Friday 22 April 2016

Keeping track of where the money goes

Hello and good morning. It's Friday, and as Ready Steady Go used to say at the beginning of their Friday night music programme, the weekend starts here. Thank you all so much for your comments on the previous post, your words made very useful and enlightening contributions. It's great to get the views of others, adds meat to the bare bones if you like. It's a subject that needs to be aired on occasions, to highlight the good work of Women's Refuge, and to show that if anyone is suffering in silence there are places to get help. 
So, what's on the agenda today? My winter fuel bills, as expected were quite high, so this has prompted me to sort out my utility bill files, put them in order, and work out the figures for the past year. 
Most people prefer to pay monthly by direct debit which comes straight out of their bank account. I am a bit old fashioned, I like to use the utilities first, gas, electric, and water, then pay for them on a quarterly or half yearly bill. The direct debit system works ok for those who have multiple financial commitments and find it difficult to keep track. Not a good idea to miss paying essential bills, they need to be paid. My financial commitments are simple and I find it easy to budget on a monthly and yearly basis.

So what's the situation at Tightwad Towers. I have some figures in front of me.
Four gas bills from April 15 to April 16
£5.30  April to July. Cooking and baths.
£5.84  July to Sept. Cooking and baths.
£32.64  Sept to Dec. Also, bit chilly, some heating.
£98.13  Dec to April. Also, cold bit more heating.
Total £141.91 for the year. Average £11.82 per month.

Four electricity bills from April 15 to April 16.
£26.55  April to July. Longer days, spend time outside.
£38.41  July to Sept  Don't go out much in school holidays.
£23.40 Sept to Nov  Cutting down in readiness for winter.
£71.99  Nov to April  Lights on, staying in. Computer on.
Total £160.35. Average £13.36 per month.

I have two water bills a year from two companies. Water into the house and waste water out  from Anglian. I am on a meter. Surface water removal by Severn Trent.
£35.67 Dec 14 to June 15
£32.55 June 15 to Dec 15
Total £68.22.
Severn Trent
£28.49 Oct 15
£28.49 April 16
Total £56.98
Total water charges for the year. £125.20.  Average £10.43 per month.

The other regular bill coming in is taken by direct debit, my broadband and land line is paid monthly. When I changed supplier this was the only option offered. I get an email every month from EE, which I don't bother reading because I know more or less what is in it. I can confirm the amounts when I get my bank statement. It is usually around £35 a month. I could probably get it cheaper if I shopped around, but I don't want to be tied into any contracts, and then after the one or two year period have to look for another deal. I count my computer as my hobby and entertainment. I don't go out hardly at all in the evenings, don't pay a TV licence, don't go to the pub, don't eat out. My unlimited broadband is as important to me as my gas and electric.

I won't go into detail on my other expenses, I have house insurance but not contents insurance. I have all the costs involved in running a nice car, road tax, insurance, MOT, recovery, and depreciation. For any new people who have started reading, I don't have a mortgage or pay rent.

So there you are. Financial review all done and dusted. Have you looked at your bills lately? Do you keep them in a file? Or are they all computerized? Maybe you do a spread sheet on the computer, I don't. Maybe you do internet banking, I don't. Do what's best for you.

Thanks for popping in. We'll catch up soon.
Toodle pip


  1. I am envious of your low bills. I keep a very close check on everything in my house. I have eleven direct debits going out every month which cover all the household bills, mortgage, pet insurance etc. I check my online banking every day. If I use my bank card I write it down in a little book. It's old fashioned but works for me and I've never had any bank charges. I can't understand some people who don't know where their money goes each month. X

    1. I too have direct debits as it saves on postage and is such a time saver for me. We must pay our utilities monthly, here in the States. My highest bill is for electricity because living in the desert Southwest necessitates air conditioning. I shut off half the house, which works, because we have two units to cool the house. I just cool the part we live in.
      I also use an online banking, which I view every day. I use it to keep up with debits. I then can tell my husband where we are. We have budgeted certain amounts for food, etc. Keeping an eye on our spending keeps us on the straight and narrow.

