2018 Goals - March

Sunday, 4 March 2018

How many of us were expecting to end February with a huge amount of snow? Not me! I'd rather assumed it would have warmed up a bit by now. But I really like snow, and I'm fortunate to be allowed to work from home by my boss, so I quite liked looking out the window and seeing the snow settle.

The arrival of March also means it's time to review my February goals. Sadly I started doing this last weekend and realised how many I'd forgotten about! After the lovely week off for Christmas I had loads of energy in January. But my long commute has sapped a lot of that and I found February to be quite tiring. 

February results;

- Reduce portion sizes for dinner < I think I did quite well with this! Can still be difficult with pasta though, but generally I've found that I'm feeling full but not stuffed after dinner, so that's working.
- Only eat crisps at work < I thought I would struggle with this, but I only failed twice! So will maintain this in March.
- Exercise video once a week < I completely failed at this, I didn't even do one video this month DX But I did improve my walking so I did get some extra exercise.
- Take a vitamin c and d every day < I failed at this too, I remember to take these about once a week DX Might start leaving them on my desk at work to see if I remember to take them at lunch.

- Print off wedding photos for frame and hang it up < This was carried over from January and this time I got it done! My husband has put the frame up at the top of the stairs, so I get a lovely reminder of our wedding day every time I go up and down the stairs.
- Sort & photograph wedding china < I did the cake stands, milk jugs and sugar bowls and listed them on Facebook. Not sold much so far but at least I've started!
- Sort out all the used stamps and send them to a place that buys them < Going to donate the money to my favourite charity, the MND Association < I emailed the guy who buys them and got signed up, so I haven't sent anything yet but I will next month!
- Buy a tumble dryer < Another month has passed without me sorting this out DX It would have really helped with the snow this week!
- Comment on one blog post a day < I only remembered to do this occasionally, but it encouraged me to read and retweet more blog posts, so I'll try to continue this next month.
- Update car log book with married name and address < Ooops....

As you can see, a limited amount of success. I do find my memory gets worse when I'm tired, but I won't be able to take any time off work until the end of April, so I might have to get in to the habit of reading my March list every other day to remind myself of what I need to do!

Speaking of my March list...ta da!

- Continue with exercise video once a week < I didn't even start this last month, maybe I should change this to something more sustainable XD
- Work days = 9k steps, home days = 5k steps < I've been testing this out last month with some success, just a case of motivating myself when I'm at home!
- Reduce biscuit eating to once a week < Eating sweet foods at work has been sneaking back up again so I really must stick to this!

- Sell the wedding china! < I've started this, need to photograph the teacups next!
- Buy shelving for the bathroom, plus a paper shredder and extension cords < These are little bits that we need around the house so getting them done this month will be good.
- Sort out the garage < Our vendors left a load of rubbish behind so we really need to clear it out!
- Update car log book with married name and address < Carried forward from February
- Sort out all the used stamps and send them to a place that buys them < Going to donate the money to my favourite charity, the MND Association < Carried forward from February
- Buy a tumble dryer < I've been trying to do this since September, will March finally be the month it gets done?

I might stick the "no biscuits" thing to my computer screen at work to stop me feeling tempted XD Hope you all have a lovely productive March!

Review: Carluccio's in Colchester

Sunday, 25 February 2018

In January I spotted a voucher mentioned in the Money Saving Expert news letter - buy one main course and get a second for £1 at Carluccio's. I'd recently spotted a Carluccio's tucked away in the corner of the top floor in Fenwick's in Colchester, so this seemed like the ideal time to have a discounted lunch date with my husband! 

We booked ahead and I was very glad we did as the space was quite small. We saw several people get turned away as they didn't have a reservation and all the remaining tables were booked up. Despite it being busy the service was still very good and we order drinks while we browsed the menu. Well, I should say while my husband browsed the menu - I'd already looked at it several times on Friday night and decided what I wanted XD

For a drink my husband had a very odd "Rosemary water", which I'd never seen before. It's sparkling water infused with rosemary, and came with a sprig of the herb in the glass. I had a little sniff at the bottle and smell was overwhelming, but my husband said it was very nice. 

For starters I ordered the garlic bread. This was possibly the best garlic bread I've had in years. The bread was a freshly made focaccia, with a lovely garlic butter melted on top, and then placed on a grill to give a fabulous chargrilled taste. I'd already told my husband to have half of it, as I don't like filling up on starters, but I seriously regretted saying that after finishing off my piece XD My husband had calamari, which he said was very nice and came with a little pot of sauce and a slice of lemon.

