Saturday, 27 April 2019

New flat!!

This is where we're going (unsure how long the link will be 'live'). Pending references, etc., we're moving in June. :D


Saturday, 20 April 2019

April mid-month update!


It's been a busy two weeks around here, mostly revolving around the issue of moving house. I had made it quite clear that I wanted to move alone this time because it was time, and I wanted to be walking distance from work.

That lasted a week when I saw my very first (and only) studio flat. It wasn't awful but it was, um, compact (compared to what we have; to be fair, I would adapt), although had a decent bathroom and separate, if very tiny, kitchen. It was clean, tidy and had double glazed windows and a new, updated electric heater in the living space. It was, in a word, fine. EXCEPT (!!!) it didn't come with a washing machine or fridge freezer. Quoi? I would have to supply my own (this is apparently how it's done when renting, but every place I've looked at since has both, so not convinced). So, on top of my deposit of £780 (expected) and the letting agency fees (£418!!!), I'd have to fork out for appliances. Even second hand, I'd have to arrange delivery so would be looking at around £150 for both (at the high end). Which makes £1,348 before I've even moved in...

I had £1255 total. I was angry and frustrated by this, so thought perhaps renting a room might be the way to go, with all bills included. I also mentioned to Roomie E that I wasn't able to go on my own which apparently threw off plans being made with others, which have since settled. I spent a few days feeling frustrated and annoyed and really off until I finally realised what the problem was - I don't want to live with ANYONE, but I can't afford not to at this point. Moving into a room in someone's house would simply mean learning new routines, new characters, new habits, etc. If I have to continue living with someone, it might as well be someone I like and whose routines I already know. Our schedules conflict somewhat, but that's just the way it is.

We are, however, trying to find somewhere in the same area and have already seen one flat in the next village over (right opposite the beach!). I don't love it, but I wouldn't be unhappy with it either if it turned out to be the best option. We have two others lined up today, though, slightly cheaper, both with garages (!) and would mean I don't have to adjust my commute to any great extent. I like one better than the other, although I can't quite explain why without having seen either...hmm!

Adding to the stress was the receipt of our latest electricity bill...£840!!! (Estimated) It's a good thing I was sitting down when Roomie E told me. I was, as the English say, gobsmacked. We managed to get a meter reading, however, and the bill fell by over £130, but that was still another £700 we had to fork out! My share took almost a quarter of the money I've managed to save for deposits, etc., leaving me quite depressed.

So it's been a bit of a rollercoaster this month in respect of finances. I've not been eating well either, which doesn't help, but I'm stuck in that cycle of not eating/exercising well so feeling tired & down, and then just feeling like toast for dinner, you know? Ugh. Unsettling. Upsets to my routine play utter havoc with my eating habits.

The same day I had seen the studio flat and realised my hopes of 'single living' had been dashed, my sister asked for a £575 loan. She was waiting for a payment from the council that hadn't come through as she'd hoped. So this added to my anger, but I couldn't NOT give her the money, but it is definitely the last time, particularly as she already still owes me money. I got just over half of it back the following week, but still...

I've been feeling a bit better the past week, but won't feel entirely back to normal until we've found a place and have moved in if I'm honest. I packed three boxes yesterday of bits and pieces in my room, and have a box of things ready to go to the charity shop (more to come, I hope), so it's a start. Packing up the 'things' that aren't necessary to living at this point will help and if we find a place close enough, making multiple trips in the car won't be too much of a trial, which will hopefully save a bit of cash on movers.

I'm cleaning for my friend three times this week, so that will go towards petrol (which has jumped almost 10p per litre in two weeks - agh!) and some groceries until payday. But the weather this weekend is glorious - up to 23C today, so that will help a little bit. We've got the flat viewings starting at 11:00 and then I have an appointment with a psychic this afternoon. I've been on the waitlist since December for this, so am really looking forward to it.

I also asked about staff reviews at work as we've been waiting since January for them. They are going ahead, the MDs were just waiting for Brexit results, but as that's now delayed - again - until end of October, they're going to arrange to get them done. Finally!

On Tuesday I had a telephone appointment with an adviser from the National Career Services (job centre). I wanted a bit of a review of my CV and she gave me some really good advice, also saying it's more or less already how it should look but can always use some tweaks. She sent me some links to job sites, so I'm going to spend some time over the next several months tweaking the CV and looking out for other job opportunities. I'm not yet ready to move on, but this feels like the best first step to shake off the apathy that can set in.

