Every six month’s or so, we sit down and do a full-on review of our monthly budget review which I usually share a bit about in my weekly five frugal things post but this time, I thought I’d do a whole post about it.
Before I start though, I would say that our budget is looking good right now but it’s taken years to get to this point from where we were when we started our frugal journey and I’m super proud of us! The healthier our budget starts to look, the more encouraged we are to be frugal and to save even more money because we have a goal in mind to pay off our mortgage in half the time and that’s going to be a big one!
The fact our budget is looking good is the reason I thought I’d share our monthly budget review in more detail this time. It’s been a work in progress since the kids were born and at one point our budget literally felt pointless because we just never seemed to have any money spare at all and some months, we didn’t have enough to cover all of our outgoings.
We learned (gradually) to live within our means thanks to our budget but I think I’m going to write another post about how we budgeted in the early days so I won’t go into that too much right now!
Our half-yearly budget review
I do have my free monthly budget planner which I used to use to do this and would always recommend that you use something like that for the first few times (at least) that you do your own budget because it helps makes sure you have EVERYTHING down.
I’m quite used to it now though and for the last year or so, I’ve been using Trello which saves me time as I update it. I have one list stored for my outgoings and another for our income and it’s updated whenever anything changes.
For my outgoings list, I have everything written down that we pay for regularly from the mortgage to pocket money and from Amazon Prime to council tax. Literally, if we pay it, it’s on the list – no matter how small.
When I do my big budget review, I check the list against our online bank statement to make sure there’s nothing unexpected on there and then I work through all of our bills and figure out if they can be reduced or not.
I upped our mortgage overpayment standing order recently so just because I like seeing the numbers come down, I had a quick play with the MSE mortgage overpayment calculator and upped it by another £10 a month – practically nothing I know but every bit helps and we saved way more than that with this budget review so we’re good with a bit more. I was going to up it by the amount we saved but in the end, I decided to up it gradually as I’m conscious that the idea of paying the mortgage off is so we can have financial freedom and enjoy life and I don’t want it to be a struggle to get there so if we can free up a bit extra now and still be on track to pay our mortgage back early then that’s great!
I did actually just get a letter from our mortgage company a week or so ago to say that they would be happy to review our mortgage and see if there was a better rate available that could save me money. That’s brilliant and we know that we could save some money if we do this but we’re deliberately holding off for a little while as we’re overpaying at the moment with the Standing Order and also with any spare money we have any time and we want to see how much we can comfortably manage to overpay so we can significantly reduce our mortgage term when we do.
We’re mid-term with our home insurance but I did have a look at Compare the Market and I found some cheaper deals so I thought I’d have a try at getting some money off ours. The person I spoke to at the Halifax was lovely and said they did have a new insurance product that would be a lot cheaper as I could tailor the cover I wanted. I ended up with a policy that was cheaper than my current one by about £10 that they swapped me on to straight away with the added advantage that I could add some emergency cover on for cheaper than the boiler cover I currently pay. The Emergency cover covers all emergency call outs which is why I have my boiler cover after a Christmas with no heating a few years ago. That means I could cancel that boiler cover and save £15 a month there as well as the insurance saving.
Broadband and TV
We saved some money on this not so long ago when Mr Frugal called mid-contract and got a discount but this time we more than wiped out that discount, as we decided to add Sky Sports on to our package which you can imagine, isn’t cheap! I tried to ignore Mr Frugal when he told me how much extra it was – especially as I’m sure he said that he’d gone for the HD package as you could really tell the difference. I think it’s an extra £20 ish a month but in all seriousness, I’m OK with that and I know it will be well used.
I used to pay quarterly which was fine and even though I always meant to set it up for monthly, I never got around to it as a quarterly bill was never too bad. Northumbrian Water recently changed their billing from quarterly to every six months so our last bill was a six monther and much bigger than usual because of that. I called them up and arranged a monthly payment to pay this next bill monthly so it’s easier to budget for. I also asked if our water usage was average for a family our size and the lovely lady said it was within what they would call the average usage band but we were at the top of the band so no cause for concern but we could probably do better. I’ll be taking action there soon. 😉
Car Insurance and Breakdown Cover
Mr Frugal got a new car finally and when we changed the insurance over we managed to save a fair amount on the monthly cost by using the same insurance company as me. We got free breakdown cover with the car so we can cancel our £10 a month cover with Green Flag and we got six months tax thrown in which is something we paid monthly so there’s another £16 saved.
You might have read last month that we have no credit cards left but we chased up one of them that we hadn’t seen confirmation of closure for just in case it had been left open by mistake. It hadn’t but it was worth checking as they transferred us four times before we finally got through to the right team when we called to cancel so we weren’t sure that they were going to close it as requested. We now have one credit card each, with much-reduced limits, for emergencies and for buying things that we might want S75 cover on should anything go wrong.
(Does everyone know about S75 cover? I could write a post about the cover you get by paying on a credit card)
Gas and Electricity
I think we have a good deal for our energy but I have added this to my to-do list for next week just to double check. I ran out of time at the weekend as I had to pick Master Frugal up from his friends but I wanted to add it into this review just because it’s something you should check every time you do a budget review like this – unless you’re in a fixed rate deal.
This one makes me a little bit sad because for the last 18 months or so I’ve been a member of Makelight which is run by Emily Quinton (the lady who does the amazing flower photos on Instagram). I joined when I was off work ill and going a bit stir crazy at home and it inspired me to stop moping and start creating which was just what I needed at that point. Makelight was my happy place on the internet and I justified the monthly charge because not only did I love being a part of such a creative community, I learned so much about everything from photography to things that would help in my blog life and my work life.
I realised a couple of months ago that I wasn’t getting my money’s worth any longer as I just didn’t have the time to spend on it but I couldn’t bring myself to cancel it so I promised I would make the time. I just couldn’t though as I have so much else on so I finally made myself press than cancel button. ;-(
Another subscription I could do with canceled is our English Heritage membership which we pay monthly but I’m holding off on that one until after the Summer as we do often use it when the kids are off school. Aside from the usual planned visits to the sies, whenever we do a long journey anywhere we pick an English Heritage property along the way and stop there instead of a service station to break the journey. We don’t see as much of the property as we’d like but it’s always a much nicer setting than a motorway service station to stretch our legs and eat our picnic.
Other things budget related
- I now have Standing Orders set up for the kids pocket money.
- I pay £50 a month into my employers Share Save scheme which is then matched by them. We’re just waiting for Mr Frugal’s company to release their scheme for this year and we’ll do the same there too.
- Our Emergency fund is currently looking healthy but we’re trying to add to that each month too.
- We’re trying to move from monthly to annual payments for things where possible so gradually when something comes up for renewal, we’re looking around for a better deal and then paying in full for the year so we don’t have to factor it into our monthly budget (other than making sure we save money for the annual renewal next year).
- We’re going back to our cash envelopes system again for food and petrol spends because we want to get that under control a bit more and hopefully be able to reduce that part of our budget a bit further. Reducing it isn’t a priority to be honest, as it’s OK as it is but the priority is making sure that we don’t overspend and waste all the money we’re saving!
I feel like this is our best budget yet and love that I can see even more ways to save even more money in time for the next review if we can reduce our water bill, change our energy supplier and potentially reduce our weekly shopping budget.
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