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.


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 – 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).


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.

being thrifty, budgeting, drEAming, fEAsible, hEAlth, healthy eating, my goals, random thoughts, trEAsury

Think, think, think…

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?  ~Winnie the Pooh

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days (and that is always dangerous!) and you may have noticed the lack of posts and no usual Friday Fling – I have been time poor (as one might say these days).   My post today has been initiated in part by reading the recent posts of other bloggers where I was inspired, not only by their goals, but their determined action and also the fact that many aspects of their lives they wish to improve sound just like mine.

I am sure you can identify with this yourselves but I also sense from reading many of the blogs I follow that like me there is an underlying deep desire to want to stop the world for a while to savor the moment – to live with and enjoy the changing seasons – to celebrate our days and have fun and involvement with our families and friends and the wider community.  I know that I keep trying to refocus my time and energy to reconnect, re-order and re-size – I often feel I am becoming disjointed, chaotic and everything seems far too big to handle in so little time.

Now before you continue I suggest you may want to go and make yourself a cuppa and perhaps even a snack – a healthy one of course (or a flask and sandwiches for any slower readers) as this is going to be a l-o-n-g post!

So, I thought, there are a lot of us all going in the same direction and it is good to have both encouragement and useful advise and tips along the way and the blogging world certainly provides this.  Of course the fundamental question for me – yet without an answer – (but I am working on it) is ‘Why are so many of us in this same position of wanting to reduce and organise our stuff, make better use of our time and feel in control of our lives and finances?  In short change the lives we seem to be living for the one we want to live – mostly by getting away from the constraints we feel modern life has imposed on us – without losing the aspects of it that have developed which are good.

This then led me to my other question ‘How do we cope with the never ending change often thrust upon us by the society we live in today’?   I didn’t ask for the credit crunch and recession (I had no idea the banks were in such deep trouble) but I have to find a way through it – I didn’t ask for heaps of junk mail to land on my doormat each day (I prefer to save the trees and not use printing inks full of solvents) but once I have them I can’t easily dispose of them without checking that I am not missing a good offer  – I didn’t ask for technology to develop so fast that it now invades my life and at the same time makes it impossibly demanding on my time – when I wake up to find 100 emails in my inbox each day but yet I hardly ever receive a handwritten letter from a friend I question whether all this is truly progress.

In her post of August 22nd Laura from movetoportugal.org made the following list of the goals she is working on (I hope you don’t mind me re-posting this)

  • Downsizing (which includes reducing our impact)
  • Finishing the house
  • Health and weight loss
  • Frugality (and money)
  • Moving to Portugal

If you exchange Portugal for Scotland in my case this could well be my list and I suspect the first 4 items could be most peoples.

One target I feel I need to put into place ASAP is to lose a few pounds in weight and also gain a few £’s in savings and it was this particular notion that generated my further train of thought.


Now I might be on my own here (I suspect not though) but interestingly my experience is that if I were to switch these two targets around to read ‘Lose a few £’s in savings’ (by spending too much) and ‘Gain a few pounds in weight’ (by eating too much of the wrong things) I would not have any problem in reaching my target within a very short space of time!

I believe the main reason for this is that I would not have to restrict my normal actions in any way.  I would not have to avoid temptation to eat rubbish or spend money – both categories of my life that seem to come naturally where diets and budgets do not.

So the million dollar question is ‘How do I turn this around so that I can eat and lose weight and spend but still save’?

My answer is that I probably cannot (at the moment) but again I am working on this and I will implement a plan and I will take action.

So, I ask myself, ‘Why is it so difficult’?  Well for me in particular (yours may be different) I could identify a number of reasons:-

5 reasons I find eating healthily and losing weight difficult

  1. I am not huge by any means and I am only talking about losing half a stone (mainly around my spreading middle) but it is creeping up gradually and as I have to take Thyroxin daily (I had to have my Thyroid removed in 2008 due to cancer) this has had some bearing on my weight gain over time. Getting the medication stable is a work of art in itself – too much and I get palpitations and ‘jittery’  too little and I gain weight and become tired.
  2. We consume far too many buns and treats at work for all kinds of occasions – birthdays, back from holidays, getting married, getting divorced, passing exams, weather too hot, weather too cold – at our firm whatever reason we can find to celebrate and treat ourselves we will!  This is so different to when I started work back in the early seventies where you all stopped for a 10 minute tea break  twice a day and didn’t snack and graze at your desk.  Birthday buns and the like were just not on the agenda in those days – a simple Happy Birthday was usual and treats and rewards for other events never happened  – unless it was the day you retired!
  3. Having to cook ready meals or quick egg and chip type meals because I have worked late, or not been shopping after work, or too tired to make a meal from scratch and not having enough of anything in the cupboards and fridge to scrape together a meal.  Even my best made plans can go wrong when I have unexpected overtime and cannot then go to the supermarket.
  4. Eating more than I need and snacking.  Have you noticed just how big our dishes are these days – cereal bowls, plates and cups are huge in comparison with the ones I grew up with.  Costa and others sell their drinks by the bucket and have you seen their new super-sized Bourbon and Custard creams (Wow), the average 5’4″ woman weighed 8st 6 lbs with a 26″ waist in the 1950’s and 11st 2lb with a 34.5″ waist in 2006 – I think as a nation we could be overeating a little bit and need to control our portion size!
  5. Having a desk job for the last 13 years.  Some days I find that I have hardly moved off my chair especially if my colleague goes to fetch our lunch.  Email is quick but means I can ask anyone anything from my desk whereas when I first began work I had to physically go and find a person.

10 reasons I find controlling my spending difficult –

  1. Constant changing of fashions and ‘in’ colours – anything from clothes to glasses to household items and furniture – and the sheer abundance of choice out there.  It is very tempting to go and browse in TK Max, Laura Ashley or Ikea and then convince yourself you need this or that.
  2. Escalating food prices.  Basic staples and healthy foods can be some of the dearest products.  Vegetables can be dearer now than buying a pack of cheap chicken legs.
  3. We have more snacks and lunches out – if we go out for the day or go our nearest shopping centre we always stop for a drink and a snack just to recharge.
  4. Our money has now to stretch to fund things like printing inks for the printer, water filter cartridges, packs of printing paper, mobile phone top-ups and DVD discs to mention a few.  When we first married none of these items were required.
  5. Our utility bills and insurances have seriously increased over the years and continue to increase substantially each year.
  6. Constant storage problems and the cost of buying storage items to solve the problem of keeping and organising ‘stuff’.
  7. We spend more on Christmas and Birthdays than perhaps we once did partly because our family is growing and partly because I buy for quite a few friends at work – I am not particularly objecting to this – it is just a fact and an expense.
  8. Savings interest and pensions are just not reaching the same returns therefore we either have to save more or prepare for a retirement with less money and work for longer.
  9. Paying by card is somehow more detached than paying with cash.  We use a debit not credit card but I still think it encourages you to spend more.  If you only have cash in your pocket and no other means of paying you have to tot up whats in your basket before you get to the till.
  10. Lack of time can increase my spending – resorting to expensive ready meals – having to grab items rather than having time to shop around and also that old dilemma – if you don’t buy it today you can’t go back and find it still there tomorrow.  I often buy things impulsively that I regret just because I can’t really decide if it is suitable for what I want but feel if I leave it and then decided it is what I wanted it would not be there when I returned to the shop. One of our recurring frustrations is when we take too long to decide over something only to find it has then been discontinued.

This is not a finite list but I am sure that many of you will identify with some of these points.  Some of them I can do little about – such as Council Tax – but for the rest I will look at my options and create a plan.

It is clear that I need to turn around how and what I eat and how and what I spend so that it is as normal as the habits I have now.  I think it all boils down to the feel good factor –  I need to transfer the feel good of a quick fix chocolate biscuit (high calorie) onto the feel good of an apple (low calorie) and likewise the feel good of spending onto the feel good of saving.

I will now need go and do more thinking before I can proceed and formulate a plan.  Watch this space…

I would love to know your thoughts on the subject and any suggestions you might have.