James Fish is a Junior Doctor using Snoop to rein in spending after the rapid expansion of his family
I have three children under three after my twins were born in October 2020. Life is as hectic as you can imagine. I finally own a house after more than ten rentals. A joint mortgage with my wife at a good rate is costing us less than our rent did. I’ve been using Snoop for a couple of months now to try and rein in my spending after the rapid expansion of our family.
Snoop is a great app for this and has been a real help to us. The three best features I’ve found so far are.
1. The connectivity with my credit and debit accounts. I’ve used similar apps that couldn’t access some accounts. I can now get blow by blow updates rather than forget about large credit card bills until items too late to put the brakes on my spending.
2. The recommendation of best savings rates so I can always keep money in the most productive place.
3. Advice on current account switching. I’ve made £125 by moving to NatWest and over £200 by changing my credit card.
My most used feature is the weekly spending report which motivates and encourages me in my current spending. Good use of Psychology.
Useful Snoops have given me a better outlook for February
The ghost of Christmas past has come back to haunt me in the form of a depressingly high January credit card bill. I am now regretting the extravagance of Tiny Tim's goose. Even with a couple of extra shifts my overdraft was in use two weeks before payday. Snoop won't hand me money for nothing (useful app update?) however I have found a couple of useful Snoops which have improved my outlook for February.
My home insurance is due, joy of joys. The complexities of this onerous task have, however, been elucidated by a recent Snoop. Auto-renew? No. Get a quote three weeks before renewal for the best possible price? Yes. After experimenting with the level of excess I've struck a balance between what I can afford now and what I could afford if I needed to use the policy. Using a cashback site to do the comparisons I should get £24 back (not-guaranteed and in many months time though).
With some ethical dissonance I still use Amazon. One of the main drivers has always been price. Recently I have been surprised to find lower prices on competitors sites and a Snoop about CamelCamelCamel was revelatory; Amazon prices fluctuate a lot. When I needed some exciting new work shoes I searched for the ones I bought last year. They had increased in price but by using another feature of the site (the 'Amazon price drop') I found a much better deal on a similar pair. I did a quick search of competitors and Amazon was the cheapest; saving £20.
With five days left until payday I may be in the red but with only £5 in regular payments left there is light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe with some sensible planning and saving this year (along with Snoop's help) Tiny Tim can have his goose and I can avoid the spectre of financial ruin.
Vouchers for Valentine’s Day – almost!
How were my finances this February? A shorter month meant less time to spend. Yay! However, my Trust’s archaic, inflexible payroll system meant I was paid less than intended. Boo! The result was a month of taut purse strings. Luckily Snoop taught me a few ways to hold on to some more of my earnings. And, unlike January, I could at least blame something outside my control for the imposed frugality this month.
I managed to save a bit on my regular spend, be sensible with my subscriptions and sorted Valentine’s Day with a little help from Snoop.
Vouchers: £6 extra on Amazon vouchers and 10% off Apple Vouchers (through Amazon) saved me a total of £26 when I would have spent the money with them anyway.
Subscriptions: Snoop alerted me to the rising Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions charges. The latter of which will not apply to old customers until August, which was a positive. But getting rid of subscriptions in lockdown seems like a heinous act of harm against both myself and my toddler.
Frugal romance: You can tell my wife is a lucky lady. The advertised interdependent relationship between romantic love and the 14th February strikes me as a little opportunistic. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife more than words (or even cards, flowers or chocolates) can express. And I aim, with variable success, to be grateful every day. Being socially coerced once a year is unlikely to do much harm though and with three children causing mayhem in myriad ways, a treat whilst I was working a long day on the 14th was appreciated.
Snoop highlighted a number of good offers for Valentine’s day - M&S flowers won but other cliché gift ideas were there aplenty. The anti-romantic pragmatic lover could have opted for the aforementioned vouchers but that would take a bolder person than myself.
Snoop gets my vote
So this month I got paid correctly along with back pay. Whoop Whoop!
Although, no 'Moët medic' frivolity for me unfortunately. I need to pay off my wife’s credit card balance in one go this June before it starts charging 30%+ interest.
To do this I have been transferring my Amex credit card balance over to a Santander 0% Balance Transfer card month by month.
On top of this I am saving as much as I can from my pay - which is not much with three children!
This should free up what we need. Meanwhile the funds are earning a little interest in a Chip account.
This month the best Snoops for me have been:
• A free overdraft on my current account. Effectively a £500 interest free loan for 3 months which was very helpful with months of unpaid work.
• Claiming the work from home tax allowance. Works out at £60/year for basic rate tax payers like myself. I also have had over £2k in exam, professional subscriptions etc this year so I applied for tax relief on it all at the same time.
• Half priced shop at my local garage. And M&S so some good fare. I managed to get £20 of basics shopping for £10 on the BP app.
• I’d found out about Smarty (mobile network) via Snoop who have been great and cheap. I recommended a friend so got a free month. Saving £10.
And as per usual I have also got a breakdown of my weekly and month spends which helps with budgeting.
Finally, to thank the team at Snoop I voted for them in the British Banking Awards!
Crypto v Chip – only one winner for James
Snoop is playing an important ongoing role in fiscal responsibility at the Fish household!
Having up-to-date balances on all my accounts in one place, expected bill spending and weekly summaries helps with planning and curbing excesses.
An additional Amex card for my wife caused confusion.
When I mentioned some weird spending I didn’t recognise we discussed whether getting blow-by-blow updates on her flat white purchases was crossing a marital red line.
We agreed it probably was a little, but if it helps make life a little easier then why not.
The financial equivalent of the app that locate lost phones and where you can watch the other moving across a map when they are running late.
