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

 

a relatively good start…

With menu in hand I completed my Sainsbury’s shop last night after work and felt quite pleased with myself, especially as I limited myself to a hot chocolate without a little snack (I would usually have a scone to keep me going).  Even though I was aiming to buy seasonal British grown produce I noticed the  cabbage was actually grown in Spain!  My trolley was mainly vegetables with a couple of loaves of bread and a few groceries – the ones we were running out of and one or two on offer.  My total bill came to £32.21 for the week – so I am quite pleased with that especially as we are eating better than when I spend a lot more!

shopping

This was all the fresh veg that I needed to add to the bits and pieces in the fridge to make my selected weeks menus.  The cheapest item was the Kiwi fruit at 30p and the dearest the dozen mixed sizes free range organic eggs at £3.70.  I need five for the Spiced Chickpea bakes and the remainder will carry over for next week.  The herbs were on offer and I will be able to freeze what I don’t use.  In the end I decided to buy a ready pack of Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato for £1.

Fresh Veg

Last night we had the Mushroom Stroganoff unfortunately when hubby made it he forgot he was making Stroganoff not risotto and mixed the rice into the mushroom mixture – but in the end it tasted the same!  Tonight we had the veggie stew with roasted chickpeas and butter beans a good warming winter dish – we both enjoyed the new recipe but perhaps the sweet potato and butternut squash made it a little too sweet for me so I would need to make slight adjustments next time.  The other draw back is it does not make enough for 2 meals – the leftover portion will however do for my lunch.  I will have to think of something to fill the empty slot for our tea tomorrow or move everything forward a meal.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s last night I had some returns – I had bought a snuggly throw for the bed at the caravan to keep us warm overnight.  It was a knitted cream blanket with an acrylic sheepskin style underside.  I never thought to check the washing instructions when I purchased it and was rather shocked to find it was not washable.  When I found the receipt to take it back I noticed I had been charged twice for this item.   As it was part of my weekly shop at the time I had not thought too much about my bill seeming a bit dearer than normal and had not checked the receipt afterwards.

So when I asked for a refund of the throw I had bought  I mentioned to the lady at Customer Services about being charged twice and confirmed that I had only bought one – after a bit of a quiet moment and a few umm’s and argh’s she agreed to refund me the money for both.  I thought this was very good of them as I had no way to prove I had not bought two at the time.  So well done Sainsburys for the goodwill gesture – but I will be checking my receipts more throughly in future.

We are certainly getting back into a routine again, all though we are well into January now, and a few of those stubborn little tasks are being crossed off the list.  I booked the car in for the MOT and service on Friday  and made a dentist appointment for the same morning. 

 I am not sure if the car or my teeth will require any major repairs – I hope not as I need to make economies in all areas of my spending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Reducing the spending is back…

For anyone that is interested I am restarting my Reducing the spending posts over on my sister blog Re-routed.
This is where I will be taking stock of my grocery budget and meal planning.  I will also be moving the posts on ‘What I have bought this week’ over there just to keep these challenges separate from this blog.
Very soon I will be updating you on this months focus which is to Simplify my Space.
Have a good day tomorrow lets hope the weather is calmer.

Financial Focusing update 5#

A very cold start to the day this morning both inside and out – our gas boiler has more or less broken down and we are waiting for our engineer to get the part and then fit it, meanwhile, to get any heat we have to ignite the boiler manually when we get up or get home so the house is quite cold when we wake and after work on arriving home.  Reminds me of the days when you had to light the coal fire.

I must say for a month where I am trying to watch the pennies I am finding I am paying out rather a lot of large maintenance bills!  Last Saturday we picked up my trusty little Saxo car (now 12 years old)  after passing the MOT and having a full service.  Luckily no major faults found.  Now I need to attend to giving it a good clean inside and out and also I could do with a new set of hub caps and a battery for the remote.

As it happens my focus this weekend was to list all the items and appliances we own that require maintenance – some will need more than others.  Now I have the list which includes everything from the car to the hairdryer, lawn mower to the kettle I am going to set aside some time each week to maintain one item.  This might be giving it a good clean, arranging a service or buying a new part – whatever it takes to keep in good working order.  This way I hope to extend the life of the appliance.  I will post the list another day.

I allow for the MOT and maintenance as part of my  bills budget so it is never a scramble to find the money though it would be nice to have cheaper bills.  Since 1985 I have estimated all my bills for the year – added 10% then divided by 12 and the end sum is the amount that goes into our bill account every month by standing order without fail.  As this budget account has been running for many years it tends to have a surplus which is always good in case of the unexpected.  This money is absolutely not to be used for anything else even if the account is well in credit.  The bills I pay from here are –

  • Car – maintenance
  • Car – road license
  • Car – parking contract
  • Car – insurance
  • Computer security
  • Cottage bills
  • Council tax
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Gas boiler and fire service
  • Gas boiler and fire maintenance
  • House buildings and contents insurance
  • Mortgage
  • Mortgage overpayment
  • Personal Pension
  • Telephone and Broadband
  • Water rates

Many of the bills are fixed rates such as Council tax, water rates, car road license and mortgage.  I can only save on the variables such as energy bills, telephone, insurances etc by shopping around – but there are savings to be made.  With any savings I make over the year I can do one of two things either make an extra mortgage overpayment or keep a surplus in the bill account so I don’t need to increase my monthly standing order next year.  In a day or two I will be putting figures to the above categories when I know more what my expenses will be.

