Living Below the Line 2014 – Day 1

I have cheated. I knew I would. I did not go to the shops with £5 and buy all the ingredients in one go. This is because I have a lot of the ingredients already in the store cupboard and it would be wasteful to buy more rice, lentils and porridge.

I am however tallying up the cost of what I eat. I am attempting to feed 3 Adults on the budget of £15. One won’t eat lentils. This could be interesting. The Gamer has already busted his £1 by getting a meal from a well known chain that sells bread rolls and calls them ‘subs’.

What I have bought/budgeted for so far.

1kg Porridge 71p, a serving is 30g =33 serving per pack

4 pints milk 95p 8p per peson a day for 5 days

2kg lentils £1 used 200 g today to make 4 portions

4 onions 89p

6 gluten free sausages £1.99 = 33p each (the cost of one meal on LBTL guidelines)

6 tomatoes 39p (thank you Aldi super six)

sandwich paste 25p to make A Girl Called Jack’s pasta dish

500g pasta 29p (half used to make meals for The Game this week)

Fresh coriander 85p – snuck that in, hope it comes within budget

6 free range eggs £1.00

Home made bread, 4 loaves £2

1kg rice 40p – cannot see me using all of that

500ml pasatta 39p

tinned potatoes 15p I think

Leeks and potatoes for the soup – to be costed

So far only one meal cooked and that is lentils and rice.Lentils and rice

Breakfast today was porridge, lunch was home made leek and potato soup with home made bread. A sad over ripe banana and two cups of tea. I drank hot water at work.

I think I have stayed within the budget. Will tally it all up at the end of the challenge. I think A Girl Called Jack will be more successful though.

Take twice as much money…. as plans often change

Our first night in Greece and hit gold with the hotel, booked via Booking.com. Exhausted after a four hour flight, landing at midnight, we really thought we would need a comfortable night as at the time we had no idea what our forward travel plans would be. We were pleasantly surprised to be put in to an only just finished fully refurbished room at Kastro Hotel.

Until we could see what ferries were running to Santorini we could not book ahead any further, and sadly we could only get one night here, when our plans to go to the Cyclades straight away were thwarted by the fact that there are no ferries there until the 17 April. We fly home at 1am on the 18th.

As the primary reason for this trip to Greece is to fulfil the wishes of my mom, which was to have her ashes scattered in Santorini, we knew we had to come up with a plan.

So far, everything about this trip had gone so well. The cost of the flights dropped by £80. We were first through passport control at Crete which has never happened ever. There were no queues at Birmingham airport check in or security. We had left before all the hold ups in traffic around the airport. My hand luggage was not searched and swabbed as it has been done on the last three times departing from a UKairport. And we score this hotel.20140411-195935.jpg

I knew there had to be a solution, as there was no way that the islands would be complete cut off from, and here is the lightbulb moment, from the mainland. Of course, Piraeus.

Long story, cut short, we are going to Santorini, via Athens. Which has had a huge impact on our budget. The upside, is we get to Athens and visit The Parthenon.

This trip is really turning into my 1979 holiday, re visited. More expensive of course, but totally worth it.

We have had to move hotel, not so lush but overlooking the sea and 10 minutes from the ferry terminal. We sail overnight on 13 April, to Piraeus, tourist class, just like I did in 1979. I have booked  one night in an hotel costing €30 and then we sail to Santorini on 14th, returning on the very first fast ferry to Heraklion on 17th at 8pm. I only hope it all goes to plan, as we have a plane to catch 5 hours later.

 

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Not buying it – a winter coat

If I had been in need of a winter coat there are some fantastic bargains out there. Not in the sales but in my local charity shops.

Last week I spotted what appeared to be a brand new beautiful camel wool and cashmere Mark and Spencers coat at £15 and an Eastex coat, probably last season, for a tenner. Both of these coats would retail at well over £100 if not more.  I nearly faint at the price of clothes when I go into Birmingham as it has been such a long time that I have bought anything new or not on sale. I cannot understand how people can afford to buy a new winter coat every year or why they would need to.

If I were not, not buying it I would have been tempted by the camel coat as it was such a bargain. But I don’t need one. I have plenty of coats. One for every imaginable occasion.

