How to easily build a family budget that works and reduces your stress!

Money Saving TipsNow stay awake!

Remember I told you in my previous post about why budgeting is fab, that having a budget will reduce your stress, improve your relationships and give you a better sex life?

So now I’m going to give you some tips on how to build a budget, because it’s not always that obvious.

Plus you can listen to my dulcet tones again (lucky, lucky, lucky!) because I talked about this for Radio Verulam’s Drive Time show with Danny smith as part of my ‘Lifestyle correspondent’ role for them?  (Sorry it’s such a posh title that I just HAVE to keep dropping it in the conversation!).

There are three steps.

1) Build a budget

2) Fiddle/Analyse the budget monthly

3) Create a fun plan for the future

1) Build A Budget

Ok, so this bit might not be the most exciting bit, but once it’s done, it’s done!

You basically go through your Direct Debits, bank statements, credit card bills, and other bills to get a view on what you spent last year.

MoneySavingexpert has a great spreadsheet if you want one that will make sure you don’t miss anything out.

Here’s a picture of how we build ours up:

Once you have Regular spends, average spends, debt and food and house sorted: i.e what you pretty much have to spend (although you might find that you decide to cut back on some of it or remove it once you see it written down), then the rest goes into:

Savings for Fun: holidays, gadgets, gifts etc

Savings Forever: rainy day, pensions etc

Pots: For you, your hubby and the kids

The Pots are where the ‘magic’ happens!  You decide what a fair split is between you all, and then that is your limit.

But it’s no one else’s business what you spend there, so it can be spent without guilt or judgement.  If he wants to spend it in the pub or on a gadget then fair enough.  If you love shoes or handbags fine. It’s yours fair and square.


2) Budget Analysis

Each month (probably with a treat to encourage you, like a cuppa and a cake!), you go through how much you spent and compare it to the budget.

I’m telling you now IT WILL NEED REJIGGING!  So don’t feel guilty or judge yourself for that; you are bound to have been a bit keen and optimistic!

Then look to see if you got value for money from the spends that you have a ‘choice’ over:

Look for where you overspent, where you could have cut down, and what didn’t give you the value for money.

Little costs: Check out the little costs like coffees and multiply them by how many times a week/month/year they happen.  Are they really worth it?

Medium costs: Work out if they are worth the number of days it takes to earn them by taking your salary after tax/232 (full time working days) and seeing how many days it took to pay for them.

Costs that save money: If they save money, like our cars have done it might be worth it.

Debt: my rule of thumb is that it’s not worth going into debt for more than a season for pretty much anything.


3) Fun For The Future


After a while the budgeting will pay off and you will be able to look further ahead.

Sit down with a bottle of wine and DREAM!

What would you love to have done, seen or achieved by the time that you ‘kick the bucket’?

Maybe it’s a holiday, kids going to univercity, an extension on your house, or learning to drive?

This list is then great to compare to things you think of buying in between to see if they are really worth it, and to make sure that you have stuff to plan for and work for.

With debt you need to chunk it down to smaller units so that it seems more achievable e.g. £400pm is £100pw, which could be 2hrs of cleaning 5 days per week.  Plus remember to be upfront and tell organisations, debtors etc that you are struggling and make the payments manageable.  There are also organisations out there that can help you like the citizens advice bureau (I’m going to do some research and write a whole blog post about who can help you with debt problems in the next couple of weeks).


Here is my section on Radio Verulam with the lovely Danny smith (it’s 18mins):



So there it is, three easy steps, that might take you a little while to put fully into place, but will INSTANTLY make your life easier.

I really hope I’ve inspired you to have a go?

Let me know what you think?  Any questions or any problems with it, I’m here, so you just have to ask!



The Simple Things In Life

Does everyone like the simple things, can it be learnt?

The Simple Things In LifeI spent all friday filming a ‘thingy’ you’ll see soon about top tips to save money.  I’ve actually found myself more contented and less stressed having had to cut back since the big hairy northern one was made redundant, so it’s got a very positive spin on it.

Then we had the lovely weather at the weekend.  I love the smell of spring.  I love lying on grass and being barefoot.  I love counting daisies with the kids.  I love picnics.  I love walking the dog in the evening when it’s around the time that the sun comes down and everything starts to smell different.

So I’m a big fan of ‘the simple things in life’.

