2015 – Come so far in some ways, zooming backwards in others…

So, it’s almost 2016. This year is going to be MY YEAR – I’ve already decided. So I thought I’d have a quick look back at what I achieved and didn’t achieve last year.

  • I paid off my remaining debt – £1480. It doesn’t seem a whole lot to people, I know, but what with two redundancies for Mr, and me taking on a lot more financial responsibility in our home, it felt like a mountain to climb to me.
  • I didn’t add any more debt! This one was a bigger mountain. We’ve had two veterinary emergencies in the past few months (one incidental, one through carelessness) which have wiped my emergency fund down to about £300 from the lofty heights it had reached. But, if it wasn’t for that, I’d be another £800 in debt. So I’m still counting this as a win!
  • On the other hand, I’m still far, far too spendy. The past couple of months have been better, but they’ve been better out of necessity, not choice. This is one I want to work on in the new year.
  • But to end this list on a positive, we’ve made £1500 worth of overpayments to our mortgage! It doesn’t seem like a lot to many I’m sure, but it means a lot to me. That’s approximately 13-15 months off our term.

So, my goals for 2016? I came up with these a little while ago, most of them are to do with my health, but here we go:

  • Take part in the local 10k ‘race’ – even if I have to walk it, I will take part.
  • Run/jog a 5km race – there’s one in the summer so am aiming for that.
  • Cycle 50 miles! Mr AF is passionate about cycling, so this is one he’s helping me train for, now I have a saddle for my bike that doesn’t feel like a medieval torture device.
  • Reach my goal weight. It’s time to stop messing around with this one, I need the excess weight gone! I’m currently working on this and have a series of goals set  up for myself. Weigh in is tomorrow, so I’ve got my bench mark for going in to the new year.
  • Overpay over £3000 to the mortgage. This means keeping up by monthly £250 payment, but I’m also putting our two ‘free’ council tax months towards it, some money Mr AF has put into the joint account, and the small refund from the electricity company. If we run into financial difficulties later in the year I can ease up, but it will be nice to be almost halfway to that target at the end of the first quarter. With any luck we can keep going at it and smash that target.
  • Submit monthly electricity readings. This bill time, the meter reader did not come back to take our reading, and so they supplied up with an estimated bill. Which was almost 1500 daytime units too high, putting us into debt with the electricity company, and making the vein on my temple try to leap out and strangle me, Stressed Eric style. When I submitted the reading online? We’re now in credit. This will encourage me to keep an eye on our usage as well, and get it down as far as possible without turning us into Victorian paupers.

What are your goals for next year? I’ve got a good feeling about 2016!

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Wasting food, my secret shame

So, we’ve all read the articles and seen the TV programmes about food waste – 1.3 billion tonnes, was it? I read an article which said £60 a month is thrown away by the average family.

Okay, so I don’t throw away that much (being frugal-ish, £60 a month is over a quarter of my food budget) but I do throw food away. Last night’s victims were an elderly butternut squash (it’s crime was having lots of fuzzy, white mould or mildew on it, not just being elderly) and, the one that broke my heart, a honeydew melon that I had neglected then forgotten about. What’s that, £3 into the bin? Something like that.

So there’s my The Frugal Girl style confession – not quite food waste Friday but Saturday will have to do!

The one thing I do usually manage to save are the black bananas for banana bread –

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This one was a triumph – I think it’s the first one I’ve made that wasn’t soggy at the bottom, and it not only saved three bananas from the bin, it provided a less chemical laden snack for Mr Aspiring Frugalista to munch on over a few days.

I also like to donate to the local food bank run by The Trussell Trust – hey have drop off points all over the place and I was so glad to see that my local Tesco have FINALLY kept their donation point permanent this year. I’ve had tins etc that were bought in good faith for the hubs and when they remained uneaten (but still in date) they’ve been donated, rather than left to fester, go out of date, and never get eaten. If you can make room for a couple of pounds in your food budget to be spare, you’d be surprised what you can donate in food goods.

