March Money Madness

I just wanted to use some alliteration there 🙂 It hasn’t been too mad.

I haven’t been able to logon to Tesco since December, very annoying, I try randomly and with everything going on in the world, am not going to ring up to check, presuming it is all linked to being moved over to Halifax. Hubby and I have been discussing stopping the overpayment with the current climate, including the uncertainty and fear around his job. Though as we are both earning this month, we decided that April should have the £250 OP still and we will play it by ear from there. We are hoping we can carry on as ‘normal’ if nothing changes financially.

I have made a guess that our mortgage should be around: £150,675 if I have paid £600 capital off a month, which I had paid previously when overpaying £250. I am happy with this, wish I knew precisely, but whatever!

We had to take a chicken to the vets and paid £56 for antibiotics and the consultation, sadly, despite treatment beautiful Echo passed away. We syringed her water and the antibiotic but she didnt make it. Blue, who was the first poorly one, got better really quick and is doing great, now Charlie is poorly. The vet wasn’t concerned it was anything contagious to other animals which is a relief and we are treating them all with antibiotics now. Today I will be collecting the dogs prescription then getting them filled, this will be an expensive day! Completely worth it though. £56 for the anti inflamatories and Desmopressin prescription, a further £123 for the prescription to be filled. Need to explore if we can get this cheaper somewhere else, plus they never have 90tablets in so I will have to go back again to collect the rest. What a pain in lockdown, plus I am working 12 hour shifts. Hopefully hubby might be able to go.

Hubby got a chimney sweep in- £70, he (hubby) has capped the chimney pots as birds then tried to nest in the clean chimneys! Got the caps for free, and some stone for the hearth for free. Paid for the fireboard which he has now installed. Unsure of the cost for this! Our current flue is too short, hubby’s dad left his spare outside their house, so when hubby was out with work he could collect it and not break any lockdown laws! This might mean that we can get the fire up and running! We are having issues with the underfloor heating, we think the boiler needs an expansion tank or something, can’t do anything in this situation though, plus the house is still heating just not well.

The shower downstairs has loose tiles which have been letting water in, so hubby has taken them off, this is another job that will need doing. We have been discussing re-doing the upstairs bathroom, getting rid of the downstairs shower and making a small utility area there instead. Luckily, even though the upstairs shower is crappy compared to downstairs, it is water tight and usable. The concrete floor in the lounge is loose in parts, so need to investigate this at some point. Possibly ouchies to the wallet all round!

This month we also paid hubby back what was owed from Florida, and have only had to pay for gas once. I have moved money across which includes £250 holiday, £150 that Aran had been paying on the old credit card that we have paid off, and then paid himself back with and finally £82 that we have saved by cancelling items during uber frugal jan! So we are moving money, the key is to keep it! Or keep saving to pay for all these things we keep finding wrong!haha. After all the bills go out tomorrow I will do a tilly tidy and work out whats left and what we may need to spend for the month.

In April, we may need two lots of gas, its hard to plan in advance as we don’t know what the weather will do! Got away with only one order in March, so we are probably very close to a new order! We will need to buy more raw dog food and treats, about £40 which lasts over a month, Council Tax will be going out again, boo!

Hoping April will bring the peak and decline of covid19, and some semblance of normality will begin to come back. I hope you and yours all safe 🙂

UFM Challenge- thoughts and first few emails!

So I figured I would give myself some rules regarding this. I understand the premise is to be super frugal, which I guess my mind is still rallying against!

With regards to clothes- there is no need to buy any as it stands. Exceptions to the rule: If I find a perfect dress for the Wedding I am attending in New York in June, I am a big girl, clothes in my size aren’t available in charity shops, especially locally- unless it’s clothes I donated! So I often shop online. Only item I technically need is a beautiful dress to wear for the Wedding, which will be in Central Park! The other exception: to replace items that have worn through, this month I am thinking I won’t need to, unless I wear the back of my trainers out again- I do this a lot! I wear trainers often and buy new ones from discount stores for around £30 or less, I always seem to struggle with rubbing the back of the heel section away which results in blisters! These current trainers are from before September 2019, which saw them getting me around Disney and Universal Studios, they are more than cost effective now!

