Budgeting archive

In May 2012 I had my baby son and started maternity leave for the second time, knocking my family income down by over £800 per month. Surviving on Statutory Maternity Pay taught me to budget, and how to feed a family of four on only £20 a week. Nowadays I'm back to working, but still juggling the demands of two school-aged children against the reality of self-employed income.

Oh Bugger (Budgeting Fail)

I made a terrible, terrible mistake in June.

I ignored my budget, forgot to check my online banking statements regularly, and made a big ‘luxury’ purchase (last minute half week “glamping” break) in the same month as a big necessary purchase (car tax). What with that, bills, childcare, mortgage, new shoes for Isabel etc my bank balance was officially lower yesterday than the day before pay day. I am in my overdraft at the beginning of the month for the first time ever.

I’m telling you this because a) it proves that even the most frugal of us make stupid, stupid mistakes sometimes, and b) because I need the accountability and the kick up the arse to motivate myself to go back into mega-frugal mode… the kind of frugal I rocked when I was on maternity leave. Meal plans, packed lunches, budgets, spreadsheets: you name it, I’m on it.

It’s too late to cancel the glamping break and get my money back but I’ve (sadly) dropped 2 ongoing payments to WAHMs for work on WAHMweb, put a crapload of maternity clothes and shoes up for sale, and resolved to cancel a bunch more domains. It’s not going to make me any money — that’s another topic altogether — but it’s a start. August WILL start better than this.

Project £20k: Holy F***!

I recently mentioned on twitter that I had successfully secured my domain with a .uk TLD, taking my total up to some 43 domains. Domains are cheap — little more than a bottle of wine — why worry about owning a healthy collection, right?

Except that therein lies a problem that I’ve clearly been ignoring for years: domains are only cheap one at a time. Much like when you go into the shop for a bottle of milk and spend a tenner on junk that you don’t need, buying domains forces your hand into renewing domains, the cost of hosting and in some cases the add-on of WHOIS protection for another couple of bucks.

As it turns out, I’ve been spending over £300 per year on domains. And then another £675+ on 3 different hosting accounts to keep each site live. Over £1000 of outgoing web-related costs for some 5 years or more. That’s a quarter of my Project £20k goal without even thinking about it. At over £83 per month it’s roughly a fifth of my monthly mortgage repayment, or a month’s shopping, or 2 days at nursery for one of the kids, or a month’s petrol, or anything way more bloody important than a bunch of websites that sit there taking up my time for sod all reward.

Holy fuck.

If I’m going to raise £20,000 I need to be saving more money than I spend and I’m not going to do that wasting money on half-arsed websites! After a little persuasion from Gaz, I cancelled 6 domains and listed 6 more for sale (to try and cover costs) on the namecheap marketplace – they’ll be cancelled if they don’t sell. I will probably cancel a handful more before the year is out. I’m merging two of my hosting accounts to bring the cost down by ~£200.

I am aiming to halve my yearly outgoing web costs and meet goal 9 of my 14 things for 2014 too. Wish me luck…

Starting Project £20k

After having a good moan about my financial / housing situation post-split from Karl, which ended on a jokey note about a project £15k, I thought well… actually, why don’t I start a new project? And why aim for £15,000 — that would mean I’d still need £5k from the bank — why not aim for the full £20k? And so Project £20k was born.

I need to raise £20,000 in a short a time span as possible so that I can buy Karl out of the mortgage without having to take on any extra debt.

Looking back at my original Mortgage Free in 5 Years? post I had the following money-making ideas:

  • Selling stuff on ebay/preloved/whatever
  • Increasing sign-ups on the WAHM web hosting network
  • Get back into affiliate marketing

On top of that I know I need to:

  • Finish my WAHM website ebook and release it (£)
  • Make better use of advertising on my non-personal websites so that they actually make me money (if nothing else but to cover hosting!)
  • Step up my game with my freelance shit and get a dual income thing going on
  • Finish & release my “Jem’s mail form” form generator (£)

Beyond that, going back to basics with the budgeting, meal planning, and not wasting money on crap would be a good start. And if anyone has £20,000 lying around they don’t need…

For Sale: One Kidney

My housing status is basically an unstable mess. I have no idea where I will be living in 6 months time, and part of that is because Karl and I own an equal share of this house and one of us will have to buy the other out at some point (or sell up and split the proceeds 50/50 which is my least desired path at the minute).