I’m also starting to frequent the Love Food Hate Waste site for ideas, and Abel and Cole have a great section on their site with veggie recipes, searchable by vegetable. Then of course, there’s the amazing A Girl Called Jack, whose site should be required reading for anyone wanting to cook on a low budget! She really can do so much with so little; and I admire the way she has used her success to benefit others and draw attention to the plight facing people on the poverty line.

And finally, please check out this Guardian article about food waste initiatives around the world – if nothing else it’s a really interesting read!

Thank you for reading, until next time!

 

Well Hello There!

I’m still around and doing my best. So much has happened in the past few months; I lost all of my focus on everything but kept plodding away at creating our own personal slice of freedom.

So far, we have made £1500 worth of overpayments to our mortgage. When I look at how much comes off the capital with each monthly payment that equals roughly 15 months! 15 months closer to our goal of completely owning our house, 15 months closer to my goal of being able to step back from working my fingers to the bone and enjoy life more! My next overpayment date is coming in January, what a way to beat the winter blues.

On a not so good note, The Princess had a tumour on her nail bed, which had to be removed. We decided to go all in and get a dental done, walking away with a slightly teeth grinding (pun not intended) bill for almost £400. She has her own savings account so it wasn’t too painful, and my husband did put in some cash too but it has depleted my spare cash down to pretty much nothing for a while. That’s okay though, she’s happier and not in pain so we can live with scrimping and saving! I’m starting to think that we must be getting a frequent flyer discount at the vet as they charge us very little for follow up visits. It’s always worth a box of Roses and a friendly disposition!

Also, my Grandfather passed away. It had been very difficult for us due to some family drama which I will not go in to here, but I went totally spiralling out of control for a while. I had rediscovered the Paypal pay after delivery option, which is great for getting the food for our foster hound, but not so great when you’re having an out of control spending spree. My bank account is now clear of all Paypal payments, but I’m having to very carefully budget for the next few months to be able to do all the things I want to do. I’m grasping on to my last shreds of control like a drowning woman, but I know that they are what will get me through.

Speaking of which, control is what’s getting me through. So many unpleasant and traumatic things have befallen us as a couple in the past months that I truly felt my life was spiralling out of control. I’ve gone from being truthfully calm and settled, to a seething pit of rage, to trying to get on the road to being me again. An important part of that has been regaining control of the two things in life I should always be able to control – what goes in my mouth and what comes out of my purse.  I’ve not spent an unbudgeted for penny this month! I know! Who could believe it? And part of that has been not going to the supermarket three times a day to fritter money away on snacks and god knows what else. (I appreciate it seems not far on in the month but my month starts on payday!)

Well, we’re being whipped around by Storm Desmond – no rain here yet but the wind carried me swiftly down to the post box and back and the dogs may end up in Kansas next time they go out. Stay safe!

Officially Mr and Mrs Aspiring Frugalista!

Hello there! In the midst of wedding preparations I’ve neglected my little blog something chronic. Well, the wedding is now done and dusted, I’m curled up comfy cosy in a Motorhome writing this post and contemplating the torrent of name changes I’m going to have to undertake!
 
 I’d like to share with you some of the ways we had a truly frugal wedding. I appreciate that it’s not for everyone, this doing it for under £500 lark, but it worked for us. We couldn’t justify spending a huge amount of money on one day when there’s so much that needed to be done in every day life. So, here goes (nothing I have linked to has been sponsored, just the choices I’ve made!):
 
 First of all, the clothes. My dress came from Lindy Bop. They do have a bridal section although I chose a bright blue number, for £30. Their dresses are beautifully made, I normally buy them for any occasion where I need to look smart. They also have a Made in Britain range, which can’t be bad. This dress will do double day for my work Christmas party this year too. I borrowed a petticoat from a dear friend of mine, otherwise that would have been nearly the cost of the dress! Mr AF bought a suit for job interviews, and wore that. To us, a suit is a suit. Well cared for it will stay looking smart for a long time, and he didn’t half look handsome! I think his suit, shirt (a two pack!) and his tie cost about £80 from Matalan.
 
