Thursday, 23 May 2019

Bad Behaviour

The weight loss is getting harder (or maybe I'm becoming lazier). I find myself maniacally craving carbs, which is very annoying when there isn't really snack food in the house. Twice in a row last week I went and bought a "meal deal" because I was desperate for a sandwich - how ridiculous is my life lmao?!

So I stupidly walked into the bread section today to get half a loaf, and came away with these, which while great value, are not very low-carb diet-friendly. As punishment, the caramel-choc hot cross buns are not delicious. But anyway, I've put the donuts in the freezer and the buns will be my daily afternoon snacks.

I also might have already eaten three biscuits today... and a pot noodle... and not had either proper breakfast or lunch...

I'm noticing a few niggles health-wise which are probably down to the very low calories, which I've been following a bit longer than I probably should. It's frustrating because I am not yet at my goal weight, but this might force me to take a week or two off. I'll think about it.

I added an extra item today in the shopping which was totally non-essential - caramel sauce for £1.40. As further punishment, I was £1.35 short of paying the whole lot in cash and had to whip out the card. Still, I lasted quite a while (and there are some more coins at home).

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Click, click

My increased credit limit has finally shown up on my credit report and my rating is now back up to the magnificent rating of "fair". I will save the confetti for another time.

Free sandwiches, quiche and a sausage roll from work. Also the last digestive biscuit in the packet. Thank you, Freebie Fairy.

I have been given some extra shifts from work, mostly 1 or 1.5 hours at a time. This will probably tip me back over the cut-off for Universal Credit. Those extra shifts, I will lose most of in top-up UC and taxes. I end up working for £2 an hour PLUS I am paying fuel to get there... I have made the very-irritating decision that I will now decline all extra work from this employer. I can't afford to go backwards to accept extra work, these tiny shifts always at different locations. No wonder some people are unable to accept jobs altogether.

One of my colleagues gave notice this week for reasons beyond her control. Between she and I, we were covering almost all their open shifts and sick calls, and that's coming to a screaming halt all at once. I predict a very bad week for management but I'm not going to allow myself to feel guilty. Yes, they pay me, but I've done them a lot of last-minute favours. I am a little bit annoyed that for two months I have been unknowingly doing that for free, but that's not their fault. Even so, it stops now. I will do my contracted work and nothing else. Look at me, finally getting tough?

Ideally I would get another job of shifts at least four hours at a time. I am applying for a few. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Extra Fruit

I went in to Asda for my shopping and happened on three of these little pots. Normally I steer clear because even a reduced price isn't particularly cheap, but at 10p, that's a decent change of pace from all the mandarins and pears in my crisper :)

My Zenni glasses order ended up more expensive than expected, but still great value. I've been told I should now be wearing glasses to drive, and it's a different prescription to my new reading prescription, meaning I need separate glasses for each purpose. I ended up choosing one pair each of prescription sunglasses and clear non-reflective night glasses, and one pair for the PC. It all came to £31 including the postage, which is less than a single pair of the cheapest ones that Boots sells... Yes, I am taking a small risk that I might have made a mistake inputting my prescriptions on that site. But even if I have to get them made four times, I have still spent less!

I have come to the end of my extra temporary work. I think. I am struggling for motivation with my regular workplaces, too. It seems that I am getting bored of my job (who'd have thunk it?) so I really should get myself into gear in finding something more challenging.

Spendy McSpenderson foolishly went boredom-shopping on the way home from the optometrist. Plus side was four discounted tins of soup from the pound shop. Plus-minus was a small travel iron from a charity shop. I didn't find the actual things I wanted (some kind of small, interesting, framed print for the wall, or any curtains in a colour I liked).

This week's meals: Diced chicken breast with courgettes and mixed peppers, in gravy. Two pots of it is still in my fridge and I will be making a barbecue beef casserole to eat for another four days.

Free: Netflix binge continues whenever I'm at the gym (thank you to the lovely friend who continues to let me use their account). I am currently watching The Bridge (Swedish/Danish) and it's brilliant.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Spendy

Spendy McSpenderson strikes again. I was running out of the whey protein that I bought, which is proof, I say, that it's a habit I will stick to. I found a company which sells it for a cheaper price than ASDA and it is even cheaper than buying eggs. But my dog, this company is a lesson in poor customer service. It has taken me four days to manage to put the order through and the company has been completely unhelpful.

