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!

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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.

Budgeting Thoughts

Have you ever made a budget that just turned out to be overly optimistic? Or perhaps had a wedge of “spare” cash for “emergencies” that you just left in your current account, only to be frittered away and then some?

Yeah, me too.

My initial budgets were mainly set in la-la land- assuming I wouldn’t be doing any out of budget spending, that the money would be shuffled neatly across into savings or towards debt at the end of the month when I was miraculously unspent.

Next month’s budget is sorted and I have budgeted down to zero. I’ve included some personal spending, some Christmas shopping money, money for all the vital things is included. There’s no spare money in the budget to be frittered away; everything has a category.

I’m going back to an old fashioned spending diary, paper, pen, the amount and what it was for. I’m a stationery addict so no need to go out and buy a notepad and no worrying about running out of ink. No fancy apps and no excuses.

I’ve spent the past couple of months on and off the frugal wagon and it’s taken me time to get back into the right headspace. Here I am though, keep on keeping on. If there’s a secret to this frugal life it is that. Keep trying, don’t give up. If you slip, do what you can to repair any damage and move on. Have an ideal budget, but have a real one too. Having something to work towards is a great motivator but without the real one you get disheartened when nothing seems to go to plan.

Baby steps, baby steps.

On getting back into the groove

This month has been somewhat spendy, but reduced by using vouchers etc.

But I’m still not back in the groove, which is annoying me. Knowing that I don’t have a credit card payment to make next month has made me lax, and that’s not a good thing. I still have a considerable debt to pay back to my mother and although she is fairly relaxed about it, it is still a debt and debt is now no longer a part of my life plan.

I am one of those people who are constantly either making or looking for purchases that will fix my life. They will get me organised! They will stop me from overeating! They will make me exercise more!

In reality, the only answer and solution to all of my problems comes from within, but those solutions take more work to pull out of the bag. Most of my purchases are either comfort eating/shopping or these kind of things.

My purse is locked away.

My meal plan is in place.

All of the errands I need to run this week are sitting in a carrier bag in my car. No missy, you don’t need to take your purse out to produce ID, you just need the actual ID itself. My brain likes to play tricks on me in these kinds of situations.

I’m about to go downstairs and work on next month’s budget, getting the
rudimentals in place so I can fill in everything I have inevitably forgotten as I go along.

I’ll share it on here in a few days, to keep me accountable.

Wish me luck!

Something has made me stupidly happy today…

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This is me, on my way to the bin, with a handful of chopped up (and cancelled) credit card. I’m down to one card now, which I will be keeping but locked in the filing cabinet that only has one key (and Mr AF has it on his keys).

It feels like I’ve let out a huge breath that I didn’t know I had been holding in.

I’m having a trial week of Austere August and whoops, I only have 45p left :/ but that’s why it’s a trial week! I’ve also started a well being journal as I tend to go way off track in other areas when I’m focussing so hard on one thing. I’m finding myself getting more and more stressed as I go along which is silly, so it’s time for a well being adjustment. I’ll share a page on here when I don’t feel quite so silly about it!

The way I’m going, the final institutional debt will be clear in two and a half months. The mere thought of that makes me grin from ear to ear :)

Simplify

In days gone by, I had… 3 current accounts, 1 joint account, 1 ISA, 11 savings accounts, 3 credit cards, and a partridge in a pear tree. I was trying to form a digital envelope system which was often accompanied by several paper envelopes and various half started spending diaries.
 
 It didn’t work.
 
 I was so disappointed – it worked for ‘everyone else’, why not me? The envelope system is usually hailed as the answer to all financial problems but I just didn’t get along with it.
 
 Maybe it’s because I’m just not ‘everyone else’.
 
 I need simplicity to be able to keep up with and stick to a system. As much as I like complex systems and money whizzing about here there and everywhere, I just can’t manage it effectively and it all goes to pot. That’s usually when I give up and crack the credit cards out. My current system is going through phases of simplification, and I’m enjoying paring it down to get it to a point where it works for me.
 
