Saturday, 3 November 2012

Mortgage Pay off progress

First post in a year.... I really lost my sense of direction in 2012 and my mortgage pay off progress didn't go quite as i'd hoped. I did manage to pay off about £8500 but this is no where near as much as i'd hoped.

My excuses? Some work to the house that really needed to be done this year like painting the exterior wood work, windows & doors of the house and garage. Not a cheap job and unfortunately one that we just had to admit that we did not have the time or the skill (or patience) required to complete the job to the same standard as professionals.

Other things that i'm struggling to remember also happened, like car repairs that hadn't been fully budgeted for etc. Just life I guess.

Anyhow I think I am ready to share my outstanding mortgage balance with you, here goes....

Current balannce - £231883.00
Starting balance  - £246000.00

It makes me wince to see that amount in black and white. I don't know what else to say right now except there's no way I am going to pay it off by 2017. I think 2020 is more realistic.

Oh how I long for a small house now. Somewhere low maintenance and in a quiet spot away from it all.

I actually feel quite ashamed of what we have. Although I love where we live and it is fantastic for the kids to grow up here, right now I am having horrible remorse for all the stuff I have squandered money on in my earlier life.

It's coming to the end of 2012 and I must start looking forward to 2013 with a positive attitude!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mortgage overpayments - Small bite sized Chunks!

I didn't manage to make as big an overpayment to my mortgage as i'd hoped this month, but still managed £1000.00. I paid this before I sorted any other bills etc so the money was gone and can't be spent.

Does anyone else currently overpaying their mortgage get moments where they swither about making the call to bank and, even just for a few moments, think about what else they could spend that money on? I had that yesterday as I was making the call.

However I didn't act on the urge, I made the payment and felt very relieved afterwards. The money was paid and it cannot be spent on anything else.

Like Laura at No More Spending and Frugal Queen and many others blogging away out there I am also on a misson to get rid of my mortgage as soon as possible.

I have mentioned it before but I have a LARGE mortgage. I cannot bring myself to tell you the exact amount outstanding but it is over £200,000 (wince). It seemed such a good idea when we bought the place but the reality is it has to be paid off some time! We recently remortgaged and got a fantastic deal. The (almost) £700.00 we are saving in interest each month is now getting overpaid each month.

I find that rather than thinking about the outstanding balance all the time if I think about reducing the interest owed each month it seems more manageable, as it is a much smaller number. This may not make sense to some of you but I just find that concentrating on reducing the interest payment makes it easier to stay focussed. 

I have only been overpaying in earnest since August and so far have reduced our monthly interest payment by £14.37. When we remortgaged the interest was £517.25. I am aiming to be below £500.00 by the New Year.I have not chosen to reduce the monthly payments either so a little extra gets paid off on top of every over payment.

Small bite sized chunks, as a wise colleague used to say, when faced with a seemingly huge task.

I would love to have my mortgage paid off by the end of 2017, all being well. This is quite a task and I know and I will have to remain focussed. However life will happen in the meantime and we don't know what is ahead of us. I also have kids and there are things we want to do as a family so ploughing every single spare penny into the mortgage isn't realistic for us.

Mortgage freedom is the ultimate dream for me right now. I wish I had been more careful in my younger days as I could have been mortgage free right now if I had been more sensible. But hey ho, I can't go back, only forwards.

Good luck to everyone trying to achieve mortgage, or any sort of debt, freedom.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Frugal Tips #1 & 2

#1 -  never call 0870 / 0845 numbers, either on my landline or mobile 'phone. I always check on SAY NO TO 0870 and find out what the company's landline number is. Just type in the number or the company name and you can usually get their landline number.

Depending on what call plan you are on you will usually get charged for calling these numbers and they can be expensive. My mobile provider charges me for calling them whatever time of day, despite hundreds of 'free anytime minutes'. BT will also charge you to call them during the day.

#2 - I also use my mobile to make any calls during the day to use up my call allowance and cut down BT costs. I have just received my latest bill from BT and I have spent £0.87 on calls (actually SM did as I have been disciplined about using my mobile minutes) compared to £13.76 on calls during the last quarter.

I am hoping for a reduction on my monthly direct debit in due course.

I have another 7 months approx' to run on my current mobile contract, for which I pay the princely sum of £25.00 a month (oh the shame!) I have a nice Blackberry and hundreds of 'free minutes' and mobile internet time that I don't use up every month. So come the end of the contract I will be keeping my Blackberry but reducing the call plan / contract to half of what I am currently paying as it is a WASTE OF MONEY.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Culinary successes & failures

I have spent most of today in the kitchen cooking and baking and very happy I have been too. Eldest child was helping his granny with some gardening chores and younger two were actualy playing well together in the garden.

I made some sweet potato and butter nut squash soup, which will be good for lunches for a few days.

A large loaf of bread, 50:50 white & spelt.

Lemon sponge, in a tray, so I can cut into squares for packed lunched etc. It just goes further with five of us in the house.

I attempted a so called 'foolproof' banana loaf but it didn't work out at all. Raw in in the middle, although the kids ate the ends

I also made a piece of brisket in the slow cooker which we had with roast potatoes, roasted carrots, peas and HM Yorkshire puddings.

After all that I am having an early night.

November grocery challenge update

Good afternoon, I can't believe a week has passed since my last post. I have been so busy this week.

Below is a quick round up of my November grocery challenge, which is a big fat fail. Fuel spending also a fail, big time, but I knew that the cars would start getting used more from this month onwards with the dark mornings and nights and our expensive hobby about to begin for the winter..... more about that in another post...

November grocery challenge update

I went shopping on Thursday 17th to Tesco & Lidl as follows;


Cheerios                                   £2.78
Kellogs Rice Krispies (on offer)   £1.60
Mini Weetabix x 2                      £3.00
Tesco bread flour x 3 (3 for2)     £1.36
Tesco value flour x 3 (3 for 2)    £1.04
Tesco fruit yoghurts (6 pk) x 2   £1.78
Tesco value carrots 1kg             £0.76
Frozen peas 1kg                       £0.99
Mature Cheddar                        £2.49
Jar of Tesco finest mincemeat    £1.96
Jar of value lemon curd             £0.22
Yeo Valley natural yoghurt         £1.48
Refuse sacks x 20                     £1.79
Tomato puree                           £0.35
Oranges                                   £2.00
Clementines x 2 bags                £2.00
Large caulifower                       £1.67
Tomatoes                                 £2.00
1 x tub Finest pesto                  £2.19
Value mushrooms                     £0.97
Honeydew melons x 2               £3.00
Pears                                       £1.00
TOTAL                                     £36.43
Bananas                                  £0.88
Celery                                     £0.49
Mixed peppers                         £0.99
2 x punnets of grapes              £3.00
Apples x 2 bags                       £2.18
Arla 1% milk x 4 @ £0.85        £3.40
Bavarian Ham x 3 @ £0.89      £2.49
Wafer thin chicken                   £1.59
Free range eggs x 2 packs       £1.78
TOTAL                                   £17.78

MORRISONS on 20.11.11
2 x packs of reduced smoked haddock @£1.79 each    £3.58
Lurpak butter 500g (yes, weak, I know!)                    £2.98!!!
2 x tubs of Stork 500g                                              £2.00
1 x Organic pasta flour                                              £1.39
2 x twin pack of paper tissues                                    £6.00
1 x travel pack hankies (x6)                                       £1.29
TOTAL                                                                     £17.24

LIDL on 20.11.11

Bananas                                                                  £0.60
Oranges - 3kg                                                          £1.98
Honeydew melon                                                      £1.29
Arla 1% milk x 1                                                       £0.85
Cushelle toilet roll x 24 pack                                      £6.99
Meat balls x 6 packs @£0.84                                     £5.04
TOTAL                                                                     £16.75

GRAND TOTAL                                                        £88.20

November challenge - £250.00  / Spent -  £ 261.35

So an £11.35 overspend.  Darn it, I just lost it over the last few days, not sticking to my list and buying things I really didn't need this week. Like pasta flour!!! I am going to attempt HM pasta soon, but did I need to buy it this week??? NO! Lurpak butter, I know, I know, I am weak. The other stuff just doesn't taste the same though.... Also the whole family is full of the cold so we needed more paper tissues so that put me over my desired budget.
Nevermind I must try harder next month.

Fuel spend was way over too. Budget - £200.00 / spent £251.00.

Anyway, I am working every day this week so I WILL NOT step foot in a shop unless it is an emergency. I have every thing I need until pay day, which is on Friday this week.

How are everyone else's November challenges going? (or not....)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Is it fashionable to be frugal?

One of the best things about the recession is that it's almost made it fashionable to be frugal now.

I really don't mean to sound flippant when I say that. I know that for thousands of people there is no choice involved in having to budget and spend very carefully and that so many are having to make the unimaginable choice of whether they eat or heat their homes when it's cold.

I remind myself everyday that SM and I are very fortunate to have our health and good, secure jobs. That we are happy and really have more than we could ever need to sustain our lives. We want for nothing and  this abundance has actually made me feel embarrassed over the last 2 -3 years.

When I see people around me struggling to find employment, worrying about whether they will keep their jobs and manage to keep on paying their bills, I wonder how they keep going. But of course they just have to. They don't have a choice.

When I asked is it fashionable to be frugal, I think what I meant was that it's now acceptable for people to tighten their belts, so to speak. Before the credit crunch 'everyone' was buying bigger houses, new cars, fancy holidays, building extensions, eating out all the time. Money appeared to be no object for most people and no one seemed to be admitting that it was all rather expensive.

I wonder now if a lot of people are almost breathing a sigh of relief? It's not really the done thing to be bragging about the new kitchen you're having fitted, the brand new car you've ordered or how much one's property is worth these days. Has the pressure been lifted to keep up with the Joneses? Are many people secretly quite glad to live within their means?

If there's something good to come out of this recession I really hope that it's that people are getting back to what's important in life. Recognising that looking after you and your family's basic needs is what matters and cutting out the superfluous rubbish.

Although we don't have to budget carefully I want to. We could go out and buy the latest games consoles, fancy TVs, excess clothes, new cars etc but I don't want to. I want more for myself and my family. I have so many 'wants' but very few are based on material things.

I want to have some savings, I want to be able to make some investments. I want to pay my mortgage off early.

I want to give my children the benefit of experiences in their lives and have the opportunity to have hobbies / past times that we otherwise couldn't afford.  
I want them to relish the prospect of spending an afternoon walking in the woods, perhaps foraging for berries when in season or 'wombling' old wood for the fire, like we did today.

I don't want my children to think it is 'normal' to spend Saturday and Sunday trawling around shopping malls, thinking that money grows on trees. I don't want them to be interested in consumerism. I don't want them to care if they don't have the latest fashion items or endless new techno gadgets.

Most of all I don't want them to care if others tell them that isn't normal.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Packed lunches

Packed lunches can be a huge money saver for families, if you are creative about what you put in them.

My eldest two children are only a year apart at school and and have alternated between packed lunches and school dinners over the years. However with my youngest now at school the decision was taken that all three would be taking packed lunches, as at a cost of £1.75 a day for each child I was going to be spending £5.25 a day or £26.25 a week on school dinners.

That is a lot of money over the course of a month and given that we always have a home cooked dinner in the evening, it is unnecessary for my kids to have an additional cooked meal and dessert in the middle of the day.

Sandwiches are the mainstay of any pack lunch box and can be varied according to your child's taste. Although I have a die hard cheese sandwich boy in my family, whose idea of variety is to occasionally have a slice of ham with the cheese! I

I never buy packaged items such as Dairy Lea Dunkers, chocolate biscuits / bars or similar. The closest thing to a packaged item I will include is the occasional bag of crisps. I am lucky to have kids who are not mad crisp fans so I don't buy them every week.

I always pack two items of fruit. One for morning break and one for lunch time. As I am a regular baker I will include a baked item such as a cup cake or a square of chocolate brownie or sponge or a scone with jam etc. This satisfys a need for something sweet without having to resort to chocolate biscuits or sweets.

All of kids love home made soup and I recently invested in three Thermos food flasks for them which will keep food warm for up to 7 hours. They have been enjoying soup with their sandwiches and i'll sometimes fill them up with left over spaghetti bolognese or similar meals which can be a welcome change from a sandwich.

Instead of baking i'll often include a little pot of jelly or 'Angel Delight' type mousse which I'll make up the night before, pour into little lidded pots which can be left to set in the fridge. 

If your kids like yoghurts another good idea is to freeze them the night before and let them thaw in the lunch box all morning so they stay cooler until lunchtime. 'Frubes' or 'Choobs' are great as they don't require a spoon.

Ice in drinks bottles or freezing juice cartons the night before is also a good way to keep things cool until lunch time.

These are just some of the things I do which save me money and ensure that my kids are eating good, nutritious food at school.

I'm not sure what will happen with eldest son when he goes off to High School next summer. I can only hope i've managed to instill good food habits in him which he remembers when he has the freedom to choose his own lunch.......

I would love to hear if anyone has any other good ideas for livening up packed lunches.