T is for Trade Swap

Day 20 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Sometimes, a really good way to save money can be a trade swap. That is, instead of paying for somebody else’s skills in money, you repay them in time instead. So, you need something doing in your house or life that requires a skill that you do not have such as help in the garden or fixing a leaky tap. You find a person that does have those skills and is prepared to do a skill swap with you or through a third party. They do the work and bank their hours. In return, you put forward what skills you have that others may require, for instance, mine would so obviously be sewing, cooking, computing, word processing, writing…. it is surprising when you start thinking about the skills that you possess that could come in useful for others and for which you could get paid in time for.

I am going to say though, that in my experience, this does need to be thought about carefully and does come with risks involved that you should be aware of.

I say this because i have tried it in the past.

A number of years ago i heard of and became involved in my local TimeBank. It was (and still is for some) a brilliant idea and i had high hopes of it working for me as i did sometimes struggle with a few things, mainly to do with heavy lifting. There were also tasks being offered on their list of skills being offered that i didn’t particularly enjoy doing and thought that a skill swap might be beneficial in this way, things like ironing, car washing and cutting the grass. I don’t mind general gardening, but i do hate cutting the grass, at the time i also had a rather large lawned area to do as well.

The rules were that the TimeBank Bods in charge would act as a third party and would organise who swapped with whom depending upon the skill required. They would hold a list of all people involved as well as a central point of reference for each person and an overall tally of each person’s ‘banked’ hours. There was a maximum amount of nine hours that any one person could bank before they had to get them redeemed. You didn’t have to have the points redeemed by the person that you did work for, it could be anybody on the list as it was the skill you were hiring rather than the actual person themselves. They would redeem their own hours from someone else. All materials used had to be purchased by the hirer, not the person doing the work.

I appeared to be quite popular. I was mainly offering sewing/alteration services and had built up to my maximum allowance of nine hours owed to me within a month. I shortened the arms of a couple of dress shorts including taking off and replacing the formal cuffs. I made a dolls dress from scratch, even had to create the pattern for it. The lady with the short arms also had short legs and requested me back to shorten a few pairs of trousers for her.

I also remember that this was around the time my mum passed away and she compared my loss to that of losing her cat a couple of years before. It had taken me about 20 mins to realise that she was talking about her cat.

Now don’t get me wrong, i am a pet owner, i have two dogs and a cat myself and i know how much they weave their way into our lives. They are our family. They are greatly missed when they pass. But i will also admit that i wasn’t quite in the right place at that time to agree with her. Just as well i’m polite…

Meet (from left to right) Maisie, Danny and Jazz.

…and know when to keep my mouth shut.

However, when she started asking me to make some custom cat clothes for her pets i discreetly refused. I also refused to give her my direct landline number so she could call me direct about any sewing she might need doing…

Anyway. I was up to my nine hours and needed to redeem some before i could bank anymore.

‘Goody Goody.’ i said, rubbing my hands in glee, ‘now what can i have? Oh, my car needs washing, i’ll do that.’ 

So i phoned the coordinator and requested it.

‘Oh, i’m sorry,’ she said, ‘we haven’t got anyone that can do that.’

‘Ok, i said, my son’s18th birthday is coming up, is there anyone can bake and ice a birthday cake?’

‘We’ve got someone that can make the cake, but they can’t ice it,’ She told me. 

‘Oh, i said, don’t worry, i’ll do it myself. What about a tip run, i’ve got quite a bit of rubbish that needs to be disposed of?’

‘Yes, we’ve got a guy that can do that for you, you’ll have to pay his fuel and he needs a desperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356permit to drive his van into the site so you’ll have to pay that as well.’

Ever think you’ve been had?

I had expected the fuel, but not his dumping permit for the year as well. I hadn’t thought to charge anyone for the cotton and notions i had used when doing the stuff i had done.

My bad, but what a pillock i was.

After a few other unsuccessful attempts to redeem my time, i told them it wasn’t worth it for me and i would be resigning from the Bank.

She said she was sorry to see me go.

I’ll bet she was. I reckon i was the only one doing any work!

That said, i still think it is a really good idea in principle. If you can check-mark-1292787_960_720find someone or a company that is reliable and trustworthy to complete the swap with then go for it. All i say is:

Make sure you do your homework first.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

S is for Stashbusting

Day 19 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

Originally, when i planned out the ideas for each day of this challenge, i was going to do S is for Seamstress. As the month has continued though, i have figured that you are all well aware that i am seamstress and i recommend you gain this skill yourselves in order to help save both money and waste. Therefore, an alternative S is now required.

First, i have a confession to make:

My name is Anita and i am a hoarder.

I’d like to think not in the way of the TV shows that show houses packed to the rafters of boxes and boxes of tat, but where crafting is concerned, i can never throw anything i may consider useful away.

