De-Cluttering My Mind

I read something interesting the other day which spoke about minimalism and addressed the misconception that minimalism is about not having much “stuff” in your life. The author, (a fellow blogger but I didn’t save the post) stated that minimalism is more about removing the junk from your life, the things that don’t add value.

I’m forever looking at my life and finding things and situations which don’t add value and I spend a good deal of time trying to work out how I can easily de-clutter. The other day it suddenly came to me.

Unsubscribe from all of the emails I get.

You might wonder how much of an impact that will really have on my life but I think you’ll be surprised and this might apply to you too. Every day I delete a stack of marketing emails from retailers which land in my inbox. These are from subscriptions I’ve built up over years and years and many of these emails simply hold no value for me.

Not only that but I then find myself opening some of these emails, wasting time browsing websites for things I don’t need and then spending money on things I don’t really want, just so that I have the thing I was told I needed. Except I never use it. It takes up space in my bedroom and makes me feel guilty for wasting my money on such frivolous purchases when I can’t afford repairs to my car.

Why do I do it?

That I cannot answer. But I can remove the clutter and temptation from my inbox by unsubscribing to the emails, so I have. I’ll still shop but now I’ll shop on my terms, when there’s actually something I want to buy. I won’t feel compelled to spend my money on things that really bring no value to my life and I’ll have that money to spend on experiences which will give me memories to cherish for much longer than I’d ever cherish a handbag or pair of shoes.

I admit that I sound like a weak person but that’s fine, I’ve accepted that and I’ve found my solution. It’s taken me so long to come to this conclusion though so I thought I’d share it with you in case it helps 🙂

Happy, controlled shopping x

The £50 Challenge Week 1 Roundup

A few days ago I mentioned that I was trying to stick to £50 per week for food, socialising, shopping, etc. for the month of September. Technically I started this a little early as last Friday was still August but I wanted to include all weekends that have September dates in them. Anyhow, what this really means is that week 1 ended last night at midnight so it’s time to roundup and see how I did:

£3.85 – Fruit and veg. from the market stall in town
£5.00 – Asda – sweeties and treats
£8.48 – Boots – meal deal plus mouthwash
£15.00 – Pub lunch
£2.80 – Ice cream
£0.74 – Food bits (used some Nectar points)
£11.00 – Drinks in the pub
£4.29 – M&S food for breakfast
£2.40 – More fruit from the market stall

TOTAL: £53.56

I’m thoroughly shocked by that total, it’s much higher than I had realised. It’s absolutely proved that I have no real concept of how much money I’m spending. I thought that I even had enough spare to cover part of the meal I had when I ate out last night but I was already over budget. Luckily for my budgeting, the friend who I ate out with paid for the whole meal just because he’s a bit lovely like that!

Thank goodness it’s a new week now as I’m heading for some drinks after work and I’ll probably skip dinner because I’ve just had a huge amount of pizza (another freebie).  My foundation is rapidly running out and I’ve now realised this challenge is so much harder than I could possibly have imagined! Bring on week 2! x

Budgeting – The £50 Challenge

New Picture (16)As regular readers will know, I’m not the best at budgeting and if you’ve paid particular attention, you’ll have noticed that beyond that I’ve actually racked up a fair bit of debt. Recently this has been bugging me more than usual and I’ve been wondering where all the money is going. Sure, sometimes I just have a lot of social events that each cost a fair few bob but sometimes the money just gets frittered away on small, insignificant purchases.

So, to combat this I’ve looked at my diary for September, seen that it is clear of any expensive social events and decided to challenge myself to living on £50 per week. This £50 is to cover food, social occasions and all shopping whether that be a new top or a new tube of toothpaste. Not only am I hoping to save some money but I’m also hoping that it will force me to use up some of the “stuff” that’s in my house. I’ve got a freezer and cupboards full of food, drawers full of cosmetics, books I’ve never read and so much more that I could be using to entertain myself with. I’ve already spent the money so I may as well cash in and get some ROI from it!

