Affording your hobby on a tight budget

Having an interest outside of work and that is just for you is so important. If it’s something to do with a loved one or something you do by yourself it doesn’t matter. It just needs to be something that brings you joy. Affording a hobby on a tight budget is no easy feat. It takes planning and consideration.

What needs to be considered first?

Firstly, is this a life long hobby that you’ve loved for years or is it a flash in the pan? Are you a serial hobbyist? The reason this is the first consideration is you don’t want to commit to a hobby that you may not stick at by spending a ton of money initially. If this is a passion of yours and you know you will get hours of enjoyment it is worth any initial outlay (within your budget!) to get it going again or to keep it going.

For the sake of an example we will look at music. Someone who has played drums for years but gave it up when their kids were born may feel the urge to take them back up for stress relief or just for the sheer love of the music. It is justifiable for that person to spend the money needed to get set up again. They know this is something they will stick at and enjoy.

What about someone who has always wanted to learn but has never had the opportunity before now and is on a tight budget? Because they have never done it before they would be better to avoid any large investment at first. Lessons are a big enough expense to start with. It is possible to practice at first without a drumkit. As time goes on equipment can be bought second hand or gotten on freecycle sites.

What’s next?

Cost. Why is this the second consideration? I put it second because a passion that brings joy would in my opinion be an essential spend. Remember your budget should be a reflection of the things you value most. If you have a hobby that brings value to your life then it should have a space in your budget.

Right so you have an expensive hobby like horse riding. The budget is tight with little money spare. As it is you’re struggling to make ends meet. Work out an arrangement with your local stables perhaps. Do some mucking out in return for a lesson. Or maybe you can afford to pay for a lesson once a month so you work it into your budget and make it your day of self care. The whole day. It doesn’t need to be any more expensive than paying for the lesson. The rest of the day could be spent hiking, meditating or reading in bed.

Lastly you need to consider ongoing costs.

So with horse riding and drum lessons the lessons themselves are more or less the ongoing expenses. There’s the occasional additional expense of clothing or drumsticks which ideally could be cash flowed or paid for with a sinking fund. How does that work with fishing though?

Fishing is expensive to get started with. There is no fee for lessons, however the equipment is not cheap. You can’t go fishing for Pike without a rod. Lets look at ways of affording your hobby on a tight budget. For birthdays and Christmas if someone doesn’t know what you’d like you could mention you enjoy fishing. Keeping an ongoing sinking fund to cover the cost of ground bait and lures is another great way to stay a float of your expenses.

Practical examples

Take reading, it can cost a good chunk of change and so your local library is your best friend. Many charge nothing or only a few cent. If you have friends that enjoy reading you could swap books between you.

Ebooks are often cheaper than traditional printed copies. Websites like BookBub make finding free books or very cheap books simpler.

Swimming, running and hiking don’t need to cost much. Getting out into nature is free and good for you body and soul. Taking bottled water, picnics and buying the best quality equipment that you can afford are all great ways to keep costs down.

What about dancing or painting?

Dancing can be done anywhere. You can pop on some music and get your groove on anywhere. If you prefer to follow a choreography then YouTube videos such as this one could be the answer.

Painting is one of those tricky ones. It costs money to get it going and there is an ongoing cost. If its a new hobby look at lower end products and keep it simple to start with. If this is a long term passion of yours budget what you can afford and buy the best quality materials you can within your budget.

Nothing to No One

On the 6th December 2021 my husband and I became debt free. We went from owing over 40k to nothing to no one. It wasn’t over night. It took two years of hard work and dedication.

In debt and don’t know how to get out?

There are a few simple steps you need to do. I say they are simple and they are but that doesn’t make them easy!

Lets start with the prep work. Its vital to the success of your debt free journey. Figure out your why! It needs to be something so important to you that quitting won’t be an option.

Now make a list of what you owe, to who and if you’re really brave the percentage rate. If that number doesn’t shock you to your core hats off to you. When I realized how deep we were in the shame I felt was excruciating. It was embarrassing and it hurt to realize our dream of home ownership was out of our grasp as a consequence of our own actions.

