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.

December Review

Well Christmas is finally over and life will soon be getting back to normal – hooray! I’m sorry to be a bit baa humbug, but I am not a lover of Christmas. I think that there are a lot of expectations placed on us about spending money, attending events and eating platefuls of stodge. Although in many ways I look forward to the opportunity to indulge, I must admit that after eating crap for a week, I usually end up feeling like crap.

I was lucky enough to win a Christmas hamper in a local raffle

As well as the usual increased consumption of food over the festive period I was lucky enough to win a hamper in a local raffle. I say lucky, but the nature of hampers are that they contain food that keeps i.e. lots of high sugar carbohydrates. The cupboard is still filled with cake, biscuits and mince pies. On top of this my mother gave us some cake and every year Mr Simple’s mother makes him a fruit cake for his birthday, which is in January. Included in the hamper was a voucher from a neighbour to make a cake for us. Fortunately it lasts for the year so I think that I’ll wait a few months until I ask for this.

There have been the usual Christmas meals through out the month, although I didn’t spend an awful lot of money as most of them had been paid for in advance. The location of my office meal moved to the nearest city and I can’t say that it’s something that I want to repeat. I enjoyed seeing everyone, but it was a bit of a trek and parking cost us £20 for four hours. Fortunately there were four passengers and so we split the cost between us.

I suggested that a lunch time meal might be an option for next year and as a result I have been given the task of organising it in 2020. It will probably be in a local pub, so that we don’t have to travel far. I am much more of a lunch person as going to bed on a full stomach often means a sleepless night. I love a leisurely lunch where the effects of too much food and wine will have worn off by the time I go to bed.  

Tablet and Alexa
Some technology appears to exist just to get us to spend money

The month started with catching up with one of Mr Simple’s ex-colleagues. She has moved out of the city and now lives closer to us. She invited us round for Sunday afternoon tea and cake, which was lovely.

It was an eye opener to see all of the various gadgets that she possesses. Mr Simple and I are not technophobes, but we don’t go out of our way to update our home with the latest devices. She has an Alexa, but what was more interesting was the individual radiator devices which connect to your WiFi. According to her you can turn each radiator down individually, which in our house is achieved through turning a valve on the radiator. Apparently you can also turn your heating on before you get home using your smartphone. Again, in our house, that’s called a timer.

I know I sound like a luddite, but I do wonder whether many of these ideas are just gimmicks to get you to spend your money and are just changing a system that already works perfectly well for the sake of change.

The two other small social events were drinks and nibbles at a neighbour’s house and a meal out with another of Mr Simple’s ex-colleagues who is moving to London. The meal cost me nothing as Mr Simple paid. This was a treat for helping him put up coving in the dining room. He had had two quotes for plastering that room. One was about £1000 and included the coving, the second was £300, but didn’t include coving. Mr Simple made an off-the-cuff remark about still saving money if he went with the cheaper quote, I then helped him with the coving and he took me out for a meal to our favourite restaurant. That was quite some time ago, but he stuck to his word and I got a free dinner.

We had our last Pilates class with our current teacher as due to changes in her job she is unable to get to us in time for a class. Through my physiotherapist I have managed to find another teacher and she will begin teaching us next week. One member of the class went to a taster session being run by the new teacher and said that it was different to our usual class and harder. Although change is difficult, I have been trying to look on the positive side. It’s amazing that we have found a new teacher who is willing to come to us and the price will remain the same. I will let you know how it goes.

Although we continued with the 5:2 diet, we had a break over Christmas and both gained 3lbs. We were back to it at the beginning of this week and will be fasting again tomorrow. I don’t have a goal for myself, as fortunately I am already a healthy weight, but my aim for Mr Simple is that he loses half a stone.

Packing a suitcase
There was quite a bit of travelling over Christmas

Over Christmas I had the whole week off and Mr Simple and I went to visit our parents, all of whom live in the East Midlands area of England. They all live close together and so we were able to spend time with both sets of parents. The journey back home was a slow one as Mr Simple’s father has given him an old trailer. He plans to use it to collect compost for the garden. There is a local company which processes the food waste collected by the council and residents can collect trailer-loads of compost free of charge. This should help us to make more progress with the garden.

So, let’s look at the figures…

Another good month on progress with the mortgage. The standard monthly payment was £511.91 and then we made an overpayment on the mortgage of £580. This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £72,391.23.

Savings are a grand total of £38,245.30. My Vanguard stocks and shares ISA made £77.59. I made investments of £1,253.84. The account that I use to pay for personal bills such as holidays and my car had money left over so I managed to put extra in on top of my usual savings.

Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing was a grand total of £10.52.  

General spending

Food £105.80 – this was under budget due to several meals out which I had paid for last month. We were also away at our parents’ for almost a week so they were paying for the meals.  

Petrol £113.46- under budget as we were away for a week and I didn’t drive then as we went in Mr Simple’s car.

Pilates £16.00 – for various reasons two sessions didn’t go ahead and then it was Christmas.  

Toiletries £1.50 – only a very small amount spent this month on some moisturiser from Tesco.  

Social £20.00 – I didn’t go to the film in the village hall as it was a musical and I’m not a fan. The twenty pounds was spent on a meal in the local pub with neighbours and at which I won the hamper.  

