The beginning of the end

IMG_5504 After 4 days of hosting, feasting and festivities we have just had 2 days of lazing about and self indulgence.  I can chill for days, I am very good at relaxing, but the self indulgence bit quickly wears thin. We’re bored of the festive food now, we’re finishing up everything food that is remotely festive and what we don’t fancy goes out for the birds. I can’t face the stilton so that may well end up in a soup with some broccoli as I can’t bear waste. Even these fab gingerbread guys which Teen made may end up outside… we’re just done with it all now – I’m currently feeling like the one at the bottom – slightly crushed with al the extra weight ! A simple chicken salad was had for dinner last night and it was lovely! Before I do my final post of the year and make declarations for next year, I just wanted to share a couple of other wonderful things which happened in December.  Firstly – and this was just amazing – we saw Kasabian at the Brixton Academy.  I’ve been a fan since first track I heard (LSF) about 10 years ago, so to see them at Hard Rock Calling back in the summer of 2013 was wonderful.  To get tickets to see just them at a much more intimate venue was fantastic.  Due to Teen’s phone contract, w e and several other people got inside early, meaning a fab place at the front – although we later moved back a bit as it was just a bit hectic for not very tall people!  The Maccabees were on first and they were great then the build up to Kasabian coming on really got the tension building.  A screen with the half hour counting down IMG_5409 It was a great gig, fab performance, brilliant atmosphere and where you start at the beginning of such an event is often a long way from where you end up – the tide of people swishes you about and everyone is so hyped up and yet friendly.  There’s no aggro or judgement at a gig. No one cares what you do or how you dress, you’re just all there for the same reason and I LOVE that. IMG_5411  The humour was in evidence too as always ! The things that stood out for me were that everyone in the audience ended up sitting at one point, the sheer joy and energy of dancing and jumping in unions  and as we all slowly flooded out on to the roads after, the singing continued all along Brixton High Street, down on to the tube and even little pockets could be heard back at mainline stations – FAB! Really looking forward to the 2 gigs I’ve already booked for next year 😀 The other great thing was that I received my poppy from the Bloodswept Lands installation at the Tower of London.  It arrived in a beautiful box, with a commemorative booklet and (which excited me the most) the actual stem it was on, complete with instructions as to how to fix it to stand up again.

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I feel very privileged to have this little piece of history to remember what happened, to keep for now and one day pass on, at some point we’ll choose a name and dedicate it to that fallen hero.

I’d love to have install it in the garden, or by the front door so we can see it each time we pass in or out, but I confess that I’m too scared that someone may damage or steal it so for now it lives safely in its box in the living room.  So safely in fact, that I completely forgot to show it when we had people over at Christmas!

A far less emotive and yet equally important event has been the discovery of a new way to live, financially speaking that is.  I know I’ve frittered so much over the years and whilst I have spent the last 2 or 3 years gathering essential goods and replacing those which are worn out, with a view to not having to spend for a while, I’ve not really kept track of all my spending. What I now realise is that for every time I’ve overspent from my normal income budget, I’ve simply transferred money from my savings to cover this.

The salient point in that paragraph is “…every time I’ve overspent…”  Yep, overspending. That thing which means spending more than is necessary, or  more worryingly, available.  Just because I can cover the credit card payments, and not pay any interest doesn’t make it ok that I do so.  Yes, I bought gig tickets on the card, and yes I do get rewards when I use it – £28 of vouchers to spend in the local co op which I plan to get us through the lean times of January – but sometimes, knowing that I have that credit facility means I’m not quite as thrifty ( still refuse to use the ugly ‘f’ word) as I could be.

Case in point being the £12 salad spinner I bought just before Christmas.  I had a £10 off voucher for when I spent £50 in my favourite supermarket. And not content with having bought yet more bottles of Bucks Fizz to make sure  I became very anxious about getting to the till and not having spent the requisite £50.  Of course I had. I didn’t need the salad spinner to either reach the target or …( here comes the shameful bit)… at home.  I already had a salad spinner!

Anyway, eldest was very pleased to get a free salad spinner and youngest got to waggle her eyebrows at me in that superior way and I was chastened. I dont intend to spend much at all next year. I begged for socks and gloves as christmas gifts and was blessed with them, I dont need any other clothing items.

And, for the last few weeks I’ve been logging every single penny I spend in my spending tracker.  This brilliant little app has revealed things that previously just floated right past my consciousness and there is nowhere to hide.

