Thursday, 28 July 2011

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

I am off tomorrow to spend the weekend with my friend in Wales. I am looking forward to getting away for a few days, no husbands just moms and kids ! We are staying with friends so no accommodation costs. I have a small budget to spend which hopefully will not be a problem as we intend to go for lots of walks and spend time at the beach. The kids will happily play for hours at the beach and I can relax and read my book. In the evenings we like to go for a walk after dinner, then watch a DVD. The children usually amuse themselves by making a den upstairs and then proceed to eat a midnight feast inside ( ie sweets ).  The weather here has been great the last few days , I hope it stays sunny for the weekend. Have a good weekend :-)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

No room in the oven

Have been a busy little bee today. I've been using up freezer and store cupboard ingredients and had the oven full up, but only once ! From the freezer came minced beef and wraps and I made beef enchiladas. I made enough for tea, one to freeze and there was some enchilada meat left over. I will freeze this and use it for snacks at a later date. I did this for the first time recently. I warmed up the meat and put it into pitta breads, then toasted them on the George Foreman, they were delicious, quick and very easy. From the cupboard I had a tin of cherries and a packet of crumble. I made one big crumble and two smaller ones to freeze. I do need to get more organised with my time and by doing things like this , it saves me time, energy and money at a later date. I may look to get another oven shelf as I only have two and it was a bit of a juggling act squeezing everything in. Cook once, eat more than twice :-)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The best kind of Freebies

Some of the best kind of freebies are the one's where you don't even have to move a muscle to obtain. Last week we acquired some freebies that we handed to us. Through the front door came a free eye test voucher, worth around £20 and the lovely people at National Express gave a free voucher for a Daysaver Ticket. This is worth £3.60 and I can travel around the West Midlands conurbation for a whole day for free, using the bus. Luckily whoever posted the flyer through posted two , so I can have two free Daysavers. Other freebies came via my husband and his train travel. When he gets to the station there is normally someone giving out freebies, this weeks delights include a bottle of Lipton Ice Tea, a bottle of Powerade, a little can of dry hair shampoo and two samples of Nivea cream , which are ideal for handbag/travel. The Daysaver voucher is only valid until 14.8.2011 so I will have a think about where we can go.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Birthday Party Update

After much deliberation we had my daughters party on Saturday. Her birthday is in August but we decided to hold the party the day after school finished so it would be fresh in peoples minds and not on a workday. The initial guest list of 16 children was then whittled down to 8, so with my daughter and the adults it totalled 13 altogether. Originally we were going to the cinema on a weekday at a cost of £5.40 each and then off to Pizza Hut afterwards. The kids parties are advertised at £5.99 per person. So we were looking at a total spend of £123 approximately. We decided this was too much and looked at a cheaper alternative. By going on Saturday we were able to take advantage of the £1 showing so the cinema worked out at £13. We went to Pizza Hut but didn't book a party. At the moment the kids meal is £3.99, the extra £2 per head for the 'party' doesn't warrant the spend as the kids already get the activity books and chefs hats to colour anyway. We also took advantage of an offer that expired Sunday ,where you could get a pizza for £5 each and the kids eat free also applied with this offer. So we had 4 kids eating for free ! The spend in Pizza Hut for 4 adults and 9 kids came to £44. The celebrations came to £57 altogether. We also saved money by not buying a birthday cake, instead my mom made cupcakes for the children which they all really enjoyed with butter cream piping and edible glitter on top. The party was a big success, all the children enjoyed themselves and my daughter had a great time. An extra bonus was that we were able to return home to a nice clean , mess free house !!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Lovely Lichfield

Not much going on this week due to illness. As it was a lovely day today we decided to blow the cobwebs away and go for a walk around Lichfield. It is about 8 miles from where we live but we really like it there. They have a nice park, with beautiful grounds and an excellent play park for the children. We spent around two hours at the play park, took our drinks and snacks then afterwards a walk around the cathedral city. It is an old city and there are lots of quirky buildings around the town. We would really like to move here but it is a long way off, property prices are expensive here. 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Feeling Yuk

No posts this week as have been feeling unwell. Hope to be fighting fit very soon.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Another Rainy Day

This week I have felt somewhat low at times regarding my long term goal of moving house. Our neighbours, as nice as they are, have been doing work on their house since New Year and every day since then, we have had banging, drilling and numerous other noises. This week when I was home it was really intense, every room I went into I could not escape the noise. Each night I have had a banging headache. On Thursday I decided to do something constructive and draw up a list of things to do before we sell. We want to put the house up after Christmas so I want to get as much done as possible. My plan is to start at the top of the house and work down, decluttering as we go. Today was very wet where we live so I gave hubby a nudge and off we went into the loft and made a start looking through the stuff. It seems that the suitcases have been reproducing up there , we seem to have more than before. It could just be that the clutter was obscuring the view !  I have made a pile of stuff to keep and another pile to give away. We are going to take some rubbish to the tip tomorrow and numerous card board boxes that we have been hogging for years. We also bought down a huge bag of clothes that we had been storing. My husband rediscovered some jeans and a few work shirts. I found some old joggers which I will wear around the house. Some clothes I will try to sell as they are still decent, other clothes I am going to recycle at the clothes bank tomorrow. We had a funny moment where my husband tried on a shirt and he looked like the Hulk. He was protesting that it used to fit when I realised that it was in fact a woman's shirt and when I checked the label it was one of mine! That was funny especially when I tried it on and my daughter said he looked better in it than me, I am sure she was only joking. We also found up there my daughters baby box which still had stuff inside. When we opened it up, we were reminded of her as a baby as the baby smell just hit us. We are going to keep the baby box but we have found lots of other stuff to get rid off. We are going to have a car boot sale one weekend and try and get rid of the junk and earn money at the same time. We also unearthed some home brew equipment that my husband bought when we moved in in 1996. It has been in the loft ever since, that is going to the car boot as well. The loft still looks cluttered but we have made a start and when we do have a car boot that should get rid of even more.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Asda Bargains

