Easy Carrot, Orange, Coriander and Ginger Soup

Another Autumnal day calls for the last of the fail-safe and easy soup recipes we use. This time it’s with carrot, orange, coriander, and ginger. The recipe name may sound as if the cooking will be a large production. It isn’t. Especially if you use cheats, as I often do!

* Photo courtesy of  dreamstime.com (As soon as I next make my next batch, I’ll snap a picture and add one of my own).

Another Autumnal day calls for the last of the fail-safe and easy soup recipes we use. This time it’s with carrot, orange, coriander, and ginger. The recipe name may sound as if the cooking will be a large production. It isn’t. Especially if you use cheats, as I often do!

It’s also yet another soup that can be suitable for vegans and those with gluten intolerance. Ensure the stocks used are suitable for you and you’re good to go.

I like to make a large batch of this on the hob, as it’s quick to make. By making much more than needed for one dinner, we can freeze portions and use on lazy days. Batch cooking like this saves not only your energy and time but your energy bills too!

I’d been making this soup for a few years before meeting my (now) husband. Trying to convince him that orange works well in this recipe wasn’t easy. He thought I was ‘mental’ to include it, but he changed his tune after trying the soup for the first time. Now it’s one of his favourites.

My inspiration for the recipe was from Riverford Organic Farmers (the people who I’ve ordered veg boxes from). I tweaked it a little, as you may also want to.

Finally, I can’t let you go without sharing these fun facts (well I enjoyed them, but then I’m a bit of a nerd) taken straight from Wikipedia:

The provitamin A beta-carotene from carrots does not actually help people to see in the dark unless they suffer from a deficiency of vitamin A. This myth was propaganda used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War to explain why their pilots had improved success during night air battles but were actually used to disguise advances in radar technology and the use of red lights on instrument panels. Nevertheless, the consumption of carrots was advocated in Britain at the time as part of a Dig for Victory campaign. A radio programme called The Kitchen Front encouraged people to grow, store and use carrots in various novel ways, including making carrot jam and Woolton pie, named after the Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food. The British public during WWII generally believed that eating carrots would help them see better at night and in 1942 there was a 100,000 ton surplus of carrots from the extra production.’

Enough chatter. You want the recipe

Easy Carrot, Orange, Coriander and Ginger Soup

(serves four)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) *Optional.
  • 900g of carrots (chopped)
  • 1 tsp of fresh ginger (grated) *We store our root ginger in the freezer and take it out to use when needed. In a pinch, or to save time, you could also use ginger powder.
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • Juice of 2-3 oranges (and zest, if you wish) *To save time, use 150ml of orange juice instead.
  • 1 litre of veg stock
  • A few coriander leaves (chopped) *You can use chopped parsley leaves if preferred. To make the recipe more frugal and easier, use dried versions of the herbs instead.

To Serve (Optional):

Plain yoghurt or creme fraiche (use dairy-free or gluten-free if necessary).
Salt & pepper to taste.

Method:

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the chopped onion.
2. Cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
3. Add the garlic (if using) and cook for another minute or two.
4. Add the carrots, ginger (and zest, if using), stir to mix and add the hot stock.
5. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes (or until the carrots are softening).
6. Blend up the soup mixture in a blender or with a hand mixer, until smooth.
7. Return the mixture to the pan, add the orange juice and reheat on a low setting.
8. Add salt and pepper if desired and a blob of yogurt if using.

We like to eat this for dinner with either crusty bread, french baguette or with sandwiches. Nom, nom, nom.

Let me know if you try it, or if you tweak it, and how it turned out!

Here is the inspiration for the Easy Carrot, Orange, Coriander and Ginger Soup. You may also want to have a look at Mr.B’s (the hubster) Vegan-Friendly Frugal Tomato Soup, my Frugal And Healthy Spicy Lentil Soup  and my Chunky Autumnal Vegetable Stew Slow Cooker Recipe.

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Chunky Autumnal Vegetable Stew Slow Cooker Recipe

I’ve been craving a hearty and chunky vegetable stew for a couple of weeks now. Something ‘Autumnal’.

I’ve been craving a hearty and chunky vegetable stew for a couple of weeks now. Something ‘Autumnal’.

I don’t know about you, but Autumn is my favourite season. Yes, there are some downsides, such as:

  • Being cold.
  • Having increased heating bills.
  • Not being able to dry our washing outdoors as fast as usual.

Yet, we can enjoy:

  • Getting wrapped up and going to feed the squirrels in leave-strewn parks.
  • Snuggling up under a blanket with a hot mug of tea and a good book or film.
  • Filling up on yummy, stodgy, home-cooked food.

bunchythebudgeteer.wordpress.com-chunkyautumnvegetablestew

* Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Feeling grotty today and not wanting some rather sad looking vegetables to go to waste, I pulled out the slow cooker. So much easier than regular cooking and I knew that if I began to feel more ill (I did), at least I’d made dinner!

Here’s the Recipe:

  • 2 red onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 leeks (finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 4 small carrots (cut into large chunks)
  • 4 small sweet potatoes (cut into large chunks)
  • 4 small Maris Piper potatoes (cut into large chunks)
  • 150g dry red lentils
  • 2 litres of hot vegetable stock (made with 3 veg stock cubes and a teaspoon of vegetable bouillon – because I ran out stock cubes).
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of dried parsley
  • Gravy granules to thicken, at the end of the cooking session.
    (Or instead, you could omit the gravy granules and mix some cornflour with water and add).

Method:

  1. Peel and chop up the veg.
  2. Make up the stock with boiling water.
  3. Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
  5. Thicken if desired.
  6. Add dumplings if desired.
  7. Enjoy!

This made enough for me to put a few container fulls into the freezer, for nights when neither Mr.B nor I want to cook.

I had this for dinner this evening and it was scrummy!