 This is the current set up:
 
 1 current account: for daily use and my bills.
 1 joint account: for the mortgage but I’m hoping to convince Mr AF to gradually have more and more of the joint bills in this account.
 3 online savers: one for next year’s household annual bills, one for next year’s car expenses, one for monthly pet expenses.
 1 groceries account: this was my Tesco credit card but now they have changed their system to prevent the card from being put into a positive balance I’m going to either open another current account with my regular bank or use a dormant current account I already have but cancel the overdraft facility. The Tesco credit card will be cancelled after this week’s shopping takes care of the remaining positive balance.
 
 As you can see I’m using the parts of the envelope system that work for me, but without having an account for every little thing.
 
 I’m also working on my exposure to debt; I’m fairly sure cancelling down some of my available but unused debt won’t hurt my credit report as I have enough sensible ‘good’ credit on there that I do use. The Tesco credit card is going; I’m sure I won’t miss a few pence worth of club card points every month and I feel freer to seek out the cheapest petrol now I haven’t got it in the back of my mind that I’ll get more club card points if I fill up at tesco. The overdraft on the current account used as my grocery account will be closed, my budgeting in this area is getting a lot better and transfers from my daily to this account go via the faster payment system anyway.
 
 I have been reading Zen Habits for a little while now and have started putting ideas from there into practice. Time to whittle down to what I need rather than rubbish that I think I need but actually just temporarily want.
 
 

Last Month’s Totals and Trying not to Go Loopy on Payday

Hello hello hello :) well, I guess this marks the end of the first month (of many) of concentrating on being more frugal. Without further ado, here’s the totals-

Groceries – £191.77/£250. I’m SO pleased with this, especially as it has been a five week month for me. This month I’m going to give the grocery budget another little squeeze as I feel that there’s still room for improvement; recipes could have been more frugal, portion sizes could have been better, my shopping could have been more prepared (I had several forgetful moments leading to another trip to the shops). One thing that I’m very proud of is that my food waste is going down! This is another thing I need to focus on. On Sunday I did a big cook up because I do have issues with my energy levels dropping dramatically without warning due to my illness. So on Sunday, I made two meals for the freezer, one for the fridge and the dinner for that evening. These weren’t complex meals but they were meals requiring more energy than I ever have mid week and will help me to avoid splurging on ready meals. The remaining meals are low energy, quick cooks like fajitas and fish and chips.

Fuel – £39.89/£90. Another big win here! I have focused on driving more efficiently, and have set my car up to beep furiously at me if I go over 50mph. On my usual journey to and from work I have no need to go over this speed, and I’ getting used to driving in a more sensible fashion. Of course, this helps not only fuel economy but it reduces the risk of accidents and speeding fines. Win, win, win, all round. This budget will be getting a tickle as well next month.

Miscellaneous – £149.22/£0. This wasn’t specifically in my budget but I still wanted to track what I was spending. This total…is rubbish, let’s be frank, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it has been previously. This will be given focus in next month’s budget.

Debt – £241.71/£170! Win! Win win win! I wanted to wrap this up on a high and I’m so pleased with this total. This month I have paid off my last interest earning debt (apart from the mortgage) and have started working on the ‘institutional debt’ kindly held by Halifax (the remaining debt is to a family member). This is now under £1000, and my aim this month was to pay off the balance transfer fee, and I’ve done that plus a little bit. It meant a lot to me to get it under £1000, and while I’m not on the home stretch with it yet, I can feel momentum building. Making payments to my debt gives me a huge thrill!

So the budgets I’m focussing on this month are as follows:

Groceries – £200. Judging by this month this should be fairly easily doable, as I will be in a four weeker for grocery shopping. It’s turning in to how low can you go whilst still feeding people!

Petrol – £75. Just a little squeeze on this one, I didn’t want to go too radical as I have a week off in this pay period and I’m looking to drive to spend some time with my mother. Still, should be doable.

Miscellaneous – £199. Still far, far more than I want to spend, but if I come in under this it will be an improvement, and that’s what we’re all about! After seeing what I spent last month in this category I felt making a budget for it was sensible, using that as a benchmark.

