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.

dear diary >> improving

The weather is certainly improving as I write this post but it is not the topic I am about to talk about. Regular readers might remember my chosen focus word for this year is improvement. I have really taken the word on board and somehow it seems much more manageable than words that I have chosen in the past and then, like a New Year’s resolution, sadly neglected., I am quite excited and committed to this word already.

My idea is to consistently make the tiniest and simplest of improvements across all the different areas of my life and each one, no matter how small or how insignificant, will be an improvement on what I had before.

So here are a few improvements that I have been working on this week:-

The treasury – I am sure that, like many readers and bloggers, costcutting is at the top of everyone’s agenda. With prices rising sharply and the £1 in our pockets buying so much less it is becomming a matter of urgency that I both curb our spending and look where I can to make savings. Big savings.

Smartshop (Sainsbury’s scanner shopping), offers good discounts for nectar card holders using the hand held scanner (this is not the same as the individual self scan checkouts). DH collects up these offers (whilst I do the main shopping that we take to the normal checkout); first he goes and finds the items that are reduced on my card and goes around again to find the ones on his card – although it is the same nectar account the card numbers end in a different number and we are sent different offers. Here is the receipt from last week – we took advantage of 8 offers on my nectar card, the actual price an ordinary shopper would pay by going through the manned checkout would have been £18.70.

We paid £13.28 by using the scanner – a huge saving of £5.42 for items we would be buying anyway, plus we collect the nectar points on top some of which have extra points. The muesli alone had a saving of £1.05 per box so we bought three boxes to stock up.

I have had a flurry of coupons recently too – some more useful than others. The M&S coupons for £7 being the most worthwhile and their offer of a free bar of chocolate a bonus.

In the post on Saturday arrived a letter from Dobbies to say they have given me a free upgrade to their Dobbies Plus card for one year. This entitles me to a free cup of tea and coffee each month, 10% off all plants, bulbs and seeds, a special birthday treat and 2 points for every £1 spent. Normally you pay £12 for the year to have this card – I wouldn’t pay to have it but I have no objection to it being free for the moment. Every little helps if it avoids paying full price for anything.

Of course the biggest challenge is to avoid temptation and not buy anything we don’t really need. Going to the shops less is a good way of avoiding tempatation!

Meal planning – one improvement I am making in the kitchen is to adjust my winter menus so that I make more meals that can be cooked on the hob such as lentil stew, curry, chickpea and rice – this way I don’t have the oven on as often which will hopefully reduce the electricity bills. I do like baked potatoes in the winter (well anytime really) so at the weekend with some potatoes baking in the oven I made a batch of pastry and baked a selection of quiche bases for the freezer whilst the oven was on. Today we had ratatouille and baked potatoes and again whilst the potatoes were baking I made a batch of chocolate sponge mixture and filled four sandwich tins. They are all in the freezer now and I feel quite pleased with myself for making the effort.

Health – such an important area of my life now as I am heading towards another major birthday (still a couple of years to go yet).

It often feels like an uphill struggle to keep relatively healthy as creaks and groans appear daily and the inevitable sagging has set in – so I need all the help I can get. Adding a little more nutritional value to my diet without resorting to buying expensive supplements is hopefully going to improve my health – so I was delighted to find these packets of milled mixed seeds and nuts in Sainsbury’s containing ground Flaxseeds, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts (13%), Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Almonds (10%), Chia Seeds providing Vitamin E, Fibre and Omega 3. I sprinkle a good two dessertspoonfuls of the mix over my bowl of spelt flakes each morning, but you can use it on pasta or crumbles to make a crunchy topping. An instant easy healthy improvement.

Housekeeping – I have a few spots around the house that need just a little bit of love and attention. Nothing major, just a tiny adjustment – a task that may only take me minutes to complete. I am searching them out and one by one will be addressing each issue. It might be a messy drawer or a plant that needs reviving or an item that needs to be kept in a better place.

Today it was this hand sanitiser in the bathroom. Since the pandemic this bottle of Carex handgel has stood on our bathroom shelf for use both by us and visitors alike. It has always bothered me since the day it took up residence – a rather unattractive plastic bottle and not one I really want on show. I noticed in Tesco they were still selling these little soap dispensers at £4, I bought a couple when we first got the caravan for handsoap. So now I have poured the hand sanitiser into the new container and voila such an immediate improvement.

In the garden – the outside is another area that often needs a bit of attention. The long trough at the front of our house was looking a bit dull since the pansies all keeled over and lost the will to live. So for a few pounds in the sale at the local garden centre I bought 3 lovely cyclamen in pots for a splash of winter colour (I have left them in the pots and sunk them into the compost) so they will lift out easily when I want to replace them with some spring bulbs.

A large tray of lemon polyanthus was on sale too and I have dotted these about the garden and put a few in the tub beside the front door. Another of my little improvements.

Tomorrow we are looking to collect the new dining table from Leeds, weather permitting. The new table will be a big improvement to the kitchen.

Have a good day everyone x

dear diary >> home again, home again

Well no, I haven’t quite done the jiggety jig, rather I have been making a big mess. I knew that if we delayed coming home by a day or two I would have to make my friend’s anniversary card in a hurry, so after a good night’s sleep on Tuesday night (we were both zonked from the travelling and slept like logs) I was up bright and early to put away some of the unpacking and then began on the card.

