Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The End of Project Goodbye Magpie

Can you believe it?  A year has passed since I started Project Goodbye Magpie back in August 2011!  A whole 12 months of budgeting, watching the pennies and trying to find out what life is all about while I was at it. 

Well, the figures are in, the spreadsheets have been calibrated and I am delighted to announce the results are as follows (drum roll please):

We have spent a whoping £13,715 less over the past 12 months and managed to pay off £4,600 from our Credit Card leaving a now managable £1,000 left to pay.

So, how did we do it? 

No. 1 Saving was not having any Car Loan repayments, saving £7,500.  We paid off the car loan last year and although a lot of people would take this as an opporunity to upgrade, we're most definitely not, and intend to run our current car until it is scrapped.  I used to be the kind of person who would get very excited by a new car, now I can't understand the fuss and would happily not have a car at all if we possibly could, (my sister and brother-in-law just went car-less and are loving it, no more petrol or garage bills!)

No. 2 Saving was the Coffee and Eating Out Challenge.  Where we went from regular weekend lunches out and coffees around town, to pretty much cold turkey, with the odd cuppa or two, and dinner out, thrown in.  My trusty thermos flask for coffees on the go and just simply not eating out, saved an unbelievable £3,227.87 (!!) over the course of a year.

No. 3 Saving was the Grocery Bill Challenge. Everyone is moaning about the cost of groceries going up, but by making better use of our bulk buy warehouse, shopping weekly at the local farmers market for our veg, not wasting so much food and just not going to the supermarket as regularly (where you often buy 'off-list' just-in-case stuff you don't actually really need), we saved £1,351.76 on our food bill!

No. 4 Saving was on Holidays.  We saved £1311.01 by going camping for our anniversary rather than a weekend abroad and by bargain hunting our self catering cottage in the highlands for our regular two weeks away.  We had just as much fun and saved a packet in the process.

No. 5 Saving was stopping the useless 'medical' bills caused by visiting a chiropractor who wasn't doing much to help my son's stiff back, but was doing a lot to lighten my wallet!  At £1,085.00 it was a significant saving.

Next up at No. 6 was Christmas.  By making gifts and being a bit more creative I saved nearly £1000.00 on the cost of my season's greetings!

No. 7  Saving was on Household Bills, where I saved £968.98 by swapping all my tarriffs for gas, electricity, internet and insurance policies, with the help of moneysupermarket.com and other such websites.  It is amazing how quickly these savings add up.

No. 8 Saving was Not Buying Any New Clothes for myself or JW (our growing 17 year old was exempt), saving a significant £837.89.  This was much, much easier than I anticipated and has been a total revelation about how I like to spend my time.  I made outfits, I sewed outfits and I re-jigged stuff I already had, but had never worn! 

No. 9 Saving was Birthdays.  I made, charity shopped and created my way to a £536.67 saving!

No. 10 Saving was on Cinemas and Entertainment, making use of offers and using our Nectar points and other vouchers, while steering well clear of the rip-off that is cinema snacks, we saved £484.40.

No. 11 Saving was on Gardening, where I got creative with seeds and propogation instead, and even got given plants by a kindly neighbour, saving £358.85 in the process.

No. 12 Saving was on Haircuts.  By buying a good quality set of clippers and watching some videos on YouTube, I saved £241.94 by setting up my very own barber shop and cutting my families hair!

All of this work actually saved around £20,000 on last year's spend!!!!  Can you believe it?  This enabled us to pay off a significant amount of credit card debt and make some necessary and urgent repairs to our house (a majorly broken heating system  and some costly roof repairs), while still saving money overall. 

It has been a really interesting year and I have learnt a few things about myself.  The thought of going clothes shopping makes me yawn with boredom now; although I have discovered a love of treasure hunting in the charity shop I now volunteer in!  I've realised that I have plenty of clothes and that I actually only need to replace one or two things each year, (like vest tops with holes in them and that kind of thing).

Another real revelation is that I really can't be bothered with birthday gifts and christmas presents (for myself or to give to other people) and have decided that I am going to opt out of the whole process.  I used to spend a lot of time thinking about birthday presents, shopping for gifts, wrapping them up and so on.  But I have realised, that it is just another form of consumerism, but with less perceived guilt, as it isn't for you.  The whole thing is just so out of hand, where some months I have five or six gifts to get at once.  So I have decided that I will give to my neices and nephews until they are 18 years old, in the form of a £5 note.  I will also continue giving to my own son, my husband and my mum and mum-in-law (as I think they would be upset if I missed them out).  But that folks is it, everyone else is getting a card!!

