Mother’s Day…groan..

This Sunday is Mothers Day.

I have a real problem with Mother’s Day. Not the idea of celebrating motherhood; of course we deserve a special day all to ourselves. But I have a massive problem with the endless adverts telling me what I REALLY want for Mothers Day. They tell me that I should not be happy unless I have received some form of indulgent pamper package, a massive bouquet, and a weekend away. And some hair straighteners. And smilier, frecklier kids. Anything less is a poor show, quite frankly.

Of course, the implication is that if we do not spend buckets of cash on our Mothers, we do not love them. It is also a triple spending whammy, as not only am I being told I need to spend oodles on Mum, and Mum -in-law in order to prove my love and respect, but also my husband (ie. me really, as it’s a joint account) should spend a fortune on buying presents on behalf of the kids. Like they really actually care.

What I REALLY want, is, well, nothing. I will genuinely be more than happy with a nice card, some daffs, and for the kids to cook Sunday lunch and wash everything up. Without arguing. Likewise, when the kids were younger, just a ‘day off’ from chores, and a chance to go to the loo alone were hugely appreciated.

Of course, the advertisers realise that this is actually, probably, what the majority of women really want, and so they have engaged in a game of double bluff with the men-folk. “Don’t trust women when they say they don’t want anything” they shout. “She will never forgive you” “Women always say one thing and mean another”.

Which as we all know, is mysogenistic claptrap.

Honey, if I say I don’t want a gift, I really don’t.

Here are some things I really would like for Mother’s Day, and they are all free:

A lie in
No washing up
No laundry
Cups of tea on demand
A trip to somewhere beautiful to walk the dog, preferably with sunshine
Some home made biscuits or other delicious thing
The chores to be done, as if by a magical fairy
To hear that I am loved and appreciated.

Xxx. Happy Mothers Day to all you wonderful Mums out there. I’d love to hear how you will be celebrating Xxx

 

 

 

Month One: Nasty medicine…

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Month One

So, here’s a little monthly review. Hope it’s not too dull! I promise that this will not be a blog detailing every penny I have spent. Everyone’s families and lives are so dissimilar, I don’t know how that would be helpful, or particularly interesting!

So far things are going well -ish. Taking a long hard look at our finances has been a difficult process but I am positive that having done so, we can move forward. I know where we are, where we need to get to, and I have put in place interim targets to ensure we keep moving forward.

Owning up to a debt is probably a bit like being told you have a serious illness. There is some disbelief and denial involved, before you finally realize that you just have to take your medicine. Or ‘suck it up and deal with it’ as a good friend of mine says.

Having spoken to many friends and family about what we are trying to achieve, it has become very apparent to me that we are not alone. Most of my friends are also carrying debt. Some are worried. Some are not. One amazing friend told me how she found herself £7k in debt after unexpectedly becoming an unemployed single mother. Prior to her becoming single, she hadn’t viewed the debt as a problem. It was just something she lived with. It was only when her circumstances radically changed, that it became a problem. This fabulous amazing woman, in circumstances that would floor mere mortals, took stock, and took action. She is one of the savviest women I know, and I shall be picking her brains for tips.

But it’s an interesting thought; how many people if they found themselves in a life changing situation tomorrow would be in a financial stable place? We certainly wouldn’t, and Step-Change believes that one in ten of us would need to borrow within a week if we lost our jobs.

So, in order to get ourselves sorted, very simplistically, we need to spend less than we earn. YES! This is exactly like rocket science. But just like trying to lose weight, just knowing that you have to eat fewer calories than you burn, doesn’t magically make it happen.

To lose the weight of our debt, we need to 1) develop money mindfulness 2) spend less 3) earn more.

Mindfulnes.

I am trying to think of every decision I make as having a financial consequence. Not just purchasing ‘goods and services’ but in every day actions such as using the tumble drier, or putting the kettle on. Having considered the consequence, I am then free to make a choice. A bit mentally exhausting at first, but I’m in the habit now, and it’s having some amazing results. Best of all, I haven’t banned myself from anything, I am still free to choose to do whatever I like. But it is surprising how many decisions are made through habit and association. Such as getting a coffee from a certain coffee shop, or chatting on the home phone when I still have free minutes in my mobile. And how many times I boil the kettle, and then forget to make the tea!
2 Spending less
Good news on the energy front. I am a bit neche, and so have the heating on a timer. We have decided to put it on, only when I feel cold, instead of “because I might get cold” I have also been submitting weekly meter readings, so that I can track what we are using, and keeping a close eye on the energy monitor. Result? We have cut our usage by one third, and as we are coming to the end of a fixed rate deal, I have been able to negotiate a reduction of £40 per month off our energy bills. I expect this to come down further once our changes have had longer to bed in.

