Looking at our finances now the economy is looking a bit dismal

Being an accountant by training, it’s sometimes second nature to look at ways to save money but since we’ve both been working as the kids have been a bit older, we’ve let things go a bit in the household budgeting front.

But as consumer confidence has suddenly taken a slide, and one of the larger car dealers has issued a profit warning, the signs are now showing that we’re about to hit a sticky patch. There are arguments about whether the mooted interest rate rise will have the right effect as we head into a period of stagflation– rising prices but falling growth. It’s all looking a bit tricky really, so we’ve taken our first step into reigning things back in again by looking at our finances.

Our bank, like most, allows you to download our bank account in .csv format. If you have access to Excel, you can open it in that, if not Libre Office is a free download, and has the same functionality. Once you’ve downloaded the transactions, you can analyse them into categories (regular bills, food shopping, etc) and then have a look to see what you can change.

From our analysis I could see spend somewhere between 15% and 20% of our take home pay on food. After the mortgage, this was our largest single expense category, spread across Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons AND Asda. Rather than one large bill a week, there would be one fairly large, and two or three £50ish bills. What we were basically doing was haphazardly shopping for food, which meant we weren’t spending it to plan or efficiently. When it comes to saving on our household bills, this was obviously the area that was the most important as it was where we spent the most money

We never used to bother with menu planning when the kids were little as a lot of play dates and visits to friends happened adhoc- when wifey didn’t work a lot was scheduled on the hoof, so menu planning didn’t suit our lifestyle.

However it’s probably time to revisit this now that we both work, the kids are all at school, and thanks to after school clubs, work and everything, we pretty much know what’s going to be happening at least 5 nights a week. So we’ve bought an online delivery package from one of the supermarkets that means we pay a flat fee for all our deliveries for the year and set up a virtual trolley of staples on repeat order that we can vary as needs dictate. Getting on top of our largest variable expense is the biggest step we can easily take towards getting our expenses in order but we needed to know where all the money was going in the first place.

I have had a curiouso glance at whether we could save money on our mortgage and mitigate potential rate rises by switching to a fixed rate mortgage but to be honest, given we’re on a tracker that’s less than 1% above base rate, I don’t think we’ll do much better, which just leaves us the other utlities to look at!