Tuesday, 15 November 2011

-£6016.93 D ...we're getting there! Things are good despite the fact that Joel is unemployed and we are reliant on my wage - which for the past 6 years has been very wobbly and some months non-existent. We are also living to quite a big extent off the generosity of some very good friends who have committed to supporting us through a few months and from that we've just had to get good at budgetting. We've never before finished a month with anything left over - so our budgetting strategy has basically been 'when its gone-its gone'. Now we are able to put everything into one big savings account and transfer over set amounts into our other 4 accounts for various month costs at the start of each month . Its so simple. (and means I have a whole account just for presents... which is why Christmas 2011 shopping is amazingly easy!)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

£6511.93 D ...I'm thinking that's got to be close to a third of the way through. Good news is that we're paying £50 over the minimum repayments every month... and they are reducing each time as there is no interest. I think I worked out at that rate it would take us over 2 more years to pay the rest off - I'm aiming, of course, to at least half that...somehow

Back again

Its been a while Mr Blog. I'm kind of sorry and I've kind of avoided writing on purpose. This last couple of months has been a tough one to get our heads round money-wise and the emotions of dealing with redundancy - basically - have been enough to just get on with without wanting to sit down and process it into words. Some days its been better for me to switch off, deal with what we have and how things are now and bury my head in the sand. However... I think we're in a rhythm that I can deal with, if only for the next 3 months, and then on with the next part of the journey!

So my new bedtime is 11pm. Gone are the days where I force myself to get in bed at 2am slightly dreading how that will feel when I get to the 7.30 alarm and a day that begins with shouting at children to hurry up and get ready for school. So here's to hoping that sitting in bed at 11pm I might allow myself 10 mins to write a blog post.

I'm about to make this months credit card payment... new total coming in the next post which I will do after facewash and teeth clean.

Monday, 1 August 2011

3 bits of info:
£7111.93 D
We have no funding for my job.
I'm a little bit scared.

On the plus side - the debt hasn't grown. It does seem to be taking a long time to shift but then if I think back to the first stage of my blog my target seemed just as big as this and it was only to pay off £1,500... so of course the beginning numbers came down quicker - the beginning numbers of this target are all thousands so- yeah- it will take just a bit longer!
So we were gutted this week to have got a no about our grant application that was right into the very final stage and the feedback was looking so positive. It would have solved so many things and been so amazing for Golddigger as it would have resourced us to open our centre in town up to host girls courses, open a drop in and to start some very much needed work in town with some very vulnerable girls being targetted for sex trafficking. The reality is I actually am worried more at the prospect of NOT being able to do this work than the prospect of not having any stable income as a family. So I just don't really understand the whole rubbish situation. Still -we believe we should be doing this and so I have made it a parallel target (whilst paying off £7111.93) to raise 24,000 by the start of October so that we can at least start the project we've planned. I hate fundraising - its not something that uses anything in my natural skill base and I have no idea where to start - but enough of resenting the fact that I have to do something because there is no one else to do it - the story of so many charities - and somehow Beth and I will find it somewhere! £24,000 can't actually be that hard to find can it!?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Its August next week. August has been the dreaded month in the calendar for such a long time in this house and its very nearly here. So... August is the last month we'll get paid for Joels job. Its the end...of...that. August is the month I will find out if the Golddigger funding to salary me for 3 days is going to be given and here's where we see if we can earn enough doing random bits of work and projects here and there to live off! Yikes! Thankfully we have some wonderful people who have offered to give us some personal support to help us through this first 6 months to a year. An amazing couple contacted us a while ago to say they'd like to pay our mortgage for the next 6 months. This was while there was a strong possibility Joel was going to get a fixed part time job anyway. We said we might not need it but they took the amount and made it up to 150% and committed to giving that even if he got a job and I got the funding. How amazing. Thank you Jesus! Anyway he didn't get the job and I'm still clueless about the funding...but we will have a home to live in :) Joel then sent out an email to lots of people we know outlining the finance situation of his next step and I presume that also asks friends if they can support any of that. I don't actually know as I could only bring myself to read the first bit before it felt too squirmy and I didn't want to know. I don't know why but it just feels really weird asking for money and I just can't do it... but so far another 3 people have offered to help us out - my instant reaction is always feeling awkward and asking why before I realise I am really grateful!
Anyway - its an adventure. I feel kind of peaceful about it all because I know we have really tried to get a proper stable job - the job market is really tough at the moment and we're not used to not getting snapped up for employment but he has been for so many interviews and we've just been surprised at the standard of the candidates at each one. Tough market. So we can at least move forward with the vision to set up these new projects he is stepping forward with knowing that he kind of has to make it work - and not just because its the favorite option but also because there is no other option. My focus project has just been to get us out of as much debt as possible before things get too tight and so that we bring down our monthly payments on the credit card - because hopefully there won't be any credit card left. I think I've got quite a bit more to pay off by the end of August - I MIGHT not manage all of it :S but I'm still optimistic that somehow I'll be able to find £7000 from loose change down the back of the sofa and clear it all before September!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

So we're getting closer and closer to the time that all things change in our house as Joels job has nearly finished. We still dont know if I will be funded for Golddigger, we still dont know if Joel is going to have any sort of stable job but some very amazing lovely poeple from our old Church understand that and would like to pay our mortgage for us for the next 6 months anyway. Well that's quite amazing. I love the way God provides and I love it that I know that a month before I am really scared too - God looks after my worrying too!
On the other plus side I have been so busy with work over the past few weeks that I havent' spent anything at all. Not sure what the kids have been eating - oh I think all my mum and dads food but I have been on school dinners and that must have saved me a bit of cash!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Thanks to school I am currently on ebay bidding on ditsy print play suits for Holly. I didn't really need to have to buy her any new clothes but as she's been given the category of 'Victorian bathing suit' costume for the summer concert and a load of really confusing images for inspiration which include full nautical dresses with bloomers and hats (which you can not buy for anyone over the age of 1) and some clingy dodgy stripey things (no thanks) and some pictures that kind of look a bit like the sort of playsuit I could maybe pick up from Primark?! Seriously - other children have been given the 40s dress category (easy) and some lucky ones got 'modern day'... and I get VICTORIAN BATHING SUIT!!! I'm obviously in the bad books for taking her out of school on Monday.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Well I had a lovely birthday yesterday - breakfast in bed with all the family ending in jam covered sheets and then later on just a nice stroll down Ecclesall rd and a Starbucks. The weather meant we couldn't really do Chatsworth or the park or anything as there a few yukky storms but all I really wanted was a nice chilled out day with my family - and that is what I got :) and aside from having to spend the evening colouring in white elastic with black marker pens to sew into tap shoes for the dancing shows, I enjoyed movies and a cosy night in! Its een great to have had my wages through which gives us a good bit of breathing space for the rest of the month and tonight I've been trying to work through what else we'll need to survive the month so that I can put the rest onto the credit card. Well I think I'm safe for now to move over £340 so thats done and it takes us to £7611.93 D. You know, that does still seem such a lot of money...but then if I think back to my first achievement when I finally paid off my overdraft - that was only £1,500 in total - and yet it seemed such a big challenge. This credit card started off over 9,000 so I've already made it past what I've done before! Anyway that big old horrid number is certainly getting smaller!

