Lose one debt and gain another!

So in exciting news, we paid off the car loan last week and recieved confirmation in the post yesterday. We will be getting £56 back, and possibly £186 as we paid that as well as the whole balance, the person on the phone was unsure if it had been counted or not.

So we own our car outright! It doesn’t save us any interest as it was a set sum, but it’s nice to know it’s gone! Hubby has his new job and this means that he won’t have to pay the car anymore and goes someway to help with the fact he will be earning about £400 less a month. We will also, sadly, be reducing the mortgage overpayments to £50 until we get used to the reduction in wages, and then hopefully we can play around a bit and increase it again. That is another £200 less to find so this and the car loan should cover the loss of earnings.

So, whilst we have removed the car loan, I have got a £5k personal loan as I am going to have a gastric balloon fitted to help me with my weight loss issues. Part of me wonders if I should just bite the bullet and have the gastric bypass, but that is life altering (and over double the price) and if I can have the balloon and learn to change my eating behaviours (this company offers 18months psychological support) then I won’t need the surgery. That is my plan anyway. And I can afford my loan and pay a small chunk off the credit card every month, without it impacting on the house account or Hubby’s contribution.

So one giant step forward for the car, one small step forward with the mortgage and a step backward getting a personal loan- but ultimately if it can help me with my eating issues, then it will be money well invested.

Take care everyone!

Jodie

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 🙂

Ideas for the lockdown!

My lockdown might be different to many, as a Nurse I cannot work from home. My fabulous residents still need me, so I am still going to work, caring for my residents wih my wonderful carers, domestics and handyman, fellow nurses and management! It only feels a little different to me, more phone calls from family, rather than face to face visits. We have the ability for families to skype with their loved ones, so that is helpful as well. On the three days I work 12 hour shifts, the days fly by and everything feels a little more normal! My four days off do feel weird though I am a home bird and have a lovely large garden to feel free in. Here is some of my thoughts on how to help during this very strange time!

