May Review

Our calendar looks very empty
life in lockdown

So my friends, how are you managing? Fed up of staying at home and looking forward to lockdown being relaxed or worried about having to go out and happy to make the most of your time at home? I think that I am in the latter camp.

The impact on life in the Simple household struck me on the morning of 1st June when I turned the calendar over. It was a stark reminder of everything that we should have been doing over the next few weeks, from our village cinema night and the annual barbecue to a fortnight’s holiday in France. We did miss a holiday in May, but that was only to Pembrokeshire.

cancelled holidays

Our holiday to France is something that we have been doing ever since I met Mr Simple, but my efforts to save some money have meant that last year we didn’t go and the year before we just had a week self-catering in Brittany. The usual format is a week staying in B&Bs and a week in a cottage, or a gite as the French call it. Several years ago we discovered a wonderful place to stay run by a lovely couple. He’s from the UK and she is American. A stay with them is like returning to old friends. They provide a meal most evenings, which you share with them and other guests. I love it. There’s usually a mix of nationalities sitting around the table. After not seeing them for a few years we booked several nights there during our first week away, but have sadly had to cancel. I just hope that they are still there when life gets back to normal and that we will have another chance to stay with them. France will always be there to visit, but it is the people that I am missing.

In the week that we were meant to be going to Pembrokeshire we spent our time in the garden every day except one, when we went walking. Mr Simple worked hard clearing an old flowerbed. As we live near the coast the ground is full of large rocks which it takes a pick axe to get out. I had the job of cutting back the plants before he then dug out the roots and the rocks. We were lucky that the weather was warm and dry, although I am grateful for the rain that we’ve had since, as the garden is desperate for it.

Every day starts like this
making the most of my time at home

I am one of the lucky ones who is still employed full time. Ordinarily I spend some of my days at home in front of the computer, but now that happens every day and all of my interaction with other people is via telephone and Skype instead of face to face. I must admit that I don’t miss the travelling, which many days used to take an hour each way, but do miss the human interaction. One of the advantages of working at home full time is that I have been able to consolidate my morning routine. Previously there was great variation in the time that I had to leave the house each morning, whereas now I just sit down at my computer at 9am every day. Since I get up at 6am that gives me three hours to fill.

Our days always start with a cup of tea in bed, although obviously I do have to get up to make it. Our arrangement is that I do this on weekdays and Mr Simple makes a cuppa at the weekend. Whilst I am enjoying that I spend ten minutes journaling and then twenty minutes either reading or taking notes from a book that I have read recently. At the moment it’s ‘Make Time’ by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. It’s a really accessible book with lots of great tips and fun drawings. By 7am I am either on the treadmill doing a gentle jog and watching YouTube or doing some Pilates for half an hour. The exercise is followed by ten minutes of what I call ‘quiet time’. I’m not sure it’s meditation, but a chance to quieten my mind and heart rate after exercising. Finally it’s breakfast time, before showering to get ready for the day. Depending on whether I have to wash my hair or not I may have time to put some laundry on or to spend ten or fifteen minutes cleaning. At 8.55am I make myself and Mr Simple a coffee and then I am ready to start my working day. Having a morning routine gives me something to look forward to when I go to bed at night apart from another day of work.

Lots spent on feeding our feathered friends this month
spending

Like many people May was a quiet time spending wise. My budgets for petrol, social activities and physio sessions were unspent. Our food budget was slightly overspent for the second month running due to deciding to shop locally, totalling £124.98 for me. My miscellaneous budget was through the roof as Mr Simple bought bird food, I treated myself to some books from Amazon and we had a trip out to the garden centre during our week off. Having just added it up I can’t believe that it came to over £200.

In terms of savings, my year of stoozing has come to an end and I have paid off my credit card in full, as next month Tesco will start charging me interest. I’ve made well over £100 in interest in my Marcus account, by doing not a lot. Although they have recently reduced their interest rate it is more than most savings accounts are offering. I have left £8,000 in there because as I’ve said before I am likely to need a new car shortly. This may though be further off than I previously thought as currently I am only using it for the fortnightly shopping trip.