Friday, 10 June 2011

What can be more fun than an evening of trying on borrowed and gorgeous dresses!? I raided my friend Als wardrobe on the way home from work tonight. I need to find things to wear for this video shoot and its best if its not just same old things I wear all the time and to every gig. Equally I wouldn't want to spend a lot of money on something new and end up thinking 'Oh I wore that in a video so I can't wear it for many more special occasions' so whats better than borrowing someone elses nice things! I'm going to be very careful and look after them very well...and as a bit of a magpie and a fabric stalker I am very excited to be looking after such beautiful things!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

On good recommendation I tried again shopping at Aldi this week. I don't normally bother with it because I spend too long looking at packets trying to work out whether they really are cheap or just a lot smaller than what I'd get in Tesco. I'm still really unconvinced. I ended up buying some really cheap mangos, blueberries and rhubarb which I don't tend to go near on a low budget month and I didnt even bother with cheese and milk as I knew they were more expensive in Aldi. So I then had to go do another shop for all the Tesco value things and ended up fed up of shopping and forgetting to buy toothpaste and tea bags. I then ended up having to go for those later on at the local coop and spent double what I would have in Tesco. I think I like it when i just go to one place and buy everything! One good thing though was that the children found a quid on the floor. They took it to the Aldi lady and she let them keep it for being honest - 50p each for theose 2! Rumour has it they take it off you at Tesco!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

There's Treasure Everywhere

I had something to blog about just now that has totally run away from my brain. I've been completely side tracked today planning for a music video we're doing next week. Its all been a bit rushed but we're basically trying to get something together for a schools week resource which will be given out to loads of young people in Sheffield and so the schedule and the budget are tight. We've never done anything like this before and I started out today a bit stressed and overwhelmed but after a day of planning and scripting I'm quite excited. Today has been like an epic game of 'find me'. We've had to find a grown up girl, a little girl, a spare guitarist, a spare bassist, a treasure box, some woods, a castle, an old necklace, a letter, 2 matching dresses, some clothes for us that we have not worn on stage before and probably wont ever wear again and some boys braces. Its been fun and apart from still having to raid my parents house while they are away and (hopefully) my friends wardrobe (who happens to be a very well dressed lady who's clothes are amazing and sparkly and nicer than primark) we are nearly there and should be ready by Monday! Its made me realise that there really is treasure everywhere. I LOVE it. I love that we have no budget but are set to make something to be the best that we can out of the resources we already own and can pull together out of the things we have around us. Whats old and ordinary to me is unusual and exciting to someone else and vice versa. There'll be no Matrix flying or autotuning our faces but hopefully we'll be able to make something that tells a simple and important message that actually matters. But for now I'm tired and its sleep time - yes definately.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

We almost have a new piece of land. Among all the stress of managing the budget at the moment it just seems ridiculous that we are about to spend thousands on some extra grass and trees - it just doesn't seem quite as useful as groceries or something practical - but apparently its a wise investment and ahead we go. So the solicitors letter arrived to advise us to send payment over as its all about to happen. Hmmm... maybe and I wonder if we will get it and can fence it off in time to send 30 little pirates in to the trees for a treasure hunt?! That would keep them busy and a bit stuck!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Decided to put the blackboard wall to good use and make it the backdrop for Elijah's party invites. I'm braving 33 kids at the house - no entertainers. I would really really like to pay someone else to entertain a whole class of receptions in my lounge but 'ugh money' and so Joel and I are going to brave it and I now have a list of games and activities! We CAN do it!! Well, how hard can it be? :S

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Care free

Bit of a rubbish day yesterday - circumstance and worry were getting me down. Things spiral into ridiculous when you find yourself calculating the cost of petrol to the park and so opt for the one across the road just because its free even though its not where you want to go - and then feeling like every decision you make is basically decided by money and then what if we have to live on half of what we have now and is life just going to be miserable? I don't want to say no every time to anything I'm invited to, or every time my kids want an ice cream or to go to an after school club. I also - and this is the worst - don't want to wish every day of the month away to be closer to pay day and get that sense of relief that we've made it through. If I'm wishing my life away because money is that stressful then life has really become very pointless! Sometimes I wish I'd never started this blog and continued in financial mess but quite unaware and at least happy... and yet I'm kind of glad that its been an adventure in itself and that I've learned some stuff about how to be in more control of money... but I also know that control is a very dangerous friend and it likes to hold you as close as you hold it. I don't want to be controlled by money or to become controlled by trying to control it. Truth is I am happiest when I just don't care about it. Realistically I know that's not an option I have right now - we're moving more and more into a phase where we have to count every penny and work out ways of earning. How to do that and maintain not caring all that much about it is a mystery but we'll find a way to get there.
I guess I feel like we're wading through treacle for quite some way ahead... and I'm not sure what the end result will be. Hopefully carefree but with strong legs that have been built up along in the wading process. Maybe I will have become a naturally good money organiser that I just do it without having to think about it and I will feel like I never have to give it a thought?! Anyway...its my birthday on Saturday and though I've not decided what nice little thing I might do I also am not looking forward to it in the sense of hurrying it to get here because I am going to enjoy every day of the week for as long as possible. I've wasted 3 days ill in bed and 2 whole days worrying about the existence of the day because we need to pay for the meals it makes us need and the electricity it requires - neither of those types of day are any good whatsoever so I'm NEVER planning to spend them like that again.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Ugh...another sad day goes by and I've been sucessful all because I have spent nothing. Thats kind of crappy.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Sylvanian News

So the girl wants a bike for her birthday - well she now needs one that fits her as she inconveniently keeps growing. She is also desperate for some animals to start her Sylvanian Families collection. Expensive little creatures but they are very cute and seem to have a good market on ebay so its a hobby I am happy to encourage so long as she is happy to not have many. Well I'm seeing what a friend might be able to do in the way of a bike discount and I've just found a good deal on some little bunny rabbits :)
A used cottontail rabbit family just sold on ebay for £6.20 plus £1.80 postage. RRP 16.99 new. So £8 for a used family is actually quite cheap for what I've seen on ebay... its quite a ridiculous market... but I just checked amazon again this morning and picked up this cute little fawn rabbit family for £9.63... they'll come new in a box and everything!!

I was not as better as I'd planned today. Joel is also ill so it was more of a housebound day with a trip to coop for paracetamol. I did not have a budget allowance for medicines but we have certainly spent over. The side effects of these penicillin tablets is that for the whole of last night and the whole of today I have felt like a shed full of bits of wood. Everyway I lay and any position I am in a feel like there is something sharp and bulky inside my body that is sticking into one of my limbs or organs. Its really rubbish - shame I have about another week of having to take them. I'm hoping I just get beyond tired that I can sleep anyway and then I can kind of get back to life. Today, however, we did some painting, the kids re-organsied their room and earned 75p each for their efforts and tonight I've been spending time with my budget folders. I'm eagerly awaiting some expenses and my bit of wages to arrive. We are now living with our cash for the month in a jam jar and NOTHING in the bank account. I suppose its fun.
I did, however, just pay off this months definate installment on the credit card - so with £200 over to that we are now down to £7,951.93 D - ACE - I love having that all in one place - that just seems so much more managable :)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

I did my gig. I felt horrendous right up until sound check. I managed 3 songs before I had to sit down, came home, felt sick, ate beans on toast, drank lucozade, arrived as late as I could and I managed it. I did not faint, vomit or cry on stage and my voice held out until I talked for too long towards then end. Tomorrow I plan to see my beautiful children - its nearly the end of their holidays and I've been stuck in bed so I plan to enjoy them tomorrow and might just spend £3 of my £102 letting them go on the boats at the park - cos they deserve such an extravagance!!
Anyway - the plus side of being bed ridden (aside from having to spend money on prescriptions, paracetamol, lucozade and ravioli) was that I've entered TWO competitions. Loose Women and Dickinsons Real Deal. I entered on the website for free. So bonus if I win one of those?! Well... David Dickinson himself did point out -there has to be one winner and it could be you! So it COULD be me! That one is for £3000 - Loose Women on the other hand is £10,000 AND £5,000 in M&S vouchers... the ladies in the audience did a big 'OOOooooooooohhhhhh!!' at that - personally I would struggle to need that many pairs of pants but I could buy a round of pants and bras for everyone I know with that sort of a winning!
So Im having a miserable bed ridden few days with 'quite severe tonsilitus' but planning to be mended for this afternoon - we have a gig in Sheffield this evening. At least its nearby and I'm pretty sure I can stand up and just try my best to ignore how I feel for an hour and hope my voice holds out. Not only does it mess up a whole event if I cancel - it also means I lose out on getting paid - which I obviously can't afford to do right now.
Anyway - I started making these a few days ago - some cute little wooden bunting flags which will either be a good party bag filler for Hollys party or part of a craft thing I can do with the girls - the idea being they get a short little piece of bunting each and the middle one will have their initial on. Good way to use up tester pots or leftover big pots of emulsion and some MDF we had clogging up the shed. I'd quite like to be finishing painting these rather than stuck in bed but thats not todays plan obviously!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Well... first day of the new start has been somewhat of a let down. Day 1 of the £317 for June and June hasn't even begun yet. CAR TAX COSTS £215!!! Onwards we go with £102...and this is actually the richest we're likely to be for a long time :( Really not happy news - at all. Still... its sunny and we're taking the children out tonight to a free gig and my parents have just brought round their fridge leftovers before they go away... so we have some basil, bacon and tomatoes... I can make us all a sandwich! Every cloud :)

