We should be happy then as we didn’t exceed our income but I always feel I could do better. I knew it would not be a pretty picture when I ran this years accounts report – and it did disappoint a little when I read the final figures as I had tried quite hard and even managed to get DH on board with being slightly more spending aware on the grocery shopping now he is helping me to do it. I was hoping for better figures though and some bigger savings.
It wasn’t all bad – we did make some enormous savings –
I only bought 2 lunches at work whilst I was still working at a cost of £7.40 the rest I made at home which gave us a big saving although you have to factor in buying extra bread and salad to make them.
We also cut down on our grocery shopping by sticking to a menu plan as far as possible, buying items only on offer and looking out for yellow sticker food; but at the same time we have been battling ever-increasing prices so we seem to be running to stand still – overall though we came in under the last two previous years totals. As frequent readers may know we are vegetarian which helps (although fruit, vegetables and nuts are not the cheapest of foods these days) and eat organic foods where possible which is always dearer – but we would not compromise on this even to buy cheaper food as I totally believe in organic farming methods as a sustainable and healthy way of life.
Christmas came in at £400 which is much the same as previous years now that we do a Secret Santa within the extended family. Each person spends £50 on a gift so our spend is a £100 for the both of us. The rest of the £300 is made up of presents for the children in the family – any grandchildren, nieces and nephews who are still in full-time education are not part of the Secret Santa and we buy as normal for them (in our case it is now 4 little ones), a few small presents for our closest friends, a small hamper of goodies for my mum, a present to each other and a few bits for our two daughters, the Xmas tree and any new decorations, postage, cards and wrappings – in fact anything to do with Christmas other than the food and drink.
I repurposed a lot of unwanted gifts and hope no-one received something back that they had given to me – I do think I managed to match the gifts to a person quite well and it did shave a good £50 off the gift budget.
We made a profit of £478 on our eBay sales and gained a lot of space in the house. We still have items to sell so as soon as I have another offer from eBay for capped final fees and free listings I will be selling again.
Our savings have generated a nice passive income which is hard in this low interest environment. We had a few good fixed deals that will end soon but as I am not working and paying tax I will be able to look at reinvesting in any savings account not just ISA accounts.
However, not everything was a win –
One area which is our biggest expense of any month is fuel. We have been up and down both the A1M /A19 to North Yorkshire and the M6 to Scotland many times and it takes about a tank of petrol depending on whether we go far once we have reached our destination – I am not sure how I can reduce this cost as I need to see my mum regularly to relieve my sister a little bit and also I do like to see the grandchildren as often as we can. Mum used to come down by train and we would run her back but now she cannot cope on the train with the crowds and her luggage so we have to go and pick her up – a round trip of 180 miles. Rising petrol costs (in our case diesel) is really starting to eat into the monthly state pension and probably uses about a third of the £164 a week we receive in a bad week. I can’t see any way around this though.
We had some other very significant costs this year – the maintenance on the house – repointing and rendering is not a cheap job and not something we could have done ourselves. Looking to the future though this maintenance work will have added value to our property and it is a whole lot warmer and drier inside now too.
Alongside the house maintenance we also had to replace our shed before it fell apart on its own. As we had to move it out of the way to allow the contractors access to the walls it seemed like a good time to ditch it and buy a new one. The difference in price though was quite marked as we only paid £99 for the old shed back in the nineties this time round it was nearer to £400 although it is far better made and uses preserved timber.
Our other major cost last year was one that I don’t regret and that was for our trip to Italy and Venice for our niece’s wedding. We had the most wonderful time and the memories will always be with us. Because the wedding location was off the beaten track and we travelled around it is a much dearer way of having a holiday than a package tour but much more enjoyable as I am not one for sitting around a pool all day. What a good job I was still working though to cover the costs.
Our clothing and footwear bill would have been lower had we not gone to Italy but the summer clothes we bought will last us a while and now I am not working and won’t be needing clothes for work a clothing budget of £200 should more than see us through this year.
We are currently reviewing all our bills to see if there are any that would benefit from switching – switching is such a hassle – who invented switching? – someone with heaps of time on their hands and a degree in gas and electricity units terminology.
DH has a phone contract of £7.50 a month, mine is still a PAYG and cost me £30 last year – the dearest year ever! I do need to find a cheap contract from Vodaphone (the only reliable network for the cottage area in Scotland) but each time I try to buy a cheaper deal using uSwitch it doesn’t connect through.
The biggest savings to be made in our budget have to be:-
- the No Spend Days – we are having many more of these now we are both at home.
- taking drinks and picnics whenever we go out
- being able to get by with casual clothes – or better still not buying any for a season
- passing unwanted gifts on
- making my own cards
- planning a menu each week before doing the grocery shopping
- cooking once but making a meal for two nights
- using up all the food in the fridge once a week to avoid food waste
- buying toiletries only on offer
- constantly checking for better deals with electricity and gas companies
- avoiding the magazine aisles in the supermarket
- Sainsbury’s double up Nectar reward points week
At least the day to day housekeeping and groceries are reducing I just need to find ways of lowering our other outgoings further such as insurance and utilities bills whilst trying to fight against rising costs. Even if by the end of this year we find we have only stood still it is better than an increase or overspending.
We still have some major outlays for the house maintenance – outside we need a new garage and front door and the driveway resurfacing. Inside we need a new kitchen before we can continue with the redecorating of the remaining rooms in the house. I don’t mind these costs quite so much as it is all adding value whereas paying for phone calls, heating and insurance, although necessary, doesn’t really feel value for money.
I have ideas though to get us through this year which I will talk about another time. Of course the house maintenance, new kitchen, decorating and any capital costs will come out of our savings but our general living costs will be covered by our meagre income of one state pension – mainly because I am interested to see how possible it is to live on one state pension and what kind of lifestyle we would have if this is all the money we had coming in. We do have a small private pension to back us up should we need it but for the experiment this will be out of bounds.
Phew, I am a bit exhausted now and need to go for a lie down – at least that won’t cost me anything and if I do it in a darkened room I will save on electricity LOL!
Back soon x