Our April 2018 Budget Report

Desk with laptop, phone, notepad, pen, and coffee - Our April 2018 Budget Report

It’s time for me to share with you our April 2018 budget report.

April was, for us, a month of heavy spending, but we found opportunities to be frugal and find lots of money-saving ways to reduce our expenses.

As we’d planned most of our expenses, it didn’t feel bad to be spending so much, though it still makes me gulp when large sums of money (again, they’re large amounts of money to us!) leave our bank accounts. Continue reading “Our April 2018 Budget Report”

‘A Fistful of Frugal’ – Bathroom Edition

Close up of a fist | Frugal homemade cleaning tips

After writing lots of heavy articles on debt, we could do with a shorter and easier read. This lead me to realise that despite beginning a series called ‘A Fistful of Frugal‘ (five frugal things Mr B and I do), I’ve added no further posts to the series.  So here’s Instalment two of ‘A Fistful of Frugal‘ with frugal, homemade cleaning tips. This is the bathroom edition. Continue reading “‘A Fistful of Frugal’ – Bathroom Edition”

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

Man's hands holding money and cigarette - The Difference Between Saving and SAVING

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

You might ask yourself ‘What’s the difference between the two and what does this woman mean we lie to ourselves?’

‘Saving’ money (definition No 1)

There are lots of ways we can ‘save’ money, and by that, I mean reducing how much money we spend on purchases. Continue reading “The Difference between ‘Saving’ and SAVING – How We Lie to Ourselves”

A Quick, Easy, and Effective Homemade Deodorant Recipe

A Quick, Easy, and Effective Homemade Deodorant Recipe

If you’re looking for a quick, easy, and effective homemade deodorant recipe that really works, then you’ve come to the right place.

But first…I had a deodorant DISASTER recently. The reason? I decided to try a different recipe, which was more complicated, involving the use of a bain-marie. Continue reading “A Quick, Easy, and Effective Homemade Deodorant Recipe”

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. Continue reading “Our November 2017 Budget – How Did We Do?”

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.

 

No time to read just now? No worries, just pin to Pinterest!

Pinterest pin for Websites and Apps to Save You Money

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’

Easy Carrot, Orange, Coriander and Ginger Soup

bunchythebudgeteer_easycarrotorangeandgingersoup_dreamstime.com

* Photo courtesy of  dreamstime.com (As soon as I next make my next batch, I’ll snap a picture and add one of my own).

Another Autumnal day calls for the last of the fail-safe and easy soup recipes we use. This time it’s with carrot, orange, coriander, and ginger. The recipe name may sound as if the cooking will be a large production. It isn’t. Especially if you use cheats, as I often do!

It’s also yet another soup that can be suitable for vegans and those with gluten intolerance. Ensure the stocks used are suitable for you and you’re good to go.

I like to make a large batch of this on the hob, as it’s quick to make. By making much more than needed for one dinner, we can freeze portions and use on lazy days. Batch cooking like this saves not only your energy and time but your energy bills too!

I’d been making this soup for a few years before meeting my (now) husband. Trying to convince him that orange works well in this recipe wasn’t easy. He thought I was ‘mental’ to include it, but he changed his tune after trying the soup for the first time. Now it’s one of his favourites.

My inspiration for the recipe was from Riverford Organic Farmers (the people who I’ve ordered veg boxes from). I tweaked it a little, as you may also want to.

Finally, I can’t let you go without sharing these fun facts (well I enjoyed them, but then I’m a bit of a nerd) taken straight from Wikipedia:

The provitamin A beta-carotene from carrots does not actually help people to see in the dark unless they suffer from a deficiency of vitamin A. This myth was propaganda used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War to explain why their pilots had improved success during night air battles but were actually used to disguise advances in radar technology and the use of red lights on instrument panels. Nevertheless, the consumption of carrots was advocated in Britain at the time as part of a Dig for Victory campaign. A radio programme called The Kitchen Front encouraged people to grow, store and use carrots in various novel ways, including making carrot jam and Woolton pie, named after the Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food. The British public during WWII generally believed that eating carrots would help them see better at night and in 1942 there was a 100,000 ton surplus of carrots from the extra production.’

