Our Money Saving Journey to Buying our First House
Buying our first house has been on our radar for quite a while, but circumstances have meant that this hasn’t been something we’ve been able to do so far, but now it feels like we need to knuckle down and get this milestone ticked off our life To-Do List.
Currently we’re in a three bedroom house and we desperately need four bedrooms so that each of our children can have a room of their own. With big age gaps, it isn’t possible for any of them to share, and so Freddie is currently still in our bedroom. As you can imagine, we’re bursting at the seams and it feels like we shuffle a lot of stuff around just so that everything has a place of it’s own.
Help to Buy Scheme
In the beginning of last year we looked at the Help to Buy scheme and got very excited about a new build that was fairly local to where we are currently. The houses were to be built ready for moving in around June 2020 which seemed absolutely perfect for us.
The biggest factor of using the Help to Buy scheme was that we wouldn’t need to find a huge deposit as well as having a brand spanking new house that wouldn’t need anything doing to it. As an NHS worker, there was also an extra incentive with lots of the house builders.
The houses we were looking at were being built by Barratt Homes and they weren’t yet at the stage of having show houses available to look around, but there was another area being built near us so we booked an appointment to go and have a look at the kind of houses they offered.
The houses that we looked at were beautifully decorated, I would have happily packed up and moved in at first sight. There were two houses that we were taken around, and both of them were so lovely. One house had the perfect downstairs with an open plan kitchen opening out onto the garden with french doors, and the other house had the perfect upstairs with large bedrooms, the master being absolutely gorgeous.
If we could take the downstairs from the first and the upstairs from the second we would have literally found the perfect home.
The only thing we could fault was the really small gardens. Isabelle would have had to sacrifice her much loved 12ft trampoline which I’m guessing will be an epic battle.
chris had his sensible head on whereas I was already thinking about how soon we’d be able to move in!
We just had to wait for the site to be set up.
Then the whole coronavirus happened and building was suspended until who knows when.
We’d just have to sit tight, save up as much as we can and wait for the pandemic to end.
Then the building started and we waited to be able to book in for a viewing and start the ball rolling. We got a call from their sales team, and then the news that they were’nt building the four bedroom houses until 2022!
We were a bit gutted as the Help to Buy scheme is only available for newly built houses.
So it was back to the drawing board.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long before we found out about another development not too far from us and made enquiries. This time it was with Taylor Wimpey, but because of the pandemic we had to go through the eligibility process and accepted before we were able to go and view any of the show rooms.
We sat and went through the process over the phone and were given the news that we didn’t meet the criteria for the Help to Buy scheme.
This was because Chris has a job that pays a basic salary and the rest is commission based, but they can only take the basic salary into account even though he has proof of earnings etc.
This is the same for self-employed people, even if you have proof of earnings so it’s not accessible to all.
Poof ….. Just like that our house buying dream was taken away for the foreseeable.
We now have to go down the traditional house buying route which means we need a lot more money for a deposit, and so our saving journey begins. One thing that made me chuckle was that the mortgage broker kept referring to us looking at secondhand properties. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody calling a house ‘secondhand’ before!
I’m going to post regular updates about our journey and some insight into the things we’re doing to achieve it.
If there was ever a time more in need to set up an Emergency Fund with Chip, a global Pandemic would tick the box. I’ll show you how to set up an Emergency Fund with Chip, the easy to use, goal setting, saving app!
How would you pay the bills if you lost your job tomorrow? Or if you became too ill to work?
It’s amazing how many people have very little or no savings and living month to month is the norm. Being able to or setting aside a decent chunk of money each month can seem daunting and not doable, and that’s where Chip could be the perfect solution for you.
What is Chip?
Chip is an App that you download on your phone that analyzes your spending habits to determine how much you can afford to put away in small unnoticeable chunks.
There are two ways you can link to chip, either through your debit card or your bank account. if you sign up with your card, the App will analyze your spending via your card and work out amounts to transfer to your Chip account every few days. You can also set up automatic payments which you arrange through the App.
The most effective way to sign up is through your bank account so that Chip can gain a full analysis of your spending habits including mortgage and direct debit payments.
Whichever way you choose to set-up, you can manually increase or decrease the amount saved giving you full control of your savings.
Where does the money go?
Good question, and one of my first thoughts.