It’s a cheap, healthy meal and won’t bust the budget. It’s also suitable for vegetarians and vegans (even the dumplings were vegan-friendly!). Many supermarket stocks and gravy granules are also gluten-free. By using them, this stew can also be enjoyed by people with with gluten intolerance.

Let me know if you try this recipe. Though not exactly the same, I based the recipe on one from my Sarah Flowers slow cooker recipe book, which you can find here.

Do you have any good vegetable stew or soup recipes that you’d recommend? Please share, so that we can all enjoy!

For more soup recipes, check out my Frugal and Healthy Spicy Lentil Soup,my Vegan Friendly Frugal Tomato Soup and my Carrot, Orange, Coriander, and Ginger Soup.

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Things You Need to Know Before Making Your First Budget

If you’ve identified that you need a budget, great! We all need a budget, whether we’re on low OR high incomes. To not tell our money what to do each month puts us at a financial disadvantage. Before you start, though, there are some things you need to know…

Image courtesy of Christopher Hall for Dreamstime.com


If you’ve identified that you need a budget, great! We all need a budget, whether we’re on low OR high incomes. To not tell our money what to do each month puts us at a financial disadvantage. Before you start, though, there are some things you need to know:


What Are You Currently Spending Your Money On?

You can’t set a realistic goal of spending £200 on groceries if, for the last six months, you’ve spent £400 per month.

For each of your budget categories, find out what you have been spending. If possible, look back over the past three months. Next, track your spending, for each area (groceries, eating out, clothes shopping, etc) for a month.

Write everything down as soon as possible and keep receipts.

Then, when you make your first budget, decide on a new amount for each category that is closer to what you want to spend. You can always adjust the amount for future months.

Do You Have Money Left at the End of Each Pay Period?

If you do, consider giving this surplus amount a purpose. This could be debt-repayment, savings, or whatever goal is most important to you at the moment.

You Don’t Need to Be Good at Maths to Have a Successful Working Budget

I’m not at all gifted at maths. Not even close (I even still count on my fingers!). All you need is a bit of organisation, a desire to feel better about your finances, a calculator and you’re all set.

Making a Budget Doesn’t Have to Involve Making a Fancy Spreadsheet

I do use a spreadsheet, but for ages, I used a pen and paper. I find it easier since using a spreadsheet that I designed for myself, but pen and paper budgeting is fine.

If you wanted to, you could use a money management app or software. There are loads around, but YNAB is very popular. They also have great video tutorials on YouTube. I signed up for the free trial and must admit, I found it a bit confusing, but I didn’t put enough time into it. You might be one of the many who love it.

Another great place to get started is ‘The Money Advice Service‘ Budget Planner.

Experiment with your budget and see what works best for you.

You Need a Budget If You Want to Improve Your Financial Situation

You’re reading this post because you want to improve your financial management.

If you have debts that you want to pay off, then budgeting will achieve this faster.

If you want to save optimal amounts of money each month, then you need a budget.

If you want to see how fast you can retire or pay off your mortgage, then you need a budget to help you to reach your goals.

If you want your partner to be able to stay at home with the children, then you need a budget to work out how to do this.

How Much Money Do You Owe, Who Do You Owe It to, and When Must It Be Re-Paid?

For most people with debts, especially those with a large debt-load, this can be the hardest thing of all. Everyone can understand not wanting to face up to such a stressful thing. The truth is, though, that unless you know exactly what you’re dealing with, you can’t improve things.

Get all your letters, statements and bank accounts opened up and add up what you owe and who to. Add the dates that these debts need to be repaid.

A Budget Doesn’t Mean That You Can’t Have Any More Fun

Budgets have a negative connotation of being ultra-constrictive. They can feel this way if your basic outgoings are almost as much as your income, even after making major cuts.

Can you meet your obligations and still put decent amounts to savings and/or debt? If so, then recreational spending is a good idea! It’ll stop you from feeling constricted and help you stay on track to reach the goals you’ve set yourself.

How Often Do You Get Paid or Receive Other Money?

If for example, you only receive income from one source every month then this is simple. Yet, if you receive income from more than one source, then they may come at different times.

If you receive a payment every two weeks, you’ll have months where you get three payments instead of two. Looking at exactly when you get paid is important to be able to budget well.

What Are Your Money Goals?

Knowing your ‘why‘ is crucial to sticking to your budget. It’s the difference between following your plan for a few months or staying the course.

You already know that you want to start budgeting your money, but why do you want to? If you don’t already have a strong reason, then ask yourself what will budgeting help you achieve? Return to that thought whenever you’re feeling like you don’t want to continue with your plan.

What Are You Willing to Do to Make Your Income and Outgoings Balance?

After making a budget and some time has passed you may discover:

  • That your outgoings exceed your income.
  • That there’s very little money left to enjoy each month

If this happens, then you may have to make further cuts to your spending, find ways to increase your, or both. It’s wise to bear this in mind before discovering that your budget doesn’t balance.

What Events Are Coming up That Will Cost You Money and How Will You Prepare?

As well as your monthly expenses, there will be random expenses that crop up. This could be an unexpected work trip or an M.O.T. It’ll vary each month, so think about how you’ll budget for this. Will you have a miscellaneous category in your monthly budget? What about for things like Christmas? Will you set aside a set amount each month so that by December you have enough to cover everything?

What Style of a Budget Will You Use?

Read my post: ‘Are You Within The Recommended Guidelines For Your Monthly Expenses?’ and then decide how you’d like to design your budget.

You might want to split up your budget into ratios, such as:

A 10/20/70 budget:

  • 10% of your money to savings.
  • 20% towards extra debt-repayment (over and above what you’re obliged to pay each month).
  • 70% to cover everything else.

Or a 20/30/50 split:

  • 20% of your income goes to savings and/or debt.
  • 30% is for non-essential spending.
  • You keep your vital living expenses under 50%.

You may want to do something completely different.

