Sunday, 21 June 2009

Reducing Costs and Stashing Savings

Hello everyone, it has been an eventful month with lots going on, so I am sorry for not having posted recently.

June has allowed me to take some time to analyse spending for these past 5 months and compare to previous years. The results are pretty amazing, even though I do say so myself! I hope that by sharing this information it might inspire you to get more out of your budget and put aside more even if just a little, for a rainy day. All savings in this economic climate are valuable protection against the unknown future.

Some years ago I set up a Budget spreadsheet and on it I log the 'extras' we buy, ie: the non-essentials. I have one spreadsheet for me and one for the joint spending. On my personal spreadsheet, I can see the following:

TOTAL Personal'Frills/Non essentials' Spend for the year + Average per month:

2006 - £5365 (£447 per month)
2007 - £3444 (£287 p/ month)
2008 - £3548 (£296 p/month)
2009 - £763 for 5 months (average £153 per month)

So as you can see, there has been a drastic reduction in 'silly' spend since I have started to be more aware of what I was spending on non-essentials and I have focused alot more in the last 3 years. There has been little suffering yet it's saved me an average £2,000 from 2006 to 2007 alone on non-essential spending. Around £294 less spending per month comparing 2006 to 2009!

TOTAL JointSpend for the year & Average per month:

The below include bills and all household spending:

2006 - £5058 (£421 per month)
2007 - £4209(£350 p/ month)
2008 - £4552 (£379 p/month)
2009 - £1652 for 5 months (average £330 per month)

This is a reduction of £90 per month comparing 2006 to 2009, which would be over £1,000 per year in savings if you averaged it out!
Now we are leading a more purposeful life and saving more, and inflation has not affected our joint finances because we have been more creative, therefore allowing us to put exactly the same money in every month since 2006 (£400 per month) and even take money back out into savings at the end of the month. This goes towards our house deposit fund and the way I see it, each £10 saved is another couple of pillows or money towards durable items like good quality pans, growing our own veg etc.

For 2009, I have spent £52 on clothing in the last 6 months, and £30 on charity, almost half of my clothing spend! Lunches and naughty snacks have cost me £95 which is shameful and I want to reduce those much more... is a great site you can use if you find budgeting boring or hard to do. It really helps.

Personally, I like to take out £100 in cash on the 1st of the month, allowing myself another £100 in the bank 'just in case'. My £100 in cash has to cover everything that is not a bill. Going out, clothing, snacks, magazines, books and dvd's, all the fun stuff. I then make a note of what I have spent in cash and when, normally on my way home from work in a quiet moment.

Normally, the other £100 stays in the bank for times when I need to pay for something via debit card, but most times, quite a decent amount of that is left in the account at the end of the month, maybe £60 is left. I either save this, or sometimes buy shares or take it out and keep it at home for special treats like going out for dinner or a movie.

So by using this ATM machine rule, I have saved around £300 so far this year, proving that my thoughts last year that I 'couldn't possibly do any better in 2009' wasn't true...

Any extra cash I have come in (on top of my wages) from cashback sites for example, goes straight to savings, I have trained my mind to not even think of it as real money. I also would never consider buying anything off the highstreet now *IF* I can buy it online through a cashback site. See my Cashback Sites section on the right for more info on hwo this can save you some money.

I hope that this inspires you and if you are a homemaker or work a full time job, there are savings to be made in small tweaks here and there that do add up. Make a start, see how you like it and then try and challenge yourself week by week... perhaps keep a log if this motivates you.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Fat Cheese - Cashback New Kid On The Block!


Hi all,

Today I have another interesting cashback website for you - they're called FatCheese, a strange name but they seem to have good offers!

(If Cashback sites are new to you and sound confusing, don't worry - it's a great way to make money online and buy items you were going to buy anyway - see the Cashback Sites section on the right hand side).

A few sites as you all know just get you in on good offers and then once you start to use them, you see those offers dissapear. Some of the sites remain more loyal to customers than others. It seems FatCheese are aiming to be a real contender, with enough going on to keep us all interested, plus with quick customer service response as well but this is my first impression after a couple of months.

Customer service has not always been great with these types of sites, nor do they always share 100% of what they get from suppliers with us. So far my queries have been answered quickly, and my transactions are tracking smoothly, so I thought it was time to write about them a little more.

