A new frugal challenge

Oh boy, I’m excited about this one! It feels great to have a distinct purpose, a tangible goal to work towards. This is much preferable to my previous state of anxiety about the future.

Leaving University will be cutting the final string. My balloon will float away and it terrified me that I had no control over its path. But then I spoke to some friends. And then I cried my heart out to my family. And then I had a little chat with myself. I now have something to aim at, the anchor I’ve been looking for.

I have applied for my dream job. I hesitate to expand on the details, in case it all falls through. But this job would help all other areas in my life slot into place. It would be close to The Chap, which would allow us to spend more time in each other’s company. I could start looking for a suitable apartment to set up home. This is the career that would make me happy, which is what everyone keeps telling me to do.

But, if I do get this job, it will incur unavoidable expenses. Not just big things like rent deposits and furniture, but commuting costs from Winchester before I am able to move closer. Yes, I will be earning, but there will be a void between starting work and my first pay day. The bottom line is simple; I’m going to need money, for this year, and beyond. There is talk of more travelling and a whisper about Asia. For me, this is worth being thrifty for.

So, for the month of May, hopefully my last month in limbo, I will be spending as little as possible. No extras or treats, just the basics for healthy living. I learnt my lesson on my last attempt at a budget lifestyle that cutting fresh fruit and vegetables is not an option. They are essential. But I can purchase cheaper options, such as frozen berries and loose carrots. I want all my meals to be as healthy and as cost efficient as today’s lunch.

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Salad sandwich; two slices of GF bread (reduced bargain!), spread with red pepper houmous (currently on offer for £1), carrots, cucumber and spinach.

            Since the start of the challenge, I have spent only £9.60 on food. I was lucky enough to come back with a few supplies from Glastonbury, so the stocks are good at the moment. You can bet I’ll be stretching every last penny because I’ve got a major incentive for doing so. My future happiness depends on budgeting successfully, and I don’t believe that’s an over exaggeration.

Big mouth

I must admit, recently I’ve fallen out of love with blogging. I felt like I had nothing new to contribute to The Domestic Storyteller. My writing confidence was ebbing away. My ideas for articles seemed insignificant. My poor camera has been on its last legs and my heart wasn’t in posts with no pictures.

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But alas, there is a new dawn on the horizon, a new age approaching with a newcomer. Thanks to the marvellous Mr Argos, I am now the proud owner of this stunning camera. It’s the fanciest electrical item I’ve ever been lucky enough to own. I’m not one for the latest phone or other such gadgets, but not having a fully functional camera was like losing a limb. I would normally take so many photos, both for blog purposes and otherwise. I consider photos to be a real treasure, either kept electronically on a laptop, or printed out in a physical copy. It’s a joy to be able to indulge my passion for photography once more. I hope to show you the products of my new camera, as soon as the cable arrives to connect it with the laptop.

With my trusty sidekick, I feel more secure in posting to my blog. I find myself conjuring ideas about the various topics previously discussed, and some shiny new ones thrown in to boot. I’m entering such a transitional stage in my life that I would really like to record it in order to reminisce in the future. I want to get back into regular posting because ultimately, I’ve still got so much more to say.

And so we keep on writing

I have attended my last formal class at University. In truth, it was a tad disappointing. My lecturer was forced to cover another class, so we were permitted to leave after only half an hour. A shame, but I did spend the next couple of hours chatting with dear friends.

Although classes have finished, my University experience isn’t over yet. I have two assignments to be submitted after the Easter break. This period after Easter will also be filled with lots of social events. Graduation takes place in October, so it will be autumn by the time I close this particular chapter.

But, until then, I have plenty to be getting on with. Now we are on holidays, I can increase the intensity of my job search. I need to have the guarantee of secure employment before I can commit to a new home. I can admit, I’m very much looking forward to living by myself for awhile. As much as I adore my housemates, the thought of having an entire kitchen to myself can only be compared to paradise. I cannot comment on long term plans, as there are too many ifs and buts to contend with. As it stands currently, I’m seeking a suitable job and flat to allow me to remain close to the chap. Yes, moving to the parental home is the most lucrative option, financially. But I know in my heart of hearts that such living arrangements would make me miserable.