‘That is fine,’ i hear you say, ‘you will be able to use it up in an awesome project.’

‘That is true,’ i hastily reply, ‘but that isn’t how it works…’

You see, i always have a little bit of trouble deciding what to use the stuff for, particularly if it is a new length of fabric that i have bought new. Usually because i fell in love with the design rather than with a specific project in mind.

I then start to fall into the weird category that only true sewists understand, where you sit and look at the fabric. I stroke my hand across it, feel its texture and imagine all the possibilities that could come from this one piece of material – you’ll see me do this to clothing in shops as well, but more to determine the quality of the fabric and the stitching to see whether it is worth paying the price for it – this is also a useful skill to have by the way.

And if i do make the decision to make something, then i usually have a crisis of confidence in my own sewing skills, which is plainly ridiculous, i have been sewing for over 30 years. But that little devil that sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear says,

‘What if you muck it up? All that lovely expensive fabric will be wasted.’

All of this means that i have quite a fabric stash going on here and it needs to be used.

My mission for this year is to reduce it, bit by bit, little by little. It isn’t doing me any favours stacked in the spare room looking pretty.

fabric stash

Just a small section, and i may have fibbed about it being stacked prettily…

And if you are also guilty of creating a stash connected with your hobbies? Do the same. Use it. Enjoy using it. And believe in yourself and your abilities.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

R is for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair

Day 18 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

I can’t do a theme of make do and mend without using R for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repair. It’s a bit of a given really.

All of these are essential in the bid to save you money and stop you from throwing items away that could be of some use to you, even in other ways.

By reducing what you use in the first place, it makes for a much simpler lifestyle as well as helping out the planet just a little bit as your consumption rate lowers.  It also reduces the amount that you spend as you head out to the shops to refill your cupboards, wardrobes etc. It’s about taking that step back before you purchase again and asking yourself if you really need that item? Can you live without it? Can you use something else in its place?

flowerpotWe needed a bucket to hold water for washing a car today. I suggested looking in the gardening shed to see what was out there. Hey presto, big flowerpot (with no holes in the bottom) to the rescue! Worked a treat.

Didn’t have to go out and buy a bucket.

Reusing and recycling items also apply to the above example. Just because something is traditionally used for one purpose doesn’t mean that purpose is the only thing it can be used for. Think creatively and out of the box. It is amazing how much money you can save by doing this.

  • Use a sheet for a tablecloth
  • Use an old glasses case to store jewellery or other small items you don’t want to lose
  • Use a cosmetic brush to clean you computer keyboard
  • Slice wine corks into thin discs and stick them to the inside of doors to stop them banging when closing
  • Use tea and coffee tins as planters
  • Cut old clothes/towels down to use as cleaning cloths around the home
  • Use old envelopes/backs of letters as scrap paper for when you need to leave a note for your son – Again – to do the dishwasher before you get home from work… (yo’d really think he’d know by now!)
  • Save butter/margarine/ice cream tubs etc for using again in the fridge or freezer, or for taking your lunch to work/family taking leftovers home after a family meal – that last one means that you don’t lose all your expensive boxes because you can guarantee that they won’t come back again…
  • Use old blankets to line pet beds
  • Cover an old baking sheet with fabric or paper, decorate it and use it as a magnetic board

And as for Repair? That just stands to reason as a sensible option for saving you money.

I’m sure you are all aware by now that i am a seamstress so, for me, repairing of clothes isn’t usually much of a problem – apart from making myself actually sit down and fix it, i’d much rather make an item from scratch rather than spend two hours replacing a zip in a pair of overalls –  but i do have those skills if i need them. I would certainly recommend purchasing and learning how to use a basic sewing machine, it will repay itself a million times over once you get the hang of it.

Regardless of my above comment about having to make time to sit and do my own mending, i do also take in clothing for alterations and repair – i’m a lot quicker at making myself sit and do that – so it is also a bit of an income stream for me. There is no reason why it couldn’t be for you also.

When thinking about replacing something that is broken, always think if it can be repaired first. Why waste money when a little bit of time and effort can breathe new life into the item and mean that you can spend that same money on something much more fun.

I only have three areas where i won’t try a fix first. electric shock

  • I don’t mess with the plumbing or water
  • I don’t mess with the electrics
  • I don’t mess with car mechanics

 

 

 

I will always call the professionals in for those. Life is too precious and if any of those go wrong it could be much more costly in the long run.

These are just some ideas to start you off, let me know what other alternative uses you have for items around the home that save you money.

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

Q is for Quilting

Day 17 of the A – Z blog challenge

Quilting is the perfect way to use up all those odd bits and pieces of fabric you have left over from other projects. It always seems strange to me that it is possible to make a perfectly good item out of the odds and sods that would normally be thrown in the rubbish bin because they are seen as scrap.