The problem with this is, of course, is finding the money to go down this route. Because of my earning potential I have a tentative nod from our current mortgage company to increase the mortgage but I am looking at an addition of circa £20,000 – with the obvious side effect that the more I lend, the more my monthly outgoings are going to be (at a time when I need to get them as low as possible).

On the other side of the coin — if Karl buys me out or we need to sell up — I then have to find the money to put down a deposit on a house of my own OR make a significant headway on rent so that I can get settled into somewhere.

Because there’s no guarantee that the house would even sell even if we tried to do that, and because I don’t really WANT to loan an additional £20,000 from the bank, I fear my only option is to sell a kidney raise as much money as possible in as short a time frame as possible.

My “mortgage free in five years” project is about to become a “raise £15k in as short a time frame as possible” project…!

The truth about earning money from surveys

I’ve lost count of the amount of times someone has suggested to me that filling in surveys online are a great source of easy work at home income. Everyone seems to have a story about their great aunt’s on their dad’s side or cousin twice removed who makes hundreds of pounds a day filling in a few simple surveys.

I call nonsense!

Back when I first started working from home, I signed up to a few survey sites to fill up the odd spare 5 or 10 minutes. I figured if I could earn a tenner or so a month while supping a coffee it was money I could put towards my jaffa cake habit. Unfortunately, despite having signed up to 4 different survey sites nearly 2 years ago, the closest I’ve come to my tenner is with PanelOpinion, & even then you have to have a pretty lenient definition of close because I’ve only accrued £1.90

Unfortunately, surveys pay really REALLY low amounts, usually around 20 pence for a 10 minute survey (and that’s even if you qualify, for most of which I don’t!) By my calculations I’d need to qualify for and complete 50 x 20 pence surveys to get my £10, and that’s going to take me around 8 hours and 20 minutes. Now, I know that minimum wage is fairly crap in this country but it’s definitely more than the £1.20 per hour I’d be “working” at for that jaffa cake money.

Is my time worth just £1.20 per hour? No. Is your time worth just £1.20 per hour? I’m going to suggest that no, it probably isn’t. Nobody should be working for £1.20 an hour. There has to be better ways to make money from home.

New Job, New Budget

One of the first things I did this month after starting my new job was to set up a new bank account. It’s not that new work necessitates a change of banking details, I’m just slightly paranoid that my old details are splashed all over every invoice etc from self-employment. Plus, a better rate of pay means I can get a supposedly better bank account… that is, until childcare fees are deducted (whine!) I’ve gone with First Direct because they have the best reviews for customer service, easy online & telephone access and £100 cashback for any new customer who switches their account. Free money, yay!

Talking of money: I’ve also started basic planning for my new budget. The past 12 months or so as self-employed meant that although budgeting was super important, I didn’t actually get the time to keep on track of mortgage overspends, extra savings, extra passive income streams etc basically because I’ve had NO TIME. We’ve stuck to a low food budget but not gone much further. The grand plan now is to start pushing my mortgage-free goal in the hope that we really can be mortgage free in 5 years (and we have some catching up to do).

Although I’ve been profitable since I went self-employed I’m a little paranoid about the months where things were not so great; where I slipped into my overdraft (and that’s another reason to move bank account – my old one was charging!) or had to move money around to make sure things were on an even keel until a strong month came along again. I’m keeping an eye on my credit rating using the Experian CreditExpert service (who are on topcashback if you’re a member) and everything is – touch wood – fine. Our fixed mortgage term ends this year though and I’m not sure how important it is that your credit rating remains strong in case you want to move your mortgage? I’m guessing “very” is the answer to that question. I am acutely aware that the interest rate we’ve got was the best on the market at the time and it’s not going to stay that way (and that we should have put more against the mortgage 2 years ago!)

The rest of the budget plan is basically about making money rather than – as well as, should I say – saving it. I need to make my websites self-sufficient in terms of hosting and domains costs, which means pushing revenue streams from premium support or paid downloads and the like. I’ve got monetising ideas for my mail form and desperately need to do something about WAHMweb. GirlsWhoGeek, rev.iew.me, my Jem on WordPress blog – it’s make or break for several of my sites this year. I can’t afford to spend upwards of £1000 on hobby sites that are only bringing in a few pence a month (if that). Ideas on a postcard…

Slow Cooker Pork & Meal Plans 11/08-17/08

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I bought a bigger slow cooker to try and frugalise (is that a word?) some of the meals I’m used to making by reducing the fuel cost to cook them. Having made a few ‘easy’ meals with success I spotted some bargain pork this weekend in the Co-op and decided to get that instead of chicken this week.

