And I’m back….

So I went AWOL again, I feel like life has just been weird and constantly full of mild anxiety. We had a horrible time with hubby’s work, my work has continued and we have lost some lovely elderly people (at work, not home, not covid, just end of life stuff) and covid has had my moods swinging like a flag in the wind!

We have continued to over pay the mortgage, pay down the credit card, then added more onto it (more on that later), put on weight and moved less, then started to think about food again and move more…

We made a veg bed and are slowly filling it with gravel, then will come the soil and I can plant plants, I have been infusing vodkas, fun! Hubby now has a new job starting in a month which will see our incomes decrease, and hopefully stress levels decrease. We have booked to go back to Florida in January, have no idea when the wedding we were meant to be going to in New York is going to be so thats on pause.

Little dog developed a lump and has been lame on his front leg, apparently a fatty lump and probable arthritic changes, can do an x ray but he is such a stresshead and treatment won’t change so not doing it. He has tramadol in the mornings, metacam in the evenings, and we continue on yumove. Big dog just seems to be getting so much older, makes me sad, love them both so much! We lost our last three rescue chickens- all different symptoms and vets with no clue over two months, and adopted two more, Florence and Gertrude. They seem pretty happy and healthy, and they lay eggs! From reading, I think that unfortunately ex battery chucks don’t tend to have long lives as they have been egg laying machines. Hopefully they had a lovely two years.

Phew, that is life for the last few months! I am feeling more positive at the moment, so I am hoping to come back and start boring you all! I am also thinking of dedicating part of this blog to my issues with weight as this is a huge part of my life and difficulites and can feel complex and isolating.

We will have some actual money based updates soon too!

Hope everyone is well 🙂

I have been a little absent…

You may or may not have noticed my absence just recently. Even before covid19 shut the entire world down, I have been struggling a little with my mood being up and down affecting my eating massively, which in turn effects my mood!

I am avoidant in my personality, if I feel a certain way, I will shut off and avoid things that may or may not, make me feel worse, or in fact may make me feel better, as feeling shut off feels safe! I have not been struggling with depression or anything more than mild/moderate anxiety around specific situations, and have continued working etc. So it is nothing dramatic, just my brain and I disagreeing and arguing a lot!

Anyway, part of kicking my own brain/butt, is to carry on writing, as it can be really cathartic! So here I am, not in work until Thursday, wondering what I will do today to make me feel like I am making achievements, whilst maintaining social distancing, whilst also feeling very sad about our world, fears about our economy, my husbands future work and quite gutted that we are probably not going to New York at the end of May as we have been planning for 18months, which included a wedding in Central Park. A tiny part of me is hoping Covid19 will f*** off as quick as it seemed to come, but predicitions are that the UK will be hitting the peak in May/June.

I work in a Dementia Nursing Home, all my residents are unwell, both mentally and physically, which puts them in a very high risk group. We are following guidelines and working hard to keep everyone safe. Hubby may have to go and work abroad for a week on and off in another area of his work, as they have closed his local office- if people don’t go, they will have to look at redundancies, which is a frightening concept in this climate. This will put a lot of pressure on both of us, especially with the dogs, though my sister is not in Uni now and both part time jobs have closed, so I could engage her for dog sitting if Aran’s dad is unable to make it in. In good news, her Uni have adapted the end of the degree, so that it can all be done at home and fingers crossed, she will complete her degree and do her PGCE in September!

I have been more spendy these last couple of months, totally linked with my brain and I fighting. I do need new trainers so will be purchasing them and I have had to pay £120 today to carry on Nursing. Though I may be able to claim this back via work, might as well try!

We have decided to carry on overpaying the mortgage at this time, as we both are working and can change this any time if needed. We will wait and see if we need to ask for a mortgage holiday, we don’t yet, so may as well wait and see.

I paid another £200 off the credit card- if New York is cancelled, will probably end up with very little owed on the credit card once we have claimed pay back! It is about £4550 at the moment, still 0% until Dec 2020.

