trEAsury ~ a review of 2018’s spending

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

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, not everything was a win –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back soon x

 

 

 

 

 

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trEAsury…nectar points shopping haul

I had just over 20,000 nectar points to exchange which gave me £100 to double up to £200 to spend in the Sainsburys Double Up event which started today.  We decided to go down to the supermarket this morning so that there would still be plenty of choice before the shelves started emptying as the event progresses.

We usually take advantage of the wines that are included in the double up offer – which is only on their own Taste the Difference wine but this is fine for parties and gatherings (we are no great wine buffs) and what isn’t used at Christmas and New Year will keep for Burns Night in January.

Nectar Points double up

For our £200 worth of vouchers we bought 9 assorted bottles of red, rose and white wine £66, 2 luxury bath sheets (I bought two a while ago on offer and they are really soft and wash well) £22 each, a pack of colour printer inks £35 and one black one £17, a box of indoor/outdoor Christmas lights for the tree £15, a rope storage tub £10, a Santa mug £3.75 and a small wooden tray £10.  The total of the purchases ran over by 75p but I was happy to pay the 75p for all this.  Being able to double up the value of your points in effect makes every item half price.

Although I can justify buying most of the items and some of them like the wine, towels, Christmas tree lights and printer inks are a bargain on the double up; the last three items you may have spotted are not really needs but ‘nice to haves’  – I do have a use for each of them but I may even decide to return them yet or give them as gifts if I feel I have been too indulgent and bought things that are simply going to add to the clutter again.

It is on items like this that I often get stuck, they are not necessities, more decorative and there are so many lovely things out there to buy – but none of it is really needed.  I will give myself a cooling off period and see how I feel about them in a few days time.

Later in the day I collected a parcel from Boots as I had ordered some hair styling foam that I use and bought two whilst on a half price offer and we had the paint mixed for the shed and front door – DH got quite a good discount as he opened a cash account at the Crown Decorator Centre a while back.  The shed is coming tomorrow – yeah!

On Thursday we may be having an official visit from a gentleman from the National Statistics Office who is conducting a survey on behalf of the government and we have been bribed with given a £5 voucher already for taking part!  This should be quite interesting as I never consider ourselves a normal or average family in today’s world.

have a good day x

 

 

 

 

 

dEAr diary…just catching up with myself

Hi everyone and to my new followers – it has been a few days since my last post and a busy few days – I have been on a bit of a roll and not had time to stop and blog or have been too tired to write anything meaningful.  I have been keeping up with you all though even if I haven’t left a comment – Sadie, I love your videos – you are so creative.

Before I go on I must just mention that a few people keep asking me about the capital ‘EA’ in my titles and categories – well I hate to disappoint – there is no profound reason for this – it has no meaning other than I noticed when defining my categories at the very start of my blog that they all contained the letters EA – so nothing more than me having a play around on words.  The added advantage is that it does make it unmistakably my blog.

So with that out of the way on with the knit and natter – but without the knitting bit….

Well, I wish I could say that the house is sparkling clean, all the clutter has gone and I am super organised when in fact only parts of the house are clean (maybe not with the sparkle) some of the clutter has gone and I am still trying to be organised.

It all takes time.

On Saturday we had a mammoth outing, a mixture of errands and shopping.  It took us most of the day.  We off-loaded a couple more bags to the Charity shop, returned the library books, returned a couple of tops to Sainsbury’s,  bought some bags of gravel to finish the concrete for the shed base, bought the new brackets to hold the ladder outside on the wall, bought a mattress topper from IKEA and bought a cheap sweatshirt from Primark for DH (probably to mix the concrete in!).  At the end of it all we shared a toastie in Costa with my loyalty points, had a hot drink each and a little treat from Next – I bought a (just couldn’t leave it in the shop) grey and white patterned storage jar for my teabags to keep on the counter top, £6 and DH found a mechanical pencil reduced in the sale in the Paperchase concession shop for £4.

We managed to do all this without paying for any parking and came home happy, but tired bunnies.

Further progress has been made in the home office / craft room well that is what we call it but it is actually masquerading as a paper mountain – or is it a paper mountain masquerading as a home office?  How can two fairly simple lives collect such a lot of paper – I feel we are drowning in the stuff.  This is just a bit of it.Piece by piece I have tackled pile after pile.  I have reduced my craft folder clippings to only those ideas I know I might make at sometime, the recipes ditto.  I threw out all but a few of my clippings on health, diet and exercise; ditto the clippings of kitchens, decorating ideas and home styling.  And some more books to go.     I washed the rest of the vintage doilies and mats that came from my mum’s house – keeping any I thought I might use in some way in future and the rest will go to the CS.

