The Art of Procrastination

As the title to this post suggests, I should be doing something else right now. I have a list of jobs that need doing this weekend and I don’t want to do any of them! This weekend, I do not want to be a grown up. I’m half way through a job Application but got stuck on the “Personal Statement” part of it so I decided to do some washing. The washing machine stopped about an hour ago but I haven’t found the motivation to put the clothes out to dry. My sink is piled high with dishes that need washing too but instead of that, I’ve put my hair in rollers for no reason at all.

So what have I been doing for the last hour? I’ve been refreshing and re-refreshing my Twitter feed and clicking on pretty much every link that’s come up. I haven’t even been reading all of the pages that I’ve opened! I’m doing everything I can to distract myself from what actually needs doing. I’ve even gone to the extent of blogging about how much I don’t want to do what’s on my list just to avoid doing it.

I’ve made a deal with myself. I’m going to watch Maleficent (which, so far is good – I Love Angelina Jolie!) Then I’m going to set up my work space on the dining table and tick off everything on my list before my little sister gets here for our evening out together. I’m going to start with finishing off the job application that I’m part way through and then I’m going to treat myself with something a little more creative (Yesterday being payday meant a sneaky trip to Paperchase on my way home last night, but don’t tell my husband)

My Top Tips on Saving Money

January was a long month. I got paid just before Christmas which means that my wages have had to last just over five weeks including Christmas and New Year. Pay day today could not have come sooner! Scraping through January waiting for pay day, I learnt some ways to save quite a bit of money each month and I’m definitely going to continue this way and hopefully continue saving throughout the rest of the year.

Before I carry on, I feel like I should point out that I’m not a financial advisor, these are just a few things I’ve been doing that have saved me some money over the last few weeks.

1. Work out what money you should have left over each month after rent, bills, food and any additional spending money you might need throughout the month and put it into a savings account at the start of the month, that way, it’s not in your current account to spend throughout the month.

2. Make your own lunch. Plan ahead, do your shopping at the start of the week and make your lunches for the whole week ahead. If you have your lunch with you at work/college/school, you’ll save money by not going out to buy food. If I go out at lunch time to buy food I usually spend £4-£7 but buying pasta, chicken and a vegetable sauce at the start of the week only costs me £10 and that lasts the whole week.

3. Similar to number 2, plan your evening meals at the start of the week and make sure you buy all of the ingredients you will need in one go. I like cooking huge meals on a Sunday which will last for a few days. That way, when I finish work late on a Tuesday evening and can’t be bothered to cook I know I have food ready at home so don’t need to go out and buy something else or order a takeaway.

4. Buy unbranded products. We’ve started shopping in Aldi and it’s brilliant! Whilst they don’t sell many branded items, we haven’t found anything that doesn’t taste just as good as the branded products and, on average, we’re saving about £20 (between us) on our weekly shop.

5. When you’re clothes shopping don’t just pick up an item and head straight for the till. Walk around the store with it in your hand whilst you look around at other things. If after you’ve looked around for a bit, if you still want the item, buy it. After using this tactic, I’ve found that about 70% of the time, I’ve changed my mind and put the items back. It stops you buying things that just sit in the back of your wardrobe never worn.

6. Make the most of free things to do in your home town. Whilst I haven’t taken full advantage of all of the free things Manchester offers yet, I certainly will be.

7. Limit meals out to special occasions. If you fancy a “treat” or something a bit different there are lots of options out there that are cheaper than eating out but just as nice. We are a fan of Marks and Spencer’s meal deals – they feel more luxurious than your ordinary meals at home but don’t break the bank like a meal out (you also don’t have to leave a tip which saves you even more money!!)

8. This one, I appreciate, won’t apply to many people at all but my mum bought me a coffee machine for Christmas and it’s saved me loads of money. Quite often I would buy coffee from Cafe Nero or Starbucks on the way to work or over the weekend, spending a minimum of £3 on a coffee each time. With my coffee machine I can get 8 cups of coffee (I’m currently working my way through a box of latte pods) for just over £3 which is a huge saving!

9. Shop online – there’s always some way of saving money whether it be finding the same product in a different online store at a cheaper price or finding a discount code which can be applied, reducing the price. There’s also a few cashback websites around so even if the product isn’t cheaper, you may be able to buy through a cashback website.

10. Book any train tickets you need well in advance of when you need to travel (I know this one is obvious but I just got a ticket from Manchester to Peterborough for just £11!!!)