From what I can see at the moment, they have a good selection of offers on, it might be that some of them are of interest to you now, but you can always take them up another time if you don't need them at the moment. However, these ones seem particularly good, 3 of which involve no spend at all.

Some of the Best Offers at FatCheese today:

- Sky+ at £75 cashback. You can get a free Sky+ box plus £25 Tesco voucher so overall this is worth quite alot - IF you were planning to subscribe to Sky+ anyway.
- Hastings Direct Car Insurance. FREE £20 MOT voucher just for getting a quote, so there is no actual need to take up the offer if yous insurance is not yet up but you want to get an idea of prices.
- T-Mobile FREE SIM cards. £1 cashback for ordering two FREE SIMs. Costs nothing and is useful too if you need some SIMS.
- Gala Bingo. £20 cashback for each new player depositing and wagering a minimum of £5. Essentially you would get £15 free in cashback terms.
- Synovate. £1.35 cashback when you register, easy and quick to do.

As always make sure you clear your cookies effectively (ie: delete all cookies before you log in to the cashback site to make any purchases or register for no-spend offers such as the above SIM cards or Synovate / Hastings Direct) - see my Cashback section on the right-hand side menu for more tips, or request my full guide.

In addition if you follow my referral link:

Fat Cheese

You will get access to an extra £5 to use Coral, currently it's £5 cashback but the above link will give you £10. This will be credited in due course on your statement. You may of course like to check other sites for what they offer, I just thought I'd mention this little extra if relevant to you as that extra £5 effectively pays for your admin fee on FC.

Soon they will be offering a full 10% cashback on purchases at which is a great offer, given that you cannot get any cashback for Amazon. This means if you buy a £15 DVD from via FatCheese you would get £1.50 back, reducing your price to £13.50...

I would love your views on this site once you have started to also use it, so we can all comment on whether they may be serious contenders to Quidco!
They seem to offer 100% cashback rather than 'share' the cashback' with members. They do charge an admin fee but I think overall this will still be worthwhile, especially with the kind of offers they are starting to make available.

As always over the coming weeks I will keep you updated on any other sites and will also be updating my cashback site Guide with more info, removing the sites that have been failing members and updating with fresh offers and new sites.

Enjoy the sunshine out there today!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Ideas for Super Summer Savings

Hi everyone and hope you have been out and about in this lovely sunshine...!

This weather is ideal to make some savings, so see whether any of the ideas below inspire you to make some small changes! Perhaps you are already doing some of them, or have ideas for others that read this blog:

- Dry clothes outdoors if possible, or at least in a well aird room if you have no outdoor space. Saves time, energy and money!

- Eat less meat – this is a great time to eat more fish, more salads, more cous cous and perhaps some interesting pasta salads and vegetables. All of these improve you diet, save you money and generally help you feel better in these hot summer months…

- Spend more time outdoors – More time outdoors is money-saving as long as you keep to the free activities, such as street festivals, walking, going to the park and playing Frisbee, swimming, window-shopping etc. Take a packed lunch from home and enjoy the weather. This means you won’t be using electric at home and will get to enjoy all the outdoor activities that cost nothing. Check your local museums and online sites to see what’s on.

- Spend less on clothes – No need for all those expensive Winter clothes. Donate what you no longer need and spend more time in summer clothes. These are cheaper to buy overall as they cost less to produce. Scan your local charity shops and get inspired! Not only that, washing summer clothes could cost less as they take up less room in the washing machine and take less time to dry compared to winter wollies…

- Meet friends – This can cost next to nothing! Socialising on a budget can be about meeting on the beach or in the park, using Pizza Express or other restaurant vouchers to get money off, going to drink cocktails when they have a Happy Hour, all pitching into buy food and drink, or BBQ’s round eachothers homes. All these ideas and more can save you money – get your creative juices flowing!

- Make homemade – things like ice-lollies, cordials, fresh salads, infused oils and vinegars, salad dressing and more can all be made at home rather than being conned by the ‘Look it’s summer’ campaigns at the supermarket. Experiment with recipes – vinaigrette takes literally 60 seconds to make fresh and if you pop some in a clean jam jar it will last a few days for other salads, just give it a shake (use a third vinegar, 2 thirds olive oil, squeeze of lemon, oregano and a dab of Dijon mustard and shake till mixed!).

So there you have it – Summer can be enjoyable and keep you under that all important budget…

What are your ideas and how do you intend to keep costs down during the coming ‘Heatwave’ they keep predicting?