budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

trEAsury…a good start

Snowdrops

Birthday Card

We are now on day 8 of the new year and up to yesterday all we had bought during the week was milk and a bunch of flowers and box of chocolates for a birthday gift.  The card I made having a really good time with some tiny flower stamps I had bought a while ago but never used.
Total cost for first 7 days £11.   January is quite a heavy month for birthdays  – I have seven to buy for.
Yesterday we had to go to the supermarket for a few bits for my lunches and some fresh fruit and vegetables.  I was very organised and arrived with my menu plan and list in hand feeling confident that I was going to spend within my budget of £50.
After the first two aisles I came across a number of our usual grocery items on offer but not on the list such as coffee. 
Dilemma.
In the end it seemed right to take advantage and stock up –  otherwise it will be a while before the offers come round again.
  • The very large Lurpack was down to £6.00 – we decant this into a butter dish which I quite like doing anyway – more elegant on the breakfast table than a tub – and a tub this size is not at all pretty – but it does last us for ages.
  • The seeded flat breads which are like Pitta breads are great for filling with salads for my lunch and these had been marked down to 80p for six.
  • The instant Lavazza which is normally extortionate price of £4.50 (but hubby’s favourite) was down to £3 a tin so I splashed out and bought 3 which should last us until the offer comes round again.
  • I also bought a couple of cartons of Napolina Pasata at 60p carton and a good pantry staple for making lasagne, chickpea bake or adding to any winter warming casserole.
  • We needed water filters and we were in luck this week they were reduced – I can only afford them when they are on offer but I do like filtered water – since I had the high levels of radiation a few years back it has left me with a very heightened sense of taste and smell like you get when you are pregnant.  They were reduced from £21 to £14 for six and we make them last 9 months so about £1.55 a month, which is well worth it for me.
So in the end we spent £72  – £31 on the offers.
Over the weekend I have been looking for new ways to maximise any rewards points, offers and freebies.  Reward points work well for me and the Nectar card at Sainsbury’s is the one I use most.  I haven’t really taken much notice of the online account before – but I ventured on there to order a new card as mine must be more than 20 years old and a bit worn out.  Yes I hate to say it but this little bit of plastic is heading for the landfill!
Whilst having a browses around I found I could get 200 points on my next shop and all I had to do was click to load the offer straight on to my card.
Brilliant.
So I have now bookmarked the login on my sidebar for easy access and this is one account I shall keep checking into more frequently.
I then logged onto the Boots Advantage card site and found the same – not only have I £34 in points to spend but you can load any personalised offers straight to your card.  Why didn’t I know this before?  I wonder what else I am missing.
To boost the coffers over the January period I have a children’s outfit to return to M&S for a refund of £18 and my brother owes me £10 – he will just need a nudge about this.
As you can tell I will be trying to spend as little as possible other than food during January.  I even managed to avoid the magazines whilst in Sainsbury’s – I could see them out of the corner of my eye beckoning me with promises of losing 10lbs in 2 days or was it 2lbs in ten days or making me happy, less stressed, better dressed – none of these things would be difficult but I have heard it all before in last years magazines that I bought  – the ones that cost me over £100  – and did they make a difference – nope – none that I can detect.  I am still the same old me!
I have plenty of clothes for work and my new boots and old winter coats are still good. 
If I need anything it would be a plain black top, preferably a fine knit jumper, that will go with a few patterned skirts that I have and will give me another three outfit options to wear for work.  I bought the skirts ages ago but have never found a suitable top to wear with them – but there must be one out there and it seems a bit wasteful to have the skirts hanging there doing nothing.
Note to self – buy clothes in outfits then I am not stuck with oddments that don’t go with one another.
Back soon x

 

 

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being thrifty, budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

tEAsury…reflecting on last year’s budget

The Budget – the breakdown – the facts – the truth – the satisfaction and the panic!
Last year my Focus word was ECONOMISE to reflect a change in our circumstances and a need to tighten our belts.
I have one of those all singing all dancing software programs on my computer called Microsoft Money (no longer available).  You just enter each receipt using the appropriate bank account if you have more than one and assign a category.  Once the information is in you can then produce any number of reports that track how much you have spent and even where you spent it.  The program allows you to customise the data to produce reports and spreadsheets split into weeks, months or years and I am able to compare this year to last year or the previous ten years if I wanted.
So I have entered all my receipts for 2017, balanced all the bank statements and run some comparison reports with last year and some in-depth reports (these are helpful when you see a frighteningly large total and want to know what the heck you spent so much on!