Chip is not a savings account and doesn’t have FSCS protection, your money is stored as e-money. They work in partnership with electronic-money specialists PFS (Prepaid Financial Services FRN: 900036) to store your money.
PFS store the money with a major retail bank (currently Barclays) in a ‘ring-fenced’ account, which means it’s never used for any trading activities.
You can also withdraw your money whenever you want. Just put in a request before 5pm and it will be actioned the same day. Any requests made at the weekend will be back in your account the following working day.
Setting a Goal
It’s so nice working towards a goal whether its for a Family Holiday or a Deposit for a House.
You can set up three goals, a short, medium and long-term goal which is great. Any payments that you make are spread across your goals making them much more achievable.
Setting up my Account
You can download the Chip App on Android and IOS in a few minutes.
Next you will be asked to pop in your mobile number and a verification code will be sent to you.
You will then need to fill in your personal details.
Once verified you will need to connect either your bank card or bank account. A payment of £1.01 will be taken by Chip and then refunded within 3 working days.
Setting my Goals
You can set up three financial goals with the Chip App so I’ve set mine to:
A house deposit (60%)
A family holiday (20%)
An Emergency fund (20%)
A goal can be set for any amount up to £5000 so I set the house deposit to £5000, and both the holiday and emergency fund to £1000 but I can adjust along the way.
Since setting up my chip account I’ve saved £17.83. I get a notification on the day to let me know the amount and if, for whatever reason I don’t want it to be taken I can decline the deposit for that day.
Making a Withdrawal
This is simple through the app. If you put in the request before 5.50pm on a week day, the amount will appear back into your account the same day. Otherwise it will be the next working day.
So far so good. I love that random amounts are being taken rather than making a conscious choice to put away a chunk of money into a savings account. It’s nice to be able to pop onto the the app and see the amount saved going up. I love the fact that its an app on my phone that i can check whenever I want as well as still having access to my money should something unexpected happens.
Set up an Emergency Fund with Chip and receive a £10 bonus by using my promo code BABY10.
Money Saving on your Christmas Shopping – It goes without saying that we’re all after the best deal and the most for our money at this time of year. You should never just settle for the first price you see when buying Christmas Shopping, whether it be for Christmas presents, Party Clothes or the Festive Food. I love a bargain and whenever I buy something I always have a bit of a search to make sure that I’m not paying over the odds. Here are some of the tips and sites that I would recommend to get the most for your money.
And stick to it. Make a list of everything you need, and who you’re buying for and stick to it. The amount of times we’ve left some of our shopping to last minute and had to spend more than expected and bought gifts that we may not have otherwise bought. Keep a little notebook in your bag or make a list on your phone and tick off as you go. It’s also a great place to store all your receipts just in case.
Loyalty cards are a great way to get a bit of money off at Christmas time. Save up your points all year round and wait for the special offer emails that get sent around October/November time.
Boots Advantage card send out loads of vouchers where you can get extra points and of course the 3 for 2 offers are great at Christmas time.
Sainsbury’s and Tesco points are best saved up and spent on non-food items such as restaurant vouchers, days out or use towards the kids christmas presents in the toy department.
Cash Back Sites
Get cash back on things you were going to buy anyway by going through the relevant cashback sites. These are the ones that I’ve used previously.
Top Cash Back – Always check to see if the retailer your buying from is listed and take advantage of money back and promotional codes
Swagbucks – You can earn cashback on your shopping as well as taking part in short surveys.
Quidco – Again, another one to check out before making purchases to see if there are any savings to be had.
Actually, before you hit the cashback sites make sure you compare the prices of the items you want to buy, particularly on big purchases. This can also be done for alcohol if you’re planning on having a party or need to stock up for Christmas.
My Supermarket is the only one that I’ve previously used but there are lots available including:
Some shops such as Boots and Debenhams have special card holder evenings where you get additional money off if you buy on the night. Have a look out for these which are usually sent by email.
Online shopping baskets
This one I’ve blatantly stolen from Martin Lewis. Go onto the stores that you intend to buy from and add the items that you want to the shopping basket and then leave it………Some retailers send an email reminding you that you have items in your basket, and some will offer a discount code to entice you back. It doesn’t apply to all retailers but definitely worth a go.
Last Minute Shopping
A lot of retailers start the January Sale early and start dropping their prices just before Christmas to capture as many Christmas shoppers as possible. Take advantage of this, but anything that is likely to be at the top of the kids Christmas list is unlikely to be still available if you hang out for this.
