Our January 2018 Budget Report

Our January m Monthly Budget Report Bunchy the Budgeteer

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 Christmas spending 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 categoriesAs 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.
  • accumulated Nectar points (which we put towards our grocery shopping, enabling us to use the cash we saved, to treat ourselves to a takeaway pizza!).
takeaway pizza image
Photo by Kristina Bratko on Unsplash

January’s Outgoings and Our Monthly Budget Categories:

 
(Shown in percentages of January’s total income, rounded up or down to keep things simple)
 

Mortgage: 25%

Council tax: 6.7%

Gas and electricity: 3.6%

Water: 2.5%

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%

calculator and paper with monthly budget report

Sinking funds: 14%  

From these sinking funds, we spent 9.3% of our total January income on:

– our annual VPN subscription.

– unexpected dental treatment for Mr B.

– a new light bulb pack for our car and sealant to try to repair where water is getting in.

– birthday and late Christmas gifts (and experiences) for family members.

– a second-hand window vacuum.

Holiday savings: (‘vacation’ ) 7.2%

We’re excited because it’s the first time in a few years that we’ve been able to save towards a holiday!
couple sat on boat deck
Photo by Evren Aydin on Unsplash
 

Emergency fund savings: 18%

This month we completed our goal of having six months of expenses saved in 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.
 

Petrol: 1.4%

Miscellaneous buffer: With January’s income, our total miscellaneous spend was 3.4%. That’s  four times what we set aside for unplanned expenses! This was due to paying for:

– the final vet bill for the cat we cared for.

– taxis to work for Mr B.

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.
 
bicycle propped up against settee
Photo by Yulia Chinato on Unsplash
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?
 
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.
 
Lisa aka ‘Bunchy’

The Difference between ‘Saving’ and SAVING – How We Lie to Ourselves

The Difference Between Saving and SAVING

Ok, so what IS the difference between ‘saving‘ and SAVING?

At first, you might think, ‘What the hell? There isn’t a difference!’, but there really is.

There’s a lot of ways that we can ‘save’ (definition No 1) money, and by that, I mean saving money on purchases.

For example:

  • Using coupons and vouchers.

  • Buying things on sale instead of full price.

  • Lowering your thermostat.

  • Going to cheaper petrol stations.

All those sorts of things.

So, the aim is that you’re either saving on what you would have paid, or you’re abstaining completely.

For example:

Previously, you might’ve gone out every Saturday and bought new clothes. Now, however, you’ve decided to only buy clothes as and when you need to replace things.

So that’s the first definition of ‘saving’ money. It’s really just spending less.

The second definition is SAVING money (definition No 2). What I mean by that is actually putting money into your bank and leaving it there for an extended period of time. This could also mean investing it.

The distinction is important because, oftentimes, we lie to ourselves. We feel good because we’ve:

 
  • Bought a ‘two for one’ offer in the supermarket.

  • We’ve cycled instead of driven to work all week.

We’ve all ‘saved’ on things in this way and we’ll say to ourselves, ‘I’ve saved money!

While that’s great, and I’m not knocking it (I loves me a bargain!), we also need to ask ourselves:

‘Have I actually done something with the money that I would’ve spent?’
‘Have I spent my ‘savings’ elsewhere, instead?’

So, for example, let’s take the coffee drinker, who spends, let’s say, £5 every day on coffee.

She’s gone through Monday to Friday and she’s not spent any money on coffee. By the end of the working week, she usually would’ve spent £25. On Saturday, she thinks, ‘I’ve been so good this week, I haven’t bought any coffee! I’m going to treat myself to a takeaway pizza tonight.’

That’s great (no judgement made), but all she’s done is exchanged one purchase for another. She’s not actually saved any money. If, however, she said to herself, ‘Great! I’ve saved £25 this week on not buying coffee! I’m going to put that £25 in an interest-earning savings account.’ Then that gal has actually SAVED money.

The Difference between 'Saving' and SAVING - How W
Photo: Tom Sodoge on Unsplash

I know it sounds so obvious to point out, but in daily life, our buying behaviour isn’t always so apparent to us.

So, there is an important distinction. The first way of saving is, (the way I distinguish it), ‘money-saving‘. To recap, to me, that means:

  • Getting deals/bargains.

  • Paying less for goods or services than usual.

  • Getting something for free, whereas before I might’ve had to pay for it (like finding a free book to download).

To me, these are all money-saving tactics, but SAVING is the actual physical act of adding money to a bank account.

It’s a simple thing, but it can often trip people up, so that’s why I felt it was important to talk about today.

It’s all very well being frugal, but if you’re not actually doing something with that saved money, whether it’s:

Moving some money from your current account into a savings account,

or

Putting money you normally would’ve frittered away on sweets or chocolate into a jar,

then you’re not actually benefiting yourself at all.

It’s important, on a psychological level, to make that clear in your head. Being aware of these small behaviours will give you your best chance of succeeding at saving in 2018.

The Difference between 'Saving' and SAVING - How W
Photo: Aris sfakianakis on Unsplash.

What I’d like to know from you guys is:

Have you ever found yourself thinking that you’re doing well at cutting back on spending, or finding deals in the supermarket, etc, only to think:

‘Well hang on a minute, I haven’t actually got any more money!’

or

‘I’m still struggling at the end of the month!’

If so, I hope this post helps to bring this savings issue to the forefront of your mind. What I want for you is that each time you make a ‘saving’, that you think:

‘Right, I saved that on my shopping, I’m actually going to physically move that money over into SAVINGS.

