Monthly Archives: February 2013

Energy Bills…How much is too much?

You can’t really escape the news today about profits being made by energy companies….is it ethical that they can make that much profit yet so many of their customers are struggling to pay their bills? Funnily enough we got our quarterly bill today!

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We are not with one of the “Big” suppliers and are happy that we get a fair deal from our current supplier.  We have made a real effort over the last 12 months to reduce our bills and energy use. We submit a meter reading each month, switch lights off if theres no one in the room, don’t leave appliances on standby, the heating is on a timer and the room thermostat is set at 16-18 degrees. We pay £42.50 per month for Gas and the same for Electric, this was actually reduced from £54 per month for each the previous year. We have also reduced our overall energy consumption by over 500 units and still have a warm, dry house 🙂

We got our quarterly bill in today and were a bit shocked at the usage and bill, its come in at £329.00 leaving us with a debit balance of £100. The usage for January seems high so all we can do is keep an eye on this. DH is sure that the thermostat is faulty so thats getting replaced and we will keep submitting our meter readings on a monthly basis. The payment will remain the same for now at least 🙂

 

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February Summary…A Mixed Month

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

Well its been 5 weeks since the last payday and another long month. Tonight I have sat down and went through the expense spreadsheet and worked out the totals spent against the budget.  

The results are not great this month, there are several reasons:

  • Bulk buying meat and other items at Costco means that the figure for our food shop is way over budget. However this should decrease the food spend in the next months. We no longer have a Costco membership so this should help the budget be more accurate in future. 
  • We have actually reduced the budget in some areas such as eating out and misc, I guess that it will take a couple of months to “adjust”
  • Other items to buy for the baby and contact lens solution for DH have pushed the misc spend up

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Here are our “numbers”

Food & Household – Budget £180 – Actual £240

Eating Out – Budget £40 – Actual £43.70

Petrol – Budget £120 – Actual £113

Misc – Budget £100 – Actual £120

Total Budget £440 – Actual Spend £516.70

So not the best month on spend versus budget, however compared to previous months we are making progress. We had £69.50 left over from our “weekly cash”. We also managed 18 no spend days in February, our target was 14. 

With the left over weekly cash we paid £50.00 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.  

In terms of the car we have managed to make 2 tanks of petrol last the whole month with some to spare and are now keeping a track of the miles that we do. 

We are getting there slowly but surely!

 

Crispie Cakes & Fairy Cakes

Today we made Crispie Cakes and Fairy Cakes. For a change we cut the Crispie Cakes into shapes and our son decorated the Fairy Cakes.  I am very pleased with the results and we had all the ingredients in the house. Pictures and recipes are below 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsps golden syrup
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 90g Rice Krispies

Instructions:

  1. Melt the chocolate either in in a microwave in short bursts on full power, or in a bain Marie (a bowl over simmering water – make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl).
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the chocolate, stir until melted then combine the syrup into the mix.
  3. Add the Rice Krispies and gently mix in. Spoon the mixture into a Swiss roll tin lined with baking parchment and spread until evenly distributed. Leave to cool.
  4. When cool, turn out onto a flat surface and cut into shapes using a pastry cutter.

Fairy Cakes

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I used a recipe from the BBC Website, it can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/fairycakes_93711

Pennywise Challenges

“They say I’m old-fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!” Dr Seuss

Today I have been having doubts about this whole money saving exercise and whether its worth it. Im now 37 weeks pregnant with a 2 &1/4 year old and have been thinking that maybe there are better things to spend my time and efforts on…I think that part of the doubt comes from being very pregnant and feeling exhausted and the other part probably comes from seeing prices constantly increasing and feeling like its a losing battle. We are not in financial dire straits and have a comfortable life it just feels like making savings is an impossible challenge at times. 

I have looked back over our spreadsheets tonight and I can see the improvement month on month so that has proven that we are making changes, we do know where we spend our money and we are paying money into savings. For now I guess its a case of keeping our chins up and plodding on. 

There have been mistakes this month and as I do most of the planning and budgeting its my fault. I guess that to make the process worthwhile we need to learn from those mistakes.

