Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Team Work Works

I have had false starts with getting the old fella on board with the 'frugal lifestyle' before, had false starts with the shopping plan, the budget and all sorts of other things too. This time I think I have got it.

I allocated sorted the budget last month and allocated an amount for fuel, shopping and pocket money each. I have done this before but I went into too much detail. Car repairs mucked up month one and we deteriorated from the word go.

This time there is just 5 categories;
Bills - I have pruned all that I can and am trying my best to reduce the rest (no baths, quick showers, line drying all of the laundry).
Shopping - £400 for the month for 4.5 of us. So far we have spent about half of it but we are stocked up with meat until the end of the month, laundry and dishwasher tablets for a year, dry goods for about 6 months, bread, veg and salad etc for the week. I am hoping that two more sessions of bread/veg etc will last us the month.

Fuel - £250 per month for both cars and any other transport. We have £220 left at the moment but both need to fill up this week.

Pocket money £150 each. I have bought a bag of compost, some plants, a skirt on ebay. £125 left to keep me going. Fahed has spent approximately nothing but if saving up for some tools to take to Crete.

Neither of us have used our card to pay for anything except previously agreed expenditure. If we carry on like this we are actually going to acheive some goals. Whoop Whoop.

These stairs could be replaced at the Crete house if we stay on track!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Decluttering - things i have learnt

The kitchen is in the usual sate of flux. All of the cupboards that are going in the refurb are empty and staying that way. The mugs are all in a basket in one the cupboard which is staying. Yesterday I dropped the whole basket. Five broken mugs. We still have enough mugs. I put a nice shot class in the corner of the dishwasher basket and found the corner doesn't have basket, just gap. Another breakage. I have more shot glasses. At least I didn't break any of the ceramic tiles this time. No need to de-clutter there now

One bit of de-cluttering I should have done is to go through my cosmetic basket. I found some dead sea exfoliant. I just plastered it on my face, and hand as they were the application tools, and found that instead of being creamy and oily it set like glue. I have washed under almost boiling water, scrubbed with soap and gel cleanser and am still unpleasantly sticky and kind of varnished. My eyes are really sore from all of the scrubbing.

I finally sorted out the electricals cupboard in my bedroom. Three freecyclers are coming around to collect bits today. Electric bill should go down. Unexpected side benefit. My bedroom is darker. i hadn't noticed that the standby lights, even though they were in a cupboard, light the room.

Sorted through a pile of goodies form the shed and kept six packs of parquet flooring and a large expanse of laminate flooring underlay. All good for the front porch.

Anything with a sell by date can go. Doesn't have to be a literal sell by date. The facial exfoliant was jsut obviously out of date. The electricals might sjust as well have gone to a new home years ago.

Anything costing money to stay can go. Electricals again but even if I had noticed and unplugged them would have been a help. What a dimbo.

Anything which doesn't deteriorate, costs more money to replace that to keep can stay. Well it can as long as it also passes the 'being useful or at least very beautiful rule'.

When the kids were little Fahed made them a huge toy boy and I painted it with jungle and underseas scenes. I found it buried at the back of the shed, where it got sent when toys dropped off the agenda. I am scrubbing it, carefully to avoid scratching my 'art', and it has now earned its place in the conservatory as a large side table. It is being used for hiking gear, tennis gear and paint-balling equipment now. Still a toy box but now for bigger boys toys. I was umming and ahhhing about keeping it until my youngest son said 'you can't get rid of it, its amazing'. sometimes he can be very cute.

I guess |i cant avoid work any longer and the toy box should now be dry enough to move.