Having struggled to find a cooking guide online for slow cookers and meat, I whacked it in on a bed of apple and carrot with a couple of inches of water, salt rubbed in the fatty bits in an attempt to make crackling post-slow cooking. 6hrs on high and we’re currently on the last 20 mins or so. I’ll let you know how it fares after I’ve whacked it in the oven.

Anyway, assuming I don’t poison everyone with the pork, here’s this week’s recipes:

  • Sun 11th: ‘Roast’ pork with various veg, roasties & yorkshire pud
  • Mon 12th Slow cooker jacket potatoes
  • Tue 13th: Pork & courgette pasta
  • Wed 14th: Pizza night (early because we’re camping)
  • Thu 15th: Porky stew & dumplings
  • Fri 16th: CAMPING!
  • Sat 17th: CAMPING!

Ps. sod’s law having nearly done my pork I’ve just spotted the Slow Cooker Queen ‘Roast Pork with Crackling’

Meal Plan 04/08-10/08

Bit uninspired this week :P

  • Sun 4th: Roast chicken, mash, veg
  • Mon 5th: Creamy salmon pasta inspired by Jack (adjusted to make it dairy free/suitable for my fusspots)
  • Tue 6th: Chicken soup from carcass
  • Wed 7th: Mince & tatties
  • Thu 8th: Beany mince / salad filled pittas
  • Fri 9th: Pizza night
  • Sat 10th: Curry? probably

FYI if you want to get some ideas from my meal plans, you can browse the entire meal plan tag. We eat a lot of similar things mind you.

Meal Plan 21/07 – 27/07

Bit more veg this week, except tonight’s “meal” (don’t ask)

  • Sun 14th: Meatballs & mash
  • Mon 15th: Spaghetti hoops on toast (‘oops’ disorganised night)
  • Tue 16th: Slow ‘roast’ veg & crusty homemade bread
  • Wed 17th: Macaroni Peas (adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday)
  • Thu 18th: Sausage & chips
  • Fri 19th: Pizza night
  • Sat 20th: Wrinkly veg soup

Meal Plan 14/07 – 20/07

Making the most of leftovers and the freezer this week, with short-dated prawns and pork frozen from previous supermarket shops & Tuesday’s pie made from tonights pot roast.

  • Sun 14th: BBQ leftovers & sandwiches/salad
  • Mon 15th: Beef brisket pot roast
  • Tue 16th: Beef & mushroom pie
  • Wed 17th: Prawny pasta bake
  • Thu 18th: Egg, chips & beans/peas
  • Fri 19th: Pizza night
  • Sat 20th: ‘Chinese’ spiced pork steaks & egg fried rice

A bit meaty this week, so I think next week might have to be mostly veg to compensate.

Cat run & the all weather drying solution

Last year we built a cat run. The original plan was to have one built for us by a guy who specialises in bespoke wooden runs but after 2 visits he went quiet and despite numerous calls and emails we’ve never heard anything back.

Anyway, we did some searching and found some metal run panels designed for commercial kennels etc on doghealth.co.uk & and figured they’d be the perfect self-assembly solution. Not quite as attractive as a wooden run but some outside space for the cats at last.

Crumble cat in outdoor run
Crumble surveying ‘her’ space


Meal Plan 30/06 – 06/07

I’ve been up and down with my meal plans lately, trying to find a system that works for me. The most productive way I have found seems to be to plan from Sunday through to the following Saturday. That allows me to buy a piece of meat / chicken / whatever for Sunday and incorporate that into the meals for the week that follows.

The meat for this week was some reduced price ‘Chinese’ spiced pork loin steaks which will feed us Sun + Mon with 2 leftover for next week. Meals planned as follows:

  • Sun 30: Pork steaks & mash
  • Mon 01: Pork stir fry
  • Tue 02: Prawn curry (prawns were short dated & reduced, frozen when I got home)
  • Wed 03: Toad in the hole (sausies short dated & reduced)
  • Thu 04: Jacket potatoes & salad or beans
  • Fri 05: Pizza night
  • Sat 06: Out at nephew’s birthday party

This weeks shopping was bought at Tesco and even with vouchers & reduced price stuff we spent double what we’d have spent in Aldi. Just goes to show how easy it is to get sucked into the glossy marketing of the big supermarkets even as a savvy shopper.