Monday, 16 July 2018

The New Era of Entitlement

While doing my customary morning perusal of the news, I stumbled on a belter of a declaration.

Below the lovely headline proclaiming that staff are taking food out of bins due to low pay, The Guardian decided to introduce a piece with this paragraph:
"Cleaning staff at Wimbledon claim they were forced to take food from bins because they were given insufficient money... to buy lunch and dinner while working."
Now an important caveat here: Yes, an hourly pay rate of £8 is too low in an area as disgustingly expensive as London. I have no qualms about agreeing there. Every employer should pay a proper wage or hang their heads in shame.

But, buy lunch? BUY? That paragraph I quoted makes it look like buying your lunch at work is normal, nae, expected, and something a worker is entitled to. That if you cannot buy your lunch during work then you are automatically deprived.

I'm sorry... but as a card-carrying member of that very same club right now (working as a cleaner, on a zero hours contract, below the living wage foundation pay rate) there is NO SUCH THING as an entitlement to a bought lunch every day. I don't care how long your shift is - bring two sandwiches from home if you have to. A lemon curd sandwich costs 4p. A jam sandwich costs 5p. An apple costs 15p. A banana about the same. Heck, go all-out and bring a few custard creams, some carrots, a few sticks of celery, a bottle of juice squash, a flask of lovely hot coffee with milk and sugar, a slice of home made cake. Guess what, you can still bring all of that for less than a pound. Maybe you're a snob and like something warm, like pot noodles. Well throw that in your other flask, they're 21p per pack at my local supermarket (without the "pot") and we can be generous and pretend that a cup of boiled water from your kettle at home costs another 1p. If you spend another few minutes, you can add a handful of frozen veggies or an egg.

Or bring your dinner leftovers. They're even nice when they're cold. Add another pinch of spices for some kick.

Nobody is saying that a cleaner's wages aren't too low. They are - and in a place full of a lot of cleaners, like Wimbledon, you can bet they all work much harder than I do. And yes, people are resorting to food banks in numbers higher than ever before. But that's a whole separate debate.

Why are kids at school not taught such basic things as how to live on a budget? I mean, even the kids who are destined for medicine will have to live as students for a while... surely a lot of them could benefit from knowing how to eat well on a budget. It's a message being missed - I live right near a large university and my local convenience store is ALWAYS full of students shopping for their essentials at double the price they need to pay, and loading up on lunchtime "meal deals" for at least fifteen times what a lunch needs to cost.

An attitude where people expect that it's normal to do things the expensive way, that's just setting us up for financial problems.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Ho Hum

Another week, another two job interviews. At least this time I feel like one of them went well. It's only part-time, but I applied anyway as I knew I could continue my cleaning job.

Or, I thought I could. That boss told me tonight that her plans to change it to early in the morning would not happen after all. Meaning that as soon as I get any other job, someone else will have to take over the cleaning, as I just won't be able to attend in mid afternoon every day. Boo. So if this new job is offered to me, I say... what? I'd have more income, but still not enough to live on, and it's a fixed-term contract, meaning I couldn't dump it if I found full-time work. Being locked into under-employment is almost as bad as being on a zero-hours contract.

On the plus side, I have another two interviews next week and two more companies say I've "progressed" in the hiring process. I did my extra few hours this week cleaning, too.

Yellow sticker bargains from Tesco
Bargained: a few yellow stickers at the supermarket.

Rescued: one borderline overripe banana in a waste paper basket with nothing else but papers. Currently awaiting encakenation.

Observation: just how many office people spend a fortune on food not prepared at home. A typical bin (emptied daily) in this "corporate anonymous office" contains two takeaway coffee cups, an empty soft drink bottle, a sandwich wrapper, and some kind of single-serve packaged snack like chocolate or crisps. Some of the desks have packaging from hot lunches, large soft drink cups, porridge-in-a-cup, smoothie bottle, empty bags that contained sliced apples or carrot sticks... and they repeat the buy every day. I empty about 30 bins at this new temporary cleaning job, and I estimate 20 of them are spending a tenner or more, every day, on food-on-the-go. Half of me wishes I had £200 a month to waste on the luxury of living on takeaways. The other half of me thinks how I could bring food and coffee from home and pocket an extra £180. Or bring food from home and work 23 fewer hours per week...

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Simple Cake For Mini Oven - the easiest cake in the world

I make this most weeks, changing the version each time to a different flavour. It is so incredibly easy, just four ingredients and five minutes to prepare. This is a staple foolproof cake you can knock up at short notice. It is simply a "pound cake", so for the traditional version you would add lemon zest, but this version you can flavour in many different ways. It is not light and fluffy, although you can make it a little air-ier if you take the time to beat the mixture before adding the flour. I personally don't bother, and it's fine for my tastes.

My loaf tin fits a double batch - the picture below is a double batch in a mini loaf tin from Wilko.