And for unimaginable ones too. A cyclone in Fiji? No problem, I have my trusty £5 bargain kag in a bag. The most useful item of clothing on my world trip. More about this here.IMG_7742

And I already have one camel coat I never wear as I am afraid it will get dirty. That was my TK Maxx bargain 6 years ago and based on a cost per wear ratio the most expensive at £50. It is a good coat for interviews though, I feel very grown up and sensible in it.

My oldest coat is 21 years old, and is now showing signs of wear. I call it my Scottish Widow coat as it is black wool and cashmere, almost ankle length and has a big hood. I was a pram pusher with another child at primary school when I bought it so needed a coat that would keep me warm and dry as we walked to school. It has now been relegated to being worn only in extreme weather conditions, yet this may be its last year (especially if I move to a warmer country). On the cost per wear ratios a bargain at £30, less than a quid a year.

I inherited a Gloverall Duffle Coat. Warm, practical, and who knew, Duffle Coats are back in fashion this year. Thanks mom, your overspending on and hoarding of high quality clothes will benefit me this winter. However the four Burberry Macs you left me are destined for another home via Vestaire.

I have the more glamourous Chamonix faux fur evening coat, for when I attend red carpet events or a spring lunch in the snow. (The second one has happened last March). This was also a charity shop bargain, £30, for a coat that retails at about £300. Cost per wear ratio not brilliant but it has been loaned out to friends and family. I may also be destined for Vestaire.

For days at antique markets I have the wool Cotswold Collection jacket, again from a charity shop. £10. DSCF1408

I also have one ski type jacket that I bought in a discount store in Cornwall as we were camping and it was raining. And a Jaeger dog-tooth coat, charity shop, not worn for over 8 years, maybe it needs to go?

I make that 7 coats and jackets. Is that too many? I would love to know what you think and share the secrets of your coat closet? And, have I, like mom, got the hoarding habit?

I really this not buying it year will be good for me, my purse and my wardrobe. What are you not buying this year?

Not buying the cook book – step one of not buying it in 2014

Most of us, even those of us who don’t make resolutions at the beginning of the year are looking to find ways to cut back on spending at this time of year. For some of us it is because we spent a lot at Christmas,  for others it is because we are facing higher fuel bill and the last few winters have been very cold.

My cook book collection

I am cutting back for two reasons, I want to save up for more holidays and short breaks, and I want an uncluttered home. I am in the process of re reading Not Buying It and planning to incorporate some of the principles into my life. I am continuing my mission to clear the clutter in my house and mind. I have also been inspired by Team Pugh, the guys behind A Year Without Supermarkets, who plan that 2014 is their Year with Less and will be following their progress with interest. The first rule of decluttering, for me, is to stop bringing more stuff into the house. I am hoping that by not buying things I do not need will not only save me money but also reduce the amount of stuff crap we seem to have accumulated over 30 odd years.

I think I passed my first test of temptation earlier this week when I popped into a local supermarket. Those of you who read my posts will know that I am not a big fan of supermarkets, especially the ones who offer bogofs and other such marketing ploy that tempt you to buy things you really did not plan to buy or more than you need. And it is so easy to get sucked into the lair, with jolly background music, amazing offers at the end of every aisle and heavy discounts on my weakness, books. This week I had to visit the big green supermarket to return an unsuitable Christmas gift, and as I did not have a receipt  I was refunded via their store card. I decided there and then that this was going to be my only visit in 2014 so I would need to spend the £5 today. I was also very keen to avoid making another trip there in the car, hunting for a parking space and negotiating zombie like shoppers mindlessly filling up oversized trolleys with food and bargains and stuff. So I had a mindless wonder around the shelves (a rooky mistake, no list) and then I saw it. It was a cookery book that had been recommended, and it was reduced from £14.99 to £5. Bargain! And somehow it found its way into my basket and before I knew it I was heading to the tills, giddy with the notion that I had bagged myself a bargain.