 

Looking over my spending report we did manage to economise in a few areas but not all and in some cases we have been running to stand still because of inflation.  There are some bills you just cannot reduce such as the Council tax which for our area was £73 more this year than 2016 and we live in a fairly modest house.
I will summarise some of the savings and failures of the general household budget.  I won’t be including the decorating and maintenance costs as we all know these are expensive and all I can say is that we have tried to buy wisely and keep within our means.
So how did we do –

General household bills

We reduced both our gas and electricity bills and also the house insurance by carefully swapping deals and suppliers and using less – a saving of £322
Our water is now metered and remains fairly constant if I am careful of our use such as always washing full loads and using the quicker washes.  At least it has not increased.
The TV license increased by £1 – just as well it is a small increase as there is very little on the box sometimes.

Cards and Gifts

I was also surprised that we saved on cards and gifts – family gifts by £100 and friends by £76 – this is mainly due to careful buying and not because of any reduction in the number of friends or family we have.

Clothes, Accessories and Footwear

We have seen a marked reduction here – I spent £336 on clothes an average of £28 month which is half what I spent the previous year but then we did have the wedding that summer and I was the bride’s mother.  OH did even better and only spent £110 over the year.  I don’t think this is too bad considering I need clothes for work.  Most of my clothes came from Sainsbury’s – they have a large clothing section and have a 25% off quite frequently.  I have noticed though that some clothing that would have been £16 or £18 is now hitting the £20 mark.
I spent less on footwear than other years too and some of the casual shoes I bought came from Sainsbury’s but my new winter boots were well over £100 –  I bought the same ones as I had last year because they fit well (I do have to wear good footwear that is well padded, very low or no heel and a thick sole as I have a problem with my feet and have to wear orthotics if they don’t have the right support and comfort built-in which tend to be in the dearer makes such as Gabor, Ecco and Sketchers).  I also had to invest in my new gardening boots which were £30 so this took the total up to £289, which sounds a lot to me for shoes but my footwear spend was balanced out by OH buying no new shoes at all!

Housekeeping

On the housekeeping side our grocery, cleaning and some toiletries costs came in at £63 a week – this was a disappointing figure and is not what I had hoped for I was looking for a figure around £50 and this is one area where I feel that even after all the bargain hunting and taking advantage of only buying whilst a product is on offer we have been running to stand still with the large price hikes we have been seeing.
I did take a packed lunch to work most days which reduced the spending in this area but will have increased the total spend on food a bit as obviously the extra food has to come from somewhere.
We did reduce our food waste a lot – I stopped buying those pots of salad like cloeslaw as they seemed to be out of date before the two of us could finish them and I have been adhering to a menu plan each week most of the time.
I continue to buy organic where I can so I know my shop will already be more expensive than most people – but Sainsbury’s do a good own brand organic range which are reasonably priced and I do get reward point coupons for them quite often.

Fuel, transport, car maintenance, insurance, MOT, car parking contract and anything car related

This must be one of the most expensive outlays – it is frightening how much it costs to get about and then to park when you get there.  All I can say is we always shop around for insurance deals, buy cheaper supermarket fuel (never on the motorway) and use those money off / reward point coupons if we are lucky enough to get some.  Other than getting rid of the cars or not going anywhere I am not sure what saving we can make.  My little runaround is already 18 years old and I am not sure what is holding it together but it is fine to get me to work, carry the weekly shopping and take me to places locally.  For anything else we use my hubby’s bigger car.

Books and Magazines

I really believed I had cut down on magazines and thought I was only buying an occassional one when we went to the cottage (we have no TV or internet there so I tend to read) however, the budget report shows a different story and I managed to buy no less than £107 worth of magazines and those magazine books during the year.  Curious to find out more I looked at the in-depth report and this is how that figure is broken down –
  • Psychologies x 2
  • Top Sante x 2
  • Natural Health x 1
  • Gardeners World – May edition for the 2 for 1 entry to gardens card
  • Daphnes Diary x 2
  • Country Living – turning a hobby into a business (book magazine)
  • Gardeners World Plants for Shade (book magazine)
  • Womans Weekly Garden
  • We Love Craft – I don’t even remember this will have to have a search of my bookcase!
  • Build  and Home Build (for our cottage renovations)
  • Country Homes and Ideal Homes pack ( a supermarket offer whilst at the cottage)
  • Healthy Food Guide (another book magazine)
  • What the Doctors Don’t Tell You x 2
  • Country Homes Christmas
  • Christmas House Beautiful
You can see where my interests lie and I obviously need to avoid the magazine aisle!
On the positive side I have acquired Brownie points using the Library to take books out to read rather than buying any.
In actual fact I have so much to read here in the house anyway that I could probably get away with never buying or borrowing a book again for many months.  It is just habit that I will wander into a bookstore and especially The Works where it is cheaper to buy a book than a magazine.  Stationery shops also have this effect on enticing me in to spend.

