Day Twelve: Learning to say “No!” to myself, and the Store Cupboard Diet Project!

On my way home tonight I thought “I would love a Thai green with noodles”.  I knew I had all the makings at home bar noodles and tofu, which were the main part of my craving.  My inner monologue was convincing me that I was allowed to buy some tofu and noodles from Morrison’s on the way home with my daily fiver.

It took all my might for the Fiver Project voice to win and say “NO! Use what you’ve got!”  I can’t have noodles just because I fancy them on a whim.  I have a bigger goal in mind which means some discomfort now and profit later, when I am too old to graft or go cold and survive.  I need to learn to love my future self and treat her with respect, and that means putting her into a more well off position for her comfort and joy.  Noodle cravings are transient.

So I got home and had a can of soup to fill the hunger.  And the plan is that I need to be really really clear with myself that I need to eat what I’ve got first before buying more.

So, I need to use up the store cupboard.  All those dried pulses and all that brown rice.  The cans of chickpeas and the passata.  The random tubs of things I bought on a whim.  the umpteen olive oils.  Use it all up.  Use up the freezer stock before restocking.

I plan to live off cheap frozen veg like broccoli and cauliflower.  You can even buy frozen sliced mushrooms and peppers, which I do have in the freezer.  They are full of nutrients and fresh frozen so won’t go to waste like fresh food can.  So all meals need to be created from what I’ve got.  I can buy more frozen veg and fruit when I run out.  Apart from that, I am allowed to buy fresh salad, because I love it.  Those are the rules of this project within a project!

I really want to keep on minimalising and decluttering everything I own so that it will be possible to rent this flat out in the spring and be a bit of a sofa surfer – maybe even sleep in the car.  I see that as a cheeky adventure, not a sign of having fallen down.  I will be able to save far more.  I will be the woman who paid off her debt by living in a Citigo!  Watch me!  🙂 🙂


Zero spend today, but my starting amount of £8.53 today was actually phantom because I spent £17.96 on food in Aldi the other day and forgot to record it (I need to get better at noting it down immediately when I spend).  So I have added that in and now have a closing balance today of -4.43.  With tomorrow’s fiver I will just scrape back in to “credit” at 57p! So I really need to not spend anything tomorrow (Saturday – friends over for a pot luck supper).

Day Ten Done! Project Balance £3.53


Day Eight involved just putting in a tiny bit of petrol (£5!) and seeing how long it would last me!

Well, when I type this I am afraid it will be as new to me as it is to you! The funeral last week rather knocked me for six. But I do think I have done well at sticking to the plan. let’s see if I am right or wrong.

I am going to take this from Day one using the Daily Balance Sheet which has gone only up to Day Three so far and which page will probably be retired as I can’t seem to update it daily. I shall figure a way of keeping this up to date for my own accountability.

Day Four and Day Five spends are here and here.

Day Six – I drove from the midlands to home, spending £18.50 on petrol, a samosa and an espresso in a garage. Taking me into a debit balance of the project rules of -£4.21. A rap across the knuckles is in order. Thank goodness for the £5.71 incoming into the project’s imaginary purse the next day. Learning? Pack food even for return journey and have a flask with me to fill up before leave where I’ve stayed. Even without the food and espresso though, the petrol was £16.50

Day Seven – Back home, shopped at Aldis for basics (salad, frozen fruit) = £7.46. Another debit balance of -£6.10 Oh Dearie me! Lots to learn yet.

Day Eight – £5 exactly on petrol.

Day Nine – (From this day, we start with £5 not £5.57 available to spend or accrue). Spend – added to the £48 from savings towards handywoman job which is not counted (the savings are for using for these necessaries) I put £7 from the Fiver Project. So a debit balance again of -£1.47. Gah! I was doing so well. I am reminding myself that successful people failed loads first!

Day ten brings us up to date. Despite hankering for a new handbag to replace my ropey old thing (and I would happily make it a cheapish one) I have kept my spending finger away from the keyboard and can happily report no spend today. Phew! I think the travelling and the funeral and fatigue derailed me a little and I need to learn to manage that to be with a chance of doing this properly.

So tomorrow, I will wake with an £3.53 balance and do all within my power to keep it accruing, not reducing!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day Three: A battle of my wills in Tesco.

