Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas & Plans for 2009

My thoughts are now turning to the Christmas break, a lovely time to relax, spend time with family and just enjoy the time off from the 9-5.

There's wrapping to be done, mince pies and mulled wine to enjoy, friends to see - so much on! Yet I still try to find time to plan my ideas for the year ahead.

My plans at the moment are as follows, just whilst they are fresh in my mind. 2008 has been a year for 'homemade' and I have learnt so many skills. From lemon curd, rice pudding, chutneys etc, to more usage of my slow-cooker and spending more time planning ahead. In 2009 I am hoping to:

- Fine tune these aspects even more - this includes: Shopping for more items in the 'Reduced' section, whereby I will freeze more items to slow cook with. My husband loves cooking bread so hopefully we will experiment lots of new and tasty varieties in the new year.

- Make my own liquid soap (easier than making normal soap, which seems far too scary for me!)

- Make my own washing up liquid (more natural and less expensive than shop bought).

- Only buy new if really needed - otherwise search the Freecycle site, local second hand markets and re-using items we already have if they can be repaired.

- Save all coppers into a 'Food for Christmas 09' pot - and the same for silvers. We did this this year and it's great as December is so much cheaper then.

- Save all vouchers earned from surveys etc for Food & Drink next Xmas. We have done this for 2 years now and December is actually our cheapest month of the whole year as a result.

- Do even more 'Free Clicking' online - see right hand menu for details - as this earns me over £350 per year, for a few clicks a day in any spare time I may have.

- Eat less processed food - we make most of our own food as it is, but to cut out what we can in terms of 'lazy' eating when in town shopping.

- Buy second hand clothes if they are good quality, rather than new. I am a petite size, so this is hard for me but I have found a few bargains here and there. Whereas I was spending £15-£25 on a top, I have found items for £5 for example. It does not need to be on every item, but at least where possible.

- Make more chutney, learn how to make jams and jellies, cordials etc. These add such a fantastic element of luxury and cost so little compared to processed store bought.

- Buy more good quality bedding items that may last 10 years rather than one or two and try to choose items that will wash/wear well no matter what.

- Grow more of our own herbs and vegetables. Learn about seeds / best tiems to plant etc.

These are just what I can think of so far.

What are your ideas for the coming year?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Home Sweet Home

I am hoping that 2009 will be the year we can finally buy a place of our own. I guess we hanker for the responsibilities that so many already have but don't enjoy... The possibility of having a space you can call your own, place things where you want, rent out to others if you like and generally take responsibility for. I used to own and then sold, so I am fully prepared to do it again.

This time round though we are in a position of power, as FTB generally have such a better outlook right now. *However* what is different this time is that the banking sector not only caused this crisis, but now fails to help FTB get onto the ladder to begin to solve it. OK, so some may say this is a simplistic view, but consider this: Have the banks lost out? They earned billions over the last 10 years and paid themselves fat bonuses and large share dividends. Then the tip of the iceberg hit with the credit crunch and bad mortgage debt. Now we find they are going cap in hand and getting handouts from the government as well as interest rate reductions.
The governments round the world have bailed them out. However, none of these benefits are passed on by the banks us. Instead they are lining their coffers and 'preparing' for a time when they can pass the money on, presumably a good 6 months from now.

Savers are seeing their rates fall with immediate effect, and yet mysteriously mortgage holders are seeing a 'delay' or even most times no saving at all as their mortgage 'doesn't apply' to the falling rates. Yet again more cash in this 'gap' for the banks to save up and keep.

So what can we do? The banks are clearly protecting themselves at this point, and claiming no responsibility for what has happened in these past 12 months. Following on from bailing them out, the government is on one hand asking them to pass on the savings to us, and on the other, forcing them to be far more careful and accountable with transactions.

Time will tell, but at this point I imagine that 2009 will all be aout 'Cash Is King'. as the old saying goes. With the likelihood of more job losses and the much heavier stages of recession, we all need to reconsider our priorities. Will that new TV be feeding us next year? I know I look at purchases differently, with a 'what if I have no job this time next year' angle.

So my point is, we're saving like crazy for a place to buy, yet if that doesn't happen at least we will benefit from a cash cushion which will be far better for us than any new items we may buy, or expensive trips/meals out. I will sleep better at night knowing we are doing all we can *now* to prepare for the coming storm.

If we are however lucky enough that for us there is no storm, at least there will be a nice cold Gin & Tonic in the garden we can call our own...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Christmas Madness or sanity?

Well the season has truly begun! Time to set up trees, get the bulk of Christmas present shopping underway and even start giving some thought to the Christmas meal. We’re looking forward to the break and all the festivities, however this year we have agreed to have a limit to what we spend on eachother – this way we both know there will be no overspends! Amongst family we agreed no presents to save us all some money, but for children etc of course there’s no limit.

Our Christmas food and drink will again this year be courtesy of cashback sites (click the links on the right hand menu if you would like to know more). I believe I have beaten last years amount made – and remember this is all made entirely free, from simply clicking on internet sites. My estimate will be £360 made from free clicking. Next year I will up the limit and hope to make more but it all depends on how much time I have to dedicate to it.

In addition to cash made from clicking, we have received over £100 in vouchers throughout the year, from Pigsback, stationery companies and also from competitions etc. We chose to receive these in Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Next and the Burtons group. This will be spent in Marks & Spencer (£50) and Waitrose (another £50). I will buy Xmas bits and pieces but as we are away for most of it this year, I will try to buy staples with this cash too, such as tea, coffee, marmite, rice etc. Personally, I then also received approximately another £50 in vouchers which was used for birthdays and clothes etc.

Overall, from money saving activities and ideas, we have been able to give ourselves a £600 raise in vouchers and cashback, plus approx £1,500 in other savings, meaning that over £2,000 has stayed with us, rather than being passed on to other companies or being wasted! Food waste has been a big thing for me the last 4 months or so and it really has made a difference.

Plus as you can see from this blog the following steps have helped me a lot:

- Making chutneys, curds etc
- Batch cooking to freeze various portions
- Shopping last minute in supermarkets to get reduced items
- Creating and using my PriceBook (see right hand menu)
- Using cashback sites and Free Clicking to the maximum (see right hand menu)
- Buying presents as and when throughout the year so that I don’t pay high prices at Christmas or on last minute impulse birthday gifts for example
- Re-using wrapping, getting creative round the house by recycling rather than buying new
- Buying clothes and items for the home from charity shops. This applies only to very good quality items and has saved us a lot of money.
- Buying during sales, and planning ahead.
- Using a cashback credit card then paying it off in full each month, gaining cashback at 1% on everything I buy.
- Getting a free Orange SIM card so I can go with a friend to see half price movies on a Wednesday. I loaded it with £10 over a year ago and I still have lots of credit as each text costs pennies and I go perhaps twice per month.
- Using discount vouchers for meals out etc – almost all restaurants have begun to offer these this year in a big way and this has influenced where we eat out at least 50% of the time.
- Using discount vouchers for clothes, homeware etc.
- Work extra in self-employed capacity – a few hours per week can really add up and is well worth it for anyone who can do this

All of these steps have made a massive difference which we will definitely carry on in 2009 in a big way.

If you have any suggestions as to what we can all do, or special steps you are taking, please do leave a message as we could all do with more ideas in these credit crunch times!