5 Things That Are Helping Me Get My Life Together | Number 1 Automated Savings.

As much as I crave at times a simpler, slower way of life (and often have to take myself off for hours for long walks, away from noise and crowds, so there is time to think and truly enjoy my surroundings without being disturbed) I’m also a lover of modern technology and am genuinely excited about new ways to do things all from my phone.

I’m a member of a number of ‘frugal living and money saving’ type groups. I look to these for inspiration and for new ideas on how to spend less and save more. I’ve never been in a safe place financially for most of my grown-up life, but I’ve worked really hard in changing that around the last 18 months or so and am at a stage where I feel a lot safer than I’ve ever done before. Am a big believer in a rainy day fund and food and basic necessity stockpiles! Call me a bit of a prepper if you like! Being prepared alleviates so much stress from my life that I really want to share with you the 5 things that are really helping me move towards my goal…

Number 1. Automated savings

Automated savings have been the single most successful thing I’ve done to start changing my life around so I’m going to talk about them first. By having money deducted from my wages it takes away the money I have available to spend and focuses me on changing my spending habits.. Numbers 2-5 (to be discussed in future blog posts) are the things I do to ensure I can survive on my income after I’ve put money into savings every month.

a) TransaveUK: I can’t recommend automated savings enough. It’s incredibly hard to stay disciplined enough to move money from one account to another and leave it alone so 18 months ago I started my first foray into automated savings through my workplace with a credit union called http://www.transaveuk.co.uk. My workplace works with TransaveUK to offer employee’s small loans to buy company shares (we are a 100% employee owned company at PMS Diecasting where I work). But via our payroll we also have an automated Christmas Club savings scheme and the option of also having an additional savings account. I opted for automated savings from my monthly paycheck into my ‘Christmas Club’ savings account AND into a regular savings account. Basically this money goes straight into savings and NEVER hits my normal bank account. For me it’s much easier to make do and go without if it isn’t there to spend than have it sitting there instantly accessible. YES it’s a struggle every month to do without a lot of things but every month I feel safer financially.

b) PLUM automated savings: Via Facebook for Android and via an app for iPhone is something I’ve signed up to recently. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO. PLUM analyses your regular bank account and through artificial intelligence makes choices for you to save small amounts of money throughout the month where it feels you can afford it (you can decline – it always asks you). Additionally it now has introduced an option to round up all your transactions to save even more small amounts of money. For instance a purchase of £5.79 would be rounded up to £6 and the 21p deposited in either your PLUM savings account or straight into your investment accounts if you decide to set these up. And that IS something I’ve done. I’ve deposited £200 in a Stocks and Shares ISA via the Facebook app, 1/2 in a balanced fund and 1/2 in a growth fund. I’m just curious to see if there are alternative ways to build small amounts of wealth. TO BE HONEST I’M SCARED ABOUT RETIRING DUE TO LACK OF PENSION!

In parts 2-5 I will talk about the things I do every month to get by on my income after I’ve put aside my savings.

C xxxxx

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Prepping, saving money and losing weight.

Dear all,

It’s been a while. Too long…

I needed a break, needed head space, needed to concentrate and focus on getting on the straight and narrow. Forgive me if I’ve not responded to some of the messages people kindly sent me, I tried to reply to most xxxxx

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and moved smoothly into the New Year and that you had time to make plans and set goals for 2019. What are they? I’d love to hear…

LOSING WEIGHT & FOOD
I’ve started off 2019 in a really positive way. On September 10th 2018 something finally yes FINALLY clicked and everything has been falling into place regarding nutrition and how I am feeling about myself. I decided to commit to only fuelling my body with mostly plant based highly nutritional food…my aim was to eat 90% non-processed, cut out added sugar and sweeteners completely (I only have these on special occasions if I’m attending a social event or meal out with work). Cutting out the sugar and cutting right down on the salt was incredibly difficult for the first few weeks but then it all fell into place. I’ve been steadily losing 2lb or more every week and since September 10th (nearly 4 months) have lost 45 lbs… which is essentially over 3 stone. I’m thrilled.