If like many parents, a mobile phone is at the top of your kids christmas list then make sure you hang out for the best deal possible. A contract phone may seem the best option, since you get a free phone, but do you? Nope. If you were to work out how much you would pay over the contract period versus a pay as you go phone you may not be getting as good a deal as you think. Take advantage of this Contract V’s SIM Calculator before you make a commitment to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
Not sure what to buy the kid that seemingly has every shape of plastic know to man then why not buy an alternative Christmas present such as a magazine subscription or sign them up for a class. This is an old post that I wrote but still worth a read.
If there really isn’t anything that you can think to buy for a friend or relative, then consider buying them a voucher for somewhere that you know they like to shop so that they can put it towards something that they want. This is also useful for teenagers who will get more for their money in the January sales than if you were to buy a load of clothes before Christmas. You could go one step further and make it a shopping day with a bit of lunch in between shops as well.
I’d love to know your top tips for saving a bit of money or getting the best deal when Christmas Shopping. Pop me a comment below x
Family Friendly things to do in London – London is the capital of our country and also a really interesting and fun place to take the family. However, like most days out in the UK it can be a costly business so I thought I would have a bit of a rummage around to see how you can experience London as a family which won’t break the bank.
The National History Museum – This would be one of the top things on my list of things to do whether it was a paid admission or free. Meet a T-Rex, experience an earthquake and take a trip to the centre of the earth. For a really special treat (not free) you can stay the night at the museum and experience a torch light tour which sounds absolutely amazing.
The Science Museum looks like it would be a really fun place to visit with loads of interactive activities. Some of these are paid and need booking in advance, but if you pop over to their website there is more than enough to keep the little ones and the big ones busy.
London Motor Museum – If cars are your thing then this is a must see exhibition. They even have the likes of Herbie the Volkswagon Beetle, the original Batmobile and the Ford Gran Torino used in the Starsky and Hutch TV series.
The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green houses the UK’s national collection of childhood objects, all dated as far back from the 1600’s to the present day. There you will find toys, dolls and games. They also run lots of events and workshops so make sure you check their website before your visit.
Horniman Museum & Gardens – They have lots to see including animals (real live ones), an aquarium, butterfly house, 16 acres to run around and discover wildlife, a hands on base where you can touch and experience various things, a music gallery, a natural history area packed full of taxidermy, skeletons and fossils, a nature base and nature trail. There is a small entrance fee for this but it’s definitely up their in the budget friendly category.
Take a trip to Grenwich to see the Royal Observatory, the Astronomer Royal’s house and stand on the Meridian Line. The best way to see all of these is by getting a Day Explorer Ticket where you will have access to all sorts including The Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark, the Meridian Line and Museums.
The Royal Academy of Art – Run free family workshops and activities so do check their website to see what’s on. Once you’re done you can go and have a play in the fountains outside!
London Zoo – Meet the Majestic King of the Jungle, enter the Gorilla Kingdom and get up close and personal with the Lemurs in their walk-through exhibit. There’s loads of things to see and do at the Zoo. If you’re lucky you may get to experience Zoo Nights on selected dates.
Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace – It’s definitely something you don’t see everyday and is a definite must-do if you haven’t already done so. Once you’re done it’s nice to take a walk through St James’s park.
Spot the Deer at Bushy Park near Hampton Court Palace before wandering through the gardens of Hampton Court Palace. There is a fee to enter the palace but you can wander through the gardens free of charge.
Clapham Common – There is loads of open space to play and run around as well as three ponds, a fishing pond, a duck feeding pond and a model boat pond. There are also two playgrounds, a huge paddling pool and a bandstand café for refuelling.
Timber Lodge and Tumbling Baby Playground at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There you will find rock pools, sand pits, treehouses and wobbly bridges as well as slides swing and plenty of space for running around or having a picnic.
Coram’s Fields – In Central London is a definite pit-stop. They have Playgrounds, a small Farm, a Café and Sports Pitches. Lots of room for the littles to burn off some energy.
Brockwell Park – Apparently one of the best parks in South London it has a great playground with zip wires, climbing frames and tunnels as well as a sandpit and paddling pool (be warned with water jets).
