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Money Diary: A Secondary School Teacher In Rural Scotland On 41k

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we're tracking every last penny.This week: "I’m a 31-year-old secondary school teacher living in rural northeast Scotland with my wife, M, and our 2.5-year-old puppy, A. We have been together for almost eight years and married for three and a half. After some time out of our careers to travel (M is a doctor), we settled in NE Scotland where M got a specialist training post which will take her through to being a consultant. This meant that we could buy a house and we are currently trying to live the country dream with our wee cottage that we bought in 2019. Somewhere in the future is starting a family and we are very fortunate to be entitled to NHS funding to support this. In general, we don’t go out all that much (even before COVID) and so try to save a fair bit each month. We both see our money as shared and are happy to pool all our savings and pay for each other when out and about. In 2019 we were very lucky to be gifted £50,000 by my grandfather as a kind of ‘pre-death’ inheritance. This allowed us to put in an offer on a dream cottage, knowing that we would have enough money to make the improvements we needed/wanted (around £36,000 in total). We have slowly been doing up the cottage (replacing the windows, kitchen and bathroom, redecorating and making massive changes in the garden) and are happy to spend money to make our house a home. We can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel as we now only have carpets, new doors and a new wood burner to buy (although lockdown 2.0 has put a spanner in the works in terms of getting tradespeople in). I cannot wait for everything to be finished! When my grandfather passed away (his will was settled last May) we were flabbergasted to receive £133,000. This is an enormous amount of money and we feel that it is very important to look after it – we know that we are very lucky to be in this position and want to make sure that we use it to future-proof our life. All this pressure (put on myself really) massively stressed me out as I had no clue about how to keep it responsibly. After deciding that we don’t really understand investments enough to go down that route (and me being worried about the ethical/sustainability implications of some investments) we decided to buy a property to let and are currently in the process of closing on a flat in the city that M works in. We won’t have time to manage tenants ourselves so are happy to pay a letting agency to do this for us, even if this reduces the rental return. Hopefully over time this flat will prove to be a safe investment. We plan to use the rental return to help overpay the mortgage on our cottage and we used some of the inheritance to do this last year (overpayment of £21,000). M and I are very similar in our outlook on life: we both love walking, gardening and generally being outdoors. We also try to do our best to look after the planet and stop climate change. I can be a bit obsessive about being eco and M kindly supports me with this. We are both vegetarians (and were before we met each other – ideal!) and we try to grow as much as we can in our garden. We also try to reduce our plastic consumption by avoiding single-use plastics and getting staples like cleaning and laundry products, dried food and herbs etc. from our local plastic-free shop. The furniture we buy is almost always secondhand or reclaimed wood and I have massively tried to reduce my purchasing of unnecessary products and clothes. I try to only buy clothes from companies which are actively sustainable and/or ethical and I now only buy clothes that will last." Industry: Secondary education Age: 31Location: Northeast ScotlandSalary: £41,412Paycheque amount: £2,143 (after deductions).Number of housemates: One: M, my wife (and A, our dog). Monthly Expenses I’ve included all of our joint expenses as M and I split things pretty evenly and see all of our money as shared. M’s take-home pay is around £2,900 a month. Housing costs: £1,500 mortgage for a three-bedroom detached cottage. Our actual mortgage payments are £937 but we started overpaying in March to speed up paying it off. We will continue to do this for as long as we can and aim to use savings/return from the flat to top up the overpayment to the maximum penalty-free amount of 10% each year. If my maths is right this means that we could be mortgage-free in about six years.Loan payments: £165 student loan.Utilities: From my account: council tax £184, landline phone £30 (our cottage is in a signal blackspot so this is vital), house insurance £742 paid annually. From M’s account: internet £40 (for an EE wireless