An expensive yet frugal week.

So this week has been both expensive and frugal at the same time. How, you ask?

Monday was a Bank Holiday, so Husband and I both had a day off. We had a leisurely morning at home before taking the bus and walking around the lake at Wollaton Hall, enjoying the lovely weather. We both an an ice cream before going to see Husband’s family. To contribute, we brought two bottles of fizz with us and we were given some lovely French stick bread to take home with us.

….aaand then his glasses snapped off at the hinge. So booked an appointment with the opticians for the day after as I had time to accompany him and I had a voucher for a free eye test. Husband’s glasses left us £160 lighter, even with us choosing the cheapest frames.

Tuesday morning, as we were getting ready to go, I dropped my phone. It then didn’t want to switch on and when it did, the screen wasn’t responding.

So called the carrier and as I was eligible for a free upgrade, I have now officially joined the 21st century and gotten myself a smartphone. Nothing fancy, but it works and I can access apps and things on it.

I’ve installed an app called JobSpotter on it as I do travel around a lot to and from work. You get points for taking pictures of uploading job adverts seen in local shops, and the points can be converted to Amazon vouchers. So far I have gotten £6.49 accrued so will cash out when I get to £10. Maybe I will review it in future?

Previously when I had a regular phone I shook my head at people who were continuously on their phones on the bus and while walking.  But now I have one, I can see how addictive smartphones can be, and I have made a conscious decision to not spend my whole commute on it, and read a book or newspaper instead. I also solemnly promise to not get it out while eating a meal (with other people) or before bed.

Thursday I dropped by Sainsbury’s to see if they had any bread, and got some lovely reduced food.

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Lovely reduced food ❤ 

Friday I attended a meeting at work where we were told officially what we have known for months, that the site we are working at will be closing when we finish for the summer. We have been advised they are looking at all the positions in our departments, not just ours, and that we will receive a letter in the next few weeks about how this will affect each one of us.

Sunday I attended a training session at work which meant we finished early. It was really pleased as it meant I could attend Sharing Sherwood after all. So I left work , got two bargains at Tesco, and went to join Husband and our neighbour there.

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Lovely soup which will keep me going when trying to lose weight<3

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Tonight’s menu at Sharing Sherwood.

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First helping of the main course: Green beans, salad with feta cheese, roast potatoes, frittata and cooked cabbage.
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Lovely dahl and basmati rice. Spicy!
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There was a lot of surplus food at Sharing Sherwood today and our donations got us this food. It really helps our grocery budget as we can buy food we would normally rule out as it’s outside our price range.

Next week we don’t have a lot of plans for (yet). We are due to see the occupational health nurse at Husband’s new workplace, as they need to talk to him about the conditions he declared on the occupational health questionnaire. Not quite sure what to expect as I have never done it before, though I can imagine it is similar to the questions we get asked whenever we renew our travel insurance.

Then, hopefully, Husband will be offered his contract and can hand his notice in at his current job.

 

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Today: £20 in Tesco vouchers, a nice walk and some wild garlic.

This has been an interesting day.

I was called by one of the product testing panels to ask if I wanted to do a study with them that paid £20 in Tesco vouchers after work. I am saving all vouchers I get for Christmas (sorry, I know it’s the C word, but it’s best to be prepared!) so said of course.

The bus doesn’t go all the way to the venue so I get off at the closest bus stop and walk from there along the road. Sometimes in winter it’s a pain as it can be dark and wet and sad.

Not today. Everything is coming out so it was lovely and green, and I saw lots of bluebells and cowslip alongside the road. Plus it stays lighter for longer now and the weather was nice so it was quite a pleasant walk.

The study was scheduled to take up to 75 minutes but I completed it in 45, and on my walk back  to the bus stop on the other side of the road, look what I spied!

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Ramsoms!

Naturally I have been on the Woodland Trust website to ensure I have identified this right, but they are indeed wild garlic or ramsoms. There was this bunch and one further up the road as well.