Because of eating this way I’ve had to give baking and recreating 1940s recipes a miss for a while. Too much temptation right now but I will start up again in the not too distant future.

SAVING MONEY + MAKE DO AND MEND
I tried really hard to “make do and mend” during 2018. My main goal was to feel more financially secure by building an ’emergency fund’ which essentially is money available that I could use should the Sh*t Hit the Fan (ie health problems, losing my job). Being a singleton there is no financial back-up with a partner having a job should anything major happen. My thoughts were to aim for a 6 month emergency fund. How I calculated this was to look at all the expenses I would need to cover in the worst case scenario (no pay check coming in or unable to work) so things like, rent, bills, food, expenses, debts, insurances, petrol, extras etc. I worked this out to be £1300 per month to cover everything.

So that works out at £1300 x 6 = £7,800. I ACTUALLY FLIPPIN WELL MADE THAT GOAL AT THE END OF 2018! (started with literally nothing in the bank!) I saved nearly £4500 and cashed in some old shares at work to help me reach my goal quicker!

As a woman who is a saver rather than a spender but has been unable to save throughout her life because of circumstances, this is such a HUGE relief to have achieved this. I am now able to sleep better at night!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still a way to go as I do have some debt (next on my list to blast a hole in!) and I’m now trying to build up funds to cover other expenses such as car repair, clothing. I don’t want to use my emergency fund for these kind of items.

It’s not been easy. I see colleagues with nice cars, going on holidays, dining out most weekends, going to bars, buying wine/beer/drinks for home, buying new pets/livestock, buying houses, getting takeaways, going to concerts, having their hair and nails done. I really don’t do any of these (except of course if I get invited out on a free works do or meal!). BUT I’m totally happy with that right now as I’m finally beginning to feel SAFER and more SECURE.

PREPPING
While I’m not talking survivalist mode here, I AM talking about re-kindling my interest in building up a small stockpile to help make the emergency fund stretch further. I am currently slowly building up a three month supply of food to help see me through should anything happen that would be deemed a personal emergency (again financial or health). It’s amazing what one can stash away in a plastic box under the bed! When I’m done I’ll show you what I’ve got…it’s only in it’s infancy right now but Savers and Aldi’s range of tinned kidney beans, chick peas, porridge oats, pasta, rice, lentils are really inexpensive! Again, living with insecurity for so long especially in my latter years in Canada and before I got my job here, security is a HUGE necessity for me so I’m quite relieved things are now heading in the right direction.

CUTTING DOWN ON BILLS
And this is the next part I really want to focus on. I’m looking at energy saving right now. I’ve purchased a small supply of solar bulbs and I’d also like to build and regularly used a solar oven. The idea in the summer of setting a stew in the black enamel pan in a solar oven before I head off to work and it all being cooked by the time I return is rather obsessing me right now. In the interim I have just bought a 1.5 litre 120 watt slow cooker to do exactly that. I’d love eventually to be off-grid one day but this process has to be learned so I’ll be slowly doing that over the coming years.

I’d be interested to hear how everyone else saves money and can be more earth friendly while working full time. I’m all ears!

At the end of the day I do believe that eating and living more like our Grandmothers is a good thing for us financially, psychologically and environmentally. Let’s get this straight, I love my modern gadgets but I also see that we have to have balance so I find I am drawn to non-electric items, simplicity, making do and appreciating everything I have.

And although I love my gym membership NOTHING beats a long brisk walk in our beautiful countryside.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

C xxxxxx


5 small changes I’m making to save over £1000 this year..

It hasn’t been easy saying NO. Every trip to the supermarket is quite a challenge when having to stick to a very small shopping list. Gone are the days when I’d get a trolley full and spend £75! Today my weekly shop came to £10.44.

Yesterday I popped out to ‘Wetherspoons’ in Maltby for a slice of delicious vanilla cheesecake with a fruit compote, coffee and a chinwag with my friend Liz. The dessert was delicious as was the free refill fresh black coffee, it was a real treat and yet still within my weekly budget (only about £4!)

