A Girl Needs a Tidy In-Box

I love shopping on-line. It’s one of the easiest ways to save money. Whenever I need to make a purchase I shop around from the comfort of my own home to ensure I get the best deal, and hopefully earn a little bit of cash back to boot.  I try and buy nearly everything on line, with the exception of the weekly food shop which I prefer to do in person.  Heck – I even buy my loo roll on-line, in bulk.

However, as I can’t resist a bargain, when it comes to the part of the on-line order where it politely asks whether you would  like to be informed of future offers, I have a very bad habit of ticking ‘yes’.  I WOULD like to know about every special offer EVER!!!  Please constantly bombard my inbox with daily deals, buy it now or it’s gone forever offers and invitations to treat myself to something nice at half price.  I would especially like to receive emails on my phone in the middle of the night accompanied by a little ping. I wouldn’t want to miss a bargain by being asleep would I?

These emails are powerfully persuasive. Even if we don’t click on them, their very presence keeps the company name at the forefront of our minds.  They are a little reminder that  we could be spending, we SHOULD be spending on holidays, clothes, household goods, health treatments, the kids, spa days, treats etc.  They create a void-like feeling within us, and then we develop a craving to fill that void.  As an illustration, how often have you felt perfectly satisfied until you saw a fast food advert and then found that you really fancied a burger.  And then you either felt guilty because you ate a burger when you didn’t really want one, or miserable because you have denied yourself a burger, even though you didn’t want it 10 minutes earlier.  Email marketing works in exactly the same way.  All marketing is aimed at making us feel a bit unsettled, and then promising to end that feeling through the purchase of a product.  And with email marketing you can click on that link and satiate your hunger for ‘stuff’ instantly.

Things came to a head over Christmas.  I vowed not to  look at my emails for two weeks as I wanted to take a proper break from work.  When I checked on Jan 5th I found that  I had received 250 separate marketing emails. And six from work colleagues. And one Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert Newsletter (which I recommend everyone should subscribe to -here’s a link http://www.moneysavingexpert.com )

Time to take action.  And fortunately that action is easy.  The law states that every marketing email sent must give the person the ability to opt out of (or ‘unsubscribe from’) further emails.  Now the ‘unsubscribe’ link is usually tiny, and usually at the bottom of every email, and usually hidden amid lots and lots of irrelevant text, but it will be there. It has to be otherwise the company is breaking the law. So this week as each email has arrived, I have unsubscribed from it.

No more temptation. A nice tidy in-box for me!

Happy New Year!

Hope yours is thrifty, healthy and happy.

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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!

How did it come to THIS??

MY-Ohana-Luxury-yacht-charter Check me out on my luxury yacht!

That’s not actually me on a luxury yacht. I’ve never been on a luxury yacht, or worn luxury clothes, or bought luxury jewellery. (I do drive a luxury car, but that’s a different story). It’s safe to say I am not a high maintenance kind of a gal. So how come I got into such a debty mess?

There is still a hint of shame around being in debt. There is an assumption that you must have been wasteful, greedy, avaricious or foolish. Trust me, I’m none of those things. What happened to my family could happen to anyone. I think if most people looked at their finances honestly, they would realise that they are just couple of bad decisions and a bit of bad luck away from a debt problem. And that’s exactly what happened to us – a few bad decisions and a bit of bad luck.

Getting into debt doesn’t happen in one go. For us it happened over a period of six years.  Little by little. We had planned to live abroad and took the bold step of moving to Germany along with our young children. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for a variety of reasons and we had to move back a mere 12 months later.  The move had been expensive, and exhausting.  I had also given up my job prior to moving and then found myself jobless upon my return.  Desperate to earn some money I took the first position that was offered to me.  I loved the people I worked with but the job itself along with trying to juggle family commitments left me drained and exhausted. I developed anxiety disorder and for a short while became completely unable to leave the house without suffering from debilitating panic attaks. This of course left me completely unable to work, and I wasn’t entitled to any sick pay.

I realised to get better I would need Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and some drugs.  The NHS were very happy to give me drugs, but there was a six month waiting list for CBT.  So I chose to pay to get better immediately.  I have never regretted this decision as I did get better very quickly and I would urge anyone else to do the same. I am very thankful that I got help in time before the anxiety and depression became an entrenched and permanent state of being.

