A Little Project – Blackboard Garden Planner

Mr AF and I are a little shed obsessed :

20140630-173315-63195855.jpg

The one to the left (with the extension!) is his, the one to the right, one day he turned into my potting shed. Seriously, the way to my heart is with a shed, apparently.

Anyway, he decided to hang his old car bonnet in my shed to use as a notice board, so at the weekend I took on this little project!

20140630-174100-63660570.jpg

This is an unflattering picture of the inside of my shedlet. Also, in case you’re wondering, your monitor is straight, the previous genius owner of the shed built it on gravel instead of flagstones. Le sigh. It will be rectified eventually.

Anyway, blackboard paint can be a little expensive, but on a trip to Wilko I spotted some, and at £3.60 for a small tin I thought we could give it a try.

20140630-174634-63994207.jpg

This is the smaller size tin which purports to cover 3 sq. m.

We brushed the bonnet down, it is covered in a light layer of surface rust but we didn’t take it back to bare metal, it’s a very rough and ready thing. The next step was to mask off the areas to paint, I went for a large central square with a rectangle either side for lists.

20140630-175111-64271099.jpg

I worked on the edges first and then filled in the middle, the paint went on really smoothly and had good coverage. It shows as being touch dry within 30 minutes and ready for a second coat in two hours; I think this is fairly accurate as by the time I had finishing filling in the middle the edges were very close to being dry.

20140630-175513-64513504.jpg

I took the tape off while the paint was still wet and found a fairly crisp line under the very cheap masking tape so I was quite pleased with that. I toddled off for a sit down for a couple of hours; before long I was masking up again for the second coat!

20140630-175928-64768451.jpg
The second coat went on even smoother and more quickly than the first, the first coat doing a great job of filling the surface. I was really impressed with this paint I must admit!

Also – I used hardly any to get a good two coats on – not a very good picture but this is how much I have left :

20140630-180315-64995241.jpg

I got all excited buying the chalk today and the finished article is below!

20140630-180419-65059795.jpg

The other nice thing about this paint by the way was how ridiculously easy it was to clean up! Thoroughly recommended!

(Almost) Silent Sunday

A frugal(ish) hobby of mine is taking photos around and about; usually in my garden…

20140629-085602-32162636.jpg
A rose waiting to bloom. These are a lovely pale yellow once open.
20140629-085731-32251016.jpg
I love bees

Or sometimes someone else’s!

20140629-085851-32331885.jpg
A chive flower, taken at Congham Hall herb garden. The spider has made herself at home.
20140629-090005-32405767.jpg
Taken in Kings Lynn Walks

Taking photos doesn’t have to be expensive, my camera cost under £80 and was a present. You don’t have to kit yourself out with the latest gear and all the expensive add-ons to do something you love.

A Frugal (ish) Week

To be honest with you, I’m struggling to write this post after the mad dash at work this week, but I shall persevere. This week has been a fairly successful week for this aspiring Frugalista. I did stump up for cinema tickets (honestly, Mr AF is like a cooped up child sometimes, very antsy) but I left my purse at home to avoid succumbing to cinema treats. Success one! We did enjoy the film and we barely ever go ‘out out’ as Micky Flanaghan would call it so I don’t feel too bad about it.

I did succumb on two days to junk food. Not happy about this, but it’s gone from every day, several times a day, to twice this week. Not bad.

Obviously I’ve done five. Very. Long. Days. At. Work. But hey, it’s money in my pocket and pension, and I made some more money to go on top of my wages this week, success two.

Success three has been the fact that my pension contribution has taken me below the threshold for making payments to my student loan!

Success four – thoroughly stuck to my meal plan and remembered to get everything out of my freezer so it was ready when needed. Also made this week’s meal plans which include a couple of meals to batch up.

Success five – Mr AF got the electricity bill through, we’ve used far less than last year, the DD has gone down again and he’s due a £260 refund from them which has pretty much paid for our September holiday – happy days.

My budgets are looking healthy at the end of week one –

Groceries – £69.80 / £250 – this includes next week’s shop too.

Petrol – £39.89 / £90 – this should last me the rest of the month. My mpg figure has actually dropped this week, but this has been a week of short journeys rather than long drives which obviously affects the figures. I’ll work out my mpg next time I fill up and see how the decreasing weight of the fuel affects the figures. Ok, I’ve finished with the geekery, wake up!

Pets – £51.89 / £100 – this may go a couple of pounds over but this is the vast majority of the pet related expenses for the month.

All in all a very successful week! If I can stay this frugal with food I will definitely have cleared my final interest earning debt and I can crack on to the interest free ones. That grocery total above was previously probably one weekly shop and one top up; there it’s two weekly shops and a top up. I use my credit card as a debit card – I pay money onto it every month for petrol and groceries and use it at Tesco for the club card points. Next month I will top it up to the budgeted amount and anything left will go to the debt. I need it gone, we’ve got plans for life!

Just a Thought

The beautiful thing about time is that it’s a continuum. There’s no full stop, no start or end. Every minute, every second is new.

So why wait? Why wait until the new year, until next month, next payday, next weekend or even tomorrow?

Fresh starts begin with fresh decisions. I’m struggling with weight loss at the moment and caved with a cookie and some toast today. It was almost going to be a full on binge day until the above comments dawned on me.

Don’t make your fresh start tomorrow, make it now! You won’t regret it!

Knowing What You Have

A huge part of being frugal, I am coming to find, is knowing what you already have. Whether it be food, toiletries, DVDs, CDs, it’s handy to know what and how many/much you have.

I don’t normally buy toiletries but get hoards of the stuff for Christmas. I think all I have had to buy recently is a bottle of hair conditioner and deodorant. It has got to the point where I have no idea what I have, and not realising that I only have one bottle of shampoo left could have led to something of a greasy disaster.

