Feel free to skip this post if reading about my financial exploits is not for you or boring as hell!
Each year in January I start off with some well-intentioned financial goals – they are usually along the lines of spend less, save more and economise. This is probably true for most of us.
I always begin with real enthusiasm….. nay….. real gusto… but by May my resolve to keep going has, by this time, usually got up and gone. Keeping focused on our finances to the point where it becomes a daily obsession just cannot be continued when there are equally important things to attend to in other areas of my life.
This year is no different. During April and May there have been many days when I have had no idea of our financial status. Once I get busy everything else seems to break down and any habits I had nurtured to this point to help me keep on top of things just disintegrate.
Let’s face it life is just too busy.
This must mean that I have taken on too much – but how could I not do a party for my SIL or make a Christening dress for my granddaughter or look after my mum to give my sister some respite?
So here I am at the end of May and only just inputting receipts for April and totting up the totals to reveal just how badly we have done. I know even before I get the all-important final figures that we have not done well, we will have overspent.
So how did we do?
Transport and fuel costs
After a few months now of monitoring our fuel consumption it appears that we always have to fill up twice in a month and this covers a trip to Scotland and another trip or two to see mum/sister/daughter in North Yorkshire. In May we had an extra visit to North Yorkshire and went down into Derbyshire for the day with mum so had a further tank of fuel but this will be the exception rather than the norm. Because the fuel is quite a stable amount I am going to move this into our bill account budget – after all it is a bit like paying a monthly bill.
The MOT and car service for our estate car was another expense in April but it is more than allowed for in our ‘bill account’.
The puncture we got during May was repaired free under a tyre guarantee – how lucky was that.
Health, wellbeing and beauty
Because of the two family events we have had more hairdressing appointments closer together bringing forward the one I would have normally have had in June to May.
The yoga classes are well worth the £8 a week – it is pay as you go so the two I missed whilst in Scotland did not cost me anything. I have now signed up for an extra class on a Friday for the next 6 weeks (paid in advance) which is smaller and with individual attention so I can work on any problem areas.
I also had a voucher for 20% off Neal’s Yard products so I used mine to get another bottle of the Frankincense Intense Serum this is my one beauty luxury that I could never afford at full price but it suits my skin and I can feel it tightening those little wrinkly areas.
We switched our electricity provider from Scottish Power in March to a dual fuel contract with SO energy. Our new combined payment is £115.00 (seems steep but it was a good deal as prices have risenagain). Unfortunately there is no breakdown of the payment between gas and electricity but you do get separate statements of the usage. I shall be monitoring it carefully. Switching has saved us quite a bit in the past with the rise in fuel prices and we usually accrue quite a bit of credit over the summer months so this monthly payment should reduce.
Until we have been with them for a full month it is hard to know if we have been excessive with either fuel – my guess is that with the cooler weather recently we may have used more gas for the heating even though I have been buried under a mound of throws in the evening, whilst wearing a woolly jumper, to avoid putting the heat on.
We also switched internet and landline provider from BT to Zen. They have good customer service and should save us a small fortune over the year. We have been loyal customers of BT for many years but we are not rewarded for this so the time had come for a change. As we have only made one payment up front so far I cannot really compare the costs this month.
Grocery and housekeeping costs
This is mostly food, general toiletries, cleaning, stationery items and magazines with a couple of cheap bunches of flowers here and there for a cheerful treat each month. I knew this category would not be good news – I have lurched from spending around the middle £300 a month to well over £400 for my housekeeping costs in April – probably because of the extra food for the party and being too busy to plan out the menus.
I do have to confess to buying a Gardener’s World magazine in April but this was in order to obtain the free 2 for 1 gardens scheme card, which also came with some handy gloves and a few packets of seeds, some useful some less so; and a Homebuild and Renovating magazine which had a free spreadsheet and tickets to the exhibition.
Home and Garden purchases
I can see from my figures that it is that time of year when the garden needs more attention as the costs in the garden category have shot up immensely.
All those little purchases of potting compost, bedding plants, plant food and even a new broom start to add up.
We also bought another outdoor bench seat from B&M for the patio – £40. (Sadie – I notice you have bought the same one!).
The costs in May are more attributed to the fact that we bought a mini greenhouse, £24 for the tomato plants plus three pots, a trellis panel and stakes to replace a broken one at the side of the house and DH has finally bought the treated wood and made lids for the compost bins he made years ago.
