Froog’s autumn budget

froogs autumn budget statement

Hello Dear Reader,

The autumn budget statement was released today and what a surprise, no significant benefits for health, social care or education. You’re on your own so from one day to the next, you’ll just have to keep scrimping and scraping to get by! Froggin’ wonderful isn’t it. So, just don’t get sick, have any children or get old as basically you’re in the deep stuff unless you’re minted which none of us are!

Nothing new about my autumn budgetary advice as it’s all about strapping yourself down, battening down the hatches and managing to survive in the continuous financial strife. I’m always aware that someone reading this could be here for the first time and have difficult decisions to make and went looking for advice. I’m also aware that many of us are old hands at this and have been peering out from behind the frugal ramparts for as long as we can remember. However, just like the chancellor’s autumn budget statement we all have to readdress our finances and make some sort of pledge in terms of how we will distribute our own money over the next year.

Let me explain. A budget statement for any family is where you or this case, I will make financial projections for the next year and decide where I will make savings, where I will spend money and where I will freeze spending or continue to freeze spending. Here’ s my financial decisions that I will do everything I can to stick to over the next financial year.

  • In real terms, neither of us are earning anymore as the cost of living is increasing and our incomes have not caught up with those increases. That means, every year you and I are financially worse off. To counteract that, every year we have to cut back our outgoings to stay afloat. Here’s where we’ll have to make savings.
  • Keep our food budget the same. This means we’ll have to buyer cheaper and buy less of the same food. There is no extra allowance here and as food prices are galloping, we are having to be more creative all the time.
  • Keep our energy costs the same. To do this, we’ll have to use our heating sparingly and our thermostat is set at 18 degrees C and we’ll have to wrap up. Our heating goes on for one hour only to take the chill off the entire house and keep it from getting damp.
  • Make sure our curtains are closed as soon as we get home, wear slippers and socks indoors, I’ve brought out the old duvet covers and safety pinned them to the back of the curtains so they are effectively triple lines.
  • Turn off all lights in the rooms and corridors we’re not in.
  • Five minute showers and yes, that does include washing my hair. I now use budget supermarket spray in conditioner at 89p and that lasts me a month.
  • Go to bed half an hour earlier and read, it’s the warmest place in the house.
  • No increase in clothing budget so as usual we mix charity shop finds with budget finds, my Matalan work trousers at £14 will last me a couple of years.
  • My clothes are hung to dry outside, or on a hanger in the window locked ajar and will dry indoors or in front of the wood stove in the lounge.
  • Personal wash clothes and towels are hung up to dry and used again then washed weekly.
  • All errands in the car are done on the way to and from work so no extra journeys.

 

Savings targets.

These are difficult times and I know so many people can’t save anything at all but if you can even if it’s just £1 a week then save everything you can. If you can, try the 1p a day saving challenge. On the first day, you’ll put 1p aside, may be in a large jar, then next 2p, the tenth day, 10p, the 60th day 60p and the 365th day £3.65. You could do it in reverse and start with the largest amounts and work backwards. By the end of the year, you’ll have £667.95. Another challenge is the monthly challenge of £50 a month which is massive to some families but that’s £600 at the end of the year. Any savings are important and I’d do anything I can to get as many of you having a regular savings habit.

Our savings targets still remain as saving half of my income, over paying the mortgage even if only  by 2% of the capital balance each year and aim to pay off another 5% of the balance of the capital each year.

Personal spending allowance. We don’t wear hair shirts nor do we want to bore ourselves to tears so our French adventures will continue and our savings go towards that including the renovations but we will still watch the budget very carefully. We will continue to do all of the work ourselves and are going over at Christmas with the intention of doing some painting and insulating. We have paint, insulation, indoor building materials to save for and will do the sensible stuff first even though I’m itching to make it pretty but that will have to wait. More importantly, we’ll seek all the legal permissions to rent it out, get tax registered, change our insurance and have our investment making money for us. Before long, you’ll see a link to a booking page right here on this blog. The house needs to pay its own way

We have no plans for any major expenses over the next year so if anything breaks, it’ll be repaired or retired and we’ll have to go without unless we can replace it with freecyle or ebay.

We will continue with our 2012 budget as that’s when we froze any increases in our spending to try and offset the ever increasing prices by being more careful this coming year than we were last year and even more careful than we were the year before that.

I know! It gets on my pip too!

So Phil and the message from your red handbag, thanks for nothing for the ordinary people and we’ll have to just keep scrimping and saving whilst you and the Etonians ignore the families in crisis. Cheers old mate!

