Financial resolutions for 2015

We’re at our most financially stretched since starting this blog back in 2009. Our income is significantly lower and yet we now have two children and much higher living expenses plus a much larger mortgage! I wouldn’t swap it though. I love our home (unfinished though it is) and I really love having my two bubs. So, like everything else, we’ve just got to get on with it and do our best.

Here are the financial goals/resolutions for 2015 (following on from the 5 personal ones yesterday):

6. Replace at least two windows.

Our bedroom window is currently being held closed with duct tape. Plus the seal on he one on the landing has gone. We’ve had a quote of £500 to replace both though I’m going to have to get other quotes to see if this is the best price we can get. Ideally, we’d also replace the one in the bathroom as well but to be honest they are all on their way out and will need to be replaced in the next 5 years. But, taking one thing at a time, we need to save £500 for the most urgent replacements.

7. Get our ISA back to £3k. 

I have one ISA left and prior to my maternity leave it had £3k in it to use if one of us lost a job. I had never dipped into this before. To me, it was like this money did not exist. But we didn’t have enough to manage on my maternity pay and then the week before Christmas the bloody washer-dryer broke. And my car, which passed its MoT in early December, has to go in to the garage tomorrow as it has started chugging like a tractor with a flashing engine light on the dashboard. Hmmm. Until I know the final amounts involved I won’t know how much needs to be replaced but my guess is it will be around £1k – a huge sum to replace on our tiny budget. This might take more than a year but I still want to make a respectable dent in this goal!

8. Set up a £500 Emergency Fund

That way when a major appliance or a car breaks we don’t have to touch the ISA. This was the plan for 2015 anyway… just didn’t realise we’d be replacing money in the ISA at the same time!

9. Stick to the budget and create more cash systems

I’ve written out a comprehensive financial plan for 2015. It accounts for just about every penny but there is also wriggle room to move things around and re-allocate funds if need be. The plan means that I can make an informed choice about where I can afford to take a bit out and where I can’t.

I’ve been using envelopes for short term cash savings with good effect for the last couple of months. Once Christmas is totally done and dusted I’ll be starting a few more so I can save in cash for things like school uniforms. More on this another day.

10. Work

I’ve put work here because, after all, it accounts for a third of our household income! Juggling half of my working hours from home along with looking after a baby is hard work (I have to try and do it when he is napping in the day or asleep at night. Or see if my Dad is free for a couple of hours!). I need to keep working on our home routines so I can keep my eye on the ball with my work. It’s going to be a challenging year work wise and I want to do well.

Last batch of resolutions on their way soon!

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15 in 2015: New Years Resolutions

Usually I hesitate to call plans at this time of year resolutions. I prefer to think of them simply as suggestions or vague guidelines but, no, this year they are most firmly resolutions! Christmas has been brilliant but I am utterly, utterly exhausted. I’ve got various health issues (mainly related to my caesarean or triggered by tiredness), I haven’t been looking after myself and it turns out that now I’m in my mid/late thirties I can’t get away with that anymore. I’ve decided to go with 15 resolutions/goals as it is 2015. Some are large, some small, some concrete, some more vague and difficult to track. I won’t post about them all in one go. Here are the goals that I am putting under the heading of ‘Personal’:

Personal resolutions

1. Health. I’ve developed a skin condition that apparently won’t go away, it will just need to be managed from now on. At the moment it looks like red marks on my face (these can easily be hidden with make up) and what looks like eczema around my eyes (painful and looks much worse/can’t really put make-up on it). Obviously I’m not particularly happy about this and am going to be hassling my doctor about this and doing whatever I can to improve it. My doctor says this was almost certainly brought on by a combination of cold weather, being run down and over tired. No surprises there then! Post caesarean, I still have to take painkillers after only a moderate amount of activity nearly a year after the event. For example, I stood for two hours helping out at a stall last month and consequently had to take painkillers to get through the next 24/36 hours. It has put me off doing any sort of exercise and I am the most unfit I have ever been in my life. I am also having far too many twinges and aches and pains etc for my age and I think I really need to be exercising again. I need to get some medical advice on how to do this. Do I avoid certain things? Do I do them anyway and just accept I ahve to take a lot of painkillers? Would some kind of physio help? I have no idea. I’m fed up of the doctors sending my home and saying it will get better eventually. Life has to go on. In short, I’d like to improve my fitness. I HAVE to get more sleep. It is so hard, picking between getting essential things done, having some down time with husband, doing something for myself or getting some sleep. But now, judging my the state of my face, sleep is going to have to win, at least the majority of  the time for the foreseeable future. We’ve been so ill this winter, mainly because girlie goes to school 5 days a week, picks up every virus going and then brings it home and then the rest of us get it too. At least 2 out of 4 of us have been ill consistently now for the last 3 months. And my two don’t sleep well when they’re ill which means even less sleep for me than usual. Sleep must win in 2015! Also I have dental work that needs doing…

