End of the Study Road

It’s hard to believe that i have almost reached the end of my studying journey. end of study

I’ve been studying off and on for the last fifteen years, i have a Bsc Hons in Health and Social Care as well as an Open Ba. Both of these were achieved with the Open University. As i have always had to work alongside my study, this was the only option open to me, and one that i will never regret taking.

For the last two years i have been doing their Master of Arts in Creative Writing course and it has been a bit of a roller coaster at times, a bit hairy and quite a bit of head down and type stuff, but, most of all it has been a learning curve that i have enjoyed riding both the ups and the downs of.

My dissertation is due next week. EEEKKK!!!

But i think i’m almost there with it so not panicking quite as much as the above capital letters might make you think.

What is my dissertation i hear you ask?

I did didn’t i? You did ask and you do want to know, right?

Ok, i’ll tell you then.

It is a 15,000 word excerpt of a novel i am writing.

a_novel_by_-_550w           Oooo, a novel? You ask. What’s it about then? 

I know you are desperate to know. You are. You really, really are…..

It’s a story about two women, who love the same man in two different time zones. The only problem is, he’s not a very nice man. Actually, he’s a bit of a mean man that you or i would do well to avoid – So should my two main characters really, but then i wouldn’t have a story to be told, and you wouldn’t have a story to read.

Usually, by the time i finish a course, or a set of courses, i say that i am finished. Only for the bug to hit again after a few months when i get bored and want to learn something else. Education is a wonderful thing and it can be quite addictive.

This time however, it’s different. This time i actually feel that it is my time to carry on with what i have started and use my learning to further myself.

This time, i actually feel qualified to put my money where my mouth (and learning) is and show the world what i can do.

The manuscript is currently sitting at around 68,000 words in length (a full novel is around 90,000 – 100,000) and is on hold until i have finished polishing the dissertation. The full manuscript should be ready to be edited by Christmas. Give me a few months to edit, get a few beta readers onto it and then a few months to re-edit and maybe, just maybe, by next summer you might be able to find out just what Penny-May and Lucy get up to.

mortar and scrollMeanwhile, everybody keep their fingers crossed for a successful grade for my Masters please, altogether now….. CROSS!!!

 

 

 

There, i’m sure that did it.

Have a happy day.

Anita. xx

 

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Z is for Zero Spend

Day 26 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

For the final day of the A – Z blog challenge we are going to look at Zero Spend time. ThisLocked wallet is basically a set amount of time where you decide that you are not going to spend any money…on anything apart from your normal direct debits. Household bills aren’t included in this as i don’t think the mortgage company are going to agree if you tell them that you’re not going to pay the mortgage this month because its due date falls in your no spend time….

Now, if you are one of those people that have a tendency to wander into the local shop on your way home from work and decide then what you fancy for eating for your evening meal (as i was), then this is going to be a shock to the system and is where all of the hints and tricks that i have spoken about throughout the month come into play.

You need to decide how long you are going to aim for and plan in advance what you are likely to need to get through the time you have allocated as no spend. Whether it is a day, a week, a fortnight or a month, you need to make sure that you have planned your meals and have the food that you require to cook those meals in your house already. Then you won’t have to think, oh, i forgot this item so i’ll just nip down to the shop and pick it up. I can just about guarantee that you will pick up other stuff while you are there as well.

Think about any special occasions that are coming up. It’s going to be difficult if you have to go out to a colleagues leaving do on your no spend day, so be realistic about the time that you choose.

I can also guarantee that there will be times within that where you will have to change your plans – unexpected people dropping in for a mealtime, accidents and emergencies that crop up from time to time, meetings that suddenly appear out of nowhere. So what do you do so that you don’t fail your zero spend challenge?

One idea is called ‘shop your own kitchen.’

This is basically taking stock of all the foodstuffs you have in and making something out of that. It may be a bit weird and wacky at times, but that can be added to the fun and adventure of it. There are also many websites that will give you recipe ideas if you enter the ingredients you have to hand. On a quick google search that i have just done, this one was top of the list Supercook. Give it a try and see what you can make with what you already have.

You can shop your bathroom as well, all those bottles of shower gel and bath salts that you have been given in the years – give yourself a right old pamper session…for free!!

money in jarIf you want to keep a track of how much you are spending, then make it visual. There are many ways to do this, and you can be as simple or creative as you like with it. Keep a money jar and put into it the money that would have spent if you had gone to the shop. Write a list of how much you haven’t spent. Go all out and get yourself a spreadsheet on the computer and input all of your savings. When you can visually see what you are saving all the time, it gets easier.