Prep time: 5 minutes. If you're making this in a full-size oven, preheat to 180°C and reduce your cooking time.

Chocolate Pound Cake with White Chocolate Filling
65g butter or margarine
65g caster sugar or white sugar
1 egg
75g self-raising flour
chosen flavour (optional)

Mix the butter and caster sugar together well. Stir in the eggs then any extra flavourings if you wish. Lastly add the flour and combine. If you have used a beater, fold the flour in very gently with a spoon.

Grease and flour a mini loaf tin, add the mixture and tap to level the mix.

Bake at 180°C for about 30 minutes - the cake is ready when a skewer comes out mostly clean (check in several places as some flavour additions can make it tricky to tell).

Lemon Drizzle: 20g caster sugar, 2 tsp lemon juice. Stab the hot cake in a few places with a skewer or knife then pour the drizzle over. Leave in the tin to cool.

Chocolate: 3 tsp cocoa powder - then remove the same amount of flour from the 75g. (I also like to push a small white chocolate bar into the centre of the cake tin right before cooking - it melts and becomes almost like a cream centre.)

Banana: Add a mashed overripe banana (and some walnuts, and cinnamon if you wish). This makes a very heavy and very moist cake, and is baked even if the knife or skewer comes out looking damp - but it should not have raw cake mix on it. If your banana is still firm and yellow, you might want to reduce the sugar by half.

Serves 4. Cost: 30p plus your flavouring (Sainsbury's/Tesco 2018)

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Snap and Save

I think I've mentioned it before, but I'm a member of TopCashBack.* Even as someone who doesn't spend much, I have earned £45 there just by myself since joining. (Not bad, I think, considering it's all stuff I had planned to buy anyway... free money, right?)

So this week I finally got myself together and paid attention to their Snap and Save. The concept is simple, you buy the products on the list and they give you cashback for them. Of course this sounds like it's designed to make you buy certain items (that's a gimme) so I decided to only buy if it was something I'd buy anyway.

This week it had coleslaw, spaghetti, peas and rice. 10p back for each one if you buy the right brand - which this week was the store brand (ka-ching, free money, yes please). On the tin of spaghetti, that makes it half price. I think I need to pay more attention to this list each week!

Unrelated: yellow-stickered large loaf of brand name bread, 18p.

Annoying: Apples are expensive at the moment (well duh, they're out of season).

Expense: £17.20 in transport to attend an interview for a receptionist role.

Bonus: extra evening cleaning job of another 7.5 hours per week.

*Affiliate link, I get some sort of small bonus if you join using my link

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Things I Forgot to Mention, Again

Yes I passed my driving test first go. It would have been rather pathetic if I hadn't. I got a £180 refund from the driving school for unused lessons.

I got approved for a new credit card at a much higher limit, and at a lower interest rate. I'm still not sure how I was ever approved considering how hard it was to get anything before. But I have also cancelled my previous card. Yes it seems dumb to be applying for more credit, but I'm not spending any money - it's about improving my credit rating. One day in the distant future there will be a mortgage, but heck not while my credit rating is so meh (and I'll note, I don't owe money on any bills or loans, they just won't like me much until I have lived here a lot longer).

I've stopped hosting guests with AirBnB. This one is a long story but it has definitely occurred to me that I was knocking back employment that would clash with hosting commitments. I've made a new resolution to re-energise myself in job-hunting mode and make that a bigger priority. (Side note, it's weird being home alone while knowing nobody's in the other room.)

Holding myself to account now. Nothing else to see here...

1. My steel-capped boots have seen better days and I've been eyeing off the new styles you can buy these days that look like casual shoes. Some of my workmates have had these and I was drooling. Looked at my bank balance... looked at my steelies again and decided they can last another month or three. I bought new insoles for them instead (50p from the pound shop).

2. Turns out that the correct trousers for my new part-time job are in fact the work-trouser kind I already own, yay. Grabbed those trousers, gasped in horror at how tight they were. Stifled the urge to either buy some new ones or wear my nice new "interview" trousers while cleaning. Resorted to some less comfy ones in the interim.

3. Resolved to go on a diet immediately. This requires more vegetables in my life. Thought about what was in my fridge already... thought about my bank balance some more... skipped the shop, resolved just to stop eating so much junk and stick to eating actual meals. Came home and cooked things I already have, that is, an egg, oven chips and sweetcorn, and then ate a pear.

4. Looked for a car. Found a good prospect. Got an insurance quote. Gasped in horror. Went back and revised my car preferences and looked for different models, ages, mileage and conditions. Found a better prospect. Got an insurance quote. More horror-filled gasps. Tried a few random models. Realised my insurance cost is not going anywhere south no matter what I drive. Decided to delay car ownership.