Enough chatter. You want the recipe

Easy Carrot, Orange, Coriander and Ginger Soup

(serves four)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) *Optional.
  • 900g of carrots (chopped)
  • 1 tsp of fresh ginger (grated) *We store our root ginger in the freezer and take it out to use when needed. In a pinch, or to save time, you could also use ginger powder.
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • Juice of 2-3 oranges (and zest, if you wish) *To save time, use 150ml of orange juice instead.
  • 1 litre of veg stock
  • A few coriander leaves (chopped) *You can use chopped parsley leaves if preferred. To make the recipe more frugal and easier, use dried versions of the herbs instead.

To Serve (Optional):

Plain yoghurt or creme fraiche (use dairy-free or gluten-free if necessary).
Salt & pepper to taste.

Method:

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the chopped onion.
2. Cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
3. Add the garlic (if using) and cook for another minute or two.
4. Add the carrots, ginger (and zest, if using), stir to mix and add the hot stock.
5. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes (or until the carrots are softening).
6. Blend up the soup mixture in a blender or with a hand mixer, until smooth.
7. Return the mixture to the pan, add the orange juice and reheat on a low setting.
8. Add salt and pepper if desired and a blob of yogurt if using.

We like to eat this for dinner with either crusty bread, french baguette or with sandwiches. Nom, nom, nom.

Let me know if you try it, or if you tweak it, and how it turned out!

Here is the inspiration for the Easy Carrot, Orange, Coriander and Ginger Soup. You may also want to have a look at Mr.B’s (the hubster) Vegan-Friendly Frugal Tomato Soup, my Frugal And Healthy Spicy Lentil Soup  and my Chunky Autumnal Vegetable Stew Slow Cooker Recipe.

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. 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’

Chunky Autumnal Vegetable Stew Slow Cooker Recipe

Chunky Autumnal Vegetable Stew Slow Cooker Recipe

I’ve been craving a hearty and chunky vegetable stew for a couple of weeks now. Something ‘Autumnal’.

I don’t know about you, but Autumn is my favourite season. Yes, there are some downsides, such as:

  • Being cold.
  • Having increased heating bills.
  • Not being able to dry our washing outdoors as fast as usual.

Yet, we can enjoy:

  • Getting wrapped up and going to feed the squirrels in leave-strewn parks.
  • Snuggling up under a blanket with a hot mug of tea and a good book or film.
  • Filling up on yummy, stodgy, home-cooked food.

bunchythebudgeteer.wordpress.com-chunkyautumnvegetablestew

* Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Feeling grotty today and not wanting some rather sad looking vegetables to go to waste, I pulled out the slow cooker. So much easier than regular cooking and I knew that if I began to feel more ill (I did), at least I’d made dinner!

Here’s the Recipe:

  • 2 red onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 leeks (finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 4 small carrots (cut into large chunks)
  • 4 small sweet potatoes (cut into large chunks)
  • 4 small Maris Piper potatoes (cut into large chunks)
  • 150g dry red lentils
  • 2 litres of hot vegetable stock (made with 3 veg stock cubes and a teaspoon of vegetable bouillon – because I ran out stock cubes).
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of dried parsley
  • Gravy granules to thicken, at the end of the cooking session.
    (Or instead, you could omit the gravy granules and mix some cornflour with water and add).

Method:

  1. Peel and chop up the veg.
  2. Make up the stock with boiling water.
  3. Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
  5. Thicken if desired.
  6. Add dumplings if desired.
  7. Enjoy!

This made enough for me to put a few container fulls into the freezer, for nights when neither Mr.B nor I want to cook.

I had this for dinner this evening and it was scrummy!

It’s a cheap, healthy meal and won’t bust the budget. It’s also suitable for vegetarians and vegans (even the dumplings were vegan-friendly!). Many supermarket stocks and gravy granules are also gluten-free. By using them, this stew can also be enjoyed by people with gluten intolerance.

Let me know if you try this recipe. Though not exactly the same, I based the recipe on one from my Sarah Flowers slow cooker recipe book, which you can find here.

Do you have any good vegetable stew or soup recipes that you’d recommend? Please share, so that we can all enjoy!

For more soup recipes, check out my Frugal and Healthy Spicy Lentil Soup and my Vegan-Friendly Frugal Tomato Soup.

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’