As my usual readers will know my blog is more or less about my daily life and homekeeping and a desire to live a simpler life. For me keeping a home running well involves keeping the finances running well too so I include them on my blog as they are part of my story and presently a large part of our new journey into retirement.
I have, for as long as I have been married, kept a weekly tally where I record all our spending – I used to do this in a cash book but now keep a record on the computer. It is something that has become second nature but stood us in good stead throughout our married life and when money has been tight (many times) I am able to see where cut backs can be made.
So as it is the end of the month here is a quick round up of the past few months. For any new readers I will just mention that I am not exactly a frugal blog ( though I do like to learn from these); I prefer to be mindful of our spending and am on a mission to live simply – cutting down on any frivolous and unnecessary purchases that might lead to future waste. Since I left paid work last year we are trying to live more economically within our present meagre means of one state pension plus a small private pension of DH and so finances are a little tight at the moment.
I fall into the WASPI group of women who through being born at just the wrong time have to wait until I am 65 and 10 months to draw the state pension which until the recent changes took place I always thought I would be claiming at 60 – like the majority of my slightly older friends. I have only 9 more months to go now before I can draw it. Phew.
Not only am I curious to see how possible it is to live on a small pension but one of our aims is to survive without breaking into any of our savings each month to top us up. This is proving to be an almost impossible task as unexpected expenses crop up each month and it might only be something like having our Aussie cousin to stay (and entertain) that tips us over.
As one day we will be downsizing and maybe moving to live at the cottage (when it is sorted – see the Beach Cottage tab above for the flood story) we are committed to living a simpler and ‘stuff’ free life – we are both trying hard not to buy things we don’t need and my daily motto has become use up, use up, use up so we are not storing unloved and neglected toiletries or cleaners or finding out of date foodstuffs lurking in the cupboards.
As I continue to declutter our lives I am loving the clear spaces I am creating throughout our home but I cannot throw things away recklessly instead I am looking to recycle, reuse or repurpose them in some way or pass them on to good homes. We have also been able to sell some things on ebay which have helped us financially and I am looking to do a car boot sale soon.
Of course the best way to save money and keep the house contents to a minimum is not to buy it in the first place. At times this can be easier said than done and it is so easy to justify any purchase if you really want it. As one of the famous Minimalists said ‘ not buying something is your future self letting go of something’
For those following along you might have noticed the June and July tallies did not happen due to all the other pressures we faced at the time and if I remember clearly it was also the period I spent researching and going ad free on my blog. As you might say ‘one cannot do everything’.
This year will have seen us relying entirely on our pension income as I left paid work a year ago now. As I do not have an income I can give £1,250 of my personal tax allowance to DH so he can keep more of his pension before it is taxed – for anyone in the same boat check it out on the government website. I find that you really have to work hard at limiting your spending and keeping yourself buoyant each month when you have no paid work and no possibility of overtime as a backstop. If you run out of the money from the pension income then it is capital and savings that you have to delve into to cover your costs. Eating into next month’s pension is not a good idea.
So how did we do in the last three months?
Transport and fuel costs
June was the lowest spend on fuel of the past three months but July and August much higher due to the extra costs of going to Scotland and many trips up and down to North Yorkshire as well as driving around the countryside taking my mum and the Aussie cousin out and about. We made good use of the Sainsbury’s petrol vouchers with 10p off a litre and the lower petrol prices at some garages but I am not sure September is going to be any less expensive.
In addition we had to have two new front tyres in June. DH checked them every week for tread until they were worn down as far as they were still legal. We took out the extra £20 tyre guarantee (which we did use last time when we got the puncture earlier this year and it was a big saving).
Health, wellbeing and beauty
I limit myself now to the number of skincare and toiletry products I buy. Where I can I buy in multiples when there is money off and they generally last a long time. In June I bought more Neal’s yard face cream because I had another 20% off voucher – they don’t always land in my inbox at the most favourable time but if I don’t use them when they do I would not be able to indulge in this one luxury at full price. Together with the yoga costs and a few supplements I bought for both me and DH it was an expensive month.
I didn’t attend any regular Yoga in July as the teacher had to go into hospital but DH had some NHS dental work done to renew an old filling at the standard cost of £62.10. We both had hair appointments to pay for and more supplements – mainly those probiotic ones for DH because the antibiotics he was given earlier this year for his dental abscess really made his stomach bad.
August was much better – I bought a mascara and a pot of basic day cream to be able to use the £10 off a £20 No7 spend voucher – so the cream in effect came free. DH had another course of the pro-biotics. It can take up to 3 months to repopulate the gut once antibiotics have destroyed the good bacteria. So although the antibiotic prescription was free it has ended up costing us a fortune to make him better!
The reduction in our landline and broadband costs has been significant in the last few months. The BT charges were heading towards £50 a month for our anytime calls with unlimited broadband and a discount for paying the rental upfront once a year. They could not quite match the cheaper price quoted by Zen – not even close, though they tried a few times with their many best and final offers!
We are pleased with the switch to Zen – they have good customer service and our monthly bill for unlimited calls, faster broadband and line rental is £36.49 – the other advantage is we do not have the bother timing any calls to get the free hour as Zen calls are just free as long as they are not to those expensive numbers we all avoid.
The gas and electricity is now combined with SO Energy – we are well in credit due to the summer months – this may be needed to cover the winter months but if not we will get a refund. I like their very clear monthly bills so you can see exactly what you are paying for.