I haven't missed going out for coffees at all.  And this was something I was very worried about giving up.  Now, I actually much prefer my own cafetiere coffee to the super bitter stuff they like to serve you up in coffee houses.  JW and I had coffee out as a treat the other day and I just couldn't drink it, even after I chucked two sugars in!

I have also really enjoyed making use of the local park benches and getting a different view of the city.  Although, it is nice to meet up for a slice of cake with a friend now and again, especially when it is tipping it down and a thermos in the park just isn't an option!

Not Eating Out hasn't been as tricky to give up as I'd anticipated either.  Again, I thought I would really miss it, but I just haven't. We have had lots of lovely picnics and been more organised with food at the weekend.  The only downside has been that going out for something to eat was always a good way to get out with No.1 Son and catch up with him.  So now, we are going to go out about once a month and that will make it a real treat, rather than just because we haven't got anything nice in the house to eat on a Saturday lunchtime!  We also have a weekly heads-together as a family around our dining room table, to catch up with each others activities, which sounds a bit formal, but keeps everyone up to date and stops anyone feeling left out because they didn't know that such-and-such was happening.

I haven't been a total miser either, by saving up my pennies and selling up things I didn't need, I managed to save up enough money to buy myself a new bike (which I ADORE!)  And being able to pay to fix the house roof and the heating without having to use the credit card has been a really great feeling! 

We have set out our budget for next year and with No.1 Son off to University in 12 months time, keeping our belts tightened will become even more important!  But I really don't mind, as a lot of the things we were spending money on before, I have just simply got out of the habit of wanting. As a by-product of my less consumer driven outlook, I even developed a serious dislike of women's magazines, with all their talk of 'colour pop' and the 'must have new season look'.  What a load of drivel!

If you too would like to save some serious amounts of money and de-magpie your life, really the best tip I can offer you when it comes to spending less is to write everything that you spend down and tally it up each week.  It may be a tired piece of advice, but how many of us listens to it? Seeing those weekly and monthly figures in black and white really is the best motivation you can get for not buying that new gadget, must have jacket, or indeed anything else that catches your magpie eye!  It also gives you motivation to earn more money if that is what is necessary to turn things around, or indeed to downsize things to fit into your real budget (not the budget that you wish you had!)

So, what am I up to next?  Well, I have successfully tackled my outlook about money.  I have a new respect for it and for the process of saving up for items.  I wouldn't dream of taking out store credit for a new TV or Washing Machine now, or taking out a loan to do-up our house or anything like that.  I am firmly of the mind-set that you should save up for things.  So, while we may not get our garage conversion done anytime soon, at least we can sleep soundly in our beds at night.  Our next financial step over the next 12 months will be to finish paying off the last of our one and only credit card debt and helping to support No. 1 Son's Uni costs (he will be getting a part-time job!) 

For me personally, I am going to concentrate on keeping on discovering the things I really enjoy spending my time doing.  Just getting out of old habbits really took up my energy over the past 12 months and now it is really time to start concentrating on the important stuff of life and what makes it worth living. 

If you would like to join me on this journey please hop over to The One Life Project and I'll see you there!


  1. Great post, Carrie, and a great project. Well done! I do some of what you have done but as yet still not opted out of the whole pressie giving thing. I am tempted to follow your lead!! Thanks for sharing this! :)

  2. Brilliant stuff! I was nodding my head through a lot of it, we've cut back on a lot of things (most things in fact other than meals out and cinema, which we haven't cut back on, and holidays where we've always holidayed in Scotland and relatively inexpensively). I've always bought charity shop gifts or made gifts, but some people are less happy with those kind of gifts...

    The experiment was obviously a great success!

  3. Great to see how well you got on! I found too that I spent less than I expected during my gap year - my budget was way less than my old salary and I still managed to 'save' (ie take less out of my savings than I'd budgeted for).
    However, some of those were a matter of trading time for money, and with starting back at work I'm really thinking about which money-spending things I want to add back in and which things I don't miss.
    So far I have bought clothes (didn't ever wear suits before and I'm so not a charity-shop shopper I'm afraid!) and rather enjoyed the odd wee meal out - we never go out the two of us but I do like taking myself out for a reasonably-priced dinner if I'm staying in town after work. But I really want to not buy STUFF. I've been home for a year and still not managed to clear out all our STUFF!
    Thanks for sharing those inspiring numbers!

  4. Congratulations :) I am glad you have done so well!! I think being thrifty can be really fun and your post means I need to up my game with it! I write everything down now and my goal is to become debt free, save a bit, so I am not worrying, trying to muddle by and feeling stressed. Looking forward to your new blog :)

  5. Thanks for the comments and thoughts everyone! I really enjoyed reading them all and to hear your stories too. It has been an interesting old year all right :)