And a tip that i use? I don’t like being told that i can’t do something, therefore i like to be able to make the choice for myself that i don’t want to do it. In order for me to work this in my mind, i always make sure that i have a fiver in my purse so if i want to purchase something, i can. If i get to the end of the week and that fiver is still there then i really consider that a win. This works for dieting as well by the way. I have had a dark chocolate, four bar kit kat in my work lunch box for two weeks now. While it is there, i don’t need to eat chocolate because i can if i want to. If it goes, i will want to eat chocolate.

I know, i’m weird, but trust me. It works.

I found my mum’s emergency cigarette when i was clearing out her belongings just after she passed away. It was five years since she had given up smoking and no matter how bad the pain from her cancer got, she never smoked it because it was there if she really needed it. I figure if she can go through that, it has to have some merit.

money crossedSo, set a date, set a length of time and plan ahead. Use whatever psychological tricks you need to in order to help you to achieve your goal and go for it. You’ll be surprised at just how imaginative you can be when you really don’t want to break into that fiver.

Thank you for joining me on my blog challenge journey, i’ve really enjoyed doing it and i hope you have enjoyed my posts. Let me know how you have found them and if you want me to continue with this theme in future blogs, or whether there is anything else that you would be interested in.

Have a happy day.

Anita

Y is for Yellow Stickers

Day 25 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

By yellow stickers i am referring to the reduced sections of the supermarkets, the foodyellow sticker that is reduced for quick sale because it cannot be sold after its best before date.

Now, i’m not saying you have to buy food that is gone off. I mean, who would do that? But, quite often, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that food and it is perfectly edible.

The Food safety website states the following

‘The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE, is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good. Best before dates appear on a wide range of foods including

  • frozen foods
  • dried foods
  • tinned foods

The best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the packaging.’

As for the Use by date, they say this:

‘A use-by date on food is about safety. This is the most important date to remember. Foods can be eaten until the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads.

For the use-by date to be a valid guide, you must carefully follow storage instructions. For example, if the instructions on the packaging tell you to refrigerate after opening, you should keep the food in a fridge at 5°C or below. Find out more about chilling your food correctly.

After the use-by date, don’t eat it, cook it or freeze it. The food could be unsafe to eat or drink, even if it has been stored correctly and looks and smells fine. A lot of foods, including meat and milk can be frozen before the use-by date though so plan ahead.’

Therefore, you can buy and store dried foodstuffs after the date on the label, but with fresh food, you do have to be more careful. I do still purchase these, but they are put straight into the freezer for a later date. I then either cook from frozen or defrost properly within the fridge to ensure they are still safe to eat. The instructions on the packet should indicate which is the best way for each food.

Remember, being in the freezer merely halts the going off process, once the food has been thawed, it starts again. The freezer does not kill bacteria, it just puts it into hibernation for a while.

However, it is possible that if you find out what time your shop reduces their goods, and where they stack them, you can save a lot of money on the things you buy regularly that have absolutely nothing wrong with them.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, check out what they have reduced. Think about the storage instructions and make sure you stick to them, but remember that the freezer is absolutely brilliant for helping you to save money and reduce wastage.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

X is for Xmas

Day 24 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

Xmas has to be the most expensive time of the year as well as being the time when we are put under the most pressure spending wise. Television and social media tell us that this is the time to be happy and jolly and that we must spend, spend, spend in order to make this our reality. It would appear that in order to have a brilliant festive period, then we must part with lots and lots of cash.

I personally do not believe it is necessary to rack up loads of debt in order to enjoy this time. With planning, it can be done easily and cheaply. In my book, it is the people that matter far more than the amount of money you have spent. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you have to go without either. We don’t.

I have already mentioned a few of my ideas for keeping within budget when it comes to buying presents etc for special occasions.

  • Keep an eye out for reduced cost items throughout the year and buy them when they are cheap. Not only are you spending less, but you are spreading that cost throughout the year. Just remember what you have bought and where you have hidden it. I have a specific cupboard where everything gets put and i make a note of each item and the person it is intended for into my diary.
  • I save with park hampers for Love to Shop vouchers throughout the year. Again, this means that i spread the cost throughout the year and i get to go on a spending spree with my monopoly money in most of the major high street stores. I also make sure i have enough of them to help me through the leaner January patch as well.
  • I am a seamstress, i crochet and i make jewellery. earringsAll of these can be very helpful at Xmas time as, usually just for those closest to me, i will make something unique and individual for them that is suited to their personality and cannot be purchased in the shops. scrubbie presents
  • Last year all the girls got crocheted face cloths/bath poufs and scrubbies in their favourite colours, the year before it was cosmetic bags, again in lotus bag Annafabrics that i felt suited them. It is harder with the boys, but bean filled phone holders and crocheted blankets have gone down really well. All these cost me is the price of the individual parts (fabrics/wool/charms/chains etc) and the time it takes me to do them.