So who do you owe money to? It could be a family member or maybe it’s the credit union. Car loans, credit cards, over drafts, Littlewoods, Argos, Curries. Write it all down.

Get on a budget. Write a realistic budget and stick to it. This is the most important step. This is the one thing that will change everything. Yes there are other steps that contribute to becoming debt free but without this one none of the others will work. If you need help starting to budget I have a blog post here.

Do not add more debt. Not for anything. Not for a loaf of bread, new shoes or a washing machine. Nothing.

Seems a bit extreme..

It was the loaf of bread wasn’t it? That was the point you thought I’d gone too far. I haven’t. If your budget is realistic and you’re not over stretching yourself you won’t need to add groceries to the credit card again.

Remember I said realistic budget? That’s because if you aren’t budgeting enough for your essentials you simply won’t stick to it. It won’t be sustainable for any length of time, never mind the length it takes to become debt free.

What else can you do?

Increase your income with side hustles. I understand a second job or extra hours aren’t possible for everyone or don’t fit every situation. However we all have odds and ends around the house we don’t use, need or want. Sell them.

Consider doing online surveys and mystery shopping for extra money. It’s easy albeit boring work. You can do it while putting the kids to sleep or on a commute into work (assuming you’re not driving).

Meal plan and stop buying things you don’t need. If you already have enough clothes and shoes to get you through a few months, for example, you do not need to buy more right now.

No spend days are a great way to get control of your spending. Kel Galavan is a firm believer in them and she explains why in her blog post. Basically it gives you control over your money instead of money having control over you. Kel explains it so much better!

Shop around for your utilities. If you’re not in contract you are a free agent. Find a provider that suits your needs and budget.

We owe nothing to no one, what now?

This is where your why comes into play. What was the driving force that motivated you to become debt free? For us it was the ability to buy our own home. In 2022 we will be focusing on saving for a mortgage. Maybe you will start saving for a holiday or a new car. The world is your oyster once you pay off your debt and your money is yours again.

Clutter and hoarding

Clutter and hoarding are a difficult habit to break for many people. It can be unsightly, and frankly annoying to look at. So why would some people choose to put up with it?

Frugal living and hoarding

We have touched on frugal living in previous posts and one great way to save money is your grocery bill. The trouble that can arise is hoarding food. Have you ever been in doing your shopping and saw a fantastic bargain and somehow came home with lets say 3 bottles of tomato ketchup when only one was on the list? Sometimes deviating from the shopping list and stocking up when you see a great price is a good way to save money.

The issue here is when is too much too much? When does building a stock pile in your press or pantry becoming hoarding? I would say its a problem when there is more in your home than you can use before it spoils or when storing it is costing you more than it saves.

Sounds silly doesn’t it? Buying food you can’t possibly use before it turns just sounds ludicrous.

How it happens..

I can’t speak for everyone or how this comes about every time but as someone who has accidentally hoarded food I can share my own experience.

Picture this. You’re in doing your food shopping and you notice a sale on pizza. It’s the fancy kind that you love but can’t always justify the cost. It’s down to the same price as your usual pizza and you’re drooling at the thoughts of it. So instead of buying your normal amount you buy double. Next week you won’t need to buy pizza and you’ll get to enjoy your favorite kind two weeks in a row. You’re on the pigs back.

Next week comes and you’re in doing the shopping and this time you notice the Turkey dinosaurs your kids love are in stock and they’re on special offer. Buy one get one free. It would be daft not to stock up because who knows when they’ll be in stock again. You buy four bags. You’ll only be paying for two after all.

Week three rolls in and the freezer is starting to get very full. That spare pizza you bought the first week is lying under all the dinosaurs and you’ve forgotten about it. Truth be told you’re not sure what you need at this point. It was too much hassle to get into the freezer because it’s so full but you’re fairly certain you need some frozen veg for Sunday. You’re in luck it’s 2 for €2 instead of the usual €3 on frozen stir fry. Might as well pick them up when you’re there. You need to get broccoli anyway.

All of a sudden you have more food in your freezer alone than you need. Add in everything that’s in the fridge and in the presses. Now you have more food than you can use before it spoils. That’s the point when stockpiling becomes hoarding food and becomes an issue.

