Spending diaries.

I’ve been reading money diary entries on Refinery29 recently and loving the insight into how others view and justify their spending. I was interested to start my own and see how I match up so here goes.

Monday-

I’m working 12 hours today so I wake up at 04:45 and spend an hour watching youtube and reading blogs online. The bright light in my face really helps to wake me up.

07:00 I get to work and realise that the coconut milk I have in the fridge will only last one more cup. I will need to pop over to Tesco during my break. I drink black coffee for now but I can’t finish the whole thing.

12:00 I head to Tesco to buy some soy milk( £0.59) and some Yogurt for my Granola tomorrow (£1.50-I’m vegan and dairy free yogurts are a little more expensive) they have some Nectarines for 49p and I get six apples for snacking while I’m in work (£0.80) and some vegan blue cheese from Tesco’s new dairy free line (£2.25) = £5.63

12:10 I have a stock of frozen meals in the freezer at work, I take our some chilli and heat it up in the microwave for lunch. It’s delicious.

17:00 I eat another frozen meal (after reheating it of course), today is a very busy day in work and it’s going great! We’re all sat around the office laughing and I have actually eradicated my to-do list!

20:00 I head home after having to stay late with an issue in work, Watch some Sense8 on Netflix which is a beautiful and amazing tv show, Play some piano and head to bed.

Total- £5.63

Tuesday-

05:15 I sleep in a little bit today because I’m tired from yesterday, watch a little youtube, write a little on my blog then have a shower before work. We have a baby in the house and I don’t want to dry my hair this early so I put some home made dry shampoo in.

11:00 A colleague is going to be off work with illness for a few weeks and so I offer to cover his standby tonight knowing I had no plans anyway.

12:00 I stop for lunch and have one of the frozen meals- I find a pasta carbonara I made a month ago that was amazing! I didn’t know I had any left and am more excited than any adult should be about pasta.

19:00 After a standard day in work I now have to go collect one of our standby laptops from a colleague because we have to share and rotate them. I can’t get hold of him straight away and so I send him a message and hope it stays quiet until I can pick it up.

20:10 Sod’s law, I get a phone call saying I’ll need the laptop so I call my boss and ask him to cover until I can get into work but just then my colleague messages me his address and I go to get the laptop.

21:30 I’m home now with the laptop, thankfully I used a work vehicle to collect the laptop and I don’t have to pay any petrol. It’s a long call and I end up working until just past 01:30 in the morning

Total- £0

Wednesday

08:00 I was up late last night working so I get so sleep in a little later before going to work, lay in bed, spend some time with my cat and have a shower.

12:30 Work is in a bit of chaos and I’ll be working overnight tonight so I’m sent home to get some sleep beforehand.

18:20 I’m up and getting ready to head into work now, I’m told it’ll only be until about three in the morning (However it turns out being all night until 07:00) so I pack a laptop and my phone charger along with the apples and nectarines from the other day for some late night snacks.

21:30 Things are going okay at work, I get another frozen meal from my stash of freezer goodies, it’s a lentil curry. Two colleagues tell me it smells great and are in awe that it’s homemade, I tell them they should learn how to cook and they laugh- I wasn’t joking.

Total- £0

Thursday

08:00 I get home from work and head straight to bed after opening the window for the cat, she looks out of the window then walks over to lay between my legs whilst I sleep instead.

13:00 I wake up and she’s still there, I smile and spend about half an hour stroking her before realising I’m really hungry now! I eat the rest of the Yogurt from Monday with some homemade granola then go out for a walk with my housemate and the baby.

15:00 We’re talking about food and I have a big hankering for some salt and pepper chips! I absolutely love that shit and in that moment nothing else will do. My housemate has chips and garlic and I have the rest of the ingredients so I agree to cook some for us. I make inappropriate pleased noises and tell the baby to stop eyeing up my lunch, he’s a sneaky one!

16:00 I’m heading over to Different-P’s house tonight as I have four days off work, bags packed I walk down to the train station. I usually cycle and I’m really surprised by how much longer it takes to walk! I left my bike at Different-P’s house last week and am really excited to be reunited with both of them! I have a 16-25 Railcard and so the ticket is £15.

19:30 The internet lied to me and there is no train from the stop I’ve gone to, I end up getting a metro to my final destination instead which is another £2.80.

20:20 I finally arrive at Different-P’s house to some freshly cooked Pain-au-raisins. They are freaking delicious! I make us some pasta and pesto for tea with some sweetcorn and sliced greens we got on sale last week and froze. We sit down to eat then watch some master of none before bed.

Total- £17.80

Friday

09:15 I wake up naturally after a nice night’s sleep thinking it’s about 1pm but am happily surprised that I have the whole morning to myself! I eat a pain au raisin and sit down to watch some sense8 on the couch under the duvet.

