...the (hopefully!) final lockdown summary!
It’s been a strange old year hasn’t it - for many, a really stressful one on the money front, with job loss or furlough hitting hard. For others, income has remained stable but spending has dropped drastically as there has simply been little to spend on. We have, perhaps somewhat unusually, seen both sides of this - the first lockdown saw MrEH switched to a three day week for a while with accompanying drop in salary, and me furloughed. Although my furlough has continued, thankfully MrEH’s working hours and money went back to usual a few months down the line. (I say thankfully, that was about the money, less so about the hours!)
On a personal level because I’m still putting the same contribution to our joint account each month, my own disposable income has taken a significant drop. It hasn’t been a major problem as yet because as said, there has been little to spend on - in fact I’ve mostly managed to continue to save at least some money each month, but with things now opening up and even some airshows re-starting, money is going to start feeling rather tighter. I’m hopeful that I might be back working before too long though so fingers crossed there.
In terms of household spending, most of our essential spending categories have either stayed much the same (gas bill, council tax, service charge & garage rent, water rates, broadband & phone), increased somewhat (electricity - which we use for heating - and food) or dropped substantially - commuting. Discretionary spending - “fun” money, both joint and personal, and the money we set aside for random weekends away - has dropped hugely, not surprisingly. We set aside money each month to pay towards holidays, and also ongoing car costs, and have continued with this as usual, meaning that quite a surplus has build up in the car account now - this will be used as a lump sum to go towards a replacement car for MrEH as his 55 plate Citroen won’t work for our commute come later in the year.
One of the things I struggled the most with early last year when the pandemic first hit was the increase in food costs - with our usual £175 per month budget increasing by anything up to £100. Two significant factors to this though - one was shopping more regularly because we switched to mainly making shopping trips on foot rather than using the car, and the other was undoubtedly buying beer for home drinking in the supermarket, as well as placing online orders direct with breweries we wanted to support on an occasional basis also. It was inevitable it was going to happen - we’d usually eat out at least once a week, often more if we had a beer festival meeting or a day out with friends, but of course usually that money would be taken from either the “fun” spending budget or from our personal accounts. Similarly with beers - we would usually drink at the rugby club at least once over a weekend, and if not that, then chances are we’ll be off somewhere with friends.
As a Household, we fall roundly into the section of the U.K. that has actually managed to stash extra into savings over the period of the pandemic. During those first months when we were on a really reduced income, had we still had a mortgage it would however have been a very different picture - I’ll not be apologising for THAT though because we worked hard and went without things previously to pay it off early - this recent period of time more than any other goes to truly prove the benefit of that decision too. Personally I’ve unsurprisingly not been able to continue with my usual savings - although I have managed to continue to save some amounts here and there. The one area of my savings that does currently look quite healthy is my airshow savings account as I have managed to keep feeding a bit of money here and there to that, and of course it’s seen a lot less ticket purchases, accommodation bookings etc as well. The unusually high monthly surplus from the joint account will gradually start to reduce again now as things ease back towards normality though - but the extra money in savings and the fact that we’ve been able to do things like a rather longer Christmas Hebrides trip, and our recent week away in Cornwall as an “extra” trip is at least some consolation for all the things we’ve had cancelled because of the Covid situation.
We made a couple of large purchases in the year, but both already had the money set aside for them and have been balance transferred onto 0% cards to keep the money sitting in our accounts for as long as possible - for what THAT’s worth. There are however some early signs that interest rates for savings might be beginning to creep back up slightly - fingers crossed. The refunded money for our cancelled Lundy trip from last year has also been safely stashed away ready to cover the costs when we need to pay out for the rebooked date.
Hopefully you are also in the category of feeling financially, if not mentally better off after the last year. Maybe you’ve managed to pay off some additional debt, or knock a bit extra off a mortgage, or perhaps like us you’re just feeling an added degree of security from a bit extra in savings. If not, and you are feeling the pinch, then please do remember that help always just a click away at the Money Saving Expert forums, or from the various free debt advice charities.