Frugal Fridays #12 – Budget Birthday

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            I have made it to my last week at Cath Kidston, only three shifts remain. I am pleased that freedom is within reach, but I am aware of my changing financial state. However, being on a budget does not restrict you from celebrating momentous occasions.

Last week, I hosted an afternoon tea party to celebrate my 21st birthday. I thought I would share my tips for frugal fun.

1)      Pick the time of your event wisely. My party started at 3pm, as it is much cheaper to supply a few drinks and cakes rather than a proper meal.

2)      Only invite the number of guests you wish to. Don’t feel socially obligated to invite partners or friends of friends. I had seven guests, which made for lively conversation. It’s also a logical matter of having less mouths to feed, so less can be spent on food.

3)      Talking of food, make as much of it yourself as possible. I baked my own cookies and cornflake cakes. My housemate gifted me with a gorgeous chocolate cake as part of my present. It will save you money in comparison to shop bought.

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4)      Make the most of supermarket offers. I wanted to have iced biscuits, the kind we made when we were little. So I purchased small bags of different sweets using Sainsbury’s 3 for £1 offer. We had more variation then if I had bought one big bag of branded sweets.

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5)      Don’t be afraid to serve bargains. We got through two bottles of sparkling wine, but they were such a deal at £2.49 a bottle. Nobody would have known if I wasn’t so smug about my frugality!

6)      Be mindful about your present requests. I didn’t ask for gifts, but if I was approached about what I would like, I tried to choose useful things. I was lucky enough to be gifted with vouchers, notepads and toiletries, as well as a few treats of chocolate and jewellery.

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7)      Don’t waste your leftovers. The clearing up part of an event is never enjoyable. But ensuring the cake is wrapped and the wine is returned to the fridge means you can continue the celebration for the rest of the week.

I had the best time at the party. Although I was conscious of keeping costs low, I did buy in a few items, like plastic wine glasses (which can be re-used!) and gluten-free biscuits. But overall, my party was thrifty at heart, just like the birthday girl herself.

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Lunch Date: Loch Fyne

Lunch Date is my intermittent blog series where I write about restaurants I have visited. These are previous establishments that I have posted about:

The Good Life Cafe/Buddy’s Diner/Carluccio’s

I hope they make for a pleasant read!

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            If one cannot be spoilt on one’s birthday, then there is no justice in the world. That makes me sounds awfully bratty, but I confess, I was looking forward to being fussed over on my 21st birthday. The chap rose to the occasion wonderfully.

I was showered with gifts when he first arrived. I found myself falling for him even more with each unwrapped parcel. The man bought me pyjama bottoms, I know he is a keeper. The indulgence didn’t stop there, as I was whisked off for dinner at Loch Fyne.

Although I frequently walk past it, I have never visited any of the Loch Fyne restaurants. We were welcomed into the spacious venue by an enthusiastic waiter. We were informed about the choices on the fresh counter and the catch of the day. Loch Fyne predominantly (although not exclusively) serves fish.

We sat down at our table and perused the menus. All manner of seafood, fillets and whole fish tantalised us both. I am a big advocate for fish although I haven’t sampled many varieties. The chap had whispered the golden words; I could order anything I desired. Perhaps it was the unavoidable status of being a student, or an innate sense for a bargain but I was leaning towards the set menu. Then two dishes grasped my attention fully and I confirmed my order from the set menu. The chap followed suit.

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My starter was a simple charcuterie plate. Everything tasted fresh, delicious and was displayed in order to make an impact. It’s not often that I go to a restaurant that can be referred to as “fancy”. Even on a Monday evening, the place hummed with a warm atmosphere. It’s nice to be in the company of other diners, even if you don’t engage with them. We sipped our wine, a true extravagance, and relaxed into the evening.

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My main course was beautiful. A kiln smoked salmon fillet on top of a salad of pear, butternut squash and pumpkin seeds. The dish leapt out at me from the menu, as it featured some of my favourite ingredients. The fact that it came with a side of twice cooked chips was a real treat. I can honestly say I enjoyed every mouthful.

The chap started with crab cakes and had a whole mackerel alongside chips for his main. He enjoyed his dishes too and would like to return. The feeling is mutual.

If we didn’t order wine, the entire meal would have been £19.90. I think the set menu was incredibly good value for the quality of the dishes. Both menus were extensive, but they do specialise in fish and rarely deter from that, which is worth bearing in mind. I happen to love fish, so it was the perfect option for me. Heartfelt thanks to the chap for making me feel so special.

The centre of the universe

It’s not the norm for me to post on Sundays, but this is a post that deserves to be written as soon as possible.

