It’s time again for me to share with you our monthly budget report. Can you believe it’s now February? I’m sure time moves faster as we get older!
From a financial point of view, January can be a difficult month. Excesses in Christmasspending and a spike in credit card borrowing can leave many people feeling the pinch when January arrives. You can change this, though.
By designing a realistic budget focused on careful spending and saving, you’ll find that one month holds no more money stress than any other. Make sure, if you can, to make some room in your budget for some of life’s little pleasures too!
You can’t protect yourself from every unexpected expense (just look at our miscellaneous category!) but by making and following a budget, you can really reduce your money worries.
Here’s Where January’s Income Went…
For new readers: I use percentages, instead of monetary amounts. This is both to respect my husband’s wish to keep our income private and in case you want to compare how much of your income goes to your own categories. As your income will be different to mine, me using percentages should be more helpful to you.
Our January Income Had a 3.6% Boost Because We:
sold our old car for scrap.
accumulatedNectar points (which we put towards our grocery shopping, enabling us to use the cash we saved, to treat ourselves to a takeaway pizza!).
January’s Outgoings and Our Monthly Budget Categories:
(Shown in percentages of January’s total income, rounded up or down to keep things simple)
Council tax: 6.7%
Gas and electricity: 3.6%
Groceries(Includes food, toiletries, and household needs): 8.7%
We have a tiny sum left in our grocery budget. As this category is tight, we’ll roll the surplus over into next month’s grocery budget.
Internet and landline: 1%
Life assurance: 1.4%
Mobile phone bills: 0.5%
My dental insurance: 0.6%
Mortgage overpayment: 0%
Pensions (besides to the small automatic deduction from Mr B’s wage): 0%
This month we completed our goal of having six months of expenses savedin our emergency fund! It’s been a hard slog. Yes, we’ve gone without, but the peace of mind is worth it. I’d be more secure with more put away, but if we don’t switch to investing soon, we’ll be looking at a difficult retirement.
Personal spending money (which has to cover clothing, haircuts, makeup, and gifts for each other on special occasions): 8.6%
I haven’t written about where our personal allowances go every month, but tell me if you want me to show you how I spend MINE.
Mr B cycles to work in the finer weather and I drive him during the colder and wetter months. This week, though, I’ve been ill with yet another cold and complications of Crohn’s disease.
When we ran out of money in the miscellaneous category, we covered the overspend from the grocery and household categories. Not ideal, but no debt incurred.
When looking at how much and where you’re spending money each month, remember that your life and requirements will be very different to ours. Sharing our budget gives you insight into how we budget and may give you ideas for your own.
So, how was January for you? Are you experiencing the post-Christmas pinch? My waistband is pinching! How do you divide up your money each month? Do you need to make a budget?
Christmas is over for another year but now is actually a good time to touch on Christmas budgets.
It feels like ages since I’ve written a proper blog post. Like many people, I took advantage of the Christmas period by spending quality time with family and relaxing.
I have lots of blog posts in my head for 2018 but first wanted to share how our monthly budget went. This is for your entertainment, encouragement, (or to compare with – and be glad that you’re doing better!).
For anyone who celebrates any of the winter festivals (be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, etc,) you no doubt encountered costs that fell outside your typical monthly budget. We’re no different, How we all manage those additional costs will vary, however.
For new readers, you’ll see that I use percentages, rather than monetary amounts. This is both to respect my husband’s wish to keep our income private (it’s a low income) and to give a better comparison, per category, for whatever size budget you’re working with.
Here’s How It Went for Us
Mr.B’s wages were on the lower than usual side, due to him having some sick days in December.
December’s Outgoings and Our Monthly Budget Categories – (shown in percentages of December’s net/after-tax income) :
Council tax: 6.3%
Gas and electricity: 3.4%
Groceries: (Includes food, toiletries, and household needs) 8.8%
Internet and landline: 1%
Life assurance: 1.3 %
Mobile phone bills: 0.5 %
My dental insurance: 0.6%
Mortgage overpayment: 0%
Pensions: 0.3% (In November 2017 Mr.B was been enrolled in his workplace pension. The amount taken from his wages is the compulsory minimum required. The percentage we’ll be adding when actively investing in our pension funds will be higher).
Miscellaneous/unexpected buffer: In relation to December’s income, our total miscellaneous spend was 0.8%.
Sinking funds: (the linked article explains these): 12.5% allocated to our short-term savings.
7.5% of our total December income was then spent from the sinking funds on the following:
Some Christmas and January birthday gifts.
A new hot-water bottle and cover!
Now, I have to say that the percentage we spend on Christmas gifts is much lower than your average family. That’s due to:
As a couple, we don’t celebrate Xmas, yet have felt obliged by our family to get involved, even on a small scale.
The gifts we buy for each other come from our individual ‘allowances’, so that doesn’t show up in the figures.
My mother-in-law puts together the most amazing hamper for us each year. While it’s not food for ‘proper’ meals, it’s packed with ‘naughty’ food and plenty of booze!
I’d predict that we spend less than half on gifts for people than what the average person spends. We only buy for parents/step-parents, my grandmother, and our 10 nephews and nieces.
December 2018 will be different. We’ve decided that December 2017 was the last year that we celebrate Christmas at all. We haven’t yet told all the family. My mother-in-law has insisted that she still wants to give us a hamper because it brings her joy. I’m not going to rob her of that. We aren’t doing it for monetary reasons. The money we would allocate to the people we buy gifts for will go towards their birthday instead. This means we’ll be spending the same amount on each person, but yearly rather than twice yearly.
