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motto has become use up, use up, use up so we are not storing unloved and neglected toiletries or cleaners or finding out of date foodstuffs lurking in the cupboards.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

dear diary :: rain, rain, go away…

…and it did for a couple of hours but just enough to get out into the garden for a bit of a snip. I do like this fine rain we have had for days now – it is so refreshing and gives the borders such a thorough soaking – but there were flowers to dead head and a few seeds to sow.

It was only last Thursday that we were sitting in the sunshine on the market place in Masham enjoying one of the award winning ice creams, an apricot and ginger cone from Joneva.

On Saturday I had a bit of an enforced duvet day as my knee had swollen so much all I could do was rest it. I used the time to listen to the little samples on Audible as I had to use up my 16 credits so that I could then cancel my membership. I have more than enough audio books to listen to now so it was pointless rolling over the membership again this year.

On Tuesday my knee was still swollen so I had to skip Yoga, but did manage today’s session.

This week was all about the budget, our savings and future plans as we had the appointment with the financial advisor. He was a lovely man, very knowledgeable and no hard sell so was well worth the time and it cost us nothing. He went through our current financial situation and pensions with us and we agreed that the tasks we needed to do could be done ourselves so no follow up services required at this time. There are quite a few tasks and I will be posting about this soon.

We will be heading off for Scotland again soon – I get to the point when I just need to be by the sea again. I dare not think what state the garden is in up there and I will not be doing a lot with my bad knee, but it will be nice to get away.

Tonight we picked the first of our homegrown mixed lettuce leaves – at least they have continued to grow in the rain.

Welcome to all those new followers and to all my readers who are following the garden posts there is an update now for today in the June page. Click here

Have a lovely weekend everyone. x

treasury :: April and May tally

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.

Utilities      

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.

Eating Out

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).

The conclusion….

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.

trEAsury ~ the March tally

The figures never lie – but surely I didn’t spend THAT much….did I?

I thought I had March under control as far as our spending went but sometimes the reports tell a different story.

We had similar trips to last month and trips = petrol which in turn = cost.  Our grocery bill stayed at the same average weekly rate which was disappointing and cards and gifts came in more expensive due to a special birthday gift and Mother’s Day. The most expensive categories appear to be eating out and home and garden – could they have been better…let’s find out…..

Transport and fuel costs

Almost exactly the same in March as February – not surprising as we had a visit to Scotland and North Yorkshire yet again.  We also spent £6 on the park and ride fare to Leeds for the financial seminars.

The MOT and car service for our estate car was actually done in April so a bit of a reprieve here on the March costs.

Total costs for gadding about and a ticket to ride: £185.65

Health and wellbeing

I never mind spending on this category if it keeps me fit and well. Bendy I am not at the moment – still there is hope.

Total cost for my flexible foray: £8

Utilities

We switched our electricity provider from Scottish Power in March to a dual fuel contract with SO energy who provide us with our gas.  They are a hit with us on two counts; good customer service and extremely clear statements, which come in on time every month so you know how much you have spent.   Without the benefit of the good weather we had in February, March was a much cooler month and our gas bill reflects this but only by a few pounds.

Total cost with a toastie transference: £78.00

Grocery and housekeeping costs

The total bill for groceries and whole foods alone was much the same this month as last, £314 with the average also remaining the same at £78.  I liken my weekly shopping costs to a Slimming World weigh in – I was convinced I had spent less but in truth I had not,  though as with a weigh in remaining constant is better than gain and obtaining a constant average of £75  since the beginning of the new year is I think worthy of a prize.

I have managed to build up a bit of a stock of some items – not intentionally, not for Brexit even, but in order to take advantage of the items on offer – so my figures reflect stock rather than foods eaten.  I do have in the back of my mind that when Brexit happens we may face shortages so maybe it is no bad thing to have a bit of a stockpile.Neal's YardIncluded in this category are toiletries and this month I bought another Neal’s Yard frankincense serum.  They offered me 20% off and I had just run out.

I heard on the news that the price of stamps was going up so I called in to our local post office and bought 12 first class and 24 second class for £21.96.  As I don’t use many stamps other than at Christmas I will now have them ready and at the old price.  I usually prefer to buy the Christmas design stamps for my cards but when you are on a pension needs must.  I will decorate the envelopes with some pretty rubber stamps instead.

And I confess to three magazines £10.99 Country homes came with Woman and Home as a deal and Simple Things – who can resist a bit of a spring fling and the ideas contained in them have sparked some creativity.

