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