Although I haven’t used them, there are apps that will ’round up’ your purchases to the nearest pound. The spare change is then sent to savings or investments. Do you use them? Do you think they’d help you to save money? Let me know!

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 an email or all three! I will always try to help you.


Lisa aka ‘Bunchy’

Happy New Year! Better Money Habits for 2018

Happy New Year budgeteers! Are you ready for some better money habits for 2018?

There’s nothing like a fresh year to form new and healthy habits. That includes your financial health.

What new habits do you want to form? Are there some less-than-helpful money habits you’d like to get rid of? How about making 2018 the year you finally commit to:

  •  Getting out of debt?
  •  Saving a percentage of your income each month?
  •  Making and FOLLOWING a realistic budget?
  • Cutting back on unnecessary retail therapy?
  • Cooking at home more and ordering fewer takeaway meals?

Whatever your financial goals for 2018, I’m here to encourage you along the way and share MY wins and fails too.

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me with the Bunchy The Budgeteer blog in 2017.  I have exciting plans for the blog in 2018 and shall strive to offer you valuable content over the next 12 months.

Normal blog posts shall resume on Thursday the 4th of January.

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.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy

Our November 2017 Budget – How Did We Do?

Our November 2017 Budget - How Did We Do?

It’s a little late, but I said I’d show you how our November budget went and how we did, so here it is!

November was an unusual month. We’ve been looking after a neighbourhood cat whose owners were unable to pay his vet bills. The poor cat had been wanting to spend a lot of time at ours. With me being a qualified Veterinary Nurse, I was quick to see that something was wrong with him. Three vet visits, medications, sedation, and blood tests revealed that he was F.I.V positive. and he had to be euthanised at the beginning of December. It broke our hearts, but we don’t begrudge paying the bills.

We can’t afford to have an animal of our own full-time. Our income will reduce in April unless I can make a success of a home business I am working on. It’s important to us to have our animals insured and to have the best food and veterinary care. With this in mind, we’re not yet able to fit this into our monthly budget. Others may think we were mad to use our Emergency Fund savings on an animal that wasn’t even ours. There wasn’t a moment of hesitation for us though and we knew that it wasn’t going to be an ongoing cost. it highlights what I’ve said before, that personal finance is personal.

 3.1% of our November income was extra income from selling some stuff from around the house. One of the items sold included our secondhand PlayStation. We’d bought the PlayStation by selling our secondhand Wii. We’d bought the Wii from selling other household items. You get the picture of how we usually manage to buy ourselves ‘new’ things!

Our November income was also bumped up 9.9% above the usual amount by receiving an ‘extra’ government payment. This was because one of the two months of the year when, due to receiving my payments fortnightly, I receive three instead of the usual two payments per month.

Our November 2017 Budget - How Did We Do?
Image Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

 

November’s Outgoings and Our Monthly Budget Categories – (shown in percentages of November’s total income) :

 

  • Mortgage: 20.3%

  • Council tax: 5.5%

  • Gas and electricity: 3%

  • Water: 2.1%

  • Groceries: (Includes food, toiletries, and household needs.) 10%

This was more than we usually spend on groceries. We had some money left over from October’s grocery budget and spent that. If we’d have been frugal and used the usual amount, we could’ve put the extra amount to our Emergency Fund savings. Yet, we’re human and it was a tough month. I was ill with a cold (which I’m still fighting and now Mr.B has gone down with it). So we were lazy and treated ourselves to a couple of takeaways. We also threw some of the cat products we had to buy into our grocery bill, rather than take more from our Emergency Fund.

 

  • Internet and landline: 0.9%

  • Life assurance: 1.2%

  • Mobile phone bills: 0.5%

I went over on my mobile phone bill and so covered the overage with my personal allowance.

 

  • My dental insurance: 0.5%

  • Mortgage overpayment: 0%

  • Pensions: 0.9%

Mr.B has now been enrolled in his workplace pension. This is the compulsory amount that came out of his wages. The percentage we’ll be adding when actively invest in our pension funds will be higher.

 

  • Sinking funds (the linked article explains these): 11% allocated to our short-term savings.

5.8% of our total November income was then spent from the Sinking Funds on the following:

  • Our six-monthly dental check-up. I will get back half of what we spent, as I have dental insurance.
  • Some winter car items and we got a punctured repair on one of our car tyres.
  • A couple of Christmas and birthday gifts.
  • Some new and second-hand items for the office and kitchen.
  • Holiday savings: (‘vacation’ to U.S. readers) 0%

  • Emergency fund savings: 34%

  • Personal spending money (has to cover clothing, haircuts, and makeup): 7.1%

  • Petrol: 1.1%

  • Miscellaneous buffer: In relation to November’s income, our total miscellaneous spend was 4.5%.

4.5% is almost seven times the amount we usually allocate for unplanned expenses! This was due to caring for the cat. We added to the miscellaneous category from our Emergency Fund as the expenses arose.

 So there it is! Not a typical month by any means, but we managed. We were still able to put a decent amount towards our Emergency Fund. This was mostly due to November’s income being higher than average, thank goodness!

How was November for you? How do you allocate your budget? Do you need to make a budget? I’d love to know.

You may also be interested in reading: ‘A Peek into Our Monthly Budget, which is the template we use each month, ‘Are You Within The Recommended Guidelines For Your Monthly Expenses?,  and ‘Money – Where On Earth Should I Begin?

 

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.

 Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

What Are Sinking Funds and Why Do I Need Them?