TopCashBack* currently gives a pretty good offer for them which was the reason I went with this company above other similar prices online. Unfortunately the protein company's payment system failed by multiple channels and devices and their customer service was so unbelievably terrible that I am not even going to mention that company's name. I can't recommend a company that has nothing to offer except to blame me, and which will not even offer to arrange my cashback if the order is done by phone. Boooo. Shit quality work right there.

So to recap: Shit protein company is shit.
TopCashBack* is still awesome though and once the order was actually sorted out, the cashback appeared in my account within minutes. They really should teach the protein company how to internet and how to customer.

To my absolute surprise it looks as if I might get a part payment from Universal Credit this month. I have an advance loan from them so they might still take my whole amount as a repayment, but that's ok. I struggle a bit getting my head around the idea that my income is low enough to qualify. I didn't even particularly want to apply, but nowadays it is the only way to find out if you can get housing assistance (which came back as a small discount on my council tax).

Work has given me a few extra shifts with a client that is owed some time. I don't particularly like this workplace but I just get on with it. I applied for another few jobs and one of them is keen to meet me - food service again - time for a bit of variety, fingers crossed.

On track for another treadmill medal this month, and a higher target than the last one :)


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Upcoming Spend

£10 on an eye test at Boots next week, which will no doubt be followed by ordering two pairs of glasses from Zenni (this is not a referral link, I just think they are brilliant). I have put off this test for so long, trying to delay as long as possible because new glasses are always highly annoying, not to mention, they cost money. But it's getting to the point that it needs to be addressed, sigh. What is this ageing malarkey, I don't think I signed up for it!

I finally conceded defeat, by the way, while painting my nails and realising I couldn't do the clean-up with my glasses ON... grrrr. Well, at least painting your own nails is cheap.

Silly spend: reed diffuser for £4. Basically a bottle of smelly liquid with some sticks in it. What can I say, I like a home that smells nice. Guilty as charged.

Win: I reached payout on Prolific* and cashed out £20. This is far and away the best survey site out there because they are not actually surveys, they are scientific studies, generally by masters and doctorate students doing their theses for university. You are NEVER screened out, so every single one you get invited to, you already qualify - your time is never wasted unlike most survey sites. And it pays better than anything else out there. A typical survey will take between 2 and 20 minutes, always shows you the hourly pay rate, and generally beats minimum wage - not huge amounts of course for a short survey, but if you check the site twice a day you're quite likely to reach payout in a month, and it all helps.

Freebies: Sandwiches from workplace #1 (I just pretended I didn't know how many calories were in them). Donut from a kind lady at temporary extra workplace. Donuts are in no way, shape or form an appropriate part of a weight-loss diet, much less a very low calorie one. But I was sort of disciplined and it replaced the carbs in my dinner. I mean, one cannot say no to free food. ;)

(*=referral links)

Sunday, 5 May 2019

General Badassery

Completely unrelated to being frugal... today I will write about my New Body Regime™.

I always have an alarm set every day. Once I am up, I try to chill for a bit with milky coffee and social media, because brain does not function in the first hour.

Breakfast is muesli with added bran, a very small portion in a very small bowl, and I have it with 1/3 of a cup of protein shake and milk (this is not a diet shake, it's me increasing my protein intake).

Lunch is salad, no dressing. It contains at least carrot batons, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and some kind of fruit. Then some beans, broccoli, mange tout or something else green.

In the afternoon I have some kind of 100 calorie snack (muesli bar, cake or a couple of biscuits).

Dinner is protein and more vegetables - a casserole, or chicken curry, or an omelette and veggies, and maybe with an added protein shake. There's coffee all day... not oodles of it, but always with oodles of milk :)

8-10 hours per week on a treadmill walking. It's my chill out time, Netflix and shutting out the world. I love it - and that's someone who has hated exercise all her life!

Total intake per day is about 800-1000 calories. So this is what's called VLC (very low calorie) and is also low-carb - I mostly avoid bread, potatoes, rice and pasta. I take vitamins every day, plus omega-3, calcium and glucosamine.

I am dropping about 2-3kg per week (4-7lb). My job gives me the flexibility to do all that treadmill time. I enjoy it and this arrangement works for me. As I'm low carb, I don't feel hungry or shaky. But it's not a balanced diet when the calories are this low (hence all the pill-popping) and once I reach my goal weight I will increase the food I eat.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Kitchen Madness

I hope you haven't fallen for it.