11:00 I just finished the rest of the season and am now at a loss for what to do with my life until the next season comes out! I make some oat milk because I’m out of soy again. It’s a good job I only drink decaf tea because I drink a lot of it! I make some porridge with the pulp that’s leftover with some raisins, chia seeds and chocolate spread.

12:00 I start writing some material for my blog including this diary entry and reading some things online. I see an advert for a bamboo toothbrush set that’s 5 for £12 and am extremely tempted! It’s good for the environment and will have no BPA in it. I decide to hold off for now because buying things you don’t need is never good for the environment but resolve to keep an eye out when I’m in need for a new toothbrush!

15:30 starting to make some seitan steaks and crispy potatoes for tea when disaster strikes- we have no potatoes! I go out to the shop and buy a bag of organic small potatoes (£1.39).

17:00 We talk to our neighbours for around an hour and a half and learn that they are amazing gardeners! They repot a plant of ours that was apparently pot bound and set it up for a much brighter future than we did! Different-P tries to thank them by giving them a pan au raisin each and drops all but one on the floor!

18:00 We eat tea when we’re finished chatting and then settle down for the evening to play ‘Amnesia’ with some Rose. Different-P makes sure the lights are out. I throw the remote down multiple times for a break because the game is terrifying- after going to the kitchen for a drink I sneakily turn a hall light on and he doesn’t notice! We head to bed late.

Total- £1.39

Saturday

09:30- I wake up and have a bowl of frozen fruits and home-made muesli for breakfast, we have a big day ahead of us and I have a bigger portion than usual with a coffee.

11:00 We set off to go bouldering! It’s like fake rock climbing without the ropes and an excuse to exercise and behave like big children at the same time which I am a proud advocate of! We cycle there and it takes about 25 minutes. I bought a 10 time pass a few weeks ago so technically it cost me nothing but I bought it from my savings account and pay it back from my spending account each time I go – £7.

16:00- We go to Lush on the way back home. I have lived six months without a conditioner and it’s time to start using one. I buy R&B as it’s the thickest vegan option and get a sample of veganese. I had a gift card for £5 so it ends up costing £15.60

17:00 We hit up Asda for some items and walk around the sales sections. We buy some Raspberries for 45p each, two huge sacks of potatoes for 60p each, some organic Almond milk nearing it’s expiry date for 50p each, some reduced cornflakes 19p each and some quinoa wraps that are 50p for six on sale and then some crisps £1 (originally the list was crisps £1, billionaires shortcake £2, a vegan milk chocolate bar 45p and some lemon and poppyseed cakes 50p but we wittled it down to one unhealthy item between us because we’d been so good exercising all day) and then we head home to cook tea. =£6.95

18:00- There’s some leftover pasta and pesto from the day before so we eat that with some sliced greens and broccoli for tea and watch master of none. It’s delicious but we’re both still hungry.

20:00- The hunger hasn’t subsided after such a hard day exercising so we make some soup with chopped tomatoes, lentils, mung beans and carrots, it’s really delicious and we each have two servings before feeling full.

21:00 We watch Tenacious D and the pick of destiny before heading off to bed.

Total-£29.55

Sunday

09:30 I wake up earlyish again and have some more muesli and frozen fruit again and a coffee. I have a big day of cycling around the city today for some chores and we have to be back later to host guests before I go home.

11:00 We get the train into town to arrive half an hour early, using my railcard it’s £2.60 then try to find the places I need to go, we inevitably get lost and make it just in time.

13:30 Errands done, we stumble across a vegan stall in the centre of the city giving out samples of vegan food, we talk to the guys there about all the work they’re doing and hear about the Manchester Pig save which is an organisation that go to slaughter houses and spend some time with the pigs right before they die to let them know some compassion before it’s too late. I get a little emotional and am reminded that veganism is a really worthwhile way of living.

14:20 With an hour left to wait for our train we get some snacks to eat, I get some crackers, carrots and humus at the extortionate price of £3 before we head to the train station to hide from the rain. I should have brought snacks!

17:00 The familly have come over for tea and Different-P cooks up an amazing roast dinner for us all! We drink tea and eat before I have to get my train home, I cycle to the station with a few minutes to spare and call my mum and a friend for the remainder of the journey.

22:00 I’m up early for work again tomorrow and so I head off to bed.

 

Round up

Total=£59.95

£16.95- food

£20.40- transport

£7- entertainment

£15.6- toiletries

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I’ve bought that saved me money! 

“You gotta spend money to make money” a common phrase the upper class use in Wallstreet movies to defend taking huge risks that -in Hollywood- usually pay off. Not one I have ever ascribed to. You do not have to spend money to make money.

You do however sometimes have to spend money to SAVE money….

As part of my ‘Things that save me money’ series, here are some ways that forking out a little extra will pay off for years to come. I’ve ranked them in ascending order all the way up to the one thing that has saved me the most money thus far!

