Saturday 31 December 2022

Vouchers, points and bonuses


I was woken up early this morning by an unexpected delivery.  I say unexpected as it was meant to arrive next week some time.  6 bottles of prosecco from my 'wine club.'  A few years ago I used a voucher that gave me £50 off a box of 12 bottles of wine.  Without realising, this meant that I was automatically 'signed up' to a 'wine club' and a monthly payment had been set up using the credit card I used πŸ™„ It took me a while but I worked out out how to pause the payments when I wanted and built up a nice balance that I could use at Christmas to buy wine for gifts (and to drink of course!) It was also convenient as you can't buy alcohol in supermarkets before 10am in Scotland so my early visits to avoid the crowds meant I couldn't buy wine.

So at the start of this year I paused the payments as usual but a few had managed to slip through.  They also give you 'bonuses' and vouchers every now and then.  As I've been going through all my spending this year I found that I still had £75 in my account!  So I logged on to see if I could get anything and found this 6 bottle deal and still have a wee balance left.  Free delivery plus they'll leave it in my safe place if I'm out.  Excellent!  I now have 6 bottles of lovely fizz (not free but feels like it!!) to gift in the coming year.  

I'm planning to make some fabric bottle bags and I'll reuse some bags I already have in my stash.  I'm also planning to make some liqueurs using up the fruit still lurking in my freezer.  I could fill wee bottles and gift with the fizz to make a cocktail! πŸ’‘ I'll add a wee recipe gift card to the bag.

It made me wonder how many vouchers/points I've accumulated in other places.  I've got £40 worth of points available on my Nectar card, I've got 101 Tesco clubpoints (worth £1!!) and the M&S credit card that I use for everything usually earns me a £3 to £5 voucher per quarter.  I've got a plan for the Nectar points πŸ˜‰ so I'll report back on that next week hopefully.

I also asked for M&S vouchers for Christmas.  As I'm not buying any new clothes in 2023 I will probably need new underwear at some point!  Thanks to my Lovely Mum 😘  My sister gave me a Dobbies voucher so that's earmarked for seed potatoes or onion sets in the Spring!  Thanks sis! 😘

I had some leftover mashed potatoes so made a big batch of tattie scones to use it up.  I say leftover but I always make more than I need any way! Recipe HERE

And Emma has picked up a nasty doggy virus that gave her bloody diarrhoea πŸ’© Normally I'd just give her scrambled egg or chicken and rice for a few days but the blood made me take her to the vet.  £105 later plus a ton of drugs and she's feeling a bit better today.  I just need to deep clean my cream carpet again...

Friday 30 December 2022

2023 Goals: A year of more


This year's goal was to survive and thrive and while I definitely survived, not too sure about the thriving bit!!  Going into 2023 I've thought really carefully about what my goals for the coming year will be.  I've decided it's to be a year of more.  More of the good stuff I started in this first year of my 4 year challenge and I want to take it even further than I thought I could at the start.

So, here are my 5 goals for 2023!

1.  Live more frugally and simply

While this year has seen me tighten my belt and save half my salary most months, I think I can do more.  After analysing my spending, I'm going to set a strict budget for each area and stick to it.  I think I can simplify my eating habits (saving more money) and in turn become a lot healthier.  I'm going to try ditch my Diet Coke habit!!  And no takeaways!  My health took a big hit this year and I don't want that to happen again.  Living more simply should help.

2.  Save more than £10k

I managed to save £10k in just 9 months of this year so if I can do the same again every month in 2023, I  should be able to save even more towards my retirement goal.

3.  Buy no more new clothes or house items

I have more than enough clothes and shoes even after my big declutter to move into the downstairs bedroom.  I definitely do not need to buy any more.  However, I'm setting myself a challenge to make/upcycle/buy second hand anything I might need.  For example, my jeans are a bit threadbare but I'm not buying 'new' ones if they burst.  

The same goes for house items although I have budgeted to repair or replace my leaking patio doors and repair/replace 3 'blown' double glazing units on 2 windows.  I do need flooring for the kitchen and utility room and will need a new carpet for the room that's to be my son and DIL's living room.  These things have already been budgeted for but I will seek out the most frugal options I can find.