dongle as you can’t get broadband here – downside of rural living), pet insurance £164 paid annually. From our joint account: Vitality mortgage insurance £51, electricity £70 for our winter months (this decreases in the summer). We are with So Energy as they are fully renewable – this offsets the guilt of being on oil for our heating (another countryside drawback). Oil £350 for a 1,000l tank (we go through about three or four a year but it’s been more when I’ve been working from home). Emptying the septic tank ~£280 every two-ish years.Transportation: Petrol/diesel for both my car and M’s is around £200 a month (M’s commute is 50 minutes each way). Tax for both is £250 and is paid annually by whoever opens the bill, as are MOTs and any repairs (this year this was over £1,000 as my car needed a lot of work). Multi-car insurance, with business and personal injury cover and breakdown recovery, is paid annually and was £1,130 at the start of April.Phone bill: M pays for both of our mobile bills: £42 combined. Savings? Around £130,000 in several savings accounts. £95,000 - £100,000 of this will be spent on the flat purchase, legal fees, upgrading costs and legal requirements/checks to get the flat ready for letting. As well as overpaying the mortgage we also try to save as much as we can each month and will use some of this for finishing the cottage renovations.Other: Joint: £200 for our dog walker (who walks A for an hour each day as we are out of the house from 8am until around 5.30/6 most weekdays), £32 for Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime, dog training (in non-COVID times) £40 for five sessions, tick and worming treatments for A ~£50 every three-ish months, food for A ~£70 every few months (we buy organic food which is climate-friendly and in recyclable packaging – this costs a bit more but is worth it). Personal additional extras: Trade union membership £14, donation to Tree Aid (empowering women and helping stop climate change!) £20, rugby club membership £7.50, charges for Triodos accounts £6, iCloud extra storage £2, annual teaching registration £65 and annual teachers' association for my specific subject £35, annual Quizlet and Mentimeter subscriptions £112 (I use both when I teach and couldn’t cope with the limitations on the free accounts, especially during the lockdowns).Day One7.20am: Alarm goes off. It's an early start on the first day of my Easter holidays – the weather is meant to be great so M and I are heading off for a big walk in the hills nearby. We are lucky enough to live at the foot of the eastern Grampians and if we pick carefully we can walk for hours without seeing anyone else! On the road by 8.20. 8.45am: Start walking and soon fall into the usual discussion about how M and I are very grateful that we both love walking so much. We both know couples that have few shared interests and think it must be difficult to find time together. 10.25am: Reach top of the first hill and we can see for miles! I'm in a T-shirt for the first time this year but we forgot sun cream which means that I'll come away from the walk with a slight tan and M will have sunburned hands – adulting fail! Pass two very creepy mannequins on the way to the next summit (why? Just why?) and almost reach the next summit (an 8-foot-high deer fence is in our way). Realise we need to be on the other side of the fence so find a tiny gap and squeeze through with much hilarity (and muddiness). Access rights are different in Scotland to those in England – we have the 'right to roam' and so don't have to stick to public footpaths as long as we are following the countryside code. This is great as you can pretty much walk anywhere but landowners of big estates aren't always keen so it's not uncommon to come across padlocked gates over bridges or big deer fences. 2.30pm: Back at the car after 18km (5km more than we had bargained for). We were almost back when I rolled my ankle by falling in a pothole while pointing out a heron. I have horrendous ankles (courtesy of a slip on a seaweed-covered rock on a university field trip circa 2008) so this isn’t a rare occurrence… M knows the drill: I sit on the floor, swearing and breathing like I'm in labour, then we assess whether I can carry on. Thankfully managed to limp back to the car where M takes over all adulting duties. Drive home via the local town to get some gardening supplies and veggies from our local garden centre (£34, paid by M). Then on to the Co-op to get milk, a veggie main for our roast tomorrow, some obligatory chocolate eggs and a bottle of gin for one of M’s consultants (£28.83, paid by M). M goes in and pays as I rest my ankle. I upload the walk onto Strava (did you even walk/run if it’s not on Strava?). Also realise that I’ve forgotten