I’ve started this week, with the weekend just gone and I’ll be updating the blog with what I’ve spent and how I’ve spent it across the month. I’m hoping I’ll be able to maintain some sort of social life and stick to my budget 🙂

So far:

£3.85 – Fruit and veg. from the market stall in town
£5.00 – Asda – sweeties and treats
£8.48 – Boots – meal deal plus mouthwash
£15.00 – Pub lunch

I’ve been lucky and had Domino’s pizza bought for me on Saturday night, my parents fed me on Sunday night as I was round there after walking the dog anyway.

Coming up later this week I have a dinner out with a friend so I might have to be extra penny pinching next week to make sure I stay within my limits!

Has anyone else completed this sort of challenge? Any tips for fun things to do that really don’t cost much money? x

Finding that Pot of Gold

Over the course of the last week, I’ve been forced to re-assess my opinion about something which is relatively trivial but which has got me wondering about how much I miss out on in life because of my own opinions. I have been guilty of judging many books by their covers and in this case it was a store by its adverts and my own assumption of its reputation.

Last week I decided it was time to take the plunge and upgrade my phone to the new BlackBerry Z10 and I was going to be fussy and only get it if I could have it in white. Immediately this limited my choice of network but that was ok because O2 had it and that’s where I wanted to stay. That was until they refused to make me a decent offer to compete with what I found on the Phones 4U website. The problem was that I didn’t really want to use Phones 4U because in my head they were unreliable and provided shockingly bad customer service. However, I ended up with no choice and I was going to have to change to being on Orange as well.

I was wrong. Phones 4U were fantastic, their online chat operator helped me put my order in and then when Orange rejected me, Phones 4U advised me what I needed to do. Then, when Orange had given me the wrong email address twice and not bothered to reply for a further 2 days once I had been given the correct information, Phones 4U rang me again. Sure they were after my business but I’m glad someone was; I had money to spend and whilst Orange outright rejected my “Excellent” credit rating as not good enough, O2 simply weren’t prepared to compete to keep me. Thank you Phones 4U for swooping in and offering me exactly the deal I wanted on O2. My new phone is on its way.

The advisers I dealt with from Phones 4U were all fantastic, really friendly, really helpful and did what they said they would do. The advisers at O2 were ok but constrained by their internal policies of not changing tariff prices and the advisers at Orange were hugely variable. Orange staff seem to vary across the spectrum of rude and talking over you, through disinterested and finally ending up at helpful. Well, that got me. I thought the networks all delivered far better service than these high street shops and I also thought the networks would do better deals as I was going direct but that was wrong too.

You may be wondering why I’ve bothered regaling you with this gripping tale of the customer service I’ve received when you really don’t care that much, but there are two points to this. One is to rant and just put it out there one more time how rubbish I think Orange are and the other is to remind people that sometimes our preconceptions are wrong. We may think we know the lie of the land but actually it doesn’t hurt to go exploring with an open mind once in a while because we might just find that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. x

Why Smartphones Get My Goat


PhoneSmartphones are everywhere these days and I’d like to start off by saying that perhaps I have titled this post somewhat misleadingly as I don’t have a problem with smartphones per se, more with the people reviewing them.

For most of my life, mobile phones have been a hot topic of discussion, right from when changing the cover on your Nokia was the coolest thing ever until now when the ability to make your phone do things without even touching it seems to be the thing to have. But what exactly are we discussing? Back in the day it was all about making the phone look good and whether you flipped it open, swivelled it open or had Snake 2 on it…not exactly crucial things when making a phone call or sending a text message.

Then we became obsessed with cameras and colour screens, it was all about how many megapixels we had and whether there was a flash. Mainly the cameras were so rubbish we continued to use actual cameras though and again, not so key to the process of making and receiving phone calls!