Don’t forget, if you want to purchase the pattern and tutorial that i have written to make the lotus make up/toiletry bags, you can find it in my shop, Baby Dreams Stitchery on ETSY.

making jamOne thing that i haven’t yet mentioned is that i also cook. And i quite enjoy cookingjams and sweet chilli jam pickles and preserves and so, most years, i put together home made hampers of pickles, chutneys and jams for family and close friends. I have the staple ones that i make every year of orange marmalade, lemon marmalade, strawberry jam and sweet chilli jam and then i will usually cook one or two others just to vary it up a bit.

autumn chutneyOnes that i can recommend are rhubarb and ginger jam, green tomato chutney (this is a brilliant way to use up those green tomatoes you grew that never got round to turning red), spiced apple chutney and one of my favourites that i can never do again i called autumn chutney and was a random assortment of vegetables that i had grown and needed making into something. Really wish i’d written that recipe down, it was delicious, especially with some cheese on crackers.

Apart from that one, all the recipes for these can be found quite easily in a google search. I usually head for BBC Good Food first when i am looking for a new recipe, but there are plenty of other good websites that provide recipes.

Once i have spent hours hovering over a hot hob, i then find a neat and attractive way ofhampers packaging them. Up until now, this has always been with a roll of cellophane and a pretty bow, but with my plan to help the environment out and stop using single use plastic, that plan has now been scuppered and i’m going to have to find another way of doing it for next year. No idea what yet, i have another 9 months to figure that out though. Watch this space.

Therefore, Xmas doesn’t have to Xtra Xpensive. It just needs a little bit of work and forethought put into it and then you can sit back and enjoy the season without worrying about the credit card bill in January.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

W is for Work at it

Day 23 of the A-Z Blog Challenge

Saving money certainly isn’t an easy thing to do. I guess if it was that easy, then everyone would be doing it and nobody would be struggling to find the pennies.

In this throwaway age, it is unfortunately, so much easier to just replace stuff with new, buy stuff instead of make it and live for today rather than forward thinking to tomorrow.

Saving money actually involves hard work. For most of the situations i have spoken about over the last month, it is necessary to do a lot of the ground work for yourselves. Whether that is by learning a new skill, researching other options either within your community or online or by being creative and thinking outside of the proverbial box for a solution to your potential spending problem.

The internet can be your best friend in helping you with this though. Youtube tutorials are amazing for showing you just how to get to grips with a sticky skill or repair that you need to know and don’t forget there are the amazing bloggers who also take the time and the trouble to present a page of tips and techniques to help you out for free.

kids-talking-clipart-people-talking-clipartAnother source of help can be friends and family, even if they don’t have the time to do the physical stuff for you, they may be willing to have a conversation to help you, and the older generation are generally a minefield of information about the make do and mend lifestyle. There was a time when they didn’t have a choice, and they didn’t have the internet to help them either. If they wanted something, they had to either work out a way to provide it or go without.

To start this lifestyle can be quite daunting though, and it takes time. My suggestion is to break it down into smaller tasks of what you want to achieve and then use that list to figure out what your priorities are.

  • You want to save money? Why? Write it down.
  • How much do you need to save? Write it down.
  • When do you need to save it by? Write it down.
  • How are you going to make those savings? Write them down.check-mark-1292787_960_720
  • Which are easier to achieve now and which ones are goals for the future? Write them down and prioritise them.
  • What will you do when you reach your goal? How will you reward yourself? Write it down – you need to be able to see a positive outcome at the end.

I would make a file of these notes and leave gaps for more ideas to be slotted in as they occurred to me. I don’t know about you, but i can never get everything out of my brain in one sitting, i do some, i go away and cogitate, i do a bit more.

businessman-with-a-great-idea_1012-219I would also leave space for comments and reflections. What if something doesn’t happen the way you wanted it to? What are you going to do then? How are you going to stop yourself from feeling a failure when real life decided to kick you up the Jacksy just to make your day? These are important points to note as well, Life can truly be a right pain in the arse sometimes and there is very little we can do about that, but we can do something about how we react to it.

Remember me saying that earlier this monthdesperate-screaming-woman-clip-art__k16052356 i had to purchase two new front tyres and have a wheel alignment on my car? Cost me over £200. That was a pain in the arse. Wasn’t expecting it. But it did save me from having a tyre blowout which could and probably would have cost me an awful lot more, and maybe not just in money.

