12/01/17

Time:06:51

Waiting for the call – aha! Beat my newsagents opening again! It may seem strange “if you know their opening times then you should just need to get up before then” Thing is they don’t really have a set opening time. I’ve lived here about 3-4 years and all I’ve managed to ever work out is that they’re open between 6:20 and 6:55am.

Tutoring is picking up, I have about 5 students now which is nearing my max number of 7. I could have more if I opened up my saturday but I am loath to do that for a couple of reasons. Mostly it’s because I do courses on some weekends and there’s nothing more annoying than having to skip sessions or try to rearrange them.. Speaking of which I have an amazing course to attend the end of Feb, very excited – it’s all about the weather and I’ll be travelling up to Scotland!

Just sent out an email to *all* my tutees about Feb half term and, because that course is the week after about rearranging sessions and any extra sessions they may want. It was harder than I thought although it was strange, in a nice way, to be emailing all these people who I tutor. Feels good to see my business growing and as it does I can relax a fraction about money. Getting the full load of tutees would be amazing, but the two slots I have left are both on a friday night so on one hand MONIES….on the other hand WHOOPWHOOPFRIDAYS. Swings and roundabouts eh?

I’m hoping to hear back from my accountant soon….something along the lines of ‘government owes you shed loads of money’ would be great right now. I think if I got a tax rebate I’d upgrade my computer. Don’t laugh but right now my home PC is on VISTA – yeah yeah, get the giggles out of your system. Thing is I like VISTA, I’m comfortable with it in a way I can’t seem to get with my Windows 10 Laptop. Perhaps it’s because I’ve used it for almost a decade and i just need to get used to a newer OS again. My home PC is called NAMMU and I do adore it and it’s dual screen setup. Then again (Mazu) my laptop is pretty awesome and good for taking to uni. I find though when I’m at home I prefer the PC.

07:30
Hmmm things I would buy with a tax rebate….say if it was about 400/500 pounds.
Sadly I’d probably be sensible and put it in my savings account for the car tax/insurance that will be coming up in oh three or four months..but if I DIDN’t have to do that…

1) Upgrade PC
2) Treat my partner
3) fix some minor things on my car
4) attend a convention
5) Pay for a years swimming membership so I could go when I wanted

Huh. I had to really think about that list to make it more than three things. I guess at the moment I’m feeling pretty fulfilled with life at the moment. Sure there are lots of silly things I could spend money on but seeing as it’s a bit of a squeeze at the moment that is not going to happen. Saying that I did buy a whole cake yesterday :-/ it was a SMALL cake. Barely the size of my head! I bought a whole cake but I’m pleased to say I didn’t eat the whole things – I just haven’t had cake in so long I was craving it.

Rumour is we’re going to have snow this weekend. That’ll be a laugh!
Until Monday!

Penny a day/coin challenges

So, since January 1st I’ve been saving pennies in a jar. Yes, you read that correctly, Pennies. In. A. Jar. (Not to be confused with http://www.penniesinthejar.com/ which is an amazing blog and I thoroughly recommend it)

The idea is, that on January the first you put 1 penny (or whichever the smallest denomination of your country is), January second, you put in 2 pence. Eventually this builds up so you’re putting more and more in each day. I figured this would work out cheaper than the 52 weeks challenge, which is similar except week one you put in £1, week 2 £2 etc.

As some of you may have figured out by now, my main source of income is from teaching, more specifically supply teaching. Due to the shortage of teachers in England I’ve managed to find work, even though I needed two days a week which was initially quite difficult to find.  The main issue with supply teaching is, if you don’t put money aside during the plentiful periods, you have no source of income over the holidays because you don’t get paid. You’re a contractor, and unless you have a very, strangely, generous school that you work for you only get paid for what you work.

This means that whatever challenge I take, I’m going to find it difficult over the summer, 6 weeks definitely without pay, and probably a very slow September/October as schools tighten their finances.

Anyways, let’s see what I’ve got so far.

17april

I like excel spreadsheets, if you like you can download the dated and undated versions of this one. For those without this software I’ve included a PDF tick list (you might also be able to open it in open office as I use an older version of excel). This is the traditional penny a day challenge going from 1st January to 31st December, note it’s 266 days as it was a leap year this year. I tend to add and remove the date columns when I want and colour in dark grey when I’ve put the money in. Those looking carefully may note that I’ve made a start putting coins in for mid-July and I’ll try and do that from now on until July, August and September are complete. When done you would have £671.61, not bad going.

