Friday, 27 February 2015

Haul

I know, I know, I’ve just gone from a post about saving your hard-earned pennies to a post about spending them all on frivolous things, but who doesn’t love a good haul post? Actually, this is just a little haul, and one that wasn’t done in a hurry – each of these items were purchased in the last 60 days, using the first two techniques listed in my previous post. So no judgment, ok?! While it’s important to save money, it’s also important not to deprive yourself. You work hard, and should allow yourself a few indulgences accordingly, I say!

1. Breton top from Labour & Wait 

You can never have enough breton tops, in my book – on the last count I had five, and I’m not remotely ashamed because they go with everything and look stylish even with jeans and plimsolls. I saved quite a few pennies on this one too, because it’s actually child size (age 12!) and that means it doesn’t attract VAT. There’s another money-saving tip for you if, like me, you happen to be miniature size – hoorah!

2. Tulips from Pesh Flowers 

We all need more flowers in our lives, especially on grey rainy days. Fresh flowers once a week are a splurge I’m willing to indulge, especially if it means supporting a local florist rather than Morrisons (whose flowers are rubbish anyway). Change the water out every couple of days and starve the tulips with a vase just 1/3 full of water – they will last longer!

3. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

You might have seen that this is the next book in the Take Courage book club – it’s a chunky one, so we both better start reading! I’m hoping to get through this before the flight to Japan, but I’ve got a feeling that may not happen… 

4. Michael Kors Jet Set Across-Body Bag

This was a gift, rather than a purchase, so the Texan isn’t allowed to frown at this one – I think it will really come in handy while travelling through Japan, as it’s just the right size for my phone and purse, without dragging my shoulders down. I’ve always carried a big bag, but I think it’s about time I down-sized in the hope of saving what’s left of my posture.

5. Sena iPhone case

No one told me that if I got an iPhone 5c, I wouldn’t be able to find a nice case for it anywhere, but annoyingly all the lovely Rifle Paper Co and Leah Goren cases are designed for iPhone 5/5s and not 5c. Grr. It’s meant that for months I’ve been handling my phone like a baby, desperately hoping not to drop it. The best alternative was this leather wallet – I love the colour, but sadly still fear for my bank balance every time I answer a call – it’s only a matter of time until the screen smashes into a million pieces, and Chutney’s love of Friskie’s Cat Fishing isn’t helping the prospect! 

6. Marc by Marc Jacobs Havanna Crystal Sunglasses

Another gift (I’ve been a lucky girl this month), these sunglasses have hardly been used given the never-ending greyness of February, but they did make an appearance during today’s commute to work – finally, blue skies! Before I went to Texas for the first time in 2006, I bought a pair of Chanel sunglasses from Harrods for £220. Even now, with some semblance of an income, that’s a serious splurge. However, I have worn those sunglasses every summer since (that’s 8 years!) and so, needless to say, I feel a bit of an infidel parading around with a younger, more handsome model…

7. Essie nail polish and Mac lipstick 

I’ve been trying really hard since this post to quit biting around my nails, but to be honest, they’ve improved only a little. We’re very close to the end of the trial I’ve been working on since October, and the late nights have taken their toll on my little digits. I’ve been arguing with myself about paying for a manicure (I am trying to save money!) but I think I will just bite the bullet tomorrow – it is pay day today, after all, and if I’m frank I’ve probably spent the same amount in new nail polishes anyway, including this lovely shade of pink called “Bump Up the Pumps”. Even on my horrid nails, Essie polish looks incredible; I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered them sooner.

I’ve also been trying to incorporate a little more bright lipstick into my make-up routine. A friend at work always looks immaculate, and that’s partly because her lips are never seen without a fresh coat of lippie (she’s from Liverpool, which explains it!). This bright fuchsia pink, “Girl About Town” by Mac, is easy to apply even without a lipstick brush and really lifts my mood when I slap it on – no need for a new wardrobe, just stick on a new lipstick and you’re good to go.

8. Dorling Kindersley’s guide to Japan

Konichiwa! Domo arigato! Sayonara! Ok, that’s the limit of my Japanese – but I better get practising, because in less than a month I’ll be in Tokyo! I am so excited, but also really very overwhelmed by how little planning we’ve done. The last time we did a big trip was to China in 2008, and we simply used our Lonely Planet guide to navigate from one place to the next. Now, however, the internet is so much bigger (even since 2008) – if you Google “things to do in Japan”, there are literally millions of websites and recommendations, it’s just too much to wade through and I have serious FOMO. So, I’ve gone old school with a DK guide instead.  If any of you have visited Japan before, I’d be very grateful for your recommendations!

So there you have it, my latest haul of goodies – but not too bad on the bank balance, I think. I’ve a few bits and pieces that I need for the trip to Japan, but I’m going to stick to my list so I don’t get carried away. After all, I’ve got to save my pennies for all the wonderful treasures to be found in Tokyo!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Penny Pinching

When I was a teenager I had quite a distinct idea of the person I would be in my twenties: (1) I would be a successful, working professional – check; (2) I would live in a flat akin to Monica’s from Friends – check, minus the lilac walls; (3) I would have a nice, good looking boyfriend, or perhaps even a husband – check; (4) I would have a wardrobe full of pretty clothes, just like Carrie Bradshaw – check; and (5) I would have money – check…oh, no, wait…uncheck…

I turn 28 in 18 days, and my bank balance is nowhere near as healthy as I’d like it to be. 15 year old Cat would be wagging her finger in disgust. The problem is, 15 year old Cat didn’t realise how expensive three degrees would be. Nor did 15 year old Cat realise how letting agent fees completely destroy your overdraft (greasy slimeballs). Neither did 15 year old Cat take into account the fact that Monica and Carrie probably had £20k in credit card debt, and hence had to shack up with older, richer men to maintain their lifestyles (which doesn’t bode well for aspiration number 3, above).

