Monday, 31 October 2011

A spooky Halloween weekend in London

My very own green Jack-o-lantern x

This weekend I spent most of my evenings soaking up the spooky atmosphere in london town.
After work on Friday one if my best friends came to meet me. We enjoyed a rather rushed dinner (which unfortunately came on a tray and in a basket) at a small BBQ restaurant just off of Oxford street before tottering off to Covent garden to the Fortune theatre to see 'A woman in black'.

My friend was nervously awaiting the spooky tale after reading reviews on the net. The play had only three actors in it, who played a number of different
characters each who depicted the story of a woman in black who haunts an old mansion set up in the Yorkshire moors. The story unfolds, and the woman in black makes a number of appearances throughput the play cursing her spell over anyone who is unlucky enough to catch sight of her dark figure. The highlights were the war piercing screams which make the audience jump out of their seats.

I then found out there will be a remake of the old film starting Harry potter actor Daniel Radcliffe

released in February next year which I want to see
and might have a browse on Amazon too to see if they stock the book. I'd highly recommend seeing it if you're in town and tickets are only about £12 too.

On Saturday night I had been given tickets to go and see a special showing of 'The Blair witch project' at The Union Chapel in Highbury Islington. I'd never seen the film when I was younger and as the free tickets included two complimentary jamesons cocktails I thought it would be a fun thing to do. The chapel was all decorated for Halloween with low green lighting, spooky decorations and Jack-o-lanterns casting their eerie glow across the pews. In front of us there was a stage which had a set from the film built on it, including some trees and three pop up tents to bring the film to life.

I sat there waiting for the film to get scary, and then when it did it finished suddenly. A little disappointing but enjoyed the spooky surroundings and cool setting. Getting the tube back to Waterloo we encountered ghouls, ghosts and other dressed up party goers.

What are your plans for Halloween? Are you a fan? Or do you plan on bolting down the fort, turning the lights off and hiding from trick-or-treaters?


Thursday, 27 October 2011

This weeks freebies

Thermos- freebie from media dept, used to keep my soup safe en route to work.

Designer Diet Coke bottle- donated by colleague, now resides on my desk.

Two apples- from the apple tree at home which is flourishing this year.

I also made a hairband from the elastic waistband of a laddered pair of tights and cut the ribbon hanger-tag things from some new clothes to make a book divider in my notepad and a key ring used to attach my fob.

Two free tickets to see the Blair Witch Project at The Union Chapel, including two free Jamesons cocktails- Click here for more info.

What thrifty freebies have you made/acquired this week?


Over the last few months I've become hooked on Instagram- a free iPhone app which allows you to indulge your passion for photography without spending hours fiddling with a DSLR camera. I would highly recommend it as it's great for killing a few hours without spending a penny! Awesome.

Follow my Instagram- Click Here

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

My money saving tips

Save the pennies and keep your piggy happy!

Since stumbling across the personal finances blogosphere I've picked up lots of handy tips for making the pennies stretch further. Now some I'm not so keen on and would prefer to spend a little extra to get a little more on the things that matter to me most; for example I went through a phase of using box hair dye to dye my hair at home. But due to the thickness of my mop and unfortunately not having the arms of an octopus I had to use a couple of boxes to make sure my hair was dyed evenly. It also took up a lot of time, effort and made a lot of mess in the bathroom (queue one angry housemate!) so after a recent disastrous attempt at dying my red hair back to dark I handed the job over to a professional and succumbed to the salon. However, one thrifty tip I discovered when I was a student is that one of the big chain salons will cut your hair, dry and style it for around £20.00- bargain! So now I only ever tend to book my appointments on the day, usually when I'm heading into town for shopping on a Sunday (saves petrol and parking is £1.00 all day). Needless to say I was very pleased with the result and I now have nice, evenly coloured dark bobbed hair. Note to self- put the home dyes down.

So what else have I learned on my frugal way? Here goes:

1.Skip the daily grind. In London a small coffee will set you back around £2.50- this adds up to £12.50 per week and around £50.00 per month.... When you think of that over the year that adds up to a saving of £600.00 which could (almost?) buy you a holiday for two! Instead make your own at home before leaving for work and drink the office coffee rather than nipping out to the local coffee shop. Nb. If you're a fan if foamed milk like I am you can buy tiny electric whisks for £1.00 in Ikea which will give you beautiful foamy milk in minutes (warm your milk in the microwave for a few minutes prior to whisking.)