It’s important to not take more than what you can eat and leave some for others, so I took a small bunch home. I’ve put them in a glass of water and will use them for dinner tomorrow after they’ve been thoroughly washed.

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These will go nicely with tomorrow’s dinner. Good thing I checked them before boarding the bus as I found two small snails hidden in them.

 

An affirming April.

April came and went by so fast!

  • Part of this is because two weeks of it was taken up by Easter. I had a lovely time, spent one week at home with Husband and another week at home.
  • Food spend is continuing to be good and we are being very frugal, keeping below our targets. Part of this is because my sister and her family were generous when I visited at Easter and sent with me a lot of meats for the freezer. In addition to this I have managed to continue to go to Foodprint and get bargains. They now have a referral scheme with the Salvation Army foodbank in their area. Customers can donate a sum which they make vouchers out of, and people visiting the Salvation Army can ask for a voucher if they’re in hardship to get food from it.
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    Lots of lovely food bought over two weeks from Foodprint, saving it from the bin. I was especially pleased to find the peanut butter. Where were you when I did my challenge in December, hmmm?

    I have started to keep a very detailed grocery log and depending in how it goes I can perhaps post it in a few month’s time to show how it’s going. Or not, depending.

  • I am thankful for my colleagues this month who have continued to be supportive and kind. One of my colleagues who works a different shift to me normally has been working with us at the weekend. It’s been so nice to catch up with her as we normally don’t get a chance to talk. Two Sundays in a row she has offered me a lift partway home which has saved me a lot of time on my commute on a Sunday night. Last Sunday her generous offer meant I had time to swing by two of the shops while walking home to get these lovely things:
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    Packs of ham, 25p each, wholewheat thins, 21p and some lettuce, 21p.

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    Lovely red peppers from Sainsbury’s, 14p each.
  • We had three full days of glorious, gorgeous, hot weather. It’s gone back to being normal spring weather now, so I have continued to peg the washing out. One night it was so cold, but we managed to resist turning the heating back on.

Things that could have been improved about April are:

  • We are still waiting for a court date for PIP. We are in May now and on the 21st of May it will have been precisely one year since we started the application process for Husband’s PIP claim. The gent who will be representing us has said it may be some time yet. Because of this, it’s holding everything up at the moment. I don’t want to book any flights home or travel until we know when our court date is. Goodness knows what people who don’t have anyone to support them do in the meantime.
  • The higher-ups at my weekday job is continuing to be vague with what will happen to one of the sites I work at on a Monday when we finish for the summer. People who work and teach there have been kind enough to tell us their departments are being moved out to other sites, and by our reasoning they will not need our services there if there isn’t anyone there. However we have about eight weeks to go until we break up for the summer and we have not yet been told officially if we are going to be there when we return in September or not.
  • Logging in to eBay after a long hiatus, I have discovered that all my listings (the unsold ones) have seemingly disappeared!

Plans for May include:

  • Having a local carpenter bespoke cupboards built into the alcoves of our bedroom, one on either side of our bed.
  • Celebrating Husband’s birthday. Still need to fully decide what to get him.
  • Reclaiming the garden.

I also want to let you know something wonderful and precious has happened.

Husband has been offered a job!

I helped him apply for a vacancy in January and spent a considerable amount of time doing it as the application form was quite complicated. At the end of it we got to the dreaded Equality and Diversity questionnaire. Now, every time we get to this, Husband and I have to discuss the nature of the job he is applying for and if it would benefit him or hinder him if we choose to disclose that he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

In our experience, even before he was formally diagnosed, declaring anything did not count in his favour for the great majority of vacancies he applied for and he wouldn’t hear anything back. Even from jobs where we have made it clear through the person spec that he has the right skillset.

But we nevertheless decided to declare it for this job.

January, February and almost all of March passed and we heard nothing. I was a bit upset by it, but mostly resigned, as it’s just something we have come to expect.

Then suddenly at the end of March, Husband had an email, inviting him to interview.

