New season, new shoes

I was out and about in town this afternoon, running errands (read: printing out lots of newly-revamped CVs). I granted myself a fifth of my recent earnings to purchase suitable summer clothing. The recent bout of warm weather has highlighted how inadequate my wardrobe is. My budget wasn’t large, so I concluded that the charity shops would be the best place to visit.

How wrong I was. The first two I ventured in displayed nothing I was interested in. The third had a ghastly smell throughout the whole store. In the fourth, I dared to try on a Monsoon kaftan dress, blue and silk and beautiful. This was more like it, I thought, as I turned the price label. It was nice sure, but £8.50 for a second-hand garment is too much in my book. The charity shops could not offer what I needed, so I headed to the place where the fashion is fast, the items won’t last a year and they charge the best prices. Got it in one, I went to Primark.



Two pairs of summery sandals for £6. The black ones are perfect for peeking out beneath maxi dresses and skirts. The flip flops are for round the house and in the garden when we’re picnicking. They are exactly what I was looking for.



I then scoured the New Look sales rails and found a white shirt, an item I’ve had on my wishlist for an age. My size and oh my, that price. I paid three pound coins and left the shop pleased as punch.

I know the ethics surrounding such fashion choices is shady. But when you’re saving up for a deposit on a new home, can you really afford to be picky? Or should morals stay intact whatever the cost? I’d love to hear about your clothing choices.

The art of eating

I’ve been really impressed with the latest series of Food and Drink. It’s the only cookery show extolling the virtues of budget cuisine. And they mean what they say. Not declaring a meal as purse-friendly, and then pulling out crabmeat or sirloin or the like. Too many TV chefs do this, in my opinion. But Food and Drink has been refreshingly different so far this series. For example, guest chef Tom Kerridge served a lamb dish that was accompanied by broccoli stalks. Frugal cookery at its finest.

Later on in Episode 2, Arabella Weir raised an interesting debate about poverty and healthy eating. She made some very matter-of-fact points that I personally agree with. On the other hand, Kerridge came across as out of touch. He said, regardless of budget, we all care about where our food comes from. I’m not making a personal comment when I say that this sounds like the chef has never felt true hunger. If you’re only having one meal of the day, I doubt you give two hoots about where in the world your supper came from. Naturally, we’d all like to make the right choices, but if it’s a decision between dinner on the table or not, there is ultimately one answer. As Arabella argued, what keeps you full for longest at the cheapest price? The sad truth is junk food. But education and knowledge is pivotal, and I think Food and Drink is doing a grand job at providing such information.

One of the best ways, I think, to eat well on a budget is to bulk buy. Thanks to my recent boost of funds, I have ventured down a new path. For the very first time, I’ve completed an online shop. And I must say, it was awfully exciting. ASDA provided some competitive prices where their gluten-free produce was concerned. It was also nice to get some variety after being mostly dependant on Sainsbury’s for these past three years. £30 worth of groceries will be whizzing its way to me on Monday. I shall inform you what I bought and my first experience of online shopping then. It will be wonderful to have the cupboards full once more.

The other side of the world

Much of this week has been dedicated to intensive study. After two weeks in a work placement, I’ve had to pull my focus back to my University work. As I adore my degree course, this has prompted no hardship. But it has made me think.

One of my modules this year is Creative Visions. It looks at utopian and dystopian texts, as well as related issues in our world today. After going through the list of online resources that were made available, my mind was a whir. I’ve been forced to contemplate and reassess my view on many areas of life that were once a norm for me.

Like eating meat. I’ve been eating meat for as long as I have been able to. When I once asked my mother if I could become vegetarian, she refused, on the grounds that such a diet wouldn’t help me grow. I know which animals produce which meat, like we all do. But I’ve never been confronted with the sheer, unadulterated facts before. There were some truly horrendous sources about the meat industry. Some of them I couldn’t stand to watch the whole way through. After gathering knowledge, I am questioning the unsustainable meat industry for the first time. I am but one person, but this person will not be eating meat for the foreseeable future. I will not fund such irrational behaviour.