For many of us I think that the recession is forcing us back to a time where we can appreciate these ‘simple things’.  I’m not being flippant about the fact that there are also extremely difficult times at the moment, but for most of us who still have food to eat and roofs over our heads it’s not the worst thing that could happen.

Or is it?

I was brought up to climb trees, lie on my back and watch the clouds, and imagine fairies in the bushes around me.  What of the children with different interests who grew up to love stuff, clothes, gadgets or expensive things?  Is it more difficult for them?

The media is full of examples where kids are sent to somewhere to get back in touch with nature; like ‘Living with the Amish’ or years ago there was a bootcamp thingy for troubled teens.  Those teens eventually seemed to reconnect with nature and come home more complete and contented.  So maybe it’s possible for us all?

Perhaps it’s about finding our version of ‘the simple things in life’?  The big hairy northern one would love nothing better than a huge rucksack and unattractive fleece on his back whilst trudging up some cold and dreary mountain.  I admit that this doesn’t work for me as I’m more of a chill out and make daisy chains kind of girl.  Thank god the idea of ‘glamping’ is now beginning to filter down into just making camping more homey.

What do you think?  Is the potential to find contentment in ‘the simple things’ inside of us all?  Or are some people too far gone?

What are the ‘simple things’ that you love that cost hardly anything?  Or is the idea of cutting back horrific to you?

If you have to give up more and more of your little luxuries as this recession continues to hang around, is it causing you more stress or setting you free?

Do we take too much for granted and think that expensive things are necessary when they aren’t really?



Beware the refunds policy when buying presents

I know this post is a bit late for christmas, but there is all the birthday’s next year and Christmas in 12 months time.

Basically, BEWARE buying presents for people without being sure of the refunds policy, especially if it’s not a big name shop you are buying from.  You may end up only being able to get a credit note, exchange or even worse, nothing at all.

Also, if you do want to take things back, get your butt going, because you might be running out of time; I ran into that problem after one of my birthday’s, thanks Swarosky; not shopping with you again after being your biggest fan ever.

The Money Saving Expert has a great summary of our legal rights in this summary of refunds policies.

In these harder financial times, it might be difficult for small businesses to survive, but what they need to understand is that customer service is the key to our choice of where to shop, and so is making sure that we have security on our expenditure.

Today I was able to take back a dressing gown to Next from the hairy northern one, just because it was too long and I’d asked for a short one.  Thirty minutes later I took back a dressing gown for Little Dimples that I’d just bought in the sales, because I’d found a much more suitable one in Sainsburies.  That makes Next a safe bet when it comes to presents or buying things for my family.

Compare this please to the snooty, back tempered woman in ‘Its all about sports‘, which is a shop selling snow and sports kit near Willows farm.  Her face said it all when I walked in with the big fluffy snow boots, hat, gloves, bag and ear muffs that I’d been given for christmas from my family.  At no point in the buying of all that stuff by the Big hairy northern husband and Curly headed boy had the sales assistant said ‘I assume you aren’t buying this for yourself, so be warned that we don’t give refunds’.  There was no sign.  There is nothing on their website.  It’s unclear as to wether you’d get a refund if you returned something bought on the internet from them in their terms and conditions.  But she is perfectly within her rights to self-righteously think I’m lucky that they give a credit note.

Well honey (yes, that is meant to be patronising), at some point I’ll spend that credit note, and when hubby is has a job again and I have money to spend I won’t be coming to you, and I’ll be making sure that all my friends know how ‘helpful’ you were as well.  Oh and I’ll be reposting this blog post next Christmas too.

Update 2013:
I have just been back to this shop to spend my credit note.  I was surprised to find that the woman who had given me the impression she was one of the owners, was in actual fact not, and no longer works there.  I feel a bit guilty now, because I really should have complained properly and given the owner the right to reply.
What I can say is that I bought a FABULOUS coat, that will really help with my Fibromyalgia, so I’m really chuffed.  The owner was a lovely man and both him and the assistant were tremendously helpful.
I still lost out on the fact that I discovered when looking at the receipt that she had not refunded me the total on the credit note, but had taken a percentage off – argh, not worth worrying about!


Have you encountered shops that only give credit notes for things clearly bought as christmas or birthday presents?  Please do share here and add a comment!  And remember when buying from smaller shops or places you don’t often go to check their refunds policy.


Please name and shame below if you have had the problem yourself.