We’ve splashed out on a potting shed
saving

The cottage in Pembrokeshire was going to cost £500 for the week and the gite in France was over £600. We have received full refunds for both of these. Some of that went towards my miscellaneous overspend. During the outing to the garden centre we bought a potting shed, something that we have been planning for a while. This will give us more room in the two greenhouses so that we can grow even more veg. I was lucky enough to receive £200 from my mum for my birthday in April, which meant that I only had to find £202 myself for the shed. The rest of the holiday money has gone into my ISA, along with my usual contributions. I ended up investing £700 in May and with the bounce back in the interest rate my savings now total over £33,000. That doesn’t include the money that I have put aside for a new car.

Our mortgage contribution, including an extra large overpayment came to £1340.11 taking the balance down to £66,474.61, but with the interest added it’s back up to £66,531.70. At the moment I’m battling with the age-old problem of using that unspent money each month to make extra payments towards the mortgage or invest in my ISA. Last month was a bit of both, but in June I’ll probably just shove it all into my index funds.

I hope that you managed to enjoy some of the wonderful sunshine that we had during May. As I sit here writing this at the beginning of June it’s very grey and windy outside. It feels as though we’ve gone straight from spring into autumn and whilst, as I said, the garden is in need of some rain, I’m looking forward to some more sunshine over the coming months.

April Review

Butterfiles on lavender
We’ve had lots of peaceful days in the garden in April – the weather has been amazing

I’m sitting here wondering if I have enough to tell you about, as life has become fairly quiet in the Simple household. To a certain extent it’s always been peaceful and calm, but the days have occasionally been dotted with some social activities. Now the evenings and weekends are blank canvases which I can fill with whatever I want – well obviously as long as it’s mostly within the limits of our four walls and garden.

scissors on green background
We all now have to learn to be our family’s hairdresser
spending

It has on the whole it has been a frugal month. I spent the princely sum of £2.20 on cleaning products and £27.98 on toiletries, which included two packs of hair dye. I am so glad that I started to colour my hair myself before the hairdressing salons had to close. The next task is learning to cut it or at least Mr Simple learning to do so. l am going to use Mrs Frugalswoods’ guidance on this as I have long straight hair like her, which hopefully shouldn’t be too difficult to cut.

My usual monthly Tesco delivery didn’t happen as securing a slot seems to involve getting up in the middle of the night to book and I’m therefore shopping at a small local super market. I have realised how cheap some of Tesco’s prices are and have gone without rather than pay over the odds. My food budget is £100 per month and yet in April I spent £170.00. Fortunately my miscellaneous budget of £40 wasn’t spent and along with the £50 I have for social activities, which again remained unspent, they more than covered this.

The food budget included a local veg box delivery. I used to subscribe to Riverford and then Able and Cole, but gave them up as an indulgence when we started on our frugal journey. At the beginning of the lockdown l searched online, but everyone was oversubscribed. A local service said that they could put me on their waiting list and then in April they had a space and have started delivering every week. Whilst most of what they deliver isn’t currently their own produce, as we are in ‘the hunger gap’, as the weeks go on it should all be from their fields which are with a couple of miles away. For the moment I am happy to pay for someone to deliver instead of making an extra trip to the supermarket.

The annual house insurance payment was due in April, but like all once a year bills l save towards it every month and so the money was there when I needed it.

blue petrol pump
Zero spent on fuel this month
saving

My petrol spending has been zero. I’ve also saved on my monthly physio appointment as they are currently on hold. The money I’ve saved went towards the mortgage. That took the overpayment for the month up to £650.00 and our balance now stands at £67, 774.76. It’s great to see it going down at such a pace.

With the interest rate on my index funds with Vanguard having plummeted in March, it’s recovered quite amazingly in April and the balance stands at £18,405.16. My total savings are £31,474.43, which doesn’t include money put by for a new car. I’m just paying in my regular amounts to my ISA and plugging away at the mortgage instead.

Mr Simple and I have spent a lot of time in the garden and it’s looking good. April has been such a hot month and we could have done with more rain. Our water rates are down to £28.50 per month, after being at £40.00 for a while due to having a new lawn laid a couple of years ago. Currently, the water butts are nearly empty. If we don’t have a lot of rain we’ll end up having to use the hosepipe to water the garden. l know some of you may be cursing me if I get my wish, but I would love a week of steady rain. Otherwise our bill may be on the rise again.

