The gold standard of saving for me would be 50% of our income, every month, because that would build up a life-changing amount of cash very quickly. To do that though I would have to go full-time and work a freelance job every week, which I have been fighting against due to hating the feeling of living for the weekend and being a zombie. As I do the majority of the cooking and housework, the alarm going off at 5:15am five days a week hurts and leaves me so tired in the evenings I get nothing but dinner successfully accomplished (and sometimes not even then and resort to takeaways) and my weekends are taken up by housework.
I felt very unhappy in my last job when I did very early starts five days a week and freelance income at the same time, but I just didn’t have the strength to make a major change. Anyway, it's a moot point because my current workplace doesn’t have enough work for me to go full-time, although they would love me to. The first two weeks of the month is quite bereft of work so unless they increase their sales a lot or my editing colleague leaves the company, full-time hours for now is out of the question.
So, to start with I’ve decided to focus on getting our normal savings rate up to 25% by making a few tweaks to my budget. I’ve earmarked a few places in our budget where these tweaks can happen.
Broadband and phone – we are in an expensive area where only BT wholesale manage our broadband, so we are stuck paying around £22 a month, but we do not get unlimited broadband and are now going over our limit and incurring charges each month. We also have our phone with TalkTalk, and this is getting pretty expensive too. I worked out at the weekend that if we shifted everything to Plusnet we could get unlimited broadband and phone for £17.50 a month + phone line rental + call charges. A conservative estimate puts the savings at around £28 a month!! I haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on out in the marketplace at all, so I feel pretty daft I didn’t spot how much we could save before. I think this earns the well-deserved title of Frugal Failure of the Month!
Gas – I seem to have gone back to using the gas range to cook on. I don’t know when I stopped using the halogen oven, but it saved me around 25% of our annual gas bill when I was using it. Last weekend I dusted it off and started using it again.
House and garden – this always seems to have, consistently, in excess of £100 every month spent, some months it creeps towards £200. I need to find out what is going on, so for the next month I am going to record everything going into this category. I know we spent a lot last month, but March and April are always a bit expensive due to improving the garden before the start of the growing season.
Books/DVDs – some months this gets as high as £40 which, bearing in mind I tend to buy secondhand not new, adds up to a lot of stuff! I’ve decided not to buy any more DVDs or books, certainly none of the latter until I have read everything outstanding. There are dozens of them waiting to be read.
Food shopping (eating in, eating out, takeaways) – we’re pretty good with the last two, only spending about £20 on a takeaway once a month and around £30-£50 eating out (which includes restaurant meals, afternoon teas or snacks when out at events). However, I know that without keeping an eye on it, it can go as high as £300. From now on, I don’t want to go above £200 a month, preferably £175. We’ve also stopped shopping at Aldi, mostly because we seem to be passing by Tesco a lot and keep nipping in rather than drive five miles to Aldi. However, the costs are mounting up, and given that the Aldi savings outweigh the petrol, we could actually change our route home slightly and go past there instead of Tesco one evening.
Insurance – I haven’t updated our building and contents insurance for years, and need to have a look at both of them and what they are offering. I have a feeling we are paying for an awful lot less than we have in the past, so I need to get some quotes in. Mind you, I might not be able to make a change before the renewal date, which I think is in December.
More scratch cooking for lunches - for a few months I fell back into bad habits and started buying Martin's lunches. There would often be supermarket deals on meat slices or Cornish pasties, and while I was there I might get some ready made cake to go with it and some pre-packaged 'nibbles' for him to munch on while walking round. While it doesn't seem like a lot, over the course of the month it was adding up to about £60, which for obvious reasons is a big chunk of our food budget. For the last two weeks I have replaced his shop bought pasties and slices with my own and gone back to making a large cake every week. These two aspects of his lunch now cost around £3.50 for the week - a saving of around £6.50. As for me, I just take leftovers from dinner, or something quick like cheesy vegetables or egg mayonnaise salad (if I have salad greens in the garden) plus plenty of fruit and raw chopped veggies.
Cheaper takeaway options - Martin loves Domino's pizza, and we usually have one a month on a buy-one-get-one-free deal so I can have a gluten-free one for myself. However, at £18.29 it is quite expensive. We've tried other supermarket types, and found one Aldi pizza for £2.00 that he thinks is almost as good. Unfortunately, that pizza is a limited edition and only comes in once in a blue moon. I can stash a few, but they take up a lot of freezer space and eventually we end up back at Dominos after a few weeks. We tried a pizza from Sainsbury's last week, which was freshly handmade at its pizza counter and cost £3.75 for a 14 inch pizza. Martin seemed to really like that, so if we do that once a month that will really help bring down the cost. As for me, the shops are unsurprisingly bereft of gluten-free pizza so I'm going to experiment with making gluten-free pizza bases so I can make my own.
I think tweaking all of these areas a bit more in the ways I outlined above will help us find another £100-£200 a month in the budget.
I just have to work on getting my income up beyond the odd set of extra hours and sporadic freelance job, and which preferably does not leave me feeling like a zombie.