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

W is for Work at it

Day 23 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Saving money certainly isn’t an easy thing to do. I guess if it was that easy, then everyone would be doing it and nobody would be struggling to find the pennies.

In this throwaway age, it is unfortunately, so much easier to just replace stuff with new, buy stuff instead of make it and live for today rather than forward thinking to tomorrow.

Saving money actually involves hard work. For most of the situations i have spoken about over the last month, it is necessary to do a lot of the ground work for yourselves. Whether that is by learning a new skill, researching other options either within your community or online or by being creative and thinking outside of the proverbial box for a solution to your potential spending problem.

The internet can be your best friend in helping you with this though. Youtube tutorials are amazing for showing you just how to get to grips with a sticky skill or repair that you need to know and don’t forget there are the amazing bloggers who also take the time and the trouble to present a page of tips and techniques to help you out for free.

kids-talking-clipart-people-talking-clipartAnother source of help can be friends and family, even if they don’t have the time to do the physical stuff for you, they may be willing to have a conversation to help you, and the older generation are generally a minefield of information about the make do and mend lifestyle. There was a time when they didn’t have a choice, and they didn’t have the internet to help them either. If they wanted something, they had to either work out a way to provide it or go without.

To start this lifestyle can be quite daunting though, and it takes time. My suggestion is to break it down into smaller tasks of what you want to achieve and then use that list to figure out what your priorities are.

  • You want to save money? Why? Write it down.
  • How much do you need to save? Write it down.
  • When do you need to save it by? Write it down.
  • How are you going to make those savings? Write them down.check-mark-1292787_960_720
  • Which are easier to achieve now and which ones are goals for the future? Write them down and prioritise them.
  • What will you do when you reach your goal? How will you reward yourself? Write it down – you need to be able to see a positive outcome at the end.

I would make a file of these notes and leave gaps for more ideas to be slotted in as they occurred to me. I don’t know about you, but i can never get everything out of my brain in one sitting, i do some, i go away and cogitate, i do a bit more.

businessman-with-a-great-idea_1012-219I would also leave space for comments and reflections. What if something doesn’t happen the way you wanted it to? What are you going to do then? How are you going to stop yourself from feeling a failure when real life decided to kick you up the Jacksy just to make your day? These are important points to note as well, Life can truly be a right pain in the arse sometimes and there is very little we can do about that, but we can do something about how we react to it.

Remember me saying that earlier this monthdesperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356 i had to purchase two new front tyres and have a wheel alignment on my car? Cost me over £200. That was a pain in the arse. Wasn’t expecting it. But it did save me from having a tyre blowout which could and probably would have cost me an awful lot more, and maybe not just in money.

So, plan what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Add in your contingency plan and make sure that you find a positive, no matter how small, about any set backs you face.

Then you can make this saving money thing work for you.

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

M is for Make Do and Mend

Day 13 of the A – Z Alphabet Blogging Challenge

Hey, i’m half way through the month and as my theme is making do and mending then it seems kinda obvious to have that for my letter M.

For most of my life i’ve been a skint single mum so as much as i would like it to be otherwise, making do and mending has always been on the agenda.

Yes, i’m a qualified seamstress. Yes, i am interested in many crafts and have quite a few DIY skills but i sometimes wonder if i would have had them had it not been a necessity to gain those attributes?

I guess it started when i was a teenager (i wasn’t a mum myself then by the way, but i was skint). My mum would always say that she couldn’t even thread a needle which meant that if i wanted anything sewn or mended i had to do it myself. Once she found out that i was actually reasonably ok at threading needles, it is amazing how much my mending pile would grow…

When i was about thirteen i asked for a sewing machine for Christmas. Mum and dad didn’t have a clue about sewing machines, and they were also skint, so they scoured the local paper and picked up a second hand one for me and put it under the tree. I loved that machine, it was an old singer, you’d call it vintage now (it was bordering on vintage then) and it would only go forwards and back but it meant that i could take in the legs of the 70’s flared jeans that my cousin passed onto me so that they fit the fashion of the 80’s.

Sewing machine vintage  This isn’t my old machine, but it is the exact version. I found this picture at Helen Howes Sewing Machines . There are plenty of other vintage machines on her site also.

I have had several sewing machines since this one, i am bereft if one breaks and i am without one – it happened when i couldn’t afford a new one once, i was without for about six months. It was emotional.