I see a lot of different workplaces in my travels, mostly office environments, and in many of these places the resident staff are the ones tasked with buying the products for cleaning the kitchens.

The usual number of cleaning products in a kitchen is 4 or 5, and there's a huge propensity towards anything labelled anti-bacterial. Which tells me that a lot of people fall for this.

What if I told you that people developing these products start with an idea, not a product? Say, this one - "Shoppers are scared of germs!" and THEN they create a brand new product that didn't even exist, that you will think you need? "Hey, let's make something new that is anti-bacterial, people will think they need it!"

Next thing you know, we have anti-bacterial varieties of kitchen wipes, kitchen sponges, kitchen scourers, kitchen cloths, kitchen deodoriser, fridge cleaner and kitchen spray. And people think they're needed.

Massive Myth: That everything needs to be sterile.
No, you do not need to kill every microbe on every surface, and in fact, you can't. Even hospitals don't manage this. The most basic way to keep your home safe from dangerous germs is to clean up two things: debris and YOUR HANDS.

If you have basic food hygiene knowledge, your kitchen will not breed dangerous levels of bacteria or pests. This basically means don't drip raw meat juice over everything, and clean up all spills and crumbs straight away. Then wash your hands with ordinary soap. Not anti-bac soap even. Just whatever hand soap.

Your kitchen benchtop is like a table - it's not a surface you should aim to prepare food directly on. This means, if you spill coffee powder, or some crumbs, it is no big deal to simply wipe it with a wet cloth and rinse the cloth. If it's something that goes "off" at room temperature, like milk, sauces or, yes, raw meat, then just hit it with a simple kitchen cleaner spray and wipe that off. In that case you'd throw the wet cloth into your washing basket, of course, not have it sitting there for later on. If you think you need anti-bacterial, you do not. Pop into your local pound shop and get yourself a single bottle of "multi purpose cleaner" concentrate. Fill a spray bottle with cold water then add a capful. Done.

Why don't I need anti-bacterial magical cleaning products in my home?
Microbes only become a big problem if they are left with food to eat, at a temperature that helps them grow to large numbers. If you leave raw chicken juice on your kitchen counter overnight, it's a nice warm environment out of the fridge and the bacteria will breed in the chicken juice and multiply. If you then place your breakfast plate in the bacteria soup the next morning, then pick that up and get the bacteria soup all over your hands, then shove those in your mouth, well you might get rather unwell. But if you wipe up that juice, and clean the surface to remove the rest, then the few bacteria in that juice will not have anywhere to multiply all night and become dangerous. Then your plate has nothing to collect and your hands aren't bathed in gribblies.

Same goes with crumbs. If you don't leave them around for creatures to eat, then they don't attract creatures which crawl all over your benches eating them! (Logic right?)

As for cleaning your sink after you wash up? Forget the magical new products and just use your kitchen scourer with some dish detergent. There's also a marvellous product called creme cleanser if you really can't shift marks like tea stains. It's that yellow thick liquid that has tiny grains of sand in it and goes by the brand name Cif (Jif). And the generic version works just as well.

Kitchen floor? One mop bucket, half a bucket of hot water, then add a cap of that generic all purpose cleaner. Mop the floor. Sorted. And just like your bench, if you spill something, wipe it up.

So why are the shops full of these specialist kitchen cleaning products?
For the same reason the shops are full of every other kind of junk. Because people buy them and companies spend money to convince you to buy them.

I, on the other hand, will not get rich telling you this!

But I do have some snake oil for you to buy...

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Jump

I have debt (thank you to my credit rating for continually reminding me of this). Most of my debt is currently costing me 0% interest, thanks to "balance transfer" on credit. Anyway, I did a bit of a review of my finances today, because I have two days off work and am currently enduring a Skint Month™, or more accurately, two of them. Here's what I learned.

1. In four months' time, and eleven months' time respectively, each of my 0% interest amounts will fall due. It's not a huge amount of money. I am on track to pay them both out, but if if for any reason I can't pay out the balances, I have a backup plan of just taking out a new 0% transfer card (which I already know I qualify for). I am quite disciplined and haven't accrued any more credit since these transfers.