Monday, 30 May 2011

Well this is a poignant day. Today is the start of the new approach to finance in the Toombs house and I'm quite excited. I almost feel a bit stupid having never thought to do this before - and feel a bit like 'Ohhhh...does everyone else do this?? - I've never thought to' ...but better late than never... and it just never occured before. From today we are splitting back to using 2 accounts. Not his and hers but fixed bills and living non fixed costs. When money goes in at the beginning of the month it always seems to be such a nice big amount and I feel so much more chilled out and thats when spending can go wrong- I feel like budgets are fine and I'm not as cautious. By the end of the month I'm more aware of making everything stretch as the account is getting low and I've a far more realistic view of how we're doing. But fixed costs are fixed costs so they're always there, they go out on direct debits and basically they just happen to pass through the accounts. So why not clear them out of the way and then I know how much I'm actually living on??!
Our basic bills come to just over a grand. Thats mortgage, council tax, insurances, phones, gas, electric, water etc. So on pay day that amount can stay in and whats left gets transfered over to another account and THAT ONE is for petrol, food, spending, presents, school trips, clubs etc... basically EVERYTHING and ALL cheques need to come out of there. Most importantly when I check that balance I know that is all we have AND that there are no bills due to come out of that - so it should make for better budgetting. So here goes!
I have transferred over the leftovers for this month and am a little wary that we have £317 to live off for the month...and car tax is due in 3 days so thats 1/3 gone already! Looks a little frightening to be honest - but then I know that that amount is always what we have - its just normally hidden at this stage of the month amongst lots of other pennies that are promised to some company! So since its also 4 family birthdays this month too we'll be pushing the weekly shop amount to the very extremes and I'm not going till the cupboards are actually empty!!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

I've not given up on my food plan. The next installment will be on its way... but since it involves making large quantities of one type of food to get the best value for money it has meant that for the past week the only meal I have made has been bean chilli and rice. We've had a few night off- the kids got taken out to pizza express last night and have had tea at my parents house when they've been there after school and Joel and I are at marriage course on Friday and last night had curry at a birthday party... other than that if we're in for tea I've made us bean chilli...and theres still a good few portions in the fridge before we use whats in the freezer. There was just a bit too much maths to rush onto the next meal - but I've not been to the supermarket in a long time - got to be good right!?

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Golddigger have been assessed for a grant this week. I feel like, on the one hand, of course we wont get it - because we've never got a big grant before so I can't imagine how on earth that would feel. On the other hand, aside from the fact that our family really could do with a little more stability in my wage, this funding just seems so significant for Golddigger at the moment- so I really think we will! What it will mean is that we have 3 days a week for a girls course base. This means we can take on girls and run our own courses (rather than only being booked in and given a list of girls the organisation wants us to work with) and that we can open drop in time so that we can spend more time with girls who are in need of a bit more support - or who have finished a course and just want to carry on talking through things. I'm so excited about this. We see it as being a bit of a resource base - not just a drop in with no content but that we'll have all our resources there so we can use activities to make this time a bit more structured and useful but make it bespoke to each girl who comes in. We've recently done a course where in the sessions dealing with sex, one girl who is only 13 told us that she wished she'd done this course earlier as it had made her realise she'd been letting this boy just use her for sex. She'd not wanted to say no - but that she suddenly felt she could go and tell him that want going to happen anymore because she deserved better than someone being with her for just one thing. 2 weeks later she was really positive because she had done that and that he'd shown her respect and not tried it on since then. That was our final session with that group though and we have no formal way of keeping in touch or offering her any more support. Having a drop in space means we will. Another a group we're working with have a high percentage of eating disorders. We asked them to tell us what they would be like in an ideal world and most of them wrote that they'd like to be 6 foot and weigh 6 stone. One girl said she would choose to be 5'9 and weigh just 4 and a half stone. Sure they know they can't change their height... but so many of them are never satisfied with their weight... and thats because they are aiming at a bmi which doesnt actually exist- its off the scale! I know that in the course time we'll be able to work with some of these girls enough to reassure them that they're ok and to be content being healthy... others need to sit and work 1:1 specifically on nutrition and issues that are causing them to have such an unhealthy body image. Again, the drop in space means we can do that. I've never felt quite so emotional about my job as I do at the moment. I'm sure its not hormonal - I think its because we're dealing with some really really sad issues and we're also seeing some really dramatic changes in the girls. Its amazing and completely soul destroying all at the same time...and I'm really glad I do it.
So the challenge is on to hopefully have this space in September! We need to find other funding to pay for the changes we'll have in rent - which will go up by about £75 a month from what we have now as well as this grant - if we get it - (please Jesus) so its a challenge but its quite nice to have a different financial mountain to climb as well as my own - a change is as good as a rest isnt it?!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Thursdays is the new budgeting day... Normally Joel and I will sit and handwrite out where our spending is up to and keep each month in a pretty folder (yes that part was my idea). Budgeting software and spreadsheets are all great I'm sure - but they compute themselves and don't seem to get enough into my brain...which is where they need to be to be most helpful really - so pen and paper is the way forward. So Joel's not here today and its over to me. Its basically going to be a tick list of all the normal bills that come out, a supermarket table and then other tables for other things. Right now I know that its the 19th May and we have £150 left. What I dont know is whether that's all for food/school stuff and whatever or whether there are any humongous council tax bills due out before the end of the month (did I seriously just spell that word right first try!?...yes it seems so...nice one) So I get to look at the statement, tick things off as they're paid and write in EVERY trip to the supermarket for milk, any cash machine withdrawals etc into the tables and I can keep adding up where they're all up to. Seems like a lot of work... is that what every other family has been doing for years?! I always just guessed everything... which doesn't work so well apparently.
So anyway, before I started I also just gave myself a little spending fix by splurging £50 on the credit card- not spending from my credit card...but paying it off. I don't know whether we can afford it - but that made it feel a bit more exciting. I like barclaycard... they give you a colourful target board thing - a bit like a blue peter fundraiser thing - so that you can see how much further you have to go. I DO have quite a way...but I'm looking forward to seeing whether I can go on it again when I've ticked off all my bills and have £150 left to spend!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Hurray for earning £34 just by quite quickly sorting a bag of old clothes for the school toy and clothes sale. Yes, I would have probably got a bit more on ebay but the reality of me getting round to listing a load of stuff is not great as most of these things have been sitting in ebay bags for years waiting for their turn to get sorted through! Anyway... 35% has gone to school and my £34 will come in nicely - as well as going to the toy sale resulted in me getting an amazing monsoon dinosaur shirt and waistcoat for Elijah for £4 which will last him a few years of smart dressed occasions (as its a nice big size) and a gap cardy, a next dress and a pair of rollerblades for Holly for £3.80. Super. Only down side is that sorting through the bags of clothes resulted in me crying when I labelled up one of Hollys little dresses to sell... I now think I need to have another baby girl... so in the end I kept that one.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Why do I always have a guilt trip about money and a real urge to save every penny just before my birthday? I've been stopping myself getting GHD's for so 3 years and had decided they would be my birthday present this year... so now, because I feel the need to save money I feel like I shouldn't have any presents and save all of the money instead. My mum will knit me a jumper that doesn't fit - so its not like I would go entirely without... loft insulation is always handy :S Silly guilty sensible feelings... sure they'll fade away soon and I can fit a quick impulse buy in!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Sainsburys £50 for a weekly shop?

Sainsburys are doing a big new campaign – showing you how to feed a family of 4 for £50 a week. Well I am quite a fan of Sainsburys and still contend that it is the cheapest place for me to buy the food we eat (because its basics range is really good) but since Sainsburys has a good reputation with the slightly more upmarket shopper, and as I am currently already sending £50 a week without their meal plans – I reckon I can go further and half it. Well... since our income may be dropping to 1/3 of what we live on now... I need to at least half it...and then maybe try to push it further! So meals for a month for £100 is stage 1 of the plan!