Have You Ever What Are Sinking Funds and Why Do I Need Them?

Have you ever heard of ‘Sinking Funds‘? If not, then you may be wondering what they are. Your next question may be whether you need them.

Sinking funds are savings for expenses you expect to encounter, but don’t know when. They may also cover infrequent events that don’t occur each pay period, such as Easter.

When setting up your Sinking Funds, you have various choices:

  • You may decide to use separate bank accounts for each sinking fund.
  • You may keep the money in jars at home. This isn’t the safest idea for anything other than small sums of money.
  • You may want to lump all your savings together in one place. We do this and keep track of what money belongs to what fund/purpose on a spreadsheet, but a notebook would do.

What you decide to save for will vary from what we or any other person saves for. Certain things will be the same, for example, if you also buy gifts for people at Christmas. You may have children’s costs to consider, whereas we don’t. The key is to think of all the irregular costs that catch you out and destroy your regular monthly budget. Try to include those things.

Fun Fact (from Wikipedia):

‘The sinking fund was first used in Great Britain in the 18th century to reduce national debt. While used by Robert Walpole in 1716 and effectively in the 1720s and early 1730s, it originated in the commercial tax syndicates of the Italian peninsula of the 14th century, where its function was to retire redeemable public debt of those cities.’

Our Sinking Funds have saved our skin and our budget many a time! Here’s what we put money by for each month:

  • Home insurance premium (buying it yearly works out cheaper than monthly premiums).
  • Car tax (buying it yearly works out cheaper than paying for it more frequently).
  • Car insurance premium (buying it yearly works out cheaper than monthly premiums).
  • Breakdown cover.
  • M.O.T. & servicing.
  • Sight tests every two years.
  • Boiler service.
  • Six-monthly dental checks.
  • Prescriptions.
  • Unexpected dental bills.
  • Car repairs, parts & tyres.
  • Gifts (birthdays and Christmas gifts for family. We buy for each other out of our personal allowances).
  • House renovations and items.
Do you save regular amounts of money each week or month for costs that you know will come up? What do you save for? I’d love to hear.
 

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.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

A Peek into Our Monthly Budget

A Peek into Our Monthly Budget

Last month I wrote a post called ‘Are You Within The Recommended Guidelines For Your Monthly Expenses?‘. It covered advice on the ideal allocation of income within a budget, as percentages. E.g. How much of your income to spend on housing, etc.

I thought you guys might find it interesting to see how we divide our money month to month.

Due to having budgeted for so long, I pretty much know how much money we need to put into each category every month. Due to this, we have an ‘ideal’monthly budget template that we begin with and this is what I’m going to share further on.

This month (or even last month!) hasn’t been ideal, as we’ve had a TON of unplanned and emergency expenses. If you’re human, you’ll know what I mean. You may start with good intentions and then BAM! It all goes Pete Tong (that’s ‘wrong’ for those not familiar with Cockney rhyming slang). I’ll be sharing our expensive October and November with you at the end of the month.

Our Income

Mr.B is not on board with me sharing our exact numbers. To show you how we divide our income, I’ll have to use percentages.

There are many conflicting pieces of data about what the average income is. We’re a two-person household. Yet, our income is lower than the median average 2017 individual UK salary. I’m not basing that on the ridiculous sources where the mean average gets used. Mean averages take into account a few earners receiving huge salaries. Most people will never have those incomes.

Our income consists of Mr.B’s wage, my very small government help (due to medical conditions). We also receive a small amount of money from somebody paying us back for a loan, plus a £3 a month reward from our bank. At times we may get extra money if we sell something we no longer want, but otherwise, that’s it.

NB: Twice a year I receive three government payments instead of the usual two payments per month. This is due to receiving my government help on a fortnightly basis. If you get paid every two weeks, this will happen to you too.

Our Outgoings and Our Monthly Budget Categories – (shown in percentages of monthly income) :

  • Mortgage: 23.1% 

  • Council Tax: 6.3%

  • Gas and electricity: 3.4%

  • Water: 2.4%

  • Groceries: (Includes food, toiletries, and household needs.) 8.2%

  • Internet and landline: 0.8%

  • Life assurance: 1.3%

  • Mobile phone bills: 0.5%

  • My dental insurance: 0.6%

  • Mortgage overpayment: 0%

  • Pensions: 0%

  • Sinking funds (the linked article explains these): 12.5%

  • Holiday savings:  (‘vacation’ to U.S. readers0%

  • Emergency fund savings: 30.8%

  • Personal spending money (has to cover clothing, haircuts, and make-up): 8%

  • Petrol: 1.3%

  • Miscellaneous buffer: 0.8%

Some of the above categories need some deeper explanation, but I’ll go into that in future posts.

Your own allocations will likely be very different to ours. That’s because it’s likely that you’re in a different financial situation.

Remember that things are always changing for most of us. For example, I have plans to begin a home business providing online services. If I can manage this with my health limitations, then our income will increase. Yay!

But, next Spring, our income is going to reduce. Also, we’ll have (all being well) completed our Emergency Fund and begun investing. This is why, though a budget template is useful, all our circumstances can and will change.

Where is your money going every month? Take a moment to find out and ask yourself if you’re happy with what you discover. Are you meeting your financial goals? Do you need to set some goals?

I love hearing from you and want to grow a 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.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Websites and Apps to Save You Money

Websites and Apps to Save You Money

Last month I told you about ‘Top 10 Apps and Websites That Earn You Money‘.

Today I’m sharing eight websites and mobile phone apps that can save some of your hard-earned cash. I use every single one of them.