  • Make a plan! I am a bit pants without a plan, my day just seems to disappear and I can feel like it has been wasted. If I make a plan, it helps to focus me on achievements, such as, play on the sims for 2 hours, then put a wash on, then watch something on TV, do some online learning, research something interesting etc. I like to tick things off a list, I like to see that I have made something of my day, even if it mostly consists of playing the sims!
  • Build fun in your day! I won’t lie, just before we ended up in lockdown, I had ordered Sims University and Parenthood as they were both on offer. This worked well, as I have thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this fantasy world, it is a great way to pass time without noticing it passing. This could be the perfect time to finally complete that game on the X-box (hubby), watch that TV series, read an entire book collection. All the things that normal life makes us feel bad for doing, as there are more ‘important’ things to do, but realistically, what is more important that relaxing and doing something fun? No guilt! Though, I was getting stressed trying to make my sim child a well rounded individual, flipping hard work, will stick to dogs in real life!
  • Create a work space. If you are lucky/unlucky enough to work from home, I think it is really important to carve out some space, even if its making a make shift desk from the ironing board! Make sure you take regular breaks, stretch out, make cups of tea, wear whatever you want, listen to music if appropriate. Make work hours and stick to them! If you are an early worm or a night owl, if you can tailor your work day to suit, you may find productivity increases! If hours are rigid, suck it up and get it done 🙂 Do work in a different room to where you relax, try and claim some space where you can walk away from when it is finished to help with switching off.
  • Recognise negative triggers. I cannot stress the importance of this, I honestly found the news too overwhelming, I deleted facebook off my phone, it is all too biased, people spread fake news, people get really angry about irrelevant things, the world starts to feel like it is full of mean and angry people. Deleting it off my phone was great. Not watching the news is easy, I very rarely watch the news, it always triggers negative emotions in me. I am part of a union, they send me daily updates about any changes to government rulings etc, I have the statistical website page on my phone where I can check for actual facts and stats on covid19, I will research any specific information I want to know actual facts too, this all helps my headspace. The more I know, the more fake news and fear can be fought! I still use Instagram as I love this app, I am filling it with dog pics mostly! This is also a good time to delete people from apps who bring negativity, or snooze them for 30days! The other thing I have done, is delete my countdown holiday app from my phone and put all my holiday books away, currently it is very unlikely I will be going to New York, whilst travel is usually a good escape for me, it is currently making me feel trapped and sad. So moving it away until I can get my joy back!
  • Allow feelings. Do not berate yourself for feeling any emotions, it is absolutely normal to feel frightened, angry, sad, frustrated, elated, happy…any emotion is normal when nothing makes sense. Do not call yourself selfish for being gutted your dream holiday, which is all paid and planned may not happen- me- that is understandable, that doesn’t mean you are not taking covid19 seriously, or somehow you are belitting the loss and suffering of those infected, it means you are human. Try not to act on emotions that can be negative, allow the feelings to be present, but then let them go, distract yourself, do something productive, make a cup of tea and think about something else, call someone to chat, research something and most of all, don’t make yourself or others feel bad for having strange and fluctuating emotions at this time!
  • Look after you and yours. You cannot control other people, best will in the world! The sooner you accept this, the less other peoples behaviour will impact on you. Neighbour not adhering to current guidelines? Ask yourself, does it affect me and mine? If yes, then be productive about it, if not, move on. My neighbours can do what they want, as long as it doesn’t impact on me or increase the chances of me spreading illnesses to my residents. Humans are inquistive and naughty, we push boundaries, it is how we continue to develop and learn, so of course some people will push against the current guidelines, people that have the capacity to make choices, can make stupid and dangerous ones. As long as the majority work on themselves and protecting those who are vulnerable, we will manage and get through this crisis even if bob and his family insist on visiting each other and coughing in each others faces, hopefully if they get it, they add to herd immunity rather than adding to the ITU beds!
  • Exercise. Whether you wish to do this indoors, or with your hours allowance outside, do it, exercise helps to reduce stress, it will get rid of tension, it will make you feel more normal, it is good for our immune system and helps to keep us both physically and mentally well. Find an app, use youtube, make up your own routine, there is lots of info out there curently for free! I am still working on this, exercise is something I don’t do enough of, but am trying to do more!
  • Pets. If you have pets, use this time to be with them, snuggle them, pet them, teach them, entertain them, stimulate them. There is so much enrichment out there on the old interweb, things you may have never thought of before, that might just make their lives a bit better during this time and long after! I have heard lovely stories about people fostering pets whilst they know they are at home, what a bloody gorgeous thing to do!
  • Keep in contact with people. I am now part of two family whatsapp groups, it is quick and easy to check in, I have groups with others and will just check in with them intermittently or as I wish. I have seen lots of things shared like ‘pay attention to who contacts you during this time’, but can’t help but think, communication is a two way street, have you contacted them either? It works both ways! Bob hasn’t text me all week, but wait, I didn’t text Bob either! Maybe he is sat at home thinking the same about me! Call people, facetime people, do a group meal over facetime, have a glass of wine whilst chatting together, walk around the garden with a friend on the phone/tablet, we have the capacity to communicate in so many ways now! Be clever, be adventurous!
  • Overhaul your finances, get on moneysavingexpert for all the info on making sure your money is being smart! Use this time to look at spending and working out if you are saving money, and how, what are you not buying? You could come out of this financially better, maybe, possibly. Though money is very strange, hubby’s job is very unsafe right now and that could throw us a curveball. But by doing this overhaul, we will be in a better position to deal with things as they happen.

Most of all, stay as well as possible, uncertainity breeds fear, fear increases stress hormones which makes us more susceptible to being unwell- not just covid19. Sending love to all!

New York Prep Part 2

So, hubby is not a keen flier, I have to admit I don’t enjoy flying either, so as we are having to go on a long flight to New York, we decided we may as well adventure whilst we are there! So, after our five days in New York City, exhausted beyond belief and all full of joys from attending what will be a wonderful Wedding, we will be off to explore more of New York State. I have booked our rental car- via Holiday Autos- it was cheaper to go through this third party than directly with Avis. We have booked a Chevy Impala, hubby is a massive fan of American Cars so this felt like a good compromise so he can enjoy a bit of americana! His favourite is the Dodge Challenger/Charger, I can’t remember which one was the number one from those two… but they are very very expensive to rent! We have paid extra for breakdown cover and we already own an american Sat Nav (£40 from Amazon) so cheaper than hiring. The plan is to get the subway back to JFK and collect the car, hubby will then be driving us out of the city, I am way too much of a baby!! I have recently come into the knowledge that Sleepy Hollow is a real town in New York. I know, how did I not already know this? So the first stop is Sleepy Hollow for a quick nosy and photos. In theory, this 35mile trip will take just over an hour.