The great news for me was that at the end of the day when I did my spending calculations and counted the money in my purse, I had underspent for the 6th week in a row and was able to put £8.33 into my cash emergency/savings jar making a grand total of £116.03p!

Tonight is going to be a challenge, my weekly household/entertainment budget will be truly stretched as 18 of us ladies are attending a ladies night event at Carlton Park Hotel. But I’m on a roll and I know my £15 weekly budget will suffice! I’m determined!

So what have I been doing to save the pennies (so the pounds look after themselves!)

You may have read in some of my past posts about some of the smaller changes I am making that add up to quite a bit at the end of the year…. here are some of them.

  •  I am using an EcoEgg detergent free laundry egg with great success! So far I have been really pleased and its doing its job! I do use a stain remover spray which I already had, for anything that is heavily stained. The EcoEgg saves me £57.39 p per year – here is the review I wrote about it.
  •  I am using a Crystal Deodorant Mineral Stone rather than my normal roll-on deodorant saving me £33.50 a year (it pays itself back after the first couple of months). This works really well, there is a knack to applying it. Run the stone under the tap for a second, shake it to remove excess water, apply to under your arm rubbing back and forth like you would a normal roll on but instead rub it back and forth about 20 times covering all areas of the armpit. Repeat the process on the other side. I’ve not had a smelly pit yet!
  • I’ve switched my mobile phone Giff Gaff Goody Bag from £20 a month to £10 a month saving myself £120 per year.
  • I cancelled my Platinum level Natwest Account and moved to their FREE bank account. I was paying £17 per month with the Platinum Account. The benefit I lost was roadside assistance/breakdown so I signed up to GreenFlag at £5.75 per month. This works out as saving £135 a year!

Just these 4 changes alone will be saving me £345.89 this year!

A BIG EXPENSE I was prepared for..

My 19 year old car went in for it’s MOT on Monday. I knew if she was to get through her MOT it would end up being expensive as she has been suffering with corrosion. The last four months I have been putting at least £100 a month into a sinking fund for my car. Infact the amount of money I had put aside was £480.03 (not sure why there was a 3p but there was!). Poppy needed nearly £300 worth of repair/welding, she failed her emissions so the engine needed treating, her front drivers tyre needed replacing, the headlights needed adjusting and the wiper blades needed changing. To save money with the repair/welding I had the treated wheel arches hand painted with black instead of rubbed down and resprayed. In total, including the fee for the test, the bill came to £480.

My car is worth about £400, I could probably do without her at a push as I live just 2.5 miles away from work but I do have other responsibilities that take me further away. So I had the work done. It was difficult to lose all that hard earned and saved £480 in one go but I reminded myself that I had saved for this eventuality and imagine what a pickle I would be in if I hadn’t started saving! Despite the big bill It also felt good that I was able to pay for it without worrying how I was going to find the money for it!

I’m happy I have my car back. I’ll continue putting money into a car sinking fund every month as I fear that next February it will be time to find myself another car.

Finally…

So looking at the 4 small changes I’ve made above AND the amount I am underspending every week by sticking to my shopping list and planning ahead I’ve worked out that this will save me over £1000 this year!

What changes are you making to save money, get out of debt and put some money away for a rainy day?

C xxx

Budgeting with Google Spreadsheets

So I’m rapidly becoming all consumed with getting my shit together (sorry for the profanity but sh*t says it all…).

Today I’ve spent the best part of 3 hours familiarizing myself with ‘Google Spreadsheets’ for monthly budgeting. Although I love scribbling on paper and in my daily diary, I have to say after pulling my hair out initially, I now LOVE using this spreadsheet! The one I’m using is ‘Monthly Budget’ under the top right hand drop down menu for ‘Templates’. OK so I know in the 1940’s it would have all been done on paper, and I love to keep things simple BUT having this in addition to fill in and update at weekends is making me VERY HAPPY!

OK, I know you are probably thinking right now “for God’s sake woman, go and get a curvy, hairy, beardy man and misbehave” because quite frankly it is a little bit sad that I am getting so excited about  spreadsheets. Trust me, I’ve been thinking that myself recently…..

