Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Budgeting in the Fens

Frugal Queen asked us yesterday to share our budgeting tips, so I thought you might be interested in how we make it through the month.  We are different from FQ in that our income comes in from different sources as we move through the month.  Some comes in monthly and others come in four weekly like the FH's Old age pension.  My income from selling chooks and coaching gymnastics comes in even more sporadically, according to when the poultry sales happen and when I invoice for the gym.  It is all a bit less convenient than one payment coming in at the end of each month.

My lovely chooks enjoying the sunshine one year.  

At the end of each month, I round things up and look at where we are and how much we have saved or spent, and look at our net worth.  Each Monday, I look at all the accounts and see how things are progressing for the month, and that helps to keep us on track.  Every time I spend anything, I write it down on sheets in my household management folder.  There is a sheet for each month filed behind the calendar sheet for the month, and it is divided up into various categories - Fuel, Food, Gardening, cleaning, Toiletries, Household items, Stationery&Ink, Clothes, Activities.......and "Other"!  I track our spending in each category over each month, and try to keep to a budget figure for each category.

All our Direct Debits come out of one bank account, with the exception of one mobile phone payment which is made on a credit card.  I know when the DDs are coming out, and by the time they come out, I have received notification of how much they will be if they are variable ones, like the BT one - this varies according to the calls we make, but it is between £21 and £23 a month.

I sat down this morning and mapped out the spending for the next two weeks.  We have a positive balance in the current account, and I can plan out all the DDs that are coming out before we get any more income.  I also know what other payments I need to make, like the YFG's piano lessons, for which I know I will withdraw the cash each week.  It wasn't a surprise this morning when I worked out that we have £34.65 spare to last through to the 10th May.  That is for everything we might want to buy - food, fuel, toiletries, anything!

However, that is after I have paid the savings account at the end of April, and I have taken all the bills/DDs/commitments into consideration for the next two weeks.  I have also been shopping at the end of last week and the store cupboards and freezers are well stocked.  I filled up my car with diesel on Saturday afternoon too.  There should be little that we actually NEED over the next two weeks, apart from perhaps some fresh fruit and veg.  Half of £34 is £17 and I am sure that I won't spend all of that this week on fruit and veg.

Each week, I will do this exercise again, and consider the income and expenditure for the week, how much I am going to put into savings, and what bills need to be paid that week.  Then I know to the penny what I have left over for other spending.

The FH has put a spanner in the works slightly in that he needs a tooth extracting and the only appointment he could get is next Wednesday - an extraction is going to cost in the region of £60, so I will be temporarily borrowing that from the Travel Fund [for the EFG's season ticket for school], and paying it back on the 10th May.  I am lucky that we are a position to do that and that we are not really living from one payment to the next.

Growing our own veg in the spring and summer certainly helps the budget.

So why do I do this?  Because the tighter the rein on the money, the more we can save.  The harder I work at this, the harder I can make the money work, too.  I can buy things in bulk and make savings which I would not achieve by leaving the money sitting in the bank.  I am reducing our discretionary spending and we are all spending less on "wants" and thinking more responsibly about "needs" too.

Stashing away the yellow-stickered items in the freezer is a boost to the budget. 

Keeping a good store-cupboard helps me to avoid those expensive trips to the shops for just one item...and it is too far to keep going to town for one or two things!

But life is also about Fun and Enjoyment, and we have some of that too!  We use income I earn from YouGov towards days out through our Sealed Pot, which will soon get a £50 boost when I have done £2's worth of more surveys, and the Shop&Scan rewards are being shared with the girls so that they can choose a treat from Amazon occasionally.  We also use Nectar points and Clubcard rewards to enjoy trips to the cinema and to treat ourselves in Sainsbury's to a few extra bits and pieces at Christmas.

Avoiding convenience foods and cooking from scratch really helps us to keep food costs under control.

Budgeting is a key part of our frugality, but being frugal isn't about being mean.  It is about being careful with our resources and making every penny count!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Savings report - end of April

Having studied T S Eliot for A level, I have to say that I didn't find April to be the "cruellest month" this year. We have had our ups and downs with the FH being re-admitted to hospital, but overall, it hasn't been too bad.  The best thing is that the FH came out of hospital a lot fitter this time, and he has continued with his improvement.

(image from vanquis.co.uk)

Shame that I can't be as positive about the savings!  I didn't hit the target for the month, by about £35, although in the grand scheme of things, I don't think that is much to complain about.  Achieving £715 this month, in addition to the previous three months' achievements, puts us at a monthly average for the first four months of 2013 of £734, which is nothing to be ashamed of!  I also had an interest payment on my ISA this month, so our overall net worth is increasing nicely.