In times gone by, when we weren’t quite such a disposable society as we are today, you would never find good fabric thrown away, no matter how small. It would be sewn together into patches and made into blankets or clothing that were unique and timeless.

It doesn’t have to stay in the past though, quilting and appliqué (it’s got a Q in it!) can go a really long way in helping you to make something out of nothing.

With my own quilting, i like to do things a bit different to the usual. The family tree is a padded wall hanging backed onto wood. The bunny is made from the odds and ends of so many different projects that i made while the boys were growing up. The photo cushion is also made from preloved fabric and the photo is one of my three boys playing in the front garden about 15 years ago (the eldest is just climbing over the wall in case you are wondering how you missed one of them).

That’s not to say that i can’t do it ‘properly’ when i need to – that blue boat quilt has a really comfy blue fleece backing on it too…

And if the bits you have left are too small to do the traditional squares, you can always do triangles or use the bits for an appliqué design within the squares –

Applique square

A square i made for inclusion into a charity quilt a few years ago.

JodieOr, you can just use the bits and pieces for a complete appliqué design and then quilt the top appropriately to fit the design…

This wall hanging was a present to a beautiful woman who owned a yellow ukulele.

I’ll let you guess what her name is…

 

And it doesn’t have to be pieces of new fabric from sewing projects that you can use for these projects, you can repurpose any fabric.

Those denim jeans that have worn through in one spot but the rest is fine? Now, i know that you have

made yourselves funky handbags out of the body section, denim handbag  but there is still a load of good denim left in those legs…

…So how about some really handy utility aprons???

Although they aren’t strictly quilting…

…But these are…

Quilt tops denim

And when saving the little pieces, remember the trims. That butterfly on the denim quilt top was a patch on a pair of jeans.

So before you throw out those scraps, old clothes etc, take a closer look and see what else it can be used for. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

P is for Planning Ahead for Presents

Day 16 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Following hot on the heels of O is for Organise and matching it hand in hand is P is for Planning Ahead for Presents

IMG_3464

Yeah, couldn’t find the number 7, it’s an upside down L in the lightbox…

The lists and immediate to do items are one thing, but it can also be worth looking further into the future when making plans for saving money.

In my phone i use the notes app to keep a list of people that i need to buy birthday/xmas presents for as well as any other celebratory events that may cost me money over the next twelve months or so. When i am out shopping, i keep an eye out for bargains/sale items that are suitable for those events and pick them up as and when i see them.

Now, i have always done this – remember the skint single mum thing back when the boys were growing up? But the problem i always had was that i would then squirrel them away somewhere and forget their existence until i was doing some random tidying up and would come across them again…usually a couple of days after the event they were originally purchased for.

Doh!!

So now, i make sure that i make a note next to each name, what the present is and how much it cost. This latter may not seem so important at first glance, but i generally have a set amount of money in mind that i allocate to each person. If i can save money on a present, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they only get that one, after all, they don’t know how much i paid for it, but quite often, i will make other purchases that brings the presents up to the value of that figure. Doesn’t mean that you have to do that too, remember, they don’t know how much you paid for it, whether full price or reduced, and does it really matter what the cost is if it is something that they want or need?

Not in my book, it really is the thought that counts. The thought that somebody has spent the time to try and find something you like and appreciate rather than a ‘that’ll do’ present that was purchased while standing at the check out, half an hour before closing time on Xmas Eve.

leggings

I once received 7 pairs of leggings for my Christmas present from my (now ex) husband. He said that i always wore leggings so what was the problem?

I had given birth to my third son one month before. I was sick of poxy leggings. I’d vowed never to wear the darn things ever, ever, ever again. I was already back wearing my size 10 jeans. i wanted something a bit more flattering than leggings.

It is my birthday one week after Christmas.

He bought me another pair of leggings. I’m not kidding you – he really did!

I felt like strangling him with them.desperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356

He admitted that he’d bought them with the other pairs on Christmas Eve and thought he’d save them for my birthday present.

My motto.

Plan ahead.

 

Buy presents throughout the year so you spread the cost, but make sure they are suitable for the recipient.

…..Unless you want to get garrotted by a stray pair of leggings…

.Have a happy day.

Anita x

O is for Organise Yourself

Day 15 of the A -Z Blog Challenge.

For me, the key to saving money is being organised.

For anyone that knows me, they will be well aware of how difficult i can find that ideal sometimes.

I am one of those people that tend to have a fair bit on the to do list, but will procrastinate and prevaricate until the very last minute and then get it all done in a rush. Sometimes, this isn’t necessarily the cheapest way of doing things and i am slowly getting into the swing of organising my time more effectively to achieve the best outcome for both myself and my purse.