On Friday evening as I ventured into town, I saw many new University students. The Freshers were grasping Sainsbury’s bags, laden with various cans and bottles. They were inevitably making their way to pre-drinking parties before the big party at the end of Fresher’s Week. I wasn’t going to this party. I was heading to the grounds of Winchester Cathedral to take part in The Big Sleepout.

We arrived, registered and listened to the welcome speeches about the event. We then went to the sleeping area. Many groups who had arrived earlier were drinking and laughing, tucking into the hog roast and browsing the stalls. It was a party atmosphere. We lined our own area with black sacks and laid down the sleeping bags side by side. The witty conversation and piles of sweet treats did make me feel at ease, like I was camping. Even when we retired into our sleeping bags, I felt optimistic about the night ahead. The full moon was shining brightly and the starry sky was beautiful to fall asleep beneath.

But sleep evaded me. Even with our blanket of bin bags, the grassy ground offered little comfort. I was constrained by my sleeping bag but I didn’t dare leave the safety of it. The Cathedral bell tolled frequently, dragging me back into consciousness just when I was on the brink of sleep. But the worst obstacle was the cold. Although my body was insulated, my face and hands were not. I stuffed on gloves and pulled up my hood. I rammed on a hat and pulled the brim over my face. But the biting cold that centred its attack on my nose kept me awake. Eventually, exhaustion overcame me and I secured a couple of hours of precious sleep.

In the morning, I sat up and surveyed the scene with bleary eyes. Participants were eating bacon sandwiches and cupping mugs of tea. It was then that I realised that this activity was not about me. This was not about my comfort and preferences. This was not about making myself feel smug by undertaking charitable acts. This was not about my own satisfaction. It’s about sharing what you have, your time, money and self, in order to benefit others. Not just when there is an organised chance to do so, but whenever and wherever possible.

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m turning 21. It feels correct that I learn that the world doesn’t revolve around me just before I reach this milestone birthday. I have become more aware about the different lives of others and have raised my own consciousness about people and sharing. How very grown up of me.

A penny for the pot and a pound for the piggy

With my income grinding to a shuddering halt by the end of October, I have to think wisely about where to place each coin. I am paying a price for my freedom, but as a girl of simple means, I plan to relish this challenge. It’s not completely foreign territory to me.

I have always had a penny pot. They have come in various guises throughout the years, from hand painted jam jars to decorative wooden boxes. My favourite was a large figurine of Belle from Beauty and the Beast, brought back from a trip to Disneyland Paris many moons ago. She is not retired, she is currently housing the household fund for our house.

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My current penny pot was inherited from my mother, as the best things often are. It’s a retro HP edition, featuring cartoon characters from back in the day. It holds the required plastic bags as well as plenty of copper. I never keep pesky pennies in my purse, opting to purge them into the pot at the end of each day. Then, when it is too heavy to lift, I tip the contents onto the carpet and count it out into neat rows. It is bagged up, carried to the bank and transformed into gold.

I sometimes use the pound coins gathered to purchase some essentials – see Frugal Fridays #11. But most of the time, the coins tumble into here:

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My piggy bank was a charity shop find from when I first came to live in Winchester. Even at the start of University, I knew I would have to save for those rainy days. This year, as I did last year, I’m saving exclusively for Christmas. When I unplugged it last December, the treasure found went towards stamps, wrapping paper and other such festive things. It was so nice to have a helping hand, all ready and waiting. I worked so well that I am repeating the exercise this year. I don’t keep a record of what goes in, it will be a jolly surprise when the time comes. It will roll around soon enough.

I have been saving in my piggy since June, but other Christmas preparations have begun more recently. I have kitted up several craft projects to make as gifts. I have dug out Christmas cards that were purchased in January, naturally. Lists have been drawn up to tick each person off when a gift has been found. Just a short list, featuring only those who truly matter.

It may seem unfathomable to mention Christmas already. But when you’re adhering to a budget, careful planning ensures a merry time for all.

A balancing act

I didn’t feel like posting yesterday, but today I do. Curious, the flippant tendancies of a blogger. So it goes.

As I finish working through my four weeks notice at Cath Kidston, I have to engage with budgeting and becoming increasingly thrifty. But frugality to me means living within your means. I keep to a low food budget. I resist impulse purchases. I save my pennies in an old pot that used to belong to my mum. I do all these things (and more!) so that when my annual pilgrimage to Paperchase comes around, I can buy the items I want to.

There is something about pretty stationary for University that makes me work that little bit harder. Maybe it’s a girl thing. Or maybe it’s a quality unique to this Storyteller. I went into Paperchase in the first place to select two new notebooks for the upcoming semester.