2. It's currently quite a cheap time for borrowing, which means it's a cheap time to invest. My caravan is in the process of being listed for sale, so even though I am currently skint, I probably should prepare to get into an investment mindset somehow.

So I started investigating new savings accounts, and I wasted two hours and learned that they're all rubbish. They pay a pittance in interest or charge you an account fee, or both. The cashback offers are poor, and the benefits of switching banks are trivial. If you're like me, you have your bank details saved on a dozen websites - lovely when someone like PayPal fails, or a rewards website deposits your hard-earned cash into an account that's closed. No thank you.

They led me up the path of the only places paying decent enticements: building societies I have never heard of. But they simply want too much money for me to afford.

So I ended up back at the one I've known about for years and which almost EVERY early retiree out there in Internet Land recommends: Vanguard. I mean, why reinvent the wheel? People who have no vested interest in telling me it's the best, are telling me it's the best. If they put their life savings into it, well I can put my piggy bank in. In the UK, that is called an ISA - an "individual savings account".

I am now the proud owner of a Vanguard account (currently empty, but scheduled to start debiting me every month, starting in just over a month). I have chosen a fairly high-risk option for the investment, which is the FTSE Global Index Fund. I don't aim to touch this "trickle in" account for years, so I am comfortable with the fact that it will go up and down.

Broadly speaking you can chuck up to £20,000 per year into ISAs and not pay tax on the earnings. To understand more, it's simplest to search for the offer that looks best and then read the bank's guidance on it, then read a handful of competitors, and pick the one that suits you best.

NOTE: If you have never owned a home and plan to buy one day, you can, and should, go for a Help To Buy ISA. It is crazy not to, it is FREE MONEY where the government GIVES you up to £3000. You should go with this type first, and then if you've maxed your Help To Buy contribution, consider adding firstly the Lifetime ISA (for under 40s, which also gives you free money) and then finally, any other ISA for further savings.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Poor Pugsley

Pugsley is leaking oil. It doesn't seem to be a lot, but the number of little spots on the ground means it's been going on at least three weeks :( I will just have to keep checking his oil levels and hope it will wait a while. I had been planning on getting a full service done on him in 5000 miles as he only had a minor one done last time, but it seems this will need to happen sooner than expected. This is where I remind myself that I bought a ten-year-old car and expect to spend a few hundred each year on maintenance. It's just not ideal timing since in theory I am supposed to save to visit Australia later in the year.

As promised, the pic of my March medal for 50 miles.

Win: I found a forgotten cheque in my wallet from overpaying my council rates at my previous address, and a credit rating company that I've had terrible service from has spontaneously decided to send me another cheque as a goodwill gesture. Lose: the second cheque can't be deposited as they got the wording wrong on the amount, so it will need to be reissued. The cynical me wonders if that was on purpose! :)

Hey ho, the frugality continues as always :)

Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Skint Continues

But I will survive, so the song says!

I went into the Co-op to recharge my electricity key during the week. I generally try not to go in there because it's definitely not the most affordable place to buy food. But I saw and nabbed these (in case it's a bit tough to see, that's two boxes of mandarins for 25p each and a half-loaf of white bread for 15p). I don't eat bread very much anymore so this fits in my freezer. :)

I am trying to eat the food in my house already. Pay day is only a week away, but even so, it will be a "subsistence" pay - barely enough to last me until my next one - so I am making a concerted effort to use up what I have and avoid shopping as much as I can. More than half of my diet is made up of fresh foods so that is a bit of a challenge. But, challenge accepted!

I now eat muesli every morning for breakfast, blended myself with extra nuts and bran, but unfortunately there are seven boxes of "ordinary" cereal in my house from before my diet started. Four of them were a pound shop bargain, I don't always stash seven boxes of cereal, honest! But I figured there is no harm in a mixture. So I'm adding a cup or so to into my muesli tub every time I refill it. I can't taste the difference anyway and it all helps to avoid waste.

Extra spend: vitamins. The aforementioned diet is a very low calorie one. Even though it's packed with vegetables and protein, it's near-on impossible to get everything I need from less than 1000 calories a day, and I am also burning another 350 of them on a treadmill. Weight loss is pointless if I turn myself into an unhealthy stick, so this is worth the expense.

