2017 is my year to ace managing my money. I don’t think I’m terrible with my finances but man being a family of 5 is a financial challenge! I am in a situation where unexpected expenses, like a broken washing machine or a big car repair bill are a headache. I don’t think I am an extravagant spender or am spending recklessly but I have a feeling there must be lots of little tweaks and improvements that I could make. This year I am challenging myself to become a money master!
Knowledge is power
I spend time wishing I had more money however I am a bit hazy on the details of my everyday spending. I am definitely guilty of only giving my bank statements a cursory glance. I’m never that sure what my current balance is. I know what direct debits I pay and roughly when they come out of my account. But I’m a bit vague on exactly what I pay for things like my phone contact and energy supplies.
I don’t carry much cash with me. I have a bad habit of paying for most things by card and use contactless payments wherever I can. Although it is really convenient it does mean I’m not really paying attention to how much things cost – it almost doesn’t feel like real money!
You manage what you measure
My first step to being a money master is to pay attention! I’ve found a few easy ways to do this. These are baby steps I know but I’ve got to start somewhere!
Spending log – I’ve found a really simple way to trick myself into being more conscious about my spending. I’ve bought a little notebook and started making a note of everything I spend. I have gone from absent mindedly making contactless payments to asking for receipts and diligently noting my spending and my bank balance at the end of each day.
Already my spending log has made me think twice about buying things. I needed to go into town this week to exchange something. I would normally seen this as a good chance to do a little browsing and maybe to treat myself but I resisted. I also like to buy a cappuccino from a local cafe when I’m in the office now I’ve realised how much they cost I am going to keep it to an occasional treat!
Bank statements – I sat down yesterday and for the first time in ages and looked at my bank statement in detail. I wanted to get a better idea of what all my regular payments are what are my biggest areas of spending are. There were more cafe related transactions than I care to admit to! Amazon also features quite heavily.
Spending analysis app – I also stumbled across an app from my bank that breaks down all of your spending into categories. Downloading this and looking at my outgoings over the last year was eye opening! I spend an incredible amount on supermarket shopping – nearly every month Tesco comes out as the place where I have spent the most money. I always think that my boys are eating us out of house and home and now I have the evidence to prove it!
One of the reasons that I spend so much money on supermarket shopping is that I am always popping to the local Tesco store near to my house for bits and pieces. They mainly stock premium brands and Tesco finest items – not exactly budget friendly! I am also like popping into our local Waitrose, I’m a sucker for the free coffee.
Today I took a trip to Aldi to see what savings I could make on supermarket shopping. I was completely amazed! I bought a trolley full of shopping (61 items in total). This included a bottle of wine and 5 lots of fresh meat. It came to a total of £60.88! We will have to see which Aldi products we like – so far the kids have given the smoothies I bought a big thumbs up. I am blown away by the green tea bags I bought which were only 35p a packet. I cannot tell the difference between them and the £1.50 ones I usually buy.
I am slightly skeptical as to whether the washing liquid tablets can be as good as the Ariel ones that I currently use. The last pack of Ariel I bought works out at 33p per wash (I think this might have been an offer price). The Aldi equivalent work out at 14p per wash. It is worth a try!
My last online Tesco order, a similar size shop of 65 items, cost £107. This isn’t a totally fair comparison as some of the things that I bought were different but I’m still blown away by the price difference. Aldi is over the other side of town to us but with a bit of planning it should be possible to switch our main supermarket to Aldi for at least one big monthly shop.
Money saving bore?
I was a bit concerned that all of this focus on money and saving could get really boring. Would it become like doing a strict diet when you just end up obsessing about food? I came across a really good tip on YouTube, from the fab Marie Forleo. She calls it “Bring Your Own Luxury” finding ways to use what you already have to create little treats and nice experiences.
I realised that I’m not making the most of the lovely things I already have. For example I have a really good electric toothbrush but I’m using a manual brush because I haven’t got around to recharging it – I went and had a search for the adapter that I need to get it working again. When I was getting ready for work this week I used some lovely body cream and perfume that had been sitting untouched on my bathroom shelf. To stop money saving feeling like a chore I’m going to keep looking for ways to treat myself with what I already have.
I think my money saving mission is going to be a bit of an evolving thing. I’m sure there are lots of things that I can do and I’m going to keep my eyes open for ideas. Next on the list is seeing if I can get a cheaper mobile phone contact and to look into switching my energy supplier.
I’ll post some updates as the year goes on to report on how I’m getting on.