The Little Life of T / Oh So T sharing finance tips

I will openly admit that I am shit with money. Always have been and thought I always would be! That was until I started maternity leave and realised I suddenly needed to live on a lot less. I am someone who lives pay check to pay check. I did not even have a savings account until July this year. Yes, that is right at the age of 26 I finally got a savings account. No-one taught me money management other than never ever to get a credit card. Through a lot of intensive therapy I have discovered that I am an emotional spender. When I feel big feelings, I buy myself a little treat to cheer myself up. Don't get me wrong I'm not splurging thousands on designer gear, it is usually pointless items (such as an acacia wood recipe stand for £5.99) that I think 'oh that'll make my life easier and look nice in the house. Of course, when on maternity leave you experience a LOT of intense emotions and those £5.99 treats soon add up.

I always knew this would be a bit of a battle. I had savings. Roughly knew my outgoings etc. Knew the money that would be coming in and knew how much I had in savings to have a monthly budget that was definitely something I could live off. Then the cost of living crisis started to hit and I suddenly realised I needed to get a MUCH better handle on my finances. I thought I would share this, because people sharing their stories on Instagram, Twitter and their blogs has REALLY helped me understand my spending, keep myself accountable and get better at money management. 

The first thing I did was do a lot of reading on the money and budgeting side of Instagram. There are loads of mums on there sharing how they are managing on maternity leave financially and tips and tricks to help save the pennies. I found this motivated me to be open and honest with myself, because burying my head in the sand was not the answer. 

Following the advice I worked out how much money I roughly would have a month (it can vary due to how many Sundays are in a month apparently). I then sat down and worked out my fixed expenses. This would be things such as your mortgage, utilities bills, phone contracts etc. The only fixed expense I have at the moment is my phone contract as Steve is covering all the household bills. I then looked at what would be my variable expenses every month; these are things that can vary such as your grocery shopping, fuel for your car and baby classes (I pay these each term so some months will be paid and some months will not be). Variable expenses was quite hard to do at first, but I went through three months of my bank statements and worked out a monthly average of groceries and fuel. In hindsight, I should have increased this a little bit to factor in paying for formula, nappies, wipes and the fact that we now use two cars regularly and not just one. 

Based upon the averages I then set a budget for groceries, fuel, Alex (this is things like his baby grows and items he needs as he grows), self care (this is SO important as a Mum - coffee dates are sanity savers and that little treat of a new nail polish or Dove gradual tanner can have you feeling like a new woman), takeaways (you will not always have time to or want to cook) and household. 

I of course prioritised groceries, fuel and Alex and ensured those were amounts that could work. Our grocery weekly budget, including nappies, wipes and formula, is £85. Usually we are under this, but some weeks if we need to get a huge pack of nappies, formula and wipes then we can go over. It also depends if we are using our freezer stock or if we need to buy things to batch cook as well, but roughly we either stay on or under budget. 

Fuel is a tricky one, I try to budget £25 a week. I essentially fill the car up (usually costs are £60) and try to make it last two and a half weeks roughly. This does depend on where I am needing to go. Some weeks I will barely use the car and others I will need to go and visit family or we will go out on a day trip and this can use more fuel. I am not overly strict on this, because we need to the car, but this is an area I can definitely cut down on. 

Alex has also been a tricky one, because I suffer with very bad Mum guilt and show my love via presents for him. I am working on this one, but I budgeted around £100 a month for Alex's extra items. Of course, some months this will be blown completely, for example when we needed to get him a highchair and walker etc. as those are expensive items. 

Self care is one that kinda goes by the wayside a little bit. I usually go for coffee after baby class and each week that can cost around £6-£7. I set a budget of £10 a week for this, so I have £3 leftover for a little me treat. I don't always use this so I roll it over and can 'save' it to get a more expensive item if I need it or fancy it. I even started seeking advice from other bloggers for ways to update my wardrobe on a budget and found this great post from Annabel about how to do just that! 

Takeaways - So this is where I out myself a bit here - this is where the budget is just off the charts. Takeaways add up fast. But they are so bloody convenient and when you've had a screaming baby all day, cannot be bothered cooking, but also do not feel you could cope with the baby whilst your partner cooks, they are often a lifeline. Now, if I really really really try I can nip this in the bud. We will be nipping this in the bud as with the cost of living crisis takeaway prices have gone mental. The chinese has easily gone up £5 a meal. I set us a budget of £40 to allow us to get one takeaway a month. OBVIOUSLY, we spend way over that and it is because I am lazy. 

Household is another one where my costs can spiral a bit. I spend a lot of time at home. A lot of time organising things, making changes (keep an eye out for the kitchen and bedroom renovation) to the house, seeing things we need that will, in theory, make things easier. I find I want extra baskets to organise things, new washing baskets that will fit in the cupboard as I have added a shelving unit so no longer can fit two baskets in there, and new bedside lamps for a more relaxing bedroom environment. These are all things that I do not need and I am FULLY aware I do not need them, but they are all items that bring me joy. The kitchen used to be a space that really got me down because it was quite dark and I spend a fair bit of time in there, but spending the money to DIY it and brighten it up has made such a difference to my mental health. It's things that I am happy to spend the money on, but an area that I also recognise needs some work. 

