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One Small Step Outside My Comfort Zone

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Ahh, my comfort zone is like my snuggly old dressing gown. Warm and cosy I can mooch around all day with it on, it’s the first thing I put on the morning and often straight after work. My comfort zone is safe and familiar, it asks and demands very little.

However nothing changes.

There are no new experiences here, in my comfortable safe place. I find myself avoiding new things, places and people. I make excuses not to do little things, well things that other people believe are little.

Take our shed for instance. Now I want you to image an old I’m-amazed-it’s-still-standing shed. When you open the door you have to take a sharp step backwards as an avalanche of mouldy old dirty stuff slides down towards you. That is our shed.

I’ve been thinking about clearing the shed for over a year now. Skips are easy but expensive when you factor in that the tip is only five minutes drive away. I reckon it’s fine if you think I’m a chicken “cluck, cluck” as the thought of driving to the skip, of doing something new by myself makes me pause.

And you see it made me think…if I avoid this ‘small’ trip to the skip again it makes other new and different things bigger and scarier. A camping trip with just the boy and I will be impossible if I can’t drive somewhere new by myself. Downstairs will never get redecorated if I can’t get to the tools at the back of the shed. A rubbish monster will evolve from the damp rubbish and devour us one night*.

So I bravely filled the boot and went to the tip. Tension built in the car as I approached the entrance, panic and tears threatened when I was asked for evidence of address – I didn’t know I needed that! – which the hi vis gentleman obviously saw and he kindly waved me through with the warning not to forget it next time. Did you know that tips really really really smell? Yuck.

I arrived home victorious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Only three hundred more smelly* tip runs to do.

It may only be a tip run to someone who has done them many times and it may only be a very small step outside of my comfort zone but it was a step outside of it. And many small steps can take you a long way…..

 

*Unlikely but it could happen!

**I did mention it was smelly right?

 

Financial Freedom · Organising

Financial Friday – Why I’m signing up with Money Dashboard

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This time of year most blogs are reviewing how they did the previous year and where they want to steer this year’s progress. I however, am not…

…cause my spreadsheet is incomplete for pretty much half of last year! I hang my head in shame!

See, my spreadsheets go back to 2010. I can tell you how much we spent on food, utilities, presents, holidays, you name it, in pretty much any month going back ten years. I’ve always been proud of that fact and normally I’d sit down with all the account records and update my finances for last year.

This year I find that I simply don’t have the inclination to be arsed, I’m shattered and part of me wonders – why should I?

  • In general our money habits are better than the majority.
  • We have a three month emergency fund set up.
  • Standing orders drip feed different accounts.
  • We have no debt apart from the mortgage.

Yet I can’t sleep. How can I possibly budget for the year ahead without knowing the averages for last year?!? How can we increase our savings/investments? How can I figure out where we are overspending on pointless, unworthy things? How much can we afford to redecorate the stairway? How, HOW, How?

Simply put – it would be bloody difficult.

So this weekend I’m going to put aside half an hour and get an account set up with Money Dashboard. The reviews looks decent and it’s time to jump in.

Financial Freedom · Organising

Here comes the New Year….

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….hopefully just as good, if not better than the last year!

2018 has been a comfortable year looking back. We have built back up our emergency savings (which apparently puts us ahead of a quarter of the British public*) it certainly gives me peace of mind, and I am drip feeding several accounts to fund future holidays, house improvements, children and an F.U. fund.

I’d like a fair bit of 2018 to carry over to 2019, thank you, as we recovered from the Christmas craziness fairly quickly back to our routine of – urgh – keeping the household clean, fed and active. Hubby has mentioned that he may lift a few weights in 2019 which I would be happy about and the kids are getting more confident on their (secondhand) bikes.

Life is never all roses; I need to practise saying no to convenience, no to overtime and actually committing to getting stuff done/shifted/organised.

I may need a swift kick along the way….

Before I start rambling….cider has been partaken of…..I hope that you have had a good year and that the next will be just as good, if not better!

 

 

*although the survey the article mentions seems ridiculously small to make such statements.

Food

An Actual Day Off…And I Baked!

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A perfect pastry

Now that the weather is so much colder I’ve found myself wanting stews and dumplings and crumbles and lots and lots of hot custard! The slowcooker has certainly been earning its keep and after some luck at the supermarket I picked up a reduced piece of beef and made a simple barley and beef stew Saturday.

It was not a hit with the family.

Personally I felt it could have done with a little more depth but honestly, it was a decent enough stew and now I had enough for four more meals….well, it was portioned up and popped in the freezer. Throwing food away is wrong.

Fast forward to today and I’ve experienced the luxury of an actual day off with zero commitments. I blitzed the house (we are still doing really well on not letting it slide into an utter mess) and after the Halloween cookie success made another batch, this time with shortbread.

So the oven’s on and I have a brainwave – I can make pastries with the unloved stew!

I whipped up a pastry with 125g butter, 125g lard*, 500g plain flour made into breadcrumbs with a splash of cold water.

After chilling I made the simplest form of pastry – proper Cornish pastries have the crimping at the top I’m told – where I popped a spoonful of cold stew in the middle of a circle of pastry and sealed it up with the help of an egg – to make it stick – and a fork to ‘prettify’ the edges.

