Monday, October 19, 2009


I've struggled with my finances since I was about 17. Actually, having written that sentence I realise that it was when I started college that I started spending more than saving. At least at that stage I wasn't spending more than I was getting.

I have tried various methods for controlling my spending over the years, some more successful than others. Most of them work for a while and then don't seem to be as effective anymore. And then a few years later I might go back to them again.

I haven't tracked my day to day spending for a good few months now and want to start doing that again at the beginning of next month. I did set up a savings account in August to start saving money for annual expenses but since it hasn't been added to my online banking, I haven't actually put anything into that account yet (the money that was earmarked for it has gone to pay some annual expenses which came up in September anyway). So tomorrow I need to get out the information and phone the bank to see why it hasn't been added to my online banking yet. If I get that sorted by the end of the month then I will be able to set up a standing order for the day after I get paid.

The expenses I have planned for are:
House insurance - 150 per year - this is two different insurances, both required under the terms of my lease
Travel insurance - 90 per year - the only time I travelled and didn't bother to get insurance, all my bags were stolen, so now I get an annual policy and don't have to think about it more than once a year. The policy I had in Ireland only covered travel outside Ireland but the policy I have now covers worldwide travel plus domestic travel further than 50km from my home.
Bahncard - 220 per year - this rail card gives me a 50% reduction on train fares within Germany and 25% of fares in many adjoining countries for journies started in Germany. I can easily save enough money to justify this expense, three journeys to Frankfurt or Hamburg in a year covers the cost of it and since two of my best friends live in Frankfurt and Hamburg respectively, three journeys are easily done.
Choir subscription - 140 per year
Mieterverein (renters' association) - 66 per year - useful for dealing with things like making sure my annual charges are correct and noticing that the management company had charged me for the transfer of bills into my name when I moved in even though my contract stated that the person moving out would be charged for them and for help in general with any issues that may come up.
Organic centre/seedsavers - 35 each per year - I would like to continue to support both these organisations although I didn't actually pay the subscription last year. That stuff is all in a big pile still to be dealt with.
Preserving supplies - about 165 per year - this amount purely because it brings my monthly total for combined annual expenses to a nice round 75 euro. I spent a lot of money buying jars this year which I should have saved properly for first. But I didn't want to miss another sumer of preserving efforts. A cupboard shelf full of chutney and jams and other food to see me through winter makes me feel this was the right thing to do. It will be a few years before I am where I'd like to be in terms of preserving and so I want to dedicate some money to this properly. After five years (again, no other reason for this number other than that it's a nice round figure) I would hope to have everything I could possibly need and thereafter only need to spend a small amount each year buying new lids or rubber seals when necessary and the occasional box of labels. If I join Slow Food at the beginning of next year then the annual sub for that is about 80 euro. I'd probably just reduce my preserving supplies amount a little bit to compensate.

In addition I spoke to my financial adviser/insurance broker guy a while ago about pensions and retirement plans. I have just been paying the basic state social contributions since I moved here so I knew I needed to get something set up. I have set myself quite a high amount (for me) to contribute each month but haven't made a final decision yet. On paper it should be doable but in reality I never seem to have money left over at the end of the month so I'm wondering how I'll manage if I'm sending 200 euro off to pay for cups of tea when I'm 65! But it has to be done I suppose. There are tax breaks to be taken advantage of as well so I need to get my head down this week and read through the stuff he sent me and just make a decision.

I also asked about setting up some kind of insurance so that in the event anything were to happen to me, my family (none of whom are particularly flush) wouldn't have to bear any funeral costs etc. That's fairly inexpensive, only about 20 euro a year and for the peace of mind it will give me will definitely be worth it. We also spoke about insurance in the case of not being able to work. While I am still paying off my large loan (less than two years to go and it's at a fixed rate) and given the economic climate at the moment the thought of not having work does prey on my mind a bit. I will work at anything so if the worst came to the worst I do believe I would be able to find work fairly easily (there are rarely shops around here without signs in the window looking for help for example) but whether I could find well-paid work is another issue altogether. However, it seems that because I have been in therapy i.e. attended counselling with a psychologist, I would be deemed ineligible for most of this kind of cover. Stupid reasoning really, I'm less likely to have a nervous breakdown and not be able to work because I have done something to improve my mental health but because I've done something for my mental health it apparently throws up warning signs in the actuaries minds over here because I have obviously admitted I have a problem. Sigh. Anyway, I feel like I am on track to get some proper provisions in place for my financial security. I almost always paid into a pension when working in Ireland (there were alway a few months break whenever I changed jobs before I could start paying into the new plan) and although I cashed in one of those (equivalent to about 18 months worth of payments) when I moved here, the others can't be touched until I retire. I'm sure they're not worth half of what they were worth when I last checked (before the move and before the financial crisis hit) but it's still over ten years of paying into pensions, often with additional voluntary contributions so I do have something already in place. Now it's time to be more focused on what I actually what to achieve. And then try and reconcile that with the feeling in my stomach that it's all a load of shite anyway and who the hell knows what kind of a world we'll be living in in 30 years time.

I have more things I want to say about finances. I've found that finance blogs are a whole other huge area of the blogosphere and have started reading one or two. My next big goal is going to have to be to get some kind of a contingency fund started. Because if the general advice is to have between three and six months worth of salary squirreled away somewhere then I am, for want of a more elegant expression, right royally screwed. My sole contingency is the credit I have available to me through the overdraft facility which is still active on my Irish bank account (and still used on occasion) and my Irish credit card (which has seen a lot of use since I moved here and needs to be brought down yet again). Not quite comforting.

But at least I had a very nice weekend. Which I will post about some other time. Now it is definitely time for bed.

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