July 27

How To Budget, Part 3

Making A Budget And Sticking To It

So, you have worked out what your personal values are, the things it is important for you to spend money on. And you have worked at writing an honest budget, one that prioritises the things you value, covers the things you urgently have to pay for, and doesn’t go over what you actually have to spend. What next?

Your budget is just words and numbers on a screen/page/scrap of paper. It becomes real when you actually live it. Sounds obvious, right? But I know for a fact that I am not the only person to sail through the month with a budget somewhere that bears no relationship whatsoever to what I am actually spending. So once you know what you  are planning to spend you need strategies for making sure you stick to that.

Why Don’t I Have Enough Willpower To Stick To A Budget?

Willpower is not an effective strategy because you can only use it when you are paying attention to your spending –  sometimes you will be using your brain for other stuff while you spend. Plus, using willpower takes mental energy and that fluctuates wildly from day to day and even from hour to hour. So some of your spending will happen, inevitably, when your willpower is low. And willpower is needed for other things too – if you use it all up on your spending you are going to have less of it for other important areas of your life. No, you need something other than willpower to make sure you really live your budget. Here are the strategies that work for me – try them and see which work for you too.

Eight Easy Strategies To Help You Stick To Your Budget

  1. Write it down and put it somewhere you will see it every day. Whether it’s a sheet of paper stuck above your kitchen sink, or an app on your phone, make sure it is right in front of you at least once a day every day or you will lose track of it.  Do not just have a budget in your head. Your head is very good at conveniently mislaying your budget when it wants to go shopping.
  2. Link checking your budget to something else you do every day to trigger you to check it. Tuck it behind your bathroom mirror and check it whenever you brush your teeth. Or put it beside the cooker and check it over while you are stirring your evening meal. Or go over it when you are stuck in traffic on your daily commute… Tick off everything you spent money on that day and add the amount you spent.
  3. Keep it real. Budgets are an idea – they are not real money. Try to deal with real money as much as you can. Don’t use plastic unless you are very good at checking your balance daily. Lift hard cash and spend your budget that way. We are generally more realistic about how much we can spend when it is actual physical money.
  4. Tweak your budget as you go along. Your budget is just a prediction and sometimes your prediction of how much something will cost will turn out to be inaccurate. That’s OK as long as you make up the shortfall somewhere else in your budget. Make sure you adjust an area of your budget that can take it. If you have a bill to pay, you can’t spend less on that, but you could cut what you planned to spend on treats, for example.
  5. Never let other people run your budget. If your budget for outings is low don’t let a friend talk you into a pricey night out. If your food budget is running low don’t let your kids badger you into buying expensive treat food. Just keep coming back to what you planned to do with your money and stick to your guns.
  6. Hide your surplus. If you are hoping to have a surplus – even just a few pounds – by the end of the month, hide it away at the start of the month. Put it in a separate account or in a separate purse. You are less likely to spend it that way. If your budget doesn’t work out and you have to spend that money then you can easily get it. But you won’t just spend it without even noticing.
  7. Set aside spending money. By all means have money just for dipping into if you can afford it. But keep the money you can afford to spend without thinking about it in a totally separate place from the money you have budgeted for other things. If you don’t, you will start to treat all your money as pocket money and suddenly it will all have vanished. Trust me on this one – I have been there.
  8. Put money straight into separate savings accounts on pay-day. We have different accounts for long-term savings, short term things like holidays or Christmas, and an emergency fund. Sometimes the amount we are able to put into each is microscopic but putting money into these accounts right away makes sure that these few pounds were still there at the end of the month. I use standing orders to do this so I don’t even have to use a tiny amount of willpower to make myself do it.
April 24

How To Budget, Part 1

How To Budget – Laying Your Foundations

Budgeting is about making sure your money covers the things you really want it to cover, juggling various needs to make sure the things that really matter to you don’t get left out in the cold. So before you even begin to crunch the numbers, it is vital that you clarify what you really value. One reason budgets so often fall by the wayside is that they aren’t a true reflection of what we really want and need. We only really get behind something if it really matters to us. Imagine, for example, that you are budgeting for huge mortgage payments towards a beautiful home when what you really value is time with friends and family. Over time you find that coffees, meals out, weekends away, gifts, phone bills, and a whole heap of other “keeping in touch” costs eat into the money you budgeted for your mortgage.

