Uber Frugal Month, Days 1-6

Firstly, Happy New Year!

Now on to the main reason I am here- Day 1 is about reviewing the homework, or completing it if needed which I have already done, well done me!

Day 2 is to focus on your long term goals, therefore you can ask yourself, ‘Do I want to buy the new Sims game, or do I want to achieve my goal’. As we know I am flaky about long term goals and am still working on this, but having no debt and knocking the mortgage right down are definate goals! I mean, I haven’t spent the money on my op yet so that is nice, but as soon as it is paid I think it will ignite me to be more specific on spending/saving.

Day 3 focuses on managing impulse spending by waiting 72hours between wanting something and actually buying it, giving us time to evaluate if we really want something. So far this month, I have paid £18.80 in customs for dresses I bought last year, spent £30 on presents for my best friend and her new baby, and £70 on new fencing as my dogs are at war with the new dogs across the way which is just so annoying and anxiety provoking. Oh and we have had to pay £106 for gas bottles as we have ran out. Already an expensive month, oops! Hubby paid for food shop and it was £60 which is about £15 less than normal. My plan is to wait 72hours before all purchases- I do have my eye on a cheap treadmill at the moment so will see how it goes! I have wanted a treadmill for many months now as I love walking, but sometimes I just want to stay in with the dogs (they are arthritic so minimal walking these days), I will step out in my lounge but it isn’t the same! So a treadmill won’t be an impulse buy at least, and I am waiting for a good deal. Mrs Frugalwoods points out that when waiting the 72hours, consider if you really need it, calculate what else you could do with the money, can you alter something you already own, can you get it cheaper- ah facebook market place!- and finally could you borrow it from a friend. So many good points, it is pay day tomorrow so I will be using this as a good start point to practice this. I have also tried to be careful up until now but as I just proved I have still been spending :0

Day 4 looks at food shopping, Mrs Frugalwoods asks, do you eat everything you buy? I won’t lie, I am not always the best at this side of things, but we did a meal plan and food shop so this week we have been doing well so far. We do food shop weekly, and use Aldi unless we need something we cannot get from there- Vimto is a need when on offer! I have also decided to not drink alcohol as my surgery means I cannot anyway. We are not very good at bulk cooking, but try to plan easy quick meals when I am working as I get home late, and I don’t mind a tiny bit more complex on my days off and more complex again when we are both off if we want! Though cooking isn’t really our thing. We won’t be buying take out, I won’t be allowed/able after surgery and in these weeks working towards surgery I have to follow a strict plan. Freezing food isn’t something we do often, but I have been advised that before the op I should freeze food as I wont have the energy or inclination initially. Also, we normally eat all our food on our plates so left over food is rare! I do need to have a very good look at the Liver Reduction Diet that I start on Saturday for two weeks to make sure that I meal plan correctly.

Day 5 looks at our discretionary spends, Mrs Frugalwoods says that we should times monthly discretionary costs by 12 to work out yearly costs, and see how much you might earn if you invested it instead. I am not very with it when it comes to investing, I don’t really understand the process and have looked several times but not taken the first step. I probably should! I think this time round I will focus more on this area, and try to make some effort! This is a good article that I am reading to help with this from Mrs Fruglawoods.

So today, day 6, is about organising your finances. Tracking monthly spending, knowing your monthly net income (mine does vary due to length of the month some are 4 weeks some are 5 weeks), you need to know what you owe and you need to know what you own. As suggested by money saving expert and Mrs Frugalwoods, always try to pay your highest debts down first, focus on the interest rather than monthly cost. So, as it stands I have a £5k loan with a set cost, therefore nothing to be saved from paying it off quickly as such, I will have about £4k on a 0% credit card for 18months, it probably makes sense to try and pay this off first as after 18months (though I plan to tart the card to not pay any fees) the APR is 18%. The loan is set to take 5 years to pay off and I have already had it since August 2020. I have about £2.5k saved but as I have said before, I don’t know how long I will be off work so want the cash to cover any unforeseen time off so I can pay my bills. Whatever is left when I get back to work I will pay off. I also will be able to save a chunk of my wage tomorrow as it was a 5 week month, and I get some extra moolah for bank holidays. The next step is to create an Emergency Fund- we have £1k left in our emergency fund now as we paid off some debts last year. Mrs Frugalwoods talks about saving for retirement- my work pension is a basic one and the outlook is poor, when I tried to increase payments, both my work and the pension people were totally unhelpful so I pay the usual amount in. Not really sure what else I can do here? And finally she talks about investing, it is on my to-do list I promise!