Added to which we bought some bags of small beach pebbles to finish off some of the awkward spots at the change of level on our boundary with next door.
I had quite a lot of vouchers from Wyevale and got a large £10 bale of their better compost for only £4.50. Since becomming part of Dobbies their reward scheme has now ended and they have moved over to 5% discount and 10% on a Tuesday. I also got 4 packs of bedding plants for £6 from Wilkos.
I frivolously spent money on bits for the home, a smart grey linen waste bin for the office £5 from Wilko, to replace an old wicker one, some pretty outdoor garden festoon lighting from Sainsbury’s for the party £34, and absolutely gorgeous, and one of those things you just have to have – a metal tool caddy, reduced in Sainsbury’s to £12.75. They were all a temptation too far but my favourite buys of the year as well as the bench.
Cards and Gifts
This must be the year of the big birthday – you know the ones ending in a nought. I usually spend a bit more on a gift for the more major birthdays and especially for close family members such as daughters and their partners.
I had four or five majors this month (ouch) and bought some friends a theatre voucher each.
Crafts and Hobbies and Books
The main costs in this category for April were for the bits I got for the Easter decorations and egg hunt as well as my son-in-law’s party decor. The twiggy branches might have been free but all the little bits soon add up.
In May I had to buy extra cottons and lining for the Christening dress and a pack of new fine bridal pins, I couldn’t believe the price – how much – for pins – really?
I managed to steer clear of buying books – there was little time for reading and I made use of the library – so a good saving here – perhaps my only one!
Leisure and Entertainment
We paid £16 in total for the Open gardens of Little Ouseburn and York Gate Garden (which was on the 2 for 1 gardens scheme). This money actually goes to the charities running them and could in theory go into my charitable donations category. Whichever, in my mind it is always money well spent for the pleasure it brings.
Mum’s visits always come with a hefty price tag – she loves being out and about and eating out… cafes, pubs, fish and chip shops…she is not worried where and prefers it to us coming back home and eating home cooked meals. We are the opposite always prefering meals at home! We did manage a few picnics with her so this has helped keep the costs down but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find things she will eat – no fruit or veg or salad. She did eat the soup we made so a win there.
When we are on our own we have become used to packing up and have saved quite a lot of money over the last few months – but then all our scrimping just disintegrates when mum comes to stay and we end up spending a small fortune. I am not complaining though as it keeps mum happy and she does contibute every now and again buying us all a drink or ice cream. It is more that it puts a heavy load on this part of our budgeting that we would not have otherwise. As we don’t see her every week we take her out and about as much as possible but these kind of costs for eating out and the extra fuel consumption are just not sustainable on a state pension, so lucky we have a bit of a back up with our savings.
Clothing and Footwear
In April I bought a hooded duvet jacket to wear at home in the garden. I got one from Primark for £15 it was actually a man’s, size small – but returned it for the roomier medium one a few days later by which time they had been reduced to £10 so I was given a £5 refund. Nice.
In May I took advantage of the Sainsbury’s 25% off all TU clothing offer and treated myself to some new yoga leggings and a top as well as a grey stripey top to wear with jeans (but the jury’s out on this one and I may return).
So a disappointing couple of months although I was under no illusion that it would be any different – like slimming you always know when you haven’t stuck strictly to the diet. My aim is not so much about being frugal as being careful with the money and most of all I am trying to simplify everything so it is easier to keep tabs on things.
The old tea caddy system of long ago was a good system – you could see at an instant how much cash was in the tin and when it was gone it was gone.
Last week I rang and finally made the appointment with the financial advisor from Hargreaves Lansdown and this will take place in June so we should get our private pension sorted soon and in exactly a year from now I can draw my state pension too. Yeah!
I also found a way of making the 4 weekly payment of the state pension work for us. No matter when the pension comes into our ‘holding’ account I have set up a standing order to transfer £500 of the pension on the 1st of each month into the general housekeeping account. This gets around trying to budget monthly when the payments come in on a different day every month.
Looking to June I will be guarding the purse strings once again. I have already spent a bit more on the garden yesterday – more on this later – but this should be the last – it is now all down to hard work.
The next big bills will be the insurances for the house and cottage but they are later in the year. All our big expenses for the yearly car maintenance are done and June and July are surprisingly free months with only the fixed price utility direct debits going out.
I intend to get back to some serious menu planning and grocery bill reducing, filling the freezer with meals and making some more cards. I will be so busy in the garden I shouldn’t have time to go near any shops.