11. Buy beauty products that are on offer. Boots, Superdrug, Wilkos etc. always have some sort of shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser, cleaning products on sale. I’m quite fussy when it comes to make up and face moisturiser but when it comes to shower gel or toilet roll or washing up liquid, why would you not buy the one which is on offer?!

12. Trade nights out for nights in! I know this sounds boring and I don’t mean don’t go out at all, just make compromises every now and then. For example, instead of going out with my husband for drinks tonight, we went to the supermarket and bought a few beers to drink at home to save some money because we have plans to go out with my sister tomorrow night.

Like I said, these are just a few ideas that I have been using to get me through January and whilst they won’t make you a millionaire, it’s a good way to save a few pounds. Just remember that no matter how much you need or want to save money, always have fun because if you restrict yourself too much you’re much less likely to stick to your plans of saving. If you get really bored at home, you’re more likely to have a big blow out and spend loads of money on a whole weekend of expensive fun!

On that note, I’m about to grab a beer, run a bath and spend the rest of the evening reading!

Beginning Again: An Update

Anxiety

I thought it was time for an update on the move. The current feeling I have is “scared shitless”. This week I have really felt under pressure and the stress of the whole move has started to get to me. I haven’t slept well and I’ve been struggling with anxiety. Each sleepless night is followed by a caffeine fuelled day which does nothing for the anxiety – I feel like I’m stuck in a never ending cycle. I feel like I’m drowning.

Every night I come home from work and look for jobs or complete job applications or study to try to improve my CV. I feel pretty hopeless in terms of finding a new job within the next 11 weeks. There’s time when I find an “ideal job” but I don’t have the necessary previous experience or I can’t start at the relevant times. Add to this the demoralising rejections or non-responses from the jobs I have applied to and all starts to look a bit grim – I’m definitely not as bright-eyed as I had started out this year.

Then there’s the move itself. We have to find somewhere to live which isn’t easy when I have no idea where I’ll be working. We need to be in London to actually be able to look at flats which is difficult when you live in Manchester and work full time. There’s the decision of whether or not we flat share – on the one hand it will restrict us and we will lose our own space which we are used to, on the other hand it will save us loads of money and help us meet new people. We need to think about physically moving our stuff to London in time for Sean to start in his new office and to start sorting out cleaning and fixing up the flat we live in at the moment.

I feel overwhelmed by the range of options available to us at the moment and the increasing pressure of “the big move” getting closer and closer. I want to go outside and run and run and run but it’s snowing at the moment so that’s a big fat no! There’s a continual battle of balancing everything out which, when you constantly feel exhausted is a huge challenge. Add to that a mix of anxiety and depression and it all becomes a bit too much. All I want to do is eat and sleep and cry and sleep some more. Right now I’d give anything to have a clear head. For my thoughts to make sense. To wake up and find out that my mind is my best friend again, and not my worst enemy. To shake off the constant pressure on my shoulders that bears down on me day after day.

In other news, I started on my Bucket List today and took my photo and made a note of not one, but two things that made me smile today!

My 2015 Bucket List

Bucket List

I appreciate that January is almost over but I’ve been working on my list of “goals” throughout this month to ensure it’s right! I realise that makes me sound like a bit of a control freak but I’ve had so many ideas. I’ve tried to make my list a mixture of things that I’ve always wanted to do and goals which are simple and realistic. So here goes, this is a list of things I want to do this year:

1. Read a book every month – I miss reading so much but I struggle to find time. My aim this year is to set some time aside each week for reading. It’d be great if you could let me know any recommendations you have for me.

2. Learn a new language – I can’t decide whether or not to learn a completely new language or whether to learn pick up French again. 

3. Write down something that makes me happy each day – I’m going to start this tomorrow and keep a notebook – expect a blog at the end of the year about this one!

4. Go on holiday with my best friend – Haven’t decided when or where yet but this is something that needs to happen this year. 

5. Move to London – We’ve already made a start on this one so it won’t be much of a challenge!

6. Read a new blog every day – Please send me your links guys.

7. Take a photo every day for a year – Like the “something that makes you happy each day”, I’ll be starting this tomorrow and blogging at the end of the year about it.

8. Learn to knit – No I’m not 80, knitting is cool. 

9. Write a letter to my future self – I’m thinking of doing a couple of letters; one for this time next year, one for five years and one for 10 years time. 

10. Go skiing or snowboarding – This one’s kinda in the bag already as I’m going to Zermatt but I want to make a point of trying to ski or snowboard.