I already consider myself to be an environmentally friendly consumer, but this research has reinforced those values so much. To only purchase what I need. To cut down on waste. To constantly re-use and recycle. To use ethics as a guide when shopping, not greed.

Treading lightly on the earth has become my ultimate goal. It would be too easy to let anger overcome you, to lash out and rant about the unfairness of it all. But instead, my actions will become my words. I plan to focus on my own actions and strive to do everything I can to, at the very least, slow down the demise of the planet.

Mind blown.

It all started when I was browsing The Body Shop website. The sister had requested more body butter for Christmas and I was weighing up the options. Being a curious devil with time on my hands, I began reading their “About” tab. That led me on a journey of discovery into the realm of Fairtrade and ethical shopping.

As I followed the path, link after link, questions flew up in my mind. Why is this not the default option? Why is it not standard to pay the right cost for a product? Why is it unusual to run schemes to help poverty-stricken nations?

Do you know, I felt guilty. I felt truly guilty for having so much, or at least having access to so much. When you stop and think how your shopping habits can affect people, real people, not numbers or statistics, on the other side of the world, it opens your eyes.

Greed. That’s what forces us to get as much as we can for as little money as possible. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a wardrobe full of clothes, far exceeding the amount I need. Greed drives us towards the bargains, the offers, the deals, regardless of the cost of human life.

Apologies if I am conveying myself too strongly. I am no saint with regards to bargain hunting, indeed, the majority of this very blog is about making the most of money. But after feeding myself this information, I am feeling inclined to change. I do little clothes shopping anyways, but any further purchases I make will be second-hand, from charity shops preferably or eBay. Any garment I can save from landfill will be a step in the green direction.

Just having enough if what I need will help me to lead a more ethical life. We don’t need excess, we just think we do. I have much more to learn and more to engage with surrounding this topic. Food is another minefield of ethical questioning, but more on that in a later post. I hope you will follow my quest towards a sustainable lifestyle.

It’s all in your head

I have to offer my most grateful thanks to those who have left comments recently. I can’t tell you how much you have boosted my spirits. It was nice to be reminded that I’m not a big failure after all.

I have many challenges in my life, both academic and personal. But I am starting to realise that I also have many tools to tackle these challenges and overcome them. The most powerful tool I have is my mind.

It’s easy to say “mind over matter”, but when the matter seems daunting, it can be hard to remember. However, a little self-belief can go an awful long way. As soon as I decided that I was perfectly capable of finishing my assignments, the words started to flow. I thought I was a writer and that’s what I became. I am inching ever closer to my word count. It’s easier to put pen to paper now that the mental blockade has vanished.

The same is true on the domestic front too. Instead of worrying about the cost of the next food shop, I took a step back to survey what I already had. I told myself I was perfectly capable of making do with what I’ve got. I’ve made a veggie curry today, and there are plenty of vegetables left over. So I’ll avoid the supermarket for now and save my coins for another day.

It feels good to be in charge and in control. By reassuring myself that I am perfectly capable, I seem to be getting more done. Try it, or let me know what works for you when you’re suffering with a cloudy mind.

Am I Superwoman?

I’m trying to complete a degree to the best possible standard I can. I have three assignments due in at the end of term, as well as the continuation of the final year project. The three assignments consists of a 2,500 word non-fiction for children narrative, a 3,000 word opening for a children’s fiction story and a 2,500 word short story. When you factor in bibliography, various appendix elements and accompanying synopsis, the grand total reaches over 10,000 words. Over ten thousand words in just over three weeks.

Fine perhaps, if there was nothing else vying for attention. But there are still lectures and extra-curricular discussions to attend. Not forgetting work shop sessions with course mates to discuss stories. I strive to check in with my family also, calling up my sister or writing a letter to my grandmother. I make a vague attempt at a social life with a rare meal out, or having a friend over for a cup of tea. I feel compelled to supply the kind demand for my company.