That first night we are staying in a little smallholding out in Massachusetts via airbnb, it looks delightful and will be the perfect antidote to a busy experience in the city. The plan is to head from Sleepy Hollow to the smallholding, no particular rush and enjoy travelling in a very new area. I would like to cut through Conneticut, just because! The days drive will take around 3hours and cover approx 136miles. We really cannot wait to see some of the local wildlife and other parts of America away from the big cities. I am hoping to arrive by 7pm that evening. We may pick something up to eat in that night so we can just relax. We have paid £108 for this night, I am happy with this, it seems a delighful and quirky home! Plenty of possibilities to see wildlife. They also leave equipment and ingredients to make waffles with the free range duck eggs! Yes please, I am sure we will be missing our chickens by then! It does mention that bears are sometimes roaming around at dusk and dawn, we might see dusk but I am not sure about dawn!

The next day we are heading back into New York State, we will be travelling to Fayetteville to stay in another airbnb. This airbnb is going to be our relaxation place, we can use the pool with the owners and they have a dog, yay! We will be spending three nights here. It is around a three hour drive, 181miles away. So far, I am interested in visiting Howes and/or Secret Caverns if they will be open on the way. We will be passing through Albany, I would also like to pass by the Teepee! This should be a leisurely day, pottering and stopping whenever we want. This airbnb has places to walk and eat, so I think that once we get there, we will unpack and wander around the area exploring. The next couple of days will see us recharging our batteries and exploring all the nature this area has to offer! The fingerlakes are in this area, as is Watkins Glen which we may make an effort to travel too.

We will then be going to Niagara Falls! I really cannot wait for this, I am so excited! I have booked the Seneca Falls Hotel and we do want to go over to the Canadian side as well as go on the boat tours, I think we will plan this in more detail either just before we go, or once we are there. This part of the itenary is fluid, we can either head straight there from Fayetteville in the morning, or do other things in the morning and spend the next day exploring Niagara. This journey will take just under three hours, 173miles, and we will pass through Syracuse. I am thinking it makes sense to just get up and go, meander that way then head to the falls in the afternoon and do as much as possible leaving the next day open.

The next day we are popping over to Pensylvania, we will be staying in Pocono Palace in East Strousberg. This place is super tacky and I cannot wait! I read about the hotel in a book, and knew I had to visit here. This is the most expensive night, we have all inclusive, a room with a 7ft champagne glass bath and a pool in the room. Wow! I absolutely cannot wait for this! It would be good to make the most of this place, mostly due to cost.haha. This will take 5hours 40minutes, and cover 332miles. I would like to stop at Letchworth State Park for a wander on the way.

Then, we will make our way back to JFK, probably very tired and needing another holiday! This is a 3hour journey covering 107miles.

If anyone has any other must sees or try to sees in these areas, please let me know. I will continue planning and reading up until we are already there so always time to add in. I am currently trying to work out if it is better to book a tour at Niagara or DIY the day.

New York (:0) Prep Part 1!

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe that I get to go to New York this year, I am so freaking excited about this! All the thanks go to my brother in law and his future misses, who are getting wed in central park- how delightful! Hubby had agreed to go to Florida (we went in Sept last year) then he found out we would need to go to New York next year and he did regret his previous agreement. Not because he is mean spirited, but he doesnt like flying and worried about the cost of things like this- very understandable! But my wanderlust side just wants to go and adventure, and another trip to the USA is just too tantalising!

Firstly, I spent a lot of time- mostly via Pinterest- reading all about New York, things to do, must sees, unusual things etc etc and pinned them all to my places to go board! I still do this and am always pleased to find out about new places or ideas, or possible itenaries to follow so we can smash the trip! As with Florida, I have discussed with Hubby, what would our must sees be, he struggles with future planning so this is quite difficult for him!

Our list currently looks like this (subject to changes and wiggling):

  • Empire State Building
  • Top Of The Rock- yes I want to do both!
  • Statue of Liberty- thinking Ellis Island, could do staten island ferry
  • Central Park
  • The Highline
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
  • Intrepid Museum
  • Times Square
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Coney Island, Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel, mostly inspired by Lana Del Ray!
  • Chelsea Market
  • Pop to Hard Rock Cafe for a glass!

Would like to do:

  • Natural History Museum- mostly to see the T-Rex skeleton
  • The Met- mostly to go up to the roof terrace
  • Museum of Sex- because they have a bouncy castle made of boobs :0
  • Hop on Hop off bus tour
  • Find the waterfall between the streets you can walk under

I bought flights with Thomas Cook for £945, including picking our seats and 23kg of luggage. They then went bust- I jumped online at 4 am as I was still on Orlando time and got the same day, different time flights for £950 including seats and luggage weight. Yay! I always make sure to buy items like this on my credit card as you are protected by Section 75, this meant I made my claim via the credit card company and have been reimbursed the original costs, basically covering the new flight costs. I love the Virgin website too…though it makes me want to bid for better seating- hubby helps me to stay reasonable there!