 Secondly, the actual ceremony. There was nothing we could do about the cost of the licenses but I had found out previously at most registry offices do a midweek, early morning ceremony for not very much money. Neither of us have much in the way of family, so we opted for this with my parents as witnesses. Including the certificate it cost £50. The ceremony did take place in an office but… When we spoke the vows it was as if there was nobody else and nothing else in that moment. I’m glad we did it this way, although I appreciate that it really isn’t for everyone. But the option is there!
 
 Our cake, which is ridiculously delicious and moreish, was made by the fair hands of my dear mother. Can you make the cake yourself? Is there someone in your family that would? Perhaps they would do it as a wedding present to you. And if you get married like I did, a slice of cake sent to people to let them know seems to go down quite well!
 
 Our photographs were done by a family friend. He didn’t ask for any money although he did such a good job and stayed with us for so long that we have given him something. Do you know anyone who enjoys photography? Or anyone who would photograph your wedding in exchange for being able to use the photos in the portfolio? This one could be taking a chance though, so please tread cautiously.
 
 So, I’m going to get back to our honeymoon now! I will be back soon with another post, now life has settled down again. I really am learning to roll with the punches!
 
 

The Married Life Action Plan

So, now we’ve returned from honeymoon (post about the wedding coming soon!) and, er, slightly overspent (by about £30 so not the end of the world!) things have got to be stricter than ever. We’re back down to just the one income for now, though Mr AF has enough saved up to tide his bills over until he finds a new job.
 
 Our shared goal is to overpay our mortgage and my individual goal is to save up an emergency fund to cover my bills. So I’m alternating between saving for my goal and saving towards our joint goal (we can only overpay in £500 chunks).
 
 I’ve been hitting the Debt Free Wannabe forums over at Money Saving Expert – while I’m now debt free overspending is something that I will always struggle with, and these forums get that! You have to find support wherever you can. I’m participating more wholeheartedly in their challenges than ever before!
 
 My plan to cover the rest of the month is laid out below and I’ll revisit on the first of June to let you all know how I’ve coped!
 
 So, step one : spend no more than £10 (excluding groceries, from the 17th May to the 1st June)
 
 Step two : spend no more than £50 on groceries
 
 Step three : have as many no spend days as possible! Anything I want to buy is going on a thirty day wait list.
 
 Step four : spend nothing on petrol! My mother has used my car for he past ten days and it went out with a full tank and will come back with a full tank.
 
 I’ve made a few promises to myself at the start of my married life. I want to spend less money on dross – my life doesn’t need to be filled with consumerism to be full. I want to value and take care of myself more – how can I expect to be valued by my husband if I don’t value myself? And finally – I want us to have more fun. We both work so hard both in and out of our home and I often say I’m too tired to do anything apart from the things I have to do to keep life going. That’s simply not true and we can have lots of fun for not much money. Even the things that do cost – if I spend less on dross, I can afford to go out more!
 
 So, that’s the plan. I’m a planner, now it’s time to develop the fortitude to follow my plans through!
 
 
 

That Sinking Feeling is no more

Remember when I wasn’t sure how or if being debt free would feel any different?

It does.

I smashed my First-then finance goals for the first time since I set them. Not only am I a whisper away from payday still solvent, but I’m a whisper away from payday with money in my ‘spare change’ savings account, which is enough to have already paid for my prescription sunglasses, and also enough to pay for my wedding outfit, which I ordered today. 