How was December for you? How do you divide up your budget? Do you need to make a budget? Did you spend more than you’d intended? If so, why? I’d love to know how everyone else did.
I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is gradually getting bigger. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.
Yes, I mentioned the ‘C’ word! I’m sorry, but at the time of publishing, there are only 89days until Christmas (I found out by using this pretty cool countdown clock! With that in mind, here are some ways on how to save money on Christmas.
Make a Budget!
Really, this is THE most important thing you can do:
1) Look at what money you’re expecting to come in over the next few weeks or months (depending on how often you get paid) and what you know has to be paid out and write down what you have leftover to save each week/month.
2) Think about what you would expect to spend on Xmas this year, not forgetting:
all of the food
possible nights out for work parties, and kids’ school parties
entertaining at home
‘Secret Santa gifts
wrapping paper and cards
Basically, anything that you usually shell out for, (not to mention the gifts you buy) and tot it all up.
Divide the above amount by the number of pay-cheques you’re getting and you’ll see how much you’ll have to save each week/month to be able to achieve the spending you’d like to do without going (or going further) into debt. Write that number down.
3) Finally, compare the amount you came up with in step one with the amount needed to be saved in step two. Is there a discrepancy? Will you have less to spend than you’d hoped? If so, then you’ll either have to make cuts in your discretionary spending leading up to Xmas, reduce what you spend on Xmas or find a way to bring in extra money before Xmas, plus, check out the next tip:
Cut down on Who You Buy For
This isn’t easy and may require a few conversations with people, but there really is no law that says you have to buy your child’s teacher a gift each Xmas, or that you must buy that cousin you don’t really like a present, as well as all of her children, just because she buys you all something you don’t want or need each December.
If you can’t afford to, don’t want to, or it’ll push you further into debt, just decide to stop. It’s much easier than you might think. Focus on your family and your financial peace of mind. If you really can’t say no to people then consider the next tip:
Some people groan at the thought of this, but it can be much easier than you think. Everybody has some sort of skill or service they can offer.
Are you a knitter? Then look at Pinterest for cool knitting ideas, such as a mug cosy pattern (buy a cheap mug and fill it with marshmallows) that won’t take long to create.
Don’t possess a creative bone in your body? That’s ok! Offer a new mum an afternoon where you’ll hold her baby and do some laundry while she grabs a shower or maybe takes a nap.
Wrack your brains for what you can offer and know that whilst people rarely remember what you’ve bought them, they’ll always remember the time you’ve spent with or on them. If they don’t appreciate you for it, then you might reconsider why you’d give a gift for them in the first place.
This is something that most office workers will be very familiar with. It usually involves receiving some useless but hilarious gift from an unknown colleague, but the idea can also be extended to family and friends.
If it’s a completely new concept to you, it basically just involves a group of people putting their names into a ‘hat’, everybody taking a name and without telling anybody else, buying that person a gift. A price is set for the gift (an amount everyone agrees on) and by Xmas, the gifts are all put together (labelled, obviously), and passed out to the correct recipient. In this way, everybody gets a gift and everybody only has one gift to buy. It can save a fortune.
Yes, I really said that! When you say ‘second-hand’ to some people. they envisage smelly and horrible clothes from a charity shop, but come on, don’t be a snob, there are so many beautiful, gently used items to be had both in shops and online (it’s what eBay was built on after all!). It’s a great way to give somebody something you’d never usually be able to justify buying brand new and it also keeps those things from going into landfill. A double win!
These were introduced by inventor Sir Henry Cole in 1843, who had helped to bring about the penny post three years previously (a coincidence?).
Whilst I can see the value in posting a card to somebody you’re not going to see over the Xmas period, and who you’d really like to keep being reminded of the fact you care about them by the presence of a card on their mantelpiece, I don’t see the point in writing a bajillion cards and handing them to people you are going to see right up to the big day. Neither do I see the point in posting numerous cards to people who you never have any sort of contact with from one Xmas card to the next. It’s a massive waste of money, resources and who knows if the recipients even want the hassle of finding somewhere to put the cards, let alone the mountain of recycling they have to add to in the New Year (that’s if they don’t just throw them into the normal waste – shudder!).
There are ecards, email, instant messaging, texts, a whole host of social media and even the old telephone call that can replace sending a card. All are either free or very cheap and you’ll probably say more to the person you’re contacting. ‘But I like to support my favourite charity by buying cards!’ you cry, well then you’ve got to read this 2015 article.
Whenever I’ve not made a proper plan for eating over the festive season, I’ve invariably gone overboard with how much food I’ve bought. I’m guessing I’m not alone with this.
If you’re fed up buying food that spoils, are sick of turkey and even chocolate (you’d have to be MENTAL), then before you shop, plan out how many of those days off work you’re planning on eating differently to your usual week then plan what you’d like to eat for breakfast (even if it’s a chocolate orange), lunch, dinner, snacks, and booze, and what you know your family and/or guests will likely want to eat and buy only that.
If you are having guests, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them to bring some food or drink that will travel well and if it’s all getting too expensive, consider just one day of feasting. Not only will it help your wallet, but your waist will probably thank you for it too.
Finally, if nobody likes Xmas pudding, sprouts or turkey, etc, just don’t buy thempurely in the name of tradition!
What do YOU do to save money on Christmas? What’s your biggest festive, financial regret? I’d love to hear!
I love hearing from you and want to grow this community. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.