My current machine does a lot more than just forward and back. It does so much that i probably don’t use at least half of its capacity, but it does thread the needle for me and it also cuts the thread when i’ve finished sewing. It’s the little things.

sewing set up

But would i have been such a keen sewist if it hadn’t been for necessity? I guess i’ll never know, but learning and using that skill has definitely saved me money as well as helped me to earn some with Baby Dreams Stitchery.

And what of other crafts and DIY?

My dad taught me to wallpaper and paint from a very young age, i also learnt early that wood chip paper is a definite no no in the decorating stakes, no matter how bad the underlying wall state is.

I can also handle a drill and a screwdriver-yes, i do know the difference between a flat head and a posidrive. I am a dab hand at reading the instructions and then building flat pack furniture, the bunk beds were a bit awkward, had to get my (female) neighbour in to help me to put one on top of the other. The double bed in contrast was a doddle.

I think what i am trying to say here is that it is cheaper to fix something, or create it yourself than it is to discard and buy new every time. For me, the make do and mend lifestyle began as a necessity, and even though life isn’t quite so pressured financially as it used to be, it is still a way of life and always will be.

I was just walking around a certain upmarket home and fashion store and saw some really cute cushions with the phrase ‘Bee Happy’ appliquéd onto them…for £25….

I put them back on the shelf…

I can make it myself much cheaper than that…

But then, i don’t have to pay myself for the several hours labour it’s going to take either…

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

 

I is for Internet

Day 9 of the A – Z blog challenge.

The internet can be a major help as you strive towards a make do and mend lifestyle. Not least because a simple Google search can tell you how to make and mend just about anything that takes your fancy.

Obviously Youtube is the place to start with any type of new craft or DIY skill that you may find yourself lacking in.

  • I have fixed my dishwasher when it wouldn’t drain properly – had to take the drain section to pieces and found a piece of glass blocking it. As this was on Christmas Day it would have been a while before an engineer could come and fix it for me at i don’t want to think about what cost.
  • I have taught myself the finer points of crochet.
  • I have learnt how to reattach the zipper of a zip after it comes off the teeth in your hand when you are altering a wedding dress… ooo, that was not a good moment i can tell you…
  • I have found the songs i require to teach singing and signing sessions at work as well as finding some that are really not quite so suitable – but fun all the same.
  • I have found out what some never used (and probably never will be) sewing machine feet were meant to be used for after i found a random bag of them lurking at the bottom of my sewing box.
  • I have learnt jewellery making techniques i didn’t have before.
  • I have learnt how to work with Fimo – made some minion keyrings, they were really cute and friends and family loved them.

Minions

  • I’ve tried yoga – it wasn’t successful – don’t do a downward dog with a loose bra on. It doesn’t work. Invest in a sports bra. Or don’t have boobs.
  • I’ve been entertained by funny animal videos, ever seen a hedgehog being fed a treat? It’s hilarious, go find it, you won’t be disappointed.
  • I could probably continue ad infinitum, no person could possibly live long enough to watch everything that is available….

As well as Youtube, there is good old Google itself. The answer to every question in the universe plus a few that have never been asked before. Probably.

It is no longer necessary to have a costly encyclopaedia in the house, the internet can get you the answer to that query before you’d have had chance to open the first page. Although it may take a while for you to find the actual piece of information you were looking for. The trawl through the sites can rake up some stuff you never wanted to know though…or see…

Shopping is where the internet really saves you money though. Sites such as Ebay and Amazon are gradually taking their toll on the traditional high street while those seeking individual hand made items can use sites such as Etsy or Not on The High Street as well as many others in order to show their unique identity.

On top of this there is the possibility of having your supermarket shopping delivered. I believe this does save you a lot of money, even after factoring the delivery cost, by you not actually having to visit the shop yourself. You have your meal plan for the week, you have your shopping list to facilitate your planning and you buy just what is on the list because you aren’t physically in the shop to see all the special offers and impulse buys that the supermarket is trying to tempt you with. On top of that, there is the fact that you have no transport costs to get you there and back. You save on shoe leather from not walking around the shop. You don’t get stressed out by the amount of people blocking your way as they chat to that friend they haven’t seen for absolutely ages right in front of the milk aisle. This means that your diet also stays safe as you don’t reach for that huge bar of chocolate that is sitting conveniently by the check out, just crying out your name, as your reward for having to go through that hell week in and week out…

Or is that just me?

Finally, we have education.

