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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

drEAming, fEAsible, general chit chat, taking stock, trEAsury

expanding time, expanding work…

Even though I have four days off work now I seem to struggle to get everything done in the house that I would normally have done in the 3 days I had before.

This suggests to me that Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” has some truth in it!

It may be down to the fact that having more time has allowed me to do each task in some depth – whether it is the mountain of paperwork or the dusting each job now is being done very thoroughly and at last I can see the paperwork pile reducing to the point where I will be working on the ‘stuff’ that I receive during the week – rather than working on last week’s, or last months or longer.

I have been doing more than my set 2 hours recently on the financial tasks and what I term ‘paperwork’ as we have got a few important items to attend to which require careful reading and even more careful decisions – ones that will affect us financially long-term – I don’t know about you but I find these quite difficult.  If I say the word Pensions you will probably know what I mean.

Gradually I have cleared out a lot of old papers from the files and I have reached the point where I am completely up to date with the filing and can now do it as I go along.  I have also spent quite a few hours entering receipts and logging our spending on our Money Program on the computer.  Every account is now fully balanced and the advantage of this program is that I can run reports that will tell me how much I am spending each week in any given category – it would even tell me in which shops I spend the most money – the possibilities are endless!

When I have gathered all the information I can begin to look at making any reductions and adjustments. I am expecting a few shocks when I see the totals so far for the year.  Spending the odd fiver a week on something can add up to quite a lot over the year.  Items like magazines are typical of this kind of spending (even though I believe I have been very good recently and picked them up and then put them back on the shelf again one or two have accidentally fallen into my trolley!).  And then there are birthday cards and gifts this is always a category where the figures creep up but I have managed to buy some nice gifts at very reasonable bargain prices.

I know our food spending is working out at about £50 a week – we eat well usually in the sense that we buy as much organic food as we can and a lot of fruit and vegetables and make a good many of our meals from scratch (though this does not necessarily mean we always make healthy meals!).  When pushed for time we will often compromise and buy the main bit of the meal ready-made like Nut Cutlets and add a plateful of vegetables.

With more attention to our menu planning I know I could reduce this by another £10 easily.  I have noticed that the price for having a drink or lunch out is creeping up and although it is a nice treat now and again it does add up to quite an amount over the year.

I have some additional points vouchers for Sainsbury’s for items that I would usually buy which is good and I was handed another 5 x points voucher this evening to put towards my full shop next week.  So my total rewards value now stands at £101.44 which I am saving towards Christmas or one of their double up events if they run it again this year in November.

Stay tuned for my next update. x

decluttering, drEAming, fEAsible, financial focusing, general chit chat, managEAble, organising, rEArranging, trEAsury

tackling the paperwork mountain…

I am not used to working Thursdays now so it was a bit of a long week for me last week waiting until Friday for a day off work.  Due to the Birmingham visit on Tuesday  I had to work on Thursday which has recently become my cleaning day – so no cleaning done.  Dilemma then when I woke up on Friday morning – do I clean today instead or do the paperwork that is normally designated for Fridays.

 

The paperwork won!

It is a sit down job and I was quite tired by Friday morning so cleaning seemed far too energetic and I had a ‘ladies who lunch’ date with my friend which I knew would break up part of the day.

Surprisingly my desk was reasonably tidy and I got stuck in.  First job was to write a to do list – I now use Todoist as I can’t install Microsoft works on the Mac – it was the closest program to the one I had but not as good and I refuse to pay to upgrade to the premium service.  The list seemed never-ending in fact so long that even if I retired tomorrow I feel sure I would not get to the end.

So then I did a shorter version to capture the really urgent tasks but it still looks a bit daunting.

Having assembled a frightening list I then made a note of any upcoming appointments and put reminders in my diary.  I also checked the September birthdays and made a mental note to see if I can find suitable cards from my supply to save me buying any more.  I have more than enough blank cards in my craft cupboard and just need to find some time to make some and this would be a good economy as I spend far too much on cards over a year.

Then it was down to bill paying – the plumber for the recent radiator leak (yes I know more water problems),  the roofer (who has done a small repair for us to prevent a future leak) and Yorkshire Water for our water bill (it seems a little ironic that we have to pay so much for water when we seem to attract more than our fair share of free water into our lives in the form of leaks and floods!).

