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…

 

 

 

 

 

drEAming, fEAsting, food shopping, random thoughts, rEArranging, trEAsury

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

budgeting, fEAsible, financial focusing, my goals, trEAsury

Financial Focusing update #12

Well that has taken some doing to transfer my excel spreadsheet into this post.  I have had to figure out how to convert it to a PNG file to upload as I found converting to Word was just not working.

So here at last are all the figures for my  2013 Bill Account Budget (actual) and the 2014 Bill Account Budget (forecast) based on this.

Click on the tables if you want a larger view.

2013 Bill Account Budget

Budget Year 2013

2014 Bill Account Budget

Budget Year 2014

As you can see we always have a heavy month in January and last year we had an unusually heavy month in December due to the car breakdown which also cost me an extra £50 on the insurance breakdown cover.  £30 excess and £20 because the car is now more than 10 years old (or maybe it was the other way round!)

We spread the cost of some payments with monthly direct debits where this is free to do so.  When money was tighter we had everything on monthly payments even if there was a small charge.  Now we have a good float so any one big bill isn’t a problem.

The Budget notes line by line

  • Car Insurance / Breakdown – due in March and usually under £200.  We pay the full amount rather than monthly payments.  This will be my next research project in February.
  • Car Maintenance is always a service and MOT in January.  It is usually about £250 sometimes less but unless something happens during the year this is all I pay to keep the car maintained.
  • Car Parking – this is a hefty bill  – I park in a local council car park and opt for the prepaid contract price with a huge discount for paying for the year by monthly direct debit.  I park all day 4 days of the week and need it to be in a safe place for when I am returning to my car in the dark and when I work late.  The bus fares here would be £666 annually so much dearer than the car parking although obviously I would save on car costs.  As I am working this is my little big luxury.
  • Car License – this keeps increasing by about £5 a year but is a relatively fixed price.
  • Council Tax – this may increase by about 10% but is a pretty fixed price and we use 10 month direct debit payments to even this out over the year.
  • Electricity – I am hoping as we are in credit this will reduce when we have our review.
  • Gas – the budgeted figures here do not take into account the £500 credit that we are waiting hoping to get back or a reduced payment at this stage.
  • Gas Servicing – this includes any maintenance or breakdown and parts for the boiler or gas fire.  We are not on a contract as we have a local heating engineer who will come without a call out charge and his rates for labour are reasonable. We are expecting a bill in any day now for the recent repairs to the boiler.
  • House Insurance – Buildings and Contents again we pay up front to avoid any monthly payment charges.
  • Internet Security was a 2 year package so no payment required last year and will be due to renew in November.
  • BT / Broadband / telephone – we are on the Unlimited Anytime Plan for calls £4.15 a month and Broadband –  £18.85 month.  We pay £141.00 (equivalent to £11.75 a month) upfront for the line rental in October.  I think the cheapest we can get this bill down to each month is £23.00 (£4.15 + £18.85)  if we do not get charged for any additional non plan calls.  On unlimited anytime you have to keep within the hour for each call so a timer is necessary so that you can end a call at 55 minutes and then ring back for another free hour.  You may wonder why we want to have all our package with BT as Broadband can be cheaper if you find an alternative provider but we personally would rather pay a bit more and be able to ring one company to sort out any problems or faults rather than end up being passed from one to the other and no one wanting to deal with the issue.  I am allowing £30 a month but hoping we can keep within £25.   We don’t have a contract for our mobiles they are pay as you go and we only put £20 on mine for the year for emergencies – this is taken out of the Housekeeping budget – I am strictly a landline girl!
  • TV License – always a fixed price and we take advantage of the monthly payment as it does not cost anything to do this.
  • Water Rates – we are hoping this will reduce with a meter but I have left it at £600 for the year for now to be on the safe side.  We pay 8 monthly payments Apr – Nov.
  • Contingency – this might cover anything from an appliance or car breakdown or some unforeseen bill.  If we do not use the £600 then we can roll it over or put it into savings or even use it at Xmas.

Mortgage – I haven’t included the figures for this in the above budget but we do have one and it does come out of this bill account as do the cottage costs and payment into a pension fund.   They are pretty fixed amounts the only variable is the electricity, oil and insurance for the cottage and I will be looking at reducing these costs too.  At the moment I don’t feel I want to disclose all our personal financial details onto the www!

The 2014 budget will be amended as the year goes on.  I am having to guess the Council tax and water as I haven’t had the bills in yet and we have gone ahead with the application for a meter, (once installed we have a year to change our minds).

Success

You may have noticed that all my efforts in this Financial Focus month to reduce our bill spending have paid off as the total is almost £1000 less this year even with the £600 contingencey added in.

The amount we need to put into our bill account each month for the year is £6681.60 divided by 12 = £556.80 which I would round-up to £560.00.

Good Customer Service

On another note I must congratulate Benetton who have given me a credit note today when I returned a fine lambswool cardigan I bought there a year ago.  It was my favourite cardigan which had developed a hole in the elbow and I felt this was a bit soon for something of this quality that I only wore during the winter.  The assistants were very understanding and thought it might have been a fault that has developed into a hole and were only too willing to change it had they had the same one in stock.  Well done Benetton.

Poor Customer Service

On the other hand Npower are being absolutely unreasonable about our £500 credit and are trying all ways to avoid giving us this back (or reducing the inflated direct debit that has caused the credit in the first place),  including deciding that they couldn’t speak to me anymore once I mentioned the reason for my call was that I would like my money back.  They will only speak to hubby now as it is his name on the bill!

Well Npower we may just go and see what deal Scottish Power can do for a combined gas and electric account.  It may be a little dearer but at least we can hang onto more of our money and I can speak to them even though my name is not on the account as such. It is not always about the cheapest deal – Scottish Power were very pleasant to speak to.

Almost the last day

My final day tomorrow of the January Financial Focus – I haven’t quite got through everything I set out to do but it has been quite a cost savings exercise.  I am still planning my February Focus so stay tuned and all will be revealed.  I will of course be revisiting the financial tasks – I still want to sell on ebay and make more cards etc but I might try to incorporate these tasks into other ‘focused’ projects.

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?