Monday, 30 September 2013

Very productive home day

  • Picked approx 10kg cooking apples from my tree. Will be sharing with mum & sis obviously.
  • Sorted out front garden with assistance from old chap and eldest son. Looks amazingly tidy and much bigger. Ah whoops. Mustn't let it get too neglected again.
  • Made jam - Approx 4 kilo of mulled wine plum - which is mostly plum, some random blackberries and spiced up with cinnamon and allspice in the style of mulled wine. Smells amazing.
  • Dinner is on the stove - minced beef (which I think is just called hamburger on the US), onions, celery, potatoes and red cabbage. Normally I make it with green cabbage but I had red which I hadn't used so in it went.
  • Freecycled 3 old bikes in need of TLC - being picked up at seven tonight
  • Freecycled broken tumble dryer - going at seven with same people.
  • Small shopping list for tomorrow to ensure I use my £4 off voucher from Sainsbury
  • I have been trying to pick up some reasonable priced demijohns from ebay to make some wine but they go up in price too much. Just spotted my neighbour has glass flagons (is that the right word?) in his glass recycling box so I am going to attempt to scrounge them from him instead..
  • Installed my printer on the PC upstairs
  • Wrote a letter to the council asking if we need planning consent to build front porch and bike store. Failed to print and send the letter though as printer, despite being beautifully installed by moi, isn't working as the ink is ancient and seems to have turned to dust.
Pretty darn good I would say. And i think the glass in my foot has finally been completely removed so big smiley happy day for me.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

And getting organised

Look: meal planning in action. Tick to opt in and I will cook accordingly

Housewife for a week

I suspect a week without work might be enough for me. I like the idea of being at home but after a few different sort outs then it all starts to be nice and settled and lacking challenge. However I do have a big old 'to do' list for the week which should well and truly keep us entertained.

I have decided I am doing homemade Christmas presents for everyone this year as well, so I am going to do some planning and creating there too. I have a new great niece due on Fahed birthday (2nd Dec) so it is possible I might have to purchase for that as my knitting skills seem to have seriously diminished over the years but we shall see.

1/2 day sorting out front garden, which is really just a hard landscaped parking area with bushes up one side and a flower bed under the window. As we do this we will also plan and mark up the new porch and bike room we want to add on. I will write to council to see if we need planning consent.

If no rain then we have almost a thousand bricks and blocks for the back garden, walls, bbq area and floor. Also need to severely cut back some of the bushes and trees. If there is rain then we play in doors instead.

Finish tiling in the kitchen (how many times have we said that)
Remove broken tumble dryer to the front garden for the scrap man to pick up.
Change around the sofas and the furniture in the back room to make better use of the space. Get a couple more guitar hangers to help tidy up out there (don't live with musicians if you like neat).

Fahed still has some work this week so in between times I am sorting out the larder and maybe a few cupboard. Also lots of reading ( I had an Amazon moment) and note making for a new idea/project.

Busy fun. The best kind.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Made it!

My months run 24th to 23rd, so I can tell you now. I made it. Big payment to brother in law in Syria, plenty of expense for my baby going off to uni but no other unnecessary expense. I made it within the tightest budget ever, by the skin of my teeth.

This month we also have a large payment to Syria (and again next month), car repairs, all the usual bills. However, with the old guy on board, it all feels a lot more doable than previously. The sniff at the possibly freedom of being mortgage-less makes it easier i.e. do I need new shoes or would i prefer to be mortgage-less. No competition!

Next month is the final payment to Syria. We cant get money to the people who need it anyway ,cant even get them on the phone for weeks at a time. By then hopefully we are in the right frame of mind to keep our spending right down, We have broken the trap.

Plus all sorts of other exciting things going on. Loving bouncing ideas around with another ideas person, especially such a very creative one. Is it wrong to love fun??

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Well well

Slept really well last night. I mention it especially as this week I have been sleeping much better and normally I wake up a lot at night.

Is it because of the decision to sort ourselves out financially, big time?. Or maybe that as a couple we are on the same page. I think we have made the right decision and the improved sleep seems to me to indicate that my sub conscious agrees with me.

Next on my list, additional income. Not sure that I have currently been thinking big enough. The sky must be the limit for an ENFP. I need a project.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Inspirational Saturday

Well its not yet, at the moment it is housework Saturday, but hopefully by mid afternoon the house looks less like we have been burgled by exceptionally untidy burglars and more like home.