I've only read one full book in the past couple of weeks! I read and read and read for NetGalley and - I can't believe I'm saying this - I think I burned myself out! I'm struggling to find the enthusiasm to read for fun now, and still have a few to read for review. However, I know it's only a glitch and I'll soon be back at it. The last one I read was 'Murder at the Grand Raj Palace' by Vaseem Khan. This is one of my absolute favourite series, set in Mumbai and with an elephant sidekick. If you like No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, you'll love this. There's some definite character development so I suggest you start at the beginning with 'The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra'.

April rolls on - I've only JUST written up (part of) my journal for the month. May is going to be really busy. I've got a long weekend of house sitting; a visit to Wales; moving; Dogstival...phew! Plus packing and sorting in my evenings. But I'm looking forward to it.

Have a lovely long weekend!

Sunday, 31 March 2019

April just around the corner - changes abound!

Word of the Month: Finance(s)! £$

And here we are - more or less - in a new month. Again! Is it just because we're getting older that time seems to whiz by faster than it did when we were younger? I don't know. But another month has sped by regardless.

Brexit was a crash and burn on Friday. A German friend of mine described it perfectly: Clusterf**k. Leave, stay, deal, no-deal - we've paid an exorbitant price for it over the past 2.5 years AND a 'healthy' raise for the Parlimentarians just a few months ago. Poor loves. All that 'hard' work and nothing to show for it. If I worked that 'hard' for a result like that, I'd be fired. Perhaps that's at the back of their minds?? This whole fiasco has taken over entirely, leaving hundreds of other issues forgotten, languishing, overlooked, underfunded, etc. to the detriment of every single one of us. Anyhoo, we now have until April 12 to come up with a new scheme/plot/desperate attempt (or not). Any further time requested after that threatens the current 'plan' as EU elections are imminent (potential changes to the current committee/task force).


Anyway, in better news, it's SPRING! My birthday is on Tuesday and the weather bodes quite well - warm-ish but showery. Typical, but nonetheless, I'm quite looking forward to it. 

I have absolutely no plans, but I might pop into a shop at lunchtime and treat myself to something new. My wardrobe is feeling dull, old, flat, etc. Some really pretty things around at the moment and I'm torn between handing over my CC and hauling some new duds home (that I honestly do need) and being overly cautious because I do have other things to attend to.

The biggest reason for this is that as well as the non-event of Brexit happening on Friday, we also got our notice on the flat. Our move date is (before) 31 May. It wasn't entirely unexpected, what with a one-year contract. The landlord has decided to sell. Prior to that, however, the damp proofing works need to be done to take care of the damp/mould issue we've been experiencing. Our landlady wants to do it once we've left, which is really the most sensible solution for all involved as the works are apparently quite disruptive for about 14 days. Roomie E and I will be going our separate ways, as this is my opportunity to move closer to work, and her staying in the current area makes more sense for her job. 

This means I need to register with a new estate agency which also means additional fees. I don't believe our current agency lets properties in Ringwood, at least I've never seen anything advertised by them. I'll be missing the new legislation banning letting fees, however, as that comes into effect 1 June and I'll have arranged everything and moved prior to that. The only thing I can do to mitigate that cost somewhat is to find an agency with 'more reasonable' fees. I can't avoid it, but I will have my deposit coming back to me and that will offset the costs (movers, cleaners, fees, etc. Geez...) that I will likely have to put on my CC. 

I'm looking at a studio flat, nothing glamourous, but all I'm able to afford. I'm hoping costs will even out a little bit, as the idea is to not drive as often and save money on petrol in that respect (currently about £60 for almost a month). Plus, walking to work - about 20 mins from town centre - every day is bound to be better for the waistline, too! There's a big Lidl five minutes walk from the estate, too, so I'll be able to budget my food a bit more tightly as well. These flats come up semi-regularly - there was a bit of a flurry in the last two weeks - so I'm not worried, although I am kind of hoping a little one-bed I saw on the High Street last year comes up again. Who knows? I'm going to start looking and that's all I can do.

I'm going to start collecting boxes for my tchotkes and bits and stuff and have asked if I'm able to start storing some things at the office (yes). I'm going to declutter, as usual, and a move is a perfect opportunity. I already have a box designated for donations, it's just a matter of dropping the items off at a charity shop (repeatedly!).

