2014 – The Plan

Ok, so this year there is going to be a plan.  Some proper resolutions, that last the whole year and actually have a positive and long lasting effect on our lives.  And here they are in writing, so I can keep myself accountable.  And this is likely to be a work in progress!  I feel positive about these as I’ve actually already made a start on some of them…

Family

While I’d love to aim for one proper family night a week, in reality I know how difficult that can be when I’m working shifts. So rather than make a vague ‘let’s aim for more family time’ type if resolution, and in the spirit of making SMART goals, I’m going to aim for a proper, no electron devices and no TV, type family evening a fortnight.

Mark and I could really benefit from more time to ourselves so I’d like to try and arrange for us to go out on our own once a month. As this year is the spending fast year we’ll have to be imaginative about what no-spend dates we can come up with! Childcare shouldn’t be too difficult as we have friends in similar situations that will happily trade babysitting stints.

And I need more time with my lovely girly. She’s 13 now and in the blink of an eye she’ll be all grown up and leaving home do I need to cherish our relationship now.

Also on the home front; I need to get both kids into a proper after school homework routine. Both if them would really benefit from some more input and encouragement from us. But this needs to start happening on a daily basis.

Finances

I want to pay off all of our smaller credit card balances.  I’ll work out the exact figures soon. And then we’ll just be left with our bank loan and the one credit card.  The BIG ONE.  And I’ll do whatever it takes to get these paid off…shopping cheaply, cooking frugally, living on as little as possible and getting rid of my car.

I’m working on saving an emergency fund. The ‘life or death/boiler blowing up’ type of emergency, NOT to be used just because we’re running a bit short some months.

In a bid to minimise my spending I pledge to NOT GO INTO SUPERMARKETS! If I run out if something I’d rather pop to the local corner shop and pay over the odds for something, than allow myself to be drawn into the lovely rows of clothes, books & DVDs and 500 different types of pasta to choose from. And all those BOGOF offers! I appear to have no control in these situations at all so I’m just not going to put myself in temptations way.

I plan to create my own WANTS v NEEDS list. And ensure my spending is only for items on the ‘need’ side if the page.

Home

The one word that I want to sum up my goals for our home in 2014 is….DECLUTTER!  There are too many of us living in too small a house, and we all have too much stuff.  Seeing as I can’t do anything about the size of our house (at the moment) the thing that has got to give is the amount of clutter that has invaded our space.  This is going to have to be a work in progress and I’ve no doubt that this will be a long haul.  But I’d like to get to the point that we could invite someone round on the spur of the moment, rather  than needing a fortnight’s notice to get the place vaguely civilised.  I want our home to be a haven from the outside world.  And it’s not at the moment.

Craft

I hearby promise that I WILL NOT start another project until I have finished the many WIPs that I have lying around first.  This will be a hard one to keep!

So 2014 promises to be a busy year, with lots of hard work and ongoing changes.  I’ve put a reminder in my diary every three months, to put some time aside to evaluate the progress I make, and to try and work out what else I can do to help me achieve my goals.

I’m a woman on a mission!  2014…BRING IT ON!

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Stand firm!

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So getting rid of the car is a good move. Isn’t it? It’s pouring with rain and howling a gale and I’m waiting at the bus stop to catch the bus to my fifth night shift in a row.

At least it’s not too cold.

And if this turns out to be the lowest point in my new adventure into clearing off our debts then I guess I can count myself lucky.

In the meantime I might indulge myself in a small bout if the poor-me’s!

Mo’ Money

I’ve just cancelled my Cineworld Unlimited membership.  While I LOVE to go to the cinema I haven’t been going enough to justify the monthly cost. So it’s gone!  Last payment will be in January so from February onwards that’s another £15/month off our debt.

This morning I cleared the amount on my Very account.  Add to that the money I paid to Next to pay off that account, and I’ve paid an extra £520 off debts this month!  Not a bad start I reckon – whooop!

I’m cooking homemade Tarka Dahl and homemade Naan Breads for dinner, with mango chutney, raita and basmati.  These recipes I tried last week, using channa dahl with a best before date of 2010!  Oh the shame!  Still, they took much longer to cook but were DE-LI-CIOUS when they were done.  Can’t wait.