So I’m taking the difficult route, but this path isn’t foreign to me. I know I can take all of the knowledge I’ve gathered at University, academic and domestic, and employ it correctly during the next stage. The margins and budget might be smaller, but hopefully, my happiness should be greater. I plan on making the next chapter just as successful as its predecessor.

The wanderer returneth

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see the WordPress “New Post” interface on my computer screen. It feels like it’s been too long, which of course it has. I handed in my completed dissertation on time and to the best of my ability. I shall bear that in mind when I finally receive the mark back – I know that I tried my best. Since then, my attention has been occupied with other assignments, as well as various social outings to celebrate such a momentous stage of my University life. That life will soon be over, but I’m determined to fully enjoy my last few months as a student.

This was just a quick post to announce my return to the blogging world. I shall now proceed to browse around various blogs and catch up on all that I have missed. I may not be able to leave comments on every single post, but I will be reading through the archives to familiarise myself with my favourite sites.

Hopefully, I shall return to more frequents posting as soon as possible. It feels good to be back in the saddle.

The best course of action.

Important decisions are not easy to make. If something’s worth doing, it’s going to take both time and effort to complete it properly. The art of balancing is what I think University life is all about. It’s a complex period of negotiating your time between work, play, family and friends. The past two and a half years of my learning here at Winchester all culminate in a final assignment that is worth the biggest proportion of the final grade. The dreaded d-word: dissertation.

For my creative writing degree, this takes the form of the opening chapters of a novel, alongside an essay describing your own writing process. It matters, this piece of writing. It’s a daunting prospect to a novice writer like myself. 10,000 words seems impossible right now. So I’ve made the decision to focus entirely on my dissertation. I need to put in 100% effort if I want to achieve the grades I think I’m capable of.

I will be taking a blogging break commencing now. I shall hopefully return by mid-March, once the dissertation deadline has passed. I hope my kind followers will stick with me through this break. I’m not leaving my blog permanently, just for a short time to concentrate solely on my degree. I’m sure you understand.

Best wishes to you all.

Less is more

Blog reading is one of my favourite past times. It’s entertaining to be allowed an insight into previously unknown realms. I follow a variety of blogs, many of which are a fountain of knowledge on a broad range of subjects. I know my cookery skills have developed after picking up hints and tips from different sites. I’ve also been inspired to try new craft projects after seeing the results posted online. But I’ve not had my outlook on life altered by a blog before. It has been an enlightening experience.

I clicked through to Just a Little Less from another blog. A post on minimalist food first caught my attention. But after further delving into a back catalogue of posts, I begun to appreciate the message the writer conveys. I know that I have too much stuff. There are moments where I wish I could pack my essentials into a suitcase and everything surplus would just disappear. It’s not that simple, and living with less does require some effort. At least I could give it a go.

I started with my jewellery collection. Most of it was unworn or basically tat that I had accumulated. I spent about an hour or so sifting through the good, the bad and the ugly. I re-packed my chosen pieces into one, single jewellery box. It was incredible to see the amount of stuff I’d willingly separated myself from. Why had I been hanging on to it all?

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I decided to take a step up for my next de-cluttering endeavour and opened the door to my wardrobe. I don’t think I’m the worst for hoarding clothes, but I am aware I have too many. And yet I only regularly wear a handful of them. I emptied the wardrobe and laid the garments on my bed. I decided only 40 items would be returned to the closet. I will admit, I started with 33 in my mind, inspired by Project 333, but couldn’t quite stick to that. Still, after the clothing cull, I had filled up two generous carrier bags. They, alongside a bag of jewellery and a few other unwanted oddities, are ready for the charity shop.

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I have re-discovered forgotten treasures in my wardrobe. I now get to conjure up new outfit ideas to get the best from my 40 items. I would encourage this method to anyone trying to downsize their own wardrobe.

Thank you, Just a Little Less, for furthering my desire for a simple, minimalist lifestyle.

Priorities

After my research last week led me to new realms, such as vegetarianism and veganism, my taste buds were altered. I was experiencing major fruit cravings. The odd apple every so often wasn’t enough to quench my appetite. I needed a serious fruit kick.

I took some of my precious allowance to the produce section of the supermarket and filled my basket. Over the past week, I’ve dramatically increased my fresh fruit intake and my body has responded wonderfully. I have more energy and more readiness to go outside to run. My skin doesn’t look as pale as it once did. And after a day where fruit featured heavily, I felt satiated. This was something I had previously been struggling with; never quite feeling full.