As I got better, I started to think about returning to the work I had done prior to moving abroad. I realised to my horror that the world had moved on quite a bit.  My field of expertise, Early Years and the arts – was having funding cut left right and centre. Many of my contacts were no longer working.  I was forced to accept jobs for half the daily rate I was charging before the recession and there really wasn’t a lot of work about.

And then we lost our family allowance. And the cost of energy rose. And the Council tax rose. And the price of food rose.  Etc. Etc.  You’ve all felt the pinch of the current recession I’m sure.

Throughout all of this, my husband’s income meant that at no point have we been at risk of going completely under, for which I am extremely thankful.  We have never ever been in the position where we couldn’t pay the mortgage or pay the bills. But each month we would have overspent a little. At first we didn’t notice, but then it really began to add up. If we had dealt with this immediately, we could have stopped the situation getting worse, but for the reasons described above, I just didn’t feel able to tackle it.  I just let it remain in the background and hoped it would go away, or just thinking that the next pay rise, or bonus, or the next big contract would get it sorted.

Fast forward a few years and it became very obvious that this problem wasn’t going to go away on it’s own, and thus the Thrifty Ninja was born.  The voucher loving, deal hunting,10p bread seeking, side hustling, charity shop hawking, penny pincher you know and love.

I’m really pleased to be able to report that being a mean old cow who refuses to put the heating on has worked a treat and we are almost debt free. The feeling of relief and excitement is amazing.  But the next challenge will be to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and part of that process is to be really honest about why it happened in the first place.

Fight frugal fatigue with imaginary eyewear!!

Those of you who are also living a long term thrifty life, either to pay off a debt or because times are tight will be very very familiar with frugal fatigue. This affliction sets in sometime after the initial enthusiasm and gusto of taking financial control has worn off.

Making a decision to live a thrifty lifestyle is almost fun at first. The feeling of taking control of any problem is always empowering and a bit thrilling, if a little bit scary. (Writing a blog about it adds an extra frisson!)

The savings we made in those first few months were huge. We had spent years not paying very much attention to where our money was going. Just by making an effort to take notice, removing non essentials, shifting some debts around, finding the cheapest utilities and changing where we shopped instantly reduced our spending by hundreds per month. You can do the same by visiting the Money Saving Expert site and following the money makeover tips.

But, as each month passes, the savings to be made get progressively smaller. You begin to look at ways to save pennies, and to postpone necessary purchases until times are better. Little things start to get you down. The fact that you have denied yourself all month and still not managed to make an overpayment on a debt. Arguing with your partner as they really want to buy something you believe is non-essential, and because you are secretly resentful that they want to buy that lovely thing for themselves rather than asking if you’d like something. Functioning irons and vacuum cleaners are reclassified as luxury items. Having to say no to social occasions. It all starts to feel like too much hard work, and you long to be able to blow some money on some frippery. These frustrations build until you just feel ground down and a bit miserable.

Then to make you feel a bit shittier, summer arrives, and facebook steps up. Friends post all their lovely smiley holiday pictures from far flung destinations, or let you know they’re off to a spa day, because they’ve been working really really hard and they’re worth it. And slowly and almost imperceptibly you begin to get really grumpy at them instead of pleased for them. This is probably the worst feature of frugal fatigue. Resentment. You refuse to press ‘like’ on their status updates; silent protest at their rampant bragging about all the money they have to throw away.

And this is not good or healthy. I was reading a Mummy blog this week, and she introduced me to the concept of Perspectacles. Wearing perspectacles allows the wearer to see things as they really are, and to take the wider picture into account.

My Perspectacles are not designer, on the contrary, they have been fashioned from recycled tin cans. Nevertheless, as soon as I pop them on I can see the following.

1. My lovely gorgeous friends are completely entitled to go on holidays. I too have been on holidays. They’re great! By getting this financial crap out of the way now, I am ensuring that I will be able to afford some kick-ass holidays in the future. Especially once we’ve jettisoned a few kids! (Too dear to take with). When I do go on my kick-ass holiday, I promise not to brag about it on facebook.

2. Not having enough money to go on a fabulous holiday or buy some new clothes for a couple of years is not the same as never having enough money to go on any holiday or buy clothes. There is an end to this. If all goes to plan we will be straight again this time next year. This, actually, makes us really really fortunate. Some people are trapped in real actual poverty for real, for ever, and watching the pennies is not some wussy lifestyle choice.

