The Year of Less – Working Away

No Spend 2019

Another area to research with no-spend is working away from home which is something I need to quite regularly. Next week I will not only be away for my 4 working days but I’m working a full week so I have an extra day of potential spends. In January I spent one night (an afternoon and the next morning) in Glasgow. I set a limit of £5 spends on top of my lunch and evening meal which I reclaim on expenses. I spent £5.50.

The only things I can remember buying were sweets and fizzy pop. So where did the money go?

So I’ve been having a think. As mentioned my lunches and evening meals are refunded so that’s technically a no spend. My breakfasts are included in the hotel deal so no money there. That leaves snacks and drinks. I don’t drink coffee but there’s usually enough teabags and milk per day for 2-3 drinks. If I’m staying 1-2 nights somewhere I’m going to pack an extra bit of milk and some more teabags because I do drink more when I’m stuck in a hotel. If it’s longer I will fill a sports bottle with dilute juice I can add water to. That will top up the hotel drinks. I’m also going to buy a multi pack of crisps or snacks from the Poundshop so I have one snack per evening.

Making sure I bring my kindle or a big book, using the hotel wi-fi and I have enough to occupy myself besides the hotel TV. I can’t think what more I might spend on? I don’t really drink alcohol these days so that isn’t a worry.

So I will set a budget of £10 for the week for any extras I may not have thought of and test it next week. We don’t as a rule tend to visit particularly scenic places so rather than a long scenic walk before the sun goes down isn’t an option but there’s opportunity for a shorter walk around a town centre as long as I stay out of the shops. Good for health and keeps down the hotel boredom. Until you’re doing the same walk for the 4th day! I did a check and my gym doesn’t have a building in any of the places I’m visiting over the next 4 months otherwise that would be an option too.

Another challenge then. I’m not sure how good my resolve will be by mid-week but I’m going to try my best and then evaluate at the end. Let’s see how well that budget lasts.


The Year of Less – Utilities

No Spend 2019

Further to yesterday’s post about starting a no spend in April I’ve still only got to Chapter 2 of the book and am filled with ideas about making positive changes. I spent a fair bit of time yesterday writing out my notes and lists of what is approved spending and what isn’t. At the very least my budget will look a bit better.

I gave some thought to not only cutting out meaningless spends but reducing utilities and bills. I’m quite good at checking for the best deals and I’m not loyal to any company so if there is a better or cheaper deal out there I’ll try it but I am guilty of waste. I’ve definitely had some home truth thoughts this week.

Growing up my mum was very strict about spending. We were only allowed the heating on at certain times, the hot water on for a certain number of minutes per day (if I remember correctly it was about half an hour so the bath water would be warm). We were even monitored on our toilet paper usage. There were various reasons as to why, some of them do not make her a nice person but some can probably be linked to HER mother. My gran had a lot of debt. I did use to think she had a lot of cover for her old age based on the amount of insurance men that stopped at the house. What I didn’t know until I was a teenager was that they were all debt collectors. So one person’s issue with money became a damaging one to someone else became a damaging one for me. I do not know where my gran’s money troubles came from.

I left home at 18 and for the last 28 years I have made sure I have constant hot water, unlimited toilet paper and heating. You always know who’s at home in my house. If my son is on his own just his light is on. If I’m at home then ALL the lights are on. My form of rebellion that I’ve not grown out of.

So thinking about changes. I refuse point blank to limit my loo roll. It’s just not happening. I will probably leave the hot water simply because I’ve no idea how to set the timer anymore and my boiler is so old and rickety that once turned off I’m terrified that it won’t start again. This is the boiler that was part of my debt issues in the first place and last month the insurance man said that there are very few parts available to buy now if it breaks. It’s practically obsolete and the first thing on my to buy list when my debts are cleared.

What I can influence is lights and heating. The weather is warming up a bit so I will allow turning the heat on to warm the house and then it’s get the blankets out a bit. I put lots of hours into making beautiful blankets I should use them but also I can leave the heating on longer if the weather isn’t good enough to dry washing as I don’t have a tumble dryer.