Nowadays phones really are portable computers and there are so many acronyms banded around that a normal human being can’t possibly know what on earth they are buying so we still often circle back to our original criteria of how it looks. So what have the manufacturers done… made them all look the same and all come in the same 2 boring colours. It’s like they want to force us to look beyond the casing and into the chip inside, except most of us don’t know how.

Even when people explain what the phones can do, most of us still have no idea how to actually do it. Some features sound plain annoying; do I really want my YouTube video to pause if I look away from the screen? Hell no! I look away because I’m bored of watching and only want to listen, the last thing I want is for it to wait for my gnat-like attention span to circle back to it! Do I want a pedometer or a sleep monitor or a screen that is so good it’s beyond what my eyes can see? No I bloody don’t! If I wanted those things then I’d shop for them in the form of a pedometer or a sleep monitor or a TV!!!

What I want is a phone that works and is easy to use and shows me what I want, when I want it, how I want it and makes my life easy. A phone that recognises that I use the word “awesome” all the time so it throws it up on the screen when I start typing “aw”. Yeah, some showy –offy gadgets are cool, like being able to fix my photos so my eyes are open instead of blinking in every shot but mainly, I just want something that I understand and that understands me.

You might think I’m mad but BB10, I’m looking at you kid! The Z10 is a good-looking phone and if you do understand all the acronyms and browsing speeds, etc. you’ll know that it outperforms many of its rivals (yes I mean the iPhone) in lots of ways. If however, you’re like me and just want a phone that’s easy to use and works then it’s ideal. It hides all the techy jargon and just makes life simple – everything you need in one place, with a swipe of the thumb. Perfect for lazy old me with the zero attention span! Oh, and I can have my blog as an app on my BB. And I can message, voice chat or video chat with my friends around the world for FREE. These are the things I want to know about when buying a phone!

In case you think this is written with bias, I will ‘fess up that I did work for BB briefly, not even for a year and I was in HR, nothing product related. Does that make me automatically love their products? No. Did they give me my first BB, a Bold 9900 on my first day which was the best phone I’d ever had, yes. So I love the Z10 because it’s a great phone, not because I used to work for them. I am in no way affiliated with the company, my previous role there just opened my eyes to a brand I’d never considered before.

Let me know what you think about the phones out there at the moment; I’m due an upgrade and I want to get it right! x

Things I Know: Work

“Work: (noun) Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result”

Somehow my post about relationships came more easily than my post about work, maybe because I’ve spent more days in relationships than I have at work or maybe because although I know some things about work, I don’t have it entirely sussed yet. Either way, I’ve had to do something which I almost never do… I’ve redrafted this post. Actually taken it back to the drawing board and changed the content type redrafted, not just tweaked the odd typo!

Work is a bizarre thing that seems to be sort of thrust upon us when we reach a certain age. Technically school is a form of work for children but it never really seems like that at the time, at least it didn’t for me because I preferred school to home and was always quite an able student. Work first appeared in my life when I was a teenager and my parents made it very clear that if I wanted more than £20 a month to spend on fun things, I’d have to earn it. Luckily, I was able to work for my parents before I was 16 to boost this meagre income and then secured myself a brilliant part time job with lots of fun people when I was legally old enough to have a “proper” job.

That introduction to work was great in that it allayed my fears about what it would be like to work in the big wide world but bad in that it didn’t prepare me for the fact that not everywhere would be that fun. Over the years I’ve had a multitude of jobs, a few include: retail assistant, party rep, data entry monkey, direct credit card sales rep, training administrator and sales operations lead. Some of these have been fun, most have been insanely, mind-numbingly boring.

Am I successful? Well that depends who you are and how you define success; from the outside I’m doing perfectly fine for someone my age, especially someone who’s jumped around so much and had 2 redundancies in their first 5 years of full time work. (I technically fled before 1 of the redundancies but I knew it was coming so it still counts!) So if you count success as being employed throughout the recession and earning more than the national average then yes, I am successful. If you count success as enjoying your work and gaining some sort of satisfaction from it then no, I’ve not quite made it there yet but I’m working on it.