I am expecting a call from the dietician to discuss my pre op diet later today, she just called to see if I am free, exciting but nerve wracking. Need to re read the plan so I can make sure I have all my questions ready. I will also have a good look at my personal savings after pay day and money dance on my next day off, look at how much I still owe on the loan and work out when I need to pay for the surgery! I still need to book and pay for the dentist too, bah!

Uber Frugal Month Challenge 2021 More Homework…

Step 3: Categorize your expenses and Step 4: What can I eliminate entirely?

So Mrs Frugalwoods says that our spending all fits in to two catagories: Fixed Mandatory and Discretionary. She is very clear that we do not include groceries here, so my mandatory expenses are: mortgage, electric, gas, water, car insurance, house insurance. Not much there really!

My Discretionary spends are: everything we spend on the dogs and chickens, technically a fixed spend as we buy good quality foods in the cheapest way possible. Dogs medications, we get them as cheap as possible but one medication Red has is £120 for 6months not including vet app and prescription. We have to buy it from human pharmacies as our vets no longer supply it and it is actually cheaper than from the vets! The dogs also have supplements, inflamation and pain meds which are not expensive. I spend £16.40 on being with the RCN and they are my protection if anything bad happens when I am nursing. Fuel costs for the car, these are variable and I am unsure how far a full tank goes on the new car so will monitor this. Food shopping- this is normally £70-90 a week, never seems a lot of food but always costs, I will be stopping drinking alcohol for at least 6 months after my op and hubby doesn’t drink so that will be a saving, also my food intake will be a lot smaller and we won’t be buying takeaways at all initially/forever. I will be meal planning before my food shop on Sat, where I will be starting my Liver Reduction Diet- low cal, low carb and low amazing food I love!- for three weeks leading up to the operation.

We don’t pay monthly for the car insurance, it is paid in full as is the road tax for both cars. We don’t pay monthly for the house insurance that is paid in full. So that is good. Last year we stopped a few payments and I am still moving the £80 saved into the savings monthly. I got hubby to cancel my lonely planet subscription as it has changed to another mag during covid which is not as good, I have spent money on a rubbish game on my phone as I get sucked into it, massive waste of money on reflection and this will stop. I have bought a new book by Dr Chatterjee which has just been released about managing weight and how multilayered this is a thing so should be good reading. I will need to pay a large amount of money to have work done on one of my teeth as I am no longer under the NHS and no where local is taking on, I managed to chip the tooth so need the work doing sooner rather than later. I will need new work trainers soon, but will wait until after my op as only have 4 shifts left in work. So need to spend should be minimal until all my clothes are too big :0 and then I should be able to find clothes in second hand shops :0 exciting! I will continue buying hair dye at about £5 a bottle, does vary as can be on offer and I do have preferred shampoo and conditioner that I buy on offer. I can’t think of anything else except for joint spends, and we have done a good job of wearing these down last time and haven’t added anything else since then so I will look at this but am hopeful it is all good!

Step 5: Embrace the art of substitution, Step 6: Reduce spending on discretionary expenses, Step 7: Empower yourself to insource! Step 8: Examine your habits, Step 9: Plan ahead, Step 10: If you do buy stuff, get it used (or cheap!), Step 11: Banish excuses.

I felt I would put all these steps in one heading as I can cover them all within the next section rather than under each heading. Within substitution, I already dye my own hair rather than pay a hairdresser, but I do have my haircut by a hairdresser once every 6months or so at a cost of £15. I love walking and spending time in the garden and could easily do more of this if I plan my time better. Mrs Frugalwoods does a whole section on how to frugalise your groceries, and many other articles on food and money management that it will be worth reading over. I need to read more about my pre op diet requirements and expectations of food after to start to change the way I buy food. We don’t really pay for any outsourcing, except for specialist services like the gas boiler. We have been able to do most things between us- mostly hubby he is the doer and we have become more adept at insourcing. But time is always a constraint as we both work full time so we have to judge this all together if something needs urgently fixing. We recently removed the downstairs shower and plan to put storage in its space, but there is no rush so we have time to think and plan before we have a go ourselves. On the other hand the concrete floor in our lounge is cracking in places, this won’t be a job we can do and do well, so will be outsourced at some point!