I don’t know if it’s a Northern saying or a whole England saying (think it’s Northern) along the lines of ‘What do you think it is? Blackpool Illuminations?’ regarding too many lights or ‘Were you born in a barn?’ about leaving the doors open and letting the heat out. I am only going to turn on the lights in the room I’m using. This might take some getting used to because I really am that bad.

I’m also guilty of using too much water. I may have mentioned it in previous blogs about having a water meter fitted and my bill trebling! When I discussed this with the water board I was told I was too clean because I shower or bath 6 times a week. The average person apparently only does this 2-3 times a week. Again I’m not limiting this because it makes my skin crawl not having a shower daily. What I can do is limit my water usage. I can happily spend 20 minutes stood in the shower letting the water flow over me. Pretty wasteful. So I’m going to set time limits.

While these things aren’t necessarily no-spends they will by the end of the year have reduced my outgoings

I’m also going to have a look at my mobile phone. What I can’t influence: the length of the contract and the monthly cost of the phone that’s included. What I can influence: the internet data is flexible. I can move it up and down as needed each month and set a buffer for if I go over to as high as I like (or no limit) so that the data continues but at cost. Under my old community job I learnt where all the free wi-fi is. I know which shops to stand outside to get some free internet. So many places use the Cloud for free wi-fi now. My phone is set to auto join these things. I love the local Costa because if you stand outside it I can get 20 minutes free from the Easy Hotel. Same for the Red Hot Buffet restaurant – the free wi-fi works outside.

I’m going to set the data usage to its lowest setting & therefor lowest cost, make sure the buffer is switched off so no extra charges and when it’s gone then it’s making sure I use the places I know it’s free. Also using these through the month should make the data last longer too. Plus turning it off at certain times. This should also have the added benefit of less time on my phone and more time in the real work noticing my surroundings.

It’s so interesting looking at these things. I feel so much lighter just doing the research. The hard part will be not folding when my anxiety rises but I feel ready for the challenge

The Year of Less

I’ve just picked up a book called The Year of Less by Cait Flanders as I want to try a year (or so) of spending less and saving more. I have a tendency to read the reviews on Goodreads when starting new books and I was really surprised by the level of hate for this book. It seems that people are angry because it’s not a book that gives you all the answers on how to stop spending. It’s a book about one woman’s personal journey.

For me that makes it more readable. I’m an emotional spender and an emotional eater. I’ve even been known to combine the two. That’s about 50% of the reasons why I ended up in debt. So I’m interested in how she managed to deal with some life trauma’s and stick to her principles.

My friend has been writing lately about how people are wanting everything now and not happy to have to wait. Everything must be instant access and I think the same has happened with this book. People want a quick fix and all the answers on a plate but a no spend period is personal so you can’t give all the answers.

I’m only at the introduction but there is plenty to inspire. She has listed the rules she created. I’m using this as a starting point but as I said everyone’s journey will be unique to them. So she has noted in the ‘what I’m not allowed to shop for’ list take out coffee. I thought long and hard about this and have put it on my Approved list. I actually don’t drink coffee, I have tea so that’s a good bit cheaper to start with but I also find them good for my mental health. For me then, as long as it’s factored into my budget and I don’t go over it I’m keeping that in. What I do overspend on is junk food so I’m going to work that into my ‘not approved’ list.

Another on her list is no clothes, shoes or accessories. Seeing as I’m exercises and losing weight through a diet change I will within the 12 months need smaller clothes. With this then I will agree with myself a capsule amount of what I can buy but only when it’s needed.

Her approved list includes buying 1 outfit to cover all special occasions. I’ve got 3 party dresses in the wardrobe that are hardly worn so for me that will go on a ‘not approved’ list.

I’ve seen people on frugal minimalist FB sites who make their own cleaning products. I’m toying with the idea of this however when my depression is high I can barely clean using shop bought items let alone put the effort in to make my own products.

I’m not in a place to try and start this. I’ve still some thinking to do on what I do and don’t want and to set my budgets but I’m aiming for April 1st. The other big difference is that she had previously spent 2 years clearing her debts while I have 12 months to go so whilst she could put away a certain percentage of her wage for savings I will have to choose a smaller budget for that and look at what is realistic. I was thinking about putting all saved monies into clearing the debt quicker but not having any savings when a big household item (boiler) was another reason why I ended up in debt so it makes sense to try and do a little of both.