Total cost for putting away for a rainy day and keeping my furrows at bay: £419.14

Home and Garden purchases

I had no frivolous purchases this month for the house but as spring got underway a few replacement tools were needed for the garden – anvil loppers, secateurs and a very useful small hand fork for tight spaces.

Our one expensive impulsive purchase was the small corded Dyson – not a planned expense at all, bought more out of necessity from thinking ahead. Our Dyson at home is quite heavy now to manoeuvre and carry up and down the stairs, while the one we have at the caravan is so much lighter (the downside being that you have to empty it more often).  Presently you can still find old stock in the shops but soon both the corded vacs and the small lighter models will be obsolete.   Surprisingly, the exact same model we bought for the caravan in April 2017 with the insurance money was £50 cheaper and came with a larger selection of tools.

Total cost of a moments impulse replacing some cool tools : £340.32

Cards and Gifts

I had two special cards to buy this month – a 70th birthday and a Mother’s day card, for the rest of the birthdays I was using my old stock of bought cards so managed a bit of a saving here.  I bought mum a basket of plants £10 and spent another £40 for my friends 70th, a theatre voucher to share with his wife who will also be 70 in May.  They like going to see musicals so although this will not buy them a seat each it will go someway to the cost, or if they are hard up too she could sit on his knee!

Total costs to include a musical interlude £55.50

Crafts and Hobbies and Books

Crafts and hobbies don’t come cheap and knitting is one of them. I spent a whopping £15 on patterns – generally they seem to be £3 each in the shops – but I have now enough to keep me going a while.I like to be able to read the pattern before I buy it so I can tell if I might be able to understand most of it. The King Cole Cottonsoft wool for my next project came from Boyes and was a reasonable £12.30 for 3 balls.I came across some cotton lace for the Christening dress from Boyes £8.60 for quite a few metres. I bought two books on knitting for £7.99, a novel called The Bookseller for £8.99 and a much-needed road map of Great Britain £7 to replace our old one that was now so far out of date some of the new roads are not shown.  As we don’t have sat nav, a map is essential.

Total cost of my homespun hobbies and a : £63.87

Leisure and Entertainment

It seems that even though we have been here, there and everywhere during March we have not actually paid for any entertainment or leisure activities; they came free.

Total cost of a leisurely life – bingo a healthy: £0.00

Eating Out

The most disastrous month so far this year and not because I had eased up on the packed lunches.  If I break the figures down it has been a heavy month because we saw my mum at the beginning and end of March and even though we packed picnics on our days out we still managed a whopping £120.49 in the tea shops and cafes and buying a meal in Saltburn on our last visit in lieu of a Mothering Sunday lunch.  But how can I begrudge her a little enjoyment.

We also had the extra expense of eating out for the day in Leeds when we attended the financial seminars – although the seminars were free the food needed to keep us going all day was not!  So with other drinks out over the month we managed to hit £63.

Total cost for stuffing ourselves: £193.12

Clothing and Footwear

I have done even better than I thought in this category and spent hardly anything. I bought two more long-sleeved t-shirts, one white and one black, they are so versatile and I had to buy them before they disappeared off the rail and replaced with the summer short-sleeved ones but that was all I bought.

Total cost for a modest attire: £17.00

It is interesting how what you do through a month reflects on how much you spend.  Having a visit to Scotland, and visits to see my mum and younger daughter are expensive trips – not only getting there (fuel costs) but eating out during that time.

I notice too that the weather has some bearing on expenditure – now the sun is shining the garden needs maintenance and gardening like crafts are not cheap pastimes.  Any outlay now should set us up for the year, or will it?

So I will endeavor to muddle through another month – I know April is going to be harder to keep a tight grasp on the old purse strings as we approach Easter and a family party at the same time as well as numerous birthdays to cope with.

Anyone wishing to read the previous monthly tallies click below

January tally

February tally

trEAsury ~ pension overwhelm

Yesterday saw us in Leeds attending 3 seminars delivered by the financial advisors Hargreaves Lansdown – you may have heard of them they are a pretty big national company.  The seminars were free – so seemed a waste not to go – after all any advice is better than none.

I must admit I am so glad we attended – we came away with much food for thought.

We decided on using the Park and Ride as the seminars covered most of the day and parking in Leeds is not only difficult but expensive with a capital E.  It worked well and I would use it again – the buses were clean, quiet and driven by a lovely helpful man and we did not have to wait long coming or going.  Cost £6

The snacks and drinks we had to buy during the day to keep us going were not very cheap – we took sandwiches which we ate at 11am in the car as the first seminar was 12 noon to 2pm,  after that it was places like Costa for a toastie.  The event finished at 8.30 so we had to cover food for all day although they did lay on tea and coffee and some chocolate chip cookies.  Cost for drinks and eats out a hefty £17.