I slept really well last night and started the morning full of beans, so laundry is 66% of the way there (yes, only three loads since Jamal isn't here at the moment).
Kitchen is wiped, scrubbed and tidied within an inch of its existence
Sitting room vacuumed and dusted.
Dry clothing away.
All moving around of bank stuff is done (thats always first thing Saturday as it involves sitting at desk wielding nothing heavier than a mouse).
I have booked Faheds laptop in for mending
I am looking for the cheapest way to send money to the family in Jordan, to pass to family n Syria. Some of the more normal ways seem to have evaporated since the troubles and last months payment was eaten up 25% in charges.

Then I will take some ebay photos. Loads of clothes still to go.

Then it will be inspirational Saturday. I have a nice pad and some pens, and some idea, never run out of those. I have some books to read,'Getting Stuff Done' or something similar, 'Overcoming underearning' and another one that escapes me at present. Plus a few websites to visit and e-course to consider and save up for. Any some writing in word document form that i want to spend some time with. And if I get bored after all that then I will play with my spreadsheets.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Progress, progress

My son has wangled sponsorship to a course he needs to attend in October. £600 saved. All smiles here.

I have moved my dd's for mortgage, sky etc to a cash back current account. Not a huge benefit but according to the calculator it is £400 a year, so worth the effort I think.

And maybe something completely new to try. I had lunch with three other people from my work today. We all were a very high achieving team back in the late nineties. Now one of us is leaving the organisation completely, very sad but he was head hunted and it is over £20k. You have to think about this when the kids are young I guess. We are thinking maybe a little consultancy work might be in our future. too early to say for sure but we do have a lot of knowledge. Maybe we do something. Would be fun.

And my baby is loving uni. This weekend they are going sailing for the weekend. Son, I am happy for him, honest.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Ask the universe?

Well since we decided to cut back a bit more and relly make an effort with our mortgage the universe seems to have decided to give us a helping hand.

Today I phoned Sky and called movies and HD, skytalk anytime and Anonymous caller eject (which doesnt work anyway). They kindly also gave me 12 months free broadband band, half price line rental and a deal on the TV. Monthly charge was £80+, now £35. Wow.

Amended my mobile contract to reduce it by £6 a month (not much but its a start)

Came home to find second water bill since we moved to a water meter. Monthly charge reduced from £45 to £30 and I have a refund of £100 on its way.

My sons car insurance reduced from £81 per month to £47.

Letter from bank saying they accidentally over charged me £34 backed in 2007 and were refunding it with interest (Seriously!!)

I also submitted gas and electricity readings and think we can reduce that from an over enthusiastic £145 down to about £110,  We are switching off everything not in use and minimising usage on everything else. In an extreme example of this we are not replacing the tumble dryer for the foreseeable future. Now there are only three of us I seem to be able to just about stay on top of the washing and drying.. Dishwasher and washing machine are already very efficient, fortunately. drinks fridge has been switched off until next summer.

Mum has found the demi johns I lent her and is giving them back to me tomorrow for the new wine making experience, too late to make my Christmas plonk I guess.

Thank you universe. Anything else good coming our way?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Winter Prep

It seems to have gone from summer to autumn almost overnight, in fact one day last week the average temperature dropped by ten degrees centigrade in 24 hours. Nippy!

So with winter snapping at our heals I notice everyone is talking about winter prep. So I guess that means I need to think about it.

One more cut of the lawn should be enough.
Garden furniture in out of the way
Set some homemade wine a fermenting (hey, fun wasn't banned, just because it is winter)
Get a door for the bottom of the stairs, so any heat stays down here
Find the pile of snuggly blankets to keep us warm in  the sitting room
Find the candles for the same reason
Dig out the slow cooker.
Find the winter quilt for our bed.
I might treat my son to a winter quilt as well as his room seems to be almost icy in winter

That's enough to get us started.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Winemaking appeals to my inner smallholder

I love the idea of making my own wine. I have done it on and off over the years with mixed success but when it was good, it was good. I imagine my inability to follow instructions caused so much variety in results.

So obviously it is time for another bash as it!

