16th August 2019

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.

Friday (today) was payday and it’s my day off so I’m spending today doing admin and tweaking all of my standing orders and direct debits. I’ve also got some good news later in the post but first some build up:

I’m paying off debts each month but it irritates me that I don’t seem to be able to stick to an already fairly generous budget. I was allowing myself £80 per week for all my groceries, social and miscellaneous purchases – think post office, pharmacy, shoelaces, Amazon, that sort of thing – yet consistently I’m spending £85 to £90 ish per week. Some weeks I do manage to stay in budget, but when I go over it tends to be by £20 to £30 so it evens out. (I wrote down all my monthly spends for my grocery, misc & social account since June and divided by 4 to get a rough idea of what I spend weekly). It tends to be the social stuff that takes me over, as one week I’ll barely go out, and next week I’ll party all night – which is why I’m trialing separating my social budget out and handling that on a monthly basis instead. I’m allowing myself £60 pw for groceries & misc and about £100 pm for social. For example: this week I only spent £5.40 on social. At the end of August though I’m going on a night out so that could get expensive.

Still, I’m a single adult with no kids (one dog) and only energy for one social activity a week… I should not be spending this much!

I’m thinking part of it might be that I keep buying fresh veg every week rather than frozen. But the frozen stuff isn’t as good! And maybe every meal doesn’t need to have 6 types of veg in. Moving to tinned tomatoes and frozen veg would probably save a lot, especially when those items aren’t the focus of the meal.

I’m looking through what I bought on Tuesday and I honestly cant see anywhere I could cut back, other than switch out fresh veg for frozen. I didn’t buy any crisps or sweets or snacks apart from those cereal bars which stop me shopping hungry. The most expensive thing I got was chicken, but I got the cheapest brand and I’m cooking for several days and even then it was £3-and-change. The second most expensive things I got were Conditioner and Coffee Syrup, which were £2.95/£2.98… ok so the coffee syrup is a luxury, but its under £3 and lasts weeks. I’ve written a date on this bottle to track exactly how long it lasts but p sure its roughly a month. Basically everything else except my dumb dairy free margarine was under £1, I spent £18 for roughly 3 days of food. I buy the cheapest brands, or at most the step above, but usually it’s all smartprice. I’m just a hungry hungry person.

I’ve also set up a new standing order – £10 a month to save up for Pride. It comes every year, so why dont I save up for it? Every year I over spend at Pride and I’m just like “oh well, that’s Pride” but I knew I was going months back. Might as well give it a shot. Hopefully I won’t need the whole £120 for Pride, but then again if I go to two events I might do.

Still: Wednesday was a No Spend Day, my first since starting this diary! I’ve had NSD’s before, obviously, but I’m tracking them for the first time. Maybe that should be a points category on my sticker chart? I’ll have to investigate that. But in an amazing lack of foresight I managed to book a dog groom for Friday, when I wasn’t sure if payday was Friday or Monday…

Thursday was not a NSD, I met my gaming group in the evening, but I only spent £5.40. We meet in a board game cafe and we need to pay for table time. Unfortunately they have a minimum card payment of £5 and I never carry physical cash anymore (it’s not a rule or anything, just unnecessary, I only have this problem in this one cafe). I’ve got into the habit of buying a coffee and a lemonade at the same time as paying for the table, it just clips over £5 so I can pay by card. And we’re there for hours, so two drinks isnt unreasonable.

I made more curry than I realised, Wednesday’s dinner plus a further 6 portions for packed lunches and dinner. So I only need to buy for about 2 more meals, which I’ll do after the dog groom when I know how much is left in my weekly spends (although I got paid, it doesn’t hit my weekly spends account until Monday).

I think my priorities might shift in the new year – if they havent already. I’m feeling more relaxed about the cc debt now I’ve read up and realise it’s not costing me in my 0% period. So should my priority be the Emergency Savings then? I think I should be able to pay off my smaller Santander card and my Argos card by Christmas. This is for a few reasons: partly for some easy wins, partly because it’ll be easier to do a balance transfer from one card instead of 3, and partly the largest card actually has the longest 0% period left on it. I don’t know exactly when it is, but if it’s the only balance remaining then I might be able to wait until March or so to do a balance transfer, which will extend the life of my 0% period on the next card.

In January (or whenever) it’ll move to a new card and my 0% period will reset. When I do that I’ll buy a laptop immediately, so I have the most amount of time to pay it off before it charges. I really want that laptop to be my last ever cc purchase, but my current laptop wont last long enough to pay off debts and save up to buy outright. I had a brief glance at Barclays and their longest 0% period on balance transfers and purchases was 28 months.