This is my coin jar

109b.jpg
You’ll need a big jar for this challenge, this is an olive jar from Lidl, the lids are a nightmare to get off initially but my partner appreciated the olives.

If you’re not sure you’ll have the cash in December you can always try doing the challenge backwards (dated, undated, use the same pdf as the normal challenge) or alternating the money you put in (dated, undated, pdf).

As I mentioned I did once initially start doing the £1 a week challenge (although the sheet was in dollars) I bottled out after 4 weeks, good job I’ve matured this year! If you managed to do challenge that you would have saved up £1,378 by the end of the year.  Here are some tracking sheets Normal (undated, pdf) backwards (undated, pdf) or alternating the money you put in (undated, pdf). I think if I had a steady job that I’d be tempted by this one.

The Skint dad blog has some other ideas for money saving challenges, his £12.50 a week one is quite good; that would get you about £650 by the year’s end. He also has lots of downloads if you don’t like mine.

As I was typing this I was thinking, hmmm, some of these aren’t really do-able for someone who doesn’t make very much income, say for example a child with pocket money who still wants to save. I also thought it might need to be simple.

I am not a parent; though I have nieces and nephews, according to my knowledge of them and research on the internet pocket money can be anything from £3 to £7. With this in mind I’ve put together a sheet that is a simple £1.50 a week (excel, PDF), £5 a month (excel, PDF) as well as a blank version of both (weekly, pdf, monthly, pdf) in case it’s a differing amount each week/month.

Oh my goodness, making all those spreadsheets and putting them into this post has killed my back! Twenty-seven files were harmed in the making of this post (the PDF’s have their excel equivalents)

There are loads of ways to store your coins as well, as I mentioned I have an old olive jar from Lidl. You may not also know, but I also collect money boxes, I’m not sure if that’s an odd hobby or not. I’ll make sure to do a post about them another time J

I think with challenges like this you get three types of people.
1) People who like to watch the coins grow, this might mean they use a see through jar like this Plastic Coca Cola Savings – Money Box / Bottle 60cm Fancy Money Box / Novelty Money Box  or, if you don’t like to count your own coins… Gift House Int Digital UK Coin Counting Money Jar

2) People who don’t want to be tempted. You might get these types of jar: Tin Money Box

3) Terra Mundi enthusiasts. Oh yeah, I hear you. I have a serious love of these coin jars; I have one that I put £2 coins in when I’m not using them for challenges. Alas I know the secret of getting coins out without smashing them (which is good because they’re beautiful) but also bad…as it means I can get the coins out! I would love to own one of the large disney versions
(like this one: Deluxe Large Terramundi Money Pot : Disney Fund written in Yellow and Whitebut at over £50 that’s unlikely to happen!

I hope you enjoyed this post, happy savings!

Prolific.ac 03.04.16

Another site I like to use when I’m not teaching is prolific.ac, they’re a little like a survey site: except I’ve never been part way through and then kicked out of a study on there.

Basically when a researcher from a university wants participants for their survey or research piece, rather than bugging people in the streets they register on here and the site matches them up with people who meet their criteria.

There is always a cash incentive, the highest amount I’ve received myself was £5, the lowest 35p. The cash out minimum is £5, which isn’t too bad to get to. You can choose to have PayPal or to have the money paid to a charity. I have to admit that I have never used the charity option so I couldn’t tell you much about it!

The best thing to do with this site is to register, fill in any prescreening questions and let it mosey along in the back ground. I don’t get tonnes of studies from this; I signed up in November and have done 31 studies. Two of these studies I had to pull out form (which was a shame as one was £10!) when I realised that I didn’t actually match the criteria.  Overall I’ve made £34.90, a nice little amount; I’d say definitely enough for a few pizzas on treat night!
If you’re a researcher who uses my referral code for a £50 study you’ll get £10 to run your first study (check the terms and conditions on the website first in case this offer is out of date!)

Overall I find the site very easy to use and they haven’t messed me around, both points in their favour!

Have you used prolific academic? What do you think?

Swagbucks 28/03/16

swagbucks

 

Logo from the swagbucks facebook page. All rights belong to swagbucks.

 

So, I logged on this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see my swagbucks account had got 1,001 ‘swagbucks’(SB’s) the reason this makes me happy is because it’s 999 for a £5 PayPal voucher. Yay! £5 for nothing! There are lots of rewards to choose from.

