My month in money #11

What I’ve actually done this month to be clever with my cash.

There are a couple of thoughts behind this feature. Often there are small things I’m doing that don’t warrant a whole article so this can bring them together! Plus, it’s a great way to show that I “walk the walk” and really do follow my own advice!

So here are the key money matters from my own life in November 2022.

Car issues meant dipping into emergency savings

Right now other expenses might mean you’ve deprioritised adding money to savings. But it really is worth putting something aside each month if you can. Fortunately, we do have money put aside for emergencies, and I’m so glad we did as there was a massive unexpected cost.

Though this month’s update is about November, this hefty expense actually dates back to September. Just before we were due to head off on our trip (see last month’s update for details of that), the clutch on our car went.

We couldn’t book it into a garage before we went away, so we had to wait until we returned to deal with it. Sadly it wasn’t just the clutch as the gearbox was also shot, meaning a total repair cost of £550. And it gets even more expensive!

The lack of a car meant we needed to hire one to get us to Heathrow from Yorkshire back in September, and back again last month. Frustratingly there was only one firm in my town. I tried comparison sites to get a cheaper quote or a few extras thrown in, but they all pushed me to Leeds or Leeds-Bradford Airport, oblivious to the local location! So we had to pay full whack, which amounted to nearly £400 for four days across both journeys. A huge amount extra on top of the repairs.

So that was nearly a grand of unexpected costs to come out of our emergency budget. We’ll now spend the next few months building that back up incase anything else occurs, but it’s well worth it while we can afford it.

In terms of how much you should aim to have in your emergency pot, the ideal is an amount equal to three to six months of essential expenses. This is to cover things if you lost your job or were too ill to work. But really anything is a bonus.

Car hire vs car clubs

Sticking with cars for the next one. On our return we were carless for a few weeks while waiting for the repairs to get done, but had a couple of journeys which couldn’t be completed on public transport. Rather than shell out the extortionate prices from Enterprise, I looked into car clubs.

The local one was called Co-Wheels. It actually worked out at a similar price to Enterprise for that trip due to the upfront £25 membership fee on top of the hire charges. But after that, if we’d have needed to use it for the odd hour or longer journey here or there it actually worked out much cheaper. The £5 monthly membership fee could be avoided in months you didn’t need to use it and reactivated when you did.

The problem for us was it took a few days for the membership pack to come through. Sadly it didn’t make it in time for our trip so we had to hire via Enterprise anyway (more from the emergency fund). And then our repaired car was returned, so there was no need for a car club in the future.

Luckily we weren’t out of pocket. As we were within the first 14 days of signing up and hadn’t used it we got the membership fee refunded.

The maths might work out differently for you (if you’ve access to more car hire firms you’ll hopefully be able to access more competitive rates), but I’d certainly recommend looking at car clubs as an alternative.

Instant alert showed a huge overcharge

I organised a Christmas lunch for members of the UK Money Bloggers community and had to pay upfront over the phone for the food at the end of November.

The cost for the eight of us was £273.90, but my Amex notification popped up immediately with a figure twice the amount. Though I’m still sorting the refund (luckily it was on a credit card so I don’t have to part with the cash yet), it shows just how vital it is to check your statements on a regular basis. And better than that, if your banking app allows instant notifications, turn them on and check them when you pay.

Getting a credit card overpayment refunded

Regular readers will know I’m a fan of the Halifax Reward current account. To get a free £5 payment every month I need to spend £500 on the debit card. Now I have two Reward accounts (I’ve not got around to the third one yet), it means I need to do this twice.

One way I did this in November was to manually pay £500 off my cashback credit card (it’s not something I can every month – it depends if I’ve used it or Chase Bank for spending).

However, this month I didn’t quite get around to doing this in time for my Amex direct debit to be altered (I always set it to clear the full amount to avoid the chance of interest getting added). Both payments going out meant I had a £490 overpayment on the card.

Normally this is very easy to fix. I called Amex to request the payment be sent to my account and I was told it’d take a few working days to reach my bank account. Sorted. Or so I thought.

A week later I got a letter from American Express asking me to upload my bank statement showing that £500 payment leave my account! In the end it wasn’t too difficult to do this (a screengrab from a PDF of the statement from the Halifax app sufficed), and the money was refunded the next day, but if I’d been short of cash this delay could have caused a major problem.

If you’re worried this could happen to you, simply change the direct debit for payment to later in the month.

Ordering online while in the shop

My wife had a chest infection last month and asked for some posh manuka honey to help in her recovery. I popped down to Holland & Barrett and couldn’t believe the price – £54!! Normally there’s some kind of deal in-store, but not this time.

However, online the very same pot was half the price. I asked the cashier if they could match it, but sadly not. So I ordered it online, paid the lower price, and 15 minutes later got a notification it was ready to collect from the shop.

Though this won’t always work for you on the same day, it’s worth checking if you can save by ordering this way. Plus you might be able to add voucher codes or cashback on top.

And the rest…

I can’t remember everything but a few extras in brief…

  • I relinked my student card to my Boots Advantage card to get a 10% discount for the next year
  • Now I’ve triggered an Amex Platinum sign-up bonus and BA Amex companion voucher I’m mainly using my Chase card for 1% cashback rather than stooze – for now at least
  • Some Black Friday wins included a discounted renewal of my student alumni card, money off a Crystal Palace membership, stacked deals and cashback to save 50% at Boots
  • I avoided the temptation of £2.50 back in Nectar points from eBay on a £5 spend when I couldn’t find anything I needed

Andy’s podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, Andy’s twice-weekly podcast. Episodes every Tuesday and Friday.

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