I know some of my readers are in the same place as me or coming up to retirement – some of you will be lucky enough to have final salary or public sector pensions – every ones means are different and that is the message that came out of the seminars.  I am in no way promoting or recommending Hargreaves  Lansdown – I am certainly not being sponsored by them nor am I advising anyone in any way.

The three seminars were entitled –

  • Planning for retirement,
  • Looking to make the most of your money in retirement
  • Passing your wealth onto your loved ones (presuming you have some money left).

We thought we did not have enough wealth to warrant advice but the truth is when you add up your assets – your house, car(s), caravan, any valuables, savings, shares etc (especially if you live down south where property prices are higher) you may find that they exceed the £325,000 inheritance tax allowance and so when you (or both of you) pass away the tax man will claim his 40% first on the excess and this can work out more than any individual beneficiary receives. Thinking ahead can help to preserve more of your estate for your children’s / grandchildren’s benefit.

There are it seems many legitimate ways to protect some of the money that you might pass on to loved ones by means of a trust.  I did not know anything about trusts and they may not be applicable to us but it was interesting to learn more about them.

One of the main points I came away with was I do wish we had been more attentive when we were younger and thought seriously about putting more of our surplus money into a private pension pot.  Anyone younger reading this I would say get to know more about pensions now and act on it – you will not easily sustain the standard of living you have got used to, when you leave paid work and retire on just the state pension – so don’t rely on it.  That is not to say you cannot live fairly comfortably on a state pension – my grandparents did well enough but there are no frills attached.

Obviously for us this cannot be reversed now and I remember when we were younger we did not have a lot of spare cash – we had mortgages with hefty interest rates in the 80’s and two growing girls – pensions were not on our mind but should have been and I am sure we could have squeezed a little more out of the monthly budget to put away.

But we are where we are and part of the seminar was to think about how much money we really need to live on now and during the rest of our life (of course not knowing how long this might be is a bit of a key factor in this game) and are we going to meet that income with the pension we have or is there likely to be a major shortfall.  For instance if you want to travel to exotic places or keep a high standard of living going or remain in a big house this may cause a large shortfall.

I just need to know I can enjoy my retirement and be comfortable, have a few good holidays and follow one or two hobbies and if anything unexpected happens we have the means to deal with it – I am not expecting to live it up exactly but if there is a shortfall or we need expensive care costs how can we generate more income to bridge the gap.  There are only a few ways to receive more income during retirement – for most of us this would be through savings generating interest, investments generating dividends, or  rental income (if you are lucky enough to have another property or inherited one), you might be lucky at gambling or bingo but at worst you might need to go back to work.

Another fact I had not considered is that different governments will have a future effect on our money – some will want more than others in tax.  That will not alter the choice of party i vote for but is something to be aware of.

Since 2015 the flexibility of accessing our private pension pots has greatly increased but with it a lot of complexities and the goal posts change yearly with the budgets so you need to be mindful of these changes.

The speaker, who was extremely knowledgeable, took the time to explain about the merits of the relatively new drawdown pension scheme in contrast to taking the traditional annuities.  The advantage of drawdown is that it passes on to your beneficiaries which annuities do not.  This pension pot is there to draw on if and when you need to but if most of it is left invested it can generate more capital growth to create an income stream (something I had not considered as I had been under the impression that capital was something that just ran down steadily in retirement).

The downside of a drawdown pension is that the money continues to be invested and so needs managing and if not by yourself by someone else at a cost.  If not managed well you could run out of funds unlike an annuity which gives you a set guaranteed amount monthly for life – it is a secure amount but you need a decent sized pension pot to receive a decent monthly payment in the current climate.

On the risk side I learnt that you cannot assume that having your money in cash just gaining interest is low risk – this is actually very high risk as that money although safe will undoubtedly not keep pace with inflation and if you live another thirty years will be worth very little and might only buy you a cup of tea in the future.

The best way we were told to minimise risk is not to put all your eggs in one basket – invest your money in a whole range of ways.  Sadly, this is not a simpler option and as you know I am looking for simplicity in all areas of my life but we live in a complex world so it feels pretty unavoidable.

We came out feeling much more informed if not a little overwhelmed – but like everything else we need a plan – so during this next week we are going to seriously plan our strategy and have a go at a lifetime cashflow chart as they suggest.

