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Posts Tagged ‘money’

Mr Piglet is often witness to money issues tearing families apart and has recently been a unwilling spectator in a very spectacular family bust up where a family is literally being torn to shreds for a few thousand Euros.

Having been through times where we’ve had no money, plenty of money and then no money again, I think I can say that I know what money is but I also know the value of it and its place in my life. It’s nice to have money, it certainly makes life easier, but it is not a priority when it comes to family. I personally would much rather have my family than money.

So going back to Mr Piglet story: He recently sold, or at least thought he had, a house to a young couple looking to buy their first home. The house was the result of a typical French inheritance. Father passes away, half the house goes to the children whilst the Mother remains living in it. These days’ children are spread out all over the place and the mother wished to remain living in her home even though she couldn’t maintain it. One of the children in a village nearby and took on the role as carer giver, caretaker and everything else that goes with looking after an elderly parent.

When the Mother passed away, the nearby daughter wished to purchase her siblings share of the property, but they couldn’t agree a price and therefore agreed that they would sell it and split the proceeds. So they put the property on the market a year ago with pretty much every local agent.

During this time, nobody really looked after the property. The winter was cold; the spring came with plenty of sun and rain, ideal conditions for making an overgrown garden. The property started to tire like it’s previous owners and started to look (and feel) neglected. Little efforts were made such as trying to mow the law and pulling up some weeds, but the property deteriorated and in a market where prices are falling, nobody was willing to pay the owners asking price.

So along came Mr Piglet with two keen buyers. They were young, keen DIYers which is quite rare for young couples in France, and were willing to take on the project. They knew they were somewhat limited by budget but they could see through the cobwebs and the weeds and spotted the potential which lay behind.

Mr Piglet negotiated the price with the lady representing the owners; he had checked that she had power of attorney to act on behalf of the other brother and sisters which she did. He negotiated his commission right now to a mere two thousand Euros which was not even 1.5%. He was happy though, as the house was a good deal and the young couple would settle nicely there but only had a very limited budget and the owners wouldn’t negotiate any further.

Then out of the blue, he received a call from one of sisters living abroad. The air became tense in the office and she refused to accept the offer. Apparently her sister, the care giver, was asking for a larger split than the other siblings and the other siblings didn’t want to accept.

In the following days, emails between the siblings ensued, a family row had really broken out and Mr Piglet was copied in absolutely every email. It was like a whole seasons worth of Dallas unfolding in his inbox – he was only missing the actors and it could have been a multi-million dollar television serial. I happened to read one of the latter emails and couldn’t believe how for the sake of the extra 2 000 Euros the care giver wanted, this family were willing to rip each other to shreds in front of a spectator with little care of regard for the fact that this was their parents home.

All they cared about was money, money and more money.

Is this really what our world has come to? It would appear to be yes, but please reassure me that there are people out there that place more value on family than money?

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Who here pays their electricity and gas bills by automatic direct debit? Did you know that it is likely you are financing the utility companies by doing this?

I’ve always been useless at paying bills, I would open them, put them on my desk, have a couple of really busy days and they’d soon be buried under mountains of paperwork and forgotten about. Fed up with getting reminder letters, I set up direct debits for all of my utilities thinking it was the right thing to do…

Only it wasn’t, I’ve had some astronomical bills come through since and last summer I started paying scrupulous attention to what I was being billed and debited. The thing with direct debit is that because it’s so automatic and doesn’t require much effort we can have a tendency to not pay attention to how much we’re paying.

Since last summer I have been carefully checking our electricity consumption and comparing it to the bill. Each bill I have received since has been erroneous; the first one by about 30 Euros, the second one by 150 Euros and yesterdays bill by 400 Euros! Each time these amounts are debited from my account and I have to call up EDF to get them to correct it! It’s ended up taking me more time to sort out than simply writing a check and it’s always them that owe me money, never the other way round!

Yesterday really took the biscuit though as I was not expecting to be debited more than 700 Euros for my electricity bill as I hadn’t paid attention to the bill when it arrived so was caught rather by surprise.

Thankfully a quick call to EDF resolved the situation without any upset and the lady was really helpful, even suggesting I ask my bank to refuse the direct debit if it had put me in difficulty (not exactly what you want to do when you’re trying to get a French mortgage mind…). I have never come across someone as helpful as she was and I was truly grateful for her for not making things difficult for me. Within 30 minutes I had a corrected bill and credit note (a reimbursement would take 3 weeks and we’ll be moved by then). This is one of my only examples of good customer service in France but it goes to show that it does exist, albeit very rarely.

It appears I’m not the only one to receive high bills from EDF, I read on TF1 about some poor bloke that got stuck with a bill for nearly 60 000 Euros at the beginning of January. The poor guy still hasn’t managed to sort it out with EDF now, so he’s obviously not had quite as much luck as I have.

I can no longer afford to be financing these companies; if I want to invest money in them I’ll buy shares thanks very much! It’s easy for them to get away with debiting and billing what they want and then taking time to rectify, so from now on I’ll be paying all my bills by good old cheque thank you very much!

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Coming back from Corsica I decided to have a “clear the freezer” week. Having checked my bank balance upon my return, I ws sent into a state of shock to see we’d spent far, far too much money and that Hubby and I were going to have to live much more frugally for the rest of the summer. How we managed to spend so much I don’t know, I didn’t even think Corsica was expensive compared to the South of France or even some places in Lyon! I think maybe mischievous TomTom had got hold of our Carte Bleue too?

So clearing the freezer seemed like a good idea, a better option than bread and pasta in any case. We have one of those American style fridge-freezers (do the Americans call them American fridges too? Anyone?) and the freezer is always bursting full of frozen goodies from Picard, home cooking, frozen veggies and other bits and pieces including 3 bottles of vodka!

After much reflexion, I decided the vodka could stay as I’m sure it’s not very healthy living on vodka for a week and started to attack the rest of the contents vigorously in order to make some type of meal plan. A freezer week normally means for some weird and wonderful meals and sees me having quite an ad hoc approach to cooking.

Unfortunately on this occasion we had some bad family news and my Beaux-Parents came to stay unexpectedly. As I was still trying to live off the freezer I had a route around to see what I could find. I have already spoken of the Belle-Mere’s excellent cooking here so I had to be careful not to disappoint and to ensure that everyone was fed correctly as they needed it.

Some puff pastry, beef burgers and chicken pieces were found so along with the tomatoes in the garden and some mustard from the fridge, I was able to make a bizarre, but tasty meal of tomato tart served with either beef burger or chicken. I think the tart would make a better dish on its own with some fresh salad but that wasn’t an option I had.

So, if you have some tomatoes, some pastry and some mustard here’s something really easy you can try your hand at:

Tomato Tart

Tomato Tart
Serves 4 – 6 people

What you need:
6 tomatoes (enough to cover the pastry) or enough of any type of fresh t’s you can get your hands on
1 Roll of pastry (shortcrust or puff, its the pastry that you buy already rolled out in a circle)
French mustard
Salt & Pepper
Herbes de Provence or other to taste.

What you need to do:
1. Place the pastry on a tray or in a quiche dish. Roll up the edges slightly to form a crust when cooking it.
2. Slice the tomatoes removing any excess juice and pips as you go along.
3. Paste a thin spread of mustard over the pastry.
4. Cover the pastry base with the sliced tomatoes.
5. Season to taste.
6. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees (or as per pastry instruction) for approx 30 minutes or until pastry is golden

You can also add some goats cheese on top but I’m not sure how traditional that is.

Do you have any frugal, fridge/freezer clearing recipes?

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