Whatever you decide, be aware that as you build your budget, you may have to alter your plans. If, say, you have high outgoings compared to income, you may not be able to do what you’d first hoped to do with your money. This is ok. This discovery shows you that you need to think about how you’ll improve your situation. You can make things work.

The First Three Months Will Be a Learning Curve

I’ve heard this so often and it’s true!

An unexpected bill arrives and it’s at this point that you need to make an important decision. Many people will think ”Well, I’ve blown the budget, so I may as well start fresh next month. Now, where’s the nearest coffee shop?” Or, ”I’m terrible with money, there’s no point, and I’m giving up.”

What you could consider, instead, is that budgeting is a skill, like any other and so needs practise.

Life doesn’t care about your spreadsheet or bank account and it’s up to you to be creative. Is it possible to reduce your other spending this month, to cover the unexpected expense? Can you say no to the expense? How will you alter your budget going forward so that you’re as prepared as you can be for these such events?

Finally, return to your ‘why‘. It’s the reason that you’re doing this.

You’ll Sometimes Get Tired of Budgeting

If I, a budgeting nerd can sometimes get fed up with the budget that my husband and I made, then anyone can.

If you can add some ‘fun money‘ into your budget (even if it’s a chocolate bar each week!), then that will help.

Are you facing a long road of debt-repayment? If so, consider budgeting some ‘celebratory‘ money for when you pay off a certain amount. Then get back to it.

Again, remember your ‘why‘. It will sustain you.

If You Have a Partner, Then He or She Needs to Be on Board

This is so important.

If YOU want to live frugally and commit to pay off large amounts of debt, your partner can’t max out the credit card!

It’s fine if one of you takes charge of actually paying the bills and keeping track of paperwork. But you both need to talk about what you want for your immediate and long-term financial future. What sacrifices are you willing to make? Where do you want to spend your ‘disposable’ income each month?

I’ll let you in on how it works in our house. I update the spreadsheet, keep watch over the bank account and ensure that bills are being paid. This is because managing money has become a skill of mine and I (for the most part) enjoy it. Yet Mr.B finds all that stressful, boring and confusing. As boring and nerdy as it sounds, we have a budget meeting every month. Mr.B has an equal say in whatever financial events come up throughout the month.

What surprises us is, when we have our budget meetings, we end up talking about many other things. Money influences so many areas in life, such as where we want to go on holiday or who to buy Christmas presents for. It opens up communications about many things. In fact, I can say that it’s improved our communication in general. I’ve heard this so many times from other couples who budget together too.

If you don’t have a significant other, then you won’t have to concern yourself with the above. That said, you also don’t have somebody to keep you on track. So consider having some sort of accountability partner for support and encouragement.

It’s Worth Doing

I’ve always had a conservative attitude towards spending. I’ve always lived within my means. Yet it wasn’t until I made a budget and identified my financial goals that I saw noticeable results.

Since having a plan to follow, I’ve achieved such a lot. This is despite a low income and three years of being unemployable. I don’t say this to blow my own trumpet, but to encourage you that you can make a positive difference to your life. This comes when you tell your money what to do.

How Much Is Your Income, Actually?

You might be on a £25,000 salary, but what do you actually take home each month? After tax, National Insurance, and pension, what remains? Do you receive any government benefits? If so, how much? Add it all up to see exactly what you’re working with.

Practical Next Steps

  1. Decide if you’re going to have a weekly, fortnightly, four-weekly or calendar-monthly budget.
  2. Track your expenses for a month.
  3. Try to find out your expenses for the past three months.
  4. Work out how much money you owe, who you owe it to and when it must get paid.
  5. Write down what your weekly/monthly income is and what dates you receive it.
  6. Write down your reasons for needing a budget and what your next financial goal is (review often and when you achieve each goal).
  7. Look at your calendar and write down all the bills, (plus birthdays, etc.) that are going to occur in your budget cycle.
  8. Decide which budget style you want to try. You can always switch to a different style if the one you try isn’t a good fit for you.
  9. If you have a partner, set a time for a budget meeting to work through all the steps above. (If you’re flying solo, find an accountability partner).

All this may seem a lot to do, but if you want to succeed, then you need strong foundations. Once you’ve completed the groundwork, congratulate yourself for your effort. Now go and build your first budget!

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Why Having an Emergency Fund Will Help You to Sleep Better

Living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ is a stressful existence and if using debt is your only option for dealing with a major financial incident, then anxiety levels can begin to creep up and affect your quality of life. Nobody wants to be lying awake at night worrying if a cheque is going to bounce.

* Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

What almost all experts will also tell you is that before you decide upon any other saving goals, you must first be working towards building an emergency fund (sometimes known as a ‘rainy day’ fund).

Emergency funds are predominantly a way of protecting yourself against a loss of income; which for most people will be a job loss. Of course, there may be other circumstances that will necessitate tapping into your emergency savings, such as unexpected and expensive car repairs that your usual monthly budget cannot cover.

Living ‘paycheck to paycheck‘ is a stressful existence and if using debt is your only option for dealing with a major financial incident, then anxiety levels can begin to creep up and affect your quality of life. Nobody wants to be lying awake at night worrying if a cheque is going to bounce.

Over the past two months, we’ve had to dip into our emergency savings for major and unexpected car expenses. It’s been a pretty stressful time, and although we hadn’t quite reached our goal of what we wanted to have saved in our emergency fund, the car debacle was a hell of a lot less stressful than it would’ve been had we not had some money in the bank to pay for not only the extensive gear-box work we had done but eventually a new (used) car!

Generally, something is an emergency expense if it’s a) unplanned, b) necessary and c) urgent. So your child’s birthday wouldn’t be classed as a good reason to take from your emergency fund, as you know exactly when it’s going to occur each year!

Some finance specialists advise that you have an emergency fund equal to three to six months’ worth of your usual income, whereas some recommend that you have three to six months’ worth of your usual monthly expenses (or outgoings) saved.