Centre for Wildlife Gardening – Here you will find mini-habitats, ponds to explore, a chalk bank, woodland copse, herb gardens and lots of bug sanctuaries and hotels.
Golders Hill Park Zoo – Hampstead Heath. Explore and visit their collection of rare birds and animals before heading off for a splash in one of the swimming ponds and lido.
Dukes Meadow Park, Chiswick – With it’s own beach and adventure playground! There are also lots of sports that take place, a kiosk for food and it also hosts the Fine Food Market.
Open Top Bus Tour – A must do when you visit London, but do look out for deals as these can be particularly pricey. Groupon are currently offering a family Open Top Bus Ticket for £49 which may seem pricey, but it’s definitely one to tick off your bucket list.
Windsor Duck Tours – Am I the only person that wasn’t aware these things even existed. Basically it’s a boat with wheels so you start the tour on land, and then it drives into the water and becomes a boat. So cool!
Camden Town Market, Spitalfields Market and Portobello market are definitely worth a visit. Be warned though as it will be extremely busy.
City Cruises – Down the River Thames for the ultimate London sightseeing experience including Big Ben, The London Eye, Tower Bridge and more with various pick-up and drop-off points along the way.
Borough Market – near London Bridge where you can find an array of fresh and organic produce including fruit, veg, meat and cheeses as well as baked treats, condiments and scrummy street food.
Brick Lane Market – Have a good old rummage through vintage clothes, shoes, furniture and bric-a-brac with Sunday being the best day to visit.
Broadway Market, Hackney – here you will find local artists and craftspeople selling unique and unusual clothing and gifts as well as locally produced foods, furniture and more.
Maltby Street Market near London Bridge Station is a foodie heaven with lots f street food on offer including New York Style Sandwiches to authentic Mexican Street food.
Hamley’s Toy Store – Here you will find over 50,000 toys spread out across seven floors to indulge your inner child. Whilst it’s free to go in, you may not be able to get out without spending a penny or two.
Take a stroll along the many areas where you will find some pretty cool Street Art including Banksy. Head to Camden Town where you will be in for a colourful treat, and Shoreditch is up there for ever changing artwork, and there’s even an organised Street Art Tour you can take to ensure you get the full experience. The tours aren’t free but you could navigate through the areas yourself.
If street Art is something that you’re interested in then head to The Rise Gallery in Croyden where they house an array of cool artwork. They also do organised tours of the local Croyden Street Art.
Lewisham hosts over 60 public artworks which you can find listed on the Council Website or you could follow The Line which is a self-guided walking tour linking The O2 and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Part where you will discover artists such as Damien Hirst, Alex Chinneck and Eduardo Paolozzi.
Take a walk along Regent’s Canal where you will see an array of colourful narrowboats overlooked by the aviary of London Zoo you can take in the scenery and chill away from the hustle and bustle.
London Stadium Tour – Take a walk around this fantastic multi-purpose venue which is home to West Ham United and UK Athletics. The tour includes panoramic views into the stadium, a look around the changing rooms, visit the indoor running track and walk down the Players Tunnel. You could also pretend that you’re the Manager from the Managers dug-out.
A self-guided Treasure Trail – Discover a local area and all it’s hidden gems. Either downloads and print or have one sent to you in the post. The trails are full of clues, facts and information on lots of areas including London. Pack a picnic and off you go.
This is just a handful of the fun things that you can see and do in and around London BUT before you go booking or paying for any attractions, have a look at sites such as Groupon to see what Family Friendly things to do in London you can take advantage of.
This also applies to where you stay when you go. If you have children below school age, I would recommend visiting outside of the school holidays as these times will be less busy and you may get off-peak prices as well. However, school holiday deals are also available so it’s always best to check beforehand to make the most of you money.
Great Baby Deals with www.latestdeals.co.uk – It’s not a big secret that when you find out that you’re expecting there is a LOT to buy. I’m currently 31 weeks pregnant with our third child and we’ve got to buy pretty much everything. Shopping around can be a bit of a bore but it’s definitely worth having a look to compare offers and prices.
This is where sites such as www.latestdeals.co.uk come in which offer a huge array of offers and discounts. These are all found by the Latest Deals community rather than a company Deals are updated constantly across everything from Home & Garden, Health & Beauty and of course the current baby deals available.