My main was a spaghetti carbonara. This was the key reason why I was so happy at getting the voucher, I'd been wanting a proper Italian carbonara for weeks. It was as good as I had hoped, although I thought there was a bit too much parsley on top. But apart from that it was lovely, the pancetta had a wonderfully strong taste and there was just the right amount of sauce to cover the spaghetti. Husband went for the Penne Giardiniera, which was large penne with courgette, chili and garlic, with crispy spinach balls on top. It genuinely wasn't something I thought he would pick as he's not a huge fan of spinach, but he said it was delicious and he was very happy with his choice.

The only problem I had was that at the end of my very large bowl of pasta I had no room for dessert! I had sacrificed half my starter to no avail. I'd already seen someone's tiramisu go by (husband thought my reaction was hilarious) and had been determined to order one myself, but there was no way I could fit a dessert in to my full tummy. 

2018 Goals - February

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Did January seem to stretch on endlessly? Judging by my Twitter dashboard and I'm going to say that answer is - yes! But we're now in to February and in the back garden the crocuses are starting to come up. It's still very cold but now we know that spring is on it's way.

Because it's February I can now review my goals from January and tell you all about my aims for the new month! I was actually quite impressed with everything I managed to tick off last month, only one thing needs to be carried forward!

So my results for January were;

- Drink 2 litres of water a day < Not quite there yet but I'm definitely getting a lot better at drinking more.
- Reduce biscuit eating to twice a week < Was doing really well on this and then fallen off the wagon this week, but again I'm improving.
- Take a vitamin c every day. < This is the bit I have real problems remembering, even though I keep the bottle on my bedside table 

- Open an ISA (future house move funds). < Opened and first payment made!
- Open an easy access savings account for car and holiday savings, and a fixed rate savings account as a future maternity fund. < Did both of these! The rear tyre replacement meant that I didn't pay anything in to the car fund this month, but I did make a holiday saving payment, and paid £150 in to the maternity fund. I also opened another easy access account for an emergency pot and shoved £1000 in there so it's out the way.
- Print off wedding photos for a frame we got as a wedding gift, and hang it up. < This is the one thing I didn't do, DH needs to pick a photo of me as part of it, and I need to decide what other family ones to print off. It's on the list for February.
- Sort out all the filing for bill paperwork. < Done, although when sorting through some papers the other I found another few bills so I need to file those.
- Buy a blind for the living room. < Did this right at the end of the month, Blinds2Go had 5% off on the one we wanted so we saved a few pennies. It should look really nice when it arrives!

Phew, what a list! As you can see the only thing that didn't get completed was the wedding photos. I'm especially excited about the blind as our living room is south facing. It gets lovely and warm but the sun really gets in my eyes when I'm on the sofa. I've been planning on buying a blind for months so getting it done at last is a big relief!

And I'm now all nicely set up for February;

- Reduce portion sizes for dinner
- Only eat crisps at work < Going to really struggle with this DX
- Exercise video once a week < Going to struggle with this too
- Take a vitamin c and d every day

- Print off wedding photos for frame and hang it up
- Sort & photograph wedding china < Can then start selling some of it!
- Sort out all the used stamps and send them to a place that buys them < Going to donate the money to my favourite charity, the MND Association
- Buy a tumble dryer
- Comment on one blog post a day
- Update car log book with married name and address

I think that's all quite enough to be getting on with for the time being, what are your aims for February?

2018 Goals - January

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Happy 2018 everyone! 

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are enjoying the New Year. Last year I didn't come up with any particular targets in my life. I'd just bought a house and was due to get married so that seemed like enough to be getting on with at the time!

But this year me and my husband are now settled in at our house and we don't have any big life events planned for 2018. So this seemed like the ideal time to come up with some things to do throughout the year. Health, finances and the house are the key areas that I've planning on working on.

My overall aims for 2018 are;
- Lose a stone in weight.
- Generally improve my health overall.
- Overpay £1000.
- Get my savings back under control.
- Improve the house by decorating/completing rooms/tidying it up all the little bits that get forgotten about.
- Find a new job with a shorter commute.

I've split some of these down in to smaller targets month to month. I think a lot of the problems people have with resolutions is that they try to make lots of big changes all at once. The health ones for example are going to be a series of small changes to make all year round that will hopefully help me lose weight, and improve my health.

