Things are looking bleak, and it’s not just the weather. Austerity measures have gone beyond endurance for many, and I for one am anxious for our future.
I have always been a good money manager. This may have come from my childhood when I was forever making different styles of money boxes out of Lego. It was nothing to do with architectural design, just that I was given boxes of the stuff every birthday and Christmas for about four years. I would make these two or three storey structures with slots and compartments for different coins or notes (those designs didn’t last long as I never had a lot of paper money in my money box) , slides for rolling the coins in, flat roofs, pitched roofs, attics, windows, doors, garages, the whole works. Actually, it was quite sad because what I had really wanted was Meccano, so that I could build those wonderful cranes and working ferris wheels, but as was the norm, my family misunderstood and I got tons of little bricks and roof tiles from everybody instead (People, Aircraft and Vehicles weren’t around then, so you can see how far back it was) .
Today what is coming in is in jeopardy, what has to go out is going up all the time, there are no savings, and fun is just an F word.
We became aware that financially things were going to change drastically about two years ago. It’s difficult to make savings when you don’t really know exactly where your money goes, so I started a spreadsheet at the beginning of 2012 and recorded everything we spent by way of food, car and entertainment. Surprisingly, it made interesting reading (for a number cruncher like me that is) but I won’t bore you to death and bombard you with masses of figures, just the basics.
We need a car. There are no shops here and we are 10 miles away from the nearest town. Buses run once an hour between 8.30am and 5pm 6 days a week, and every two hours 10am – 4pm on Sundays, IF they are running in the first place. Have a fallen tree, snow, too much water falling from the sky etc and it’s one of the first things to be cancelled. Horror stories of running a car costing many thousands of pounds a year quite frankly scared me to death, but I am convinced that the figures quoted have to include finance repayments for new expensive recreational vehicles and a minimum of 30,000 mileage. In 2012, it cost less than £2000 to keep my 2005 diesel car on the road, doing 10,000 miles and including servicing, road taxes and insurance. I’ve had a bit of extra expense this year as I needed a full new set of tyres (£158) .
Entertainment is a bit of a joke as we don’t do very much other than walk the dog, so is in the form of DVDs, CDs and Books. In 2012, this was a total of £325 but some items were gifts for other people. This year to date, that figure is just under £200.
Our food bill last year equated to £1956, that’s for us and the dog. This year, we have grown more of our own produce, cut down on meat and go shopping armed with cash and a priced list. This has not only restricted our spending power, but stopped the dreaded impulse buying. We have therefore made a saving of some £130 so far. We don’t drink or smoke so those items are irrelevant to us.
To save on the household bills, we can only reduce our usage as charges are out of our control. For the second year running, the electricity company has increased their prices by 10% or thereabouts. Every so often, I log on to a comparison site on the internet to make sure we are getting the best deal for what we can afford to pay. For six years, I have juggled and switched tariffs, managing to keep within our budget of £300 pa. I have just switched again, prior to the latest increase, which will keep our price fixed for the next eighteen months, actually saving us a few quid on what we were paying annually beforehand.
Domestic oil prices have increased too and added £50 to our central heating bill, but we turned the thermostat down and reduced the running time by an hour a day so it should last longer. We also shopped around for smokeless fuel for our little stove saving £5 per 50kg bag, and by going to an independent rather than big firm, can order as little or as much as we can afford when we need it.
Obviously, we have local taxes to contend with, but have managed to halve our water supply bill by having a meter fitted. We have a good telephone Broadband package at the moment and are keeping within our budget of £30 pm. It is one of the few things left ‘to go’ when we have to cut back even further. The landline isn’t so much an issue as we have a Pay as You Go mobile, but access to the internet will mean a trip to the library 12 miles away (if it’s open and if a computer is available, plus limited usage) thus increasing our petrol consumption to get there, and of course car parking fees.
We are very much on a money merry go round. As fast as we manage to save a few pounds, some outside entity (food, petrol, taxation) snatches it back and wants even more. It’s all swings and roundabouts, and I have said on many occasions that I need a bigger playground.
We are not so much in a Depression but rather a Deep Hole, and with outside forces continuing to move the goalposts, they are actually building the walls higher so that we will never be able to get a foot or hand hold in order to get out. I can make our present money stretch to cover the essentials, but when the most vital Essential is Money itself and that’s not coming in, where do I go from here?