I researched for a super long time about hotels, so many hotels, so many pros and cons. Personal desires:

  • Air con- we are going in June, this is a warm time, I melt in hot weather
  • Soundproofed rooms- I hate noise. If I hear noises at night I can’t sleep and get twitchier, angrier and more irritable, even if the noise then stops. Ask hubby about living with me with our awful noisy neighbours in the last house!
  • Central and close to transport- yes, the whole of New York is transportable, yes, it has great transport links, I get that. But I am not a city girl, cities scare me and I don’t like being out at night, therefore a central location which will be light, full of people and safe is just what I need!
  • Great reviews- obviously tricky as very subjective
  • Pretty and trendy- I love a modern and sleek hotel! I wouldn’t turn down the perfect hotel if it wasnt these things, but they would sway me to pick one!
  • A rooftop bar!!! Because, New York!

I researched for a really long time, I read about so many hotels, I made lists, got pee’d off, stopped searching for a while, bugged hubby with harrassments and questions. My heart knew what hotel I wanted, but logic was struggling due to the cost. In the end, hubby said, just book the one you love, its location is amazing (rated 9.8 by couples on booking.com), there is a subway 0.2miles from the front door, it is a super funky and modern hotel, like amazingly so! Booking.com states it is a top pick in New York, it gets an overall 9.2 out of 10, on trip advisor it scored 4.5 out of 5. Negatives: Rooms are tiny- usual in New York and the bathroom doesn’t have a proper door- we will poop when out/have been together for a very long time. Extra pros- it has its own rooftop bar purely for guests :0 :0 yes!!!!!! So I excitedly/horrifiedly booked a room in the CitizenM Hotel on Times Square- I requested higher up for better views, the rooms all have giant windows, gadgets to control the blackout blinds, soundproofed rooms with movies and fun lighting all controlled by an ipad, amazing reviews, its own rooftop bar that only the guests can use. I got a discount for an early bird booking directly with them and booked for five nights, since then, we found out the lucky bride and groom are heading on their honeymoon the day after the wedding, so we cut it down a night. Cities are great and all, but exhausting!

We had our list of things we want to do, and we looked at many different options for savings, in the end, we decided to get the New York Pass. It cost £329 for both of us- on sale- and lasts three consecutive days. Some of the things we want to do are free, so they will be worked around this pass and must dos. Coney Island is only open on weekends, so we will go there on Sat or Sun, we aren’t big ride goers, so will happily pop along for a nosy, I do want to go on the Wonder Wheel- This is included with the pass, we can go into Luna Park and ride the wheel for no extra cost. The pass includes Empire State, Ellis Island, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Museum, Hop On and Off bus ride for a day, Intrepid Museum, Natural History Museum, the Met, Museum of Sex, Circle Line Sightseeing tour and lots of other tours and things to do in the five boroughs. I have worked out that we will definately get our monies worth. It also means that some our would like toos, but probably won’t due to cost etc, can be done as cost is then irrelevent and the more we do the better the savings!

I have been playing around with possible itenaries, grouping activities in areas/neighbourhoods. I am still reading up and trying to better understand the layout and connections. For example, Chelsea Market is found at the end/start of the highline, it opens early and closes late, the highline is free, therefore these two go together and can be done around the New York Pass with no money consequence.

I have been researching all about the subway in New York, at this time it would be $32 dollars for a metro card and week of unlimited trips, I feel this would be well worth the money and would do us well as it is the fastest way around the city. My friend recently went and used the train/subway to get from JFK to her hotel and found it pretty painless, we are planning to do the same. Its about an hours travel, at the time we arrive, it will be very busy and I believe we may get charged extra on taxis as they do a peak time tax. It would be nice to save money here to use somewhere else. Plus, getting on with it straight away, will help us get over the fear of using the subway! I have even been watching videos about this- anal, I know!

My one struggle in Orlando, was lack of vege food, or at least lack of awareness of it near us. So I have been researching this for New York. I need to go to Champs diner in Brooklyn, I follow them on instagram, and my goodness, I salivate looking at the food! Bareburger is on the list, it does organic and grass fed meat for hubby, and lots of vegan options for me, including hot dogs! Shake Shack does a fit looking mushroom burger and milkshakes! Alcohol related, I want to get a cocktail at the Sugar Factory! I also have a few bagel stores jotted down, my dream was for a rainbow bagel, but the Bagel Store is shut at the moment, I so hope it reopens before we go! I can’t wait to try a traditional lox bagel (I eat fish on occasion, so pescetarian rather than vegetarian if I am honest!).

I think this is all the research on the first part of the trip, I will write up about the second half soon!