By this time Husband had been getting some good quality support from the Work Health Programme and so they spent an afternoon with him preparing him for the interview and working out good responses to give to questions they may ask. So Husband felt confident and well prepared.

So naturally he thought he’d bombed the interview.
Two people interviewed him and the person taking notes shook their head every time they put the pen to paper. Every time. For the whole duration of the interview. He then had a technical task to do which he did flawlessly and quickly. Nevertheless he left the interview feeling quite cross  and unnerved as he’d felt he had prepared well for it.

We had resigned ourselves to that Husband would get a rejection email but to our immense surprise and joy, he had an email a few days later offering him the position. It’s full time which he wants to try, but there is always the option to ask for a reduction in hours if Husband feels he cannot cope.

At this stage we are waiting for the background check and references to clear, then a contract will be offered. Once this is all done Husband will work his notice at his part-time job before starting.

Of course I, being paranoid and based on the $%^& we have had happen to us over the last year and a half, won’t lower my guard fully until Husband a. has signed a contract and b. passed his probation period.

All the same, I feel hopeful. For the first time, Husband has been offered a job despite (and I am truly sorry to say it like this, but it’s how it feels being rejected all the time) declaring that he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Husband is overjoyed and has made statements like ‘Now that I’ll be working more, maybe you don’t have to worry so much and I can look after you’ and ‘With me working more, maybe you can work less so we can spend more time together.’

Sure, money is nice, don’t get me wrong.

But what I want above all else is for Husband to have some confidence and faith in himself again, and to be happy.

Here’s to hoping this new start can provide those things.

 

 

A manageable March.

Goodness, where does the time go?

Good things about March were:

  • The snow/Beast from the East/Hysteria from Siberia. I had two days of enforced rest as the college was closed due to the adverse weather at the start of the month. This was sorely needed after my trip home in the previous week left me feeling really worn out and distressed.
  • We had brunch with our old neighbours one Sunday and got to meet their baby. It was so nice just to see them again and hear about how they were getting on with stuff.
  • Did some product testing for Sensory Dimensions, got £20 for doing this in Love2Shop vouchers.
  • Spring is coming! It’s getting lighter outside and I can start pegging the washing out.
  • Our neighbour who minds the Cat has been very supportive.
  • Husband has got a lot of support through the Work Health Programme. As he feels wary of travelling to unfamiliar places they have met him in town and then travelled to their office together so he feels more confident doing that on his own now. They help him fill in job applications. And they reimburse him for his travelling to and from the sessions which is a great boon to us. It has really helped my mood and how I am feeling as it means I have less to do and I know he is getting the support he needs with getting work.
  • Counselling has continued for us both, I have found my sessions helpful as I have identified some things I need to work on.

Things that could have been improved about March were:

  • Still no court date for our PIP tribunal. We are still waiting.
  • Work situation at one of my jobs is very unsettled as there’s been a change of management there and we are worried they will come for our department next, in terms of looking at where they can make savings.

Thank goodness for Easter.

Well thank goodness for Easter – have had two whole weeks off work. Heavenly and weird in equal measure as it was lovely yet strange to not be at work.

This Easter I have:

  • Read a lot. I have read Penny Dreadfuls (gothic horror stories), Everything, Everything, and Pandemic 1918. I keep finding books while shelving in the libraries I work at, and now have three books on the go, plus one our neighbour lent me.
  • Supported Husband with TWO job interviews. Will wonders never cease?
  • Used vouchers gained from surveys to do two badly needed replacements, so got a new vacuum cleaner and toastie maker and only had to pay the £10 the vouchers didn’t cover.
  • Spent quality time with family and friends and neighbours.
  • Attended Sharing Sherwood for the first time in months and really enjoyed it. Got some nice food from it as well.
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    The menu from Sharing Sherwood; the fritatta was delicious!

