Running it like a business: Making plans for the future

I always shudder when I hear people talk about five year plans. I’m not sure if it is because the idea of having everything laid about before me like a straight road with no mystery or surprise makes me want to give up before I start or whether it seems like such an obvious way of setting yourself up to fail (or take the wrong course because you are ‘sticking to the plan’).

That said…

If you’re running a business you’ve got to look to the future. And that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m going to be really annoying and say that I can’t blog about one aspect of this. Surfice it to say that I have been doing a lot of thinking about my current earnings and the potential for the future. And how, without turning into a money grabbing monster, I ultimately want to be able to get more for the time that I am effectively ‘selling’. There are no immediate plans for changes but I do have a sort of action plan (in the vaguest sense of the word) and some steps that I can take, nice and slowly without compromising my time with Baby. I know it is annoying when anonymous bloggers allude to things that they aren’t blogging about. the only reason I mention it at all is to say that I do have a plan – I’ll post more as time goes on! Also a plan, possibly, for potential second income. I need to brush up on some things first though (the earliest I’d look into this would be next year) so I’m going to spend the rest of the year trying to sharpen up my tired and confused old brain!

I also need to look at the whole house sale thing again. The amount we can borrow has been seriously curtailed by my drop in wages. We might only be able to raise a 5 figure number and we need to go up from a 2 bed flat to a 3 bed house – eek! There are only two things we can do about this. 1: Save money towards a deposit (on it!). 2: Get more for our flat.

I must admit that I’ve been ignoring the list of home improvements left to be done (imagine, if you will, me sat at home with my eyes screwed shut, fingers in my ears shouting ‘la la la’). I think we have missed the boat for 2011. What can I say? We’ve had a baby and have just made the transition of me going back to work. It looks like we’ll have to stay until next spring. Which, in one sense is good as it gives us more chance to save and also more time to do things that might make our place more desirable. For example, our bedroom carpet is looking truly awful. I was hoping we were going to get away with not replacing it but we’ve been here too long – it needs to go. As does the carpet on the stairs leading up from the hall. A lot of things are beginning to look very shabby. I’ve never managed to make the very peculiar mantlepiece in our bedroom ‘work’. It needs to be dressed properly. In fact the whole place needs to be polished up somehow. I’ve been trying not to spend any more money on the place but perhaps this isn’t the right approach. We need to sell and we need to get as much as we can for it so maybe spending a bit more £ wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. In addition to the front door (which we already have the money saved for) I think it would take less than £1000 to make some improvements that would make a big difference. I’ll blog on this as we go along!

And that’s it. Thinking about my future as an earner and trying solve our immediate problems are as close to a five year plan as I’m prepared to go!

Categories: Frugal ideas, Goals, home improvements | 4 Comments

The new diet plan

Gah – I’ve now put six pounds back on. Noooooooo! Clearly trying just to eat sensibly isn’t working. I’m one of those folk that needs rules (and with my spending too. What am I, five years old?). Anyway, I’ve dug out my India Knight and Neris Thomas diet books – basically a sensible take on a high protein, low carb diet.

I went and did a big food shop yesterday. It wasn’t cheap but this endless waiting to get back into all of my clothes has got to end. I’m actually feeling quite optimistic this time; the food looks good, I’m looking forward to eating it and I feel motivated. I think it might also be the kick I need to breaking the habit of wanting sweet food all of the time. I’ve tried eating more fruit but, weirdly, I just don’t want it and haven’t been finding it at all appetising. Only time (and the scales) will tell if this works. I’ve got 11 pounds to go. This would actually take me to 1 pound less than my pre-pregnancy weight – the weight I was when I got married 12 years ago. Let’s go!

Categories: Goals | 4 Comments

The Busyness Plan

In my last post I talked about how it seems I’ve been trying to juggle too many things – things in reality (mainly centred around the house) and things in my head (projects, what the future holds etc). Three years ago, if someone told me that I would have a gorgeous baby girl and that I would get to work part time instead of full time (and that some of those working hours were from home) I would have been over the moon. But there’s really no point in clawing back those hours (and shouldering the financial consequences) if I don’t make the most of them. And by making the most of them, I don’t mean packing them full of ‘things to do’ but enjoying them. My plan for 2011, while not too disimilar from the goals I talked about at New Year, is now:

For the next 5/6 weeks: To really get on with the house and at the end, whatever state it is in, to get it on the market. I also want to use this period of time to lose the last of the baby weight. I got pretty close (4 pounds off!) and then put some back on again. I think I’ve been eating crap because I’ve been stressing about everything. Hopefully with a simpler plan I can make myself stop doing this. Once the weight is lost I’ve just got to maintain it and then I can stop thinking about it (thinking about diets and weight rank quite high up on my ‘dull’ list). So I’d like it gone by the end of this time.

