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a confession and sorting myself out

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I have a confession to make.

For a personal finance blogger, my bank accounts are in a terrible state. I’ve exceeded my overdraft limit for the last 3 months in a row, which is costing me about £200+ in bank charges. Naturally, I’m going to be saving the documentation about the charges in the hope that I’ll be able to claim them back inthe future. It’s not really the point though.

I firmly believe that nobody should be paying bank charges because they are just unnecessary. If you need to borrow money then you can use cheaper forms of credit. That extends to me too. I mean I think £35 an item is unfair but it’s still easily avoided.

How did I get myself into this situation?

Well, the short and simple answer is that I have some expenses to claim, and money to resdistribute around my accounts that I haven’t got round to doing. This has given my main current account a cash flow problem.

The long answer is that I’m tired. I’m not keeping a firm enough grip on my finances, but I’m not keep a grip on a few other things either. My house looks like it’s been hit by an explosion of papers and clothes. I haven’t written nearly as many posts on here as I’d like to. I’m doing the bare minimum on most of my other projects. My day job is sucking up the spare energy that I have, which makes sense as I enjoy it and it pays the bills, but I am not my work. Something has got to change.

Given that I don’t want to give up anything that I currently do, and that although my day job could get easier as I get more used to my newer responsibilities but I can’t rely on that, I’ll have to find some more energy from somewhere.

I’m thinking that I need to break up my evenings a little more so that I’m not moving from thinking at work to thinking about blogging. Instead I’ll try doing some housework and practising the oboe first, and then move onto more mentally draining pursuits later.

I also reckon that I could do with improving my diet. I’m too lazy/tired to cook, and I don’t feel all that inspired about making a huge effort to cook just for me anyway. I need to work with this rather than against it, so to get closer to my 5 a day I’m going to be eating more soup. From a tin it takes about 4 minutes to heat up at most, there are several kinds I like that are somewhat healthy although they probably have more salt than is really good.

I’m open to other suggestions on the food front if you have them. To be realistic, my limitations are that I have almost no freezer space, I want to eat within about half an hour of getting home, and I am just not going to do anything that takes more than 5 minutes preparation time - chopping up the vegetables for a stir fry is far too much effort. Yes, more effort on the food front would probably be better, but I need to stick to things I’m actually likely to do.

Finally, I think I need to make more of an effort to improve my sleep patterns. I thin I would feel better generally if I want to bed about 10:30 and got up at 7am. This should have several positive effects. Firstly, I’d be getting around 7-8 hours sleep which is a good amount. Secondly, getting up earlier should mean that I’m not running late which is helpful. If I’m going to be late, I’ll catch the bus. So if there’s less chance of me being late, I’m much more likely to walk and get more exercise, which should give me more energy.

Other things I’m contemplating but not putting in to action yet include

  • cutting back on caffeine - at work
  • starting bouldering again - although where I’d find the time, I’m not too sure
  • complete house decluttering - this needs to be done, but requires time again

If you have an suggestions for this errant personal finance blogger, please let me know in the comments.

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27 comments for “a confession and sorting myself out”

  1. How about some crock pot dinners? Chili and beef stew are some of our favorite dinners.

    Posted by Green Panda | November 4, 2008, 12:22 pm
  2. Plonkee- Sounds like things are a bit out of control. Perhaps it’s time for another gap year?

    Posted by Mr. ToughMoneyLove | November 4, 2008, 1:01 pm
  3. Well a gap year would be good, but I have too much regular life I enjoy to want to jack it in for a bit.

    Posted by plonkee | November 4, 2008, 1:17 pm
  4. I know you have a small freezer, but if you can spare a sunday evening for cooking just spend a couple of hours chicken skewers, homemade curry, marinated chicken breasts, whatever. Then it’s just a case of make rice + microwave the curry; or put some frozen chicken down in the fridge before you leave in the a.m., and eat with pre-packaged salad. That’s what we do (otherwise I tend to subsist on muesli and peanut butter sandwiches). And make sure you’re up early enough to pack a nice sangwich for lunch.

    It’s just developing the new routine, which I know is easier said than done. Hang in there.

    Posted by guinness416 | November 4, 2008, 1:53 pm
  5. Hey plonkee,

    You’re certainly not the only one in a similar situation - despite talking a good game, my finances are still in need of some TLC. I’ve been using my overdraft for quite a few months now, not something I’m happy about doing but that’s just the way things are. Thankfully, I’m currently tracking everything I spend and have cut down spending quite a bit too.

    I’d also like to spend more quality time blogging and doing other non-work related projects, but as with you, finding the time is difficult - the kids take up most of my spare time, so it’s usually only when they’re in bed that I get to concentrate, which is also the time when my tiredness starts to kick in.

    Anyway, a problem shared and all that, hopefully you’ll get some useful tips here.