What put me off before is how much fruit gets used. My family tend to appreciate any fruit being made into crumbles and cakes. Making wine with it seems a little wasteful. So in the past I tried a mixture of fresh fruit and of grape concentrate from wine kits. Again pretty pricey.

This morning I discovered the homebrew forum.. Well, talk about making wine out of anything! So I am going to buy a few tetrapaks of Grape and other juices and have a go.

I have to say we drink very little wine but red wine is supposed to be a good antioxidant so a glass with dinner might be nice from time to time. I am also prepared for Christmas visitors if I can fill the wine racks up a bit!

Some new game to play for me! And, sort of, in the name of frugality!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Saturday to-do, mortgage free wannabe and no spend September

No/Low Spend September

I did my weekly shop last night on my way home from work. £51. I know I said we were cutting down so you would expect it to be less than this for three adults for a week but I have a good excuse, honest. I arrived at the 'condemned food counter' just as the guy was filling it up with actual reduced meat bargains. I have chicken thigh, lamb, pork and stewing beef enough for two weeks, maybe even three weeks. I have to top of the cupboard with tinned butter beans and chickpeas today. I need a bag of lemons, some Greek yogurt, some cheese. I intend this to take me into October.

Mortgage Free Wannabe

So I have :

  • Instigated a new regime of 'everything off' with the electrical items.
  • Downgraded my phone package from 2/10
  • Downgraded Sky Talk
  • Checked though my DD's and standing orders to ensure there were no surprises

Now I am working on a couple of spend to save things.

  • I am going to buy the old fella a phone and change him to pay as you go. His phone is for his business and is tax deductible but all calls come from people wanting lessons and so he hardly ever actually phones anyone.
  • Our TV is hugely power hungry. Its lovely and the picture is great but I am thinking to replace it with an LED version. With most items I prefer to go second hand but to realise any economies with electrical useage then I think new is best.
  • More long term I am looking at new boiler/woodburner combination but I suspect this could be long term as current boiler is working fine. I
To Do
Little bit of shopping (see above)
Finish laundry and hang to dry
Go to a barbecue and take pudding
Post extra clothes to my son. Boots and long Johns (colder up North than he is used to !)
Whizz around with the vacuum cleaner.
Sort out the freezer which is part of the fridge.

Happy Days

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Upping my income

My salary is set and every April we get a salary review, not always up but they do review it. The old fella works freelance so he can change his income if he is lucky. Sometimes he is lucky but sometimes not so much. Anyway he is doing as many lessons as he can. I am obviously not eligible for overtime but have submitted a request to sell some holiday back tot he company. I also do okay with my mileage and expenses. My car fuel costs are about half of the cost that I get back. I don't have another way to increase that particular lot of income.

I am trying to think of other ways to get some extra cash in.

So far, coach trip to London. Works out cheaper for my friends & colleagues and I make a few quid too.
Maybe a Christmas craft fair stall somewhere. Best friend and I are on that case.
What next?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Low spend/No spend September

Not forgotten in the mortgage excitement and i think doing rather well.
11 days remain of my month and I still have enough money left for fuel and food without craving in and using other cash.

I have a bad feeling that overpaying mortgage might make me always be looking forward to payday so that i can knock a bit more of the total so i have shall have to be careful about that.

I watched episode 2 of 'Jamie does skint' tonight and it was actually really good. If you have ten pounds to feed two people for a week then its not useful to you. If you already know about Approved Foods, the six cheap veggies at idl and so on then you are probably ahead of Jamie but for wasters and people who eat a lot of takeaway then i think it is useful. I got a few usable ideas out of it.

A box in the fridge to put all the old bits of cheese, chopped or grated, to use on cooking
Mixed pork and beef mince made a lovely looking meatloaf and was served with spog. Nummy
Pork buns. Will I make them, unlikely but they did look good.
Rice made from cauliflower. Great for carbless meals and for when Fahed tummy is not happy
Veggie curry made with sweet potatoes. I already know this is good but I forgot. Outside of cauli etc also went it.I must remember to make this more, maybe a weekly use up the veggies dish.

I want to buy (only a want, not a need) a vacuum sealer for improving my dodgy ability to freeze food. Obviously i can freeze it but it often doesn't look very appetising when I defrost again. Maybe when i have some ebay profits i can think about this.

We progress, a little but its all progress.