I have made soup, soup and more soup – mushroom, leek and potato, green veg and the latest was tomato – all delicious and so quick and easy to make.  My lovely neighbour gave me these – the last of her tomatoes from her outdoor plants so I will be making more of this during the week and looking to grow some myself next year.

I did a thorough clean of the living room and cleared out or rearranged a few ornaments …– my one piece of Autumn decor is a tiny pine cone on the mantel piece, my new hand-made ‘crafty’ vase from Dunoon containing a dried hydrangea head and a bamboo plate displaying a few Autumn nature table finds – subtle but simple.

I am rather liking the minimalist approach and I won’t have to store any of it in fact it will compost very well.

Remember my new routines that I am setting up – they are not going too badly.  In fact I surprise myself sometimes.  So far I have attended to my emails and finances every morning – we should make it to pay-day on Friday (if that is what you call collecting the state pension) although we don’t actually have to queue up and collect it, it is just deposited in our bank.  Nothing to spare though this month which is a bit disappointing;  C+ for effort but must try harder next month.

The food shopping is working out at about £50 week with one week a little more when I bought toilet rolls and some multiples of items on offer and a load of nuts for the Christmas nut loaves, chocolates and cake.  I had a full refund on the M&S potatoes as there were so many bad ones in the bag I took them back.  I am going to aim for £45 a week for the groceries next month.

The unexpected items this month  –  the gravel and cement for the gap above (how six bags of gravel can fit into such a small space is amazing), ladder brackets, car bulbs and the mattress topper (which is actually for my daughter’s bed not ours so I can get a good nights sleep when we stay there!).  Baby still not appeared and we live in hope it will come soon.

I am already thinking about the November expenses – 4 birthdays and a wedding anniversary – no funerals (that I know of) – but there could be a 5th birthday of course if someone doesn’t get a move on.

Oh and did I mention the cheque for the tax refund came yesterday – how is that for service – quicker than my posts that’s for sure.  DH has a nice letter too from the tax man –  after my phone call last week to the inland revenue he has been given part of my tax allowance for the year under the new married tax allowance rules to reduce his tax bill –  such is love!

Not much more to say – it has been windy here in Yorkshire but good for drying the washing.

Have a good week who knows I might find time between paper sorting to post again soon x

 

 

 

fEAsible…plans for October

October

October –  the beginning of the fourth and final quarter of the year.  So much colour and texture about this month and I had great fun foraging about in the hedgerows collecting foliage.

For me it is a bit of the lull before the storm, the storm being the ‘frenzy’ that sets in around November with the countdown to Christmas.  I want to make the most of this month to prepare for the ‘frenzy’ or at least try to keep the frenzy at bay by putting plans in place early.

Like most people now I am drawing the blinds and curtains early against the darker evenings and struggling with the darker mornings but at least I can look forward to some cosy evenings watching one or two of the new Autumn dramas on TV and a black and white film or two on the Talking Pictures channel.

As the garden will be demanding less and less of my attention once the tidying up is done I am going to use my time indoors to carry on with the major decluttering and creating a better run, more spacious household.

I will be pulling out a few new seasonal recipes to try, and hopefully finding lots of inspiration and ideas to fill both my sketchbook and Christmas notebook, and planning, planning, planning.

It is only 31 days so I will have to work fast on my intentions for this month as there is so much I would like to do. This is the list:-

appEArance

I have been so busy during the summer I feel I have neglected myself . So I have booked a reflexology session and back massage with a voucher I have been given,  a hair appointment and I will treat myself to a DIY home facial, pedicure and manicure

Put the finishing touches to my new streamlined winter wardrobe.

crEAting

Now I am no longer working I want to use some of my new-found time filling my sketchbook with ideas and drawings and creating a lino cut for my Christmas card as well as making my Christmas gifts

mEAandering

The Artists book fair in Manchester is back at a new venue – a brilliant event.