3. Overspend this month was due to a hefty dentist bill. I can afford to pay the dentist. Which means I will continue to have teeth. This is a good thing although the root planing was not a good thing. It was as unpleasant as it sounds.

4. Having to watch the pennies still feels loads better than the relentless nagging anxiety and stress caused by worrying about running out of money entirely. I am in control. No alarms and no surprises.

5. The future is bright. Our long term financial forecast is good. This is a relatively short term inconvenience.

Having read this post, I now realise that I sound like a totally spoiled wuss. I am tempted to delete this post altogether so that you continue to believe I am a nice lady and not some spoiled, bitter, resentful old cow. However, I’m going to leave it up, as everyone has moments where we need to put our Perspectacles on. Whether it’s worrying about our bodies, our jobs, our families or our health.

And anyway, perspectacles may well just be the best ever made up thing that should be a real thing EVER!

I’m off to visit the dragons den with two tin cans tied together with garden twine to see if I can make me a million……

MIXED BEAN GOULASH

Tea tonight. Mixed bean goulash courtesy of Jack Monroe. Subbed marmite for Worcestershire sauce and tastes yum.

COOKING ON A BOOTSTRAP

Photography by Susan Bell: www.susanbellphotography.co.uk Photography by Susan Bell: http://www.susanbellphotography.co.uk

I never tire of this quick, simple meal. Originally adapted from a beef goulash recipe, but tweaked and tampered with in the way that all recipes are, it has become a sweet and spicy staple in my household and doesn’t disappoint. I use cheap baked beans in place of haricot beans, as they are simply haricot or borlotti beans slathered in sauce – but usually for a third of the price of a tin of plain haricot or borlotti beans. Eat warm on toast, with rice, or stuffed in a pitta bread with lashings of cheese for lunch. Eat from the bowl, water it down and eat it as a soup, or eat it straight from the pan in the name of ‘testing’. Or, for a slightly Mexican twist, have it with tortillas, some grated cheese, sliced red onion and lettuce, with some lime or…

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The Thrifty Paradox.

Since we began our thrifty adventure, I have noticed something very strange.

You have to spend to save.

Yes really.

The secret to our improving financial position is that I am spending money more frequently. I feel I should explain.

When we first started trying to tackle our worsening financial position, we convinced ourselves that if we were just more disciplined, bought fewer things, went out less, said ‘no’ more, then it would just happen that we would spend less and the debt would go.

This is the impression given by TV shows such as Spendaholics, where people are given £40 for the week and told to get on with it and then, as if by magic all of their problems disappear.

But, month after month we made no inroads. We ended up each Christmas in exactly the same position as the previous, in fact usually worse. And we we’re cross, grumpy, and feeling deprived.

(Christmas is my personal financial line in the sand…I’ve spent the last three in a state of abject panic. I will know I have succeeded in turning things around when I can get through a whole Christmas break without crying).

This ‘no spend’ , ‘be more disciplined’ approach simply did not work.

Why?

Just like when on a diet, you can’t cut all food from your life, you still have to eat. Trying to eat nothing at all just leads to crankiness, cravings and an unhealthy relationship with food. It also leads ultimately to bingeing. The key is to eat an abundance of the right quality foods in the right proportions, at the right times.

So it is with spending. Unless you really want to take up a no spend challenge (I know people do, but I consider them to be financial anorexics) you have to spend something. The children need school uniforms. We all need food. Friends have birthdays. I have a birthday! I like going to the theatre. I enjoy meeting friends for coffee. I need to drive a car. Our hair grows and we don’t wish to look like scarecrows. And Christmas happens every year, God dammit!

The secret for me has been to be more mindful, and to take more opportunities to buy. Yes. I shall say that again. I shop more.

When I was trying to avoid all spending, I would only go to the shops when a purchase became absolutely necessary, leading to panic buying. For example, the kids uniform would all be bought in one mad panic the day before school started. No surprises here but shops don’t tend to offer discounted goods the day before school starts. They also tend to not have a lot of stock left. I would end up paying inflated prices on things that weren’t quite right. Now, when I see that there is an offer on an item of uniform, I’ll buy it and put it away for when I need it.

Previously, if a friend had a birthday get together, I would rush to the shops that morning, and buy something in such a frenzy, that the gift was neither prudent or appropriate. I have now assembled a little box of ‘thoughtful gifts’ that I have picked up in sales, markets and on the internet.