At the moment I am researching new energy deals and thinking about applying for a water meter.  We have paid our BT line rental for the year with a big saving and all the calls are free to landlines if I make sure I don’t go over the hour (a timer comes in handy here).  I also need to revise our car insurance and breakdown as it will be due in March.  As you know I wasn’t overly impressed with the service I received when I broke down.

On Sunday I returned the last of the items for refunds – so gained another £119.  We made sandwiches to eat in the car park at the Cheadle branch of John Lewis (not a common occurrence at this branch!) and just bought a drink inside.

My spend on Sunday was

  • 2 drinks    £4.55
  • 1 black printer ink    £10.99

Today after work there were a few bits and pieces of shopping I needed.  I spent Saturday afternoon going through my dressing table drawers.  I am trying to pare everything down to the bare essentials.  I have a few products to use up and I have replaced my mascara and lipstick using the No7 voucher.  I realised when away at Christmas that I do not have a round hair brush in my travel bag and my usual one is quite large so when I saw this cheap small one in Wilkos it will fit my travel bag perfectly.  I have also replaced my old comb for a stronger black one – I wondered if I could do without but what would I clean my brushes with?

I saw the Polyfilla stick in an advert and I am crossing my fingers that this is the answer to my prayers.  We have a number of those fine hairline cracks in the plaster in one of the bedrooms.  It is just on the top coat of plaster nothing sinister like subsidence but they are the most awkward things to fill with any success.  It looks remarkably like a Pritt stick!  I will let you know if it is any good but you will probably hear me shouting Eureka before then if it is!!

Shopping 20.01.14

Taking a picture of the items that come into the house as a record of my spending may help to stop me buying anything unnecessarily.

Holland and Barrett

  • Essential oil mixer bottle  £2.49   – for my massage oil
  • Vegetarian Gravy Powder  £1.79
  • Apple and Apricot spread  £1.85

Post Office

  • 6 x 2nd class stamps  £3.00 – to have in stock
  • 1 x 1st class stamp  £0.60 – for special birthday card

Wilkinsons

  • 1 round brush for travel bag  £2.00
  • 1 black comb  £0.70
  • 3 gift jam jars  £3.75 – for fruit spread
  • 1 Polyfilla stick for fine cracks  £5.95 – to fix the hairline cracks in plaster I hope!

Sainsbury’s

  • Cauliflower and Broccoli  £1.20 – tonight’s tea
  • 1 orange  £0.35 – for rind shreds in fruit spread

Total spend £23.68

So my focus tomorrow is getting to grips with the energy bills.  We have Npower gas and Scottish Power electric as this was cheapest at the time.  I know Npower have not been able to bill people recently and their bills are expected to go out in February meanwhile they have a LOT of our money in credit as I don’t believe we have used what they estimated.

Scottish Power are sending us £54 as compensation for the period last March when the cottage was cut off for 3 days in the snow.  Not being there at the time and the freezer only having a loaf or two and a tub of ice-cream we are quids in with this refund!  It will go towards the food I had to throw out when I accidentally unplugged our freezer at home.  We didn’t waste much in the end, a Higgedy Pie, 4 Samosas, a pack of veggie sausages (hubby gone off them anyway), a handful of frozen chips, a reduced Pizza and the remnants of a tub of ice-cream.  I am most cross about the ice-cream as I watched and waited for weeks for the brand we like (Mackays) to come on offer and now I have had to ditch it!

Well I think I have rambled enough.  How is your spending / none spending going?

Financial Focusing update #3

Todays Financial Focus task was to use some of my reward points and vouchers (N0 7 on the list) see the Focus 2014 tab above and click on drop down menu – January.   This will be an ongoing task as I have got quite a few for different stores.

After posting my mums birthday card ready for Sunday I had a quick sprint down to Boots tonight after work as I was desperate for a new mascara and  lip gloss.  I had a £3 off No7 coupon to use and I found there is a buy one get one half price offer on make-up at present plus I also had a coupon from the Advantage card machine giving me an extra 100 points.  So I got my goods for the bargain price of £13.25 rather than full price of £20.

I don’t wear very much makeup, a little mascara and a quick swipe with a lip gloss to protect my lips from drying out this weather and thats about it.  Foundation is usually for parties and posh do’s so it lasts ages.

I also treated myself to a hair cut tonight- a bit of a trim and a blow dry and I feel like a new woman, at least it should cut down the drying time in the morning before work.  My hair gets very static in the winter and the hair dryer makes it worse.