If you’re going to use your expenses to calculate your emergency fund savings goal, then you may want to know that some professionals recommend that you include only vital expenses (so this wouldn’t include any of your usual recreational or discretionary spendings unless you’d end up with a penalty that would cost you more than what you’d save by cancelling it – such as a mobile phone contract).

You may also want to consider if, during whatever financial emergency you’re going through, you’ll want to temporarily pause saving, making additional debt repayments and any investing towards retirement.

Of course, you’ll be able to reach your savings goal of having a complete emergency fund much faster if you’re aiming for covering only vital expenses. However, for those on a low income who don’t have much left to spend on non-essentials each month, there may not be a lot of difference between six months of income and six months of expenses!

When we first decided what our absolutely vital minimal expenses were, we looked at our usual monthly budget and went through each category and expense and subtracted any budget item that we could easily cancel without penalty if Mr.B were to lose his job. By doing this, we developed our emergency budget and were quickly able to work out how much (or little) was required to hit our goal of six months of expenses in the bank.
If the proverbial hits the fan then we can follow that bare-bones budget.

If you hate the idea of tightening up on your spending habits during say, a job loss, you may prefer to have three to six months of expenses saved, but be aware that if you don’t reduce your spending during the period of unemployment (or going from two incomes down to one) and you still haven’t found another job at the end of those three or six months, you’ll face problems. By cutting right back, you’ll be able to make that emergency fund last as long as possible and furthermore, you’ll have less to put back into the emergency fund once the storm has passed.

Do you have an emergency fund? If so, how long did it take to save? How many months of income or expenses did you decide upon and why? If you don’t have an emergency fund, is it something you’d like to achieve? If not, how will you deal with large and unexpected expenses or a loss of income? I’d love to hear from you!

For more on saving, check out: ‘Are You Within the Recommended Guidelines for Your Monthly Expenses?’

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

The Difference Between Savings And Investments

If you’re just beginning to learn about how money really works and are wanting to take control of your finances, you may not be completely clear about the terms that are used in the financial sphere.

* Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

If you’re just beginning to learn about how money really works and are wanting to take control of your finances, you may not be completely clear about the terms that are used in the financial sphere. Hopefully, I can clear up one common cause of confusion; the difference between saving and investing money.

Most people know what saving is, but it’s good to define the meaning so that you can see the difference between this and investing. So, to save means putting away money a bit at a time, usually to pay for something specific or for a ‘rainy day’ fund.

Savings are usually kept in a bank or building society account and your money is easily accessed when you need it. Some accounts may pay you interest on your savings, but this is more of a benefit rather the sole aim of the money.

Money kept in savings is generally at a very low risk of loss, but remember that savings are still at risk of losing value due to inflation (where the buying power of your money and any interest earned on it doesn’t keep up with the increased cost of living and therefore what your money can buy now will be less than what it can buy you in the future).

Investing is still a form of saving, but here you are taking some of your money with the aim of growing it by putting it into things that you think will increase in value e.g. investing in stocks, shares or rental property.

Money that is placed in such investments is at a higher risk of loss, as whatever you choose to invest your money into may not increase in value and may actually decrease in value. Usually, the higher the risk of an investment, the higher the amount of ‘return‘ (what you’ll get back on top the initial amount you put in) you could receive.

For more on saving and investing, you may like to read ‘Are You Within The Recommended Guidelines For Your Monthly Expenses?’

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Are You Within The Recommended Guidelines For Your Monthly Expenses?

Maybe you’re in a spin about what percentage of your income you should be investing into a pension, so that you’re not eating cold baked beans in your old age? (Unless that’s how you roll).

Are you confused by all of the financial advice out there, telling you how much you need to be saving each month? I know that I used to be!

Maybe you’re in a spin about what percentage of your income you should be investing into a pension, so that you’re not eating cold baked beans in your old age? (Unless that’s how you roll).

Do you ever wonder if you’re spending far too much of your income on things you enjoy, but that may be costing you more than the actual price tag, in terms of your financial health?

Are you stressed because you can’t possibly save what (insert financial guru’s name) recommends you save each month because right now you’re struggling to afford the basic requirements of living? (I know I’ve been there) Well, please read on, friend…

Let me first say that I truly don’t believe there is a ‘one size fits all’ plan to personal finance. It’s personal finance after all! I do, however, believe that there are good rules of thumb that we can go by and tweak here and there to suit our particular circumstances. When I say ‘tweak’, though, I mean altering things to benefit our financial situations and not simply to satisfy our spending desires.

I’ve read a lot of advice on what percentage of ones’ income should be put towards various categories, and some financial experts split up the categories slightly differently, but for the most part, they tend to fall into the following areas:

  1. Saving and Investing (there’s a difference and you can find out more here.).
  2. Debt-repayment (over and above what must be paid each month, such as a mortgage payment and paying the minimum balance on a credit card).
  3. Vital household and living expenses.
  4. Recreational/discretionary spending.

Let’s start with savings

The general advice seems to be that we should aim to put 10-20% of our net (‘take-home’ pay, after tax and National Insurance has been taken out) income towards savings &/or investments each month.

What almost all experts will also tell you is that before you make any other saving goals, you must first be working towards building an emergency fund (also known as ‘rainy day’ fund). Check out ‘Why Having an Emergency Fund Will Help You to Sleep Better‘.

Once you’ve got your emergency fund saved (or while you’re still saving for it) you might want to consider other savings.

Firstly, there are Short-Term Savings – These are for expenses or purchases you expect to happen in less than five years, for example, a family holiday or Christmas.

Medium-Term Savings – For expenses or purchases you expect to happen within five to 10 years, e.g. a new car.

Longer-term Savings – For expenses expected to occur in ten years or more, such as saving up for a child’s university tuition.

You may decide that you instead want to invest long-term savings, to maximise it’s chance of growth. Due to the fact that the money won’t be needed for several years, it has a better chance of weathering any fluctuations of, for example, the stock market. However, if you’re not willing or able to risk the fact that you may end up with less money when it comes time to withdraw it, then a savings vehicle may be a better option for you.