Woman in pink doing pilates
One day I might be able to do this – but not for now!
keeping fit and well

Due the lockdown my Pilates classes, like much of life, have become virtual. Since our teacher changed at the beginning of the year I have not been entirely happy with the pace and format of the class, but have tried to stick with it as I do love the exercises and feel the benefit of them. Having participated in a few virtual classes with her I decided to explore other online possibilities. I was so glad that l did as it led me to Jessica Valant Pilates and I have become obsessed. You can check out her free YouTube videos here, but after doing a couple of those I took the plunge and signed up for her ‘Unlimited’ programme. It costs just £107 for the year and you have access to all her videos, most of which are much longer than those on her YouTube channel.

Every month there is a suggested programme which includes two new videos. I was also able to attend a live class the other night which was free to Unlimited members. I love her teaching style which is very clear and she doesn’t go too fast. If you haven’t done Pilates before there is a ‘Jumpstart’ monthly programme to get you started. My previous classes have been £8 per lesson, which works out at about £400 if you did it every week of the year. With this new regime I can do Pilates every day of the year for a quarter of the price. What’s not to like?

In ‘Grow You‘, Natalie Bacon’s fantastic coaching programme, the topic was simplifying and organising your life and mind, which covered decluttering one’s environment and thoughts. I cleared out one of the pantry cupboards, threw a few things out and re-organised the rest. I also sorted out some of my study, where I now spend all of my work time. I have linked to Natalie’s podcasts on several occasions and the content that she produces is like nothing else I have come across. It is all about working on your mind and your thoughts to help you achieve your goals. If you haven’t listened to one of her podcasts I would really recommend that you give them a go.

a bee on a dandelion
Lots of weeds in the shady part of the garden
plans for May

It was my birthday in April and Mum sent me £200 which I am going to use to buy plants for the garden. Since we moved to this house five years ago we have not done any work on the right hand hide of the garden. That is the shady side and so more challenging horticulturally. l have made a list of plants that should be happy to grow there. At the moment it is a bit of on overgrown mess, but in May that will all change. We have a week off and originally we were meant to be going to Pembrokeshire, but instead we will have an unexpected staycation. Our plan is to work on the right hand side of the garden. Once it has been cleared I can spend my birthday money on some new plants. I will let you know how we get on in next month’s review.

For now, I hope that you had a peaceful April and are keeping yourself safe and well. Until next time, best wishes, Sam.

March Review

a new reality

What a long time ago February seems. l was writing about booking holidays over the summer and now it’s likely that none of them are going to happen. We’ve already cancelled our trip to Pembrokeshire in May. The holiday cottages that we were going to stay at have been closed down until further notice. We had only paid a deposit and fortunately that was returned. As I told you last time we had booked our France holiday for June. Although it’s still a couple of months away I can’t see it going ahead. The ferry and the holiday cottage in Normandy have been paid in full, so we’ll have to wait and see if we get any money back. Fortunately, due to my heart condition, I bought travel insurance when I booked the trip, long before Covid19 reared its ugly head and should therefore be able to make a claim. Others I know will not be so lucky. Whatever happens we plan to take the time off from work, even if we just stay home. There are lots of footpaths and lanes to walk and cycle down, so we can explore our local area and spend time in the garden.

emergency funds

My car went in for its MOT in March and at the same time I asked them to investigate the reason that the coolant appeared to be leaking. It turned out to be the pump and so I had to part with £226.42 to get that fixed. The MOT cost £44.99 plus £2 for a new bulb. My lovely car is now 10 years old so I have increased my service budget. At that age you have to expect things to go wrong. I was watching a YouTube video by ‘One Big Happy Life’ the other week and they were talking about how your emergency fund should not be used to cover spending such as car repairs, as you should be able to predict this. I so agree with this view. I know that unexpected expenses may crop up from time to time, but if you’ve got an old car it’s very likely that you’re going to need to spend money on it over the year. Your budget should account for that. As I’ve allowed £500 per year to maintain my car the replacement of the coolant pump didn’t knock me off track.