Onwards and upwards, its a new week and a new month soon 🙂

Pennywise Baking

One of my hobbies is baking and I really enjoy doing it with our son, hes only 2 and a bit so it becomes a very messy but enjoyable affair! We very rarely buy biscuits or cakes and instead make our own. 

Today we made “Jammy Biscuits” and Flapjacks. 

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The Jammy Biscuit recipe I use is from the BBC website (link below), its really easy and my son can get involved hence the variety of shapes and amount of jam! 

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1752/simple-jammy-biscuits

We also made plain flapjacks using a Bero Recipe, this isn’t my favourite recipe, I much prefer the Mary Berry Recipe below but I had the Bero book to hand this morning.

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Ingredients
225g (8oz) margarine
225g (8oz) demerara sugar
75g (3oz) golden syrup
275g (10oz) rolled oats.
 
Method

  • Grease 2, 8 inch tins (20cm)
  • Put margerine, sugar and golden syrup into a medium saucepan and heat gently untill the margerine is melted and the butter is dissolved.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the oats.
  • Press firmly into the greased tins. Press down with a spoon to level the surface.
  • Cook for 30 mins at 160 degrees/325 F/ gas mark 3.
  • Cook untill just golden brown, do not over bake or they will be hard.
  • When cooked, loosen the edge of the flap jack around the tin and leave to cool for 10 mins. then cut and cool on wire racks.
I baked both in the oven at the same time to get the most of having the oven on. 
 
Today was No Spend Day number 14

 

Summary February Week 3

“If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.” – Ben Franklin

February Week 3 has come to an end so heres our update. 

  • Number of No Spend Days – 5 versus Goal of 4
  • Money left out of weekly cash budget – £22
  • Money spent on top up shops £22
  • Money spent on eating out £0
  • Money spent on misc items £6
  •  Car use, I used the car 4 days out of 7, travelled 58.8 miles and it cost approx £9.22 in petrol. So I used the car more days but did less miles. 
  • Meal Plan. We have stuck to the meal plan that we had 🙂
  • Activities – When the weather has been nice we have went to the park or played in the garden. In the house we have watched movies, baked and done some crafts. 

The only goal I haven’t achieved was to pay money to my Road Tax Fund, I have the money but just didn’t get to the post office so I will go on Monday or Tuesday this week. I’m also fairly unhappy at the amount spent on top up shops, this is mainly due to not buying enough of certain items in the big monthly shop so definitely got room for improvement here. 

The lower car mileage was due to no trips to playgroup as it was on holiday, I am interested to track the miles we do and the amount we spend on petrol so that we can work out exactly what it costs to run the car and how much we use it. 

Running Totals for the month: 12 No Spend Days, cash surplus from weekly budgets £49.00

Looking good!

Supermarket Sweep

Quick Blog Post tonight. We ran out of some essentials so I decided to go to the supermarket as its closer to home than Aldi / Lidl. I now know why avoiding the supermarket has helped us stick to our budget! Big bright signs pointing out “wow”, “great deals”, “special offer”, eye catching displays and lots of goodies. I had my list but several times I picked up items that were on “offer”, some of them seriously tempted me and it was a total nightmare but somehow I did not buy anything that was on “special”. However the trip wasn’t a complete “sticking to the list” success as I came out with a new t shirt for our son at £2.50 oh well, can’t be good all the time I suppose. 

We spent some time with my parents then had a quiet afternoon at home. As an aside I did notice that petrol prices have jumped up almost 3p per litre :S

Pennywise Shopping and a Quiet Week

On Tuesday I had decided that I would go to the shopping center as I had a few things to do and I could visit the in-laws after I was done. They live close to the shops so it made the journey more practical and economical. This is a dangerous pastime when you are trying to save money! 

I decided that I needed to write a list of what I had to do and in addition to this I had received some vouchers through the post. So before I left I sat down and compared what was on my list with the vouchers to see if I could make any savings or use the vouchers, normally the vouchers go straight in the bin! 

