Crush that food budget.

I have been helping a few family members recently to master their weekly food budgets after they had watched me gain control of our own. This is not perfect and I would absolutely love to be able to bulk buy items that we use regularly and meal prep etc. But, time, money and space in the freezer just won’t allow this currently.

I have a partner, three children and a dog. We all have different likes and dislikes so we needed to find meals that suited all of us. We did find this quite challenge first. Now, each week on budget day, before we go and do our food shopping there are a few vital things that we do to ensure that we stay on budget.

Firstly, we take stock of what we already have in the cupboards etc. We then decide what meals we could make from those items.

Secondly, we sit down and take a few minutes to write out our weekly meal plan. We don’t really like to plan our breakfasts and lunches as this can change day to day depending on what is happening and I feel it can get a bit restrictive. I often just add lunch and breakfast items to our shopping list after the dinners have been picked and planned. We always try to cater for everyone’s likes and dislikes to limit wastage and guarantee enjoyment from everyone.

From each meal we then break it down and build the shopping list. Also, I always like to check to see if we have any vouchers or coupons that could help us to save a bit more. Once this is done, we head to our local supermarket and start our shopping.

A few other rituals that we have are;

– We ALWAYS take our own bags. We do not want to waste money on plastic bags and try and avoid this where possible.

– I always use a club card/points card. We tend to be more loyal to our local supermarket which is Tesco and using our club card we have saved so much money and collected lots of points that transfer in to money off vouchers.

-We always use a calculator and add up as we go around picking up our shopping items. This gives us a rough idea of how much we have spent before we get to the checkout. ( This doesn’t always go to plan because fingers slip and buttons get pressed!) But, it gives us a general idea.

After seeing me do my shopping, a family member asked me for help. She is a single mother with two children and a dog and usually spends in excess off £100 a week for food. Most of this then ends up getting wasted! After following my steps, she absolutely crushed it! Her grand total for that week was only £33.00! This included breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks (for the snack monsters) for the following six days. Since then, her methods and relationship with her food budget has evolved and she has converted to becoming a food budget crushing queen!

What rituals do you have when meal planning and food shopping? Do you need to master your food budget?

New Kitchen inventory and shopping list printable pages are now available on The Spero Edit Etsy store – https://etsy.me/38NPLbs

My top tips for goal setting.

Whenever I think of things that I would like to achieve I like to start off by being very organised. I break down each goal into smaller tasks. This allows me to process it and take action. If you break it down into smaller chunks it can also be easier to analyse your progress. I find this exciting, especially when it comes to reviewing our financial goals. It’s easier for me to see how our finances are improving.

I personally always use the SMART goal method when setting my own goals. That is my very top tip.

SMART means;

SPECIFIC – This means what it says. You need your goal to be specific. What exactly do you want and why?

MEASURABLE – Make it so that you can measure and analyse your progress.

ATTAINABLE – How will you make it happen?

REALISTIC – Is it a realistic goal or do you need to adjust it?

TIME-BOUND – I LOVE this part. (Maybe, because I’m a bit of a nerd?) When I break down my goals and analyse the expected date of achievement. I can either tweak it if I don’t see it happening on that date or leave it and continue to track progress.

So that’s the method and my number one tip on how I set my own goals. This method can be applied to personal goals, financial goals and is commonly used in a business environment. I also like to get a visual on my goals and be creative using trackers, a vision board or mind maps depending on the size and timescale of each goal.

I have designed my own vision and goal setting printable which will be available to purchase from my Etsy store very shortly.

Make your goals SMART!

My Hybrid Budgeting Journey

Since writing about My Hybrid budget in week 1 a lot has changed. I decided to do things a little differently in the next month. Not because it didn’t work but because we felt very restricted and under pressure financially during the last couple of weeks in January. My goal for February is to continue our path to financial stability but also to ease the pressure throughout the month! January is always an expensive month for us from the start as our oldest sons birthday falls on New Year’s Day!

Last month I managed to pay a whopping 3.3 percent off our total debt of £17.5k! So we did have some small wins. All our bills were paid on time (just about, I will explain more later in this article) and we had food in the cupboards (most of the time). At the end of our month I sat and did the monthly reflect and review and looked at how I can tweak and perfect the budget to make next month better. I am aware that there are still a few days left of January but we are done spending money this month and won’t receive more income until the 1st of Feb so I was able to ‘close out’ the budget.

So how did January go? Well …it felt as if it was 700 days long? But, doesn’t it always? 🤣

I started by organising all of the bills and expenses and wrote all the dates on a family planner calendar on the wall. This helps me as a reminder to keep our finances at the forefront of my mind. I also began to put my budget binder together with all of the pretty trackers that I have.