My only social spending this month was £1.50 at the village cinema event
socialising is cancelled

Social events included the village cinema which I had paid for in February. I would usually then buy April’s ticket in March, which is £7.50, but as we all know, our social lives have been cancelled. My spending for the cinema evening therefore came to a grand total of £1.50 – a raffle ticket and 50p for a small packet of popcorn. Apart from this I didn’t spend any other money on social activities. My regular get together with ex-colleagues was cancelled and the monthly drink with my neighbours didn’t go ahead.

new budget required

Miscellaneous was very overspent this month. I splashed out on a Leuchtturm notebook for £16.95; certainly not a frugal purchase. Mr Simple has since bought me a ‘Black and Red’ one and whilst it was which cheaper it certainly isn’t as nice. Just before everything shut down Mr Simple and I went to the garden centre when I had a day off and my half of what we bought came to £17.90. I also bought seeds and a climbing rose from Saran Raven totalling £35.02. A local nursery delivered us some compost for £45.

None of these gardening expenses were planned and all of them came out of my miscellaneous budget, which is only £50.00. After spending £12.75 on birdseed and £3 on a card and a stamp for my dad’s birthday my miscellaneous spending came to £147.56 – £97.56. overspent. This has made me realise that I need to have a gardening budget. One of the reasons that we bought our current house was due to the large garden and despite taking a lot of time and effort to manage, it gives us at a great deal of pleasure. It is still a work in progress and we add new shrubs each year, which are expensive, but even when we don’t need to do that we will still need to buy compost and seeds.

Like most people my petrol spending plummeted in March
savings made

Though l overspent on gardening items my petrol spending plummeted, as I started to cancel visits for work and stay at home full-time. My budget is £120.00, but in March my spending came to £71. 75, a saving of 48.25.

l spent £30.67 on toiletries and £4.38 on cleaning products. Food came to £101.01. For Mothering Sunday I bought some smellies from Liz Earle for Mum. They came to £28.07 and this came out of my presents budget for the year.

We are still making great progress on paying this off
focusing on the positives

The regular household bills have not changed and so I won’t go into those. You can see them in previous posts if you’re interested. Our mortgage overpayment was more than usual as we didn’t have to pay any council tax this month. We made a £980 overpayment and the regular monthly payment was £497.11. Our balance stands at £68,752.52.

I continued with my menu planning which is going like a dream. I’m not sure why I’ve never done this before. ‘Grow You‘, the coaching programme by Natalie Bacon which I joined recently, has been amazing. There is so much craziness going on in the world and she really helps me deal with that. Pilates stalled slightly as our weekly class stopped temporarily. The teacher has since set up online classes, although many of my classmates seem unwilling to give them a go. I’ve been joining in via Zoom, although I’ve discovered a better and cheaper alternative which I’ll tell you about next month.

Since I’ve been working at home my step count has increased enormously. Previously I had been struggling to achieve 10,000 a day and so decreased my target to 5,000. I’m now crushing that every day and so I’ve reset my target to 6,000. It’s so much easier to find the time to exercise when you don’t have fit in a commute every day. The good weather has helped as it’s a pleasure to go out.

Finally, my savings, like everyone else, have taken a hit. In March I lost £1425.33. Amazingly it’s started to go back up again, but it’s anyone’s guess what will happen over the coming weeks and months.

Looking forward to some April showers to water our garden
what next?

My April review is going to look a lot different. I’m really fortunate enough to still be in work  – one of the benefits of being employed in the public sector. I don’t expect to be spending any money on petrol, eating out or social activities. That leaves a £200 excess, which I am considering putting towards the mortgage. I’m also not going to my physio sessions which are £32.00 per month. As for holidays, only time will tell if we spend any money on those or not.

I hope that you are keeping well and trying not to panic too much about the circumstances in which we all find ourselves. I would really encourage you to try to find the positives in this situation if you can. If you’re struggling with money you may want to check out the new series by The Frugalwoods.

Until next time, take care of yourself.

February Review

My dearest friends, how was February for you? It’s been a fairly quiet month in the Simple household.

a pile of paint brushes
Mr Simple is making great progress with the master bedroom
decorating progress

On the home front Mr Simple has made great strides with the master bedroom. There’s still a long way to go, but he’s demolished all of the old fitted wardrobes, rewired much of the room – fitting new sockets where we need them – bought new radiators and has arranged for a plumber to come and fit them. This Friday I have the day off and we plan to go shopping for new fitted wardrobes.

plans for the summer

I’ve spent a lot of this month booking holidays. We usually go to France every year, but didn’t do so in 2019. This year we are going in June and I have finally got around to booking the ferry, two B&Bs and the cottage for the second week. In the past few years June has been very warm and I’m hoping that 2020 will be no different. I love hot weather. My ideal climate is one where you can eat breakfast outdoors. I then finished planning my holiday with my mother. Last year we went on an organised trip to Italy, but this year we are doing our usual thing of staying in Britain and visiting gardens. This means that I have to plan and book the itinerary.