We have almost paid hubby back, so in May, we would be looking at that £150 being moved to the car loan- set interest so paying back doesn’t save money- so that will be paid back quicker- snowballing! Then in theory, we would combine both of these, £150 and £186 with my £200 and smash the credit card. Obviously, this is a little unsure now and credit card debt may change on its own. Hubby may end up losing his job anyways, or we could end up sick and not able to work so every penny will need to be saved, extra payments stopped etc. Also, if we don’t go to New York the £3k saved for that can be utilised in other necessary ways.

Trying to limit time on social media, I find myself getting very agitated by people sharing false news, angry statements, stupid statments, judgy statements. I also think that most people have no understanding of what is happening. We are not social distancing to stop covid19, but to slow its spread, in the UK they are certainly wanting the peak once seasonal flu has buggered off, so that they have more resources to treat it. People seem to think if we isolate a bit, it will disappear. And heck, it might! I am still trying to be a little hopeful that April will see some other awful thing happen and covid19 will ‘poof’ disappear! Every month of this year so far has been unpleasant in some way or another globally.

Have had unexpected pet related costs this year:

Jan 2020- Lady catches Red’s side when playing, he has a skin tear that requires emergency vets and two staples, £96. Healed very well and he is still crazy!

Feb 2020- Red chases a pheasant through brambles…comes out covered in cuts and a thorn in his eye!!! Another emergency vet app, £56. He has healed really well, getting his eye drops in 3/4 times a day was a nightmare! And yes, both dog related issues were on Red, he is a clumsy and crazy boy

So far in March, and there is still time! We have had to take a chicken- Blue- to the vets, as she had become very poorly. We got antibiotics, and she has perked up, but another chicken is now poorly so living in the spare room continuing antibiotics! This was £50. Bloody animals!

I am going to get back into sharing my brain farts, it does help, better out than in! Not been able to logon to mortgage so not been able to see where I am at which is frustrating, still waiting to swap over to Halifax too. Not going to ring as can imagine they are snowed under at the moment, and it will be a year in June so you can expect a big old update then!

What gets the chop?

So, as part of Uber Frugal Month (UFM), I made a list of payments we make monthly. It is hard to look at what we pay for, and break it down into the bare bones, rather than the joy it can give! Kon Mari my spending!haha. Writing everything down has allowed time for hubby and I to read over and discuss what we spend money on, whether it is important and what to change.

I am looking to change my Sim only deal, I pay £14+ a month and it isn’t great really. Nosing on MoneySaving Expert Sim Only Deals it is clear there are a lot of options! It is frustrating to see vodafone offering great deals to newbies, will have to see what they will offer a long time customer, if they won’t I will happily jump ship! Have gotten all irritated over this get new customers and sod the old!Haha.

We have concluded we will cancel the zoo membership, we are not making use of it and £13.75 adds up over the year! I will get on this ASAP and see if it can be cancelled before Jan payment!- Now cancelled!

We are chatting a lot about the life insurance and critical illness cover, we have no dependents, if one of us died, it would be nice not to have to pay the mortgage. But the current cost is way too high, we could afford the mortgage on one wage, but it would be darn tight! But, this is why we are doing the UFM challenge! I think we have concluded we will cancel it and hope we don’t die anytime soon. -I have cancelled mine, hubby will cancel his next week!

I am now on the lookout for a better current account, the 123 account used to be great, we got 3% interest over 3k and cashback, which more than covered the £5 account fee. Now the interest is 1.59%, we don’t get a lot of cashback really- we are on bottled gas, no cashback for this! Internet goes from hubbies account etc. I may see what happens when we move a small chunk of savings back in, just in case…

I have put the wheels in motion to cancel my mental health magazine, I am pretty sure this is over £7 a month, though a very interesting magazine it isn’t as relevant anymore and I can access the articles online if I desire. Will remain a member of the union though as it offers insurance and support if anything goes wrong.-Now cancelled!