I’d like to say I’ve no willpower however last year when I put my mind to it I started a no sugar/fizzy pop diet and stuck to it for 10 months (ruined by starting Christmas eating 6 weeks early!) so this is something that I can try and do and if I at least set my boundaries right, it will be a do-able and interesting journey. I want to try and be accountable in the blog (like she did) so I will post on her but probably not every week. Maybe a monthly update.

If you could give up certain spends for a year what would they be?

Weekly gratitude

Sometimes it’s very hard to write a weekly gratitude blog without repeating yourself or just saying daily that I love my house (and today I don’t because I was really cold last night no matter what I did). I often get to mid-week and think nothing different has happened so I have to start thinking outside the box. So this week I’m grateful for Twitter friends, books and synchronicity.

At the beginning of the week I read a post by another blogger about reading guilt and having too many books that need reading. I have been struggling with this most of the year. My work schedule has increased and my love for arts and crafts has too. Those two things plus finally having some energy to want to do more than burrow away escaping in a book. I’ve been guilty in the past of saying yes to too many blog tours and book reviews that there is no way on earth now I’ll be able to review in a timely manner which makes me both sad and a bit annoyed at myself for having poor impulse control.

Firstly then I’ve been scaling back the tours. I’m completing the ones I’ve agreed to then not taking on any more unless it looks like a book I absolutely must have/favourite author. Doing that means I am up to date with those and found myself in a weird position this week of having to choose a book to read with no time limits. My netgalley collection is at the point whereby most of the books have long past their release dates so they’re now just for fun and review until I get that pile down. I had a brief panic trying to pick something that didn’t require anything of me but to read it.

Going into my regular kindle list I randomly picked a book called Put Your Big Girl Panties On and Deal With It. According to my Goodreads account I read this a couple of years ago and seemed to have dismissed it a bit and have certainly forgotten it’s message which is a bit embarrassing. It’s quite possible though that I didn’t need it then. However re-reading it has far more resonance this time around.

The general premise is around the message of the title and getting those big pants on. It’s about being a Grown Up Woman and having a Little Girl at the same time (despite the female angle I think the message can be the same for any other gender). Sometimes we have to let our little gender of choice person out and have some fun but the fun stops when they take over and for whatever reason you end up scared, anxious, being childish etc. Sometimes they have trauma that has stopped them from doing something later in life (this is where relevance to me is coming in). The grown up has to learn to protect them and offer support but at the same time be a grown up and get things done. Not hide behind the inner voice of the child.

(There’s a similar theory in a book called the Chimp Paradox where the inner voice is a chimp. That book is far more scientific and for me, hard to read but if you want an in-depth study then a recommended book)

There are some things I’ve been thinking about and decisions where my inner little girl is taking over meaning things don’t get done. Then I just stagnate and life never changes and I stay in a negative position that I’ve been in for a long time. So I’ve been trying to talk to her, listen to my inner voice and feelings and look at where I can protect myself, have fun and well…just put my big girl pants on and make some changes.

Fire up the Quatro

I had a really good chat with my trainer at the gym this week about goal setting and how the last few months have affected me. Quite an eye opener to see how other people think of you.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I’d been suffering with a frozen shoulder/trapped nerve. Last time this happened it took 6 months to go back to normal. This time it’s taken about 10 weeks thanks to support from various people. But I don’t think I can blame the shoulder for everything that’s been going on.

I did so well last year being accountable for my health journey. I wore my smart watch and even if I didn’t manage 10,000 steps a day I made sure that every step was entered into a spreadsheet and I kept a record of my achievements. I also had a reduced sugar diet (not cut out completely but no chocolate and a reduction of stodgy foods).

For some reason in November I stopped doing this (I have a history of self sabotage and I think this plays a part in what happened) and kind of started Christmas very early. You know that excuse we all have for eating too much. Except I kept going and up until Friday was still doing it. I stopped wearing my watch with the idea  that I knew roughly how many steps I would do after diligently tracking all 2018 but I stopped the tracker too. On top of being ill I’ve let everything stop and got myself into a bad health place which I don’t enjoy.

The trainer mentioned how up to that November I was pushing myself and every session would try and do that little extra (maybe an extra sit up. At the end of the day I’m still an overweight wobbly girl but I was one that was trying to be less so) and that she noticed that my motivation has gone.