Debt – at least £200 paid to debt. Hoping with all the odds and ends left over from various budgets I’ll be able to smash this as so as payday! £170 is the automatic amount my debt gets, so raising this by £30 is just the beginning this month really.

Okay, well, that’s all from me tonight! Oh, and one last thing…

I’m still in the black

Taking Your Eye Off The Ball

Usually, when I take my eye off the ball, that’s when it hits me in the face and makes me sulk.

Well, that’s what happened last week with money!

I’m very much an emotional spender (and eater for that matter) and when I don’t feel very well, my purse accompanies me everywhere. My debit card must have friction burns from the amount of times it has been in and out of my purse this week!

My eye has now been superglued to my budget spreadsheet, which has been updated (oh THE SHAME!) and is 100% truthful about how much I messed up this week. But there have been a lot of positives –

I have paid myself back the money owed from my savings pot that I borrowed last month. This wasn’t included in my debt figure but was on my mind, as this savings pot is due to be used for it’s intended purpose next month so I didn’t want it to be short.

I’ve paid an extra £30 over what I was intending to pay to my interest free card, making it into a sexy round number. Round numbers please me. I’m very tempted to pay a little extra to it to take the balance under £1000 but I am going to be sensible and wait until the day before payday, just in case.

I’m still in the black! No other debts have been racked up and I’m starting to see a light at the end of my tunnel. Mr AF has spoken to me about helping me to clear one of the debts which was built up paying the vet bills for our dog, which will bring that one down even faster.

I guess the moral of this blog post is that in the beginning it is difficult to relax; in the beginning frugality isn’t necessarily your natural state. It certainly isn’t mine. But if you want to live below your means, debt free, savings in the bank, you can’t give up when you slip. Be honest with yourself, pick yourself up, take stock and carry on. It will be worth it in the end.

If you slip on a step you don’t go on to throw yourself down the stairs, you recover and carry on!

A Frugal (ish) Week

To be honest with you, I’m struggling to write this post after the mad dash at work this week, but I shall persevere. This week has been a fairly successful week for this aspiring Frugalista. I did stump up for cinema tickets (honestly, Mr AF is like a cooped up child sometimes, very antsy) but I left my purse at home to avoid succumbing to cinema treats. Success one! We did enjoy the film and we barely ever go ‘out out’ as Micky Flanaghan would call it so I don’t feel too bad about it.

I did succumb on two days to junk food. Not happy about this, but it’s gone from every day, several times a day, to twice this week. Not bad.

Obviously I’ve done five. Very. Long. Days. At. Work. But hey, it’s money in my pocket and pension, and I made some more money to go on top of my wages this week, success two.

Success three has been the fact that my pension contribution has taken me below the threshold for making payments to my student loan!

Success four – thoroughly stuck to my meal plan and remembered to get everything out of my freezer so it was ready when needed. Also made this week’s meal plans which include a couple of meals to batch up.

Success five – Mr AF got the electricity bill through, we’ve used far less than last year, the DD has gone down again and he’s due a £260 refund from them which has pretty much paid for our September holiday – happy days.

My budgets are looking healthy at the end of week one –

Groceries – £69.80 / £250 – this includes next week’s shop too.

Petrol – £39.89 / £90 – this should last me the rest of the month. My mpg figure has actually dropped this week, but this has been a week of short journeys rather than long drives which obviously affects the figures. I’ll work out my mpg next time I fill up and see how the decreasing weight of the fuel affects the figures. Ok, I’ve finished with the geekery, wake up!

Pets – £51.89 / £100 – this may go a couple of pounds over but this is the vast majority of the pet related expenses for the month.

All in all a very successful week! If I can stay this frugal with food I will definitely have cleared my final interest earning debt and I can crack on to the interest free ones. That grocery total above was previously probably one weekly shop and one top up; there it’s two weekly shops and a top up. I use my credit card as a debit card – I pay money onto it every month for petrol and groceries and use it at Tesco for the club card points. Next month I will top it up to the budgeted amount and anything left will go to the debt. I need it gone, we’ve got plans for life!