My mobile phone died, as I mentioned in my last post, so I tried again to get a PAC number from my provider. Of course, they'll try anything to keep you, so I was quite proud of myself for making them work a little bit for that privilege. I kept firm to my budget (less than £20 a month), and initially got my same data package - 4GB, unlimited texts/minutes - for £9 a month instead of my current £16, but worthless if the phone doesn't work. So I got a new phone & current data package for a fixed monthly price of £19 (24-month contract). Ideally, I'd get SIM-only, but I can't even do that if my phone doesn't work, so I'm keeping that in mind for the end of the current contract. I've actually not had any issues with my provider, so am happy enough to stay with them, and am pleased they spent so much time trying to keep my business.

While it seems I'm spending more on my monthly package, I'm actually not. I consistently went over my £16 monthly 'limit', at least doubling it most months, so I've capped the overage on the new phone at £0 for that. It should keep things consistent. The phone is last year's model (who cares) and is massive compared to the old one. I've finally got it set up and am getting the hang of it. I'm not tethered to my phone and almost literally use it only for texting or WhatsApp'ing. My data package is massive for that, but that's what I was offered, so whatever. I had 17 voice mails waiting for me - ha ha! It means that I need to collect phone numbers and stuff again, but that won't be too difficult.

April's word, as you'll see, is 'finances'. I need to focus on these this month, whether it's redirecting some funds elsewhere, combining accounts, looking to cash out my veryveryvery tiny investment to put towards debt (literally £100), where I can make more, moving costs. All that good/bad/ugly stuff. My sister owes me about £200 but I can't expect that anytime soon so while that's going on my list, I'm not officially 'counting' it at the moment.

I made my first payment on my 0% CC yesterday too. I'm so used to thinking 'but interest still needs to be added', I almost didn't. Then I was like 'BUT THERE ISN'T ANY!! YAHOO!!' so one month down (a portion of my deposit refund WILL be going towards paying down CCs).

I had a dentist appointment yesterday and my teeth are all clean and shiny now. I can see why the hygienists prefer the ultrasonic picks - they're fast! I'm not overly keen on them, but my first experience with one wasn't great as it seemed to hurt my teeth, but dental technology has advanced greatly since then, so there were no issues at all except for a very sensitive wisdom tooth, which she had to do by hand. So, all good, with a reminder to 'floss every day'. I paid cash and because they had no change - usually take cards - I have a £2 credit for my next appointment in October. Ha ha!

While I was in my appointment, I had my car washed by the crew in the parking lot. The fellow did a fab job (£5) and Pascale looks loooooovely. She was looking very grimy.

My book still has legs but the forward momentum has stalled at Chapter 7. I'm feeling a bit stuck now. I've resorted to vignettes of different scenarios with different characters interacting to see if I can get more of a feel of motivation/character/personality, etc. Some surprises, but it's also fun. I think I need to figure out the murderer, motive, some clues to add, red herrings, etc. because it's a bit flat at the moment. Anyhow, it's early days yet, so having something is better than absolutely nothing!

Happy spring, everyone!

Sunday, 24 March 2019

March rolls to an end!

It's happened awfully quickly, as it does every year. Already we're a quarter of the way through the new year. The Government is in shambles while we hurtle towards Brexit  (which has now been granted an extension from 29 March to 12 April) and the Conservative Party eats itself. They're howling for Mrs May's resignation and plotting a coup now because of the "wretched" job she's done to this point, conveniently forgetting that they're also the ones who put us here in the first place and that literally, no one has come up with anything better.


It's a glorious spring day today and the weather bodes well for the next few days, so I'll be out for my lunchtime walks again starting tomorrow. The temperatures are supposed to be in the low teens with lots of sunshine. Fab! I take myself out for a 40-min walk which seems to be the perfect mid-day break. Today, the windows in the flat are wide open and the heat has finally gone off. No way do we want another bill like the last one!

Our fridge/freezer hasn't been working properly for a couple of weeks and we had the tech in last Wednesday. Apparently, some ice or something got inside the freezer portion and has messed up the inner workings (or something). So today we're going to be cooking up what's left in the fridge because we have to shut the whole thing off for two days and leave it standing open. The tech will be returning at some point with the replacement part but in the meantime, we're going to be without a fridge. I can take some items to work and keep them in the fridge there, but not everything, so there's going to be a significant amount of eating today, I think. We've had to dispose of a lot of stuff from the freezer as well, unfortunately, as it wasn't salvageable.