to upload information about the Women's Six Nations fixtures to the school rugby teams I coach so I pop a quick post on Teams.2.50pm: Home. Dump the walking bags and grab a quick shower before settling down to watch England vs Scotland women. This year, for the first time, all Women's Six Nations games are being shown on BBC iPlayer. This is a massive step forward as when I started playing at uni 14 years ago there was no media coverage of the games at all really and all players were amateur. There's still a long way to go in terms of gender equality but some of the women I played with are now fully professional (as are the whole of the England squad). Eat leftover pizza as we watch and discuss how well players from my fantasy rugby team are doing. 4.30pm: Full time. England win (not a surprise) but Scotland improved compared to last year and lots of my fantasy players did well so I'm happy. I remain as an invalid on the sofa, icing my ankle and watching Grey’s Anatomy. I've started from the beginning again to make the most of a free Disney+ subscription we got with our phone contracts and I'm loving it! 8pm: Watch the next Six Nations game and test M for her next exam in her doctor training. It’s at the end of April so the fear has set in. We decide at half time we should be sensible and have some tea – cue a mad rush of reheating leftover soup and tidying the kitchen. 10pm: Pop A out for his nighttime pee (or so we think. A actually uses this time to take his last drink from the pond – don’t you know that tap water is poison, hoomans?). Head to bed.Total: £0 Day Two8am: I stir as M gets out of bed to do A. We take it in turns to get up and feed him on the weekends so it’ll be my early start tomorrow. 9.30am: Wake up and read this weekend’s Money Diary. It’s so great to hear about another lesbian couple just living their normal lives (instead of being crazy, or the villains, as TV often suggests…). M has already started revising (massive kudos) so has a quick break to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. My ankle is pretty stiff so I rearrange a walk with a pal for tomorrow. 10.30am: M’s mum, dad and sister arrive to do some gardening. They’ve just moved to Scotland and it’s lovely to be able to see them more regularly, especially as we hadn’t seen them since Christmas 2019. As per the COVID rules I wave from the house and stay indoors to watch Grey’s and unsubscribe from most of the companies that send me emails. The carbon footprint from all the pointless emails I get (and then delete without reading) has been stressing me out for a while so this is a good way to feel productive while doing very little. 12.30pm: I make teas for the gardeners and deliver them out of one of the back windows. M’s parents are helping M concrete in some posts for one of our apple trees that arrived last week. After two years the garden is finally starting to look like our dream garden. Our aim is to make it as wildlife-friendly as possible (wildflower meadow and pond) and to grow our own fruit and veggies and we are nearly there! Although we have spent a lot of money it's totally worth it and we get such a sense of achievement from the fact that we have done almost everything ourselves, bar building the patio – we do not have the skills for that (yet)! 1pm: M’s family head off, frozen but with some seeds and plants and a load of clean washing (their cottage doesn’t have a washing machine yet). Sign some documents for a new savings account with Triodos for M to post on Tuesday and groom A while he’s snoozy. M kindly agrees to read my Money Diary so far to make cuts – I hope you’re in for the long haul with this one as I am a sharer! 2pm: Leave M revising while I do some house admin: laundry, kitchen tidy and wash up again. I feel that an accurate description of adulting is constantly tidying the kitchen! I cook a stir fry for lunch and stew some of our homegrown rhubarb (big news as it’s our first crop). I also notice that some of the peppers in the fridge are going over so chop and freeze them for easy cooking later. 3pm: Eat with M and we pop on a Gardeners' World to watch as a revision break. The first segment is on rhubarb (hurrah!) and we get some great tips. Hang out the washing then A and I head off for a walk with a friend (G) and her dog R. Ring my mum on the way. COVID times means we have no real news and so just update each other on what’s happening in our gardens! 6pm: Back from the walk. No R for A to play with but G and I had lovely chats – life, food and rugby. M notices what looks like poo in A’s beard. A sniff confirms our suspicions and we wonder where it has come from. M washes him off – she’s a good egg – and I go to check that our septic tank hasn’t erupted in the garden (again... #countrylife) but it all looks okay. On a more positive note, I remember that I don’t have to do my COVID tests this week as it’s the school holidays. Most teachers (and pupils) are testing twice a week so it’s a big relief to have a wee break from all the horrendous swabbing. 