Infact I know exactly the man I’d pick (in Barnsley) but I’m still slightly “off” men in real-life and not quite ready to jump back in the sheets and do strange and wonderful things…soooooo for now ‘Google Spreadsheets’ it is!

I’m loving the ‘Monthly Budget’ template. CLICK HERE

First of all I worked out how to change the currency from $ to £, next to add extra rows while keeping the formula which does the calculations, I also then changed the spreadsheet to specify what country and time zone. Once that was all done then it was time to fill it in!

I’m filling it in real-time, once a week. This means that I’m adding in all my planned expenses and income and adding in the actual expenses and income as they come in. So when a direct debit comes out in the week I’ll update the spreadsheet, when my son pays me his weekly rent/bills contribution I’ll fill it in on the spreadsheet. By doing this it gives me a real-time up to date tally….isn’t that cool!

Even cooler is the fact that the template comes with a ‘Transaction’ ledger so when you fill it in on the ledger it updates the spreadsheet automatically!

So I’ve brought my February 2018 budget up to-date on my spreadsheet and I’ve taken a snap-shot and it’s below..

I’m hoping budgeting provides enough excitement for me in the coming months to keep me on the straight and narrow until the call of the curvy, hairy, beardy bloke becomes too much to resist….

C xxxxxx

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PS: I was asked about changing the currency settings on the Google Spreadsheet – here is what you have to do

1) Go to https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets and select Monthly Budget from the template gallery.
2) Open up the sheet and select from the top drop down menu FILE > SPREADSHEET SETTINGS > ADJUST LOCALE/TIMEZONE > SAVE SETTINGS… return to main spread sheet.
3) You will notice that the currency symbol underneath the word format in the top drop down menu has now changed to a £ sign. If the sheet does not automatically change the symbols you will simply have to highlight the cell/cells you want to change the currency symbol in, once highlighted you click on the £ currency symbol from the top of the page and it will change all the $ to £ in the cells you have highlighted.
4) To highlight a cell you simply click once in the box then go and click on the £ symbol. To highlight multiple cells in a row then click on the top cell ie Food then hold down the shift button and select the bottom cell ie category 1 and all the cells inbetween will be highlighted too – then just click the £ symbol to change all of them. Alternatively to highlight several sporadically located cells click on 1 cell, hold down the CTRL key and select another anywhere on the page, keep the CTRL key depressed until you have finished selecting all the ones you want to change then goto the £ symbol and select.

I have changed currency and timezones on a spreadsheet for you. You’ll need to make sure that when you are logged in and save it that it is only viewable by yourself.

CLICK HERE FOR £ CURRENCY MONTHLY BUDGET SPREADSHEET

5p burger plant-based alternative to mince meat?

So at lunch I was experimenting in the kitchen. I wanted to come up with something I could make up and keep in the fridge for a few days to use in recipes as an alternative to animal mince meat. I looked at a few recipes on the web and decided to make my own only using simple, frugal wholefood ingredients that would have been around on the home front on a good shopping day!

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much with my first attempt but this came out incredibly well. Obviously it’s not a WW2 ration book recipe but I really had to share this because it is very healthy and VERY frugal.

I didn’t have my camera with me just my phone to take a snap shot but hope you can still see that the burger looked quite delicious!

Cost: The mixture makes 6 large burgers (or more smaller ones) and based on 6 big burgers the cost is about 5p per burger without mushrooms or about 13p per burger with mushrooms.

Calories: Each burger is about 150 cals and about 10g of protein and over 10% of daily iron requirement and 25% of daily fibre…high in potassium too!

