Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to conquer the pre-Christmas budgeting blues

Looking forward to a frugal Christmas?

Who said the world of budgeting could ever be simple? Who said it was an easy task to set your mind to and create good spending and savings habits? Well, actually, that person was me. I plead ‘guilty’ for saying this sort of thing in various articles, reviews and even in my cookery-on-a-budget book (which I saw going for 1 copper penny on Amazon the other week – I was both mortally offended, and highly pleased at the bargain price I subsequently paid for an extra copy).

The truth is, I have never found budgeting easy. Oh, I check my bank statement every day online, and I set up clever direct debit and standing order payments into various savings accounts, so that a little bit goes into my untouchable ISA and into my ‘rainy day’ cash account. So that’s a big tick. Yaay me.

I also make sure that, every month, I pay off a set amount of whatever’s outstanding on the mastercard – you know, the card that you only use ‘for holidays and pay it right back as soon as you get paid’. Which as we all know, is excellent advice and total rubbish. What a ‘for holidays’ mastercard actually means is, I’ve lost my bank card and this will do. Or, I’m going to get AirMiles if I use my mastercard in this store (regardless of the transaction charge I know I’ll get hit with or the high interest rates compared with my bank card).

What actually has happened the past month is that I’ve been shellacked by my own inability to budget and pay attention to anything.

For example, I have several cardinal rules to budgeting:

1) Bring food to the office, don’t buy.
For the past two weeks, I have forgotten each day to bring my lunch with me. I’ve left gorgeous home-made pies and pasta in the fridge, then not eaten when I’ve got home. This is because party season is upon us, and, while I’m scouring the room for canapés at various press parties, I forget that I’ve got a potential, and far healthier, dinner waiting for me next to the milk and cold meats. By the time I get home, it’s too late and I’m too full. And the next morning, I am too tired to remember to bring it in with me. Hence, I have spent a LOT of money on my card popping to prêt-a-minger or Make Mine.

2) Always remember to have some cash in your wallet
FAIL. Why use cash when taxi drivers take cards?

3) Always use public transport
But… the teeteringly high heels… the long nights partying with London’s financial elite… the rain… FAIL

4) Always pay off any online orders immediately
Stupidly, I saw a lot of craft material (cards and beads, not the witchy type) in a 24 Studio magazine, which would be great for the craft fair I am going to do. I estimated that the relatively low prices of these (cheaper than most craft stores) would mean the margins I would get on my products would be higher, and, consequently, the profit would be greater.

Epic fail: I did not read the small print, namely that I had to pay the balance in 14 days from receipt of the letter. I did not READ the letter, as I did not GET the letter until two days after the deadline had passed. Thank you, Post Office. Thus, what had been a £27 bill became a £47 bill – 100% interest in the form of a ‘Failure to pay’ fee. If I hadn’t paid it when I did, it would have gone up to £67.

Of course, in this case, I would advise you all to ring the provider immediately and explain the situation – the postal strike, the promise to pay the original amount at once by phone if they will waive the fee this time… but I’d actually read the letter in disgust, and, having come back from a late-night press party, thrown it down on the bookcase with a nonchalant ‘meh’ and only realised two weeks later that I’d better pay up, and fast.

5) Never admit that you struggle to budget
I have to admit that I’m actually usually very good with money. But there are times when budgeting just seems to go out of the window, and November-January are those times.

I guess my advice to anyone feeling a little blue about their excessive spending and insubstantial saving over these months is – ‘don’t feel guilty’. Guilt will make you feel hopeless about saving, and hopelessness will lead to budget fatigue and any efforts that you have made will go out of the window completely.

I suggest that you make a list of all the ‘extra’ things that you have spent over the three months – things you would not be spending on throughout the rest of the year. Add that all up, and think to yourself: “That’s my one-off spending for the year. It’s not a hole in my budget – it’s my additional expenses budget for these months! I planned this and I can manage it. I’m going to save that much during the other months next year and make myself feel better when Christmas 2010 comes around.”