My Top Baby Deals
Whilst it was tempting to go off course I thought I would look specifically at the Baby Deals. Here are some of the top offers that I found:
Most of the Baby Dove range from Asda has been reduced. This big 400ml Head to Toe Wash has been reduced from £3.10 to £1.50 a bottle. This is the range that we’ve chosen to use this time round so we’ve stocked up on this already. It smells gorgeous!
Did you know that if you potty train your child at two and a half that the average child will have had around 6000 nappy changes. So great news is that there are loads of deals on nappies to make that figure easier to swallow. This one is for Half Price Pampers Nappies so make sure you stock up.
This VTech First Steps Baby Walker caught my eye as it was the one that we had when Ryan was a baby which I know we paid over £30.00 for and this one is available for £16.50. You won’t need it straight away but I find that it’s always good to buy things and put them away to get some of the best deals.
Get a FREE Mother & Baby Mini Mag – This is a digital download and there is also a link to subscribe to the magazine from £15.00 + a FREE Slumbersac Sleeping Bag.
A Digital Baby Thermometer for only £17.45. I didn’t think I would need one of these previously but Isabelle caught everything going and the doctors always want to know if they are running a high temperature so this is a must to get an accurate reading.
This stylish Bebe Style Modern Swivel 360 Highchair which should have been £70.00 is now only £50.00 and is fully adjustable so that your baby can sit alongside you at the dining table for dinner.
I could go on and on with the deals so I’ll just add in one more which I think is just as essential as all of the above, and that’s 30% Off Domino’s Pizza’s for those nights when everything goes wrong, the baby won’t sleep, you haven’t had a shower and cooking is the last thing on your mind.
So based on all of the deals that I’ve selected, if bought it works out that at full cost it would have come to a grand total of:
By finding these offers from Latest Deals the cost would be:
This is a total saving of:
£121.38 by going through the Latest Deals Website.
So the moral of the story is, that before you make any future purchases check out www.latestdeals.co.uk and search for what you want to buy to see if you can find a great deal or offer. Or if you find a great deal then share it with the rest of the Latest Deals community.
One of the biggest financial commitments you will make is having a baby and that’s why Maternity Financial Planning is essential so that you can enjoy your bundle of joy when the time comes.
So get ahead of the game, do your homework and then you can sit back (yeah right) comfy in the knowledge that your finances are sorted for the foreseeable.
Maternity Leave Payments
You are entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave. Dependent on how long you have been with your current employer will determine the amount that you are entitled to. To work out what your entitled to, use this Maternity Allowance Calculator. Statutory Maternity pay is currently at £140.98 per week.
Shared Parental Leave
Dependent on your circumstances you want to share the time off to care for your baby. Luckily there is such a thing as Shared Parental Leave which you may be eligible for. You can find out all the info on this through your employer or here.
Make sure that you claim everything that you may be entitled to. This is dependent on your financial circumstances, but it’s definitely worth a look. Pop over to the Gov Website for more info on everything from claiming Child Benefit to Child Tax Credits.
You are of course entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment which is valid for twelve months following the birth of the baby. You will need to apply for this through your midwife or health visitor.
Forecast your future costs
Once you have your Maternity plan sorted and you have a rough idea of when you will return to work, sit down and work out your current incomings and outgoings. This will help you in the long run and can be adjusted if and when things change. If you’re going to have childcare costs when you return to work it’s a good idea to know how much this is going to be. It’s a huge factor in deciding what hours you will need to return to to make it worthwhile.
Try not to splurge
Easier said that done when you find out your having a baby BUT keeping your head whilst making purchases could save you a fortune. There’s loads of things that you can do to save on the spending:
I know that a lot of people aren’t up for this (I used to be one of them), but babies, especially newborn babies don’t wear their clothes for very long and usually remain in excellent condition. See what Baby Markets and Pre-loved events that are near you. I find a lot of these on Facebook so check out local events. You could also approach friends who have had babies to see if they are willing to sell you outgrown clothes which may give you peace of mind if you’re worried about where they’re coming from.
Do your research
All the magazines and websites will give you endless ideas and lists of all the ‘Must have’ baby gear which can be often misleading. Ask friends who have had babies and you will soon learn that they were led down this path only to find that they didn’t need X, Y and Z. For me it was a bottle warmer and a hand pump for milk. I haven’t known a single person to recommend a bottle warmer and the hand pump for milk was such an effort and took such a long time.
