As you've probably gathered from the Hebrides Countdown posts, we'll fairly shortly be heading off North for this year's trip to our favourite fantastic islands - and we can't wait! It's such a fabulously relaxing place to spend time - and of course it's great to see our Hebrides friends again too - they seem to grow in numbers each and every year! Of course, one of the reasons why the holiday is so relaxing is that we know we're not going to come home to the position of having to spend the next few months paying off what we've spent - our advance budgeting and saving makes sure of that.
We sit down when we get home each year and work out where our budget for that year has worked, where it's proved a bit tight, and where - if anywhere - we've over-budgeted. This allows us to adjust figures where required, and then work out what we need to set aside each month for the following year's trip. This year for example the Diesel budget has increased a bit as last year we came in at about £30 over the figure we'd allowed. Having said that, changing our base for the fortnight to the western side of the island should mean there is a saving to be made there as where we've stayed before, we've been 5 miles from the nearest "main" road - meaning essentially 10 miles at least each day of "dead mileage" just getting back onto the beaten track, as it were. Our base this year is just 3.5 miles from the pub, and about the same to the RSPB reserve, and bearing in mind we spend a fair amount of time at both, that's a lot of mileage saved! It'll be interesting to see how our mileage figures for this year compare. In case you're wondering, we set the mileage counter to zero as we set off from home, and then note how many miles we've travelled, the average Miles Per Gallon, average speed and gallons of fuel used once we get home - we're not wasting valuable time while we're there working our all these figures! As we generally cover about 2,500 miles over the fortnight, and use around 40 gallons of fuel, knowing how much we need to budget for this is pretty important.
We spend mostly cash while we're there - with a few exceptions - diesel gets put on the cashback card, and grocery shopping, as both of these have their own budgets and they money will be sitting in the Holiday account waiting for the bill to arrive. Meals out, tea & cake, and the occasions we just pop into the shop for a few odds and ends come from our spending money, which we withdraw £100 at a time in cash. By avoiding putting £20 here and £10 there on the card, it's easy to keep track of what we're spending, and to know that everything is covered. Usually the balance payable for the cottage will have come out of the account by now - this years is to paid at the end of the fortnight though so we'll need to transfer that over as and when it's required. We're taking the bags of change from MrEH's road-kill findings and our change pig with us - Elisabeth at the pub will change those into notes for us, and that will cover our first few days spending without even having to visit the cashpoint, and I shall be continuing to save any £2 coins I get while we're there, so those will return with me!
The other issue we do have around taking a long holiday like this is the fact that, with me being self-employed, when I'm not working, I'm not earning. This year both my May and June invoicing will be affected by this - with both coming in substantially short of the "standard" figure for a month. Again though, a bit of thinking ahead can help to cope with this - I set aside sufficient for tax & NI through the year that I know for these two months I can get away with not putting anything aside - I know there's enough money in the tax account already to cover what I will have to pay in July, so no need to stress about that. In addition one of my clients said that they were happy to let me work extra hours for them beforehand - and I managed to accrue extra to the tune of 2 full days that way. OK, it's still some way off a "normal" month, but it certainly helps! I'll scan my invoice and set it to email through to the clients in my absence, so payment shouldn't be an issue either - again, a bit of forward planning goes a long way!
There are other ways you can help the cost of a holiday along too just by way of a bit of planning - thinking about using up all the food you have in your fridge before you leave, for example, so plan your meals carefully for the last few weeks and be scrupulously careful with your shopping list to only buy what you need, rather than shopping from habit and then finding you've got stuff left over which needs throwing away. Think carefully about freezers too - if the worst should happen and it defrosts itself while you're away, do you really want to have left it packed full with expensive food? Ours will be run down to basics - and what is left in there will be packed as tightly as possible into the smallest possible area - if we have empty drawers we'll put plastic bottles filled with water in there, and scrunched up- newspaper, as this way the freezer will run more efficiently while we're gone. Electrical items - if they can be turned off, TURN THEM OFF! Don't stop at just flicking the switch either - things like computers, monitors, printers and TV's can use power even when they're officially "off" - so switch off at the wall and pull the plugs. Just taking a few minutes to wander round each room in the house before you set off can pay dividends - the less electrical items with plugs in the wall when your home is empty, the safer it is, in any event, and of course the more you're reducing the "base running cost" of your home.
We refuse point-blank to spend our precious fortnight scrutinising every penny, and planning in advance means we don't have to. We still don't throw cash around or spend for the sake of it while we're there - that's just not what we do and that habit doesn't change just because we're on holiday. We enjoy cooking, and we enjoy cooking together, so we're happy to cook a fair proportion of our main meals while we're away - I think we'd both get very bored, rather quickly, with eating out the whole time! If we want to stop for tea and cake though, or have a "posh picnic" with good bread and some of the delicious locally smoked salmon, for our lunch, we do so, and if we fancy a meal out, we do that too. Thankfully, we don't then have to spend several months counting the cost!