Does that mean you are bad at sticking to a budget? Or does it mean that your budget did not reflect your real values? Remember that one of the Principles Of Thrifty Living is to Work With The Real Not The Ideal… A budget that reflects your true values is going to be a lot easier to stick with in the long run so it pays to start off by looking – realistically – at what your values are.


Getting Real Value For Money – Finding Out What Matters Most To You

Take time to sit with a pen and paper and list the things that matter most to you. Remember that values are ideas not items or spending areas. So don’t just list what you want/need to spend money on – for example, ‘rent’. Instead list what matters to you in life – for example, ‘freedom’, ‘family’, ‘flexibility’, ‘security’…  Any of these values might be met by paying rent but paying rent is not, in itself, of value to you. Ask yourself whether the thing you are about to write down serves a purpose or is an end in itself. For example, you might realise that ‘career success’ is not intrinsically valuable to you, but helps you get ‘social status’. In that case, ‘social status’ is what you really value – so that’s what you write down.

You can get more advice about discovering what you really value at www.mindtools.com and download a free Core Values Workbook at www.dawnbarclay.com. You may find that some of the things you are struggling to afford aren’t worth the money you spend on them. Once you know what you really value, keep thinking about whether you are really getting value – your value – for money as you draw up next month’s budget.

February 14

Being Thrifty When You Can’t Be Bothered

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New Page
This is the week to Preserve Something. Nature is not exactly bountiful in February so how about a big jar of Disgracefully Drunken Prunes? The ingredients are cheap, the effort minimal, and – if you leave them alone for months – the results are delicious. It’s also the week to dig out all your receipts and bank statements and find out how in control of your spending you are this month…

Staying Thrifty In February

How are your plans for a thrifty 2017 working out? I find January is usually an excellent month to start some new thrifty resolutions – any thriftiness at all seems like a stellar effort compared to the excesses of the previous month. Plus, sales shopping gives a certain thrifty veneer to spending more money, because it’s not really spending if it’s a bargain, is it. (Is it?) And, given the state of most people’s bank balances in January, it’s not so much a lifestyle choice as a dire necessity. So a frugal new year seems entirely do-able in January.

February though… The shine has come off your new thriftiness – it is no longer fun. Or an interesting challenge. And, with a new month’s pay in hand, it seems less urgent. You start to forget your new thrifty habits. But habits – thrifty ones included – thrive on repetition. The more often you repeat them, the more likely you are to keep on repeating them.

So, no pressure, but if you started out on a new journey to take control of your finances last month, this month is crucial. Keep your new thrifty habits up through February and by March they will be well on their way to becoming second nature. If you do fall off the wagon, just hop straight back on. And remember to give yourself little treats to keep your morale up. Good Luck!


July 18

One Week Of Thrifty Habits – Monday 18th July To Sunday 21st July

Getting Into The Habit Of Being Thrifty

Tartan Thrifty is all about getting into the habit of spending less without living less well. Some habits need to be carried out every day, some every week. Some only need to be carried out once a month – and, surprise, surprise, they are the hardest ones to keep up. To help with that you can find a wall-planner to help you keep on top of this week’s Thrifty Habits – the dailies, the weeklies and the ones that only come round once a month – here. Use it to plan when exactly you are going to carry out the Weekly and Monthly Habits.

Thrifty Things To Do This Week

Thrifty Habits Planner April Week 1 - New PageIt’s almost the end of the month – which makes this time to Share Something and to Make A Budget for next month before you start spending next month’s money.

Take Control - Thrifty Principle No. 1Some people are naturals at making a budget (although not always at sticking to it…) Some of us need a little more support. If you find the whole idea of making up a budget completely baffling, then take a look at Creative Savings’ Beginners Guide To Budgeting. There you will find not just one helpful post on budgeting but a whole series. And an FAQ. Give it a look and see if it helps you to get next month’s spending on track now.

June 7

Thrifty Habits – Store Your Receipts & Review Your Spending

Why You Need To Do This

Work With The Real Not The IdealTake Control - Thrifty Principle No. 1These dull – but vital – Thrifty Habits are rooted in two of my Principles Of Thrifty Living – Take Control and Deal With The Real Not The Ideal. They give you data you can mine about your current spending habits and that data helps you take practical steps to control your spending. Without the hard evidence receipts give of your real spending habits, there is a danger that many of your attempts to be thrifty will be based on what you think you spend, not what you actually spend.