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The items I needed in Boots should have cost me £20 but by using vouchers the cost was £14, I got double advantage card points (I use these at Christmas) and I also got a free baby changing bag as I had signed up to their parenting club. So this was a good start. I returned an item to Primark and rather than exchange it I got a refund of £5, finally I had a voucher for M&S so was able to get a couple of the last bits for my hospital bag and I only had to put £2 to it. So I got loads of stuff and it only cost me £9 if you take the Primark refund off 🙂 I didn’t mess around at the shops so I also kept my parking to less than an hour meaning it only cost me 50p. 

I then got the bits of food I needed from Sainsburys, I stuck to the list and spent less than £11. We had lunch with the in-laws and headed home without feeling guilty about over spending! 

It really has been quiet week in our house due to illness and additional visits to the midwife. We have had lots of visits from family and yesterday we enjoyed some sunshine in the garden while we fed the garden birds and cleaned the chickens house. Today we baked some muffins and went to the park for a while, it has actually been a refreshing change from rushing around. 

No spend day 11 today so its looking good for our target of 14 in February. 

A Pennywise Holiday

Holidays are about experiences and people, and tuning into what you feel like doing at that moment. Enjoy not having to look at a watch. “Evelyn Glennie”

We all need a holiday…or do we? We usually go on holiday for one week a year and stay in the UK, for the last 2 years its been in a log cabin with a hot tub and has been really nice and fairly affordable. The prices have increased significantly and there has been no change in whats on offer or the on site facilities, so we decided to look for an alternative. In addition to this DH is away on a course so we can’t go away in June or July. 

A national newspaper runs a promotion where you have to collect a certain number of tokens, send them away with a cheque and booking form and you have the opportunity to get a 3 or 4 night break at a great price, I figured its worth a try. Much to the amusement of some  people i diligently bought the newspaper, collected the tokens, selected the options that suited us and sent the form and cheque for £48 away. 

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The cheque was cashed last week so I have been like a cat on a hot tin roof waiting to see what we have got! The confirmation arrived this morning and we have got a 4 night break at the beginning of October at a Haven Holiday park for £125.00. This is for 4 of us so works out at £32 each and includes an accommodation upgrade, travel insurance and linen and I probably spent around £3.00 on the newspapers. I am delighted with this and think its well worth a try! The accommodation is not as luxurious as where we went before and doesn’t have its own hot tub but the on-site facilities are much better and there is plenty for us to do with our son who will be 3 when we go 🙂 A quote for our “usual” place for the same dates and without a hot tub is coming in at £300. So assuming it all works out its a significant saving! 

 

Summary of February Week 2

“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’ve not had much opportunity to post over the last few days as our son has been poorly with various different bugs then today he was diagnosed with conjunctivitis :s I have leaned that trying to give a 2 year old eye drops is not a pleasant experience. Onwards and upwards…

February Week 2 has come to an end so heres our update. 

  • Number of No Spend Days – 5
  • Money left out of weekly cash budget – £15
  • Money spent on top up shop £12.50
  • Money spent eating out £15
  • Money on Misc (inc valentines gifts) £7.50 

We are fairly happy with this but there is one area which is not as good as we would like and that’s eating out. Unfortunately we had to buy dinner out on Monday evening, we were late home due to me being admitted to hospital for monitoring then when we got home we had a power cut so couldn’t cook even if we had the time. 

The number of No Spend Days was boosted due to our son being poorly so we had to stay at home, the same goes for the car use.

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Last week I set some goals, heres how we did…

  • Aim for 3 No Spend Days – Achieved 5
  • Be economical with the car use – 75 Miles travelled, car was used 3 days out of 7 (cost of fuel approx £12)
  • Have some planned activities to do with our son in the house and try to get outside daily – We didn’t get outside everyday but we did bake and do some crafty bits.
  • Stick to the meal plan I have written – Done

Overall I feel it was an ok week, there are obviously some areas we could improve on and that’s our ongoing challenge. Since we’ve had a minimum surplus each week of £10 we have decided that we will reduce the weekly cash budget from £50 to £45 from March. 

So goals for Week 3 are:

  • Pay £15 to Post Office Card for Road Tax
  • Aim for 4 No Spend Days
  • Stick to the Meal Plan
  • Vary the activities I do with our son when we are at home, no playgroup this week due to holidays
  • Try to limit car use