Reading up about cancelling the TV licence, I could definitely live without BBC. But want to check on the ins and outs so I don’t get fined! We don’t have an aeriel to the downstairs TV, and even though IPLAYER is on the TV, we can ignore it in order to not pay £154.50 for the year. Sorry BBC, you are ok, but not worth it in comparisson to Primes £79 a year and free next day delivery as well as shows…

We have no choice with regards to heating, we have no main gas to the house- no one in the area does- oil and gas will often change in costs, I prefer the look of gas bottles to an oil tank aesthetically, and with our narrow drive, I am not sure a tanker would fit! We are trialing turning the heating down from 20c to 19, then maybe 18- this is the new recommended temp apparently! We have underfloor heating, it is best that temp is maintained for cost effectiveness, we have it on a timer all day with the thermostat set, then off overnight as I hate getting too hot in bed. We only have radiators upstairs and the temp is only on 3, which is enough at the moment. The only way to improve on this is to look at green options, at this time we don’t have the funds, but would be happy to do this in the future.

Hubby recently changed over the electric company to the best we can get, the ways to improve on this is to use less electric! We aren’t daft, so have all energy efficient bulbs, our appliances are efficient, we turn things off at the walls, have a super efficient kettle, our cooker runs from gas (expensive!haha) and try to make sure we don’t leave lights on.

The water costs are what they are, it is difficult as we have an acre of land, in the summer it is hard as I want to water the garden and plants once the water butts are empty there is no choice! Next year we plan on adding gutters and water butts to the chickens run to help save more water. We already have some around the stable/shed though one got broken so needs replacing. We will fill buckets with water in the summer when we are waiting for the shower to warm up as a way to water plants more cheaply! Also fans of, if it is yellow let it mellow 😉

Council tax is what it is, we are in the right bracket, it is paid over 10/11 months, think it is 11! Need to double check.

The credit card is 0% until the end of 2020, I am not worried about this and will TART it to a 0% transfer card when the time comes. The link to Money Saving Expert shows the best deals, but also soft searches to tell you what card you are likely eligible for and the percentage of acceptance. The minimum payments seem a lot more on my card than hubby’s card- he has his truck balance left on his (he will have saved to pay it off when it becomes chargeable- so not worried), but his minimum payment is half what mine is! Not a problem though, as it means my balance will be a lot less when I have to tart it! I have no plans to use this card again now holidays are planned and costed out. So will be removing debt every month!

Car and House insurance is reviewed yearly and paid in full if applicable! I am paying monthly car but paid house in full last year. I am happy I shopped around and got the best deals!

We are going to work out what we are paying for dog medications, food etc as we go into 2020, we already buy a cheaper version of the dogs supplements- same ingredients, buy Red’s main medication from human pharmacy-so not much trimming room with regards to the furbabies.

We have approx 2 years remaining on our loan with which we bought the car, this is £180 a month- doesn’t matter if we pay it off early, interest is part of the repayment so doesn’t save any money. We got a really good deal on the loan when we took it out, I think it is around 1k we will pay on 10k over 5 years- rough estimate off the top of my head! Checked dates, paid for the car 16/09/2016, so less than 2 years to go!

Biggest personal savings will be on food bills I think, we really need to meal plan, but then actually make the meals as well! When I meal planned last time, I spent £57 on a weeks food shop, this included booze! I will sit hubby down at some point to make a plan of meals, including lunches at work. This will also see us having two weekly takeaways :0

Having cancelled Mental Health Magazine, Life Insurance and Zoo, we are up £81.05 in the first month of 2020! Let us see where this journey takes us!

Northumberland

I love getting away, I love exploring new areas, and I love to go away for my birthday! Yesterday, we arrived back from a three day trip to Northumberland, we stayed in an airbnb property, which was small but perfect for our needs- also a great price of £50 a night! It was in a lovely little village, with a nice pub opposite.

We spent time in Chillingham Castle, it was pretty quirky and interesting. It is apparently one of the most haunted castles in England- and I can believe that! It was taken over by Sir Humphrey Wakefield after it had been left to decay and rot for over 50years, he took the time to fix it up, including the ceilings in some rooms and get it back to its functional self. Sir Wakefield is a hoarder of interesting and random historical items, but as he has so much space to fill, he becomes a collector! We enjoyed the uniqueness of this place, it was much more than a castle and has such a rich history. I believe you can stay in the grounds and they do ghost tours, I didnt fancy that, I am a baby! The grounds are beautiful and we wandered through the woodlands, we saw a fox but no deer sadly. I also got serious garden envy!

Chillingham also has the only wild cattle in the UK, we went to see them as part of a secondary tour. It was certainly interesting and the cattle look interesting, smaller than a lot of other cattle. We heard bulls rutting and having fights up on the hill and saw some calves. The tours are only at set times on certain days. I loved the castle, the cattle tour was interesting but not as much as the castle!

We also went to Alnwick gardens, I love this place! It is the best gardens I have ever been too, and I love going to gardens! I think it was because the space was filled with interesting things, like the corridor of cherry blossom, which of course were still beautiful at this time of year, tulips and daffodils lined the paths and giant swings were dotted all over. The walled garden was incredible- walled gardens are the sexiest things in my humble opinion- the symmetry was just so eye catching. The way the trees were trained to espalier looked awesome and the water features, which again reflected the symmetry just felt so inspiring! There is a massive water feature right at the start which has fountain shows, and a corridor made of trees on either side. The serpent garden has the most amazing water features, and the bamboo maze is just fantastic! The rose garden was sadly not in bloom but still great, and the Poison garden was just fascinating!

The Castle at Alnwick is interesting, but a bit too perfect for me, I do like Castles to be falling down a little, or quirky ala Chillingham, though the views were stunning. We got to see a quidditch training session taking place!

We drove past Bambrough castle which was very picturesque and went along the coast for a drive, then on to Rothbury which is a sweet little town. We also went to Dobbies garden centre where I bought a Bonsai tree! So exciting!

The dogs stayed in kennels, this cost us just over £80, we payed for the Alnwick castle and gardens tickets in advance, this cost just over £50 with the online discount, airbnb cost us £150 for three nights, we have an economical car so that helps with carbon footprint and cost! It was £35.50 for Chillingham Castle and Cattle for both of us, which we paid when got there. In total we spent an extra £395 on the castle, fuel, eating out lots, and shopping! I am quite happy with this! I love a get away and we dont like to skimp, the room we had only had a small fridge and no cooking facilities, so great excuse to eat out and about!

Chickens

In June 2018 we adopted 4 chickens through the British Hen Welfare Trust, they are just amazing! As they are mini dinosaurs- velociraptors- we named them Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo, from Jurassic Park World.

They all have their own characters, they run over to you when they are free ranging it in the garden. I understand this is for food, but I like to pretend that its because they love me! They fight off crows if needed and when Lady tries to pounce on their run- she is a little unsure still- they just peck her on the nose!

I researched a lot about the best homes, most practical homes and runs etc. I wanted to make sure that the Chickens wouldn’t become a time burden as we work full time and have the dogs as well. This led me to Omlet, they do plastic hen houses, this seemed practical as they won’t rot in the rainy welsh weather and they will be very easy to clean. The biggest barrier was cost, these are not cheap by any standard!

This led me to trawling ebay looking for a great deal, which was close enough to collect. I actually found the Omlet cube with a 1×3 metre run, and then a 2×2 metre walk in run, for £550 all in, which was an hour away. Expensive- yes, but not comparative to these items new! Another appeal is the fox proof claim, which I have seen videos demonstrating, but also both hubby and I actually like the look of the Omlet setup. Modern and nice, it is also green so blends a little more.

We created a swing, a box which we filled with extra soil for the art of mud bathing, and we got all the Omlet accessories for food and drinks from the folks selling the house and run we bought. I read up a little about chicken enrichment and hung up old CDs, the mud bath box was made from scrap wood we had as was the swing- which they have never used! I also chucked some plastic balls we used for a dog ball pit, just in case!

Initially we were too scared to let the girls have free range time, there are foxes in this area, I have enjoyed watching them! But after discussions, and the run starting to get muddy, we decided that we would do our best to keep them safe, but if the worst happened, I think they would have been happier to have that time out. They are hilarious, I love watching them run around, chasing bugs and scritching around. It has also meant we are paying less for food- which doesnt seem drastically expensive to us anyway- as they are getting a lot of sustanence from the land instead.

The girls came to us looking rough, with feathers missing, as they had been caged for the 18months they had lived so far. Now they look incredible, big fluffy, feathery girls! They are all individuals and funny, watching chickens is great! We donated £5 per chicken, absolute bargain! We get lots of eggs, its winter and we get at least two a day, but mostly, we just wanted to stop these beautiful birds from getting killed just because they are passed ‘optimum’ laying age.

If you are considering getting chickens, stop thinking and do it! We clean out the house once a week- the cube has pull out trays which collect all the poop so this is a five minute job. Water gets topped up once a week and refreshed once a week, grit and food topped up once a week- this all takes less than 20minutes! We have decided we will jet wash the whole thing in Spring this year, it doesn’t need it yet though and as it is plastic this will be very easy and quick!

We bought tarps to cover the top of the runs- one from Aldi has worked really well on the smaller run, but the other two tarps ripped off the walk in run, so we bought three Omlet tarps- so far they have weathered two Welsh storms, so at £90 not cheap but hopefully they will last a very long time. We also extended the run, that was £100, but again, I think it is money well spent! Another thing we spent £150 on, because I am lazy and it makes life easier, is an automatic door opener, it is the best thing ever! The girls are locked away safe when we get home and its dark, plus it means no early mornings on the weekends! Bonus!

I guess one thing about Chickens, is that they can be as expensive or cheap as you like, they are happy with minimum contact or lots of contact, perfect pets! Hubby wasn’t totally sure about chickens, but agreed as I was keen and he likes rescuing animals, he is totally smitten with them now!

Pets- at what cost?

If you have read any other posts in my blog, you may well have seen pictures of my two rescued furchildren. I love my dogs, I love all dogs, in fact, I am a self confessed animal lover! Having my dogs in my life feels like a non option, I have grown up with pet dogs, in both my seperate family homes we had two dogs (per household), as well as cats, horses and chickens.

I remember a few yeas ago, when I read through Mr Money Mustache’s blog post great-news-dog-ownership-is-optional, and I liked the fact he pointed out some of the realisms of dog ownership. Such as the fact people will adopt/buy a pet when they have little income, not taking into account the true cost of owning an animal. That true cost, covers the responsibility we have as dog/pet owners, this is covered by the five freedoms: The first part is Health– we should protect our pets from disease, illness and injury, and if they should become injured or unwell, we have to seek treatment. We should allow our pets to be natural in their behaviours, when looking at companionship as a freedom we should be considering if that animal is social and whether it should be kept alone or with others. Dietary needs- this includes preventing malnourishment and obesity as well as access to water. The last freedom is access to a suitable environment, this would include access to a shelter and a safe space to be, away from harm.

Pet ownership feels more complex these days, there are so many different opinions out in the world about how we should do things, how we should treat our pets and what we should feed them for example. It is a minefield! Do you buy pet insurance, is it worth the cost, what if your pet has health needs that would invalidate insurance, or the breed means an unfair hike in costs? Buying pets is a huge deal, I wont lie, I rescued my babies, I will always rescue and will never ‘buy’ a pet. This is personal to me and is part of my moral code, I will always advocate adoption! As it stands, my dad and stepmum have two rescued dogs, and my mum and stepdad have two bought dogs, I love both sets of parents and both sets of dogs. If people are to buy puppies, then I will heavily and wholeheartedly advocate for buying from a proper breeder. Always see both sets of parents, check that the breeder will/has vaccinated, ensure to the best of your abilities that they are not from a puppy farm. My mums Jack Russells are from a local breeder, whom we know well and in fact I am now related to via a marriage!

I guess the point of this post, is to highlight that pets are optional. You should take into consideration the cost of time and money that is needed to ensure that any pet has the best life it can, and the possible things in your life that will be impacted upon by this. As a sidenote, I think I will do a couple of blogs introducing my furchildren, I am a very proud parent who will gush about them at any time!