New Year Finances: Top Tips

New Year Finances: Top Tips

Hands up if at the beginning of the year you sit down and reassess what I like to call the New Year finances? Me too, although I do a monthly budget based on real-life happenings i.e. upcoming events and a quarterly bill review too. Keeping on top of your bills, checking your standing orders and direct debits and making sure that you know exactly what is coming in and out is the way to achieve your financial goals.

This year we’re all about our frugal living challenge. This challenge is about cutting back on waste, saving money, living a simpler life and as a result pouring more into our pensions and savings. As part of this challenge I started with a New New Finances check and here are some of things I had to consider and some that might be of interest to others.

List Your Outgoings, Now Slash Them

When was the last time that you checked your direct debit list on your online banking or looked properly at your spending? When assessing your New Year Finances this is the perfect time to cancel anything you pay for that you no longer need or want (magazine subscriptions are a prime example) and really look at where your pennies have been going to. Looking at mine, I spent far too much in the last quarter of the year buying coffees in town and food for lunch (from Co-op not takeaway) on the way to coworking. A friend gave me a reusable mug and I have a packed lunch so having seen what these habits were costing me, I’m starting new, more frugal habits,

Happy With Your Bank?

If you are happy with your banking set-up, keep on scrolling. If not, this section could be of interest to you. Switching banks has never been easier, with them doing all of the work for you. Here in Thirsk, several banks have closed down, making it difficult for those who do use branch-based banking. Luckily I already had my business accounts and saving with Nationwide so when the local branch of my bank closed, I simply switched all of my remaining banking over to them using the Earn £100 for Switching to Nationwide incentive. It was so easy and both me and my referrer earned ourselves a £100 bonus. I’m obviously happy to refer anyone interested to Nationwide in the same way but if NW isn’t for you, do consider your options. With so many banks and building societies around your bank should be working hard for you in order to retain your custom. If they aren’t, and if they cost you fees and charges you could avoid, consider switching elsewhere.

Save First

Here’s a tip for you, save first. We used to wait and see what was left at the end of the month and put that into savings but found that with that system, there was little left! Now we have a set savings amount built into our monthly budget and put that aside before anything else. If there’s more left at the end of the month, great. If not, at least you have put something away.

New Year Finances Debt Refinancing

If you have credit cards, debts and loans, this time of year is perfect for a New Year finance checkover. Check your credit rating on Experian or other secure systems,  consider an online finance broker, speak to your bank or just shop around to make sure that you have the best deals possible. Debt needs to be paid off pronto and making minimum payments only maximises the amount you pay in interest. Make it easier to banish dead by looking at 0% balance transfers and better rates. Would this make a difference to you?

Cash Spending

This is my super-tip for you. Instead of using your debit card for everything, use cash. You’ll be much more reluctant to part with it, for sure! I now withdraw a weekly amount for groceries and use only that. When it has gone, it’s gone. It’s only been a few weeks but already I’m saving money left, right and centre. I’m planning to extend this way of spending into other areas too. I’ll report back on how that goes!

New Year Finances: In Summary

Have you done a reassessment of your finances yet?  It can be quite eye-opening and well worth the effort. It will enable you to set goals and save money. Take the time to have a look over your income and expenditure, you might be surprised by how much you’re paying out and it’s a good opportunity to call up certain companies and ask for a reduction. More about this in another post. Happy budgeting!

 

Frugal Living 2019 – January Update #1

Frugal Living 2019 – January Update #1

Happy New Year! This is the beginning of a new series of blog posts on frugal living. We’ve always tried to avoid waste and save, and have to say, we’ve got pretty good at it. We could do better though. For us, the end result of our frugal living goal this year is to dump a lot more money in our savings and pensions and to enjoy a somewhat more simple life. Ditching plastic where we can is also on the cards, as is more recycling. We will be clearing the clutter and looking at ways to save and make more money to add to our various savings pots).

Here is my first proper 2019 frugal living update.

Grocery Spending

We spend too much money on food. I have some rather specific dietary needs however even including that, we overspend. This has been down mostly to a lack of planning on my part. Here’s what I’ve done/am doing to remedy this, and you can to if saving money on your grocery spending is a goal:
 
  • Move to a Cash Budget: Yes, if you withdraw your spending money in cash you are much more reluctant to part with it. I certainly am. I’ve stopped using the grocery account debit card wherever possible and withdraw only what I have budgeted for the week. Anything left over at the end of the week goes into savings.
  • Take Stock: Do you know what food you have in your house? I thought I did until I did a full inventory of my fridge, freezer and cupboards. I really do not need to buy any more pasta or chopped tomatoes! Using my stock list I created a weekly meal plan for this week.
  • Meal Plan: I’m using a fab diary my sister bought me for all things grocery related. I keep my stock lists in there, create my weekly meal plan from it, then write up a shopping list (which I plan to stick to!).
  • Shop Cheap: Aldi and Lidl are my friends. The local butcher can also save you a fortune. Some are put off using a butcher because prices are per weight and so on. If you say you want a pound and a half weight of mince, that’s fine. If you say you need three steaks but don’t want to spend more than £x, they can work with that too.
 

The Car

car, mechanic, frugal living

Our car has been fab for years but in the past 6-7 months or so we’ve come to realise that it is time to let her go and trade her in for a newer (smaller) model. Smaller for fuel efficiency (ours is a 2.0l engine) and smaller because we live in a Victorian terraced street which means parking outside requires excellent timing and a shoe horn.
 
Once we’ve had her **fixed (an engine light has come on and she doesn’t like accelerating  – such a diva) we’re off to the dealership with her. We’ve had a quote for her and plan to trade her in and buy something a little cheaper (save the difference) but we’ll see what’s what on the day.
**We use a local mobile mechanic who is excellent at what he does and has years of experience under his belt. If you are local (Thirsk and surrounding) and want a recommendation, just ask!
 

Something Broke

Last year (September) I bought a halogen cooker. This is a tabletop cooker which replaces your oven and is cheaper to run. My mum has used them for years. I don’t know why it took me so long to get one. They are fantastic! Sadly, just after cooking our New Year Day lunch, the halogen gave up on me. I’ve contacted the company I bought it from and they’ve agreed that is must be faulty and that I need to return it for a refund. I’ll order a new one once that refund hits. The pain of this (other than being without my halogen) is that I have to find suitable packaging and a courier! Any recommendations on a cheap and easy to use courier service?
 

Switching Energy Supplier to Bulb

I moved us over to Bulb Energy 16 months ago and can honestly say that I have been over the moon with the savings and the service. Their commitment to renewable energy also ticks a big box for me. I earned £50 into my Bulb account when I joined as I used someone else’s referral link. A friend later joined through me using mine and we both received £50. If you want a quote (and want to use my referral link) start here: http://bit.ly/nickibulbreferral
 
Bulb, Bulb energy, frugal living
 

Frugal Living 2019

That’s pretty much where we are frugal living and savings wise. It’s only the 2nd January though so we’ve made a good start. Keep reading for further updates as we commit ourselves to spending less, saving more and altogether enjoy a more simple and frugal life.
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