Where growing, making & good living come together

March – end of month review

Posted by on Thursday 31 March 2011 in growing, less than 12 clothes challenge, personal finance | 15 comments

March has been a rather expensive and stressful month as we’ve been having our bathroom fitted and a ridiculous amount of things went wrong. But at the same time, we’ve also learnt some new skills and had some lovely Spring days – just how fantastic is it that the world is turning green again?

Goals in 2011 progress

As in February, I’m working towards a few goals if not anywhere near completing them yet. I’ve sown a lot of seeds for veg – unfortunately lost a lot of baby seedlings to damping off and other bad propagator management but I’m learning all the time. We should have our first fully homegrown 2011 salad in the next few weeks.

I’ve not been baking that much but the four loaves we made each on our baking course at the weekend keep up my average ;) They were sourdough loaves and we also now have starters from them – not quite growing one from scratch but I’ll be satisfied if I can keep that alive and bake from it.

We’ve also been on a screenprinting course – which isn’t one of the simple living goals mentioned here but is on my personal goals list – and enjoyed it a lot. We’re booked in for another session the week after next and I’ve already got a few things worked out that I’d like to print.

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

Even though I thought I’d cave this month, my tally is still at zero. I have been looking at things online but nothing has wowed me enough for me to get out my credit card. I did add some things to basket a couple of weeks ago but deliberately left it overnight to see how I felt about them in the morning – and in the morning, I was indifferent. I quite like that.

I think a Spring jacket may break my embargo – my short woolly swing coat is a little too warm at the moment but my hoodie is at the dog-walking stage of its lifecycle. We’ll see.

One other thing: one day, while putting away laundry, I sorted through all the t-shirts/tops I have in my chest of drawers. I didn’t get rid of anything, just tidied into related piles and refolded – I rediscovered a few tops which got looked over in the usual heap format of my drawers. Shopping your own wardrobe/drawers rules!

Growing stuff and the chickens

As I mentioned above, the growing stuff thing is going well-ish. I might live to regret it if there is a cold spell in the next few weeks but I planted out my broad bean seedlings yesterday. I’ve got two lots of potatoes sown in “bags”. My tomato seedlings – the ones that survived the Great Damping Off Crisis of 2011 – are beautifully leafy. My cucumbers and pumpkins look green and luscious. The chillis & peppers are growing slowly but looking good. The radish seedlings numerous, the cauliflowers hanging in there and various lettuce & salad leaves at varying stages of sprouting but looking very promising. On the fruit front, John B gave us some jostaberry canes so they’re in the ground too now. All our other berry bushes & fruit trees are budding/leafing well (the photo above is one of the apple trees), and the two strawberry runners that I thought had died have proved me wrong. Basically, it’s all go in the garden, greenhouse & propagator!

The chickens are doing well – they’ve met our nephew on a couple of occasions (our 4 year old niece comes to visit sometimes too, and John’s young cousins, but at 13 months old, the ‘phew is their youngest visitor to date) and got an new layer of woodchips to scratch around in. In return, they’ve given us a magnificent 200 eggs exactly (well, exact at this point – if I go down later, there may be another one). That’s an average of 6.45 a day, at a rough average of 8p per egg in consumables (£12 ish of food, and about £4 for straw, shavings, seed treats & powders).


Oh holy wow, this month has been expensive.

We started having our bathroom refitted on 28th Feb and the plumbing & tiling was supposed to take 7 (working) days – all in, it took nearly twice that and involved us completely rebuilding floors in two rooms. I’m going to write a full post about it once we’ve finished (we still need to build cabinets, have the flooring fitted and decorate the non-tiled bits) but jeez, kerrrr-ching. It wasn’t just the direct costs of buying new joists, taps and the shower enclosure – it caused endless disruptions, kicked up lots of dust and left us stressed & depressed. We ate an awful lot of takeout while we were driving all over the city to have showers – and had a pick-us-up date night at a restaurant too.

