Ah, I’m sure we all know the perils of this: working on budget. Whether it’s a budget you’re given for a project at work or whether it’s keeping to a monthly budget with your spendings at home, there can’t be many of us out there who aren’t at least a little aware of our savings and spendings. I know personally that I’m concentrating on it much harder at the moment than I would have done in the past few years. We’ve recently got a mortgage, as well as new cars, and that meant saving up and being quite clever with our money beforehand, but with new things to pay such as life insurance and bills that are higher than they were in our previous property, as well as beginning to build up those savings again that went down on the deposit for this house, we are thinking about budgeting as much as possible, so I thought I’d do a post with a few “tips” – although I’m not sure how handy they’ll be for everyone else considering personal circumstances, but you never know, there could be something you’d never even thought of!
It’s also probably a good thing for me to keep track of things a bit here – writing it all down and seeing it in black and white makes you aware of places you didn’t realise your money was going and, I’m not sure about anyone else, but it seems to make me feel more accountable for it!
Fortunately I’m lucky in that one of the perks of my job is getting my fuel to and from work paid for me. It’s only a small thing, but it actually made a huge difference to me. My old job was a fairly similar commute time to this one but slightly more mileage, around 26 miles as opposed to my current ~18 miles, but even so, it makes a pretty big difference for me to have that bit of travel paid for monthly.
A surprising way that I’ve managed to start saving a bit of money recently is by buying a new car. Okay, I know in the first instance it’s not saving as such because I had to spend money to get it, but my old car was almost 10 years old and would have started costing a lot more sooner or later in repairs. Not only that though, but I also seem to be saving money due to the fuel economy of my car. It gets much better miles per gallon than my old one plus it’s diesel, which means that I’m filling it up a lot less than the old one – about once every 2 to 2.5 weeks as opposed to every 5-6 days. The tank is slightly larger so it’s a little more expensive when I do fill it up, but overall, the spending is less.
But what can I do to make sure I’m saving even more here? I’m thinking I can work on driving slightly more economically, as I don’t put a huge amount of thought into it. It might only be pennies to start with, but it all adds up in the end. Ben’s car has an “Eco Mode” which tells you how many miles extra you’re getting out of a tank by driving economically, and it can be up to 15 extra miles, which seems quite a lot to me!
The way that we shop for food is apparently getting more and more popular; Ben and I are not loyal to any supermarket really! Whenever we’ve lived in different places, we’ve always used different supermarkets, and now we’re back closer to home with access to the supermarkets our parents use/used among others, we’re still the same. We stuck to Tesco for a while, but then tried out Aldi and discovered we loved it, but we can’t always get every single thing we need there. Unfortunately, we’re moving away from Tesco at the moment, although we used to love them, because they’re upped their minimum basket spend online from £25 to £40, which means an additional charge on baskets under £40, and when there’s only two of us trying to work to a budget of around £25-30 on our weekly shop, that additional charge is a big add on for us. We also live quite a drive from a main supermarket as well as both working full time (and Ben working Saturdays too), so being able to get a delivery or collection on an evening at a convenient time makes a big difference as our weekly shop with the drive included can take a good 2 or 3 hours. We did invest in Tesco’s Delivery Saver, but with the basket spend going up, it’s no longer good value for us, so unfortunately, our Tesco shops will now be relegated to times where we have an opportunity to travel to the supermarket or we need something specific which will take the order spend over £40 and worth it for us.
Anyway, that wasn’t supposed to be a big Tesco rant – it’s just something that’s bothered me recently as Tesco have always been a good compromise on excellent quality and value for us, but no longer I suppose! So our shopping is now to be split between Aldi, Lidl, the occasional Sainsburys shop for extras and Tesco if we get the chance. Shopping around means we can get the best deals on things, and we’ll often compare what we’ve bought online afterwards to make sure we got the best prices!
One thing that has to go down though is loyalty cards for supermarket shopping. We currently have Tesco and Sainsburys points cards and find they can be useful. I also use loyalty cards for my lunches at Costa or our local deli since I’d be buying lunch at these anyway on those occasions, so every so often I end up with something free. Generally though, I try to save money on lunches by overmaking tea the night before (since the amounts that food often come in are too large for a 2 person meal) so I have leftovers the next day. It’s cheaper and definitely yummier than having another supermarket sandwich!
I’ve recently been very good with my shopping, at least in my opinion! I’ve had a massive clear out of all my old clothes so that I’m left with only things that actually fit me or I love. In the past I’ve tried to sell old clothes, but having not had a huge amount of success, plus having to deal with awkward buyers (yep, you know the ones who try to tell you the parcel never arrived despite your tracking saying they signed for it), I decided not to do that this time. I ended up donating huge amounts to charity, especially after seeing how well they’re used and what a big difference these donations can make when I visited the Oxfam distribution centre.
I did intend to replace a lot of the items I’d got rid of with things I love, but I’m doing that slowly. I’ve recently only made a couple of clothing orders because I needed summer clothes – I got rid of the majority because they were so short! I’m also a lot more critical of clothing now I’ve started sewing. If I pick up something in a shop and think that I could sew it myself, I put it back down again. Obviously if it’s an awesome fabric that I don’t think I can buy or has intricate detailing, I will go for it, but anything simple that I think I can make for less, I will. I have started spending on sewing stuff rather than clothing, but I tend to find that the materials I need are often slightly cheaper, plus I get to do my new favourite hobby in making it. At the end of the day, I feel prouder to wear something I’ve made than something I picked up off the shelf.
Fortunately in the past I’ve been fortunate enough to have been taught a bit about how to manage my money. I’ve got all sorts of bank and savings accounts set up so that I can ensure I get the best interest from everything and I’ve also maxed out all my ISA allowance too. Ben and I are each currently putting aside a certain amount of money into a specific HSBC Regular Saver account – we don’t touch this money for 12 months, and we’ll qualify for 6% interest on it. We set ourselves up a direct debit and left it to go out, and fortunately we tend not to notice that amount leaving each month. We’re almost at the end of it now, so we’ll soon each get that interest through, plus we’ll have access to those savings. It’s nice because I try to forget I have that account, then I think how soon I’ll have this money I’ve sort of “forgotten” about!
Another way to get the best out of your savings is social lending online with a company like Lending Works. I’ve only found out about them recently, but they’ve been getting a lot of very positive press which explains how they can provide a regular income off your savings with a high interest rate as it’s peer to peer lending to creditworthy personal loan borrowers. It sounds a bit better than putting your money into one of the big financial institutions as the middle man is cut out and you’re not at risk of any hidden fees or whatnot. It’s definitely another thing to consider if you’re trying to get the most out of your savings.
One way that I make a little extra money on the side, all of which goes towards my savings, is my blog. I’m now in a position where I’m able to earn money from my blog, and it’s not an insubstantial amount any more. I mean, it’s not enough to live on for me, but it’s not an amount that’s negligible. I am planning to continue my Blogging & PR series when I get the chance with the different ways to make money through blogging, but as a brief run down, I make money through my blog with sidebar advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate sales, ad clicks and, I suppose to a small extent, product reviews. This is one place that I’m hoping to improve on over the coming months to be able to put more into my savings through blogging, because at the end of the day, I spend the majority of my free time working on things for here, and if I’m not directly working on it, I’m thinking about it!