The workings out are included for anyone interested, and the items and cash amounts saved are in bold-for anyone reading at work- ahem, for some quick ideas.

Dry cat food

My cat has only ever eaten dry biscuits and she doesn’t mind so long as there’s water for her to drink! Even if I were to buy the cheapest own brand wet food and feed her two meals a day, it would cost £121 a year compared to £52 for dry food- not even mentioning the fact that dry food won’t go off and be thrown away like wet food can!

Savings=£69 a year

Steam games

Any nerds like me out there will know games can be incredibly immersive, complex and beautiful but they come at a price. With companies getting ever smarter at taking your money a new console comes out every year, banishing it’s predecessor and all related games into a dusty cupboard (am I the only one who remembers the PS2 playing PS1 games?) so using my six year old computer to play games, buying digital copies and also only buying during the sales has saved me approximately £300 on a new console within that time and £100 buying cheap indie games.

Savings- £150 a year

Digital piano

Playing piano is an important part of my life and is something I love. Having a piano has been one of the biggest blessings I could have asked for! Upright pianos like the beautiful black beast I owned are expensive to maintain- 6 monthly tunings at £70 an hour for usually 1.5 hours = £210 a year. Moving a piano is also a specialist job, I’ve moved house Five times in the past two years which costs £75 each time! I only plan to move once in 2017 and so I’ll minimise the savings to £75 a year.

Savings -£285 a year

Phone case 

I talked in another post about selling my newly refurbished phone and returning to an iPhone 4s. Well when I did that I bought a water/crack/bullet proof phone case to protect it for £7 on eBay. I reduced my phone bill from £42 to £9.99 by not buying a new phone and reducing my usage which will save me £384.12 each year the old gal holds out!

Savings-£384.12 per year

My 16-25 railcard.

For an initial payment of £30, I now get 1/3 off all train tickets that I buy. In 6 months I have paid £1250 On rail tickets so that results in a massive £650 saving! If you’re able to get this, you really should! It will pay for itself almost immediately if you take a staycation and public transport is the second best way to get around.*

Savings – £1,270 a year

My bike! 

I have previously mentioned the savings gained by getting rid of my car which included £60 a month insurance, £11.37 per month road tax and £140 per month petrol. Which adds up to….. £2536.44 minus the £240 the bike has cost me on my cycle to work scheme and voila! £2296.44!**

So the grand total of all of these things means that my savings account has benefitted from £4454.56. Not bad!

 

 

*Cycling is THE number one way to move your body from one place to another! Fact! It’s fast, cheap, fun, healthy AND good for the planet. Everyone should cycle.

**I haven’t included my transport cost in this reduction because almost 90% of my transport costs are going to visit Different-P by train as we live quite a while away. These weren’t costs I had in my car and my petrol would have been much higher had we been together at the time!

DifferentLI’s digital ‘envelope system’.

Pretty much everyone in the financial sphere has heard of Dave Ramsey and his envelope method. Basically you withdraw the amount of money that you have budgeted for each week/month in certain categories and you keep them in designated envelopes. For the rest of your money it’s out of sight, out of mind.

I tried this method but it was difficult for me to keep withdrawing amounts on time and I felt uncomfortable carrying cash everywhere with me! So instead I developed a digital compartmentalising system that works perfectly to keep my money away from me and in my savings account!

This system has helped me save thousands over the past year or so and has been key to keeping me on track with my savings goal!

The basics to my system are this:

1) You need two bank accounts, a Mothership and a Spending account (The Mothership is preferably a high interest current account like the Nationwide Flex)

2) You set up a standing order from the mothership account to your spending accout for only the amount you need in certain categories each week/ month. The rest lives in your savings account and accumulates money for you.

3) You need about two hours to set it all up and it’s done forever!

So two hours may seem like a lot but this is going to make things SO easy for you for the rest of your life! It will only need changing when you change a direct debit or your expenses change.

First of all I want you to Create a budget to help you figure out how much you need each week for food, travel and entertainment. You also need to know which direct debits you have coming out each month. Once you know this, write them down and you’re ready to begin. You will need at least two bank accounts for this, you can always expand them later on if you see a bank account that will offer you benefits for using it!

The Spending account

This is the account you will have access to on a regular basis, all of your food, travel and spending money will come out of this account. For me this includes my piano lessons, climbing days, gigs, eating out, train tickets along with my food shopping. These are things I will spend on weekly to enjoy my life and stay alive!

For me, I spend £20 a week on food, £15 a week on travel, £5 a week on catfood and litter and £10 a week on Fun so I have £50 in this account every week. I personally chose weekly because for me it works best knowing that if I do overspend, there’s only 6 days left until I have money in my account again. No splurging when I get paid and then having too much month at the end of my money!