We arrived home to find two letters – a bank statement for our bill account, all as expected, and one from DWP notifying us of a rise in our state pension from April of £4.25 a week, about £18 month – when I budget I will work on the old amount not the new – this rise of £18 will go straight to savings.

A day of potential doom and gloom – (but made better by the free freshly baked cookies and an unexpected rise in income). x

dEAr diary ~ what the postman brought today…

It has been wet, wet, wet today and windy – I felt sorry for the postman – the last two days he has had nothing to deliver here and walked passed but today surprisingly there was a bundle of letters landed on our mat and before lunchtime too.

Firstly, the handwritten one – they are always the most exciting as we hardly receive any mail this way now.  I opened it eagerly to find a lovely invitation to granny and granddad for Sweetie’s christening in May at Healey church up in North Yorkshire.   I think granny here might just be making her a Christening dress for the occasion – we usually use our family heirloom made of fine cotton lawn and lace but Sweetie is a little pudding and she will be older than 6 months by May so it is doubtful it is going to fit her then and the fabric is getting very delicate now and we do not want to risk a rip.  So granny is on standby to make one.

Next, I opened the envelope from Boots containing some money off and extra point’s vouchers, valid until June – always useful to keep in my purse, although I don’t buy very much from Boots now but when I do I take advantage of their offers and buy 3 at once, if I can claim extra points all the better.

A curious letter with an Argos franked stamp on the envelope but actually from Sainsbury’s with a product recall on the Goose Feather and Duck down pillows I bought in the sale after Christmas – there is a fire safety issue with them and I can return them for a full refund.  I found mine a bit too full anyway so I won’t be too upset to give them back – but not sure what mum will sleep on when she comes!

We also had a credit card statement with a zero balance as we have not made any internet purchases during the last period – I was extremely pleased with this – I don’t shop a lot on the internet but it is useful for DH to buy obscure hinges and man stuff when he is doing one of his maintenance projects and mending broken bits and pieces around the house.

So all in all mainly good news and no bills…

…and then there was the usual pile of junk leaflets which I put straight into the recycle bin – I have even got past the point of reading them first before I dispose of them – what a waste of paper and resources.

We spent the rest of the day with little Freddie who is also growing each time we see him and is much more alert now.  He tends to sleep well at night  but not so much during the mornings – I suppose that is the better way round.

Tomorrow we travel to Leeds – we have decided on park and ride as we are attending three free seminars in the centre of Leeds delivered by Hargreaves and Lansdowne.  They are all to do with pensions, planning and advice and we certainly need some.  I am hoping we will hear something to our advantage.

In between all this I am continuing to clear clutter and simplify.  I have been in the shower room – this is an easy room to do as it is one where I have invested a lot of time previously to reduce the stuff that accumulates in there so it was more of a maintenance activity this time round.  The craft room and office that I am clutter clearing at the moment is more difficult to negotiate.  I have still got mounds of special craft papers, blank cards and envelopes, embellishments etc but I am loath to get rid of things just in case I find time to make some cards – but I ask myself just how likely is that?

A day of delights and dithering.

trEAsury ~ the February tally

Once again I am facing the moment of truth.  Sometimes we can think we are doing well and spending less but the figures at the end of the month never lie.

Overall for February the total outgoing money was much the same as January but the amounts in each category had shifted around – a bit like the sand and pebbles on our beach at the cottage.

To summarise; the housekeeping, household bills, cards and gifts were lower than last month but fuel costs, eating out, health and wellbeing were higher.

The housekeeping money (which for me includes groceries, whole foods and supplements, magazines, cleaning supplies, toiletries, face creams, make-up, postage, stationery and flowers for the house when I buy any) came in at £367.00, but of course it was the shortest month so maybe this wasn’t a great achievement and remember I am not an all out frugal blog by any means (stop reading now if you were expecting severe thrift or you will be disappointed) – I like a bargain and I like to live within my means – I also like hanging on to my savings for dear life but I don’t particularly buy cheap in all cases in fact I like quality and value for money so I assess everything I buy with that in mind whether it be food, clothes or a garden tool.

I know there are many of you out there who would do much better than me but this is my way of cutting the spending down and buying less without making myself totally miserable or obsessed and I am pleased with myself if I find I have spent less than last month.  I haven’t even set category budgets for myself – I suppose I should really but I know I have to stay within the bounds of our one state pension for most of our day-to-day living costs and save a bit if we can.  When we have lived on the pension for a while and have definite figures to work on then I can adjust and budget.

So how did I do…

Transport and fuel costs

February was heavy on fuel costs not just for the car but during the warm spell we had recently we had to buy petrol for the mower in order to cut the grass!  The trip up to Scotland and 2 round trips up to North Yorkshire increased this category to £180 ouch!  In compensation there were no other transport or car related costs but we do have an MOT coming up next month.

Total costs of seeing the world and shaving the grass: £186.87

Health and wellbeing costs

February saw us both at the hairdressers for a cut and blow dry.  We go to the same local hairdressers  – not together I might add, that might be a little strange!….and whilst mine is £26, DH only has to pay £11 but then his hair is much shorter and he has less of it.  For me it is worth the expense, I always feel much better afterwards.

Total cost of a brand new me and him:  £37

Utilities

Our central heating and hot water runs on gas and we have a coal effect gas fire in the living room.  The heating is on from 5 pm to 8pm – after that we will just put the gas fire on if it is really cold whilst watching the TV or sometimes for a bit of glow on the lowest setting.   The gas bill for February came in at £69 plus VAT.  I didn’t think that was too bad – helped of course by the milder weather and watching TV during the evenings wrapped snuggly in a throw rather than putting the fire or heating on.

Total costs for the joy of warm toes:  £72.63

Grocery and housekeeping costs

Surprisingly I spent less this month than last (but then it was only 4 weeks long) however the average per week on groceries alone worked out at a little more than last month @ £77, (£309 for the month) but we did take advantage of a lot of items on offer so are pretty well stocked in the grocery department.  Some weeks I do better than others and have more time to plan – sometimes it is all a bit rushed and that is when I do spend more but we have been having some nice meals recently and I have been trying new recipes.Yellow Sticker foodWe had a surprise freebie in Tesco in Castle Douglas in Scotland when they were handing out free rolls one evening.  You couldn’t beat this yellow sticker price!Daffodils I didn’t buy any toiletries or face creams during February but did treat myself to some flowers for the house.

Total cost to eat and be merry £361.87 and a bunch or two of cheerfulness £5.

Home and garden purchases

Once again just bits and pieces bought in this category but it still added up to an alarming £106 – I had to look twice at this in disbelief – but it is there in black and white and needless to mention this cost will be taken from savings not the pension – the pension does not allow for frivolous purchases that consist of:-

  • 2 large storage boxes with lids for in the loft to replace some old cardboard bankers boxes
  • 3 lidded craft storage boxes to hold our old slides
  • 1 small 4 litre Maslin pan to make jam and marmalade reduced by £10 to £19.99Maslin Pan
  • 2 glass lidded containers from Muji for cotton wool and cotton wool buds (this was a definite treat); I love Muji products for their simplicity and have wanted these for ages and couldn’t resist when DH gave me the OK nod.muji
  • Portable Muji diffuser – on offer at the Muji store – gives out 2 hours of real essential oil fragrance
  • 2 Pillow protectors on sale in Sainsbury’s for £3.60 – decided against the dearer John Lewis ones and will return them.

This is certainly a category to watch – those little bits here and there add up to quite a lot.

Total cost for unavoidable household needs wants: £106

Gifts and card costs 

Gifts and cards came in lower than last month – only a couple of birthdays and mum’s belated birthday book token.  I already had a Valentine’s card and a stock of birthday cards and luckily none of the birthdays required a gift, so much cheaper month than last.

Total cost to gift away: £22.50

Crafts and hobbies

Confession – I bought two books (I include books in my Craft and Hobbies category).  Simple Sewing posted here, and The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.  I bought his book The Four Pillar Plan a while ago and it is one of the best general health books I have read and continue to reread and am trying to put into practice. The Stress Solution I couldn’t wait for his new book to appear cheaper in The Works so splashed out the £8.49 in Sainsbury’s.

Having tried a bit of crotchet with the hooks and wool I bought last month it became apparent I would not be making any baby clothes any time soon – I couldn’t even crotchet a square and will need more time to practice so I decided to try my hand at knitting again. Sidar Baby Crofter I bought a baby pattern £3.10 and 3 balls of Sirdar Baby Crofter from Hobbycraft @ £4 ball to make a jumper for Sweetie and now realise knitting your own is not a cheap option.  DH just smiles!

Total cost to keep me busy: £27.78

Leisure and Entertainment

I spent a worthwhile £15 on the pantomime tickets (no discounts even though I am related to the stars of the show!), however I do still have to pay my sister for these when I see her.  Of course the petrol costs to get there would have been about £30 – but she is my sister and of course Libbie (Little L) was so thrilled.