So, working out how much things cost is a bit more laborious than I first expected... but counting cherry tomatoes and division sums with my receipts in hand is the way forward I guess!

Yesterday I made a load of mushroom soup and a big vat of bean chilli... and then I got calculating and got all the tupperwear out and portioned it and stashed a load of it in the freezer. I now have a 1 day plan that comes to a grand total of £3.58 for 4 people.

Breakfast: Wheetabix (Sainsburys 48 pack is 6p a wheetabix) x2 each + milk (10p ish each??)

88p for 4

Lunch: Mushroom soup (600g value mushrooms £1.70, 3 value onions (30p) 2 cloves garlic 10p-ish, water (free), spoon of boulion (10p), butter, bit of milk)

2 slices bread

86p per meal for 4

Dinner: Basmati rice (4kg bag from Tesco £6.35 and 3 cups per family meal EQUALS 88p per meal... oooh thats quite a lot more than pasta did you know!

Bean chilli (olive oil, 2 onions, 2 cloves garlic, 1 red chilli 25p, 8 tins plum tomatoes £3.92, 1 jar pasata 98p, 1 spoon boulion, mixed herbs, - blend it with mixer – 2 cartons kidney beans, 2 cartons canalini beans, 2 cartons chick peas £3 for 6 cartons) Makes enough for 10 whole meals – thats 40 servings!

£1.84 per meal for 4

Grand total of £3.58

So... theres no snack allocation here...or puddings... or drinks. I will certainly need a tea bag allowance and to add in the price of a few apples and biscuits but generally we all drink water. We fill up a bottle in the morning (2l each for Joel and I and 1.5 for the children) and each try to get through that each day.

£3.58 would come to £25.06 in a week if we had that every single day...which is on target...but of course is far too much mushroom soup and bean chilli in your life... but the good news is that pasta is cheaper and interestingly organic porridge is actually cheaper than wheetabix – so there are still savings to be had on the meal plan journey!

Credit card journey has also moved forward. £-8201.93 – thats a nice chunk of my wages and expenses I've comitted to paying across! – and I'm trying to work out how much more we can free up from the rest of this month.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The clearer picture

So I've not really blogged on money for a while. That's not just because I haven't thought to or because I've not got around to it but mainly because its a bit of a raw issue in our house at the moment. On the one hand we have a fairly healthy bank account - because we have extra mortgage to buy the land next to our house. That is due to all happen quite soon - so we'll have to work on that, fence it off and maybe put an extra door in the kitchen. That's the happy news. The slightly more stressful news is that we're about to go down to just one income. And the scary thing is that that one income is actually mine. My income can range from between £110 a month to £750 a month - yes - and it's not all that predictable until the very last minute. Joel's contract is about to end on his job and there are just not many jobs out there. He's looked and he's tried...and is still looking and trying- but we're also having to think outside the box on how he can be working with some business ideas to start bringing some money in... but it's not a very comfortable time. Actually its been a tough time - and mainly because we feel a bit like we're living in limbo. On the one hand we can afford a few things at the moment - not much, but we're able to do things. Our printer broke last month and we were able to replace it, we've put money aside to buy Holly a bike for her birthday... But we're also feeling like we should be saving every penny possible for the summer when things could get really tight. We've made the decision today not to take our trip to Italy in the summer. Its a friends wedding and we've already bought our eurotunnel pass and all the insurance...but we figure we'd be wiser to make a loss on all of that rather than try to afford the petrol and accommodation. We were planning to camp for most of it but even so - the cost of eating while away seems to be so much more than when you're home - not ever sure why!? But as much as we'll be gutted to cancel that - we're just not in a place to cover that sort of cost. So instead we've decided to plough all our efforts over the next few months into paying off the credit card - the longstanding aim! So its all been consolidated... 1 card... no interest... and the target figure stands at £-8701.93. Yep. Our aim is to have it paid by October... not sure why we picked that but the sooner the better :) So here starts what feels like a brand new adventure... here's where we find out how little we can really live off! My quick sums tell me that with £421 for the mortgage £93 for council tax, £150 for gas, electric and water...£30 insurances and thats pretty much the end of my possible £750 wages... Oh man.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Day 225: Its 00:48

It's 00:48 and I've just about finished sending emails and making arrangements for work... this is all so that tomorrow when I wake up (for my 'day off') I can know that I've cleared up most of the scraggy bits of work so that I can just concentrate properly on a couple of big work deadlines. Its all a bit crazy and its almost a bit much... but its also quite brilliant to be doing a job that we're seeing high demand for and that we're really seeing what we worked so hard and for so long to set up and establish really works... and aside from all the admin I've had to plough through today the most crucial part of my working day was being able to sit with a group of 20 teenage girls and just share my experiences and thoughts to help them hopefully work through the issues they are facing. Tonight was all about sex and relationships. I love it that all my stories and experiences - the good, the bad and the funny can all just be used in equal measure just to get girls taking control of their own choices and valuing who they are. And its a bonus that I'll even earn a bit of money for being there... shame I'm not on double overtime for emails I have to send t 00:48.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Day 224: Its sunday

Its the last day of my holidays too... and its a bit of a tip in the house today. The budget is all spent for the month so I'm glad there's only a couple of days left of February to go... and I think I can make an adequate meal out of pastry, cream cheese and red peppers...which is basically whats left in the fridge today! Things to do today... finish the tiles, tidy the house, find Joel a job!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Day 223: Party Planning

Yes we're getting on with it a little early. But I never managed to blog my way through kids party spending last year as I was just too busy at the time doing it all a bit madly. Anyway - both children decided on their party ideas on boxing day this year so 6/7 months planning time is probably plenty! Holly would like a Garden Party and Elijah a Spaceman party.
Garden Party ideas... go!... ok we'll have lots of bunting... I will have to use material I have for occasions from the 'needing some spare material' box and I shall make some, picnic rugs and cushions outside, den made out of Hollys old bed, games, bead making, we'll make hanging lanterns out of old jam jars (need to save them) tea lights (I have hundreds) and some wire? will need some glass paints (google) and maybe how about some candle making - that'd be fun....oooh maybe with some dried leaves and flowers in to make them extra gardeny - sure I can hire something from the council... games... will think of some later... giant cup cake for the birthday cake and that can be enough ideas for right now! Ok so budget - I have no idea. Lets aim for £100 in total - food, party bags, prizes, decorations - everything...but must be in keeping with my normal party standards.

Just got back from filming... managed to dig out some v. cheap tesco straightners out of the loft and they had to do. Filming was good but it was SOOOO hot - bad idea to plan to wear a jacket in one of the songs!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Day 222: Ergh

Just had a weird couple of hours... I'm filming for some TV tomorrow - I need 2 outfits for performances and I had no clue on one of them and had one of those evenings where you try on everything you own and none of it is right. Had a dress that I got for Christmas that the material was right on but the shape all wrong. It had a fairly high neckline and big puffy but short sleeves - the kind of thing that looks amazing on Fearne Cotton but no one else in the world can quite pull it off. Ive worn it - but with a jacket over - which means deep inside that I don't really like the way it looks so I've hidden it a bit - but I had a brave moment with a pair of scissors this evening and decided to see what it might look like if I took the sleeves off... Not very good was the answer but thankfully I found that out by taking just one sleeve off and then managed to get a bit of vision and worked out that I could make it into a one shoulder dress very easily and that would make the neckline more flattering as well as keeping at least one quirky sleeve. Just need to sew it up at 1.30 am ready for tomorrow!
Worse than that my GHDs actually just exploded. Actually this is more like what happened. 1. I just washed my hair - its a sensitive shade of blonde right now. If I style it right and get my make up right I love it - but when I've just washed it its frizzy and that makes it seem a horrid colour. So anyway... my power cable for my laptop has been a bit dodgy recently. It keeps sparking, which is a bit worrying. I plugged it in and there was a big BANG noise- and half the house went quiet. I had been getting my straighteners ready to use - so had to unplug them and waited for Joel to make the electricity work again and plugged them in and started straightening my hair. Then after about 2 minutes they did this big sparky fire thing right in my hand and BANG and thats them dead too. So I'm quite understandably a little scared of touching anything electric right now... especially as I came back upstairs and needed to plug Joels lamp in - mine is still on the fused plug that doesn't want to work. I picked up what I assumed was the plug to his lamp and as I connected it there was the loudest most scary noise I have ever heard and made my cry and think my life was actually over. It was actually just the radio at full volume that I happened to plug in - not the best thing to happen in my uber jumpy state.
So aside from having to sew up my dress I also have bright yellow frizzy hair that I can do nothing about and off I go to be on TV tomorrow!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Day 221: GHDS