As a bonus, being able to provide hard evidence that your spending is going down each month gives you a huge morale boost. So keeping all your receipts and then reviewing them every month is a vital part of getting yourself into thriftier habits.

How To Use Your Receipts To Cut Your Spending

1backtoschoolteacher-graphicsfairy008bwStart by grouping your spends into broad categories – for example Food, Fun, Travel, etc. These are the areas you think you are spending on but your receipts might tell a different story, so leave space to add extra categories if you need them. Now make a note for each category of how much you think you spent on it this month. Don’t cheat by peeking at your receipts! This is going to help you spot the areas where your spending is least under your conscious control.

Pick one category – Travel, say – and go through each receipt looking for spending on just that category. Tally this up so you can see how much you spent this month on that category. Tick off each expenditure as you log it so you don’t accidentally double-count it. By the end of this process you should have a clear idea how much you are spending on each area.
Now compare these with your estimates. Were you spot on? A little out on a few? Wildly inaccurate? And how does each spend compare to what you could afford to spend on that area? Were there categories you didn’t even know you had spent on?

worried gift-giverThe gulf between your actual spending and what you thought you had spent tells you how much – or little – control you have over your spending in that area. You need to think about practical steps to help you notice how much you are spending on these areas when you are spending – shopping with only cash, for example.

If there is a gulf between what you are spending and what you can afford then you need to budget more tightly – and stick to it.

That all sounds very simple but the reality is that spending is more to do with human behaviour than with numbers on a spreadsheet – and behaviour is hard to change. That’s why this is a monthly Thrifty Habit not just a one-off. It takes time to start to get a picture of where your money is leaking away, even longer to figure out why you are letting it. But it is worth the effort.

What Do You Do With The Information From Your Receipts?

Take Control

Now that you have a clear and accurate picture of your recent spending history it’s time to decide what your spending future is going to look like. Go through your categories again and set yourself a spending maximum for each – make sure that all your max spends don’t add up to more than your monthly budget can bear. Make a note of the difference between your new spending target and last month’s spend for each category – this will tell you how much (if anything) you need to shave off your spending on that category.


Work With The Real Not The Ideal

retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comIs your revised budget a fantasy or will you really change your spending habits next month? If I have learned one lesson in all my attempts to live thriftily, it’s that good intentions often disappear if we don’t have a real plan for putting them into action. So, now you have a realistic picture of your spending habits, make sure that your plans to change them are equally realistic.

Look back over last month’s receipts and make concrete plans to change certain things. For example, if you want to spend less on Travel are you going to walk/cycle more? If you want to spend less on Food are you going to buy all own-brand next time? If you want to spend less on Clothes are you going to spend your lunch breaks reading a book rather than wandering round the shops?

Now, I am not going to pretend to you that this Thrifty Habit is fun – it’s really not – but I can tell you with total conviction that you cannot get your spending under control until you know how, where, when and why you are spending your money. And reviewing your spending each month is a vital step in that direction.


April 25

Buy A Little Treat

Why Buying Yourself A Treat Is Not A Waste Of Money

Tucked into a little, non-prominent spot on the Thrifty Habits Planner is an unexpected weekly habit – Buy A Little Treat.

Say whaaaat?! I thought we were trying to save money here, not fritter it away!
retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comWe are, we are, but… Let me tell you something everyone who has ever been on a diet knows: you can only be good for so long. Sooner or later everyone cracks. And what happens when a conscientious dieter cracks and eats one fun-size Milky Way, in defiance of all their good intentions? Uh-huh – they lose the plot and follow their tiny slip-up with an enormous blow-out. After weeks of rigid self-control, one tiny lapse cascades into a non-stop calorie spree.

money mumA bottle of wine and an entire donner kebab later regret sets in… too late. Money diets are no different – if you are in constant denial, you will eventually crack and once you do, your budget is likely to get blown right out of the water. Weight loss programmes frequently build in daily or weekly food treats to help us manage our boom-or-bust tendencies. I firmly believe a thrifty spending regime needs the same. Without the tiny release of little treats we all turn into pay-day millionaires each month – delirious with wealth after weeks of self-control.

treats reassure us that, even though we are cutting back our spending – however drastically – we can still enjoy life

Gretchen Rubin, in her hymn to habits, Better Than Before, argues for the “Strategy Of Treats”: “When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command—and self-command helps us maintain healthy habits. (Read on Psychology Today.)  That applies as much to healthy money habits as it does to healthy eating habits. When we are in constant self-denial, thrift becomes drudgery and our motivation plummets. But treats reassure us that, even though we are cutting back our spending – however drastically – we can still enjoy life. And that keeps us going.

