Know what is coming in/out and when
I have written on the calendar when my various benefits and credits come in. Some are weekly, some fortnightly and some 4 weekly which makes life more complicated! Alongside these I have put when the bills and direct debits are paid. This way I don't get caught out and always have enough in my account to pay them. As the biggest expense is rent I have to make sure that I keep the Housing Benefit in the eSavings bit of my online account until the night before its due. That way it can't get taken up by anything else.
With the help of my children we try and menu plan for the week ahead based upon what is on their schedules. This means that I can create an online supermarket order using this plan and what we have in the cupboards/freezer/fridge. If we are going to be out and about taking a snack pack with us saves on expensive emergency food/drink buys.
Planning ahead can also apply to travel and days out. Booking up to 12 weeks in advance can save a fortune in train tickets. Some attractions offer discounts if you book online before the day of your visit. Other places offer cheaper prices on certain days so its worth checking this out well in advance.
Getting the best value for money
The advantage of moving to a new home meant that I could shop around for all my utility bills and get the lowest possible prices. I pay all of these on direct debit which gives me an even lower price. United Utilities even offer a weekly direct debit payment to make my water bills easier to pay for.
As mentioned above I've switched to using Internet shopping for my groceries. Yes I have to pay a delivery charge but I save in impulse buys. Also by using My Supermarket not only can I compare between the supermarkets that deliver in my area but I get told about potential money saving swaps. These are usually to own brand products or to current special offers. I don't always use the swaps as sometimes the shops Value brand just isn't anywhere near as nice as their standard one.
Boosting my income
I can earn up to £20 a week without having anything taken away as it stands at the minute. As my Usborne Books is pretty seasonal and I haven't been proactive making it a regular income, until now I've had to find other ways to get myself a little bit of extra money for treats. These are the ways I have tried out so far:
- flogging old stuff on eBay - I am amazed that people will buy things like my old Golly badges even if its not for a fortune!
- selling old mobile phones - there seemed to be rather a lot of fairly recent ones around in my house so I checked them out on Money Saving Expert and then sent them off. Again not huge money but better than nothing.
- selling old/broken gold jewellery - obviously not a regular thing but with gold prices high I sold a broken gold necklace for one week's income. The advice I got from Brown's the Jeweller in Kendal was to get at least 2 quotes from gold buyers and not just accept the first offer.
I am looking into switching to tax credits by being self employed for 16 hours a week but need to do the number crunching to see how this will impact on the overall financial situation. The current system of different benefits being effected differently by increasing income means that I need to visit the Job Centre so they can work out using a computer programme!
My big northern launch of my books business this weekend will hopefully lead to bigger things and a more regular income. Here's hoping its onwards and upwards from now on in...