When Thrift Goes Wrong

When Thrift Goes WRONG….

At the beginning of our thrifty journey, we managed to make considerable savings by cutting out non- essentials such as cappuccinos. Easy peasy. I barely miss them and now cannot believe how much money I used to waste in this way! £300 a year for frothy coffee. I know, I’m ashamed.

I have also had to start looking at ways to reduce the cost of things that are essential. I’ve been bulk buying and stockpiling items such as shampoo, toothpaste, loo rolls, dishwasher tablets and washing powder. Our garage looks like a branch of Costco.

However, my attempts to save money have not always ended happily. Dear blog readers, I am going to share the terrible consequences of what can happen when thrift goes wrong. Please do not read any further if you are of a nervous disposition for my story concerns – Aunty Flow.

Did you know that the average woman gets through about 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, to the tune of about £1000. Since the Tax MAN – (it has to be a man!) thinks that these are non-essential luxury items, we also pay VAT on them. Incidentally exotic meats such as horse, crocodile, ostrich or kangaroo are exempt. (If you think this is a bit of a bloody cheek – you can sign a petition here:   http://www.change.org/p/george-osborne-stop-taxing-periods-period).

So when I heard about something called a Mooncup I thought I’d give it a go. It promises to offer an end to the waste, discomfort and expense of disposable sanitary protection. Off to Boots I ventured to begin my new life as a thrifty eco diva.

The Mooncup comes in two sizes. Size A, for youthful nymphs under 30 and size B, for those of us who erm…..aren’t.

It looks like a harmless little egg -cup and is fashioned from silicone. It is supposed to sit happily up your fanjo, protecting your borders from the Communist invasion.

To insert, you simply roll it up, smuggle it past the border, allow it to expand, and then turn it clockwise until a certain degree of suction is created. Except it is made from bendy slippy silicone and, I’m sure they can’t have overlooked the simple fact that during the week in which it is needed, one’s ‘’hoo- hah” is quite liberally lubricated with B negative.

My first time wasn’t a happy experience. However, after a mere two hours of chasing the escapey bouncy slippy thing around the bathroom, I was finally happy with the fit and confident that it would not leak like a rusty pipe.

I ventured out to Aldi to do the shopping.

It was great. There was no leakage. It felt comfortable. Snug even. I allowed myself a little skip through the feminine hygiene section. I nodded smugly and smiled at a lady buying tampons.   All was progressing extremely well until I realised with horror that I was about to give birth to it.

Now, those of you who shop in Aldi will know that they don’t have toilets. I abandoned my trolley and shuffled off with my knees together. The nearest public toilet was located a short walk away in a nearby Tesco. Well, it’s a short walk if you are not in the second stage of labour and experiencing a considerable urge to push.

I found myself a cubicle and set about sorting myself out. My undergarments resembled a Quentin Tarantino set. I clasped the Mooncup and attempted to extract it. Only it felt like I was giving myself a do-it-yourself hysterectomy. Somehow the thing had twisted sideways and was stuck. There was only one thing for it. I gritted my teeth and pulled really really hard. Success! Out it plopped. But the thing was so slippery and bendy that I’m afraid I lost control. It bounced along the cubicle floor spraying it’s contents up the door and across the floor, and it disappeared into the next door cubicle. Which happened to be occupied.

I sat and calmly considered my options. I looked like I had slaughtered a chicken with my bare hands and the soap and water were located outside the cubicle. My only form of sanitary protection was also outside the cubicle. There was only one thing for it. I knelt down, slipped my bloodied hand under the cubicle wall and retrieved the Mooncup from the floor – remembering to say “SORRY” as I did so. I felt that this was polite and would therefore reassure the lady and make her less fearful.  “That’s okay” replied a bemused voice.

I shuffled to the sink, and like Lady Macbeth removed the evidence from my hands. I gave the Mooncup a nonchalant little rinse and returned to the cubicle to pop it in again.

I have never used it again.

In summary, clearly, not all thrifty decisions are good ones. However I’m loathed to throw this Mooncup in the bin after spending so much money on it. Do you think I could sell it on Ebay? It’s only been used once…..

The Freelance Ninja’s Guide to Getting Paid…

Hello all….

I have been a self employed sole trader for about 14 years now.  I was properly employed by a proper employer for a bit, but it really wasn’t for me!  However, the one good thing about proper employment was that the money arrived in the bank account on the same day every month. Even if I had taken a holiday or been a bit poorly, the same amount would credit my account on the same day each month. I could plan. I could budget. I could relax.

Many freelancers will tell you that one of the most irksome things about being self employed is the uncertainty over payment.  You do the work, you issue the invoice, you wait, you wait, you wait…you chase up……you wait you wait, you go overdrawn and then finally with a bit of luck – you get paid. Hopefully.

Such cash-flow trauma is a complete pain when you are trying to manage on a tight budget. Here are my top tips for getting paid a decent amount, in a timely manner.

1 Contracts – make sure there is one….

When quoting for work or negotiating a contract make sure that you let the client know exactly how much you will be charging and what your terms are. And then make sure that this is confirmed in writing prior to starting the job.  If a client can’t or won’t get to within a stone’s throw of my terms, then I will generally bow out. Your field of work, your industry norms and your own circumstances will dictate what terms are acceptable for you, but once you have decided what they are, don’t compromise and get them agreed in writing!

2  Get Organised with your invoices

Depending on the size and complexity of your business/freelancing, put aside an appropriate amount of time per month to deal with your finances. I devote the last working day of each month to issuing invoices for work undertaken for that month.  Having all invoices issued on the same day, and all with the same 30 days terms means that they are all due within the same time frame too.  Which means that it is really obvious if a client is late in paying. I know many freelance artists who work with so many organisations that they simply lose track of who they’ve invoiced, who has paid and who hasn’t. Which brings me neatly onto my next point –

3  Don’t be afraid to ask for the money

You’ve done the work – you are perfectly entitled to get paid. This seems so simple and yet I hear many of my colleagues and peers really agonising about asking for money.  This seems to be particularly marked with individuals providing services to members of the public. I know many people who provide fantastic services who hesitate to ask for payment or feel guilty about reminding people who haven’t paid.  Set out your terms and conditions very clearly at the beginning or your relationship.  With organisations or individuals who consistently don’t pay or who make excuses, then be very firm and refuse to let them access your services. Be ruthless!  Drop ’em! Which reminds me, I must remember to pay my dog walker as I didn’t have my purse with me today…….oops!

4  Know your Clients

I have one client whose accounts department seems a little scatty to say the least.  They pay, but always a little bit late.  And their excuse is always that my invoice hadn’t been put onto the system.  So now I always phone one week after the invoice is issued – just to check they’ve received it.   And guess what? They don’t mess me about any more!

5  Don’t Undersell Yourself 

In addition to making sure you get paid on time, you also need to make sure that you get paid a decent amount.  Be wary of trying to win work by coming in with the cheapest quote, and of organisations or individuals that ask you to do things for free to build your exposure. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked to work for nothing or a fee so pitiful that it would barely cover the petrol money. My reply is not really printable.  Remember that you are not being paid for an hour of your time, but for a lifetime of experience and training that make you good at the thing you do.  Your knowledge of your own experience and industry standards in your field will help you decide what your daily/hourly rate should be, but once decided stick to it.

Any other freelancers out there struggle with any of these issues?

Would love to hear from you….

Love from the Thrifty Ninja!