Yay: I remembered my large stash of coins, left over from when I had to pay for parking every day - I am currently trying to spend it down and touch wood I won't whip out the bank card for another month.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

And So It Goes

I got my (small) holiday pay for the financial year in my March pay packet, which mostly covered my week off to visit Finland. It was lovely catching up with everyone and the tickets were insanely cheap - turns out that it wasn't popular to travel in the week everyone thought would be Brexit :)

Of course, meals out and transport costs in Finland cost me a bit. But we did do quite a few cheap & free things, including lunch and new-flat visits, plus a lovely day spent playing board games together. I lost, of course!

Spendy has indulged on a handful of sub-fiver items from Amazon. Nothing completely essential, but items that'd be nice to have, like a more accurate thermometer. I'm partly annoyed at myself for doing it during a super-tight-budget period and partly annoyed at myself for not thinking it's ok to spend two pounds now and then. But that kind of thinking can lead up a slippery slope...

I achieved and received my first medal for fitness - unbelievable - me, the girl who always finished in the final 5. I'll post a picture when I remember. Hopefully this month I can do even better!

Monday, 8 April 2019

Slowly, Slowly

American Express, my biggest limit card, again said yes to raising my limit. I don't understand why, but I'll take it. It's currently at a zero balance so it makes no difference to my costs, but the higher limit should raise my credit rating slightly in the future. Baby steps all the time.

As expected, the new balance transfer card I opened at 0% interest has dinged my credit rating substantially. No big deal, and when the Amex limit increase shows up, I expect it to bounce back up somewhat.

I paid back most of a rather large debt - which was nice to achieve. I also got notified that I qualify for a discount on my council rates and have overpaid, so there will be no bill this month. That part is good timing because April & May will be Skint Months™ in which every penny will matter (every penny does matter all the time, but usually, it's a choice rather than necessity!).

My fridge decided not to play recently. It's owned and maintained by my landlord, but still, when these things happen, you have to buy ice every day just to avoid throwing food away. He came to investigate it, and it seems to be working again - for now - so we just need to wait and see if it behaves, since it's only a year old. I have a great landlord and pay a pittance for my rent, so this is just something to take in my stride I guess!

Saturday, 23 March 2019

So Annoying

...seeing food in the bin. Twice in the past week alone I've fished bananas out of the bin. I ate them and haven't died yet. I also found an apple on the ground while parked at the supermarket. Brought it home and washed it - surprisingly it wasn't even bruised, must have just rolled out of someone's shopping.

Had free "dinner" a few times from work when they've left things behind from functions. Once there were 9 chicken legs, 6 pieces of pork pie and a dozen mini samosas, which I'm not ashamed to say fed me for most of the week. More often they leave sandwich platters. It's maybe not the most exciting thing to eat sandwiches but hey, at least they are fancy fillings.

Spendy McSpenderson joined a gym for £34 per month (no, hell has not frozen over). I needed to get myself moving, I hate walking outside in the rain, and I am really loving it. I jump on the treadmill and shut out the world for an hour and a half while watching tv. There were some setup costs, namely I literally had nothing to wear there which could, er, keep the assets in place, so another £60 went in a blink (two sports bras, two tops, two leggings, new trainers and also some wireless headphones). So far I am only jogging one minute out of every five, but I'm trying to improve all the time. I signed up for a distance medal for March, £10, but worth it if it keeps me accountable!

Spendy also bought a tub of whey protein shake mix for £9. It is cheaper to eat eggs of course (the same amount of protein from eggs would be £6), but I don't much want to eat eggs for dinner every single day. My self-discipline lately has been pretty good and I eat a small bowl of muesli for breakfast, then salad and fruit for lunch, and then never want the hassle of cooking anything much for dinner. So if I get lazy and make an egg sandwich, I can just add a shake and I'm good for the day. It's quite nice, if I keep this up I found a cheaper version online in bulk for next time. My white carbs are usually very limited (wheat/rice/potatoes) so I am mostly in keto, and I feel amazing ♥

Spendy ordered and assembled a cheap wardrobe... it was getting annoying having every hanging item I owned draped on hooks on the back of a door. I also paid for a haircut today, but in my defence it was very overdue.

On the plus side money-wise I have gained an extra contract for work, so now I can not only cover bills but tackle some loans. I have an agreement in principle for a mortgage, so I am starting to get to know the market and see what is out there. Touch wood I can think about buying within a year.

