fEAsible, financial focusing, my goals, trEAsury

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?

being thrifty, fEAsible, financial focusing, my goals, trEAsury

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


  • 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!


  • 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?