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I spent most of January surviving on whatever was cheap at the supermarket. I can see now that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients to remain healthy. I can’t go back to that, not after feeling such benefits. So, I’ve made a decision about increasing my budget. Dramatically. I have doubled my monthly budget to £200.

Of course, this will mean I won’t have a stash available to me after Uni. But, there will still be some left over. And I’ve realised that living now, and living healthily now, is a matter of high importance. My health should come before trying to save money. However, I’m not going to use my increased funds as an excuse to not be frugal. I’m still going to be hunting for bargains to the best of my ability. And this money is marked for fresh, healthy food. Not extras, like books and unnecessary clothes.

£50 a week is the sum I used to live on during first year. It feels apt that my finances have come full circle in this, my final semester at University. The relief I feel confirms to me that this is the right choice.

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.

Money maths

For my final day at work experience, I was able to attend BETT 2014 in London. This is a national show held at the ExCel centre, which showcases technology in education. As the company I was working for publish e-books, we visited to suss out what is up and coming in this particular sector. I’m afraid I have no picture to share from the event. There wasn’t much time to spare! And also, my camera is still broken, so a bit of an embarrassment in public. I did snap a pic of my badge, which proves my attendance. I tell you, wearing this all day made me feel very much like a proper adult. The show was a wonderful opportunity to see the entire realm of educational publishing. I’m so grateful I had the chance to go.

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But alas, train travel to London Waterloo and back was not cheap. I flinched when the ticket man told me the total price. It was a worthy investment, no doubt about that. But February’s budget was in dire need of fixing.

I had already taken £20 out to cope with January, meaning before London, I had £80 set for February. But then came my £28 train ticket, along with a coffee out on the day itself, costing £2. So that left me with £50 in total. Or so I thought. I had forgotten the shopping spree I had on Thursday. I spent £10 on some washing up supplies, reduced gluten-free bread (wasn’t going to let that pass me by!) and other such foodstuffs. So, in fact, I had £40 left for the month of February. This was going to take some seriously planning.

I have a decent amount of stock in my cupboards at the moment though, so I knew my shopping budget wasn’t going to be large. After calculating the rest of my outgoings, I had £4 left for food for the month. I know how to be frugal, but I can’t work miracles! So I’ve moved £10 from March’s budget, giving me £14 for the month. I’m very aware that I’m spending March’s funds in what is still technically January, but needs must. It will all balance out in the end.

To give myself a decent £10 food shop mid-Feb, I took the £4 and the change in my purse off to Sainsbury’s this morning. This is what I came back with:

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Only the essentials for this shopping trip. The biggest treat was spending an extra 20p on proper syrup instead of jam. I much prefer golden syrup on my morning porridge.

Things are tight this month, but I think they will be for all of the months left ahead. The best I can do is to keep trying and keep focusing on my ultimate goal. When I have that in mind, there is no hardship to be found anywhere.

Double sixes

For this, my very first post of 2014, I have to share my latest venture. This is no whimsical experiment. This is a life-changing type of mission.

In six months time, I will leave the sanctuary of University life. It will be up to me to navigate a path of my own in the big wide world. To do this successfully, I feel I will need as much financial aid as possible. In order to secure such a sum for my future, I need to be thrifty in the present. So, the challenge is as follows. Six months. Six hundred pounds. £100 a month.

Can it be done? Do you know, I truly believe it to be possible. With careful planning and resourcefulness, I think I can achieve my goal. £25 a week is not generous, but nor is it terribly meagre. I’m pushing myself to do this to take control of what lies ahead. I don’t want my parents to prop me up. It’s not fair on them. It was my decision to come to University in the first place. So it’s up to me to take responsibility for my own welfare when I leave.

Christmas gave me a good head start. Not only did I receive some perfectly practical gifts that will keep on giving throughout the year, but I also had Christmas money. This went towards purchasing some store cupboard staples whilst I was in Glastonbury. The price of their organic foodstuffs is much cheaper than Winchester.

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Three days in and I’ve already spent £60. That doesn’t look good I’ll admit, but I have restocked my stores. I have also had certain expenses that won’t be present in future months, like school books for example. My cupboards are brimming, so I’m fairly confident that I can get through the rest of January on £40.

Already, I’m starting to feel that when you have so little, you appreciate it much more.