2. Learn to cook and whip up your own delicious vegetable soups. These make ideal lunches, all you need to do us to tip them into a container (you can buy a whole load from the pound shop for you guessed it, one golden nugget) or pre-gym snacks to stave off hunger pangs during your work out. I recently bought a huge pumpkin from the supermarket for a pound which gave me five individual portions of soup which lasted a week. One container of fresh soup (which gives you about one full bowl) costs about £2.00, make your own and it costs about 50p approx. Per portion- and it's also a great way of using up any veg thats looking a bit worse for wear at the bottom of the fridge.

3. Make your own packed lunch rather than hitting the shops at lunchtime. One 'meal deal' costs about £3.00 at least which consists of a sandwich (usually soggy!) a bag of crisps and a drink. Make your own sarnies, and take one bag from a supermarket bag if crisps and drink water from the office water station to slash the cost of your lunch. Alternatively, last nights left overs are a great option. Why not freeze your left overs in tuppawear boxes and take put as and when you need a quick lunch option. Making your lynch doesn't have to be time consuming you can often make it at the sane time as you're preparing dinner and you don't have to spend 20 mins of your lunch hour rushing about the shops. Or, beans on toast is always a great standby option (it night remind you of your student days though).

4. Shop at large outlets and buy dried goods in bulk where possible. I love the huge oriental supermarkets near me and buy foods I've only ever eaten in restaurants in there such as Thai sticky rice and glass noodles. These also give you a taste of eating out at the fraction of the cost.

5. Sign up to voucher code sites and download voucher code apps. These can save you a significant amount on the price of eating out.

There's my top five money saving tips for today, I didn't intentionally mean to make them all about food and drink though! TTFN, happy saving!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


So today was payday and upon peeking into my payslip I was pleasantly surprised to discover that things won't be as bleak this month as I had anticipated- don't ask me how but I for one won't be questioning payroll about it!

So this is my basic budget for the next four weeks and three days:

£220- rent
£200- money goes into mine and my BF's joint account (this covers most of the household bills, food, household items such as cleaning products and basic toiletries and if there's anything left over we use it when we go out for drinks/meals etc.)
£180.00- travel card. My travel card runs out on the 10th of November so must remember to sort this.
£42- gym membership
£32.50- phone bill

This leaves a grand total of 442.92 for me to spend. Though not forgetting I was £50 into my overdraft due to the new hair it leaves £392 to play with. Wah-hey!

Diet Coke break

So over the last few years I've been hooked on cans of the fizzy stuff, and after going cold turkey for two weeks in the summer and resisting the urge to crack open a nicely chilled can upon setting foot back in the UK I recently crumbled again, succumbing to its bubbly taste.

There's something satisfying about hearing the noise of the ring-pull, and first few moments when you feel the cool liquid bubble its way down your throat. However, after watching a couple of gripping 'How to look 10 years younger' episodes and seeing a woman in her forties with hardly any teeth thanks to her caffeine addiction it's high time I kicked the habit for good. In addition to this, in the free London newspaper, The Metro its also been revealed that teens who drink more than five cans of fizzy drink per day are more prone to aggressive tendencies- so perhaps that explains the behaviour of one particular ex-colleague!

So here goes my Diet Coke Break....

Day one- I've made it past 11am and into the lunch hour zone. And I'm currently resisting the urge to hop-foot it over the road into Sainsburys. Must keep picturing toothless woman for motivation.

Day two- I didn't even think about the beloved cans of Diet Coke today, but I did wash my dinner down with a few sneaky gulps of Doctor Pepper- note to self need to stock up of sparkling water.

Day three- Resisted the lure of Diet Coke whilst dithering in Sainsburys looking for afternoon snacks. So craving something sweet where I would normally have satisfied this with a swig of Diet Coke I instead ate a whole box of Malteasers. That's right a whole box! I wonder what's better for me? I went shopping in Bluewater, craved a can of the good stuff but didn't give in choosing instead some supposed 'Vitamin' water instead- Yummy :S. Somehow it didn't have quite the same effect.