Christmas

Christmas has become a lot cheaper for us since we started the Not so Secret Santa within the extended family.  The budget is £50 per person so a £100 spend for OH and I and we spend a further £25 to £30 on the two relatives children and a bit more on our granddaughter.  The Secret Santa stocking within the immediate family is £20 each (£40 for the two of us) and another £10 for the one at my work.  We always give our two daughters and their partners a sizeable cheque for Christmas rather than any gifts they might not want.
The few gifts for our friends we were able to find a 3 for 2 offer.
A grand total of around £300 which does not include the two gifts of money to our daughters.
The bits and pieces such as the cards and wrap came to £20 and is an area where I could make more of my own.
Our real four-foot Christmas tree with roots was a bargain and cost only £17 with the coupon and we can plant it in our Scottish garden later this month.   We decided to put some old lights on the tree when the more recent ones failed instead of rushing out to buy new ones.
The postage for non local cards and one parcel amounted to £30 which was a bit of a shock – not sure how I can get around this expense other than hiring a pigeon to deliver!  I sent them all 2nd class but it was the 4 Australian ones that hiked the price up considerably.  I do have half a book of stamps left though for sending birthday cards.
Perhaps I will try buying a book of stamps throughout the year to spread the cost.
So there you have it  – not brilliant but not a disaster – there is room for a challenge in this years budget somewhere.  I don’t profess to be a frugal blog by any means although I do like to read them and take on any useful ideas.  My aim is to set and stick to a reasonable money-saving budget so that we can increase the amount we save ready for retirement and to free up some of our income for the decorating.   It goes without saying that I am on a mission to reduce our stuff and limit the stuff coming in to our house so not buying things we don’t really need is very important and in itself should save us money.
In my next post I will set out some of my ideas for my new budget!
Back soon x

 

budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

trEAsury…October spending

October has not turned out to be a good reflection of our usual housekeeping budget where the food shopping is concerned.  I can’t report any real thriftiness on my part but we continue to eat well and plan what we eat which is one of the best ways to save money.

As always you have to factor in the out of the ordinary expenditure and from my records the average weekly spend has increased over this month due to a number of reasons:-

  • Brexit is certainly having an effect on the prices now and inflation is beginning to bite hard.  Many items are going up by 50p a time or shrinking in size to compensate.
  • This month in particular I have increased the amount of fruit I am eating – OH has been preparing some wonderful mixed fruit salads to go with my plain no fat yoghurt at breakfast.  As we all know fruit, especially the soft fruits like blueberries and raspberries, are expensive but so good health-wise. I always eat an apple a day for my morning break at work as well so I think my vitamin C quota is well covered each day and I shouldn’t need to take any supplements.
  • When we went to help my daughter move she had no means of cooking or chilling food so was managing buying one meal at a time for a few days.  We had just returned from holiday and had no food in our house either so I grabbed a basketful of ready-made lunch items on the way at Marks and Spencers at the Wetherby services – their selection of sandwiches being better than the local Co-op.  This cost me over £16 for the four of us with a chocolate eclair each and a bag of crisps.
  • I have been using this month to stock up on basic items like toilet rolls ready for Christmas.  I always plan ahead to get these now as I don’t want to be thinking about the basic necessities close to Christmas when I need to be thinking more about shopping for meals and entertaining.
  • I have been buying the ingredients for the cake, nut roast and food gifts – they are generally found in the baking goods aisle which is always a costly place to be.
  • My lunches which I used to buy at the local Bakehouse are now all made at home so I have to factor in the extra cost of this into the weekly shop but this is balanced by the saving to my weekly personal miscellaneous spending which is virtually at zero now.
  • Due to time constraints with our decorating program my weekly visits to the supermarket have not been on the same day and I noticed that sometimes my weekly shop has been done less than a week after the previous one.

I read online that for Yorkshire and Humberside a weekly shop is on average £47.30 for a family – we eat organic foods mostly so you can add a further 10% to that figure, however I do buy mostly Sainsbury’s own cheaper brands rather than other well-known ones.  although there are only two of us sometimes a weekly shop costs as much as buying for a family of four because you cannot buy smaller sizes or the smaller sizes are more expensive to buy.

