These posts were originally posted on the MoneySavingForums (a UK money management site), I am moving my journals across to WordPress to have them in chronological order. I’m not sure how much of other people’s words I’m allowed to copy across from one site to another, so in some sections I may summarise conversations.
Hi again! Thanks for all your kind replies so far. I don’t want to spam this with posts so I’m typing it up on a word document for a few days and posting when I have enough to say. Still, I think for the first few weeks I might have a lot to say.
So after I posted my first post on Monday I came across the concept of “No Spend Days”… or more accurately, the concept of tracking them and actively aiming for them. Unfortunately on Monday I bought some items from Amazon – two plant pots which I need, my spider plants are escaping their current ones, and a book I suppose I don’t need but do want – so Monday was not a NSD.
Tuesday I had to go food shopping. Luckily there’s a fairly cheap supermarket near me (I’ve noticed some people censoring brand names on these threads so I won’t name names but think lime green) so my food shop doesn’t cost too much. I was hoping to leave the food shop until Wednesday but I realised I didn’t have much by way of breakfast food. 😡
I think the main thing I do that has cut down my spends is to batch cook/meal prep. I cook three to four days worth of dinners and work lunches at once and portion it up into little tubs. It helps at work because our work is right in the centre of town and there are so many food places, especially a McDonalds which we are right opposite. Right. Opposite. Directly. It’s maddening. And a nearby site of ours which I go to sometimes shares an air con system with Greggs for some reason so sometimes that branch smells of Greggs all day. But it’s easier to be strong with pasta in my bag. It also means I’m less likely to get take out in the evenings because I know I already don’t have to cook. I think in July and August so far I’ve only had one takeout and that was because I specifically wanted Indian. The only downside is then I’m sort of locked into the one meal for a few days. I don’t often have the time or energy to batch cook two meals and at a certain point expiration dates are a concern (how do I even judge that for home made items anyway?) so I literally eat the same meal for lunch and dinner for 3 or 4 days straight. Right now it’s penne bolognese. I eat a lot of pasta because it’s easy to batch cook.
Decided on curry for my next batch cook, with courgette and carrot and sweet potato and new potato and chicken and coconut milk. I’ll cook it Wednesday and hopefully it’ll last until Friday. I put cereal bars in my bag because sometimes I’m insanely hungry after work and that’s another time I’m likely to cave and nip into the McDonald’s opposite for a 99p burger. If I can get 6 cereals bars for £1 Then I’ve saved roughly 80p… it all adds up haha! Also stops me grocery shopping whilst hungry which is the real issue. I use the scan things at the supermarket that track how much my basket is so I can get an idea of how much I’ve spent so far that visit.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays with 02 priority I get a free coffee. Unfortunately they make me pay extra for coconut milk and caramel syrup (soya milk is free but gross). Still, I got a coffee shop coffee for 90p! :coffee: Also they me scan the loyalty app so I save up points for another free one. I’m hoping Wednesday will be a No Spend Day.
I’ve been reading up on this YNAB (“You Need A Budget”, for newbies like me) app and it sounds interesting. I don’t like their attitude to Debts though… I prefer MSE’s “pay off your debts before building an emergency fund” approach to YNAB’s “savings first then debt” approach. MSE’s just makes more sense to me. And whilst I like YNAB’s “give every dollar a job” rule, I don’t like their insistence on keeping everything in one account. I think I’m not disciplined enough yet for that, I think I’ll lose track of what I have left, of what money belongs to what fund. Sometimes it’s easier to separate it all out. I don’t think I’m dedicated enough to micromanage my money like they want yet though. Maybe once I’m out of debt/have healthier habits I’ll step it up a notch.
I thought I’d give an example of how the sticker chart is working for me. Most days the only points I earn the points are for bringing food into work (as opposed to buying lunch) – that’s 50 points. If I buy “lasting” food from Tesco (like bagels and ham that can last a few days at work) that’s only 25 points, buying hot food or takeout of some kind is -25 points. If I stay within my weekly spends that’s 50 points. It’s 2 points for every £1 not spent, or -5 points for every £1 overspent. I get 50 points if I’m able to pay anything extra onto my credit card, anything at all, then 2 points for every £1 I overpay… to differentiate between paying £1 on and £100 on. In July I started this system mid month but I earned 650 points for bringing food from home and lost 210 points for overspending (about £42, on Pride Week, and I saved about £15 on other weeks). Most of the points are given on a weekly basis and then there’s a bonus round at the end of the month. I’m doing something similar with exercise points as well so I have EXP and FXP. I’m trying to do that couch to 5k thingy… going well so far, on week 4.
So far this week I’ve spent more than I’m happy with considering its only Tuesday (about £44… 😮 I want to keep my grocery and social and miscellaneous spends under £80 a week) but I’ve only got the one social event this week and I know it’ll be £5-£6. Maybe Saturday and Sunday I’ll have to eat cheap. So, Wednesday Goals: Jog (ok, that’s not relevant to MSE, but it’s still a goal), cook curry, and achieve a day without spending.
By the way, I’m reading through a diary thread by “Spekysquarehead” who in March 2016 sounded like he was in a roughly similar position to me. I’ve read up to Nov 16 so far and he’s doing well. Inspiring stuff! I think he plans to debt free by Christmas 2016… No spoilers!
I’m considering separating out some of my spending categories. Right now, as I alluded to above, my groceries, Amazon-type, and social spends are all grouped together. I have a spare current account that I use intermittently and inefficiently at Barclays. I wonder if I should make that my “social spends” account and keep the groceries separate? Food for thought…