I think I will start making a note of habits I have, I rarely buy drinks on the go, I tend to make my own drinks and take juice to work, but I could do better with my work food which links in with better planning really. It is a habit to always buy snacks and biscuits, this is something we can stop- hubby can have biscuits in his car if he wants! I think I also need to work on distracting myself from having my day revolve around food going forward. Work on making my days more focused and structured. Meal planning is a greatly under used tool in this house and will be focused on more, including making meals and freezing them. I will keep an eye open for gifts throughout the year rather than waiting until we need to buy things. I love marketplace on facebook and keep an eye out for anything I want on there to try and make it more cost effective. I have found a lady on youtube who is ‘fabulous 50’s’- I am not 50 for another 17years- but her workouts are free and set at a level I can follow and feel I have exercised. I need to work out if my teenhood bicycle can be fixed or if I should look out for another one as I would like to get into cycling. Whenever an excuse pops up as to why I can’t do something, I need to really think about it and what the excuse is and what it means, is there a real issue or just complacency and fear of change?

So, in conclusion, I feel terrified of surgery, but feel it is my only option now, it is worth the fear to have a more fulfilling life. Therefore all of this other stuff should fade in contrast with the fear of surgery and not being able to eat even solid food for over a month! I feel that I have tried to do small changes for so long, that this year I am going to be dramatic and do big, bad changes that will hopefully be genuinely life changing!

Ending this with genuine trepidation!!

Uber Frugal Month 2021 Homework continued…

So I have read the article I mentioned in my last post, it is interesting as I feel conflicted, having not completed the suggested work of writing out a dream bio, but thinking about it instead. I kinda wanna carry on with Dementia nursing, I don’t hate my job, it doesn’t make me stressed (well, it does because looking after humans does that), I actually, genuinely, love my residents and I have a great staff team who are all such hardworking, lovely people. But in a dream world, I want my own doggy hotel, a lovely posh place for a small amount of doggies, especially Staffies who are super dear to my heart as a misunderstood breed, where we can offer stress free homes to dogs whilst their owners are on a lovely vacay somewhere. It feels like a complete pipe dream to be honest, plus I trained for three years and have worked for triple that as a nurse (plus a few), so surely carrying on makes sense? Who knows! Anyways….homework!

Step 2: Review last month’s spending

I don’t want to….I was really silly in December, I spent silly money on things…I dont want to be held accountable! Ok, I will work backwards- £8.97 to the dogs trust, thats ok, I am happy to pay that! £17.49, that was for the latest sims 4 expansion, half price and definately fun so far, so maybe not frugal but I am not ashamed! £7.19 at subway, this is a weird, after surgery I wont be able to eat this any more moment, so totally a waste! £5.27 on costa, a specialty hot choc and orange choc muffin…yes, wasteful. £4.79 on hair dye, totally worth it, I am not ready for these grays yet! £23.30 takeaway pizza- no judgements!! £6.99 on a stupid phone game- yes I am embarassed…£6.25 on wine in Sainsbobs…£100.50 on Christmas shop in Aldi including a lovely tablecloth! Worth it sorry! £20 cash for nephews birthday. £7.36 for lunch for work and snacks, covered two lunches. £46.10 on Christmas bits from Asda, not really worth it! £20 animal angels- worth it, locking a lovely dog sitter in too look after the dogs in Sept covid allowing, a large expenditure in reality, but so worth the peace of mind from someone looking after the house, dogs and chickens (£500 for two weeks, most already paid for two cancelled hols). £90.63 for two items of clothing from Blackmilk in a size 16 for after op…clothes were on offer and amazing looking, wont be the only charge from this shop, £2.49 charge because it is from Australia. Oops. £43.24 for fuel, 14th Dec- still have two bars left on my car! £46 Amazon- gifts. £25 paid for a chance to win a house, whilst raising money for the BHF. £23.40 another takeaway… £43.20 on buying two lots of completely recyclable toothbrushes, whilst donating the same amount of toothbrushes and planting trees. £10.40 amazon- maybe a gift? £59.90 and £1.64 for another item from Blackmilk and fee as from Australia… £59.86 food shop. £12 Sainsbobs, wine. £11.25 two butties from the butty shop. £25.80 pizza takeaway…£15 oxfam- present and small donation. £17.27 vodafone bill. £30.57 brownies delivery- very very tasty, maybe supporting a small business? Or a total waste of money? This doesn’t include joint spending as this is separate and we just send ourselves the money so not always clear what has been spent on what. Total spend: £ 791.86

Wows, I mean this isnt’t a totally normal month thank god but still insanely spendy and would have totally helped my surgery payment if I had held on and been more careful, and November is probs worse as I bought most of Christmas then!

Oush, thanks UFM for making me do this, it was particulary painful!