Yeah…. Let’s not get too excited. Nothing isn’t quite the right word. Nothing –financially- to get the points. However, there are a lot of clicks in those thousand points.

So, firstly you sign up to swagbucks. On the first day I registered I earned 166 SB’s from all the signup rigmarole they get you to do. Five of those SB’s were from disqualification after I didn’t meet the criteria for some of the surveys I’d started. I also got another 500 for signing up after I’d been active a certain amount of time (about a week or so)

I didn’t really go into swagbucks with the intention of using it as a cash back site, I have other sites I use for things like that. However, saying that I DO use it when I order from just eat for takeaways. (I have so far got 269 points from those orders) which at 3SB per £1 tells me far too much about my eating habits!

So, free things you can do to earn swagbucks.

You can do the poll for 1SB every day. So that can get you a potential 365 points a year.
You can also do Daily offers (NOSO), that’s 2 SB a day. That’d give you 730 points a year.

So for two very easy clicky things that probably take less than 30 seconds you’d get 1,095 points a year which you could use to buy a £5 Amazon card. By my calculations (which could be wrong) I make that just over 3 hours for the whole year. I’ve definitely had worse returns for three hours clicking!

Other things you can do:

Surveys: I’ve earned about 476 points doing surveys. When they’re good they’re very good, I usually get about 80 SB per survey but some can give you up to 100. Also when they do that irritating thing of you completing part and then getting kicked out? At least you get 1 SB for your trouble!

Games: If you have spare time there are a couple of games you can play that earn you SB’s as well. I’ve only earned 14 SB from games which should tell you how tedious I find them. Although perhaps I just haven’t been giving them a chance! One is a card matcher and the other a game where you race a dinosaur over obstacles. I usually get about 2SB per game.

Swagsearch: This is probably my biggest earner, netting me 1,135 SB since I joined in November 2015.  I have the search function installed on my browser and use it as my go to internet search. It seems to use yahoo search and images which I’m not a big fan or, but if something is really not working I just switch over to Google.

Swagbutton and Swagcodes: I have the swag button installed on my browser as well and it lets me know when there are Swagcodes active. These are codes that you input to the Swagbutton (or on the site) and it gives you points. Usually you have to go to the website or facebook page to find the code but it’s not too technical, least SB I’ve ever gotten was 2; the most I’ve ever gotten was 6. Most of the codes are time sensitive though so don’t always rely on sites that list them!

Watching videos: You can watch videos on apps or on the website to earn SB’s. It’s tedious and sometimes dull and you have to watch something like 10 or 15 videos for 3sb (max). However, if you have the apps on your phone watch both on there and on your PC you can get through the videos whilst doing something else. I’ve earned about 230 SB from doing this. It’s especially good in the summer holidays when you’re at home with nothing else to do! Don’t do it if you haven’t got a wifi connection from your phone and watch your data allowance.

Downloading Apps: Downloading apps onto your phone and using them can net you mega SB’s. I don’t like to download things onto my phone unless I’m going to use them for a while but the lowest I’ve had was 25 SB’s the largest?  500 SB’s!
Daily goals: If you can meet the daily goals you get bonuses. Simple as that!

Slightly riskier are the swagstakes. These are basically like lotteries, you buy tickets with your SB’s and then they are drawn. Some of the prizes are very good but there are thousands of tickets, some are small. When I do partake I like to do the 100SB draw. There are 5 tickets, two tickets for 55 SB’s or 25 SB’s each, I like good odds so I buy 2 and 1, spending 80 SB’s with a chance of winning 20 (when I take away cost). I don’t always win, but it’s just a little bit of fun.

Ah! Last but not least, the birthday bonus! This year if I bought a giftcard (which I did) I got 55 SB back, because it’s the month of my birthday. Woot.

So, Swagbucks is easy to use and you can amass a decent amount of points. Since joining in November I’ve earned enough SB’s to buy 3 £5 PayPal giftcards amounting to £15. I think that’s not bag going seeing as I’ve not really being making an effort! You may think this isn’t a lot, but a fiver every now and then never hurt.

If you’d like to give it a go you can use my referral link here of throughout this post. Until next time!

25.03.16

Good Friday everybody!

