Until late 2018 I had no idea of budgeting other than to write a break down of what I got paid at the end of the month minus each bill and calculating the total left over I could spend. I was using a system I saw my Dad do, it was helpful though not as empowering or effective as it could be.
Around the same time, I got married, was preparing a house move and had a surprise pregnancy. As someone who has worked all of adult life, some of it as the sole provider, I felt a pay cut looming.
The advice ‘save for something specific’ has never been truer. It seems laughable when you have nothing to save for – no short breaks, holidays or big purchase buys. My brother pulls a blank face when I try and pass on that wisdom and says ‘Yeah, for WHAT though?’ Just save it aside. It wasn’t till a specific thing of pregnancy that I started saving and as the months have gone on I’m saving, tracking and living as frugal as possible. Had I saved regularly beforehand, well it’s obvious I would have double what I have now!
I’ve learned through failing, selective buying, financial resources such as this one, tracking and mindful spending. It all works and here’s what I can share so far:
On failing: My biggest fail was food spending. I didn’t track in the beginning though I know my wages went on food on the go and in supermarkets. I experienced cravings and food aversions that would switch every few hours or days. Hormones are the culprit of where I had little control. I did learn little tricks, buying at cheaper supermarkets when I didn’t want something branded, getting multi-packs instead of single items at corner shops or garages where price is higher. I learned to listen to what I really wanted and I’d make my own food batches of chili, nachos, and chips rather than take out.
Selective buying: The great thing was that no matter how tempting clothing was on the high street it didn’t fit and wouldn’t for the foreseeable future so wasn’t worth it. I was given a box of bigger sized tops and dresses family had used on their maternity and made use of them. Overall I got a few pairs of maternity leggings in a Medium and Large as comfort is a priority and a tight waistband feels too constricting. I bought underwired and nursing bras as I needed them or when in the sale as they can come up to £25+ a time. I bought three maternity tops on sale and maternity pajamas, again comfort is a priority for sleep too, it doesn’t have to come at a high price.
I waited until items were donated, gifted and offered to be paid for and six months in, I went out buying. I asked family and co-workers who have children their opinion on items as I felt overwhelmed with options in shops. I have a niggle with vloggers sharing their baby must-have items, it’s as helpful as it is a potential money trap. I like to know what another woman has used and loved, though it plants a seed that you need an item and can feel as if you need it from a specific place mentioned.
If something has been mentioned three times over separate times I will look into it. A baby sleep nest that fits inside your bed and allows baby to stay snug and safe in one position can be bought in gorgeous organic material, you could spend £120 on the best one. Or if you look around will find both comfort and safety from a £65 one and sterilizers in the sale at the same time!
Tracking: This was a complete game changer. I started weekly tracking through just writing the days of the week in a notebook and putting a minus or plus sign for money out and in. I quickly entered a whole new awareness of daily spending, I worked in town at the time so it was really easy to do.
Each Sunday I would write out another week and could see money was coming out and none in, this made me more determined to seek out positive resources on financial mindsets and practices, something I had never explored before. Until you go out and seek it, no one really teaches you about managing money.
I now use a mindful money planner and still track daily and weekly, it serves as a tool for awareness and responsibility. I feel joy in writing No Spend on days I haven’t spent anything.
Mindful spending: This comes from asking better questions ‘Do I really need it?’ ‘Is it on the shopping list?’ ‘Do I need it right now?’ And being still enough to listen to honest answers that come. Something else I picked up from A Year of less by Cait Flanders was to take the emotional attachment out of buying and see it as it is a transaction. A the start of the month I write a shopping list usually with one thing I want, something I’ve been thinking about a while, essentials and activities. It encourages slow spending, buying throughout the month rather than on the days after payday.
This February I ticked everything off my list (and bought things not on the list too). A year planner, new cabinet for storing shawls, paint to redecorate and swimming trips. They really made a difference to better living, we were able to refresh the room quicker than planned and I was accountable for a £5 swim each week.
A few months into the pregnancy I was getting nudges to go and do things with husband now before two becomes three. However, how could I splurge on days out and save for our maternity account? I couldn’t find a win-win. Also, I spent the first three months sleeping at any chance I could get, five-hour naps became the norm as did the frustration of food choices. In later months came crippling back pain, nesting and chill mode till finally at eight months I feel like going out and doing stuff. Although, as you can imagine at the final hurdle I’m rather large and exhausted quickly.
We’ve been doing a mixture of simple things together that are mostly free. Cooking together and walking to the high street, local woods and lakes. To nearby temples and sightseeing in London are fun and a great way for gravity to do its job! When staying in, we listen to podcasts and watch stand up comedy cuddled up together as another free resource to get things going is the hormone of love Oxytocin!
De-cluttering my environment and mindset, daily tracking and monthly budgeting have allowed me to save at least four months to cover immediate bills. I also have a cushion of money for car maintenance all saved within five months so far.
Start small, start with any resource at all! Just start.