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!
 
 
 

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 :)

Meal Planning for…well, forever

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Last week, I set myself the task of meal planning right through to November payday. The grocery budget is one of the places I find it easiest to cut back with little compromise in quality, however that does mean more work when cooking. I find this a pretty acceptable compromise, and even cooking from scratch I have a collection of convenience meals up my sleeve.

Up there is my first page of planned meals. Some of them may seem a little extravagant (gammon steak!) but they are based around what I have in my freezer. The gammon, for example, came as a pack of six from Farm Foods, for about £3 I think. Decent size steaks, minimal fat and hardly any shrinkage under the grill. Just how Mr AF likes them! Ticked items have been cooked and served, starred items are heading up the meal plan for this week.

This week we have:

Spaghetti Bolognaise (made last week, leftovers frozen into sensible portions)
Gammon, egg and chips (homemade chips, eggs an ever present staple, and the aforementioned Farm Foods gammon!)
Omelette, boiled potatoes, mixed vegetables (you can tell when I’m trying to save money, lots of eggs)
Fish pie and vegetables (fish pie mix was on offer a while ago and I found it in the back of the freezer)
Cottage pie (home grown onions, value mince with the fat drained)
Bacon and mushroom fried rice (whenever I cook a rice based meal I keep some back to make fried rice with. This one always goes down well)

Meal planning for a month or so is harder, I find, as my cooking skills are, ahem, self taught. As a fussy eater my scope of meals is more limited but meal planning over a longer span of time forces me to do a little more research to avoid too many repetitions. Aside from the gammon. Which Mr AF loves.

Any hints on meal planning? Any resources you love?

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.

The not so triumphant return…

I am finally feeling a little more myself, although I will never stop missing my sweet boy I am now able to look beyond that pain and see life again. I know some will not understand the pain I have been through in the last month or so (I have heard a chorus of ‘it’s only a dog’ already) but to me it was a very real loss and to be honest, my life will always be missing a piece.

Onto other things…

Although I have not royally stuffed everything up, I have been in fritter mode. My purse accompanied me everywhere and we all know what happens when I do that. £2.50 here and there mounts up; at least if I had been spending extravagantly I might have something to show for it rather than a bank account running on fumes and a few extra lbs on the scale. Meal planning went out the window in favour of as and when meals; shopping lists went a similar way so when I marvelled at the fact my weekly shop only cost me £25 or so I hadn’t realised I had forgotten half of it and bought loads of stuff that I didn’t need. Cue more trips to the shop. Fritter fritter fritter.

On the positive side, my debt is no bigger – my ‘institutional debt’ sits at £265; this will be paid off in 8 days. EIGHT DAYS PEOPLE!

Yes, I am a tad excited about that. One by one my manacles of debt are dropping off.

Another positive – we went on holiday and the cards were not touched, all expenditure was cash and a week’s holiday on approximately £145 is not bad, n’est pas? I could have cut that right back but the holiday did us good, and to be honest I don’t feel bad about that level of spending at all.

So, going forward…

I’m sticking to my diet. This is the final push to get the last of my weight off and I am NOT going to give up on myself. This also has a sideline of stopping the fritter-y snack-y spends.

The purse is being locked in the filing cabinet. I have no spend requirements whatsoever coming up, I don’t need it.

Meal planning is back! I’m ready for the week going forward and am going to sit down tomorrow and plan next week’s meals. In addition to this I’m going back to click and collect shopping, although I do have a Sainsbury £20 off £60 online shopping voucher, so one of my shops will be delivered :)

Time to get out of the mire and get back into the lifestyle I want to lead!

The Real Cost of Cheap Food

My grocery budget is often the thing I find it easiest to cut back on.
 
 I’m not so sure I want to do that now.
 
 I’m currently watching the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Supermarkets: the Real Price of Cheap Food’. I know these programmes are set up to provide shock value and a lot of the things I knew anyway but…
 
 I grew up in a farming community and I should know better, but I was moved almost to tears by the impact that supermarket promotions have on farmers. It’s made me determined to find a good green grocer or a market stall to buy produce from. But is even the produce there ethical? I cannot afford local farm shops, that’s for sure. I grow as much as I can myself.
 
 I know my few pounds a week won’t stop the big guys from ripping off their suppliers but maybe I can find a pocket that it’s better off in.