Find out when your favourite shops hold their sales and stock up on things. It’s worth stocking up on things that you know you’re going to need such as nappies and wet wipes. If you do know the gender of your baby or your baby is already here, buy the next size up in clothes or out of season clothes which will fit them when the time comes round.
Family and Friends
All family and friends want to buy something for the new baby. Most people will ask if there is anything in particular that you need. Be honest and let them know what you have left on your list to buy. If it’s something big they may contribute with vouchers, but people really do like to know if they can buy something that you want – It’s why they asked!
I went to loads of baby groups when Isabelle was a baby but the cost of these do stack up. Make sure you factor these into your monthly budget. Not all groups have to cost the earth. Look out for local parenting groups most often held in village or church halls which are often something like £1 for a stay and play session where you get a cuppa and a biscuit. Your health visitor should be able to give you some information on where to find these.
Nappies and Wet wipes
I’m going to write a more dedicated post on this subject, but have you thought of using Washable Nappies and Wet Wipes? Don’t cast this idea aside. Have a look and I guarantee you will be surprised on the options available. We went washable with Isabelle and will be washable with baby number 3. This could save you a small fortune not to mention the environmental benefits. We’re lucky in Devon that we have the Real Nappy Project where you can get advice, trial kits and demonstrations. Again, you should be able to get local information from your Midwife, Health Visitor or you may even receive this information at the hospital antenatal classes.
Loads of the big shops such as Boots and Tesco have Baby Clubs where you get additional points for baby purchases, find out about upcoming ‘baby events’ and special offers. It’s definitely worth signing up for these so that you can get the best value of money on all the every day essentials.
Baby Markets and Pre-loved Events
As well as picking up a bargain, you could also sell on your outgrown and unused items to make some pennies to put towards the next thing you have to buy. You may of course be planning to have more children so it may be that you will store everything for the next one.
I’m sure that there are so many more ways that you could save money so if you have any fab nuggets of wisdom then do pop them in the comments.
How we cut more than £10k from our annual spending, without even noticing!
Guest Post from Ryan Storey – How we cut more than £10k from our annual spending, without even noticing. I have been blogging for a while now at kakeibo about cost-saving strategies and generally living a frugal lifestyle, but it wasn’t until a friend really challenged me on the benefits of these strategies, that I actually took the time to work out the overall impact on our family finances. I was absolutely blown away when I added it all up! There were some strategies that I was really pleased with when I found them, that honestly didn’t amount to much when I added them up over the year, but the cumulative saving came to £10k and I almost couldn’t believe it. I’ve outlined the strategies below so hopefully, others can benefit from these too. I found it very useful putting them all together in one place, like a warm fuzzy metaphorical pat on the back, maybe you should try doing the same and give yourself some well-deserved credit too!
Before I get into the detail, it is probably helpful to have a bit of a background to give these some context. I have briefly outlined our situation below:
Married with two children – my daughter is 3 and my son is 4 months old
Essentially a single income family, my wife stays at home with the kids, but does do a bit of work around pre-school times as a PA from home
I work in London and commute about an hour every day
I am an accountant, with a passion for financial education, seeing the benefit it has brought me so far
I am constantly shopping around and thinking of ways to save money – I treat it like a game
We have had significant debt in the past ~ £35k, which we have now predominantly paid off – more on that later…
I think it is important to say that the savings that we make are reinvested in other things, like home improvements and maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. There is a common misconception that living frugally equates to living like a pauper. The key for us is maintaining a lifestyle that we can afford, being more disciplined about each purchase we make, but living the life that we want to live. It is a fine balance, because like dieting, if the life you build is not sustainable long-term, then you are more likely to slip back into bad habits.
The B word…
I feel like I need to start with a brief bit about budgeting and monitoring finances – many people have a budget, but what is often missed is regular monitoring of your spending against your budget, both within the month and following the month, to ensure that you are staying within your means. I see budgeting as past, present, and future.
I review expenditure following the month compared with the budget and revise my budget going forward if things are changing, i.e. fuel prices going up and spending more, I make an adjustment for that. The budget is only as good as the day you set it, you need to keep tweaking it to make it reasonably accurate. I also use this to categorise expenditure and then start working through each item and seeing if I can either cut down, or get a better deal. That is basically how I found most of the strategies in the first place, i.e. being motivated to go and do some shopping around.