Have you ever heard of ‘sinking funds‘?

These are basically mini-savings goals that are designated for specific purposes.
You may decide to use separate bank accounts for each sinking fund, you may keep the money in jars at home (probably not the safest idea for anything other than small sums of money), or you may just want to lump all of your savings together in one place, keeping track of what money belongs to what fund/purpose on a spreadsheet or in a notebook. Our sinking funds have saved our skin and our budget many a time!

One final note before moving on to the next category is that some financial experts say that you should forget having any type of savings, even that of having an emergency fund, until you’re out of (non-mortgage) debt.

Some people suggest that you have at least a minimal safety net of one month worth of expenses saved while you’re getting your debts under control. Others recommend that you save money towards building your emergency fund at the same time as paying off debts.

Whatever you decide the best option is for you and your family will really depend on several things, including how secure you feel that your jobs are, how tolerant you are to risk and, if during a period of unemployment or prolonged illness, how badly you’d be impacted by your debts if you hadn’t prioritised them above savings.

Investing

For most people, this will mean the money that they save into their pension plan, but it could also include other investments such as investing directly into the stock market or buying a second property.

As mentioned before, you may also want to invest money earmarked for long-term savings goals (more than 10 years), in the hope that it’ll grow more than it could in an easily accessible savings account.

Experts recommend putting 5-20% of your take-home pay into investments/retirement savings, though other experts advise using half your age as a percentage for how much you put into retirement investments.

For example, if you haven’t consistently contributed to a pension or investment by the age of 40, you’d, therefore, invest 20% (half your age) of your income until you retire. It just goes to show that the younger you begin saving for your retirement, the smaller the chunk taken away from your monthly budget! It all depends on how much you want to live on in retirement and what your retirement goals are.

Investing is an extensive topic and something that people should get professional advice about from a regulated independent financial advisor when making such important and long-term decisions.

Debt repayment

The advice seems to indicate that we should be putting 5%-20% of our take-home pay towards debt each month.

This percentage doesn’t include your usual monthly mortgage payment (if you have one) or paying any minimum credit card balance, as they ‘have‘ to be paid or you risk additional debt and possibly losing your home. No, what this means is, for example, making additional payments towards a mortgage if you want to pay it off earlier (some financial gurus advocate this and others feel that there are better things to be doing with your money) and clearing credit card debts or paying off a car finance agreement, etc.

Vital Household and Living Expenses

We’re advised to keep this category of spending between 50-70% of our take-home pay. Though not meant to be an exhaustive list, this category will include things such as:

  • Food & household groceries (the basics).
  • Mortgage or rent payment.
  • Council tax.
  • Gas, electricity, and water.
  • Fuel/public transport to get to and from work.
  • Clothing basics.
  • Life assurance.
  • Home (building &/or contents) insurance.
  • Car tax, new tyres, car insurance, and M.O.T.
  • Sight tests and glasses.
  • Prescriptions.
  • Dentistry.
  • Boiler servicing.
  • Necessary hair-cuts.

Recreational/Discretionary Spending

This is where you finally get to have some fun with your money and use it for entertainment purposes!

From all of the research I’ve done, the advice seems to tell us to try to keep these non-vital expenses between 10-30% of our net pay.

Again, the list below isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, as what you chose to spend your ‘fun money‘ on may vary greatly to what I like to spend my money on, but it may include such things as:

  • TV subscription services.
  • Sports equipment, toys, and gadgets.
  • Beauty salon treatments.
  • Restaurants/eating out.
  • Alcohol.
  • Smoking and vaping.
  • Days out.
  • Non-essential home improvements.
  • Make-up.
  • Junk food and takeaways.
  • Luxury grocery items.
  • Clothing (that isn’t just the basics to keep you from being arrested or dying from hypothermia/heat-stroke).
  • Jewellery.

…and unless it’s used for business purposes, some financial specialists would also include having home internet, landline telephones, mobile phones (and their tariffs) as non-vital budget items.

I hope that by seeing what the experts recommend, you now have a clearer picture of how your spending compares.

As long as you’re aware of the potential impact of where you allocate your money each month, whatever you decide to do is going to be very personal to you and your circumstances.

Some people don’t have the luxury of choosing where they prioritise their spending. They may have cut back everywhere possible and either still don’t have enough for the basics each month or don’t have enough to save. In these situations, it’s not a spending issue that they have, but an income issue and until that’s improved, they shouldn’t, for example, concern themselves with investing.

Have you calculated how much of your income goes into the categories above? Are you a natural saver or spender? What are your views on prioritising debt repayment over saving or vice versa? Do you have an emergency fund?

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Top 10 Apps and Websites That Earn You Money

After sampling so many different sites, I’ve discovered very differing results from each. I’m now confident in saying that you don’t have to do this dirty work yourself!

How much free time do you spend on your smartphone or laptop? Are you scrolling through stuff that isn’t rewarding in either sense of the word?

Sure, we all need some mind ‘bubblegum’ at times, but, if we’re not learning or earning, we can feel unfulfilled.

When you next have free time and are at a loose end, you may like to try websites and apps that earn.

After sampling so many different sites, I’ve discovered very differing results from each. I’m now confident in saying that you don’t have to do this dirty work yourself!

What should I expect to do on these sites?

  • Complete surveys (from very short ‘micro-surveys’ to pretty long ones!).
  • Play games
  • Use the websites to shop for your usual purchases.
  • Use them as search engines.
  • Watch videos (including getting to watch the latest film trailers).
  • Look at suggested deals, such as a free credit report.
  • Test products.

What are the rewards?

  • Cash via cheque or PayPal
  • Gift-cards (physical or digital) for many retailers such as Amazon, Argos, and supermarkets.
  • The ability to donate your earnings to charities.