If you find yourself in this situation then you need a meal plan!

The hoarding continues!

Putting things away in case they come in handy again is a fairly frugal move. What’s the point in buying something twice? In your wardrobe have you still got those clothes that fit two years ago? The ones that made your bum look good or the ones that flattered your coloring. The only issue is they don’t fit but since you’re going to lose weight this year there’s no sense in dumping them.

As for the clothes that don’t fit because you’ve lost weight, well what’s the point in getting rid of them? In case you gain the weight again or wouldn’t they be handy for painting clothes!

You have the space to keep them. So what if the wardrobe door doesn’t close anymore! And if it takes a few extra minutes in the morning to find an outfit you’ll wear so be it. Not for no one are you getting rid of those clothes and paying for them again when you need them. Not no way, not no how.

But wait what about the shoes that’s lurking under the bed? Well you need a good pair, a spare good pair, the shoes for slobbing around in, the ones that are pretty but don’t fit, the shoes for painting, the running shoes, the beach sandals, the dressy shoes. And so it goes on. But you’ve paid good money for them and if you throw them out that’s when you’ll need them.

Now you have clothes bursting out the wardrobe and shoes poking out from under the bed. It’s grand. Better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.

But hang on a second what about the toys? Surely there is no valid reason to get rid of toys when you’re not sure if you’ve finished having kids?! You couldn’t possibly part ways with little Billy’s favourite teddy or Margie’s favourite blanket. Alright that’s fair. How about those toys that no one ever played with? You know the ones. They cost an arm and a leg. There the ones the kids loved playing with the box off. They came in eye catching packaging but once out of the box not a soul touched except you. You moved those toys around the house hoping they’d finally get played with. They’re great quality and when you were little you desperately wanted them. How can you get rid of them?

Wouldn’t it be an awful waste to get rid of the toys that were played with though? The toys that are in good condition and clearly popular. If you’ve another child wouldn’t it be lovely to see those cherished toys come out again?

Frugal living and clutter

Your house is over flowing with great quality odds and ends that you spent time and money buying. You don’t want to dispose of them because if you need them again it is more frugal to have held on to them in the first place. But the house is bursting at the seems.

In this scenario your mental health may be beginning to suffer. Everywhere you look you’re surrounded by clutter and signs of hoarding. On one hand it’s reassuring to know you have all that you need. On the other hand it feels like you’re drowning in a sea of stuff and things and food and clothes.

There are presses heaving under the bits and bobs you’ve squirreled away in case you need them.

That’s the point when clutter is an issue. Some might argue that the point was sooner than this but at this stage a declutter is badly needed.

Avoiding clutter and hoarding

  • Clothes-If it doesn’t fit it goes. That’s clothes and shoes. No matter how pretty or expensive it was. If you don’t wear it because it sits funny or the texture bothers you it goes.
  • Toys- If the kids haven’t played with it before now they’re not going to so it goes.
  • Food- If you know you won’t eat it before it spoils and it can’t be frozen it goes.
  • Random odds and ends- think the 4 rolls of sellotape lying around the house. Stop buying it until it’s used up. Don’t add to the problem! If you can’t possibly use it all then it goes.
  • In fact organize your possessions in a way that you know what you have and if you have no need of something then do not buy it. That includes candles. (Sorry, not sorry!)
  • When getting rid of these things be as sustainable as possible. Sell or give them to someone who will make use of them. There’s no need to be wasteful.

For more de-clutter and hoarding advice this blog post is really useful. The author talks about the benefits of decluttering and ways to tackle it. The strategy is simple and do-able.

Further Reading

I came across this blog post and found it very interesting. You might find it interesting too. It is about when frugality and hoarding becomes a real problem and recognizing the signs.

Pros and cons of frugal living

Before we get into the pros and cons of frugal living lets talk about what it is. Frugal living is a simple way to live. It is a choice not to spend money willy-nilly on stuff. Instead spend with intentionality. If that sounds pie in the sky let me put it like this- frugal living is buying one good pair of shoes instead of twelve poorly made shoes. Buying the best quality items you can afford and making those items last.

