Janet (j4) wrote,

A Fool and her money

Motivated partly by the regular appearance of Motley Fool newsletters in my inbox, I finally got round to sorting some financial bits and pieces out yesterday.

First, I've got a new NSPCC credit card into which I'm transferring the outstanding balance on my egg card. That should save me about £3 a month, which isn't much, but it'll cover the cost of a birthday card, or one tube ticket, or even just one more slightly-more-guilt-free pint of beer. It also results in £20 being donated to the NSPCC when I start using it -- that's a donation I wouldn't have been able to justify making myself, to a charity which I believe to be worthwhile.

Second, I've fought my way through the Orange website and had another shot at changing my payment plan on my mobile phone, moving from Talk120 to Talk30. (I tried to do this a couple of months ago but somehow they don't seem to have changed the plan, and of course I was too apathetic and avoidant to do anything about it at the time. If it doesn't work this time, I'll be able to tell them when I tried to do this on the website, and complain loudly at them.) This should save me £10 a month, which is actually a noticeable amount.

Third, I've had a look through the records that I'm keeping of what I've been spending my money on, and it came as no great surprise to me to find that the costliest categories were food and train tickets. The train tickets are currently non-negotiable: I want to see as much of addedentry as possible, and while we live where we do the only sensible way to do that is by train. I knew I was a clingy and needy girlfriend but I'm amused to find that I really am more willing to economise on food than on time spent with Owen -- though that's partly because there's no way I can make the train journeys cheaper (except possibly booking tickets in advance, which is something I should investigate) whereas I could definitely be more economical about my food-shopping habits.

My expenses spreadsheet wasn't without its surprises, though. I was amazed to find that I was spending twice as much on gifts for other people as on books for myself (though I have been trying really hard not to buy unnecessary books), and horrified to find that I was spending as much on toiletries and medication as on gifts! Gifts are a tricky area to economise (and I'm not really in the best frame of mind to wander into that particular minefield of guilt at the moment) but toiletries really aren't: I could probably halve that figure if I just stopped buying things in Lush. If I don't buy the stuff for myself, it'll mean there's always an easy option for birthday/Christmas presents when my parents have no idea what to buy me. (Not that I would demand presents from them at all, obviously, but realistically they're likely to keep on giving me things, because they're like that.)

The really surprising thing is that according to my spreadsheet I've spent a grand total of £2.77 on music since New Year. Now I think that may be failing to take into account the couple of quid I spent on tapes in a charity shop, because I'm not infallible in my record-keeping; but even so, I'm amazed I've managed to resist the lure of Fopp's cheap CDs for this long.

The next items on the financial task-list are to investigate ways we could save money by moving the mortgage elsewhere, and to sort out my savings account. I've no idea about the mortgage but I'm guessing there are websites where you can type in the figures and they'll tell you if you could save money. As for savings: I don't really have many, but I've got some birthday money and suchlike in a Sainsburys account which was fairly high interest when I opened it but now is frankly rubbish (though still better than keeping the money in a sock under the mattress, I suppose). It would probably be better in a cash mini-ISA or something, but I keep hitting a wall of avoidance when I look at the millions of accounts that are out there which are all nearly the same, and I can't face working out which the best one would be. I think I need to just draw a line under that particular avenue of worry and find something that's better than the current situation.

So much for the outgoings and the savings. The actual income is harder to adjust; there's no way I can get a pay-rise, and I don't really want to look for another job at the moment unless I'm relocating completely (and that's all up in the air at the moment). I'm selling bits and pieces on eBay (though I haven't yet resorted to trying to sell my old train tickets -- thanks to addedentry for the link), and I'm on the lookout for psychology experiments for which I can volunteer my elite button-pressing skills in my lunch-hour (those usually pay a fiver or so), but is there anything else -- anything more productive? I keep prodding at the question of whether I could earn money from any of the skills I have. (Please, nobody suggest that I become a professional cake-decorator: I think it would take up too much of my time for too little money, and I also worry that it would take the fun out of doing cakes for friends and family.) The only thing I can think of that I could do on weeknights (I'm clutching at straws here) would be something like offering revision tutorials for GCSE/A-level English; okay, I don't have any (relevant) formal teaching qualifications, but then one-to-one tuition isn't formal teaching in that sense anyway, and I've got a degree in English -- and people do teach in schools with just a degree in their subject! The problem is, I have no idea how I'd go about starting to do the tutoring thing -- would any self-respecting parent even consider paying for tuition for their child from J. Random English Graduate? Does anybody have any experience of trying to do anything like this, or useful advice to offer?
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