After working out my plans for the next couple of months, I've now set myself some specific goals for January and that should put me in the right frame of mind for the rest of the year;

- Drink 2 litres of water a day (I've downloaded an app called Plant Nanny, which you use to track how much you've drunk and grows a little digital plant for you XD).
- Reduce biscuit eating to twice a week (this has really become a problem at work as we're constantly buying biscuits for the office).
- Take a vitamin c every day (DH does this already).

- Open an ISA (future house move funds).
- Open an easy access savings account for car and holiday savings, and a fixed rate savings account as a future maternity fund.
- Print off wedding photos for a frame we got as a wedding gift, and hang it up.
- Sort out all the filing for bill paperwork.
- Buy a blind for the living room.

Half the time I delay things because getting them set up is a nuisance. If I sort out specific areas now then it should be easier to continue with them in the future.

Have you come up with some goals for your 2018?

Charity shop haul - October 2017

Sunday, 19 November 2017

October ended up being a bumper month for my charity shop purchases. I've made it a little easier on myself to remember what I bought, but leaving my new books on a specific shelf in the living room until the time comes to write this post! My biggest problem was remembering what books I'd bought, since they tend to be the most common purchase. Having a shelf spot has definitely helped, but it does mean they remain disorganised for a few weeks.

This month I managed to secure a triple hit, with clothes, books and a DVD all purchased from charity shops in October!


I'm super pleased about my October clothing hunt, as I managed to get two lovely tops. The first is a Seasalt one in green and cream hoops, with lovely long sleeves. Seasalt clothing is lovely quality, with good thick cotton that keeps you nice and toasty. This was only £5, not quite as cheap as my last Seasalt charity buy, but still a good bargain.

The second top was a Gap one in navy blue, again with long sleeves. It was only £3 and fits perfectly, so it's quickly becoming my new favourite top. The problem I have now is that I can replace some of my older, worn out shirts that are starting to develop holes. However I still love them so parting from them is proving difficult. I need to have a bit of a clear out anyway, so one Saturday I'll just have to go through the wardrobe and be ruthless!


It was also a good month for books. The first one I picked up was a Dorling Kindersley publication on preserving food, mainly jams and pickles. I've never made jam in my life before, but at some point I'll want to give it a try. At only £3 for this lovely thick book I feel happy knowing I can have a guide sitting on my shelf, for when I'm ready to give it a go.

I also purchased another women in history book - Alison Weir's biography on Isabella of France. Isabella was Queen of England as the wife of King Edward II, and led the rebellion against him and Hugh Le Despenser. I really like Alison Weir's work, I also have her books on Elizabeth of York, Katherine Swynford, and Margaret Douglas, and this is proving to be a really good read. I've been struggling through my non-fiction books a bit recently, but I'm getting through this one with no problems.


Finally my other top bargain for October was getting hold of the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond. We'd only just watched it the week before after I borrowed the DVD from my work library, so imagine my surprise when I found a copy for sale in the charity shop's bargain box for a mere fifty pence! This charity shop has a DVD shelf hidden towards the back of the shop, right in front of the door to the staff area. There's no where particularly prominent that they can put them, but it does mean they have to have regular clear outs and put lots of stuff in a box at the front. I'm really pleased with getting it so cheaply, I enjoyed the film but preferred Into Darkness, so getting it cheaply was really good.

A reverse advent calendar

Sunday, 5 November 2017

After taking a break from this blog in October I'm now raring to go again! So since my Christmas shoebox post was so well received I thought I would highlight another little charity thing I've received to do this winter - a reverse advent calendar.

"A what?" I hear you ask yourselves. This amazing post from Sara Williams at Moneywise explains it all very well! Basically every day you buy one item of food for a food bank, collect it all in a box, and at the end of the 25 days of Advent you take the box to your local food bank as a donation.

Like many other people I'm planning on doing mine for the next twenty five days (starting yesterday on 4 November), as it means the food bank will have time to get the food out to people. However if you don't think you can manage to arrange it that quickly then don't panic! The food you need to get should have a long shelf life. If you decide to start it on 1 December then you can always donate the box in the first week of January. Donations tend to drop in the New Year as people tighten their financial belts after all the Christmas spending, but they're also the point when the numbers that need a hand increase. A box of supplies will be just as welcome in January as it is in December.
Using one of our old moving boxes to store things!