The internet is great for picking up bargains. Facebook pages such as Facebay and Bargain Buys for Busy Mums regularly post details of hugely reduced items. It was via this page that I learned of the massive reductions in a House of Fraser sale. I managed to pick up 10 children’s Christmas gifts for £50. Full price on these items would have been £150. I also bulk buy items such as loo roll and washing powder from sites such as Groupon.

In addition to being a more cost effective way to shop, a further benefit of this is that it has put me back in touch with my local community. I live in a beautiful midlands market town but I rarely visited our town centre, more frequently choosing to get in the car and drive to the nearest retail park.

I now cycle to the town centre regularly and find that the items I can pick up outside of the usual high street stores are unique, and reasonable. I have made other connections too. While picking up some sausages in the local butcher, an old school friend served me, and we got chatting. In addition to serving meaty delights, she had recently set up as a mobile hairdresser. She now cuts the kids hair at a fraction of the cost of our old salon.

I often hear people say that they don’t have the time to shop like this. And that used to be my reasoning too. I felt I was far too busy, and I genuinely thought I was saving time doing everything by the seat of my pants. But I now feel I SAVE time by shopping in this way. I already have the kids uniform. I don’t have to waste a whole day dragging them reluctantly around the shops, and then find time to go back and pick up the bits I’ve missed. Likewise birthday gifts, hostess gifts, Christmas gifts etc. It’s easy to mistake feeling rushed and panicked for being busy. I am busier with work than I ever been and shopping in this way has actually freed up a huge amount of time and more importantly mental energy.

I Would love to hear your thoughts. How do you shop?

Lots of love

The Thrifty Ninja xxxx

Friday Night Fakeaways

In our previous lives, and for as long as I can remember, Friday night has been takeaway night. Fish and chips, curry, Chinese, or pizza eaten decadently in the living room in front of a good film. No washing up, no planning, no chopping, no moaning from the kids – it was a little weekly treat for all of us. But at between £15 and £20 a week (that’s between £780 and £1040 per year!!!!!!!) it is a treat we can no longer afford.

So, inspired by the fantastic blog by Skint Dad, Saturday night Fakeaway I have begun to think of Friday night as Fakeaway night. Takeaway food, but prepared in my own kitchen. My rules are that it needs to come in at under a fiver and involve as little washing up or faff as possible.

So, every Friday, I will share what we at Thrifty Towers are consuming. I will also let you know how much it is costing.  The dish won’t make the cut if it takes longer than half an hour to prepare.

I’m no Nigella, so it goes without saying that all of the recipes will be easy peasy, and use ingredients that you can buy from value ranges, and can easily substitute for other ones.

This Fridays offering is Sweet and Sour Chicken

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Feeds four people for £3.57p (ish)

Ingredients

2 x Chicken leg portions. £2
Sugar snap peas (or peppers) 50g 50p
Tin pineapple chunks. 50p
Onion (chopped). 10p
8 tbsps Tomato ketchup
(Or passata). 2p
2 tbsp muscovado sugar. 20p
2 tbsps malt vinegar. 5p

Portion of rice to serve 20p

Put a little oil in a flat bottomed pan and fry the onion and chopped sugar snap peas until soft. Add the chicken to brown it off. If slow cooking, transfer everything to slow cooker.

In a jug mix the tomato sauce, piñeapple including juice, vinegar, and sugar.

Add to slow cooker, or pan.
If slow cooking cook on low for 4 hours, or high for about 2.
If not slow cooking, bring to a simmer, and cook for about half an hour.

Serve with rice.

Enjoy on lap with a good film. 😀

I would do anything for thrift….but I won’t do THAT!!

I wrote in my last blog about how much I am enjoying developing new skills that have enabled me to save a little bit of money. These have included grooming the dog, building a bike shed, and mending a loo seat. Heavens, I have even cut my own hair this week.

However, I have realized that there are some things I am simply not prepared to compromise. However much they cost, and despite the fact that hard cord thrifters may consider me to be a rookie lightweight, I am simply not prepared to budge on these important essentials.

In no particular order these are:

Eyebrow shaping
A well groomed brow takes years off a woman. Better than Botox, more effective than a facial. I have tried plucking. OW! I only got as far as completing one before taking to my bed with a migraine. I have tried home waxing, but ended up with a slightly perplexed lopsided expression. So, threading at my local salon it is, even though they look down on me like I am some kind of unkempt bag lady when I walk in. Clearly, not their usual class of customer.