Just in time I remembered where I was and realised that I had fallen under the retail spell. I then gave myself a good talking to reminding myself that I had reduced my hoard of books at home by about 50% in 2013. And I really did not need another cook book. And I put it back. I did manage to spend the £5 (on some rather good wine from New Zealand) and now I have no reason to shop there again. Later today I am going to the Birmingham Markets, to see if it is cheaper to shop there than the discount supermarket I usually buy most of my food from. The Super Six fruit and veg offers are good value but I am finding it a struggle to get through a kilo of carrots or sprouts (made soup, frozen the sprouts) especially now we don’t have the chickens who used to get a lot of the excess veg.

Join me on the Not Buying It journey and see how I get on.

Spendy Sunday redeemed by a thrifty Monday

Short post today (and a bit of a rant)

The flu bug or whatever I have has decided to come back with new nasties. Week 4 and I am now really fed up of being ill. If I had to add in the cost of all the medication, prescription and over the counter I had bought, I would be struggling to live on the IDS £53 let alone on £1 for the Live Below the challenge. As it was all these costs were in March and now I am just powering through it with the help of Diagnosis Murder re runs. So no drugs denting the budget in April so far.

I don’t think this governement factored in the cost of being sick if you are on a low income, because even if you get free prescriptions, the cost of over the counter drugs can be very expensive. The form you have to complete to apply for reduced medical costs such as prescriptions is so very long and complicated, it is quite frankly off putting. The threshold for eligibility is relatively low, so I suspect a lot of people don’t bother to apply. Another benefit that potentially thousands of people are not claiming.

Back to the subject of a month of monitoring spending

I am living on water which is keeping my food bill down today. Which is just as well as we did spend rather a lot on Saturday. Then on Sunday the OH announced that he needs a new satnav. His old one (I am guessing it is about 7 years old) finally stopped working. He does a lot of driving in his job and claims he would be lost without one. As he is on a temporary contract and working for a cash strapped library service, this cost has to come out of his own money. We did some cost comparisons and Argos was the best price at £80. It is a local shop within walking distance of home so at least we kept to shopping locally. Yet is was another big chunk out of our limited budget.

We treated ourselves to brunch too

On Sunday we had the not very pleasant task of sorting out the bedroom of my mom who passed away in January. She was, it would be fair to say, a bit of a hoarder. To brace ourselves we went to Warley Woods cafe for a small breakfast each. At £3.99 each including a mug of tea (and the small breakfast is actually quite a big one), so we were working on a full stomach. This cafe is owned by a local person, so not only were we spending our money locally, we were spending it at an independent. There is free wifi there and views of the golf course and the park. A very pleasant place to visit, at any time of the year.

No other spending though

All other food shopping had been completed on Saturday our total spend was £88 on Sunday, which for us is a lot for one day. No shopping today (Monday) as we will have left overs from Sunday Lunch for supper tonight. Lunch today for the rest of the family has been leftovers from Saturday. While the spend on Saturday was well over budget, the food is stretching over a few days. I am hoping this will balance out the budget over the next three weeks. Time will tell.

Budgeting for unexpected purchases

If we were having to live on a restricted budget, we would never have had the spare cash to buy a satnav and the other luxuries such as new clothes and a bottle of wine with supper. And what if a major appliance or the central heating boiler broke down? Where do people who earn the minimum wage or live on benefits find money for such emergencies? They can’t afford to save for a rainy day or a holiday.

Being grateful 

I am lucky as I have a small amount of savings and my husband works so we can, for now, find the money for a sat nav and the occasional brunch. Yet there have been times when we have not been so fortunate. A few years back we lived on what was then Income Support for over a year. We had no car and no holidays. What saved us then was the generosity of our parents. And not everyone has parents who can or would help like that. It was horrible being dependent on hand outs and worrying if we would lose the house. Every day I count my blessings. I am grateful that we can afford to eat well, treat ourselves to a brunch, but I never forget what it was like to have to have no money in the bank and pay for my gas and electric on a pre pay meter. 

And on taking a gamble

On Saturday we frittered away a tenner on some horses. We had some wine with supper. If I was on benefits I am sure someone, somewhere would accuse me of being a typical product of the welfare state, wasting money on booze and bookies. Well, I will let you in on a guilty secret. Many years ago, while being totally dependent on the Welfare State I spent my last pound on a lotto scratch card.

I won £50 and have never bought another scratch card again.