NewYearChampagneGraphicsFairyWhat I am saying here is not that we should lose control and blow the budget on treats – I am saying that we should take control and set a budget for treats. Yes, in the short term, we will spend a little more. But in the longer term, we will spend significantly less. And where an unplanned binge-spending session leaves you feeling bad, small, frequent, affordable treats make you happy. Who doesn’t want some of that?





April 18

Money For Nothing

How To Get Money For Nothing

Thrifty Habits PlannerThis week’s monthly Thrifty Habits are to Preserve Something and to Dig Out Your Receipts And Review Your Spending. The main purpose of keeping all your receipts and reviewing them monthly is to allow you to take control of your spending. This lets you keep track of any leaks in your budget – you know, areas you don’t think you spend on but into which money mysteriously flows just the same.

This month I am taking a different tack – I am going to use my receipts to help me figure out how to get us something for nothing.

money mumI like living la vida thrifty. I like getting great value for money but even more than that, I like getting something for nothing. I particularly like when the Tartan Family gets money for nothing. Who doesn’t?

I have a Nectar card (even though I am more an Aldi girl than a Sainsbury’s lady) and I get about £50 a year back in completely free vouchers to spend in store.  This is money for nothing – I don’t shop anywhere I wouldn’t normally or for things I wouldn’t otherwise buy.  But even a thrifty mamma has to shop sometimes and my Nectar card has allowed me to claw back some money when I do. And if I can get money for nothing on that loyalty card – from a shop I don’t even shop in very often – then there must be others that I could get money back on.

How To Get Maximum Money Back From Your Shopping

So,I have resolved to get money back on more of my shopping by signing up for cards from more of the places I already shop in.  Want to do the same? Here’s how I plan to max my loyalty cards in five steps.

  1. Vintage-Apron-Mom-red-GraphicsFairy-thumb-320x320Go through your saved receipts and your bank statements and make a note of where your money is going. Write each shop down as a separate heading
  2. From your receipts, note under each shop the amounts you have spent there this month.
  3. Rank your shops by how much of your money they got this month.
  4. Now Google the top-ranking one with “loyalty card” to see if there is a card you should get. Work your way through the list. Yes, you do have to include the shops you think you hardly ever go into. No, it’s probably not worth your time checking out the ones you only spent a few pounds in.
  5. When you have built up a list of possible cards look each one up and find out what’s on offer then start applying for the ones that suit you.

The key thing here, I think, is to take your new loyalty cards, put them in your purse, and then forget all about them until you are at a checkout. Don’t change your shopping habits to chase loyalty points – it’s only money for nothing if you don’t spend extra to get it.

retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comThis is the part where I would like to tell you how I have already done this, it has changed my life, and here is a list of the best cards to get. I can’t do that – I haven’t gone through my own receipts yet, and, even if I had, the right cards for me are not always going to be the right cards for you. All I can say is, we are all spending – hopefully less than we used to – and we may as well take an hour to try to take back a little of that money if we can. Good luck maxing your own loyalty!


March 28

Spring Clean Your Washing Machine

Spring Has Sprung, The Grass Is Riz, I Wonder What The Source Of That Mouldy Smell In My Laundry Is?

RetroCleaningBroomGraphicsFairyIt’s Easter time – the verges are covered in daffodils, the pond is covered in frog spawn and my children are currently covered in chocolate. I love the arrival of spring – it makes me want to clean my home from top to bottom! Not.

I don’t get why a lovely day after a long, grey winter, would inspire you to stay indoors cleaning, but then, nothing other than the imminent outbreak of dysentry actually inspires me to clean. Spring weather does inspire me to do laundry though, because, after a winter of washing on radiators, I love the fresh smell of line-dried laundry.

Vintage-Linens-Sign-Image-thm-GraphicsFairy-320x320My laundry has not always been fresh, I am embarrassed to say. We used to regularly throw out nearly new clothes and very nearly a washing machine in a bid to get rid of the fusty smell that afflicted our laundry.