I want to try and get 20 No Spend Days this month, I used to do this regularly on moneysavingexpert forums. It is a helpful way to curb spending and feels like an achievement in itself! Things that are not included as a spend: when we go away or the house account pays for something- it is a personal spending challenge not a joint one. We go away for a few days in a couple of weeks, the house will pay for all this as that is what we do with holidays, so unless we personally spend anything, I will include these as personal non spend days. It is amazing how often I buy things without thinking, it is the 3rd Jan and today will be the first day I dont spend any money, on the 1st I found the possible perfect dress- preordered so technically not paid for yet, and it may look awful so not a guarenteed spend as it could go back! Yesterday I had to put fuel in my car, today is the decided takeaway day for the next two weeks, that one is house account money, therefore today can be my 1st non spend day of the month! Ouch! Also, gas money wasn’t taken, she apologised as they had been busy and she shredded my order before processing- so they are going to try and deliver today. So that will be coming out today instead of last year- again it is house account so not a personal spend, but still makes you think! I don’t include direct debits from my account as a spend day, and if I got cash out I would class that as a spend day, but if that money is spent on another day I wouldn’t include that. Some folks would include any and all spending as a spend day, other people, like myself, have some leeway! I will keep you all updated on my progress!

I will be engaging in some Tilly Tidying (TT)- another term found due to the moneysavingexpert forums, founded by a wonderful lady called Tilly! It is the art of rounding down! Very simple and effective. I am wanting to build an emergency fund at the moment, so as this month we are heading away, I have decided to Tilly Tidy the house account after any money goes out from it, keeping it nice and tidy and rounded to the nearest whole number and move it into a little account to build up. I have aggressively TT’d so far, so I am hoping I won’t need to move any back! I moved the money we are no longer spending on the Zoo, Life Insurance and my RCN magazine straight away, we are up to £150 plus a few pennies at the moment and only three days in. This isnt a busy account generally speaking.

We are making an effort to meal plan and cook, on New Years Day I made soup, fish pie and bread. The bread came out a bit funky, but edible, the soup is yummy and the fish pie was very tasty and did us for tea that day and lunch the next. Soup was frozen and I defrosted it for my long days but wasn’t great at actually eating it as very busy!

Day 1 email from the frugalwoods- this is the homework I had already completed so that was easy! Payed for a preordered dress- spend day!

Day 2 email: This was future planning, again I had already done this in the homework, brilliant, especially as working a long day means not a lot of time to think! Paid for fuel- spend day!

Day 3 email: Fighting impulse buys- do not buy any non essential items for 72hours. This makes a lot of sense and helps with the non spend day ideas too. She breaks it down to- write down, or leave in the basket the item you want to buy, allow 72 hours to pass. Consider if you really need it? What could you do with the money? Do you own something that would suffice? Could you find it cheaper? Could you borrow it from a friend? After the alloted time, re-evaluate how you feel about the item, do you still want it? Mantra- I have the willpower to wait! No spend day!

Day 4- I have lost this one! Can’t find it in my trash either…I am sure I read it! No spend day!

Day 5- This is all about grocery shopping, an area I have already highlighted as a problem areas for us! I have been meal planning more, then actually trying to make sure I cook what I have said! Too many complex foods last week though. I shopped yesterday, this was hubby’s shop but he has been working away and I think I did a good job of thinking of more simple meals that we can do which are tasty and some healthyness! I paid about £60 and this included wine for me and wine I will be taking to my parents on the weekend when we get our food cooked for us. My stepmum is an amazing cook, this will be better than any restaurant fair! No spend day!

Day6- Know where your money is! This has got hubby to download an app, that I may also download! The one on frugalwoods is american, so he found a british version-when I find the name I will let you know! I haven’t worked out our net worth, I am not sure to what end that would help? My monthly wage varies depending on 4 or 5 week months, but I know what they tend to be! The only interest we are paying is for the mortgage and the car, unlike the mortgage, the car is set and no matter when we pay it the interest is the same. Credit cards are 0%. With regards to pensions, I pay into a basic one, to be honest, they don’t seem the best….I did discuss increasing my paments but nest and work seemed unhelpful and I wondered if it is really the best place for my money? Investing confuses me, I won’t lie. I will continue to look into this to see if I can work it out! No spend day!

Day 7- About mobile phone costs, as part of the homework I had indentified this, and after visiting Vodafone I have now got the same deal for £11 a month, we have pants signal where I live and we already have a vodafone signal enhancy thing, so this is best price given that! Did buy food shop, but it is actually other halves shop, so he will pay me back- technical non spend day!

Day8- Is your partner on board? Yes he is, we have always discussed money and made choices together. We work well in that way most of the time, though we can also talk each other into buying things!haha. He is enjoying this challenge as he recognises that he isn’t the best with his money and feels this can be improved upon! He does want the mortgage gone, but tends to leave the other bits, including overpayments to me! So far no spend day….