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    Saving food from the bin, one dinner at a time.
  • Had lovely and relaxing romantic candlelit dinner at home with Husband.
  • Found coat hangers and a cake tin for cheaps in the charity shop, and a cardigan for myself. Also found reduced deodorants in Boots so added it to our stash. Some of them will go to the foodbank.

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    A lovely 11 inch tin I got for 50p, and some more coat hangers for the laundry routine, 30p per bunch. And all the deodorants!
  • Been to Norway and seen my family. Going there the flight was so empty I had a whole row to myself. Score!
  • My sister and her family gave me two nice skirts and a dress, and sent me home with a load of food for Husband and myself. I came home with two packs of lamb mince, two huge packs of bratwursts, two lamb steaks, a pack of pork, four packs of reindeer dogs and a pack of nice steak. It will really help on the old grocery budget.
  • Pegged washing out!
  • Got some nice bargains at Tesco after work on Sunday (Got time and a half for it as out of term as well).

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    My lovely bargains from Tesco. I do like going by, you never know what you might find! Husband was delighted with the 45p pie and 32p coleslaws. This cost me £3.87.

I wonder what this spring term will bring?

 

 

 

Feeling serene. For now.

The last two weeks have been strangely serene.

As in, things have gone well at home.

I feel calmer than I have done for a long time.

I have been keeping myself frugal and have been using up my toiletries.

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All used up and ready to be recycled! I find that using a pair of nail scissors is the best way to get into the packaging to get the last few bits of product out.

Spring is coming. It’s getting lighter and warmer every day, which is really impacting my mood in a positive way. I have been able to hang the washing out which is heavenly. Husband thinks I am odd in that I am so enthusiastic about this but it a. smells nice b. doesn’t make the house damp and c. it saves us money and saves the environment as I don’t have to run the dehumidifier all the time while it’s drying.

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Got the washing on the line before work on Sunday and it was dry when I got back ❤

I have managed to get some nice food bargains and managed to get to Foodprint as well.

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I go by the Tesco Express every Sunday after work to see what bargains they have. Managed to get these last night so Husband is very pleased; mushrooms is one of his favourite foods.
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Some lovely food bargains from Foodprint – £2.95 for this, and it saved it from going in the bin.
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Got some more lovely bargains yesterday at Foodprint, 30p a bag. This will become a lot of lovely lunches for me, and it has saved it from going in the bin.

It is however with Husband and supporting him that things have been the best.

After a shaky start with the Work Health Programme, it has gone really well.

There is someone there who can help Husband apply for jobs and sit with him and help him fill in application forms. As Husband’s isn’t sure of the way there yet, a worker has been meeting him in town and travelling with him there, also reimbursing his travel costs which is a great boon to us.

His first session went very well – in that he has been invited to an interview for one of the jobs he applied for.

We have also heard back from another place where he applied in January, where they want him to come for an interview.

What is special about that place however is that they have invited him for interview, even though Husband declared he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

This might not sound like a big deal as you would expect society to have come further than that, but it is to us.

Every time Husband applies for something, we eventually get to the dreaded Equality and Diversity section. And every time, we have to sit and genuinely discuss if we should declare if he has Asperger’s Syndrome or not.

In our experience, the great majority of the time we have declared it on a job application, even though he qualifies for the job, Husband has not heard anything back.  We have also had the same experience with regards to declaring epilepsy or not.

So I am positively delighted that Husband got an invitation to interview, even though we chose to declare his disability.

The only thing we are wondering about is the interview itself – it says in the invitation that Husband has to do a dexterity test for it. I wonder what this means? Some say it’s to test if he can handle equipment without dropping it, and some say it’s about taking things apart and assembling it.

No matter. The point is that they’ve invited him.

Earlier in the year I came to the realisation that if I didn’t have hopes or expectations for something, then I would then not be disappointed if things didn’t work out. Sounds pessimistic perhaps. Therapist called it a self-preservation strategy and I do think there is some truth to that.

But I do have some hope now.

EDIT: Holy hell on a stick, just realized this is my 100th post!