I don’t know about you but each month I go through the arduous task of changing all of my standing orders to go out on payday. I can be paid on anything from the 19th to the 22nd of each month, and previously I’ve been so out of control with my spending that I didn’t trust myself to leave a whole paycheque in the bank for that 3-4 days until my standing orders would kick in and send the money to various accounts, making sure I could always pay my bills every month.

Today, I set them all for the 22nd and made the decision to leave it like that.

This month’s success has come partly from my fiscal almost-fast. It drew my attention to how much money I frittered away in dribs and drabs and really did frighten me. I gave myself £20 a week for the rest of the month and put the remainder into savings. Each week, whatever I didn’t spend, went into savings. I sold my beloved but unused filofax to pay for my sunglasses. All of these little things added up to make me feel more secure, and now I’m not worried because there’s no money in my account. After the rush of clearing the debt, has come the intriguing process of building self control, building a safety net.

So, my financial first-then goal is now as follows:

First, save enough money to cover a month’s worth of bills (£780 approximately)

Next, add a month’s mortgage payment to that (£326)

Future goals I want to accomplish include having a full month’s wages still in the bank when payday rolls around, and the lofty challenge of having a full year’s worth of bill and food money in the savings account. 

Baby steps, though.

Beware the Deal that’s Not A Deal..

This month I’ve given myself a £20 allowance per week to spend as I see fit. Last week, somehow, I spent nothing from it! My week runs from Friday to Friday and so I shuttled that money into a spare change savings account. I’m waiting for the new ISA allowance to open so I can get a semi decent rate and at the end of the month, plop the money into there! Although this month I have prescription sunglasses to finish paying for (oh for the joy of having truly rubbish eyesight. Not so much being short sighted but I have a whoppingly huge astigmatism in one of my eyes) and my wedding outfit. So even though only a small amount will make it into my ISA this month, at least those two things won’t go on the credit card!

But back to the title, a deal that isn’t a deal. On Friday I opened an email from a well known gardening site telling me that they were having free delivery all Easter weekend. Woohoo, I think, I’ve been after a few packets of seed and I hate paying for postage. Some thoughtful clicking later, I had found the seeds I was after, only three packets so far, and noted the total. Almost £9.

For three packets of seed.

So I hopped on to Seed Parade who I knew weren’t doing free of charge postage but had always seemed cheaper. I added those three packets of seed. Then another three more. Then the postage. I paid under £9 for twice the amount of seed and the postage.

So I’m pretty happy with that, I must say. When I’ve got them in and growing I’ll let you know how they go!

(I am not endorsed by Seed Parade nor have I been asked to write about them, I just think they are a brilliant company!)

My Fiscal Fast!

Jeff Yeager – the ultimate cheapskate

A fiscal fast – the concept of not spending any money for seven entire day’s really appeals to me. No stock-ups apart from fuel for the car and milk allowed, it’s a get by on what you’ve got sort of thing.

I was spend free this week until Thursday, when we ran out of milk, fire lighters and Mr’s cereal bars. All of which I didn’t find out until last thing at night and while I could have stayed up and made him flapjacks as an easy snack to keep his sugar levels right at work, yeah, didn’t happen. I also needed to get his birthday card. So I did spend this week but judging by my totals below, I still should be proud for what I did achieve!

Comparable week in February (day after payday for seven days) spend: £58.56

Fiscal fast week (day after payday March, seven days) spend: £8.23

Holy crap.

Also, bear in mind that the comparable week, that money came out of my account mainly in amounts smaller than five pounds. I hadn’t pulled the plug on the bath but a fast dribble will empty it surprisingly quickly, wouldn’t you say!

So my fiscal fast wasn’t perfect, but it did make me feel good. It made me feel in control; usually by the end of week one post payday I have next to no money left. Part of that was the huge chunk of my wage going to debt repayment but the other part of that was that I convinced myself I ‘deserved’ these ‘little treats’ on a daily basis. Multiple times a day.

