Monthly Archives: January 2013

Does Shopping Around Pay?

In a word yes it does however there are other considerations to make. Heres my experience from this week. 

We really ran the cupboards and freezer down in December and January therefore we needed a Big food shop this week, this is why the cost is quite high for us. We have a membership (cost shared with family) at a wholesaler (Costco) and usually bulk buy meat, sugar, cheese (and any other special offers) there every few months as its seemed cheaper than the supermarket. So this month armed with a list based on meal planning for a whole month. I done the bulk of our shop at Aldi, Home Bargains, Iceland and the Costco. Usually I would use Asda or Morrisons and Costco. So its been an interesting experiment. 


In order to get a comparison I have used the My Supermarket website and entered the items I normally buy from Asda then compared this with the receipts from the shops I have used this month. This is by no means an exact experiment but it has given me an idea.

My items cost me £183.08 between Aldi, Iceland, Sainsburys, Home Bargains and Costco. The same items would have cost me £229.49 at Asda. Gives me an approximate saving of £46.49 over the month, that would be over £500 per year! This is great but there are some flaws and new decisions have been made. 

We have worked out that for us the Costco membership does not actually save us that much money over the year. Buying in bulk some months also skews my monthly food shopping budget and figure, one month it can make us overspend significantly and on others we will underspend due to not buying certain items we have previously bought in bulk. This is not great when I am trying to control the budget. 

Then theres the cost of getting there and the annual membership. So tonight I’ve sat and worked out the savings we make versus the cost and we actually only save around £3 per year. Whereas by doing my shop in Aldi, Sainsburys etc I am already in the area so the extra fuel cost is minimal. This is really surprising as the actual figures are not what we thought! 

So my conclusion is that shopping around really does pay off, for us to continue buying certain items in bulk is going to skew our budget too much so we will not continue to do this. 


I would be delighted to hear about anyone else’s experiences?


Pay Day Tasks

Pay day has arrived at last and therefore a “new” financial month for us, its funny how I look at payday differently now to how I did even 3 months ago! A few months ago we would have been out spending today so I really believe that our habits are starting to slowly change. 

Take just now, well a few weeks ago I would’ve been sat on the computer and probably have the TV on in the background. No TV tonight, I can’t watch TV and be on computer at the same time, guess that will save some electricity. We had roast chicken for dinner last night, I bought it a couple of weeks ago reduced and we froze it. It was delicious and we have made stock out of the remains so have very little waste. DH has now made a pot of soup for lunch tomorrow using this and some veggies and I have 2 loaves of bread “proving” ready to be baked later tonight or in the morning.  


As its pay day and the start of our new month there are a few tasks that Im wanting to start doing. Ive written them in my diary to ensure I get them done each month. So heres what I’ve done today.

*Phoned the mortgage company to discuss our options for overpaying and I have made an overpayment to the mortgage.

* Transferred the surplus balance from our bank account into our savings account 

* Withdrew some of our sons child benefit to be paid into his own savings account later this week

* Took Gas & Electricity Meter readings and submitted them online

* Withdrew our cash budget for the month and separated it into our envelopes for each week.

* Created the new page in my spreadsheet for tracking Februarys spending.

I also had to renew our car insurance, pleased that the cost of the policy has reduced but very unhappy that they have added a £20 administration fee when I opted to pay for the policy in full upfront.We have also now decided on our target no spend days for February, this is 14, today is number 1.

Tomorrows task is the big monthly food shop, I have done a meal plan for the month so this will be the basis of my next blog post! 


January Summary

No one’s ever achieved financial fitness with a January resolution that’s abandoned by February. Suze Orman



So here we are at the end of January, pay day tomorrow so how did the month go? 

Well its been 6 weeks since the last payday and a very long month. Tonight I have sat down and went through the expense spreadsheet and worked out the totals spent against the budget. Through careful financial preparation for Christmas and keeping a really close watch on what we’ve spent Im delighted to report that we have come in well within budget and actually have a cash surplus for the first time since I started keeping these records (August 2012). 

I thought I would share some of our numbers (bear in mind that the budget is higher than normal due to it being a longer month):

Food & Household – Budget £210 – Actual £136.09

Eating Out – Budget £60 – Actual £36.63

Petrol – Budget £120 – Actual £102

Misc – Budget £150 – Actual £222

Total Budget £555 – Actual Spend £512

The only area we overspent was miscellaneous and this was due to buying items we need for the baby arriving. So we have a surplus in the bank account of £42.00 plus £103 that we have had left over from our “weekly cash”. We also managed 21 no spend days in January. 

With the left over weekly cash we paid £85 into the bank account and the remainder is being split between pots we have in the house for “anything else” I use mine for treats like magazines or coffee with a friend, DH is saving for a camera lens and our sons is used for clothes and misc bits for him.  

Our “reward” for doing so well this month is a breakfast at Ikea on Wednesday and we are going to spend £30 of the surplus on some items we need from there. 

How has January been for everyone else? 