Is frugal living and sustainability the same thing?

No. Language is a tool that can be used playfully and so there is room for different interpretations of terms like “frugality” and “sustainability”. Some might say frugal is mean or tight. Others might say it is spending money in a practical way that makes sense.

So what’s the difference between frugal and sustainable? Frugal is spending money in a way that ultimately costs less. Buying one well made frying pan that lasts 25 years at a cost of €100 instead of 12 over the same 25 years at a cost of €20 each. That’s a savings of €140.

Sustainability is using resources and living in a way that least damages the earth. Shopping locally and buying locally grown fruits and vegetables in one way to live sustainably.

There is an over lap in some areas where sustainability and frugality work together. Drying your clothes on the line instead of in the dryer is a good example. It’s better for the planet because it costs the earth nothing to dry the clothes. It’s frugal because it costs you nothing and it helps make the clothes last longer. Another example is to walk the short journey to the shop for bread and milk instead of driving. No fuel costs and no emissions used.

What’s the difference between frugal and sustainable?

Frugal is decisions made solely on the best choice for your pocket. Sustainable is decisions made solely on the best choice for the planet.

An example? Take a washing machine for instance. Pretend it’s 15 years old and in good working order for the most part but the motor has given up. The sustainable thing to do is replace the one part rather than dump the whole machine for the sake of one part. However this would cost far too much to make it economical and therefore it would be more frugal to buy a new washer.

If you’re interested in a quick read on this topic The Not So Thin Line Between Frugality and Sustainability is a good read.

Pros and cons of frugal living?


  • Often the sustainable choice
  • More money to spend on things that you value such as time with family or travelling the world.
  • Less stress. It costs you less to live and so money worries are lessened.
  • Freedom to walk away from a job situation you find untenable.
  • Retirement is more affordable.
  • Global or national economic downturns may affect your lifestyle less.
  • A sense of tradition. Feeling connection to your grandparents and their grandparents and so on.


  • Not always sustainable
  • Clutter can become an issue. While you don’t have so many things to look after you may find yourself holding onto odds and ends to put to use at a later date.
  • Your shower will have a few bottles of shower gels or shampoos upside down at any given time.
  • You don’t get that “new feeling” often. The satisfaction of opening and using a new tube of toothpaste is less frequent.
  • Less convenient and more labor intensive. It would be easier to dry all clothes in a dryer but it would be far more costly.
  • Some people assume you’re mean or tight fisted.
  • It can be taken too far and suck the joy out of life.

Taking frugality too far.

(I want to start this on a positive note and draw your attention to the benefits of frugal living. This post sums it up really well in my opinion.)

Like anything in life too much of anything is never good for an individual. You might say there’s no such thing as drinking too much water and I would say too much water and you drown. Taking frugality to an extreme is a one way ticket to misery. No one wants to be around someone who is forever griping about the cost of toilet roll. Being practical with your money is one thing but going to an extreme and living like a pauper is another.

There are essential costs that there’s no getting around. Spend money on the things that you value and bring you joy- like the shellac nails or beard oil. You might value experiences and above things. That could look like store brand toothpaste and an all expense trip to Lapland.

Suggested reading

If you enjoyed reading about the pros and cons of frugal living you might enjoy my post about the benefits of meal planning. Don’t let the title fool you, I am indeed a big fan of meal planning. Meal planning is pointless.

Surveys worth doing

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this topic let me say this is all only based on my experience and is only my opinion. Paid online surveys are worth doing. Picture this you’re stuck in the dentists waiting room and you’re bored. You have a few options..

-Stare at your shoes and think about all the things you have to do when you’re done.

-Make awkward chit-chat with the other patients.

-Play on your phone, maybe a game or scrolling through your news feed on Instagram.

-Earn a small bit of money.

Think of all the times during the day you mindlessly play on your phone. You do it out of habit more so than anything else. Why not make a few cent or even a couple of euro? If you were walking down the street and saw a euro or two on the street wouldn’t you pick it up?