4.  Grow more fruit and veg by improving my soil health

Thanks to being ill for a large part of the sowing and growing season my garden and allotment plot didn't yield as much as I'd hoped.  But I've done a lot research on permaculture this year and have realised that the health of my soil needs a huge improvement.  Commercial fertiliser is going to be expensive and in short supply so I need to be able to produce my own soil improvers.

5.  Spend more time at home and keep work at work!

This one is going to be hard but I need to stop bringing work home and doing extra/unpaid stuff at home.  When I'm at home I should be doing things I enjoy.  I think once I have my craft room up and running properly I'll be more productive at home.  I realised that this Christmas I didn't create a single home made item for gifting.  That's not like me at all.

Totally doable goals I think.  There are a few other challenges I'm going to set myself as well but these are the 5 big ones.  Have you set any goals for 2023?  Any plans?  

Thursday 29 December 2022

Financial Review of 2022


It's been a bit snowy the last few days.  It was a gentle start on Tuesday morning and by the end of the day we had a good few inches.  It hasn't lasted and is completely gone today.  I didn't leave the house so it's been the perfect time to take a long hard look at my finances πŸ‘€  

I have a simple pen and paper approach.  I start by going through the last 12 months' worth of bank and credit card statements to analyse my spending.  Even by doing this I quickly realised that I also need to look at my PayPal statements as some of my purchases weren't there.  My eBay account is linked to PayPal as are some of my takeaway purchases πŸ₯‘πŸ•πŸ˜³

Then I write it all in my book and sort out the categories.  Main ones are food/supermarket, car, house, pets, school (as I discovered I've spent over £500 on toys and equipment for my class!!!), garden/allotment and one offs (like a wedding) πŸ‘° Even just sorting out the categories was an eyeopener.  I mean, over £500 on school stuff!!!

One of my biggest expenses is my car as I'm still paying it monthly. This year it's cost me £3,907.  But once it's paid off in 2024 it should only cost me around £1,000 a year to run.  I only filled up with petrol 4 times this year (it's a hybrid) and I've still not done 5,000 miles yet!

Another big expense is my council tax.  It's a few pounds short of £3,000 and I have to pay it.  And don't even get me started on energy costs...

As I've said before I have a stable well paid public sector job (that I now hate!) so I have a guaranteed income every month.  I can meet these costs and save a decent amount as well.  Problem is if I retire now (or in a year or 2) I can't meet these costs on my teacher's pension.  And that's where I'm stuck.  Unless I sell my house and downsize.  And I'm not ready to do that yet!

But I challenged myself to save £10k this year and I did it!!  I pretty much managed to save half my salary each month.  Although I discovered that in April, November and December I didn't save anything!  So I saved £10k in just 9 months.  If I really really put my mind to it, I could save more next year (if I'm still teaching by December!!!)

Tuesday 27 December 2022

The bit in between


It's that weird time between Christmas and New Year where you might not be working.  In an old life I might have been shopping for 'bargains' or hosting/visiting family and friends for more dinners or simply entertaining bored children on school holidays.  What do you call It?  I love how Sue (see HERE ) has named it Betwixtmas!!  Whatever it's called it's my time to reflect on the year and make plans for next year.  This is my thinking time.  And given my retirement/£40k challenge starting this year I've a lot to think about!!

But first, reflections on Christmas.  I kept my gift giving simple.  Books, sweets and money.  I kept my food simple.  I do love the Boxing day hash/stir fry as above.

Reduced sausages from the freezer!

More reduced sausages that were skinned and mixed with my GF Paxo stuffing mix.

Trifle was made from the free orange juice I made HERE, frozen raspberries from the garden and cake.

The trifle was served with squirty cream as I got that on offer ages ago!  The potatoes, carrots and parsnips were 19p each from Lidl.  Sprouts and sweetcorn were from the freezer as I always have them.  The most expensive bits of the meal were the 3 bird roast ( which was only average) and the halibut (which was amazing!) could easily have been a simple chicken.  Should have followed my instinct!!  But the whole meal was delicious and fairly frugal! πŸ˜‹

Emma loved her present!!  She's got a new lease of life thanks to a daily steroid tablet.  She's now 11 so realistically she's only got a year or 2 left so I'm happy to make sure she has some quality of life.  But I'll need to factor that in to my finances for next year.

