Saturday, 31 December 2016

I also would like to save £xx in January.

So here we are, the last day of 2016 and unsurprisingly all the saving money posts are rearing their ugly heads.

I've blogged before about the 'saving £1000 in a day' type newspaper articles, if you can save that much so quickly just by checking insurance policy renewals, energy contracts, direct debits etc, then you clearly do not have a handle on your spending.  

Piggy Bank, Coin, Pink, Piggy, Bank, Finance, Money

Another favourite tip to save money is to eat out less.  I eat out four times a year - my birthday, Mum's birthday, Dad's birthday and a family Christmas meal - which I do not think is excessive and does not need to be cut down.

Similarly, we are encouraged to cut down on takeaways.  I can't actually remember the last time I had a takeaway.  If I fancy a Chinese or a pizza I nip into Tesco or Morrison's and spend £2 or £3 instead of £10 or £15.

How many takeaways and meals out do people have that they can save £100s every month by cutting them out?

I am going to try and take lunch to work more instead of spending £3 per day on meal deals, £1 on Mondays with O2 Priorities, which should save me a little after taking into consideration the extra grocery spend on my big shop to cover the lunches.

Do you have any other tips on how to save?

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Well I won't be buying Walkers anymore.

Like thousands of others, I was drawn in by the Walkers Crisps Spell & Go promotion in which 20,000 4* holidays were up for grabs.

Letters were obtained by entering the code from the specially bannered packs into the Spell & Go website, these letters were used to spell out various holiday destinations across the world, like an online game of scrabble.  Every destination contained at least one C, D or K.

And therein lies the problem.  

Like the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka's chocolate bars, these letters were extremely sort after.  These three letters were classed as 'type one' and apparently there were enough codes printed to generate these letters to allow all of the holidays to be won, even though less than 800 of the 20,000 holidays were actually won.

There was an option to swap up to five of your letters with others from a central pot, these letters were, again, allegedly randomly selected.  However, the only letters available in the swap pot were 'type two' letters, ie, none of the letters people actually needed to win.

And like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket hunt I bought multipack after multipack, entering the maximum five codes per day.  I had people from the office where I work giving me codes off their packets.

And I still didn't win.

Now, I will be honest, I didn't expect to win, I've blogged before about not being able to get on that list of approved winners, but I didn't mind, I bought the crisps, I shared the crisps with others, I played the game, I didn't win, end of story.

But then I caught this story on the BBC highlighting just how difficult, nigh impossible, it was to win.  This is what has turned me against Walkers.

The whole thing just smacks even more of a marketing ploy now, or maybe I am just being cynical.

Anyway, I will no longer be buying Walkers.  

If I ever get through the mountain of crisps I now have. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Brexit, who will do your job now?

Well let's see, anyone within a 90 minute public transport radius, who is able bodied enough to do the job and is on benefits.

There has been much on the television and in the papers that we are going to lose our labour force now that we have voted to leave the EU (not that much appears to have been done yet to facilitate our exit), and employers who offer seasonal or living wage jobs will struggle to fill their vacancies.  The doom-mongers are wringing their hands and predicting wage rises which will be passed on to the consumer in the form of price rises.


We have a ready made labour force currently reporting to every job centre once a fortnight.  But why should they work for £7.20 per hour (£288 per week before tax and NI, £257 after tax & NI), when you can get as much, if not more, just for sitting on your backside all day?

We need to get the benefits system back to what it was originally designed for - temporary help for the recently unemployed or redundant.  It should be seen as a last resort and not a life style choice.

Years ago, going on benefits was seen as a disgrace and people would do anything to avoid it.

We need to get back to that.

Friday, 24 June 2016

#Brexit, I wasn't going to comment but I am pissed and annoyed.

Yes I voted to leave.  As did my parents and in all my years (45) we have never discussed politics until now, it has been seen as a very private thing.  It is a sign of how strong feelings about this issue are that I know how they voted.  I still have no idea how they would vote in a General Election, nor them me.