2. Weight. I managed to lose all of the baby weight this year (let’s ignore what damage the festive period will have done to this. I’m not weighing myself for at least another two weeks)! It feels pretty good to have actually done it as weight loss is one of those resolutions that can go on and on and on without ever getting ‘done’. I’ve still got a stone (14 pounds) to lose to get back to my pre-first pregnancy weight but it feels good to be on the right track. And it feels great to have lost almost 4 stone!

3. Self care/grooming. So, with the skin on parts of my face going kaput i can’t really pamper myself the way I would usually if I were feeling a bit rough around the edges. However, I can still make an effort to look after the rest of my skin and I could definitely do with paying a bit more attention to my nails. I also need to get my hair cut more regularly. For the last five years I’ve averaged a trim every 6 months. I had quite a lot cut off but it needs doing again as it is less, sharp long bob and more dull shoulder length blah blah again. If the skin on my face is less than great then I need to make up for it elsewhere! Also my hairdresser only charges me £10 a trim including tip and she is brilliant. I know. I am seriously lucky.

4. Wardrobe By the end of the year I resolve to have a great, capsule (ish) wardrobe. I’m not doing much on this until I’ve lost around 7 pounds as that will put me back in my usual dress size. In 2014 I spent less than £20 on clothes. I was determined not to buy stuff that wouldn’t be hanging around long due to losing weight. I want to build my wardrobe back up gain. I’ll never go back to clothes shopping every month but I do want a lovely collection of things than I can add to from time to time and that will last me well. I know some people don’t really mind what they wear and that’s great but I’m not one of them. I’ve hated the way I’ve had to dress over the last few years due to my crazy weight gain over two pregnancies or having to spend money on other things. I’ll be shaking my budget upside down by the ankles to make this happen!

5. Personal projects and hobbies. Things like this blog and other little writing projects I used to have on the go have had to take a back seat over the last couple of years. This is one of my vaguer resolutions as mostly it will only be for when I’ve got time – I’m not putting down any concrete goals – just reminding myself of what I can do when there is a window of opportunity! And those are my personal resolutions for 2015. I’ll be back tomorrow with the next instalment!

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Do you have certain meals on certain days?

I have gone back to work after my maternity leave this week. I haven’t actually had to leave my baby for a whole day yet but I will have by the weekend 😦 . I’ve been lucky enough to have a very agreeable boss who has a lot of faith in me and has given me free rein to arrange my 16 hours a week (newly reduced from pre-maternity leave) however I like (provided I get the job done of course!). I am going to be doing a full day in the office and then the rest of the hours from home. This is almost unimaginable luxury for me. At the moment (and I know this will change as he gets older) my son naps during the day at very regular hours so I will be able to get some of my work done then and some in the evening. I’ve worked three hours today: one in the morning, one around lunchtime and one his evening. On one had it feels like I’m working all day. On the other hand it just feels great to be home with my bub and able to do the school run with my girlie on all but one day a week. What is does mean is that I am now essentially working in my so called down time that, until this week, I used for doing all of the housework, laundry, cooking, shopping and financial planning for a family of four! Which obviously I still have to do. I’ve been looking at some ways of doing this and one of them is to have ‘set’ meals on certain days of the week (I know many people do this with housework too).

Husband and I are vaguely doing the Fast Diet which means Mondays and Thursdays are our very low calorie days (supposedly! I’m not wildly motivated at the moment but that’s another post…) so the kiddos eat different food to us on those days, although we all still eat together. On Tuesdays Girlie has a swimming lesson after school and we don’t get in until 5pm, very hungry and very tired. I’ve decided that this is now ‘Soup and Garlic Bread’ night. Today, in between working and looking after Baby I made a GIANT pot of soup. It contained red onion, celery, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, parsnip, broccoli, herbs and chicken stock (just because I like the flavour). Packed full of goodness and then served with garlic bread (no, I didn’t make it) which makes it more filling and enticing (I know my crowd!). The soup was made beforehand and just needed to be warmed through while the garlic bread was in the oven so we had time to take shoes and coats off, empty school and swimming bags and then we were at the table eating dinner. We then had fruit and yogurt to follow. It was great and made life so much easier! I won’t generally be working (or working very much) on Wednesdays so I have allocated that as a good day to do a batch cook each week, with at least one family sized portion being frozen for another night. Although today was also a batch cook day as I made so much soup that we have enough for the next two Tuesdays!