Saturday 24 December 2022

Plans, pah!


Long term readers will know I've had to adjust and change my plans many many times over the years.  That's ok, it makes life interesting!! I heard yesterday that I didn't get a place on the celebrant course.  It was a generic email that basically said they had too many applicants but I could apply again in the future.  There are other training courses I could do so that door isn't closed.  I'll have a ponder over the holidays and see how I feel.  And make a new plan!

My B&Q delivery arrived on time with 2 very cheery guys who both had black labs so Emma was getting a lot of attention.  I'd cleared the 'craft' room so the boxes could be stored inside and not in the cold garage.  I'm hoping to get more 'stuff' sorted out during these holidays so the mini kitchen/utility room and craft room could be completed by the end of January if I get a move on.

Our Christmas dinner tomorrow will be low key.  I've taken food out of the freezer this morning to defrost and I'm so pleased to see all the yellow stickers.  I did splash out on the main meat and fish bit but all the trimmings are definitely done cheaply.  Can't wait! πŸ˜‹

How ever you're spending your Christmas, have a lovely day! πŸŽ„πŸŽ…πŸ²πŸ΄πŸΈ

Thursday 22 December 2022

Silly, but it's fun


I'm finally on holiday now for 2 weeks and 1 day!  I'm celebrating by watching my favourite ever British comedy show The Good Life.  The Christmas special named 'Silly, but it's fun' is currently available on BBC iPlayer (if you can get it.)  

I'm tired and ready for a break from school but have got loads planned for the holidays.  Including getting a large delivery from B&Q on Saturday, yes on Christmas Eve!!!!! 😲

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Weird, right?

This is weird, or at least I think it is but do let me know what you think!

Before I put the flat on the market I contacted a locally recommended electrician to check/fix the lights in the communal close.  They kept shorting so needed more than just changing the light bulb.  

I phoned and left a message on their voicemail.  I filled in their online contact form, saying I'd also phoned them.  I heard nothing back.  So after 5 weeks with no response I assumed they were unable to do the job.

So my DIL contacted another local electrician.  I spoke to him on the phone, explained the situation and he agreed to look at the lights but was only available in a month's time.  No problem so we agreed on a date and a rough price.  Access was easy so there was no need for anyone to be present at the flat.

A week after the previously agreed date I got an invoice for £144 to fix the lights so I paid it.  Issue sorted.

Last week we got an overdue invoice reminder of £102 for electrical work to repair the close lights.

Several emails and phone calls later...

Turns out the original electrician I contacted rocked up days after the second electrician had already fixed the lights, replaced the push buttons switches and sent me an invoice.  I paid it thinking it was the second guy that I had spoken to and agreed a price.

I have had zero interaction with the original guy but he went ahead and did the work without contacting me.  That's weird, right??

Saturday 17 December 2022

Round up of my week


The above photo is by The Kilted Photographer, a stunning aerial view of the Wallace Monument yesterday.  The same monument I see from my allotment plot 😊

It's been a very cold icy week here (-9 degrees C at times) We had a burst water main nearby and the school was closed for an afternoon as we had no water.  I had reduced water pressure but many houses were without water for a few hours.  The burst pipe pumped out 1000 litres of water per minute for many hours.  Then it all froze solid!  

It snowed for the first time yesterday.  Snow lying on top of ice made for very dangerous driving conditions.  In fact, I had to walk to work as I decided my wee car just wouldn't make it safely out of my drive, down the hill and then back up another longer hill to get to the main road.  It's normally a 25 min walk but took me about 40 mins to trudge through the snow.  I was late for work for the first time ever!  I enjoyed the walk but the really cold air has aggravated my lungs and I've got my non stop cough back! πŸ™„


I got a few decent yellow stickered bargains earlier in the week when I popped into Tesco.  These ones were for my son and DIL.

