Part of the reason I am doing the STOP-tober challenge is the fact that, if I am not mindful about our spending, it can all too easily descend into a situation where you end up feeling you are haemorrhaging money, and have nothing to show for it. Oh, I don't do hairdressers or beauticians; I do not shop for clothes; we do not shop recreationally and we do not fritter our hard-earned down the pub.
So, where does the sodding coin go ?
I mean, I cook from scratch; I am mindful about using the oven; I storecupboard and forage and grow my own. I have a teeny-tiny wardrobe
I got rid of the electric kettle and replaced it with the stovetop version (believe it or not, that reduced our energy costs by a quarter, a couple of years back !);
I read free books on Kindle and take advantage of the book exchange at my workplace. In fact, I borrow books from my workplace for free - one of our few perks - I happen to work in an academic library, you see. I don't buy lattes, or magazines (I read blogs instead), or DVDs (but we do have a subscription to LoveFilm). I brew our own booze, mend clothes - I do not have the skills (yet) to make them - I make bread, and chutney, and pickles, and jam, and stock, and cheese, and on and on and on.
I walk to work and back, and OH's commute is of sufficiently short duration not to necessitate huge petrol bills; in fact, I walk pretty much everywhere. DD is studying from home, and while that necessitates some money spent on textbooks and similar, it's but a fraction of what going to school used to cost (from the school bus to uniforms to school trips and on and on and on). We use energy saving lightbulbs, our house is well insulated, we DIY to the best of our ability and rarely call tradesmen in - in fact, I consider us, as a family of three that contains a teenager with additional needs, extremely thrifty and frugal.
So, where does the sodding coin go ?
Well, it is pretty ruddy expensive to live nowadays. Mortgage, council tax, water, gas and electric; TV licence, broadband, line rental; car insurance, tax, RAC membership, MOT and servicing - even before you think of any issues or repairs; house insurance, child maintenance (give but do not receive), food and petrol.... And of course, the small matter of my bright idea of moving a thousand miles away from my parents who are not getting any younger, and the necessity of seeing them at least once a year, which costs.
Still, all that can, and does, get budgeted for, and we are extremely fortunate to be earning sufficient income not just to cover all of the above, but also to be overpaying the mortgage on a regular basis. The rest of it, though ? On paper, there should be a tidy little sum sliding into the savings accounts every month..... Yet though something always goes into savings, it never seems to be what I expected.
Once again, I ask - where does it all go ?
Well, there's only one way to find out.
No, not a fight. This is not Harry Hill's TV Burp. I mean a spending diary.
The concept - as all the best concepts are - is simplicity itself. Simple, incidentally, does not mean easy; it just means "not at all complicated". It can still be hard as hell. Anyway, all you need to do is write down everything you spend. Every.Single.Thing. From those tickets to the holiday of a lifetime you've been saving up for a decade for to that chocolate bar at the train station; and the chocolate bars are a lot more important to note down than the plane tickets - after all, the latter will hardly drop off your radar - the former have a nasty habit of doing just that. And they add up - they all add up.
The spending diary has been my close and personal friend for the last five years or so - every single little coin spent is noted down, and then all the expenditure is added up weekly and then monthly by category. Once the year is out, the final tally (by category) is divided by 12 to make me able to tell you exactly how much, on average, we spend on food, or petrol, or clothes, or books, or entertainment..... And should any belt tightening be needed, it makes it pretty simple to see where the cuts can be made.
No one should be without one, no matter how much money you have to spend. Without writing it all down, it might be pretty hard to make an informed decision as to how to get the best bang for your buck.
Thanks to my spending diary, I can tell you that my first week of STOP-tober ended up being pretty ouch. OH's day out with his son plus needing to fill up with petrol made for a very spendy day yesterday..... But hey, I did not spend a penny. Nor did I spend any today, despite going shopping with DD. I made bread
I went to work, I accompanied DD to town where she spent her grandparent-donated funds on a new winter coat, a new handbag, a pair of slippers, a fountain pen and some socks; and she still had a few quid in her purse at the end of it. It's really rather nice sometimes, having a teenage daughter ;)
And for dinner we had a pea risotto - one of the superfrugal staple meal I grew up on, made ever so posh by a scrag end of chorizo, ditto of Red Leicester cheese, and some torn basil leaves.
Silly money may have been spent last week, which will no doubt make some people feel that my STOP-tober challenge is a bit of a mockery..... But if it wasn't for STOP-tober, I assure you that even more would have been spent, and well, my aim isn't not to part with a penny (though it would be nice to live the kind of lifestyle where that is possible, all this spending can be rather wearing), but to refill my "baby emergency fund" so it's there to draw on in emergencies.