How does this money get to my account you ask? Well it comes via standing order from….

The mothership!

*Cue high pitch alien music*

This is the hub of all my money! The mothership should be difficult to access but not impossible in case you need to change something. For example a current account that needs a card reader and pin to access online or a family member who will act as a guard.

If I just had these two accounts then the mothership is responsible for the following:

  • Receiving my wages every month- I get everything paid into this account on payday.
  • All direct debits like rent, phone bills, utilities, gym memberships are paid out of here (If I’m honest the only direct debits I have are my phone bill and Netflix)
  • All standing orders are set up for this account to landlords or savings accounts and obviously to your spending account.
  • For infrequent occasions like birthdays or one off payments like a railcard or MOT etc you can access this account to take out the money you need for that one occasion. Once you’ve gotten through your bank account bouncer to justify your expense of course!

So the first two steps are incredibly easy to set up, just email your work’s Payroll department with your new bank account details and change any direct debits you have to come out of this account.

The next step is setting up your standing orders and this is the part that takes the most time, mainly because you have to get it right for you.

DISCLAIMER: Before you start this step MAKE SURE that you have more money going into your account than is being taken out every month. Anyone who is in debt each month I highy reccomend not using this sytem until you have a buffer of at least £500 in the account and are spending less than you earn.

The reason for this is because you are generally going to ignore this bank account and you should not do that if there’s a chance you’ll have direct debits bouncing!

All good on that front? Good. Now you need to set up your standing orders.

  • First set up your weekly spending money to go into your spending account, Pick your day carefully as standing orders won’t be sent accross on weekends or bank holidays. Mine come in every Monday so that I don’t blow it over the weekend but bank holidays do sometimes delay that until Tuesday, so pick what’s right for you!
  • Second, maximise any savings accounts you have, I have a standing order to three savings accounts each month – £500, £250 and £100 to my holiday fund on the first of every month. (Make sure these come out at least four days after you’ve been paid in case of bank delays)
  • Thirdly if your spending account has any benefits- Mine pays me £5 every month to put at least £750 into it, set up a standing order of that amount into those benefit accounts and then set one up from the spending account back to the mothership for the same amount on the next day so it’s straight in and out! Remember to set another standing order up for that £5 benefit back into a savings account so it doesn’t get lost in your weekly spending!

If you’re a visual person like me, here’s what all this work looks like in a flow diagram without the benefits transactions.

Bank account flow diagram

Congratulations on getting this far! You’ve set up your money to start working for you and made keeping track of your expenses much easier! In case you’re wondering how you will benefit from this system I’ve put together this list to explain some of the ways it has helped me!

  1. No more worrying if there’s enough money to pay off your direct debits because it comes out of your savings account, there is definitely money in there! No late payments.
  2. Your spending account only gives you as much as you’ve decided you need so you can’t overspend on any given week and you have to stick to your budget!
  3. The Mothership money is in a high interest savings account that’s calculated daily so if your direct debits come out three weeks after you get paid then you accrue interest on that amount for three quarters of every month! Even though it’s earmarked to be spent.
  4. Any overtime you get paid is automatically in your savings account and you have no option to spend it because you don’t have to manually move it across into a savings acount, this boosts your savings a litttle every month without any effort! (Except physically working the overtime of course)
  5. If you do overspend on one category like fun one week, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it because in six days time you can start fresh and technically all of the money that week is for you to spend so why not spend it on something you enjoy?
  6. With all of this passive savings, your net worth creeps up on you and one day you’ll have way more money than you thought you did!
  7. If you have to spend out of budget on big items like MOT or Railcard or multiple time pass to the climbing center *COUGH* then you know exactly how much you’ve removed and can add it easily onto your budget.
  8. It’s a great way of keeping your expenses consistent even if your wages aren’t!

Why I always spend £20 at a restaurant.

Yup. Every single time.

So your friend asks you out to a restaurant and you’ve had a bit of an expensive week restocking toilet paper and such extravagances, how do you know if you can afford it and say yes confidently?

I used to get this quite often, I’d be invited out with friends for food and not really be in a position to spend much but I would really want to see them. I’d look at the menu and plan to buy a £3 plate of chips and sip water all night long- problem solved! Until you get there and everyone is offering to buy you a drink even though you’re not poor, you’re just saving. Next thing you’re in the corner of the booth munching down on your pudding waiting for your main meal to come and you’re eating your guilt about overspending. Yeah.

So to simplify my life I made a decision to spend £20 every time on the experience of eating out. This may seem counter productive to my frugality message because twenty pounds is WAY too high for something like a McDonalds* and touché, you got me there! If this rule applied at fast food restaurants it may not be such a good one but thankfully their nutritional value makes it easy to disregard them as such.