DIY Washing Powder and Conditioner

So I have purchased the ingredients to make our own washing powder and conditioner, I have followed the recipe from FreshSkin. I already have quite a few bars of soap, so didn’t need to buy that, the rest I bought from Amazon- using Amazon smile so our chosen charity also gets a little something from my spending!

I have bought:

  • Natural White Vinegar- 10litres in two packs £9.75
  • Lavender Essential Oil 30ml £9.99
  • 6kg of Soda Crystals £8.85

Total cost: £28.59

Earlier in they year, I grated a bar of greek soap (from our holiday there a few years ago), added together the soda crystals and put them into an old container. It takes two scoops per load of laundry, we haven’t added any essential oils and haven’t made conditioner. May do that in the future! Clothes seem fresh and very clean, no smells. I am so happy!

UFM Challenge- thoughts and first few emails!

So I figured I would give myself some rules regarding this. I understand the premise is to be super frugal, which I guess my mind is still rallying against!

With regards to clothes- there is no need to buy any as it stands. Exceptions to the rule: If I find a perfect dress for the Wedding I am attending in New York in June, I am a big girl, clothes in my size aren’t available in charity shops, especially locally- unless it’s clothes I donated! So I often shop online. Only item I technically need is a beautiful dress to wear for the Wedding, which will be in Central Park! The other exception: to replace items that have worn through, this month I am thinking I won’t need to, unless I wear the back of my trainers out again- I do this a lot! I wear trainers often and buy new ones from discount stores for around £30 or less, I always seem to struggle with rubbing the back of the heel section away which results in blisters! These current trainers are from before September 2019, which saw them getting me around Disney and Universal Studios, they are more than cost effective now!

I want to try and get 20 No Spend Days this month, I used to do this regularly on moneysavingexpert forums. It is a helpful way to curb spending and feels like an achievement in itself! Things that are not included as a spend: when we go away or the house account pays for something- it is a personal spending challenge not a joint one. We go away for a few days in a couple of weeks, the house will pay for all this as that is what we do with holidays, so unless we personally spend anything, I will include these as personal non spend days. It is amazing how often I buy things without thinking, it is the 3rd Jan and today will be the first day I dont spend any money, on the 1st I found the possible perfect dress- preordered so technically not paid for yet, and it may look awful so not a guarenteed spend as it could go back! Yesterday I had to put fuel in my car, today is the decided takeaway day for the next two weeks, that one is house account money, therefore today can be my 1st non spend day of the month! Ouch! Also, gas money wasn’t taken, she apologised as they had been busy and she shredded my order before processing- so they are going to try and deliver today. So that will be coming out today instead of last year- again it is house account so not a personal spend, but still makes you think! I don’t include direct debits from my account as a spend day, and if I got cash out I would class that as a spend day, but if that money is spent on another day I wouldn’t include that. Some folks would include any and all spending as a spend day, other people, like myself, have some leeway! I will keep you all updated on my progress!

I will be engaging in some Tilly Tidying (TT)- another term found due to the moneysavingexpert forums, founded by a wonderful lady called Tilly! It is the art of rounding down! Very simple and effective. I am wanting to build an emergency fund at the moment, so as this month we are heading away, I have decided to Tilly Tidy the house account after any money goes out from it, keeping it nice and tidy and rounded to the nearest whole number and move it into a little account to build up. I have aggressively TT’d so far, so I am hoping I won’t need to move any back! I moved the money we are no longer spending on the Zoo, Life Insurance and my RCN magazine straight away, we are up to £150 plus a few pennies at the moment and only three days in. This isnt a busy account generally speaking.

We are making an effort to meal plan and cook, on New Years Day I made soup, fish pie and bread. The bread came out a bit funky, but edible, the soup is yummy and the fish pie was very tasty and did us for tea that day and lunch the next. Soup was frozen and I defrosted it for my long days but wasn’t great at actually eating it as very busy!

Day 1 email from the frugalwoods- this is the homework I had already completed so that was easy! Payed for a preordered dress- spend day!

Day 2 email: This was future planning, again I had already done this in the homework, brilliant, especially as working a long day means not a lot of time to think! Paid for fuel- spend day!

Day 3 email: Fighting impulse buys- do not buy any non essential items for 72hours. This makes a lot of sense and helps with the non spend day ideas too. She breaks it down to- write down, or leave in the basket the item you want to buy, allow 72 hours to pass. Consider if you really need it? What could you do with the money? Do you own something that would suffice? Could you find it cheaper? Could you borrow it from a friend? After the alloted time, re-evaluate how you feel about the item, do you still want it? Mantra- I have the willpower to wait! No spend day!