I also intend getting out and about locally exploring nearby places closer to home

fEAsting

Meal planning using seasonal vegetables and trying some new supper recipes.  Baking with the last of our home grown apples and buying the ingredients for my Christmas cake in readiness for next month

homestEAd

completing the house exterior, putting new shed in place and planting bulbs

rEAarranging and nEAtening

decluttering the kitchen – the final touches

recycle, reuse, reduce, recover, repair

trEAsury

Dealing with the limited cash flow, maintaining plenty of no spend days and finding free events and outings

managEAble

Starting a new notebook specifically for my Xmas plans and ideas

(thanks to Slamseys Journal for the idea of using the foliage I had collected for my October picture).

 

 

 

 

 

fEAsible…September review

Well September seemed a short month I cannot believe it is over so quickly.  I set my intentions at the beginning of the month – (I find it helps to make a list of what I would like to do in the coming month) – not everything gets done and I don’t always do what I intended – the review helps me to realise that I did actually do something!

sEAsons

As summer moved briskly into autumn it was time to switch over my clothes.  I carefully laundered and packed away the lightweight garments for next year discarding anything that was very worn or in some cases hardly worn at all because they were those inevitable mistake purchases.

I completely emptied and cleaned out the wardrobe and drawers to reorganise the space.   A lot of old favourites put back out on the rail and a few more items relegated to the charity bag – the mistakes from last year!

The finished result is so much better – filled with nice warm snuggly clothes to see me through the winter season – a much simplified collection with space to breathe.  One or two items are still held in that state of temporary pondering whether they stay or go.

homestEAd

Do you have projects  that just seem to rumble on and on  – dealing with the exterior of our house has been one of them and it has taken up most of this year but at last I think we are looking at being watertight this winter.  The rendering of the top half of our house was quite a major job and although the men worked hard and have done a good job there was such a lot of tidying up to do, much more than we anticipated.  The pebble gravel round the house needs taking up, cleaning and putting back down again to get rid of the bits of render that fell into it despite the protective sheet the contractor put down.

Before our trip to Scotland DH was busy washing down the remaining brickwork beneath to remove the tiny splashes of render and re-staining all the windows.  Then he put back the burglar alarm and outside light.  The shed is on order at last, as space is a bit restricted we cannot have one more than 4 feet wide but we have ordered one that is an extra foot long – seven feet instead of the usual six.  It is only an extra foot but sometimes that can make all the difference.

Once the gravel is cleaned the shed should be ready for delivery and by then the compost bins will be back in place (I have so much missed using my compost bins).  All that is left on the exterior list then is to get a new front door and garage door and hire a contractor to redo the driveway.

Then the outside of our house will have had a complete makeover.

mEAndering

I could have spent the whole of September meandering – so many events to choose from and by chance we happened to be in Scotland for the Wigtown Book Fair (post about this to come) some very creative artists on show at the fringe events and an exhibition of miniature books.

Over the Heritage weekend we visited the little chapel in Matlock Dale (you can read about it here) – one of the best days, we really enjoyed it and especially finding the surprise tea room in the woods afterwards.

nEAtening

I love a good declutter, the planning, the cleaning, the clearing and creating more space so I started this job in the kitchen with a burst of enthusiasm.  I have been reordering and moving around, trying to simplify the cupboards so everything is within easy reach and flows better.  I often find that once you start the clearing process and letting things go it is easier to let more go.

I have been using up a lot of the food from the clear out and my food cupboards will soon look like Mother Hubbards.  I don’t plan to restock with any ‘just in case’ food as it was obvious we weren’t using it, maybe keep a tin of beans and a tin of fruit in case of emergencies other than that it will be the usual pantry goods to make a meal or drink; dried pasta, flour, sugar, cereal, coffee and teabags and jars of jam,  sauce, chutney and oil for dressing and cooking etc.

crEAting

In terms of crafting I have ideas but not produced anything substantial yet.  I plan to earmark a day a week to do nothing else and build on that. Autumn is a great time for inspiration and I have collected a few nature bits to sketch and maybe use these to turn into a lino cut.

fEAsting

Sadly my home-grown courgettes are just about finished – completely organic – we really enjoyed them.  This year I grew them from seed rather than buying plants – I had forgotten just how easy they are.