I hear some of you saying “but still, why always twenty pounds? That could cost you more each time!” Well…

Say my friend calls me to meet up for some food on Wednesday night, instantly I’ll know if I can’t afford to spend £20 and ask if we can reschedule for another day. Previously I would have said yes then worried about what I could and couldn’t buy on the day. Stress averted.

We rearrange for next Tuesday instead and arrive at the restaurant, I can choose anything on there that costs less than £20 giving me loads of options and combinations -but not too many that I get analysis paralysis. Instantly I rule out the £8 starters and any £25 meal combos.

I can also decide on which drink I’d like to accompany my meal. In all honesty I hate fizzy pop and don’t really drink alcohol so 99% of the time I get water but the choice is there so long as it’s within budget! For me it’s aaaaaall about the pudding!

Finally, say I’ve spent £15.80 overall, I don’t think WOOHOO £4.20 for me this week. Because this £20 is for the whole evening experience and I believe in karma. Instead the entire remainder of my £20 goes to the member of staff who served me my delicious (or not) meal that evening.

This method reaps a few benefits for me.

1) I never ever stress about eating out. Either I know I can afford to spend £20 with a friend or I make other plans! Invite them to my house, go for a walk or reschedule for a time when I’ll be in a better mental state than cravings and guilt!

2) I never overeat and get greedy at a restaurant so I appreciate the time there more. I can’t buy every thing on the menu that I want and so every time I pick the food I want most and just enjoy it.

3) I never feel guilty about not leaving a tip because there is always a tip to leave. Even if that tip is 87p I will still leave it because it’s the rule and I know that as an average my tipping is higher- I once left over an £11 tip!

4) Overall I eat out a lot less than I did before, previously I would agree to eating out knowing that I definitely did not have enough money for a proper meal but go with the intention of eating only appetisers. From the beginning of the evening then I was in a deficit mindset and would be lusting over my friend’s meal only to give in and spend money that I needed for something else.

This mindset to eating out has saved me a lot of money over the past couple of years, brought me closer to my friends and made m enjoy the rare occasions where I do eat out that much more!

 

*luckily nothing at McDonalds is vegan and I do not eat there- even the smoothies have gelatine. WTF RONALD?!

You’re wasting money on food, Britain.

According to The money advice service the average food bill per person is £58.80 per week in the uk. This is almost three times what I spend per week, what are you eating?! Caviar with toasted 24k gold flakes? Three portions of salt and pepper chips a day?! Shreddies hand woven by Monks? Whatever it is, I want to help you trim in those exorbitant costs with very little effort by showing you some easy switches you can make in your kitchen and cupboards!

Most of these tips are also good for your health as well as your bank account. You should be focussing on cooking big batches from scratches, buying brandless food and wasting as little as you can, here’s some tips to help stretch the rest.

Home made fast fries. (chips)

Now for me the time I struggle most with food bills is when I’ve had a long day at work and I’m craving some junk food- a burger and some chips is my usual. This is the trick that saves my wallet and my waistline in these dire times of dopamine drought!

These are so simple and so convenient on days where you don’t want to actually cook! (Which is sometimes whole weeks at a time!)

Chopped tinned tomatoes are also a really hearty delicious soup when reduced on the stove for ten minutes with some basil and black pepper. No one should EVER be paying for tinned soup when it is so simple to make and less than a third of the price!

All that you have to do is to chop up a load of spuds into whatever chip shape you like best – skinny fries, thick cut chips, wedges etc and put them in a pan to boil until they’re soft. Don’t add salt, cooking salt takes away the flavour and leaves all the sodium, your blood pressure will thank me.


Once you can push a fork through them easily, drain the chips and place them on a tray WITHOUT LETTING THEM TOUCH* and place them in the freezer overnight. The next morning put them in a bag or tupperware back in the freezer and they’re ready to pop in the oven with some oil next time you want chips! They cost less than half of what shop bought ones cost, have no preservatives and only what oil/salt/seasoning you choose to put on them- a much healthier choice for your kids. This works really well with sweet potato as well and they don’t need to cook for as long.

Tinned Tomatoes

I always have own-brand tinned chopped tomatoes in my cupboard. They are good for everything from chillis to soups to curry to pasta bake to salsa. Try to get the ones with no additives if you can.

Whenever I’m cooking a curry with a jar of sauce I’ll add a can of tomatoes to double the amount of sauce I have and add another vegetable to the dish, it halves the cost of the sauce overall and makes the dish healthier!

I also use tinned tomatoes as the base to my chilli which I have 80% of the time for lunch in work. Add in a load of veg, chick peas, lentils, kidney beans, a tin of baked beans, chilli powder, paprika, chilli flakes and a bit of gravy to thicken the sauce at the end and there’s a healthy, cheap chilli that you can freeze.