And Christmas is on the horizon don’t you know. There are presents to buy and wrap. Some take priority, as fellow students will soon be returning home for the holidays. So the home made gifts have to be ready far sooner than the 25th. The chap is celebrating his twentieth birthday next month too, which consists of more presents, more travel, more memories made. Time spent with him is precious.

I have two blogs to regularly update, plus various correspondents with email to engage with. They serve as an outlet of enjoyment, but also a chance to practice my writing. I also have my domestic duties to keep up with. I have to source my food, that has to be on budget, gluten-free and vaguely healthy to maintain the body that society of today expects of me. The cooking of the dishes takes up time, and then there’s the washing up. There is always washing up, just as there is always a pile of laundry in the corner.

On top of all this, I still have to find the effort to wash and clothe myself each morning. A course-mate said to me yesterday: “you always dress so well Rebecca.” I cannot tell you how much her compliment meant to me. For if I look cool, calm and collected on the outside, that means the paradox within is thankfully concealed. The mask is firmly in place, now where can I get a cape?

A tale of two halves

My experiment concerning screens worked marvellously last night. The laptop was switched off when I went to prepare dinner. After my delightful meal of chilli con carne (less than £1 a portion), I retired to my bed chamber for a truly relaxing evening. I put a few more stitches in my latest Christmas gift. My back didn’t suffer once, thanks to my new chair. I also got lots of reading done. I fell asleep swiftly, unlike previous nights when the laptop was present. This has been a successful endeavour.

But alas, my budgeting challenge has not shared in that success. I have moved those goal posts once more. After being invited to a day out in Camberley with my sister, I knew I would need more funds to cover the trip. All is not lost, as I will still come in under the £200 base line. It’s just a shame I couldn’t quite remain within the allocated boundaries.

However, I have learnt lessons in this quest. Like the virtues of bulk buying and the fact that if you don’t carry cash, you can’t spend coins on things you will forget about the next day. I am not defeated. I shall continue to strive to live the simple life. I shall try again in December, hopefully sticking to the budget I set. After reading a section in Nella Last’s War (and a few online calculations), Nella’s housekeeping budget would be equivalent of £139.45 a month, which is surprisingly close to my own £150 target. I also plan on relishing the challenge of a thrifty Christmas next month too.

I feel pleased that I am conscious of thriftiness and the value of money. I’m not sure the same could be said for some of my peers. I watched a friend pay £5.58 for her lunch at the campus shop today. I’m quite certain my packed lunch cost less than half that amount, even with expensive gluten-free bread. It’s the little things that make the most difference.

The frugal lifestyle really speaks to me and I appreciate the morals it conveys. So although I have wobbled on this month’s challenge, it won’t deter me from thrifty living. I shall continue to try, for I am very comfortable with my chosen path.

A self-imposed curfew

The internet is a wonderful thing. It contains a vast amount of information on every subject imaginable, and is being added to all the time. It provides a means of communication all around the world, uniting families and creating friendships. It gives all causes and associations a platform for portraying their opinions. Granted, some don’t use this gift in the right manner (the trolls and their cyberspace bridges come to mind), but it’s still incredible that this is possible.

But I spend far too much time trawling the internet. Click after click, webpage after webpage. I use catch up services, like Iplayer, but also there are a huge number of programmes on YouTube that I love watching. I can lose myself in a fascinating blog and two hours have gone by in a blink. As grateful as I am to the services the internet provides, I do feel that this is perhaps not the most efficient use of my time.

I cannot abandon the web completely. Not only because I couldn’t tear myself away from my beloved blogging, but because it is such an integral tool in University life. The tutors communicate with their students via email. Constructive criticism outlets can be found on Facebook. All details surrounding our submissions and assignments are all found online.

