Saturday, 26 November 2011

Financial Jealousy!

I have a friend, the same age as me, looking into buying a house with his girlfriend. He has a nice car, already lives with his girlfriend, went on holiday to New York recently, etc., etc. I have to admit it; I'm jealous.

I've read that jealousy shows you what you desire. Well, I would definitely like to live with The Boyfriend instead of at our respective parents' houses after five years! My friend's worked very hard (after graduating a year ago) to be in the financially stable position he is in now, so I definitely don't begrudge him his situation, I just wish I could be in it too!

Then there are the customers at work who pull out their highly overstuffed wallets and peel off a £20 note from the several hundred pounds worth inside.. I definitely feel the green-eyed monster trying to escape then!

It's silly to be jealous. There are always people worse off than you and things may not be as they seem. I could have a bulging wallet if I withdrew my entire overdraft too! (It would almost be worth it to see the looks on my friends' faces actually... :D) The rich man you see may have just got an inheritance, or simply worked hard to save up for something he wanted.

So rather than feeling jealous, I suggest (to myself and anyone who wants a suggestion!) that we feel good about trying to improve our own finances and let other people worry about their own. Money can bring both security and worry, so it's best just to see it as another tool for life and find our happiness elsewhere.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Apples, Apples, Apples!

Our apple tree has finally decided that it's autumn and begun to drop its apples. A lot of them came down in the wind of the past few days, leaving the ground nearby covered in apples! The tree produced so many this year that it managed to snap its own branch under the weight!

They are cooking apples, no good for eating, but I've collected a shopping bag full of them for my Nana and the next day off I get I'm going to blanche a big load of them for freezing and using in crumbles! :)

Do you have any fruit trees or bushes in your garden? What do you do with your harvest?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Proper Cornish Cream Tea

Despite Wikipedia stating a cream tea can either be Devonshire or Cornish, there is only one way to make a cream tea; the PROPER way!

Here in Cornwall, we are immensely proud of many things; pasties, the Cornish language, our handsome countryside and cream teas, to name a few! Like pasties, cream teas must be made to specific instructions. The correct method is to cut a plain scone in half, spread JAM FIRST on both halves, THEN CREAM! Jam then cream! (Not that crazy, topsy turvy, upside-down Devonshire way!).

Another vital factor is that it is Cornish clotted cream. Rodda's can be bought in most UK supermarkets so there's really no excuse! 

So without further ado, here is a PROPER cream tea! (Healthy? No. Delicious? Definitely!)

Scone recipe (makes 8 scones)
225g self raising flour
55g margarine
25g caster sugar
150ml milk
1 egg (for glazing)

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C or gas mark 7
  • Sift the flour into a bowl with the sugar. Cut the margarine into small cubes and rub it into the flour to mix.
  • Add the milk a small amount at a time, mixing each time, until you get a dough.
  • Sprinkle flour onto your surface and roll the dough out until it is 1cm (0.4 inches) thick.
  • Using a 5cm (2 inch) cutter, cut scone shapes from the dough and place onto a greased baking tray.
  • Beat the egg and brush the scones with it to glaze them.
  • Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown.
  • Place on a cooling rack to cool.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


I just got back from town. I drove there happily singing Christmas songs to myself, but came back moodily staring over the steering wheel.

I was hoping to pick up a few bits I need to make my Christmas presents. The plan was to slowly mill around, absorbing the beginnings of the festive cheer whilst picking up some bargains. Town was packed, and it's a Tuesday afternoon! I had to park sooo far away from the shops to get a free parking space (hey, I could use that £4!) and wandered down into the city centre.

Slowly picking my way through the crowds, I went to the market. I'm making my young cousin a stuffed toy and needed fabric. I couldn't find any patterned polycotton for less than £9 a metre!! What?! I only need about that but it'd be cheaper to BUY a toy at that price!

So then I thought I'd go to the charity shops and find some skirt that I could cut up and use. In Plymouth the Red Cross shop was having a £1.99 or under sale a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't know if we had one of those in Truro so I went to Oxfam. The cheapest thing I could find in there was £4.99, and it looked as though it had cost about that to buy new!! Most of the stock was priced around £10 or £15! Since when do charity shops have prices as high as the highstreet??

I was getting disenchanted by the whole affair as walking through town makes you feel like you should be spending hundreds of pounds on each family member or else you're a terrible person. I actually heard someone say, “I got ... for ..., but I still have to spend another £30 at least”. Not “I would like to get them something they'd like”, but “I have to spend this much on person X”. I'm sure I've thought similar things in the past too, but if you stop and think about it, that's an awful way to look at Christmas. Even if you are not religious but celebrate it for the traditions like me, the spirit of Christmas is still the same, and it ain't about the £££!

