Thursday, 17 October 2013

How I keep on track

Hiya peeps, Nancy asked me a question..............

Do you write down every expenditure you make? Do you keep track somehow of all your expenses daily, weekly, monthly and annually? Or is this info "stored" in your head? Sorry in advance if you have talked about this in the past. I've only been reading your blog this year and it's one of my favorites. Thanks, Ilona.
Nancy from Northern California

Hello Nancy.
It’s easy for me, I don’t have much coming in and I don’t have much going out. As long as the outgoings don’t exceed the incomings then I know I am alright. I have been in this house for a long time, so I know pretty well how much I have to pay in gas, electricity, and water. I keep all my bills, I don't pay in advance on a monthly direct debit, I pay quarterly after I have used the services. I never get any nasty surprises like a higher than normal bill because I am always mindful to only switch things on when I need to, and turn them off when I have finished. The only exception to this is I have my computer on a lot, but communication is at the top of my priority list, so I don't mind.

My council tax is paid monthly for ten months of the year, and I pay it in cash. If anyone is struggling a bit they can spread the cost and change it to 12 monthly payments. I can manage my payments, I don't have to pay the full whack, 25% off for single occupancy and a reduced rate as I don't have any savings and a small income. I quite like the two months off in February/March.

I keep my direct debits to a minimum because I don't like the idea of money just disappearing out of my account. If I physically pay for things by cash or cheque it feels more real. I get a paper statement in the post every month which I check. I have a file of these going back about 15 years. I don't do internet banking, I don't trust it and I don't need to scrutinise my account that thoroughly. Thank goodness I am not sailing close to the wind any more, and have a little buffer if I need to pay for anything unexpected. Saying that I never take my eyes off the ball, never say oh stuff it and spend a wad of money. Everything I buy I think about first.

The direct debits I do have are broadband and landline combined. Seems the only way to pay for that these days. I have the car recovery coming out in April, and my hostel membership is £15 a year on a DD. My house insurance is on a monthly direct debit, I don't have a contents insurance. Oh, and I pay Just under £4 a year to put unlimited photo's on my blog. My mobile is on a Pay As You Go which I top it up with £10 in the local shop once every two months. I only used it for texts, and the odd emergency call.

I have one credit card. I use it for convenience, paying for accommodation on a long walk, a big shop, and petrol for the car. The bill gets paid in full every month, I take a cheque into the bank for that.

I buy more or less the same type of food on a regular basis, with a few different items thrown in for variety, but these have to be value for money. I don't splurge on fancy food, it takes some discipline sometimes, not to go mad. Expensive food will not taste any better, I will not be any fuller after eating it, and it will not make me live any longer. Nutritious food does not have to cost the earth.

I am constantly checking food prices in all the shops I go in, and making a mental note of where the best bargains are. I keep this info in my head. When I get my shopping home I go down the receipt and write the price on each tin and packet with a black marker to check next time if it has gone up.

When money was really tight I did keep a spending diary, I think these are invaluable if you are trying to budget on a small income. To read it every week and see it written down brings it all home to you how much you have spent. I find I don't have to do that now, because my discipline is so finely tuned I know I will never buy something I can't afford. If someone is prone to picking things up willy nilly while out shopping, and they are struggling to manage, they definitely need a diary.

I have enough toiletries to last me years, except toothpaste. Today I bought some, I found two large tubes of Crest for £1 in Poundland. That will probably last me a year. I had a naughty bar of chocolate today, ha ha, a rare treat. Six squares for 60p, blimey, didn't I splash out. What with chips yesterday, it has got to stop.

Someone asked me about the sesame seed oil that I use, sorry can't remember who. Is it cheaper than regular oil. Well no it isn't if you buy it from a supermarket. A small bottle is about £1.40. I buy a large bottle, 600ml for £1 at the cash and carry. I stock up when they have it in. I love the nutty flavour of it, cook with it and drizzle it on my steamed veg. Soooo tasty.

I hope that's answered your questions, thank you for reading.
Toodle pip.


  1. Wonderful post Ilona! You described your plan so well. Thank you. You are an inspiration!

  2. 60p on chocolate !! - We ll have to rein you in ! Seriously, very sage advice - keep things as simple as possible.
    I have two credit cards just in case I lose one (never happened yet) I dont go to the ATM, I draw cash out of the bank when I need it and that is not very

    often as I use my cc for everything I can and pay it off every month. I do go
    through my statement carefully though and then pay on line. I do buy the freshest best food I can afford but not luxury stuff. I bake a cake if I want something nice.

  3. Thanks Ilona for such a detailed answer to my question!
    Nancy from Northern California

  4. A good tip I will now follow:- Go through the shopping receipt and with black marker write price on items bought so that any increase in price can be noted next time item is purchased.
    Some very sensible advice and tips posted today Ilona, thanks.

  5. Its the only way to live. We tend to buy stuff when its on offer, so by the time we need some more its usually on offer again.
    The gas and electric are worst, direct debit is reckoned to be one of the cheaper tarrifs but strangely pre-pay cards is the most expensive. I'm not sure how the quarterly bill tarriff works out.
    Also, fuel prices are set to go up by a horrendous amount and the current advice is to change suppliers but surely they're all going to increase their prices.
    Being the skinflint that i am is getting more and more challenging.

  6. Hi Ilona, I know this suggestion wouldn't suit everyone but we really found spreadsheets really keep us on track. In December or January me and DH sit down with the calendar and write the spreadsheet out for the year. Absolutely everything is budgeted for - for the whole year, so I can for instance click on May and know I will have car insurance to pay, or August is Dentist month, all birthdays are included, I am reminded that new school uniforms and shoes need to be paid for in august. No surprises or forgotten expenses. I check the spread sheet everyday when I turn the computer on to make sure we are on track, I pay for everything I can with a cash back CCard (paid off in full). I check this everyday to make sure all is well and we are within budget. Saying that my mum still swears by the pen and notebook method - I guess it's a generation thing! Off to £land to find some Crest (that is a bargain!). Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie, yes spreadsheets are a good idea. I don't have one, I have a paper chart month by month which I write things on.

  7. Good morning Ilona from House fairy. Good post. I often try and use what I have before splashing out. Things have to be thought about before opening the safe!

    I did have an idea for you today... What about splashing out and buying yourself an apple ipad mini for Christmas? Then when you go on your walks without laptop and camera you will have less weight to carry?

    As the days get colder and darker sooner, I find I am using my slow cooker more. Shutting some curtains soon after 6pm and wearing more layers. You too! I should think.

    Best seasonal wishes....

  8. Very inspiring Ilona.Really a useful post-JP from India


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