There are further sites that I’m still researching. Until I’ve confirmed that they are legitimate and worthwhile, I won’t recommend them. Once I’ve learned enough about them, my ‘Top 10’ may change.

The chance of receiving surveys or the chance of getting screened out of surveys will vary. It will completely depend on the demographic that the survey creator is looking for. Sometimes you’ll be desirable to them and other times you won’t.

Will you be able to get rich or give up your day job by using these sites? Almost definitely not. There are people who somehow manage to make this a very profitable sideline, but they are rare.

Yet these sites can help you to earn enough to buy some groceries or treat yourselves and others. Success will depend on your usage.

So without further ado, here are my top ten favourites:

 

10) Google Opinion Rewards (App only) Cover art

Users of this app get notified on their smartphone of when the next micro-survey is available.

Surveys usually consist of one to three questions, so each takes mere seconds to complete.

Earnings are up to 60p in Google Play credit per survey (for android users) or via PayPal earnings for iOS users.

Google Play store rating: 3.9 (I’m surprised it isn’t higher).
(Also available for iOS)

 

9) Mobrog 

(www.mobrog.com)

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This survey site pays on average 50p to £3.00 per survey.

Users get notified of new surveys as they become available. Before beginning, they’ll also learn how long each survey will take and what the reward will be.

There aren’t any penalties for not completing all surveys.

Users can cash out their earnings through PayPal once hitting the £4.00 pay-out threshold.

There’s also an app and whilst I didn’t think it was awful, it wasn’t great.
Google Play store rating: 2.9
(Also available for iOS)

 

8) inCompass
(www.incompass.me.uk)

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As with Ipsos i-Say (number three in the list), inCompass is run by Ipsos Mori.

There are currently two ways of taking part; both of which are studies on the consumption of media in the UK.

For some participants, this research will involve either:

  • For a period of time, installing a smartphone app (if participants have one) or/and..
  • Installing the inCompass app on any other electronic devices owned.
  • Keeping an online diary of their media usage for seven days.

Panelists in the former group get rewarded £20 in vouchers after their first month on the panel. They can earn an extra £10 for every month they remain part of the panel.

Some panelists receive a smartphone-like device. This device has the media monitoring app pre-loaded to it. These panelists receive a £10 reward every month they carry the device. Panelists must also keep the app running on any other devices they own.

For those completing the diary, they’re rewarded £5 for completing the seven days. An invitation to complete a diary usually occurs every quarter.

The data gathered will help form the future of TV, radio, music, and internet services.

There is also an app, but I haven’t tried it myself.
Google Play store rating: 2.2

 

7) CitizenMe (App only)

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Users complete micro-surveys, which take only seconds. Cash rewards vary in amounts (I’ve found these to be between 10p to £1 per micro-survey). There are also ‘just for fun’ micro-surveys, which provide more insights for users to enjoy.

CitizenMe works in partnership with the University of Cambridge Psychometric Centre and the University of Sheffield Open Data Science Institute.

CitizenMe says that its app is a way for users to take control of their data and discover what it says about them.

Users can choose to exchange data with organisations (including charities). Users still keep a copy of their data. This data gets added to users’ accounts, forming personalised and private future insights. The more data added, the better the insights for the user.

Businesses use CitizenMe as market research and data analytics platform. Users’ data is only used for research purposes. Collected data gets mixed with other users’ data and is anonymous.

CitizenMe receives a transaction fee from business brands. Some of this gets rewarded to the user in the form of the reward.

Google Play store rating: 4.3 (It can be temperamental on the odd occasion, but for the most part, it’s fab).
(Also available for iOS)

 

6) Nectar Canvass
(www.nectarcanvass.rn-partner.com)

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Do you have a Nectar card? If so, you can sign up to ‘Nectar Canvass’ and begin earning Nectar points for completing surveys. Surveys vary in length and reward, but this is clear before completing each survey.

You can complete up to two surveys per 24 hours and take as few surveys as you like. The great thing is that if the survey quota is full or you get screened out, you’ll still receive two Nectar points.

Nectar points are redeemable at various retailers online via Nectar.com.
Nectar points are redeemable in-store at Sainsbury’s, but also many other places such as Legoland and Vue cinema.

No app available yet.

 

5) InboxPounds*

InboxPounds

This is a very generous site where users can earn money by:

  • Signing up to offers (including free trials and competitions).
  • Completing surveys of varying lengths for varying amounts of money.
  • The daily ‘Spin and Win’ wheel where you can (and often will) win more money.
  • Using the website’s search engine. Users earn every time they complete four qualified searches.
  • Playing free games.

Users can request their cheque once they reach £20.00 of earnings.

No app available yet.

 

4) TopCashBack*

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For online shopping, the best UK cashback website is this. Sign up and make your usual purchases, from holidays, insurance or groceries. Find the retailer you want, click through to the retailer’s usual site, and earn cashback!

Another way to use the site is by looking at their available voucher codes. These are valid on top of the cashback offers!

When you decide to cash out your earnings, you can decide between various methods:

  • A direct BACS payment into your bank.
  • PayPal.
  • Gift vouchers.
    (Some pay-out methods give a bonus of up to 10% on your earnings).

There’s also an app of the same name (that I’ve not used much). In the ‘Groceries’ section of the app, you can browse available offers. Once you’ve chosen an offer, take a photo of your receipt. Upload the photo to the app and once confirmed, the money gets added to your account.
Google Play store rating: 3.7
(Also available for iOS)

 

3) Ipsos i-Say
(social.i-say.com)

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As with inCompass (number eight in this list), Ipsos i-Say belongs to well-known research group Ipsos Mori. This site works by members earning points by taking surveys. These points are then exchanged for gift vouchers. Surveys are worth between five to 250 points. You can expect to receive an average of four surveys each month, though I’m sure I received more than that.

When users sign up, they get entered into a prize draw for 30 pre-paid shopping cards. These cards are worth £90 each and there are thirty winners every quarter.