I decided to have three different blank calendars in my budget binder. One for bill dates, one for debt payments and one for savings payment dates. Yes we are on our debt free journey but I believe we can try and do both despite having a limited income. I don’t want to spend the next months or years paying off debt and not have any money saved to show for it at the end. We want to be able to celebrate being debt free in a way that we see fit!

I am currently designing my own planner pages and calendars but for now I’m using others which have been great. I hope to be able to share those soon!

I started with the bill calendar and put each bill date on. I then decided to add our payment dates and colour code them. We get paid monthly and weekly so this got a little tricky but I managed it in the end. I then moved to the debt payment calendar and went through all of my paperwork. I had written down payment details and set up minimum payments that hadn’t been set up. I worked out that paying just £1 a week to most of them until I reach them in our Debt Payoff plan would be slowly chipping away at them. I can’t say that this is a Debt Snowball as we didn’t pay extras towards debt (we had none spare this month) but I managed to set up minimum payments at different amounts for each of our debts. Making ones with interest (like our credit cards) the priority.

I finally moved onto the savings calendar and after looking at our income minus expenses and then debt payments we had a small amount left each week to put away. I decided to divide this up. I’m trying to build an account cushion (so that we never go overdrawn again) and our first emergency fund. I also wanted to start putting £5 per week into an ISA for a future Nest Egg (because every little helps right?)

It all went smoothly in week one and all payments were made. But… when we reached week two and all expenses went out we found that we had no excess money for day to day things like bread and milk! Immediately I knew one of our weekly debt payments needed to be sacrificed for the rest of the month and this had to be the larger credit card balance ( a payment had already been made that was more than the minimum) but we needed a little excess each week to survive and to cover one of the bills I had missed. (It was on the budget and I knew we had to pay it, we just didn’t have enough to cover it at first) I also had to dip in to our very small cushion and the emergency fund a couple of times! Another thing we did was go through our house and list some items that we didn’t need or want anymore to make some quick cash to put on the electric and top up the food shopping. So things needed to be reviewed and tweaked for the following month.

When reflecting and reviewing I looked at all of our expenses ( I had been logging into my banking every few days and tracking them). I put them in to the correct categories that I had made and colour coded them on my expense tracking log to make it easier for the end of month review. (I will go into detail about this on another post).

From then I knew that we had paid a good amount to our debt despite having to sacrifice one of the regular weekly payments that I had originally planned. Moving on, I decided to break February up into the weeks when I set up February’s budget.

When we get our monthly payments we never know what it will actually be until around the 27nth of the month. But, when we get our weekly payments they are fixed amounts. Week one of each month is always the most expensive too because of bill dates etc.

I have a Starling account so this gives me the option to create different pots. I leave week one in the main account and set up a pot for weeks 2,3,4 and 5 and label them accordingly. I know…not every month has five weeks but it’s there for when those months arrive. I also set up an EXCESS pot for money that we need to carry over into the next month.

After dividing up the income for February to each week. I then looked at each week on the calendar and wrote down each bill due, debt payments due and saving due date for that week. This gave me the amounts that I need to place in each pot. I did originally divide it equally but this wouldn’t work as in week one we have more to pay out so I moved some of the excess from week two forward to week one.

Next month I hope to begin introducing our sinking funds and will explain more on this in another post. But, this will be decided on my monthly reflection. I did introduce a new type of emergency fund for February. My GTEF – GO TO EMERGENCY FUND. This is a small amount of £100 in a cash envelope for things that pop up unexpectedly day to day (like needing bread, milk and more nappies for the little one!) I broke the stuffing expense in to each week of February. So £25 a week goes into our GTEF Envelope. I am also designing my own Cash Envelopes for things like this.

Are you looking to gain more control of your finances? What things have you done this month to work towards a better future?

Planning your life with a Chronic Illness

There comes a time in a lot of people’s lives (these days anyway) that they are looking for a career change. Most healthy people wouldn’t see this as a massive obstacle and would just look into retraining and so on. (I say this but am aware that there may be lots of anxiety around the idea of leaving the job and security that they have) I was the same when working in the social care sector. I was a care assistant supporting elderly people with dementia and other complex needs and when working in this line of work you form bonds with the people that you are looking after. It was very hard for me to leave that behind. But, my health and mental health became more important than my job in the end. My choices at that time were – Money or Mental Health? That’s the only way I saw it. My mental health won. Despite us needing and wanting the money.

After some time off healing my mind and getting used to living with ME and Fibromyalgia, I realised that the sector I was in before didn’t suit my situation. It’s a very tough job. Tough on the emotional well-being and the long shifts are tough on the body. I think all that are in that sector are amazing and resilient people! I needed to find a new career path.