We go out with a group of friends (for free or minimal cost such as a coffee etc) every Friday after school and also need a quick easy meal when we get in. This tends to be our ‘naughty’ night where we’ll have sausage or egg and chips or maybe a pizza. We didn’t used to do this but I don’t think once a week hurts and it is certainly cheaper than getting take out (which we haven’t done in ears tbh)! If we don’t have plans on a Sunday I usually make a roast dinner. It is always chicken! It is my favourite, I know how to cook it and have you seen the price of everything else?!

Recently I was looking at ways of trying to make meal planning, cooking etc easier and sitting down and working out our needs through the week made it really obvious what we need to have when. Now that Girlie is at school and is doing two activities (dance and swimming) and I am also back at work, our weeks have a clear pattern and so the meal planning is simple. We have easy or pre-cooked food on late nights or following busy days, more involved or complicated food on quieter days and food made in the morning for later that day when needed. I like to leave the weekends open to possibility but I seem to know what we’re doing during the week!

Does anyone else have a pattern to what they eat on certain days? Any tips for planning?

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Technical issues!

Just when I think I’ve got technology sorted and can blog easily again I am beset by problems. I’ve tried to do a post with the update on my September plans and goals but it just won’t let me type it out. The cursor keeps jumping all over the place and various other ridiculous problems. All the more reason to learn how to use Husbands laptop (no I didn’t get around to it).  I’m drawing a line under it! We’re only a week or so into October so I’m going to set some goals in spite of being the most sleep deprived I’ve been since baby has been born. He is now waking up every 2.5 hours through the night. I am praying this is some kind of peak that we are about descend the other side of! Still, life doesn’t stop just because you need a break does it? I’ll be black later (if I can!) with details….

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House inventory – Part 1

  • I’m not even sure that ‘inventory’ is the right word for what I’m doing anymore but it will have to do! The end of September is looming and I haven’t done as well as I would have liked with all of my plans (weight loss, I’m looking at you). But I’m about half way through with the house inventory so – onward!

Master bedroom

  • Replace the light bulbs in both bedside lamps (ridiculous to have left this for over a year!)
  • replace lampshades on bedside lamps. The bases are lovely but the lamps have spotting from damp. Not a good look!
  • Repaint walls. This won’t be happening any time soon but this is supposed to be a complete list! We painted over the wallpaper and it’s really patchy.
  • Paint woodwork including door. Again, won’t be any time soon but needs doing.
  • Plaster over hideous artexing. Ok, this will never happen. I will never have enough spare money that I will think this is a good way to spend it but ugh.

Accessorise! Literally not a single decorative item or piece of artwork in this room yet. Must start collecting ideas.

  • Framed pic of baby boy needed to go next to pic of Girlie.

Replace the broken handle on the window. Kind of need to open it from time to time…

  • Sort jewellery etc storage/display and set up dressing table type area. Possibly swap chest of drawers for a bureau that could double up as a dressing table and desk for when I need to work somewhere quiet.

Downstairs loo

  •  See if we can replace ridiculously small sink for a larger one.
  • Replace hideous mirror.
  • Replace small, plasticy wall cabinet for a larger one
  • Get rid of dark, corner shelving thing.
  • Look into larger shelf to have high up with baskets for storage. Also somewhere to store medical supplies to free up space in pantry.
  • Either refurb or replace horrible coat hook thing.
  • Tiles on walls and floor not really to my taste but in good condition and relatively new. See if I can think of a way to lighten it up in there!

Dining area (downstairs is L shaped and open plan)

  •  New curtain pole (long term goal. The current one is fine but I have something specific in mind for a later date!)
  • Curtains. ASAP. I cannot live with the dusky pink velvet curtains for much longer.
  • Put up pics properly. We randomly shoved things on the walls wherever there was a hook when we moved in. It is not a good look. Need to move things around using what we already have for now and then slowly look for print particularly for this area.
  • Lighting. The overhead light we bought from IKEA looks good but actually gives off a pretty cold light. I do like it though so would like to find a place for an extra lamp or similar for softer lighting to use at different times of the day.
  • Create a laptop station.
  • Get more cube shaped baskets for our IKEA shelving unit.
  • Either recover chair pads or replace chairs. One chair is cracked so need to weigh up the nest use of £ here.
  • Get rid of the ‘fancy’ artex. See note on artex in bedroom!