I had an idea of what I wanted to do but anything to do with crafting and a mess forms around me with surprising speed. I decided on something simple, but obviously homemade and personalised to them. I chose a piece of pink handmade paper from my scrap box and this rather pretty heart stamp that I bought years ago. I stamped the paper with embossing ink and then sprinked on some antique white and gold powder. I love it when you apply the heat tool and the powder changes very quickly into this textured surface. I then outlined the heart with a gold ink pen and cut it out and placed it onto the front of a trifold card with a few foam pads. I then added the stamped greeting in gold ink.

Inside I printed the greeting and added a lovely little picture I had taken of them on their wedding day 20 years ago. It was their 2nd marriage and a beautiful sunny February day. What a good job it wasn’t yesterday’s appalling rain and wind. I cut out tiny hearts from some gold Washi tape to stick the printed sheets in place.

The ribbon, which was another scrap threads through a slot in the back and when the card is folded it ties around the front.

The first practise heart I had made on white paper I used as a gift tag for the little posy of flowers I bought and wrapped in a sheet of gold tissue paper.

After making and delivering the card and flowers we had to go out for some shopping. Our vegetable fridge was bare – in fact I had switched it off before we went away and DH busied himself cleaning the inside …well he did offer and I wasn’t going to refuse him.

It was quite busy in Sainsbury’s but we didn’t need a lot. DH went off with a separate trolley to scoop up all the personalised Smartshop offers with a scanner and I picked up a few other offers from the shelves. The rapeseed oil we use for cooking was reduced by a £1 and …….I stocked up with enough fruit and veg to cover a week’s meals.

My box of washing powder is nearly empty and I will have extra bedding from the caravan to wash this week so I have been on the look out for a good deal on the Persil non bio washing powder, which I use as it doesn’t irritate my skin. They had some of those mega boxes of 130 washes for £14 (ouch) on the aisle that displays large bulk items supposedly cheaper. However, we had just received a leaflet through our door from Farm Foods offering the same powder and size – 2 for £25 and the leaflet also has coupons on it for £2 off if you spend £25 or over making the two boxes £23. So this seemed a better buy and made each box only £11.50. A bit of an outlay of course, but 260 washes is going to last me a very long time and if stored well it doesn’t go off.

So after we had finished at Sainsbury’s we drove round the corner to the large Farm Foods shop to pick some up. I have never been in there before, mainly because they tend to sell everything we don’t eat – a lot of ready made processed foods and it was stacked high with packs of coke and other fizzy drinks that we don’t drink. We found the Persil and paid our £23. When we returned home I had a quick Google and couldn’t find the same size boxes any cheaper anywhere else….unless anyone out there knows better.

I have been thinking long and hard about where we can make economies in our household budget. With prices rising and yesterday’s news that inflation is running at 5.5% our pound will not buy as much as it did.

Of course the biggest money saving economy is to not buy anything….not be tempted into things I don’t really need (I might want them but don’t need them). After this the things I do need to buy must be at the cheapest possible price or items that will last a very long time as sometimes cheap is not the most effective if it is of inferior quality and breaks or wears out so quickly it has to be replaced.

Where food is concerened I could probably more than halve the budget if we didn’t buy organic foods and fruit and veg but I am a big believer in not using pesticides or chemical fertilisers and I would rather eat less but still buy organic as I feel it is important in the bigger picture of sustainability. So organic stays and I will have to spend more time searching out offers and gearing my menus to the veg that is on offer and in season.

Whilst we were away we had the heating set so low it was just above frost protection so the heating would come on if it reached a certain temperature if it got really cold. I can tell you the house was cold when we arrived home and out came the hot water bottle and an extra blanket on the bed. It will be interesting to see what this month’s fuel bills are after two weeks of hardly running the boiler, no showers or cooking etc.

I bought a bag of Pentland Javelin seed potatoes from the garden centre in Stranraer. They are so much cheaper up there and I like to support them as over the years their little business is shrinking and maybe in danger of closing like the one further up the road in Ballantrae and soon there will be nowhere local near the cottage to go. I need to place them into the egg trays to chit as soon as I can.

Today we have our hair appointments, we go together now since the pandemic started, it does save on fuel costs and means that we are the only ones in her tiny shop. Our hairdresser has been very cautious all through the pandemic when she has been allowed to open and continued to wear a mask, as we do, even when the option had been relaxed.

This morning will be tidying, menu planning and some paperwork – I had planned to do this tomorrow but I had a phone call from my elder daughter last night, who lives nearby, to ask if we could look after master Freddie on Friday. Well I wasn’t going to say no…it is always a joy to have him. I daresay with the next storm approaching it will be too windy to go out which will be a shame.

I have had a peep outside this morning but can’t see any damage from last night’s gales but I have not heard from Scotland yet – our caravan could have been swept off its anchoring points and be floating in the sea! I just hope the new kitchen roof is still in place!

Have a good day everyone.

treasury :: June, July and August tally

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! 

Utilities   

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.

Eating 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

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