Luckily I didn’t need any new glasses this year
health

I went for my annual dental check and didn’t need anything doing, not even a scale and polish. Don’t have to go again for another year. I then had an eye test and my eyes are looking healthy and I don’t need new glasses. I had been saving money every month over the last two years towards a new pair of spectacles and now I can spend it on something else. At the beginning of February I thought that I was coming down with a cold and took some high strength vitamin C tablets. Either they worked like a treat or my suspicions were wrong as I didn’t get sick.

a glass of wine and two bowls of food on a table
I enjoyed an evening out with a friend, but spent more than I planned
social activities

We had an excellent talk at the village WI. A really interesting speaker who has visited us before. To be honest I think that he could speak about paint drying and we would all be glued. I also met up with a friend. Our usual pub wasn’t serving food that night and so we spent a bit more than normal, but I really enjoyed catching up. She is the sort of person who is really interested in what you have to say. Unfortunately those type of people seem few and far between nowadays as I find others spend time just talking about themselves.

Our village cinema showed ‘Green Book’ about a Black musician travelling around the deep South in the early sixties. I had a can of lager, which comes as part of the ticket price, but woke up with a headache the following morning. I am such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. I like the idea of it, but often regret it the next day. This week they are showing ‘Judy’ with Renee Zellweger and I have decided that I am not going to drink.

some good news

Mr Simple has been passed some extra work by an ex-colleague, so that’s been good news. It’s only about an hour’s drive away, so he can go there and back in a day, unlike his other work which involves a very early start and staying away overnight.

phone with youtube logo
I have joined an online coaching programme
investing in myself

Although I saved money on new spectacles this month I blew what I saved on joining Natalie Bacon’s ‘Grow You’ coaching programme. It’s something that I have been thinking about for a while. I love her podcast and find so much of what she says very helpful in day to day life. The cost is the equivalent of £34 per month, which as she says is like a gym membership. Each month there is a different topic, with a video, a workbook and various live group coaching sessions and question and answer sessions. You can either join the calls live (although that’s difficult when I don’t live in the States) or listen to them afterwards. So far I am really enjoying it and hope to learn even more about managing my emotions and pursuing my goals.

During the last week of the month I had to go into the city early in the morning i.e. catch the 8am train. I know that for many people this is an everyday occurrence, but I have got so used to having time in the morning to read, jog, mediate and have a leisurely breakfast. I forget how lucky I am until I have a busy week, which is most people’s regular week.

laptop on a desk
A new fun pension tool to model my future life
dreaming about the future

My pension provider has a new website on which there is a modelling tool. You can vary the age at which you want to retire and play around with the lump sum you can withdraw. It’s great to see how much I would get if I retired at 55. Although it isn’t much and I would have to cut expenses, which would include getting rid of my car, it’s nice to think that it might just be an option, instead of the current plan to work part time from then.

progress on my goals

Looking back at the goals that I set myself for the first quarter of the year I am not doing particularly well:

Improve diet – I am no longer fasting as Mr Simple questioned why I was doing this when I don’t need to lose weight. He suggested that I just have the low calorie meal with him in the evening, but apart from that I eat normally. Amazingly I lost one pound last week after I’d stopped fasting.

5000 steps – I managed this on sixteen out of the twenty-nine days in February, so just over 50% of the time. This was a very slight improvement on my performance in January, but certainly not good enough. Definitely need to work harder at this.

Physio exercises – when I saw the physiotherapist last week he said that the usual lump in my shoulder muscle had reduced in size, which is evidently good news. I had previously tried to come up with a reward for this e.g. put the money saved on physio appointments towards holidays, but an obvious use for it now is to pay for ‘Grow You’, which works out at a similar monthly cost.

Jog x 3 – I usually manage twice a week, but the third one doesn’t always happen. It very much depends on my working week, which varies a great deal. If I don’t have any early starts then it’s doable, whereas if I need to catch the 8am train several days a week then I am just not committed enough to get up at 5am to do all that I need to do.