Pantry

  • Replace the terrible shelves. We currently have three (over our second freezer). See if we can increase this to 4 or 5 shelves.
  •  Paint walls.
  • Replace floor link/vinyl. Should be easy to get an off cut.
  • Wall mount the plastic bag holder.
  • Add some hooks for storage.

Some of these things will be done in a few years. Some can be done now. Some are just general maintenance. It’s actually been a really good exercise in realising quite how many oddly thought out and broken things we put up with on a day to day basis! I’d better crack on with the rest of the house now….

 

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Plans for September

September! I love September. It’s still my favourite month of the year. Still the time of year I feel most ‘New Year’ ish. School seems to have got off to a good start but we’re only four days in so time will tell. I’ve been so wrapped up with Girlie’s first few days at school that I haven’t been able to post here, though I have been making plans. I will be going back to work in less than two months (nooooooooo!) and Girlie will be doing full days in a few weeks time so we’re definitely in a time of transition. I’ve made a few plans, I’m not sure I could exactly call them goals, to make use of this time and to fully embrace the Septemberishness (yes, that is a word). 

  1. Lose weight. Specifically, 6.25 pounds. I would like to be at my target weight by the end of November (which gives me December as back up to really make sure I am at target by the end of the year. This is one New Years resolution I never want to make again!). If I lose 6.25 pounds by the end of September this should put me well on course to achieve this.
  2. Find a new daily rhythm that suits us all. Now school has started the demands of the day are shifting and evolving and I want to make each day as stress free as possible. Girlie has had a few stressful  moments which is understandable given that she has just started school not long after her fourth birthday and I want to make each day as stress free and enjoyable for her as possible. We’re already off to a good start on this but I’ll probably post more about it over the next few weeks.
  3. Adjust baby boys routine. His sleeping is all over the place and it hasn’t helped that I keep having to drag him out of the house to do the school run during his longest nap of the day. This shouldn’t be a problem when Girlie is doing full days and he can sleep at around lunchtime! I also want to pay a bit more attention to what I’m feeding him when etc and make sure I’m keeping up with his needs as he gets older. I can’t believe he is 8 months old! I also need of have him in more of a routine so my parents can follow this when I am at work and they are looking after him.
  4. Develop a – loose – routine to the week. I’d like to start taking baby boy to a few groups or activities but I don’t really want to get into anything that I will have to give up when I go back to work. I am still waiting for my parents to confirm which days they can look after him so I know exactly when I’ll be working and when I’ll be free. I’d like this resolved by the end of the month. 
  5. Do a house inventory. I’ve mentioned this before but it got lost in the summer holidays although I did quite a bit of reorganising. As our family develops we need different things from the house (ie places to keep certain things etc) so I need to keep on top of this. But mainly this will be a way of working out what is broken, what needs clearing, what needs fixing etc. 
  6. Catch up with paperwork. Enough said!
  7. Work out where I am with our grocery budget and stick to it!
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Days 38, 39 & 40 and the end of the summer holidays!

Day 38: Girlie spent the afternoon with my parents and had a sleepover so I had chance to have a major sort out and tidy up at home. No spending!

Day 39: A day in a nearby town – spent £6.20.

Day 40: a trip to the library in the morning and tea and cakes out with friends £4.20. The rest of the day was spent at home in anticipation if the start if school!

I didn’t set out to keep note of my spending for the holidays but I ended up doing it anyway! I didn’t have a set budget in mind either, just a vague idea to make the most of every free event going and to have a few ‘big’ days out scattered evenly over the 6 weeks. It worked out pretty well. We spent £297.55 which I actually think is pretty good. It sounds a lot but I bet most people have no idea how much they’ve really spent. I know people who have spent around that in one week!! The average spend comes to £49.59 a week which I am more than happy with!

I’ll be back as I get into September – my favourite month I the year!

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Days 35, 36 & 37 of 40: Be the party pooper

Day 35: We took a trip with some friends to a nature park that had tonnes of really sweet activities and talks for the kids. It was absolutely brilliant and one of my favourite days of the holidays so far. Baby boy woke me up three times during the previous night (teeth – argh!) so I unapologetically bought three coffees through the course of the day 🙂 . My total spend was £24. 