7pm: Help M put together a revision plan before she heads off to make dinner. We were going to have a roast tonight but we have left it too late so have the ultimate beige dinner: veggie nuggets, oven chips and beans (five beans so we feel slightly better about ourselves). After tea I check the closing date for feedback on the English Rugby Union’s proposed transgender policy. Their plans don’t sit well with me as women’s rugby is such an inclusive sport so I want to give my views but I need to think about how to word it. While I am not against having a policy I think that the limits on any trans woman hoping to play who is over 170cm/90kg is unfair as many of the cis women who play are over these measurements. 8.55pm: Five minutes of mad dash tidying before Line of Duty. It’s a good episode but lots of references to previous series – thankfully M has all the knowledge. 10pm: Sort A out and head to bed where we do a Guardian crossword to switch off before lights out. Total: £0 Day Three7.35am: I get up with A. We’ve had a dusting of snow overnight and when A goes out in the garden to get his favourite toy it’s frozen stiff! 8.30am: M wakes up and we settle down to watch an episode of Kirstie and Phil’s Love It or List It with toasted hot cross buns for breakfast. My alarm goes off, reminding me to open my classroom windows (COVID times…) and I smugly turn it off. I check my bank accounts as not all of my scheduled payments for Good Friday came out. This means we can’t get into Netflix (sob, sob as we have a RuPaul’s Drag Race to watch). 9am: M is off due to the bank holiday and she heads off to revise. I dress and then ice my puffy ankle while writing my holiday to-do list. Order some brownies for a friend who has helped me with some school stuff (£14.50) and donate £20 to Maggie’s for a friend who did the 300,000 steps challenge in March; GiftAid increases the donation to £25. Buy a feminist-themed babygro for a colleague who is due to give birth soon (£19). 10am: Pop through to see how M is getting on and grab a can of Coke Zero. Feel proud that I waited until 10am as I have a mild addiction to Coke (I don’t drink any other caffeine) and when times are tough at school I have been known to crack one open pre-9am (this is bad I know and Coca-Cola are evil plastic polluters but please don’t judge me – the struggle is real). I message our plumber to book a boiler service (it’s long overdue – we’ve been in the house for three years and haven’t had it serviced yet) and the tiler who did our bathroom to see whether he is free to do some work in the flat we are buying. Also email some letting agencies to get some information on their property management packages. 11am: A and I head off for a walk with my friend T, another teacher. Today’s chat topics include updates on his new job, Amazon’s new climate change policy (is it just greenwashing?) and student loans – mainly how much we owe and how we just pretend they aren’t a thing. 1pm: Home and I start cooking a ratatouille-esque stew with green lentils and veggie sausages. I also make some peanut butter dog treats for A. I make a batch every couple of weeks after a friend gave him some for Christmas and he loved them. They’re super cheap to make and all the ingredients are plastic-free plus we know exactly what goes in them/how they are made. This is a big positive after I found out that some companies test dog treats on caged dogs. 1.30pm: Boldly decide to hang up the washing outside as it's really windy and quite sunny. It starts to snow as I do this and I wonder about taking it down and hanging it inside. Decide to leave it out – does this make me Scottish? 2.10pm: Lunch with M and Love It or List It (you will notice a trend here). Have a slice of cake for pudding and continue my admin. Respond to a letting agency and get confirmation that our tiler can do the work – goodbye '90s-style brown marble effect tiles, hello clean, fresh, white tiles! M and I both rented some interesting flats at uni/the start of our careers and so we would like to offer a well maintained and nicely decorated flat to rent. We are happy to spend a bit of money on this as we think that it will be easier to sort the flat before any tenants move in. 3.15pm: Still feel peckish so grab the head of my chocolate bunny and an apple (the apple cancels out the chocolate, doesn’t it?). Admit defeat with the washing outside – it’s now snowing big, wet flakes. 