Monday, 9 September 2013

More mortgage talk

So after our initial Light Bulk Moment yesterday I spend the afternoon with my beloved spreadsheets, crunchety crunching those numbers.  We went through it before bed, causing some severely scary dreams, i cant tell you. Fahed almost bottled it because it leaves us with no cash for crisis management but I explained that there will be a different way of operating going forward. No slack in the budget but month one excess is an immediate emergency fund. After that we have a budgeted amount to overpay each month but I am not going to re-schedule the mortgage. I will leave repayments as they are so we overpay every month but if there is a catastrophe then we just pay a basic month.

Today I called the mortgage company to get an exact balance. I was only £20 out in my estimate of £192k.

I analysed the Sky bills to see what can go.

I checked my contract end date for the mobile and found I can drop down to sim only from October.

My other big areas of potential saving are food & consumables.

Another problem is my soft inability to say no to my kids. They are good and don't take advantage but i have been covering course fees, car insurance and fuel for a few months (year or so??) for the eldest. The youngest has now gone off to uni (sob) but is fully sponsored so I am hoping my financial responsibilities are over for a bit there too.

Finally we spend a lot of money financing my overseas in-laws. There are some who ask for nothing & I try my best to help them anyway but there are some who think we are an actual bank I believe. Its always the same ones. Anyway we have agreed to pay them £1800 further and then we are done.

So we have never really been in a position where we could do this before but now we can make some progress. We can actually do this!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Mortgage Free Wannabe

We have 20 years of mortgage left, £192,000 in fact. We were almost there before we decided to build a house in Crete. Ah well. Plus there is the money we lost in Syria. No good dwelling on the past though. Move on. There is £192k to think about.

Yesterday I was reading the MFW section of Martins Money Saving Expert and the totally inspiring overpayment diaries that people use to help keep up their motivation. I overpay by a couple of hundred every month but don't make anything like the kind of effort that these guys make.

So today i was telling the old fella about how one lady had pretty much stopped doing anything and cleared her mortgage in four years. He said 'wonder what we could do it in?' and now we are off. I might be wrong but i think we are both in the same place and we really could do it.

If we throw every spare penny we have at it then we could do it in six years according to a calculator which I just found.

Oh gosh, so much to think about, so many numbers to crunch. I maybe need to find my copy of the Tightwad Gazette! Very, very excited.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

No Spend/Low Spend September Day 7 and Saturday to do

I bought £30 of fuel but will need more next week as I have an 80 mile round trip to court for some work thing mid week..

I had a takeaway purchased for me :)

Today i am going to buy a little shopping but really little:
Check out the condemned food counter for meat
Wraps & a loaf

Still have plenty of veg and my lovely dad is giving me daily bundles of tomatoes. Lovely lady at work gave me courgettes. My tree has cooking apples (finally get to give something to my mum).

Otherwise I have some cleaning and sorting to do (cleaned all the mirrors and the bathroom already, not even 08:30 yet, get me!!). You know, just vacuum right through, wipe work tops, clear tables in the sitting room, noting exciting but it looks better once it is done.

A couple of bags to go to the charity shop when I go out to do my shopping.

I might go visit my friend this pm to do some photos for selling on ebay. It does make money, so should be done, but such a faf.

Tonight we are going to a gig. My sons band is support for a couple of biggish bands which are touring. Anyone familiar with The Afterparty? I think I have heard them on the radio. No cost to this as gig tickets were purchased some time ago and my son can buy me a drink!

Oh, nearly forgot, have a few pants from my mum to pot up, if it stops raining for long enough. I wont moan about English weather as have actually missed the rain.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

No spend/Low Spend September - Day 4

Day 4

Porridge from the larder ( i have enough for maybe 2 more days)

Tinned Soup for me
Tinned Soup and Jacket Potatoes for Fahed
Ahdels has tonsillitis - too ill to eat but managed some noodle soup so that he could take pain killers

A couple of chicken legs for me. It wasn't supposed to be my dinner but since I haven;t been hungry since then there seemed no point in eating more.
Fahed has another tin of soup, top with some chopped jalapenos for a change
Ahdel is currently cooking a few sausages for his supper (midnight snack?). I am guessing that they are served with jacket potato and beans but maybe not.

