Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Student Loan - GONE!

After 11 years of diligently paying my student loan through my salary every month I have finally made the final payment of £500.33!  Feels great to finally be rid of it, although I'm aware that the interest rates are more or less peanuts.  Can focus my efforts on the mortgage now...yipee


Friday, 24 August 2012

Monthly food budget

As part of our new, mortgage busting budget I have set the food budget element at £250 to include food, drink, toiletries, cleaning stuff and pet food (for two cats).  I have been refining the way I tackle the monthly shopping as it is a million times more difficult with a little one to consider.  What is working for us at the moment is this:

  • One large online shop to include all the essentials to last the month.  Using mysupermarket.co.uk the cheapest supermarket for us has been ASDA for the last two months.
  • Weekly (ish) top up shops usually from Morrisons or Lidl depending what we need.
This month the 'big shop' cost £144 and I've done one top up shop at Lidl which was £13.  I'm happy that with three weeks left I've got £93 and fairly full cupboards!  Hopefully I can keep up the good work when I'm back at work (5 weeks left...) as the meal planning can be a little time consuming.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Going to try making one of these...

We are going to a christening in a couple of weeks and staying overnight in a small cottage.  I didn't want to lug our large plastic high chair around so I started to investigate the possibility of making a fabric high chair that would attach to any normal chair.

I've seen a few of these around but they cost about £15 upwards so my mind began to whirr and I knew I could make my own from the stash of fabric I already had.

I found this wonderful tutorial on this fabulous website.  Just need to find the time to make it now!


Sunday, 19 August 2012

You give with one hand...

No sooner do I 'free up' about £100 of my pre-tax salary as I'm now paying my student loan direct than I get a reminder from work about paying the new work place parking levy.  It is almost £30 a month to park at work.  I've got no choice but to pay it with dropping off and collecting Little J.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Cost neutral Christmas - is it possible

Yes, I've gone and said the 'C' word!  I LOVE Christmas and spend months planning and organising gifts, decorations and I even run the office secret Santa each year.   We dont really go over board.  We set a spending limit for close family and as we now have little J we have agreed with some friends that we will just buy for the little ones now rather than each other plus other halves as well.  I don't want to cut back on our real tree (this may be a mistake in hindsight with a 'soon to be walker' in our house) or the nice food and drink we buy so I've decided to try and make it cost neutral.

I save £75 a month for birthday and Christmas and have built up about £300 so far this year.  My aim is to use the cost neutral Christmas so I can put this extra cash into the overpayment pot.  So far I have:

£220 cashback from credit card
£65 Nectar vouchers
£10 Morrisons vouchers
£2 Coop voucher
£44.25 Quidco cashback

Total - £342.25

I'm rather pleased with this, although we are limited to some shops/websites with some of the vouchers I think we could probably manage most of the festivities with this!

Roll on December!


Monday, 13 August 2012

Motivation Monday or how I've spent my salary before I got it...

Seem to have got myself into gear today.  I paid the odd £17.25 off my student loans which takes is down to  a round £500 (and also means I have set Student Loans up as a payee now to make it even easier).  I have also increased our monthly mortgage payment to £800, giving us a monthly overpayment of £200.

I just need to ring our payroll dept this afternoon to pay the £80.35 of my pension arrears I've accrued while on maternity leave.  Although I've been reading about Mabel and Maisy's pension dilemma and it is making me question how sensible it is to continue with a pension these days  I'm not brave enough to stop paying into mine but it has made me think about other possible income streams.


Friday, 10 August 2012

What to buy for a first birthday?

It is fast approaching Little J's first birthday and I'm stumped for what to get her (or what NOT to get her).  A lot of people subscribe to the idea that they are too young to remember it so don't waste your money.  I partly agree with this and to be honest we already have too many toys that we have been given or purchased from charity shops.  I've already had several friends and family ask what she wants as well...

I've been looking on several websites but can't come up with anything that isn't a variation of what we already have.  Any ideas for a first birthday gift (preferably slightly educational!) would be greatly accepted.


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Lovely creamy, yet money saving pie

I made this recipe this evening for a chicken and bacon pie.  In my new frugal mentality I didn't want to spend money on cream or creme fraiche that I would only use one spoon of.  So I looked for a simple recipe using ingredients I had in the cupboard.

The pie filling was made with plain flour, stock and milk.  I wasn't hopeful it was going to be rich and creamy but I was pleasantly surprised and it was very tasty. Nom nom.

We tweaked the recipe here and there to be suitable for baby led weaning for Little J.

I would highly recommend it!


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Job dilemma

Since finding out I've got to go back to work full time in October I've come to terms with the fact and decided to really concentrate on paying off our mortgage.  I've discussed it with friends and family and got my head around it.  I've even been planning to find part-time work or work for myself when it is paid so I can be around to collect my daughter from school and be there in the holidays.