So today is day 8, pay day yesterday, I am up to 5 non spend days, quarter of the way there! 5/20. Watch this space for today, I do NEED earring backs but might be able to hold off a bit longer. My current earrings are making my ears sore, and my previous earrings have lost there back…tut tut! I have reached £25 on Onepoll today so that will be working its way over slowly!

What gets the chop?

So, as part of Uber Frugal Month (UFM), I made a list of payments we make monthly. It is hard to look at what we pay for, and break it down into the bare bones, rather than the joy it can give! Kon Mari my spending!haha. Writing everything down has allowed time for hubby and I to read over and discuss what we spend money on, whether it is important and what to change.

I am looking to change my Sim only deal, I pay £14+ a month and it isn’t great really. Nosing on MoneySaving Expert Sim Only Deals it is clear there are a lot of options! It is frustrating to see vodafone offering great deals to newbies, will have to see what they will offer a long time customer, if they won’t I will happily jump ship! Have gotten all irritated over this get new customers and sod the old!Haha.

We have concluded we will cancel the zoo membership, we are not making use of it and £13.75 adds up over the year! I will get on this ASAP and see if it can be cancelled before Jan payment!- Now cancelled!

We are chatting a lot about the life insurance and critical illness cover, we have no dependents, if one of us died, it would be nice not to have to pay the mortgage. But the current cost is way too high, we could afford the mortgage on one wage, but it would be darn tight! But, this is why we are doing the UFM challenge! I think we have concluded we will cancel it and hope we don’t die anytime soon. -I have cancelled mine, hubby will cancel his next week!

I am now on the lookout for a better current account, the 123 account used to be great, we got 3% interest over 3k and cashback, which more than covered the £5 account fee. Now the interest is 1.59%, we don’t get a lot of cashback really- we are on bottled gas, no cashback for this! Internet goes from hubbies account etc. I may see what happens when we move a small chunk of savings back in, just in case…

I have put the wheels in motion to cancel my mental health magazine, I am pretty sure this is over £7 a month, though a very interesting magazine it isn’t as relevant anymore and I can access the articles online if I desire. Will remain a member of the union though as it offers insurance and support if anything goes wrong.-Now cancelled!

Reading up about cancelling the TV licence, I could definitely live without BBC. But want to check on the ins and outs so I don’t get fined! We don’t have an aeriel to the downstairs TV, and even though IPLAYER is on the TV, we can ignore it in order to not pay £154.50 for the year. Sorry BBC, you are ok, but not worth it in comparisson to Primes £79 a year and free next day delivery as well as shows…

We have no choice with regards to heating, we have no main gas to the house- no one in the area does- oil and gas will often change in costs, I prefer the look of gas bottles to an oil tank aesthetically, and with our narrow drive, I am not sure a tanker would fit! We are trialing turning the heating down from 20c to 19, then maybe 18- this is the new recommended temp apparently! We have underfloor heating, it is best that temp is maintained for cost effectiveness, we have it on a timer all day with the thermostat set, then off overnight as I hate getting too hot in bed. We only have radiators upstairs and the temp is only on 3, which is enough at the moment. The only way to improve on this is to look at green options, at this time we don’t have the funds, but would be happy to do this in the future.

Hubby recently changed over the electric company to the best we can get, the ways to improve on this is to use less electric! We aren’t daft, so have all energy efficient bulbs, our appliances are efficient, we turn things off at the walls, have a super efficient kettle, our cooker runs from gas (expensive!haha) and try to make sure we don’t leave lights on.

The water costs are what they are, it is difficult as we have an acre of land, in the summer it is hard as I want to water the garden and plants once the water butts are empty there is no choice! Next year we plan on adding gutters and water butts to the chickens run to help save more water. We already have some around the stable/shed though one got broken so needs replacing. We will fill buckets with water in the summer when we are waiting for the shower to warm up as a way to water plants more cheaply! Also fans of, if it is yellow let it mellow 😉

Council tax is what it is, we are in the right bracket, it is paid over 10/11 months, think it is 11! Need to double check.

The credit card is 0% until the end of 2020, I am not worried about this and will TART it to a 0% transfer card when the time comes. The link to Money Saving Expert shows the best deals, but also soft searches to tell you what card you are likely eligible for and the percentage of acceptance. The minimum payments seem a lot more on my card than hubby’s card- he has his truck balance left on his (he will have saved to pay it off when it becomes chargeable- so not worried), but his minimum payment is half what mine is! Not a problem though, as it means my balance will be a lot less when I have to tart it! I have no plans to use this card again now holidays are planned and costed out. So will be removing debt every month!