I am an accountant.  I am well educated.  Apart from time immediately after redundancy I have always worked.  I am a big fan of Europe, I have plans in place to move to Spain when I retire and they have not changed, this is where I disagree with my parents, they want to move to Germany.

None of us have a problem with any of the member countries, nor the EU as it was originally touted, when the UK opted to join in in 1969, with membership from 1st January 1970, the idea was to allow free trade within member states.  We willingly started paying VAT as it was an EU edict.

But since then, more and more rules have been added which only the UK seem to follow - 

Human Rights? Don't exist if you have been murdered, but if your murderer has a cat, then they can't be deported.  EU rules.  I blame Tony & Cherie Blair.

Australian and Canadian couples who have moved here, started businesses and  contributed to the local economy employed 1 less person than they said they would - deportation immediately.  EU Rules.

Illegally arrived here in the back of a lorry, had an arranged marriage which produced an heir? Welcome to the UK and all our benefits.  

I want to get back to the original edict of the EU and if that involves alienating people and starting from scratch, then so be it.  I have nothing to hide and probably nothing to lose..

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The cost of being single.

When I have had a few drinks I sometimes generally bemoan the fact that I am single and fool myself that I can't understand why.  When I am sober, I know why I am single.

I have no problem being single, after all I have had enough time to get used to it, but I do hate the fact that I have to pay more for things.

For living alone I receive a 25% discount on my Council Tax meaning that I pay 75%, compare this to the house opposite with 5 adults in it.  They use the same services yet would pay only 20% of the cost each. (Bring back the Poll Tax!).

The cost of the TV licence would be the same regardless of the number of occupants as would the broadband and cable subscriptions.  The electricity bill and water rates I am guessing would not change much either.

Aside from household expenses, I am unable to book holidays through travel agents as most are based on at least two sharing, single supplements can sometimes double the basic cost.  Some well known caravan sites will not take single person bookings, I am 45 years old, I am not going to wreak havoc!

Special offers on meals out, both in this country and abroad, are usually 2 for 1.  I have in the past hung around on the off chance that there will be another person looking to save a few bob.

At the work's Christmas party last year, whilst the tickets were per person, the rooms cost £100 including breakfast, this meant that I paid the same for my single occupancy and breakfast as the couple in the next room who would have had 2 breakfasts.

There are more examples, but I think you get the drift.  Every other demographic of the population seems to demand equality.  Where is the equality for Singletons?

Sunday, 15 May 2016

A trip to the opticians, and how I see the world without my glasses.

Yesterday I had an appointment with the optician, I go every two years (give or take a few months).

We use Tesco Opticians because they are local, you get ClubCard points and the staff have always been great.  I take Mum with me, yes I know I am 45 years old, but my eyesight is so bad, I will show you how bad later in this post, that I cannot see what I look like in new frames so need an honest adviser.

In the end, because my appointment was early in the day, I had Mum and both dispensers giving their opinions.

Just before my appointment time, one of the dispensers took me to a side room to carry out some tests, the autorefractor test (the one with the hot air balloon at the end of the road) and the non- contact tonometer (the puff of air test that always makes you jump) which tests the pressure in the eye.

I then went through for my eye test.  Even though my eyesight is very poor, my eyes are apparently very healthy, it is the shape of my eyeballs that cause my vision problems.  I do have some muscle weakness in my left eye which is making my eye slower to move than the right eye, cue me spending the next hour looking in to the mirror trying to see the delay.

Before I went in for my test I had finally settled on the new frames that I liked, I think I tried pretty much every pair in the shop on,  I had chosen 2 different frames as Tesco had an offer on, Buy One Get One Free on frames over £65, this price includes standard single vision frames.

My lenses are not standard, I have to pay for ultra thin ones otherwise my glasses would never stay on my face, the ultra thin lenses cost an extra £90 per pair.