New credit card: this one is a balance transfer on 0% interest for six months. Here be dragons!, these require discipline, you can't do a transfer to pay something off then keep buying things on credit, and you need a plan on how you'll clear that whole balance off before the interest-free period ends. My income has gone up so I have the "pay it off" plan in place. I just figured I might as well be paying less interest for a while on what I owe.

I've also done so many extra shifts over the past month that I can afford a week off - I have booked a flight to Finland and I cannot wait to see everyone!


Sunday, 10 February 2019

Evening Out

So my spending this week went up as I did a Social Thing™ and met up with an old work acquaintance for well-overdue drinks. £25 was gone before I could blink. On the plus side, I didn't really know most of the group and wasn't feeling massively into late night shenanigans, so I did manage to go home around pumpkin hour rather than dancing the night away (and spending the night away).

Much as it's nice to catch up with people, I think I'd rather sit and chat with a drink than to boogie to loud music where you can't hear conversation!

Yet another week has gone by without me either shopping properly or cooking proper meals. I need to get my act together and accept that when I'm working the afternoon and evening, I'll have to arrange my proper main meal for lunch. I've done way too much of supermarket sandwiches and snack foods and far too little of fruit and vegetables, and it shows. And it's not cheap. My skin and energy levels are in poor shape and I need to pay attention to my health.

So starting from now I'm stepping down from the supervision role and downgrading myself to just a cleaner. I realised that I was switched on to work from sunrise to sunset, I was missing out on sleep, and I certainly wasn't getting paid for all the "thinking" time in between tasks. I can already see that there will be enough work available for me and now my only responsibilities will be to show up on time and get things clean :)

Spendy McSpenderson: £1.50 on car air fresheners, which must rate among the biggest wastes of money on the planet. I think I hated the work van so much and missed my little car so much that I got a bit emotional about sitting down in Pugsley again - especially after having worked 12 days straight in the company vehicle. I have resolved that when the little hanging leaves stop smelling nice, I won't buy more, but will just attack them with one of my cheap perfumes.

Slight win: Brought home a bunch of "old" cleaning products which the company no longer uses (due to a product range change). They're likely to last years. Somehow I stopped myself bringing home 20L of "light duty cleaner" concentrate that is probably destined for the dumpster.

How To Lower Your Energy Bills?

This is something I kind of do on autopilot now, for safety reasons - but I saw it as a tip on another site and realised that it's also something that can save us money.

Do you know which kitchen appliance in the average home uses the most power - the microwave, the stove top, the oven, or the kettle?

If you're like most people you probably said the oven, or the stove top. If you think microwaves contain space lasers, you might have said it's the nuke machine. But no. It's the humble kettle, and it accounts for 6% of a typical home's power use in the UK.

Now there's a lot of things I'll give up to save money, and a cuppa is not one of them. But it turns out most of us still waste energy with the kettle simply by overfilling it. I have noticed a lot of office environments seem to fill the kettle to the brim before use, which sort of makes sense if you're making six at a time. But at home, it doesn't make sense at all.

Instead, to use the minimal amount of power needed, fill it either to the "minimum" line or to exactly the number of cups you need. And when it's time to replace it, consider going for a smaller kettle next time - the smaller they are, the less water is needed to reach that "minimum" line.

It's been said that filling your kettle to a lower level can save an average family around £20 over the course of a year. Not a king's ransom, but we find ten places to save this much around the house, that's a nice Christmas bonus.

It also pays to descale your kettle now and then, especially if it builds a lot of scale and white marks. Scale makes the kettle slower to boil, using more energy. Descaling is simple, just put half a cup of white vinegar in to a full kettle of water, boil it and leave for ten minutes, the boil it again and wait again, then rinse it well. Scale marks on the outside or on the lid or spout, will also come off with a cloth dipped in vinegar.

Now just in case you're wondering how this is a safety thing - my mother, as a small child, pulled a hot kettle down onto herself, scalding her badly and scarring her for life. Back as far as I can remember, my mother always poured her cuppa and without even putting the kettle down, would immediately refill it from the cold tap to the amount that she'd need for the next time, no more and no less. When I asked her why, she responded:

"Because now the water in the kettle isn't hot enough to burn anyone, and there isn't much water in it, if someone knocks it down by accident."