    Posted by Rob Lewis | November 4, 2008, 2:33 pm
  6. Maybe you can take a day off from work, make it a long weekend and sort through the house? At least if you can declutter the papers, wash,dry, fluff, fold and put away the clothes,clean the kitchen, run the hoover you will feel less frantic and a little more in control.

    My exeperience with UK kitchens is you don’t have those massive 22 cubic foot fridge freezers that are commonplace in US kitchens, but maybe you can stock up on some easy staples to throw a meal together a couple nights a week. Even supplementing your meals with some pre-packaged items can help, salads, side dishes-it’s better than take away!

    Good luck! I’ll be rooting for you!

    Posted by bouncing back betty | November 4, 2008, 3:21 pm
  7. Oh Plonkee, I’m right there with you. We haven’t hit overdraft yet, but we’re doing much worse than normal. I think sometimes I avoid shuffling money between accounts and doing the chores and getting to bed early and everything else for the simple reason that I know that there’s not enough of me or money to go around.

    I’d suggest B-vitamins to help with your energy levels–they’re water soluble, so you can’t really overdose on them like with fat-soluble vitamins or most minerals (obviously, one should use their brain and their doctor when adding supplements). I like more expensive food-based vitamins, they don’t tend to upset my stomach, and since they cost quite a bit, at the moment I’m just taking a B-complex. Normally I would also take a multi, but the B-complex gives me a little extra kick of energy day to day. Taking a “mental health” day off work might be a good idea too–use your weekend days to get chores and errands done, and let yourself truly relax for one day.

    Posted by Thankful | November 4, 2008, 3:35 pm
  8. @betty:
    To say that I haven’t got a 22 cu. ft freezer is somewhat of an understatement. In have a small icebox, inside I can fit 2 frozen pizzas and two small icecube trays. And that’s it. Still, not everything needs to be frozen to keep.

    Maybe I should start eating more Marmite again. Delicious, and full of B-vitamins.

    Posted by plonkee | November 4, 2008, 3:43 pm
  9. Wow, that is a tiny freezer! Is there room at your house for a chest freezer?

    We usually use egg noodles in pasta instead of regular noodles for the increased protein. Nuts are expensive, but if you get unsalted and untoasted almonds, pecans, etc., a handful right when you get home may help. Also, hummus is insanely easy to make and can keep for days in the fridge. Dip some crackers, bread or veggies in hummus for a side item at dinner.

    Posted by Thankful | November 4, 2008, 4:02 pm
  10. I’m surprised that you consider stir fries to be too much effort - we make stir fries specifically when we are too lazy/rushed to do anything else. Chop up some bell peppers, an onion, throw it in the wok with some noodles and sauce. You’re EATING it in 5 minutes time, never mind still preparing it.

    Posted by Keiron Nicholson | November 4, 2008, 4:24 pm
  11. @Keiron:
    What can I say, I’m lazy. Really lazy. Anything that involves chopping just isn’t going to happen when there’s only me to appreciate it.

    Posted by plonkee | November 4, 2008, 6:05 pm
  12. Can you not buy the pre chopped stir fry packs at the supermarket? Not as cheap but you have to pay for convenience.
    If you are buying canned soups try and opt for low salt versions. Or the nicer ones that are in the milk carton style containers in the chill section.
    Make sure you always have some fruit on hand for snacking.
    For decluttering I’d start with your bedroom then you might sleep better as you won’t be lying feeling queasy at the sight of all the crap you have to deal with (or maybe that’s just me?).
    Good luck.

    Posted by Looby | November 4, 2008, 7:09 pm
  13. Plonkee,

    I know it sounds crazy but on a Sunday steam some vegies puree them and then during the week mix them in with cans of spagetti, soup, baked beans or whatever takes your fancy that night - you are getting what you need and it is ultra quick. I know it sounds disgusting and like baby food but it really is very nice! Chopped vegies from the supermarket is also a great idea as Looby mentioned.

    On the decluttering front, check out flylady.com. They show you a way to build housekeeping and decluttering on a managable level by introducing routinues. I am a mum whi works full-time and has many interests outside of work and I know that I would be in a real mess without it. It is worth a try :-)

    Posted by Neatz | November 4, 2008, 8:56 pm
  14. do you pass a market/grocery store on your way home? you can buy frozen veggies and a stirfry is then only 5 minutes away (or however long it takes you to get home).

    job front - sounds like a steep learning curve that will plateau hopefully soon. hang in there!

    as for the rest - sit down one weekend afternoon and go through the claims, redistribution, etc. it might take a couple hours, but it will at least be done.

    Posted by deepali | November 4, 2008, 9:28 pm
  15. I used to baulk at the thought of cooking, too. Now I find it actually gives me more time. After work it helps me to relax and unwind (especially if I have a glass of wine while cooking), and while I wait for the rice or stew to cook I have time to spend 20 mintues or so tidying up and getting the house in order. Then I can eat a nice home-cooked meal and relax for the evening.

    Posted by FruGal | November 5, 2008, 10:18 am
  16. Plonkee I guess you have been on Martin Lewis website, Lots of good ways to get out of debt. Bank charges are a complete rip off, you then lose more money because you had no money, fantastic.