5. Got an interview invite from prospective employer. Check location. Plan to catch bus. Check walking distance; change plans to a leisurely 45 minute walk to my interview.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Custodial Assurance Facilitator

That's me. I have a new job. Most people would call it "cleaner", of course, but hey, I'm nothing if not creative, I mean, strange. It's only part-time but it's flexible, so I can work it around my hosting, and can even still work it if I manage to bag a full-time job.

What's new in frugal things though? Well, I pondered something I've thought about doing for months, and that is to buy myself some new sneakers, aka joggers aka trainers. I kind of hate the ones that I own. But somehow I managed to resist and bargained with myself that I can buy them in a weeks' time. I also wondered what to wear to my new job, as I know the shirt is supplied but there was no mention of trousers, and I've decided to wear a pair that I already own and if they ask me to buy a different colour, I'll deal with that later.

I finally signed up for a Boots card. I don't know why I'd put it off for so long (maybe I assumed it was a pain to sign up, but it was easy) and I scored me a nice 24p of points on my first purchase alone.

Poundland, where I buy my milk, laundry detergent and croissants, had reduced cereal for 75p. It's honey wheat puff cereal, not sure whether it's my thing but that price made it on par with the price of corn flakes (the cheapest cereal ever) so I bought two boxes just to give myself some variety. Its best-before date is June, but I think you can guess just what I think of best-before dates on cereal. It'll still be fine for months. They also gave me a £2 off voucher for my next visit, only I'll need to spend £12 to use it. I'm racking my brain trying to figure out how I'll make up that £12 without buying things I don't need! Think I might need to stock up on laundry detergent and possibly shower gel.

I'd been offering my paying guests orange juice squash with their breakfast, and realised it was running low. So I went to the supermarket that I knew sold it, only to find that particular branch doesn't stock it anymore, and only sells the sugar-free. A quick check of my phone to see where to buy it, and to my horror even if I went on a trek to get it, it's been hit with the sugar tax and is now well over £2 per bottle. I personally can't stand the sugar-free version. I know that sucralose is a thousand times better than aspartame (blechhh!) but it still annoys me. What I did see was that a different variety is only 45p. Well guess what my guests get now... blackcurrant. A flavour I'll personally never drink, but one that is a lot kinder to my pocket.

I'm washing linens so often that it occurred to me I could save money if I were able to wait a day and do two sets at once. Only trouble is, that means using one of my personal duvet sets for guests, which I kinda try not to do. I'm weighing up whether to buy another set. I might need to do some maths on how long it would take to pay for itself. Decisions...

Saturday, 9 June 2018

A dose of the "unfair"s

I am struggling at the moment just a tiny little bit, with a small dose of the "unfair". Like, it's so unfair that I can't have x, y and z, when everyone else can.

It's not even luxury items that I want, to be honest, and I don't want things for the sake of looking good or keeping up with the Joneses. I think I'm wishing I could be more lazy (ironic, since this week I have been bored absolutely silly, and sick to death of the sight of even computer games). My confidence is taking a slight battering by not being at work, ie, it sort of feels that I'm not achieving much. I at least took myself off to the museum yesterday to get out of the house, so, half marks to me. Bought a pair of suitable work shoes from a charity shop , they were new so I was pleased there. Less great was that I bought a pair of sandals just because I liked them, but swings and roundabouts so they say.

We truly don't often appreciate what we have. So today I'm taking stock of the things I have and attempting to remind myself just how fortunate I am. I was tempted to eat junk for lunch, but I really should eat the fish that's supposed to be good for me... so I got out a piece of salmon and put it into the oven to bake. I made myself eat cereal for breakfast instead of bread, which I tend to eat non-stop out of laziness. The sheer number of people in this world who haven't even got bread to eat... the number of people in this country alone who can't afford any meat at all, let alone have a choice between salmon and chicken! - what a shameful thing for me to complain about!

What I need is a really big dose of therapy, and by therapy I mean a good, stern self-talking-to. I'm also going to take advantage of the Not Rain (sunshine is free) and go for a walk to buy some fruit (good for me).

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Just for something different...

...I've been decidedly un-frugal. (This is a terrible habit.)

I've quit my job without having one to go to. What? Yes. I realised that I was "living to work". Both physically and mentally, six days a week on your feet in an insanely busy workplace really takes its toll. I literally had nothing left in the tank for the bare basics of catching up with friends or even doing housework. The rotating shifts often meant I got only one day off at a time, or only one day off per week, and just try to spend time with your mates when you tell them you can only go for drinks on a Wednesday night (wry chuckle).

Anyway, as awful as it sounds, quitting was a slightly calculated move. Unemployment in my area is very low meaning there are more jobs than people available, and I know my own boss struggled to recruit, so I don't expect to have difficulty finding a job. Why didn't I look before I left? Well actually I did, but even I knew that my applications weren't my best work. I was literally too exhausted to put proper effort into them. It's no wonder that I only got one interview (where I did pretty brilliantly, but lost out to someone with more experience).