I’m not a religious person, but I hope those who are have a lovely day, Myself? I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet of no University and no School for the next two weeks.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be busy! Oh no – the Easter holidays are usually a time for me to catch up with my family who live up the country. Alas, that isn’t going to be happening this year. Money is far too tight, I was sick last week which means no pay this week (I get paid weekly as most supply teachers do).

However, I do try and budget for the holidays (which I also don’t get paid for). So I’ve got a very slight amount of money to buy things…like food. Or discounted Easter eggs on Monday….NO bad.

Luckily tutoring helps me tide over on most weeks.

The new master’s loans the UK government are giving students had some more information given out on a leaflet at university last week. It may have been earlier but I got one last week -I was devastated. I’m not eligible. I was, let’s say more than a little upset last week, but now I’m a lot calmer about it. They had to draw the funding line somewhere (I am not eligible because I have already started my masters, even though I’m doing it part time, so won’t finish until next year). Now I have the huge £3k issue of where the heck am I going to find £3,000+. Again, once I’d stopped hyperventilating I really thought about it.

I’d already agreed to do exam marking for two exam boards, so that will net me about £1,800 (IF I manage to mark it all, 350 full papers and also 22,000 individual questions in three/four weeks. No pressure)

Anyway, thank you for reading my rambling.

Tomorrow I am on a vintage and retro hunt with my friend and their daughter it will be nice to chill out.

I also want to set up a tracker for my penny jar challenge (which I’ll tell you more about in a different post). How do I let people download files from wordpress? Or, is it just something you can’t do?

Have a lovely day if I don’t write to you again before!

Roast dinner 21.3.16

Some people think that because they’re by themselves, they can’t enjoy a nice roast dinner. I’m not talking about steak, or pork chop – I mean the whole chicken or pork joint roast.
Well, it’s difficult to go through the rigmarole of cooking a roast dinner for yourself, but if you look at it from the point of view that you’re actually saving yourself time and money later on, the whole process becomes easier.


 

The roasts.

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to pork, literally a sprinkle of salt on the fat to get a crisp crackling, 30 mins at about 200 Celsius (uncovered) then 30min per 500g covered. Comes out crisp and juicy every time.

Chicken, now, to save yourself even more effort you can just buy a cook in the bag chicken. Lidl and Aldi seem to do a decent range in these chickens. Myself? I like to get a lemon, slit it (not cut it up) and fill the slits with thyme and stuff it inside the chicken. Then I like to mix some olive oil, more thyme and garlic (paste) and put that mixture mostly under the skin of the chicken, but rubbing it all over works too (don’t forget the legs!).

I like to make a big pan of rustic mashed potatoes. These are unpeeled potatoes (washed if needed) boiled till tender, butter, salt, pepper. Mash. Add a touch of milk to bind and you get a nice smooth mashed potato.

Vegetables. These are the one thing, that unless I know I’m going to eat later in the week I won’t bother buying lots. I hate wasting food and having half a pack of green beans quietly rotting in the fridge makes me sad. I usually buy a small pack of mixed vegetables, for example asparagus and broccoli that I can just throw in the pan. In fact, to save water and washing up I usually put them in the same pan as the potatoes if there’s room – obviously for not as long, but the last five minutes or so.

Yorkshire puddings. I’m from Yorkshire and was taught to love and make these from a young age. They’re easy to make, just make English pancake batter (I know what you Americans are like with your fluffy pancakes) so, two eggs, about the same amount of milk and add plain flour until it makes a runny batter. Add some fat or spray some oil into a hot metal cupcake tray or cake pan or if you want a really big one a roasting tray. Add batter, return to oven, and remove when on the pale side of golden brown. Don’t be upset if they don’t look like aunt Bessie’s, the three generations of Yorkshire ladies I grew up with didn’t have them like that either!


 

Leftovers

Yorkshire pudding batter:

Mini Yorkshire puddings: Use a metal (not silicone) muffin or cupcake tray, hot fat or oil and cook at the same time as you’re cooking your roasts. With a bit of leftover gravy these mini’s cold are a really nice, filling snack.

Yorkshire pudding….pudding: After making the savoury Yorkshires you want, mix some sugar into the remaining batter and cook as above. Serve warm with ice cream and syrups.

Pancakes: It’s the same batter, save it for the morning and you’ve got it ready to go and make pancakes! Cook in a frying pan rather than the oven and they’ll come out flat. I like to have these with lemon and sugar.

Mashed potato.