My November total spends looked a bit like this :

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Now that is a very telling little picture.  It shows that I spent almost as much on my daughters riding lessons as I did on rent.  Of course, it doesn’t show that I’d actually been saving up towards these lessons and that for the next 2 months there will be no spend on the lessons at all. Nor do I usually spend more on gig tickets than I do on food, but the one category which really struck me ?  The one which shows that I spent more on clothes than I did on Council Tax !  Again, this isn’t normal as I’ve been gathering a wardrobe to last a year, but still. You can view it as a bar chart too, which means each category is clearly visible.  I’m as yet undecided as to whether this is a good thing or not!

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Every single imaginable category is there, I now know exactly how much money went on fuel, on sweets (£14.73 in November, £9.87 in December) and how much – to my great annoyance – was spent on parking in December – £11.40.  I know that I had a budget of £300 for Christmas gifts and that what I spent was £293.70. Which is good, right?  Although, I confess that I did decide that getting my car cleaned for £10 was actually a gift – both to the car and me ahem – and I also counted the £12.72 I spent on stamps and the £6.40 on postage, in the gift category so actual gift spending was probably closer to £250, still within budget and still ok !

I decided that first 2 months of using this app would be mainly for experimentation purposes, just to actually see where the money goes.  Now I know ( and no, you really don’t need to know what the figure in the takeaway column was …) I am going to be super thrifty in 2015.

I admit that my overspending means I’ve obliterated my ’emergency everyday living expenses fund’ from a comfortable £1,000 to a ridiculous – won’t even cover the rent- £300.

That’s my first target, right there. £700 back in the savings pot as quickly as possible.

The clock starts on January 2nd. Tick tock!

I’m away to do a bit more tidying – those gingerbread men won’t eat themselves you know.

x Lula x

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What I actually need…

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… is just a glossy pair of lollipop red shoes which make every outfit look fab and my feet want to dance !

Ok, maybe a few more pieces than that, just for decency’s sake.

I absolutely loved challenging myself to purge my home of 100 items during September and once I’d achieved that, I immediately set myself another goal for October; to get rid of an item a day, or 31 items during the course of the month. I flung out about 10 items in the first few days and was utterly overjoyed. I’ve slowed down now though and barely gave the challenge a thought during the last week but was secretly delighted to hear from my eldest daughter, that after having been here and seen how few clothes I now have in my wardrobe, that she then spent a day clearing out her own enormous pile of clothes and has got rid of anything unloved or that doesnt’ fit. – Yay !

Obviously, I never suggested that she should do it ( I’ve been the parent of girls long enough to know that anything I suggest has the opposite effect !) I merely allowed her to look through my depleted clothes stash and casually mentioned how much easier getting dressed each day is now, how much lighter and simpler that area of my life feels. How I don’t have to think about it too much anymore, how much less time I spend washing, ironing and crying that ” I have nothing to wear” !

I’m now in Season 3 of my version of project333 now and whilst I’m excluding shoes, accessories and jewellery from that figure, the figure itself is arbitrary and while by some miracle I do happen to have 33 items in my wardrobe this time around, even now, half way through the season I realise that I probably have more pieces than I actually need.

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So, there above is my 33 and the colours really work for me;  mainly black, navy, white, red a couple of grey pieces and a couple of coffee colured pieces too, which, while I’m not 100 per cent sure about the exact colour, do seem to work surprisingly well with quite a few others. One is a very well fitting  and flattering tweed ish blazer which make me feel terribly jolly and as though I should have a shooting stick and a black labrador called Bunty.  The other is a cashmere cardi so that rather has to earn its  – ahem – original cost for a while … The items obscured in the plastic covers are my ‘fancy or dressy pieces’ for all seasons ( cocktail frock, wedding outfit, formal event, party etc.. which I just prefer to hang rather than fold in storage. And anyone who has managed to iron the creases out of a linen shift  which was misguidedly worn for an event a 2 hour car journey away,  will I’m sure, fully understand my reluctance to do anything other than hang it gently within its own space !

I started off this season in September with more summery stuff – capri trousers, lightweight cardi’s, short sleeve tops, but I have gradually replaced these with almost identical but more seasonally appropriate pieces,. Longer sleeves for the tops,. full length for the trousers and jeans, wool / cashmere rather than cotton for the knits. My feet are pretty much encase in boots   I know that most project 333 ers don’t start their autumn changeover until October, but I prefer the gradual change during September and then I can break into my full  heavy weight winter wardrobe in December and wear it through to February, and hopefully start swapping in the lighter weight stuff in March.

I dont tend to switch to my everyday handbag until October and this was one of those so-called investment pieces so I do really look onward to this event.  I think this is my third autumn / winter with this bag and I expect it to do me few more years still.

