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

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

S is for Stashbusting

Day 19 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

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

First, i have a confession to make:

My name is Anita and i am a hoarder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fabric stash

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

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

Have a happy day.

Anita x

R is for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair

Day 18 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Have a happy day

Anita x

 

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