Hot tip: if you are looking for work and churning out applications by the dozen and they do not take at least an average of one hour for each one, then you're short-changing yourself. You would be more likely to actually score one of those jobs by taking the time to tailor each application. Research the company, edit your CV for every role, and write your cover letter to very specifically address what they're looking for. Otherwise, you're just one of many identical plain white bits of paper on some tired HR consultant's desk. To actually get an interview you have to be a great match for the role AND you need to demonstrate this so that it's easy for the recruiter to see, AND you need to have something different that made you stand out.

Ok, lecture over. I intend to talk to some agencies next week. As I've most recently worked in food and I'm looking to get back into an office, I know it might be causing hesitation with bosses. But if I do some temping with an agency for a while, I can show that I still have the skills that are listed so far back on my CV.

Wish me luck :)

And what else? The usual, really. Tonight's dinner was a vegetarian curried omelette - I haven't cooked in weeks so it was a change! I actually ate fish five days in a row at work as the free meal of the day but even steamed salmon and fish & chips get old after a while. In an attempt to use up food, dinner even featured a tired-looking pepper, and I'm currently cooking a frozen apple strudel so that the opened carton of custard gets used. Small things!

Monday, 9 April 2018

Frugal Count

Since my last post was about spending money, I figured it's time I paid a little bit attention to some of the frugal things I've done lately (well, it is supposed to be a blog about frugal things!).

Here they are, in no particular order - but it's a numbered list - go figure.

1. Ate the free lunch at work. I'm pretty fortunate in that my workplace provides a meal for us. Depending on the shift I work, sometimes it's a sandwich and fruit, and sometimes it's a hot meal. Often it will be the soup of the day. Occasionally the hot meal is something I'm really not in the mood for. But I'm trying to show discipline and actually eat what's on offer for free. As some evenings I am the chef, sometimes I can even decide what's on the menu. Saturday night I did steamed salmon with rice and peas (now that's what I call a win).

2. Took home leftovers. Usually this is not an option, I can't take anything from our kitchen at work. But if a colleague doesn't want their freebie sandwich or apple on our daily coach trip to the next city, I'm happy to take it home.

3. Stuck to one transport. I was mixing bus and train, sometimes buying a return ticket only to go home via the other transport because the timings were awkward! Yes it's a little inconvenient when I have a longer wait for the bus in the evening, but I walk half way and get some exercise in. So I was finally able to buy a weekly bus ticket to save a few extra pounds.

4. Free coffee from work. Sometimes they even have vanilla flavour. I make one and drink it on the way home, from my reusable travel cup. #green

5. Bought a radio. Yeah I spent money, but hear me out. I mentioned that I've cancelled my Spotify subscription, well I spent 18 pounds on a digital radio that sits beside my computer. I found a few good stations to listen to and two months in the radio has paid for itself. It also has a bonus of not using my internet data.

6. Stayed on the freebie list. is the one I'm a member of. They're not all useful freebies for me (I don't really want free kids' stickers) but I always go for the free razors, free perfumes or cosmetics, and free coffees.

7. Data rationing. Normally I'd have said that I must have plenty of internet access and it's not-negotiable. This month I somehow used 90% of it in the first two weeks, but I decided I'd just have to deal with what I have left. I have had to be really careful about the remaining data. I don't want to have to buy any more. Fingers crossed I'll make it to reset day :)

8. Played my existing games. This is part of trying not to use up my data! I own quite a lot of games already and I'm revisiting old favourites rather than play things online. So far I'm definitely not suffering.

9. Put the space heater away. It's staying over the 5 or even 10 degree mark nowadays and the flat is easily around 22 with just the weak wall radiator, so the blower is being stored for the summer. It chews through the power, so this will save a lot of money.

So I made it to 9. I'm sure there are others. What things are you doing to keep things frugal?

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Lifestyle Creep

I think I have a case of this. Apparently, even someone who knows it can happen and knows of its evil can still watch it unfold before their very eyes.

What's "Lifestyle Creep", anyway? Put simply, it's the tendency where the more you earn, the more you spend, and the more money that comes in, the more you throw at indulgences. I have the ability to live very simply on a very small income. Covering bills and not much else (and not really suffering). But then I go and get myself a payrise and suddenly I'm living in a larger flat and spending more on the rent and bills, almost entirely swallowing that raise. I buy a caravan for income but it comes with bigger expenses. And now I'm contemplating owning a car in order to allow me to earn more income... and the car ownership will probably eat a good chunk of that extra income.

Lifestyle Creep doesn't even have to be on frivolous purchases either. I doubt most people would consider a one-bedroom flat and second-hand car to be indulgences.