Whilst online transferring the payments I did a quick check of our bank statements to assess our situation.  We have of course spent quite a bit on paint and new furniture recently for the bedroom we have just decorated – I didn’t set a budget as such but I always know when something is more than we should be spending.  The wardrobes were our dearest item and then the drawers and the small bookcase but the two blinds were very reasonable at £16 and we made the wardrobe door handles.  The duvet cover with pillowslips only came as a pack of two at £32 making them £16 each, the fleecy throw was £4 and a few picture frames at £3 or £4 each.  Everything else we already had.

Within our usual day-to-day spending there is always room to economise more.  The dearest item by far this week was the petrol we bought for the journey to Birmingham.  My neighbour has recently been sent three Sainsbury’s 12p off petrol coupons,  I go there every week and they have not sent me or OH any – so feeling a trifle miffed about that.

I am however still taking packed lunches to work so saving a good £10 a week there even allowing for the extra food on the weekly shopping bill.  I have a £20 gift token for Boots so I will wait until there are offers on the brands I use or put it towards a new hairdryer – mine stopped working one day recently, the same week as the iron died on me!

We have just changed gas providers from Npower to EDF for a cheaper deal – the electricity is already on a reasonable fixed rate and with our BT line we pay up front for the year which is cheaper and try not to go over the hour with our calls which are free for the first 60 minutes – difficult when you have 2 daughters, a mother and a sister (and not forgetting my brother) who all like a long chat.  I will just have to start keeping the timer by the phone and cut them off after 55 minutes!

As I can’t reduce most of the bills any further I can only look to the housekeeping and transport costs – food, petrol, cleaning and toiletries to make more savings.

 

Over the rest of the weekend I extended sorting the paperwork to a mammoth session of decluttering and streamlining the files in the office.  I am not sure where the mountain of paper came from to throw out but the files are so much lighter now.  There is far too much paper to shred – I can’t put it in the recycle bin as too much sensitive information so we will take it on holiday with us to Scotland and have a bonfire at the cottage.

 

So after my sorting out session everything is in order and up to date,  I even managed to set up the log in account for my new workplace pension.  We have always preferred the ethical funds for OH’s pension where we have been given a choice and it has performed well over the years so I was pleased to find I could choose an ethical one with our workplace pension provider.  I am not sure I will accrue very much between now and retirement but I won’t be refusing the ‘free’ money paid in by my employer and the government as every little helps!

My next job is my heap (I exaggerate not here) of magazine cuttings – I am not sure why I find such a pleasure in hoarding articles and pictures torn from magazines.  I spend time neatly filing them into folders – all subjects – gardening, craft, health, decorating ideas, recipes etc but now I have a whole shelf full of files dedicated to magazine cuttings plus the heap waiting to be filed.

I realise I have a problem and as an example of how chronic my addiction is I have articles on health issues I don’t even suffer with…well not yet anyway!   I have more diets than I could possibly try out and more craft ideas than I would even want to attempt – after all why would I want to crotchet a hot water bottle cover really when I can’t even crotchet!  In my perfect life I might consider it but when it takes me all my time to go to work, shop, cook and clean a crotchet hot water bottle cover is probably on the end of my do to list.  (Just checking I did add this on to the end of my list!)

So I am resolving to be ruthless – my OH is not convinced – he knows me and my cuttings well!  Watch this space…

 

 

 

 

 

bEAching, cottage garden, decorating, drEAming, fEAsible, gardening, general chit chat, homestEAding, organising, rEArranging, simplifying, trEAsury

update for August…

Surprisingly, I managed to get down my pile of paper work though it took me two whole days and a lot of concentration to balance the statements, change mobile provider and file.  OH signed us up to a new gas provider EDF so we are hoping for savings there and better customer service in the event we need to contact them.   I also discovered in checking our accounts that more interest had been added to one or two of our ISA savings which was a nice surprise.

Once the finances were back under control I decided to turn my attentions to doing more decluttering and organising and have been spending quite a bit of time reorganising the storage in the bedrooms.

The new wardrobe in the recently decorated bedroom is now my linen store which has freed up space in the main wardrobe in our bedroom.  As luck would have it my younger daughter, who is in North Yorkshire, is moving soon to a bigger house so she will take a lot of the excess towels and linens that I have found and don’t really need freeing up even more space.

I have also assigned one of the drawers to hold my fabrics.  I was quite ruthless going through the fabric pieces and reduced the amount I am keeping to a more manageable level.  I came across a number of projects that have been hanging around for ages:-

  • A knitted cushion made by my mum but it requires sewing together.
  • A Xmas stocking that I found had a pin left inside lodged in the padding – this needed unpicking a little at the top edge – the pin removing and then sewing back up so I did this straight away and it didn’t even get a mention on my To-do list.  It took all of 10 minutes and it must have been waiting for a few months!
  • As we have 3 new family members now – the partners of each of my daughters and my granddaughter  – I need to make three additional Xmas stockings. I have the fabric ready to make them I just need some time to get down to doing it.
  • Bunting – left over from the wedding I have a number of cut out flags and I always intended sewing these together.The bits and pieces of fabric from the wedding bunting too small for flags will be used to make patchwork squares or strips for a memory quilt for my daughter.
  • I bought a set of tea towels from Sainsbury’s with hens printed on intending to make a tea cosy.
  • A silk scarf that I bought turned out to be a square with fringing all round rather than a long scarf.  I was never keen on the fringing so decided to remove it – a 10 minute job and now I have a new scarf.

 

and a pile of fringing!

So out of seven sewing tasks I did 2 of them within half an hour but I need to put aside some time to complete at least the cushion cover and the new Xmas stockings very soon.

Whilst all the sorting has been going on we have been putting the finishing touches to the newly decorated room.

OH made the wardrobe door handles as I wanted white-painted wood and IKEA do not sell theses without the free-standing wardrobe they go with.  The last coat has gone on and these have now been screwed in place.

He has also put up some narrow picture ledges for the books and pictures, cut down the blind and fitted it today – we have gone for just a plain white one and are not putting curtains up again – I like the simplicity of the blind – you might think otherwise when you see it.

For the time being we have put the old carpet back down.  Although it is 20 years old it is still in reasonable condition but the colour looks a bit too creamy now against the cooler grey walls, however, it will be better than having dusty floorboards until all the rest of the house is done and we have the same colour carpet put down throughout.

The duvet quilt cover I have bought is not what I had originally intended either – the one piece of furniture, besides the bed, that we are keeping in this room is a vintage blue Lloyd loom bedside cabinet that once belonged to my mum-in-law and it is something that I have always coveted since I first visited my mum-in-law’s house back in the seventies and now it is ours.  To tie in the blue I decided on a duvet cover from Next children range called Vintage Ditsy which features a very similar blue to the cabinet amongst the pink flower print.  I had not intended it to be flowery at all in this room – but there you go!

Rather than me trying to describe everything I will take some photos soon.  I am back at work tomorrow so it will be later this week. Promise.

Meanwhile here are some photos taken whilst at the caravan the weekend before last and a progress report.

 

We now have grass again on the seaside side of our garden – the contractors laid down new topsoil and grass seed once they finished the reconstruction of our stream bank – albeit complete with many dock leaves – but our main problem is with the rabbits eating our new plants.  We extended the trellis border making it wider to accommodate some seaside plants that we bought in the summer.  We are hoping they will seed and spread quickly and eventually provide a natural look along the stream bank.  We have had to put chicken wire around these until either the plants recover or the rabbits get fed up and move on to something else – hopefully the docks!

They seem to be leaving the Delphiniums in the Woodland walk alone this year and I have a nice clump of them  – some are still to flower.  I love this deep blue against the orange of the Monbrettia.

There is not a lot of colour going on around the pond at the moment so I might add some late summer / early Autumn planting to rectify this next year although I often quite like to have a parts of the garden that are just restful – the pond is definitely a Spring / early summer corner.

For bursts of colour you cannot beat Hydrangeas – this is one of my favourites and it really brightens up this spot by the daisy path.

Back at home I now have Sweet Peas to cut at last – I planted them late and so this is the first of them – a lovely velvety deep purple with a sprig of  – you’ve guessed it – orange Monbrettia – it colour coordinated so well with my mixed fresh fruits for breakfast today.

During my ‘sorting out’ I discovered some instructions and directions that I had photocopied to turn into care cards – see here if you are unfamiliar with my way of dealing with this kind of information – I have now laminated these and they can be placed where I need them to refer to.

Tomorrow is work again and it will be a day or two before I can get back to the decluttering.  My next project is to go through the boxes in the wardrobe in the middle bedroom to reduce the amount of stored ‘stuff’ and get the room emptied ready to decorate.  The wardrobe in here which has sliding doors is to be dismantled to make way for a newer version.

Back soon x