Uber Frugal Month 2021 Homework

I completed the Uber Frugal Month Challenge (UFM) in 2020 with some really positive behaviours which have slipped during this crazy year, and due to deciding to have bariatric surgery, I will be entering February 2021 with personal debt of nearly £10k which I have never had before in my life! Though mine and hubby’s personal debt is now only the mortgage- we have paid off the car loan, bought a new second car outright (for a bargain) and paid off our credit card this year. Hubby has changed jobs and this one is much less money than his previous job, though he is so much happier which is the most important thing, meaning we have a little less money to play with than previous years. We have adapted to the reduction- we lowered the mortgage OP to £50 from £250 and paid off the car loan ‘saving’ £200, meaning we haven’t had to miss the larger wage too much!

One problem I have is that I do love things, hence the title of the blog being aiming for the good life, as I am not quite sure what that actually looks like, but I am trying to head in the right direction. Also, holidays, man I love holidays! I am working on creating a frugal lifestyle which incorporates holidays! Right, homework!

Step 1: Establish your goals

  1. Why are you participating in this challenge? This is quite simple, I am entering this year with the largest personal debt I have ever personally had and it is scary! We made some great headway this year in reducing our joint debt and starting to rebuild our savings, the mortgage OP’s have taken a hit, but for hubby’s sanity that is worth it. Anyway, back to this challenge, I want to set myself up to start to repay this loan- £5k loan and credit card on 0%- £3.7k plus some tooth work at £720 (freaking ouch in more ways than one). I do have about £2.5k in savings but want to keep this until I am healthy and back at work as I am unsure how long I will need off and will be on sick pay for. I am using just under 3 weeks of annual leave so that is very helpful. I did some great work last challenge, and want to get back into it!
  2. What do you hope to achieve? I want to feel back in control of my money, and I don’t want to use spending as a replacement to eating after my operation which could easily happen! At the end of Jan I would like to be able to save extra money, to feel reasured that I can smash my personal debt as quick as possible! To add all this together into making a Jodie who is more focused on looking ater herself in a variety of ways.
  3. What are your longterm life goals? I won’t lie, I am not great at long term planning as such, I am not good at future thinking and planning apart from holidays! I mean my goals could be broken down, professionally- get my NVQ level 5 in management, my manager has requested this for me and hopefully it will be agreed. I would like to do a Masters in Dementia but this is quite costly and wouldn’t really benefit work, but it is a personal interest. I would like to consider perhaps looking at becoming a Deputy Manager, maybe, but also am not sure I want to go into management either! Personally- To have my bariatric op and use this tool to become more comfortable in my own skin and to be able to enjoy the adventurous things I want to do but am too heavy for. To fit comfortably in my car without the steering wheel touching my tummy, to be able to bend and touch my feet without difficulty, to be able to walk distances- which I can already do- with ease comparatively. To aim to walk a few half marathons, I have done one previously and it was so hard, would like to manage this with much less difficulty. To carry on loving my hubby and pups and having great friends and family. Mostly vague!haha.
  4. Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? This is like the above goals again! Ummmm, debt free would be good, in 10years getting close to mortgage free would be great, a healthy weight, active and doing lots of fun stuff, hiking, paddleboarding and zip lining to start! Maybe be in management in nursing, maybe having a small business on the side, still rescuing animals and travelling. Building up great savings, living a frugal life.
  5. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from happening and what can you do about it? My weight will get in the way, but hopefully with bariatric surgery this will help this goal. Debt free boils down to me being more money savvy and frugal, so that boils down to me again! So really me and my lifestyle could all get in the way, plus my uncertainty about what I actually want and in what kind of timeline I want to achieve it.

And on that note Mrs Frugalwoods has written an article about the very areas I struggle with so off I go for a read!

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!!

Uber Frugal Month Homework, Step 2-7

Step 2- So, I looked through my personal spends in November and then our joint account spends. It got a bit confusing as we often pay ourselves back from the joint account, but it isn’t always clear what we have spent it on. Such as, we pay for dog appointments and medication, then the house (joint) account pays us back. We both put a lot of our earnings into the house account, so this is why it pays for things like this. We also use it, if we decide to buy house based things, it is where the holiday money sits until it is used etc. So I am not 100% sure what I have been paid back for, as I will often pay for a few things before taking back and the online account isn’t as detailed as I would like! Last month personal spends has included a trip out with my friends for afternoon tea for a friends birthday, where I did go shopping as well as Christmas Presents, which I don’t always have to buy. I have spent over £200 on clothes, I am expecting about £75 back in returned items. Still a lot of money, I did need a waterproof coat- I don’t have one that fits and haven’t for many years, choosing to just get wet! But the other items were desire items!