Twitter followers – I had completely forgotten that one of my goals was to increase my numbers. I did absolutely no work on this and have instead been creating pins for Pinterest to get new readers to the blog.

I’m having a bit of an identity crisis
a minor crisis

Talking about the blog, I think that I am having a bit of an identity crisis. I can’t decide how I want to use it. Initially it started as a way of tracking my progress towards financial independence, but then when you see so many successful bloggers making tons of money, it’s easy to say, ‘yes, I’d like a bit of that’, but the reality is that it’s really hard work. If you want to produce lots of good quality content and grow your email list then blogging is not just a hobby, but a second job. Blogging about my progress enables me to measure and examine how I’m doing, but it’s not that useful to other people. I have done some posts about the personal development books that I am reading, but it does take a lot of work to condense down all the information into a post. At times I have thought about giving up, but blogging makes me think about my life and it’s great when others do read it and get something out of it. I’ll just have to see how I go over the next few months.

Anyway, thanks for reading my ramblings. There’ll be another post along shortly to let you know my figures for the month. Until then, I hope that your February went well and like me you’ve been able to enjoy a bit of sunshine over the past few days. It’s nice to be into March. The daffodils are out and cheering up the place, so spring is definitely on its way!

My January review with some ideas to cut your budget

white piggy bank
Get ideas for how to cut your budget so you can save more of your pennies
Introduction

If you’re new here, this is my monthly spending review. I share my actual figures so you can compare it to your financial circumstances. Although I earn a fairly good wage I am saving about 20% of my income and putting another 20% towards overpaying our mortgage. I hope that by allowing you to see how little I am spending in some areas it will encourage you to try to cut your budget. As well as letting you know how much we are spending I also try to give you some tips as to how we do this and give you links to other posts where I explore my saving strategies in more depth.

Just to let you know this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click on one of the links and purchase the item I will get some money. Please see here for more information about my use of affiliate links.

Our situation

Currently I am in full-time employment and have a regular income, whereas my partner, Mr Simple works for himself and only does part time hours most weeks. We have therefore decided that I will pay the mortgage and all of the monthly bills, except for food, from my account and he is responsible for the house renovations.

The payments that I show below are therefore for the full amount of the bills save for food, which is my half. We don’t split the food bill down the middle as he eats meat, which is more expensive and he drinks more alcohol.

glass of water
We are trying to reduce our water consumption
Regular bills

Every month £1550.00 goes out of my current account just after pay day into our joint account. In January that paid for the mortgage, including the overpayment, as detailed below, as well as the following:

Gas and electricity £89.78 -we are with Octopus who are a Which? recommended provider. Our payment went down last month as Octopus reduced their prices.  If you think moving to another provider would cut your budget and you may be interested in signing up with Octopus, use this link and both of us will receive £50.  

Water £40.50 – apparently one-third of household water bills are as a result of flushing the toilet. In a bid to get this bill down we are now flushing the toilet less than half the time that we used to. I am hoping that when this is reviewed in March it will go down. If you want to cut your budget in this area and don’t mind looking at each other’s wee then maybe you could try this. Here are some more ideas for how to reduce your water bill.

Council Tax £258.00 – unfortunately this is unchangeable, well, I suppose that we could move house, but we don’t want to.

Television licence £13.20 – another fixed cost unless we get rid of the TV. We don’t have Sky or use Netflix, so compared to most people this is probably a minimal cost for entertainment.

white house between trees
I am working hard so we can one day be mortgage-free
Mortgage

The balance now stands at £71,405.68 after making the standard monthly payment of £507.85 and an overpayment of £585. We have 13½ years to go on the mortgage, but if we continue to overpay at the current rate we will pay it off in just over six years, saving us £5,800 in interest. If you think that you would like to overpay your mortgage have a look at the calculator here on Money Saving Expert to see the effect of even just a small overpayment every month.  

Savings

My savings are currently £30,623.00. If you are a regular reader you will see that this has gone down by £8,000. I still have that money, but I’m no longer counting in it my savings as I am expecting to have to spend it on a new car in the not too distant future.  My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA made a grand total of £2.92. I invested £485.20.  I am aiming to save £500 per month. As you may have seen in my annual budget I have decided to spend extra money on holidays than I did last year, so my regular transfer to Vanguard is just £363.65 and then I top it up when I have a bit of spare cash if I underspend in other areas. .