The target for May will remain the same, and there are some bills coming in which will mean that it will continue to be a challenge to do this.  We have the Fiesta to tax and MOT this month, and the National Trust membership is also due (single parent with children membership as the FH is not interested in old houses, he says!).  This last year I have considered my membership as a donation to the national heritage as I have not been able to visit a single NT property, which has saddened me somewhat - so we must go somewhere this year, even if it is just to one of our old favourites:

Oxburgh (top) and Wimpole Halls - both relatively local to us, and favourite days out!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Things are growing at last

The seeds which were planted a couple of weeks ago are really coming through now, and the plants are looking quite healthy.

 These are three tubs of dwarf beans, of a variety called Ferrari - no doubt because they are quick off the mark!

Six little pepper plants, three red and three green.  These are the ones I bought, as the seeds haven't burst through yet from the seeds I sowed.  I think that they will be some way behind...

Runner beans here, growing in loo roll tubes.  The variety is called Polestar, and I am growing them again because they produced such a bountiful harvest last year and I was thrilled with them.

The rhubarb crown in the pot by the rabbit hutch has grown again this year, although I am told that the rhubarb can't be cut for eating this year.  It's too young a plant.

And the mint.  The FH was given a piece of a mint plant last year.  He planted it in a bucket to contain the roots, and it didn't look anything all winter, so he is pleased as punch that it is looking so healthy this springtime, and it seems to grow by the day!

The FH came to church this morning for the first time since January and the folk were very kind and pleased to see him after so long.  He enjoyed seeing them, and catching up on some of their news.  Our steward was ill today, so we had to pitch in and help with some tasks, but all went well.  

I've had a good day in the garden, pricked out some lettuce seedlings and potted up those pepper plants.  All the seeds and seedlings have been watered and I was very happy to see that the peas and beans which UJ sowed directly into the ground are just peeking through the soil now.  I just hope the local pigeons don't spot them...This afternoon, I have also inventoried my storecupboard although I wilted at the thought of doing the freezers as well.

We have just eaten, and now I am going to watch some of Countryfile whilst I do the school ironing.  I hope you have had a peaceful and restful weekend.  Thanks for visiting x

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Thoughts on shopping

Having decided that the T-Challenge is going to happen in May, I went there on Thursday after the YFG's piano lesson with the intention of picking up the fruit and veg we needed to keep us going over the weekend, and using up a couple of vouchers I had before May.

I am sitting here with the receipt on my lap, and I thought I would share some of our shopping strategies, which I am sure that many of you already use, but might be useful for one or two people, I hope.

We shop for two reasons - the first is for fresh items: fruit and veg, cheese, probiotic drinks for the FH, and some cold meats.  The second is to re-stock the pantry and the freezer with items that are on sale, or at a very good price which I think may not last!

Let's introduce some codes here or I am going to be typing out the same thing again and again:

TV = Tesco Value, T = Tesco Own Brand

We bought:

T Honey-Nut cornflakes (to restock - cheaper than the branded, and the best value size was purchased by comparing the cost per 100g on the shelf labels)
Almond Slices by that famous Baker, Mr K - there were four packets of these at less than half price because that day was their "best before" date - but we know that they are still perfectly edible.  I bought these to take to the Craft Club at the chapel because I hadn't had time to make any cakes.
Wholebake Bar - these are the ones I am going to buy in bulk from the manufacturer in future.
Bagels - a branded pack at less that half the RRP because they were also going to pass the use-by.  For the EFG.
T Meat - mince, chicken livers, gammon - all at good prices and bought because we have run out in the freezer.  I bought two packs of chicken livers because they are cheap at 99p a pack and the shops in this area rarely seem to stock them.  See them, buy them here!
White sliced loaf - T a reduced white loaf for the YFG's sandwiches.  My breadmakers are both to pot and so at the moment I buy up whatever sliced loaves I find on the reduced stands, and hardly ever buy it full price.
TV Punched pockets 50 - for the EFG's coursework - 50 pockets for 55p. Can't complain.
Various fruit/veg items - apples, bananas, grapes, broccoli 
T Cold meats - all the cold meats are bought on the offers where two packets purchased together make each individual packet cheaper.  The girls enjoy sandwiches and bagels for school each day so two packs are easily used up in a week.
 T Lever arch files - I found three very fancy lever arch files in a clearance bin for £1 each.  I know that they had been over £3 each when they came in to the store and I had liked them!  We use a lot of folders and files here for school and coursework, so they are now stashed away ready for use when one of us needs an extra file.  They may also get used as gifts as they are so nice.
Shampoo - the EFG has a taste for expensive shampoo and she found one of her favourite brands on offer at £3.79 a bottle or £4 for two bottles.  Still more than I want to pay for shampoo so she makes a contribution, but we buy the shampoo!
TV Corned beef - prices for this have varied so much lately and branded CB is over £2 a tin, and TV was £1.80odd until recently.  Since it has dropped to £1.54 a tin, I buy a tin or two each time I shop and now have quite a few in the store cupboard.  This is a good protein, easily stored with a long shelf life and there is a lot that can be done to make varied meals once the tin is opened so it is no ill store, as Mum would have said!
Ketchup - the branded stuff, I'm afraid!  Again, this is often on offer, so I bought two £2.19 packs for £3 and into the stores it went.
TV Pasta sauce - the family like this on pasta (!) for a quick and easy meal, sometimes with some veg and some cheese, sometimes just on its own, or with some tuna added.  Based on the recent experiences with the other TV sauces going up to 79p, I am buying this whilst it is available at 39p because I know it will get eaten and they like it.  I have got 6 jars now, so will probably stop.
T Polo shirts - the YFG is now in summer uniform and needed a couple of new polo shirts for school so we found some in the shop, cheap at £2.50 each and well enough made to last a growing teenager until she grows out of them!

The benefit of this kind of shopping is that I stock up on sales and opportunities so that I can keep my store cupboards full and my freezers well stocked. Then my meal planning happens based on what I have found on good deals and stashed away, and not on what I am tempted by in the shops.  It certainly helps with our budget, but I know that other people do it differently - each to their own as long as we try to keep out of debt, eh?!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Lots of good news today

The day has been a busy one, starting off in school, where a group of us observed and interviewed three candidates for a teaching position at the school.  Some of the teaching was inspiring, some less so.  We have successfully chosen our candidate and I am confident in this appointment that we have chosen the right one for the job.  The candidate was a bag of nerves, but it was clear to see the passion and enthusiasm shining through the nerves.  

(image from hrsonline.org)

I popped home for about an hour, and there was a letter from Papworth inviting us to ring and make a date for the cardioversion procedure for the FH, which I duly did.  The date set is the 10th June, but the warfarin levels have to be within the required zone for four weeks before the procedure, so now the levels have to be tested weekly.  They were tested yesterday and the nurse made an appointment for a fortnight, so now I have to try to make contact to get one for next week as well.

The procedure will take place in the morning and he should be allowed home in the afternoon.  The FH has to be on the day ward by 8am so I anticipate another night at UJ's house, and then I can spend the day there whilst the FH is in hospital.  I am looking forward to a day there already....And I will be very pleased for the FH to get the job done, and fingers crossed that it works.

Tonight, the YFG had her piano lesson, and then we went to that shop beginning with a T.  When we arrived, we sat in the car for a minute and I explained to the girls that we were going to have a month "off" from this shop in May, to see that it could be done and how we got on with the job.  They seriously doubt my ability to stay away, which just makes me more determined to achieve the goal.  

A senior member of staff called me from the girls' school to speak to me in response to my email about the uniform - shame my phone was turned off because I was in the interviews!  I did return the call but then he was in a meeting, so I hope to speak with him tomorrow - I shall let you know the outcome.  At least I am getting a response.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

That was the day that was

And I am just checking in to read your blogs and say Goodnight!  

I'm worn out, so I'm not blogging today - I hope to be more inspired and energetic tomorrow xx

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Books and Budgets

An interesting day today - I've had a good variety of things to do!  

Started off with the chooks

and a little bit of digging in one of the veg beds, ready for where the courgettes are planned to go

and hung some washing on the line

just before I watered the huge tubs where the fruit trees grow - it has been dry lately and I thought they could do with a good drenching!

And that was the end of the sunshine for me!

I spent a couple of hours in school cataloguing books for a new reading scheme, then had a Budget setting meeting.  I dashed home for a snack and then went to the gym club for the evening's training.  The FH had cooked the tea I had prepared earlier [he's definitely getting better!] so I was able to sit down to tea as soon as I walked in the door.  We have watched some tv and chatted with the girls, who have told us about their days at school, and now I am heading towards the bath.  Hope you have had a good day, and some good weather wherever you are.