Its time to do something serious about my GHDs now. The cable is broken again and they work until I pick them up to use them and then they go off. They also are quite scratchy on my hair... yes they cost £90 but I need to confront my stinginess about any item that costs more than £45. I did buy them 10 years ago!
My original plan was to put aside £10 of my spending money every month... but even a simple bit of maths tells me thats a ridiculously long time to have frizzy hair for... I need a plan.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Day 220: The kitchen

Aside from having an uber annoying day of having to work when I wanted to be on holiday and spending time with my family we have managed to have a day of being home and letting the kids go mad with playdough (homemade and recipe amended to include cream of tartar - NOT tartar sauce as I got very wrong last time) and Joel has been cracking on with the kitchen tiles. Its all fun... I've been enjoying a bit of plastering and painting and he's been doing some sawing and drilling and stuff and today the tiling is started! I wanted to blog about Wren kitchens just because I know I blogged about them when we ordered the kitchen and I've not said much since then. Then, the other morning I woke up in a horrible stressed state as I had dreamed that Wren had completely ripped us off - not delivered a kitchen at all, taken a load of money off us and were continuing to do so because they had our bank details. In fact they ended up being a totally fake company and it was all horrible. Then I realised I felt that way as I'd been so annoyed at Virgin Media the day before and felt that I should blog to actually say that Wren were really good. They are real and they sold us a good kitchen at a good price, they measured it all themselves and delivered it exactly when they said they would and the cupboards already assembled which saved us loads on the fitting. Like Wren. Loathe Virgin Media. Our kitchen is starting to feel really homely now and is great for making our home really feel like its ours. Wren were really good at working with us on our budget and because they helped us to cut back on the things we were not so precious about it has meant we've been able to afford to spend on the tiles we did really want, and not to compromise the stone we wanted for a cheaper fake stone and has meant we've been able to get real oak worktops instead of a laminate. We like them :) and they gave us a really good deal on our worktops too :)
Today the solicitor letter came about the land. That's the last phase of spending and what we got the extra mortgage for... time to buy some land and make it into a usable space with the money we have left and before the kids birthday parties! Go!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Day 219: Legoland

Today, being the first proper day of half term, was the first of the planned outings. We've been bracing ourselves that half term may be quite expensive and we have £30 cash for 'family treats' left for the month. Good job then that Tesco points exist and we had some Legoland Discovery vouchers that expire at the end of the week - that was todays entertainment sorted. Good flippin job they were 'free' though! The downside of using Tesco vouchers to get in there is that you cant pre book. The downside of Legoland was that even the people who had prebooked were left waiting about 40 mins after their booked in time. We had to queue for over an hour. Then when we got in finally after queuing amongst about 100 really angry complaining people (which doesn't make the queuing experience any more enjoyable) we finally got inside to have to queue for another 15 mins for the ride. It would have been an 'ok' place to go had it not been half term - (but when else can you take school age children somewhere for children?) - but for the fellow queuers who did not have Tesco points it was £14.50 to get in ?!? EACH!!?! There were a few nice models, a lot of trays of bricks for kids to build their own 'towers' ... and a big tub of bricks to sit in. Playgroup was better equipped and that cost 50p entry per child and I used to get a cup of filter coffee and a biscuit for that too! So... at least we've been and we don't have to go again. Still...aside from petrol to get over to Manchester... we spent £3 on sticker books - needed to pass the time in the queue, we packed a monster picnic and when I was tempted to go buy a cup of tea to drink while the kids were sitting in lego the queue was so long I decided to go thirsty and save money too - and then on the way back to the car I found a really good boys winter coat for Elijah for next year (had been looking online for one as well just last night) in John Lewis for just £16. Highlight of the day :) So...£3 out of the family treats budget and £16 out of the kids needs budget... thats quite a good half term day! Totally overplayed alphabet names, alphabet foods and alphabet 'things' though... long times in queues and cars have meant by resolve to not give my children DS's or DVD players for the car, or MP3 players has been a little challenged!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Day 218:

Not sure why I do this to myself every so often...and then promise myself I will NEVER put myself through it again - home hair dye.
I've decided to go back to being blonde. I like my hair dark but 2 years has been a long sint of dark hair for me and now I'm craving the change. I went to my hairdressers a couple of weeks ago and we did the first phase of highlights. Some of it went blonde, some went orangy and some stayed dark - it looked ok but I dont like the medium stage and I was going to have to go back soon to have the next phase done and then keep going back to get the roots done. I worked out this was going to be expensive. Anyway a packet of dye from boots is £5 and I can pay for that with my boots advantage points so its basically free - so I did that and the blonde lady on the front has been beckoning me to become like her and dye it. Starting a 45 minute dye at 12.30 was a bit silly as I've got to be up at 8am... but thats what I did. So, now, I sit with a towel on my head at 1.39am and I'm pretty sure my hair is a yukky shade of orange. :) all fun and games.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Day 217: Budgeting

I've discovered that budgeting might just work best when I go back to my school mentality and actually keep a ringbinder and use paper and pen. So far I am enjoying it. It is a list of categories, a list of how much the spending target is for each category and then lots of boxes to fill in when we spend anything and a total column at the end. If the spending total is less than the target then YAYYYYYYAAAAYYY... and if its the same then GOOOOOD and if its more then :(
The one exclusive column that is allowed to be more is the one at the end that says Barclaycard.
I really like my budget folder :)

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Day 216:

Ahhhhh.... there is almost a kitchen, there is almost space in the lounge again to sit in there and the bunk beds arrived for the children so there is space on their floor for them to play... a bit of normality has entered the building... but still a long way off actually being tidy and organised as I'd like it!
I spent a bit of my pocket money yesterday. I managed to find a pretty jumper I like and a dress both in a sale... dress reduced from £75 to £20 and the jumper £45 reduced to £20 - (which of COURSE also means I have saved £80) so I paid for those with cash from my purse from my January pocket money and I still have Februarys all left (yes it is only actually the 3rd...but this is me) It as the first time in... perhaps forever...that I have been able to own up to my shopping bags with Joel without having to feel guilty.
Ive also just had a couple of cheques in... aim is so see if they can be allowed to go onto the credit card... but my 'realistic aim of the month' is to get it down to below 9,000 - If the figure starts with an 8 before the end of February then I will be worthy of the title 'The Biggest Loser' too.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Day 215:

Well the week has been a task - electrics on and off and cooker kind of working, kind of not. Last night I resorted to buying a supply of microwave meals and we're just about through to Friday now... then I think we should see a kitchen being built which will be exciting. To add to the slight inconvenience of it all I also broke the toaster this week - which was one thing we had which warmed food up. Ooops and thats another thing to add into the budget!
Tonight though I had to leave work early to collect the kids so was in a bit of a rush to get everything done there, then had to get up to school, down to dancing, over for some petrol and back to collect from dancing and driving home at 5pm with 2 hungry, tired, cold children wondering how they were going to take to having to eat a microwave meal (they have never had one of those!). I pulled up on the drive to find a hot potato bake sausage and kidney bean meal still hot and wrapped in foil and a big cake on the doorstep! How very cool is that! Instant surprise dinner! One of the most wonderful people in the whole world goes to our church and she just happened to pick the perfect time!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The bad news, the good news and the target.