So we talked about accountability and we talked about goal setting and I left feeling really fired up. This is one of the things I love about my gym. It’s a women only one that works with half hourly sessions and the nature of it often means there is 1-2-1 support if you need it. They’re free to chat and support in whatever way is needed.

This afternoon after another good chat but with my friend I have put the smart watch back on charge ready for tomorrow and set up my spreadsheet tracker. I’m not going to be able to do the gym more than twice a week at the minute due to training and working away but I have the tools to do things at home and to walk. Walking played such a huge part of my journey last year so I need to get back into that good habit.

I’ve had a week off work, I feel the best I’ve been this year so far and my head is in a reasonably good place so this is a great time to harness that energy and move forward and start seeing those big goals I wanted way back in January 2018.

Weekly Gratitude

This week I’m grateful for Time. Time off work. Time for myself. Time to think. Time to regroup. Time to heal.

It’s fair to say this year so far did not get off to the best start. I saw the new year in with flu, then the shoulder issues that saw me spend the majority of January and February on painkillers, then last week another bad cold. I’m almost at the end of 10 days annual leave and I think it’s done me the world of good as I thought it would. I’ve done a lot that doesn’t feel like doing much. I’ve met friends for coffee and lunch, I’ve caught up on missed course work and I finished a few crafts. Nothing strenuous and possibly quite boring to some but my body needed to heal and I’ve made sure to rest and let it do so despite my natural inclination to be constantly doing something. The result being I haven’t had to have any painkillers for a week and I’ve got a lot more movement in my arm. I’m back at work next week but have 2 days in training and all day meetings which while I’ll be busy in a fashion means another two days of rest.

It’s also nearly time to be debt free (see what I did there!). My countdown app has 346 days. I’ve set it to get a little notification daily now because I am so close. This is normally a horrid time of year because from the end of January to the end of April there are so many death anniversaries. It’s also this time 4 years ago that everything came to a head and I had the breakdown over money that led to having a debt repayment plan in the first place. I can’t believe how fast the 4 years have gone when I look back on it. It’s been a struggle but the time has just gone by. Facebook memories is currently telling me about the boiler issues that played a part in that horrid time 4 years ago and this is the first year I’ve been able to re-read those posts objectively without feeling depressed or anxious. Time heals. I’m moving on and there’s less than a year to go before it all ends.

I’ve been thinking about what I’d want to do once I have my wage back to myself. The house needs a lot of work and it’s actually nice to save a few fliers that come through the letterbox knowing I can research them for the coming years and start to make my house how I want it. I’d also like a holiday. I’ve had the odd weekend away but haven’t been on a plane or anything longer than a few days since 2010 so the summer sun is beckoning me. I did once tell a friend the first thing I would do would be to buy some designer shoes that I’d probably never wear just to have them but the more I think about it the more that I take from lessons learned, take from the frugality and minimalism I’ve embraced over the last few years and I have a feeling I will actually just continue to have a peep through the shop window (Kurt Geiger) at the over priced shoes and then go buy something reasonably priced and wearable from Dorothy Perkins like I normally do. Time teaches us what really matters.

So this week I’m grateful for time, time to think about the past without upset, to heal, to reflect and time to plan for the future that is rapidly heading my way 🙂


Weekly Gratitude

This week is all about crafts and the chance to make things. After a difficult period last year I joined the works craft club. Through that I’ve not only reawakened a love of all the crafts I enjoyed before but learnt lots of new ones.

This week was one of the Crafternoon teas. We do these 3-4 times a year and it’s a chance to have the afternoon away from work, sit with friends, have some tea and cake and create some nice paper crafts. This time it was cards with cute animals on.

I enjoy it so much, that chance to create something from scratch. With some things I struggle and aren’t that great. I’ve added some pictures below. The tea bag paper folding from the beginning of the week is something that drives me mad and this week I couldn’t actually say it was mindful and relaxing but it was funny and a nice chance to giggle with work friends. It does amuse me as well that the finished look isn’t as horrid as I tend to think it will be.

So I’m grateful for the new friends that I’ve made, for the chance to try new things and to make some fun things.