One thing I have learned about work is that you do have to do as the definition says and put in effort otherwise you just won’t reap the rewards and that’s fine because I like a job that requires me to work hard. However, what I have also learned is that the effort is pointless if nobody notices. If your boss doesn’t like you or tries to claim your effort as theirs, look wider and shout louder until somebody else sees your effort. It took me far too long to realise this but it really does only take 1 person in the right place to sing your praises and suddenly doors start flying open left, right and centre.

Another thing I have learned is that being miserable at work isn’t worth it, if you genuinely hate your job, change it. If you know you won’t like working in an office or outside in the rain, stay away. I’ve made these mistakes so badly and for so long I’ve actually suffered depression because I hated my work so much and I’ve spent thousands of pounds I didn’t have because I thought my life would be better if I had more stuff. Not true! Now I am working in a sales role purely to pay off some of that debt… I still don’t like offices and I still don’t like technology, but I’ve finally found a dirt track to lead me to the shiny road that will take me out of this environment and into one I should have started off in several years ago.

Work is a huge part of your life so follow your passion, even if it means less money. You will make the money in the end because you’ll be prepared to put the effort in to be the best at what you do. Most of us in the western world are lucky enough to have choices so don’t waste yours picking something “just because”, choose something because you have a genuine reason for doing so and you’ll live with your choice much more easily.

Now I wholly stand by the points I’ve made above but the biggest point I am going to make here is that confidence is the key to a successful working life in my opinion. I’m not talking about being an arrogant whatsit who stomps around the office making enemies, I’m talking about the self-assured comfort that allows you to do what works best for you. Confidence will help you to stand up and make sure your hard work is noticed and that it pays off; confidence will give you the courage to take the lesser trodden path because you believe it’s right for you and confidence will help you move on from your mistakes and make positive changes to affect your future.

And that’s my advice about work; it’s very much in progress as I keep shuffling toward what I consider success to be but nonetheless, I have already learned some things and I wanted to share them. Don’t just do the job you think you should do, aim for the one you really want and the challenges along the way will become minor hurdles for you to leap over 🙂

Next stop on the Things I Know journey will be “Bodies”! x

Where Did My Self Control Go?

I recently had a very nasty wake-up call when I realised that despite having a very healthy credit rating, I’d need to buy my new car on my credit card because I’d be risking rejection applying for any more credit. I have a crazy number of thousands of pounds of debt of which I am paying back more than the minimum each month and then creating approximately double that in extra debt…month on month. I’m not entirely sure at what point I decided this was ok but right now is the point that it must stop. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had loads to show for it but all I have is memories of cars that broke and cost me loads of money, a random collection of clothes and shoes and a few extra pounds on my hips where I’ve eaten too much junk.

I have precisely 5 months interest free to try and pay off as much of £3500 as I can before I am charged 27.9% APR for my cash withdrawal. Clearly I will do a balance transfer at the end of those 5 months if I haven’t paid it off, I’m actually pretty smart when it comes to money management. However, I’m not comfortable with how much debt I have and that’s the point when action must be taken. I could look at this as a major pain and get depressed about it because I will have to make sacrifices for the next few months but actually I’m quite excited about this challenge.

Never before have I set myself a proper challenge to live not just within my means but extremely frugally to pay off lots of debt. Now I don’t intend to stay in like a hermit every evening and never buy any clothes, I am a single lady with a life to lead but I will be taking opportunities to make changes which save me money. I’ve also added extra vigour to my working day to try and earn more commission in as short a space of time as possible. I’m going to be using my time and my money wisely.