Step 3-

Fixed Mandatory Expenses- This is non moveable costs

  • Mortgage- £717 (£50 overpayment, rising to £250 overpayment Jan 2020)
  • Gas- £106 every 2-3 weeks in the Winter, less in the Summer
  • Council Tax- £159 (think its for 10/11months)
  • Energy- £25.51
  • Water- £35.50
  • Life Insurance- £60 (I am sure I can get this cheaper if I actually looked, we got it through the mortgage broker)
  • House insurance- £paid in full, approx £114 a year
  • Credit Card- £110 minimum payment (often pay some more)
  • Car Insurance- £26.64

Discretionary Spending-

  • NSPCC and Dogs Trust- £13.67 (I want these to continue)
  • Vodafone- £14.39 (I own my phone outright)
  • Account fee- £5 (we used to earn more back than this, but at the moment we are barely earning to cover it)
  • Zoo- £13.75 (we can discuss if we wish to keep the membership going or not)
  • RCN- £23.70 (This is my insurance for nursing as well as a magazine- could stop the magazine though)
  • TV licence- £154.50 a year
  • Groceries- £90 per week :0 (Between £75-90 on average)
  • Fuel- £80 a month-ish
  • Takeaways- £15 a week on average
  • Hair for me- £10 haircuts once every 4-6months, hair dye £5.50 every 3 weeks
  • Current monthly saver- £250, 5% account, ends soon
  • Clothes and miscellaneous c- unsure what these costs are!
  • The dogs are both on medication-Meloxaid, Desmopressin (we buy from a human pharmacy) and supplements- youmove cheap version, I am unsure of costs as all paid seperately and adhoc! Recently needed x-rays for younger dog so big cost. No insurance as both dogs are rescue with issues so would either be uninsurable, or a ridiculous cost. We have always paid for everything they need outright
  • Dog food- they are now raw fed and we are still trying to get the feeds correct so unsure of costs
  • We eat out but not that often- we went away this month to Glasgow, so spent a lot more there than usual when at home
  • I will sometimes buy lunches for work, these can cost around £5 and I work three days a week
  • I rarely go to McDonalds , Costa or other but can find some months my use increases- last month for example
  • Hubby pays for Amazon Prime and Netflix
  • Internet- something like £18- hubby pays for this from his account
  • MOT and Service- £170ish depending where we go!
  • Adhoc Chicken costs, they don’t need a lot and we buy food as needed,we paid the big costs outright- their home!

Step 4-

What can we get rid of? Well, its tough. I guess that is the point. The Zoo could be dropped, I will work out if we have made use of the membership or not this year and base it on that. Will require a discussion with Hubby, who is working away the next few nights. We do need to work out the costs for the dogs, medications, food, appointments three monthly for reviews etc. Our dogs are our children, they need medication as they both have ongoing conditions that without medication would be life affecting. We get Red’s Desmopressin from the Human Pharmacy, we have to pay for his prescription then pay for the meds, this is still cheaper than it used to be getting them all from the vets! We don’t eat out often, but have a weekly takeaway, we both dislike cooking so it is nice to know that once a week we get something lovely to eat with no effort! Perhaps this can be something to reduce in the future, please?! I am unsure if we can stop the TV Licence, I mean, I could easily not watch the BBC channels, but am unsure how it all works these days! That could be a nice saving!

We could look at the Life Insurance, I am fat, therefore I make it more expensive. But I think that our mortgage broker went for the best deal for her, rather than us, thats fine, she is great with mortgages and I am happy to help her get extra commission, but really we should be investigating this ourselves now! I could look at my mobile phone plan and see if I can get it cheaper. Internet is a new deal and I am sure it was the best we could get- our connection is shocking! I feel haircut costs and hair dye costs are perfectly acceptable, I am 32 with many greys that I am not ready to embrace yet! I will look at moving our joint account, we used to earn good interest when we had more cash in there, but now its in a 5%saver so not helping the current account. Fuel is what it is, I don’t use my car ridiculous amounts, we have a very efficient joint car, and Hubby has his truck. I have no issues with his truck! Could do with being more prepared with work lunches and helping myself as I do 12hour shifts, this would benefit two fold. Clothes are a non budgeted buy whenever thing, I really need to address this with need not desire! We are not ready to stop netflix or amazon yet- sorry UFM!!

