Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Budgeting in the Fens

Frugal Queen asked us yesterday to share our budgeting tips, so I thought you might be interested in how we make it through the month.  We are different from FQ in that our income comes in from different sources as we move through the month.  Some comes in monthly and others come in four weekly like the FH's Old age pension.  My income from selling chooks and coaching gymnastics comes in even more sporadically, according to when the poultry sales happen and when I invoice for the gym.  It is all a bit less convenient than one payment coming in at the end of each month.

My lovely chooks enjoying the sunshine one year.  

At the end of each month, I round things up and look at where we are and how much we have saved or spent, and look at our net worth.  Each Monday, I look at all the accounts and see how things are progressing for the month, and that helps to keep us on track.  Every time I spend anything, I write it down on sheets in my household management folder.  There is a sheet for each month filed behind the calendar sheet for the month, and it is divided up into various categories - Fuel, Food, Gardening, cleaning, Toiletries, Household items, Stationery&Ink, Clothes, Activities.......and "Other"!  I track our spending in each category over each month, and try to keep to a budget figure for each category.

All our Direct Debits come out of one bank account, with the exception of one mobile phone payment which is made on a credit card.  I know when the DDs are coming out, and by the time they come out, I have received notification of how much they will be if they are variable ones, like the BT one - this varies according to the calls we make, but it is between £21 and £23 a month.

I sat down this morning and mapped out the spending for the next two weeks.  We have a positive balance in the current account, and I can plan out all the DDs that are coming out before we get any more income.  I also know what other payments I need to make, like the YFG's piano lessons, for which I know I will withdraw the cash each week.  It wasn't a surprise this morning when I worked out that we have £34.65 spare to last through to the 10th May.  That is for everything we might want to buy - food, fuel, toiletries, anything!

However, that is after I have paid the savings account at the end of April, and I have taken all the bills/DDs/commitments into consideration for the next two weeks.  I have also been shopping at the end of last week and the store cupboards and freezers are well stocked.  I filled up my car with diesel on Saturday afternoon too.  There should be little that we actually NEED over the next two weeks, apart from perhaps some fresh fruit and veg.  Half of £34 is £17 and I am sure that I won't spend all of that this week on fruit and veg.

Each week, I will do this exercise again, and consider the income and expenditure for the week, how much I am going to put into savings, and what bills need to be paid that week.  Then I know to the penny what I have left over for other spending.

The FH has put a spanner in the works slightly in that he needs a tooth extracting and the only appointment he could get is next Wednesday - an extraction is going to cost in the region of £60, so I will be temporarily borrowing that from the Travel Fund [for the EFG's season ticket for school], and paying it back on the 10th May.  I am lucky that we are a position to do that and that we are not really living from one payment to the next.

Growing our own veg in the spring and summer certainly helps the budget.

So why do I do this?  Because the tighter the rein on the money, the more we can save.  The harder I work at this, the harder I can make the money work, too.  I can buy things in bulk and make savings which I would not achieve by leaving the money sitting in the bank.  I am reducing our discretionary spending and we are all spending less on "wants" and thinking more responsibly about "needs" too.

Stashing away the yellow-stickered items in the freezer is a boost to the budget. 

Keeping a good store-cupboard helps me to avoid those expensive trips to the shops for just one item...and it is too far to keep going to town for one or two things!

But life is also about Fun and Enjoyment, and we have some of that too!  We use income I earn from YouGov towards days out through our Sealed Pot, which will soon get a £50 boost when I have done £2's worth of more surveys, and the Shop&Scan rewards are being shared with the girls so that they can choose a treat from Amazon occasionally.  We also use Nectar points and Clubcard rewards to enjoy trips to the cinema and to treat ourselves in Sainsbury's to a few extra bits and pieces at Christmas.

Avoiding convenience foods and cooking from scratch really helps us to keep food costs under control.

Budgeting is a key part of our frugality, but being frugal isn't about being mean.  It is about being careful with our resources and making every penny count!


Francesca Tulk said...

All inspiring and useful comments,these posts help keep me focussed,many thanks!

Angela said...

I think your last paragraph says it all!

Attila said...

You budget very much the way we do; it's allowed us to buy a newer car for cash. The only trouble I find is that, having spent this vast amount of money, I now find it difficut to get back into the frugal mindset. I don't suppose I/we are really extravagant but we haven't yet got everything we need for our new home (i.e. nearly a year old home) and we really need a new shed! So thanks for the peptalk!

Jo said...

Thank you for sharing this. I find it helpful to read how other people organise things like finances - it helps me to tweak my own system.

I am just past £49 in my YouGov account and am excitedly waiting the next two surveys so that I can claim my £50. I like it when my Quidco money comes in too but that is usually between £1 and £2 and just several times in a year. Nice but not always as exciting as receiving £50 all at once. Such money is not reliable so it is treated as extras and set aside for treats like holidays : )

Unknown said...

I like other readers, have really enjoyed reading about the way you budget your finances. I am going to try using some of your ideas myself. We too keep a stock cupboard as we live a 24 mile round trip to the supermarket, as you say it saves us having to drive a special trip for say teabags - has worked very well. I also buy only strong white flour for breadmaker and plain flour for baking. This means I don't purchase too many different flours - just add baking powder to the plain flour when a recipe requires Self Raising. Also 'spare' bags are popped in a plastic freezer bag and kept in freezer - that kills any flour bugs - and it doesn't come out of freezer wet either.
Enjoying your blog.

Morgan said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments - it is great to know that posts like this one are appreciated.

I can't call you "Unknown", my friend, but thank you for the tips about the flour. I have never frozen flour because I have always wondered about it being damp when it came out of the freezer, but I think I will give it a go now you have encouraged me!

Thanks, all!