When I arrived back home I googled to find an optic simulator, I had used one previously that showed how bad my eyesight was after I had plugged in my prescription. I couldn't find the one I was looking for but came across Eye Sim.  After entering my prescription these are the images it supplied.

This is how I see the world without my glasses.  I could save myself a fortune in alcohol just by leaving my glasses off, it would be the same effect!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The best way to treat a cold sore? Leave it alone!

Like many I have been plagued by coldsores for as long as I can remember.  I was extremely self-conscious about them when I was at school and first setting out into the working world, now it's more a case of, m'eh, another one.

Over the years I have spent a fortune on Blisteze, or Blistex as it became, Zovirax cream and those little clear plasters that were supposed to hide coldsores but just highlighted them to the world.  When they would stay in place anyway.

The last few flare ups have caught me unprepared and so I have left them au naturel and I was sure that they were clearing up more quickly.  I wasn't sure if this was the case or whether I was just not paying so much attention now that I was less self-conscious of them.

On Friday afternoon after a particularly stressful day at work (shouting, threatening to walk out - me,  tears - not me) I felt the ominous tingle and I decided to take note of how long the sore lasted.

According to various websites, the cycle of a coldsore is as follows
  • Day 1 - 2 ; The first tingle
  • Day 2 - 4 : Blisters appear and fill with fluid
  • Day 4      ; Blisters burst, the area around the sores can become red
  • Day 5 - 8 : Scabbing starts, the area may become itchy or there may be a burning feeling
  • Day 8 - 10: Scab starts to fall off leaving the skin new and pink.
After the first tingle Friday afternoon, I woke up Saturday morning with a massive cluster of blisters covering almost half of my upper lip, however by mid morning, the blister had burst.  By the evening the scab had formed and as I write this Sunday afternoon, the scab is breaking up so I am well ahead of the accepted timescale.

I will definitely be leaving any further coldsores to their own devices.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Paranormal Shows

I do like a good ghost hunting show, even if it is just to take the mickey out of.  I have posted before about my love of ghost hunts,

Most Haunted Live was the best.  How long before Stuart falls down the stairs?   Will there be a horse on the stairs?*  Will we see George and his tree?**  When will Cath's hair be touched?  (We all loved Cath in our little group and were disappointed when she didn't return in the revamp).  Although our little online group took the mickey, it was all light-hearted and we looked forward to each episode.  Even when MHL disappeared for several years, we were all there for its return.  We certainly did not and would not condone bullying people just because a relative appeared on Most Haunted.

In recent years there has been an influx of American paranormal shows which, for me, are ruining the genre.  They all take themselves too seriously.

One particular 45 minutes show spends about 25 minutes speaking to people about what they can expect to find, 5 minutes telling us where they will be setting up cameras and the remaining 15 minutes running away from or ignoring any activity.

Another, newer show, deals with paranormal artifacts.  Now this could be a really good show, but it is presented in such a theatrical and over-blown way it makes everything seem fake, whether there is a story or not.

I would love to see these artifacts in a more sterile setting,  but I am guessing that that would not bring in the viewers.

*There was an episode with a guest psychic, he was American I think, who saw a horse on the stairs.  Even the team at the time didn't sound like they believed him.
**George was a regular soundman who could be seen with his 'tree' of microphones.

The one where I worked at BHS.

Several years ago I joined the Trainee Management scheme at BHS, we were known as 'Wannabes' which should have warned me off.

I was expecting to spend several months with the Regional Training Admin Manager, learning all the tasks and completing my log book.

My training lasted roughly 6 weeks and then I was back at my 'home store' to continue my training under the Admin Manager currently in post.

After a few weeks she left so it was all down to me.

I continue to self-teach, it was a case of hit the ground running, with wages to process, new starters to interview, deliveries to process and the cash office to run, along with the Customer Service desk.