Day 4- I have lost this one! Can’t find it in my trash either…I am sure I read it! No spend day!

Day 5- This is all about grocery shopping, an area I have already highlighted as a problem areas for us! I have been meal planning more, then actually trying to make sure I cook what I have said! Too many complex foods last week though. I shopped yesterday, this was hubby’s shop but he has been working away and I think I did a good job of thinking of more simple meals that we can do which are tasty and some healthyness! I paid about £60 and this included wine for me and wine I will be taking to my parents on the weekend when we get our food cooked for us. My stepmum is an amazing cook, this will be better than any restaurant fair! No spend day!

Day6- Know where your money is! This has got hubby to download an app, that I may also download! The one on frugalwoods is american, so he found a british version-when I find the name I will let you know! I haven’t worked out our net worth, I am not sure to what end that would help? My monthly wage varies depending on 4 or 5 week months, but I know what they tend to be! The only interest we are paying is for the mortgage and the car, unlike the mortgage, the car is set and no matter when we pay it the interest is the same. Credit cards are 0%. With regards to pensions, I pay into a basic one, to be honest, they don’t seem the best….I did discuss increasing my paments but nest and work seemed unhelpful and I wondered if it is really the best place for my money? Investing confuses me, I won’t lie. I will continue to look into this to see if I can work it out! No spend day!

Day 7- About mobile phone costs, as part of the homework I had indentified this, and after visiting Vodafone I have now got the same deal for £11 a month, we have pants signal where I live and we already have a vodafone signal enhancy thing, so this is best price given that! Did buy food shop, but it is actually other halves shop, so he will pay me back- technical non spend day!

Day8- Is your partner on board? Yes he is, we have always discussed money and made choices together. We work well in that way most of the time, though we can also talk each other into buying things!haha. He is enjoying this challenge as he recognises that he isn’t the best with his money and feels this can be improved upon! He does want the mortgage gone, but tends to leave the other bits, including overpayments to me! So far no spend day….

So today is day 8, pay day yesterday, I am up to 5 non spend days, quarter of the way there! 5/20. Watch this space for today, I do NEED earring backs but might be able to hold off a bit longer. My current earrings are making my ears sore, and my previous earrings have lost there back…tut tut! I have reached £25 on Onepoll today so that will be working its way over slowly!

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!

Uber Frugal Challenge Homework, step 8-11

Examine your habits!

I know that purchading food is one of my big downfalls, I love food, I overeat, I struggle with my weight- that could be a blog on its own! I work 12 hour shifts, I struggle to prepare food in time for my shift, I struggle to decide on what foods to eat, this can often result in buying pre made food for ease and convenience. Also, grocery shopping in itself is expensive, we often feel we have no meals and will eat rubbish to compensate. I feel a large area to turn this around is part of the Frugal Challenge. I already meal planned then went shopping, this usually costs around £90, and paid £77 which included a £20 giant teddy for the dogs at Christmas! Felt like a good shop and I thought ahead about what we may need. Today, I made a mushroom soup, and it is in the thermos ready for work tomorrow, I think I will take bread and butter, or a sandwich, as well as a yogurt, some fruit and a oat pot! This could be cheaper if I used oats instead of prepackaged. I don’t get home until nearly nine so makes it difficult with regards to tea time etc, plus work is busy and usually we have access to cakes! I need to learn more about healthy snacks and getting food that will actually fill me, and satisfy me! Stress is a common feeling when you are a Nurse, I work in Dementia care, it can be a very upsetting and stressful place, because you care so much, so my emotional eating is often triggered, this spills into the drive home, popping to the shop or snacking when I get in. Sometimes, when you start to breakdown a habit, behaviour and choice, it can become overwhelming to try and think how else do I cope with those feelings without food? Again, probably another post!

Step 9- Plan Ahead!

I really feel this will be beneficial, if I plan and act ahead of shifts, I will have food and snacks, this will hopefully have a positive impact on other areas of my life including finances. I enjoy fruit and vegetables, but am so bad at actually eating them! So, planning ahead would allow for more consumption made easy. Given the choice, a chocolate bar or an apple, I would always pick the chocolate, give me a cut up apple I can pick at whilst quickly catching up on notes in the office and it will be consumed! Days off are hit and miss, sometimes I just want food, comfort food, lots of food, can’t stop thinking about food, other days I feel able to make some alright choices around food. This all links in really, self esteem, emotions, are all disguised and hidden when you eat or buy food! Might be a long road….

