economising update…

I haven’t done a post for ages on our economising so thought a bit of an update in order.

It is slow progress but at least there is progress.  I have now moved our savings into higher interest rate accounts, although the rates are still comparatively low, but any interest is better than nothing.  These savings will help to make our pension go further in the future when we stop working so it is important for us to make the most of what we have.

One of the best rates for us at the moment is actually the Flexclusive saver from Nationwide  paying 5% gross over the year.  It is one of those regular savings account where you save up to £500 a month and this accumulates over the year – you cannot put in a lump sum at the start.  At the end of the year you have to close the account and start again.

On the spending side I have managed to balance the books so to speak and deal with the outstanding paperwork.  I think it took me longer than the two hours I am trying to set aside each week and last week I did not do anything at all deciding instead to go in the garden.

I have sorted out all our new outgoing payments such as the increased Council tax and my yearly parking contract and have fixed the utility bills for a while though these need constant watching for better deals.  I find it tiring to have to search around on the internet and compare all the time – thank goodness we don’t have to do this for the mortgage.

Since the New Year I am still planning a menu for the week although it is often a bit of a rushed flexible list; however, it is having the required effect and cutting down on any waste food.  I have also started planning and taking a packed lunch to work – mostly I have a mixed salad, a cabbage and carrot slaw with walnuts (homemade by OH) and then some protein – a piece Nut Loaf or Quiche or just a boiled egg – sometimes it is leftovers.   This saves me about £3.50 a day.

I  have two months overtime to claim this payday a total of about 50 hours so quite a nice boost to the savings pot although I have a few items I want to buy and I might even treat myself  – perhaps a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment.

When we go out we have been making the effort to pack a picnic – actually I am enjoying these and have a few recipes to try that I can freeze in individual portions.  Tomorrow we are going up to North Yorkshire with a picnic to see my granddaughter and visit the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park at Grewelthorpe.  I have a feeling the plant nursery is going to be far too tempting perhaps this will be my treat rather than a massage!

Sainsbury’s have been very good recently and keep giving me a triple points coupon and the reward points are already building up again – I have now got £64.24p.  Morrisons have also given me a £5 coupon to spend (we tend to get our petrol here).  It will come in useful when we go to Scotland as the two supermarkets in Stranraer are Tesco and Morrisons.

And the not so economical

I had a bit of a spending spree last week on items that I had run out of or worn out and a few that had not been planned for but caught my eye  – this is the list;-

  • I needed some face cream and I use Neal’s yard which is not the cheapest but it suits my sensitive skin
  •  one or two gorgeous little outfits for my granddaughter from Sainsbury’s £18
  • a white top for work from Sainsbury’s £10
  • some new Tayberry Mucker gardening boots £35  from the internet as my old ones are wearing out.  They are a bit like moon boots but very flexible with comfy fur-lined soles – I wouldn’t be without them so much better than my old wellies.

Tayberry Mucker Boots

  • a bird house from Sainsbury’s £8 and OH has put this in the garden, attached to the top of a pole. I think the pole cost more than the bird house!

 

We also bought a few items for the garden last weekend from the Garden Centre with my birthday tokens (some National Garden vouchers) which covered the cost and although I could have been thrifty and grown my own herbs I felt it was just nice to treat myself and the large bottles of feed / bug spray will hopefully last a very long time – here is the not very thrifty list:-

  • A Gazebo to go in the shady border £35
  • some organic seaweed feed £7.49
  • an organic greenfly spray £6.99
  • a courgette plant, some mint and fennel £5.49
  • a posh garden fork by Burgon and Ball £9.99
  • a paving knife also by Burgon and Ball £9.99I love my new shiny stainless steel hand tools – my old fork has hardly any wooden handle left it is so worn – but must be well over 20 years old.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend x

it’s behind you…

…a quick round up of last week.

It was work as usual Monday to Thursday with a Staff conference and a training course thrown in for good measure.

We had a good day out on Friday –  travelling up to Northallerton to a nearby village to see my sister and brother-in-law perform in the annual village pantomime Cinders’ fella.  I like amateur dramatics and the evening went really well – all the forgotten lines and ad libs adding to the fun.

I did my two-hour stint working on my finances on Saturday morning – applying to transfer an old ISA that has now matured into a better rate account – the searching around took most of the time but I am pleased with my choice – a three-year fixed for 1.30% with the Principality.  I decided against Paragon who had the highest rate for a 5 year but seemed a long time to fix at these rates as interest rates could rise in the meantime.

Then two hours in the garden yesterday whilst the sun shone.  It was my first visit this year so there was a lot of tidying to do.  The hairy bittercress as usual has set root in the borders together with the self seeded Alchemilla Mollis and a flurry of Foxglove seedlings.  The latter two I will move into more appropriate places but the hairy bittercress is for the chop!