At this point I'm not too horrified. But it's interesting at the very least and something that I want to keep in the forefront of my mind.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Currently in Purgatory

Well maybe not so much purgatory... but maybe limbo? I went down to my caravan this week to finish getting it set up for the season, and took half an hour to sit by the sea front. I was hit by a wave of wistfulness, the sun was out and there was the smell of the sea, and that beautiful view. I'm having a few moments of late where I resent the time that work takes up in my life. #firstworldproblems of course, hey we all have to eat and money doesn't grow on trees, so those of us who didn't inherit Uncle Bertrand's millions have to go to work. But anyway, of late I've been contemplating that someone ELSE is going to need to clean and manage this caravan for me, meaning I'll rarely be here unless I happen to be Not Working on a Monday or a Friday. Essentially I'm not able to "accept" this job because of my full-time job commitments and it will also cost me money to pay a cleaner. I also passed up a part-time Sunday job due to my workplace not being able to guarantee I'd be free on Sundays. Another job I couldn't accept because of my full-time job, and this time it cost me £80 a week.

I like what I do... sure we would all probably rather not work given the choice, but as far as my actual job function goes, I enjoy it. Once I get there I almost universally have a good day. But I've also spent so many days either working or thinking about work this year that I've had zero time for a life. I literally do nothing else but work. I've spent a grand total of 45 minutes since new year doing anything social other than working, and actually, sitting in a truck stop eating a Greggs takeaway with a mate doesn't really count as having a social life.

I will admit that after the "can't take the Sunday job" incident I contemplated looking for another job, one that had set working shift patterns. I don't even necessarily need a "better" job or more pay, just something that doesn't demand I'm available 7am-11pm, 7 days a week. But I didn't put any real effort into job searching. And then this week while looking out at the glorious English Channel and eating my brioche, my brain slammed into gear and yelled at me: you moved to England to have a life of your own, you're now not achieving anything but barely paying bills, you haven't actually got any life at all, so why are you doing this to yourself?

I have been shaken.

It hasn't helped that I've been reading a fascinating FIRE blog lately (Financially Independent / Retiring Early) and it's been so relentless in its description of working taking up valuable human-time. But it's the truth. And it's hard not to resent something that almost wholly prevents you having any life at all. I had promised myself that in England I would meet new people and make some friends. So far I socialised outside work three times in a year. Obviously I could have tried harder, gone to meetups, join a course or class. But when your work days change every week, how can you go to a regular class anyway?

The route my mind wants to take me is in leaving this job and finding something part-time so that I can take my Sunday job too, and manage the rental van, and also have time to do something on a Saturday. But I recognise that making all the stars align in such a way is really quite difficult, and so I hesitate. "What if I quit then can't find flexible part-time work? What if I can't pay my bills? What if I lose the caravan? What if that Sunday job is gone? What if I can't manage my rent? What if it doesn't turn out perfectly, what then, what then?"

I realise I have to get my ducks in a row. Let's hope that my brain can handle this because right now it all seems a bit too much.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Price Was Right

Thanks to a power cut at my workplace and thanks to minimum food temperature laws, I came home yesterday with five packaged sandwiches, five pots of fruit and sixteen tubs of yoghurt. All of them reached 9°C by the time power was restored, meaning they had to be sold within two hours or binned. The reason I felt they're perfectly safe for me is that I am quite sure my own grocery shopping goes over that temperature some days before I manage to get home! That haul was all that I felt would fit into my fridge. Two large bags of food had to be left behind - I hate waste, so I managed to get a few of my colleagues to take some home too. So there's a bit less I have to spend on my groceries this month (a large woo goes in here!).

I'm also AirBnBing again. I have a lovely couple staying in my bedroom at the moment while travelling. A builder stayed on the weekend and tomorrow a university lecturer arrives. Every extra penny counts, as they say! My bedroom is definitely not the level of luxury that my AirBnB apartment was, so I don't charge nearly as much, but it seems there are still people who'd rather save on accommodation and spend on other things. I can't say I blame them, I'm exactly the same. I'd rather spend on nice meals and seeing the sights while on holidays. Who cares about the place you lay your head, as long as it's quiet, clean and warm? I mean, you're asleep...

I managed to pick up an extra shift at work this week too. That's a rarity right now. I know May will be good for extra work hours, so until then I'll take anything I can get. (Someone needs to invent bills which pay for themselves.)

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Master Survey List

This is a list of the UK survey sites where I'm an active member (as of March 2018). Since so many blogs list them all without disclosing whether it's really a good site or whether they just get a good bonus for referring you... I'm going to note how I consider them in terms of rewards and let you decide which are worth joining. This includes referral links, meaning I possibly get a small reward for you joining.

The Awesome List:

1. Prolific (referral link)
This one is different to all the others as they are not surveys. Almost all of these are actual scientific studies, and they keep an excellent list of your questions & answers, meaning you don't get screened out - they only invite you to the studies you're a match for. The rewards for these are far, far better than survey sites, and in general, you will find that these are far more interesting. You may be asked to decide whether a cartoon character is being dishonest, or watch a balloon and guess how long it will take to pop! In fairness, there are not a huge number offered. But if you check daily you might be able to cash out fairly quickly. I have been paid by Prolific (payout is by PayPal or via Circle, which charges no fees for withdrawal).