So now I have demonstrated how I am by no means perfect at this budgeting thing I am going to show you how I gained control of my finances and now have more of an understanding of my spending. 

Gaining Control

Every month I started reviewing my spending. I would keep all my receipts from shops and make notes in my diary of what I spent in which shops or on takeaways. I would sit down with a cup of tea, get out all of my receipts and highlight them. Things highlighted green were essentials (groceries, fuel and essential clothes for Alex or essential items for him), things highlighted yellow were items that I could argue were needed, but not essential (extra coffee trips, some toiletries, treats for Alex) and things highlighted pink were items that were not needed and I should not have spent on i.e. non-essential spending. In my mind this helped me start associating essential purchases and non-essential purchases, which helped form a thought process of 'is this essential' in my mind during purchases. I have since been able to put items back or decide it was not essential. 

The little life of T / Oh So T showing highlighters

I would also go through the diary and check when we purchased takeaways and think what triggered that purchase. I noticed a pattern that if we were tired or it was the weekend, we were more likely to purchase a takeaway. To combat the tiredness I started doing some batch cooking whilst Alex was asleep and ensuring we always froze leftovers. This ensured meals were available that could be heated up with some microwave rice for a quick meal that was not a takeaway. I started using the slow cooker in the morning when I felt tired or getting a meal out to defrost. This deterred me from ordering a takeaway, because I did not want to waste food. I also made sure we always had a decent frozen pizza in (I'm talking stuffed crust) with a side that could be made into a fakeaway or I would try and factor in a fakeaway into the meal plan, such as a fakeaway chinese or homemade KFC. I found this really helped and is something that I am going to make more of an effort to do going forwards. 

I also used Canva to create myself a piechart of my spending and shared this on my budgeting Instagram page to keep myself accountable. Something about admitting your spending to other people made me determined to get control of things and the support from the community is incredible. Everyone is always so positive and can really help stop a bit of a spending spiral. These piecharts were great at helping me see the areas where we spent the most money on and gave me a bit of a jolt to make changes as the takeaway slice was bigger than I wanted it to be. 

I also purchased a money wallet binder for cash stuffing. This is a great way to force yourself to stick to a budget. You chose what wallets you want, for example I have groceries, fuel, Alex, household and Christmas, you withdraw your weekly budget in cash and then you stuff each wallet with that money. You then leave your cards at home and just use the cash wallets and if you run out of money you cannot spend anymore. I found this very useful at first to help keep me accountable. There are loads of videos on Youtube of people cash stuffing (it is a rather satisfying watch) to give you more of an idea. If the wallets get too much money in them, for example the Christmas one, you can then pop that money in a savings account and keep adding to it throughout the year. It was a bit more of a nuisance needing to do an in person shop and pay for fuel in cash, but it definitely helped shift my mindset about spending. Certainly the first thing I would recommend you try if starting a budgeting journey. 

We switched supermarket. I was shocked at how much money we were spending at TESCO. We switched to Aldi and instantly saved about £30 a shop. Formula was still purchased at TESCO for a while. We then switched to ASDA, where I can get formula and the fuel for the car, and it works out roughly the same as ALDI if not slightly more, but it is not a significant amount more. We also looked at purchasing a brand lower to save money and noticed there was actually no difference in quality. We now happily use ASDA's essentials range and buy spices from ALDI. This was a game changer as once we had made these swaps, I just felt more in control of things.

And finally I started setting myself a goal that I would have a certain number of 'no spend days' in a month. Fuel and groceries were not included as those are essentials, but any other form of spending was banned. So no coffee or little random treats or silly expenses on those days. Even if you could argue the item was needed. When I first started the challenge I set myself 5 'no spend days' and then increased this. This month I am aiming for 10 no spend days as we have a lot of things on. I always look at the month and events we have coming up to then decide on an achievable amount of 'no spend days'. I found that setting them too high made me unmotivated and more likely to fail than setting a reasonable amount of no spend days. This trick has helped shift my mindset on spending and I do now think of my 'no spend days' before I buy things. 

Each change took time to get used to and I am now 7 months into this journey. I am still finding my feet with budgeting and some weeks spend more than I should, but it is a journey and one that I am hoping I can keep learning and making changes that will pay off in the long run. If you have any budgeting tips that may help, especially as we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, please leave them in the comments below and let's help each other as a community! 

Until Next Time



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  1. such a good post!!! I think take out is one of the easiest ways to blow a bunch of money no matter where you live and it's so easy to do! :D. In Munich, it's so expensive and to be honest it's not that great so I just can't justify it I really learned to cook as a result hah. However, I definitely got take out way too much in Beijing it was affordable and delicious..These are really helpful tips explaining your journey thank you for sharing!


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