In 5/6 weeks time: Figure out the details of going back to work; what routine needs to be established, finding and sorting through my old work clothes, working out what I’ll need and so on.

From now until the end of the year: Get a better handle on my spending (I’ve been trying to keep up to date with my spending diary but, oddly, having less money is making me want to spend more. This needs to be dealt with!). Meal plan – eat well and within budget. If a plan, project or idea crops up and is do-able right then and there, then do it. If not, forget it. Much better to wake up and think ‘Oh, we could do this today.’ than think ‘I’m knackered and I just want to talk Baby for a walk in the sunshine and read a book but wasn’t I supposed to be doing…’.

This plan could, perhaps, be more efficiently summarised as: Finish house, put on market, lose weight, go back to work, make the most of the time I can spend with Baby and sod everything else. Which is basically what it boils down to!

This means I am still going to be quite busy (the next six weeks will involve getting the house done and losing the weight and the time after will revolve around getting back to work and the juggling act that will result) but it seems more manageable because I’ve ‘cut’ everything else.

I suppose this means I ought to switch off the computer and work out where I need to start…

Categories: Goals | 5 Comments

January round-up


Wow – where has this month gone?! I know there’s still a day left but I thought I might as well do the January round-up of my progress towards my 2011 goals…


  • Baby’s room, the bathroom and the kitchen are completed. Our bedroom and the living room are almost done. Just the hallway and the landing areas are yet to be tackled but shouldn’t need too much effort. I didn’t get it finished but it is well on its way…
  • I’ve written a list of things that need to be bought (front door, doormat etc) and things that need to be done (get rid of crap piled up alongside the house etc). I just haven’t quite decided what repainting needs to be done. This is a good enough effort!


Shockingly bad fail on this one. I saved, er, nothing. I spent, er, everything. Some quite serious frugaldom is nigh.


Well, I didn’t get around to doing my seasonal food posts and the meal planning didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons that were, to be fair, mostly unavoidable. Will do better next month! However, I did manage to complete my goal of trying at least two new recipes. I made chocolate hazelnut cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, banana cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes and Lentil and Spinach soup. You may notice this is a little heavy on the baking front but I am fine with this. All I can say is that there have been a lot of birthdays. So, I actually managed to try 5 new recipes.


I made an apron so – yay – I managed to do this one! I keep meaning to take a photo to post here but I haven’t got around to it. Will try to in the next few days…


Hmm. I did make an effort in this direction but it was a bit of a cheeky one. I read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I first discovered this when I was studying and bought a copy to come back to and read properly at a later date. I must confess I picked this one to read this month because it is part of a short story collection and I was running short of time. However I did really enjoy it. The rest of my reading matter has mostly been somewhat on the light side this month – a bizarre mixture of genres spanning personal finance, children’s literature and chick lit!


Not too sure how to summarise this one. I’ve been a bit lazy again but I’ve been tired as Baby has had a lot of sleepless nights – teething combined with a cold and cough. Poor bub. So me faffing around with face masks and so on has been at the bottom of the ‘must do’ list. My hair is another story – I’ll come back to that another time…

 So, all in all, it’s been quite a good month. I’m happy with what I’ve managed to achieve and I’m okay with what hasn’t gone quite to plan. I’ll be back again tomorrow to lay my plans for February which, I suspect, are going to incorporate something of a frugal bootcamp!

Categories: Goals | 2 Comments

The 2011 Plan


Happy New Year to you all! Just to re-cap, the plan for 2011 is as follows:

  1. HOME: Finish decluttering, finish home improvements, get house on market and move.
  2. FINANCES: Track spending for a whole year in a diary dedicated to that purpose, save all 20p’s, spend wisely, save as much as possible and hopefully make a start on Project £5k
  3. FOOD: Follow a weekly meal plan, improve and expand my cooking and baking and make more of an effort to eat seasonally
  4. MIND: Keep it ticking over with some slightly more challenging reading matter and anything else I can think up!
  5. ME: A bit more attention to grooming and losing the last of the pregnancy weight.

I never did get around to writing a separate post on this subject but there is an addition to this list, namely:

6. CREATIVE PURSUITS: I’m not putting any targets or goals on this one but I’d really like to have a go at learning to make a few things. Not sure what yet. I’d also like to do a bit more writing.

So there you go – my plan for 2011. I’m deliberately not being too strict about most of it, apart from getting the house sorted and keeping an eye on my finances. A really easy way to take any pleasure out of a project is to turn it into a chore – and when you’ve got more than one project on the go it can quickly become an annoyance rather than a bit of fun. That said, I will be trying to work out (roughly) what I want to work towards each month and then reporting back at the end of the month. I’m hoping to have time to put together a page at the top (just under the Shoestring Alley header) to chart my progress through the year. Tomorrow I’ll be compiling and posting my January plan.

Have a fabulous 2011 everyone!!


Categories: Goals | 2 Comments

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

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