Doing inventories of things in your home seems to be something we put off constantly but when it’s done, is it really that bad?

20140622-152339.jpg

Now I’ve done the toiletry inventory, found that I only need to request my favourite soap and glory shampoo and conditioner for Christmas (the rest of the year Alberto will have to do, at a pound a bottle it smells yum and does the job). I’m going to put on my big girl pants and inventory the kitchen next, a cupboard a day should make it less daunting! It should let me meal plan more effectively and reduce that ‘oh damn, I thought I had some of that…’ feeling.

Until next time!

Another Payday? Really?

So, last month went a little bit pear shaped when I realised my budgets were so far out of whack it was untrue. Careless and more mindless spending when I felt low defeated the parts I did have in budget and I am indebted to savings pots, but luckily my debt is no higher than it was last month and I haven’t gone into the overdraft that I cleared last month, so there’s one triumph. One down, three to go.

So, the money came in and has now been sent winging on it’s way to savings pots, debts, and other accounts. I have scrutinised my budgets more closely this month and am hoping to be a whole lot more accurate but I have read somewhere (probably on MSE) that it does take time to get budgets right. I’m not giving up, that’s the important thing. Here are the main, trouble causing budgets:

Groceries and household – still sitting at £250 this month, however my meal planning and online shopping was so effective last month that I’m keeping a very close eye on this one via a spreadsheet and I should realistically be able to slash this, perhaps even by half. I’m pathetically excited by this.

Petrol – again, still sitting at £90 for this month but as this is my current budget focus again it has an entry on my spreadsheet. I am at the end of my “normal” driving week to set a benchmark for my mpg figures and will update this weekly. That figure is the cost of me filling my tank twice in a month; under normal circumstances I fill up every three weeks or so.

Dogs – £100 which covers food and Roger’s medication. Hoping to have a little of this left as his jabs are due (handy hint, you get an extra bit of time from the jab due date!) so I’m saving up for that.

Debt minimum – £170 is the minimum I want to pay to my debt this month, which has already been paid plus a bit as I made a rounding payment to get rid of a pesky odd number. I have OCD. Leave me alone.

The rest of my wages covers the bills, amounts into spending pots for annual bills and car related expenses, and a bit of spare money. My budget spreadsheet is currently a marvellous thing, colour coded and everything. I am so tired of being on this roller coaster of increase debt, pay off debt, increase it again plus a bit, pay it off, increase, etc etc. I have such a great role model in my mother for how to manage money, that woman is a force of nature she really is. Time to be more like her and less like what I’ve become!

The Basics Brigade

20140616-193949.jpg

Okay, I’m going to say something now that a whole lot of frugaleurs will probably disagree with.

Value and basics ranges are not always the best value for money.

I must admit to being very selective when it comes to value ranges and I am a bit of a tart when it comes to baked beans. I love the supermarket own range and always buy them in the most economical pack available. I can’t stand value baked beans, so I’ve drawn my ‘value line’ there.

Value ranges aren’t economical if you don’t like them; they will sit in your cupboard gathering dust until some hapless child’s harvest festival presents you with the opportunity to donate them. Value cooking ingredients are however brought into my house with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I wholeheartedly use flour and pasta from the value range, anything where I know that the finished article will be greater than the sum of it’s parts. I have however moved away from value eggs, free range are only a few pennies more expensive, don’t support the battery hen industry and are far better quality. One day I’m hoping to keep my own chickens so it will no longer be an issue!

My shopping this week came in at a handsome £25.92 which I am rather pleased with. I am sticking to my meal plan, hurrah, and this is starting to work it’s way nicely into my routine. Click and collect is truly working wonders for me, curbing impulse buys and as it’s now free I’m all for it!

Next on the hotlist to control is my petrol expenditure; the food budget plate is spinning along merrily so it’s time for some economical driving! I filled up on Saturday so I’m going to record my mpg figures after a week of “normal” driving so I have a starting point of how much my driving is really costing me. I shall enjoy my girl racerhood for another few days!

20140616-193539.jpg

A Frugal Father’s Day

20140615-142447.jpg

For a few years now I’ve gone with baking rather than bought presents for both Father’s and Mother’s Day. This has a few benefits- my parents are borderline hoarders so consumables are always welcome. No mess, no storage required, they just give me the plate back when they’re done. Also, I like to think my time and effort mean a lot more to them than something grabbed off the shelf at the last minute. The last, obvious benefit- baking is cheap like the budgie. I had all the ingredients to hand, just a bit of time and care makes something that my dad will enjoy (coffee cakes, which he loves, because it means nobody else will have any as we don’t like them. My mum gets Victoria sponge dripping with buttercream).

Happy Father’s Day Dad xx

Attack the Groceries

One thing I struggle with is trying to take on too much in one go. The pet budget is pretty much sorted for a few months while we get some weight onto Roger.

My focus for the next few months will be driving the grocery budget down; there’s quite a lot of wastage in this house, oversized portions and bananas going off, that sort of thing. The first thing to get sorted – reducing waste. So, without further ado, I present:

The Meal Plan of Glory!

20140610-192154.jpg

Meal plans don’t have to be complicated, or beautiful. They can be written on the back of an envelope or on a rizla if that’s all you have (and you have teensy writing). My previous mistake was always searching for the perfect printable and trying to organise it all. Over organising it.

So, I’ve opted for a battered old reporter’s notebook, interspersed with notes on my budget and shopping lists. All the main elements of that shopping list are to be found in our cupboards or freezer and my shopping (already done, due for collection on Friday) has come to about £26.00 this week; this is down from a normal total of about £50-60.

Know what’s in your freezer, it could save you loads!