So… I had come to the conclusion that I needed a new career path. But, it needed to be one that suited my situation. One that wasn’t so hard on my body.

I began looking at different sectors and figuring things out. I needed something that would also keep me interested. I didn’t want to commit precious money to a course until I knew it was the path that I wanted to follow.

I found many resources for free courses and I will link them below. I ended up going with studying Accounting and Bookkeeping with the ACCA (I love budgeting and working with numbers so this seemed like the perfect fit). I’m also doing my Maths and English GCSEs again. For free! with the local college and it’s all online. (I wanted to brush up my basic skills and this will be a good thing to add to my CV when the time comes).

There are so many resources out there you can easily become overwhelmed with the choices but I guess it’s down to personal choice in the end and each persons goals and interests. I wanted something accredited with an actual qualification at the end.

The first few resources that I found are:

Future Learn – They have some great courses if you are interested in particular topics or looking for tasters they are an excellent resource and in my opinion the information is easily digestible and learning is at your own pace.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses

Open Learn – Again, a fantastic resource provided by the Open University. These courses can earn you ‘statements of participation’ and are great to boost your CV and LinkedIn profile. I have earned a few of these myself in various subjects.

https://www.open.edu/openlearn/

ACCA-X – If you are looking for courses in accounting and finance like I was then this is the best resource that I found. They are a globally recognised organisation and the courses are very interesting and easily digestible. ACCA- X is their online learning platform and I highly recommend this one!

https://www.acca-x.com/global/en.html

What resources do you find helpful for self development?

Week one of my Hybrid Budgeting System

I like to call this method my hybrid budget. I follow so many different blogs, resources and methods and have mashed all my favourite parts into one. Ones that work for me. Saying that…some parts of the budget remain the same across anyone’s personal finances. I research many money saving sites and one of my favourite programmes is extreme couponing. I WISH we had that kind of thing here in the UK. I mean we get coupons but not to the scale and benefit the people in the US get them.

Our personal finance stories are just that – personal. However, I want to share my journey to becoming a debt free and frugal budget buster 😉

I have taken some of the concepts in other budgeting methods and tweaked them to suit my personal circumstances. Creating my Hybrid Budget.

I want to point out that when I had made the conscious decision to tackle the budget, I started off slow. We can easily overwhelm ourselves when it comes to sorting out bills, paperwork, sifting through debt letters and trying to stay in control of it all. Usually in the past, for myself, my fight or flight would have well and truly kicked in after the first five minutes and I would end up spending the rest of my time trying to avoid it all. I was burying my head in the sand and losing control of my finances.

Then 2020 happened. I don’t really need to go into detail as we all know what happened and is still happening. Our finances were effected majorly and there were times that I had to swallow my pride and use the local food bank. Which I am very grateful for.

I needed to face that overwhelming fear and actually begin creating our budget. I set myself the task of sitting for only 30 minutes and writing down the bill dates (that I could remember) onto my calendar that I had printed specifically to use for finances.
Yes … that was all for step one of my journey. I did it to limit the overwhelm and frustration.
The next day I went back to it and began sifting through the paperwork. I had already added the dates that I could remember but this allowed me to find any that I had forgotten about. That was step two and three complete.
Step four consisted of me looking at my banking apps and going through my statements to find any memberships or subscriptions and see the dates and payment amounts to add to my calendar.
So let’s recap and break it down quickly.

Step One – I write the bill dates and payment amounts on the calendar that I know of.

Step Two – I begin sorting through the paperwork and breaking it into four categories. The categories were Bills, Important Miscellaneous Paperwork, Debt and Collections Letters and the Shredding/Rubbish Pile.

Step Three – I set three of the paperwork categories aside and focused on the bills pile. I began to look through it all to find any payments and dates that I had missed while also ‘unloading’ it. When I unload I only keep the most recent bills for example; I keep the past 3 months bills if they are monthly, the past 3 if they are quarterly and the past 2 if they are annual bills. I then organise in to date and priority order.

Step Four – I scan through my banking apps to find any memberships or subscriptions. To see dates and payment amounts and add those to my calendar. I took this opportunity to cancel any that I didn’t want, need or use as well which cuts down my expenses a little.

So that was it. My first week working on my hybrid budget. My first week of tasks spread out so that I didn’t feel the pressure. I didn’t get frustrated, upset or overwhelmed. If at any time I felt any stress building I would simply step away from the task for a few minutes to clear my mind.
By week two, I had began to form a little bit of a habit and creating a pattern of tackling one small task per day.
Some may feel that they could do more and some will feel like they would need to do less and that’s OK! Our journeys are unique to us. I had to allow myself to go slow and pace myself. Not just to clear the overwhelm but because of my health and my busy home-life too.