Plant Burgers

  • 1 cup dry lentils (I used red split lentils but any will do)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (you could use garlic salt or powder)
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 oz brown mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 or 2 teaspoon dried sage (depending on how much you like it)
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon mild chilli powder
  • 3 rounded teaspoons of sweet chutney
  • Few shakes of ground black pepper

Method

  1. Wash the lentils then place in a saucepan with the two cups of water, the chopped garlic and onion, ½ the salt, the chilli powder, sage and rosemary. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender.
  2. Meanwhile in a food processer, put in the mushrooms and pulse 4 or 5 times for just a second or two until finely chopped, add in the oats, chutney and the rest of the salt. Set aside.
  3. Drain the lentil mixture then add to the food processor and pulse again several times for a couple of seconds until a thick coarse paste is formed.
  4. Remove mixture and form into burgers. Will make six large thick burgers or 8-10 smaller ones.
  5. Fry on medium in a pan with a little olive oil until nicely browned on the outside.

How did January’s budget go?

For anyone that pops in to read my blog now and again, you’ll know that I set a goal to take control of my life economically in 2018 by living like our grandmothers did (no debt, save money for a rainy day and only buy something if you really need it otherwise mend and make do!).

I guess reaching the age of 52 in January, being in debt and having no savings (I’ve been through several very tough years) has made me panic. I want to be in control of my life, feel financially safe and feel proud of how I live. Being single I do not have a back-up if things go wrong.

I started planning for this year early on in 2017. I’ve always had to live quite frugally to make ends meet as I was spending between £250-£300 per month just commuting from Nottingham to Rotherham 5 days a week for my job. We made plans that when my youngest daughter left college we would move to a cheaper house that would be near my work place (so if my car ever broke down and I had to do without, I could walk). We found a smaller house with a little garden just 2 miles from my job. We had to snap it up because it was ideal and managed to negotiate the first months rent free with the landlord but this still meant we had a couple of months double rent to pay while we waited for my daughter to finish college. But it’s been worth it.

With all the extra expenses of moving and paying double rent (luckily my eldest daughter helped out) it took many months to catch up and get on top of things again but we got there and I’d still managed to put money by in a Christmas Savings Club and started to save an emergency fund.

So January has been all about being getting to grips with actually creating a written budget and sticking to it. My monthly budget runs from pay-day to pay-day (last Friday of every month) and although it has needed some effort, the written budget has REALLY helped me get things in order. This month I’ve paid all my bills, put money away in savings/emergency fund, put money away in my sinking funds and PAID OFF TWO DEBTS!!!!

It has been TOUGH though….I’ve not eaten out or bought anything from my cash food/household budget except for food and toilet paper. Every time I go into a supermarket I have to remind myself to “STICK TO MY LIST” and absolutely ONLY buy something if I NEED it! BUT by the end of the month I have underspent by £80.70p and I now have that sitting in my cash jar, an extra bit of safety. As a single person I don’t have a back-up!!!

And today I’ve completed February’s budget. Every £ is accounted for and I’m ready for another monthly challenge of working towards being debt free and having a proper rainy day fund just like our Grandmothers used to!

C xxxx

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Pantry Makeover – Part 1 + FREE Food Storage Labels.

So opening the door of my old under the stairs pantry this morning it was beginning to look like an episode of ‘hoarders’ so decided my goal today was to deal with it ASAP before it all got out of hand. To get it ship shape and an area I could use for food storage was important to assist in my drive to get my life, finances, diet and future in order. To tackle life one chore at a time….

So I’ve pulled everything out, recycled lots, threw away quite a bit, relocated some of the items I really needed to keep and labelled up my food storage buckets so it no longer is a guessing game in what buckets contain flour or pulses. I even found some Union Jack bunting in the back of the pantry so used some of that to add a bit of nostalgia.

This is just the first tidy through and I have plans to utilise the space more but thought you’d like to see what I’ve been up to. It’s definitely doing my brain good to tackle chores full on instead of putting them off…it’s quite satisfying. Yes it was 4 hours of my life to sort it all out but now I’m going to smile when I open the door instead of get frustrated and feel awful about it.

One more chore today, balance my budget book!

C xxxx


FREE LABELS!

PS: I downloaded FREE LABELS from HERE for my food storage buckets and stuck them on with a glue stick. I changed the font as you can see below but the labels also come with writing on so you can just print and stick.