Z is for Zero Spend

Day 26 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

For the final day of the A – Z blog challenge we are going to look at Zero Spend time. ThisLocked wallet is basically a set amount of time where you decide that you are not going to spend any money…on anything apart from your normal direct debits. Household bills aren’t included in this as i don’t think the mortgage company are going to agree if you tell them that you’re not going to pay the mortgage this month because its due date falls in your no spend time….

Now, if you are one of those people that have a tendency to wander into the local shop on your way home from work and decide then what you fancy for eating for your evening meal (as i was), then this is going to be a shock to the system and is where all of the hints and tricks that i have spoken about throughout the month come into play.

You need to decide how long you are going to aim for and plan in advance what you are likely to need to get through the time you have allocated as no spend. Whether it is a day, a week, a fortnight or a month, you need to make sure that you have planned your meals and have the food that you require to cook those meals in your house already. Then you won’t have to think, oh, i forgot this item so i’ll just nip down to the shop and pick it up. I can just about guarantee that you will pick up other stuff while you are there as well.

Think about any special occasions that are coming up. It’s going to be difficult if you have to go out to a colleagues leaving do on your no spend day, so be realistic about the time that you choose.

I can also guarantee that there will be times within that where you will have to change your plans – unexpected people dropping in for a mealtime, accidents and emergencies that crop up from time to time, meetings that suddenly appear out of nowhere. So what do you do so that you don’t fail your zero spend challenge?

One idea is called ‘shop your own kitchen.’

This is basically taking stock of all the foodstuffs you have in and making something out of that. It may be a bit weird and wacky at times, but that can be added to the fun and adventure of it. There are also many websites that will give you recipe ideas if you enter the ingredients you have to hand. On a quick google search that i have just done, this one was top of the list Supercook. Give it a try and see what you can make with what you already have.

You can shop your bathroom as well, all those bottles of shower gel and bath salts that you have been given in the years – give yourself a right old pamper session…for free!!

money in jarIf you want to keep a track of how much you are spending, then make it visual. There are many ways to do this, and you can be as simple or creative as you like with it. Keep a money jar and put into it the money that would have spent if you had gone to the shop. Write a list of how much you haven’t spent. Go all out and get yourself a spreadsheet on the computer and input all of your savings. When you can visually see what you are saving all the time, it gets easier.

And a tip that i use? I don’t like being told that i can’t do something, therefore i like to be able to make the choice for myself that i don’t want to do it. In order for me to work this in my mind, i always make sure that i have a fiver in my purse so if i want to purchase something, i can. If i get to the end of the week and that fiver is still there then i really consider that a win. This works for dieting as well by the way. I have had a dark chocolate, four bar kit kat in my work lunch box for two weeks now. While it is there, i don’t need to eat chocolate because i can if i want to. If it goes, i will want to eat chocolate.

I know, i’m weird, but trust me. It works.

I found my mum’s emergency cigarette when i was clearing out her belongings just after she passed away. It was five years since she had given up smoking and no matter how bad the pain from her cancer got, she never smoked it because it was there if she really needed it. I figure if she can go through that, it has to have some merit.

money crossedSo, set a date, set a length of time and plan ahead. Use whatever psychological tricks you need to in order to help you to achieve your goal and go for it. You’ll be surprised at just how imaginative you can be when you really don’t want to break into that fiver.

Thank you for joining me on my blog challenge journey, i’ve really enjoyed doing it and i hope you have enjoyed my posts. Let me know how you have found them and if you want me to continue with this theme in future blogs, or whether there is anything else that you would be interested in.

Have a happy day.

Anita

V is for Vouchers and Deals

Day 22 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

Vouchers, gift cards and coupons can be a very good way of saving some money on things that you want to have or to do and they come in many different forms.

The best deal that i use most days is that of the Co-op card. It gets swiped every time you img-coop-card-03shop and gives you 5% back on selected in store goods. That money is stored in your membership account and can be redeemed against another purchase whenever you want. I like to wait until i get up to about a tenner on it and then feel like i’m getting a load of shopping for free. Quite often, when you swipe your card, you will also get a coupon spat out of the till as well giving you money off other products in store. And it’s usually products that you will use. i got one yesterday for 50p off milk products.

NUS cardOn top of this card, i am also a student and therefore qualify for an NUS student card. This one isn’t free, it costs about £12.00 per year, but you get so many discounts you’re better off clicking the hyperlink above rather than me trying to list them. One of the participating stores though is the Co-op where you get 10% off your shopping. Tie this in with their own community card and you really can’t lose.

The NUS card also gives you access to Amazon Student Prime. 6 months free prime andAmazon prime then about £40 for the year instead of the usual £80. this gives you free one day delivery on Prime products, access to the Amazon Prime video streaming service and lots of other offers (these are just the two that i use regularly).

together-4-standard-2608As you are by now no doubt aware, i am into crafts. Therefore, one of my favourite shops is The Works who also have their own Together Rewards Card. Here you get 5 points for every £1.00 you spend and then you get an email every three months telling you how much you have to redeem. The email will also give you a date you have to redeem the points by. They do not rollover, so make sure you cash them in when you get them. There is so much choice in that shop for craft items or books that it is never that much of a hardship. Again, as long as you are only buying purchases that you need in the first place, you can’t really lose.