Step 5- Substitution

I will be honest, can’t really think of substitutions at this time. I mean, I buy Options hot choc which I love and is cost effective. I love wine and other alcoholic beverages- perhaps I should look into trying to brew my own stuff? I could definately make a version of creme de cassis with blackberries from the garden, missed that this year though. I have started to try and grow veg, my rocket is still doing well and it is almost Winter, but I struggle to grow other things! Another must try! We have chickens, they are ex batteries so laying is hit and miss, that is fine, we just wanted to save them so they didn’t go to slaughter! Will ask my stepmum to help me with foraging I think. I am not conviced about barter and trade at this time!

Step 6-

Reduction of Discetionary Spending- accidently covered this earlier! Except grocery shopping is something we really need to work on! We are upping the mortgage cost, this is because we are on a great deal and want to pay it down more, ultimately helping us!

Step 7- Insourcing

I mean, we don’t outsource often. We paid professionals to do our driveway, much more time effective and a fantastic job comparative to what we can do. Same with the car, we will use a mechanic and ask around for quotes to get a good deal. We paid a gas man to check the boiler when it was playing up. I want to pay a cleaner but Hubby says no! Recently we made shelves ourselves, this was a great example of insourcing. We need to paint and redecorate some rooms, I would like to outsource these jobs but will probs end up doing them with Hubby. Some things are worth trying yourself, but others we need to think about the skill level required and the time constraints we both face.

I am exhausted, this has made my brain hurt to be honest! Will continue on the next steps after my next shift at work!haha.

Uber Frugal Month Homework, Step 1

Establish your goals:

  1. Why are you participating in this challenge? To be honest, it is because we earn ok money and are falling into the pattern of earning more and spending more, but on wasteful things, money just disappears and it shouldn’t be. I would like to pay down the mortgage, grow my savings, increase pension payments and look to invest! We should have more money than we do at the end of the month. We also use credit cards- mostly due to going on two expensive holidays, Florida in Sept was with my family, then next year we are going to New York for a wedding, but turning it into a big holiday. We have our car on a personal loan, need to work out how much longer that is for- interest is calculated at the start of the loan so repayments won’t reduce the amount payable, and the credit card is 0%, we are very good at tarting cards and have been doing this for a few years now. I would love to be credit card and personal loan free.
  2. What do you hope to achieve? I guess I would like to achieve a feeling of freedom and also the security that comes with less debt, this includes on the mortgage as well. I would love to be able to save more money, invest money and see money do more for me, rather than helping to line the banks pockets!
  3. What are your longterm goals? I struggle with this if I am honest, I kind of think about the future but it is often vague and blurry, Hubby doesn’t have job security like I do as a nurse- ie I have lots more job oppertunities should this job change, I have toyed with the idea of looking to go towards management within my current role and have discussed this with my manager who has said she would work with me towards this. But mostly, my long term goals would be more vague, like, to be mortgage free at some time, to have good savings, investments, to have choices around when I retire, to be able to travel more- possibly a van of somekind to transform, to be stable in my relationship with Hubby, for the dogs to live forever….To have a job I can tolerate, to work because we can do things with the money, rather than because we have to work to pay off x, y and z. To choose a lower paying job if I desire, for Hubby to feel he has choices around his work.
  4. Where do you want to be in 10years? At the grand age of 42, I would like to be looking at a smaller mortgage, either in this home, or in a lovely little house in a woodland somewhere! For Hubby to be less stressed and feeling more like himself, for me to have experimented with management- whether I enjoy it or not, the oppertunity would be good! Or to consider trying to specialise, I would like to do more around Dementia, perhaps I could specialise more in this area? Oops, still not got clear ideas…Perhaps what this signifies, is that in 10years I want to be happy in work? Mad idea I know! I want to have travelled and explored different places, and have many more places to adventure. On a very personal level, I would like to be in a lot better physical health and have a much better relationship with my body!
  5. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it? Hmm, habits are very hard to break and I do struggle in the self belief department, so this is probably my biggest barrier, getting my brain on board! I think having Hubby do this challenge alongside me will definately help, its good to have someone on the same journey to offer mutual support. I struggle with motivation and can struggle to think long term, I guess this is something that being aware of will help me to try and work on this. Plus, this challenge is meant to be hard, so that can be a massive downer! It would be easier to carry on how things were, day to day we do well, we have a lovely home, we can make payments, the debt is manageable etc. But I must remember my desire to want more from life, rather than things!

Step 2 is on its way!