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!

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Bye, May. Hi, June.

Ah well, it's only 6th June.  Sorry I'm more than a little late.

I actually did my May wrap-up of finances on Sunday but I didn't get a blog post written.  These lazy long days are doing me no good at all in the getting-things-done stakes!

My food expenditure remains high and I think there are several factors at work.  Firstly I am not eating out at all.  I always have "eating out" as a separate category from "food".   I have been having an occasional takeaway (to support a local business) which I have counted as groceries but from June I shall call it eating out.  I am having a few treats to compensate for the things I can't do.  Other people are shopping for me so I can't shop around for the best deals.  So, all in all, the grocery bill has been too high

I am managing to save during the lock-down, largely because I am no longer meeting friends for coffee. no longer having pensioners' pub lunches, and driving much less.   Because I'm not going out I'm not buying any clothes, not even tights - I spent £265 on clothes in 2019, much of which was on tights and underwear.  My craft group is no longer meeting and although that was only £8 per month I often decided I had to have something to make me a better crafter.   The stash is being used instead.  That will save money around Christmas.

I'm spending quite a lot on paid help because my gardener is coming every week at the moment and I am still paying my cleaner half wages.  However, I think this is all money well spent.

I have been doing as many surveys as I can but I am usually paid in Amazon vouchers so this doesn't appear as income although usually it does reduce expenditure.  I'm also being paid to be a participant on a year-long survey concerning corona virus.  Again I am paid in Amazon vouchers so I have decided to save up for something special.  

Quite apart from that, I am still managing to salt away a little money each month, in fact slightly more than usual so I am still a happy bunny.  I wonder how all of our finances will look when we get to the other side of the corona crisis?

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Auditing April

Each month I write a detailed account of myself, my finances, my activities, my hopes and my dreams so that I can see better how life is unfolding.  That account is for my own eyes only but sometimes I also blog about the highlights. 

April has been like no other month ever!  And one of the most fascinating things about it is the opportunity it has given me to see my finances in a new light.

The first thing to say is that my income is down.  My pensions are constant (indeed my annual rises took effect this month) but my earnings have almost dried up.  Churches are closed and wrinklies like me have been told not to take any funerals even in crematoria.  However, my income from completing surveys has been quite good.  I've been doing surveys for quite a long time and I have had quite a lot to complete concerning corona virus and isolation.

When it comes to expenditure there are lots of ups and downs.  I've been spending far more on food than I was doing in recent months but less than I was spending on food a year ago, which tells me that my normal spending (ie recent spending) has been much more controlled.  I've had to rely on other people to fetch stuff for me so I am reliant on where they choose to shop.  I've got a full fridge and freezer and my store cupboard looks pretty healthy too.  There are gaps (flour!) but over all it looks good.  I've done lots of cooking.  

I've spent nothing on petrol and nothing on eating out so together those two categories have more than compensated for the increased food spending and the decreased earnings combined!  I'm now doing all my own housework but I decided to pay my cleaner half wages even though she's not coming at present.  

I've managed to save a little so all in all I am a happy bunny!