She meant me and my sister, of course, but it's a habit I adopted when I had my own children. And if you only fill to the amount you need, it'll also save you some money.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

The Bathroom Cleaning Product Hoax

I think I want my five minutes back, because I just read an article talking about some blogger whose fantastic social media videos have caused a sensation with their amazing cleaning tips. I stupidly read the article hoping to learn something, but no. What I learned instead is that there are people out there still grabbing whatever random expensive new product the supermarket stocks, and thinking they suddenly need this wonder product. And worse, that there are so many of these sheeple, that certain staple household products are selling out because some random on the internet has decided you should clean your curtains using curry powder.

(Please don't. I made that up. But I guarantee that if a social media star was pictured doing that, the local Sainsbury's might well run out of Garam Masala.)

A stroll down any Household Cleaning aisle would make it seem like a home needs eleventy bajillion sprays, soaps, bleaches, cleaners, cloths, polishes and fresheners.

But guess what... tomorrow morning, well before dawn, I will be teaching a new employee about the wide range of chemicals used in the process of cleaning a lavatory, and as we perform our transformation in the loos, changing them from grubby to pristine, the reality is we'll be using two whole products. Two whole products for the toilets of a busy, dirty factory. A factory loo only needs two, just like homes, but companies like to bamboozle us with scare-words to make people believe certain things...

Myth: Everyone uses special anti-bacterial cleaning products and it's normal. You need to kill the flu virus.
The number-one way to limit the spread of disease is WASHING YOUR HANDS with ordinary soap. Even hospitals know this and they've known it for many years. It was true when your grandmother was a child and it's still true now.

The second is to basically: clean things. Just clean them, not perform a science experiment on them with ridiculous fancy products.

If I told you it's normal to waste money because everyone does it, would you automatically do the same? If you wish to waste money and believe in these advertisements that are designed to scare you into wasting your cash, then please put your money in an envelope and post it to me instead. Thank you.

Myth: Surely my bathroom needs specialist products for each special, er, thing. Like, you can't use toilet cleaner on a shower.
Who told you this and why do you believe it? Oh, it was the ads on tv? Well now it makes sense. Except that it doesn't. There's also a terrible scare campaign against ordinary household bleach. Repeat after me: Bleach is not bad. Bleach is not bad. BLEACH IS NOT BAD.

Look. Me, as a professional who works and trains in the cleaning industry, I have to tell my new recruits that we don't use bleach. The reason we don't use it at work is that there is the potential for some idiot to mix it with something else dangerous, which can cause serious reactions, fumes and real danger.

But just like you would not drink washing-up liquid or squirt it up your nose (because that is not how you should use it) you can also use bleach safely if you take care with how you use it.

The only two things you should ever mix bleach with are water and plain soap. Nothing else. Ever. Do not mix it with drain crystals and think it'll do a better job. Do not put it in shampoo to shift stains. No. Do not mix bleach with anything except plain water or plain soap. Open the window first and be careful not to sniff or splash - this means beware of your eyes and face.

Grab a spray bottle. Fill it 3/4 full with warm water first. Add a couple of capfuls full of plain, cheap bleach. Add about ten pumps of ordinary hand soap. This is your bathroom cleaner and it will take care of anything you throw at it.

You don't need toilet cleaner (you've just made one). You don't need special tile cleaner, or sink cleaner (clean them with your spray, and for any rings, grab that creme cleanser). Spray, wait a few minutes, brush the loo. Spray and use a sponge scourer on your sinks, bath, shower and door handles. Done. Keep in mind, like any soap product this stuff needs to be wiped off these surfaces afterwards with a wet cloth.

Your bathroom floor? Half a bucket of hot water, two squirts of hand soap and a capful of bleach in the water. If you have grout that is stained, grab your handy spray and go to it with an old toothbrush.

So what special "cleaning chemicals" have we used?
Bleach

Plus something we're likely to have already...
Hand Soap

And if things get tough around bathroom taps or drains?
Creme Cleanser on an old kitchen scourer

Wow. That's not very shiny, expensive or scientific and mysterious, is it?