Also every quarter, members who complete update studies get entered into another draw. Winners of the draw will win 10,000 points each and there are 10 winners each time.

i-Say’s ‘Rewards Programme’:

Besides collecting points from completing individual surveys, members receive bonus points each time they reach a survey number threshold. E.g. once five surveys completed, 10 surveys completed, etc.

There is also an app: ‘i-Say Rewards your Opinion‘.
Google Play store gives it a five-star rating & I can confirm that it works well.
(Also available for iOS)

 

2) Valued Opinions
(www.valuedopinions.co.uk)

Online surveys with Valued Opinions

This a fabulous website offering paid market research online surveys. Survey rewards are between 25p and £5.00 per survey. Once users reach the £8.00 threshold, they can ‘cash out’ their earnings for digital or postal vouchers. Vouchers are redeemable at many retailers such as Tesco and Argos. Or, you can donate your earnings to charities such as the World Wildlife Fund.

No app available yet.

 

And the winner is……

 

1) Swagbucks*

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Sign up (using the link above) and earn 300 Swagbucks this October and you’ll receive a 300 Swagbucks bonus. Plus if you spend £5 or more via ‘Shop and Earn‘, you’ll also receive another 200 Swagbucks bonus!.

I’d say this is by far the best site. There are many ways of earning things called ‘Swagbucks‘ (or ‘SB’), which one redeems for cash or retailer gift cards. A PayPal account is necessary for cash payouts.

Ways to earn include:

  • Completing surveys.
  • Playing games.
  • Using their ‘Shop & Earn’ site.
  • Using their search engines.
  • Installing their ‘SwagButton‘ on your web browser.
  • Watching videos.
  • Looking at their suggested deals and taking up certain offers. E.g, signing up for a month’s FREE trial of a digital TV service & earning 350 SB for doing so.

There is also a Swagbucks UK Facebook page that’s worth checking out. They post ‘swag codes‘ daily for extra SBs.

There are also eight different Swagbucks apps for your mobile phone. Here are my findings after trialing them for you:

1) ‘Swagbucks – Best App that Pays’ Cover art

This is the condensed version of the website in the form of an app. Thus, you can watch videos, discover deals, shop, answer surveys and search the web.
This is a great little app if you like to see trailers for new and upcoming films. I’ve found out about SO many great films this way. There are also videos on fashion, music, travel, celebrities, recipes, news, and more. It’s all U.S sourced news, from what I have seen.
The best part about it is that you earn by setting the videos running and while you get on with other things.
Google Play store rating: 3.8

2) ‘Swagbucks Watch (TV)’ Cover art

This is for the same video content that’s on the main Swagbucks app (No.1) but without the full functionality. I’m not quite sure of the point of installing this app too.
Google Play store rating: 3.6

3) ‘Swagbucks Answer – Surveys that Pay’ Cover art

This is a very handy way to take surveys on your mobile. Though I can’t find the source, I’m sure I’ve read that there are surveys on the app that aren’t available on the website. If so, I don’t know if that also means that there are surveys on this app that aren’t on the standard Swagbucks app (No.1). If not, I don’t see the benefit of installing it.
Google Play store rating: 4.2

4) ‘Sportly.tv’ Cover art

This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s an app that has sports news and entertainment content. There’s a lot of yoga, including yoga with your dog! It seems to all be U.S content.
Google Play store rating: 3.6

5) ‘Indymusic.tv’ Cover art

This app shows hundreds of thousands of music videos. These videos are from a worldwide selection of indie music. I found the ads on there very intrusive.
Google Play store rating: 3.4

I can’t find a huge difference between the following and final three apps. They all offer film trailers and videos on other topics already contained within the Swagbucks app (No.1) or Swagbucks Watch (TV) app (No.2). I’d say those already do the best job and are easier to earn SBs with. Also, the ads on these next three are, as with Indymusic.tv, very annoying:

6) ‘EntertaiNow’ Cover art
Google Play store rating: 3.3

 

 

 

7) ‘MovieCli.ps’Cover art
Google Play store rating: 3.5

 

 

 

8) ‘Lifestylz.tv’  Cover art
Google Play store rating: 3.7

 

 

 

Have you used any websites or apps that have promised to reward you? What have your experiences been? Are there any that you love that I haven’t listed? Let us all know!

*Some of the links provided may provide a VERY small reward for me referring you to them. If they do, they’ll have an asterisk* and will be at no cost to you. I would NEVER recommend anything that I hadn’t researched or that I wasn’t happy with.

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

Foraging For Our Food (Off-Topic Tuesday)

This post began as part of my new ‘Off-Topic’ series. Yet, as I wrote, the more I discovered that it ties in with money-saving and frugality!

On Sunday we had a lovely afternoon that didn’t cost us a penny.

Our car has been stuck at the local garage for over a fortnight now and won’t be coming home. (More on that disaster another time). Even being the hermit that I am, even I was getting a little cabin fever.

Mr. B and I both have bicycles, so if I’m not particularly fatigued or in pain, I’m able to cycle a reasonable distance.

We decided to ride to the local nature reserve that isn’t far from us. It’s blackberry season (my favourite fruit!) so we packed some containers and off we went.

We rode the distance of the reserve first, to scope out the best picking areas, then rode back, stopping to pick. Though we took some gardening gloves, we didn’t use them. Yes we got some scratches and nettle stings and yes it rained a little, but it was so relaxing! I ate a fair few berries along the way, though not the ones that were low down and liable to have been peed on by dogs!

We spent a couple of hours at the reserve, passing the time of day with friendly people and even friendlier dogs. It was a lovely afternoon and was even nicer due to the fact that we hadn’t had to take our wallets with us.

We bagged a large container of blackberries for zero cost, plus a handful of sloes, of which there were many. There were also rosehips and let’s not forget nettles too if you make nettle soup.