Grocery and housekeeping costs
Over the last three months the grocery costs have remained higher than they probably need to be but then we have been feeding a lot of visitors from time to time. It is quite right that when you get busy you don’t have as much time to shop around, plan meals and take advantage of the best offers. I know I could cut this down a lot if I shopped elsewhere and didn’t buy organic veg and groceries but organic food is important to us and I will continue to buy it for as long as I can because I like to support organic farmers – I strongly believe it is the way forward for sustainability and health.
The remaining housekeeping costs for things like cleaning products, basic toiletries, car parking, stationery and magazines are all quite low expenses now since I have made big changes to what and how much I buy in this area and have been flexing my will power with magazines!
Home and Garden purchases
Over the three months we have spent little bits here and there on small items for the home like a new chopping board, new drinking glasses and a picture frame to house a new photo of the latest grandchild. Each item has been no more than £5 but of course over time all these little bits add up and I now question whether we did really need them. I also had to renew the pillows that were recalled from Sainsbury’s so that the double bed in the guest room was usable by our guests. I ended up in Dunelm where we bought a pair of cheaper polyester pillows (though I feel this was a bad choice sustainability wise) but also two new duck down ones for our bed – which are heaven to sleep on. I think spending money on things like a good night’s sleep is vital and cost effective.
I also bought (after much deliberation) a quilted double mattress protector from IKEA as a spare because not having a dryer it has been hard work getting the one on our bed washed, dried and aired to put back on the bed in the same day especially in the winter. I gave the spare one I used to have to my daughter when she moved house thinking I could manage without it but have regretted this ever since. It will however double up for the bed at the caravan if any of the family go to stay there and use the spare bedroom.
The new single bed mattress we have just bought (for our other spare room with the bed on the mezzanine and which will be used by the grandchildren when they stay) together with the unit bases for the pantry are not included in this months figures because we bought these using the interest free credit offer at IKEA and will be paying monthly for these from September. We don’t really need the credit but I prefer to keep my money where it is earning interest for as long as possible. The monthly payment will just be absorbed into our monthly bills so shouldn’t be noticed quite as much as taking a large sum from savings.
I admit to overspending on the garden this year. Being at home now I have spent a lot more time in the garden and started growing our own salad produce. I need to use more of my time to take cuttings and grow annuals next year for the planters.
The bargain of the year though must be the two large wooden planters above that we bought in August from our local Wyevale garden centre originally priced at £39.99 each but had a sticker on saying 70% off – plus we got the 5% member discount and a £5 voucher making them £8.90 each – how could I walk away from them – not sure yet where we will put them but we will be growing more food in them next year.
Cards and Gifts
I really had no idea how much I might have spent on this category. I remember birthdays coming and going during the three months but had little time to make cards or shop around for bargain presents. However, the total spend for 3 rolls of gift wrap from IKEA and the cards was quite minimal considering the majority of these have been anniversaries and special birthdays. The only gifts were for my granddaughter’s birthday and a 60th present. Making more cards and gifts would help – I certainly have enough craft supplies and really need to use them up.
Crafts and Hobbies and Books
The biggest expense was my blog upgrade to get rid of those pesky adverts. I did get a discount and no I don’t regret it. We also bought some foam core for various uses and a cunning sheet of black card to put against the Velux window in the sunny spare room as a kind of blackout for when Little L slept in there to keep her asleep longer in the mornings. Bliss it worked!
Leisure and Entertainment
We paid entrance fees at the four different Open Garden events we attended @ £5 each – £45 and worth every pleasurable penny especially as it doubles up as a donation to charity. We also paid for the little train and cliff lift rides at Saltburn…but it did make for an enjoyable day out.
I always have difficulty with this category – I ponder too much on what I could have bought with the money as often the majority of this spending is for café lunches and snacks and not altogether good ones – it is not as though we have gone out for a special restaurant meal.
Some of these costs are incurred because there is no other way to avoid them when you are out and hungry, but the larger expense is when we take my mum out and about for a few consecutive days; and of course in July we paid for food and drinks for our Aussie cousin whilst we entertained him and also bought drinks when we had a bit of a reunion with old friends in the local pub.
We are still quite good at packing up picnics and usually if mum comes to stay with us we can take a picnic for one of the meals but when we visit her we can’t and have to rely on café meals.
Clothing and Footwear
August was a good month with a zero spend on clothes and shoes. June and July saw us replacing worn shoes and slippers and I bought some harem joggers from Next and a couple of cheap t-shirts.
I will be doing an update of my wardrobe declutter soon in another post.
So that is the extent of our spending and my rambling – not all doom and gloom. I made use of vouchers where I could and have cut down quite drastically on clothes, magazines and books. As always the eating out and fuel continue to cost us dearly and even though our spending on the home is higher than I would like there is at least something to show for it and they are more considered purchases rather than on the spot impulse buys.
I thought at the beginning of the year that I might be able to reduce our costs more and even be able to put some money into savings but that is probably not realistic. We have attended to all the utility bills and managed to reduce them, but there is little you can do with the council tax other than pay it or move.
We have so much stuff in the house but each month our tally shows we are still gathering more. I am trying hard to avoid those scenarios where you have a cupboard full of food yet there is nothing to eat, or a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear.
I want my purchases to count….to use it or love it. I love the space and freedom from having less stuff….and at all costs I do not want to find myself constantly decluttering….. throwing out or selling on purchases I make today at some time in the future.
I will be doing more posts on my decluttering and money saving activities but for now the garden calls as the cooler weather gets underway and we are facing autumn once again. x