So, in no particular order, here are some great websites and apps to save you money:

Petrolprices.com
Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

1) Petrolprices (app and website)

Petrolprices is a great service that I’ve used for a couple of years. It helps me to save money on petrol, by showing me the cheapest petrol in my area, for that week, via an email update. That’s how I use it, but the website (and now, app) offer much more than that.

Petrolprices.com compares UK petrol and diesel prices in 8,490 stations. They boast a 98% coverage of the UK market. It’s updated daily, 365 days a year. Petrolprices.com receive approximately 8,000 daily updates. This ensures that their data is accurate and up to date.

The available plans are: Basic, Plus and Business

I use the basic, free service, which includes:

  • A search function by fuel type and radius of your search (finding you the cheapest fuel, wherever you are).
  • Information on the lowest and average fuel prices for every station in your location.
  • One user per account.
  • The option of a daily, every weekday, twice weekly, weekly, or monthly email price alert.
  • 20 free monthly searches (which is adequate for 98% of users).
  • Five petrol station results per search
  • The option to filter by cheapest stations.
  • A five, 10, and 25-mile search radius.
  • An option of further searches at a cost of £1 per 10 searches.

(The free membership remains free because it contains adverts.)

I also enjoy the articles in the ‘news’ section of the newsletter email I receive (also on the website).
There are regular motoring-related articles as well as money-saving motoring guides.

If you want extra features, then consider the Plus plan (or, if you’re a business, the Business plan) below:

The Plus Plan:

(A 14-day free trial is available.)

£2 per month (though you can save 17% by signing up for an annual plan).

100 monthly searches

10 results per search

Five price alerts per email

Completely ad-free

Two to 30-mile search radius

Priority support

One user per account

Fuel route planner

Filter fuel by brand

The option to filter by cheapest AND nearest stations.

View all stations

Pay £2 to get 100 more searches

 

The Business Plan:

£12 per month (Save 17% with an annual plan)

500 monthly searches

10 results per search

10 price alerts per account

Completely ad-free

Two to 30-mile search radius

Priority support

10 user accounts permitted

Fuel route planner

Filter by brand

Sort by nearest stations

View all stations

Pay £10 to get 500 more searches

The following extra services are available for Plus and Business members only:

Route Planner:

This allows you to put in a start and end destination. The planner then tells you the cheapest/nearest stations available along your route.

Rewards:

Get discounted offers and exclusive rewards on everyday motoring costs. Have the ability to earn fuel on everyday motoring purchases. (The ‘Fuelback’ programme.).

Sign up at petrolprices.com or download the Petrolprices Fuel Finder App.
Google Play rating: 3.2. Available for Android and iOS device users.

The app looks handy for unfamiliar places, as it allows you to find the cheapest or nearest fuel stations. It’s available for Basic, Plus and Business users.


BoobkBub.com
Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

2) BookBub (website or app, but the app is only available for iOS device users).

I love this site! To date, I’ve scored 119 free books (of high user rating) and stored them on my phone via the Google Play book app. It’s also available on Kobo and Nook and is available on both Android and iPad.

Get signed up for free and chose your favourite genres and authors. Then, every day you’ll receive an email informing you of free and very discounted ebooks. You’re not obliged to ever buy anything unless you want to. The best part is that any books you get for free remain yours forever!

If you’ve chosen to follow an author whose books become discounted, BookBub will alert you. The same if the authors have new releases or books available to preorder.

BookBub makes money by publishers and authors paying them for their marketing tools.

Here is BookBub’s book category (it’s pretty extensive!):

  • Bestsellers.
  • Crime Fiction.
  • Psychological Thrillers.
  • Cosy Mysteries.
  • Historical Mysteries.
  • Thrillers.
  • Supernatural Suspense.
  • Action and Adventure.
  • Contemporary Romance.
  • Historical Romance.
  • Romantic Suspense.
  • New Adult Romance.
  • Paranormal Romance.
  • Erotic Romance.
  • Dark Romance & Erotica.
  • Sports Romance.
  • Time Travel Romance.
  • American Historical Romance.
  • Historical Fiction.
  • Women’s Fiction.
  • Literary Fiction.
  • Chick Lit.
  • Christian Fiction.
  • LGBT.
  • African American Interest.
  • Science Fiction.
  • Fantasy.
  • Horror.
  • Teen and Young Adult.
  • Children’s.
  • Middle Grade.
  • Advice and How-To.
  • Biographies and Memoirs.
  • History.
  • Cooking.
  • Christian Nonfiction.
  • Science.
  • Politics and Current Events.
  • Religion and Spirituality.
  • Parenting.
  • True Crime.
  • Business.

Sign up at www.bookbub.com or download the app.
App Store rating: 4+


Greggs Rewards
Photo by Janita Sumeiko on Unsplash

3) Greggs Rewards (app)

Although I’m not a frequent visitor to Greggs bakery, I downloaded the app and joined for its freebies. If you do frequent Greggs, then you’ll get even more from using the app.

Once you have the app installed you’re eligible for the following:

Free Coffees:
For every seven coffees you buy, you get your eighth one free!

Prize Draw:
Every month five people win £50 in their prize draw.

Birthday Treats:
My favourite! On or around your birthday, you’ll get notified that you can choose a free treat. Yum!

VIP Tasters:
Every so often you’ll be able to pick up a free item to try, such as a bag of popcorn or a soft drink.

