The Results Are In For My Money Saving Challenge!

Ever since we returned from our recent holiday to Sardinia the boys have been asking when we can go on holiday again. It’s sparked a love of travel and rekindled some much-needed quality family time which money simply can’t buy; unfortunately money is the underpinning precursor to any future travel plans. So planning is what I’ve been doing.

When it comes to money I’ve had my head in the sand a little recently. I’m balancing incomings and outgoings on a single wage but the nature of my job means invoices are paid sporadically and I often survive on a famine and feast cycle of work so I have to be very careful and disciplined.

Only I’m neither!

Historically, May and June have always been very expensive months for me as my children have their birthdays as well as my sister and then there’s treating my awesome Dad and Step Dad on father’s day, throw half term in the middle and that’s me pretty much spent out. To keep out of the red, I needed to cut back on other things so I’ve been keeping a diary of my spending over 10 days to see exactly where I can be a little more stringent and ways I can put some money aside for saving.

For anyone who’s never done this before, I can wholly recommend it! While informative, be prepared for a little shock. I’ve always considered myself to be quite a careful shopper, but in hindsight there’s certainly some cut backs to be made, and a little more discipline needed over impulse spending. Bottom line is I’m a working single mum bringing up 3 children but trying not to let them suffer for the whole family make up they’re still adapting to.

Dining out

Over last week though, I spent £97 on eating out! That’s including impromptu coffees, impulsive / can’t be bothered to cook takeaways and date nights. Just cutting that by half would save me £2,522 a year. That alone would equal a decent family holiday. This is certainly one area I can be more careful. 

Potential savings – £48.50

Petrol

I topped up my car with £30 of petrol last week, which is pretty average. This was for essential shopping trips, a couple of longer trips for dentist and work appointments and some totally avoidable trips to drop off or pick up my son from pre-school (it was raining in my defence.) I think if I stop being lazy on the pre-school run (it’s a 10 minute walk so is totes lazy of me) and be a little more clever with my shopping, i.e; make sure I get everything in 1 shop instead of a few mini shops then I could bring my petrol spending down to £20 a week. That’s still £80 a month on top of repairs, tax and insurance which is something to consider when buying my next car and weighing it up against a newer one with cheaper running costs, tax, insurance and reliability.

Potential savings – £10

Food

Last week’s food bill, in total, was £90.86. I try to keep it at around £60 which isn’t bad for a family of 4. The older boys have school dinners which cost me around £80 a month and I send my youngest to pre-school with a packed lunch twice a week and snacks on the other days. Given that the youngest 2 are at their dad’s 2 or 3 times a week that’s only 5 big meals I have to cook as my eldest & I do a WFOTF job (what falls out the freezer) By writing menus, then shopping lists and only replacing toiletries which have run out I can be A LOT more disciplined. My weaknesses are special offers, they get me every time. I need to stick to my list and ignore the potential savings. I currently have 3 hand washes sat under my sink, I have boys for heaven’s sake, we will never get through that amount of hand wash in a year let alone a month.

Potential savings – £30

Clothes / shoes

We recently had a family wedding  which has meant having to buy some new clothes. I think I’ve been super careful though. I’ve bought a second-hand Ted Baker dress from eBay, second-hand waistcoats for 2 of the boys and posh trainers which I shopped around for and paid £97 for 3 pairs, they all needed new trainers so this was an essential spend. If I hadn’t been so shop savvy I would’ve spent £338, instead it’s cost me £191, with last week’s spending £141. I don’t usually spend that amount on clothes a week so can’t count that as a regular spend.

Potential saving – £0

 

Presents

As mentioned earlier, June is one of my expensive months for gifts so last week I spent £36 on gifts. I’m a giver though, not a bad quality to have, unless you’re trying to cut back! I guess that’s pretty normal though as I try to buy Christmas presents throughout the year so it’s not too painful come December.

Potential saving –£0

Conclusion

£88.50 a month which amounts to £4,602 a year is the amount I could be saving if I was a little more careful with my spending. When looking at it that way, that’s more than enough for the family holiday the boys and I are hankering after and maybe some to spare for a long weekend away. This has been a fantastic exercise to do and given me an opportunity to have a complete look at all my outgoings as well as ways I can make sure I’m living within my means and not using overdrafts and credit cards.

improving your credit sore

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post with Scottish Friendly

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Little Things Which Make your home energy efficient

Ever get that urge to reassess how energy efficient my house is? I’ve had a rejig of finances lately and it was the perfect time to look at how my house was doing, it’s so easy to become complacent and let things just tick by. A quick calculation and I realised it’s been 12 years since I looked at way to cut costs which was all kick started by a chance encounter with a social media post about solar panels.