Cook as though you’re feeding an army

None of us can measure pasta for one person so why bother? I usually am feeding one or two people at mealtime but once or twice a week I will cook enough for almost 8! I use these leftovers to refill my stock of frozen work lunches. Then every day in work I have a delicious ice cube meal that needs thawing in the microwave for about twelve minutes until it blossoms into a comforting home cooked meal.

I don’t have to suffer a crappy sandwich or spend £3 on a meal deal every day and the cooking essentially takes me no time because I was cooking the food anyway on the evening and I microwave the food before my lunch break starts.

Keep your veg dry in the fridge

Relating to before when I mentioned wasting less, a really good way to lengthen the life of your veg in the fridge is to stop them getting moist. The way I do this is to keep a piece of kitchen roll (or paper towel) in the packet to absorb all of the moisture they release. This will increase their lifespan by around a week and give you more time to use them!

Bagels

I usually have my burgers on a bagel because they’re more luxurious but you can often find them on sale in shops. When I see them on sale I’ll buy a packet even if I don’t need them. When I get home I cut them in half and place them back in the bag in the freezer. Frozen bagels are almost impossible to cut frozen and you risk the tips of your fingers so this trick (Courtesy of Different-P) allows you quick access to a bagel in your time of burger need. I just pop it in the oven a minute before food is ready and they’re defrosted! (Use a toaster if you weren’t already using the oven)

Lentils or chick peas instead of meat in meals

Meat and fish make up around a quarter of your weekly household bills according to the Money advice service so why not substitute your mince meat for some lentils and chick peas? These add protein to your meal, reduce saturated fat and count as one of your five a day each. They’re also a fraction of the cost of mince meat and can keep for months in the cupboard saving you fridge space!

Frozen veg

Frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh, have most of the original nutrients and don’t go to waste if you forget them at the back of the fridge.

Oat milk

Dairy is expensive and also incredibly bad for your health according to the China study. They include female pregnancy hormones (which sounds scary as shit) high levels of fat and added sugar now thanks to some corporate genius. It’s also is believed to be BAD for your bones because of it’s acidity despite the high levels of Calcium.

If you can make the switch away from dairy, I recommend making your own oat milk, porridge is so cheap and you can make oat milk with just one cup of oats and two cups of water blended and strained.

Peanuts and sesame seeds from Chinese Markets

For some reasons some nuts and seeds are cheaper in oriental shops so that’s where I get mine! Sesame seeds and peanuts especially for me to make my own peanut butter and Tahini ( for humus). Nuts and seeds are important for getting healthy fats and slowing your absorbtion of sugar to prevent insulin spikes.

A favourite way of mine to use nuts is my Cherry Fakewells (Healthy Cherry Bakewells).

You need one cup of cashews,

One cup of dates or raisins (dates are sweeter, raisins are cheaper so find your favourite ratio, I usually go half and half)

Half a cup of dried cranberries**

One tablespoon of Almond flavouring.

Pop it all in a blender until it starts sticking together then make it into bar shapes and set them in the fridge. These are great alternatives to chocolate bars and you can actually mix all of the ingredients around for different flavours. For example I also made some banana and peanut bars swapping the cashews for peanuts and the cranberries for dried bananas. Play around and make your own natural treat bars!

These are especially great for kids because you can all make your own shapes to eat on a day out or for packed lunches and you know exactly what you’re feeding them!

*- you can ignore this step if you really can’t be bothered but you’ll end up with one big lump of chips stuck together. Freezing them separately gives you more controllable portion sizes and more of a convenience feel!

**- I told you the Cherries were fake!

 

 

How much do you spend on food per week? Could you spend less?

 

 

Frugality is an identity theif.

So today is a time to reflect on the inner battles that keep most of us from reaching our frugal potential. And it’s not a financial one related to earning too little money. In my experience I’ve found that the biggest trouble we as people experience with change is that we fear who we may become… Or more often, who we’re not.

Today our worth as people are connected very strongly with the worth of our stuff or the image we present on social media- maybe you’re the adventurer in a different country every month, or the rocker at a new gig every week or a fashionista who’s always bang on trend.

Very quickly we start to become defined by the things we spend our money on. What starts as an incredibly exciting new hobby can quickly become a label that’s defined by a lifestyle that we then have to keep up with. We become lost in our labels, stuck in our boxes.

It’s hard then to really commit to saving money when it means losing a part of yourself. Most of us struggle to figure out who we really are and have never spent the time getting to know ourselves from the inside.