Sunday, 27 January 2019

The Sauna

Not really a real sauna - since those are pretty cool - but my dog, some workplaces! As part of my job I often visit work sites in evenings, meaning I can arrive there at 6pm, or even as late as 10pm if I have a lot of places to get to that evening. On Sunday while it was only a few degrees above freezing outside, I stepped into a local Professional Businessy Office and nearly keeled over from the Hell-type blast of heat that greeted me. 10pm at night! Boss lady and receptionist person, what are you doing, does your photocopier start shivering if it's not like the Sahara in there or do your empty office chairs appreciate the warmth? Or do you maybe own part of the power company so it's in your interest to be this wasteful with your energy? I've even seen it in huge, cavernous car showrooms, those triple-storey aircraft-hangar-sized glass houses, heated to the point they are seriously uncomfortable and it's actually a relief to step out into the cold. But hey at least the sensible family vehicles on display will have nice warm door handles even if nobody's there to touch them.

The thing is, these people must notice early in the morning when they walk in and the place already feels like the inside of a toaster, so it makes me wonder if they also heat their empty houses around the clock. And it's not just one or two people, some of these offices have 50 employees, and you'd think that at least one of them might think to say: hey, should we turn the heating down a bit when we're all leaving for the night?

The fact that this isn't happening, and so many workplaces are heated day and night, it tells me that this is normal, that so many people must do the same at home. Is it any wonder so many people say they can never save money, and are only barely getting by? That maybe, a lot of us assume that we have already tightened the belt as far as we can, but really, someone else would notice ways that we're wasting money.

I am going to try to see it as a challenge, to examine my own spending and see if there are ways I could do even better.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Fairly Standard

New job is exhausting me, in the typical "I have forgotten how to do hard work" first week, and also combined with the task of helping the supervisor get on top of the backlog that had built up while my position sat open during December. I had already hit my weekly contracted hours by Wednesday and most of this job is likely to be afternoons + evenings. But while I'm bone tired I will also say a word of thanks for extra hours and for having landed in a job that (1) I can do; (2) will pay the bills, and (3) has nice people in it.

Side effect: I didn't get a chance to go grocery shopping, making for very boring food sustenance from my freezer and cupboards, but it saved me a bit of cash.

Side effect: I spent that saving by ending up in Subway, eating dinner with my supervisor.

Side effect: You don't use much energy in your home when you aren't actually home!

Friday, 11 January 2019

I Never Practise What I Preach

But I am optimistically calling myself a Work In Progress!

I (again) left my job without another one to go to. Uncharacteristically of me, I was doing an absolutely appalling job at the position I was in. Mistake after mistake and me not really grasping the systems. The people were lovely, but if I'm honest, it was a job I fell into and approached with optimism but without much realism. It just wasn't the right role for me at all. So I finished there and then had zero enthusiasm for looking for work - I had a bit a of a grump to myself over New Year, but halfheartedly put in an application for 4 hours per week cleaning with a company that I could see had several other cleaning positions. I figured that they might give me enough hours to cover my bills.

And by accident, (again) I ended up in a job I didn't apply for. Turns out the big boss was in town and wanted to meet me, and they hired me on the spot to do supervision and support, and I started that same day. They issued me a company vehicle the next morning - with mobile phone and iPad to follow. It's completely different role with a good mix of office and on-site duties, plus I have a really wonderful, dynamic and energetic supervisor who is great company and with whom I'll be working closely, so I am very pleased. I will be sitting in on interviews on my third day, helping recruit new staff to join us - I'm just blown away with the trust placed in me! And only one day of actual unemployment, so I am still pinching myself.

In financial news, two of my existing credit cards gave me increases (which I am not going to use any further, but which will help with my credit rating - why - because your credit score is impacted by the percentage you don't use - so the larger the limit and the lower the balance you actually use, the better it looks). I have also applied for a balance transfer credit card. I don't actually need it - I had put £600 in bills on one of my existing cards just to delay paying them for a few weeks while I found work - and then I unexpectedly found work quickly anyway. But after studying the offers, for a total cost of £36 this will allow me to tackle some other bits and pieces first and I will have six months to pay it out for no interest charge. Applying for the card will of course ding my credit rating a bit for a while, but since I have no expectation of applying for a home loan this year, I think I can live with it being in the "fair" bracket.

Remember kids, borrowing is not the end of the world but it should always be informed and considered properly first. I first made sure it was a benefit to me, then used the Experian comparison site to look at offers, and went with one that has pre-approved me - no sense getting a hard search on my credit rating for no reason - and then I read the agreement completely and thoroughly. Don't ever go ahead with any loan or credit that you aren't sure you understand.