Well I've been excited about today for a long time. I was supposed to be enjoying a half done kitchen this evening - but while I was out this morning Joel called to tell me his mate, who was coming over to look at the electrics had found the whole kitchen circuit needed re doing and that the oven for the whole time we have lived here has been running off a really dangerous circuit. How annoying... but mainly because it means he needs to do that this week and so the kitchen fitters have had to go home and wait for another week before they start again. We have no sink and a dangerously wired oven. We're moving into my mum and dads for a week then!
Tonight though we've sorted the budgets. I've got my £40 left over spending money for the rest of January as cash in my purse and I'm excited that I've managed to save something for more than 1 day! Better still 3 credit cards have been condensed down to 1. We paid off one and combined the other two and this year we will be working hard to pay off £9321.72 D - Oh my...thats a lot of money!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Day 213: Out with the old, in with the new

To reach the plug socket yesterday I had to climb on the edge of the sofa, lean onto a bag of tupperwear and over a big box, while carefully not disturbing the big pile of boxes stacked to one side of me. Our new kitchen has arrived! It lives inside these boxes in these mountains of boxes. Our old kitchen is still here and stacked in piles of differently sized brown shapes and the contents of our kitchen are in other sorts of boxes wherever they will go. Yesterday I needed to wrap a present... "Joel do you know where the sellotape is? Yes, its in the basket in the bag of water jugs on the lounge table. Thanks. Do you know where there are any scissors? Yes. In the cardboard box next to the sofa which has the box inside which used to be in the second drawer down." It's a bit interesting here this week! Plus we also just disconnected the gas hob - how do you make tea with no hob? I had my first taxing tea time trying to think through what you can make with out the aid of the hob and I ended up with baked potatoes, fish fingers and salad. Tonight we can have roast vegetable and cream cheese strudel - then I'm all out of ideas :S
But...'out with the old' wise... our old kitchen will be collected this week and hurray for selling it on ebay for £350! Plus we already sold the fridge on there for £90. Better than hiring a van to take it to the dump once its sledgehammered to pieces!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Day 212: Rubbish and my branston pickle jar that is not rubbish at all

I saw a link to this post all about a family who supposedly live without clutter or rubbish and I did go to read it expecting it to make me feel terrible. Today the bins go out and I knew we'd had to do that thing where you find space in the neighbours bin once they've out theirs out as you've just too much rubbish and you know there'll be too much next week to wait. But actually, as I read on I decided we're not so bad after all. This family have basically thrown out all their junk, and stuff and try to live with as little else as they can. I keep all my junk and stuff and try to buy as little new as I can. And actually, though it feels like a big self indulgent time of chucking out to make space for our new favourite things we're actually not throwing much away at all. About 7 bags have gone to charity - toys and games and crockery all to St Lukes, 4 bags came through the door for clothing and bedding colections and we managed to fill at least half of all 4 of them. Lots of hardly worn stuff on ebay - which I actually like doing because I like the thought of someone choosing something one of my children used to wear like a bit of treasure for their children to wear. I love those things I've found for 99p that my children love to bits! Plus of course, money for the credit card jar :) And apart from the tiles making the actual black wheelie bin - all the rest of the kitchen is being sold on ebay! I don't care how much we get really - how can I when the alternative is that we have to drive it over to a dump and just chuck it. If someone is willing to pay to drive over and collect it from our lounge where it is mainly all stacked up there...then I feel like I should be paying them...but good to know that someone else can make use of something we don't want.
So the credit card jar is filling up and now I have spending money. Yes, I get an allowance just as I did when I was 13. Joel has an allowance too. £50 a month! Yes... and thats a whole increase of £20 from what I got when I was 13- and to cover all the same things! Anything I want to do, entertainment, clothes, coffees, entry fees, grabbing lunch while I'm out, parking etc all has to come out of my spending money. It has made me ignore the lovely All Saints dress I've been watching on ebay for £30 buy it now - thats over half my money in one go. As much as I would so much rather it was a lot more than that I do think its a great idea. Joel and I have never had a spending budget and share a bank account - so if we run out of money its too easy for him to blame me for buying clothes and me to blame him for going out too much. This way neither of us needs to get stressed about what the other one buys. If he wants to go out for lunch rather than take a pack up then that's fine as its not coming out of the grocery budget then that I have to make cut backs in.
Woop for the credit card fund branston jar as a tax refund for our old car came through for £100 - taking the jar total to £480.39. Thats a happy recycled jar for you!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Day 211 My new TTD list

Hurray for my new Things To Do List. Many more creative hours with this to come :D (and of course my beautiful new fridge until it moves to its real place next week)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Day 210: And more...

Sorry... there is nothing more to say today than this. Its all a mess. Its ridiculous in fact but I'm quite ok with that so far. So today was all about tiles off the wall, wood off the walls, 1 tub of smooth over onto the walls, gloss onto the radiator and the doors. All boring jobs of course but all make for a far more enjoyable painting day when we get back from Church tomrorrow! It MIGHT be the day of the blackboard paint tomorrow even. I quite need it to write my lists in BIG!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Day 209: Welcome to my world...

So this is my kitchen. Actually this is no longer what it looks like as now there are 2 less cupboards and there is twice as much mess. Still - there is Joel managing to serve up some spaghetti with the handy tub of bolognaise I cooked last week and stored in the freezer even despite there being no room for actual food at the moment! I have spent enough time looking for range cookers on ebay these past 2 weeks that I have made myself dizzy - so when the one I was convinced I would get (and that I'd found in the wrong category and I was sure no one would see it) jumped from £200 to £390 in the last minute- when it it is a model that is around £600 brand new (and had no cooker hood so I would have had to find and collect one of those) I was finally fed up enough to go back to the currys website and order us a new one. No risky issues of it not working, no cleaning muck before you've used it, no petrol down to London or wherever it is and a nice warranty to give you a bit of peace of mind. All of that and a cooker hood too for just over £600 and delivered on Monday... So budgeting is almost at a stage we know it can be done, the whole house is an obstacle of bags to step over, at least the next week and a half will be chaos...but its all good :)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

And by the way...

...I love trying not to go to the shops inbetween my planned days... no bread for lunch cos I forgot to put the breadmaker on... could just nip out and spend £1 something on bread...but instead I'm using 1 cup self raising flour, 1 cup milk and 1 egg... american style pancakes from our kitchen stock :) yummmmm!
Also - debt plan coming soon... while we're juggling land payments and kitchen appliances etc we're not sure where we're up to until that's all gone through so we can't tell...but once the next step is out of the way we'll have a new figure to tackle and I'm excited!

Day 208: My wall...

I have always wanted to have a chalkboard wall. In our last house we had a limited budget for decorating and were renting so I had to choose between magnetic paint and blackboard paint and I was just too intrigued to try magnetic paint as that just seemed so clever. I painted over the tiles on one wall in the kitchen and it was very cool but not everso strong. I've not bothered to try to do anything exciting with our kitchen yet - well once I painted it bright blue when Joel was out at a meeting - he came home to a surprise... I like to keep things interesting! I've added various wall art - such as a big MDF deer covered in blue flocked art paper. We borrowed a projecor from work, googled images of bambi, projected and traced round the outline onto some spare MDF and jigsawed it - can't remember why now. But essentially our kitchen has been so full of the previous owners personality that it doesn't seem to agree with mine. Hurray for a new kitchen!
So later today I'm going to buy some blackboard paint! I dont normally like to publicly document things in process just in case they go very wrong - in which case I need not mention that anything ever happened - so I am being quite brave because I am a little nervous about the idea. Im not worried about the black. Joel did question why we were going to such lengths in getting a whole new kitchen to be much lighter than the last one if I was going to paint an entire wall black. He could be right - but its all about shape and space and using colour to create a feeling - so if the kitchen plan is good and works then the colour wont be a problem...and I am a fan of black wallpaper. I have clack wallpaper in the lounge, charcoal and silver in the hallway - which most people say they love and hallways are normally supposed to be plain magnolia as standard, black and silver wallpaper in the study and I picked out a gorgous black wallpaper for our bedroom when we moved in which mum and Joel persuaded me to take back as mum said it would look like a brothel... I took it back and 3 weeks later saw my wallpaper done in exactly the way I'd planned with the exact shade of paint I'd chosen to go with it on a design programme. So maybe there are enough black walls in my life... but lets do it anyway!
So my worry is this - in googling blackboard walls I've not been as inspired as I am in my imagination. They seem to fall into one of 2 categories... Old skool school style or Cafe menu board... and there are loads of examples of people creating this look in their homes...not what I'm after :S Here are some of the ones I think I like...

Day 207: This years birthday card?