Edited as number of no spend days was 21 🙂

Preparing for the new arrival

While our son was out with his grandparents we decided to get all of the baby things out of the loft, seemed like a good idea at the time! Although I will admit that after a couple of hours I felt a bit overwhelmed and I could’ve quite happily put it all back! 

When we were expecting our son we decided to go out and buy the best we could for the big ticket items, pram/buggy/travel system, Crib / Cot, Car seat etc. Im now really glad we did as after a clean all of the big items look in good condition and we will not have to buy any replacements. Some of the toys didn’t come out as well but thats not too bad. 

All that we have had to buy for this baby other than some nappies (She will be in cloth nappies as soon as she is 12lbs in weight), wipes and formula is below:

* A buggy board for our son to ride “on”, I sourced one on a local selling site for £20, the cost of a new one is £60. 

* Feeding bottles, I found a set on sale in boots at half price, cost £14, original price £30

* New Mattresses for the crib and pram, the cost of buying from the manufacturers was £100, we managed to source them from an alternative manufacturer for £40.00. I then found a promotional code which saved us 10% therefore taking care of the delivery cost. 

* Some clothes which we have bought in sales. 

All of the savings we have made so far are great however I do have some guilt that this baby is not getting everything new like our son did. Although in the current financial climate maybe its just as well?…



Feeding the garden birds

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Dr Seuss, The Lorax





One of our hobbies is feeding the birds in our garden, we get a lot of enjoyment out of it and see it as vitally important to help them to survive. However a decent quality bird food, fat balls, meal worms and all the associated bits can cost a lot of money. So after a bit of research we decided at the end of last year to continue to buy the high quality “no mess” bird seed, the nyjer seed and occasional bag of meal worms. However we wanted to try to make our own fat balls / fat cakes. 

I usually make a batch once a fortnight in the winter time and its so easy! Heres how I do it:

*In a saucepan I melt either a half block of lard over a low heat

* Once melted I stir in approximately  1.5 Cups of Porridge Oats, 1.5 Cups Bird Seed and a handful of dried fruit or meal worms. The amounts should be varied depending on how fatty I want the mix. You can also add breadcrumbs and other household items to the mix, I have included a link to the RSPB for more info. 

* I spoon the mix into recycled yoghurt pots / containers and silicone cake cases which were bought for this purpose. Ive put some string through the yoghurt pots so we can hang them up in trees for the smaller birds. 


* I then leave to set in a cool place, once set I empty out the cake cases and store all the fat cakes / balls in a tub with a lid ready for use. 


I think that they look better and are probably healthier for the birds than some alternatives not to mention cheaper. I would estimate that it costs us around £1.50 to make 18 fat cakes. 

If you can please put some food and water out for the garden birds, they really are struggling just now.

The end of the month is in sight

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The quote is so true, we all get so used to having money after payday that we probably don’t actually think about making it last until we have very little left. 

Well we have 3 more days until pay day, its been a very long six weeks for us since we last got paid on 21st December. However we have made it to the end of the month with a little money to spare, if we can do this on a six week month then we have absolutely no reason not to be able to do it on a “normal” month. Really happy with our start to this year.

Ive been sat thinking about what we have done differently this month and there are several things.

First we did a main food shop after we had planned our meals for the month so we had the bulk of the ingredients we needed. The weekly top up shops have been mainly for fresh items so there haven’t been many expensive items to add here. Having the supermarket vouchers to use for the Christmas Food shop also left us with extra money to cover the extra 2 weeks in the month. 

Second. We have been really thinking about when we use the car and trying to combine journeys when possible. Therefore our fuel spend has actually been the same as it would on a normal 4 week month despite extra journeys visiting friends and family over the festive season and it being a longer month. 

Third. We have tried to focus on no spend days, we set a target and really wanted to do our best to reach it. The focus has been on doing things at home, going out for plenty of walks and using items we already have. 

Fourth, by paying our left over money back into the bank its had a strange effect of making us not want to withdraw it before payday! 

We have spent money over the last month that we could have saved however we do believe that we still have to enjoy life and are allowed a “treat” occasionally. Next month we have to buy some larger items in preparation for the new baby arriving, up until now Ive been loolking out for items on “offer” and buying something each month. Hopefully this will help spread the cost of the new arrival. Tomorrows post will be a little more about how we are preparing for our daughters arrival. 


No spend day 19 today 🙂

Busy Day

Truly wonderful the mind of a child is. – YODA, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Very busy day here today, our son had his first day at playgroup today. It was a big ordeal for me and I will confess to feeling very emotional when writing his name on his bag and clothes last night. I was worried about how he would manage without us, would he have enough to eat & drink and I felt guilty for sending him. Well we got there at 9.30am and within 10 minutes DH and I had left and he apparently didn’t look back! He seemed to really enjoy himself and only had a few wee moans. Playgroup is not a money saving exercise for us, its actually the opposite but its something that we are more than happy to pay for 🙂 

After this we had a trip into town to visit my gran and to collect an order from John Lewis. I knew we would be in Edinburgh so rather than pay for delivery we collected the order from the store. This saving “paid” for our bacon rolls and tea this morning 🙂 I normally would not give up an opportunity for a wander round but today I just didn’t want to, I think the spending /shopping part of my brain is in hibernation! I hope it comes out soon as I have to make some necessary purchases in preparation for our daughters arrival in early March. 

