most of them are as good/bad as each other. I avoided Primark for a couple of years but then I read a recent article about their improved standards and policies so I’ve been back. A month ago I bought a cardigan for £12 (which looks like it cost 3 times that) and a few other bits and peices, including some much needed underwear! I can afford Primark – it fits very nicely within my budget. But should I shop there? A lot of people ask how Primark and similar shops can sell stock for so little. Is it because they are ‘dodgy’ or because they profit from high turnover? Are other shops just buying it in at the same price but putting a higher mark up on the prices? I don’t know. Do you?!

PS I do look in my local charity shops. A couple of months ago I found a Per Una jumper in my size – it is the first thing I have found in years that I would actually want to wear. I am very jealous when I hear other bloggers talking about the amazing and cheap things they can get in chairty shops. In my neck of the woods the charity shops mostly sell books ashtrays and clothes for the 80+. I’d never be able to put my entire wardrobe together from them…

Categories: Budget beauty, Frugal ideas | 9 Comments

Weighing up options and choices

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks having a breather from things in order to get a bit of thinking done. I got a bit stressed out for a while back there. It’s easily done. I started thinking about how much money I earn (these days, not a lot) and how I was going to make that better in the future. I read other blogs where people are managing to plough what seems like a small fortune into savings or paying off debts and mortgages each month and know there is no way we could manage to do the same. Even stripping back to the bare minimum (which we are generally pretty close to) it is a struggle to save £100 or £200 a month. We’re hardly going to be able to buy a house outright on a ten year plan, are we?!

Plus it is becoming increasingly apparent that we aren’t going to get anything like we thought we would for our house which is pretty demoralising after keeping up to date with the mortgage and paying every bill on time for over a decade. If we even manage to sell it.

The thing is, with my work history and my degree there is a kind of obvious route I could take to earn a lot more money. It would mean some quite extreme financial hardship for a year or two and then over a period of years I could earn up to twice what I am earning now. It’s tempting. And yet, even taking into account all of the above, I’ve come to the conclusion that it just isn’t worth it. Nor is trying to get a few more hours work here and there. What is the point of starting a family (and being one of those Mums that actually likes being at home rather than wanting a nanny to do it all) to go and spend a huge amount of hours and stress and sacrificing family time just to have more cash? Don’t get me wrong – more cash would be amazing. We could live in a decent house and have the security of savings. The price, however, is just too high. I know too many people that wish they had stayed at home more when their children were tiny and then realised, too late, that they can’t get that time back. It’s not a mistake I intend to make.

The conclusion I’ve come to (and which I deviate from and come back to again and again) is that where I am at right now is as near perfect as it is going to get. Today is a Wednesday – right in the middle of the working week. This morning Baby and I went to the library for our Bounce and Rhyme session and then had a walk along the seafront. She is currently having a nap and I’m just planning what to make for lunch and then what we’ll do after. If I was working more hours (even for more money) all I’d be doing is sitting at work wishing I could be doing exactly what I am doing right now (If you get what I mean). Maybe when Baby is at school, or older still, I can think about all of this again. Until then, I’m just going to be grateful (which I am) for what I’ve got, which is a pretty amazing work/life balance. And I’m just going to have to do the best I can with what I earn until a time comes when I can think about earning more/working more hours  without compromising that balance.

Categories: Ramblings | 10 Comments

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