You might be trying to rattle your brain and think about what specifics you should give to a food bank. First of all you should Google for your local food bank, many are set up or assisted by the Trussell Trust so they're a good place to start. They'll list specific days and times when they're open for donations. Each food bank will have an "urgent needs" list, things that they are running very short on. They'll also have a list of suggested donations. They need to make up enough food to feed people for several days, and it needs to be long-life. Dry goods like teabags, pasta and tinned items, plus things like jam, long life milk (may not have a fridge for fresh milk), and a treat such as a packet of biscuits. Many food banks will also have a box of toiletries for people who may be in need of shampoo and deodorant. The phrase "period poverty" has become quite well known in recent months, so donating a pack of sanitary towels or a box of tampons can be a real help.

Now you're looking at the list on your local food bank's website and wondering how much this will all cost. It sounds really expensive, after all prices are going up everywhere. It's going to be £50 at least, right? But I did a little run around Tesco with a pen and notepad the other day and managed to get to grips with the bulk of the prices. Everything on the list below comes to a total of £31.67. BUT - you don't need to get everything on the list. I found Heinz soup on an offer of 5 tins for £3, and individual pots of porridge at 5 for £4. So that would be 10 items right there. I also picked some large sizes (the pasta sauce for example was a large jar) but you can choose smaller ones. Food banks help families, couples and individuals, so there's always someone who could need what you buy.

So here's a list of 25 things (and their cost) you can buy for a reverse advent calendar;

1. Small pack of rice - £1.00
2. Potatoes (tinned) - £0.60
3. Carrots (tinned) - £0.30
4. Long life milk - £0.55
5. Fruit squash - £1.20
6. Cereal - £1.50
7. Porridge - £0.90 for a small pot (my Tesco has a 5 for £4 offer)
8. Tea bags - £1.30
9. Coffee - £2.00
10. Jam - £0.75
11. Marmalade - 60p
12. Meat (tinned) - £2.50 (you can get tinned curry and bolognese as well as stewing beef etc)
13. Tuna (tinned) - £1.50
14. Pie (tinned) - £2.70-ish (there were quite a few types)
15. Soup - £0.95 (also has a 5 for £3 offer for Heinz soups)
16. Pasta - £1.00
17. Pasta sauce - £2.00 (big jar)
18. Tinned beans - £1.00 (three pack of Branstons from Iceland)
19. Heinz ravioli - £1.07
20. Heinz beans with sausages - £1.05
21. Pudding (tinned) - £1.70
22. Biscuit snack pack - £1.00
23. Shampoo - £1.00 (Wilko)
24. Toothpaste - £1.00
25. Towels/tampons - £2.50 (depends on the pack you buy, I think this was the larger pack of Always towels)

I should also qualify that some of the stuff is Tesco brand (jam, potatoes and carrots for example) and some is branded (teabags, porridge, biscuits), so you may find better prices in Sainsburys, Asda or Morrisons.

I already have mine started. On Saturday I popped in to Wilko for some cleaning supplies, and got a bottle of Alberto Balsam shampoo for £1, and then in Iceland I found a pack of 3 tins of Branston's baked beans for £1. So that's Saturday and Sunday sorted out. I'm trying to use multipack offers to bump up the numbers of things in my box, and buy one type of item each day. But as I said above, you can take advantage of such offers to help you reach your 25 goal if that's what works for you!

Thank you to everyone who Tweeted about the Moneywise article, I hope you all enjoy your reverse advent calendars!

Mortgage Overpayment - August and September 2017

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Anyone with an eagle eye would have spotted that I missed my regular post on my mortgage overpayment for August. That was because August became a very expensive month after I needed to get some work on my car, so my overpaying was on the small side. So small in fact that the blog post would have been about 100 words XD

I decided to combine it in with September, which had fewer emergency expenses and therefore let me sweep up some extra pennies when I reviewed my accounts. I also had a bigger expenses claim in September, which helped bump up the payment.

So without further ado - in August I managed to overpay £45.41, which was a lot less than my target of £60 a month :( As I mentioned my car needed some work, and I was loathed to move too much money out of my savings to cover it as I'm trying my best to keep money in my savings account than constantly move more out of it.

But on the plus side in September I overpaid £70.96! I ended up with a £25 expenses claim due to a bunch of things we needed for the office at work, and I was so careful with my money during the month that I was able to do a large sweep at the end of September which added an extra £12 on to my payment.

I haven't been very good about listing things on eBay and Facebook selling pages the past two months as work has been getting very busy. I'm hoping I'll be able to find some time in October and November to get back to listing things and go for some bigger payments towards the end of the year!