Unfortunately, the R W Rye rhododendron has suffered in the constant rain which has been followed by a few frosty nights so it has never really got into the full bloom of other years.  At long last my clumps of narcissus are out and blooming and so is the white Primula that continued well into the summer last year.

So now we are running around the house madly packing to go to Scotland for a few days break – I say break in its loose context – as we hope to be gardening – a lot of gardening  – and if at all possible in dry sunny weather!!  It will however be a break from work.

With the clocks going forward and we will lose an hour so I need to factor this in and expect the journey to be longer because we will set off an hour later.

See you all in a weeks time then –  have a great week – I will be offline – no computer – no TV and not able to make any comments.

 

See you soon x

 

3 simple steps to financial security…

Planner

 

As you know from my previous posts I am trying to simplify my finances and the third piece of financial advice I have read that resonated with me is –

‘Each month put a small amount from your income into a savings account by standing order or direct debit’.

Putting money away from your income immediately,  before you have chance to spend it, is good advice and far better than thinking you will put away any money left at the end of the month –it probably won’t happen.  I could easily spend any spare cash on the above Household Shopping list – although this is an old list and some items I have bought and some turned out to be more wants than needs so have been removed from my list in my move to simplify and reduce stuff.

Therefore, doing it automatically by direct payment means there is absolutely no chance of spending it first and I think you adjust to the fact that your remaining disposable income is less and helps to keep your spending within this new limit.

Interestingly, there are a few accounts out there that offer a higher interest rate for saving a regular monthly amount and are perfect for this idea of putting away a portion of your income at the beginning of the month before you start to spend it.

I chose a Nationwide Flex Regular Saver account which has a 5% interest return over the year and I have set up a direct payment to put an amount into it at the beginning of each month.  You can put in any amount up to £500 a month so it accumulates over the year.  According to Martin Lewis’s savings calculator if I managed to save £500 a month over the year I would have a return of £160 interest.  To save that much would entail some serious economising on my part!

So there you have it – of all the books, articles and internet advice I have read I think this captures the ideas I think are most helpful –

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Devote an hour a week to staying on top of your money
  3. Each month put a small amount from your income into a savings account by standing order or direct debit

Incorporating these 3 simple steps into my daily finances should help me keep on track.

 

This weekend although many lucky bloggers have been out digging their gardens we have had rain and wind but I have used this indoor time to follow step 2 to stay on top of my finances and give my savings accounts a thorough overhaul.  As well as opening the Regular Saver account I have an ISA account recently matured and the money is just sitting in a very low 0.05% instant access account now and I need to reinvest.  I have looked at numerous possibilities – but should I go for 1 year, 2 year, 3 year, 4 year or five-year fixed rates?  In such indecisive circumstances I opt for the middle ground so I am edging towards a 3 year fixed.
My next project is to get rid of some stuff and make some extra money.

I have various large household items that I am going to try to sell on eBay (try being the operative word here!) – I have never done this before so if anyone out there is an experienced seller and can offer some good advice to a novice I would welcome your comments to get me started.

more thoughts on economising…

DSC04292

Sometimes I can easily overlook the obvious – do you do that?

I refer to a very simple statement I came across recently –

‘Spend less than you earn = more savings’.

In my quest for a simple life this is good simple advice.

I do, as it happens, spend less than I earn overall and do not have the problem of credit or overdrafts, but even so I can take this on board and spend even less than I earn and save even more = less stuff. 

Less stuff is something I am working towards so it will be a win, win situation.

Where I fall down is spending too much day-to-day on lunch at work and on the weekly shop.  Buying lunches and over estimating on fresh food for the week or turning to expensive convenience foods through lack of planning and time increases our spending unnecessarily.

After all the hard work of searching out and setting up good deals we often lose track of them coming to an end.  We also get so busy we  fail to check the online bills for errors of which we have at times found plenty.  Therefore a little more attention to these areas will undoubtedly keep more money in our pockets.

Being thrifty is a challenge I actually enjoy and watching our savings grow is rewarding and with retirement looming on the horizon I can feel a slight urgency to give our savings a boost.

Putting it into practice is not always easy – sometimes running short on time and temptation takes over.

 

My thrifty moments this week –

  • I have stocked up on the next two months cards for birthdays and anniversaries using a 25% off WH Smiths voucher for cards. Cards are not cheap now so I am always on the lookout for reasonably priced ones.
  • An 8p off a litre of petrol coupon from Sainsbury’s.
  • Triple reward points plus 800 free points
  • A grocery shopping free week – as we were going up to the caravan for a long weekend last Thursday I didn’t need to do a supermarket shop saving a good £50.

What I have wasted money on this week –

  • Buying my lunch for work – I could certainly save money here if I took something from home.
  • Buying lunch out at the weekend when we could have made sandwiches and taken them with us and just bought a drink.
  • Buying a tray bake cake with a drink at Costa – an expensive enjoyment.

