treasury >> financial times part 1

There is always a lot of sorting out and straightening out to do after the Christmas festivities are over and one of those is going through last year’s spending and planning this year’s budget. I expect most people are feeling the pinch now and tightening their belts and here in our little abode we are doing just that. For those that don’t know both myself and DH are living on getting by on the state pension and a modest private pension. Like many bloggers we find our income stretched to the limit at times and are always looking to put cost saving measures in place – some more successfully than others.

I haven’t done a financial tally post for ages – in fact looking at my spending over the year I think Mr Frugal has occasionally sneaked out the back door here. That is not to say I haven’t been careful with the spending.

Almost everything I buy now I wait until it is on offer unless I am desperate for something. This collection is a few of the items I found reduced this week.

All last year I collected Nectar points which then went towards my big Christmas shop which came to £100 and I still have £60 in value left to spend – I will use this on groceries towards the end of January as the monthly allowance runs down. I used any money off coupons that came my way and continually searched out discounts and reductions from any shop on products that I normally bought. I used the Sainsbury’s Scanshop on both our Nectar cards for the offers which are more tailored to what we usually buy and have big reductions (even though I hate the scanshopping, DH does that bit for me) – but for all that we have still had some large food bills due to the extreme rise in prices.

Ever since I married in 1976 I have documented our spending and made plans for the year ahead – I used to have a good old paper accounts book but in 2002 switched to using the online Microsoft Money program that I installed on my laptop. Every receipt each week is entered and categorised and then I can run off any number of reports which then help me to plan and budget for the coming year.

These reports give a frighteningly accurate picture, that require nerves of steel to read but are so enlightening and help me to see in what areas I need to reduce my spending. Of course some of our bills are fixed like the council tax and TV license and we always look at our suppliers prices for insurances, telephone and broadband to get a good deal on renewal but some things like water, gas and electricity we just need to use less of. I find it is the other day to day spending that we buy in dribs and drabs and the impulse buys that so often run away with the pennies. This is just a few of my observations:-

I dabble in crafty items as time allows but it is often the case that in my mind I think I have spent very little on some things like craft items – but my report says differently and although I had limited visits to places like Hobbycraft or fabric and wool shops because I have concentrated on using up a lot of old craft items I have amassed over the years it was a shock when the total figure for this category came to a staggering £240 Ouch!!

Analysing further I found I had managed to spend, without realising, a whopping £51 just on card blanks to make my own cards. I did pick a lot up in a garden centre in Northallerton when they had a closing down sale in their craft department – they were the lovely coloured and pearlised ones I like to use…and I have bought quite a few of the more expensive trifold aperture ones which are good for dried flowers. In my defence, given that many birthday cards are £2 and £3 each to buy I will soon recover the outlay by making my own.

I was pleased to see I had managed to curtail my spending on magazines which came to £56.14 for the year, although this does not include the subscription to Country Living magazine that DH renews for my Christmas present each year. For the £56 I bought the special edition of Country Life with Kate’s lovely photograph on the cover of the new Queen Consort Camilla, the May edition of Gardener’s World to get the 2 for 1 entry ticket to certain gardens and free seeds, two Christmas magazines, three Country Homes to read at the cottage and the Good Housekeeping Garden Collection (one of their specials) for a little inspiration.

I didn’t do as well with the stationery though as the total was much higher than expected ….often these are bits and pieces that I pick up whilst in Sainsbury’s or passing Rymans – a pen refill here and a roll of sellotape there but they add up alarmingly over the year and in my case the alarm was £77. The most expensive items were the sheets of blank address labels for the printer @ £9.99 and some plastic CD disc envelopes that I find useful to store all sorts of things in other than CD discs. It used to be that The Works sold a lot of basic stationery but like WH Smiths they seem to have switched more towards the novelty stationery and children’s crafts.

The garden was another high total, mainly because we had to have the large, unsafe cherry tree taken down and the stump removed and then improve the remaining hole in the ground with a few bags of manure and top soil.

We bought more bags of compost than I remember doing for sowing seeds and refilling planters – they are not cheap. We do make our own but still need to buy some in. I do intend to reduce the number of planters and pots in the garden next year; they don’t do well when it is hot and need far too much water than our two rain butts can supply in those heatwaves.

