Who knows where the time goes?

Busy in the city

A rare treat! I met some of my old college buddies on Saturday night for a meal in Covent Garden in London. It is turning into an annual reunion, which is lovely. Only five of us could make it this time. The bad selfie above is what we look like now and the one below is what some of us used to look like. Where has the time gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were 18 and now we have all hit 50! Can you spot me? 

The city was heaving as it was Black Friday weekend and the last part of my underground journey was horrible – everybody squeezed on top of each other. I deeply dislike both crowds and the tube so I was glad to get there. It was worth it. We had a lovely evening and the journey home was a bit better.

An Autumn walk

Mr S dragged me out for a walk on Sunday – he fancied kicking a few leaves about! It was what I needed – a bit of fresh air and exercise.
I managed to almost finish my Christmas shopping this weekend. I found a few Black Friday bargains. I was buying anyway – I tend not to get dragged into the hype usually. All bought online -I wasn’t going to brace the crowds twice in one weekend!!

How is your Christmas shopping going?

Got the L plates on!

So, I am now a driving instructor! Not a qualified one – it is Mum’s Driving School. DD3 has been out several times with her instructor but this was the first with me and, once she got used to the clutch, she did well. I’m going to take her out at least once a week so that she can get through her test as quickly as possible.

My friend at work brings me food from time to time – I don’t know why, maybe I look under nourished! His mum is a great Jamaican cook and he has given me Jamaican patties a couple of times now. They are delicious, like Cornish pasties but with a kick. The pastry is also spiced and golden yellow. This is good frugal food with a difference and worth exploring I think. He is promising me rice and peas next which sounds right up my street. I am going to check out some recipes.

I am off to London tonight on the train to see my old college friends. I don’t enjoy going into the city much but I am looking forward to having our annual catch up. Should be fun! I shall report back…

This and that

DD3 is fond of Heinz tomato soup. She prefers this to my home made (cheek!). However it is expensive I think. I tried the Lidl version this week and it is pretty good, I am having it for lunch. 39p! Bargain. Let’s hope she enjoys it.

I really don’t read enough these days. I rarely seem to have time to get involved in a meaty novel so usually read non-fiction. However, I do love Kate Atkinson books and have read them all. I was pleased to find her latest, A God in Ruins, in our Children in Need book sale last week. I hope it is good. 

Still no luck with finding a tenant for the room. I have dropped the price a bit to try to tempt a few more people round. I suppose it’s not the best time of year to move. I have also put it on Room Buddies as well as Spare Room. I hope I find someone or it will be back to the language students.  I might even put a card up in my local Co-op.

Fingers crossed I find someone soon!

Are you in a JAM?

The JAM generation: Just About Managing

I have heard the phrase JAMs over the past few days, standing for households who are ‘Just About Managing’. Low to medium income families who are generally overlooked. Apparently the Government will bring in some measures to help such households in tomorrow’s autumn budget.

You could argue that some of the JAMs have already been negatively impacted by changes to in work benefits, so will the Government look again at that? I doubt it. I suppose  some have benefitted from the introduction of the national minimum wage, so swings and roundabouts.

Now I know why things feel so sticky here sometimes – we are JAMs! Not holding my breath for much assistance from the Government though. With this lot I think we all need to learn to help ourselves as much as we can!

Enough of politics. I have come to the conclusion that the world has generally gone mad so best  just to keep my head down!

I finally sorted DD3’s car insurance last night. I chose Adrian Flux who gave me a good deal on a policy for her as a learner driver to run along side my own policy. We will have to start the whole battle again when she passes no doubt.

A Lidl disappointing

We tried Lidl’s 3 fish roast as a possible option for Christmas dinner for my nearly vegetarian daughter (she eats fish but not meat) at the weekend. I wouldn’t recommend it. It didn’t have much fish but did have a lot of quite rich and cloying sauce. It was basically an ok tasting fish pie, but not special enough for Christmas. We will make her a posh nut roast I think!

Unnecessary products

I just caught the very end of Supershoppers on Channel 4, where they promised to investigate cellulite vanishing tights next week. As if tights are going to get rid of your cellulite! It got me thinking about other totally pointless or at least unnecessary products. You may as well pop a fiver in the till and leave them on the counter for all the good they will do you.

Large companies employ clever  marketing teams and spend big bucks devising new products to persuade us to part with our cash. They are so good at this that soon we believe the hype and forget we ever lived  without them!

This list is just my opinion. You may well disagree or you might want to add some. 

Air freshners. They don’t and can’t create fresh air.  Open the window.

Tumble dryer sheets. Uh?

Shower gel – what’s wrong with soap?

Diet meals. Make your own low fat dinners.

Pills that claim to burn fat. Sorry. Don’t believe it!

Body firming lotions and bust lifters – unless they are made at Hogwarts 

Separate cleaners for your kitchen and bathroom. Ditto shower and oven cleaners. One multi surface cleaner will do the lot (or some bicarbonate of soda on a sponge)

Hand sanitiser (unless you are in hospital). Wash your hands with soap

Hand wash ( as above)

My daughters will disagree with this no doubt, but … skin primer? You put it on under your foundation to keep the foundation on, then put powder on top to keep the primer and foundation on ….! You will have more layers than an onion if you’re not careful.

Separate hand and foot creams

Fit Bits. If you didn’t exercise before I bet you don’t suddenly become an athlete just because you are wearing one.