Pros and cons of online surveys


  • You make a small bit extra each week or each month to put towards living expenses or a goal.
  • Instead of mindlessly scrolling you’re engaging your brain in something productive.
  • You might learn something new or get to experience something new for free


  • The money you stand to earn isn’t life changing. It’s generally small change and it’s rare to come across a good earner.
  • Some of the surveys are mind numbingly boring.
  • Some surveys are not only boring but long as a wet week in June.
  • Many sites prefer to offer vouchers instead of cash.


Check with revenue laws in your country. In Ireland money earned from online surveys is taxable.

Which surveys are worth doing?

Please note some of the links for surveys below will be referral codes. The ones that are referral codes will have an asterisk in front of them. If used I would earn a small amount from the specific survey company.

* Attapoll is a well known survey provider. The long and short of this one is the money is hit and miss. Sometimes you will get offered short surveys for reasonable money and other times you might get offered 37c for 19minutes. The referral program is great though. If you refer Bob from down the road and Bob does a survey for €1 you earn 10c. You earn 10 percent of whatever Bob earns. This does not affect Bob, he still gets his full euro. Bob can also now share his referral link and earn a little extra too.

Bounce Insights is a newer one. They pay brilliantly and the surveys tend to be quick and easy. The only draw back is they aren’t as plentiful. Surveys pop up every so often and the quotas get filled fast. They have a range of cash out options.

Toluna is awful and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The surveys are long and boring as can be. The pay is rubbish. They take a few weeks to process cash outs.

There is no downside to a side hustle. There are only benefits to building more than one source of income.


Surveys worth doing earn you money or a worthwhile reward..

Prolific is not taking new applicants at the time of posting. When they are open to applications I would recommend them. The surveys are unique and interesting. Payment can take a few days to reach your PayPal account.

Media Opinions is a survey you do daily. You earn 10-20c per day (in the form of points) for answering a few questions about which shows you watched and which radio stations you listened to. The money is small but fairly priced for the simple nature of the task. Also the surveys are very short! You can redeem your points for a One for All gift voucher or other vouchers.

* Poll Pay like Bounce Insights pays really well but the draw back is the surveys aren’t plentiful. Worth checking in on daily to see if there are any good ones for you to do. Payment is to PayPal or a Spotify gift card.

Mystery shopping

*Be My Eye (my code is is 3805g50) is a mystery shopping service. The company does not assign jobs, you must reserve them. The money is good and the tasks are reasonable. Pay out is hassle free and practically instantaneous when you request it. They pay into your Paypal or bank account.

Pan Research is another mystery shopper service. You apply for jobs and Pan Research assigns them. I have not done a job yet. However I understand they pay once a month and it’s hassle free.

Receipt scanning surveys worth doing

*Shop and Scan will pay you €1.40 per week to scan the barcodes on your shopping and upload them with their scanner. You earn an additional €0.60 per week by uploading an image of your receipt. It is boring and it is a fair bit of hassle. That said it is easy money and they pay in One For All vouchers (or other options). If you would like to use my panel number it is 918036. We both get extra points if you use it. At the time of writing this Shop and Scan’s website is down for maintenance.

*Storewards gives you points for sending a photo of your Aldi or Lidl receipts. You also receive daily points for opening the app. It is a slow burner. The points are slow to build but it is very easy to earn the points. You can redeem the points for vouchers or into your PayPal.

Final thoughts

If you have time on your hands and could do with a little extra money then surveys are absolutely worth the effort!

Further Reading

If you found this post useful you might also be interested in….

Underneath the Christmas tree

It’s time! I don’t know about your house but in my house it’s time to talk about Christmas. The letter for the man in red will be sent off this week and the prep work begins. So what might be underneath the Christmas tree this year?

** Please note the following gift suggestions are only suggestions. I have tried to include different price points as best as I could. If you have not prepared financially for Christmas please read last weeks blog! **

Children’s gift ideas for underneath the Christmas tree


Books are always a great gift. If you’ve a book lover or a child you want to entice into reading more there is a story available.

For the smallies in your life you can’t go wrong with a Usborne touchy feely book. The That’s Not My books are great for small hands. The pages are thick enough for them to grab and the text is large and clear. The stories are simple and interactive. The child is able to learn about texture through touching the different surfaces in the books.

