Budgeting is a dirty word

It’s time for some serious frugal thinking. I’ve been shilly-shallying too long on the softer side of the Frugal Life, making my chutneys and dressing up in daft outfits (my cousin in Barcelona informed me I was a ‘silly thing’ for dressing up like Boy George…) when some good old-fashioned budgeting is what’s called for.

The word budget sends shivers down my spine –it’s the thought of Alastair Darling’s eyebrows that does it rather than simply the prospect of deprivation – but it has to be done.

For a start, DJ & I should be planning our meals to ensure we don’t buy things we don’t need. A third of the UK’s food is wasted, partly from greed, eating out more and food scares which make people throw out stuff past its sell-by date but perfectly ok to eat. And I do this all the time. I’m getting better about sticking things we won’t remember to eat in the freezer, but I’m always buying fruit and forgetting to eat it (because I have good intentions but prefer chocolate).

True, I am spending less money working from home than when I was commuting into London. Typically I’d spend about £5-£6 a day on food – a mid morning snack, some unidentified grub in the work canteen, and then grab a bottle of water on the way home, some gum, maybe a magazine, drinks out somewhere. And before you knew it, £40 had simply vanished. Now I’ll have homemade or canned soup, or maybe scrambled egg (free from the chickens!) on toast for lunch and snack on things already in the house. On the downside though, although I’m not commuting I’m using the car more. Of course, it would be cheaper to sell the car altogether, but unfortunately where we live it’s not really practical. And after Doogs the cat peed on the back seat we’re not likely to get much for it anyway! But looking into driving economically, cutting down on petrol costs and washing the car ourselves instead of lazily going to the car wash are the way forward.

Currently DJ and I each pay a set amount of money into the joint account to pay for bills – most of which we pay by direct debit – and the shopping. We only recently changed over the mortgage, but it’s worth looking at the other items to see if they’re really competitive. For a start, we’ve had the buildings and contents insurance since we bought the house so there’s bound to be a better deal out there. We also liked the idea of switching to a ‘green’ electricity supplier but worry that it might be more expensive.

I’m on a pay-as-you-go mobile and probably spend about £15 to £20 a month on it. But I know that often I send texts when I could email for free. I also think a lot of money can be saved on our grocery shopping. And there are lots of things in our cupboards and in the freezer that we should use up before we buy new items. Even if they don’t seem as initially appetizing as a curry in the Raj!

How do you budget? And where have you managed to save the most money? How little have you managed to live on a week? Leave a comment and let me know.

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