Monday, 21 November 2011

January Fund Complete!

Disaster averted!

I started saving an Emergency Fund of £250 last month because in January the Chinese restaurant closes for 5 weeks. At the time it was my only job. Since then I have found another job to accompany the restaurant, but I kept up with the £250 goal because I'm still going to be losing money that month. 

There was a big table in the restaurant over the weekend. We each came away with a £13.10 tip, which brought my emergency fund total for January up to the £250 mark! I did it! 

I realise £250 is not a lot. This was an emergency fund emergency in response to being potentially unemployed! I do not know what the hours will be like at my other job that month; they should be around 30/week, but I am budgeting for 16 because that is the minimum I can expect. If I do get my normal 30 hours then I won't have to use my saved money at all! I also think I will be due some holiday pay from the Chinese but I have no idea how much so I can't factor that in yet! 

The plan for the emergency fund is to prevent me getting into any more debt in January!

In the meantime all “extra money”, such as tips, spare money from my weekly budget, any holiday pay owed, etc. will all be going in the pot! Let's see how well we can do in the next 5 weeks! :D

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Happy Birthday to Me! :)

It's my 23rd birthday today! 23 seems like a pretty pointless age really! I went for Sunday lunch with my family and The Boyfriend, then I spent my evening.. at work!! Rarrr! Oh well, I haven't spent any money so that's a good thing! :)

Frugal gifts: My Nana got me some looovely warm gloves and a wind up torch. A minute of wind-up gives 30 minutes of light, or it can be charged by USB to give 6 hours! It'll be perfect for night hikes! :)

 Also, my parents and sister got me some vanilla syrup and ground coffee from Starbucks. Now I can make my own vanilla lattes!! :) Nom nom nom!

Hope everyone had a great weekend! :)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Feeling Frustrated!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've been spending almost all my time researching PhDs. I prepared my first application over the past couple of days and sent it to my undergraduate tutors for any comments. One of them said that I should wait for the bulk of PhDs to be advertised, which this year will be near Christmas because of changes in funding. This is so frustrating! Should I apply for ones that are advertised now or wait? If I apply now I could be offered a position only to find a better one later, but if I wait I might not find anything at all! Bit of a catch 22 really.

I keep meaning to write a blog post, but I haven't had much time to make Christmas presents or do anything much apart from work! I guess that's a very frugal week – no going out and spending money!!

One thing I did get done was a pocket tissue holder for my mum. I followed these instructions and it was pretty simple and turned out alright. I did it all by hand again so I didn't ruin the surprise by asking her help with the sewing machine!

Since it was so simple I decided to make another for my Nana. I didn't have my laptop with me but I remembered what to do, so I sat down whilst watching a film and sewed away. It wasn't until I came to turn it inside out that I noticed that all but the bottom panel was the wrong side of the material!! You fold the sides in half and sew them to the bottom and for some reason I expected it to turn the right way out when it was finished! Fail! I'm not sure how noticeable it is with the pattern though. Not too much on this photo anyway!

Just another thing to be frustrated by!! :-/

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
For the Fallen, Binyon, 1914

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I read an article yesterday that said that if something is really your priority you'll get it done. I'm terrible for putting things off until the last minute, so I wrote a list of priorities and planned out roughly how long I should spend to get each thing finished.

My priorities at the moment, in no particular order, are as follows:
  • Find and apply for PhD positions
  • Repay my debt and build some savings for next year
  • Lose weight and become healthier
  • Visit my Nana more often
  • Finish my Christmas presents
  • Get rid of clutter

The article said to set aside time each day to get things done, but I don't think I will time myself. During the exam period I became OBSESSED with time. It was completely unhealthy and unhelpful, adding pressure to an already extremely stressful time. I decided I needed to do x many hours revision for each exam (working out at 8 hours a day over two months), but any time I stopped looking at my notes, for example to get a drink or use the toilet, I would stop the timer. I told myself each of the 8 hours was a FULL hour's work. It was completely stressful because if I didn't finish my 8 hours one day then I had to pick up the deficit the next day. You probably don't realise how much of the time you are not working when you think you are and it really adds up!

I remember for weeks after my exams finished I kept thinking I should be timing everything I did. I'm quite an obsessive person at times and it could have got even more out of hand!

Repaying my debts is an ongoing process, but the rest of them will require regular inputs of time. Instead of focussing on how long I spend on each, I aim to work on at least two of the five each day. Some days it will be less (tomorrow I'm working 5am-2pm and 5pm-~10pm, which doesn't leave much spare time!), but hopefully that can be counteracted on any days off I have, where I should be able to tackle a small amount of all of them!

These are my priorities and I must show it by my actions, not just my blog post!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

I Braved the High Street!