For 3-6 year old’s I would recommend the Peppa Pig books. I personally hate Peppa and all she holds dear but, and it’s a big but, if it gets a child interested in reading and listening to stories that’s the main thing. So which ones are worth the money? I would stay clear of the thin paged books. They’re too slippery and thin for young children and rip very easily. Books like this are much easier for them to manage.

For the children starting to read for themselves or who still love a bed time story there’s an ocean to choose from. In fact every book in this list I would recommend for adults too. They’re a bit of fun and great reads.

Books that I haven’t read yet but think would be a great addition to any book shelf are

Outdoor toys

  • Basket ball stand – on our list for this year, has a better review than a more expensive model!
  • Huffy Green Machine *note other sizes available. Great fun for kids and adults.
  • Molto Ride On – one of the best toys I have ever bought!
  • Scooter – we bought one for our oldest and both our boys love it. More affordable options available but I can vouch for this one.

Indoor toys

Video games and consoles

  • The Oculus Quest 2 *very expensive!! Please do not feel this is a must have. It is however well made and a great option if your budget allows. My boys love to play Beat Saber.
  • Slime Rancher – can also be bought for Play Station and Nintendo Switch.
  • Plants Vs Zombies – can also be bought for Xbox and Nintendo Switch
  • Minecraft – can also be bought for Xbox and Play Station

Underneath the Christmas Tree ideas for adults and teenagers



Budgeting and Stationary


Unique gifts


Undereneath the Christmas tree for the hobbiest

If you have a hobby enthusiast to shop for but don’t know where to begin ask an expert. Take fishing for example, I know nothing about it. If I wanted to buy something fishing related I would go to a fishing shop with my budget in mind and ask for their advice. You can do this with any hobby from swimming to baking.

Christmas on a budget

Right girls and boys it’s finally time to tackle the big one. Christmas on a budget. I’ve been waiting to talk about this since I started this blog. Christmas is a magical and wonderful time of year for many of us. But it’s also expensive!

How to make Christmas affordable?

Lets start with the obvious and most simple approach to doing Christmas on a budget. Buy what you need to buy and no more. Yes it’s lovely to give gifts and put on a wonderful show at Christmas, however overspending and going into debt is never fun. Do you really want to still be paying off on Christmas when the gifts are long lost or tossed aside? Next June do you want to be paying a credit card bill for a gift that your loved one has lost all interest in? I doubt it. Decide what is a reasonable sum for your HoHoHo budget.

Make a list and check it twice!

I know many of you despise lists and the effort they take. This time I ask that you humor me. I’m not a list person either but when it comes to the 25th December you can bet your last cent that I’m writing a list.

What goes on it? Name every single person you intend to buy for. Not just family. If you buy sweets for the postman or a mug for the class teacher it goes on the list. When you’ve listed everyone assign them an amount. Bare in mind the longer the list the less money you can realistically assign each person.

If you have to help the big man in the red coat out make sure you have a list and a budget set aside for him. Remember Santy doesn’t need fancy biscuits left out but if that’s a tradition in your house or if new Jammies are part of your annual festivities they should be on the list too. It’s a matter of priorities. The things that are important to you should be on your list with money allocated to them. Doing Christmas on a budget isn’t about deprivation, it’s about spending money on the things you value.

How to pay for Christmas?

It’s well and good me telling you to write list after list but if the money isn’t there to make it possible what’s the point? There’s a lot to be learned from a list. It gives you a really solid starting point for setting up a sinking fund for 2022 and every year there after. Where does that leave you for 2021? You have a few options and only you will know what suits your circumstances best.

  • Start budgeting now and the money you can squirrel away is what you work with. This would allow you to have a debt free Christmas. You have just over seven weeks to save. You could supplement that savings with selling things around your home you no longer need or use. Another great option is to earn income on the side and put that additional income towards Christmas.
  • Start budgeting now and get a small loan to top up the remainder. While this isn’t the ideal way to pay for the festive season it is better that just getting a loan for the entire amount. Maybe next year you won’t need a top up loan because you can budget in advance and use a sinking fund for it. That said if next year you need a small top up loan for Christmas at least each year you are getting closer and closer to a debt free Christmas.
  • Do the bare minimum for this year. If you are working with a small budget but still want to do it debt free then cut the frills and keep the parts that are important to you. Yes the big man still needs to come if there are kids but with Covid 19 and Brexit many children will need to understand Santa and his elves are struggling to get materials. Maybe they could ask for one special gift and a surprise. They’re very clever in the North Pole and will know just the thing for a surprise.

How to do Christmas on a budget?

Every family’s traditions are different. In our house the kids are allowed ask for one big thing and a surprise from Santa or they can ask for two medium sized things and surprises. Anything that would take the workshop a lot of time or resources (think expensive items) must be put on a list for mammy and daddy. We will then decide what we can afford to buy.

If new pajamas or Christmas eve boxes are a tradition in your house buy these things in January and put them away for December. Buying out of season during a sale is the most affordable way to buy things like Christmas pajamas and slippers.

Maybe a new story book or even 25 stories is the tradition you look forward to. Consider checking out your local library. Good for the pocket, environment and the supporting a local amenity.

Check out Facebook marketplace, Adverts and your local charity shops for odds and ends you might need. Things like tree ornaments and decorations for around the home can be picked up for small money. Think about buying some gifts preloved. Children especially young children will not know or care where the gifts came from. Look for items in great condition that need a quick wipe down.

What about food?!

The Christmas dinner is a cliché for a reason. It’s tasty. How can we get the cost down? Lets start with decorating the table. Somewhere in one of the presses there’s a vase or an old jam jar. Hunt them out. Get onto Pinterest and have a rummage around. I like this.

The dinner is really the same as any other roast. The basics don’t change much. If you don’t like sprouts any other day of the year I can’t imagine you’ll eat them on Christmas day so leave them be. The same goes with every part of the dinner. Don’t like or want turkey then don’t cook one. Keep it simple. Cook what will be eaten.

If the traditional turkey and ham dinner makes your mouth water thinking about it then buy and freeze the meat when you see it at a good price. Follow all necessary food safety precautions!

While we are on the subject of food don’t forget to meal plan. If you know that every year on Christmas Eve you like to have a takeaway then put it on the meal plan. Don’t be buying food that won’t be eaten. If on St Stephens Day you visit family and bring a small dish then that’s what goes on the meal plan. The key to Christmas on a budget is to spend money on the things you need or are important to you. Avoiding waste helps keep costs down.

Extra suggestions

If you’re looking for ways to bulk up your Christmas savings Santis from the Caribbean Dub has just the challenge for you. It’s called the 333 challenge and it is a way to challenge yourself to set aside €333 for Christmas.

One way Santis suggestions earning extra money is through doing Online surveys. Ellie from Planning and Finances has been sharing her side hustle income on her YouTube channel. She talks about how much she earns doing surveys and it’s very inspiring!

Your expenses

Last week we looked at your income and this week it’s time to focus on your expenses. So get out a pen and piece of paper, highlighters if you have them to hand and your bank statements.

Go through your bank statements slowly and carefully, noting down your expenses into categories. Take note of not only the amount of each expense but the date it is due. Below you will find a list of possible expenses. It is not a comprehensive list and may not include every expense you have. However it will hopefully trigger your memory and help you to compile a full list of your expenses.

Cash flow expenses

Sinking fund expenses

  • Food
  • Petrol or diesel
  • Rent, mortgage or household contribution
  • Esb
  • Home heating
  • Gas
  • Childcare
  • Children’s activities
  • Family fun
  • Personal spending money
  • Lunch money
  • Eating out
  • Hobbies
  • Tv license
  • Health, life, vehicle, home insurance
  • Car tax
  • Property tax
  • Date night
  • Personal care
  • Dental, optical and healthcare
  • Pet care and insurance
  • Internet
  • Phone bill
  • Loan repayments- credit card, car loan, student debt etc.
  • Subscriptions- Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube etc.
  • Special occasions- birthdays, weddings etc.
  • Beauty
  • Christmas, Easter, Hallowe’en etc.
  • Birthdays
  • Car maintenance
  • House maintenance
  • Personal care
  • Beauty
  • Emergency fund
  • Holiday
  • Phone/ technology
  • Car insurance
  • Car tax
  • Home heating
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Back to school
  • Kids activities

Track your spending

To be really accurate with your numbers you should track your spending. Write down every time you spend money. You’ll be surprised how much you will learn about your day to day spending doing this. Those few euros here and there add up quickly.

Cash flow or sinking fund?

You may have noticed that some of the sinking funds are a repeat of the cash flow expenses. This is because things like car insurance if paid monthly instead of up front have an additional fee. You might find that it is easier for you to pay for some expenses for the year in one lump sum. In order to do this it would be best to save up for them throughout the year. If you’d like to do some further reading on this topic I have a blog post.

Your Income

This week we will focus on a key element of the budgeting for beginners blog post. Lets talk income.

You need to know every cent that’s coming into your house. That sounds excessive and maybe it is a bit but if you don’t know what money you have to work with how can you give it a job? Your money always needs a job to do because otherwise it has a tendency to wander off. You work hard for your money, make it work hard for you.

Income sources..

Below is a list of possible sources of income as an example. It is not an exhaustive list.

  • Employee wage or salary
  • Self employed wage or salary
  • Social welfare payments
  • Children’s allowance
  • Farming subsidies
  • Rental income
  • Investment income
  • A lodger
  • An adult child or relative paying board
  • Online surveys
  • Maintenance payment
  • Support grants

Now you know where your money is coming from. You need to know how much and how often you are paid. What does your total add up to? That number is what you will be writing a budget to suit.

What if your total varies from month to month?

Write down the lowest amount you expect to realistically receive. Always plan for the worst but hope for the best. Any money above what you expected should be budgeted inline with your values and priorities.

Unreliable sources of money

What to do when a source of money can’t be relied upon? Assume you won’t receive it this month because then you won’t be left short. You don’t want to have to figure out how to cut expenses down the line. When that money is guaranteed then you can budget for it.

Annual overview of your income

A website you should check out is Mrs Hawkins House. Ruth often discusses the importance of an annual overview so that all your income has a job. It is a key step in her approach to budgeting. If you would like to do some further reading this is the link.

Your Why

The first step in improving your financial position is to establish your why. What is the reason you want to improve your financial situation? Sounds like a silly question, but to make real change you need to look beyond the surface. What is the real reason you want to take control of your money?

I saw a post on thequigleyquote’s Instagram this week. It was a quote from Napoleon Hill that reads, “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”

It’s the use of language in the quote that really caught my attention. How you speak to yourself and how you word things has a massive impact on how you interact with your money. This idea is one we looked at in the Fat Funny Girl post.

Think about it

We all have hopes and dreams but if we don’t have a plan we have nothing but hopes and dreams. You can’t wish your dreams into reality or I would be living in a period country home already.

Where does a hope come from anyway? It comes from desire and that is the root of all change. Wanting something enough to be willing to work for it. Making a plan and executing it comes after the initial feeling of desire.

Now what was your why?

You woke up last week or maybe last month and thought what? I want to change career? Wouldn’t it be amazing to stay at home with the kids for a few years? Or maybe it was an itch to see the Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada and the Great Wall of China in China.

What was the thing that prompted you to look at your financial situation? It wasn’t I want more money for the sake of it. Maybe you did want to save a big chunk of money, but it was so that if the washing machine broke you weren’t washing laundry in the bath.

It could of been when you were putting on your shoes and you noticed they were getting a hole. Maybe you thought to yourself it would be nice not to have to worry about money.

It might of been when you got the school book bill and had to choose between paying for it and swimming lessons. Maybe you even got angry that those two bills came at once and so close to Christmas.

Keep that why in mind

It doesn’t matter how big or how small your why is. That moment or incident that invoked a desire in you is your best asset. It will be the most motivating tool you will have on your journey to take back control of your financial situation.

Any time you feel like you want to quit or the task is too great think about why you’re doing this in the first place. Reflect on how far you’ve come. Celebrate each milestone you reach. You can do this!

Further reading

If you found this blog post useful you might also be interested in..