You can choose to use the app to pay for your regular Greggs purchases by topping it up by card or PayPal. If you chose this way of paying, then the first time you top up by £10 or more Greggs rewards you with a free breakfast!

Visit www.greggs.co.uk for more information and to download the app.
Google Play rating 2.9 (App Store rating 4+).


HotUKDeals
Photo by Neil Cooper on Unsplash

4) Hotukdeals (website and app)

I’m pretty sure that my husband can’t stop looking at this site (it could be worse). Not only have we used it many times to grab fantastic bargains, but only today I used it to bag a free eye test!

It works by normal people discovering and submitting deals for everyone to make use of.

It’s a real community and gets very funny at times in the forums. ‘Deal hunters‘ vote to decide which deals are ‘hot‘ and which are not.

When you join up you’ll see deals, voucher codes, competitions, and freebies. There’s also an ‘Ask’ section (an advice forum).

Categories of deals include:

  • Audiovisual.
  • Computers.
  • Entertainment.
  • Fashion.
  • Gaming.
  • Groceries.
  • Home & Garden.
  • Kids.
  • Mobiles.
  • Personal Finance.
  • Restaurants.
  • Sports & Fitness.
  • Travel.
  • Misc.

You can filter results to hide deals only available in other peoples’ local areas so it’s relevant to you.

You can also filter by:

  • Price.
  • ‘Min temperature’ (of a deal).
  • Hide expired deal.
  • Hide NSFW (‘not safe for work’) deal images.
  • Switch custom listing on.
  • Hide local deals.

The list of retailers is enormous and includes:
eBay, Asda, Very, Currys, New Look, Homebase, Sainsbury’s, and Amazon.

Check out: www.hotukdeals.com or download the app.
Google Play rating 4.4 (no App Store rating).


mySupermarket.com
Photo by Kai Oberhäuser on Unsplash

5) mySupermarket (website and app)

mySupermarket is a free to use, independent price comparison site. They boast that they save shoppers, on average, 30% on each grocery shop.

mySupermarket collects prices from the main UK supermarkets (and other retailers). The site’s updated every day with the latest available prices, promotions, and vouchers.

To use it, choose the retailer you wish to shop with and use the mySupermarket website to do your online shop. While you shop, mySupermarket compares your basket to all the other retailers. You then have the option to switch your basket to the cheaper retailer or take advantage of product swaps to save money.

The thing I love most about the website is the ability to filter my product search by comparing Price Per Unit (PPU). That way, I know that I’m getting the very best value for my money.

For example, you see pasta sauce jar ‘A’ priced at 95p for 500g and jar ‘B’ priced at £1.10 for 700g. You might think the cheaper one is the better deal. Yet when you discover jar A is 19p per 100g and jar B is only 15.7p per 100g, you’ll see that you get more value with the larger jar. This is only better value if you’ll use all the larger product of course!

mySupermarket has some great extra features, such as:

‘Import Favourites’:

Do you already shop online at a particular supermarket? You can import your favourite items from your online shopping list to mySupermarket.

‘Quick Shop’:

Type your shopping list into the ‘Quick Shop’ notepad and mySupermarket will show options for the items you need. You can find this feature in the form of the quick shop button next to the search bar.

‘Savvy Shop’:

The ‘Savvy Shop‘ shelf displays products which are at least 30% less than their usual, average price.

‘Swap & Save’:

While you’re shopping you’ll get notified when you can swap an item for a cheaper alternative. You’ll get notified too if you can save more by choosing a product with a better unit price.

Once you’ve finished your shopping list, either check-out via your chosen supermarket or print off your list and shop in-store.

Retailers available for comparison on mySupermarket:

  • Tesco
  • Morrisons
  • ASDA
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Boots
  • Superdrug
  • Waitrose
  • Ocado
  • Aldi
  • Lidl
  • Poundland
  • Iceland
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Amazon
  • Poundstretcher

Sign-up at: www.mysupermarket.co.uk or download the app.
Google Play rating: 4.1 and App Store rating of 4+


Asda Price Guarantee
Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

6) Asda Price Guarantee (website)

Asda promises that if your ‘comparable’ grocery shopping isn’t 10% cheaper than Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, or Waitrose, then they’ll guarantee to give you the difference back.

To be eligible, you have to meet the following criteria:

You need an Asda Groceries Home Shopping account to claim your vouchers. You don’t have to have done an online shop. Items bought in-store still qualify.

You need to have purchased at least eight different items. One of these of must also be available in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, or Waitrose.

How to Claim:

If you shopped in store, you can usually check your shop three hours after your shop. In some circumstances, you may not be able to check until 6 am the day after your shop. The Asda Price Guarantee site will notify you of this, if so.

You need the barcode on your receipt to check your shop. Log into your Asda Groceries Home Shopping Account on asdapriceguarantee.co.uk. Enter the receipt barcode number and if you qualify for a voucher, you print it off and use it in-store. (excluding Asda petrol stations) before the expiry date on the voucher.

You MUST show your original receipt along with the voucher when you get to the checkout. If you don’t, you won’t be able to use the voucher. Your original receipt gets signed with the initials of the Asda cashier and then returned to you.

You can compare your shop up to 28 days after you made your purchases.

If you shopped online, you need to wait up to 24 hours from your shopping delivery before you can compare it. As with in-store shopping, you can compare your online shop up to 28 days after you made your purchases. You can also view and compare your last three online shopping orders at any one time.

If your shop qualifies, an e-voucher gets uploaded to your account within seven days. You can then use the e-voucher towards a future Asda online shop.