I could not go to university when i first left school. I wasn’t actually even allowed to attend college, i had to go straight into work to start earning a wage as soon as my legal schooling days were over. Admittedly, i had no strong aspirations for any particular career, i didn’t know what i wanted to do so i didn’t put up any fight either.

Years later, when i did decide i wanted to further my education i was married and had children. I went to evening classes at the local college but that was never going to improve my career prospects. When my marriage failed, i had even more need to gain some qualifications but even less ability to go to a university to get them when i had three boys to feed, clothe, house and keep warm.

I turned to the Open University. I could stay at home, go to work and gain a degree at the same time. It wasn’t easy. Trying to fit study hours in was excruciating at times, but the flexibility of study and the range of study materials and peer/tutor support available was second to none. My first degree, a BSC Hons in Health and Social Care was sort of my introduction to computing that wasn’t being beaten at space invaders by my brother in the late 1980’s. This was in the early 2000’s and was delivered by a combination of online support and snail mail assignment postings.

 

My second degree, an Open BA, was in the 2010’s ish,  and was mainly delivered online.

Graduation Torquay 2014-15

They’ve grown a bit haven’t they!

I am currently three quarters of the way through a Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree with the Open University and it is completely delivered online.

With the increase in technology i have gone from no hoper, straight out of school and into the local factory where her mum worked to a person who can hold her own, live independently and believe in herself and her abilities. I could not have come anywhere near that without the internet and the ability to study at home without racking up tens of thousands of pounds in student fees and living costs.

So the internet is amazing at helping you save money in so many ways.

Have a happy day,

Anita x

 

 

H is for Healthy

Day 8 of the A – Z Blogging Challenge

It goes without saying that we all want to be healthy. Often though, that means that we feel we have to spend money on things that we don’t really want to. You know what i mean: the gym membership, all those vitamins and minerals in tiny little jars, premium foods that promise the earth, quick fix slimming plans and diets, alternative treatments…i’m sure you can think of many more to add to this list that are pertinent to you and your current lifestyle.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to stay healthy though. Here are some areas where you can cut your spending right now, and still feel the benefits:

Exercise is actually free.

takesteps

  • Take a walk. Take a jog or if you are really motivated (or mad?) Take a run.
  • Do some exercises at home, press ups, sit ups, jog on the spot, squats, bungee jumps.
  • Play football outside with the kids, get a skipping rope and see how many jumps you can do before you trip over it.
  • Park further away from your destination and walk the rest. Unless you have a physical or mental disability (or a baby/toddler where safety is paramount) that means you have to be in the parking spot closest to the supermarket door. It is actually possible to park at the back of the car park…there are spaces there too and quite often, they are empty because everybody thinks they have to park as close as they can get to the supermarket door…
  • Similarly, no car? On the bus? Get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Dance to your favourite music and sing it loud and proud while you do – although if your voice is anything like mine then i suggest you close the windows first so you don’t upset the neighbours…

noisy neighbours

Basically, anything that gets your heart rate up is classed as exercise, and the more you do, the more you will benefit from it. And isn’t it better if you can get that for free?

Eating doesn’t have to cost more to be healthy. 

  • Buy foods that are in season, they are much cheaper then and don’t forget, you can chop them up and freeze them ready for quick meals another day.
  • Batch cook foods and freeze them so you aren’t tempted to buy something in when you are too tired or running short of time another day.
  • Buy out of season vegetables from the freezer section. They are cheaper (because they were probably picked and frozen when they were in season, see the first point)
  • Plan your meals in advance to ensure you get the vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates etc that you need every day. And stick to it.
  • Unless you have a specific medical reason for taking vitamins and supplements, the odds are, they aren’t doing a thing for your body, they are just making your pockets lighter. If you eat a full balanced diet then you should be getting everything you need in it’s natural form.
  • Grow your own fruit and vegetables (See my post, G is for Grow your Own). It is cheaper, you get some exercise while you are tending to it and you can’t possibly eat any fresher than straight off the plant.

Eat clean as part of a normal healthy diet.

  • The quick fix diet plans may work in the short term, but they are expensive and more often than not, once normal eating is resumed, the weight creeps up again too.

Ultimately, don’t be a sheep.

It is not necessary for you to shell out on the latest fad because social media or your peers tell you that it is THE thing to do. Make up your own mind. Find what works for you.

And just do it. Follow the crowd

Most of all though, whatever you choose to do, enjoy it. You’re more likely to stick to a plan if you are enjoying the experience rather than thinking it is a chore that has to be got through.

Have a happy day.

Anita x