I’ve done the whole cavity wall thing, helped by a grant, as was the boiler. But 12 years is along time and my once efficient boiler is now verging on the ready to be replaced corner. (Check out the  boiler grants website for more info) and I’ve switched to a water meter recently which halved my bill and has made the whole family think about how much water we’re using. Baths have been swapped for showers and the garden is watered from the rain gathered in the water butt. Simple things which I always intended to do but never really had the incentive until we switched.

That’s not all though, little things, such as only filling up the kettle to boil what’s needed, turning the TV off when no one’s actually watching it and fitting lined curtains and new roof window blackout blinds have helped keep the warm in,  roofwindows.co.uk has a good choice a beautiful range of roof blinds and I upgraded to some thermal curtains from Dunelm Mill. In the colder months I close all curtains and blinds at dusk to help stop heat escaping from the windows.

I’d love to take it a step further with getting those solar panels I read about, maybe one day, I’ve been toying with the idea for years. But for now it’s the combination of all these little things which lead to making my home more energy efficient.

making your home energy efficient

 

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Here’s Some Great Advice On Switching Energy Suppliers

I consider myself fairly savy when it comes to managing money. Aside from the odd splurge I nearly always shop around, especially when it comes to running a house. Take my mortgage for instance, when my current deal is coming to an end, I look around for a better one, I’ve just recently swapped broadband suppliers and am giving up the Sky TV mantle (18 years people, 18 Sky TV infested years, I deserve a lifetime subscription) but I’m giving Now TV a go to see if it saves me some pennies.

One thing I do each year, without fail, is to check that I’m getting the best deal for my gas and electric. It’s quite a chuck of wonga to be parting with each month, so if I can get it down a little by Switching Suppliers, rather than being moved onto the standard deal with my current supplier, then it’s happy days and more money for shoe shopping.

Years ago this involved being vigilant with your bill and going through several energy suppliers’ websites trying to compare price plans. I never really knew how much energy we used, only the amount of the direct debit. But I have noticed that it’s getting easier. Websites like Ofgem’s ‘Be an Energy Shopper’ have three categories to help users understand how to get the best deal for their energy bills, by explaining the ins and outs of market which some people find confusing

 

Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 10.45.11

Before you dive into the next best offer it’s really worth going through and learn a little more such as understanding bills where you can find out of you’re on the best energy deal, how to work out exactly what you’re paying for and even how to take a meter reading. Once you’ve got your head around that then finding out a little more about different energy tariffs and deals  and how to compare them, not all are the same. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to gamble with surprise bill. (surprise me with no strings attached money any day, however!) So a fixed deal is always my go-to. There are other dealcs too, such as variable (which tend to be more expensive) if you don’t want to be tied into a price plan, and I always take a dual fuel deal to save the faff of having separate bills for gas and electric.

helping you switch energy suppliers and be a savy energy shopper

One thing you must always try to do though is compare whats on offer as there really is a difference between costs. Be an Energy Shopper website lists all the Ofgem approved comparison sites and is a  is a free & impartial organisation so you can be confident that you’ll get the best supplier deal for your circumstances.

I have just switched mine recently and it’s simple. Once you’ve gone through the price comparison website (it helps if you have your bill to hand so you know how much fuel you use a year or how much you pay, you then click on the deal you want which takes you to that supplier’s website, fill in your details and that’s pretty much it. They will inform your current supplier and switch you over.

You really have nothing to loose, other than about 20 minutes of your time.

 

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This is a collaborative post 

 

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Considering An Attic Room Conversion?

If like me, you’re considering extending your house, it’s always worth checking out your loft space first.I thought I’d share a very quick run down of how I approached ours to give  you some ideas. I was in the lucky position as being a mid terrace, we already had a suitable space which didn’t require any alterations to the roof. Once you’ve sussed that out, look at where you can could fit a stair case.