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs

 

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Are you ready for Black Friday?

Hello Dear Reader,

I’ll never be a thrifty blogger who tells you the way to money saving is to get the best deals on this that or the other. I’ll be the thrifty blogger who says: get it for nothing, swap, barter, get it out of a skip, haggle at car boot sales, use Freecycle or the Freeads. Go to charity shops, re-cycling centres or just ask for something. Black Friday should be called cynical money grabbing commercialism Friday.

Now don’t get me wrong, America has given us some wonderful things but Black Friday isn’t one of them. By the way, love the music. Thanks for that. As for Black Friday, you can shove it!

So, we’ve imported that and it’s here and we don’t even have a public holiday weekend, visiting home or sporting spectacles to go with it, just the utter pointlessness of being encouraged to buy a load of detritus we just don’t need. I have checked. I’ve been around the house and we have everything we need. There are no gaps, nothing is missing. We have clothes, furniture, a TV, electrical equipment, kitchen equipment and toiletries. We’re fine thank you.

You could even think of this, the more you shop, the less you live. Shopping takes time, effort, energy that could be used visiting friends and family, participating in your community, you could have a de-clutter day where you get rid of stuff you neither need or want. In fact, if you can, take two items of anything you like to your local charity shop and donate it. Go through your books, find a few you’ve read and don’t want anymore and take them to work and leave them where people can find them and take them home and read them. On Bleak Friday, yes I did say bleak, do something else instead of shopping. I mean anything is better than buying things you don’t need.

Before you convince yourself that it’s a bargain, that you’ll save money, just check your house. Do you have shoes or none? Clothes or none? Electrical appliances or none? Do your children have toys and books or none? I will do everything I can to convince you that you need less than you think. If you have what you need, then you can stay out of the shops. If you need something, then refer to the first paragraph.

buy nothing day 2017

Over to you Dear Reader, who else is bucking the trend, staying home, with their purse shut and not spending money? Bleak Friday………….no thanks.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

 

 

Fish and it’s not even Friday


Hello Dear Reader,

We love fish but it’s terribly expensive so we only have it about once a fortnight. We buy frozen acod, haddock, coley or pollock and today we had cod. I cooked it with lemon zest, lemon juice and some butter in a hot oven in a covered dish for 15 minutes. I served it with steamed kale and the left over green lentils and quinoa. Not bad for prepared and eaten within half an hour of getting in from work.

I also had a dish of the lentils and quinoa for lunch today and I’ll eat the same again for lunch tomorrow so yesterday’s cooking actually stretched to six portions so it worked out more cheaply than I initially thought.

This would also have worked well with a poached egg if I wanted this to be vegetarian.

Is it just me or does anyone else find fish expensive?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Green lentils, quinoa and halloumi


Hello Dear Reader,

It’s a week day so it’s a meat free day. We used to see a lot green lentils in tins when we were in France and they’re really popular there and often served with meat. We bought ours dried and cooked them, just in salted water for thirty minutes. 

Here’s what I used and did

3 large carrots , 1 pink onion, 6 chestnut mushrooms, 4 sticks of celery, 1 yellow pepper, 3 cloves of garlic all finely diced and sautéed in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook them for about fifteen minutes and then add 100ml water and put the lid on the pan and cook for another 15 minutes.

Whilst that is cooking, cook 150g of green lentils in 400ml of salted water for 30minutes.

I also cooked 75g of quinoa, that I rinsed thoroughly and added to 250ml of water with a veggie stock pot and tossed in a handful of mixed frozen vegetables and cooked for fifteen minutes.

When it’s all cooked, allow it to cool but not go cold and combine everything and generously heap into a bowl.

Slice some halloumi cheese and dry fry in a hot non stick pan. 

Lemon dressing goes really well with lentils.

30mls lemon juice

10 mls of olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend the lot. Drizzle over the halloumi and arm lentils, quinoa and vegetables.

It’s very filling, chunky and zesty. This already a new favourite for us.

You never know, it might become yours.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Do we need an emergency fund?

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Hello Dear Reader,

I never used to be a saver and that, all those years ago, is precisely why we got into debt! If we ever needed something such as a car, washing machine or bed then we didn’t have anything saved to buy it. As you may or may not know (where have you been?) we were very much in debt in a previous life, changed our ways, paid every penny back and haven’t owed anything except our mortgage ever since.