Day four- It seems to be getting a little easier to resist. My next door desk neighbour had a bottle of the bubbly stuff at lunch time and I managed not to follow suit. Craving my usual afternoon caffeine fix I had a coffee instead.

Some interesting reading....

Day five- I went out for dinner in the evening and resisted the urge, choosing a can of 7up instead.

Day six- Had a busy day so didn't even think of Diet Coke....

Day seven- Again, went out for lunch and opted for tap water (cheap and cheerful) instead of my usual bubbly, brown beverage.

Day eight- Back to work and again no Diet Coke...

Day nine- Unfortunately after a slightly traumatic lunchtime experience where I literally wanted the ground to open up so that I could fall into it and hide it left me heading at top speed to Sainsburys in need of comfort. Taking a sip at my desk it tasted gooood, and threw in some dry roasted peanuts for good measure. I think it helped.

I think I did well to last for that long, and will definatley be cutting back on the DC and reserving it for special occasions only... such as days when I'm hungover and the such like.

Monday, 24 October 2011

The commute

I've now been working at a huge recruitment advertising agency in the search department for just over two weeks, and for the first time in my life I've learnt what it's like to be a commuter.You know, one of those people who seem to have tunnel vision frantically rushing to make it to the office before the clock strikes 9am. However, in the very short time I've been making the (expensive!) trip from the Surrey suburbs into London's West End I seem to have morphed into one.

Now from my observations I am still somewhat of a commuter novice, I can't read a book/free newspaper and walk like a zombie from one train to another, nor can I juggle a cup of coffee my coat and rail card without getting in a jumble. But I can shove people slightly out of my way and race to the nearest train seat without looking anyone in the nearby vicinity in the eye- with the exceptions of course of old people and pregnant women (luckily neither seem to have crossed my path just yet!). However, what I haven't got used to is the lack of personal space and the sheer amount of weird people that swarm among us normal folk on a daily basis.

For example, I had the pleasure to sit next to Darth Vader's long lost brother one bright, crisp morning last week. For 35 minutes he breathed heavily in my ear all the way into London due to his blocked nose. Or for example the man who refused to brush his teeth for the last few days and insisted on talking on his mobile all the way home, and coincidently he had to get off at my stop didn't he. Then not forgetting the two German boys who had obviously had better things to do for the last week than take a shower who decided to waft their stink all around the carriage even after I'd opened the window to let some freezing air in. And not forgetting when they got off the train they intoned in English 'Please take all your bombs off the train'.....well until next time folks happy commuting x

Welcome to Swings and Roundabouts

So just three weeks after leaving my job doing a stint as an online writer in the depths of the Surrey countryside, choosing to leave the greenery for the big city smoke I decided to create this blog to a) keep me practicing my writing and b) track my personal finance goals.

I started my first blog around eighteen months ago but after a few posts I hit the famous writers block, and working as a copywriter I found my creativity would usually run dry after a day spent trying to re-write product copy for condoms and fruit flavoured lube for what felt like the hundredth time. However since this time I've realised that every blog post doesn't have to be a literary work of art and that documenting my uber-exciting life (not) would probably give me enough material to blog on a regular basis.

After spending the last year and a half closely following three our four of my favourite blogs on a weekly basis and seeming to spend more and more time stumbling around cyberspace looking for more blogs to read I thought it was high time to start my own. Sitting on the train on the commute home from work I thought that January would be a good time to start- a new year and all that. But as tomorrow is payday, and I'm only getting paid for two weeks work which somehow needs to stretch over the next four weeks I thought there was no time like the present to get started.

I then began pondering my financial goals, and want to set aside another £4,000 by the end of 2012 to give me a total of £10,000- a good sum of money I feel to help me get on my way out of the house share by the time I hit the very big and very scary big 3-0. As this months paycheck will be disappointingly thin and with Christmas shopping needing to be bought from the following one I can't really start saving properly until I've received January's pay. But hey ho, life is all Swings and Roundabouts after all so here goes... wish me luck on my journey..!