Car and House insurance is reviewed yearly and paid in full if applicable! I am paying monthly car but paid house in full last year. I am happy I shopped around and got the best deals!

We are going to work out what we are paying for dog medications, food etc as we go into 2020, we already buy a cheaper version of the dogs supplements- same ingredients, buy Red’s main medication from human pharmacy-so not much trimming room with regards to the furbabies.

We have approx 2 years remaining on our loan with which we bought the car, this is £180 a month- doesn’t matter if we pay it off early, interest is part of the repayment so doesn’t save any money. We got a really good deal on the loan when we took it out, I think it is around 1k we will pay on 10k over 5 years- rough estimate off the top of my head! Checked dates, paid for the car 16/09/2016, so less than 2 years to go!

Biggest personal savings will be on food bills I think, we really need to meal plan, but then actually make the meals as well! When I meal planned last time, I spent £57 on a weeks food shop, this included booze! I will sit hubby down at some point to make a plan of meals, including lunches at work. This will also see us having two weekly takeaways :0

Having cancelled Mental Health Magazine, Life Insurance and Zoo, we are up £81.05 in the first month of 2020! Let us see where this journey takes us!

What is frugality?

When I think of the word frugal, I won’t lie, I do automatically think of negatives such as going without, being tight fisted and being unhappy. I fully believe this is due to the world we live in being so materialistic and equating spending with happiness, or at least the awareness that when you buy something it can make you feel good, even for a moment. I fall into the trap quite often of living for the future, not in the moment. Once I buy this, once I do that, once this is achieved I will feel safe/secure/happy etc etc. Though if I break things down, I have lots of great things already, our home is amazing, for the budget we have it is as perfect as it is going to get! Yes, it does need things doing to it, some painting, tiles in the kitchen and little touch ups here and there, and perhaps some things are not to our taste, but they are fully functionable! I dislike the kitchen, but I would not replace it anytime soon as it is in great condition and functions well. One day, when we have used it to death, perhaps I can get the dream kitchen! I also have lots of clothes, if I am honest, the only clothes I may need anytime soon are: new work trousers, I wear these out! Hopefully not for a few months though and I will need new work trainers/shoes soon, I have started to wear the backs out, and as I do 12 hour shifts on my feet, they have to comfy! I do wear out trainers as I spend a lot of time in them, I tend to buy end of the line trainers from SportsDirect and they last 6-12months depending on my use. I could really do with walking boots, but I really struggle to find any that are comfortable, I get blisters on my feet so easily which is frustrating.

I looked up the definition of frugal:

1.  Practising economy, living without waste, being thrifty

2. Not costly, meagre

These are not negatives, in fact quite the opposite, who wouldn’t want to be economic, without waste and thrifty? And if I think about what is important to me: hubby, dogs, family, chickens, roof over our heads, garden, quietness, travel and feeling secure, these can all be achieved without being a spendthrift!

I have been watching Buying and Selling on ITV- I am sure it was Property Brothers when we used to have Sky! I enjoy watching house shows, I find it interesting and exciting to watch transformations, but this show is all based around consumerism, I want bigger, more expensive therefore technically better! We are a fascinating species!

I like to try and be a green person, I want to help the environment and am always interested in learning about new ways we can do that. Being less wasteful would be a huge help to the environment, eating better food, feeling more productive and hopefully achieving more as I feel better. We recently Kon Marie’d the house- freaking loved the show on Netflix! We charity shopped so many clothes it was crazy, then I have been slowly re-filling the wardrobes and drawers with new clothes, defeating the whole point!haha. I think I will look at re-doing this in the new year, emptying all the drawers etc and going through my clothes to see what gives me joy! This way I will also get the chance to see what clothes I actually own, and how much I don’t need to spend. I think clothes are an area I am spending too much and on things I don’t ‘need’. In January, I shouldn’t need to buy any clothes, though I may want too!

I have been researching making my own cleaning solutions and washing powder. I will continue to look into this and see if it is feasible for us to get going with this aspect of frugality and also being green! We will use whatever cleaners we already have to not waste anything!

Watch this space for more brain farts about January’s challenge!!

Uber Frugal Challenge Homework, step 8-11

Examine your habits!