I've now found a really nice part-time job BUT it is only 18.5 hours AND a grade lower than I'm currently on.  It's put me in a tizzy.  Do I apply for it and shelve all my dreams of being mortgage free and possibly struggle financially for a while or do I continue with full-time work and pursue the dream? EEkk!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Nectar bonus!

I got two statements for my Nectar card this week.  One for my current card and one in my maiden name.  Both had a considerable amount of points on them and but I never realised that I had two accounts.

I contacted the nice people at Nectar via email and within 48 hours they had arranged for my points from my old card to be transferred to my current one.  I now have a balance of £65!  The temptation is to buy something nice for myself but in my new 'lets pay off the mortgage' state of mind I know I should put it towards something sensible like Little J's birthday present or Christmas.

I also never knew you could collect points from Amazon or eBay.  We buy loads of stuff from these sites so I need to get a bit more savvy with things like this!


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Student loan - nearly there!

I received a statement from Student Loans at the weekend and with it came a letter explaining that I had nearly finished paying it off!  They have asked me if I can set up a direct debit rather than having it taken from my salary as I will overpay what I owe if I don't.  What an old fashioned and archaic system they have!

I have a little over £500 left to pay so I'm hoping that can be sorted out and paid off before Christmas.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Who needs bleach when you have the sun?

This weather is lovely isn't it?  And what a lovely discovery I made yesterday.

I was hanging the washing out (a rare occurrence these days) when I discovered one of little J's t-shirts still had bean stains down the front of it.  I hung it out anyway thinking I would pop it back in the wash basket for the next load of washing or give it a little soak.  Low and behold when I got the washing in later that day all the stains had vanished.  Amazing!

If only we had more weather like this.  All our clothes would look pristine!


Friday, 20 July 2012

New life, new budget

Now I've discovered that I'm returning to full-time work in October I have started to think about our new budget.  I'm amazed at how well we've coped on statutory maternity pay and the last two months with no pay at all.  I did save some money while I was pregnant to cover the bills etc but I've managed to open an ISA with what we haven't touched.  This made me wonder what we used to spend our money on...

I've been doing a bit of research into budgeting and I am quite taken by zero based budgeting.  The gist of it is you allocate all your pay to different categories and technically have nothing left at the beginning of the month.  You have to factor in your 'fun money' and haircuts, dentists etc but I like the idea of it and think it could work for us.  This way I get to choose the overpayment we make on the mortgage rather than it just being whatever is left over at the end of the month.

You can read more about zero based budgeting here.


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

MFW 2012 - Better get my skates on!

Those of you familiar with moneysavingexpert.com (I just love Martin!) with probably know of their brilliant forums and some of the challenges which go one there.  Back in December I joined on of the challenges on the Mortgage Free Wannabe forum and pledged to pay off £3,000 off our mortgage in 2012.

In hindsight it was a bit ambitious at the time as I was on maternity leave but I have been chipping away at it £100 a month since February and I think it might just be possible to reach the £3k target by December.  I'm currently at £600 paid off with a bit in savings allocated for the pesky mortgage.  I'll 'do the math' and get a total figure soon.

You can find details of the challenge here.  I'm number 71.


Friday, 13 July 2012

I'm gonna use it up...wear it out...

Reading some great blogs has made me realise that I have LOADS of stuff in the house that I just don't use.  Not stuff like excessive clothing or shoes but stuff like half used pots of moisturiser, make up, perfume samples etc.  Now all this stuff is perfectly usable and I vow to use it up before I go out and buy more.

A quick sweep of the bedroom and bathroom reveals:

  • 3 shampoo and conditioners (From our trip to Centre Parcs)
  • 2 Hotel bath foams
  • 2 Hotel shower gels (I see a pattern forming here - I cant just leave them in the hotel as I've technically paid for them!)
  • 2 Spray deodorants
  • Several sample sachets of shampoo, moisturiser and conditioner
  • 1 pot day cream
  • 2 Fizz ease type products
  • Benefit benetint, blusher and highlighter (left over from our wedding nearly 5 years ago - not sure if they are still safe to use?)
  • 2 Soaps
  • 3 Packs of face wipes
  • 3 Shower gels
  • 1 Footgel
  • 1 Lip balm
  • 3 Handcreams
  • 3 Cuticle creams
Now I see it all written out it seems like I cant resist taking things home from a hotel, keeping samples from magazines and storing up bits given to me for Christmas to use 'as a treat'.  They are taking over the bathroom cabinet so I need to use them up NOW!  And it should also save us a few quid in the process...


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Reuseable nappies - are they worth the effort?

When I was pregnant I became almost obsessed with researching reusable nappies.  I loved the prints, I loved that they were environmentally friendly and I especially loved the fact they would save us money in the long run.

After much deliberation I purchased several different birth to potty nappies which we have been using since Little J was 6 weeks old.  On the whole I love them and cant imagine using disposables.  I wont deny they can be hard work but once you get your own system in place it just becomes part of the routine.  And it is all worth it when you tell someone you use washable nappies - their face is usually one of admiration or disgust!