  1. The first thing i had to learn to do was to actually write a list. I’m not good at writing lists. In the past, i have thought that the time spent writing the list of things to do could be better spent actually doing something that i have to do. In some cases that may be true, but for the large part, the focussing of the mind on the tasks that lie ahead can help to alleviate the problem of ‘what shall i do first?’
  2. Actually use the list. Yeah, this helps. I cannot count the amount of times that i have actually written a shopping list and then got to the supermarket only to find i have left it on the kitchen worktop at home. this means that i then fall into my old habit of wandering up and down the aisles, throwing things i think i need and might have written on the list into my trolley. then i get home and find that i’ve forgotten everything i had on the list but i now have 12 tins of baked beans…
  3. Meal plan…with a list. Look through your kitchen cupboards/fridge/freezer and plan what you are going to eat at each mealtime through the week. Then write it down and stick it somewhere that you will see. When you go to the supermarket, you only need to buy the items you require for the meals that you will be eating, not a random assortment of bits and bobs that leave you scratching your head for actual meals but the freezer is so full of vegetables, you can’t fit anything else in. I currently have three big bags of Brussel sprouts in my freezer. I hate sprouts. With a vengeance. As do two of my sons. The one who does like sprouts lives 200 miles away…..
  4. Consider online food shopping. With your trusty meal plan in hand, this can reduce your spending as you aren’t tempted by the sales tactics of the supermarkets flashing their impulse buys at you as wander around the store. You may also save on fuel depending on what the delivery charge is and how close or distant you may live to the chosen shop. A saving on time and shoe leather can also be seen as a bonus on this one.
  5. Organise the house so that it works for you. If it’s the only way that it will get done, then list what housework jobs you are going to do and on what days. Tick them off when you are finished with them. If this really helps, then start to write a journal, a plan of your work and the order in which you do it. Use colours, stickers, cut out pictures from magazines and glue them in. Make it your goal.

Make your life work for you rather than letting it happen and then being disgruntled at what little has been achieved at such a great cost.

Organisation and advance planning can work to help you to achieve what you want.

To do listOne of my first lists. It’s a work in progress.

Meanwhile…

Beans on toast with a side order of Brussels sprouts for anyone???

Have a happy day.

Anita x

N is for Needs versus Wants

Day 14 of the A-Z Alphabet Blog Challenge.

This is about taking a step back from your spending habits.

Before you reach for your purse or wallet, before you press ‘buy it now’ on the keyboard or phone screen just ask yourself the question:

Do I need it or do I want it?

Either answer is a perfectly valid reason to make a purchase but this simple query might help you to clarify your reasoning beforehand.

want-need-balance 3d

If you need it? If it is an item or service that you actually have to have then there is no option for you other than to shop around for the best value that suits your needs.

For instance. I took my car to have the tyres checked at a local tyre specialist centre at the weekend because one day last week i was running out of the door to go to work and spotted an almost flat tyre on the front. Not the best start to a Monday morning i must say. Luckily, there was enough air in it still to get me to the nearest service station where i pumped it up and carried on my way. Anyway, the upshot of the checkup was that my wheel alignment was really bad. So bad, that it had worn away the tyres on the inside (where i couldn’t see), one of them was down to the inner canvas. I was lucky that i didn’t have a blow out.

So, was this a Need or a Want?

Definitely a Need. I live in the middle of nowhere with a really rubbish bus service. I am three miles from my closest local shop. Whilst the exercise would probably be good for me, it is not practical for me to be without a car. So two new tyres and a wheel alignment later, my car is roadworthy again and I am a happy bunny, albeit a £200 lighter in the purse one.

If you want it? Then you can work out how great that want is to determine whether or not you continue to make the purchase. Again, this gives you time to step back and think about why you want it, and can you get the same item elsewhere for cheaper.

For instance. Back to the coffee at work scenario that i have talked about previously. I had fallen into a habit of buying a latte from the local coffee shop every morning on my way into work. It started the day off well and i didn’t have to wait for the kettle to boil in order to have it. The coffee shop also does a discount on takeaway drinks if you take your own mug in so that also helps to sway the decision to have one. When i added up how much i was spending over the year and it came to over £500 though? Ouch, that was bit of a shocker!

I don’t need a takeaway coffee every day. I can quite easily turn the kettle on when i get in, wait five minutes and then i have a cup of coffee. I’m not saying i’ve completely stopped. There are times when that want does become a need, i think i’ve had 2 takeaway cups since the New Year when i did the maths. But as you can see, i have drastically reduced what has been spent just by standing back and asking whether i needed it or wanted it.

Probably just as well as the money i have saved went on two new car tyres and a wheel alignment…

Ask yourself the question next time you are shopping. You might be surprised at the answer.

Have a happy day.

Anita x