Saturday, 12 September 2020

Doing some sums

 I have quite a lot of leisure time at the moment so I decided to try a mini experiment.

I bought a one kilo pack of chicken thighs from Sainsbury.  I think thighs are really good value.  Actually, without the tray they weighed 1150 grammes so I was ahead by 150 grammes before I started!

I then boned them and resulting the flesh and skin weighed 1040 grammes.

Then I removed the skin and fat and weighed the meat.  850 grammes.  They had cost me £1.95.  That means that skinless, boneless chicken fillets had cost me £2.30 per kilo.

I checked the Sainsbury site.  They sell chicken thigh fillets at £5.31 per kilo.  More than double!

And I got a small pan of stock as well.  

Tuesday, 1 September 2020


On the face of it, it seems crazy to call this month's review of my finances, "Rejoicing".  Once again I have spent far more than my income.  Once again something broke down and had to be replaced - this time my iPhone.  Once again I have overspent on food.  I brought forward my planned car service from December to August because if I have to sit and wait for my car to be ready I'd rather sit outside in August. Once again I have far less money at the end of the month than I had at the beginning.

But the point is that although most of those things could be called "unplanned expenditure" the truth is that it is all expenditure which I have planned for - what a wonderful example of gobbledygook!  The point is that I didn't plan for my mobile phone to break down any more than I planned for the laptop to die in June or the fridge to develop a terminal illness in July but, sure as eggs is eggs, things will break down and Murphy's Law says that they will do so at the most inconvenient time.  I know that my car will have to be serviced, so each month a little is set aside for the purpose - in fact I had set aside enough in eight months because there was no extra work to be done but I had saved extra in case of extra work.  I could even take the opportunity to buy extra meat when that opportunity arose. 

So I can rejoice.  Money is not just to be saved but to be used wisely.  In months when I have had less demands on my purse I've set some aside so now I can rejoice.

But I can still hope that September doesn't hold too many nasty surprises!

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Looking back

Oh dear.  July was not a good month financially.  And it followed a not very good June when I had to buy a new laptop.

I had decided that in July I would treat myself.  I had quite a lot of Amazon vouchers which I had received for various survey payments and I had long wanted a new camera.  I bought one but had to dip into my reserves for £80 to get the one I want.  That would have been manageable.

Then my lovely landlord had a wonderful new fence built to the side of my home.  I'd offered a financial contribution but my offer was declined!  The fence didn't cost me anything but I took advantage of the collection he had arranged for the old fence and had quite a bit of rubbish  removed.  £50 down.   

Then someone pointed out that life seemed to have lost its oomph for one of my tyres, so that was £65 unexpected expenditure.  Things were looking dodgier.

The very next day I realised that the fridge had died.  My finances for July were in terminal decline.  I have finished the month £35 down on how I started it.  And August may also be "interesting" as I have booked my car in for a service before the winter. 

I also way overspent on groceries.  I bought a case of loo rolls (£40) from "Who gives a crap?" but they will last about eighteen months.  This company gives half its profits to sanitation projects in developing countries.  The loo rolls are good too so that's quite a few happy bums from one purchase.  (Incidentally the loo rolls are made from recycled paper and bamboo fibre so they're kind to the environment.) My usual "personal shopper" (a cousin) wasn't available so I had to have weekly deliveries from Sainsbury's with a minimum £40 spend.  I have a feeling that may be the case during the winter as well.

I've also needed more paid help.  At the moment I am employing Annie-the-home-enhancer (cleaner) again and will do so through August but when September comes and her children are back in school that will change.  

And yet I don't feel despondent.  I had set money aside for unexpected expenses and unforeseen emergencies.  It was there ready.  Maybe if I could have known how the month would pan out I wouldn't have bought the camera but to be honest, I don't regret it.  Everything else was necessary and I did my best.  

As I have hinted above, August too will have its problems but I will survive!

Sunday, 26 July 2020

How to live like a millionaire on a retirement budget

I've been reading "How to live like a millionaire on a retirement budget: Priceless strategies for living as if money were no object" by Elizabeth Dunkel.   Many of the ideas in it will be very familiar to frugal bloggers but they bear repeating.

Her basic philosophy is that creative, stylish thinking, feeling and living is the way to celebrate a life in retirement.  Or to quote Coco Chanel, "There are people who have money and people who are rich".  Her hacks are not so much about money saving as about rethinking how to look at money and luxury.  Simple ideas like eating outdoors (or lighting a candle if indoors) to make a meal into occasion even if it is eaten alone.  Or a single flower in a slender vase.