An area I will have to think carefully about is the increasing costs of sending Christmas cards – I usually make the cards but the postage this year for mainly 2nd class stamps and one parcel of £3.35 came to the hefty total of £49 and this allows for the fact I bought most of the stamps before the price increase. I do like to keep in touch with a Christmas card to family and friends that we do not get to see but maybe I will have to think again. I no longer send cards out to family in Australia but use email to send a newsletter instead so maybe this would be an option next year.

I make a lot of things for Christmas – my own cake, the cards, the crackers (with a bit of help from the children of course) and little gifts for each of my closest friends but my Christmas bill is slowly on the rise. Our family take part in a Not so Secret Santa where each adult spends £25 on the person they are buying for, and who provides a wish list of ideas and saves much tramping around crowded shops trying to think of things to buy for people that have a lot of stuff anyway. We buy for all the children in the wider family as normal and also make up a little stocking of bits and pieces for our two daughters and give them a substantial cheque to put towards something they need or even save it if they wish. With deaths, divorce, relocation and births our family has undergone changes over the last few years so that the balance is definitely weighted on the younger end with many more children now than we had a few years ago so our Christmas bill is definitely increasing.

There are many areas of my life where I can cut down on buying things and in turn spending less on unnecessary things I don’t need (easier said than done in my case) as well as trying to be sustainably responsible. Clothing is one of these.

I decided last year that I definitely did not need any more clothes, in fact, like my well edited linen cupboard, I embraced the idea of having a capsule wardrobe of fewer pieces that had a timeless quality, but I was a long way off this and of course there seemed little point in getting rid of a whole lot of my clothes if instead I could be wearing them. So this past year I have ‘worn my wardrobe’ and only bought three new tops, one for my holidays in the Sainsbury’s sale section for £7 which I lived in most of the summer as it was so comfy, one evening style top for a party also from Sainsbury’s for £12.00 and the other for the New Year’s Eve get together with the same friends and the dearest item at £30.

This year I will continue to wear out my wardrobe and only buy real necessities like some new boots (mine have sprung a leak) and underwear.

Having thought a lot about money since we both stopped earning a few years ago I have come to the conclusion that the best way to be frugal is not to buy anything in the first place. This has a double advantage as it means there is no decluttering to do a few years down the line either. As one of the great minimalists said in his book ‘not buying something is your future self letting go of something’. Perfect sustainability.

So taking note of where the money went last year I will set about creating a budget and challenging myself to spend less on those problem areas that could save me a few pounds that I could be putting into the savings pot. I will come back to this in another post with some of the ideas I want to put in place to have a year of spending less….much less.

Today my little car is booked in for the annual service and MOT and whilst over that side of town we will go and have our last two free drinks at Dobbies garden centre and pick up a pack of seed potatoes.

4 Replies to “treasury >> financial times part 1”

  1. It must take a bit of effort to log every receipt, but it gives you a full run down of where your money goes. I’ve always used pen and paper to work out the accounts, and I keep up to them religiously knowing to the penny what’s in which account and what the money is earmarked for, but I’d never be so disciplined to keep such detailed reports of where every penny is spent. Since moving to our new house, the money we spent on water has gone down considerably. We’ve got a water meter here which we didn’t have at the old house and I’m now regretting not getting one installed. The money we could have saved over the years. I think we all could do with knowing more about where our money is going, especially at the moment with the cost of living so high. The shopping bill gets higher every week.

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  2. You sound so organised, and it’s a really good exercise looking back over the previous years spending isn’t it. You’ve reminded me that we must have free coffees that need drinking from Dobbie’s, and as we are near one next week that will be a nice little treat. I just need to avoid eye contact with any plants or garden bargains.

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  3. I agree with you about not buying any clothes this year. I didn’t buy much last year, but I did add a few things to my wardrobe. To be honest, I wear a uniform for work, so don’t need work clothes, save for black trousers and I tend to spend my days off in jeans or joggers, so I don’t really need any clothes. I have plenty for the time being. I like your crackers. I wanted to make some pullable fabric ones last year, but just didn’t get the time. Maybe I’ll make some in time for next Christmas. Those financial reports sound very detailed and very scary, but interesting all the same.

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  4. We are so lucky that we can use our online banking to categorise all our spending and you can track our spending under each. I haven’t looked for a while but I suspect our food shopping will have seen a massive hike in the last year or so. Like you we collect nectar points all year and use it for the Christmas shop.

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