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I’m continuing to make S-L-O-W progress with Lily’s Granny Square Blanket.  My mind has been full of ideas on how to save money, I’ve been reading blogs and generally getting myself keyed up to take some action.  So crocheting has taken a bit of a back seat a bit.  But I still find it incredibly relaxing so I really should make a point of sitting down to do some more often.  And while I really MUSTN’T start anything else until my huge life of WIP’s starts decreasing, I find I’ve lost my wrist warmers.  And I NEED wrist warmers.  Especially as I’m now a person who TAKES THE BUS.  Wrist warmers are practically a tool of survival on our winters!  So maybe I could just start a new little project.  Out of necessity, rather than my inability to see one project through to the end before starting something else.  So there.

Time to make a change.

Debt_SettlementI’ve been making some big changes around here, and dragging Mark along for the ride too (kicking and screaming in some cases).  I feel like a fundamental shift has taken place in my outlook and lots of things need to change in order for us to get the life that we need.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about priorities, and what I want them to be.  Life at the moment feels very stressful, tiring, and nothing short of manic most of the time and I feel like I’m missing out on so much…time to connect with the kids…time to connect with Mark…time to make our house a proper home (a real retreat from the outside world).  I continually feel bad that I don’t have either the time or energy to put the effort into the relationships that are most important to me.  Like my Mum, my friends and other family members.  My lovely big sister has come back into  my life this year, and I just need to find the space in my life to help let our relationship really thrive.  And it’s just not happening at the moment.

So, the aim for 2014 is to really simplify our lives, and to start making to proper, big inroads into our debt.  And I’m making good progress already!  More so on thinking about ways to maximise our income, and minimise our outgoings.  So far I’ve:

  1. Halved our Virgin media bill from £80 to £40 (Mark didn’t put up as much fight as I thought he would on this one!).  We’re keeping Netflix as we all use this ALL the time and really get our value for money out of it.  We won’t be spending money on DVDs from blockbusters for the foreseeable so this feels like a good compromise.
  2. Started taking the bus!  This is a biggie for me!  Using my NHS staff card I get reduced bus fares and it only costs me £1 each way.  I’m trying to prove to Mark that we can manage with one car.  I have always had a car, ever since passing my driving test at the age of 17, and I expect it will take some getting used to.  But, adding the figures up, I can’t ignore the saving we could make…I pay approx £35/month for car insurance.  I SHOULD be saving £20/month towards car tax and SHOULD be saving a minimum of £50/month towards servicing/repairs.  Add to the the £100 – £150 a month on fuel and we’re looking at saving some BIG numbers.  I also have to pay £5/month for my NHS parking permit and it costs me 60p a day to park at work – both of which of these things REALLY annoy me, grrr.  So if I can make catching the bus do-able then we can look at getting rid of one of the cars and using these spondoolies to make extra payments towards our debts.
  3. I’ve found some AMAZING websites and blogs which have a wealth of information and inspiration on frugal living, debt repayment and simplfying life.  Some of my favourites so far are frugalqueen which is the journey of a woman who did what needed to be done to pay off 45k on two years.  I also love Mortgage Free in Three – the lady who keeps this blog is A-MAY-ZING.  Totally inspirational.  And full of frugal recipes and advice for living minimally.
  4. I have been totally inspired by the idea of a ‘spending fast’, which I first read about here (where I also got the image which sums it all up).  I need to decide what is going on each list.  Hmmmm.want-vs-need-1
  5. I’ve spent the last month finding ways to spend less and it’s really made a difference.  The second and fourth week of every month we usually spent absolutely skint, as we would have reached the limit of our overdraft.  This month, we’re ending the month being overdrawn by only half the usual amount.  The question now if whether to use the difference to pay off another debt, or leave it put and aim to do the same again next month, so that we’re working to a zero balance, rather than -£1000.  More decisions…and me a Libra.  Not a good combination.
  6. We have started shopping as Aldi’s. O.M.G.  How have I been missing this trick?  It’s incredibly good value for money and great produce.  Last week we managed a shop for all of us from £75 and this week was £43.  I’m not buying meat at the moment as we have plenty in the freezer, but even so that’s a minor miracle for us!  I always struggled to get our shopping below £150 a week!  A work in progress but we’re heading in the right direction.

So, plenty of food for thought going on and I’m hoping to start feeling a little more positive about things.  Probably the hardest thing will be leaving the house in the dark, rain and wind to catch the bus for an early shift at 6.15am!  Noooooooooooooo!  I’ll just have to remind myself of all the £££s to be saved.