Other than that our other entertainment this month was visiting Ikea – totally free!

Total costs of a good belly laugh: £15 (not including the fuel a definite boo!)

Eating out

This continues to be much reduced now we take picnics everywhere or get free drinks in Ikea – but is higher than last month as we had our trip to Scotland and bought a chip butty tea each on the way up and back £7.70.  Mainly though our only regular expense is the pre shop drinks in Sainsbury’s café every week £4.10, DH always comes along with me now since I am no longer at work (probably to keep an eye on the spending!) so it doubles this little indulgence – if we gave this up we would be down to zero pounds unless we elect to treat ourselves for lunch out, which we did at Costa en route to the Pantomime.

Total costs to satisfy our healthy appetites:  £52.25

Clothing and footwear

I bought a grey long-sleeved t-shirt from Sainsbury’s – it was, I am pleased to say, a considered purchase.   I bought one last Autumn and love it so much I invested in another before they disappear, they are great to wear under a jumper and keep me snug and warm in the cold weather – so a small price to pay.  I also needed to replace some old wornout black socks that I wear with my jeans and leggins.  One pack of five from Tesco for £5 – they have the same patterned rib as the previous ones I bought two years ago which is great as I won’t need to spend time matching socks after washing them.

Total cost to looking totally glamorous presentable: £9.75

As you might expect the spending in the different categories has ‘see-sawed’ a bit this month.  What was a low figure last month was higher this month and vice versa.  I am enjoying the books, enjoying the knitting (more on this another day) and will no doubt enjoy making some jam and marmalade.

So a few new items have entered my home but what has gone out…I will reveal later.

As usual hoping to do better next month and any advice is always welcome….xx

If you want to read January’s tally click here

trEAsury ~ the January tally

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.

Transport costs

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.

Health costs

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.

Utilities

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.

Eating out

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….

trEAsury ~ the weekly shop and meal plan

We woke up this morning to snow – just a sprinkling, and so very pretty – like icing sugar had been sifted onto our lawn, but just enough for me to change my plans and go for our weekly shop at the supermarket in town sooner rather than later.  I had my menus already planned for the week and the shopping list written so we decided to get dressed and go.  We had a few errands to do whilst in and around the town centre and this helps to conserve the petrol.

Firstly, we stopped at the African Relief Charity to offload an old mobile, that needs unlocking, and my old camera.  Both items still had all their charging leads and instruction books and they have a guy who works there who puts everything back to working order and can unlock the phone.

Then on to the Welcome Centre at the Methodist Mission Church in town.  They do a good job looking after the homeless people – providing  warm drinks and food for those on the streets and today they were particularly busy as you might expect with this cold weather.   We dropped off two sleeping bags and a quilt.  We have no need of either now we have two spare bedrooms available (complete with bedding) for any guests that might stay but I will be very pleased if someone can make use of them and it helps me to reduce our ‘stuff’ a little bit more.

After buying a large pack of toilet rolls (we were down to the very last one) and kitchen roll from Aldi (just to try them for a while as they are much cheaper than Sainsbury’s) …and a small bunch of yellow tulips to brighten my kitchen for £1.89…we headed for the town centre to buy a few bits and pieces from the whole food store; organic brown Basmati rice, a box of Spelt flakes to mix with my muesli and a bottle of Almond oil.  I use pure Almond oil as a cleanser at night – you massage a little into your face and then wipe off with a damp cotton wool pad.  It really gets rid of any grime that collects on your skin over the course of the day and make up too.  Olive oil works just as well.

Then a walk round to Boots to take advantage of the 3 for 2 offer on the cotton wool face pads I use – a saving of £1.99.  Both the Kleenex man-sized handy packs of 4 and Ecover washing up liquid on my list were also on offer in Sainsbury’s so that completed my restocking of toiletries /cleaners and paper products for a while.

We found plenty of offers at Sainsbury’s this week so we generally take advantage of them and buy more than one to last a while – hopefully until they are on offer again and if buying multipes takes us over the weekly budget then I am quite relaxed about it as I am sure it is beneficial in the long run.  This week I found Hillfarm cold pressed rapeseed oil (comes in a glass bottle which is a big plus point), red lentils, milled Flaxseeds,  Lurpack butter and the Alara brand of organic muesli that I like all on offer.  The oil for instance was £1.50 cheaper which is a huge reduction – I bought two bottles but may even go back for another.   I also found two yellow sticker foods – a double pack of Cibatta bread for £0.49p (usually £1.80) and a pack of blueberries with 50% extra for £1.34.

