2012 looks to be another year of belt tightening (and I don’t mean using Gok Wan body shapers under your swing dress) Economic forecasts remain gloomy and for many money have become the prime concern in their life.
We have always been told how our grandparents generation, spurred on by the experience of rationing were more frugal. It’s certainly true to say we live a far more comfortable lifestyle than any generation before us but we have never been in so much debt either.
I was recently given a great book from the 1930’s called The Book of Hints and wrinkles”
A guide on every aspect of living it contains a wonderful section on budgeting and managing money. This got me thinking as to whether any of the advice given out in the so called “good old days could be of benefit now?
The books chapter on money begins “you may think you are as economical as you can possibly be, and still you will find yourself in debt. If such is the case then certainly you need the help of a budget”
There is something quite scary about the word “budget” it conjures up vision’s of a life lived stingily but with some careful planning this doesn’t have to be the case. I’m quite passionate about how you can be both thrifty and live well and I’m also a great believer in setting a budget. If it all seems too dull to contemplate but you know you really do need to put your finances in order, think of your monthly income as a big yummy cake. You are simply working out which size slice goes where and how much is left for you to enjoy.
The book of hints and wrinkles very helpfully divides your budget under the following headings and tells you how much of your income (or slice of cake if you prefer the sweeter analogy) should be allowed. These can actually work quite well for all of us (with some modern amendments of course)
Rent or mortgage will usually be your biggest expenditure and it seems as though in this area the amounts may have sky rocketed but the percentage of what you spend remain the same. The Book of hint and wrinkles suggests shelter should account for between twenty five and thirty per cent of your yearly income and this is certainly the case for most people (with some paying more depending on where in the country they live or when they brought their property) paying for your home is one of those items of expenditure you can do little about and should be the starting point of every budget.
What food we buy is a great place to start looking at your spending.The Book of hints and wrinkles recommends apportioning twenty per cent of your income to food and also adds “by careful housekeeping it may be possible to cut this down to sixteen percent. But remember it is vital not to skimp your food allowance”
With so many people on low incomes attempting to feed yourself on just sixteen per cent of your income could be very hard indeed.
My advice on how to cut your food spend is as simple and old fashioned as the Book of hints and wrinkles- learn to cook and make what you cook earn its keeps. Nothing will help you keep your supermarket bill down more than being able to knock up tasty filling dishes with only a few well chosen ingredients. If you are watching the pennies then the freezer should become your new best friend. Freeze leftovers so you have enough for a second meal or to take into work for a quick lunch. You will be amazed how much money you waste on things like take out coffee or grabbing a sandwich from Boots. It all adds up. Buy a flask, take in butties. Healthier body, healthier budget.
This is certainly an area which has seen my own budget fall at the first hurdle in the past. The 1930’s advice is to allow twelve to sixteen percent of your income to purchasing new items and looking after existing ones. If you are reading this blog chances are you are already a lover of all things pre-loved and vintage and this can be your secret weapon in the thrifty style wars. Frequent your local charity shops, go to attic fairs, shop online. The buzz of buying clothes and accessories at a fraction of the cost will give you just as much of a thrill as buying from the high street and you can revel in the thought that your item will often be a one off, and you are not buying something which will end up in landfill next week, or might have been made by exploiting labour laws. It’s a fashionable win/win.
The Book of hints and wrinkles recommends that seven per cent of your income go onto this and includes “heat, light, domestic help and replacements” as I sadly don’t live in Downton Abbey the worry of how to pay the maid isn’t huge but then neither is seven per cent. It’s unlikely that you will be able to keep warm, flush the loo and turn the hob on for that amount but that doesn’t mean that huge savings can’t be made by being sensible. First of all it’s so basic but true-Turn the lights off when you are not using a room and only heat the parts of the house you are using. Turn your thermostat down a little and don’t fill your kettle up to the top if you are drinking only one cup. Teeny tiny things but they do add up.
On a more modern note use one of the many energy supplier price comparison websites to ensure you are getting the best deal for your services. If you work from home like I do its so tempting to have the house toasty warm all day but when the huge gas bill comes in you will wish you had chucked on an extra jumper and filled a hot water bottle instead. Obviously never allow yourself to become cold and unwell and if you have kids always make sure they are well wrapped but if you can float around your house in winter without a cardigan on TURN THE HEATING DOWN
This includes insurances, and the percentage recommended by those goody two shoes in the thirties was between seven and twenty percent. Here’s what I think. If you have any debt clear that first. No point patting yourself on the back at how big your ISA is if your credit card bill is second only to the RBS in the debt stakes. Once you have done that putting a small amount aside every month is always wise and a very good habit to get into. If your budget is so tight it squeaks then just put aside ten pounds a month. Have it taken out as direct debit so you don’t notice it. You will be amazed how it adds up. Having a very small nest egg even if it’s only a few hundred pounds can make all the difference if the boiler breaks or your car gives up the ghost.
I love this heading the most. It makes me feel like Kate Bush at seventeen getting a development deal with EMI records where she learnt to ballet dance and have shiny teath.Whilst not quite so high brow this is for putting money aside for holidays, clubs (I think they mean book clubs and the like, not Chinawhite) and extras. It is smart to have a portion of money that is simply for you to spend on the good things in life. For me this is magazine subscriptions, downloads on my kindle and rose scented joss sticks, you spend yours on whatever you like. The amount recommended swings between four and twelve percent depending on your income and this is probably about right.
The Book of Hints and wrinkles rather sternly states “of the six headings Shelter and food are the most important. It is better to cut out development altogether and reduce the other headings below their percentage suggested than to skimp on these two” I agree that having a roof over your head and food in your belly will always be the utmost priority but woman can not live by these things alone and its important in these uncertain times that we still allow ourselves small treats. These don’t have to be huge so step away from the Chloe handbag, I’m talking a new lipstick or a facial using a groupon voucher-chic but thrifty-our new watchword for 2012.