Well little could follow the success of the lollipop card of last year... If anything they were a little tricky to fit into an envelope so often got tucked underneath the ribbon to decorate a parcel, which for one thing makes them an easy gift tag - child sees lolly + child sees my child's face smiling at them 'holding' that lolly = they know who that present is from, and the other thing is that I've seen the success among the excited faces when Holly arrives at a party and the girls check to see if they are going to get one and tell each other VERY enthusiastically how they got one of those on their present. They LOVE them and thankfully they have managed to fall into 'cult status symbol' category rather than 'overdone'! So the boys ones still have mileage while Elijah has started in reception and this is the year of the class parties but I needed a new idea for boys who've had one of these already. Where do you go from a lolly card? Well I'm not going to try to top it yet - maybe next year we'll do some personalised marshmallow craft or something - or learn to make rock with their names in... but lets keep it simple for a busy year... I always struggle with boy and mens cards... they're always a bit silly. I hate buying cards for men because generally they are rubbish but I also hate making them because I have only really seen rubbish ones... so it is my challenge to make a good one by the end of this year which doesnt follow the line of design process that goes...'errrr...you are a man... maybe you like errrr...boats? So, I know...here is a boat...so...Happy Birthday...!' Boys are less difficult but now I've done googly eye animals, I've done bears, I've done clowns, safari boys and pirates and am having to think slightly more growing up ish... so this is this years very simple effort... The 'age out of objects' theme!

How extremely simple and easy is that... !?? In fact I did this a while back... and just thought of it while tidying up after a play party or something... so cars on the toybox -photo and boom that's your photo to print onto a nice plain square card! (mini ones are lovely and as little as 5p each from craft creations) Whole thing including printing ink and envelope will still make them less than 10p per card - which is a HUGE saving if you're otherwise getting through 40+ cards per child per year at standard greeting card costs...and I had fun theraputically lining up cars and sweets to make shapes... some of us are just sad like that!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Day 206: The homemade homemaking kit

One of the kids favorite Christmas presents this year was one of the things they got from their Aunty Emily (shes brand new and has only been officially an aunty since October when my brother married her) and Uncle Andrew (or Clandrew, as he is better known). This was a genious little idea and the kids were so excited... a gingerbread making set! So on Christmas day they were presented with a gift bag with a big glass jar of all the ingredients, tied with ribbon holding the instructions and the cutters (mrs gingerbread lady and mr gingerbread man) and packed in were the rasins for the eyes and smarties for the buttons and some tubes of colourful writing icing. Not only did it look gorgeous but they've been so excited about making them. Today was the first nice day back after school when none of the three of us needed to go anywhere. There were no play dates or early tea and homework done and a chance to choose something to all do together. The gingerbread kit won hands down for their activity of choice and because it was their gift I tried my best to let them get totally stuck in, make a bit of a mess and roller a bit wonky...I let them make it their own. We had a brilliant family tea time where we each decorated 2 for our pudding... though Joel maybe took his a bit more seriously than a 31 year old man should do. We love homemade :)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Day 205: Prize Tub

While the whole of my house is split into different piles of recycling I also had to deal, yesterday, with the stuff that gets put on top of the kitchen cupboards. This really needs a good sort out - mainly because in dismantling our kitchen we wont have any kitchen cupboards to stuff things onto for a while - eeeeek! So this has been the home of the wine glass boxes, the baking tins, the face paints, the birthday decoration boxes, the tealights, the medicine, the daddy box of batteries, and odd things that I don't understand, and the children's work that has come off the display of the fridge but we can't bin it. But One of the big boxes has made me happy... my prize tub!
Of all the recycling that is going on in different sized mountains around me the prize tub is recycling brilliance. All the party bag toys all the lollies your child doesn't need the 5th one of on their way home from a party already fulled with enough sugar, all the odd bits an pieces from your own party toys and sweets - like when you needed to buy another set of 8 pirate bubbles but only needed 5 of them, a few odd balloons and anything that needs using up but there aren't enough to use or they don't go with the the party theme etc... they all go in a big tub to make the prize tub. Then every party game you do the winners get to dig around and choose something from there - saves on buying another big bag of sweets, means kids can choose between sweets and toys - so the ones that actually don't want more sugar don't have to have it and kids just love it!! (and lets hope they don't recognise that the monster bouncy ball actually came from their party last weekend! So while so many things are getting sorted and cleared out this month - I might just revamp and make more space for a bigger party prize tub!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Day 204.

The meal plan is going good. In fact I'm very glad I blogged it as I somehow tore out the actual list of foods from my 'meal plan' notebook and got stuck just now trying to work out from my shopping list (which I do still have) what meals I might have thought of... so remembering I'd blogged it has saved me that task! We are 1 week in and I think its going well. Technically I should be able to last a whole week more without going to the supermarket and so far I have done just 1 trip for 8 pints of milk (and 2 half price green triangles that I bought for me and Joel for a movie night in - which I only just remembered I'd forgotten and are still in my bag :S)

One slight glitch in the meal plan so far happened today when I ended up with the hungriest little boy needing a proper good meal when I'd planned not to feed him as he was going to a party. I'm not a big fan of play centre parties at the best of times. I know they're great for the kids to run around and wear themselves out while you just hope they don't get lost down some big tube because you have no idea where they are... but today... the children were all given neon shoelaces in their party bags. Shoelaces that are suitable length for the size of a pair of doc martens. Weird. More weird was the food. The party was 11-1. By 12.30 the children were hungry - some were practically crying because they were so hungry. At 12.40 they were taken into the party room and sat at the table... and served with quavers and custard creams. That was it. Actually true - no sandwiches, no salad, not even alternative crisps or biscuits - just quavers and custard creams. Then each of them were given a bun for pudding. My poor boy complained of being sick all the way home. He's never sick and he looked terrible. We fed him a homemade banana and mango milkshake while I made him a bowl of soup and we got the colour back in his face strait away. That was just weird.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Day 203: Hand me downs

Hand me downs can be great - they have got us through so many years and its great when you have nothing to be able to accept free stuff so that you can gradually get what you need. When Joel and I got the keys to our first flat just before we got married we had no furniture whatsoever - we went out with the £20 we had spare and chose to buy a wooden towel box. For a good few weeks that was all that was in there and I slept on the floor! Our bed was a wedding gift and we made a home out of hand me downs from people at church, old church chairs out of the basement there that we were told to help ourselves to and stuff that we found a bit broken in the ikea bargain basement... oh and things people had put out in skips. Hollys first wardrobe was a storage unit out of a skip, our towel box is now stained and is the treasure box of dressing up that the kids use and, falling apart as they are, all the chairs in our house are still those old church chairs that I love.
But what about hand me downs that cost you? What about when they're kind of good and a bit what you need but not ideal and might need investing into?
My mum and dad have been quite determined that we strongly consider taking their sofa bed... these are the factors in no particular order...
1. They probably feel guilty about throwing it out - it was really expensive
2. We could really do with a guest bed
3. The colour is pinkish and really clashes with the dark pinkish wall in the lounge
4. we already have 2 sofas and dont really need another
5. I wouldn't want to get rid of one of the ones we already have - we chose them to last us
6. the sofa bed will ONLY fit in the lounge and there is no space and it is too heavy for upstairs
7. Its a really comfy sofa bed to sleep on.
8. mum prices up reupholstering at nearly £600.
9. oooh now the Christmas tree is gone there IS a big space just right for a sofa!

So instead of turning it down OR paying a fortune to invest into it OR living with an ugly clashing sofa in my nice lounge I've invested just a little...and decided we WILL make it work!
1. Throw (that I've wanted from ikea for ages)... navy and knitted (£25)
2. 2 cusions from pound stretcher and committment to finish off some knitted patchwork ones I once started. (3.99 x2 and free left over wool cushions)
3. Potentially a new can of paint if these tricks don't disguise the clash (£10.99)

So voila... new sofa bed all comfy for guests all for the grand price of 43.97. BOOM.

