Friday, 14 February 2014

Budgeteering update

At the start of the month, I drew out £80 in cash, with the aim of seeing how long I could make it last, details in this previous post
As of last Friday I had £28 left. Even that is better than it sounds as I'd spent £9 on car parking, which has been claimed back as an allowable expense.

Common sense told me that I couldn't make this last another 2 weeks, as I was away all week, and would need cash.
So, what did I do....
Put the £20 in an envelope, label it 'spare' and took it with me.
Drew out another £80 for the next 2 weeks spending.  I've finally got a use-able voucher from Tesco.  I often get vouchers when I shop, but often they are for '£x off a £50 shop'. I've tried to spend £50, but never managed it. Last week, however I got one for £4 when I spend £30,and I've got some other money off coupons.  I even remembered to put them through the till in the correct order. So weekly spend was only £19 in actual cash.

Conventional wisdom for cutting down on household spending recommends shopping in the likes of Aldi and Lidl, and while there are undoubtedly bargains to be had, for me, due to the fact that we don't have either locally, the extra cost of going there doesn't justify the amount I'd save.   I know people who say they saved £40 by shopping in the budget supermarkets - I don't spend that much in one shop (see above note about Tesco)!

I'm not sure where the likes of Home Bargains, and Wilkinsons fit into this. I find them really useful for cleaning products, toiletries and bargain biscuits.

But for me, the local market, and local shops win every time.

So where am I now? 4 days until payday and I've got £23 in my purse and a small fortune in £2 coins. A fair amount of stuff in the freezer, and meals planned for the next 4 nights. So a win really, and will try the same next month.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Shopping local, shopping fresh

I try to shop locally when I can

We're lucky in that we still have an independent baker and a butcher in walking distance. We have a market on Friday, and while there's the usual market stuff, and "M&S seconds", there's a really good fruit and veg stall, a cake stall, a fishmongers van, and a butchers van. So, if I'm around ans about on a Friday, that's where I head to.

A couple of miles in the opposite direction, and there's an indendent greengrocers, a butchers, and a fishmonger. Most people aren't that lucky and have to shop in supermarkets.  

Now, while there's no doubt that supermarkets have buying power, and you can get things on offer, and really cheaply, it's been the death of little shops which can't compete on price.  There's also a question of quality, and while the supermarkets have quality control I often find that produce bought in supermarkets doesn't last very long.

That's not a problem, if you've a large family, and use things quickly; but there are only two of us, and I'm away for part of most weeks. If I'm not there, J may use frozen veg, but it's highly unlikely that he'll bother peeling carrots!

From my local shops I can buy just what I need, in the knowledge that anything left over will still be fresh a couple of weeks later.

And, conversely, if I buy bread from the bakery, I need to use it: it's got no preservatives, so has to be eaten fresh. Being honest, nothing lasts that long as it's so tasty.

I also buy from a farm shop occasionally. Mainly because, living in a city, we don't have that many, so it means either a special journey, or being around on the days when they deliver.
But,it's worth the extra money for less waste.  The week before Christmas I bought some local potatoes from the farm shop, and forgot to put them in the hessian bag, leaving them in their box.  But look!

The remaining half dozen are ready to be used.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

And the penny dropped....

I often take small sewing projects on my travels with me.  Now as I'm driving, I can't really 'sew on the go', I'm fairly certain it would be dangerous.  But I work out where I'm going to be, how much time I'm likely to have, and pack a few things, sometimes little felt owls, sometimes embroidery, some patchwork, depending on my mood.
Up to now, I've used this cheap little plastic wallet I picked up a couple of years ago
Now it 'owes me nothing' as my Dad would have said, and even though the zipper broke a while ago I've continued to use it.  But occasionally, very occasionally, everything falls out. So I've been looking round for a replacement, and although I've seen a few, they've been more expensive than I'd like. 

And then I had a 'Eureka!' moment. Watching a craft programme on telly, and thinking "why would someone pay £15 for a bag you can make for coppers", and realising that I could in fact make a bag.

I own a sewing machine, and I have a stash of material

So, I found some material, left over from making cushions for the dining room chairs, worked out that it needed to be the same width, plus about an inch. Decided how long the material needed to be, about twice the size, plus a bit for a fold over.
Used some cheap lining material and wadding, cut to the same size

And ten minutes on the sewing machine later

Of course, it's not perfect. I could have actually measured properly, rather than guesswork, and accurate seam allowances would have helped, but hey, who's going to see it? Its just big enough to hold a few small sewing projects, plus scissors, thimble etc.

And of course, I can put it into the little tote bag that I made a couple of weeks ago.

I made the bag out of calico. Forgot to take a photo of that bit!
Cut out some flowers

Appliqu├ęd them on to bag, and embroidered the stems

and hey presto

a unique bag

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Blogging, budgeteering and bread making

There are plenty of blogs giving budget advice; plenty too about frugal lifestyles. This isn't one of them, but I've been doing some reading, and to be honest, some of the latter really, really wind me up.

Everybody is different. Their motivation for spending, or not, and what they choose to spend their money on is personal to them. Budget advice can only go so far, as ultimately, it's about choice.  So, for example, I could cut £50 from my budget by moving broadband supplier, dropping some channels from the package etc. but I choose not to, because "it doesn't suit me". Fortunately I'm not in a financial position where it matters a great deal, but to read some blogs, you'd think it was treason not to cut every single penny possible.

On the other hand, I don't smoke, rarely drink, so there are areas where I don't spend at all.  There are also areas where I've absolutely no idea where the money goes.  It's the couple of quid here and there that add up, the "oh I'll just pick this up whole I'm here" and the things that get chucked in the freezer the day before they go out of date, as I'm working away and won't be able to use them. And then of course, there are bits of material that I just can't resist....

These are the areas I need to focus on, so with that in mind, I've decided that the best way for me is to back to using cash.  
At the beginning of each month, I estimate my food shopping, but as that also includes cleaning products, toiletries and personal spending, it can be a bit hit and miss.  

So on 1st February I've drawn out £80. This bears no relation whatsoever to any budget, but prior to that the amount in the account had been £x80.74, so after 'sweeping' the 74p into savings, I've got a perfect round amount in the bank.  It works for me!

So now the game is to see how long it lasts.  I've shopped locally, went to the greengrocers and just got what I needed, and so far, have spent £17.65.

And the bread making? I'm not absolutely convinced that its cheaper than buying it, after all, I can go to the local M&S on a Sunday afternoon and buy bread for 10p a loaf, and put it in the freezer. But there is something immensely satisfying about kneading dough. I've got a bread maker, which I use often, but it only has a small pan, so lately, I've been making the dough in the bread maker, and then finishing it off by hand, which seems to be more reliable. Apparently, you're not meant to keep peeking to check that the bread has worked, but the disappointment, when yet another loaf fails to meet expectations makes for a certain amount of frustration. Being able to see it rise in a bowl takes the guesswork out of it, and you can then at least chuck it before it's cooked.