So, plan what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Add in your contingency plan and make sure that you find a positive, no matter how small, about any set backs you face.

Then you can make this saving money thing work for you.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

V is for Vouchers and Deals

Day 22 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

Vouchers, gift cards and coupons can be a very good way of saving some money on things that you want to have or to do and they come in many different forms.

The best deal that i use most days is that of the Co-op card. It gets swiped every time you img-coop-card-03shop and gives you 5% back on selected in store goods. That money is stored in your membership account and can be redeemed against another purchase whenever you want. I like to wait until i get up to about a tenner on it and then feel like i’m getting a load of shopping for free. Quite often, when you swipe your card, you will also get a coupon spat out of the till as well giving you money off other products in store. And it’s usually products that you will use. i got one yesterday for 50p off milk products.

NUS cardOn top of this card, i am also a student and therefore qualify for an NUS student card. This one isn’t free, it costs about £12.00 per year, but you get so many discounts you’re better off clicking the hyperlink above rather than me trying to list them. One of the participating stores though is the Co-op where you get 10% off your shopping. Tie this in with their own community card and you really can’t lose.

The NUS card also gives you access to Amazon Student Prime. 6 months free prime andAmazon prime then about £40 for the year instead of the usual £80. this gives you free one day delivery on Prime products, access to the Amazon Prime video streaming service and lots of other offers (these are just the two that i use regularly).

together-4-standard-2608As you are by now no doubt aware, i am into crafts. Therefore, one of my favourite shops is The Works who also have their own Together Rewards Card. Here you get 5 points for every £1.00 you spend and then you get an email every three months telling you how much you have to redeem. The email will also give you a date you have to redeem the points by. They do not rollover, so make sure you cash them in when you get them. There is so much choice in that shop for craft items or books that it is never that much of a hardship. Again, as long as you are only buying purchases that you need in the first place, you can’t really lose.

I also save towards Christmas using Love to Shop Vouchers. I save for mine through Parklove2shop-gift-vouchers-1 Hampers, but you can go to the above website and buy them direct. Personally, i prefer to spread the cost of them throughout the year rather than just buy them outright. Once i have finished paying into my account the full amount of the vouchers i wish to purchase, they are sent to me direct and i get to use them like Monopoly money going into whatever shop i wish to (that accepts them obviously) and pop presents for everyone (and maybe a few for me) into my basket without feeling guilty. I usually make sure i have enough to last me into January as well. This also makes present giving to far flung relatives easier as you get to post them a lot cheaper than you could a present.

There are so many other Vouchers that can save you money.

Going on holiday? Get the local paper for your destination and see if it has any money off vouchers inside for tourist destinations. And don’t forget the Sun newspaper tokens that can help you save a packet on a whole family holiday.

Shop at Tesco? See if you can convert the club card points to buy magazine subscriptions, days out or money of your weekly Tesco delivery (that you are now doing online so that you don’t succumb to those impulse purchases).

There is only one proviso with using vouchers and cards though.

It is only a bargain if you were going to buy it anyway.

If you are swayed into purchasing something just because it is a money off deal but you don’t actually end up using it, then you aren’t saving anything at all in the long run.

Have a happy day.

Anita. x

U is for Upcycle

Day 21 of the A – Z Blog Challenge

No, Upcycling isn’t the art of cycling uphill, although the effort that takes would certainly help to keep you fit and mean you won’t need to spend money going to the gym. What it is, however, is the ‘process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value‘ according to Wikipedia, available here.

In other words, stop throwing away items that you no longer find useful in their natural state and make them into something better.

I have already waxed lyrical over how easy this is to do with fabric, by now i think my denim handbags are legendary, as are my quilted and appliqué specials, but it is possible to do this with just about anything. Got an old table that is scratched and seen better days? Sand it back and paint or wax it. Broken leg on a table or chair? Change the legs for different ones, you don’t need to throw the whole item away. I’m pretty sure that if you took a step back before taking that item to the dump and thought about what else it could be instead, then you would be able to save yourself a whole packet of money.

And if you are lacking in inspiration, then the internet is the place to go for ideas, personally, i can lose an awful lot of time on Pinterest and am frequently amazed by the ideas of what others have done.

The above pictures aren’t of anything of mine, they are just a few i have found on Pinterest in a quick five minute search using the search term ‘upcycle.’ Hopefully they will give you just a few ideas of the kinds of things that can be done.

I quite like that coffee pot into a terrarium idea myself….

Go see what you can find.

And have a happy day.

Anita. x