You have 28 days from the date you received a voucher to use it.

Per household, there is a limit of 10 vouchers per calendar month or a value of £100 in vouchers per calendar month. If a voucher takes the amount you have received in a calendar month to more than £100, you won’t receive any more than £100.

You can use as many Asda Price Guarantee vouchers as you want in a transaction. Other types of vouchers that Asda accepts are also permitted alongside them.

The Asda Price Guarantee voucher can only be used once per transaction and there isn’t a cash alternative. If the value of the voucher is more than what you shopping amount costs, you won’t receive any change or credit back.

As well as not being redeemable in Asda petrol stations, the vouchers cannot be used in transactions with any third parties who operate at Asda in-store concession points (such as photo processing). Nor can vouchers be redeemed against:

  • Kiosks (including Tobacco, Newspapers, and Magazines).
  • Lottery.
  • Gift Cards.
  • Mobile Phone Top-Up Cards.
  • Infant Formula.
  • Optical.
  • Prescriptions.

To find out more, check out: www.asdapriceguarantee.co.uk


Costa Coffee Club
Photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash

7) Costa Coffee Club (website and app)

Although I’m not a big coffee drinker, I do, on occasion, find myself visiting Costa coffee shops. Seeing that a loyalty card was available, I picked it up and have always used it.

At some point, I discovered that Costa had a smartphone app. This replaces the need to carry a loyalty card, so I downloaded it.

Whether you chose to carry a card or download the app, the Costa Coffee Club is worth signing up for. Back in August, I visited Costa with a friend and her husband. I couldn’t believe it when the barista told me that I had enough points to pay for everything!

The loyalty programme gives you five points for every £1 you spend and each point is worth 1p. If you’re a regular Costa customer your points will mount up in no time.

Costa Coffee Club isn’t only about collecting points. By becoming a member you can get free treats, bonus rewards, exclusive offers, and get alerted to secret events. Oh, and unlimited WiFi! Plus, when you download and register with the app you get 100 bonus points! So if you’re already a cardholder it’s worth signing up for a new account if only to bag your points.

The app can also be used to:

• Track your points balance to see when you have enough for a free coffee or treat.
• Find details of your nearest Costa stores including directions, details, opening times and facilities.

(Unfortunately, the Costa app is not currently available for use in Northern Ireland).

Register at www.costa.co.uk/coffee-club or download the app for Android or iOS.
Google Play rating: 3.4. App Store rating 4+


CheckoutSmart
Photo by Ramiro Mendes on Unsplash

8) CheckoutSmart (website and app)

This is another app that I use often and LOVE.

You download the app, sign up, buy any of the featured products listed in the app, upload a copy of your receipt (or delivery note) and get rewarded.

Once your receipt gets processed you’ll receive an e-mail confirming your reward. You’ll be able to see this in your CheckoutSmart account balance.

Unfortunately, all the products are brand name goods. Though we tend to buy shop’s own brands, I use it to buy the ‘free‘ items. I have to pay for these items at the time of shopping, but I can claim it back. This means that I’m getting to try products for free. Even if they’re items we won’t use, we can either give it away to friends and family who WILL use it or donate it to the food bank.

I’ve only ever used CheckoutSmart to shop in-store, but you can also use it for online shopping.

Retailers involved include:

  • Tesco
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Asda
  • Morrisons
  • Waitrose
  • Ocado.com
  • Co-op
  • Iceland
  • M&S
  • Aldi
  • Lidl
  • Budgens
  • Londis
  • Spar
  • Boots
  • Superdrug
  • Wilkinson
  • WH Smiths

Be aware that there’s a processing fee of 5% if you transfer out any reward amount under £20. I like to wait until my balance is at least £20 before I cash it out. I want ALL my money, thank you very much!

You can only have one CheckoutSmart account yourself. More than one account per household is ok but no more than two CheckoutSmart accounts can be linked to a single payment (BACS/PayPal) account.

You can redeem several offers in one receipt and you can upload up to three receipts per day.

Some offers are available only to you. To ensure that you can view the full list of offers available you’ll need to be signed into your app.

To upload a receipt, you sign in to the app and hit the ‘claim’ button at the bottom of the screen. From there, you follow the simple directions.

All CheckoutSmart rewards are available on top of any in-store promotions. Items that have been ‘reduced to clear’ or fresh items reduced in price and close to expiry aren’t eligible for rewards.

For more details and to sign up, go to www.checkoutsmart.com or download the app (available for Android and iOS devices).

Google Play store rating: 3.6 (No rating for App Store)


Are there any money-saving websites or apps that you use? If so, please share so that everyone can save money!

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.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Why Having an Emergency Fund Will Help You to Sleep Better

Why Having an Emergency Fund Will Help You to Sleep Better

What almost all experts will tell you is that before you decide upon any other saving goals, you must first be working towards building an emergency fund (sometimes known as a ‘rainy day’ fund).

What Are Emergency Funds?

Emergency funds are predominantly a way of protecting yourself against a loss of income; which for most people will be a job loss. Of course, there may be other circumstances that will necessitate tapping into your emergency savings, such as unexpected and expensive car repairs that your usual monthly budget cannot cover.

Is an Emergency Fund worth Having?

Living ‘paycheck to paycheck‘ is a stressful existence and if using debt is your only option for dealing with a major financial incident, then anxiety levels can begin to creep up and affect your quality of life. Nobody wants to be lying awake at night worrying if a cheque is going to bounce.