After lots of considerations, I went with fitting them over the existing staircase but it wasn’t as simple as it sounded and a whole heap of maths came into the planning. You need to consider head space and whether you’ll need to borrow and move walls from existing rooms. For ours it meant moving our bathroom wall and repositioning the sink. If there’s one thing I learnt, it was to be prepared to have to compromise some of your plans and to prioritize your needs.

It’s always worth consulting with local builders even at the very beginning stages,  getting quotes and ideas as I found they all came up with something completely different.

The aim was a fully accessible room which looked like it was supposed to be there, and not an awkward addition. As much as it pained me to have a smaller bathroom, I justified it by the idea that it’s one of rooms where you spend the least amount of time in.

With a limited budget, I shopped around for materials, the biggest saving was the staircase, ( I found the best price on eBay.) The company were fantastic and talked me through the measuring and style. This was much cheaper than leaving the carpenter to do as I wasn’t paying for his time. Although I did consult with him to make sure he thought it would work and was happy to fit it.

Next on the list was to look at where to fit the windows and one of these has to have an emergency escape route. Velux was to best choice for us (especially when it came to searching for roof blinds. With Velux you simply put in the code and you don’t have to flap around taking measurements.)

I project managed the whole phase of our attic room conversion. Getting quotes and making sure trades men were scheduled in at the right times. It did mean having to make a lot of calls and there were days when there was no one on site but it saved me a lot compared to some of the quotes I received.

Once the building work was completed, walls plastered and decorated and carpets laid. It was on to the fun stuff; choosing the furniture. Here’s where flat pack really came into it’s own! Make Ikea you’re friend.  I assembled everything in the room, so choosing styles which you know won’t date and will last is vital. You really don’t want to be taking them apart again in a couple of years.

And that really is a whistle stop tour of what to consider when thinking about converting your loft space. I adore ours, it’s easily one of the best rooms in the house and was a much cheaper option than moving to a bigger property.

loft

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A Blueberry Cheesecake Gateaux Recipe

My guys have a hit and miss relationship with blueberries. They can either devour them in one sitting or they sit abandoned in the fridge. So like most fruit being ignored in my house, I try to create something from them in the hope of squeezing in a few more portions of the recommended 5 a day. Sometimes it’s a smoothie, occasionally a cake.

Today it was cake; Blueberry cheesecake gateaux to be precise.

For anyone familiar with my Manuka Honey and Chia Seed Cake and A Recipe For An Olive Oil Cake recipes you’ll know that as a relatively healthy person I try and bake cakes on the healthier side to counter balance the excessive sugar and settle the argument of “should I? shouldn’t I?” in my head. And this is no exception. While there are no sugar substitutes in this version, the super powers of the blueberries override all the dangers associated with too much sugar. (ok, so that’s a complete lie but lets just pretend for arguments sake)

It is slightly healthier compared to a traditional sponge as it lacks the butter cream icing and I always prefer to use butter rather than margarine as it’s a much more natural fat than the artificial make up of soft spread.

In other news, it tastes bloody delicious and for one day only that’s all that counts (because I assure you, this cake will only last one day in my house.) It also makes a really fancy centrepiece for a summer picnic or afternoon tea party so if there was ever an excuse to invite some friends round on a gloomy afternoon, there you go.

You’re welcome!

a recipe for a delicious blueberry cheesecake gateaux, moist and tasty it's the perfect centrepiece for an afternoon tea

 

Blueberry Cheesecake Gateaux Ingredients 

Cake

  • 255 g  self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 225 g  caster sugar
  • 225 g  butter (room temperature)
  • 4  eggs
  • vanilla essence
  • 1 tbs  milk

Topping

  • 400 g cream cheese
  • 1 lemon (zest & juice)
  • 110 g  icing sugar
  • 2 handfuls of  blueberries

Blueberry Cheesecake Gateaux Method

Preheat oven to 180’c (160’c fan oven) & line 3 x 7″ sandwich tins or one deep tin.

Put the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder eggs, vanilla essence, milk into a large mixing bowl  and mix until it has the consistency of sticking to the back of a spoon.

Divide equally between each tin and back in the centre of the oven for approx 20 mins. Check by inserting a clean skewer or knife to see if it comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Prepare the topping by combining all the ingredients. Once the cake has cooled completely, spread each layer equally and finish with the blueberries.

 

a recipe for a delicious blueberry cheesecake gateaux, moist and tasty it's the perfect centrepiece for an afternoon tea

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