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But I didn’t leave with just notebooks.

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I was gifted with a to-do list pad right before I headed off to Winchester for the first time, an incredible two years ago. It was enormously helpful at remembering things for me so my brain didn’t have to. As this is going to be a very busy year, I thought I’d invest in another one.

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This was too stunning to pass up. I have been on the lookout for a scrapbook to document our European adventure. I’m going to get photos printed and combine them with random artefacts I collected on the adventure to create this book of memories. I was first drawn to the floral design, but seeing as it was our adventure, I thought I would select the neutral design with the partnership of two birds. Still pretty, but more suitable.

I also purchased a small card that I will write in when the time comes for me to say my final goodbyes at Cath.

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My haul wasn’t cheap. With a flash of my student card, it certainly became more affordable. I had the money available to purchase these items, although it will result in very careful budgeting towards the end of the month. I could have bought things at a lower price, but I am trying to avoid deprivation. These are items that I yearned for and are all useful. They will all serve a purpose and that’s another definition of frugality. Enjoying a simple life is what this is all about, not going without because you feel like you should.

 

PS Thank you so much to the lovely person who sponsored me!! It truly warmed my heart to see the kindness of strangers, thank you again so so so much! My Just Giving page for the Big Sleep Out can be found here. If you can spare just a little, just the pennies you’ve got in your bank account right now, it would make a huge difference 🙂

A new definition

My blog reader has been filled with posts about bountiful harvests and the goodies that are created from them. Rows of jars in jewel tones have turned me green with envy. I had to get involved, so I baked an apple and blackberry crumble this afternoon. The apples were from my parents’ tree, and the blackberries were picked just around the corner. It makes me feel accomplished to have made something using free ingredients. Simplicity has always appealed to me, as has a self-sufficient lifestyle.

In tune with this, I have been thinking about jobs this week. I’ve been ploughing through my final weeks at Cath Kidston and I’m about to start a long stretch of working days. I started to think that I would hope never to return to the constraints of a “proper” job. My life would not be divided into “at work” or “day off”. I wouldn’t be waiting on the next payday. I wouldn’t have to squeeze in seeing my family when the omniscient Rota allows it. It’s not that I don’t want to work, far from it. I just wish to work in a different environment that grants me more freedom.

However, money needs to be made so I can sleep, eat and live well. I will not have a student loan for much longer. But it struck me this week that being a writer is, in a sense, being self-sufficient. A new method for a self-sustaining existence. You have to rely on your own motivation to consistently sit down to write. You are responsible for nurturing the seeds of ideas so that they blossom and become valuable. Much like traditional self-sufficiency, the fate of your life lies on your own back. I like that. I like the notion of putting your own hard work to reap the rewards.

I wish to earn enough to fund a simple, comfortable lifestyle. I am not seeking a huge fortune. But I do wish to earn some money by committing myself to my calling in life. I am under no illusion that this will be easy. But to be free from the rules and restrictions of a 9 to 5 job sounds like a life worth living.

Frugal Fridays #11

It has been a good week for frugality.

Firstly, I came home with a generous food parcel from Glastonbury. I have to thank my mum for packing me off with cans of tuna, sachets of soup, as well as a lovely hunk of gluten-free chocolate cake. That didn’t last long, I can tell you. Needless to say, I didn’t need much shopping-wise, so I didn’t do a full rations shop. For my next shop, I think I will be going to the supermarket. In my current situation, the most important thing is keeping costs low and I will not achieve this at a farmer’s market. I am going to keep buying rations though, as it continues to save me money. I’ve stuck to my overall budget for this week too, a great start for September.

Secondly, I managed to sell a few unwanted items on eBay last week. With the money raised, I was able to pay for my registration for the Big Sleep Out.

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My sponsorship page is here, if you are able to donate a pound or two 🙂 I think it’s right that we do anything we can to raise money who have had it tough and just need a warm meal and a positive presence. If you can give, that would be amazing.

I still have funds in my PayPal account, but some of it has gone towards a new coat. I was in need of a coat suitable for that in between stage of the seasons. Hopefully, it shall arrive next week. It feels very thrifty to purchase something with money made through selling.

And finally, I’ve performed a bit of frugal magic this week. I managed to transform these two bags of collected pennies . . .

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. . . into two items from Poundland! The bottle of washing up liquid is for the house, and the photo frame is to be part of a gift for an upcoming birthday. I’m always impressed by the range of products available in Poundland, I shall have to visit it more.

I hope your week has been equally successful, regardless of your budget. I’m really enjoying all of the posts for various September challenges. I shall be sticking with my own challenge of living on less in my final year of University. Wish me luck!