Other notable savings this month have been gained from

Making Mother’s Day gifts and birthday gifts (tutorial available) saving £60
Using a mobile hairdresser for family haircuts saving £15 per trip
Reviewing direct debits, subscriptions etc £15 per month
Reviewing Phone contracts saving £10 per month
Monthly food shop…. £250. Really proud of this!

3. Earn a bit more

We haven’t quite got into the swing of this yet. As a freelancer working in education, my earnings are a bit up and down. Over the year, it averages out at a good salary, but there are times when I have a fair bit of downtime, such as school holidays. When my children were young I really valued this time with them, but now they are older, I don’t need to worry about childcare, so my aim is to seek more contracts to fill the summer holiday void. So far, I have picked up some workshop delivery at the local library, and some assessment work. This will definately help with the cash flow.

Other income

Ebay….a bit….we really need to get into the loft and get rid of some junk! Made £120 this month though, just selling a few coats and children’s clothes, so not bad. That’s straight towards the credit card debt.

Car boot sale. I used to love doing these in years gone by, before Ebay even existed, and can’t wait to get my pasting table out again. I’ve buddied up with a friend, picked a date next month, when it’s a bit warmer (told you I was neche) and I will let you know how I do.

Better go. There’s a loft waiting for me to rummage around in.. Xx

 

 

 

 

 

Up-cycled Zippy Doorstop Tutorial

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I love making gifts, and these doorstops are so easy!

This one was made from a cotton duvet set bought from a charity shop, with wadding from freecycle, and cat litter from Aldi.

I love the 70’s feel, of the fabric, and it is so bright and cheery.

It has honestly taken me longer to work out how to upload the tutorial to this blog, than to make it!

Just click on the link below for full instructions.

Up cycled doorstop

Cheap Days Out With Teens

It is with great fondness that I look back on my children’s younger years, and remember how happy they used to be with a trip to the park, or a splash in the puddles, or digging up some worms.   If you have to spend money to have some fun with little children, then you are having the wrong kind of fun.

Fast forward a few years, and it is a little bit harder to keep my kids happy for free.  Well, that’s not strictly true, as they are very happy playing on the X-Box all day, and that’s free – but it’s not acceptable.

Firstly, they are adults now, and have to pay as such.  At well over 6 feet, and with facial hair, I can’t pretend that they are 12 any more.  (That’s my boys by the way, my daughter does not have facial hair – she is keen that I point that out to you.)  Secondly, as young adults with their own minds, they are instantly dismissive of anything that I suggest – and so I have to think outside the box a little.

However, we have still managed to find a few days out that are either free, or that offer great value for money.  It goes without saying that now we are focussing on saving every penny we can, we will be doing more of the following…….

Art Galleries and Museums

We are based in the Midlands, and are seriously blessed with some wonderful FREE exhibitions and galleries.   Walsall Art Gallery has an amazing Jacob Epstein collection, and as I write I am just back from a Grayson Perry exhibition in Birmingham. FREE!!   We also regularly catch the train to other cities, and visit the FREE! jewels in their crowns.  Did I mention that these are FREE! – although you probably should donate something in the box at the end – for Karma.

There are some seriously fab free museums and collection in London – our favourites are the National Portrait Gallery, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.  With our family railcard, we can get to London for £20 return, off peak, if booked in advance.

Although my kids often have a moan about going to a gallery, they are never bored once there, and usually find something that stimulates some discussion on the way home.  An exhibition at the Tate St Ives, depicting humans ‘intimate’ relations with animals stimulated quite a lot of discussion as I recall……

National Trust

Ok – not free. But a year’s family membership with one adult is £45 and children are classed as under 18’s.  So this does offer excellent value for money.   There are some stunning properties throughout the country, and I don’t think we will run out of places to visit.   Membership also means that we can get free parking in a variety of Natural Beauty Spots, and can camp in some fabulous areas of natural beauty.

Leisure Passes

Our local leisure centre offers a family leisure pass. The children get their own card, and so can go independently of their embarrassing parents.  They get a third off fitness activities including badminton and swimming.  Which means they can afford to pay for the activities out of their own money.  Result!

Cinema

We don’t go to the cinema very often any more, as it is still a very dear night out. We tend to have film nights at home, with home- made popcorn, and a movie or box set from Netflix or Virgin.   However, it is nice once in a while, particularly for a big blockbuster movie, and there are ways to reduce the price of tickets.  Odeon are currently offering 2 for 1 on tickets, and the Orange Wednesday 2 for 1 cinema tickets promotion is another good way to halve the cost.  You can also buy cinema tickets with a Tesco Clubcard.