3.30pm: Run a bath – one of my ultimate luxuries. After a few years without one we splashed out when we did the bathroom and got a roll top, cast iron bath (a short one so vertically challenged bathers like me don’t drown). It was 100% worth it! 5.45pm: I’ve been attacked by a serious case of the grumps – 100% food-related, so I start to prep our roast: bubble and squeak bites, roast potatoes (I’ve made way too many but that’s the perk of a roast, isn’t it), roast butternut squash, peas, gravy and Yorkshire puddings. 7.55pm: Eat dinner with a G&T and some Love It or List It. I was correct with my estimation of too many potatoes so we both go back for seconds (and thirds). They are delicious! No dessert as we are stuffed. 9pm: We are shattered so it's bedtime. Write a meal plan for the week (this really helps stop impulsive purchases when I shop and reduces our food waste) and discuss what we could do for our anniversary, which is in a few weeks, then sleep. Total: £53.50Day Four 7am: M gets up for work and sorts A. I had planned to get up at 8 but screw that, I’m on holiday! 9.30am: Wake up to A spooning me. Scroll through Facebook until the house phone rings (shock horreur – no one rings the house phone!). It’s a letting agency who agree to email over a breakdown of their charges for property management. 10am: Get dressed and eat breakfast: rhubarb, yoghurt and granola. Reply to my physio who can book me in for a sports massage now restrictions are lifting – great news! 10.40am: Still peckish so grab a couple of mini chocolate eggs. Settle down in front of Grey’s to do some schoolwork. I used to use holidays as a chance to do all my unfinished schoolwork but this was horrendous for my wellbeing and I never felt rested. Now I write a list of jobs that I could do but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t. Start making some revision quizzes for my exam class. They’ve worked hard all year, despite COVID, and so I’m happy to do this to support them over Easter. Plus the question bank I create can be used again so I’m saving my future self some time. 12pm: A’s walker arrives so I head off to the nearest big town to do our weekly shop (20 minutes away). Realise I don’t have enough diesel to get there so nip to the petrol station on my way (£57.04). Tesco is busy and I can’t believe the number of people who don’t sanitise their hands before entering and/or get really close to me/others while in the shop. Not cool people, not cool! Total shop spend is £61.06. I only really need to buy fresh goods and a few tins as I did a big shop at the plastic-free shop a few weeks ago. I get the ingredients for our meals for the week (curry, Moroccan stew, roast cauliflower steaks, burritos, quiche and frittatas) plus a few extra bits – Coke Zero, ice cream and shampoo (our shampoo bar isn’t as moisturising as it needs to be atm). Feel pleased as our fruit and veg have fairly low air miles and bar our dairy stuff the shop is almost plastic-free. I also spend £12.25 on tins and porridge oats for the food bank. 1.40pm: Decide to give the fridge a clear-out and clean before unpacking the shopping. Immediately regret this as it’s a big job and I haven’t had lunch yet. 2.30pm: Finally sit down for lunch – a hash made with the leftover roast potatoes and veggies from last night. Have the last tiny piece of a brownie I made last week and a Coke Zero. Find out that the results for an interclub challenge at rugby have been calculated incorrectly and despite this being pointed out, the results aren’t being changed. Message a teammate and we rant about how we are often labelled as ‘those women’ for raising issues like this and trying to foster equality and fairness within the club. 3.20pm: Check our joint account, most of the pending payments have come out (£50 for dog walker, £1,500 for the mortgage). Strangely the Netflix payment hasn’t come out but I can now log in and watch shows. Who knows what’s going on! 3.40pm: Breaking news: it has been confirmed that all Scottish secondary schools will return full-time after the Easter break. While this is a relief as I won’t have to juggle face-to-face teaching alongside online teaching, it's also worrying: did COVID disappear over the Easter holidays? How can it be that pupils magically don’t need to be 2m apart anymore? Increased testing and an increasing proportion of the population being vaccinated is great and I know that hospital cases are really dropping but school is still going to be super tough and I can imagine that lots of pupils will end up self-isolating as they test more so we will be issuing online work anyway. 5.10pm: Two quizzes uploaded onto my class’s Teams page (had hoped for more but such is life). A highly recommended plasterer (who our decorator refers to as the 'plaster master') replies to my availability query text with a thumbs up emoji. What does that even mean? I assume he is available and await a longer reply – it doesn’t come. 5.45pm: Head out for a walk with A. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place and it’s so quiet round here that although we are out for about an hour, mainly on roads, A can be off lead the whole way. See a few oystercatchers, a hare, a buzzard, many pheasants (A resists the urge to chase them – good boy!) and three roe deer, which we disturb as we return to the house via the wood they live in. 6.45pm: Start cooking tea: cauliflower and pea curry with crispy paneer slices and eggy chapatti. Always a winner! M gets home after a long day on-call and we catch up about our days. 8.15pm: Watch this week’s RuPaul with tea. Spend most of our time critiquing the acting (this week’s maxi challenge), commenting on how amazing Simone’s skin is and agreeing that we want Rosé to win. Have a wee slice of cake and see that the 'plaster master’ has replied properly so no need for an awkward follow-up text. 9.45pm: Pop A out and head to bed. I’ve always been old before my time and am so thankful that I don’t have to pretend to enjoy being out until 3am any more à la uni times! Total: £180.35 Day Five8am: M heads off to work and I try to get back to sleep for a lie-in but no chance as A is super awake. Get up, shower and dress. 9am: Head out for a walk with A. It’s a glorious day, albeit freezing, so we pootle off to see whether some cows have been put in a nearby field – I live an eventful life! No cows but that means we can walk round the field and through a lovely wood. Nature-spotting update: curlew, oystercatcher, some lapwings, two hares and the highlight of the walk, a red squirrel! There’s a small population of them in the woods around our house and two regularly visit our garden. 9.30am: Home. I plan on upcycling a table today and need to learn how to use a new setting on the circular saw so get this out to read the instructions. Grab some breakfast: toast with butter and a Coke Zero (I’m on holiday!). Pop on Grey’s and after checking that no one else has been in the garden, A comes for a snuggle. Guess that means I’ll have to chill on the sofa for a while – can’t possibly disturb the dog! Gawd, this episode is the one where Denny dies. I become a blubbering mess. 10.30am: Finally pull myself together and check my very empty inbox. Read an article from Good on You, a website that rates clothing brands on their ethical and sustainability credentials and see some new brands that I didn’t know about – good for future clothes shopping. 11am: Put the heating on – it's baltic – and have some chocolate (should have had a banana but hey ho). Buy a box of 48 premium toilet rolls and some kitchen roll from Who Gives a Crap (£54). This box will last six months and although it's shipped from China, the transport is carbon neutral and WGAC is rated as the best toilet paper option on Ethical Consumer. 1pm: Notice that A has pulled out all the stuffing from his bed through some holes in the cover. I knock up a cover on our sewing machine using an old Gryffindor blanket, which A most certainly is! I started sewing with the sewing machine when we decided to make bunting for our wedding and we have saved loads of money since. I have taken up curtains and can also take up trousers – ideal as even petite trousers are too long on me. A gets back with the dog walker. We catch up and arrange for her to start back when I return to school. I pay her for the days she has done this week and for the bank holiday, even though she didn’t come – she doesn’t ask for holiday pay but we really think she deserves it (£30). A gives the repaired bed his seal of approval and is flat out on it within 15 minutes! 1.30pm: Have an unexpected call from M while making lunch – usually we are both too busy at work to text, let alone chat. I ask her to check how much data we have left on our internet plan as I’ve streamed Grey’s nonstop. She checks and we have used 115 of our 200mb in 12 days (out of 30!). I realise that the streaming settings were set to HD on Disney+ so quickly change them to ‘save data’. I decide not to worry too much about probably having to buy more data this month as we have saved loads this holiday by not going away or eating out. Eat lunch: cheese and chutney toastie with a banana, Tunnock’s teacake and, you guessed it, a Coke Zero (plus some water). Start to panic that I’m halfway through the first week of my hols and a) I have not done much on my to-do list, b) I do not feel rested in any way and c) compared to the more recent Money Diaries, I have written loads and people might find it too much. Give myself a talking to ("You’ve 11 days of your holiday left woman!") and decide to chill for the rest of the afternoon on the sofa.6.30pm: I get tea started: leftover curry with naan. We only buy reduced bread and naans as they freeze well and I feel that stopping them going into food waste balances out the plastic packaging. 6.45pm: M gets home and we speed eat as both of us are heading out at 7, M to walk with her family and me to rugby training. 9.30pm: Home from training and straight in the shower as I’m frozen. I took a break from rugby after the first lockdown as I had planned to retire that season so couldn’t muster the energy to train with no purpose but going back has been lovely. I have definitely missed the banter and chat from the girls and the enforced exercise is a bonus. Should ice my ankle but it’s too cold so get into bed with a hot water bottle instead. Total: £84Day Six 7.15am: Wake up as I think I can hear A up and about. Leave M sleeping and go through to the snug to find A high as a kite! We have a play then I give him his breakfast. It’s bad times as he’s out of wet food so needs a new can opening. The meatiness is pretty grim (I’ve never eaten meat) but M and I agree that he should have fresh meat as part of his diet. 8.30am: We head through to wake M up with cuddles. She has a study day but feigns no knowledge of saying that she was going to get up at 8.30 to revise. A is having none of it and insists she wakes up by snuffling her with his wet beard. 9.30am: Brekkie on the sofa (a hot cross bun and a slice of toast) and in preparation for a chat tonight with a letting agency I pull together a spreadsheet to compare their charges with our second choice. 10am: After the delivery of some OS maps yesterday (ordered last week) I had planned to head to the coast to walk but the weather is minging and my ankle is sore so I decide to give it a miss. Start on some schoolwork instead – I want to try and get my key bits of work done by the end of this week so I can have next week properly off. Today I’m making some evidence booklets for a qualification I’m putting one of my rugby groups through. It’s uncharted territory for me so I arrange to chat about it tomorrow with the community coach I team-teach with. 12pm: George the postie drops by with some parcels! This is exciting times as I haven’t bought any new clothes since August last year. Pants and vest tops from Rapanui (a British circular economy brand) and two pairs of leggings for me and sports bras for M and I from BAM. I have lived in my BAM leggings since discovering them in lockdown 1.0 and would highly recommend them. 1pm: Booklet one done! M comes through and we both want chips so much but the only chip shop nearby closes in 15 minutes and we won’t make it! The only things I miss about living in a city are food deliveries and the range of cuisines. Raid the freezer for carb-based products that might fill our chip-shaped holes and decide on cheese and onion bakes, a handful of oven chips (all that’s left) and a few veggie chicken nuggets with a bagel. Probably (definitely) too much but the cottage is freezing and we are both ravenous. Get dressed (in my new clothes, obviously) while lunch is cooking after living the holiday life of PJs ‘til lunch. Our neighbour pops by to say that the lady who has started cleaning for her might be able to squeeze us in. This is great news as cleaning can be a contentious issue during term time when we are both frazzled. Start thinking about cleaning the cottage before she visits so she won’t judge us – so British! 5.50pm: Booklet two done. This afternoon has been brain-frying so I’m glad I’ve done the work now instead of later on in my holiday or when I’m back at school. Quick play with A before M and I have a Teams call with the letting agency. 6.45pm: Chat done and we think we are going to go with them so an hour well spent. M popped dinner in the oven before the chat so we sit down to eat – pasta bake and there’s easily four more portions left so that’s lunch sorted for the next few days. M heads out for a walk with A and I video call my dad for our weekly online scrabble night. We have a great time reminiscing about a trip we took to the Himalayas a few years ago. After being trounced last week I win both games and take the lead overall – huzzah! 9pm: M’s back and I drag myself off the sofa to help her tidy the kitchen. Head to bed to watch more Grey’s (it’s official – I am addicted). It’s the ferry boat crash so probably a bad idea as I often have nightmares. M wonders whether tonight will be another night when I try to drag her out of bed in my sleep to save us from impending doom. Total: £0Day Seven 8am: Wake up as M heads off to sort A. Can’t get back to sleep so finish last night’s episode of Grey’s in bed (no nightmares – yay!). M brings me breakfast in bed: rhubarb, granola, yoghurt and a banana. 9am: I’m just about to head out with A for a walk when I realise it’s my mum’s birthday and I’ve forgotten about it. *Insert expletives of your choice hereHow has this happened? Frantically text my friend to push back our walk, order the present I had planned for her – a six-month subscription of flowers from Bloom and Wild (£155) – and then find a florist who might be able to deliver some flowers for today. Crisis averted – they can deliver a bouquet of lilies this afternoon (£40). Phew! 10am: Meet T in a nearby town and we set off for a clifftop walk. See some super cool geology and A is a star on the walk – ace recall and very good at ignoring other people and dogs (a real challenge for him) so I’m a proud mama. 1.15pm: 11.5km later, we get back to the cars. Head off to Pets at Home as it’s in the same town and M got a couple of vouchers recently. Get some conditioner for A’s beard and some seaweed chews (A can vouch for them tasting better than they sound). A large pack of seven chews is only 50p more than a small pack so we buy the large ones and halve them to double the length of time they last. Total cost is £21.97 but the vouchers reduce this to £13.87. M has asked if I can pick up some compost for the garden so she can sow seeds this weekend. I’m starving and cannot be bothered but I’m driving past a garden centre so pop in to save her going out later. £12 for two bags of organic, peat-free compost (please consider buying peat-free if you’re getting compost – an easy way to help mitigate climate change). 2.15pm: Get home and eat some leftover pasta with extra cheese. A tent I ordered in March has arrived and I can’t wait to put it up in the garden. I’m hoping to do some multi-day camping and walking trips this summer while M is at work and it took me ages to pick which tent to buy so fingers crossed I like it. 3pm: Call the community coach to chat about our qualification delivery plan. She shares with me that the regional manager she works with potentially wants to use our work as a model for other schools – cue a happy dance as we have worked really hard this year. I’m so lucky to work with her (she’s so reliable and just gets stuff done) and I make a note to nominate her for an award that I have seen as she has had such a positive impact on rugby within our school. 4pm: Bundle A into the car and off we go to see G and her dog R. As per we have a great time putting the world to rights, and the dogs have a blast. 6.30pm: Get home and M has mowed the grass – it looks fab! We inspect all the plants that are bursting into life and agree that we can’t wait for the summer to see the garden in all its glory. I add to my step count (28,000!) by filling up the pond with water from the water butts in the back garden. When it’s really windy the pond loses a lot of water due to evaporation so topping it up during a dry period is normal. 7pm: Head inside to sort dinner: leek, pea and feta frittata with potato cubes. As dinner cooks, M tells me about her learning today. Being with a doctor for eight years means I know quite a lot of the lingo but tonight I have no clue what she’s talking about. It sounded clever though! 7.45pm: After a quick team tidy and clean of the main living areas it’s time to relax. Pop on a Love It or List It (we do talk to each other, promise!) and eat dinner – it’s delicious and was so easy to make. I head off for a bath once we’ve eaten. As always, I make the bath too hot and get out looking like a chipolata. Have a Tesco cornetto in bed (toffee and vanilla – I would recommend) in an attempt to cool down. 10pm: Bed after the standard nightly crossword with M. Total: £220.87The BreakdownFood/Drink: £73.31 Entertainment: £0Clothes/Beauty: £0Travel: £57.04Other: £408.37Total: £538.72Conclusion "This has been a pretty abnormal spending week for me. Usually I would only spend money on food/drink, travel and compost from the garden centre but the holidays meant I had time to think about things like toilet roll, treats for friends and nipping to shops elsewhere like Pets at Home. Almost all of this spending was thought-out though, with few unnecessary purchases so I’m pleased.Obviously, a big expense was the presents for my mum and had I been more organised I wouldn’t have needed to buy the lilies as well as the flower subscription. I also wonder whether we could cut down on some of our annual outgoings, for example our car insurance and house insurance, and I’m going to try and be more organised when they’re up for renewal so I can shop around for some cheaper quotes."Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Let me just add that geoFence is the only solution you need to block NFCC countries and I am sure your neighbors would feel the same!