Friday, 25 October 2013

Money Smarts

I've been struggling to decide what the theme of my next entry should be about as my mind has been occupies lately by a whirlwind of things, and it's actually been pretty hard to shut them all off and try to just relax.

I was catching up on a few blogs this evening and found an entry on Confessions of a single mum which kind of prompted me to make this post.  I suppose all the things in my mind have been connected by one thing..... money.

Yes, the thing we would all like to have a little more of, and there never seems to be enough no matter how hard we work.

Since my return from holiday in September I've done overtime most Saturdays, and tomorrow is no exception.  Christmas is coming, a baby on the way, and it feels like it won't be long before I'll be going on maternity leave and we then not long after that reduced pay for a while.

I've never been brilliant at making the most of my finances and getting the best deals, not on services anyway.  I'm cracking at grocery shopping and finding things I need for the house etc either free, or for an absolute steal.  But services, and dealing with people on the phone, not so much.  That's where D my other half comes in.  He's come to my rescue in the past, most notably with BT for my phone service, and Sainsbury over an incident in their car park.

Recently we talked with someone about their water bill and discussed how much they paid.  On return home I decided to check how much I was paying.  I was shocked to find that my bill was nearly 3x their's.  D rang them for me and queried it, and got a rebuff.  We did some checks on our water meter and established that despite the stop tap being off, and no water getting into the house, the meter was still turning.  On that basis the water company agreed to send someone out to investigate.  Lo and behold there's a leak, and if our sums are right there;s been a leak for about a year now!  We rang them tonight and asked to cancel our direct debit while we're waiting for the repairs and they persuaded us to reduce our payments instead.  We said we were happy to do that, but only on the basis that they understood we would be making a claim for reimbursement and compensation once the repairs were completed, and that once our average usage could be worked out the payment would drop again.  We're by no means at the end of our journey with them yet, but definitely on the right path.

It got me thinking about what else I could change, and like Kairen at Single Mum I hit upon gas & electric.  It's a basic service that I just take for granted and never really question.  I've been exceptionally lax about it to the point I rarely submit actual meter readings, and until this week wouldn't have been able to tell you what I actually pay for it.  After looking into it I've managed to get my current provider to charge me approximately £30 less a month, and I'm looking at moving elsewhere as they are no longer able to offer me the cheapest package.  I'm in credit to them and am expecting a fairly decent cheque off them which will go straight into the baby fund.  One provider I'm looking at is not the cheapest, but it's still cheaper than my current provider and gives me cash back 3 months after joining them, with no tie in on contract or fee to leave.  If I don't find a better option within a day or so I'll be making the move.

I've made the switch to more showers, less baths, running the dishwasher and washing machine only once a week where possible, and the only thing left that I think I can easily change is my gym membership.  My gym doesn't have a pool, and in my condition I'm not lifting weights, running, or rowing etc, so there's no point in going.  I am already paying nearly £5 a week just to go use a pool once a week somewhere else, so really why am I wasting my money there? I've got my fingers poised to send that cancellation email just as soon as I've hit post here.

So in the current climate where wages are not increasing in line with the cost of living, what changes are you making to keep your head above water and still be able to relax and feel comfortable?

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