The two courses we went on were also additional expenses – £45 each for the screenprinting one and £95 each for the breadbaking one. I do like courses – I get a lot from them – so am happy to pay for them because they feel like an investment in myself — but I think I need to be more honest with myself about which will give value for money. For example, last year, I did a day course on sausage making and a weekend course on cheese making – both were absolutely fantastic and I was very glad I did them, but I’m not made either sausages or a hard cheese since I did the course. At the moment, I’m eyeing up a 10 week pottery course: it’s something I’d really like to try but I’m not sure it’s a skill I need to work on right now. I think I should be more honest about whether it’s actually an educational thing or just an entertainment thing – entertainment isn’t bad, I just need to mentally categorise it as such though.

Courses & big bathroom stuff aside, I spent a whopping £302.80 this month – £137.60/45% on household stuff (from new light switch plates to little things like new tea towels for the kitchen, a new bathmat and allergy medicine – I don’t spend enough on toiletries & medicine to be worth having their own category), £74.70/25% on away-from-home food/meals out/treats, and £37.30/12% on travel. I only bought one book – a much recommended book on container gardening – though (compared to eight in February) because I’ve worked out how I can use a library regularly without having to go very out of my way – so that’s something. And I didn’t spend anything on craft supplies even though I have been crafting & making quite a bit — just using up my stash instead.

I’d said I was planning a no-spend fortnight in March but with the bathroom stuff, it was impossible to stick to that. I’m going to do one in April though, I *am*. I’m going to say the whole month but knowing I will have to include a number of specific exceptions for things already booked in/in progress (screenprinting ink & paper; after-show party supplies; a bathroom cabinet & paint) as well as the usual (bus fares and taxi fares next week when I have an after-the-last-bus commitment, food to prepare at home, food/medication for the animals, and regular bills). I need to get off this spendy-spendy train!

How was your March? Has Spring sprung where you are? If you have goals for the year, how are they progressing? And if you’re doing the 12 in 2011 thing, how’s that going?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Lynsey aka Swirlyarts

    How spooky – I’ve just re-sorted my tee shirt drawer and found some ones I’d forgotten I had! The ones I don’t want have been earmarked for friends to have a rummage through before going to the charity shop. I’ve also embarked on a challenge of my own re no spending but it’s on craft stuff that I am not allowed to spend money. Only a few days into it but I only need look at the pictures of my craft room to firm my resolve – too much stuff! http://swirlyarts.blogspot.com/2011/03/be-warned-extreme-mess-ahead-and-pledge.html

  2. Taphophile

    Spendy month or not – what great progress. I’m with you on the course front – sometimes it is entertainment and worth it for that alone. :) Well done on the clothes abstinence. Can’t say the same for myself.

  3. sara

    Sometimes you have to spend to get the end result..i have had a bad month too..had to buy a shower and a national trust family pass..i have had the bathroom refurbed..new bath,toilet,sink,taps,tiles flooring..but i didn’t have to pay for it..the local council did a survey on my house in february and found that i had asbestos in the bathroom and downstairs loo…so instead of just replacing the affected ones they basically ripped it all out and replaced it..i’m glad the asbestos is gone..i was very worried about it..we had to leave the house for the day while they did it..we wanted to redo the room ourselves later on this yr but they wouldn’t let us because of the asbestos…apparently the health and safety police kicked up a fuss coz i have 2 small children and made the council do it…thank fully its done and looks lovely and more importantly its safe…
    The allotment is doing really well..the spuds are in,onions,shallots,broad beans are all in and doing well…the fruit beds have been mulched and sorted so lots of weeds have bit the dust..lol..the greenhouse is absolutely groaning with seedlings..our chickens are laying but not on a regular basis..think all the noise from the builders has upset them a bit..we got one egg today so lets see if they settle down again..poor chickens
    I haven’t bought any clothes so far this yr but had a good day sorting my wardrobes and hubbys..found tops and shirts stuffed in drawers so they have now been sorted and some gone to charity shops..only things i have bought for myself is lots of felt fabric and buttons for me and the girls to have craft days..got some books from CS but thats it…
    Next month is definately a NSM..i have to get tot1 some new bits for school and both tots some summer shoes..but thats all…
    I would love to do some courses but can’t afford them..the local college do freebie taster days now and then..will have to keep and eye out…did have a treat though my older daughters took me for a lovely meal for mothers day..it was so nice not to cook or wash up for once lol…
    Bet your bathroom will be amazing when its done..
    good luck
    take care

    • louisa

      We used to live in an area with a serious asbestos problem – glad your council sorted it out, it didn’t take too long and that you didn’t have to pay for it! Asbestos clearouts in our old area used to take weeks and cost upward of £10,000…!