This evening we ventured into our local Asda. My daughter had been given a £5 voucher and it was burning a hole in her pocket. She managed to get a bargain. She chose a hardback copy of one of the Wimpy Kids books which was RRP at £12.99, Asda had it on offer at £6 so less the voucher she paid £1 for it. Then it was my turn for bargains. If you have read my blog for a while you will know that I can't refuse a meat bargain. When I see reduced meat I just cannot walk past it especially nowadays with the rising cost of everything, if I see a bargain it goes straight in the freezer. The lady was printing off those little yellow stickers so I surveyed the shelf as she was marking down. In total I had nine meat items that should have totalled £41.54, which actually came to £6.18. Here's what I bought; Leg of Lamb £8.79 to £2.18, Fillet steak £6.28 to 50p, 4 Scotch beef burgers £3.00 to 50p, Chicken Breast stir fry £4.50 to 50p, 2 Chicken Breasts £3.29 to 50p and lastly 4 packs of diced Chicken Breast which should have been £3.92 each down to 50p each. Now there was more but my poor freezer is fit to burst. I did have to make room to squeeze it all in, I confess that I threw away some ice cream that had been in there quite a while.

School Holiday Childcare

I had a scary moment earlier when I looked online at the bank statements. Its the middle of the month and the balance seemed rather low. Then it occurred to me where the money had gone. The children break up next week for the school holidays and 6 weeks of child care begins. My provider had to be pre booked and pre paid in advance of the childcare. Since last year the childcare fee's went up by almost 50%, its a Catch 22 because you have no alternative to pay it as you can't get six weeks off work. Luckily for us we don't require the full six weeks. I work part time and we have both taken a fortnights holiday off work. Then my husband has some odd days off so we have scattered them through the holiday so we only need two days a week for four weeks. You might think that doesn't seem much but during the school holidays, most of my wages go on childcare so I don't have much leftover. I try and save some money in the preceding months to soften the blow. Although it is costly my daughter really enjoys it there, they have lots of fun activities and she gets to meet up with her friends. It will be her last year there as after age 10 they can't go anymore.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A tale of two families

There is an interesting article in today's Daily Mail which I read this morning  ( free, online ! ) which tells the story of two families both earning the same income but one family is in the North and the other family is in the South. The income in question is a household income of £50,000 per year. The story makes an interesting read. The family in the South  live in a £600k detached house, they have two cars and Mom tells how she has dropped the Tesco shopping from £250 to £150 ( you assume this is per week as it's not confirmed). The article goes on to state that they have virtually nothing for life's luxuries. They have stopped having their three holidays each year, given up their £75 monthly gym membership, can't get the children their favourite brand of clothing and recently their horse died, which they are not going to replace. From the photographs they look well clothed and have a beautiful home, the car on the driveway looks decent too.
   The family from the North have a lower value home , due to regional price differences but the article describes them as having an affluent lifestyle. They belong to the sailing club, a private health club, having annual holidays; fortnight's skiing and also a fortnight's summer holiday abroad,regular meals and activities out and the article says they don't have to worry about bills or shopping.
     Our family income is a little over half of theirs and please don't think that I am jealous. I find it interesting how people live, I suppose you could say I am nosey! But there are people countrywide who are struggling financially who aren't able to relinquish the horse, the gym and the holidays , as these people have never been in a position to have these things in the first place. When I read the blogs, I see people making serious adjustments to survive. The article does offer an insight into how other people live but I don't honestly feel any sympathy for these people. Perhaps they should do an article on how families are struggling living on £20k per annum ? What do you think?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Father Christmas has bagged a bargain

My daughter has wanted a TV in her room for years and we have always said 'no', but this year we thought that if she asked Father Christmas he might get one for her. A few months ago I saw a TV/DVD combi for £99 in a local store. We picked it up and it is safely hidden away until Father Christmas delivers the presents. Today we went back in the store and the same TV is now £129. I know prices have gone up but that seems a huge increase, I'm just glad we bought it in advance. Do you buy in advance ?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Ideas Please

Its my daughters 10th birthday soon and we are thinking about how to celebrate. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions please ? Things to consider are : small budget, small garden and its on a weekday.

My five year plan, from ten years ago.