Ahdel claims to have fixed my camera so there may be photos for added excitement!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Weekend Plans

Tomorrow - sort out the electricals which I have just noticed are on standby in my bedroom. They are in a closed cupboard and I just forgot all about them. They are hiding in the light, I see them every day so I don't see them. i think there are two old DVD recorders, which I am pretty sure don't work, an old Sky box which I think does work, a satellite receive of the non Sky variety and a surround sound. What can I say? My husband had no toys as a child, not even a bike. He was about 45 before he realized he didn't need to be surrounded by toys as an adult. Ironically we never watch TV upstairs. TV is a very social experience in our house. We watch all together in the sitting room or we don't watch at all. Luckily, or maybe weirdly, we all like the same pro grammes so it works for us. I plan to offer these items on Freecycle except the surround sound, which Jamal has asked for. I am hoping that as well as an empty cupboard this will decrease the electric bill.

I have cancelled my Paymentcare cover so hopefully that doesn't encourage an attack by the black fairies and cause me to be made redundant.

I am hoping to find varnish in the shed to finish my scrub up renovation of the coffee table. I am also trying to find some paint which matches the walls and woodwork in the hall, stairs and landing area. I can't wait any longer for son my decorate it, and as he worked until 10pm last night I don't feel its especially fair to chase him. I will just patch it all up with what paint I can find to match.

Lastly i bought some plant in a charity sale that we had at work this week. I have chillies, tomatoes and some flowery type plants.

Some organisation, some economy and some just fun things for the weekend. And yet another three day weekend should give me chance to get it all done.

Working Friday

I have had a really weird day today. I worked at one of our other offices, in lovely Windsor, about one and as bit hours from home. After a staff meeting I had a one to one with my boss. There was no space available at the office so we had the one to one at a local cafe, complete with Lattes and and Smarties cookies! Despite the fact that we got loads done and sorted out loads of plans I felt as if I had a day out with a friend instead. I am thinking this might be the way to go with one to ones with my managers.
We had to hurry it up a bit as a local recruitment agency wanted to take us out for lunch. A short stroll across the bridge to Eton. Lunch was super and more than I would pay if I was paying for myself.

I was working, honest, just feels entirely more like a fun but economical day out.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Still here? Me too

Thats a relief.

Additional excitement locally here that we had a tiger on the loose. Actually made front page of the BBC news website.

We had a bit of a family finance meeting and my ideas have been ratified.

New budget.
All bills to be paid from my salary. Cash from my salary to cover £400 per month shopping (not just food, all shopping and lottery). £250 cash from my money to cover fuel for both cars.

Money from Fahed smallest job to cover £150 each pocket money. Pocket money includes clothing allowance, eating out, work lottery syndicate ( I don't want to be the only one left there when they win and all leave).

Fahed s other job and any additional cash from quidco, ebay, housekeeping from eldest son goes straight to savings. Savings includes financing holiday (which really means progress on Crete house rather than cocktails at the beach), Presents for birthdays and Christmas, car tax and MOT's, car and home repairs.

Eldest son is saving for holiday (coming with us), a new computer and paying for his computer course so I did a separate budget for him which he found really useful. He also came up with some meal ideas to be a bit more economical. He always takes lunch from home and doesn't waste any of his cash that way.

Youngest son doesn't normally take lunch to college unless they have a physical day, hiking or some sailing activity. Which means he does come home from college actually ravenous. He eats a meal as soon as he gets in and another when we all dine int he evening. I asked for ideas from him for a cheaper late lunch/first dinner and he said he loves Lidl noodles. If he gets his job (everything crossed) then it will all change because he will be away from Monday to Friday when they are on land and obviously away constantly when they are at sea. I want him to get the job as he wants to get it but I would much prefer to have him at home! He eats a lot so it will be much cheaper if he isn't here. Plus i could cancel Sky Movies with a clear conscience.

