*Disclosure: This post contains a sponsored link from Saga.
This is going to sound like a strange one to many of you, but one of the biggest compliments I ever received from Cici’s dad before our relationship came to an end, was how financially savvy I was when it came to budgeting our income and planning for future purchases. I moved out of the family home aged 18 years old, so I’ve had to learn it all from a young age. Don’t get me wrong, over the years I’ve made some silly decisions where I’ve simply had enough, gone on a big spending blow out and regretted it straight after, but these days, especially since becoming a mum, and now a single mum, I’m so much more careful with my money.
This January, I’m taking part in the #SagaPlanYourYear campaign. My mission? To think about how I can be more financially savvy this year and put my plan into action. The campaign is being led by The Equity Release branch of Saga, which is a service for over 55’s looking to release equity from their homes to use for other purposes, travelling for example. This could help you to gain better control of your finances, just remember to seek adequate advice before making any life changing decisions.
So, what am I going to do in 2017 to improve my finances? Well, this year has already gotten off to a great start for me, as I’ve just been offered a full time position in my current job, yay! Read on to find out what else I have planned…
Make a List of Income & Expenditure
The first thing I’ve done this year is create a list of all money coming in and going out. This helps me to see exactly what I have left at the end of each month, so that I can plan accordingly.
I’m the most forgetful person I know, so I have an organiser to write everything down in. Whether it’s my ever changing work shifts, home deliveries, appointments, to do lists, work related tasks… everything goes in my organiser. This year, I have also included my outgoings, so I can see at a glance what needs paying each week. I also have two magnetic wipe clean planners attached to my fridge, one containing a weekly to do and shopping list, and the other a monthly calendar. I have also written all my outgoings on both incase I forget or mislay my organiser.
Save, Save, Save…
Up until now, I’ve been squirrelling away £5 a week into Cici’s Junior ISA account. Not necessarily a financial improvement for 2017, but I’ve decided to up this amount to £10 a week. This will benefit Cici’s future, so that she can put it towards a deposit on a home of her own or even for her to go travelling, something I’d have loved to have been able to do, but having left home at such an early age, I’ve never been able to afford. I want Cici to experience the things I never did, should she wish to do so.
I have my driving test coming up soon, so I’ve also started putting money away weekly in order to buy myself a second hand car for when I do eventually pass.
This year, I’m going to plan my meal recipes in advance so that I only buy what I need for each meal and I’m not wasting anything. I find shopping for food online to be a great way of saving money too, as I can see exactly how much my basket totals and it’s so easy to find the cheapest products just by clicking the ‘sort by price’ button. I’m also more aware of what I’m putting into my virtual shopping basket, so I’m less likely to splurge on junk food such as cakes, ice cream etc.
Cut Down On Weekly Treats
To get to Cici’s school and back, we pass the local corner shop. Cici and I will stop and call in most days to get another bottle of milk, or some butter, toilet roll… anything we’ve run short of. While we’re there, we’ll pick up a drink or a bar of chocolate ‘as a treat’. But these treats all add up, so one of my missions is to cut down our corner shop visits. Hopefully by meal planning, I’ll be less likely to run short of day to day items and I won’t be tempted to pop in. Failing that, we’ll have to start taking the long way home to avoid it completely! I also plan to cut down on takeaways, which is crippling both my purse and my waistline!
Review My Utility Bill Providers Annually
Around this time every year, I start to shop around for cheaper deals on gas, electricity, broadband etc. Up until around 2-3 years ago, I lacked the confidence to do so. Bills seemed too confusing and providers don’t always make it easy to switch. It all came to a head when my gas provider increased my already extortionate monthly payments for at least the third time that year. For a household of just 2 people, I couldn’t understand why I was paying £110 a month to heat my home. It took me a while to understand how to read my energy bills, but once I figured it out, by using various comparisons sites, I managed to find a much cheaper provider and saved myself £65 a month. I will continue to do this in 2017.
Plan NOW For Christmas
Christmas is rarely a struggle for me because I save up through the year for Park gift vouchers. Park gift vouchers are paid for between January to October, and then sent out to you in November so there’s no temptation of receiving them earlier and spending them on unnecessaries. They can be spent in many high street stores including Toys R Us, Argos, New Look and Primark, so it’s very handy for parents with children of all ages. I usually make monthly payments but this year I’ve switched to making weekly payments, which works out to just £7 a week, an amount I won’t miss.
I also pick gifts up throughout the year whenever there are sales on in certain stores. Primark often have stocking filler style gifts at rock bottom prices throughout the year, and Claire’s Accessories hold regular special offers, such as ‘Buy 3 items, get 3 free’. Last year, I bought all my stocking fillers in June! In 2016, I conveniently received my Park vouchers just before the Black Friday sales, so I spent a week searching out potential special offers for the stores I’d be shopping at. I managed to get so many items for less than half the usual price, helping my vouchers to go further. Another tradition I will continue this year.
How are you planning to save money this year? Do you have any tips you could share with me and other readers? Pop them in the comments below, I love hearing new ways of saving money!