  2. Dear Ilona,
    As the meanest person in the south, might I share the way that we keep our gas bills right down?
    We invested in a wood-burning stove - the installation was quite dear, but we got the stove for 100 quid. We get all our wood off skips, from people who are chucking wood away or from wood that we find when walking in the woods. We never use the central heating, and heat water and cook rice etc on the stove. It's also possible to cook baked potatoes and the like in the actual fire box.
    I find that this gives us some of our greatest tightwad thrills- scavenging all that wood is great fun, very sociable as everyone in the village knows about our strange ways, and the loveliest, most natural kind of warmth all completely for free. It's one of the most self-reliant things I know.
    Combined with out tack of sharing a weekly bath (and of course using the water to flush the loo) and washing at the sink on other days, our gas bill was under 50 quid for the December-April quarter.
    (We also got our water usage down from 29 to 24 and now to 19 units for 6 months for two of us since getting a meter, which I think is about a 3rd of the national average). Our electricity bill is almost non-existent.

    1. Sounds like you have got it all worked out. Well done.

  3. I'm like you. If money comes out of my bank, I'm the one who takes it out ! No direct debits for me thanks. Or when they over calculate how much you should be paying per month on gas or electric and help themselves to an amount cos you have given permission. Transfer to their huge accounts to make money off me , no thanks. My hubby has one direct debit and that's for the broad band which (like you )we regard as much needed as the gas or electric.

  4. You are well organized Ilona.and it a good way to live life. I keep my bills in envelopes all neatly labeled for two years and in January I take one year out and shred. I also keep all receipts from shopping etc in monthly labelled envelopes. Do you pay council tax Ilona? Like you I consider my computer to be my hobby and get so much enjoyment from it but I do not bank online..
    Have a good weekend.
    Hazel c uk

    1. Hi Hazel. Yes I pay Council Tax. I get a reduction for single occupancy, and a reduction for low income and no savings.

  5. I, too, am envious of your very low bills. We like to keep warm, it makes me feel ill if I'm chilled, so we have the heating on most of the time in winter, and we shower at least once a day (we never bath, always shower) and I confess to using a tumble dryer, and I don't have a microwave so have to cook using a large oven, but I tend to fill it when I do use it.) Believe me you would faint if you saw my gas/electricity direct debits, but I find it's worth it to keep warm and have hot water when I want it. I'd rather go without holidays (well, we do go without holidays, don't see the point of them as we live in such a beautiful area, our county has two coasts and two moors, so it's obvious where we are, we are the only county with two coastlines). Indeed, we'd rather be comfortable and have a nice home than save like mad for a new car or holiday.
    Margaret P
    Margaret P

  6. PS Unlike yourself and others who have sent comments, I actually like Direct Debits and Standing Orders. If you are paying too much, you have that money back eventually, money you might otherwise have spent. Also, you seldom get a bill, the money is spread over the year, so no really huge bills arriving unannounced. Once those DDs and SOs have gone out, I know that what is left is the money we're left with for everything else, it's a very easy way to budget.
    Margaret P

  7. I have a hubby plus 2 adult sons still living at home and my bills are considerably higher. I pay all mine except house insurance by direct debit (I save money each month for that). you didn't mention council tax, Ilona, (quite expensive down this way) and with pets I wonder whether you have insurance as we do for our cats.

    1. Hi Helen. Forgot to mention Council Tax. I was only going to talk about utilities, then I kept adding bits to it. I get a reduction for single occupancy, and another reduction because I am classed as low income, and I have no savings.

      I don't have pet insurance. I used to insure Bugsy, paid for years, never claimed. I stopped it because if there is anything wrong with him now it will be age related, and I don't believe in keeping an old pet going when there is not a decent quality of life. I have enough in my emergency fund for any vet fees.

  8. Thank you for writing all this down, a lot people keep these things private, but it really helps to be open and help each other make savings - we recently saved the in-laws rather a lot of money on their phone bills, mainly by comparing notes!

    My tuppence worth - The wonderful thing about Direct Debits, is that my other half and I have two each on our accounts - which means Barclays gives us £96 a year...

    Also, I haggle on the Broadband - ours is Unlimited with BT and costs us £7.35 a month (plus line rental, which we pay yearly and make a saving). We also have solar panels (they came with the house) and they made us £16 this week, they also covered all heating and electric, so we didn't pay a penny... roll on the summer ;o)

    Everything we have is in a wonderful Excel file which automatically calculates everything, there's notes on when to haggle, there's payment dates, how much we spend per week and per month, how much is spent on the car per year, or on utilities etc and how much savings are available. Handy little thing...

    Online banking takes a little getting used to, but once you're there, you won't ever look back, instant access is wonderful... Yx

  9. Frightening that you have no house contents insurance! In the worst case scenario what happens if your house burns down? You'll get the house rebuilt but have nothing to put in it. Scary!

    1. It's not frightening to me, that's why I take the risk. It's only stuff. Almost everything I own is second hand, if I had to replace it I would go to car boot sales, and the two second hand furniture charity shops we have here. I can use my emergency fund to get what I need. Think of all the money I have saved over the years by not paying for contents insurance.

  10. I keep all my bills in files and pay each bill as it arrives. Gas (heating, cooking, dryer, water heater), phone/cell phones, internet and cable TV are all monthly bills. The combined utilities/municipal services bill (water, electricity, sewage, trash collection) is once every two months.

    I budget by adding a year's worth of bills and dividing by 12 to reach a monthly average. The gas bills are high during the colder months because I keep the house warm for health reasons. The water bill goes up in the summer months because I water the garden to keep my plants alive.

  11. Here in Oz you have to insure house contents for a minimum of $30,000 now. My secondhand stuff would not add up to that amount. When the offspring get "updated" electrical goods (TV, iphones, ipads etc) I get last year's model, and that's really fine with me, free stuff. Over the years I reckon I've saved thousands, because the minimum limit has just been creeping up and up. Like you, Ilona, if the house burnt down, I could get enough to get by with my emergency fund and cannot see the sense in paying out. For the first time, this year, my sister is doing the same thing, all these years she's been forking out, never had a claim, this year they are on a pension, outlook different!

  12. Beautiful , i agree,i got car insurance but havent had house contents insurance in yrs , its all second hand apart from the tv , my nice car is also secondhand , i have car insurance but not house stuff :) cant take it with you ! Who would want too haha :) i hear what ur saying my internet is also my entertainment , yrs ago i thought would i really care if all this stuff was gone the answer was no, so cancelled home insurance :) x

  13. I try really hard to keep heating down, especially after reading your blog. I am on blood thinners so sometimes have to give in. I have been known to wear 4 layers, hat scarf and fingerless gloves. Our boiler gives out 6 to 8 litres of cold water before hot, so,save that in 2 litre milk containers for garden, dog,plants etc. Boil in gas kettle for hair, or wash or dishes. I buy a good washing up liquid, like sainsburys 50 p and dilute to 5 bottles.

  14. I pay our bills automatically online each week, they are usually a little in advance and that is reassuring. I don't have anything direct debited from our account - I want to stay in control of my money not allow others access to it. Your utility bills are amazing! We have three adults here (Australia) and costs are much higher but we're very careful with our electricity and it averages at $40 a week. Its interesting to read how different costs are for people.

  15. Ilona, you say that you don't want to be tied in to a contract for broadband, but for that freedom, you are paying much more than necessary. You are so savvy, I have hesitated to mention this, but the extra you could save is so great. With Talk talk, I shall pay about £16 per month for unlimited BB; I have received good service, in spite of the furore late last year. Admittedly, I shall pay upfront for 18 months, but even a month by month arrangement is about £19 which would save you £16.
    I have great respect for your refusal to indulge in wanton waste.
    Kind regards, Valerie

    1. Thank you for that Valerie. Does that figure include landline as well? I have free phone calls after 7pm and weekends, included in my £35.

    2. The rates I mentioned are actually the charge for landline, and then the BB is described as being free. Calls are charged for between 7am and 7pm, but free outside those hours, and always free to other Talktalk subscribers. (Hence, my daughter and I can yack for ages, for nothing!) Presently, as a goodwill gesture for the hacking scare, TT give us free calls, but when that ceases, we shall pay about £7 per month for calls. All that seems rather long winded, but rather than you pay more than necessary, I had to say.
      Yours, Valerie

    3. Thank you Valerie. Very interesting and something to consider.


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