‘I could never give that up!’ I’ve seen the excuse time and time again- as often as the ‘treat yourself, you deserve it’ excuse- which is another battle for another day. I’m going to be bold enough to say that I think it’s out of fear. Who are we underneath it all? What if there’s nothing there? Fear of who we are once the masks come off.
Don’t worry! I’ll get to the bit about money in a minute, but first let’s talk about you…
In yoga it’s important to keep track of all parts of your body and move them as one: To realign your posture, strengthen your core and plant your feet -sometimes foot- on solid ground. If one area is forgotten then a pose becomes weak and out of shape or can cause injury. This is obviously bad.
Similarly in real life it’s important to keep track of all parts of your ‘self’: To realign your values, strengthen your relationships and plant your ideas in fertile ground- see what I did there? *winks awkwardly*

Spend some time with yourself and learn what you stand for, what you believe and who you are. The challenging part is to do this based on internal characteristics. Look for your motives, your fears, your patience; not your hobbies, your friends or your collections.
It’s an old Cliche but I’m going to say it anyway because I think you may need to hear it- You are NOT defined by the things you own. You’re not even a culmination of the experiences you’ve had. You are a thinking, breathing being of decisions and actions and questions, you are ever evolving but always you. A sister, brother, son, daughter, friend, partner, companion and stranger; an endless combination of identities to each different person on the planet.
By spending time looking inward you’ll come to realise your value above material items, I bet you’ll come to find many things you admire in yourself. I’m going to tell you right here and now that you-whoever that is right at this moment- are awesome! Warts and all.

So… what does this have to do with finances? Well my theory is that all these hobbies, collections and holidays you’ve been using to define yourself are costing you quite a bit of money! Possibly even some of your good health from drinking or smoking too much… I’m not here to judge.
I’m here to give you permission to let go of all the things you do because you think people expect them of you, the things that are holding you down from reaching a real happiness inside. When you start letting go of these things and making room in your life for more frugal activities your self worth will grow and grow. Sure bungee jumping sounds exciting but it doesn’t last, where as learning to cook wholesome food for yourself is a skill you’ll keep forever. Finding the patience to fix something instead of buying a replacement will help you grow and appreciate detail every time, caring for the things you own will multiply your appreciation for them for their entire lifetime.
It may be difficult to say no to your friends and they will definitely want to know why, but find your motive and explain it to them, they’re probably struggling with exactly the same fear. We can be the ones who show them another way. Sometimes allowing yourself to just BE is all the permission the people around you need to be comfortable too!
Of course, keep the things that are important to you! Don’t be afraid to dabble, this isn’t an order to stop doing anything fun. It’s a message that getting to know and love yourself is the first activity you should choose and that it’s also 100% okay to say no to things you don’t absolutely love.

My great loves are being kind, creative and thinking outside the box. What qualities make you?

How I saved £12,000 in 12 months

Sit tight. I’m going to tell you some secrets to saving money. Right here. In black and white. 

If you live in the UK you’ll know it’s a little harder to save money than in the states where their minimum wage is close to our average wage! Saving large sums of money in a short space of time however is possible! These are things that I personally have done over the past year and therefore there are no excuses as to why you can’t be doing them too. Not only have they saved me money but I’ve also learned a lot of skills, lost weight and generally become a happier person as a result and that’s something I want for you!

Unfortunately, though some adverts would make you think otherwise, the answer isn’t as easy as drinking a special skinny/rich tea.

Not T but maybe B! 😉

B is for budget

To start off with I made a budget, I found out exactly what I was making and paying for each month. This helped me for two reasons. A) I knew that I had enough money to cover basic expenses – food, housing, transport etc. B) I could see all the frivolous places my money was really going! A budget really clears things up for you with your money, along with a kick up the ass it also gives you an action plan!

With that budget I realised my big expenses were mainly housing and my car, but there were a ton of£20/£20/£50 expenses dotted around that I really didn’t care for at all! Think gym, tv insurance, high phone bill etc. which I decided id be better off without!

Bunkering down in a rented room-not a house.

This may be a shocking one to start with and yeah excuses are acceptable on this one but I sacrificed space and a bit of privacy for a £280 a month all bills included single room to rest my head. It didn’t take long to adapt at all and in the end it was plenty of space for me! I’ve recently upgraded to a £250 double room instead since the owner was selling my old place, proving it’s very doable if you’re willing to realign your priorities!

Biking – AutoNObile. GASP!

I do all of my personal travelling by foot, bike, train, bus or friends. I am very fortunate to get a business vehicle for work and I’m not telling you to cycle to work every day (although proven possible by Different-P kudos to him!) but to make better decisions about all of your short  public transport, exercise or car pooling are all awesome frugal ways to get about! I even carry my weekly shops up a mile hill to my house! 💪

Be more minimalistic

A great way to save money on things is to not buy them in the first place! Start thinking about all the things you have in your home and whether they bring anything extra to your life. If they don’t get rid of them! You’ll find when you’re not squandering your money on things you don’t need that you won’t be wondering where all of your money went and you won’t regret spending it on items that reduce in value immediately, take up space and bring you no value.

Battle all subscriptions!