When my daughter was born nearly ten years ago I felt very motivated and naturally was looking forward to the future and making plans. I made a five year plan and had various goals written down. I have the plan somewhere so will dig it out , but one of the goals was to move house. We have been in our house for 16 years and never imagined that we would still be here now. Emotionally we were ready to move on ten years ago but with having a baby and loss of income we decided to stay put. Then we pondered for a few years but never really made a decision. Then we finally decided to put the house on the market, we did this in September 2007 , just a few days before Northern Rock ran into trouble. Subsequently we had the house on the market and no viewers. We tried again about eighteen months ago but same again, no viewers and the estate agents were worse than useless. They tried to get us to reduce the house drastically to sell but the margins were so tight that we weren't going to jeopardise our financial future just to give them a quick sale to get their ( fixed price ) commission. So here we are ten years on from making the five year plan. We have taken decisive action this time around. We have almost paid the credit card debt that we had hanging round our necks, when we do move we will no longer have the debt or the associated monthly costs. We are going to do a few jobs to spruce the place up but we are not investing serious money on a new kitchen or bathrooms, just a general de clutter, clean the carpets and lick of paint. Our aim is to put it up for sale in spring next year, its sounds a long way off but it will be here before we know it. Hopefully by then the market may have picked up a little. Either way we will be ready physically, mentally and more important , financially , to make the move.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Do you like my drawers ?

Picked up another bargain from eBay, this time a matching pair of bedside drawers. The seller lived a few miles from us so it was really easy to get to and collect them. We won the bid at £21, which pleased us as these are from a well known Swedish store priced at £39 each. They are in excellent condition and were being sold due to a house move. Years ago if we needed anything we would head straight off into town and buy from the big stores. Now I always check out eBay as there are hidden gems at a fraction of the cost and at least the cash is going to a person instead of a faceless corporation.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Happy 4th July

Just a quick entry to wish my American readers a 'Happy Holiday' for American Independence Day. All across America there will be lots of festivities today and I wish I was there to celebrate with you. I have been in America a few times on Thanksgiving and have always enjoyed the celebrations. Have a great day.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

eBay bargain

Just a quick one to share with you. This week I picked up these framed pictures from eBay. I won the bid at £5.50 for the two. Now these pictures retail at a local outlet store for £20 each so I was very pleased with my bargain. I must admit they do look better in real life than in the photo. In the New Year we hope to put our little pigsty up for sale and I want to spruce the place up a little before hand, maximum effect for minimum cost. Do you like them ?

Free Family Day Out- Cars in the Park

Another glorious day and we decided to head off to the park to enjoy the sunshine. We went to Lichfield park, a family favourite with plenty of space and a nice children's play area. We hadn't realised that this weekend was ''Cars in the Park'' , a car show held annually each year. Since last year they have made it free admission. The park was packed. We had a walk round, watched some of the old cars from the 1920's , had a peek at a tank and the children had fun sitting in a fire engine and trying on the fireman's helmet. It was a real blast from the past, so many cars there. I saw my first car there ( the same model) a Ford Fiesta, as well as our family car from the 1970's , a Ford Cortina. There were lots of sports cars with groups of men huddled around admiring the turbos and the paint work. Afterwards the children went to play on the play park and were there a few hours making friends and having lots of fun. We took our own drinks and snacks in the cool bag,just as well as I overheard someone saying that a bottle of water cost £1.80!! It was a really good afternoon, and apart from an ice cream each , didn't cost us anything. I will have to make a diary note to check it out again next year.

Friday, 1 July 2011

One year later

This time last year we had just found out that my husband was being made redundant. The company announced that the workers would be made redundant in December, just before Christmas. We immediately started to cut back with all manner of shopping and any unnecessary spending. It really changed our outlook. Prior to this we had never been in this situation and until you experience it for yourself , you really have no idea as to the worry and anxiety that it causes. It was a very dark time but luckily for us , my husband got another job just two weeks before he was due to finish. The job was lower paid but we were just so thankful to be in paid employment. However it made us realise how very close we came to losing everything. The bills seemed so high with the prospect of earning very little and at that time we had the frightening realisation of  having to repay credit cards on top of everything else. Once my husband started his new job, it was then we decided that we didn't want to be in that situation again. The redundancy , was out of our control , but being in debt was. We began to make plans to get rid of the debt. We both worked as many extra hours as we would and with cutting back and other ways, we began to make serious indentations into the credit card balance. We have really done well. We have now paid about 80% of the balance off and the remaining 20% should be paid off around August time. We don't spend at all now on the cards, mine have been cut up and my husband keeps his purely should he need it for work purposes. So here we are on 1.7.2011 and the year has flown by. This week we found out that he will get a small pay rise this year. Although the amount is derisory , we are so glad that we are in employment. Its easy to focus on the disappointment of a small rise but we have stayed positive and reminded ourselves that we are in a much better situation than last year, and once the credit card has gone, the pay rise however small , is real money that will be ours and not handed straight over to a bank repaying debt. Its a really exciting feeling to be almost out of debt and we will be back where we started years go, with just a mortgage.