 

 

Silver Squirrels Away: OnePoll.

What is it and why did you join it?

OnePoll is one of the survey sites I have been a part of the longest. I decided to join after it was one of the survey sites recommended on MoneySavingExpert in 2013 when I started on my quest to up my income.

It’s been years since I registered with them now but to my recollecting registering with them was quick and relatively easy to do.

How do I register/login?

OnePoll is currently open for new panelists and you don’t need an invitation to register with them. You can register with them at http://www.onepoll.com.

You login with your email address and password on the same site as well to access surveys.

What kind of surveys does OnePoll offer? What’s the survey experience like?

The amount of and kinds of surveys seems to change almost on a daily basis on OnePoll. Therefore I make a point of logging in and checking every day (if I remember to), Monday to Friday (there doesn’t seem to be any new content added at the weekend).

They don’t email surveys to you like some sites do, you do have to login to the OnePoll website to check for content.

I have had emails from OnePoll in the past letting me know that there are surveys to fill in if I haven’t accessed the site for a few days – though as they fill up quick, the surveys often aren’t available by the time you login.

OnePoll has surveys about all kinds of topics. If the survey you are taking contains sensitive topics and ideas (like questions about using protection/mental health/sexual health/feminine hygiene products) it most often says at the beginning of the survey, and it gives you the option to exit the survey if you don’t feel comfortable answering questions about the topic.

On the other hand I have done surveys that ask what five celebrities you would like to invite to dinner, what you bring from home with you when you go on vacation, and what kind of things annoy you about your commute. To name three survey topics I can think of that I’ve done with OnePoll.

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An example of a survey topic I encountered recently on OnePoll.

Depending on the length of the survey and the complexity of it you get paid between 5p and 30p a survey. In my experience these surveys are very quick and can be done on 5 minutes or less. I also find with OnePoll that I don’t screen out after almost completing the survey, which I have experienced with other survey sites (who shall remain nameless until I get the time and will to live to write more reviews 😡 ). They ask the qualifying questions at the start of the surveys and if you aren’t part of the target group they want you get told so immediately, so it doesn’t waste your time.

You can also get extra earnings for referring someone but I have not done this so can’t comment on what this process is like.

What’s the incentive to do the surveys? How are you rewarded? What is the payout process like?

Ah, the most important question, of course: Payout.

The payout threshold changed recently. Previously you could cash out once you hit £40 – this took me 3/4 of a year to hit the first time! However in 2017 I had an email to say that the threshold would be lowered. Once you hit £40 and cashed out the threshold would then be lowered to £25 for the next time. A much more attainable target in my view, though it still seems light years away. Personally it taunts me when you feel very close and you are so near the payout threshold you can practically touch it.

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So close! Come on, it’s so close I can practically sniff it!

You can ask for payout either as a PayPal payment or get it into your bank account via BACS. I don’t think you are able to accrue anything beyond the £40 (so it won’t let you save two lots of £40 for example) so you’ll have to cash out once you meet the threshold.

In my experience it takes four weeks from when you request it to when it comes through.

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YAS! The glorious, sweet green bar of delight which means I can cash out! ❤ Chose Paypal this time. It all goes to the Japan/Nice-to-have Fund.

To sum up:

It is a legit site that pays for your time and one that has been around for a while.
OnePoll is a site I am going to stick with and one I would recommend.

The pros are:

  • The survey topics on OnePoll are varied and interesting.
  • New survey content is added often.
  • The surveys are quick to do.
  • It’s a legitimate site that do pay out for your time.

The cons are:

  • Payout can take a long time to hit.
  • It takes four weeks give or take for payment to be processed once you have asked for your incentive.
  • Certain topics in the surveys you are offered can be sensitive, or just seem plain absurd, which can put people off filling the surveys in. One survey which springs to mind asked you if you felt you had married below you in terms of appearance, or if you felt your current partner could have found someone better than you, in terms of looks and attractiveness…