Is it time that you begin to regain control of your finances?

The Post-Christmas Clean up 🧹

It’s just after Christmas of the year 2020 and I am looking forward to the new year. ( I’m sure most people are looking forward to a better year than the last?) I decided to start by organising and decluttering as much as my body will allow and do a little each day. I always get the urge to do this straight after Christmas 🎄

Maybe, it’s so that I can start the new year with a clean slate quite literally?
I’m trying to learn how to pace myself since my diagnosis and have been finding it quite challenging. I miss being the energetic 23 year old that felt like she could take on the world! So much changes in a decade!

I suffer with a lot of pain and fatigue due to having M.E (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Fibromyalgia. Sometimes it gets that bad that I lose mobility and have all over body tremors for weeks on end. So pacing myself is necessary really as I don’t want to push myself into a bad flare.

Day one of my post Christmas clean up consisted of me resting and recharging after the excitement of a Christmas with my partner and our three boys. After mentally preparing myself I made a start on organising the cupboard under the sink in the kitchen.
My goal was to make things easily accessible and easy to find, as well as getting rid of or repurposing things that we don’t need or use.

Before the cleanup started.

As you can see, before I started it was a huge mess. I found some strange items in here that definitely shouldn’t have been in here. (Lotion for the kids and some Lego and Scooby Do toys? 🧸)

During

I pulled everything out and began to sort it into categories like; Laundry, Dishwasher, Cloths etc. Things that belong in the tool cupboard were rehoused and I also decided to keep the bathroom cleaning items upstairs (easily accessible for me to clean the bathroom) so I rehoused those too.

I discovered a shelf! I have lived here for a whole year and never noticed this before?! I fixed it back into place and placed my cleaning bits back in the cupboard, labelling a couple of the tubs.

Do you do things like this to make living with a Chronic illness a little easier?

I also noticed that something as simple as this allows me to keep an eye on the budget for my home maintenance envelope. I use the cash envelope budgeting system and cleaning products come out of this category for me. If you like to know more about this system I’d highly recommend that you visit The Budget Mom or Dave Ramsey websites and look out for my blog posts coming on this too.

About

My Twin sister and I were born in England in 1988 and grew up in a bustling Essex town, near London. A while after leaving school I moved away from ‘the concrete jungle’ to live in the North Devon countryside. I had already become a mother to my oldest son Jacquin but later on had my two younger sons Kaiden and Lucas. We live in a lovely coastal village in North Devon along with my partner Martyn and our cockapoo, Torvi (my daughter). 

I started a career in care and things were great for a while. This was alongside my hobby and passion for writing. I have been writing for around 4 years now. Creating content for blog articles and writing my own Novel. 

Something went wrong… I could not continue my career in care and support the wonderful people that I grew to love and care for. My body wouldn’t cooperate. My brain wouldn’t cooperate. 

After a few visits to the doctor and lots of tests. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue. Once I received my diagnosis I was relieved that I wasn’t dying like I had thought. I’m serious, there were times I had been laid up in bed in agony and extreme fatigue thinking I was going to die. There was a hint of relief for having answers but I also I felt like someone had told me that my life was over. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. What was I going to do now? 

I laid in bed one evening (I am in bed a lot!) trying to think of how I can move forward with this. Should I find a hobby that takes minimal effort? Should I push myself and act like nothing is wrong? (Impossible) I was considering all of my interests and hobbies alongside my new diagnoses. What would allow me to live my life, within my bodies limitations? 

The Spero Edit. Why that name? Spero translates to HOPE. 

I love to plan and organise my life. It makes living with a chronic illness just a little bit easier. It supports my mind and my body! A lot of having M.E (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or Fibromyalgia is learning to pace yourself. I’m sure it’s like that for many other Chronic illnesses too. But, I needed to create resources for myself to guide me through daily processes and help me get through the dreaded brain fog.

I am passionate about many things, gardening, growing our own food! Writing as I have already stated. I am currently (and slowly) writing a novel. Green living, I am on a journey to living as sustainably as possible. I try to reuse and repurpose things as much as possible. Cutting our plastic consumption, and doing our bit to save the planet is high on the list of priorities too. I will hopefully be getting involved in community efforts, fundraisers and challenges (body permitting) that I feel are aligned with the values of The Spero Edit. 

Thank you for supporting and for reading. I hope you enjoy all of the content and look forward to hearing other views and opinions. 

If you have any questions please feel free to email us at thesperoedit@gmail.com and if you are interested in collaborating please email us at thesperoedit@gmail.com with COLLABORATION in the subject bar.