You don’t need a nature reserve nearby to forage your own food, as blackberries are everywhere now. Hurry if you don’t want to miss them! One thing; you might want to avoid berries growing by roads with heavy traffic pollution. Yet, this article shows that this concern may not be as worrisome as you might think.

Do you ever forage for your own food? What dishes do you make from your pickings?

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’

How To Save Money On Christmas 2017

Yes, I mentioned the ‘C’ word! I’m sorry, but at the time of publishing, there are only 89 days until Christmas (I found out by using this pretty cool countdown clock!). While it’s too late for me to share the numerous money-saving tips I have that can be used for planning next year’s Xmas, (fear not, that will appear in a later article), here are some things that you can do to make Christmas 2017 just that bit easier:

Make A Budget!

Really, this is THE most important thing you can do:
1) Look at what money you’re expecting to come in over the next few weeks or months (depending on how often you get paid) and what you know has to be paid out and write down what you have leftover to save each week/month.

2) Think about what you would expect to spend on Xmas this year, not forgetting all of the food, possible nights out for work parties, kids’ school parties, entertaining at home, Secret Santa gifts, wrapping paper, cards, alcohol, basically anything that you usually shell out for, (not to mention the gifts you buy) and tot it all up. Divide that total cost by the number of pay-cheques you’re getting and you’ll see how much you’ll have to save each week/month to be able to achieve the spending you’d like to do without going (or going further) into debt. Write that number down.

3) Finally, compare the amount you came up with in step one with the amount needed to be saved in step two. Is there a discrepancy? Will you have less to spend than you’d hoped? If so, then you’ll either have to make cuts in your discretionary spending leading up to Xmas, reduce what you spend on Xmas or find a way to bring in extra money before Xmas, plus, check out the next tip:

Cut Down On Who You Buy For:

This isn’t easy and may require a few conversations with people, but there really is no law that says you have to buy your child’s teacher a gift each Xmas, or that you must buy that cousin you don’t really like a present, as well as all of her children, just because she buys you all something you don’t want or need each December. If you can’t afford to, don’t want to, or it’ll push you further into debt, just decide to stop. It’s much easier than you might think. Focus on your family and your financial peace of mind. If you really can’t say no to people then consider the next tip:

Homemade Gifts:

Some people groan at the thought of this, but it can be much easier than you think. Everybody has some sort of skill or service they can offer. Are you a knitter? Then look at Pinterest for cool knitting ideas, such as a mug cosy pattern (buy a cheap mug for 75p and fill it with marshmallows) that won’t take long to create. Don’t possess a creative bone in your body? That’s ok! Offer a new mum an afternoon where you’ll hold her baby and do some laundry while she grabs a shower or maybe takes a nap. Wrack your brains for what you can offer and know that whilst people rarely remember what you’ve bought them, they’ll always remember the time you’ve spent with or on them. If they don’t appreciate you for it, then you might reconsider why you’d give a gift for them in the first place.

dreamstimefree_1537888
Courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Secret Santas:

This is something that most office workers will be very familiar with. It usually involves receiving some useless but hilarious gift from an unknown colleague, but the idea can also be extended to family and friends. If it’s a completely new concept to you, it basically just involves a group of people putting their names into a ‘hat’, everybody taking a name and without telling anybody else, buying that person a gift. A price is set for the gift (an amount everyone agrees on) and by Xmas, the gifts are all put together (labelled, obviously), and passed out to the correct recipient. In this way, everybody gets a gift and everybody only has one gift to buy. It can save a fortune.

Consider Second-hand:

Yes, I really said that! When you say ‘second-hand’ to some people. they envisage smelly and horrible clothes from a charity shop, but come on, don’t be a snob, there are so many beautiful, gently used items to be had both in shops and online (it’s what eBay was built on after all!). It’s a great way to give somebody something you’d never usually be able to justify buying brand new and it also keeps those things from going into landfill. A double win!

Xmas Cards:

These were introduced by inventor Sir Henry Cole in 1843, who had helped to bring about the penny post three years previously (a coincidence?) and whilst I can see the value in posting a card to somebody you’re not going to see over the Xmas period, and who you’d really like to keep being reminded of the fact you care about them by the presence of a card on their mantelpiece, I don’t see the point in writing a bajillion cards and handing them to people you are going to see right up to the big day, or posting numerous cards to people who you never have any sort of contact with from one Xmas card to the next. It’s a massive waste of money, resources and who knows if the recipients even want the hassle of finding somewhere to put the cards, let alone the mountain of recycling they have to add to in the New Year (that’s if they don’t just throw them into the normal waste – shudder!).
There are ecards, email, instant messaging, texts, a whole host of social media and even the old telephone call that can replace sending a card. All are either free or very cheap and you’ll probably say more to the person you’re contacting. ‘But I like to support my favourite charity by buying cards!’ you cry, well then you’ve got to read this 2015 article.

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Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Meal plan!

Whenever I’ve not made a proper plan for eating over the festive season, I’ve invariably gone overboard with how much food I’ve bought. I’m guessing I’m not alone with this.
If you’re fed up buying food that spoils, are sick of turkey and even chocolate (you’d have to be MENTAL), then before you shop, plan out how many of those days off work you’re planning on eating differently to your usual week then plan what you’d like to eat for breakfast (even if it’s a chocolate orange), lunch, dinner, snacks, and booze, and what you know your family and/or guests will likely want to eat and buy only that.
If you are having guests, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them to bring some food or drink that will travel well and if it’s all getting too expensive, consider just one day of feasting. Not only will it help your wallet, but your waist will probably thank you for it too.
Finally, if nobody likes Xmas pudding, sprouts or turkey, etc, just don’t buy them purely in the name of tradition!

What do YOU do to save money on Christmas? What’s your biggest festive, financial regret?

I love hearing from you and want to grow this community that is growing each day. Don’t be shy! Comment, contribute to the Facebook page, send me a private message or all three! I will always try to help you.

Lisa a.k.a ‘Bunchy’