You would have thought we’d have learned our lessons many years ago as in the twenty one years DB and I have been together, he’s been made redundant once and faced redundancy twice since then and luckily dodged it ever again. When he was made redundant back in 1998, we’d only just bought our first house and had a sensible little mortgage and were able to pay our bills on my part time earnings and DB’s redundancy payout until he managed to get another job. In the current times, redundancy payouts are no where near as generous as they used to be and if either of us lost our jobs, we’d have only weeks of salary and it would be very difficult for either of us to get similar full time jobs with contracts. So, like everyone in a financially precarious world we knew we had to build an emergency fund.

We had to start by looking at how much money we’d need based on how long it might take us to find similarly paid jobs. In reality, it could take a year to find jobs of the same financial parity if at all and it would be unlikely that we’d ever save a year’s joint after tax salary but what we could do was to save three months joint after tax salary.  It’s not impossible but not as easy as it sounds either.

We started off by simply working out how much we could afford to save and then set up a standing order on pay day to a savings account. We then, once it was gone every month, didn’t count that as income, it was just the money we saved. We looked at every aspect of our expenditure and looked at where we could shave off a few quid here and there and soon were able to add that to our savings each month. After six years of being debt free, we are used to only spending cash so what ever we need comes out of our short term savings, instead of our long term which goes to form our emergency fund. There have been times we’ve dipped into our emergency fund. Our boiler was on its last legs and were told on the annual maintenance inspection that it wouldn’t see us through another winter. It cost us £1600 to have a new boiler and have it installed and as no one has that sitting in their purse, we had to dip into our emergency fund and then return to being oh so frugal to save the money up again. I can turn into Mrs Penny pincher very easily and go round turning the lights out and making sure we have quick warm and not long hot showers. Need must!

The hardest part is maintaining the momentum to keep saving as you don’t save that much money over night and you just have to keep going……………..for years, until you get there. When I advise anyone who asks, I always get them to make easy and difficult savings.

The easy savings are ensuring you have the best deals on energy, insurances, home phone and mobile phone tariffs and food costs by switching to a value supermarket. Then comes the bits and bobs of savings. Do you need Sky TV? a gym subscription? magazine subscription? club memberships? Next comes the tricky (for some but not for others) savings where you look at your lifestyle. Do you need to buy so many clothes? Do you need to go to the hairdressers so often? Do you need to spend so much on going out? Can you find a cheaper way? When I wore makeup, I bought it from Aldi, Superdrug and even Poundland. I buy lots of my clothes, not that I buy a lot, from charity shops and get any ‘posh’ I need from supermarkets – I love Tu clothes from Sainsbury’s and keep my eyes open for the half priced rails. We made very stern decisions to put nothing in the way of saving and just put our heads down until we got there.

All that being said, I still had days when I was utterly pissed off with it all and could have easily spent the lot of new dresses, a hair do, lipstick and a fancy night out. I didn’t but it didn’t stop me wanting it all. We’ve managed to do without spending on major items by using freecycle, the come and collect it for nothing ads in freeads and gumtree so we replaced the dishwasher, fridge and freezer for nothing and get anything else we might need from local charity shops such as a coffee machine – £3 and kettle £2 so we don’t spend much even when we have to.

Also, don’t let the low interest rate put you off savings. Most accounts offer 0.5% which isn’t worth getting excited about but the important thing to do is to start the habit of saving regularly. We are not in the position to lock our savings away into a long term ISA, where we’d only get, at best, 2% if we added to that account monthly and then gave six months interest if we needed the money. It’s called an emergency fund for a reason, such as the car failing its MOT or a massive dental bill. It’s peace of mind to us that we can pay a big bill if one ever arose. Now we top up our emergency fund and when it’s reached what we believe to be a safe limit, we divert subsequent months of savings into short terms savings for ferry trips, house renovations, dog/car and self maintenance and big expensive items such as new walking boots or winter coats.

Now, it’s your turn. Do you think we all need an emergency fund? If so, how many months do you think we need? Are we being overly optimistic by only saving three months in an emergency fund? Also, what does constitute a financial emergency?

Until tomorrow,

Love Frooogs xxxx

 

Christmas preparations 

Hello Dear Reader,

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t like the commercialism of Christmas. In my opinion, and that’s all it is, I think that too much money is spent, too much fuss is made and it can and does cause a lot of unnecessary stress for some people. You may love all the present making, the cooking, the shopping and house decorating and if so then carry on but don’t feel you have to join in if you don’t want to do so.