My week at work is over now and I will certainly be spending an hour or two on our finances tomorrow.

searching out those good deals…


We are home again after a few days at the caravan.  The weather was rather mixed but when it was sunny it was quite warm and we could get out into the garden clearing ditches and mowing the lawn.

RW Rye

We have the same rhododendron – (R.W.Rye – a beautiful small yellow flower) – in our garden in Yorkshire and our cottage garden in Scotland and surprisingly the one in Yorkshire is just about to burst into flower while the one in Scotland is almost over!

Down at the edge of the wood under the apple tree the crocuses are poking through the undergrowth – Spring is definitely here.

Carrying on from my last post about the piece of advice I read recently in a magazine –

‘Devote an hour a week to staying on top of your money’ Dr Heather McGregor author of Financial Advice for Independent Women.

Use the time to check statements, sort out bills and making sure you are getting the best deals.

I have even cut this out and stuck it in my Filofax.

I am presuming this advice is also helpful if you are still trying to acquire some money to get on top of!

I already devote some time each week (where time allows) to track my spending and balance statements this helps me to identify where my money is going and where I would like it to go.  Most of my bills are paid by standing order or direct debit so I never fail to pay them but it is the amount of the bills that are in question – can I get a cheaper deal and save money?

Devoting a bit more time to searching out good deals should help me to hold on to more of it.  I dislike having to do it but fixing deals with utilities has become a way of life now, the same for insurance cover and mortgages.  My gran had none of these problems – she would receive a quarterly bill for the exact amount she had used and pay it in cash the same day – simple – now it is anything but simple.

My successes so far on economising

  • A new fixed deal rate for our electricity and gas to avoid the imminent price hikes.
  • Paying up front for the BT phone line for a year in advance and haggling for a better unlimited broad band and anytime calls deal.
  • Opening a 5% interest return Flexclusive saver account with Nationwide – open to anyone with a Flexaccount and you can pay in up to £500 a month.  The account is only for a year then you take t he money, close the account and open a new one.
  • Meal planning to save on the grocery shopping and avoiding wasted food.
  • I have bought a packet of individually wrapped flapjacks and some chocolate mini rolls these will go with us when we go out and stop for a drink in Costa – I object to paying £2.25 or more for one of their tray bakes and will reduce our bill from around £9 to around £5.
  • If we have to park in town we can use Sainsbury’s car park if we buy something for over £5.  We may as well spend £5 on stocking up on rice or birthday cards and get something for the parking rather than paying £4 and getting nothing.
  • We discovered by accident that we could have a good discount on our car insurance with Aviva because we have a pension with them.  I think Aviva may be one of those companies who do not participate in the comparison sites.

Tomorrow night is shopping night so I will be on the look out for more bargains.  Have a good week.

a busy week so far…

It has been a mad week with so little time for myself that today I have hardly done anything but a little light cleaning and a bit of clearing up and putting away.  Still it felt good not to have to go work and to get my house back in some semblance of order.

Yesterday evening was our fund-raising event in memory of my dearest friend and colleague.  I haven’t been told a figure for how much money we raised for the hospice (where Helen spent her last few days) but I am sure it must have been quite e bit given the amount of people there.  Her mum, step dad and younger daughter all attended which was lovely and they won a raffle prize too – how lucky was that.

Tomorrow we are venturing further north to go and collect my granddaughter who is coming to stay overnight.  She is 2½ now and loves baking, animals and trains so we are (weather permitting) going on a train ride a few miles away from here at Clayton West on the Kirklees light Railway.  I like trains too so we will both be excited.  Perhaps we might even bake a few buns to take home for mummy and daddy – I bought a tub of chocolate drops and sprinkles from Sainsbury’s the other night just in case.

Meal Planning

We couldn’t make pancakes on pancake day due to time pressures so we had Mushroom and Leek pancakes tonight.  I make them with buckwheat flour rather than ordinary but I have only found it available to buy in 3lb bags so I need to find some other recipes that use buckwheat so it is not wasted. The menu planning is still going well though when I am short of time the plan ends up as a quick scribbled list in my notebook.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to search out and try new recipes in the last few weeks so we have been relying on old favourites.

Housekeeping

Airing CupboardThe airing cupboard is now up and running and I love having a cupboard where I open the door and inside the contents are only items we need and use – there is nothing in here that you might call clutter or surplus to requirements and it has an equal amount of space : stuff which is quite pleasing to me.

Airing Cupboard

It is fresh, white and bright with the new strip of LED lights that comes on automatically when we open the door.  At the very bottom of the cupboard just out of the picture we installed a heater  – a 40W tube equivalent to a light bulb and will just keep the cupboard warm enough to air the ironed clothes and linens which can be stored on the lowest empty slatted shelf.