Buying our shopping when on offer is a real money saver for us.  I was expecting a larger bill at Sainsbury’s today as it was a larger shop than usual this week mainly because we received our monthly pension payment last Friday and our cupboards and fridge had run very low on food.

I do enjoy making meals in the winter months.  It is the season for plenty of nut roasts, pies, lentils and root vegetables.  This week’s meal plan is to use up some cashew and walnuts from Christmas in a nut roast.  It isn’t exactly a new recipe but one I haven’t made for ages and believe me I have a lot.  I will be trying out a Mushroom roast too from a recipe I have had for a long time but not yet tried.  I might switch the breadcrumbs for brown rice to cut down on the wheat.  I do like to avoid having too many wheat based products in a day and often opt for other grains like spelt or quinoa.  I will also be making ‘green’ soup and vegetable soup, carrot and leek pasties and a shepherds pie served with fresh cabbage and roast parsnips.

I am going to add a drop down on my menu bar for some of the recipes I make – this may take me a while to get it all sorted so bear with me.  I am so sorry Dar that you have waited so long for the Stroganoff!

Yesterday was a mixture of cheap and dear as far as expenses are concerned.  It is a year since I bought ‘Hetty’ my new car – so it was the annual service which keeps it in warranty and cost us £119 but this comes out of our bill account where we save a twelfth of our yearly bill costs each month so there is plenty of money in the account to cover this.

As the garage was close to the M1 we dropped off my car for the day and went on to visit Ikea in Sheffield to look further at cabinets for our new pantry.  We took our usual picnic of sandwiches and some mushroom soup and a flask of hot chocolate.   We used our Family card in Ikea to claim a further free hot drink each so all we spent was £1.25 on a portion of chips to keep us going until we could eat our picnic.  So a cheap day in other respects.

After much measuring and debating I think we now know exactly how we will fit out the pantry using a mix of Ikea’s basic kitchen cabinets and some shelving.  However, there is always a catch… before we can do the pantry we really need to rearrange the garage so that we can put a cupboard in there to house both the vacuum cleaner and the coats we use for working outdoors.  Of course before we can rearrange we need to have a sort out and I expect we will find a lot of items that can go to charity, or give away to new homes but hopefully not to landfill.

Tonight I watched the documentary program with Kate Humble on BBC 4 about the Raute people who are the very last of the nomadic community in Nepal.  They have so few possessions that they can move on to a new site miles away at a moments notice carrying them on their backs wrapped in cloths or in baskets.

As I look around at our possessions – so many fill this house we would never carry ours anywhere and it has given me that overwhelming feeling of discomfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

trEAsury ~ a review of 2018’s spending

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

We should be happy then as we didn’t exceed our income but I always feel I could do better.  I knew it would not be a pretty picture when I ran this years accounts report  – and it did disappoint a little when I read the final figures as I had tried quite hard and even managed to get DH on board with being slightly more spending aware on the grocery shopping now he is helping me to do it.  I was hoping for better figures though and some bigger savings.

It wasn’t all bad –  we did make some enormous savings  –

I only bought 2 lunches at work whilst I was still working at a cost of £7.40 the rest I made at home which gave us a big saving although you have to factor in buying extra bread and salad to make them.

We also cut down on our grocery shopping by sticking to a menu plan as far as possible, buying items only on offer and looking out for yellow sticker food; but at the same time we have been battling ever-increasing prices so we seem to be running to stand still – overall though we came in under the last two previous years totals.  As frequent readers may know we are vegetarian which helps (although fruit, vegetables and nuts are not the cheapest of foods these days) and eat organic foods where possible which is always dearer – but we would not compromise on this even to buy cheaper food as I totally believe in organic farming methods as a sustainable and healthy way of life.

Christmas came in at £400 which is much the same as previous years now that we do a Secret Santa within the extended family.  Each person spends £50 on a gift so our spend is a £100 for the both of us.  The rest of the £300 is made up of presents for the children in the family – any grandchildren, nieces and nephews who are still in full-time education are not part of the Secret Santa and we buy as normal for them (in our case it is now 4 little ones), a few small presents for our closest friends, a small hamper of goodies for my mum, a present to each other and a few bits for our two daughters, the Xmas tree and any new decorations, postage, cards and wrappings – in fact anything to do with Christmas other than the food and drink.