Washing machines don’t come cheap so I am happy to say we found a (free!) solution to the problem. If your clean washing has ever smelled less than line-fresh, read on – I’ll tell you how we fixed it. 


How I Banished Fusty Towels From Tartan Towers Forever

Retro-Thinker-Mom-Image-GraphicsFairy-thumb-320x320We thought for a while that something was wrong with the speed at which we dried our laundry. But whether we dried it by radiator, line, or drier, everything still smelt vaguely mouldy. In desperation I consulted my mother who told me (with perhaps more smugness than is entirely forgiveable…) that her laundry always smelled fresher than a rosebud in May. It was something I was doing with my laundry that she did not do.

My mum still washed her washing The Old Way, at as high a temperature as it could bear, using bio-powder. I, on the other hand, used eco-friendly liquid at a low temperature. And this, it turns out, was our problem. My washing was clean – but not my washing machine. It turns out, machines rely on high temperatures and chemicals to stop the build-up of mould in their warm, damp interiors. My low temperature, no bleach routine was simply not killing off the mould or stopping other gunk from building up inside the machine. And a mouldy washing machine produces mouldy washing. Lovely.

How to clean your washing machineSo now I take A Thrifty Mum’s advice and clean my washing machine once or twice a year to clear it of mould and other gunk that might clog it up and stink out my washing. I can still use eco-liquid and low temperature washes but without the Tartan Family smelling like old shower curtains. I reckon cleaning the machine once a year is a small price to pay compared to the cost of replacing the machine. And any cleaning task that saves me money , is cleaning I can get behind.


Click here for this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner. Thrifty Habits Planner







February 1

A License To Print Money…


Thrifty Habits Planner February Week 1 - New Page

money mumI can’t show you how to print money (soz) but I did show you a few weeks ago how to nudge yourself towards spending less. One of those nudges is paying for everything with cash not cards. Why? Because it stops you spending more than you can actually afford. You can take that a step further by splitting that cash into separate purses to spend on different budget lines. For me, this is an important monthly habit, because it makes my budget concrete. It’s much easier to convince myself that we can’t afford a cinema trip today if the Treats And Outings purse is empty – even when I know there is still money in the bank. That money belongs to other things.

Cash-Envelope-Template1For the past couple of years I have used budget plastic pencil cases labelled with cheap key rings for all our cash so I can see at a glance how much is in each fund. That works for us, but if you want a thriftier and more stylish option, why not click on one of these to print your own? It’s almost as satisfying as printing money…

Affiliate links - New Page


January 25

What Downton Abbey Taught Me About Thrifty Habits

This Week’s Thrifty Habits – Budget And Share

Thrifty Habits Planner Final week

victorian servantI am a sucker for a costume drama and this week I had my very own costume drama epiphany. I have been looking at budgeting tools (YNAB, etc) and it suddenly came to me – victorian housekeepers!

Victorian Housekeepers managed budgets the size of which I can only dream of. They ran a tight budget (they had to – the mistress of the house would be checking on them) and managed it very frugally. Thrift was part of their job – nobody wanted to hire a housekeeper who spent money wastefully. So the years they spent studying accountancy, management and economics at university level prior to entering service must have come in handy. Oh, no – wait…

servant_sculleryVictorian housekeepers finished school at about the point modern pupils embark on secondary education. They went into service as lowly maids and gradually worked their way up, learning on the job. Their literacy and numeracy levels were around that of a modern day primary school leaver.

In other words – it was possible to manage a household like Downton with a minimal education. It’s basic arithmetic, not rocket science.

Thrifty Habits PlannerI am assuming that, like mine, your home is slightly smaller than Downton, yes? And that you and I are better educated than a victorian housemaid. That was my epiphany – we are all just as capable of managing our household budget as Mrs Beaton.

We’ve got this. We don’t need budgeting expertise. We don’t need to gadgetise the process. Pen, paper, calculator and we are tooled up for the job. You don’t have to buy into a budget system; you just need to write down how much you have this month and how you will spend it. You have to be realistic and you have to stick with it. That’s all.

So go forth and budget for the coming month my fellow 21st centurions – even if you haven’t bought the latest budgeting software. You can print out this week’s Thrifty Habits Planner to remind you here.