On Money Saving Expert, I used to join in the No Spend Day challenge, where you would set X amount of days where you wouldn’t spend. The rules were personal, you could include or exclude bill payments, fuel costs, known payments etc. I used to include any payments made on my card, so bills that went out of my account were not included- most go out on the 1st anyway. So all other payments- including cash- would make it a spend day. I feel this mentality could work in the UFM, as would delay buying things until I had to- ie buying fuel so would buy something else on those days if needed. It also meant online shopping saw things sitting in the basket so I had more time to think through the purchase. I think implementing this again would be good!

Step 10-

If you do buy stuff, get it free or cheap! This makes sense and points out that items you cannot get second hand, such as toothpaste, you can price check to make sure you get the best prices. I enjoy facebook marketplace and have had some great finds on there, nice and local too! I think sometimes, it is worth shopping around- I found great wallpaper cheap and using a local builders merchants got shelves to the correct size at a great price. So much better than B&Q! Which I do love as well!haha. So we already do some frugal things, but can improve so much!!

Step 11- Banish Excuses!

Of course this is the hardest part, excuses are easy, they are normal! I have reservations about aspects of this challenge- I love netflix and Amazon Prime! I love buying food that is yummy and convenient! Also, we are eating out with friends in January- I really am not up to cooking or hosting for that many folks, we only meet around once or twice a year and go to a nice cheap place. Also, we are going on a short holiday in January, we will be eating out, socialising and our dogs will be costly in those four days! But around this, we will really really work on our spending issues!!!!

Some of the other points- earn more money- within both our roles we earn very well, this is not a high wage, but much better than minimum wage! There would be no other jobs for either of us that would earn better at this time. Moving would not help, our home is wonderful it is the dream home in our budget and we have worked hard to make it affordable! We love living here, and there is no where cheaper that would compare. Getting rid of cars, our main car would not be worth selling and buying a new one with the loan, it is a good loan and we are probably three years into it now! The car is 0 tax and very economical, husbands truck is all his. He pays for everything for it and loves it, I would never ask him to sell it, it is a luxury! We are not paying to work, we are both commutable- me about a 40-60min round trip, three days a week, hubby 15mins away. We have no children and since Hubbys father has retired, he comes to do the dogs twice a day when hubby is away and I am working a long day. Hubby is struggling with the stresses of his job currently, but also loves it, and I am more content with work than I have been in a long time. Definate room for improvement, but considering I was ready to jack nursing in, I am now loving parts of the role again!

Wish us luck! I will keep you all updated!!

Uber Frugal Month Homework, Step 2-7

Step 2- So, I looked through my personal spends in November and then our joint account spends. It got a bit confusing as we often pay ourselves back from the joint account, but it isn’t always clear what we have spent it on. Such as, we pay for dog appointments and medication, then the house (joint) account pays us back. We both put a lot of our earnings into the house account, so this is why it pays for things like this. We also use it, if we decide to buy house based things, it is where the holiday money sits until it is used etc. So I am not 100% sure what I have been paid back for, as I will often pay for a few things before taking back and the online account isn’t as detailed as I would like! Last month personal spends has included a trip out with my friends for afternoon tea for a friends birthday, where I did go shopping as well as Christmas Presents, which I don’t always have to buy. I have spent over £200 on clothes, I am expecting about £75 back in returned items. Still a lot of money, I did need a waterproof coat- I don’t have one that fits and haven’t for many years, choosing to just get wet! But the other items were desire items!

Step 3-

Fixed Mandatory Expenses- This is non moveable costs

  • Mortgage- £717 (£50 overpayment, rising to £250 overpayment Jan 2020)
  • Gas- £106 every 2-3 weeks in the Winter, less in the Summer
  • Council Tax- £159 (think its for 10/11months)
  • Energy- £25.51
  • Water- £35.50
  • Life Insurance- £60 (I am sure I can get this cheaper if I actually looked, we got it through the mortgage broker)
  • House insurance- £paid in full, approx £114 a year
  • Credit Card- £110 minimum payment (often pay some more)
  • Car Insurance- £26.64