Cost of haircut £22 plus £2 tip for Becky (the trainee).  I never know how much to tip these days – I think £2 is reasonable do you?

Had I arrived home earlier I would have plunged my tired and aching feet into a warm bubbly  bowl of water and given myself a luxury home pedicure too – but the reality was that I decided to go back into town to Sainsbury’s for a few fresh veg and necessities for the weekend and so didn’t get back home until after 8pm.  As it was getting quite late I sensibly picked up a reduced Pizza to have with salad.  My grocery spend was £30.19 and  I used £30 of my reward points to pay.

My spend today

Cash 

  • Lunch at work £2.55
  • Giving to Homeless x 2 on route to car £1. 40
  • Snack packet buttered Soreen £0.59
  • Tip £2
  • Hot Choccy treat £1.8
  • £0.19 towards sainsbury’s shopping

Debit Card / cheque

  • Hair £22.00
  • Boots Mascara and Lip Gloss £13.25

Reward Points

  • Sainsbury’s £30.00

for a grocery shopping breakdown you will need to link through to my re-routed blog but give me a day or two to get it back up and running!  It will need a bit of an update – and yes it is on the list to do asap.

So that was my Thursday – how was yours?

Financial Focusing update #2

 My task today was to look at all the money that has accrued by way of Vouchers / Gift cards / money owing / reward points and store returns still to do and then have a quick sort through all the coupons I have collected to see what might be useful.

This is how I store my coupons and vouchers  – I use one of those clear plastic A6 size envelopes.  I also have one to keep my receipts in for those items I am going to return or exchange.  They are small enough to drop into my bag and this way they are all in one place.

Coupon Holders

 A quick round up below of what I would term credits and rewards to come

Gift Cards / Reward Points / Monies to bank

  •  Wallis Gift Card                                        £8.95
  • Debenhams Gift Card                              £5.00  valid until Jan 31st
  • John Lewis returns                                   £119.00
  • Xmas Gift Money to bank                      £55.00
  • Lottery Scratch Card winnings            £1 (from Hubbies stocking filler)
  • Gardening Token                                             £5.00
  • Morrisons Miles Voucher                      £5.00
  • Tesco Vouchers                                         £7.50
  • Owing from brother                                  £15.00
  • Reward points Sainsbury’s                    £ 81.64
  • Reward Points Boots                               £23.59
  • Total                                                               £326.68

 Wow £326.68 is a nice little sum – I will get free groceries for a week or two by using my Sainsbury’s reward points and I can use the Boots points for toiletries needed.  The Tesco vouchers I will hang on to for the Double up exchange and with the Wallis and Debenhams cards I will get either a birthday gift or a treat.

                    

Store Coupons and Vouchers

  • M&S reward card  – buy 2 more greetings cards and I will get one free
  • Points and money off various products at Boots
  • 20% savings at WH Smiths
  • 0.81p off next Tesco shop by 8th Feb
  • 0.24p off next Sainsbury’s shop
  • A free cup of coffee / tea from my local garden centre

My Sainsbury’s Double Nectar points coupon expired today but I need to spend over £90 to qualify so sorry Mr Sainsbury I will not be spending that much in your store for the foreseeable future!

So far this January I have spent

 Groceries – £99.83

– we are in week 3 now so that is £33.28 weekly average.

 Lunches at work – £16

–  I work 4 full days so I am going to try and buy 2 lunches and then make 2 to take with me.

 Supplements –  £18.47 (Inc £2.50 voucher)

–  I bought Aloe Vera juice for my digestion and Effamol capsules

 Stationery – £12.07

–  I invested in a roll of wrap paper reduced to £1.80 for birthdays this year.  I also found a small magnifier to keep in my purse – very useful.  I bought a triple pack of Pritt stick on offer £1 each and a pack of A5 laminating pouches.

Computer items –  £14.50 Ink and £7.35 Mouse

 – Black printer ink  (run out) and a small mouse for my laptop computer from Wilkinsons

Entertaining –  £16.24 on drink -1 rum, 1 Vodka 4 x diet coke

                              £33.75 on food and nibbles.

  – At the weekend we entertained a couple of friends who we couldn’t see over the Christmas break and this came in a little expensive.  I know they like Vodka and Baccardi and coke so we had to stock up in case they asked for this.  Unfortunately they decided to stick to white wine and just the coke this time!  No doubt the spirits won’t be wasted.  I didn’t have time to make any food myself and had to rely on the supermarket party type food – not a cheap way to buy.   However, it did provide us with lunch and dinner the next day and we managed not to open the rum and Vodka and drown our sorrows on the overspend.

Generally I would have preferred to have had a completely No Spend month but for the things I did buy I shopped around for a good deal and used offers and vouchers where possible.

How are you doing with the January spending?

PS  Thanks to Dar over at An Exacting Life for your very helpful chart it is just what I needed to ensure we come out of our freezer predicament without poisoning ourselves – after all who wants to make themselves sick!