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

Y is for Yellow Stickers

Day 25 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

By yellow stickers i am referring to the reduced sections of the supermarkets, the foodyellow sticker that is reduced for quick sale because it cannot be sold after its best before date.

Now, i’m not saying you have to buy food that is gone off. I mean, who would do that? But, quite often, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that food and it is perfectly edible.

The Food safety website states the following

‘The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE, is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good. Best before dates appear on a wide range of foods including

  • frozen foods
  • dried foods
  • tinned foods

The best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the packaging.’

As for the Use by date, they say this:

‘A use-by date on food is about safety. This is the most important date to remember. Foods can be eaten until the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads.

For the use-by date to be a valid guide, you must carefully follow storage instructions. For example, if the instructions on the packaging tell you to refrigerate after opening, you should keep the food in a fridge at 5°C or below. Find out more about chilling your food correctly.

After the use-by date, don’t eat it, cook it or freeze it. The food could be unsafe to eat or drink, even if it has been stored correctly and looks and smells fine. A lot of foods, including meat and milk can be frozen before the use-by date though so plan ahead.’

Therefore, you can buy and store dried foodstuffs after the date on the label, but with fresh food, you do have to be more careful. I do still purchase these, but they are put straight into the freezer for a later date. I then either cook from frozen or defrost properly within the fridge to ensure they are still safe to eat. The instructions on the packet should indicate which is the best way for each food.

Remember, being in the freezer merely halts the going off process, once the food has been thawed, it starts again. The freezer does not kill bacteria, it just puts it into hibernation for a while.

However, it is possible that if you find out what time your shop reduces their goods, and where they stack them, you can save a lot of money on the things you buy regularly that have absolutely nothing wrong with them.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, check out what they have reduced. Think about the storage instructions and make sure you stick to them, but remember that the freezer is absolutely brilliant for helping you to save money and reduce wastage.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

X is for Xmas

Day 24 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

Xmas has to be the most expensive time of the year as well as being the time when we are put under the most pressure spending wise. Television and social media tell us that this is the time to be happy and jolly and that we must spend, spend, spend in order to make this our reality. It would appear that in order to have a brilliant festive period, then we must part with lots and lots of cash.

I personally do not believe it is necessary to rack up loads of debt in order to enjoy this time. With planning, it can be done easily and cheaply. In my book, it is the people that matter far more than the amount of money you have spent. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you have to go without either. We don’t.

I have already mentioned a few of my ideas for keeping within budget when it comes to buying presents etc for special occasions.

  • Keep an eye out for reduced cost items throughout the year and buy them when they are cheap. Not only are you spending less, but you are spreading that cost throughout the year. Just remember what you have bought and where you have hidden it. I have a specific cupboard where everything gets put and i make a note of each item and the person it is intended for into my diary.
  • I save with park hampers for Love to Shop vouchers throughout the year. Again, this means that i spread the cost throughout the year and i get to go on a spending spree with my monopoly money in most of the major high street stores. I also make sure i have enough of them to help me through the leaner January patch as well.
  • I am a seamstress, i crochet and i make jewellery. earringsAll of these can be very helpful at Xmas time as, usually just for those closest to me, i will make something unique and individual for them that is suited to their personality and cannot be purchased in the shops. scrubbie presents
  • Last year all the girls got crocheted face cloths/bath poufs and scrubbies in their favourite colours, the year before it was cosmetic bags, again in lotus bag Annafabrics that i felt suited them. It is harder with the boys, but bean filled phone holders and crocheted blankets have gone down really well. All these cost me is the price of the individual parts (fabrics/wool/charms/chains etc) and the time it takes me to do them.

Don’t forget, if you want to purchase the pattern and tutorial that i have written to make the lotus make up/toiletry bags, you can find it in my shop, Baby Dreams Stitchery on ETSY.

making jamOne thing that i haven’t yet mentioned is that i also cook. And i quite enjoy cookingjams and sweet chilli jam pickles and preserves and so, most years, i put together home made hampers of pickles, chutneys and jams for family and close friends. I have the staple ones that i make every year of orange marmalade, lemon marmalade, strawberry jam and sweet chilli jam and then i will usually cook one or two others just to vary it up a bit.

autumn chutneyOnes that i can recommend are rhubarb and ginger jam, green tomato chutney (this is a brilliant way to use up those green tomatoes you grew that never got round to turning red), spiced apple chutney and one of my favourites that i can never do again i called autumn chutney and was a random assortment of vegetables that i had grown and needed making into something. Really wish i’d written that recipe down, it was delicious, especially with some cheese on crackers.

Apart from that one, all the recipes for these can be found quite easily in a google search. I usually head for BBC Good Food first when i am looking for a new recipe, but there are plenty of other good websites that provide recipes.

Once i have spent hours hovering over a hot hob, i then find a neat and attractive way ofhampers packaging them. Up until now, this has always been with a roll of cellophane and a pretty bow, but with my plan to help the environment out and stop using single use plastic, that plan has now been scuppered and i’m going to have to find another way of doing it for next year. No idea what yet, i have another 9 months to figure that out though. Watch this space.

Therefore, Xmas doesn’t have to Xtra Xpensive. It just needs a little bit of work and forethought put into it and then you can sit back and enjoy the season without worrying about the credit card bill in January.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

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

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

L is for Lunch

Day 12 of the A to Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge.

And by lunch, i mean making your own…

I work full time and that inevitably means that i have a mealtime while i am there. Now, i am quite lucky that my place of work has a complete kitchen that i can access in order to cook something should i so wish, however, time is not always on my side in order for this to happen.

There was a time when i would think nothing of saying that i didn’t have time (read as couldn’t be bothered) to make a packed lunch and i would then buy sandwiches/wraps or pasties (gotta be done when you are Cornish) for my midday meal. This adds up though. Even getting the local shops meal deal at £3.00 a time x 5 equals £15.00 per week. Multiply this by 48 (omitting four weeks holiday per year) and you have a total of £720.00. Add this onto the total of over £800 for take out coffees that i talked about in K is for Keep a Diary or Journal, and you have a costing of over £1,500.00!

How many holidays can you take for that?

Lunch doesn’t always have to be boring either, you can be the envy of your workmates with a little creativity. Fresh salads with added extra’s that you would never get in a shop bought one. Wraps or sandwiches filled chock full of so many foodstuffs that tickle your tastebuds.

Personally, i add my home made chutneys to both salads and sarnies adding that personal touch and flavour that i just cannot buy anywhere.

Autumn chutney jars

 

I don’t sell these although that is my label. I just like them to look cool when i give them away as presents.

 

 

 

I also make a lot of soup with random flavours, depending on what vegetables i have in the fridge, and add herbs and spices to flavour exactly to my taste.

Occasionally i will just take an egg, some milk and some bread in with me and make scrambled egg in the microwave and a couple of pieces of toast. It takes approximately 3-4 minutes and you have a nice filling meal that cost you pennies.

And if i’ve cooked a big batch meal the night before, then box full of the leftovers is always tasty the next day!

Be creative with your lunch and see how much money you can save over a very short time.

And don’t forget the lunch bag as well – you can be really cool and funky with your choice of those…

You can find a PDF tutorial on how to make these bags in my ETSY shop Baby Dreams Stitchery

Let me know what your favourite home made, quick and easy lunch ideas are.

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