I admit we have a few expensive items such as  unfiltered organic virgin olive oil and organic free range eggs, but we do not eat meat or fish so these are a good source of the Omega 3.  A packet of lentils or chick peas is quite low-cost at only 60p and a staple diet for us together with brown rice we then buy a heap of veg to go with these and usually meet the required 5 a day at any one meal.

I like to buy good quality unprocessed whole-foods in an attempt to keep us as healthy as possible and I think I do get value for the money I spend although I would like it to be more around £50 a week mark rather than the £70 average it has crept up to because of the reasons I explained above – so plenty of work still to be done in the coming months to bring this back down.

On the positive side – I spend very little on my mobile phone a £10 recent top-up making that £10 for the year to date as I had a free £10 when I switched to Vodaphone pay as you go.

I don’t pay for all day parking on a Thursday now as I am only working Monday to Wednesday –  a saving of £16 to £20 a month – and I don’t have the petrol cost on top either – however, I have lost a whole day’s pay which more than covered these but I will be using the extra time I have gained wisely to save money in other areas too.

October achievements

  • I have bought as many items as I can when on offer, reduced or I have a coupon.
  • I continue to plan out a menu to avoid food waste – we have very little food waste now – I stopped buying those cartons of chilled coleslaw and salad stuff as once opened they only last a couple of days and I found the last little bit never got used.
  • I have about £106 in Sainsbury’s reward points to spend at Christmas.
  • I tried some new recipes – one or two will make it into my tried and tested section of my binder
  • I managed to skip the magazines most weeks buying none in August and September and only two health and food related ones in October

November budgeting

  • Making my own Christmas cake and Nut roast
  • Adding basic items to my weekly shop to stock up for Christmas
  • Making a Christmas menu plan so I don’t over buy or over spend on food that will not be eaten
  • Using the Waitrose £12 off a £60 spend
  • Clean out the freezer – use this month to plan weekly menus to use up food in there.
  • Use the £106 reward points on the double up event for drink and Christmas requirements
  • Use remainder against food bill
  • Fill car up with petrol using 9p off litre voucher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

drEAming, fEAsible, general chit chat, taking stock, trEAsury

expanding time, expanding work…

Even though I have four days off work now I seem to struggle to get everything done in the house that I would normally have done in the 3 days I had before.

This suggests to me that Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” has some truth in it!

It may be down to the fact that having more time has allowed me to do each task in some depth – whether it is the mountain of paperwork or the dusting each job now is being done very thoroughly and at last I can see the paperwork pile reducing to the point where I will be working on the ‘stuff’ that I receive during the week – rather than working on last week’s, or last months or longer.

I have been doing more than my set 2 hours recently on the financial tasks and what I term ‘paperwork’ as we have got a few important items to attend to which require careful reading and even more careful decisions – ones that will affect us financially long-term – I don’t know about you but I find these quite difficult.  If I say the word Pensions you will probably know what I mean.

Gradually I have cleared out a lot of old papers from the files and I have reached the point where I am completely up to date with the filing and can now do it as I go along.  I have also spent quite a few hours entering receipts and logging our spending on our Money Program on the computer.  Every account is now fully balanced and the advantage of this program is that I can run reports that will tell me how much I am spending each week in any given category – it would even tell me in which shops I spend the most money – the possibilities are endless!

When I have gathered all the information I can begin to look at making any reductions and adjustments. I am expecting a few shocks when I see the totals so far for the year.  Spending the odd fiver a week on something can add up to quite a lot over the year.  Items like magazines are typical of this kind of spending (even though I believe I have been very good recently and picked them up and then put them back on the shelf again one or two have accidentally fallen into my trolley!).  And then there are birthday cards and gifts this is always a category where the figures creep up but I have managed to buy some nice gifts at very reasonable bargain prices.

I know our food spending is working out at about £50 a week – we eat well usually in the sense that we buy as much organic food as we can and a lot of fruit and vegetables and make a good many of our meals from scratch (though this does not necessarily mean we always make healthy meals!).  When pushed for time we will often compromise and buy the main bit of the meal ready-made like Nut Cutlets and add a plateful of vegetables.

With more attention to our menu planning I know I could reduce this by another £10 easily.  I have noticed that the price for having a drink or lunch out is creeping up and although it is a nice treat now and again it does add up to quite an amount over the year.

I have some additional points vouchers for Sainsbury’s for items that I would usually buy which is good and I was handed another 5 x points voucher this evening to put towards my full shop next week.  So my total rewards value now stands at £101.44 which I am saving towards Christmas or one of their double up events if they run it again this year in November.

Stay tuned for my next update. x