If we took today’s debt figure (£1500ish, though should be less by January) plus a new laptop (£1000) then divide by 24 months (so theres a buffer) that’s about £105pm. Doable, but hopefully it’ll be lower as I’ll have paid off some by January. In my the direct debits for August haven’t gone out yet – because my contract says I get paid on the 19th most of my DD and SO are set up fpr the 22nd – 25th ish. Work is in the habit of paying 2-3 days early though, which is why I got paid today.

Also, every month recently I’ve put £75 to one side. I wait until the end of the month then, if I haven’t used it, pay that £75 onto a credit card. Its separate enough I cant accidentally spend it but it’s there if I truly need it. However, I’ve readjusted my budget now in light of this month’s Good News (more on that in a moment) so that won’t be happening now. I’m aiming for a budget a bit closer to YNAB’s vision, where every pound is assigned a role and if I make a mistake some of them get reassigned.

So I suppose it’s time for that Good News?


I managed by more than I thought I would as well. I thought my overdraft was at £150, so when my bank said Account Balance £75 Available £175 I thought I had £50 pending transactions and only £25 real money left. Turns out my overdraft was only £100 so I genuinely had £75 left.

This is actually about 4 or 5 months earlier than planned. I planned to reduce my overdraft by £50pm but last month I reduced it by £150 and this month I got out entirely. Obviously this now frees up some money in my budget as I no longer have to set aside money for overdraft fees and reducing the overdraft. I cancelled the overdraft on my account entirely so I can’t go back into it.

So I’ve spent a few hours pouring over my spreadsheets this morning, changing standing orders and direct debits. Among other things I’ve actually also increased my pension contributions from 3% to 5% – although that comes straight from my paycheck so that wont kick in until next month. I read a good rule of thumb is to divide the age you start saving by half and save that – so for me, 13%. But that 13% includes employer contribution and if I save 5% work puts in 8% so it’s all good.

I’ve also changed my mobile phone tariff to get more data. I keep buying extra data add ons and the amount I’m spending on add ons is less than the amount it costs to go up a tier so I just bit the bullet and did that. I now have way too much data but at least I can’t run up more charges on that.

I did have to make a couple of phone calls today. In particular, my Argos card. When I legally changed my name in June, right after they changed it on my Argos card they mixed me up with a deceased customer and took some debt off my account. They noticed it before I did and put the debt back on (boo) but I didn’t realise until yesterday that the debt they took off was on a buy now pay later plan expiring in February but the debt they put back on was on a normal credit plan (grr). So I called them up and they’ll fix it within a week. However about half an hour/an hour later I decided to take that £75 I was above the overdraft and pay it directly onto my Argos card, so I don’t know if I threw a spanner in the works doing that. The other phonecall I had to make was for the larger CC. Through work I’m supposed to get the fee for that card refunded, but the last time that happened was March. They’ve logged a request to get that sorted too, so I should get 5 months of £3 refunded and the fee should be refunded automatically every month after that like it used to.

I’ve decided to start saving into my Emergency Savings again. I’m a bit nervous about how things are going with my housemate, I’m not sure if we’re getting on (she’s not about much). £700 is technically enough for a new rental deposit, but she never asked for a deposit for here so I won’t get anything back for here and it never hurts to have some extra set aside. I mentioned earlier that I put £75 aside each month? At the end of the pay-month just gone I had two lots of £75, the one I put aside at the start of the month and the one left in my account at the end. I paid the one left in my account directly onto my Argos card. Of the £75 I put aside, I put £50 into my Emergency Savings and £25 onto a different credit card, so now I have £750 of Emergency Savings.

As I said, I want my new budget to be a bit closer to the spirit of YNAB, so the new budget shows only £8 without a job – and to be honest if that is left at the end of the month it’s going onto a CC so it’s not really jobless. It makes me really nervous to have it that low, I prefer to have a buffer. But I’m overpaying into my social spends – I’m actually putting £120 a month into that account when I don’t think I’ll need that much – and I’ve started savings £100pm into my Emergency Savings again, which can be adjusted if need be. I’ve also upped my Christmas Savings from £10pm to £15pm and my H2B ISA from £5pm to £25pm. And there’s the new Pride Savings of £10pm. All exciting stuff!

As of today, my debts are:
Argos Card £134.94
Red Santander Card: £359.01
Black Santander Card: £978.47
Total: £1472.42
But the payment I sent today wont’ have processed yet and the DD will go next week (although the DD for the Red Card wont be £100 until next month, I’ll have to do that manually).

I’m treating myself tonight to a take out… my friend showed me this app called Too Good To Go, which sells off spare food from restaurants for rock bottom prices. It cost me £4 and I collect it later tonight. Only issue is that it’s a surprise what I get, so people with allergies may struggle. But it’s a treat for me!

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