What doesn’t mashed potato go with? Okay, right, fair enough it’s not good with ice cream and other desserts – you got me.

But seriously, I like to just reheat it, mix in some peas, little bit of gravy – delicious.
Some people like to form it into little cakes and fry it off in a pan, go for it if you like that kind of thing.

Chicken and pork

Okay, I’ve put the chicken and pork in the same category, mainly because I do the same thing with them. However, I don’t usually get pork joints with bones so I don’t get to make pork stock often. What I’m talking about here is chicken stock. Any leftover chicken meat I also freeze, for some reason I never seem to have any pork left to freeze…

Chicken stock
– a really big pan
– a sieve
– A large jug
– A few hours spare
– Skin and bones from a leftover chicken
– Two brown onions
– Two sticks of celery
– A carrot
– salt and pepper
– 2 bay leaves

Optional
– Silicon muffin tray

Okay, chicken stock isn’t hard per-say but it does take a while to do. Luckily you don’t have to stand and watch it exactly. Add the bones and skin to the stock pot, slice the onions in half and add (don’t worry about peeling them), snap the celery and add, snap the carrot and add. Half fill the pan with hot water. Add the bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Bring the whole lot to a boil and then leave to simmer for two to three hours on a very low heat.

This gets all the flavour and fats out of the chicken and ingredients.

Carefully pour the contents into the sieve over the large jug. You should get a brownish yellow liquid. You don’t want anything other than liquid in the jug. When the sieve has stopped dripping put it somewhere to cool* (I usually put my sieve in the sink in case there are more drippings). Wash out your pan in case there are any bits lingering and then pour the stock back into the pan.

Taste, add any salt and pepper you think you need and then bring to the boil again and simmer until it’s reduced by half.

I usually then pour it back into the jug and leave it to cool. Then I pour it into the muffin tray and pop into the freezer. Then, I can use it whenever I want!

Chicken spaghetti soup. Take two ‘pucks’ of chicken stock (or six tablespoons), two glasses of water, boil a handful of pasta in the mixture until tender, add some sweetcorn and cooked chicken if you have it -perfect if you’re feeling coldy.

Fajitas: Chop your meat (chicken or pork) into strips and add to a hot oiled pan. Slice an onion into strips, and a red and yellow bell pepper. Add the onion to the pan with the meat until the meat is heated through and add fajita spice. I have a confession to make here…I don’t make my own fajita spice. I bought a MASSIVE jar from COSTCO about two years ago and am still using it, must have saved me a fortune in tiny packet mixes. Anyway. Mix in your chosen spices and then add the peppers. The peppers won’t need long as you still want the crunch, perhaps 5 minutes. Whilst that’s cooking zap some wraps for about 30 seconds in the microwave and prepare any extras like salsa or cheese etc you want. These are also great for lunch the next day; just make sure to pack the fajita mixture and wraps away from one another.

Stir fry: Cut your meat into bite size chunks and put to one side. I am so not above buying a packet of stir fry veg from the supermarket as it cuts down on prep time, but if you like to do your own there are lots of suggestions online. I have a wok that was given to my parents when they got married; no one else in my family eats stir fry so I ended up with it. So, keep your cooking implement of choice oiled and when it’s hot add the meat until it’s cooked through. I like to add the stir fry sauce here, usually I’ll buy one from the supermarket but sometimes a slug of soy sauce or sweet chilli sauce is all you really want. After the meats hot I add the veg. Keep everything moving or it will stick, you don’t want that! When you’re happy with how cooked the veg is (crunchy or not so crunchy, that is the question) add your noodles and heat until they’re cooked. This is also good cold for lunch the next day.

So, depending on what you wanted your Sunday roast could feed you for several extra meals (lunches and dinners).


Shopping list:

(for a Sunday roast chicken, stir fry, fajitas, soup)

– Large chicken    -Mashing potatoes    – Some green veg      -plain flour
-2 eggs                   – milk
– Celery                  – 4 onions                     – 1 carrot                    -bay leaves
– Stir fry vegetables     -stir fry sauce     -egg or rice noodles
– Fajita spices       – wraps                          -optional extras       -red and yellow bell pepper
– Tin of sweetcorn   – pasta

I hope you find this post useful it went on a bit longer than I intended! – any tips yourself? Please comment and say hi below.

*Try not to put hot things in the bin as it forms condensation in the bin that can encourage mold growth (ew)