After baking at 180 till golden they were devoured. And I mean DEVOURED. The unloved stew was transformed to “the best dinner ever mummy“,** “can I have another one please” and my favourite “you can definitely make these again“.

Not bad, eh?

 

*I have a habit where any usable fat from cooking is kept in a jar in the fridge. Used when cooking it adds amazing flavour and doesn’t go to waste. I have rendered pork fat in the past to make lard…..the smell has thus far put me off from doing it again!

**I promise we didn’t just eat pastries for dinner! There was lots of veg and super thick gravy to go with them, have to get some vitamins and minerals in the kids.

Financial Freedom · Food · Organising

The insidious nature of convenience

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Buying lunch from the local shop doesn’t seem like much does it? A few pound here and a few pound there adds up but it’s worth it as it reduces my morning stress and fills my stomach, isn’t it?

It’s been busy – when isn’t it, I hear you cry – and apart from the cookies for Halloween I’ve been choosing convenience. Buying lunch instead bringing in my own – yes. Eating out/getting a takeaway even though there’s food in the house– yep. Ordering a meal box for the week – done that.

Thing is, that even when I have the time I find I just don’t have the headspace to want to deal with the everyday hassle of checking we have the ingredients, meal planning, batch cooking etc.  So the meal deals, the easy dinners…the convenience creeps in and our costs mount up along with that niggle in the back of mind that we should do better.

That £3 meal deal may not seem like a big deal, after all we are not living hand to mouth, but it does add up and I find that by buying lunch I relax on the other ‘easy’ options. And going out for pizza when there’s actually pizza in the freezer is madness, utter wasteful madness.

So in an effort to combat the busyness that comes from being a mum, a worker, a homeowner, a friend I’ve started saying no. No, I can’t work overtime. No, homework is not high on my list of priorities (sorry school). No, you can make/do/get it yourself. No, I can’t make it.

So I hope to be a more active blogger where I can share my cooking, cleaning and I really need to get round to gardening sometime too.

P.S. You know I was going to title this post as The Price of Convenience but when writing I realised that it’s not so much the money that bothers me. Yes it all adds up and we are poorer for it but when I consider that I’m paying for time, for actual time, then when considered and manged I figure it’s a fair trade. Its the gentle creep of going from buying convenience at busy times/once in a while to then continuing to buy convenience regularly because it’s become your new normal.

Food

Happy Halloween Cookies!

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Spooky Snacks

Good mornings, just feast your eyes on our gingerbread cookies. We had so much fun making them and well, doing various taste tasting and licking of fingers. It’s been a busy few months and what better way to get back into blogging than to say HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I was very impressed by the ginger biscuit recipe I found on allrecipes.co.uk I had all the ingredients which is a must when baking with the kids.

Here you go:

  • Heat oven to 180
  • 50g plain flour, 100g butter, 5 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda – breadcrumb.
  • 175g light brown soft sugar, 4 tablespoons golden syrup, 1 medium egg – mix into breadcrumb mixture
  • Roll, cut and bake for bout 12 mins

It was such an easy recipe to follow, especially as the kids lost interest in less than 5 minutes (after pestering me to make cookies for ages) I had a quiet hour in the kitchen baking batches as the mixture made 5 trays of cookies – maybe I have small trays – and then wandered in little hands and open mouths as the warm ginger scent wandered through the house.

After a clean up, biscuit and milk I then had a little help making the icing and decorating the biscuits, with surprisingly little mess!

 

Have you been baking or making crafts this Halloween?

Financial Freedom · Organising

Be a Tart “oe er” a Bank Account Tart

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If I were to be a tart I think I’d like to be a custard tart all full of flavour with a bit of crunch, not a patisserie tart which is beautiful to behold but generally lacks depth of flavour. Oh now I’ve made myself hungry……

Anyway….. apparently often switching a current account makes you a bank account tart and as I change my bank account at least every 18 months I am now, officially, a tart!

Why do I switch my accounts? Because I make money for a few minutes work (£100 this year and my friend made it too) and ensure that I get the best interest rates available. For the next 12 months I’m guaranteed 3% up to £2500 with a regular saver at 5%. In the now those are pretty good rates as the base rate is at 0.5% for a little while longer at least. Can’t quite believe I’m saying this but..gone are the days when 5% interest was a standard…god I feel old all of a sudden!

Switching accounts  is so easy online that  I’m always taken back when people don’t want to take advantage of introductory offers. Hubby is a prime example; he’s been with the same bank since a teen and has no interest at all in changing. For him the convenience of knowing the system and having the app on his phone trumps any cashback or interest earnt, after all he has yours truly to scramble around for decent interest rates.

Money Saving Expert recently did a poll to find out how often their readers switch accounts and – seeing as it’s a site where you’d think money savvy people go – the results show that the majority of people just don’t switch!

Now loyalty is a wonderful thing but not to companies ok? Companies exist to make money. Banks wants your money, hell they’ll even pay you to switch accounts! The trick appears to be able to take advantage of introductory offers is to read those pesky T&C’s, to have a good credit rating and not to get suckered into the wonderful products golden handcuffs.

What’s your reason for not switching current accounts?

 

P.S. Because I’m a tart, naturally, I have experienced the current accounts of eight different banks thus far. You know what? There’s only one that I wouldn’t go back to so that’s a pretty good record for the switching service and the banks themselves imo.