Then treat yourself to another slab of organic turkey. You’ve earned it.

Friday, May 8, 2009


FAIL dog

Some days, things just go like this...

But I found 'Drifters' in Boot's the Chemist. Happy Happy days! (Very nice chocolate bar from the 90s)


Monday, April 13, 2009

How Smart is your Right Foot????


*You have to try this please it takes 2 seconds. I could
not believe this!!! It is from an orthopaedic
surgeon............ This will boggle your mind and you
will keep you trying over and over again to see if you
can outsmart your foot, but you can't. It's
pre-programmed in your brain!*

*1. Without anyone watching you (they will think you are
GOOFY!!) and while sitting at your desk in front of your
computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make
clockwise circles with it.*

*2. Now, while doing this, draw the number '6' in the
air with your right hand.. Your foot will change
direction. I told you so!!! And there's nothing you can
do about it! You and I both know how stupid it is, but
before the day is done you are going to try it again, if
you've not already done so.*

*Send it to your friends to frustrate them too.*

*I just did!!*

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Does anybody want this blog?

Hello folksies

I hope you are all good and having fun. I'm finding this blog hard to manage as well as keeping up with the Mermaid one.

It's hard enough trying to monitor and clean up my act on the Mermins account - you will have noticed I've put on comment moderation and am not being so rude and ranty. It's because I am aware that my responsibilities within the Christian community mean more people look up to me as an example, especially younger folk, and I don't want them to see something that might confuse them or knock them down. And I am so glad that you all respect that and are kind and generous in your comments and contact with me, so I want to thank you all for that. It means a lot to me.

But I don't want to impose those restrictions on The Careless Sigh. It's your blog as much as it is mine. So, if any of you want it, please let me know how I can change it so that it becomes moderated by one of you - perhaps Daddy or Daisy or Trubes can do this as you are some of the most prolific writers?

That way I can still see what you're up to and think about you each day when things get too much or when things go well for you - and I don't have to worry that the Hitch is filthing up the screens!!! :) Poor old hitch - does anyone know where he's gone? Has he flounced off for good?

Please let me know if you want this blog and if you know how I can change ownership? I'd be very grateful and promise to splash me mermaidy tail on your blogs more often xxxxx

Monday, January 5, 2009

Why Men are Happier than Women

Men Are Just Happier People-- What do you expect from such simple creatures? Our last name stays put. The garage is all ours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. We can be President. We can never be pregnant. We can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. We can wear NO shirt to a water park. Car mechanics tell us the truth. The world is our urinal. We never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. We don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100. People never stare at our chest when you're talking to them. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle our feet.

One mood all the time.

Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. We know stuff about tanks. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. We can open all your own jars. We get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be our friend.

My underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.
Three pairs of shoes are more than enough for me.

We almost never have strap problems in public. I am unable to see wrinkles in my clothes.. Everything on my face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. We only have to shave our face and neck.
We can play with toys all your life. One wallet and one pair of shoes -- one color for all seasons. We can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. We can 'do' your nails with a pocket knife. We have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache, providing our wives let us.

I can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes.

No wonder we men are happier.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A pill a day, keeps the doctor in pay

Pill Popping Thirty Somethings

Hola all and sundry! I hope that you are well and have had a wonderful Christmas!

I've just calculated that in the past three months, I have probably taken enough pills to get me put into the Priory, if I were wealthy enough for such a luxury holiday with various celebs.

I've ingested:
Anadin extra
Nurofen Express
Vicks day medication
Sudafed night medication

I've snorted:
Vicks First Defence
Vicks tubes
Vicks Vaporub (think there is a pattern emerging here)

I've injected
Something weird, a clear unctuous medication which was to line my stomach

And I've rubbed on
Vicks vaporub
Some herbal crap to cure headaches.

I think, on reflection, it would have been cheaper to buy a bottle of brandy and some smokes, for all the good all this has done me.