And of course – we take our own sweeties and drinks!

Tesco Clubcard

I don’t shop in Tesco’s any more, as I find it way too dear, and the bogus ‘promotion prices’ make my brain ache.   However, we always get petrol from Tesco’s to collect the Clubcard points, and as the husband does a monster commute to work, this adds up to some serious pointage.

My points have been used to buy a family railcard, purchase train travel with Red Spotted Hanky, and also entrance fees for some amazing days out that even my recalcitrant teens have enjoyed, including Camera Obscura, the War Rooms, the Falkirk Wheel, and Dynamic Earth.  Have a look on http://www.tesco.com/clubcard/ and see what you fancy.

I’d love to hear how you save money on days out with your teens.

Ta ta speak later.

xxx

Five Ways To Enjoy Christmas (in March)

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Christmas is Coming. Fa la la la la, la la la la la

At the time of writing, there are only 295 days, 4 hours and 21 mins to go. By the time I get around to actually posting, there will be fewer….

I am not one of those women who goes into Christmas meltdown because everything has to be perfect. I’m fairly chilled about buying gifts at the last minute, think tree ‘themes’ are stupid. I wrap gifts like a man and I enjoy eating and drinking too much. However, I do usually end up having some kind of meltdown, and it is usually financial in origin.

Christmas just comes at the wrong time of year!

Here’s why. Christmas and New Year are traditionally times to weigh up your life, and decide whether you want more or less in it. Eighteen, 16 and 14 years ago, I decided that I would quite like some more people in my life, and that I would quite like to squeeze them in before the following Christmas so that I could indulge in some Xmas cheer. Consequently, we have three children’s birthdays, all within two months of Christmas. Oh, and we got married at Christmas too. Oh, and its my birthday in December as well. Oh, and as a Freelancer, the run up to Christmas is one of my leaner times.

What this all means is, generally, by the end of November, we have usually reached the very limits of our generous overdraft, and end up scrabbling around for bits of money. We throw some stuff on the credit card, which we will have intended to pay off previously, but haven’t quite got around to, and we get very stressed and shout at each other a lot. Then, immediately after Christmas comes a massive tax bill, which we are never ready for, even though we have had 12 months to prepare for it.

Then, sometime around Feb, the husband gets his yearly bonus, which almost fills the overdraft hole, and we almost get back to square one. And we breathe again, and swear that it will be different next year, because… (a million reasons blah blah blah). And then it happens again the following year.

By the way, I hate to tell people that Husband gets a ‘bonus’. Since the banking crisis, the word ‘bonus’ has become interchangeable with ‘a million pounds given to people who haven’t earned it”. It isn’t a million pounds, and he definately earns it.

So this year I am going to plan ahead, and I mean Like now!

Here are the 5 ways I am going to kick Christmas’s ass, and enter 2015 with a bit of cash, and my sanity.

1 Love to Shop Vouchers

These are a simple way of saving a little each month, and then you receive vouchers to spend in a large number of shops. You get back exactly what you put in, and are a nice way to save a little extra. Plus, as they are vouchers, there is no way that they can get accidentally swallowed up in the overdraft hole. We are also putting some money away each month in a tax free savings account for the post Xmas tax bill.

2 Charity Shop Gifts

I really hope none of my ‘giftees’ are reading this, but there is a high probability that your next present came from the cancer research shop in Brownhills…which is by far the best charity shop I have ever been in! At the moment, the shop is full of brand new, unopened, expensive looking department store gifts, donated by kind people who were given stuff they didn’t want.

3. Make stuff.

Little proviso here, make stuff that you are good at, and that you would want to receive. Unless you are a child, in which case you can be a bit rubbish. Don’t be fooled by the trend in many ‘craft stores’ to charge you a small fortune to buy the stuff you need to make your home made goodies. Sure, make your own jam but don’t be fooled that you need to strain it through a hand woven muslin into a fancy jar that cost a tenner…

4. Don’t devour as much

I always over cater. Unless my guests are groaning with discomfort, and pissed as newts, I don’t feel that I’ve done my job as a hostess properly. I also feel acute anxiety if a plate is cleared, as this is evidence that I didn’t make enough. Consequently, I spend obscene amounts of money trying to make people happy giving them food they can’t eat, and that gets thrown away. So, I apologise if you’re coming over to ours this Christmas. You may find you can still do up your zip when you leave.

5 Budget

This feels so silly to write, it should be so bleeding obvious. But we have never properly budgeted for Christmas. We’ve always just kind of reacted to it. We need to decide how much we are prepared to spend,and then spend that. As opposed to what we usually do, which is decide what we want to buy, and then wonder how on earth it cost so much. And then cry.

Happy Christmas everyone. Xxxxx