Back to school: 8 quick money tips to do today

Picture of a fancy dahlia at Manningtree station, after I bought the tickets with a gift voucher

Back to school and back to work

With my kids finally back at school and my husband back in the office, I finally got some spare time to Sort Things Out.

There’s a bunch of simple money stuff I normally do, that got swept aside during the summer holidays when I was juggling work, childcare, feeding the hordes, actual holidays and essential TV viewing*.

*and by essential, I mean an embarrassing addiction to Love Island. I blame covid.

So here are some quick money tips to do today, that only take minutes but can save £££.

Updated my spending diary

I’m a big fan of spending diaries, as a way to keep track of your money, rather than wondering where it all disappeared. Mine has been rather (ahem) neglected over the summer holidays, so I took the chance to add some recent spending. As I’m freelance, I also track money due from work I’ve done – and whether it’a actually been paid.

Previous posts: Top 10 tips for keeping a spending diary and 12 reasons why a spending diary will change your life

Saving: My spending diary has made me realise how our spending has shot up with entertainment and the odd meal out over the summer. Now I’m resolved to do better during September!

Money Dashboard Neon app (and a hydrangea)

Picture of Money Dashboard Neon on my phone, plus flower and mug of tea

Reconnected my bank accounts to my budgeting app

I have a wish mash of different current accounts and credit cards for different purposes – work, bills, cashback, savings interest, you get the picture. Actually, it’s difficult to get the picture when you have to log into each one individually. That’s why I really love open banking for allowing budgeting apps like Snoop and MoneyDashboard Neon, and why I’m sad Yolt has announced it will be closing. You connect up your bank accounts to a single app, so you can see all your balances and transactions in one place, plus handy spending totals in useful categories.
However, you have to re-enter your bank details every 90 days (shakes fist at sky). 

It doesn’t take long, but does requiring remembering all the different account details/customer numbers/passwords/memorable info and fielded the flurry of one-time passcode texts. With the kids back at school, I finally had the head space to sit down and get it done.

Check out my review of Money Dashboard Neon and get a £4 Amazon voucher if you sign up here (I’ll get one too).

Saving: Helps me keep an eye on spending by category eg ‘boy we’ve spent a lot on groceries this month’. Plus, if the balance in one account is getting too low, I can transfer money to avoid overdraft charges. If the balance in another account is too high, I can bung money over into my pension.

Submitted a meter reading

Energy companies regularly ask for meter readings, and if you don’t provide one, they create estimated readings, or as I like to phrase it, pluck figures out of the air.

I prefer to pay for the electricity we’ve actually used, rather than an over-inflated estimate, especially when energy prices are on the up. So as the kids headed off for the school bus, I fought my way through the cobwebs in the cellar, took a meter reading, and entered it online. 

Saving: shave pounds off your gas and electricity bills if you’re not paying for an over-estimate. Plus if you spot a big credit, you can always ask your energy company to refund the extra.

Picture of a bouquet on Freddies Flowers, including lilies and eucalyptus

Freddies Flowers in all their glory

Skipped some subscriptions

Confession time. I went subscription crazy during the lockdown at the start of this year. You know the kind of thing – subscribe for a temptingly cheap intro offer, then get sucked into paying full whack if you forget to cancel. 

Now some of the subscription services I do like as a treat, I just don’t like them quite as often as the subscription service fancies. So rather than cancelling, I nipped online to skip several deliveries of Freddie’s Flowers (last for ages!!), Hello Fresh (meal kits to avoid the faff of planning and shopping) and the Craft Gin Club* (fabulous but pricey).

Saving: £103.39. Oooof. These subscription services really add up.

Returned a faulty watch

My youngest asked for a digital watch to wear to school, as somewhat unsurprisingly they don’t want kids checking their phones all the time.

We found a cheap as chips watch at the local discount store, only to discover it didn’t have instructions and we were clueless about changing the time and date. With my new found enthusiasm for Sorting Things Out, rather than leaving the watch on a windowsill as a graveyard of good intentions, I took it back to the shop, brandished the receipt and got a refund. I also spent rather more on a replacement digital watch, which does at least work.

Saving: £6. It really was a cheap watch.

Picture of arms, legs and shoes of my two in their school uniform

Don’t get me started on the cost of school shoes

Cancelled a school uniform order

Sadly, when I went to the sole school uniform stockist for my kids’ secondary school, they were out of stock for some items. I ordered them for delivery, but the availability changed from ‘really soon’ to ‘maybe after the start of term’ to ‘we have no clue’. I finally cracked and got alternatives from the school’s second hand uniform shop. Crucially, as the children disappeared off in said school uniform, I got round to ringing the shop, cancelling the order, and asking for the money to be refunded to my credit card.

Saving: £46.45. Turns out brand new branded PE kit doesn’t come cheap.

Unsubscribed from marketing emails

Over the summer, my email inbox went from overstuffed to wildly out of control. I mean big. Huge.

I therefore started September with a bit of an ‘unsubscribe’ spree, where rather than hastily deleting marketing emails, I actually opened them and clicked on the ‘unsubscribe’ button at the end.

This has the advantage that it reduces future email clutter and the temptation to spend. If I’m going to splash cash, I’d rather do it when I choose, rather than when a company is running an enticing marketing campaign.

Saving: Unknown. But sometimes those offers are particularly tempting.

Picture of my elderly ripped black rucksack

Yeah, maybe I do need a new backpack

Used gift vouchers

Got any gift vouchers stuck at the back of the drawer, that you’ve never got round to using?

This week, I actually remembered to some pre-paid Mastercards when shopping online, earned when kind blog readers clicked on my Nutmeg referral link (thank you). I used them to get a backpack to replace my veteran version, a new duvet set for my oldest, a charity donation and train tickets for a trip to London.

If you’re interested in Nutmeg, here’s how my robo adviser accounts did over 3 years

Saving: £131.23 that isn’t coming out of my bank account

Actually, writing all this down probably took longer than doing it. I was genuinely surprised how much it added up to in cold, hard cash – nearly £300!


Now – over to you. What have you done to manage your money since the kids went back to school? Any quick money tips to do today? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!


I’m linking up with Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Frugal Friday’ linky.

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The contents of this blog are for information and ideas, and should not be viewed as financial advice. Use of the material is conditional on there being no liability for how you choose to use it. If you are unsure about any investments or financial issues, please contact a financial adviser.