I hate it when my environment reminds me that I am careful with money.  Actually I'm glad (and maybe a little proud) when I look at my accounts that I am careful with money but I don't want to feel cheapskate when I walk around my house.  So, as a contribution to luxurious stinginess I am offering just one idea.

Like many people I cut open tubes to make sure I get the last smidgen of a product out, even if the product was itself super value.  Some people just pop one end of the cut tube over the other and continue to use it but when I see a tube like that in my bathroom or on my dressing table it looks a little bleak.   Instead I save old face cream pots and when I've cut the bottom off a hand cream tube I scoop the remaining hand-cream into a de-labelled pot.  Hand-cream budget range from Wilko, face-cream budget range from Lidl (or maybe Aldi, can't remember which).  
Luxury method

Quick method

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Two steps forward, one back

To be honest, I am one of those fortunate people for whom lock down has been a financial gain.  My spending has reduced in many categories (motoring, eating out, paid help) and I've been able to control my grocery expenditure as I have become accustomed to the new situation.  My income has dropped as I am no longer able to work at all but the fall in expenditure has more than compensated for that.  I'm not a "recreational" shopper and I think that retail therapy just results in headaches at 2am.

But I cannot believe how many of my appliances have died this year.  Back in January it was the freezer and just last month I had to replace my laptop.  I thought I was OK this month but on Thursday I acquired a large nail in a tyre which meant I had to acquire a new tyre.  Not as bad as a freezer or a laptop but still an appreciable sum.

Then Friday the fridge died.  I just can't believe it!  To be fair I have been having a few doubts about its efficiency but I didn't expect it to die.  

So today I shall have to contact my local electrical appliance supplier and spend some hard-saved money.  I've checked on line and I know what I want (basically the fridge to match the freezer I bought in January!) and they will deliver.  It's not really a problem but oh! I wish my finances didn't suffer so much!

And I know how fortunate I am that I can manage to buy a fridge and that buying a fridge is my only problem

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Getting roped in

Last year I was approached by the Office for National Statistics to do a one-off survey.  I think they choose households at random so they can some idea of the "state of the nation".  At the end of the survey they asked if they could approach me again (they try not to over-burden the unwilling) and I said OK so throughout last year I did surveys on household finance.  Apart from a reusable cotton tote bag there was no reward but I was happy to help anyway.

Earlier this year I was asked if I would help with the corona virus survey which I mentioned on my other blog.   I'm really pleased to help with that one.  I was chosen in the light of the demographic information (gender, age, postcode, income etc) which they already had from my previous surveys.  This one is paid in vouchers for places like Tesco, Sainsbury or Amazon.  

I also get roped in for all sorts of things because I do surveys for commercial firms.  I get a free product and usually a financial reward as well.   I've tested soap powder, face cream, butter and other things over the years but at the moment I am testing an on-line fitness programme.  I'm really happy to help with this one because they are including help for disabled people.  (Sorry, I can't tell you the name.)  

I started on Monday although I did a questionnaire a while ago and I've got just four little habits to develop.  They've asked me to have a large helping of green vegetables, to do some simple stretches, to make sure I eat nothing during the two hours before bedtime and to walk half a mile on my treadmill each day.  There is no way that I could walk half a mile in one go but I keep nipping out to the garage and doing fifty or a hundred yards.  I get motivational texts several times a day.  

As far as I know there's no financial reward for this but if it makes me try just a little bit harder that is more than enough reward for getting roped in.  

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Double Oh Dear!

The first Oh Dear! is an apology because I haven't blogged since this time last month.  Sorry about that.

The second Oh Dear! is because I've had budgetting problems.  About three weeks ago my laptop died.  I really hammer my 'pooters as they are used on my lap and they get damaged rather easily.  Anyway I went to my usual techie type chap who also said Oh Dear!  The laptop needed a new motherboard and as it was four years old it seemed better to replace it completely.  However, he set up the new one for me and transferred everything which he could transfer from the old one.  

What we couldn't retrieve was my old budget and tracking information so I had to work out my expenditure from alternative records.  Fortunately it was just a couple of weeks worth of figures which needed retrieving.

So, let's look how things are going.  As far as I know I reduced my grocery expenditure by nearly fifty pounds last month (I keep a separate detailed record of grocery spending).  This means that it's at roughly pre Covid levels.  Also I am no longer eating out so that's a huge saving.  I had to buy some petrol (£30) but that was the first I've bought since early March.  My gardener/handyman is back and I am paying my cleaner a retainer so that's quite a lot.  

And apart from the usual bills which I pay by monthly direct debit I've spent very little else.  I've had quite a bit in from surveys etc.  So despite my Oh Dears! and buying a computer I was still able to stash £50,

So I think I can say, Oh Dear! Oh Dear! Well done Dear!