Over the past two months, we’ve had to dip into our emergency savings for major and unexpected car expenses. It’s been a pretty stressful time, and although we hadn’t quite reached our goal of what we wanted to have saved in our emergency fund, the car debacle was a hell of a lot less stressful than it would’ve been had we not had some money in the bank to pay for not only the extensive gear-box work we had done but eventually a new (used) car!

What Constitutes an ‘Emergency’?

Generally, something is an emergency expense if it’s:

a) unplanned

b) necessary and

c) urgent.

So your child’s birthday wouldn’t be classed as a good reason to take from your emergency fund, as you know exactly when it’s going to occur each year!

How Much Do I Need to Have in My Emergency Fund?

Some finance specialists advise that you have an emergency fund equal to three to six months’ worth of your usual INCOME, whereas some recommend that you have three to six months’ worth of your usual monthly EXPENSES (or outgoings) saved.

If you’re going to use your expenses to calculate your emergency fund savings goal, then you may want to know that some professionals recommend that you include only vital expenses (so this wouldn’t include any of your usual recreational or discretionary spendings unless you’d end up with a penalty that would cost you more than what you’d save by cancelling it – such as a mobile phone contract).

You may also want to consider if, during whatever financial emergency you’re going through, you’ll want to temporarily pause saving, making additional debt repayments and any investing towards retirement.

Of course, you’ll be able to reach your savings goal of having a complete emergency fund much faster if you’re aiming for covering only vital expenses. However, for those on a low income who don’t have much left to spend on non-essentials each month, there may not be a lot of difference between six months of income and six months of expenses!

Consider Having an ‘Emergency Budget’

When we first decided what our absolutely vital minimal expenses were, we looked at our usual monthly budget and went through each category and expense and subtracted any budget item that we could easily cancel without penalty if Mr.B were to lose his job. By doing this, we developed our emergency budget and were quickly able to work out how much (or little) was required to hit our goal of six months of expenses in the bank.
If the proverbial hits the fan then we can follow that bare-bones budget.

If you hate the idea of tightening up on your spending habits during say, a job loss, you may prefer to have three to six months of expenses saved, but be aware that if you don’t reduce your spending during the period of unemployment (or going from two incomes down to one) and you still haven’t found another job at the end of those three or six months, you’ll face problems. By cutting right back, you’ll be able to make that emergency fund last as long as possible and furthermore, you’ll have less to put back into the emergency fund once the storm has passed.

Do you have an emergency fund? If so, how long did it take to save? How many months of income or expenses did you decide upon and why? If you don’t have an emergency fund, is it something you’d like to achieve? If not, how will you deal with large and unexpected expenses or a loss of income? I’d love to hear from you!

For more on saving, check out: Are You Within the Recommended Guidelines for Your Monthly Expenses?

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.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

A Beginner’s Bite-Size Guide to the Differences between Savings and Investments

A Beginner's Bite-Size Guide to the Differences between Savings and Investments

If you’re just beginning to learn about how money really works and are wanting to take control of your finances, you may not be completely clear about the terms that are used in the financial sphere. Hopefully, I can clear up one common cause of confusion; the difference between saving and investing money.

Saving

Most people know what saving is, but it’s good to define the meaning so that you can see the difference between this and investing. So, to save means putting away money a bit at a time, usually to pay for something specific or for a ‘rainy day’ fund.

Savings are usually kept in a bank or building society account and your money is easily accessed when you need it. Some accounts may pay you interest on your savings, but this is more of a benefit rather the sole aim of the money.

Money kept in savings is generally at a very low risk of loss, but remember that savings are still at risk of losing value due to inflation (where the buying power of your money and any interest earned on it doesn’t keep up with the increased cost of living and therefore what your money can buy now will be less than what it can buy you in the future).

Investing

Investing is still a form of saving, but here you are taking some of your money with the aim of growing it by putting it into things that you think will increase in value e.g. investing in stocks, shares or rental property.

Money that is placed in such investments is at a higher risk of loss, as whatever you choose to invest your money into may not increase in value and may actually decrease in value. Usually, the higher the risk of an investment, the higher the amount of ‘return‘ (what you’ll get back on top the initial amount you put in) you could receive.

For more on saving and investing, you may like to read Are You Within The Recommended Guidelines For Your Monthly Expenses?

What other financial terms confuse you? If there’s anything I can clear up for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Are You Within The Recommended Guidelines For Your Monthly Expenses?

Who is Bunchy the Budgeteer? Who is 'Bunchy'?

Are you confused by all the financial advice out there, telling you how much you need to be saving each month? I know that I used to be! Would it help to know if you are within the recommended guidelines for your monthly expenses?

 
Have you got into a spin about what percentage of your income you should be investing into a pension? You know, so that you’re not eating cold baked beans in your old age (unless that’s how you roll)?
Do you ever wonder if you’re spending far too much of your income on things you enjoy? Are you worrying that those items are costing you more than the actual price tag – like your financial health?
Stressed because you can’t save what (insert financial guru) recommends you save each month due to struggling to afford the basics? (I know, I’ve been there) Well, please read on, friend…
Let me first say that there is a no ‘one size fits all’ plan to personal finance. It’s personal finance after all! I DO believe that there are good rules of thumb that we can go by. Tweak them here and there to suit your particular circumstances. That means altering things to benefit your financial situation, not to satisfy your spending desires!
 