These were for me!  The chilli chicken was very nice (did 2 meals for me) and we're trying the Chinese sauce on some duck fillets and prawns I already have in the freezer for tomorrow's meal πŸ˜‹  It's just luck when trying to get yellow sticker stuff but I've noticed when the weather has been bad there are more bargains!

I've been experimenting with cooking stuff on top of my woodburner.  There's not enough space to put a kettle or large pan.  But there's room for a couple of our small pans to boil water.  Here I put some sliced peppers in a bit of oil and they sizzled nicely until they were cooked!  I also tried a wee enamel pie dish with stuffing mix and it cooked beautifully too.  It was interesting to see on the news that many folks are trying to get a woodburner installed to save money on heating bills.  There's a waiting list until March apparently!

I got my Christmas dinner meat and fish delivered from Wild and Game HERE  I've used them before.  They're expensive but their stuff is ethically sourced and afterall, it's Christmas!  My son and I are having the 3 bird roast and my DIL is having the wild halibut.  I think I'll do the venison for New Year's day.  I got the pate as it took my order up to free postage!!  It's been a while since I've eaten pate but it's rather delicious!

I now have 2 full days and 2 half days of teaching left.  I'm hanging on for dear life.  At the moment I'm wondering if they'll be my last days of teaching full stop as I'm so burnt out.  We'll see πŸ’”

Saturday 10 December 2022

Let it snow!


It was -2 degrees C here at 9am this morning, probably lower than that through the night.  Basically Winter has arrived with a vengeance this week.  Brrrr!! ❆ My kids are desperate for it to snow.  We have wee flurries that quickly disappear but we're on a yellow snow warning for this weekend.  So I guess be careful what you wish for!!

We had a burst water main round the corner on Thursday thanks to the sudden freeze.  Thankfully our water was ok (low pressure) but my son and his fiancΓ© (who live a 5mins walk from me) had very brown water for a few hours.  We also have a burst water pipe outside our school.  

It made a fab icy slide for the kids in the playground but was actually very dangerous to walk on!!  You can just see the Ochil hills behind the house roofs.  No snow on them on Thursday but maybe today there will be.  That's when we know it's definitely Winter here in Central Scotland!

It was a porridge morning for me, the dog and the chicken! πŸ•πŸ”  Home made jam, walnuts and chia seeds in mine and just chia for Tuppence.

Emma gets to clean out the pot which then gets a thorough clean in the dishwasher!!!  Cheap, hot and filling breakfast for us all πŸ˜‹

I've got a friend popping round shortly to collect some packing paper as she's moving house this week.  Like I did, she's downsizing from the family house after divorce to a smaller house that costs less to run.  It will be nice to have her here in Stirling 😊

Sunday 4 December 2022

November spending (late!)


I put up my Christmas tree yesterday.  Each decoration is a Santa so it's my Santa Tree!  My DIL helped me and she was amazed that every Santa was different.  It's taken years to collect this many, none are remotely expensive and it's definitely a bit tacky.  But I love it!! πŸŽ…πŸŽ„

I realised that I hadn't done my November spending post.  Confession time, I didn't keep a track of my spending last month.  I could go through my statements and check but I'm suffering a bit from frugal fatigue.  I didn't go overboard but I just didn't keep track.  I think hitting my £10k target last month made me relax a bit.  Unfortunately I've had to call out a plumber (twice) and an electrician to fix things at the flat and at home.  So this month I can safely say my savings were ZERO!! 😳

It was our staff night out last night. a party night that cost £49 (paid for back in October.)  I wore a new sequin top that cost me £11.25 from Tesco with black trousers and silver glittery Vans that I already owned.  As I wasn't drinking alcohol my friend bought me some soft drinks and she drank my wine that came with the meal.  So I didn't spend any money last night.  I left before it started getting too wild but had a lovely time.

I have 13 and a half teaching days left until the Christmas break, if I last that long.  My job has become impossible to do with some children who simply should not be in mainstream school.  I will do my best for the other children in my class but I suspect my retirement from teaching is imminent.