Day 202: Not shopping

There is nothing like your house being a complete mess to secure a good shopping trip with no purchases. Today Joel and I had a rare Saturday afternoon without the children. They were off on a theatre trip Christmas treat from my mum and dad and so we decided we'd go to town. Joel had a waterstones voucher and actually spent the entire time looking at every book to decide what he would spend it on and so even though I started off interested..then got to the stage of pretending to still be interested...and then was quite done in the book shop...I ended up wandering over to TK Max to look at what amazing bargains they might have that I always hear about. Well I didn't even get close to buying...even things that were really cheap and really useful/pretty/just what we need didn't tempt me as I rembered how much I am desperately trying to sort out and get rid of or make better use of. I just don't need more stuff right now! Poor Joel finally decided what he wanted after an hour...went to the till to read a little handwritten sign telling him that due to a technical fault they were unable to take cards or gift cards today :( Awwww.
Shopping trip today - no spends :)

Monday, 3 January 2011

Day 201: The hidden costs

Now the other episode which is going on in my life atm is the home makeover. I'm excited to announce that for the first time in my life I am one of those people who is 'getting a new kitchen'! I never though this day would come but it actually have - and yes - though the debt is not cleared there is a budget for that and a plan for that and a different budget for a kitchen. We started with an image in my head... I know what I like and pretty much knew the kitchen we need. We have a dark room, small and cluttered. Our life is cluttered and full of photos and bits of feathers, glitter and paint stuck to bits of paper to display all over the kitchen - so there is no room for spindly handles and textured looking duck egg blue worktops. We need a plain kitchen, bright and light catching and neutral enough to be a blank canvas for the childrens hard work at school and my random painting and accessorising urges. So basically white or cream... and simple... and my added big want... a real oak worktop. Homebase offered us a nice kitchen - they pointed us towards their new Portland one, which is 'extremely popular and a really low price' and we booked in for the planning and designing meeting. This kitchen was advertised at £740 for the basic 8 unit package. Funnily enough..at the end of our 2 and a half hour meeting where we planned out our 9 unit kitchen (no appliances) we were quoted over £6000 for the £740 Portland kitchen... now that quite a leap in price is it not?! No thanks Homebase. So on the way home I made some calls and we had Wren kitchens recommended and later on the same day (New Years day as well) - actually within 3 hours they planned us out a much better kitchen, gave us some really good advice, seemed to really know what they were talking about and within 24 hours had also been out to the house to measure to check and amend the plans... and a much nicer kitchen is going to come in at £1800... including my beautiful oak worktop! And not that I want to create a war between them but its also worth mentioning our kids sat in Homebase with us for 2.5 hours colouring print outs saying GIRL POWER that the Homebase team had made in Word art... and then got to go to Nanny and Pappy's house instead of another kitchen shop...and missed out on Wrens choice of playstation room or CBeebies room with mega beanbags for children... :( gutted we got that the wrong way round!

What surprised us though were the things that we later found hiding in our Homebase quote - a couple of hundred quid for them to move our washer while they fit it and plug it back in... £400 for a 'magic corner' so that you can get stuff out of your cupboard without having to stretch! We realised we would never sit and discuss spending £400 on a contraption for a cupboard - not an option! Its amazing what things go hidden when surrounded by what appear to be big necessary costs...while at the same time I'm wondering and debating for hours on end whether to add another £20 onto what I'm willing to bid for a Smeg fridge on ebay! I couldn't care less about a magic corner if I can get a better fridge or a whole oven for that money really could I!

But I did win my Smeg fridge! Joel collected it today and its very beautiful and I'm also feeling satisfied we paid a good price to a lovely family who have looked after it really well and we have a great fridge that aesthetically pleases me and has already been planned into our lovely kitchen design. The only issue is that Joel is cross I want to put magnets and pictures on it to add to its charm and he thinks it should be 'left pure'. Decisions decisions.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Day 200: The food plan

Im really scared of doing cardless spending. I like the idea of going for a coffee and deciding what you have, or even whether you go for one at all, based on the amount that is in your purse that you know you also need for other things - but what I dont like is the idea of having to pay for the big supermarket shop in cash. I generally have no idea whether my shop will cost me £30 or £200- I'm rarely shocked so long as its somewhere within this amount. So I don't really like the thought of having to stand rummaging in my purse to count up to £200 in fivers or to have to give the cashier back £170 worth of food if I've only actually come with £30 that day. However... I'm going to start by having a food plan...which in turn will mean my shopping list is slightly more predictable.
My food planning is made considerably easier by the fact that I hate cooking, I can only make about 10 meals anyway and to save money I normally cook enough when I make a meal so that we eat the leftovers the next night. This also helps when I'm working late or busy some nights. So I've actually just chosen (with the kids) 7 meals and if each of them last 2 night each then I've actually planned for 2 weeks at a time - fab!
So here it is...
2x Macaroni cheese with brocoli and cauliflower in (and bacon on a rich week) with some veg
2x Pasta and tomato sauce (with bacon when using up bacon on a rich week)
2x Spagetti Bolognaise
2x Chilli Con Carne and rice
2x Red pepper and cream cheese pastry thing with salad and potato wedges or jackets
2x Cottage Pie and veg
2x Chicken Pie with any combo of veg that needs using up (normally leek and mushroom)

So there we have it! Actually I havent even included lasagne, or any kind of stirfry or standard roast dinner - so they can be my standby interchangable options for days when we are SO BORED of eating the same thing!

So tonight... I made the red pepper thing and when it was ready cut it in half strait away to make sure there was just as much for tomorrow nights tea :) and even got uber organised and used up the excess pepper in my huge cook off...
I normally make up a big pan of pasta sauce - a basic and tasty tomato sauce that can be used for loads of meals inc. pasta based, pizza sauce for the kids lunches etc and a big tub sits in the fridge all week till its used up or we notice its gone moldy. So instead tonight I made it and portioned it out for freezer meals. This makes me happy cos I know there are now 6 nights where I can get tea out of the freezer and still feel content in being a homecooked mum - as I'll be serving up good healthy food I have put effort into - and not smiley faces and chicken nuggets! So using 2 onions, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 large organic passata, 4 tins of organic plum tomatoes, a bit of sugar and olive oil, bits of pepper and fresh tomato, bit of boulion, pepper, spicy herb and chilli mix, and 3 bay leaves (all comes to £3- when you stock up on tinned tomatoes when the good ones are half price) I made up a load of sauce... portioned enough for 2 meals into 2 tupperwears, labelled them for the freezer... then cooked some beef mince, added some mushrooms and half a yellow pepper that needed eating and then portioned out 2 tupperwears of bolognaise... added a bit more spice and a tin of kidney beans and the rest is enough for 2 chilli con carne teas. £6.50 for 6 family meals (without the rice, penne and spaghetti of course - which I always buy in jumbo catering size bags anyway!) Ahhhhh... pleased with myself.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Day 199: Resolutions

Well 2011 is here and what better way for me to start the year than with a list as long as my road is of resolutions. I love them...!
I spent new year in for the first time I can ever remember, other than when hosting parties. My parents and their friends have always had, and still have big parties and take it in turns to host so I've always been at parties for new year. This year ended up being stuck for ideas and the kids were desperate to stay up - so we stayed in. New Years Eve 2010-2011 Joel and the kids washed the car, I wallpapered and the n when the kids went to bed we did a spot of budget planning and kitchen design. Then approaching midnight I cleared out my wardrobe and started reorganising it. At 11.50 we called a halt to the procedings and picked the kids out of their beds and carried them downstairs to bring in the new year with hot chocolate with marshmallows and a cookie while we watched the fireworks on BBC1. Then all back upstairs where they went back off to sleep and I got back to the big wardrobe sort out. Extremely boring but something about it felt really good - it was like the beginning of how things hopefully will go on.
So...not wanting to be too ambitious or anything...these are my main New Years Resolutions 2011
1. Send all birthday cards and presents on time. (I just sent one to Charlie who's birthday is in february as late as December... and the majority of the year it has sat ready to post)
2. Keep my wardrobe tidy (every year I have this one)
3. Get out of debt.
4. Make and stick to a meal plan
5. Budget and change to card free spending.
6. Go to bed at a reasonable time (mainly 2am all year with 7am starts = tired days I've found)
7. Remember the food at the bottom of the fridge as well as the food at the top in eye sight... too many wasted carrots this year :(
8. Read at least 8 books I haven't read before.
9. Use the Wii fit at least once a week
10. By the end of the year I will have cleared out the 'stuff for Ebay cupboard...and hopefully sold it!

10 seems like a good place to stop! So tonight... at 10.54 I reckon I can wrap a birthday present, look at the budget so far, maybe start book No 1 (after I've folded my clothes and put them away tidy of course) and also stick to no 6 if I'm quick :)