The interest on my Marcus instant access account, which I am using for stoozing, was a grand total of £11.48. If you haven’t heard of stoozing, basically this is running up a debt on an interest-free credit card and putting the money you would have spent in a savings account. Unfortunately this is not as lucrative as it once was as interest rates for easy access savings accounts are low, but over £10 a month for doing nothing isn’t bad. Many websites about getting on top of your finances advise cutting up your credits cards, but if you are an organised person who doesn’t have a problem using credit cards in a controlled way this is a great option to get free money.

Half a dozen eggs in an egg box
We choose to buy eggs from a local farm, which costs more than the supermarket
General spending

Food £137.72 – very slightly under my budget of £140.00. This includes cleaning products which were £6.28. I had lunch in a café once at a cost of £7.90 and splashed out on a cheese sandwich from Sainsbury’s which came to £1.20. Every week I buy fresh fruit and veg and eggs from a local farm. Therefore about half the budget covers the monthly Tesco shop and the rest is spread throughout the month.   

I have written a couple of articles about how to cut your budget in this area. You can check them out here and here. I could get this down even further, probably by shopping at Lidl or Aldi and not buying eggs from the farm which are £1.30 for half a dozen, but I have made some choices as a result of convenience – a monthly delivery – and others on quality of the product and animal welfare.

Petrol £117.27- just coming in under the budget of £120.00. I also included a train ticket to work one day which was £9.10.  

Pilates £22.50 – we have a new teacher with a different booking system. I have in fact paid for twelve classes at a total of £90.00, which works out at £7.50 per class. With a bit of shuffling of money I have just calculated a payment for the three classes that I attended this month.

Toiletries £38.63 – £8.63 over budget. This included foot cream, body lotion, zovirax to treat the cold sore infection I get in my ear and lysine tablets to try to prevent it coming up in the first place. Next month should be a lot cheaper.  

Social £63.10 – This was £13.10 over budget, mainly due to it being Mr Simple’s birthday and I paid for a meal out. It could have been much more expensive, but I sold an old double bed for £50 and used that towards the meal, just paying the £30.00 to make it up to the eyewatering amount of £80. We went to our favourite special Indian restaurant, which we love so I don’t begrudge one single penny.

There was the usual £9 for the village cinema night which includes my ticket, a raffle ticket and some popcorn. Also, another regular social event, the monthly meet up in the village pub with neighbours, at which I bought a pint of shandy at £3.70 and a bimonthly meet up with colleagues. This has moved to a Monday night as I can no longer attend on a Tuesday due to my pilates class changing. The good thing is that the café where we go does free puddings on Monday nights. I therefore had a halloumi burger with fries and then sticky toffee pudding all for £8.00. My accompanying drink was a free glass of water. Finally, as I had some cash left over I tried myself to brunch in my favourite café when I was in the city for work and that was £11.40.

Miscellaneous £80.07 – another expensive month – £40.07 over budget. This included the Living Well Planner, which I have decided to try out and three books, including ‘Quit Like a Millionaire’ and ‘The Minimalist Home’.

scissors with orange handles
The hairdresser just cuts my hair – I dye it myself with some help from Mr Simple
Expenses from bills account – expected annual/regular expenses

Instead of having some expensive months I divide all of my one-off expenses into twelve and save towards them each month. I also save for more regular expenses such as holidays and haircuts.

Physio sessions £96.00– I only attended two sessions, but last year one of my cheques wasn’t cashed. My physio had received the money, but it wasn’t withdrawn from my account. After six months I had re-credited this amount to my calculations and then last month it was then cashed. Not sure where it’s been for all those months!

Hair cut – £16.00. I went in with it wet and just paid for a cut. The hairdresser roughly dried it off so I didn’t catch pneumonia on the way home. I used to pay over £60 every six weeks to have it cut and coloured. Now I just go six times a year for a cut and then colour it myself, with some help from Mr Simple.

Holiday deposit £75.00. We have booked a cottage for the week in Pembrokeshire in May.

Headlamp bulb £4.50  

So that’s it for January. How did your spending go last month? Would you like help to cut your budget? I’d love to hear any comments you have or if you’re looking for some ideas then please let me know.