Here are a few questions I am frequently asked:

How many nappies do you have?
I have 15 reusable nappies in total which are all birth to potty.  I have a variety of makes from Bumgenius to totsbots and even some cheap ones from eBay.  This number seems to suit our routine well.

What sort of nappies are they?
I chose birth to potty as they seemed to be the best value for money.  I have a couple of all in ones, 8 pocket nappies and 5 fitted nappies with a wrap.  All the terminology can be confusing so do your research first (I've recommended some websites below) to see what suits.  I find different nappies are good for different things. I always plump for fitted nappies with a wrap for long car journeys as they absolutely never leak for us.  The pocket nappies dry really quickly (overnight hung in the kitchen) and the all in ones are compact and are great for popping in the change bag when you are going out.

How much do they cost?
They can vary vastly but if you buy in bulk and take advantage of offers then I usually pay around £10 for a nappy.  The cheap ones from eBay cost about £4 each but I got these to top up my stash.  While they work well at the moment they don't appear to be as hard wearing as the other ones.

Dont forget many local councils give you money to use them.  I got a £25 cheque when I spent £50 or more on washable nappies. All I had to do was send a copy of the receipt.

How often do you wash and dry them?
I wash them twice a week.  I usually do a rinse first with a dash of tea tree oil then a 60deg wash.  They don't smell at all when they come out.  A few of them have a few stains that don't come out but as long as they are clean I don't mind - who sees the inside of a nappy anyway?

Whenever possible I dry them on the line.  However, in reality and this being the wettest year EVER, I have two peg racks (which I think are for socks and underwear) which I hang in the kitchen or living room.  No, they don't look great and I do try and move them if we are having visitors.

Would I do it again?
YES!  Plus the more you use them the cheaper they get! Or you can still get a good price for used nappies on eBay.

Where can I find out more info about reusable nappies?
The Nappy Lady - Great advice.  Check out her videos, they tell you everything you need to know!
Go Real - Loads of info and links to local sellers.

Reusable nappies can be addictive - you have been warned!

If anyone has any questions about reusable nappies just leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer them.


Thursday, 28 June 2012

My house is full of plastic tut!

When I was pregnant I thought we would have beautiful wooden and educational toys which would fit seamlessly into our country cottage style house.  How wrong could I be?  Little J likes nothing more than a brightly coloured piece of plastic tut which usually takes lots of obscure sized batteries.  I need to teach that lady about style.

No where is the off switch...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The pesky mortgage

As we enter a new phase in our lives, we have decided to start trying to pay off the mortgage in as little time as possible.  I've played about with the figures many, many times (bordering on the obsessional) and have come up with a rough plan to have an overall goal of ten years - 01/07/2022.  The overpayments seem reasonable for this goal (extra £425 per month) and we could manage even with the extra cost of childcare.  But once you start playing with the figures...

So I started wondering if we could do it quicker, perhaps have my 40th birthday as a target which would take it down to 7 years and 6 months.  This gives us an overpayment of £750 per month which would be incredibly challenging and would mean looking for savings in just about every area we spend on.  But if you are going to take on a challenge then you might as well go for it, eh?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Say yes, yes, yes to second hand!

We were incredibly lucky when I was pregnant and was offered lots of bits and pieces that friends and family who had older children were getting rid of.  Not to look a gift horse in the mouth I readily accepted anything and everything.  So much so that practically the only thing we really need to buy for little J was a pram and car seat!

I know that some people would shudder at the thought of hand-me-downs for their brand new baby but it honestly saved us a small fortune.  And the little ones wont remember or know if their tiny babygros they wore twice were preloved!

From memory, here is a list of things we have been given so far (we are still getting things now!):

  • Clothes (lots of!)
  • Vests
  • Babygros
  • Socks
  • Blankets
  • Books
  • Bumbo
  • Toys
  • Teddies
  • Baby shampoo
  • Growbag
  • Leapfrog learning table
  • Baby walker
  • Door bouncer
  • Cot mobile
  • Stair gate
  • Potties (wont need these for a while but every little helps, eh?)
Thanks to everyone who gave us stuff - we realise we have been very lucky.  To return the favour we will be passing it all on to the next unsuspecting victim!


Friday, 22 June 2012

Back to work....Boo

Just found out that I have to go back to work full-time, I'm disappointed to say the least.  Trying to look on the positive side though...we can have a cleaner (because of course I would have cleaned the whole house on my extra day off ;) ), we can focus on paying off the pesky mortgage and we can focus our weekends solely on spending time with little J.

How does everyone else cope working full-time and looking after children and the home? I've probably got a couple of months maternity leave to get myself in a routine!


Monday, 9 January 2012

A new chapter

Since having a baby in September 2011 I've not done much in the way of reading, gardening and have had to give up our allotment :(

There will be a change of direction for this blog now. I'm hoping to chart the challenges of baby led weaning and review/comment on all things baby.

Here we go on a new journey...