2. YouGov (referral link)
Many of YouGov's surveys are polls on behalf of government, public interest surveys, or by large corporations. While it doesn't send too many surveys, I personally find that this is the survey site that screens me out the least. This makes it the best survey site for using my time. I have been paid by this site, although it will take a long time to reach cashout for most people. Payment is by bank transfer.

3. Crowdology
No referral link here, since they don't have a referral programme. So you know that I'm including it because it's genuinely worthwhile. Payment is via PayPal or Amazon gift card. You can reach payout very quickly (it's only £4.00) and I have been paid many times.

The Good List:

1. e-Rewards
Another one without a referral link. Their payout is only in Nectar Points, which is the only reason they haven't made the Awesome List :D Surveys come fairly regularly and I've cashed out with this site several times.

2. Opinion Outpost
Easy to navigate the site and it sends a good number of surveys. You can cashout with PayPal or choose a voucher. I've been paid by this site several times - the threshold is quite low so you won't have to wait long to reach it.

3.  Mingle
I stick with this one even though it's hit-and-miss, because I have been paid by them. But be prepared to be screened out of quite a few surveys, and quite often the link tells you to try later (save those emails and try them the next day). Mingle mentions a referral programme in the terms, but I couldn't find anywhere to locate the link to share, so I've asked them for more information. Payment is via bank transfer or you can choose from various gift vouchers.

4. My Survey
I loved, loved, loved this site until recently. I have been paid many times, they send plenty of surveys and the payout threshold is easy to reach (PayPal or gift cards). Unfortunately their website seems to have become suddenly slow and unpredictable. You sometimes need to log in more than once to start a survey or see your account. MySurvey does not have a referral programme in the UK.

5. Global Test Market
Belongs to the same company group as MySurvey, and if you only join MySurvey you'll notice you often get surveys that redirect you to GTM. You can be a member of both, however. Like MySurvey there is no referral programme in the UK and the payout system is the same.

The Ho-Hum:

5. New Vista Live
Sends a decent number of surveys and has decent rewards for them. Unfortunately they pay only by cheque and only when you reach £50 (um, it's 2018, this is not very user-friendly). The large payout threshold is pretty off-putting, so in my opinion, this is only for very patient people who have already signed up with better sites which pay much faster. I haven't reached payout with them myself. This one has no referral programme.

6. Toluna (referral link)
Lots of surveys. Rewards for them are decent. Unfortunately it has an obscenely high payout threshold so you might go grey before you get there! This is for the patient people who also do other surveys. I have not reached payout yet.

7. American Consumer Opinion
This one used to send a lot of surveys and was fairly reliable. I've reached payout with them and they pay by PayPal. But I'm currently having a major technical issue with them where they haven't updated my country correctly so I screen out of every link, thus, they have been shoved down into the Ho-Hum list. This isn't a referral link as they didn't accept my application, apparently my blog isn't good enough for them to want you to join. Anyway, I can't recommend them unless you're prepared to accept the risk of possibly completely wasting your time.

The Mystery List:

1. Opinion Inn (referral link)
Well, I joined them, filled out all their screeners, and so far no surveys. Good? Bad? Who can tell? They still might be worth joining because you're not losing anything, they give you a US$10 signup bonus, and payout is via PayPal once you reach $25. Perhaps they need people in your area and family situation but not mine :)

2. 20 Cogs (referral link)
This site pays you for completing offers. Some require a purchase and some are free. It pays a £1 welcome bonus and payout is via either bank transfer or PayPal, starting from when you have completed 20 offers. Some of these offers pay over ten pounds each.

3. Oh My Dosh! (referral link)
This is a brand new site similar to 20 Cogs above. It also has a competitions section. There's a £1 welcome bonus when you join and payout is at £10, by either bank transfer or PayPal.

The New-To-Me List:

1. Surveyeah
Payment is via PayPal or gift vouchers once you reach £10. There is no referral programme.

2. Inbox Pounds (referral link)
You can complete offers, do surveys or play games. Payment is by cheque, Amazon card or prepaid Mastercard and the threshold is £20. This one is sending quite a lot of surveys so far and seems pretty promising.

3. iPoll
Cashout at £25. This one has no referral link.

4. Market Agent (referral link)
Payout by PayPal when you reach US$2.46, which is quite low! (Reach $18.45 for no withdrawal fee.)

5. GfK MediaView
I joined this and waited for my activation code by SMS, which didn't come even after checking my number was correct and hitting "resend" three times. I tried again a week later and finally got it to arrive. Then I logged in and did the screener survey, but it's still telling me I need to do the screener, and when I try to do it, I'm told it's done. Stuck in limbo here, I think their system seems a bit ill... so I will update if I'm ever allowed into my account or receive any surveys.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Pancake Day

So it's pancake day, and while I don't usually go nuts over traditions, I had the day off work anyway so why not.