Discretionary Spending-

  • NSPCC and Dogs Trust- £13.67 (I want these to continue)
  • Vodafone- £14.39 (I own my phone outright)
  • Account fee- £5 (we used to earn more back than this, but at the moment we are barely earning to cover it)
  • Zoo- £13.75 (we can discuss if we wish to keep the membership going or not)
  • RCN- £23.70 (This is my insurance for nursing as well as a magazine- could stop the magazine though)
  • TV licence- £154.50 a year
  • Groceries- £90 per week :0 (Between £75-90 on average)
  • Fuel- £80 a month-ish
  • Takeaways- £15 a week on average
  • Hair for me- £10 haircuts once every 4-6months, hair dye £5.50 every 3 weeks
  • Current monthly saver- £250, 5% account, ends soon
  • Clothes and miscellaneous c- unsure what these costs are!
  • The dogs are both on medication-Meloxaid, Desmopressin (we buy from a human pharmacy) and supplements- youmove cheap version, I am unsure of costs as all paid seperately and adhoc! Recently needed x-rays for younger dog so big cost. No insurance as both dogs are rescue with issues so would either be uninsurable, or a ridiculous cost. We have always paid for everything they need outright
  • Dog food- they are now raw fed and we are still trying to get the feeds correct so unsure of costs
  • We eat out but not that often- we went away this month to Glasgow, so spent a lot more there than usual when at home
  • I will sometimes buy lunches for work, these can cost around £5 and I work three days a week
  • I rarely go to McDonalds , Costa or other but can find some months my use increases- last month for example
  • Hubby pays for Amazon Prime and Netflix
  • Internet- something like £18- hubby pays for this from his account
  • MOT and Service- £170ish depending where we go!
  • Adhoc Chicken costs, they don’t need a lot and we buy food as needed,we paid the big costs outright- their home!

Step 4-

What can we get rid of? Well, its tough. I guess that is the point. The Zoo could be dropped, I will work out if we have made use of the membership or not this year and base it on that. Will require a discussion with Hubby, who is working away the next few nights. We do need to work out the costs for the dogs, medications, food, appointments three monthly for reviews etc. Our dogs are our children, they need medication as they both have ongoing conditions that without medication would be life affecting. We get Red’s Desmopressin from the Human Pharmacy, we have to pay for his prescription then pay for the meds, this is still cheaper than it used to be getting them all from the vets! We don’t eat out often, but have a weekly takeaway, we both dislike cooking so it is nice to know that once a week we get something lovely to eat with no effort! Perhaps this can be something to reduce in the future, please?! I am unsure if we can stop the TV Licence, I mean, I could easily not watch the BBC channels, but am unsure how it all works these days! That could be a nice saving!

We could look at the Life Insurance, I am fat, therefore I make it more expensive. But I think that our mortgage broker went for the best deal for her, rather than us, thats fine, she is great with mortgages and I am happy to help her get extra commission, but really we should be investigating this ourselves now! I could look at my mobile phone plan and see if I can get it cheaper. Internet is a new deal and I am sure it was the best we could get- our connection is shocking! I feel haircut costs and hair dye costs are perfectly acceptable, I am 32 with many greys that I am not ready to embrace yet! I will look at moving our joint account, we used to earn good interest when we had more cash in there, but now its in a 5%saver so not helping the current account. Fuel is what it is, I don’t use my car ridiculous amounts, we have a very efficient joint car, and Hubby has his truck. I have no issues with his truck! Could do with being more prepared with work lunches and helping myself as I do 12hour shifts, this would benefit two fold. Clothes are a non budgeted buy whenever thing, I really need to address this with need not desire! We are not ready to stop netflix or amazon yet- sorry UFM!!

Step 5- Substitution

I will be honest, can’t really think of substitutions at this time. I mean, I buy Options hot choc which I love and is cost effective. I love wine and other alcoholic beverages- perhaps I should look into trying to brew my own stuff? I could definately make a version of creme de cassis with blackberries from the garden, missed that this year though. I have started to try and grow veg, my rocket is still doing well and it is almost Winter, but I struggle to grow other things! Another must try! We have chickens, they are ex batteries so laying is hit and miss, that is fine, we just wanted to save them so they didn’t go to slaughter! Will ask my stepmum to help me with foraging I think. I am not conviced about barter and trade at this time!

Step 6-

Reduction of Discetionary Spending- accidently covered this earlier! Except grocery shopping is something we really need to work on! We are upping the mortgage cost, this is because we are on a great deal and want to pay it down more, ultimately helping us!

Step 7- Insourcing

I mean, we don’t outsource often. We paid professionals to do our driveway, much more time effective and a fantastic job comparative to what we can do. Same with the car, we will use a mechanic and ask around for quotes to get a good deal. We paid a gas man to check the boiler when it was playing up. I want to pay a cleaner but Hubby says no! Recently we made shelves ourselves, this was a great example of insourcing. We need to paint and redecorate some rooms, I would like to outsource these jobs but will probs end up doing them with Hubby. Some things are worth trying yourself, but others we need to think about the skill level required and the time constraints we both face.

I am exhausted, this has made my brain hurt to be honest! Will continue on the next steps after my next shift at work!haha.