I also save towards Christmas using Love to Shop Vouchers. I save for mine through Parklove2shop-gift-vouchers-1 Hampers, but you can go to the above website and buy them direct. Personally, i prefer to spread the cost of them throughout the year rather than just buy them outright. Once i have finished paying into my account the full amount of the vouchers i wish to purchase, they are sent to me direct and i get to use them like Monopoly money going into whatever shop i wish to (that accepts them obviously) and pop presents for everyone (and maybe a few for me) into my basket without feeling guilty. I usually make sure i have enough to last me into January as well. This also makes present giving to far flung relatives easier as you get to post them a lot cheaper than you could a present.

There are so many other Vouchers that can save you money.

Going on holiday? Get the local paper for your destination and see if it has any money off vouchers inside for tourist destinations. And don’t forget the Sun newspaper tokens that can help you save a packet on a whole family holiday.

Shop at Tesco? See if you can convert the club card points to buy magazine subscriptions, days out or money of your weekly Tesco delivery (that you are now doing online so that you don’t succumb to those impulse purchases).

There is only one proviso with using vouchers and cards though.

It is only a bargain if you were going to buy it anyway.

If you are swayed into purchasing something just because it is a money off deal but you don’t actually end up using it, then you aren’t saving anything at all in the long run.

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

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

K is for Keep a Diary or Journal

Day 11 of the A-Z alphabet blog challenge.

It is easy to lose motivation once the initial impetus has worn off so i find it helps to have a visual record to remind me of my goals and achievements so far. The best way i have found of doing this is to keep a diary.

Writing on knee

Diaries or journals can be anything you want them to be. Personally, i stick with plain A5 size lined notebooks where i am not constricted in the amount i write. I guess you have noticed that i have a tendency to waffle a bit and my diary is no exception. They do have to look pretty though.

Notebook and pen

 

Although, i’m not always quite so fussy on my choice of pen…

 

 

 

In the past i have written:

  • Daily journals: detailing what has happened during the day.
  • Craft journals: detailing the items i have made and working out the costings for them.
  • A Happiness journal: during a particularly sad part of my life when i needed to acknowledge that there were good things that happened within the day as well as the sad things.
  • And a Spending journal: to show exactly what i spend in a day/week/month and then identify where the wastage is and what can be cut back on.

If you want to be able to see where those stray pennies go when you aren’t looking then start to write them down, pin them to the page so that, even if they do try and go walkabout, you can drag them back and make them account for their wandering ways.

If just writing in a diary or a journal is too plain and, quite frankly, boring for you, then make it fun. Doodle some pictures, learn some funky writing, download some pictures from google images and stick them in to highlight your point or look in the pound shops for one cheap and cheerful stickers. There are lots of really funky ideas over on Pinterest to spark your imagination.

Also, don’t just write an accounts book for it – that really would be boring. You can see that on your bank statement.

Write how you felt about the spending, before you spent, what made you decide to buy that item?

How did you feel when you handed over your card or the cash? A heady feeling of exhilaration as you heard the familiar ching of the cash register?

How did you feel after you got the purchase home? Pleased? Or guilty?

Acknowledging why and how we spend is half the battle to becoming in control of our own spending, learning what part of us we are trying to appease through the handing over of our cold, hard earned cash to a stranger in return for another piece of stuff, another cream cake, another mug of steaming vanilla latte from the coffee shop on the corner where they just taste too good to go without – my diary worked out that i was spending over £800 per year on regular take out coffees during my working day. That was just two coffees per day on average, 5 days per week. It is amazing how much it adds up.

So, if you want to see where your money goes, track it, write it down, make it fun, identify your motives and stop what no longer needs to be spent.

So far this year i have spent less than a fiver on take out coffees. That is about £245 saved already.

Oh, and i’d recommend the happiness diary as well. It helped me out of a really deep hole.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

J is for Junk

Day 10 of the A to Z blogging challenge

There is an age old saying of one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and i really enjoy finding treasure of my own amongst other peoples junk.

Bins

I’ll admit, i’m not quite brave enough to go skip diving in someone’s front garden, but give me a charity shop or a car boot and i can be quite pleasurably entertained for a fair while. Basically, i just love a bargain and what can become of junk once you utilise your crafty skills quite often leaves other people calling you a fibber when you say what it used to be.

charity-clip-art

My first go to shelf in the charity shops is the books which admittedly don’t get up cycled because, well, what else would you do with a good book apart from read it…although i am tempted to try and make one of those little coffee tables out of old books that are then glued together into a seemingly random and haphazard pile…watch this space for that one…

book table  Not my photo, but really cute eh?

My second go to shelf, or rather, rack, is of the curtains, sheets and duvets. Not for my house, i don’t need anymore of those items, the ones i have are perfectly good for at least another few years, but because they are a gold mine for fabric. Have you ever looked at how much fabric there actually is in a double bed size duvet cover?  This fabric i use in all sorts of ways.