 This brought the spend for the week to £109.80!

Day 36: Another day out with a bunch of friends, kiddies and various rides and things to go on. Total spend £21.

Day 37: Ended up having a bit of a rubbish day to be honest. I could explain why but…there’s enough negativity in the world already! I have a recurring conflict where I can see things are going to unravel but I don’t want to always be the party pooper and call time on having fun so I let it go and then end up having a nightmare. Note to self: Be the Party Pooper. And say no. Both are fine if they mean the last lovely sunny family day of the holidays doesn’t get wasted and no children end up having an epic meltdown through over tiredness. Enough said! 

 

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Days 30-34 of 40: Summer days drifting away…

imageI could actually add ‘To uh-oh those summer nights’ since I’ve seen rather a lot of the nights lately. I think there are two new teeth in the house! Anyway, it’s funny how not posting for just a few days means I’ve found it really hard to keep track of what we’ve done. We had another ‘big’ day out including a car journey, lunch and entrance to the Aquarium in Plymouth. This is always really worth while as you can collect a form and then get free entry for a whole year. We’ve found this to be a lifesaver during the long, rainy, wall-climbing winter months when you can’t get out as much although we do have to budget in the petrol money etc. Between petrol, parking, entry, pub lunch, an ice cream and a ride on the carousel we spent £76!! Oh well, it was only our second ‘big day out’ of the summer hols and much more our sort of thing than the theme park. We had the cousins over to play and have lunch another day (drinks £3), another day of pottering and a trip to the park with friends with no spending and another day where we drove to ‘the smoke’ to see my bestie and play in the park near her house. I hadn’t seen her in too long and it was lovely to catch up. There was already petrol in my car and free parking at the other end so no spending that day either. Wow, I did manage tire member what we did over four days after all!

We’ve been trying on uniforms and making sure everything fits but I need to have a proper sort out of everything now, put labels in shoes and bags, clear space for school things and so on. Perhaps over the weekend. We’re having another ‘paying’ day out with friends today and then that will probably be the last of the ‘big’ days out for the summer. I definitely feel there’s a sort of summer holiday fatigue going on in our house. On one hand I have the odd wobble (which I swiftly nip in he bud and most definitely keep to myself) about Girlie starting school (and so young! Only turned four in June) and want to keep her with me forever. On the other hand I can tell how much she misses the structure of her days at pre-school and those very organised activities and mini lessons. I’ve felt to sleep deprived over the last few months and I’ve mostly  been home alone with them so I don’t feel like I’ve been much fun a lot of the time. Still I’ve managed to get us all out of the house most days with at least one thing to look forward to I think! We seemed to have reached a stage where a bit more of a structured routine to our days will benefit everyone. The first month or so at school is on daft hours where they do just mornings, then mornings with lunch and THEN full days. Girlie and all of her friends were doing at least one or two full days a week at pre-school so I don’t really understand the need to do short days for so long – it’s confusing! A week and a half would be fine but I presume the powers that be know better than me!

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Days 27, 28 & 29 of 40

imageWe’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to post here! Here’s a quick round up:

Day 27: We went to the cinema to watch a family film. As this was part of a kids club this only cost £9 for our whole family (Husband has had a couple of days off) which I thought was great. I also used the opportunity to go to a TK Maxx to get Girlie a really good waterproof coat. Fortunately the list from school specifies a warm, waterproof coat but doesn’t dictate colour or style. Girlie only had a very thin showerproof mac or a thick winter coat from last year. This was ok but last winter I remember thinking that next winter I’d like to buy a coat that was properly water and wind resistant and was a bit thicker. This one has a lovely fleece lining and is pretty as well – win! I also managed to get a pair of canvas shoes for her in her new shoe size so she doesn’t have to wear her new school shoes all of the time. Obviously I not counting this spending as our holiday spending. We bought some food while we were out too so our total holiday spending for the day was £15.

Day 28: we went to the park place that we have the season tickets for and met up with some friends and spent nothing!

This brought my total spending for week 4 of the school holidays to £22.25.

Day 29: Both Husband and I wanted a slight change of scenery so we drove a few miles away to a very pretty thatched pub that has a large play area outside. We enjoyed the low afternoon summer sun with coffees and a bowl of chips. Girlie had a great time and baby boy always likes hanging out somewhere new with lots of trees to look at. The pub even had a stack of magazines so I read my first magazine this year! It felt ridiculously indulgent. 

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