Whisk 3/4 cup of milk with an egg. Add a cup of self-raising flour and a tablespoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla (optional). Pour a small amount onto your medium temperature frypan and cook for about 40 seconds. You'll see the bubbles pop, so flip them when you can see holes that don't disappear. Cook the other side for another 40 seconds.


In my arrogance I hadn't checked my cupboard properly, and it turns out that I only had plain flour. Whatever, too bad, I made them anyway. They're not as light as they would have been but they are perfectly edible once covered in cinnamon sugar! (If you used plain flour like I did, then flip them once the outer edge stops being shiny.)

I also had a lonely-looking cake mix sitting in my cupboard so while I already had a messy kitchen, I made that and whacked it into my mini oven. (YES I found a cake tin small enough to fit a nine-litre oven, it's the mini loaf pan from Wilko if anyone is curious). Vanilla cake with chunks of Galaxy chocolate shoved into it. Victory is mine ♥

As an aside: I usually buy Tesco Buttersoft, but as Sainsbury's is a closer supermarket and I'd run out of butter, I bought home Sainsbury's product instead. Bad move! It's too hard to spread and tastes quite unappealing. If I wanted to eat something unappetising on my sandwiches I'd have used the cheap cooking margarine already in my fridge. The remains of that Sainsbury's product will have to be used for cooking. Boooo.

Spendy Spenderella: 150 pounds on driving lessons, I was very pleased that I could arrange it online and set up my first lesson myself, only to discover my instructor is so heavily booked that following lessons will be ten days apart! This is near-on pointless, I know how to drive, I just need practice time. I called the school only to be told that if I cancel a lesson I'll just lose my money. Grumble. Stay tuned, at this rate passing my test will take seven years.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Winner and loser

...that's me this week. I finally managed to get signed up with EE to take advantage of the corporate discount on phone plans. It will save me a good ten pounds every month, as I've been on pay-as-you-go until now which is rather pricey. So, savings!

And as a reward for reducing my spending and better managing my budget, my credit score has been walloped. Punched in the face. The simple act of entering a phone contract. Boooo. My electoral roll address has finally updated, but it barely helped with that overall score. The bank still won't touch me for any kind of unsecured personal loan to try to knock out the fast-approaching deadline on the previously-mentioned Large Bill which is hovering overhead and being rather annoying.

Large Bill company has not tripped over itself in offering to work with me (I did offer to make an arrangement to pay them back, as I know my financial situation will improve dramatically in a few months' time). Unfortunately what I got was a vague note that they don't do arrangements, they would expect to take action on this, but then an ambiguous sort of indication that they would wait and see what I could manage. Um... yeah thanks? At the same time their sales team are calling me every day! I've taken to not answering the calls from the sales team... so they upped the ante today and sent me a link by text message, which was a promotional video inviting me to spend fifty thousand pounds (insert me crying with laughter here).

At least they have a sense of humour!

I also cancelled my Spotify Premium account. I do love it, but that's ten pounds more I can use on bills, and I've noticed lately that I rarely listen on my mobile (which is the main aspect of Spotify Free that's lacking, compared with Premium).

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

It Won't.Go.Away.

Let's pretend I snapped before eating.
I thought I was getting better, but the flu has had other ideas and moved (with a vengeance) into my nose, and laughed its way maniacally into my chest. Oh, it's hilarious alright, I've now been forced back off work and thus off the payroll until I stop hacking up a lung. Sigh. I suppose I should appreciate saving the 3.60 in train fare each day that I stay home? Haha.

I did manage to get five lemon curd donuts this week for 16p. Imagine, if you will, that it was something I actually needed. (But they were good, though.)

My washer has been delivered and installed! Although it will take me about a year to recoup the savings compared with visiting the launderette, I think it's worth it for my general sanity. And if I'm honest it hurt psychologically to feed four pounds into the machine for each load and another five to get my sheets dry. No, a tumble dryer is not thrifty and it's not environmentally responsible; but drying my large stuff inside in an unheated living room in England is just not happening!

I had my eye on a small chest of drawers this week, and remembered I had gift vouchers to use from work. Late last year I nabbed a seasonal product on sale that came with vouchers included - spending £10 to get £20 in vouchers, and they needed to be used, so here we are. I also got my standard staff discount applied. End result is that I got a £25 chest of drawers for £11.66. Not bad!

This weekend, providing I'm actually well enough, I shall be taking a trip north to visit friends, meaning some spending on travel, accommodation and entertainment will be a thing. Hardly ideal given my low income of late, but friends are important and who wants to die rich without any fun in this life? :)

Friday, 19 January 2018

I have the flu.