I’ve read a lot of advice on what percentage of ones’ income should go towards various categories. Some experts vary in how they split up the categories, but for the most part, they tend to fall into these areas:
 
Saving and Investing There’s a difference. Read ‘A Beginner’s Bite-Size Guide to the Differences between Savings and Investments‘.
Debt-repayment (over and above what must get paid each month. Things such as a mortgage payment and paying the minimum balance on a credit card).
Vital household and living expenses.
Recreational/discretionary spending.
 

Let’s Start with Savings

 
General advice tells us to aim to put 10-20% of our net income towards savings &/or investments each month. Net pay is our ‘take-home’ pay, after tax and National Insurance gets deducted. What most experts will tell you is that your first goal is to have an emergency fund. Check out Why Having an Emergency Fund Will Help You to Sleep Better‘.
Once you’ve saved/are saving your emergency fund, consider other savings:
Short-Term Savings
For expenses or purchases you expect to happen in less than five years. For example, a family holiday or Christmas.
Medium-Term Savings
For expenses or purchases you expect to happen within five to 10 years, e.g. a new car.
Longer-term Savings
For expenses expected to occur in ten years or more, such as saving up for a child’s university tuition.
You may decide that you instead want to invest long-term savings, to maximise its chance of growth. Due to not needing the money for several years, it has a better chance of weathering any fluctuations. For example, if invested in the stock market. There is always a chance of losing money in investments. If you’re not willing or able to risk this, then a savings vehicle may be a better option for you.
 

Have You Ever Heard of ‘Sinking Funds’?

 
Sinking funds are savings goals for specific purposes. Read my post ‘What Are Sinking Funds and Why Do I Need Them?‘ and then come back. Our sinking funds have saved our skins and our budget many a time!
One final note before moving on to the next category. Some financial experts say that you should forget having any type of savings until you’re out of debt. This doesn’t include your mortgage. Some suggest you have a safety net of one month worth of expenses saved. Others recommend that you build your emergency fund at the same time as paying off debts.
Whatever you decide is the best option for you will depend on several things, including:
 
  • How secure you feel that your jobs are.
  • How tolerant you are to risk.
  • During a period of unemployment or illness, how your debts would affect you if you hadn’t reduced them.

Investing

For most people, this will mean the money that they save into their pension plan. It could also include other investments such as:
 
Investing in the stock market.
Buying a second property.
As mentioned before, you may also want to invest money earmarked for long-term savings. It can grow more than it could in an easily accessible savings account, but there’s more risk.
Experts recommend putting 5-20% of your take-home pay into investments/retirement savings. Other experts advise beginning at half your age as a percentage.
Example:
 
You’re 40 and have never consistently contributed to a pension or investment. Therefore, you would invest 20% (half your age) of your income until you retire.
 
The younger you begin saving for retirement, the smaller the chunk taken from your budget! Yet it all depends on how much you want to live on in retirement and what your retirement goals are.
Investing is an extensive topic and you should get professional advice about. Use a regulated independent financial advisor when making such important and long-term decisions.
Debt repayment
 
The advice seems to indicate that we should be putting 5%-20% of our take-home pay towards debt each month.
 
This percentage doesn’t include:
 
  • Your usual monthly mortgage payment (if you have one.
  • Paying any minimum credit card balance – you ‘have‘ to pay or risk additional debt.
Instead, this means, for example:
 
  • Making additional payments towards a mortgage if you want to pay it off earlier. Some financial gurus advocate this. Others feel that there are better things to be doing with your money.
  • Clearing credit card debts or paying off a car finance agreement, etc.

Vital Household and Living Expenses

We’re advised to keep this category of spending between 50-70% of our take-home pay. Though not meant to be an exhaustive list, this category will include things such as:
 
  • Food & household groceries (the basics).
  • Mortgage or rent payment.
  • Council tax.
  • Gas, electricity, and water.
  • Fuel/public transport to get to and from work.
  • Clothing basics.
  • Life assurance.
  • Home (building &/or contents) insurance.
  • Car tax, new tyres, car insurance, and M.O.T.
  • Sight tests and glasses.
  • Prescriptions.
  • Dentistry.
  • Boiler servicing.
  • Necessary hair-cuts.

Recreational/Discretionary Spending

This is where you finally get to have some fun with your money and use it for entertainment purposes!
From my research, advice indicates we try to keep these non-vital expenses between 10-30% of our net pay.
Again, the list below isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list. What you chose to spend your ‘fun money‘ on will be different to what I like to spend mine on, but it may include such things as:
 
  • TV subscription services.
  • Sports equipment, toys, and gadgets.
  • Beauty salon treatments.
  • Restaurants/eating out.
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking and vaping.
  • Days out.
  • Non-essential home improvements.
  • Make-up.
  • Junk food and takeaways.
  • Luxury grocery items.
  • Clothing (above the basics to keep from getting arrested, etc.).
  • Jewellery.
Some financial specialists list the following as non-vital budget items:
 
  • Home internet, landline telephones, mobile phones (and their tariffs). Unless it’s used for business purposes.
I hope that by reading this, you now have a clearer picture of how your spending compares.
If you’re aware of the potential impact of where you allocate your money each month, then that’s great. Whatever you decide to do is going to be very personal to you and your circumstances.
Some people don’t have the luxury of choosing where they prioritise their spending. They may have cut back everywhere possible and still don’t have enough for the basics or for saving. In these situations, it’s not a spending issue that they have, but an income issue. Until that’s improved, they shouldn’t, for example, concern themselves with investing.

Have you calculated how much of your income goes into the categories above? Are you a natural saver or spender? What are your views on prioritising debt repayment over saving or vice versa? Do you have an emergency fund?

 

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.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’