    Posted by Mortgage Advisor | November 5, 2008, 3:56 pm
  17. I understand, sometimes we go through periods like that. Fortunately I’ve never been overdrawn, but that’s one thing I’m pretty decent at keeping track of. And ING Direct has a $500 backup line of credit anyway…which I think is a good solution.

    Your ideas about taking better care of yourself first sound right-on. I’ve been doing more of that in the last few months and feel a lot better when I do. Spending more time on my violin has been great.

    As for food, I don’t know how your local shops are stocked but I’ve found frozen veggies a great timesaver. I prefer fresh, but frozen broccoli does the trick too. And I always get frozen peas.

    I’m trying to think of any recipes I can recommend. Stir frys with eggs and veggies are always good. Very fast. Rice is easy to cook. Low-sodium canned soups are nice.


    Posted by Mrs. Micah | November 5, 2008, 6:47 pm
  18. I am in the same situation and I have found a few things that work for me …

    Food: Frozen veggies are the way to go. 5 minutes in the microwave and viola! A healthy side dish (and they hold more of the nutrients than veggies from a tin so they’re better for you - and also not soggy)

    House Cleaning: I try to pick one spot in the house and make myself put away X number of items a night (sometimes is 5 sometimes I go all out and clean the whole thing). I just keep working at that one spot until it’s tidy and try to keep the clutter I’m making in the meantime to a minimum.

    Bank Accounts: Well … I still haven’t found anything to help with this one. I’ll let you know when I do.

    I know it’s frustrating Plonkee, but I know that it will get better. Just keep working on it!

    Posted by Maggie | November 5, 2008, 10:52 pm
  19. This is an interesting and informative post. Enjoyed reading it. Thanks for the useful information. Hope to see your new updates soon.

    Posted by Roger Hamilton | November 6, 2008, 1:03 pm
  20. Ill cook if you want… hehehe.

    Posted by George Wynn | November 8, 2008, 12:45 am
  21. Sounds like the road to burnout, my friend.

    I would agree that something has to give and dropping a project or two is something that needs to be seriously considered.

    Incidentally, last year I was feeling similarly overwhelmed, and I realized that trying to publish a blog post everyday was one of the reasons for that. There was a 6 month period where I really dropped my level of publishing to a few posts a month, and then I found another system that works for me: I write about 4 posts a week, and I write them all at once over the weekend. That way I don’t feel overwhelmed on week nights knowing that I want to write a post but feeling too tired. So far it’s been working great.

    Posted by Shadox | November 8, 2008, 7:02 pm
  22. Definitely eat better and sleep better, if you can manage it. But…also go to a doctor and get a checkup. If I’m not mistaken, you’re pretty young to feel that tired. Young women sometimes suffer from anemia, which can be treated. You should not feel so fatigued you can’t fix yourself a meal or eat it.

    Y’know…frozen veggies don’t have to live in the freezer. They’ll keep for quite a while in the fridge. Buy yourself some precut frozen stir-fry veggies, plus some pre-sliced chicken or pork, or small shrimp. All these will keep several days at refrigerator temperatures. That will feed you for a couple nights a week, anyway. Probably various precooked meals (especially curries & the like) also will keep for several days in the refrigerator. If you don’t leave them out on the counter, they’re not likely to spoil.

    Posted by Funny about Money | November 9, 2008, 2:16 am
  23. Plonkee, like many a blog post that we all right, you know the answers — you’ve typed them out right there ;)

    Food and sleep will solve half of your problems. I’d add fitness goals too (I know you’ve said bouldering, but tangible goals are even better).

    Nothing works as fast at making you feel like you’re back in control than losing a bit of weight here, and gaining a bit there. :)

    Posted by Monevator | November 9, 2008, 5:49 pm
  24. when in a desperate hurry and i know i need good nutrients i make ‘power smoothies’ use a banana an avocado, some soft fruit, some wheatgerm - maybe a spoonful and a spoon of spirulina - oh and you can put in yeast flakes for b vitamins, some fruit juice and some yoghurt. whizz it up and drink. altho not the cheapest. its healthy and you get all you need. but i have to say - if you already need some wind down time then 30 mins cooking is the way to go.

    Posted by mo | November 12, 2008, 8:40 am
  25. Regarding your finances not being in order. It’s like the plumber who has had leaky faucets in his own home - like forever. :) As you tell me how you straightened yours out maybe I can for the first time in ages do mine.

    Posted by AirJordans | November 21, 2008, 6:54 pm
  26. got an Iceland nearby? they do packs of frozen cooked chicken for £2
    then just mix in with whatever, rice mix, noodles,
    very versatile

    Posted by Marie | December 1, 2008, 6:31 pm
  27. I wouldn’t eat a £2 frozen chicken. It might be good for your bank balance but what of your soul!

    Posted by Monevator | September 20, 2009, 7:58 am

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