Airing Cupboard

 

 

I have cream towels and white towels  (the white ones are from the cottage – I thought we may as well be using them here at home) this makes washing them easy as they all go in the wash together.  The white ones I bought in 2004 from Primark Home and they have been really good and stay soft when washed and dried inside (I don’t have a drier so cannot ‘fluff’ them up).  To keep my linens and towels smelling nice I place bars of scented soap and satchets on top of the piles.

I am eager now to get started on our next project in the house.

Finances

I saw an article in a magazine recently that suggested it is a good idea to spend one to two hours a week on your finances, keeping yourself up to date with changing interest rates and checking for good deals.  I would include in this time checking those online bills for utilities.  It is so easy to get the email saying your bill is ready for viewing and then ignoring it.  We found quite a few mistakes on our BT bills and Npower.

So I am going to set aside two hours this weekend to deal with the following financial tasks

  • car insurance to accept
  • cancel the separate breakdown cover (it is covered in the car insurance)
  • pay the credit card bill
  • check the bank accounts
  • open a savings account for Mr I that has a 5% return

Thrifting

This week Saintsbury’s gave me a coupon for 8p off petrol if I spent £15 on clothes.  It seemed like a good deal to me as I had seen a jumper for work for £18.  I also had a few rewards points coupons and one triple points so these are mounting up nicely.  Other than that I have not spent any money other than the groceries this week and a couple of birthday presents.

Have a good weekend x

this and that…

February has almost been and gone already.  I cannot even think what I have been doing but I know I have been busy doing it!

I warn you now this is more of an update and not a very exciting blog post – feel free to leave now…

Earlier this month we had a few days in our new caravan…a few very wet days and then snow when we got back home here in Yorkshire.  This weekend it has been extremely wet and windy and I don’t know about you but I feel I am in desperate need of some warmer sunnier weather, especially to wake up to.

Cottage renovations aside we are planning a bit of a whole house revamp here in Yorkshire – inside and out  – starting with the airing cupboard of all places.  This may seem a strange place to start but recently we had a new Combi boiler installed and the hot water tank upstairs was removed.  The upside is we have a large empty space but the downside is that the airing cupboard is no longer warm!

Mr I. has spent many a day inside this tiny space sanding and painting and fitting new shelves and  a small tubular electric heater to keep it warm so I can carry on airing the clothes and linens after I have ironed them.  I already keep spare toilet rolls and lightbulbs in here and the aim is to store the towels here too.  To get the job done quickly Mr I. bought Quick Drying gloss – this was a big mistake it is definitely not as good in finish and quality as a normal gloss and it is still slightly tacky one week later – thankfully it is only the airing cupboard.

As well as the airing cupboard we are redecorating my younger daughters bedroom (she left home in 2002) and we have never updated it in all that time!

We are installing some fitted wardrobes in this room so last Friday we had another visit to Ikea – our third in two weeks – not because we had a lot of shopping to do but because on previous visits I couldn’t decide on the style of doors for the front of the wardrobes we had gone to buy!

As usual I thought I knew exactly what I wanted until I got there and then found I needed time to have a rethink.  In the end I did buy the wardrobe doors I had first decided on and they have been delivered and are in our living room waiting to be put together.  I am looking forward to having a place to store my linens  which are in our main wardrobe at the moment.

Feeling Frugal

The menu planning and shopping has gone better than expected – my shopping bill is definitely lower, our meals more nutritious and we have even produced a few leftovers for my lunch at work to keep my daily spend down too.

Boots have to their 3 for 2 and a five-pound off coupons at the moment so I am stocking up on my basic face creams and a new mascara.   I haven’t compared my spending yet with this time last year – that will have to wait for a free hour next week when I can sit down and look at the budget.

Today I set up a new savings account with 5% interest which is a good rate given the low rates at present and I am trying to rearrange better utility deals one by one.  Not a job I enjoy doing but hopefully will produce some significant savings.

The To-do List

I have been concentrating on reducing my list of tasks and trying to give myself only 5 a day so that those awkward ones don’t get left undone and keep recurring.  This week will be even busier than last as I have a training seminar to attend in Leeds and I am involved in a fund-raising evening on Thursday after work.

On Monday I have a job to sort out at Kwik Fit who serviced my car and did the MOT and somehow entered my Vehicle number incorrectly.  This has caused a problem at DVLA and guess who has to sort it out!

I have also a few items of shopping that I think will be cheaper from one of the bargain shops or Wilkos rather than from Sainsbury’s or Boots so I will make the effort to go shopping at lunch time.

I have quite a few birthdays for March so I had better start looking for cards and gifts so they are not last-minute.

Well my time is up now  – hopefully It won’t be another month until my next post!

Have a good week x