I cannot sever the tie completely. But I can impose a ban on the mindless browsing that normally takes over my evenings. No screens after 6pm – that is my new rule. Now, this will not be the case for every night, I couldn’t give up movie nights either. But I’m hoping this rule will allow me to focus more on my writing, as well as turning my attention towards other hobbies. I would like to read more books, and not just the ones outlined on my course. I would also like to do more crafting, especially in the run up to Christmas. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in other activities. And then blogging about them, naturally.

(PS Thank you kindly for all the lovely likes and comments I’ve received about my brownie recipe – they made me beam!)

An oxymoronic way to write

Here at Number 34, Wednesdays have been christened Slob Day Wednesdays. This involves staying in the house, wearing the ceremonial dress of oversized jumpers and tracksuits and getting lots of work done.

There is no sarcasm to be found in that last statement. We do get lots of work done on Wednesdays. Staying indoors gives us the necessary time to complete assignments. Comfortable clothes are the best option when you’re spending the majority of the day tied to a desk.


The various ways of getting work done fascinates me. I have a friend who cannot write a word unless she is within the formal setting of the library. At the other end of the spectrum, another friend does her best work in bed, kitted out in pyjamas. As for me, I opt for the middle of the road. My outfit today consists of light grey tracksuit bottoms, a long-sleeved top and a heavy-knit cardigan. But I set up my laptop on our dining room table, a cup of tea close at hand. I use the old trick of tying my hair up to generate motivation, does anyone else do that?

This morning, I have added the finishing touches to my pre-writing rationale essay, the bulk of which I wrote on Monday. I was surprised to hear mutterings of “not-having-started-yet” during class yesterday. As previously mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to go about tackling a piece. But it is arguable the more effective methods take more time.

I’m so grateful for the additional time I now have since leaving my job. Although budgeting remains a challenge, the time I have to spend on my essays and my stories is priceless.

Like a fish in the sea, a bird in the sky

The thriftiness continues! I do believe this will be my third no-spend day in a row. I have been invited to several events recently, which will mean parting with some cash sometime in the near future. But frugal living is not about punishment. I’m very much looking forward to seeing my friends – this lifestyle is all about what you make of it. So far, I have taken to my challenge like a duck to water. But I know it’s not smooth sailing for everybody, and some people didn’t even choose to get in the boat. I thought I would share how I stay motivated to save money, perhaps to provide some tips to get someone started.

1)      I normally have something in mind that I’m saving up for. For the majority of this year, all of my saving was geared towards my trip to Europe. Every extra shift at work was more pounds into the Europe Fund. I think paying for unforgettable experiences is money well spent. Maybe you’re saving for a trip too, or a gadget or piece of kitchen equipment that you’ve got your heart set on. Keep that ideal object in mind every time you reach for your purse.

2)      I set my priorities. For example, I keep my food bill low so that there is always money to spare for a coffee with friends or a trip to the cinema. I know some frugaleurs would see this as trivial spending, but they are my priorities and it works for me. Do what makes you happy. If you have the money to spare, don’t purposefully decline something because it’s not “frugal”.

3)      That being said, there is a self-satisfying buzz to living a frugal life. When you create a meal for a few pence, or concoct a new outfit from clothes you already own; it’s a nice feeling. I felt particularly thrifty today during a break in our seminar. My classmates visited the coffee shop or the vending machine. I pulled out a flask of tea and a Tupperware box of carrot sticks and Brazil nuts. Simple yes, but certainly cost-effective.

I hope sharing my own reasons for my economical life has motivated you to stick with yours, whatever path it may follow.

Balance: £65 to last 26 days.

EDIT: I went to make brownies this afternoon to find that my scales were broken! I unearthed the battery I had on hand to replace the old one, but to no avail. My 22year old scales are kaput. I’ve placed an order on Amazon this evening. A book might have fallen into my basket also – all about priorities!

New Balance: £49.40 to last 26 days.