Look at all of your direct debits and ask yourself whether they really improve your life at all! Would you be a cooler, fitter, happier person without them? Put them all into three  categories – Wasteful, work on and worth it! The ‘wasteful’ ones should be cancelled immediately, no questions asked. ‘Work on’ require some effort to find more frugal alternatives but ultimately would be rubbish without them completely – expensive phone bills, little used gym memberships, eating out, excessive shopping bills etc. spend time making them cheaper or less often. ‘Worth it’ are the ones that make life better and are necessities, food, shelter, education, hobbies, family. The trick is not to cheapen the meaning of important by letting everything in this category!

Become a batch cooking maestro!

This one might be my favourite. I make 98% of my meals myself and I make most of them in batches of 6-10 meals. When the cooking is done, I eat my delicious healthy meal and leave the rest to cool before storing them in Tupperware in the freezer. That way I always have a home cooked meal for lunch in work and don’t have to spend £5 and half of my lunch break on a meal deal! When the time comes the meals can be microwaved in a safe dish. I also eat beans and lentils in lieu of meat for a healthy source of protein and a lower shopping bill – dried and soaked over night for bonus points!

Being a basics bitch.

Speaking of food – buy shop brands like Asda’s own or Tesco basics. I’ve found that usually they’re lower in salt and sugar and  preservatives ON TOP of being hella cheap! Don’t pay for their advertising and branding department. Go simple on things like baked beans, tinned tomatoes, nachos, frozen fruits and biscuits etc.

Bank account automation.

This one I think is THE most effective. We all know about automating our direct debits and never using paper bills and risking late fees again right?

Good, glad that’s out of the way.

I suggest having two bank accounts at least. One for savings and one for spending. Easy. I have irregular overtime payments in work so to remove the temptation to spend that overtime I pay my wages straight into a current account that acts as my savings. I then calculate what I spend weekly on food, travel, hobbies etc. and have a standing order to my spending account of that much every Monday. My savings card stays in a safe place in case of emergency and my spending card comes with me! It’s basically an adult pocket-money. My savings have always been better when I’m paid weekly which is why I chose this way rather than a big lump sum on pay-day! Plus less money worries because if you go over budget, you’re never more than six days away from salvation!

Beauty and Superficiality sabbatical

I don’t spend money on my appearance or shopping. Seriously, those places are deviously designed to make you feel inadequate and I’m not buying it! I am a cool human with awesome friends and family who love me despite the fact I’ve bought one item of clothing in twelve months and don’t dye my hair or wear make up on a regular basis. I practice gratitude and perspective and I feel so lucky to have all of the things in my life, I consider every superficial purchase carefully because the world is always trying to define me by my outside to shake my self-worth and offer me a pricey fix, but I know the answer is free!

Build more of a community

Go see your friends at their home or your home to build deeper more meaningful connections. You can both cook a great meal together that costs very little but means a lot! Babysit for your friends to save them money when they want to go out, go jogging with a local group instead of at the gym, join your local community supported agricultural group and learn to plant vegetables then receive food for your time. There is a great strength in a community and when you start to build your own you’ll realise other people have a better capacity to save money in certain areas. When you all join up to help each other you can all save more -and keep yourself so busy you have no time to shop 😉

Bring your own snacks everywhere

There’s  lot of money to be saved on snacks and food in general. We all know not to get a daily Starbucks/Nero/Costa/whatever because it’s expensive. But also stop buying individual snack sized items like chocolate bars or crisps or pre-cut fruit! They’re far more expensive than the multipack versions and are much easier to resist if you already have some food with you.

The same goes for drinks. You should never be buying bottled water! It could cost you 50p for a litre of water that would cost you 0.2p at home depending on the area you live. That’s an insane mark up and the water isn’t even disinfected so it’s likely to have live Coliforms that can make you ill plus plastic toxins leaking into the water. If you drink fizzy drinks or juices from shops instead. STOP.THAT.NOW. Don’t drink sugar and calories! Especially not synthetic and expensive ones, it’s better to be miserable for four weeks while you cold turkey on them than to slowly bleed money and gain weight. There’s a reason the UK government wants to tax sugary drinks and that’s because they are devastating for your health!

Instead take a bottle of water and a snack everywhere you go so you’re never caught out.

Buy reusable items

There are some things in life that we can’t reuse- toothpaste, food, toilet paper- mostly because you wouldn’t want to! There are however many things you can reuse! In my house we always had kitchen towels and I remember being very confused as to why my friends had paper towels in their kitchen. The same goes for paper plates and plastic forks at birthday parties or barbecues, there is no need to create such waste when you can wash the dishes afterwards! You can use reusable nappies, sanitary products for your ‘lovely lady time’, cleaning supplies, Tupperware, handkerchiefs, bottles etc. Keep a look out for a reusable version of a disposable item you’re using and make the switch.
What do you do that saves you money? I’m always looking for ways to reduce my expenses and impact on the planet!