Fahed was happy with the budget figures I used. Any left overs can go in the DIY pot as we mustn't stop progressing the house here in England. If it all settles down out there then Fahed will go to Syria in summer 2012. We will decide then whether to sell the land etc that we have and re-invest out there or move all our eggs to the Crete basket. Lastly I have answered an advert for someone looking for a house in Crete through the 2011/12 winter. They are bagpipe makers who spend the summer in Scotland and Bulgaria and fancy winter somewhere further South. How cool. I don't want to rent the house out really but it makes sense to do so. I have to do it on a long let because we don't have a certification for holiday letting. That means we dont get very much rent but it all goes int he savings pot and maybe I get over my fear of strangers in the house. If a Bulgarian bagpipe maker can;t overcome my fear then who can??
Our village church
View of our village as you come from the town
Our local market in the town.

Eldest son wants me to help his girlfriend with her budget on Monday. I don't think she has had any help from her family in how look after her money and is always broke despite working three jobs so hopefully I can help.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The world ends today.


I have plans though, as I suspect business as usual. My parents are coming back from a week of house=sitting/dog sitting at my brothers house in our hometown of Exmouth. So I'll be visiting this evening.

My plans before tonight when they get home are to scrub and hopefully varnish the sitting room coffee table. It is unfinished wood which is a beautiful look but not very practical so it is getting the ease of use treatment. Finish re-arranging the conservatory. Last bit of garden tidying. After these jobs the house will be pretty much up together (still waiting for my eldest son to paint the hall, stairs and landing and lay the carpet but no surprise there, and the kitchen is only half way to being done but............). I feel so much better when the place is sorted then when we live in a building site. I should start sorting out the attic next. It is full and I can't think most of it is useful if I don't know what is up there.

Despite Fahed losing the poker game last night, and only winning two hands all evening, I bravely mentioned the cash budget idea to him at an ungodly hour this morning before he went off to work. He approved! Lets test it for a month and see what happens.

So if the world ends then its irrelevant but if not I think we have some good structure in pl

ace in the house and in our budget.

Friday, 20 May 2011


I had a day off today. My youngest son had an interview in town for the job he really wants (the |Deck Cadetship). We spent the evening going through possible questions and then all piled into town this morning. Fahed and I spent the actual interview time in a cafe overlooking the marina where two lattes and three scones with jam and cream came to a bargain of £8. First time we have had coffee out this year I think. He thinks he did okay but we must wait two weeks to know. If he doesn't get it he can;t apply until next summer as they only recruit annually.

Afterwards we went to Ikea to buy something with our free £12.55 voucher whch runs out this weekend. We bought a pestle and mortar for the other house and a knife for Faheds knife set,. He is buying it over several years as knives are expensive! From the top floor of Ikea carpark we had a great view of the Oriana in what what I think is her home berth. Jamal is dreaming of one day Captaining her. I really hope he gets his chance.

Tonight I have a quiet evening at home as Fahed has poker night. I have taken the opportunity to update the budget. I am toying with cancelling Paymentcare. This cost us £45 per month and cover me for partial mortgage cover for up to 12 months following redundancy or sickness. It doesn't pay for the first month. I don't want to encourage the black fairies to bring ill upon us by cancelling it but i can't think it is useful. if I am made redundant then pretty sure my redundancy money would pay my mortgage while I find another job. Shall I cancel it??

it monthly bills would come to £2265, £1400 0f which is my mortgage (overpaid to finish early). I bring home a little over £3000 so really should be able to pay everything, just like the old days, if we frittered less. I am thinking to allocated pocket money to each of us and then we don't take out debit cards out to pay for a whole month. I will wait until morning to run my idea past my poker playing mate. I hope he wins tonight, then he will be a good mood and agree to all of my daft ideas.

I need to save more. I have a old house waiting patiently for renovation.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Holiday on a budget

My lovely holiday is all booked and I guess everyone is sick of hearing about it but I will harp on one last time as I (as usual) really made an effort with cost.

Flights - I took recommendations for friends in Crete as they get to hear about deals from earlu visitors. I spend long hours on flight price comparison sites. I finally narrowed it down to two airlines. Easyjet and Aegean. I found the days which were most affordable and arrange my holiday around them. This saved us hundreds on booking our up front date preferences. I eventually booked flights out with Easyjet from Gatwick, one day later than intended. On the way back we are flying with Aegean to Heathrow. I wasn't so careful with my parents flights as they are happy to pay the extra to fit their dates. I got the kids tickets half price by choosing flights that arrive at 4am but they are happy with the times and it worries them not.

Transport on the island - there are few buses and none are near our house, there are no trains, you can;t walk very far in 40 degrees. We went for car hire. We get a good deal any (about 25% cheaper than Easyjets car hire company) but we made sure to get the right size car for the number of visitors and not pay extra rental or extra fuel for carrying a too big car around with us.

Airport parking - Cant be done. We fly out of Gatwick and back to Heathrow, so airports are 40 miles apart. We looked at taxi far but because we don't all travel together its too expensive. Trainfare was even more than taxi. We are going with National Express buses. If we book near the travel date then it is between £50 and £72 each way per person. If we book now it is £14 & £17 per person. No contest.

With Easyjet we maxed out everyones luggage allowance. We will be nine in total but the couples all feel one case between them is enough so I get 5 or 6 cases to fill with things to go to the house. That will save me a whole lot of re-purchasing of things we already have.

It is definitely not cheapo but I think I did my best and maybe we will be brave and rent it our through the winter, start making it pay for itself a bit

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Can't help smiling

I think it i this lovely sunny weather we are having but I seem to be all smiley and happy all the time. To make it even better Fahed noticed the birds singing when we woke up this morning. In all the years of his darkest depression I don't think he knew there were or birds or that they sang to us. Glorious.

My Saturday morning should have involved some indulgent blog reading with coffee but either somewhere something is wrong. Yesterday virtually no posts and today all the posts from Thursday are showing again. Could be the universe telling me to get my lazy arse out of bed I guess.

I have a lovely day planned so I am happy to get up and about anyway. This morning is just ordinary housework and laundry. It i my intention the sort out the second half of the conservatory too. Should not be such a big deal as the first half but the effect for me will be great. I haven't enjoyed at all having all of the tools etc boxed up everywhere.

When Fahed comes home from work this afternoon we are having a bonfire to clear the garden and a bit of a potter around and sort out. When the bonfire eases down we can cook on the embers.

This week we booked the last few flights for our holiday. Both kids are coming with us. They both had a year when they didn't come, I guess to prove to themselves how grown up they are. But I am pleased to say they both really missed it when they didn't come with us and now it has turned into an important event for them and not just something that happens. We are also having a few friends along and my parents. All together a good house full. We have all sorts of plans with scuba diving, fishing, visit archeological site 9well maybe not me with that one)and even a water park. I am ready to go now.

Another reason to smile. My youngest son yesterday got an interview for the Deck Officer Cadet position that he wants when he leaves college this summer. I guess they interview a lot of people but nonetheless it is the best thing he has had so far, in amongst all the non answers and refusals.

Time to go hang the washing out. I so love line drying.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

No mothers day post from me

Love my mummy more than all the world but Mothers Day, Mothering Sunday, was months ago. Apparently in the United Kingdom and Ireland, there is a celebration called Mothering Sunday, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent (3 April in 2011). Most historians believe that it originated from the 16th century Christian practice of visiting one's mother church annually on Laetere Sunday. The United States celebrates Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May. Julia Ward Howe first issued her Mother's Day Proclamation in 1870 as a call for women to join in support of disarmament.

And whilst we are on the subject why do we have different Easters? My orthodox friends always have Easter a week different from us. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere's vernal equinox. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the 21st century, to the 3rd of April in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.

So there we are.

Back here at planet Lizzie. The shed is quietly filling up again but beautifully, tidily and in a very frugal fashion. The shed itself is made of every piece of wood we have ever laid hands on but has a certain hobbitish charm. The conservatory (and soggy pile of stuff in the garden) is disappearing into the hobbit burrow. Half conservatory is complete, and it was the worst half. We are still accommodating everything needed to refurbish the kitchen, so it can only get better and better as the refurb progresses. The rest of the conservatory will be addressed shortly, hopefully next weekend or maybe next time I can have a day off. I feel all bright, bouncy and full of energy with all the progress around the place. Also completely tired out and my back is killing me but it's a fair price to pay.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Made it

Made it to the weekend. A four day week was two days too long. Not sure I can wait another 11 years for retirement after all. I really enjoyed have two 4 day weekends.

So at last we made it to Friday. I wanted to get off home quite early but my friend at work had a few problems with the VAT return so we actually left work at 6.55pm. I parked in a spot that had three hours free parking this afternoon & then forgot so I was actually very pleased to be home late instead of home late and with a £60 parking fine.

Tomorrow we have plans for a big family BBQ. My men spent the early evening preparing our favourites, Syrian Salad, Baba Ganoush, lamb kebabs and lamb kofta. The kitchen smells amazing. The threat of us having a good time in the garden has been enough to bring on seriously heavy rain so after 3 weeks of sunshine i think we actually cook under an umbrella tomorrow.

Around the barbecue are other plans are to finalise holiday plans with my parents. All together 9 of us go on holiday but only Fahed and I are there for the whole time. It will be lovely. its hard to wait the next three months but I don't want to wish my life away.

Tomorrow our plans, except for grilling meat in a thunder storm, involve more shed and conservatory sorting out. So far the transition is amazing. I have freecycled more than I ever expected to own, but finally we progress. I don't even want to think about how much is still in the attic but one day at a time. I am enjoying the progress but most of all I enjoy that Fahed feels well enough to do it.

So, onwards to our lovely soggy weekend.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Walking prompt

We have had our car park rota at work re-arranged to accommodate new staff. I will now get free on site parking for 11 days each month Parking close by is £4.50 per day which is actually way more than i was thinking of paying. Each month is spend, say, 23 days at work so there is to be compromise.

I manage staff in two other locations so I am going to aim to spend six days each month with my other staff. Happily I can claim for parking at the other locations. Sometimes I also have a day of training but not every month.

23 days required
11 days parking
6 days at other locations

Leaves me 6 days a month to sort myself out. Shall I cough up for the £4.50 a day? The only thing which has put me off cycling in the past is the thought of cycling home whilst completely tired out. Same thing with walking. Plus I drop my son off at college every morning except Tuesdays. He could walk but it is five miles and he has to set up really early to get their on time. Good thing is that my other son passes my office every afternoon at 4.30pm and could pick me up in his work van. One further complication is my laptop normally comes and home with me each day and isn't light, I normally use a wheeled bag.

Conclusion - walk to work every Tuesday initially with a laptop backpack and leave early in the afternoon to cadge a free lift home. Consider car sharing, although this hasn't worked well in the past as only the top boss and his secretary live in my direction and they often work madly late. Pay for parking as a last resort.

Consider rolling out walking days for any day when its not necessary to go to another location.
Oh, and remember to clean trainers and charge Ipod.


I found this on here, which I am pretty sure I got to from here. Walkscore for my area was 27% and a car is essential.Not even joking, we are totally cut off from anywhere unless some serious walking time on your hands. Oh, well.

Last day at home

Headlines today say Osama Bin Laden has been killed. Does this make the world a safer place? or at least back to pre 'war on terror'levels or is the djinn, of global terrorism, out of the bottle and that's it, we just get used to being constantly in danger. I was in M&S in Paris once when Hezbollah bombed it.I was 23. Within a year I was not in a hotel in Singapore, having been moved to different one last minute, when it was either bombed or collapsed depending on who you believed. I remember the Hyde Park bombings when I was twenty. Pretty sure it was a Thursday. It was the first time I remember terrorism so close to home. I guess I am saying terrorism has always been part of life. I don't think killing Bin Laden will help but all the same he sure had it coming.