My new CC balance transfer happened last week - hooray! There was a £25 service fee, and my first statement will be with me on 17 April so I'll know then what my minimum payments are. Knowing the balance has 0% interest is amazingly calming, as the MC was the one card I wanted to tackle this year, so I consider that a semi-win for the time being.

Have been pecking away at my book too and have reached Page 39. It's neither particularly murderous nor mysterious (although the murder has happened), and I don't have an idea where it's going. It seems to take me all over the place, but I'm mostly glad it's still got legs and forward momentum. I'm considering that as a 'win'. To help me with my characters a bit, I've been writing little vignettes with them interacting with other characters so I can figure out how they'd re/act to different situations. It seems to help solidify their motivations and personalities a bit, which will help the overall feel of the whole book.

I've slowed down in my reading, I seem to have lost momentum with it. I'm reading a couple of non-fiction books at the moment and haven't managed to engage fully with either of them, although they're quite good. I think I'm concentrating on my own book and my own process that I'm just not really focussing on the others. I still have almost 20 to read and review, however, so I'll need to get back to that sooner rather than later, as I have so many books I want to read this year.

Our council tax is going down as of 1 April (!!) by £40. I am NOT complaining. It puts £18 a month back in my pocket every month and I'm perfectly fine with that.

My mobile phone seems to be finished. I have no network connection and haven't been able to text or phone since the beginning of the month (obviously it's not a concern as I've only been fussing about this since last Thursday). I took the SIM card out and did a factory reset, losing all my data, but that didn't help, so am taking the phone with me on Monday and will take it to a phone shop in Ringwood to see if they can help. I called my carrier to ask for the PAC number but it was entirely unhelpful because I'm apparently still in-contract and need to give them 30-days notice that I want to leave. I try not to get frustrated with the call centre people, but India's a very long way away and it would be nice to have someone a bit closer to discuss this stuff with. So, for the moment, I have a phone (5+ yrs old) that I can't use and am paying for a service I can't access. It's 'only' £16 a month, but I'm exceptionally frustrated. My colleague is going to bring me her old phone on Monday to see if that works. 

Next Saturday I've got my teeth cleaning, and am also going to have the car washed while I'm the dentist. There's a mobile car park car wash crew and it's the perfect opportunity to have her spruced up for spring.

I've got April's word all ready to go and will be doing my card reading next Sunday, so I'm interested to see what pops up.

Happy spring everyone!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Sometimes it's about shifting perspective a little bit...

I was online at my bank the other week and noticed that there was a little note beside my account information to let me know that I had been 'pre-approved' for a CC. I was sceptical, but clicked the link and was brought to a page that offered two options: both had 0% balance transfer options and both had reasonable interest rates (comparatively). It was the 0% balance transfer option that piqued my interest really.

Now, initially, I backed out of the page because it felt a bit dangerous. I don't need another credit card, and there was no guarantee that I'd be approved anyway (despite their 'pre-approved' claim), a refusal could damage my credit rating, etc.

This particular offer came alongside another offer of a 'pre-approved' CC via a bank I used to bank at in Canada. That had a huge ($10,000) limit. But I can't apply for a Canadian credit card without any affiliation to Canada anymore, so that didn't fly and I got rid of that offer (but thank you very much anyway!). There was something else, too, but that wouldn't have worked out either.

I've been with my current UK bank since I arrived over 5 years ago and have wanted to 'buy' more products with them for a couple of years. Perhaps I'm naive in thinking that loyalty does pay off in some respects, but I have no reason to change for the time being and the offer of a 'pre-approved' CC was tempting.

As I said, the first time I saw it, I backed away from it. Today, though, I was online for another reason and noticed that the notification had disappeared, so I followed the main link. The same two CCs were on offer, so I went ahead and applied (holding my breath a little...).

I am REALLY glad that I did - I was approved and I've transferred the balance of my 35.9% interest MC to my new CC where I have 29 months at 0% to pay it off!! The amount due each month doesn't change much, so in that respect, I'm not saving but it means I won't be incurring the interest so the balance WILL ACTUALLY GO DOWN. Noticeably. Phew. I can't tell you how relieved I am about this.

I feel like a very little weight has lifted! I already have April's word, and this ties in perfectly. It also ties in a little bit with my word for March - focus.