(A well demonstrated example of the Privacy Paradox if you’re interested)
Anyway - this month some friends told me about their Cryptocurrency's four-fold increase in value in the last year.
This seemed too good to be true. And after some research including the informative Snoop summary I think it probably is, in the long term at least.
I followed the prices for a week and most crypto prices had plummeted over 15%. And then largely recovered. And then plummeted again.
It felt like the rollercoaster ride my friends had described, and I had no money at risk.
The aforementioned friends have a lot of money saved and invested in their current property so could reasonably afford to lose what they have put into crypto. I couldn't.
Meanwhile the edge of the seat, minute by minute volatility of crypto poses a risk that is ultimately too high for my family.
I’ll leave the few hundred I’ve saved in the Chip account Snoop recommended at a reliable, if boring, 1.25% interest.
Another useful find was the Too Good To Go app. Heavily discounted takeaway food from lots of great restaurants that would be thrown out at the end of the day.
Good for the environment and the stomach. Win-Win.
Life tips from the Good Doctor
I came into a little money this month. I'm not quitting my job and walking off into the sunset just yet but it is enough to pay off one of three credit cards and not work extra shifts to pay bills every month.
I don’t think I would last long in the sunset anyway…
Despite complaining about some aspects of it I do love my job. Most of the time. It would just be great to work a little less than the 46 hours/week most junior doctors work.
Anyway, with money to save I upgraded my Chip to a ChipAI account with 1.25% interest on up to £10,000.
It costs £1.50 every 28 days though so it’s equivalent to just under 0.9% on £5,000 saved.
Not worth singing from your window about but staves off some inflationary pressure, and there’s useful features for regular savers including auto-saving.
For the more adventurous there is now fund access. Although sadly no funds that aim at positive environmental or social changes which are increasingly popular.
Another useful find this month was £15 off UberEats. We delivered some Lucozade to a family member in a hospital far far away.
It worked and they are now at home. My dad always swore it could fight off anything. He's an accountant but this medical advice would undoubtedly hold up to the highest academic scrutiny.
I'm looking forward to a free cinema trip next month when I buy a lottery ticket. I'm statistically more likely to win a best actor Oscar but I'll keep you all updated.
If I do win my next post will be ghostwritten by Phillip Pullman. We will explore how excessive wealth hasn't changed me in the slightest and has, in fact, connected me with the plight of the common man.
Time to switch and save after an expensive month
Hello everyone, this is not being written by Phillip Pullman. I did not win the Lottery and in fact have less money than my last blog update.
This month I have mainly been isolating because all five members of my family caught Covid or, as my three year-old shouted to our neighbours, ’Tovid, I have Tovid everyone’!
We're all fine as either young children or double vaccinated (please get your vaccine if you haven't already) so it was 10 fun-filled days of children’s entertainment and searching cupboards for long-forgotten tins and jars.
The time was made significantly easier by largely pleasant weather and a paddling pool. We were even lucky enough to receive our Ocado delivery which wasn’t cancelled after the ‘robot wars’ fiasco.
All this downtime gave me an opportunity to look over my finances. Which did not make me feel any better.
The times of plenty are over after a three-day holiday to London (weirdly exotic given the lack of movement over the last year), car insurance premiums, professional organisation memberships etc.
And with my wife going back to work next month to earn a net £50 a week after childcare costs are taken out the future is looking financially bleak, although certainly not dull.
What to do? Snoop has kindly offered up a two suggestions I think I'm going to take.
First. I can switch my current account again. Yes, it is a bit of a hassle but for £125 I’d say it’s worth the hour or two required to change standing orders and message your new details out.
Second. I am currently spending £120 a year on my mobile sim only deal.
I shop at Tesco and almost earn enough to pay for a sim only Tesco mobile with my Clubcard points which are doubled when spent on Tesco mobile.
Add in £30 cashback from Snoop's recommended MyTopCashback and I may be able to effectively spend nothing on my mobile bill. Boom!
Tackling my (over) spending habits
Another difficult month for our finances. The availability of interest-free credit cards will be kicking that can down the road though.
**Quick rant warning**
You'd need to earn sixty-thousand pounds a year to put three children in full-time day care where I live in southeast England.
That is before food, accommodation, travel or any fun. Sixty thousand pounds.
We have the second most expensive childcare system in the world, three times more expensive than most developed countries. It is a joke, sexist and makes me so angry.
This stress, along with Snoop, is improving my financial literacy no end.
The latest update beautifully presents, in increasingly pernickety detail, an ever-informative analysis of my day-to-day spending.
The new graphical comparison to the previous month is a brilliant motivator to spend less.
I put some time in to correctly categorise the last three months transactions. This produced an exhaustive breakdown by merchant and category.
Initial highs at the newfound depths of my understanding were sadly blunted by the reality that I am mostly powerless to help myself.
Food, transport, mortgage repayments, household bills and childcare are, after all, essential.
But there is still some non-essential spending and I have the impetus to reduce that this month as we've booked a driving holiday to see family in France later this year.
The recent Snoop 'How to tackle overspending habits' has given me some tools to work with.
Understanding why I spend has allowed me to avoid some frivolities. Stress, mood and location all lead to certain types of spending.
Ironically if I'm anxious about money I often buy something to feel better.
This month I am trying to both spend less whilst not worrying about the end result. A tricky mix to get right but here are two examples:
👉 Instead of buying a book I want to read, but won't have the time to, I add it to a wish list (save £5-15 a time).
👉 Instead of buying an expensive lunch and coffee, because I am hungry and decaffeinated, I get a meal deal from the local supermarket and make a cup of tea at work or home (save £3-4 a time).
Ultimately I am incredibly lucky and don't need more than what I already have in many ways.