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 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!!

Money and Frugality

So, my relationship with money is interesting, sometimes I will deliberate for hours/days on buying something, other times it is in my basket and then winging its way to me with no thought at all.

I wonder, what it is about money and spending it, what makes me deliberate over buying item x but not item y. I have to admit, I love money, I love money shuffles- when on payday I go online to my bank and move money to different pots- once all bills have gone out I will then look at the little ‘pots’ of money we have. At the moment, we have Driveway, Holiday and Other, then whatever is left is surplus and can be used for our joint pursuits. This is all in one account so I keep a close eye on them. We get 1.5% in that account so its earning a little something at this time.

I have been looking into frugality recently- ‘sparing or economical as regards of money or food’ and ‘simple and plain and costing little’. These are two dictionary definitions of frugality, other views are about being tight, miserly and miserable. I recently discovered The Frugalwoods:

www.frugalwoods.com

These lovely folks have taken frugality and made it their metaphorichal bItch! I joined the challenge Uber Frugal Month Challenge, where you get emails from them every day over a month and you try to be a frugal person for an entire month. I decided it made sense to go from Jan payday to Feb payday, so far, I have spent £84 on starting this blog, not totally frugal, but hopefully I may be able to eventually make a little extra moolah as a sideline from this blog, therefore a possible start to more passive income. I have paid bills, this is something I have no choice over!haha. I have paid for one food shop so far, we do it on a week by week basis and I haven’t had to fill up the car yet. It has helped that I have done two 46hour weeks, so when I haven’t been working I have been too tired! I did walk to the shop and paid through the nose for bread and butter, oh and two cadburys cream eggs feel onto the counter as well- but I walked and any other shops I would have had to drive to.

One of our biggest spends is on food, we are only a family of two humans, yet we regularly spend about £80 a week on food and drinks, not including takeaways- we tend to have one a week- or if we go out for food. We have a lot of food waste, neither of us like cooking, so it can feel like a drag, or I may decide to cook and by that time the veg has gone off. We are trying to meal prep, but long days and hubby working away do sometimes mean we just can’t be bothered and will do processed easy meals. This a a two fold problem, one, it is not cost effective and two, it is not healthy.

We already shop at Aldi, we don’t tend to buy brand foods- I am still buying proper salad cream, though that is my only brand item!! This week I am going to make a vegetable pot pie, have made it before and it was soooo good. Also, can make it last a few meals, useful for when I am on long days as can take it in and hubby just heats his up at home. I will make this tomorrow. I am also considering stocking up on more frozen veg, as veg does seem to go off so quickly. Was thinking of cutting up a load of onions and then chucking them in the freezer for future use! Red onions are meant to be really good for gut bacteria, and Aldi only seems to sell frozen white onions. My food shop came to £85 this week, hubby got some bits for his car and I bought two cheap bottles of fizzy wine and creme de cassis- £6.99 a bottle but lasts a few weeks- so those will have increased the cost around £20, but need ot keep an eye on this and try to get the costs and food waste down!

Have you any ideas and tips for low cost food shopping?

MFW Part 2

Just to recap, horrified by the mortgage repayments for the new house, I planned to OP to get us to 10% LTV in two years when we would be able to remortgage. Without OPs, we would only be taking £163 off the capital a month, despite the £930 a month cost, ouch! We initially set up a £70 a month OP, but I realised this would still not be enough to be on target. I increased our OPs to £170 a month and threw anything else I could at it, this looked like it should just get us on target, I focused only on OPing on the mortgage and we cracked down on other spending to cover this!

On the 12th August 2015 I did a reality check to compare where we were vs where we would have been had we not been OP the mortgage:

Year one balance if no OPs made: £183,251 as of the 1st July 2015 balance: £180,404.24, a £2486.76 difference and not even at the year mark! Our original mortgage end date was 2049 and on the current trajectory would be 2033. The original expected interest costs: £207,475, based on new trajectory: £103,871

Obviously, the above figures are speculative based on fixed rate and estimated rates after that ends, but it does go to show how OPing makes a massive difference to the mortgage in the long term!

We hit our target of owning 10% of the mortgage on the 1st February 2016, I was so happy with this! Because of this, we were able to remortgage on August 1st 2016 with a rate of 2.98%, meaning that the payment was £685.87 a month, rather than £930! Massive win!

The next goal was to own 20% LTV of our home in two years, ready for the next remortgage! The difficulty at this time, was that we needed to focus on getting work done on the house, such as a large patio we had put in and buying a eco car on finance- got a very good loan rate! So our OPs steadily stopped over that time as we focused on other things. Last year, we went to see our mortgage adviser, she estimated our mortgage would be around the £170k mark, I was very pleased to show it was pretty much £160k! The house was valued at £210, this gave us exactly what we needed to lock into our current mortgage, we have locked in for five years as we knew I would be doing agency work which would possibly effect our desireability and eligibility.

Our mortgage information as it stands:

5 year mortgage with Tesco, at 2.11%, monthly payments: £666.72, current balance: £158,003, we reduced the term, our original mortgage was for 32 years, and this one is over 26years, hence the monthly amount remaining around the same as previous!

Focus on becoming mortgage free has been almost on hold, only one OP has been made with new mortgage- I was given the account number etc and sent over £60, then was told I had to send over minimum payments of £1k or set up a regular overpayment. Due to other things that are going on, I figured I will try to save up toward the £1k and not let this part of the journey slide, as actually, not having a mortgage would allow much more funds for saving and collecting for the future!