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

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

U is for Upcycle

Day 21 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

No, Upcycling isn’t the art of cycling uphill, although the effort that takes would certainly help to keep you fit and mean you won’t need to spend money going to the gym. What it is, however, is the ‘process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value‘ according to Wikipedia, available here.

In other words, stop throwing away items that you no longer find useful in their natural state and make them into something better.

I have already waxed lyrical over how easy this is to do with fabric, by now i think my denim handbags are legendary, as are my quilted and appliqué specials, but it is possible to do this with just about anything. Got an old table that is scratched and seen better days? Sand it back and paint or wax it. Broken leg on a table or chair? Change the legs for different ones, you don’t need to throw the whole item away. I’m pretty sure that if you took a step back before taking that item to the dump and thought about what else it could be instead, then you would be able to save yourself a whole packet of money.

And if you are lacking in inspiration, then the internet is the place to go for ideas, personally, i can lose an awful lot of time on Pinterest and am frequently amazed by the ideas of what others have done.

The above pictures aren’t of anything of mine, they are just a few i have found on Pinterest in a quick five minute search using the search term ‘upcycle.’ Hopefully they will give you just a few ideas of the kinds of things that can be done.

I quite like that coffee pot into a terrarium idea myself….

Go see what you can find.

And have a happy day.

Anita. x

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

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