I know that purchading food is one of my big downfalls, I love food, I overeat, I struggle with my weight- that could be a blog on its own! I work 12 hour shifts, I struggle to prepare food in time for my shift, I struggle to decide on what foods to eat, this can often result in buying pre made food for ease and convenience. Also, grocery shopping in itself is expensive, we often feel we have no meals and will eat rubbish to compensate. I feel a large area to turn this around is part of the Frugal Challenge. I already meal planned then went shopping, this usually costs around £90, and paid £77 which included a £20 giant teddy for the dogs at Christmas! Felt like a good shop and I thought ahead about what we may need. Today, I made a mushroom soup, and it is in the thermos ready for work tomorrow, I think I will take bread and butter, or a sandwich, as well as a yogurt, some fruit and a oat pot! This could be cheaper if I used oats instead of prepackaged. I don’t get home until nearly nine so makes it difficult with regards to tea time etc, plus work is busy and usually we have access to cakes! I need to learn more about healthy snacks and getting food that will actually fill me, and satisfy me! Stress is a common feeling when you are a Nurse, I work in Dementia care, it can be a very upsetting and stressful place, because you care so much, so my emotional eating is often triggered, this spills into the drive home, popping to the shop or snacking when I get in. Sometimes, when you start to breakdown a habit, behaviour and choice, it can become overwhelming to try and think how else do I cope with those feelings without food? Again, probably another post!

Step 9- Plan Ahead!

I really feel this will be beneficial, if I plan and act ahead of shifts, I will have food and snacks, this will hopefully have a positive impact on other areas of my life including finances. I enjoy fruit and vegetables, but am so bad at actually eating them! So, planning ahead would allow for more consumption made easy. Given the choice, a chocolate bar or an apple, I would always pick the chocolate, give me a cut up apple I can pick at whilst quickly catching up on notes in the office and it will be consumed! Days off are hit and miss, sometimes I just want food, comfort food, lots of food, can’t stop thinking about food, other days I feel able to make some alright choices around food. This all links in really, self esteem, emotions, are all disguised and hidden when you eat or buy food! Might be a long road….

On Money Saving Expert, I used to join in the No Spend Day challenge, where you would set X amount of days where you wouldn’t spend. The rules were personal, you could include or exclude bill payments, fuel costs, known payments etc. I used to include any payments made on my card, so bills that went out of my account were not included- most go out on the 1st anyway. So all other payments- including cash- would make it a spend day. I feel this mentality could work in the UFM, as would delay buying things until I had to- ie buying fuel so would buy something else on those days if needed. It also meant online shopping saw things sitting in the basket so I had more time to think through the purchase. I think implementing this again would be good!

Step 10-

If you do buy stuff, get it free or cheap! This makes sense and points out that items you cannot get second hand, such as toothpaste, you can price check to make sure you get the best prices. I enjoy facebook marketplace and have had some great finds on there, nice and local too! I think sometimes, it is worth shopping around- I found great wallpaper cheap and using a local builders merchants got shelves to the correct size at a great price. So much better than B&Q! Which I do love as well!haha. So we already do some frugal things, but can improve so much!!

Step 11- Banish Excuses!

Of course this is the hardest part, excuses are easy, they are normal! I have reservations about aspects of this challenge- I love netflix and Amazon Prime! I love buying food that is yummy and convenient! Also, we are eating out with friends in January- I really am not up to cooking or hosting for that many folks, we only meet around once or twice a year and go to a nice cheap place. Also, we are going on a short holiday in January, we will be eating out, socialising and our dogs will be costly in those four days! But around this, we will really really work on our spending issues!!!!

Some of the other points- earn more money- within both our roles we earn very well, this is not a high wage, but much better than minimum wage! There would be no other jobs for either of us that would earn better at this time. Moving would not help, our home is wonderful it is the dream home in our budget and we have worked hard to make it affordable! We love living here, and there is no where cheaper that would compare. Getting rid of cars, our main car would not be worth selling and buying a new one with the loan, it is a good loan and we are probably three years into it now! The car is 0 tax and very economical, husbands truck is all his. He pays for everything for it and loves it, I would never ask him to sell it, it is a luxury! We are not paying to work, we are both commutable- me about a 40-60min round trip, three days a week, hubby 15mins away. We have no children and since Hubbys father has retired, he comes to do the dogs twice a day when hubby is away and I am working a long day. Hubby is struggling with the stresses of his job currently, but also loves it, and I am more content with work than I have been in a long time. Definate room for improvement, but considering I was ready to jack nursing in, I am now loving parts of the role again!

Wish us luck! I will keep you all updated!!