Cellulite creams. They don’t work any more than the cellulite vanishing tights 

Any moisturiser that claims to lift your skin and diminish wrinkles. (Or do anything other than moisturise.)

Neck cream. It’s still skin,right? You can use whatever you put on your face!

Stretch mark creams. I tried these when I was pregnant and afterwards too and came to the conclusion that they don’t work. The only thing that reduced my stretch marks was time.

Which products do you consider a pointless waste of money?

Small victories!

Another small victory for my bank balance – the cats love the cheap Lidl biscuits I bought! They are only £1.99 and I pay around £4 for the usual brand. Still being cautious and I won’t stock up too much just yet.  As Ilona commented on my last post, cats are fickle beasts so I won’t be at all surprised if they turn their noses up at some point.

I have two more ladies coming to view the spare room this week. I have made sure they have my number and asked them to text if they can’t make it after I waited in all afternooon for the last one. If I can get someone in before Christmas that will be a great help to the budget. We are all a little nervous about it though. We regularly have short term students but this is a different prospect. If we don’t get on they won’t be leaving after a couple of weeks! 

What if they both want the room – how on earth do I choose? On the other hand neither of them might like it, but at least I am getting a bit of interest.

As I type this, another email has popped into my inbox about the room. Fantastic 😀.

I have been tidying up still and making space in the kitchen cupboards for the lodger to store her stuff. I lined the rather tatty shelves with some nice plastic and they look much smarter. I need to clean out all the kitchen cupboards before I let anyone cook in there! 

There is always so much to do but I am trying to be as organised as possible and keeping the house super tidy so I can get people in seeing it at its best. Wish me luck!

A purr-fect bargain

I have had a minor breakthrough in trying to spend less on cat food. I have been trying for years to get my fussy girls to enjoy anything other than the most expensive food but to little avail. The best I can do is look for deals on the fancy stuff in places like Home Bargains and buy in bulk. I decided to try some premium Coshida cat food from Lidl this week though and they love it!

At 19p a pouch as opposed to the 32p minimum I generally pay that is a great saving. However, if you own a cat you will know what they are like. As soon as I buy a big quantity they will decide they hate it! I give them biscuits too to keep their teeth clean so I bought a bag of the Lidl stuff  but haven’t tried it yet. Fingers crossed – that is around half the price of the usual brand.

I had a contact on SpareRoom.com who was supposed to come round today but she didn’t show. This was annoying (and rude!) as I had to wait in all afternoon when I could have been with Mr S helping him at his mum’s house. She is coming out of hospital today and needs a downstairs bedroom, so he has cleared and painted what was basically an unused junk room for her. It looks great!

I am taking dinner round for us all shortly anyway – I made chicken chasseur from a recipe in A Girl Called Jack.  Let’s hope she thinks it’s better than hospital food 😀.

More reasons to save

So, I put money away for Christmas and holidays but unfortunately not quite enough. I need to up the amount next year! We had one more holiday than we anticipated at the beginning of the year, which was our choice. That’s what saving and being frugal is for – to stop the worrying and allow money for the fun things in life.

I would also like to greatly increase the amount we have in our emergency fund next year. The boiler playing up has made me realise that. It is still not right despite two visits from the plumber. but he doesn’t think it is terminal. Let’s hope not as it is now very cold in the mornings and evenings and I need some heating!

The ad has finally gone on spareroom.com. I have already had a conversation with a nice lady from America who is coming over in January to study, but we have agreed I will keep the ad on for now as I had hoped to get a lodger sooner than that. I am not convinced we are close enough to the university to be ideal for her so she may find something more suitable anyway. 

I read a very interesting article about the new government Lifetime ISA coming in next year. If you are under 40 you can put your savings in and at the end of the financial year the government will give you a bonus of 25% of what you saved. This sounds great so what’s the catch? You can only take money out without penalties if you are buying your first house ir flat, or for your retirement at 60. 

If you are struggling to save to get a foot on the property ladder this appears an excellent way to do so. Similarly if you are nearing 40 and worried you haven’t saved enough for your retirement this could be a good deal. 

I have told my daughters to consider this and I hope they will. More information can be found here.

It’s all going on!

I was so tired last night I slept for 9 and a half hours solid. This is almost unheard of. I generally limp along on about 7, which isn’t enough! So this is what normal people feel like? Alert and full of energy. I must try it more often😀.

I blame the clocks going back. That always messes up my body clock. The problem is that if I go to bed at 9pm every night I would never get anything done. I will aim for 10.30.

We had a fun day at work on Monday for Halloween. The thing I like most about working where I do is the people. We all really went for it with our monthly dress down/up day. I transformed myself into a zombie by ripping up an old t shirt and covering it in fake blood and some cheap make up from B&M. Some commented I looked better than usual 😀.

We don’t mind visits from the littlies in our street so always put a pumpkin out. I had a big tin of sweets from Aldi but I had so many small vampires, princesses and ghouls they were gone in half an hour so I had to bring the pumpkin in and hide! 😜

Still waiting on news regarding my dad. He has two potentially fatal illnesses unfortunately and will need an operation and some kind of cancer treatment but we don’t know exactly what is required yet. Hopefully all will be ok but it’s a bit worrying. 

Mr S’s mum is also still in hospital and will be for some weeks whilst she mends. She will need a lot of physio to regain her independence.

All we can do is knuckle down and carry on and hope the NHS does a good job on them both. Fingers crossed!