I repurposed a lot of unwanted gifts and hope no-one received something back that they had given to me – I do think I managed to match the gifts to a person quite well and it did shave a good £50 off the gift budget.

We made a profit of £478 on our eBay sales and gained a lot of space in the house.  We still have items to sell so as soon as I have another offer from eBay for capped final fees and free listings I will be selling again.

Our savings have generated a nice passive income which is hard in this low interest environment.  We had a few good fixed deals that will end soon but as I am not working and paying tax I will be able to look at reinvesting in any savings account not just ISA accounts.

However, not everything was a win –

One area which is our biggest expense of any month is fuel.  We have been up and down both the A1M /A19 to North Yorkshire and the M6 to Scotland many times and it takes about a tank of petrol depending on whether we go far once we have reached our destination – I am not sure how I can reduce this cost as I need to see my mum regularly to relieve my sister a little bit and also I do like to see the grandchildren as often as we can.  Mum used to come down by train and we would run her back but now she cannot cope on the train with the crowds and her luggage so we have to go and pick her up – a round trip of 180 miles.   Rising petrol costs (in our case diesel) is really starting to eat into the monthly state pension and probably uses about a third of the £164 a week we receive in a bad week.  I can’t see any way around this though.

We had some other very significant costs this year – the maintenance on the house – repointing and rendering is not a cheap job and not something we could have done ourselves.  Looking to the future though this maintenance work will have added value to our property and it is a whole lot warmer and drier inside now too.

Alongside the house maintenance we also had to replace our shed before it fell apart on its own.  As we had to move it out of the way to allow the contractors access to the walls it seemed like a good time to ditch it and buy a new one.  The difference in price though was quite marked as we only paid £99 for the old shed back in the nineties this time round it was nearer to £400 although it is far better made and uses preserved timber.

Our other major cost last year was one that I don’t regret and that was for our trip to Italy and Venice for our niece’s wedding.  We had the most wonderful time and the memories will always be with us.  Because the wedding location was off the beaten track and we travelled around it is a much dearer way of having a holiday than a package tour but much more enjoyable as I am not one for sitting around a pool all day.  What a good job I was still working though to cover the costs.

Our clothing and footwear bill would have been lower had we not gone to Italy but the summer clothes we bought will last us a while and now I am not working and won’t be needing clothes for work a clothing budget of £200 should more than see us through this year.

We are currently reviewing all our bills to see if there are any that would benefit from switching – switching is such a hassle – who invented switching? – someone with heaps of time on their hands and a degree in gas and electricity units terminology.

DH has a phone contract of £7.50 a month, mine is still a PAYG and cost me £30 last year – the dearest year ever!  I do need to find a cheap contract from Vodaphone (the only reliable network for the cottage area in Scotland) but each time I try to buy a cheaper deal using uSwitch it doesn’t connect through.

The biggest savings to be made in our budget have to be:-

  • the No Spend Days  – we are having many more of these now we are both at home.
  • taking drinks and picnics whenever we go out
  • being able to get by with casual clothes – or better still not buying any for a season
  • passing unwanted gifts on
  • making my own cards
  • planning a menu each week before doing the grocery shopping
  • cooking once but making a meal for two nights
  • using up all the food in the fridge once a week to avoid food waste
  • buying toiletries only on offer
  • constantly checking for better deals with electricity and gas companies
  • avoiding the magazine aisles in the supermarket
  • Sainsbury’s double up Nectar reward points week

At least the day to day housekeeping and groceries are reducing I just need to find ways of lowering our other outgoings further such as insurance and utilities bills whilst trying to fight against rising costs.  Even if by the end of this year we find we have only stood still it is better than an increase or overspending.

We still have some major outlays for the house maintenance – outside we need a new garage and front door and the driveway resurfacing.  Inside we need a new kitchen before we can continue with the redecorating of the remaining rooms in the house.  I don’t mind these costs quite so much as it is all adding value whereas paying for phone calls, heating and insurance, although necessary, doesn’t really feel value for money.

I have ideas though to get us through this year which I will talk about another time.  Of course the house maintenance, new kitchen, decorating and any capital costs will come out of our savings but our general living costs will be covered by our meagre income of one state pension – mainly because I am interested to see how possible it is to live on one state pension and what kind of lifestyle we would have if this is all the money we had coming in.  We do have a small private pension to back us up should we need it but for the experiment this will be out of bounds.

Phew, I am a bit exhausted now and need to go for a lie down – at least that won’t cost me anything and if I do it in a darkened room I will save on electricity LOL!

Back soon x