I do want to attempt this again, and I’ve learned from this past week’s mistakes. Buy a bigger bottle of milk, and pre buy birthday cards, don’t get them at the last minute! Mr’s eating habits vary wildly depending on how he feels, and what work he’s doing but I will go back to buying one extra box of cereal bars a week, and if those stores run out, homemade flapjacks. Any hints on if these would be freezable? If they are I might just run a batch up, wrap and bung in freezer for emergencies!

Thank you for reading, as always!

It’s Done..

I’m at the end of one long road and at the start of another!

As of the 20th March 2015, 00:01, I am debt free.

The last £265 went whizzing over to my mother and I got a text saying ‘thank you for the money, that’s it now then isn’t it?’ No fireworks, just a simple acknowledgement and a sigh of relief.

I’ve learned so much from being in debt. I’ve yo-yo’d in and out of debt for all of my adult life, mostly being rescued by my darling mother when everything went wrong. But in a way that was worse, it never taught me the lesson.

I can say to a certain extent that I don’t wholly regret getting in to debt.

I know that sounds crazy to say but a large portion of it was spent making sure my dear Roger got the care he needed, and I don’t regret that.

What I do regret though…

Car finance over five years. Oh. My. God. That was like a huge millstone around my neck and I’m so glad to finally be rid of it. I’m now looking into selling my car and buying something more sensible, because Fiat 500 and two big dogs? Not gonna happen.

Frittering. Using my credit card for impulse purchases. At FAST FOOD PLACES of all things. Seriously, I used my credit card at McDonalds more than once. I have remedied this by completely and utterly forgetting my PIN number so I can’t fritter with money that’s not even mine.

I’ve decided to embark on a Fiscal Fast for the next seven days, so let’s see how I get on with that!

Thank you for sticking with me dear readers :)

It seems strange to think…

That in five days, I will be personal debt free (mortgage I’m counting outside that). So, yay, that obviously means life is sorted out, right? Ummm… Not so much. I’m still running out of money before I’ve run out of month. But the fact that I don’t spend in that time, rather than ramp my credit card or overdraft up, says that I’m making progress. I did sign up for an Ancestry membership in a moment of ‘sod it, I’ll pay for it next month’ but… I cancelled it. The thought of putting money onto that squeaky clean credit card made me feel queasy. I’ll save up for it instead. I paid for the insurance excess on my car from the savings I put aside every month for car bills so there was no struggle there. Definite progress. Millie was so lonely without Roger and we knew that whatever we vowed, we would end up with another dog. An opportunity came up to be a long term foster for a beautiful old man greyhound and we knew we couldn’t say no. So we’ve done something good but at minimal cost to us as his bills are covered, and he’s bought so much joy into our lives and Millie’s life. The wedding on an *extreme* budget is one of the ways we’re making the money situation work. So far, we have spent £199. That’s suit, venue and licenses. Just my dress (about £40 ish) and his ring to go. The honeymoon is weighing in at…erm… Quite a lot. The Motorhome we’ve hired is costing us £1000 for ten days. But I can justify that! Kennelling fees for ten days would be about £200+, plus buying food out (even in self catering we would only be able to take so much food with us), would soon mount up. The Motorhome hire place is near us, so it’ll be picked up, brought back here, loaded up with food and all the goodies we need (no suitcases required!) and then at the end, brought back here, unloaded, cleaned and taken back. So I’d like to show you a big way I’ve been getting through a very lean time…

IMG_0294 I had a strange few days where all of a sudden I became terrified at the thought of not having anything in to get through if there was a flood, or a zombie apocalypse (I have OCD and my brain tends to latch on to thoughts like that and terrify me). Don’t worry; I didn’t take out a second mortgage to build a nuclear bunker or buy 6 years worth of dehydrated food packs. What I did do was hunt down bargains on shelf stable foods and household necessities. This past few weeks having these stores has meant that I can keep the shopping bill under £25 a week which has been incredibly helpful, although it does mean it needs to be built back up again!