As every year passes, I feel less inclined to join in at all and less bothered that anyone else does exactly as they please. I don’t go to Christmas parties and never have, nor do I buy new clothes or do anything out of the ordinary to my house. I do look forward to a couple of weeks off work and like to use the time to do some DIY, outdoor maintenance, get out for some brisk walks and use the dark evenings to catch up on craft and reading. We will be in France for the Christmas break and it’s very un-commercial in my experience. No Christmas music piped into the supermarket, no crowds buying everything in sight, no feeling of anything much out of the ordinary except boxes of chocolates on sale which are not normally there. It’s an old fashioned time for families and just about everything shuts including the bars and hotels as they have families too and want the time off.

I’m writing this as every year, as soon as the buy stuff for Halloween adverts end, the buy stuff for Christmas starts. I used to change channel, hit mute or turn off the radio. It irks me less now and I sigh and roll my eyes less now. I’m more able to accept that people will do what people will do with every passing day. I still worry about families who will rack up massive debts and overspend leaving them financially short in the new year with the same bills to pay. I wish they were more fiscally sensible but I can’t change the world with wishes.

I can share some thoughts for anyone reading this now who might feel under pressure do spend what they don’t have or to make preparations for a celebrations they feel overwhelming. It’s just this. Stop. Take a deep breath and evaluate what you can afford and want to do. It’s just a day. It doesn’t need anymore food than normal and you house doesn’t have to look like a grotto unless you want it to.

We do celebrate a very low key Christmas. At some stage, I will invite family round and we will have a Christmas meal. I will give token gifts to immediate family and we will have a steak and some Port on Christmas day itself. That’s our way. It doesn’t affect anyone else and they way anyone else doesn’t affect me.

If you feel overwhelmed, under pressure, busy to the point of bursting then feel free to take a step back and ease off the fuss. I will be sharing a few low cost recipes and ideas but don’t feel any need to do anything at all if you don’t want to. I don’t think it needs to be expensive, fussy, stressful at all and can be just a lovely time in the middle of winter to have a few days off and relax.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xx

 

 

Posh grub on a Saturday 


Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve successfully had a meatfree week with plenty of pulses to replace the meat protein. We’re aiming to just eat meat at the weekend to keep our food budget under control as I’m finding food more expensive every week. Often, the prices look the same but packs are smaller. I’ve added plenty of dried pulses to our shopping and soaking and cooking them ourselves. Most days, I’ll have soup as one of my meals and I add beans or lentils to that too. 

Today,I roasted four chicken breasts with lemon zest and juice, some sweet potato and treated us to an avocado each. I made hummus from the chickpeas I’d cooked steak earlier. I cooked double the amount as we’ll have the same for supper. It feels really special to have meat and we’re ok having less of it and it’ll do our health and waistlines good too.

Tonight,I’m soaking mixed fruit and cherries in rum for our gluten free Christmas cake which I shall bake tomorrow. Of course, I’ll share the recipe then.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Toast!


Hello Dear Reader,

Every week, one of our meals is always on toast. Sometimes, it would simply be a couple of poached eggs, or beans with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Today, as I was so hungry that I could have eaten the garden path on the way to the house, I had a whole tin of pilchards. I always keep tins of fish in our larder and I usually use a tin of pilchards to mix with mashed potatoes to make fish cakes. 

We really love simple humble food and there’s nothing more humble, or cheap than toast. 

What do you have on yours?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xx

Foodbank Advent 


Hello Dear Reader,

It’s really tough out there for so many families and winter leaves families with stark choices of heating or eating. DB and I know what it’s like to tell the children that we have next to nothing for a Christmas and just hoped they’d get presents off other people. You can have the best money management skills in the world but you can’t manage money you haven’t got! Also, as Universal Credit is rolled out across the country, the wait time to receive it is twelve weeks. If you lost your job today and needed to apply for benefits whilst you looked for work, you wouldn’t receive a penny until well into 2018. I wish Foodbanks weren’t needed but sadly they are a part of life for families who are barely getting by.

My aim for November is to use part of my food budget each week to buy long life food items for our local foodbank. They need fruit juice, longlife milk, tinned fruit, vegetables, fish, meat products,  tinned puddings, noodles, instant mash potato, tea, coffee, toiletries, cleaning products, feminine hygiene products, packs of disposable razors, biscuits, cooking sauces and any herbs and spices with a long date on them. I’ll also try and pop in Christmas items like chocolate and cake. 

It won’t make much of a difference to our budget but it might help out some local families.

Here’s my challenge to you if you choose to take part. Can you start your reverse advent calendar to have some donations for your local foodbank to take to them by the end of November ?

Anything you can donate will help.

Over to you. Who’s on board?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx