Please help me budget!!(17 Posts)
I cannot seem to create a budget that actually works. There are always things I haven't thought of, or it's just unrealistic - would so welcome any advice or help as we're currently going overdrawn at the end of every month, which is obviously not ideal.
Basically, after mortgage and all bills are paid each month, we have almost exactly £600 left. We need to put fuel in two cars (one used for commuting, one only used occasionally), which I think swallows at least £120 per month. We need to feed and clothe DP, DS(1) and I, buy toiletries, cleaning products etc, and occasionally have fun.
In my head this should be more than possible, but I am spectacularly bad at it. We already shop mostly in Lidl but occasionally nip into other places for top-ups/ stuff we can't get. Try to make that mostly Tesco but it's sometimes Sainsburies. We just seem always to spend more than I expect, and random things always come up - family birthdays/ invitations we have to take a bottle of wine to, stuff like that. If you budget successfully, how do you do it?!
What has really helped me is working on ONE shop a week (now working towards one shop every 10 days). It was the top-up shopping that was killing us. So instead of trying to spend as little as possible in my main shop, I now try to be super-comprehensive. I make a meal plan, I buy enough snacks, I buy extra milk (and freeze some for later in the week), I buy wine when it's on offer so I have emergency gifts in the cupboard (I don't drink at home), the same goes for birthday presents (I keep a pile in a cupboard for the next party), I buy multipacks of greetings cards and rolls of wrap when I'm running low (instead of when I need them). I buy enough flour for the bread machine and I buy lots of frozen fruit and veg for the tail end of the shopping cycle. If we need socks or household bits, I get them at the supermarket. And then I aim to buy nothing until my next big shop. This has stopped the cash-leakage and saved me much more than scrimping on my main shop did. Personally I have ditched Lidl and Aldi as I found it wasn't cheap enough to offset the costs of top-up shopping and I couldn't buy absolutely everything there. They also don't deliver.
My philosophy is now to stay out of shops as much as possible. Buy what I need at fixed intervals, then stay out of there.
Look on money saving expert, there is a budget planner on there with everything you might spend money on. Realistically, £600 is not a lot. I would expect you to spend between £240-280 a month in food plus your petrol leaves you with less than £50 a week, a new pair of shoes for ds, a bottle of wine and a trip to soft play would use all this up. A take away the next week could use up half, so any surprise costs will keep pushing you into your overdraft. Draw up a budget and see if you can reduce your out goings, people on here will help you. Lots of people rave about the You Need A Budget app but I just use Good Budget as it's free. Give both you and dh some 'pocket money' to spend on what you want, even if it's just a tenner, it's easier to budget knowing you have some frivolous money.
Start by drawing up a budget to get an idea of where you are spending and where you can save. I have set up a spreadsheet - similar to moneysavingexpert. I was surprised to see how little trips to McD, the ATM, lunch out would add up. So now I stock up on fresh veg, fruit and fish and make my work lunches myself and it's made a real difference. I've got my weekly grocery shop including meat down to £35-40 and we still have a stocked fridge.
Simple things like instead of buying lots of yoghurts at £5 I buy two tubs of fat free yoghurt for less than 45p each at Aldi and chop up some strawberries (from a £1.50 box) and mix them up.
I find kids clothes at supermarkets to be much better quality than those at high street stores. And if your kids are anything like my DD they grow so fast that I can't justify spending over £10 on a pair of jeans that she only wears a handful of times.
And I used to be embarrassed about vouchers but now I'll happy search out a voucher code for a restaurant before going there!
Since Jan I've been tracking all our spending, it's been fab toto see that I spend much less on fuel (£60pm) and food (£325pm) than I thought but seeing where the other £400-600 goes is interesting, household/ toiletries/ clothes/ alcohol/ gifts/ school trips. I now have an average which is my budget I aim for
Helpme get to the Marvellous Frugaleers thread immediately. I have found that thread immensely helpful.
I second the YNAB piece of software. You can get 1 months free trial and is a one off payment of about £35 thereafter. It completely turns money management on its head and teaches you how to budget properly. It has already paid for itself with me (only been using it for 2 months)
Are you putting money aside for car MOT, servicing, repairs - birthday/Christmas presents - repair & replacement of household items such as fridge or washing machine??? They will take up quite a chunk of your £600 per month.
Forgot car insurance - that for 2 cars will also be fairly high!
£600 can soon disappear, I know our surplus cash does. Not trying to tell you what to do with your money, but it costs a lot to insure, MOT, repair a car and if it's not been used much do you really need it? For us if we had a second car that would take away any treat money, and to be honest I'm happy to walk, cycle or bus it. I've got two friends and they've both got rid of their second cars for that reason. If they need the car one day, they either drop DH off at work (I used to do this in the past) or he cycles.
As suggested you could try having pockets of money for certain things, but as we all know there are unexpected expenses that come up.
Also, think if you can cut back - swap energy suppliers, can insurance be reduced, if you need top ups, walk or cycle to get them - ie, save on petrol. Try and walk or go on cycle rides more as a family (you can take a picnic and stop off in a nice spot). If it's not very nice outside, a short walk locally and then play a jigsaw. Again, these are only suggestions, I'm not saying you should be doing them.
I would look at making a list of 5-10 recipes that you like, are easy to make and can be frozen if you batch cook. Then do one shop every fortnight and make them. We often chose recipes that use the same ingredients (eg eggs/chopped tomatoes) so there is no waste.
I always look in the reduced section too.
Look for free events for having fun.
And although aldi isn't great for everything it's great as a green grocers
I managed to cut down on groceries by going down to store brand/basics/essentials whenever possible. I also, instead of looking at what was the least expensive brand, looked at what I was actually buying and thought "do we really need this?" Yes, it's nice to have some treats, but we were buying far too many and they were getting nibbled without really thinking - it was there so everyone was eating it. So I cut the grocery list down some in that way.
Other ways to cut groceries by changing habits:
- reduce the use of kitchen roll. I took the oldest most worn tea towels and put them in a drawer to use as clean up towels. I rarely ever buy kitchen roll anymore.
- meal planning.
- any meals that require ground beef/mince, I put half a package instead of a full one. For example spag bol, chili, cottage pie. I add veg that need to be used up instead to bulk it out, or oats if need be.
I used to shop for myself and 2 dcs and keep it under £200. It's more like £250+ now because of some specialised diet issues for 2 of us due to health issues. If you're looking to reduce what you spend on groceries, do it gradually so you don't notice it as much, then it won't feel so drastic. Make a goal each month to spend 10% less until you get where you want to me. Take the money you've saved and put it in an emergency savings fund or pay off a bill, but make sure you use it to ease your finances in some way.
Top ups at the supermarket are deadly. Try to keep to one shop a week if you can, and adopt a strict "if we're out, that's it until the next scheduled shop" attitude. The first few weeks will be annoying but you'll automatically start adjusting after a couple times of running out. I usually keep a carton or two of UHT milk in the cupboard in case I run out of milk.
Go through your last 2 months bank statements and write out everything you've spent money on, so you know where it's going. Then write out a list of all your outgoings that need to go out monthly - all of it including petrol, groceries, insurance. All of the necessary things. See how much money is left. Make a goal to put that much in savings every month. Then look at your variable spends and see where you can make cuts to free up more money each month.
Like other posters have suggested, buy cards when they are cheap and keep them on hand, buy in a few gifts even wine when it's on offer and put aside for when gifting occasions come up. You'll always spend more when you're running around last minute to grab something.
I did wonder if the second car was absolutely necessary if it's only used occasionally. Something to think about, but obviously depends on your circumstances.
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