Here are some of the immediate changes I have made:

  • Budget – I have set up a spreadsheet which weighs up my income versus my essential outgoings. Now I can see what I really have to play with. It’s not pretty but I need to know it
  • Magazine subscription – I am about 3 months behind on reading my magazines so I don’t need this. I have loads of books piled up for reading and the web provides me with a wealth of fashion based fun for free. It only saves me circa £18 per. quarter but you know what they say about watching the pennies!
  • Food – Why do I think it’s ok to eat what I want, when I want? The fact is I eat far too much junk and it’s not helping my body or my bank balance. I will eat the food I buy and not deviate from that so much that I end up throwing food in the bin
  • Shopping – I have loads of clothes and shoes, it is not essential to buy a whole new wardrobe every month. I will allow myself the odd treat but really I just need to stop being so greedy

Now I know those things sound obvious but I genuinely haven’t ever thought this way before and it’s going to be a challenge to stay focussed. I am still allowing myself some luxuries such as my Lovefilm subscription because actually that makes my nights in much more enjoyable. Having questioned myself spending £3,500 on a car, I realised that that was exactly what had led to my downfall before; skimping on the important things and spending on rubbish I don’t need. No more!

So this, the 1st Feb 2013 is the first day of me being a responsible adult (when it comes to money). You’ll be noticing a pattern in some of my upcoming posts about easy ways to make the best of what you have and save the pennies for the really special things worth spending money on. How are your bank balances looking, anyone got any amazing tips? x

Related Post:

As it so happened, my favourite blogger posted in a similar vein this week, check out her post too:

The Best Things About the Internet

I spend so much of my time online these days that sometimes I really struggle to imagine how my life was and how it would be without the internet. I question how people ever knew where to go on holiday or what the latest fashions were or how to make black bean sauce because they just decided they needed it for their stir fry; this information just wasn’t there at the click of a mouse. Most of the time however, I take this insane invention that changed the world completely for granted and have almost no appreciation of how much easier it makes many aspects of my life. So, here are some of my favourite things about the internet:

Those 3 Magic Letters

1) Reviews

Reviews galore; I can find reviews of literally anything and everything and sometimes this really does save me spending my hard earned cash on sub-standard products. It’s great to know what other people really think and as such, I add my fair share of reviews to this pool as well.

2) Travel Photography

I have seen some truly stunning photography online and for me it is one of the most inspirational things, it makes me re-evaluate my life for a few seconds every time and focus that little bit more on seeing more of the world rather than just existing in my tiny corner of it.

3) Recipes

No matter what it is that I have leftover in the kitchen cupboard, I can always find something tasty to cook to use it up – enough said!

4) Blogs / Reality Internet

For me, blogs are a bit like watching a multitude of reality TV shows from all across the globe. I love them; they satisfy my curiosity about other cultures and my nosiness in general. They also work well for me from a personal perspective as they help boost my feeling of significance in the world. People read what I write and I get involved in conversations about what other people write – my world feels much bigger than it otherwise would and my sphere of influence has grown infinitely. LOVE!

5) Shopping

It no longer matters if I can’t find what I am looking for in my local town, I’ll find it online. I may pay something of a premium or it may be half the price, you never can tell which way it will fall but you do know that you will find it. Case in point, my bf has a lovely suit but he ripped the trousers; the suit itself was bought in the sale so was an old style – no more trousers in store. Uh oh, time for a new suit…or a gf who can find ANYTHING online and found him more of the trousers. The internet wins!

So all in all, I think the internet is pretty darned nifty; how has it transformed your little world? x

Narrow Feet Shoe Splurge!

Hello again friends! If you are UK based, I hope you’ve made the most of the fabulous weather we have had this week. I know that rain is due again and we’ve had some today but it really has still been a marked improvement on the rest of the summer!

I don’t know about you guys but when the sun comes out, I feel much more positive and obstacles seem much easier to overcome. On that basis, I decided I was going to hunt out some new shoes; ideally I was looking for some pointed court shoes but really I was looking for something to make me feel good. Now, if you’ve read some of my other posts, you will know that I am rather narrow of foot and shoe shopping is most definitely a challenge. I’ll confess that I haven’t yet bought any pointed court shoes (well I have, but they don’t fit and will be going back) but I have a plan for those next month. What I have done is found some lovely shoes at reasonable high street prices which stay on and look good on my narrow and shallow feet. If you are in the same situation, take note and don’t lose heart because there really are shoes out there, you just have to look for them!