I  worked a minimum of 40 hours a week, generally more, and was paid the princely sum of £12,500 before tax, just £6 per hour.

I became good at my job, even to the point that Store Managers and Admin Managers from around the Region were contacting me for advice, telling me that I had been recommended to them as a point of contact.

At the same time, everything became the responsibility of the Admin Manager trainee - restaurant needs a deep clean?  The Admin Manager needs to stay until it is complete.

New tills are being installed?  The Admin Manager needs to over see that.

Stock take?  Then the Admin Manager needs to be on site from 7am to 3am, then back at 8am to meet the auditor.

Overnight Christmas Shop installation?  Oh, every manager needs to stay for that as it attracts an additional payment.

For the first 4 years I was employed my wages did not increase, as I was still considered to be training.

Eventually my salary went up to a heady £14,000.

For most of the time I worked at BHS, we knew that Philip Green was trying, unsuccessfully, to sell it, the poor relative of the family.  We also knew that Tina, his wife, was named as the majority shareholder/owner of all the businesses as she was a resident of Monaco.

Failing to secure a buyer, the business was taken over by the Arcadia Group (owner - Tina Green) so that the losses could be shared.

Around this time, my part time assistant was off on long term sick.  As I was only allowed help when absolutely necessary, such as when counting cash, I had to do everything myself, as it was the run up to Christmas I was working no less than 60 hours per week, still only being paid for 40.

After Christmas it was announced that following the Arcadia take over, the stores would be restructured in line with the rest of the group and there would be redundancies

The few of us that received Redundancy Notices were, coincidentally, the ones that did not fit into the little group that the retained managers had made for themselves.

Once we had received our notices, we were expected to carry on as normal.  This did not happen.  we did our hours, we did our jobs as per the job descriptions, we did no extra.

Although we knew there were dodgy dealings going on, I had no idea how bad it was until the recent news of the company going into Administration.

I hadn't realised that several stores had been sold to another Green family business and then rented back at above the market rate.

I hadn't realised the high dividends that had been paid out to shareholders, who were mostly family.

In hindsight, which as we all know is perfect, making me redundant was the best thing that place ever did for me.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

When the travellers came.

Recently my workplace has been all over the local news as the main staff car park had been taken over by travellers.

Saturday morning, 11 caravans and motorhomes took up residency after cutting a chain locking gates closed.

They parked around the perimeter of the car park to allow space for their washing lines, dog kennels, and expensive cars.

Image result for george eliot traveller

Image result for george eliot traveller

UNEXPECTED VISITORS... caravans parked up on the George Eliot Hospital site.  NNJA 180416 GE 01
One staff member, who had no choice but to park in the same car park as the rest of the site was full, was told to move her car out of 'their garden', when she pointed out that it was a car park she was told that if she didn't move her car it would not be there when she got back.

The travellers were helping themselves to free water and electricity thanks to an outside tap and power outlet that I didn't even know was there, but they found it!

One day they spent a few hours amusing themselves by having races around the car park, as the surface is gravel this was flinging stones all over the place and leaving huge grooves in the surface.

Police had to be called one night as they were intimidating an elderly couple trying to leave via the main entrance.

Along with the clothes lines that they had installed, they used handy bushes to dry clothes on.

Travellers have set up camp in a hospital staff car park and have been seen leaving their laundry to dry on bushes outside the ward (pictured) 

After being served notice, they finally vacated the car park at 8.15 Friday morning, and have moved less than a mile down the road to a cinema car park.

SO now the clean up begins.  Along with all the rubbish left behind, there are dozens of empty gas canisters.

Plus, they very kindly smashed glass over the car park, just leaving enough area clear so that they could drive out.

I don't know when we will be able to get back into the car park.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

I've never been to a 'proper' festival.

I've been to the Godiva Festival which is 3 days/nights of lots of music, lots of food, lots of alcohol, lots of market stalls and either too much sun or too much rain but with no camping or other on site accommodation so it is back to your own bed every night.