Ensuring that you stay within your means and budget, results in avoiding borrowing money to see you through the month. I update our budget vs. actual during the month at least once per week, and reign in spending if it is getting out of control. This could be a time consuming exercise, but last year I transitioned all of our budgeting and monitoring from a basic spreadsheet, to a cloud-based accounting package called Xero. It downloads your bank transactions and using AI categorises most for you to just review and accept, which has automated a huge amount of this process and given me back about 12 full days per year when I add up the time saving. The subscription does cost me money (approx. £60), but based on the savings below, assistance in keeping us in our budget and the time saving, this was an investment I was willing to make.
I run a rolling 12 month budget and deliberately budget monthly so that costs like holiday, birthdays, Xmas and other big outlays such as car service etc. are captured in the proper months. This helps me work out what I need to save each month to make sure that I am then not short in those months. This also helps me to forecast for other transactions that we are planning and see if it is feasible, like buying a sofa, or washing machine for example. It is better to work out that it is not possible in a spreadsheet, than signing up and realising that you have run out of money!
For more on budgeting, check out our detailed blog post at -> I’ve made a Budget, why do I still have no money?
Our cost cutting strategies – tried and tested!
So, without further ado, here is a summary of our cost cutting strategies in no particular order and the total that they will save us over the coming year:
Caveat: Some of these are specific to our circumstances and won’t be possible for all, but the concept remains the same – if it is a big cost, think about how you could save money, even if that is just changing your routine or behaviour.
Mobile phones – this is my favourite, as previously there just weren’t really any options to reduce this cost drastically unless you could afford to buy your phone outright (or chose to not have a smartphone of course…). The other reason I have been raving about it to friends and family is because of the way that contracts have been sold in the past does not clearly demonstrate how much you are ending up paying for the phone, which I think is unfair to the consumer. Using Unshackled.com, I will have saved £150 on my phone this year (£300 over the life of the contract), but I will also use Unshackled.com for my wife when her contract is up in September too, which will save another £50 this year.
Razors and shaving – I was fed up with how much I was spending on razors and shaving stuff, so I shopped around and now have a King of Shaves subscription, saving me £44 per year. It also comes in the post, so you don’t even have to think about it!
National Insurance refund – it is a good idea to check your payslip, especially if you have changed employers in the tax year like I have. I realised that I had overpaid National Insurance by £261. National insurance is often overlooked, as it is not dealt with on a cumulative basis by your employer if you are under the PAYE scheme. I had to call and write to HRMC, but it is worth it if you can get some money back! This is also a reason to run a tight budget, as it will show up when you are comparing forecast to actual on a monthly basis.
Multi-car insurance – I shopped around for insurance when my wife’s car was up for renewal, exploring multi-car policies and taking into account the £50 I had to pay to get out of the pre-existing separate insurance I had on my car, I will have saved £622 this year.
Parking for work – I commute to work and have to drive to my local train station, parking at the train station costs £12 per week, but I get up a bit earlier and manage to park on a nearby side street (they would all be taken if I didn’t go earlier), saving £500 per year. Who says the early bird doesn’t catch the worm?!
Train travel – I realised that on renewing my season ticket that if I made a slight tweak to my destination, I would no longer need to pay for tube fares getting to my office. It means that I need to walk a short distance, but that is more than worth it considering I will now save £1,360 over the next year!
Lunches for work – I either make my lunch everyday, or take leftovers (also reducing food waste), but on average cost no more than £1 per day. Before I was spending £5 per day, therefore this is a saving of £900 per year.
Coffee on my commute – I have a coffee on the way to work each morning (I’m up early to get that parking space remember), but since getting a KeepCup for Xmas and taking a coffee from home instead, I will now save £400 this year as a result.
Nappies for my newborn son – we use ‘subscribe and save’ through Amazon saving £38 per year.
Childcare vouchers – £300 saved on pre-school fees before my daughter got the free hours, by getting the childcare vouchers through my employer and therefore saving the tax on my pay.
TV & broadband – saved £43 over the year, but managed to upgrade Sky to Sky Q and broadband to fibre on BT Infinity – I could have chosen to just get a discount on my Sky HD package instead, which I negotiated down to 50% off, for a saving of £300 per year, but decided to reinvest it instead. Broadband is one of life’s necessities after all…
Home insurance – shopped around for my home insurance and will save £90 this year by going through John Lewis Insurance.
