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.

Financial Focusing update #10

Surprisingly not a lot happened at work today.  The new person was in and out of meetings all day with the powers that be but I had thought he might have popped his head round the door to say hi as it was we never saw him at all.  So we just got on with our work as usual.

After work I took our application forms to the Post Office for the 2 ISA transfers.  Whilst arranging this the lady asked if I was interested in their credit cards, travel insurance or house / car insurance.  I have no use at the moment for another credit card, I already have travel insurance through my Nationwide Flexaccount but the house / car insurance sounded promising as they guarantee to quote £50 less than the insurance you have at present.  My car insurance will need renewing in early  March so I may get a quote.  In 2013 I paid £187.42 for the year fully comp which included breakdown and the house insurance was £151.39 for the year buildings and contents – but not due  until December.

Whilst checking all our energy bills and usage it came to my notice that Scottish Power had got our present deal wrong.  We should have been on the Online August 2014 price fix with Monthly Direct Debit payments as we have always been.  Our bill tells us differently – this states we are on the Online September 2014 price fix and they have been taking our money on a variable quarterly direct debit.  Somewhere along the way it has been switched but no one knows why.   The September tariff is actually cheaper but paying quarterly is dearer.  We rang Scottish Power today and brought the payment method to their attention and they will remedy this and credit our account.  We will however stay on the cheaper September deal.  So my tip is  – check your deals are correct.   I will let you know what the saving is when we receive the credit.

At this very moment hubby is upstairs applying to Npower for the May 2015 fix for our gas, we also found that we had nearly £500 in credit with Npower so I have requested a refund and that they lower our monthly payment to £50 month. I believe I have already mentioned the compensation money of £54 that we are due from Scottish Power for the time we were cut off last year at the cottage.

So with all these unexpected credits our account should be better off by about £600 and I think it has been a very worthwhile and profitable exercise so far.

I have just about come to the end of reviewing our bills and I am in a better position to prepare our yearly budget.  For those bills unknown at present like the Council tax I will have to allow for a 10% rise on last years figures.

When I know the total amount I require to cover the cost of the bills for the year I can transfer a twelfth of this each month into our bill account.  The account then more or less runs itself as most bills are on a direct debits or one-off yearly payments.

To add to my savings I managed to get 8p off each litre of fuel at Sainsbury’s with my token – so I filled the tank which for my little car is £50 with a £3.12p saving and this will last 6-8 weeks if I am careful.  So far this month my grocery spend is £184.56 in cash and I have also used £27.50 in rewards points.  So I have gone over the £200 which is disappointing but I have been focusing on our larger bills this month rather than the housekeeping.  I find it hard to keep tabs on all the spending all the time.

How are you doing this month?

Financial Focusing update #4

Cash Books

Today’s Financial Focusing task was to review and update our savings – one of the more challenging tasks for me finding a good home for my hard earned cash!

I think I am a natural saver it all started when I visited my Aunty one holiday and her local newsagent had a tin money-box with six sections and a slot for each in the lid and a key and lock to keep it safe.   I just had to have it and I handed over my 2/6d and from that day on I would feed my spare pennies and threepenny bits in through the lid and once a month count the contents.  I would be about 10 years old and I have saved ever since.   This was more difficult as our girls were growing up and money was very tight but when I returned to work 14 years ago I made a point of using some of my earnings to save again and we did very well with interest rates as high as 7%.  The credit crunch has made it increasingly difficult to squirrel the same amounts away with cost of living forever rising but our mortgage on the other hand is lower than it has ever been.

I like nothing better than seeing our savings increase year on year providing a nice passive income.

But…nothing is simple with savings these days – we seem to have bits of money all over the place forever chasing higher interest rates.  To keep track of everything I had to devise a chart so I can see at a glance when an ISA is coming to maturity and needs moving to a better rate.  They are not the easiest of things to keep track of and I have a feeling I haven’t used this years allowance yet.

So today I have been searching online and found that the only way to get a reasonable ISA rate is to fix again but the question is how long for.  The better rates of 3% are available only if fixing for 4-5 years but I think if there was an upturn we could lose out.  So we are being our usual prudent no risk selves and going for a 2-3 year fixed.

On my travels around the internet I noticed the 5% being paid by the Bank of Dave – it isn’t an ISA but even with tax taken off this is a good rate.  He is someone I would definitely bank on!  – I totally admire what he is doing.  Unfortunately there is a waiting list of a year for his guaranteed 5% savings account.

So after much deliberation, a packet of crisps, 2 biscuits and cup of tea I have opted to reinvest an existing matured ISA with the Post Office who are advertising a Fixed Rate Cash ISA (Issue 11) that pays 2.25% AER for two years and possibly open a second one with the money from a matured Nationwide ISA– but I will sleep on that one.  As we approach the end of the tax year there is usually an interest rates war going on to attract new investors so may be worth hanging on a while.

Although our savings are growing (albeit slowly with the low rates) we are now in a position where the interest available is just slightly lower than the interest we are paying out on our mortgage (2.5%) so I am making a large overpayment of £3000 today towards reducing our mortgage.  This is with money I have saved throughout last year in a regular saver paying 2.5% (but taxed) and equally to watching the savings grow there is nothing better than seeing the mortgage total come down.

So I think that wraps up today’s task.  Hubby will have to transfer his ISA in the morning by phone as I did.

Have you any good savings tips?