You can, if you so wish, find out more information about The Godiva Festival here.  We have Sir Bob and The Boomtown Rats headlining for us this year.  It's a free festival so no entry fees.

I have also been attending the Queen Fan Club Convention every year since 1993.  This is pretty much a festival but indoors and with proper plumbing.  Three days and nights of music, albeit Queen and Queen related, games, market stalls, cough* lots of alcohol *cough but overnight accommodation, depending on the site, is either caravans or chalets, both of which contain proper bathrooms.

I will admit it, I am a snob.  I have camped in the past and will happily do so again once all tents have a fitted private toilet.  I have no need of a proper bed, I don't need a shower, but I do need my own toilet.

But festivals are so expensive to buy tickets for, and that is without accommodation, travel and spending money.  Attending a festival is very much on my bucket list, but I think I need to win the lottery first!

There needs to be more to do in Coventry

Having recently had to take my remaining annual leave in a block (I was off for 14 days in a row, I don't even take that much time off when I DO have plans) I have struggled to find places to visit locally.

We have the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, which is a fantastic space and a beautiful building, but I have never found the exhibits there as fascinating as I do the building they are housed in.

We have the Coventry Transport Museum, which has recently undergone building works and now has a larger floor area to house the exhibits.  As the museum has had free entry for many years now, I used to spend my lunch breaks in there, especially if it was raining, so I will have seen all the exhibits as they were rotated in and out of storage.

We have the Cathedrals, all three of them, but I worked in the new Cathedral for a time, so why pay to visit a place where I have already seen for free a lot of areas that the public don't?

On the outskirts of the city we have Coombe Country Park, great for young children as it has large areas where they can run about, there is pond dipping, holiday activities and play areas.  Not so good for single adults who are a bit too old for climbing frames.

We used to have a zoo and dolphinarium in Coventry, the entrance was guarded by a huge statue of a Zulu, it wasn't the best location for a zoo being pretty much in the city centre, but it was another place to visit.

There are currently works going on in the centre to open up the hidden Sherbourne River, There will be waterfront bars and restaurants so at least the students whom the City Council seem so desperate to hand the city centre over to will be happy.  Frankly I have no interest in getting all the way into and out of the centre to be Billy-No-Mates in the midst of all the beautiful people.

I like aquariums, but that means heading into Birmingham or out to the coast.

I like zoos but that means Dudley or Twycross.

I like big museums but that means London, Manchester or Liverpool.

I like outside spaces with more to do than just walk about, but that means going to places like High Lodge in Norfolk.

I like Ghost Hunts but they are rarely held locally.

I struggle to leave the house when I am not at work, and frankly, there is little around here that is worth leaving the house for.

Do you have interesting things to do where you live?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Yet MORE student accommodation in the city centre.

I have blogged before about the amount of student accommodation taking over the city centre and now permission has been given for even more.

This week it has been announced that a popular city centre car park is being replaced with student accommodation for 1000.  Clearly renting accommodation to students is a better money spinner than a car park, but then again, with everything in the centre being replaced by student accommodation, then people will soon have no need to go into the centre.

Near to the Belgrade Theatre, planning permission had been given for a block containing a 4* hotel (not sure why we need one in Coventry, but it would have been nice) and luxury apartments.  This has been in the pipeline for many years now, today it was announced that we would no longer be getting the luxury hotel and apartments, but more student accommodation.

I have a suggestion - why not make the whole of the city centre the campus of Coventry University?  Move all the students in the outlying flats and rented houses inside the ring road releasing the suburbs back to non-students.  The general public could still use the facilities in the centre, such as the theatre and the ice rink, much like they do on the University of Warwick campus on the outskirts of the city, the Arts Centre there is well known across the country and shows are open to all.

Does anyone else feel like their city is being slowly absorbed into the local university?