So I've decided to embrace it as an opportunity to be frugal, because I'm staying indoors out of the cold and I'm eating what's already in my kitchen. That works, right? Right? (Never mind the lost income as I don't get sick pay just yet, never mind the cost of medication...)

I had a message from one of my biggest current bills - ok, let's call it a debt - it was a deadline that I really didn't like. Anyone will tell you not to ignore these things and hope they go away. So I tried to sort it today, only to discover I'd been given the wrong person to call, and the poor lady suffered as I dissolved into a coughing fit and had to hang up on her! Ah, if only we got points for trying :)

Friday, 12 January 2018

Small Treats

The purpose of a crumpet is to hold as much butter and honey as possible.

I was thinking about my bank balance last night (and such thoughts are not generally very pleasant ones) and pondering that all the "money" I have is pre-allocated, and I really won't be able to spend anything extra until pay day. The thing is, since today is my precious Day Off™ after eight days of working in a row, I felt like I "deserved" something special.

Anyway, before I even got very far on that thought, I had a huge long sleep in then ate crumpets for a late breakfast. And the funny thing is, I've lost the urge to treat myself - I'm quite content enough already. Crumpets are good. Lazy days are good. Vanilla-scented candles are good. Coffee in a warm room while Skyping a friend, that's good too.

Sometimes we're so fixed on blowing wads of cash that we forget how to appreciate simple things!

I have everything I need. There's credit on my electricity, there's food in my fridge, there's a supermarket card for any extra essentials, there's cash for the train. I don't need to panic about that bank balance. Breathe.

Now I just need to figure out what to get a friend for their birthday gift!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Random Disappearing Act

Firstly I hope everyone had a lovely holiday break :) I spent Christmas Day by myself, relaxing at home (well most of it) and then got an out-of-the-blue invite to go away for a week. So I threw caution to the wind and I went... throwing a bunch of savings into a plane ticket. Yes it burned a hole in my pocket but the accommodation and meals were very kindly paid for me, and really, what's the point of being frugal all year if you never get to have any fun?

So you'll have to forgive me that this blog was a little bit (totally and completely) forgotten while I was soaking up sunshine and drinking cocktails by the pool.

It has been a difficult few days back at work. I've been working outdoors in the cold promoting our store, and while I have loved talking to the public about what I do, I have to admit that the allure of a warm coffee shop has won me over a few times. Five degrees, darkness and wind, they're really not that much fun all day. Sure, it's one thing to bring a flask from home but when you know you could be thawing out at a table inside with your workmates, it's so hard to resist (and I failed). I'm not rude enough to sit there without at least buying a cuppa, so I bought one, even though I ate my sandwiches from home.

Also a takeaway once, but at least I used a voucher. And also cookies with it. And also more coffee. Also.

As an aside I did get cashback for my plane ticket!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Yay! Then Hiss.

I have finally finished building furniture! Yay! The relief is amazing. Unfortunately my ceiling height (or lack thereof) necessitated a rearrangement. You can just make out the relocated Christmas Tree, which is presently helping to screen my desk and chair. But see that three foot gap behind the white sofa? That's the Bash Zone. All I can really use it for is stashing junk, and even that is a dangerous thing to do. I have (so far) hit my head viciously on those two beams six times and I'm not even counting the times I have bumped my head gently. It seems I haven't caused myself quite enough pain to make me actually remember to watch where I'm going (but watch this space).

Now I just need to rid myself of all the ridiculous empty cardboard boxes.

My go-to website for buying discounted gift cards (Zeek) seems to keep selling out of most of the items that I want, and only offering the ones that are one percent off - the price of popularity! - But I managed to pair it with cashback and came out in front, by first clicking through from both TopCashBack, then I spent the money on Zeek credit first, and redeemed that credit on a supermarket gift card, which will come in the mail.

A very much hiss was my disgusting foray on eBay earlier in the week, where I bought what can only be described as selfish and unnecessary items, totalling about £30. On the plus side I did get some cash back and I did finally order my toaster from a different site. I also got a small kettle and a mini oven, which should mean I use less power when I need to cook something for one person (it always strikes me as wasteful to heat that huge oven just for a little meat pie).

I sold one item for five pounds - technically I sold another item, but one of the buyers was a pain in the proverbial and decided he didn't want it. Simpler to cancel the sale than to get the negative feedback later on, ho hum.

On the right is the latest sweet treat to go into my mouth: Apple Crumble Slice with Custard (28p & 8p, respectively, from Tesco). It was delicious. And I used too much custard on this, it would have been fine with a quarter of the tin.

Freebie this week: A latte from Costa (thank you, Wuntu) and also a perfume sample in the mail.

It's Pay Week, so I plan to go grocery shopping soon, but before I do, I'm going to check out some online retailers. I shy away from them in general with the reasoning that I won't find yellow stickers, but I think it's only fair (to myself) to at least take a look for bargains.

* links are referral links, where I get a small bonus if you join. I only ever include links that I genuinely believe you can benefit from.