Deodorant (for the benefit of my co-workers) :)
Birthday present for my niece
Minimal damage but tomorrow I have to buy fuel.


Nothing in particular but I did have a nice slice of birthday cake for my niece's birthday.

It is quite mazing how little we can manage on without Jamal at home. I feel kind of guilty for thinking it though and I miss my baby lots and lots.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Low Spend/No Spend September Day 3

Day Three

Porridge from the larder ( i have enough for maybe three more days)

Tinned Soup for me
Tinned Soup and Jacket Potatoes for Fahed
Ahdels girlfriend took him out for lunch!

Grilled turkey breast, cheese and onion jacket spud for rme
Fahed has another tin of soup, mostly veggies, with two gluten free pitta.
Ahdel was still full from lunchtime.


I have set the Jamie programme to record from episode two (missed 1). He doesnt offend me. I am sad to know that there are people who can't cook and cope with benefits. I remember when we had only benefits, Fahed was made redundant, his employer went bust when I was pregnant. It was a surprise pregnancy and meant I lost my agency job. That's how it goes sometimes. We could cope. We had enough for basic food, we had next to nothing but we could manage because we learnt how to.manage. I don't know how we get out of this mess but I would think budgeting and cooking on the school syllabus would make a start. We didn't get in this mess quickly and we wont get out quickly but I am more hopeful than I have been that we will get out. I notice the local college is running evening classes for Frugal Cooking. Good stuff except you have to part with a fortune to attend the classes. Is that ironic?

Monday, 2 September 2013

No spend? Low Spend September Day 2 (and a half)

I know I already posted about day 2 but i thought an update would keep me on track.

Fahed and Ahdel ate only once today (we often do this and then just have an apple or cucumber later). I made chips again. I know it is bad but its not often and distracts them from the fact that they are living on air. :)  They also had a couple of sausages each and random veg form the fridge. i had a few chips too along with some random turkey product which Jamal bought before he left and didn't get around to eating.

I believe I can last until the weekend before I buy anything except Petrol and a birthday card.

I have packed a bag for work tomorrow. A tin of soup for lunch.. I found some porridge oats, I think enough to last the week. I have half filled a beaker with oats and added water, so I can have microwave porridge at my desk in the morning. We have milk and coffee at work, plus tea & chocolate.

All fine, no shopping.

No spend/ Low Spend September - Day 2

Day One
Yesterday we spent nothing! Yaay.

No breakfast.

Cheese and onion jacket potatoes (2)
Fahed had a tin of soap with a plate of chips on the side. I don't normally make chips unless it is someones birthday but I was distracting him from the lack of meat! It worked.

Lunch was late so we didn't have dinner as well. During the evening Fahed ate some tomatoes from my dad's garden and a cucumber


This thread on how to feed your family on £7 a week. It seems to vary on whether it is per person or per family, isn;t very healthy and is really for desperate, desperate times. I felt very well off and comfortable after reading it but will definitely continue to pad food with lentils and porridge oats. Useful stuff for desperate times. I love MSE, always full of good stuff and less angry and irritating people than most forums.

Day 2
Day off work so i have done nothing useful yet except a little tidying. Breakfast for me is toast. Bread gives me a headache but I don't  have work until tomorrow so a headache wont kill me off.
I plan to buy porridge oats for this weeks breakfasts at work but no other shopping.

Just about to hang out the white washing which is economical to do but also my only option as the tumble dryer is broken :)

Jamals first day away but I am not going to message him until tonight. I can do it! Photo of his room is really nice, much bigger than the one at home, and he says everyone is friendly.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Home but a little less sweet

My baby went off to Uni today. I did my best not to cry but cracked a couple of times at the station. He is on a Merchant Navy Cadet Programme, which means he will leave university without student debt. Also mean I cant guarantee to have him back in the break as he could be at sea. Half of the 3.5 year programme is at sea. I would very much like to see him at half term but I suspect it might be Christmas. I feel as though I have actual physical heartbreak, having never been separated from my babies for more than a short holiday before. He makes me laugh so much. He also kind of looks after his brother and father (he always says he is his fathers carer!) as they can be a bit dippy whereas Jamal is very down to earth.

I need distractions. I am thinking I might decorate him room for him or something. I don't know, I need something to plan, to fill my head up a bit.

Not so tough after all apparently

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