  • I have previously stated that i am a qualified seamstress. If i’m attempting to make a new garment that i haven’t made before and i think the fit may be a bit tricky then i will make a ‘muslin.’ It is a trial garment in a cheap fabric where it doesn’t matter if there are mistakes in it or if it doesn’t fit quite right because you can then use this to alter the fit before you cut into your expensive final fabric. Believe me, it’s very depressing to find out that something doesn’t fit after you’ve made up a jacket using three metres of fabric that cost £20 a metre…A cheap sheet or cover that only cost a couple of quid is perfect for this.
  • They are also good for patchwork, cushion covers, bags.
  • Reupholstering stools, chairs, sofa’s etc.
  • Using as dust sheets when you are decorating.
  • Building tents in the garden with the kids or grandkids.

In my mind, if you have a good length of fabric then you can turn your hand to making anything look good.

And unique.

Next, i will have a quick perusal of the clothing, again, mainly looking for fabric opportunities (i get most of my denim in this way) although i’m not averse to getting some clothing for myself if i see a bargain. I picked up an Animal hoodie the other day. Barely worn, retail in a shop is around the £40 mark and this one was written up at £4.50.

No way was that sucker staying there, and i really don’t care either that it was two sizes too big.

Finally, i will have a quick look at the games. We are great believers in this household of family games nights and, although we have our old favourites, we like to try something different. It can, however, work out a bit expensive to keep buying a new game every time all the family can get together, but it is often in these shops that you can find something a bit different to the supermarket specials. We have had great fun with a game called Hummbug where you have to get across the board before your opponents by picking a card and having to guess what song is being hummed. Admittedly, we had to adapt the rules a bit to suit us because my sons didn’t really know much of the 60’s era, but isn’t that also the beauty of the games night? Just having a laugh and making it work for you?

hummbug--family-game-night-free-uk

Let me know what your favourite section of charity shopping is and what you look for. I’m always open to new ideas.

Have a happy day.

Anita x

 

G is for Grow your Own

Day 7 of the A to Z blogging Challenge

There is something really satisfying about going out to your garden and picking fruit, veg or herbs and bringing it back into the kitchen to put straight into your meal or preserving it for later use.

For me it is the freshness of it and the fact that, apart from the initial outlay of seeds and equipment, it is free.

I know that i am lucky though, i live in the middle of Cornwall, UK, and i have a garden. It’s not very big – a veg plot is out of the question, as is a proper greenhouse – but it is big enough for a few fruit bushes, some pots and a small plastic grow house type thing that i have to anchor against the wooden fence to prevent it blowing away in the wind.

I also live on top of a very big hill. It gets a tad windy up here. To say the least. But it does look really cute in the snow (apart from the collapsed washing line – you’ll be pleased to know that i have fixed that, not bought a new one).

I remember as a child, my parents had a massive garden. They weren’t rich, council houses down here traditionally have huge gardens. My dad used half of it as a vegetable plot, the other half was lawned. We had five apple trees – 3 cooking apple and 2 eating apple – and could never get through all the apples they produced. My parents did do a rather good, rather potent job of making apple wine with it- although not as potent as their rice wine, boy, would that blow your head off – but it was criminal to see the wastage each year lying on the ground.

Dad used to grow so many vegetables that we didn’t have to buy very much at all. Potatoes, runner beans, onions, shallots (his pickled onions are still revered today in certain circles – i try to emulate them, but i don’t think i come close), carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber…all the old favourites back in the 70’s and 80’s. My biggest memory though is of sitting in the garden, hiding amongst the leafy greenery of the pea plants as they stood  tall, shielding me from the onlooking, beady eyes in the house and popping those juicy pods, stuffing the fresh peas into my mouth as fast as i could before i got caught. It really wasn’t as much fun at harvest time when i had to help pick and shell all of them to go in the freezer though.

peas1-lead_t640

My garden now doesn’t have any pea bushes sadly. But it does have redcurrant, cranberry, black currant, raspberry and gooseberry plants permanently planted into my fruit bed. In outside pots i grow my strawberries (they run rampant if grown in beds), mint (which also grows rampant if their roots aren’t contained), chives, parsley, potatoes and rhubarb.

home grown spuds

In the conservatory (which is also my sewing studio) i usually go for a tomato plant and a few chilli and pepper plants.

Conservatory

As i said, i know that i am lucky to have a garden at all, there are times that i wish that it was a bit bigger, but, in all honesty, i probably wouldn’t have the time to dedicate to it properly if i did. That is one of the reasons i don’t apply for an allotment, but if that is an option that is open to you, then go for it.

Believe me though, you can’t beat the taste of home grown, or the satisfaction of adding your own fresh food to your cooking repertoire. If you have room for a few pots, try some chilli’s or peppers. Pick them straight off the plant, quick wash and dry with a paper towel, freeze on a baking tray (so they don’t stick together) and then pop them into a container in the freezer. You’ll have more than enough to spice up your dishes all year long. Or make some Sweet Chilli Jam (this is the recipe i use) and give it as part of a homemade Christmas hamper (more about that in a later post). Your friends and family will be begging for more.

And it saves you money.

Big bonus!

Have a happy day.

Anita x