As the weather has become colder we are definitely on warmer meals.  I have been introducing a few more adventurous hot sandwich lunches and also made a start on reducing my recipe clippings – even thrown away a number from my folders that I know I won’t make or I have duplicates of.

rEAding

Plenty of bedtime reading this month.  Mainly on the theme of living simply and discarding.  I particularly love the little book called A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind – it is pure domestic simplicity. Another interesting book which I have had for years is Swimming with Piranha makes you Hungry by Colin Turner – a strange title maybe but full of valuable advice on simplifying. It is good to have a re-read of a book from time to time.

trEAsury

I had the intention during September that I would set out a new budget for our new circumstances.  The budget did not materialise even though it was a high priority on my list – some how I managed to ignore it as sorting out the house inside and out seemed to take over and I just never found the time.  But as you know I have plans for getting down to this and already I am implementing the daily task of recording our finances in the hope that little and often will stop it mounting up.

bEAching

The recent trip to Scotland to our cottage (caravan) was such a rejuvenating time.

We spent time on the beach…time in the garden…

and time out and about in Dunoon, Portpatrick and Wigtown and loved every minute.

In all September was a success for me – perhaps not doing exactly what I had planned and never doing enough, but I look back on the month with a feeling of satisfaction.

I am now working on my October intentions.

Back soon x

trEAsury…simplifying money matters

As autumn is underway now and my world of paid work is but a distant memory I still feel I haven’t settled into any worthwhile routines or daily rhythms.  I suppose they take time to shape and develop, so I am going to give them a bit of a nudge and create some that are a bit more in step with my life now and reflect the simplified life I want to achieve.

You may have noticed over the years that I am hopeless at routines – evidenced by my erratic posts – I plan to do things then get absorbed in something else.

I did have a really good ‘getting to work’ routine – well I did have 19 years of practice – but I don’t need that now (the work routine not the practice of course).  In fact I could be tempted to sneak back to bed in the mornings – but I don’t.   Honest.

Since stopping work I find my mornings are spent doing a bit of this and that, checking emails, reading blog posts, tidying, ironing – but nothing consistent or that could be considered a routine.  I tend to agree with the idea that a good morning routine is the foundation of any successful day as well as starting early – unfortunately, I am no morning person either – so that will be challenging too.

One of the daily routines I am going to tag onto my morning routine, such as it is, will be a daily financial check so that I can keep a close eye on our spending.  As the effects of being on a limited income are now being felt I can vouch for the fact that a single *state pension alone does not go very far and the monthly bills soon eat their way into the bulk of it.  I need to take action so we don’t overspend and start drawing on our retirement fund.  I don’t intend to dip into that unless it is absolutely vital.

I read somewhere that you should take time each day to actively manage your wealth and set aside a further 30 minutes to an hour every week to review your budget and handle the associated paperwork mountain – statements, bills, insurance and utilities.  Now I have the time each day I plan to adopt this daily and weekly routine to help me to keep on track and highlight any areas I think we may be overspending.

I am also determined to simplify the process, it seems to take far too long and perhaps one of the reasons why I often put off doing it or just can’t find the time to sit down and do it.  And so it all builds up and then takes a long time to sort out.  I think little and often would be much better – it is worth a try – so during October this will be one of my main goals.

So, starting today, and first thing every morning I will get into the habit of overviewing my finances for ten minutes, noting the amount of cash at the start of the day and recording the previous day’s receipts and spending.  Each week I will then balance statements, pay bills and check the bank balances.

Well that is the plan and by starting small I might even succeed.  I must admit I quite like a financial challenge – in my teen years I was always good at managing my pocket-money and setting aside enough each week to buy all my relatives a present for Christmas – usually from the Co-op in the village where each year they had a wonderful display of bath salts and embroidered hankies – you know the kind of thing.

I must admit the stack of paperwork on my desk at home waiting for my return is a bit daunting almost as high as my ironing pile was a few weeks ago. I have been very inattentive to our finances since leaving work other than keeping in mind that I shouldn’t be spending as much as I was…on anything.  I should have set up a new budget by now more in keeping with our new income but confess I just haven’t got round to it.

After banging on the calculator for a few hours, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying the *state pension I decided is not going to go very far (no overtime available and not much chance of a pay rise!), and annoyingly paid every 4 weeks on a different day each month, so my conclusion is we need to conserve money where we can and be vigilant at recording and monitoring our spending and challenge ourselves to plenty of ‘no spend days’.

Today just happens to have been one of them.  We survived.

*I still can’t quite believe I am talking about a living on a pension (where did all those years go before this point).