budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

trEAsury…a good start

Snowdrops

Birthday Card

We are now on day 8 of the new year and up to yesterday all we had bought during the week was milk and a bunch of flowers and box of chocolates for a birthday gift.  The card I made having a really good time with some tiny flower stamps I had bought a while ago but never used.
Total cost for first 7 days £11.   January is quite a heavy month for birthdays  – I have seven to buy for.
Yesterday we had to go to the supermarket for a few bits for my lunches and some fresh fruit and vegetables.  I was very organised and arrived with my menu plan and list in hand feeling confident that I was going to spend within my budget of £50.
After the first two aisles I came across a number of our usual grocery items on offer but not on the list such as coffee. 
Dilemma.
In the end it seemed right to take advantage and stock up –  otherwise it will be a while before the offers come round again.
  • The very large Lurpack was down to £6.00 – we decant this into a butter dish which I quite like doing anyway – more elegant on the breakfast table than a tub – and a tub this size is not at all pretty – but it does last us for ages.
  • The seeded flat breads which are like Pitta breads are great for filling with salads for my lunch and these had been marked down to 80p for six.
  • The instant Lavazza which is normally extortionate price of £4.50 (but hubby’s favourite) was down to £3 a tin so I splashed out and bought 3 which should last us until the offer comes round again.
  • I also bought a couple of cartons of Napolina Pasata at 60p carton and a good pantry staple for making lasagne, chickpea bake or adding to any winter warming casserole.
  • We needed water filters and we were in luck this week they were reduced – I can only afford them when they are on offer but I do like filtered water – since I had the high levels of radiation a few years back it has left me with a very heightened sense of taste and smell like you get when you are pregnant.  They were reduced from £21 to £14 for six and we make them last 9 months so about £1.55 a month, which is well worth it for me.
So in the end we spent £72  – £31 on the offers.
Over the weekend I have been looking for new ways to maximise any rewards points, offers and freebies.  Reward points work well for me and the Nectar card at Sainsbury’s is the one I use most.  I haven’t really taken much notice of the online account before – but I ventured on there to order a new card as mine must be more than 20 years old and a bit worn out.  Yes I hate to say it but this little bit of plastic is heading for the landfill!
Whilst having a browses around I found I could get 200 points on my next shop and all I had to do was click to load the offer straight on to my card.
Brilliant.
So I have now bookmarked the login on my sidebar for easy access and this is one account I shall keep checking into more frequently.
I then logged onto the Boots Advantage card site and found the same – not only have I £34 in points to spend but you can load any personalised offers straight to your card.  Why didn’t I know this before?  I wonder what else I am missing.
To boost the coffers over the January period I have a children’s outfit to return to M&S for a refund of £18 and my brother owes me £10 – he will just need a nudge about this.
As you can tell I will be trying to spend as little as possible other than food during January.  I even managed to avoid the magazines whilst in Sainsbury’s – I could see them out of the corner of my eye beckoning me with promises of losing 10lbs in 2 days or was it 2lbs in ten days or making me happy, less stressed, better dressed – none of these things would be difficult but I have heard it all before in last years magazines that I bought  – the ones that cost me over £100  – and did they make a difference – nope – none that I can detect.  I am still the same old me!
I have plenty of clothes for work and my new boots and old winter coats are still good. 
If I need anything it would be a plain black top, preferably a fine knit jumper, that will go with a few patterned skirts that I have and will give me another three outfit options to wear for work.  I bought the skirts ages ago but have never found a suitable top to wear with them – but there must be one out there and it seems a bit wasteful to have the skirts hanging there doing nothing.
Note to self – buy clothes in outfits then I am not stuck with oddments that don’t go with one another.
Back soon x

 

 

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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!

Housekeeping

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

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

 

budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

trEAsury…October spending

October has not turned out to be a good reflection of our usual housekeeping budget where the food shopping is concerned.  I can’t report any real thriftiness on my part but we continue to eat well and plan what we eat which is one of the best ways to save money.

As always you have to factor in the out of the ordinary expenditure and from my records the average weekly spend has increased over this month due to a number of reasons:-

  • Brexit is certainly having an effect on the prices now and inflation is beginning to bite hard.  Many items are going up by 50p a time or shrinking in size to compensate.
  • This month in particular I have increased the amount of fruit I am eating – OH has been preparing some wonderful mixed fruit salads to go with my plain no fat yoghurt at breakfast.  As we all know fruit, especially the soft fruits like blueberries and raspberries, are expensive but so good health-wise. I always eat an apple a day for my morning break at work as well so I think my vitamin C quota is well covered each day and I shouldn’t need to take any supplements.
  • When we went to help my daughter move she had no means of cooking or chilling food so was managing buying one meal at a time for a few days.  We had just returned from holiday and had no food in our house either so I grabbed a basketful of ready-made lunch items on the way at Marks and Spencers at the Wetherby services – their selection of sandwiches being better than the local Co-op.  This cost me over £16 for the four of us with a chocolate eclair each and a bag of crisps.
  • I have been using this month to stock up on basic items like toilet rolls ready for Christmas.  I always plan ahead to get these now as I don’t want to be thinking about the basic necessities close to Christmas when I need to be thinking more about shopping for meals and entertaining.
  • I have been buying the ingredients for the cake, nut roast and food gifts – they are generally found in the baking goods aisle which is always a costly place to be.
  • My lunches which I used to buy at the local Bakehouse are now all made at home so I have to factor in the extra cost of this into the weekly shop but this is balanced by the saving to my weekly personal miscellaneous spending which is virtually at zero now.
  • Due to time constraints with our decorating program my weekly visits to the supermarket have not been on the same day and I noticed that sometimes my weekly shop has been done less than a week after the previous one.

I read online that for Yorkshire and Humberside a weekly shop is on average £47.30 for a family – we eat organic foods mostly so you can add a further 10% to that figure, however I do buy mostly Sainsbury’s own cheaper brands rather than other well-known ones.  although there are only two of us sometimes a weekly shop costs as much as buying for a family of four because you cannot buy smaller sizes or the smaller sizes are more expensive to buy.

I admit we have a few expensive items such as  unfiltered organic virgin olive oil and organic free range eggs, but we do not eat meat or fish so these are a good source of the Omega 3.  A packet of lentils or chick peas is quite low-cost at only 60p and a staple diet for us together with brown rice we then buy a heap of veg to go with these and usually meet the required 5 a day at any one meal.

I like to buy good quality unprocessed whole-foods in an attempt to keep us as healthy as possible and I think I do get value for the money I spend although I would like it to be more around £50 a week mark rather than the £70 average it has crept up to because of the reasons I explained above – so plenty of work still to be done in the coming months to bring this back down.

On the positive side – I spend very little on my mobile phone a £10 recent top-up making that £10 for the year to date as I had a free £10 when I switched to Vodaphone pay as you go.

I don’t pay for all day parking on a Thursday now as I am only working Monday to Wednesday –  a saving of £16 to £20 a month – and I don’t have the petrol cost on top either – however, I have lost a whole day’s pay which more than covered these but I will be using the extra time I have gained wisely to save money in other areas too.

October achievements

  • I have bought as many items as I can when on offer, reduced or I have a coupon.
  • I continue to plan out a menu to avoid food waste – we have very little food waste now – I stopped buying those cartons of chilled coleslaw and salad stuff as once opened they only last a couple of days and I found the last little bit never got used.
  • I have about £106 in Sainsbury’s reward points to spend at Christmas.
  • I tried some new recipes – one or two will make it into my tried and tested section of my binder
  • I managed to skip the magazines most weeks buying none in August and September and only two health and food related ones in October

November budgeting

  • Making my own Christmas cake and Nut roast
  • Adding basic items to my weekly shop to stock up for Christmas
  • Making a Christmas menu plan so I don’t over buy or over spend on food that will not be eaten
  • Using the Waitrose £12 off a £60 spend
  • Clean out the freezer – use this month to plan weekly menus to use up food in there.
  • Use the £106 reward points on the double up event for drink and Christmas requirements
  • Use remainder against food bill
  • Fill car up with petrol using 9p off litre voucher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

being thrifty, budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsure, trEAsury

Financial Focusing review #2

Such a short month February I suppose it should be easier to stay in budget but I still went over by £1.85.  Now I am thinking if only I had taken one more packed lunch I would have hit my target.

If you haven’t been following along my budget allowance for this month has been taken from the whole of  last years spend for each category – less 10% then divided by 52 and times 4 which gives me the figure in the end column.

February 2014 Spending

The £13 for cleaning product was spent on water filters  – a box of 6 which were half price.  I have classed them as a cleaning product as it isn’t really a grocery item either and after all in my logical thinking they do clean up the water!

My groceries were well under budget but my lunches more than double – I must make an effort to pack up more – my mornings are always so busy I need to know exactly what I am taking in fact Ideally I should prepare it the night before.

I had to buy more supplements this month as I had not been replacing them as I ran out since Christmas and they are always expensive I also stocked up on Homeopathic remedies which have to be ordered over the internet.

And you may have noticed the stationery spend ooops – still I am reorganising my office space – I will have some photos soon to show you of the new streamlined office which is slowly coming together now –  but not yet finished.

I managed without buying any petrol last month but I know as I write this I will need to fill up tomorrow when I go shopping I am just hoping I will get a petrol voucher to get some money off.

I am really pleased with the toiletries coming in at £6.24 all I bought was Epsom Salts and Ball of foot cushioned pads both items for my feet.  I add the Epsom salts to my foot bath when I soak my feet.

And now the items that came into our house in the last week or two.

What I bought Feb

 

From left to right –

  • Black display binder – to store my decorating ideas
  • Patterned shopping bag – self explanatory
  • Mini spray bottle – for cleaners – I use these around the house as they are neat and small enough to store in small spaces
  • 3 books – yes I went to Waterstones when I was in Leeds for my hospital appointment but I only paid for one of them as I had £10 on my stamp card and £4 on my points card.
  • 1 box lawn food – ready for April this was on offer at Sainsbury’s
  • Toiletries – 3 for 2 offer on shower gel plus extra points,  handwash from the £1 shop
  • 3 spiky physio balls – I have been wanting to order these for a while as the osteopath I saw last year swears by them for tight muscles.
  • Pack of commemorative children’s TV stamps – occassionally I treat myself to a pack of special stamps for my collection – I couldn’t resist this one of Childrens TV characters
  • Garden Illustrated magazine – I bought this for the article on planting a white border.

None of the items came out of my housekeeping budget apart from the toiletries which are from the March budget and so don’t appear in the table above.

These pictures will now go into my Incoming items tab on my rerouted blog click here to see the full list so far this year of what has come into the house that is not food.

This weekend I had to search for car insurance and breakdown.  After the performance I had when I broke down before Christmas with the free breakdown included in my insurance which turns out is not free at the point of need I decided to buy a years cover from Green Flag which will cover me going to work or  further afield for £65.  My car insurance does not reduce if the breakdown is not included as it is ‘free’ but my current provider is still the cheapest available to me when I search the internet comparison sites.

I am always glad when that job is done and I am signed up for another year.  To make the whole task easier I have a typed sheet with all the information I require to answer the questions such as the year I passed my test and the year I bought my car.  I keep this with my folder so I can refer to it each year – I also keep a note of my no claims bonus years as different providers have different limits.  I am now on 11 years no claims wheras my providers limit is 9 years.

I will need to keep a careful eye on the March budget – it is a longer month and with Mothers Day coming up I will be having a visit from my mum which I will need to save for so I can treat her to a few days out and about.

How are you doing with your budget so far?

budgeting, fEAsible, financial focusing, my goals, trEAsure, trEAsury

Financial Focusing review #1

Update for February Housekeeping

February                                                              Wk1                 Wk2
Groceries / wholefoods and cleaning      21.10               38.15
Lunch & snacks at work                                 0.00                 7.65
Medicines/ remedies / supplements        2.29                 0.00
Stationery                                                            0.00                 5.97
Toiletries / makeup                                         6.24                 0.00
Total                                                                      29.63                51.77
Having a week off work with my poorly foot  in week 1 of February actually saved quite a bit of money partly because I did not have to buy lunches and partly because it kept me out of the shops!
I did also use some reward points towards my groceries so although these figures look quite reasonable if I factor in the reward points I would have overspent on food.
I am quite proud of myself for not buying any magazines this month so far.  I have a subscription for Country Living (xmas present) and I kept last years too to reread – much of which is still relevant.

Update for the bill budget

There is good news on the energy savings too – Npower our gas provider have refunded our account with £250 and will reduce our standing order to £60 month.  I will be working hard to get this reduced further but at the moment this is a start.
Scottish Power are yet to send us the £54 cheque for the compensation due for last years 3 days without power during the heavy snow.  I was told it would be here the end of January and I rang to remind them of this last Friday but could not get to speak with the right person.  It is quite frustrating that I have to keep chasing them – I can feel a letter coming on.

Items coming into the house this last week. 

I have been having some problems with the car remote and have had to use the ordinary key.  So I bought a new battery which only lasted a day so I think there must be something wrong with the remote fob – a bit of a waste of a new battery and the money.
Car remote battery
I bought these garden chair covers to put over the metal patio chairs and keep them from the bad weather. Money well spent here I think.
Garden Chair covers
This is a granite worktop saver and I have had this on my list for a long time – we have one at the cottage and they are extremely useful and versatile – I can chop veg and put hot pans on here and being cool it is good for pastry though perhaps a bit on the small side.
Granite worktop saver
This exercise of monitoring what comes into the house is quite enlightening and I am already beginning to see where some of the money goes and how we  accumulate more stuff soon after a clearout – I have already bought quite a few items this year even though it hasn’t felt like it.  One or two new items a week will accumulate over the year to a huge 52 -104 items.  That is actually quite a lot of new things to find homes for unless they are replacing something I already have.
Tomorrow is shopping day – with my meal plan in hand I should only be buying the basics – bread, milk, fresh veg and anything we have run out of.  I don’t know whether to be excited or worried about a trip to Rymans one night this week.  I am clearing our home office / craft room at the moment and need a few more stationery items to complete my new systems.  The temptation could just prove too much!
On a different note my appraisal was OK – glad it is over I don’t feel I get much out of them really and I don’t see how one form can suit all personalities I feel I need to redesign mine to make sense to me!  It will now end up in a folder and like everyone else only be referred to prior to the next review in 6 months time – not how they are meant to be used but I will be making my own goal and task list that I can understand.
Have a good day tomorrow – the weather is certainly improving but for how long?
budgeting, fEAsible, financial focusing, my goals, trEAsury

Financial Focusing update #13

My last day today focusing on the finances.  It is funny that I should end my updates on number 13 – unlucky for some maybe but I have potentially saved a lot of money over the last month with my bills and my task today is to revise my Housekeeping budget.

I have noticed on my travels that one persons Housekeeping is not comparable to another as they encompass different categories.  So that you are not in any doubt I will set out exactly what comes under the heading of Housekeeping in this household.

  • Car Wash (hubby’s company car)  -birthdays and high days as they say – usually in preparation for my mums visits.  Mine stays dirty most of the time.
  • Extra Cleaning Products – usually from Wilkos
  • Groceries / Wholefoods / Drinks / cleaning products
  • Lunch and Snacks at work – these are bought lunches – the cost of packed lunches would come out of the groceries budget
  • Medicines / Remedies / Supplements – anything to make or keep me well
  • Mobile Phone – hubby – only used at the cottage
  • Mobile Phone – me – emergencies
  • Parking charges (non contract) – usually on shopping trips and days out
  • Petrol – my car
  • Postage
  • Stationery
  • Toiletries and make-up

For 2013 this is how my housekeeping spending looked

Housekeeping Budget for 2013

A grand total of £5,220.26 or £100.39 per week

If you look at the Groceries and wholefoods this is the biggest spend at £3168.98 or £60.94 per week.  £10 over my original budget of £50.

So my challenge now is to reduce the amount for the total Housekeeping and this will mean identifying where cuts can be made.

Toiletries and Makeup

The total spend on some items is more of a shock than others – £521.84 on Toiletries and make-up when I only wear a bit of mascara and lip-gloss.  The rest is on beauty creams (though they obviously don’t work that well for the money!), shampoo, shower gel, body cream and cotton wool.  I always use the Boots money off vouchers and gain points so I wonder what the full amount would have been.  I like the products I buy so I can only use less and make them last longer or ask for vouchers as birthday and Xmas gifts.

Medicines / Remedies / Supplements

The other shock is medicines, remedies and supplements – now this category may contain some wholefoods in the figures as some items are on the same till receipt and I may not have split them out.   The total was quite a shock and even though Vitamins and supplements are quite expensive £11.85 a week is a steep figure to keep healthy.   The only medicine I buy is dissolving Paracetamol as I have some training in using Homeopathic remedies.  The biggest spend will be the supplements which will include my daily Vit D, Krill oil, EPA oil and Vit B12, because I am vegetarian and  Aloe Vera juice and Acidophilus for my digestion.  I do believe in keeping myself as healthy as possible and I am hardly ever off sick – I certainly haven’t had a cold this year.   The Thyroxine that I take is free on prescription for life because I will be dependent on it for life and keeps me from being Hypothyroid.

Petrol

My petrol costs me £8.29 a week – again I will only fill up when I have a money off voucher from Sainsbury’s.  I must read up on how to cut fuel costs I think there are certain techniques you can employ when driving to reduce consumption and I don’t mean coasting down all the hills although we have plenty around here.  So just like turning your oven off for the last 5 minutes of cooking I could coast the last 1/2 mile to our house LOL!

Lunch and Snacks at work

My lunch and snacks are actually less than I expected and with more effort I could reduce further –  I had already decided to take two and buy two meals at work each week.  The summer is easier for packed lunches as there is a constant supply of salad – this weather I just want soup.   (Yes I know I could make it myself and I do at the weekend but then we eat it!)

Mobile phones

I topped up my mobile with £20 in February and December – I didn’t quite make the year but maybe could stretch the December top up over this coming year.  The only reason I ran out in December was because I broke down and the very inefficient Jobs Worth at One Call Insurance took so long to deal with the situation.  Don’t they know I am on a tight budget LOL!

Stationery

Stationery – what can I say  – the lure of Rymans is just too much for a girl and all those seemingly insignificant items like display books, plastic wallets, pens and filofax diary inserts that I have purchased over the course of the year just add up.  It is my one weakness (apart from magazines but luckily they come under Leisure in my budget).

So my aim is to reduce these amounts definitely by 10% and hopefully by 20% or more in some categories.

How does this look in figures – take a look at the chart below.

Housekeeping Budget for 2014

The groceries work out at £50 a week and this year I will work on the start I made last year to meet this target.

In addition to this category we have, of course, all the other extra items such as cards and gifts, household contents, decorating, garden requirements, leisure and entertainment, books and magazines, crafts and hobbies and I will be coming to these but maybe not today.

So there we are January is well and truly over now and although I have not done every task on my list I feel my finances have had a good overhaul.  I will be carrying on throughout the year especially reducing the housekeeping which I will log on my blog rerouted.  I will also do occasional update reports but for February my attention will be on my next project.

Have a good weekend x

budgeting, fEAsible, financial focusing, my goals, trEAsury

Financial Focusing update #12

Well that has taken some doing to transfer my excel spreadsheet into this post.  I have had to figure out how to convert it to a PNG file to upload as I found converting to Word was just not working.

So here at last are all the figures for my  2013 Bill Account Budget (actual) and the 2014 Bill Account Budget (forecast) based on this.

Click on the tables if you want a larger view.

2013 Bill Account Budget

Budget Year 2013

2014 Bill Account Budget

Budget Year 2014

As you can see we always have a heavy month in January and last year we had an unusually heavy month in December due to the car breakdown which also cost me an extra £50 on the insurance breakdown cover.  £30 excess and £20 because the car is now more than 10 years old (or maybe it was the other way round!)

We spread the cost of some payments with monthly direct debits where this is free to do so.  When money was tighter we had everything on monthly payments even if there was a small charge.  Now we have a good float so any one big bill isn’t a problem.

The Budget notes line by line

  • Car Insurance / Breakdown – due in March and usually under £200.  We pay the full amount rather than monthly payments.  This will be my next research project in February.
  • Car Maintenance is always a service and MOT in January.  It is usually about £250 sometimes less but unless something happens during the year this is all I pay to keep the car maintained.
  • Car Parking – this is a hefty bill  – I park in a local council car park and opt for the prepaid contract price with a huge discount for paying for the year by monthly direct debit.  I park all day 4 days of the week and need it to be in a safe place for when I am returning to my car in the dark and when I work late.  The bus fares here would be £666 annually so much dearer than the car parking although obviously I would save on car costs.  As I am working this is my little big luxury.
  • Car License – this keeps increasing by about £5 a year but is a relatively fixed price.
  • Council Tax – this may increase by about 10% but is a pretty fixed price and we use 10 month direct debit payments to even this out over the year.
  • Electricity – I am hoping as we are in credit this will reduce when we have our review.
  • Gas – the budgeted figures here do not take into account the £500 credit that we are waiting hoping to get back or a reduced payment at this stage.
  • Gas Servicing – this includes any maintenance or breakdown and parts for the boiler or gas fire.  We are not on a contract as we have a local heating engineer who will come without a call out charge and his rates for labour are reasonable. We are expecting a bill in any day now for the recent repairs to the boiler.
  • House Insurance – Buildings and Contents again we pay up front to avoid any monthly payment charges.
  • Internet Security was a 2 year package so no payment required last year and will be due to renew in November.
  • BT / Broadband / telephone – we are on the Unlimited Anytime Plan for calls £4.15 a month and Broadband –  £18.85 month.  We pay £141.00 (equivalent to £11.75 a month) upfront for the line rental in October.  I think the cheapest we can get this bill down to each month is £23.00 (£4.15 + £18.85)  if we do not get charged for any additional non plan calls.  On unlimited anytime you have to keep within the hour for each call so a timer is necessary so that you can end a call at 55 minutes and then ring back for another free hour.  You may wonder why we want to have all our package with BT as Broadband can be cheaper if you find an alternative provider but we personally would rather pay a bit more and be able to ring one company to sort out any problems or faults rather than end up being passed from one to the other and no one wanting to deal with the issue.  I am allowing £30 a month but hoping we can keep within £25.   We don’t have a contract for our mobiles they are pay as you go and we only put £20 on mine for the year for emergencies – this is taken out of the Housekeeping budget – I am strictly a landline girl!
  • TV License – always a fixed price and we take advantage of the monthly payment as it does not cost anything to do this.
  • Water Rates – we are hoping this will reduce with a meter but I have left it at £600 for the year for now to be on the safe side.  We pay 8 monthly payments Apr – Nov.
  • Contingency – this might cover anything from an appliance or car breakdown or some unforeseen bill.  If we do not use the £600 then we can roll it over or put it into savings or even use it at Xmas.

Mortgage – I haven’t included the figures for this in the above budget but we do have one and it does come out of this bill account as do the cottage costs and payment into a pension fund.   They are pretty fixed amounts the only variable is the electricity, oil and insurance for the cottage and I will be looking at reducing these costs too.  At the moment I don’t feel I want to disclose all our personal financial details onto the www!

The 2014 budget will be amended as the year goes on.  I am having to guess the Council tax and water as I haven’t had the bills in yet and we have gone ahead with the application for a meter, (once installed we have a year to change our minds).

Success

You may have noticed that all my efforts in this Financial Focus month to reduce our bill spending have paid off as the total is almost £1000 less this year even with the £600 contingencey added in.

The amount we need to put into our bill account each month for the year is £6681.60 divided by 12 = £556.80 which I would round-up to £560.00.

Good Customer Service

On another note I must congratulate Benetton who have given me a credit note today when I returned a fine lambswool cardigan I bought there a year ago.  It was my favourite cardigan which had developed a hole in the elbow and I felt this was a bit soon for something of this quality that I only wore during the winter.  The assistants were very understanding and thought it might have been a fault that has developed into a hole and were only too willing to change it had they had the same one in stock.  Well done Benetton.

Poor Customer Service

On the other hand Npower are being absolutely unreasonable about our £500 credit and are trying all ways to avoid giving us this back (or reducing the inflated direct debit that has caused the credit in the first place),  including deciding that they couldn’t speak to me anymore once I mentioned the reason for my call was that I would like my money back.  They will only speak to hubby now as it is his name on the bill!

Well Npower we may just go and see what deal Scottish Power can do for a combined gas and electric account.  It may be a little dearer but at least we can hang onto more of our money and I can speak to them even though my name is not on the account as such. It is not always about the cheapest deal – Scottish Power were very pleasant to speak to.

Almost the last day

My final day tomorrow of the January Financial Focus – I haven’t quite got through everything I set out to do but it has been quite a cost savings exercise.  I am still planning my February Focus so stay tuned and all will be revealed.  I will of course be revisiting the financial tasks – I still want to sell on ebay and make more cards etc but I might try to incorporate these tasks into other ‘focused’ projects.