Groceries – we shop at Aldi where possible, we do still have to get some things elsewhere, but we save approx. £1,000 over the year as a result. Plus, you get a workout trying to pack your own bags as the checkout assistant fires things through at break-neck speed!
Meal wheel – for my wife’s baby shower present, instead of getting baby ‘stuff’ her best friend set up a ‘meal wheel’, which is basically your friends making you dinners and bringing them over in the first few weeks after the baby is born. It saves both time and money, which are equally important at that key time, but amounted to about £100 saved and immeasurable amounts in sanity.
Hand me down clothes – with our first child being a girl, we would have needed to buy lots of clothes for our son, but friends and family have donated ‘hand me down’ clothes, which has already saved us at least £100, but will save us a lot more over the year as well.
Breastfeeding – my wife breastfeeds our son, which means we don’t buy formula, which will save us about £120 this year.
Leased car termination fee – I used to have a leased car through my employer. When I left last year I was required to pay a termination fee. It seemed high, so I challenged it, going all the way back to the terms and conditions after lots of arguing and doing my own calculation. They finally accepted a £500 reduction due to their “errors” in the calculation. It is important to know what you are paying for and sticking to your guns if it doesn’t seem right!
Nest thermostat and insulation – I had a Nest Thermostat installed last year, which learns your routines and how your house heats up. We used to have a basic timer on the boiler, which meant the heating was always on for 8 hours per day. Since having it installed there have been many days where it has only been on for 3 or 4 hours instead, even over the winter, giving us a comfortable environment. I will really need to run this for a whole year to determine cost savings, but I think this could help a lot. We also live in an older house, which had no insulation in large sections of the loft. I did some research and insulated it myself on a weekend. It cost me £300 for the insulation, but on average savings achieved by insulating your property can be £600+. Therefore, I estimate £200 saving (after taking into account what I spent) to be prudent over the year.
Re-mortgage – Last year we were planning on re-mortgaging our existing property, to reduce our monthly payments, take advantage of the ridiculously low interest rates and pay down credit card debt. We had the house valued as part of the process and actually ended up selling, moving to a bigger house paying off all our debt and getting a lower interest rate. It is important to say here that I used a financial advisor to help me with this process, which I would strongly recommend for any significant financial decisions like that. The result is that overall we are now £300 better off each month, therefore a saving of £3,600 over a year and have more space and a better quality of life. Much less of our hard earned cash goes into making interest payments.
Drum roll for the net total saving over the next year…..£10,318!
Hopefully you too can utilise some of these and make savings yourself. Are there any great cost saving strategies that I have missed? Let us know and get involved with the conversation on social media:
And Dads of course, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it!
Christmas feels like a long time ago, and for many of us we’re holding out for January payday.
For some, Money Saving is a lifestyle rather than a fad, but many of us kickstart our Money Saving in January and go from there.
We’ve started the #365daypennychallenge which is saving a small amount each day which surprisingly adds up to a tidy sum by the end of the 365 days (£667.95 to be exact).
We’ve also become very savvy when it comes to food shopping and shop around to get the best deals. We haven’t gone as far as setting up meal plans, but we base our meals around special offers and deals so that we get the most for our money.
I plan to check out our utilities this month to see if we can save money by changing provider.
I’ve already been through our direct debits to make sure that we don’t have any payments for things that we no longer use any more.
Whatever you’re looking to buy or maybe cutting costs on, there will be ways of getting it cheaper if you’re prepared to look.
For some this is just too much which is where sites like Gratisfaction come into play . They take all the leg work for you by listing a variety of deals on websites as well as loads of Free Stuff. They have oodles of categories from including Gadgets, Eating Out and Baby Stuff.
I thought I would have a poke around the site and see what they have on offer for us as a family of four with a dog.
A Free Online Cooking Course – When you get to this website there are loads of courses to choose from so I have chosen Social Media Marketing which should cost £395. Total madness but I’ve grabbed it and will let you know how I get on.
We no longer have babies at home, but the Baby Section is full of loads of stuff including Weaning Pouches and Drynight’s Disposable pants.
Some of these offers are amazing. I’m especially loving the cosmetic/beauty type offers as I love a bit of pampering so once these arrive I will add them to my treat basket which I dip into when I get the chance.
Pop over to the site regularly as some of the offers are only available for a set number of people before the close.