Day 3


Opening balance: £16.71

Spent: £8.35 on provisions for trip (quick dinners & breakfast & snacks) in Tesco.

Saved £4!

Closing balance: £8.36 (boo- I don’t like it going down. How very addictive this accumulation is!)

I realise more and more as I get started in these very early days of this year-long project that I have long had a very unhealthy relationship with money. I have abused it, ignored it, taken advantage of it and failed to allow myself to notice when it was running out, as it frequently did.

Today, I congratulated myself on getting to day three with a zero spend and an accrued balance of £16.71. I thought I would probably need that for fuel for my drive to the Midlands today. Normally on a long journey I fill up my tank to be on the safe side but, with a 3/4 full little city car I thought I’d see how far it would get before I had to throw some pennies in the tank.

At Gloucester, about half way, I drove to Tesco Extra to grab some provisions. I had not packed any breakfast things or easy dinners, and knew I would need something tonight when I arrived at the Airb&b.

This is where I was a bit shocked by my attitude to money. When I checked my wallet as I went into Tesco, I was surprised to find £15. I couldn’t for the life of me remember how it got there. Absolutely no recollection of having withdrawn any cash recently or obtaining notes in change. I generally always use my wavy card thing for small purchases, rather than carry cash. I was so surprised that I almost convinced myself that this was special, extra money that I could spend outside the fiver project. This, I reasoned, would enable me to buy the food I needed and not eat into my allowance which I needed for fuel.

Halfway round the supermarket I gave myself a stern telling off. This was definitely fiver project money, and must be treated as such. I’ve got to stop spinning myself untruths in an attempt to get the better of me. Not least because it in fact derails me rather than serves me.

I had a bit of a quandary when I found that the thing I was going to get for dinner was on a 3 for 2 offer. Did I buy one for £2 which was all I needed or take two more in case I need them while I am up in the Midlands? I got a few aisles away with three in my basket, turned back, replaced two, turned back and picked them up again. I decided that £4 for three evening meals instead of £6 was a good deal.

A similar quandary happened around porridge oats. I had forgotten to pack any and so picked up some lovely looking gluten and dairy free micro oat pots for 75p each, one for each morning. Further round, I saw a big bag of oats for 75p. It seemed a no brainer so I put back the pots. I can use a bowl in the airb&b and take my oats home with me. I already have plenty, but loving porridge as I do, they will get used.

Back at the car, I looked at the receipt, which I rarely do usually. The total seemed a bit steep- £10.35. I realised that the 3 for 2 offer hadn’t been applied. Oh god- could I be bothered to get back out into the cold, dark car park and walk all the way back into capitalist mecca and quibble over two pounds. I was tired. And hungry. But my Fiver Project head said Do It! And so I dragged myself back in the cold. And the thrill of seeing those two shiny pound coins going back in my purse was amazing. A completely unexpected feeling. Like I had made money from thin air. I was delighted!

But it struck me, as I continued driving, that not knowing why I had £15 in my wallet was a pretty damning insight into my financial attitude. My initial apathy about recovering my two hard-earned pounds from the clutches of the Tesco Mammon. And my internal fight about whether I steal the £15 from the project and use it separately. All very interesting. I am learning so much already.

In exciting news, my tiny little car made it all the way up here without even beeping at me about fuel. So no spend there yet. I am safely installed at the Airb&b. A lovely house with a great landlady and her young children plus other Airb&bers which meant an interesting evening of conversation at the table. An unexpected – and free – evening of socialising with interesting people. Let’s see then what tomorrow, a very sad day for me and my family saying a final goodbye to our patriarch, brings.


Day Two – Budget adjustment, Spotify and Dropbox

Day Two


Day’s allowance: £5.41 rollover from yesterday plus today’s £5.41 = £10.82 Well, so I thought!

Amount spent today: £0 – Yey me!

How did I not spend any money?
I have eaten only food in the cupboards and not driven anywhere, getting a lift the one time I had to go out.  I am going to a funeral later this week and usually I would buy a new smart black outfit, but this is now impossible.  Instead, my amazing friend came around with a bag of black clothes so that I could put a new-to-me outfit together and not feel like I was attending my grandad’s funeral in my ordinary smart black work clothes.

Amount to be rolled over: £16.71.  Wait? £16.71 doesn’t sound right! What, how did that happen?!  That’s not 3 x £5.41!

Well no.  So, I’ve had a bit of a moral dilemma today about how to reflect some new budget changes into my daily allowance, and still comply with The Rules.

When I posted my budget yesterday, I still had a Dropbox account, which I thought was costing me £9.99 pcm.  I also thought my Spotify was costing me £4.99 (student rate).  When I checked, I realised I had got these two things wrong!  Spotify was costing me £9.99 (I had forgotten I can’t get student Spotify with NUS card anymore and can’t use the Unidays link – more on my cheeky NUS card deal in a later post!) and Dropbox £7.99.  So I thought those combined were an outgoing of £14.98, instead they were an outgoing of  £17.98.  Eeek.  This was going to really eat into my daily allowance and potentially take me to  much closer to that fiver a day than that 41p safety net!

I have struggled with the cost of Dropbox, finding it quite unreasonable for my light-use purposes, as I really only use it to sync photos from my phone for backup storage.  I have a few shared folders and documents on there but nothing which couldn’t live on my laptop really.  It just feels like nearly a tenner a month I didn’t value.  So, as I went to bed last night, I set my Dropbox photos to copy overnight to my Google Drive, which I had only just realised gives free photo storage  (at lower quality, but I really don’t mind).  When I woke up this morning, about 18000 of 24000 had successfully moved.  Who knows why the rest hadn’t, but I valued my time too much to bother investigating.  I closed my Dropbox 1TB account.  What Dropbox does is stop billing you or offering any more space than the free basic account amount, but it doesn’t delete anything you are already using over that basic storage amount when you cancel the paid service.  So those photos so far uploaded are safe there for free, and I can just upload to Google Drive instead!  Hurrah.  So that was an instant saving of £7.99 pcm.  I won’t be billed at the beginning of December and this makes me £7.99 a month better off. But I was also a bit worse off because I was wrong about the Spotify figure.  I am not ready to detach from Spotify just yet.  I use it everywhere, at home, work and in my car or on the train.  I think £9.99 is a bargain – the price of a cheap CD a month and you get any track you want all day long.  So that’s staying.

With the slight increase to my budget of Spotify and the nice decrease by dropping Dropbox, I find that my £5.41 has changed to £5.57.

What I did next might be up for debate as to its fitting in The Rules.  What do you think about this?

So, having just woken up and a bit bleary, I acted on instinct without thinking.   I thought to myself, oh that’s great, I will absorb the saving into my daily rate, recalculating the new monthly leftover total down to the daily rate and coming to £5.57.  I even changed the header in this blog, from £5.41 to £5.57, and edited all the posts and my Twitter header with the new figure.

A bit later, I thought… hang on.  Is that against The Rules?  Wasn’t I supposed to put any savings – which is what this is – straight into my savings account, as per rule 10?

10. Don’t fritter it, grow it!  If you make unexpected monies, like gifts, windfalls, refunds etc – these all go in savings.  They are not to be spent or added to the accrued daily allowance.  There is a danger you will spend them because you think it’s ‘free money’ and not only that you will probably ignore rule  8 and just buy something unnecessary on a whim, rather than put it by for something on the rule 7 list.  So just put it straight in savings.  The exciting things you can do with savings include putting them towards investments, to grow wealth!

Well, on re-reading I think I can interpret myself (!!) as meaning one-off savings or refunds should not be reabsorbed.  It doesn’t mention if I delete a monthly spend from my whole budget.  That said, it did feel slightly wrong, even though we are only talking about 16p a day, that’s just over a fiver a month to be used for daily living, and it also keeps me in the “fiver-ish” daily mark for the authenticity of the blog and project.

I decided that if I delete anything else from my budget as from today that I don’t get to use this excuse again, but as this was only Day Two and I am finding my feet with The Rules, we could let this one go!  But hold me to account if I start making more such excuses for my snap decisions about money, won’t you!?

So, how is the money saving going?  And how do I feel about this project on day two?

Well, yesterday I was really excited.  I am typically very excited about projects at first, and then get bored!  But I wrote myself a note yesterday, which is almost another rule, or at least, a guiding principle.

“I don’t have to do the blog, but I do have to do the fiver a day project (to be able to live within my means and get out of debt, not into more) so I might as well do the blog anyway”.

I wrote this because I know I struggle sometimes to set my thoughts to the page, as if once written they can’t be unwritten and maybe they will be judged and I won’t be able to handle it.  I used to write prolifically whereas now I actively shy away from it.  So I knew I would make excuses and try and wriggle out of doing the blog, but also that doing the blog is an imperative facet of ensuring the success of the project.  It will keep me accountable and focussed.  That’s if I don’t rebel against myself and give up.  I must not give up!

So tonight, I felt completely unwilling to write this entry.  Oh God, who’s going to care about all this?  I thought.  Why am I writing into thin air?!  And I haven’t any inspiration tonight.  My words will be dull and lifeless.  But then I argued back “it doesn’t matter.  Just write anyway.  Something useful will come out.  And by getting into the habit, it will get easier.  It will be good for you to practise a daily habit”.  And so I forced this blog post out through gritted keystrokes.  The bit about Dropbox and Spotify?  I nearly glossed over it completely by editing the whole project overview I posted yesterday as though it was always £5.57, but reminded myself “this blog is to hold yourself to account.  If you are not honest, what is the point?” 

That’s going to be an obstacle.  That natural inclination to present the face of “everything’s going fine” when actually I might make mistakes or screw up.  It all needs to be recorded.  Otherwise, how will a change be made and lessons learnt

  So, in short, I have made an excellent saving of £7.99 pcm, but had to add £4.99 pcm straight back due to my Spotify woopsie.

And, more success!  I didn’t spend any money today.  Hurrah!

I am so committed to this project.  I need to relearn my old habits.  My Buy it Now mentality has to stop, otherwise my debt is going to completely drown me.  I have just saved myself at the last minute by the skin of my teeth, first by consolidating some of my cards into a personal loan last week, and now by starting this project to tackle the debt repayments and find a way to live within my means and stop spending spending spending indiscriminately.

I remind myself that I am lucky.  Even though I see less than half my gross salary land in my bank after credit union deductions at source because of my previous poor money management, I do still have a salary.  I can pay my tiny mortgage (why tiny? Another post!) and bills with that half salary.  I can just scrape my debt payments, so the bailiffs won’t come knocking.  And then I have £5.57 left for food and petrol and, maybe, some toiletries or clothes or gifts if I have been really good.  Some people don’t even have £5.57 income a day to pay for warmth and somewhere to live.  I am lucky.

But I must tackle this, or that person could be me.  Flat repossessed, homeless and jobless.

Don’t ask me how I will pay the dentist when I next go!  I haven’t figured that out yet, it’s not in my budget and just occurred to me.  I guess maybe that’s going to have to be a “use the savings?” dilemma when it comes up.  Putting money aside each month to use at the dentist isn’t my worst idea yet though really, so…


Tomorrow, I drive about three-four hours to stay in an AirBnB (already paid for by pre-project me – phew!) ready for a family funeral on Thursday.  I come back Saturday.  My car has over half a tank of petrol but I suspect it will need at least another half or so, about £20-£30 worth.  So that will be just over five day’s allowance.  Tomorrow I will have £16.71 in the Project available to spend.  I shall drive until I get too near the red for comfort and then add £16 and see how I get on!  I shall keep you posted.  There may be some against the rules “pre borrowing” for petrol if I get caught out, but I think driving to my grandad’s funeral and back is probably not counted as “frivolous overspending”.  Another one to maybe let go?!  But you know, if this becomes a habit – tell me!

Next week, I have a much bigger dilemma involving a pre-booked garden landscaping project costing £600-£650 and how on earth to cover the payments within the project rules.  One to look forward to.

Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear what you think of the project and whether I will succeed 🙂

Fiver x




The Budget

To give readers a sense of what I am spending – with no justifications here, but I am sure justifications and explanations will arise in the posts – here are my outgoings and income and balance overviews.  I keep this all on a spreadsheet and keep it updated every month or so with any changes.  This gives some flavour as to how I am in a position of only having £5.50 to live off after main costs (most of which I can’t get rid of, some of which I do not wish to get rid of).

Table one – annual payments

Table two – Debt tally overview

Table three – Net income and in/out

Table four – full breakdown of outgoings including debt payments.


Annual Payments    
Ground Rent 10  
Road tax 20  
Amazon Prime 39  I get Amazon Prime student, and a huge saving.  This is my only source of home TV and movies as well as free one day postage.  Click the link to get a free trial on me.
NUS 10  To keep Student Prime and student discounts I sign up for a cheap course via Groupon to stay a student every year.
Work discount card 10  ?? Not sure if will get this. Check how good its offers are.
Course so get NUS 21  Random course online for NUS Card so keep Prime!
Total 110  
PCM 10 Use daily allowance which you should be accruing – (eg accrue more than £10 pcm in readiness) to cover these annual costs
    Tally of Debts Not including Credit Union £17k debt deducted pcm at salary source – worry about this when cleared these debts below! Babysteps!  
Date Updated Item Balance % PCM Notes  
  Barclaycard 1347 0 61 0% 18 Sep 2019  Will be paid in full at end period
  MBNA 1445 0 25 0% Dec 2018 Consolidate remaining amount at end period
  Shawbrook 12000 11 259 Until end 2021 – consolidate when sell flat in 2020?  
  Ikano Loveseat 300? 0 20 Check end date and early repay options  
  HSBC OD 1000 0 0 Tackle when nearer 0% end date – when?  
  Total 16092   365 pcm    
Salary Net 1230 This is after  deduction of nearly £900 at source for credit union loan (£17k!) tax, NI pension, and student loan
Total Out 1060  
In-Out= 170  
Daily allowance = 5.50 Ideally 0 per day except bare essentials
Item Cost  Notes
Monthly DD
Council £29.10 Service charge
Council £7.04 Insurance
Council £78 Council Tax
Newcastle Mortgage £220.12 1.8% Til Feb 2019
Tesco Home Contents £6.27  
Virgin Media £21.00  
Animals in Distress £3.00  
Water Board £28.18  
Octopus Dual Fuel £50  
David Lloyd Gym membership £70 Split total with ex = 140 goes out, ex pays 70 in
GifGaff £12.00  
Admiral car ins £23.00  
animal lottery £5.00 Charity
National trust £5.40 Ends April – no renewal
Skoda £113 Until trade in and start new lease.
Mum’s 02 £13  
Barclaycard £61  
MBNA £25  
Shawbrook £259  
Ikano Loveseat £20  
Spotify 9.99  Miscalculated. Thought was Student rate of £4.99. Will affect end balance. To amend.
1&1 Hosting & Domain 1.19  
Prescriptions ??  
Total £1,060.44  Amend when sort spotify/dropbox discrepancy.

Day One – Let the Fiver Project begin!

Day One


Hello, welcome, and I am delighted you are here!

This is Day One of my blog and marks the start of my personal project to spend less than £5.50 a day.  Or, “the fiver project” for short.

So, how did I arrive at this challenge?  Well, the short version is that I have been thinking about money for a while, about debt management, savings and even… dare I even hope, growing wealth.

I am in something of a pickle financially.

However, with inspiration from such gurus as, and I have finally found real motivation and determination to resolve my financial problems, to focus on the long game and to endure a tightened belt for a greater, debt-free future without those horrible money anxieties that prevent a joyful life and make working hard at a full-time job feel so unrewarding and thankless.

I have completed my budget and realised the uncomfortable truth: that I have been overspending for far too long, accumulating thousands and thousands of pounds worth of debt.  To be exact and tell the painful truth – about £33,000.  And that’s not including my mortgage or my personal contract plan on my tiny city car; debts which I consider ‘sensible’ debts rather than the £33K of indiscriminate, irresponsible and unfettered spending over the last four years, and the ridiculous interest charges into the ‘bargain’.

I have decided to take back control of my money!

My budget tells me that, after all my debt repayments and a small amount of savings (just £10 pcm – more on paying down debt vs savings and my very personal take on this dichotomy will follow soon), alongside essential bills such as gas, electricity, water, council tax, mortgage, I have £170 per month, or £39 per week, or £5.50 a day to live off!

£5.50!!!  That’s for food, petrol, clothes, make-up, toiletries, skincare, household items, socialising, gifts, and even those annual costs like road tax, Amazon Prime etc must come from this £5.50 per day!

How on earth? So, my plan is to remind myself every day that I only have £5.50 to spend.  All my essentials are covered by my overarching budget to keep a roof over my head (more on budgets in another post).  I already have clothes, and running water. But if I want anything else, like food, loo roll, petrol, jewellery, a Christmas gift for a loved one, then it must come from that £5.50.  This doesn’t include anything I have already paid ahead for, so an Airbnb booking later this week for a funeral was made and paid for before this project started, and I obviously have store cupboard and freezer food to keep me going. But any purchases henceforth, like that funky-looking teapot from TKMaxx or some must have olive oil from Aldi (yes, I thought I already lived a frugal life with these being my usual shopping haunts! Not so!) or the supplement on Amazon that will help me sleep better, all of these will have to be purchased within The Fiver Project rules.

I am allowed to rollover any unspent money every day, indefinitely.  So today was day one and I have not spent any money that is not in my overarching budget, so tomorrow I have £10.82 in my virtual ‘purse’.  Ideally I would keep accruing this day by day so that I can build a surplus, and the key challenge is going to be to avoid spending even £5.50 a day if I can help it!  That way, I have an accrued surplus building up.  Any accrued surplus after 365 days will go into my savings account for emergencies, pay down debt, or indeed, for joyful – named – pursuits which I can feel I’ve truly worked and saved for.  By named pursuits I mean things that I have stated an intention to save for.  Not just something I fancy buying because I read about it today on the internet.  Something I have longed for and know I will love and appreciate.

But I am not allowed to ‘lend’ today tomorrow’s money.   If I need a new toothbrush and have already spent today’s accrued money, then I have to buy the toothbrush tomorrow.  No tic!

The only exception is in extremis – say the boiler needs some work.  In that case, I can borrow from the rest of the month but it does mean that I have to pay it all back by not spending my daily allowance until I am back to a £0 balance or better.  So, say the boiler check up comes to £60 and I have only accrued £32.  I can pay myself £28 to cover the rest, but then for over five days I am not allowed to spend anything, resuming the £5.50 per day allowance on the sixth day!  HARDCORE!

So why blog it?

Well, I know me, and I know I only stick to things when I am accountable in some way.  Even then it’s touch and go sometimes!  I believe I am more likely to ask myself the “Do I need this?” question at the moment of near expenditure every day, if I know I have to update a daily blog.  It doesn’t matter if nobody’s reading for this particular purpose, but it helps me somehow in a way that writing in a paper diary wouldn’t feel so ‘exposed’.

And, I would love to share with others my strategies for managing money with such limited means, my musings around getting into and out of debt, my frugal solutions to not having any money, to learn from and give support to others who may have similar financial difficulties.  I would like to talk here about how I came to be such a financial flop!  And how I plan to ameliorate that from now on.  And hopefully show you that you can too!

I plan to share my entire budget on here, including my debt repayment plan.  I also plan to share my daily outgoings sheet for the £5.50 a day project at the end of each month, so you can see it in black and white and so that I can refer back to it as a record of my progress.

I am going to share my daily spendings and rationale here in a daily blog.  This will help me learn my patterns, see what triggers there are and enable me to work through these issues and share my conclusions.

And after 365 days we will see if I have accrued anything at all to put into savings or pay down a lump sum on debts.

Lastly, I will be trying to remain anonymous for the time being at least.  This is because I work in the public sector and my thoughts may sometimes be a bit political!

So here goes. 365 days, £5.50 a day!  Can I really do this?

One of the rules of The Fiver Project is for me to always remember, when feeling despondent about the limitations it imposes, that there are people far worse off than me, who could never have got themselves into this much debt in the first place, who do not have a roof over their head, or earn far less than me and don’t have choices.  I certainly was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth by any means, but I have a job.  And a home.  A bank account, a laptop and broadband.  I am somewhat ‘skint’ but I am not quite below the poverty line.  I will thank my blessings that I have what I have, and show gratitude.  And remind myself that, by clearing my debts, by saving money and maybe even eventually creating wealth, I can do more to help those in need.  And maybe this blog can help others too.

Wish me luck!

Fiver x