Well, it’s time 15 year old Cat grew up. If we ever want to escape the greedy grip of our landlords and our banks then cutting back, knuckling down and saving really is the only way. I came to this conclusion when I qualified in September, and I’m proud to say that I have made a genuine effort to save money where I can. It’s slow progress – I’m still working on paying off that nightmare-inducing credit card – but my historically malnourished ISA is now a little plumper at least.

How have I managed to do it? It’s not been easy, but these are my three tricks to penny pinching:

1. Write shopping lists

One of my problems was that I would walk into Boots to buy shampoo, and end up leaving with 50 quid’s worth of toiletries and make-up. I bet you’ve done it too. I’d justify it with all the points I’d be gaining on my advantage card, but the reality is that perpetuating a spending habit like that can be dangerous over the course of many months – before you know it, and without realising it at all, you’ve spent £600 in a year on cotton wool and kirby grips. What. A. Waste.

Now before I walk into a shop, I write a shopping list of what I actually need – i.e. what I have / am about to run out of – and I stick to it. No more eureka moments, where I suddenly realise that I need, and have always needed, that blusher brush or that leave-in hair conditioner; the list is supreme and if it ain’t on it, it ain’t getting bought.

2. Make online shopping a pain in the butt

Have you ever bought something on Amazon and thought, “woah, that was way too easy”? In just two clicks, it’s all yours – you don’t even need to enter your bank details. It’s like being a toddler playing Candy Crush on mummy’s iPhone, unwittingly racking up a £3,000 phone bill. Easy, one-click online shopping can be great for a time-poor generation, but not so much if it also makes us cash-poor. It subconsciously pushes us to perceive money as no object – if you want it, you’ve got it, right now – and that’s dangerous.

I often found myself buying books or CDs on Amazon without even thinking. 15 quid here, 10 quid there – it all adds up. So, I put an end to it. Now I don’t have bank cards saved to my online accounts, which gives me just enough time between placing something in my basket and typing in my 16 digit card number to reconsider my impending purchase – and it works, no more mindless buying = better quality shopping.

3. Buy your food as and when you need it

Now this trick is actually the opposite to a lot of what I’ve read online about saving money. 

I’ve been told, countless times, that the best way to save money on your weekly food shop is to plan all your meals in advance, buy the ingredients you need at the start of the week (and no more) and stick to an eating regime through to Sunday. This is what I did as a student, and generally it worked at keeping our food expenses down. I’ve found, however, that it absolutely does not work once you start working full-time. Our office hours – like many working folks these days – are unpredictable. One day I could be leaving at 6.30pm (although rarely any earlier), the next it could be 2am before I’m stumbling out of those revolving glass doors. As a result, I’ve ended up throwing away rotten vegetables and fur-covered meat from our fridge on countless occasions, and I feel terrible about it. What a complete waste, and not just of money – I can’t bear to think of the poor chicken who died only to be thrown into a bin. 

Now I only buy the food we need for the next 24-48 hours. Yes, it’s a pain having to go to the Co-op every other day after work, and our fridge is always empty, but it has saved us money and avoided unnecessary (and heart-breaking) waste.

There are lots of ways to save money (and plenty more ways to spend it), but I’ve found that these three changes have really worked for me in a tangible way. I’d love to hear your money-saving tips – are you saving too? How do you pinch your pennies? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Poltergeist














Since moving into our little flat in July, we have endured a strange series of annoyances. First our heaters broke down. Then our dishwasher door wouldn't close. Then one night I came home late from work to find the front gate broken and sitting ajar, silently tempting in burglars. No problem, I can manage that, no big deal.

We thought we'd had our share of bad luck - after all, life has taught me that all bad things really do come in threes - but oh no.

Next came the noisy neighbours, whose love of European trance music I do not share. Then came the mystery humming noise that kept us all awake at 4am every. fucking. morning. After a month of tireless campaigning, the council's noise abatement team discovered the source (a faulty heating generator) and we finally got some sleep (well, when the noisy neighbours weren't having a rave).

Surely I'd been punished enough?! Ha, no.

Last Saturday we discovered a little leak coming from under our loo. Which then became a big leak. Which then turned out to be waste water from upstairs' noisy neighbours. Not only were they subjecting us to happy hardcore every night, now they were literally shitting on us. Multiple "working from home" days and a whole Saturday spent waiting for the plumbing to be fixed, and finally my bathroom is no longer covered in sewage. The massive hole in the wall still needs repairing, though...

I woke up early this morning craving my cup of tea and an hour of Storage Wars (yes, I love that show, and I'm not ashamed to admit it!). I turned on the telly and...no signal. The aerial was (and still is) broken.

Enough! I just had to get out of the place. I got dressed and we decided to head to Greenwich, for a day free of calls to the letting agent.

Think again, buster! The front gate was broken - again - but this time we were trapped, it wouldn't open. The electrics were shot! "Fuck it", I thought, as we jumped over the 3 metre high fence, and ran away from the resident poltergeist.

What I'm wearing  |  Coat: Orla Kiely  |  Dress: Blondie Vintage  |  Shoes: Topshop  |  Bag: Michael Kors  |  Scarf: Cos  |  Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs c/o Zalando