      Your allotment sounds to be all go – hopefully we’ll all have a productive year :)

  4. bookstorebabe

    I just bought two articles of clothing, both from Goodwill. A much needed skirt, since I only have one or two. And I made myself take the time to try it on instead of just guessing about the fit. A long grey wool/angora blend sweater which I did just grab! It fit well enough, but I knew I would have felted it for reuse if it hadn’t fit.
    My problem is books. I do buy them cheaply, but oh the space they take up! I’m going to have to stick to a ‘pick two to get rid of for each one I bring home’ rule.
    I’ve had some big unexpected expenses-car repairs and such-and really need to get serious about frugality. I may quietly do a no spend week just for me, and not even mention it to the spouse and daughter. Just things like making sure we cook dinner, instead of taking him up on his offer to get takeout after a long day, steering clear of the coffeeshop, ect. It’d be interesting to keep a list and see how we do. Then later, say “I did this, no one felt deprived or even noticed, and we saved this much”, and enlist the two of them for the next one.

    • louisa

      That sounds like a good idea – show them how it can be done without too much pain.

      I’d probably have grabbed that sweater too – bet it’s super soft :)

      I do “one book out for every two bought” and find it’s not as difficult as it would be if I just told myself I had to clear out 20 books at random – I think the new book hormones outweigh the getting rid ones ;)

  5. Karen M

    I know it is a “hot button issue” but the e-reader has really helped me cut down on my spending! My e-reader is a Kobo and I paid 129.00 canadian. It came with all sorts of th classics, but I use the library for borrowing and there are all sorts of free and fascinating books out there. In 10 months I have read
    over 280 books so far that I haven’t had to buy. No transit fare to the library and an amazing amount of space in the apartment! It’s compact and lightweight so reading large books while I am out and about is very convenient. This has helped me cut down on my magazine and newspaper consumption when I’m travelling or in a situation where I have to wait.

    • louisa

      That’s very interesting Karen – there are a lot of free e-books out there and it sounds like you’re motoring through them! Glad it’s working for you :)

      Your comment has just actually made me start wondering – I often carry a Nintendo DS with me (so I can play Scrabble on the bus) and it seems like that can be used as an ebook reader by installing some free software. Perhaps I should give that a go – use it as a free e-reader trial…

  6. Mel

    if i manage not to buy any clothes this month i’ll be back on track for twelve for eleven as i’ve already bought four things. i’m trying to wear things in the wardrobe that i haven’t worn for a while. As my wardrobe is quite cluttered i’m thinking a good clear out in the easter hols might be in order.

    on the plus side i’ve got rid of some things to the orchard ‘boot’ at the local school so i’m decluttering. al be it painfully slowly

    • louisa

      Sounds like you’re doing well, Mel. I’ve been finding old stuff from my wardrobe to wear too – and realising what I’m unlikely to wear again. I should set aside some decluttering time over the next few weeks too – but then again, I have been saying that since the start of the year ;)

  7. Su

    Boy, have I struggled to reply!
    Bus fares – not going well at all. I am not going to get my annual spend to less than £500, no way. Bus fares and passes have gone up 10% too, so my revised goal is less than £710, which is the new cost of an annual saver.
    Clothing – used 2 coupons to buy a pair of tights, which I’m hoping will last as long as the last pair, about 2 years! The old, holey tights are going to have the feet cut off and be used under my equally holey leggings, thankfully the holes are not in the same places. I have also ‘earmarked’ some coupons for a pair of black trousers. I also need a couple of bras, actually I am desperate for them, but I detest bra shopping with a passion, so I am going to have to be brave. Wish me luck!

    • louisa

      Hi Su,

      Shame about the bus fares things – still sounds like a good goal though.

      How many coupons have you used now? Those last pair of tights have served you well!

      I hate bra shopping too – I try to do it online if possible but it can be expensive to return stuff. Good luck with your mission :)

  8. Su

    Hi Louisa,
    to the end of March I had used 12 coupons.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *