being thrifty, budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

tEAsury…reflecting on last year’s budget

The Budget – the breakdown – the facts – the truth – the satisfaction and the panic!
Last year my Focus word was ECONOMISE to reflect a change in our circumstances and a need to tighten our belts.
I have one of those all singing all dancing software programs on my computer called Microsoft Money (no longer available).  You just enter each receipt using the appropriate bank account if you have more than one and assign a category.  Once the information is in you can then produce any number of reports that track how much you have spent and even where you spent it.  The program allows you to customise the data to produce reports and spreadsheets split into weeks, months or years and I am able to compare this year to last year or the previous ten years if I wanted.
So I have entered all my receipts for 2017, balanced all the bank statements and run some comparison reports with last year and some in-depth reports (these are helpful when you see a frighteningly large total and want to know what the heck you spent so much on!


Looking over my spending report we did manage to economise in a few areas but not all and in some cases we have been running to stand still because of inflation.  There are some bills you just cannot reduce such as the Council tax which for our area was £73 more this year than 2016 and we live in a fairly modest house.
I will summarise some of the savings and failures of the general household budget.  I won’t be including the decorating and maintenance costs as we all know these are expensive and all I can say is that we have tried to buy wisely and keep within our means.
So how did we do –

General household bills

We reduced both our gas and electricity bills and also the house insurance by carefully swapping deals and suppliers and using less – a saving of £322
Our water is now metered and remains fairly constant if I am careful of our use such as always washing full loads and using the quicker washes.  At least it has not increased.
The TV license increased by £1 – just as well it is a small increase as there is very little on the box sometimes.

Cards and Gifts

I was also surprised that we saved on cards and gifts – family gifts by £100 and friends by £76 – this is mainly due to careful buying and not because of any reduction in the number of friends or family we have.

Clothes, Accessories and Footwear

We have seen a marked reduction here – I spent £336 on clothes an average of £28 month which is half what I spent the previous year but then we did have the wedding that summer and I was the bride’s mother.  OH did even better and only spent £110 over the year.  I don’t think this is too bad considering I need clothes for work.  Most of my clothes came from Sainsbury’s – they have a large clothing section and have a 25% off quite frequently.  I have noticed though that some clothing that would have been £16 or £18 is now hitting the £20 mark.
I spent less on footwear than other years too and some of the casual shoes I bought came from Sainsbury’s but my new winter boots were well over £100 –  I bought the same ones as I had last year because they fit well (I do have to wear good footwear that is well padded, very low or no heel and a thick sole as I have a problem with my feet and have to wear orthotics if they don’t have the right support and comfort built-in which tend to be in the dearer makes such as Gabor, Ecco and Sketchers).  I also had to invest in my new gardening boots which were £30 so this took the total up to £289, which sounds a lot to me for shoes but my footwear spend was balanced out by OH buying no new shoes at all!


On the housekeeping side our grocery, cleaning and some toiletries costs came in at £63 a week – this was a disappointing figure and is not what I had hoped for I was looking for a figure around £50 and this is one area where I feel that even after all the bargain hunting and taking advantage of only buying whilst a product is on offer we have been running to stand still with the large price hikes we have been seeing.
I did take a packed lunch to work most days which reduced the spending in this area but will have increased the total spend on food a bit as obviously the extra food has to come from somewhere.
We did reduce our food waste a lot – I stopped buying those pots of salad like cloeslaw as they seemed to be out of date before the two of us could finish them and I have been adhering to a menu plan each week most of the time.
I continue to buy organic where I can so I know my shop will already be more expensive than most people – but Sainsbury’s do a good own brand organic range which are reasonably priced and I do get reward point coupons for them quite often.

Fuel, transport, car maintenance, insurance, MOT, car parking contract and anything car related

This must be one of the most expensive outlays – it is frightening how much it costs to get about and then to park when you get there.  All I can say is we always shop around for insurance deals, buy cheaper supermarket fuel (never on the motorway) and use those money off / reward point coupons if we are lucky enough to get some.  Other than getting rid of the cars or not going anywhere I am not sure what saving we can make.  My little runaround is already 18 years old and I am not sure what is holding it together but it is fine to get me to work, carry the weekly shopping and take me to places locally.  For anything else we use my hubby’s bigger car.

Books and Magazines

I really believed I had cut down on magazines and thought I was only buying an occassional one when we went to the cottage (we have no TV or internet there so I tend to read) however, the budget report shows a different story and I managed to buy no less than £107 worth of magazines and those magazine books during the year.  Curious to find out more I looked at the in-depth report and this is how that figure is broken down –
  • Psychologies x 2
  • Top Sante x 2
  • Natural Health x 1
  • Gardeners World – May edition for the 2 for 1 entry to gardens card
  • Daphnes Diary x 2
  • Country Living – turning a hobby into a business (book magazine)
  • Gardeners World Plants for Shade (book magazine)
  • Womans Weekly Garden
  • We Love Craft – I don’t even remember this will have to have a search of my bookcase!
  • Build  and Home Build (for our cottage renovations)
  • Country Homes and Ideal Homes pack ( a supermarket offer whilst at the cottage)
  • Healthy Food Guide (another book magazine)
  • What the Doctors Don’t Tell You x 2
  • Country Homes Christmas
  • Christmas House Beautiful
You can see where my interests lie and I obviously need to avoid the magazine aisle!
On the positive side I have acquired Brownie points using the Library to take books out to read rather than buying any.
In actual fact I have so much to read here in the house anyway that I could probably get away with never buying or borrowing a book again for many months.  It is just habit that I will wander into a bookstore and especially The Works where it is cheaper to buy a book than a magazine.  Stationery shops also have this effect on enticing me in to spend.


Christmas has become a lot cheaper for us since we started the Not so Secret Santa within the extended family.  The budget is £50 per person so a £100 spend for OH and I and we spend a further £25 to £30 on the two relatives children and a bit more on our granddaughter.  The Secret Santa stocking within the immediate family is £20 each (£40 for the two of us) and another £10 for the one at my work.  We always give our two daughters and their partners a sizeable cheque for Christmas rather than any gifts they might not want.
The few gifts for our friends we were able to find a 3 for 2 offer.
A grand total of around £300 which does not include the two gifts of money to our daughters.
The bits and pieces such as the cards and wrap came to £20 and is an area where I could make more of my own.
Our real four-foot Christmas tree with roots was a bargain and cost only £17 with the coupon and we can plant it in our Scottish garden later this month.   We decided to put some old lights on the tree when the more recent ones failed instead of rushing out to buy new ones.
The postage for non local cards and one parcel amounted to £30 which was a bit of a shock – not sure how I can get around this expense other than hiring a pigeon to deliver!  I sent them all 2nd class but it was the 4 Australian ones that hiked the price up considerably.  I do have half a book of stamps left though for sending birthday cards.
Perhaps I will try buying a book of stamps throughout the year to spread the cost.
So there you have it  – not brilliant but not a disaster – there is room for a challenge in this years budget somewhere.  I don’t profess to be a frugal blog by any means although I do like to read them and take on any useful ideas.  My aim is to set and stick to a reasonable money-saving budget so that we can increase the amount we save ready for retirement and to free up some of our income for the decorating.   It goes without saying that I am on a mission to reduce our stuff and limit the stuff coming in to our house so not buying things we don’t really need is very important and in itself should save us money.
In my next post I will set out some of my ideas for my new budget!
Back soon x


15 thoughts on “tEAsury…reflecting on last year’s budget”

  1. Sounds like a post I could write, we had much the same year, I did focus on waste, which we achieved and not purchasing so much, under the heading if we don’t buy it we can’t waste it. We cut back on clothes and shoes, we are not frugal, just watching our footprints and saving resources. I have never kept a tally of our spending, but ensuring we don’t overspend.


    1. Hi Marlene – I am hoping to cut back more this year – there were a few surprises in the results of our spending some categories were better and some worse than I thought!
      The magazine spending was a revelation – I really thought I had not bought many!!


  2. There is a scheme where you can access an electronic copy of magazines for free from your library. I’m not sure if all libraries participate and not all magazines are available, and for me reading electronically never replaces flicking through a magazine but it is useful for reading those articles that catch your eye in the supermarket.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This Is really interesting to read. God job on tracking all expenses. I do think that tracking what one has, reduces the need to buy, and that that helps to direct spending towards what one really need.


    1. When I see the total of everything I bought last year (not including paying for bills) it is an awful lot – did I need to buy it – probably not for most of it. I will address this problem of over buying this year.


  4. That programmes sounds useful. Pity it isn’t still available. I can’t really consider myself frugal anymore. I am in some ways, such as using coupons when I get them, always taking my lunch to work and getting the bus as it’s cheaper (and more enjoyable).

    I don’t tend to buy many magazines anymore, (save for occasionally when I go on holiday) as I used to get free subscriptions with my Tesco Clubcard points. This year, however, I don’t even feel inclined to use them for this purpose, as I find that I don’t always read them when they arrive, which is wasteful. I do pass them on to the Give and Take though, so hopefully someone else will benefit from them. I will have to start using the vouchers for something else now.

    I agree with you about grocery prices going up and this being a cause of frustration. My cholesterol lowering yoghurts went up 10% over Christmas and where I used to buy two packs and get money off, even that offer, which was constant, hasn’t been available lately, so I’ll have to limit myself. It’s a pity that there aren’t really any competitors to the main big name brand around.


    1. I have experienced the same thing in the shops – during Christmas they remove all the smaller sized items in favour of the larger ones such as cream, creme fraiche and fromage frais. I only wanted a small pot of cream for my Chocolate cake and the same of Sour Cream for my quiche and I was forced into buying the large one. The constant offer on two packs of organic cheese is no longer and the organic bread is lower priced because they now make it smaller!
      I really thought I hadn’t bought many extra magazines this year over and above the Country Living I am subscribed too so it was a shock to find out I had! I need saving from myself!


    1. Quite frightening actually – you realise if you had not spent anything we all could be millionaires eventually! However, money is not everything and often what we buy makes us very happy at the time.
      My reports came in very handy though when we had the flood as everything we had ever bought for the cottage was listed – much to the insurers annoyance!


      1. Ha! Too bad for the insurer. They all bank on you forgetting or not knowing in the first place. Good for you.

        It’s easy to whittle away money, and we often rise to our means. Keeping track is a great too, or simply budgeting and sticking to it. That’s what I did in my single days, and it helped me save a lot of money. I enjoyed travel and movies, but I didn’t spend much money on household possessions, shoes or things like that that can often “break the bank”.


  5. This is fascinating! I dread to think how much I spend on magazines. I tell myself I never buy them but I think the opposite is true. And I really need to change our energy supplier, I am pretty sure I’m being fleeced. Did it take a really long time to enter each purchase into the database?


    1. Hello Gillian and welcome – I see you are from Tales from a Happy House – I love your blog and your house decor and my biggest wish is that I could crotchet like you!
      I try to do the receipts once a week – I did have a bit of a pile after Christmas because I didn’t get to do them but it was made worse because it is a heavy spend month so more receipts. The categories are set up already and are easy to select once you start typing the name it pops up automatically – but I do a lot of data entry for work so am pretty quick anyway. I used to keep an accounts book by hand and make a note of each purchase but that was in the days before debit cards and most things were paid for by cash and we didn’t have much to spend then!. It is worth doing it on the computer because it can churn out so many different reports but it might not be for everyone. The magazines was certainly an eye opener – I went shopping today and forced myself to walk quickly past them LOL!


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