I actually went into a shop on Wednesday! I have no idea when the last time I strolled along a high street was! To be honest it was a bit of a shock to the system. I went to Plymouth on the train with The Boyfriend for a date, armed with a Christmas shopping list of bits I need to complete my presents.

I have two major flaws in my reasoning and judgement ability; firstly, I'm gullible (you'd get away with telling me the most ridiculous lies) and secondly, I am horribly easily swayed by advertising! I mean I see an advert on TV for Coca-Cola and immediately think (or even say to someone) “I want a Coke”. I want things I have no need for just because an advert says I do, and it really is a battle in my head between logic and consumerism!

Just walking along the streets of Plymouth was sending swirls of “you need this because of the BARGAIN PRICE” or “how could you let your mum go without THIS for Christmas?!” round my brain. I walked into one of those pop-up Christmas tat shops; you know the ones that sell novelty pens, personalised calendars and pasta shaped like bottoms? I was shocked at the pointless stuff for sale, yet I had frequented these shops in Christmases past to find some humorous but ultimately never-used gift for friends. Clutter at a premium price!

Grr, just thinking about the amount of money I must've wasted over the years on pointless crap is driving me crazy!

The Boyfriend is very good at not spending money. He's not as easily influenced as I am! Luckily I didn't fall for any clever marketing tricks by chain stores. I bought 12 cinnamon sticks (£3) for making mulled wine sachets to send to friends, an ugly top made of a nice patterned material to cut up and use for Christmas gifts (£1 from a charity shop), 4 Christmas shape cookie cutters (Father Christmas, a star, an angel and a Christmas tree) to send cookie-mixes-in-a-jar to The Boyfriend's nieces and my cousin (£2.50), and two packets of Fizz Wiz (popping candy from back in the day), which will be a present for my mum (40p). The only thing item I got for myself was a green jumper for £1.50 from a charity shop.

Having said that, our main trouble was food. We should definitely have packed our own lunches! We each bought a pasty for lunch and some cheap fast food for dinner. We also got bored when the shops started to close and the train wasn't for another 90 minutes, so went to.... Starbucks. I hang my head in shame. £2.50 for a coffee is definitely a waste of money, especially when The Boyfriend and I had been talking about how strange it is that people go to a shopping mall with the sole purpose of blowing their money! My report card for the day reads “must try harder”...

Friday, 4 November 2011

Free Food = Chubby Me!

I work part-time jobs at a local Chinese restaurant and McDonald's. Ilona, the author of Life After Money, asked me whether I get free food from my jobs. I do, but I have to say all this fast food is starting to take its toll on my waistline! I am overweight anyway but managed to lose quite a few lbs at the start of the summer by eating healthily, working a physical job and exercising regularly. Unfortunately after 5 weeks of free Chinese food (and a week of McDonald's too), it's all starting to pile back on!

In my defense I share my Chinese food with my parents (and sister if she's about) after I finish work, but I get the whole McDonald's meal to myself as it's halfway through the shift. McDonald's are trying very hard to provide healthier options (“You do salads?!”) and we give out nutritional information on the trays with every meal, however it's easy just to grab fries and a McFlurry and head for the staff room on your break!

Today I was planning on having the veggie deli (sandwich) and a drink, which would have been a fairly nutritious meal. The veggie burgers are pretty decent – you can see whole chickpeas and sweetcorn kernels in them! This would've been a fairly respectable 549 calories, providing 12g of fibre.

Unfortunately when I went on my break I decided to get a full meal and finish it off with a brownie! The diet Coke seemed somewhat ironic! :) When I calculated this I was so shocked – I've been eating the sandwich+fries+drink all week, usually with a dessert too! It all came to 1269 calories, with 14g of saturated fat (I'm only meant to get 10g/day as heart disease runs in my family), and 47g of sugar (33g+ of these were added sugar, of which I'm meant to get no more than 40g/day!).

Starting tomorrow, I'm just getting the veggie sandwich without mayonnaise and an orange juice. If I want dessert I'll have a fruit bag! That'd be at least 2, probably 3 (with the beans and salad in the deli), of my 5-a-day for free too! All for 705 calories, which is just over half of the amount I ate today!

I don't know the exact calories for the Chinese food I've been eating, but I usually get vegetable chow mein (which is fried) or vegetable curry with chips or fried rice. I can't really think of a healthy alternative food because pretty much everything is fried. Upon Googling, stir fried vegetables and boiled rice seems like my best option. I guess I could just eat at home, but then it's not freeeee!

What is the best compromise between frugality and life in general? Would you eat free Chinese takeaway 4 nights a week or cook yourself something healthier when you got home? Do you pay for exercise classes that you could do yourself at home? What's the cheapest healthy meal you make?