Dog poo bags
Yes yes, I know. Hardy thrifters use pound shop nappy bags. But you can see the poo through them!! ARGGhHhH!!!! And, even worse, you can FEEL the poo through them!! No. No. No. I need industrial strength poo bags with the approximate thickness and transparency of a yoga mat. Thank you. I knew you would understand.

My dentist
He is not NHS. He is a private practitioner. I know that the standard of treatment given by the NHS is second to none and as could save myself a small fortune by transferring to another dentist. But I am not blessed with strong teeth, and I have a real fear of that chair. He is the only man who has ever managed to fill my molars without having to knock me out first. He is really kind and gentle and I trust him, so he stays.

My hobby

I sing in a choral society that has pretty hefty membership and show fees. Getting there involves quite a drive, and so there are petrol costs. There are lots of free choirs nearer my home that I could easily join. But over the years I have made many good friends, and joining together for a good old sing is balm for the soul. The benefits for mental well being have been proved by science and everything. So singing stays! Tra la la.

What are you not prepared to compromise?

Lots of love

Thrifty Ninja

The Shitty Side of Make Do and Mend

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I have to admit, I get more than a little peeved with the modern rose tinted take on ‘Make Do and Mend’.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not wasteful, and I try to get as much life out of every item as I possibly can.   

What I particularly dislike is the rebranding of previous generations of Make Do and Menders as happy, rosy cheeked, chirpy, patriotic types who sewed for victory and never complained. This image suits modern marketers who want us to spend our modern disposable incomes on trying to recreate the frugality of 1940’s by buying mountains of retro fabric, buttons, crochet hooks and new sewing machines.  

I grew up in a family who through necessity made do and mended, and I can honestly say that it was pretty shitty. 

The memories of my childhood are not of Mum merrily whistling as she craftily fashioned my 70’s flares into an A line skirt. The lack of money was  a constant source of tension, and discord between my Mum and Dad. My memories are of my Mum’s angry tears as she discovered Dad had stored engine parts in the oven (to warm them up for some reason) or had spilled battery acid on the work surfaces. I remember that the twin tub leaked every wash day, and the spin cycle was a bit erratic. We would subsequently have to endure a long walk to the launderette with sacs of wet washing. I remember that our house was pretty much held together with pollyfiller and duct-tape and was very very cold.  Apart from the time the airing cupboard set on fire due to some faulty wiring.  It was warm then. 

Cars were usually the main source of tension, as we could not afford to take them to a garage to be mended.  Every morning we would have to push the car down the hill and jump start it, then drive round the estate like boy racers to get the battery charged. At traffic lights and junctions one had to keep the revs very high in case of stalling. Nearby pedestrians would flee, thinking you were about to mow them down.  I even had to to do this during my driving test. 

When one car finally gave up the ghost, Dad, convinced he would have to pay someone to take it away, made our drive his own personal breakers yard.  Armed with a hammer and a saw, he reduced the car to tiny pieces, lovingly saving parts that he could use for spares.  All of which caused my Mum to have an actual breakdown, flee to a hostel, and refuse to come back until he removed all traces of the wreckage. 

So, as I grew up, not surprisingly, I began to think of being able to pay an ‘expert’ some ‘money’ to do things for me, as desirable. Car not working?- take it to a garage and someone will fix it. No tears.  Washing machine broken?  Buy a new one!  No hassle. Decorating needs doing?  Fine – I’ll see if any friends can recommend someone good. Dog looking a bit scruffy?  Book him in at the groomers.  

I see that this habit has cost me a lot of money over the years, and actually I have more skills than I think I do. 

So, whilst I am not whistling a merry tune and hanging out the bunting – I have done a few things for myself recently that have saved me a few pennies.

1 I groomed my own dog! With scissors and clippers, and he didn’t look too bad.

2 I put up a curtain pole.  With a drill.  Go me!

3 I have replaced the seal on the washing machine. 

4 I mended a wobbly toilet seat. With a screwdriver (yes, really I would have asked someone to do that for me)

Little steps I know. But important ones none the less. And as the months go by, I am sure there will be more things that I will learn to do for myself. 

Better go – I must dig for victory. I’d love to hear of things you now do that you used to pay someone else to do….

 

Jacqui xx