Tonight I have sat and done our meal plan for the whole of February, my next task is to start to write my shopping list for the “big shop” to be done next week. This will be a large shop as I bulk buy my meat every couple of months and then freeze it. By sticking to the meal plan we will have all of the main ingredients and this should help to reduce the number of “last minute” lunches or dinners we buy.  

Forgot to update yesterday about how the last weeks budget went. We had a (very) small surplus of £8.00, this was because we went out and bought extra fruit, veg and milk in preparation for the bad weather we were expecting and DH is home so we are eating more. However it was still a surplus and over the last 5 weeks our surplus now totals £95.00. Thats £95.00 paid back into our savings account and more than we have paid back in a long time! 

The Budget 4 – The Car

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Having a car is essential to many people however given the increased running costs they are perhaps becoming more of a “luxury”.

We were a 2 car household until September last year when we sold our second car, it wasn’t being used enough to justify the cost of keeping it on the road. We weren’t making a monthly payment so didn’t see a huge financial difference immediatly, however we would have had to have it MOT’d and Serviced in December and insure it in February so the difference is now becoming apparent. Image

 Our main car will be 6 years old this year, has a relatively low mileage and is paid for. We plan to keep this car until both children are out of car seats and buggies, perhaps longer if it continues to run well. The costs we have relating to the car are Road Tax, Insurance, Petrol, MOT, Breakdown Cover, Servicing and any repairs.

In previous years we have just taken all of this money out of our savings. We realised that we can’t just do this without replacing that money so we sat down last year and worked out how much the car cost to run and how we are going to budget. I’ve shared my ideas and budget below.  

Road Tax – This is around £170 for 12 months. I have a Post Office “Budget Card” which I pay £15 per month to, £15 x 12 months = £180.00.  You can add as little as £5 per time over the counter at the Post Office, the only downside is you can’t pay for your Road Tax online with this, you have to go to a Post Office but this isn’t an issue for me. We used the card last year and it really helped.

Breakdown Cover – I shopped around on the internet, found a good package that cost £90 however I will receive cashback of £40. So this is working out at £30 cheaper than last years.

Insurance – Again shopping around with price comparison websites has proved useful, the car was insured in my name last year but will now be insured in my husbands name with me as a “Named Driver”. Shopping around and this change has reduced our policy from £362.00 to £205.00. I did note that the standard excess has been increased on most policies and am unhappy about this but theres nothing I can do. 

MOT, Service and Repairs – I have kept a note of what we spent last year and have an online savings account called “Car” which I pay money into each month. Basically last years amount divided by 12, works out around £35 per month / £420 per year. This isn’t exact by any means and if we have a major issue then we will have to use other savings but this way we have set aside the majority of the money we need for the “known” costs and is hopefully an improvement on previous years. 

Petrol – We set ourselves a challenge to reduce our petrol bill to 2 full tanks a month or £120.00, I don’t work so the car is not used for commuting. We have met this challenge for several months and plan to keep to the same budget. We think carefully about the journeys we make and whether we can combine several activites into one or two journeys. We drive more economically by keeping a check on the tyre pressures and not carrying any unneccessary items. Shopping around for petrol can also save a few pounds over a full tank of fuel. 

Hopefully this planning will work out for us and I hope there are some ideas my readers can use. 

No spend day 18 today. Delighted with this 🙂

Pennywise Weekend

Fairly quiet weekend in our house, its been absolutley freezing outside but we enjoyed a walk out on Saturday morning to get some milk and post some letters. Our son was wrapped up in his padded waterproof trousers and jacket, sat in his trike being pushed by DH and thoroughly enjoyed it! 

We decided to bake some cakes on Saturday afternoon, I had bought a cake making kit from Home Bargains for 99p and we just let our wee boy loose on the decorating and mixing – lots of fun! 

Heres the kit…


Here are the results! 


So lots of fun to be had costing 99p and some time 🙂 

Today was another fairly quiet day, the extractor fan in our kitchen had broken but DH and his dad managed to fix it, really happy as it cost me nothing except some lunch, a cup of tea and some biscuits! 

I also made custard creams for the first time, they turned out ok and are really yummy! 


Tomorrow Ill be writing about how we are trying to cut the cost of running the car, my car insurance renewal arrived yesterday so thats pretty apt. 


No spend day number 17 today 🙂

No Spend Days Update

I’ve realised today that I’ve counted up my no spend days wrong! I’ve only counted the days so far in Jan when it should be from Decembers pay day to January’s pay day – oops. So we had 6 in December and are on 10 in January so 16 so far! That means we have met our target and may even exceed it 🙂