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Aside from being a gorgeous glossy patent leather with silvery coloured hardware, and a gorgeous interior lining, it is well structured and incredibly roomy; if necessary I can even fit my laptop in there. I don’t carry my laptop about, I just wanted to see if it would fit !  There’s room for a small make up bag, my 2 purses, a notebook, other book, a sandwich, picnic bar ,  mini umbrella, glasses case and sunglasses and a scarf. My only issue with this bag is that the phone holder  is too small for my phone.  However, it does work extremely well as a lipgloss and pen holder so I’ll forgive it.

If I’m out  shopping for fun,  or meeting a friend for coffee, lunch or some fun I tend to use this little self-gifted beauty instead.

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A lot smaller and lighter but still with enough room for a phone, purse, make up bag, sunglasses, umbrella and a light scarf. I get a lot of admiring glances and sometimes people approach to talk or ask about it, which is very cheery and always welcome.

My other bags aren’t quite as fancy, I have a brown satchel style bag which is great for slinging a couple of things in when I’m going somewhere more casual – riding for one – and a lovely red bag which I don’t use as often as I should.  I don’t have a black bag at all, I keep looking at black clutch bags, but I’m not sure I’m quite minimalist enough yet so might wait to treat myself once I’ve mastered the art of NOT carrying round everything bar the kitchen sink !

Anyway, back to the clothes… I spent about £200 updating and restocking my wardrobe for this season and all the new items will be used into winter and some for other seasons as well; so for what I actually got for that investment I’m really pleased and consider it excellent value for money. So here are my purchases :

1 x red stripe top, 1 x red silk tie neck top, 1 x ladybird print T, 1 x navy print top, 1 x plain white top, 1 x plain red T, 1 x navy jersey dress, 1 x black tunic shift dress, 1 x pair red jeans, 1 x pair high waist black jeans, 1 x pair high waist navy jeans, 1 x red cashmere cardi, 1 x cream wool aran style long cardi, 1 x navy cocoon style long cardi, 1 x red / white polka dot scarf and 1 x pair black suede brogues.

A pretty good haul for the money spent I reckon, achieved with a cunning combination of sales, online shopping using discount codes and the ‘brilliantly bargainous but sometimes a gamble’ online cornucopia that is ebay !  Mostly brand new items, some used but in excellent condition and all a whole bundle less than a trip to the shops would have been. High waisted jeans are a bit of revelation – although to be fair, pre-1990 they would just have been jeans. You remember – back in the days before a perfectly normal and healthy sized person had to with half starve themselves or get their hips liposuctioned in order to not look like a muffin in a pair of jeans with a rise so low and a zip so short it must have been made by fairies – sorry rant over … Anyway, yes ‘high waisted’ jeans are those wonderful things that enable anyone with curves to wear a pair of jeans with a fitted top, and look and feel  FABULOUS. And, more importantly not stand in front of a mirror and want to beat themselves up over the fact they are not a size zero, and do actually enjoy food. Eating food that is.

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I bought a pair of these high waist jeans in navy and was so delighted with how they felt (no need for a belt or constant hitching up) and looked while wearing a stretchy top which I was previously too self conscious to wear either with any degree of confidence or without a long cardi or coat that I immediately bought another pair in black and have been wearing them at least twice a week since.  I’ve only tried the ones from Next, but let me assure you ladies,that not only did I buy the skinny fit ones, but I actually went down a size from my usual skinny fit jeans too. The Teen said how fab they looked too and although I’m not entirely convinced that my backside doesn’t appear so huge that it could be mistaken for China in a dim light, they’re so damn comfy I really don’t care!

So, my wardrobe is complete and (thank you Cheri for the brilliant picture) the spendy elves can get back to dealing with other far more important things ( like mobbing reindeer or helping the fairies sew tiny zips into jeans) Yay !

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Or rather, it was and then I realised that I don’t have a biker jacket and I really need ahem  I mean want one. And  although I wasn’t absolutely positive that I could carry it off, I was certain that I’d have a damn good try if I found the right one. So I set about searching for one that was perfect and amazingly I found one; perfect length, perfect fit, perfect colour, perfect amount of detail without looking too busy ,real leather so it will actually last longer than just this winter and perfect coloured zips too ( can’t abide brass or gold on buckles, bags or belts either – yes, I’m very particular ) .  So, I thought hard and decided that it really wasn’t an essential item for my wardrobe project and I really couldn’t  justify the spend out of my usual budget so if I really wanted this jacket I would have to spend the money from next years’ clothing fund.  Hence next year’s clothing fund now has just £122 in – boo hoo 😦

But on the upside this is now mine and yes, I do carry it off,  and more to the point yes, it does indeed have the most awesome purply aubergine lining !

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