A plumber keeping cash flow tight on £80,000

ByThelma D. Griggs

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Welcome to The Money Diaries with Sage, where we dive into the finances of business owners and discover how they deal with money matters on a daily basis.

We’re asking entrepreneurs how they’re managing their finances over a seven-day period, to give you a picture of what incomes and outgoings really look like from their perspective. 

Today is the turn of a plumber from London who’s been in business for 11 years..

And make sure you check out Reader’s Response at the end of this article, where accountant and best-selling author Carl Reader reveals his thoughts and shares some top tips for our entrepreneur.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Meet our entrepreneur and check out their Money Diary

  • Industry: Plumbing and heating
  • How long you have been an entrepreneur? 11 years
  • Day job: I do this full time
  • Location: London, UK
  • Salary: £80,000
  • Household: I live with my wife and two boys, aged 12 and eight
Money Diaries day 1

Day 1 – Monday

My aim today is to get though all the jobs, which are:

  • Boiler installation
  • Shower cartridge change
  • New radiator installation/shower not working
  • Tap cartridges in kitchen sink change.

All jobs went very well.

A particular win was getting a shower working without spending any money on parts. The client was so happy, and that was a big win.

Spent around £16 on lunch for three of us. I tend to buy everyone lunch through the company. All teas and coffees were provided by the clients today.

I would estimate around £10 was spent on petrol and electricity (we have two vans). Everything is billed before we leave the job.

And most big spends are on account (i.e. we pay merchants for what we use once we’ve been paid by the client) so we don’t need to pay for them for a few weeks.

Money earned: £2,100

Money spent: £1,020

Money Diaries day 2

Day 2 – Tuesday

Today’s jobs:

  • Install two two-port valves and nest thermostat
  • Install new kitchen tap/service Quooker hot tap/ install new pop up waste
  • Leak under sink
  • Hot water issues – new two-port valve
  • Silicone re-seal
  • Gas safe certification
  • Fit hot water tap.

Today was a good day and all went very well.

Around £20 spent on lunch and another £20 on transport. Again, everything was billed before we left each job.

The client supplied a few of the materials today, hence the outlay for such a busy day was fairly low.

Money earned: £1,660

Money spent: £650

Money Diaries day 3

Day 3 – Wednesday

Today’s jobs:

  • New bath taps install
  • Four gas safety certifications
  • New shower cartridge
  • Leaking WC flush and re-silicone.

Not a bad day today.

The tap change was very, very difficult and took twice as long as estimated, but we had quoted so felt we could not change what we charged.

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So, under-quoted but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Very happy when it was done.

Again, spent around £20 on lunch and £15 on transport.

Money earned: £620

Money spent: £230

Money Diaries day 4

Day 4 – Thursday

Today’s jobs:

  • Run a new waste pipe in a flat
  • Install two two-port valves
  • Install new bath.

Very hard day today.

First job was drilling though a wall on the first floor in a block of flats, bath change was three floors up in a block of flats.

So, at least £15 was spent on energy drinks, £20 on lunch, and £30 on transport.

Again, all products were bought on account, so cash flow is not a problem and all jobs were billed before we left the site.

Money earned: £1,260

Money spent: £550

Money Diaries day 5

Day 5 – Friday

Today’s jobs:

  • New shower pump installed
  • Three gas safe certifications
  • Boiler breakdown
  • Leak under sink
  • Outside tap leaking
  • New exposed shower install
  • New outside hot tap.

Today was a very busy day, but we got everything done and everyone was very happy.

The most expensive outlay was a shower pump at £550, followed by an exposed shower at £320.

Again, these were bought on account so I don’t need to pay for it until the clients have paid. This system works well and means we can run a good bank account.

We settle all accounts at the end of the month before anything else comes out. The other big expense is our apprentice at £350 a week.

No tools were bought this week but you need to have a good cash flow because from time to time you do need to spend money on new tools.

Money earned: £2,210

Money spent: £940

Money Diaries day 6

Day 6 – Saturday

I didn’t record any spending or earnings today as I like to keep weekends work-free.

Money earned: n/a

Money spent: n/a

Money Diaries day 7

Days 6 and 7 – Saturday and Sunday

Same as Saturday.

It’s important to keep that work-life balance, especially if you’re running your own business.

Money earned: n/a

Money spent: n/a

Total money earned: £7,850

Total money spent: £3,390

Final thoughts on the week

My best advice to companies like mine is to have a few accounts with plumbers’ merchants so you don’t need to pay right away for expensive materials.

But with that, it’s important to make sure you keep an eye on it and pay it off once if not twice a month.

Otherwise, you’ll think you have more money than you really do, and get hit with a massive bill.

Get yourself on the best possible accounting software for billing and invoicing. You might think you can’t afford it, but trust me: you can’t afford not to use it.

It saves so much time and that’s the most valuable asset you have.

Also, bill as you leave a job rather than waiting until you get home; the last thing you want to do is spend the evening catching up on your admin after a day’s work.

Finally, the biggest win for my company was getting an electric van.

A big outlay, but it will save you a lot of money in the long term.

Reader’s Response

And to wrap up… what are Carl Reader’s thoughts on the financial habits of our plumber?

Check out the video below to find out…


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