For anyone following along with my state pension adventures – the objective this month, as with most months, was to spend less but some things just cannot be avoided – like the inevitable bills and fuel… and the most unavoidable but disastrous… taking my purse out with me!
I managed to roll over £84 of the last pension payment to this month but as the pension is paid 4 weekly (I promise I won’t gripe about this again) I won’t know if I have any spare funds until my next pension income on the 15th February. My intention is to take out a percentage to save before I spend.
We did well on the fuel – just one fill up needed approx £75 for a full tank – we have not been very far this month and no trips up North and it has made such a difference – but we will be going on Friday (though this will come into February’s budget) – after all I cannot miss seeing my sister in a pantomime and Little L is going with us too this year and as she tells me “I am ‘super’ excited granny”, I only hope it doesn’t snow too much.
It was a heavy month for the cars – multi-insurance cover was due, road tax and a yearly service.
Like the car I also had a maintenance check up at the dentist which is now £21.60 on the NHS and much cheaper than the car maintenance – maybe the NHS will do my car service next year.
The general household utility bills are on a monthly standing order for the gas, electricity, telephone / internet and council tax. Our council tax is paid in 10 monthly instalments so we don’t pay in February and March so this will help boost the float in the bill account.
Grocery and household costs
The groceries and household (toothpaste, toilet rolls etc) are working out at about £70 a week. It has been a 5 week month for us and if you count it to the time we will be shopping again on the 5th February it will be almost 6 weeks so the average drops to £60 a week. This is still disappointing and there are a few reasons that it has not dropped more –
- Price rises – the supermarkets will insist on adding an extra 50p here and there as if we don’t notice.
- I have been taking advantage of any items on offer that we normally use, but are not actually on my shopping list, and buying in multiples – it seems more cost-effective over the year to do this.
- We are now spending a lot less on buying food and drink in Cafés when out and about – but of course the food has to come from somewhere so we are buying in extra bread and veg to make soup and sandwiches to take with us and this then comes within our grocery budget but obviously homemade food is far cheaper than buying out. I also buy the wrapped chocolate biscuits or Cadbury’s mini rolls – whatever is on offer – to take with us if we do stop to have a drink anywhere – then we don’t have to buy expensive cakes and traybakes.
- Although I am making a weekly menu plan I have not, as yet, been thinking in terms of how to make an individual meal cheaper or mix in some very cheap meals with some dearer ones over the week. This will be my next step to reducing the food bill. For instance a packet of brown lentils cost about 65p but mixed nuts for nut roast are £4 a packet, so a shepherd’s pie is far cheaper than a nut roast for us. I am not a pasta fan but I could probably manage one pasta meal a week and pasta is very economical. We perhaps have more cheese than we should too, so I could maybe cut down on our cheesy meals and use more pulses.
- Fruit is just not cheap in this country out of season (and sometimes in season). I have a small amount of mixed fruits each morning with my plain yoghurt to get my Vitamin C quota for the day, usually blueberries, oranges and grapefruit. It is the blueberries that are the most expensive. I have tried the frozen ones but for me they seem to have little taste and a watery texture. To blend them to a puree means missing out on the fibre.
When I think about making savings in the food budget I always have to balance up the health costs too. We are pretty healthy but I would not like to skimp on fruit and vegetables and as you know I always buy organically grown, even though it is dearer, as I feel passionately about supporting sustainable good husbandry practice that protects our countryside and wildlife. I know this is not possible for a lot of people as price has to be the overriding factor but for as long as I can I will – there are many more economies I can make in other areas.
Home and garden purchases
Nothing major bought in this category so I was quite shocked to find I had spent £90 on bits and pieces for the house – inexpensive in themselves but collectively I spent far too much.
- I bought 3 white wicker baskets reduced at Sainsbury’s to £5.33. They have proved very useful though.
- I took advantage of the Sainsbury’s after Christmas sale and bought 2 feather and down pillows £13.33 each to replace some worn out ones on our bed.
- I also bought a natural cotton zipped pillow protector from John Lewis to protect the new feather pillows. I thought there were two in the pack but it turns out there is only one so at £14 each that is expensive – more than the pillows. I went for the natural cotton ones because the cheaper polyester have some kind of protective treatment on them and that put me off buying them. I am dithering on this one – might return them.
- My hot water bottle had also perished so I replaced that @ £2.99 from the Range (good value) but whilst I was there I bought 2 large plastic storage boxes for the loft to replace the old cardboard bankers boxes and they were £4.99 each which I think are much cheaper at Ikea. Oh well you win some you lose some. I don’t like buying plastic but I think the items I am storing are much better protected in storage bins with lids than in cardboard.
- My other two impulse buys are a wire magazine rack from Sainsbury’s reduced to £2.70 – hardly a bank breaker and I got one of the proper wire stands for my large Kilner drinks dispenser with tap, at £5.99 so I don’t have to balance it on an up turned bowl at parties and it should be much safer and easier to use.
- And lastly I purchased 2 cushion covers in the sale at Dunelm – a pink fluffy one (I blame Sadie for this – the pink thing again!) and a lovely dark grey felt fabric with embroidered leaves that has a nice Scandinavian feel to it. Total cost for both £16. This was a bit of an impulse buy too – I should really have made some covers myself for my spare cushion pads.So although I didn’t think I was buying anything very much over the month obviously the spreadsheet tells a different story.
Gifts and card costs
Gifts and cards came in at £54.99 this includes the gifts for the new baby and a 60th birthday present. I failed to make cards this month again but it is on the agenda and would have saved me £6.50.
I also bought a few packs of Christmas cards in the sales for £4.22. I now have 37 cards (11p a card) ready for next Christmas.
Crafts and hobbies
I was passing the craft shop in Holmfirth yesterday and decided to buy 4 different sized crotchet hooks and a ball of light grey DK wool to get me started. I had just bought a Crotchet magazine in Sainsbury’s whilst doing the weekly shop on Tuesday it came with 8 small balls of wool included in the pack and I intend to sit in the evenings and have a go. I can always resort to knitting if it doesn’t work out and goodness knows I have plenty of grandchildren now to knit for.
I also, in passing, saw one or two gardening magazines with free seeds – I weighed up the pros and cons of buying them this way. I decided I had no use for carrots, turnips, parsnips and cabbage seeds and will only grow tomatoes, courgettes and salad leaves this year so would be better to buy individual packets of exactly what I need.
A much reduced spend now – most of the £30 spent was from having a drink in Sainsbury’s – of course if I shopped without DH and left him at home it would be half this amount. We can easily reduce this to zero by not having our pre-shop hot chocolate – it is just habit carrying on from when I used to go after a long day at work. But then we all deserve a treat once in a while.
Clothing and footwear
Nothing purchased this month…nothing at all – big tick.
So that is the months analysis of our spending. As usual plenty of ups and downs in the budget – on the whole we survived and there was little hardship but my thinking is that for 2 people to live on one state pension you have to eat less and eat very cheap food, not go out anywhere unless on foot – maybe to a soup kitchen – and certainly not buy anything for the house or anyone else oh and nothing that requires too much heating to preserve the gas and electric – then you have cracked it.
Hoping to do better next month and any advice is welcome….