The first pair I bought were from Zara and I just LOVE the studs on these bad boys. I’m so excited that studs are all over everything for AW12, I love that look and it means my River Island boots from last Christmas will still be bang on trend! Anyway, here are my new Zara flats:

These little badgers were £49.99 but they are real leather and are so amazingly soft on the inside that I just know they are going to be a joy to wear! I had to buy mine online (here) as they only had size 8 in the store but the reason I’ve been able to wear them is 2-fold. 1 is that they come higher up the front of the foot than most pumps so they fit much more closely. The other is that they come up a little big in terms of length so I have gone a size down to a 6, meaning the width is much more appropriate for my skinny feet. LOVE! They also come in red so if you are looking for some edgy, narrow pumps, give these a bash!

My second shoe purchase came when I was looking for a peplum top. I was mooching around on the River Island website and spotted some elasticated pumps with a pointy toe. I’ve gone for the grey pair but they also come in a leopard and black combo. They are just £22.00 and are available here. I’ve wanted some pointed toe pumps for ages but haven’t found any that would stay on my feet so I leapt at this opportunity and as I didn’t have any grey or snakeskin pumps, I chose the grey suede / snakeskin pumps. They fit really well but obviously lack some of the comfort of more expensive shoes. Here they are:

Finally, my last purchase is a pair of shoes I have loved for ages, also from River Island. I spotted them online months ago and held off buying them but then a bad thing happened. When buying the grey shoes, I also bought a peplum top but when it arrived, it didn’t fit so I took it back to my local store. Whilst in there, I spotted this shoe in the size 6 and thought I’d just check whether a 6 or 7 would be the right size in case I ever wanted to buy them. Well a 6 is my size and they fit like a glove! There is none of the gaping I often get with strappy shoes and they are really comfortable so for £55.00, I figured why not!?! I haven’t bought strappy black shoes for 3 years so here are my new babies (get them here):

So there you have it… 3 pairs of shoes which fit narrow feet, all from the high street at affordable prices. I’m not going to lie, they took some finding and court shoes that fit still remain elusive but this is a good start so spread the joy and if you are in the same situation as me, get out there and report back to the rest of us on your findings!

Enjoy the Olympics everyone! x


Review – Ciate Caviar Manicure (My Version Of)

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably heard of Ciate’s Caviar Manicure by now but for any of you who haven’t, essentially it’s a manicure set with beads which gives a bit of a caviar look. Check it out on their website here.

Ciate Caviar – Black

You can buy this in black, white and a rainbow colour (I think they did a Jubilee version too) but black is by far my favourite and was definitely the look I most wanted to try. However, it’s £18 for the set which is essentially a black nail polish and a bottle full of black beads. I figured that as I already owned a black nail polish there was no way I was paying that for mine so I made the set myself.

I used an old black Bourgeois nail polish which has excellent staying power (but you can use any) and then bought my beads on ebay. The beads only cost a couple of £s and they are perfect, look just like the Ciate beads.

The method is that you paint 2 coats of the colour onto your nails then whilst they are still wet, you tip the beads onto the nail. Lightly press the beads into the nail and then use a top coat to seal them on. My beads came in a bag so what I actually did was dip my fingers into the bag which meant no spillage 🙂

Here are my pictures – I only did my baby fingers as I wanted to check how long it lasted before committing to full hands!

My Beads

My Nails

I love the look! I couldn’t get mine to look as perfectly nail shaped as they do in the marketing pictures though and that seems to be an issue based on other reviews I have read too.

As for lasting power, I was pleasantly surprised. The odd bead fell off by itself but a day and a half later which included hair washing, typing and filing and they were still in tact. I’m not sure this would be the case if they had been my index fingers but these would definitely last for a wedding or Ascot and they just look so cool! Highly recommended but definitely do it my cheap way 😉 x