Miscellaneous £88.34 – a very expensive month – £48.34 over budget. This included a couple of unexpected gifts e.g. a leaving present for our Pilates teacher and flowers for a colleague who turned 50. Mr Simple also spent money on bird food and renewed our membership of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. I have allowed for the membership in my budget for 2020.

gifts wrapped in brown paper
I only have to buy presents for my two nephews

Expenses from bills account – expected annual/regular expenses

Physio session £32.00 – again only one session this month mainly due to ….you guessed it… Christmas.  

Gifts – £104.99 for Christmas presents for my nephews – the only ones that I have to buy so not a lot compared to other people’s spending.

So, there we have it, the last review of the year. How did your Christmas go? Hopefully you managed to have a break and feel rested. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.

.

November Review

Two two pence coins

Welcome to the penultimate review of the year. Another chance to see my progress on paying off the mortgage and whether I’ve overspent or underspent on each of the budget categories.

I love to see real numbers rather than percentages on other blogs, as I believe that it gives a true picture of someone’s financial situation and you can then compare it to your own.  Each month I therefore bare all and go through the exact amounts that I have spent on household bills and any personal items. To give you an idea of how much I’ve got coming in my salary, after tax, provides me with just over £2,700 every month.

If you’re new to the blog, just to let you know that these are the amounts that I have spent out of my wages. My partner, Mr Simple, does not currently contribute to the mortgage or any of the household bills as he is paying for all of the work that we are doing to the house. He does pay for his half of the food though.

If you are trying to find ways of saving money and want to get a grip on your finances a budget is a must. Check out my post on drawing up a budget here

Let’s look at the figures then…

Woodland with a path running through it
Planting more trees is good for the planet so we support the Woodland Trust

Monthly bills

Firstly, the mortgage, which is our only debt and which I am on a mission to pay off as soon as possible.  The standard monthly payment was £516.09 and then we made an overpayment of £595. This leaves the balance on the mortgage standing at £73,357.72.

Woodland Trust donation £6.00

Gas and electricity £95.35. This is our usual direct debit. We have underspent over the past year so from next month our payments will reduce to £89.78. It’s not an enormous reduction, but it’s a reduction, which is great considering that most of the time bills tend to go up rather than down.

Council Tax £258.00. The downside of living in a large house is that we are in Band G for this. The only way to reduce it is to move house.

Water £40.50

TV Licence £12.83

Internet and phone £30.00. We are with John Lewis, who have just increased their prices. Yesterday I signed up with Plusnet who have a special deal for Black Friday – broadband and landline for £18.99 per month. This is under an 18-month contract. It doesn’t include any calls, but as we have unused minutes on our mobiles, we plan to use those instead of ringing from the landline. Hooray – another saving as from next month.

Income and savings

It was this time last year that I discovered the concept of financial independence and therefore some of my savings accounts which I opened at that time have borne fruit this month in the form of interest, namely…

  • Charter Savings interest £123.61
  • Ratesetter £47.67. I am due £100 bonus for signing up for a year, but won’t get that until January.
  • Savings I had with Nationwide at 5% matured and I received interest totalling £80.79. The rate has gone down so I’ve moved the total, £3080.79 to my ISA.

Savings are a grand total of £36,840.63.

Interest on Marcus account which I am using for stoozing was a grand total of £9.86.

shelves of vegetables
I spent more than usual on food this month

General spending

Food £150.62 – over budget by £10.62. This does include cleaning products and some toiletries as well. I felt as though it was a frugal month, but the figures tell me otherwise. I think it is more than the past few months as we were home for the whole month, whereas in October we had a few days away in Somerset and in September I was in Italy for a week.  I am due to do a monthly shop for December, but the cupboards are fairly full so I am hoping that the spending will come in under budget next month.

Petrol £94.57 – £25.43 under budget again. I currently have a quarter of a tank, which is when I fill up. As it’s the weekend I haven’t got around to putting anymore in the car, but if this month had had 31 days I may well have spent the full amount.

Pilates £24.00 – this covers three sessions. Unfortunately there was a problem with the hall floor this week, so the class didn’t go ahead. The bad news is that our teacher won’t be able to do the class after Christmas due to changes in her job. We are currently trying to find someone else to do it for us.

Toiletries £31.93 – some body lotion – I spend £9.95 on lotion which contains magnesium, which supposedly helps prevent heart arrythmias, like I have. I then called in at Boots for some hair dye and hair spray paint, both of which were on special offer. I therefore decided to buy two of each, hence I went over budget this month, but only by £1.93.

Social £50.50 – lunch out with a friend, dinner out with a friend and a drink for me and a neighbour at our monthly village get together. Parking whilst out for a Christmas do and an advance payment for another meal next month.

Miscellaneous £41.48 – paint tester pots, a plant, which was a gift and a plum tree for the garden which we are expecting to be delivered shortly.

Volkswagen beetle with bonnet up
As my car is getting older having breakdown is really important

Expenses from bills account – expected annual/regular expenses

There was very little from this account in November….

Physio sessions £64.00

Roadside assistance £61.00 – I get a discount as Mr Simple also has this with Toyota.

So there it is, everything that I’ve spent money on this month. If there is anything that you would like to know more about please let me know. I am in the process of drawing up my budget for 2020 and monitoring my expenses this closely has been invaluable in working out what I should allocate to each category. If you have never kept tracking of your spending maybe you could think about starting next year?