11. Visit Edinburgh – Pretty self-explanatory really.

12. Visit Iceland and see the Northern Lights – Same as above, doesn’t really need any extra detail.

13. Write a book – I have a few notes together already but don’t really have a story line yet so having the book finished this year might be a bit of a stretch.

14. Start running again – I ran a bit last year and, once I got into it, really enjoyed it but I haven’t run for a while.

15. Learn to meditate – I struggle with stress and anxiety so I think meditation might help.

16. Start yoga again – Like running, I have done this previously but not done it for a while.

17. Learn how to draw – I used to do this a lot when I was much younger and, from memory, I don’t think I was too bad at it!

18. Learn how to do a handstand/be strong enough to do a handstand – Another self-explanatory one. 

19. Go to a festival/outdoor concert – I haven’t given much thought to this yet but I’d like something small and low-key rather than one of the big ones.

20. Watch every Disney movie – I need to Google this and make a list so that I can start ticking them off and hopefully get through them all before the end of the year.

21. Make more time for family and friends – This is really means a lot to me. 2014 went by so quickly and I only got to see some of my favourite people a couple of times so this year needs to be different.

22. Organise my photos – Finally make photo books and albums of all my photos that are just stored on my laptop.

23. Go to Oktoberfest – Preferably the one in Munich but depending on money, one in the UK might have to do this year.

24. Go on a wine tasting course – Like number 23, I’d like this to be somewhere exciting, like a vineyard in France but it might have to be more local.

25. Watch a sunrise.

26. Camp on the beach – hopefully ties in with number 25 and preferably in the summer.

27. Take photography lessons – I love taking photos but I’m not great at it. I have a good camera which I’d like to be able to use properly.

28. Go in a hot air balloon – I’m scared of heights so this is a bit like overcoming a fear too.

29. Go berry picking and make jam – Me and my mum used to go berry picking and make pies and crumbles but I’ve never made jam so thought this might be a nice twist on an old family tradition.

30. Make more home made meals – This one has three goals to it really; 1. to save money; 2. to eat healthier; and 3. to get better at cooking.

31. Host a dinner party for friends – Maybe a “Come Dine With Me” style competition.

32. Get a new tattoo – Like most of the other things on this list, I haven’t worked out the finer details.

33. Explore somewhere new in the UK – Any suggestions and recommendations would be most welcome, so if you live somewhere awesome, let me know.

34. Go kayaking – I did this at camp when I was younger and was unbelievably crap at it. I think now might be the time to try again.

35. Start my own business – I have no idea what, or how, or why or when but I really want to do this

36. Go on both the Manchester Wheel and the London Eye – and decide which is the best!

37. Watch Grey’s Anatomy – from start to finish. So far, I’ve watched one episode so there’s lots to get through.

38. Cut all my hair off for charity  well not literally all of it but cut it very short.

39. Watch a horror film on my own – I’m the biggest wimp in the world so if this happens I’ll be really proud of myself!

40. Be happy

I’d love some recommendations of blogs and books to read so please send me some ideas and links. I’ll let you know how I get on throughout the year.

Why Travelling is Good for You

Mountain tops, Zermatt

Yesterday’s #bdib chat on Twitter got me thinking about how much I love travelling. If money wasn’t an issue, I would spend my whole life travelling and exploring new places.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit in my 26 years so far but there’s much of the world that I still want to see and so many things that I still want to do and experience. Travelling clears my mind and gives me a sense of freedom. There’s something about exploring a new place that makes everything else in your life fall into the background; all you think about is which landmarks you’re going to visit or the next place you are going to eat or drink.

Travel is a way to escape, to explore and to experience. Being somewhere new can give you a new lease of life, a sense of belonging and a renewed sense of purpose. I love finding new places, eating new food and, most of all, meeting new people.

Without sounding like an 80’s hippy, travelling is good for your soul – it gives you time to think and space to forget. Travelling gives you endless opportunities to learn about new cultures and the chance to get to know yourself.

Some of my favourite places so far are Zanzibar, Ghana and Copenhagen but I want to see more!

In my blog Making Life an Adventure I said that I was going to write a bucket list of things I wanted to do this year so I thought I’d start by adding places that I want to visit. This year, money is particularly tight given our plans for a wedding reception and move to London so I’ve limited my list to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, and Edinburgh – despite Edinburgh being fairly close, I’ve still never been.

Thinking further ahead, I’d like to explore Asia next – I want to go to Thailand and India. If you have any recommendations or travel tips, let me know.