Last day at home today. The whole crew are of at some Traithalon event so it is creepily quiet. Plus the get fed so I don't have to cook. Instead I have alist of to-dos.

Finish and line dry all laundry.
Bonfire if no-one has washing out or it rains.
Take tools etc to shed from conservatory.
Hoover and make good conservatory (things relating to kitchen refurb can stay only).
Rubbish to the dump
Basket of bric a brac to the lady who advertised on Freecycle for bits to sell to raise money for Blue Cross Animal Rescue.
Move indoor plants outdoors for summer
Rearrange furniture
Collapse in a big exhausted heap on the sofa.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Waaa. May already!

I am apparently all happy and upbeat after the Royal Wedding (or more likely after having 2 4 day weeks - yaay, let’s do this every week). I am taking my cue from 'When Life Gives You Lemons' and being more bouncy and positive, which is what I am normally like but sometimes things get a bit on top of me.
So, reasons to be cheerful...........

My husband suffers from depression which means he sometimes makes odd judgement calls, shuts himself away in sleep world when he can’t cope and could be grumpy but this last year or so he finally started to get a handle on it and life is very good. He periodically apologies for how awful he has been in the past. I can’t blame him anyway as it is an illness but I think he must think he was worse than he was. Bless his little cotton socks.

My eldest son has a job which he enjoys. It’s not really his thing long term but it pays some money and gives him time to study for the three year IT design course which he has also signed up for. He has a very nice girlfriend that he is bonkers about. Oh yes, and he is handsome too. He thought he had the same problem as my husband and was delighted to find that when he doesn’t work at a miserable and unpleasant job with an undated dictatorial boss from the 70s, for 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, then he is happy little soul.

My youngest son is coming to the end of his two year college course. He knows what he wants to do with his life and is applying for Deck traineeships in the merchant Navy. This week he got his RYA Powerboating level 2. That means that he also passed his maritime studies with distinction, as this was the final module. Pretty sure Jamal’s life with be at sea. Jamal is handsome too (I am their mother, what do you expect me to think!). He is a little stockier and a little darker than his brother but very similar. Jamal takes after his Mum more and there is no black dog waiting to jump onto his shoulders. He is completely self-confident and utterly un-destructible psychologically.

I am 22ibs lighter than I was a few months back and happy to keep on losing it. I feel younger as I get older. My job is mostly good fun and I can cope with the 11 years still needed to get an acceptable pension, but probably not the 16 years required to get a very good pension. Acceptable should be enough as I don't spend very much except for my enormous mortgage which will be all gone by then. I overpay my mortgage every month to shorten its lifespan by seven years. If we ever have pay rises again I will add more to the mortgage payments and we will hit the finish tape a little earlier.

My parents are in their 80s but still fit and well, happy and active. They are still in good enough health to come on holiday to Crete with us every year. I wish I could have afforded the Crete house ten years earlier; my dad would have really enjoyed it when he was younger. They were the oldest people on the Easyjet flight to Heraklion for the last two years. They are thoroughly spoilt in Crete. I have lost them in the market and found then seated with a stall-holder enjoying a beer and some chopped cucumber and tomatoes whilst they get to hear, if not to understand, about the sad value of veg at the moment.

I worry (low level worry) about value of assets etc (especially property in Syria)but how lucky am I to have a few assets to worry about. I like my house, although it would be nice if it was finished and everyone would stop wrecking the garden whenever there is a project which required outdoor work, and the area that I live in. I like life to be interesting and generally it is. I would like to travel more & I have plans to as I get older. Life is good and life is fun and sometimes it sucks a bit but not much and not for long. I love life and I love and appreciate my friends and family. Good eh?

Blogger problems

So now it would appear I cant comment on my own blog. Sigh.  Normally i would uninstall and re-install everything but this is just live in t...