The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on many of us, financially.
Sure, we might have saved a few bob on not having to commute in lockdown, but that pales in comparison to the impact of job cuts and redundancies.
In our weekly series, How I Save, we explore the reality of how people spend and save their money, and this time around we’re chatting with someone whose financial situation has been massively impacted by Covid-19.
Amy*, 23, is a marketing executive living near Birmingham. She was earning £25,000 a year until she was told last week that she has been made redundant, and has just a month left of work until she’ll be officially unemployed.
We followed her saving and spending during the week after she got the news.
How Amy saves:
In my savings account right now I have £5,400.
I’ve saved this much money by: putting £600 into savings every month. My partner and I bought our first house together last year, which took every penny I had, but my monthly mortgage payment is half what I used to spend on rent so I’ve been able to rebuild my savings quickly.
We’re lucky to both have good jobs and saved the deposit without any help, which I’m really proud of. Property in the West Midlands is much more affordable than in the south but I know I’m still extremely privileged to be a young homeowner!
I’m saving for a new kitchen, which is being fitted next month. Our current kitchen is in a pretty shoddy state and isn’t my taste so I’m really excited to start fresh. It’s going to cost around £7,000 but should add value to the house when we come to sell it.
The main way I save is through a direct debit into my savings account every payday. This way it’s like I never had the money in the first place, so I don’t miss it.
I have a savings and current account with Monzo, who I really recommend. I find it so helpful to be able to see how much of my budget is left for the month and track my upcoming bills. I also keep a cushion of £3,000 in my easy access savings account for emergencies.
I struggle with saving because I was made redundant last week and have a month until I’m unemployed.
I’ve been working from home full time throughout Covid-19 so it was a bit of a shock, but I’m now very grateful to my past self for not touching that savings cushion.
I’ve already started applying to new jobs so hopefully something will come up soon!
How Amy spends:
- Mortgage and household bills: £401.32 for my half
- Phone bill: £27.66
- Car tax: £22.75
- Spotify: £7.50 for my half of a family premium plan
A week of spending:
Monday: I’m working my notice and currently home-based. Five months in and the novelty is wearing off a bit.
I’m struggling with motivation after finding out that I’m losing my job so spend most of the day moping and playing with my dog.
I also spend a while browsing Indeed and apply to a job that looks interesting – it’s at a charity, which I think would be super rewarding!
I see my friend tweet that she’s having a rough time shielding at home because she has a heart condition. It’s her birthday in a month so I decide to send her an early present to cheer her up. She’s a Lush fan so I choose some bath bombs, a couple of bubble bars and her favourite facial cleanser to be delivered to her next week – hope this makes her feel a bit better! (£38.70)
Total spent on Monday: £38.70
Tuesday: Work again – I spend the day writing blog posts for the company website, catching up on emails and chatting to my work pal on Microsoft Teams.
I manage to not spend any money at all today which I’m pleased about. I often have no-spend days during the week but I’ve been getting a bit spendy online recently out of lockdown boredom.
Pre-corona when I worked in the office, I took a packed lunch every day to avoid the temptation of lunchtime shopping. We have a coffee machine at home so I can grab a latte on my commute (from the bedroom to the living room) without any guilt!
I browse some different job sites and apply to a copywriting role, which seems like a good fit for me as I love to write. I also start applying for another job but am immediately rejected for failing a multiple-choice personality test in the first round – feel attacked!
Total spent on Tuesday: £0
Wednesday: Another day of working hard, or hardly working? Today I’m working on an email campaign and the day flies by.
A dress I listed on Depop about two months ago randomly sells for £15, which is a welcome surprise. It’s a few years old and doesn’t fit anymore so I’m chuffed to get this much for it, although Depop’s fee is £1.50 and I have to pay postage.
There’s a Post Office on my road so I pop in during my lunch break to send it second class for £3.20.
I’m almost out of my favourite moisturiser so I head to The Body Shop website for a browse. I order a Vitamin C Moisture Cream and a Drops of Youth Facial Peel, I used to have acne and these seem to help with the scarring. They’re quite expensive but last around three months so it’s not too bad on balance at £33.50
Total spent on Wednesday: £38.20
Thursday: Work from home as usual, I’m getting restless and counting down the days until I leave.
We take the dog to a local agility park after work so he can play with other pups. Since getting him, we spend a lot more time outdoors – I’m really enjoying it and it’s nice to have something to do every day that doesn’t cost anything.
At home I spend a while doing paid surveys. I use the website Prolific, which pays pretty well and has an interesting mix of studies to take part in. I’ve made over £100 doing a few a week in my spare time during lockdown, it’s not a huge amount but it’s a nice little bonus each month.
Another no-spend day and I cash out £7 from the surveys so I’m in profit!
Total spent on Thursday: £0
Friday: Work again but nothing interesting to report. I search for jobs on Linkedin (this definitely counts as work) but it is slim pickings. Iwould not recommend job hunting during a pandemic and a recession! I’ve been quite selective with my applications so far but I think I’ll have to lower my standards and consider a pay cut if times get desperate.
After work, we have an appointment with our kitchen designer (sounds fancy but it’s a free service) at Magnet to finalise the plans. I was originally planning to pay my half upfront as I’m nervous about debt, but now that I’ve been made redundant, I decide to split the cost into interest-free monthly payments so I don’t use up the savings I’ll now need to live on.
I then realise that won’t get accepted for finance without a job so my boyfriend kindly pays my half and says I can pay him back over the next few months instead. It’s bad timing to be spending so much but I’m glad to have something to look forward to, a least I can spend my sad, unemployed days in my shiny new kitchen?
Back at home, I place an order at Pets at Home for a huge bag of dog food that lasts us eight weeks. I also throw in some doggie peanut butter and dental chews to reach the free delivery threshold. It’s £19.89 for my half.
Total spent on Friday: £19.89
Saturday: It’s a sunny day so we decide to take the dog for a walk around a nature reserve near our house. It has lots of blackberries so we take a tub and pick some to make a crumble with the rhubarb and apples growing in our garden – free food! On the way home, we stop for petrol; £10 each.
A new Indian street food place has opened in town and the menu is fully vegetarian, so we grab a takeaway for lunch. I get some battered paneer and yoghurt chaat, which are both absolutely delicious, I can see myself becoming a regular here! (£7.12)
Going out for food is the one thing I’m happy to spend money on because I’m a big foodie and love trying out different places at the weekend. I’ve really missed it during lockdown.
We spend the evening watching Call Me By Your Name. I’ve recently read the book and the film definitely does it justice! Cinemas are open again now but I don’t really feel comfortable going yet, so Netflix and popcorn on the sofa will have to do. At least it’s saving money, as my friend lets me use her account for free.
Total spent on Saturday: £17.12
Sunday: My favourite day! We got the dog at the start of lockdown (hence I can’t stop talking about him) and have started taking him to a local group in the park every Sunday to socialise with other pups of the same breed. We meet at 10am and such a nice new routine playing with all the dogs and making new friends every week. I can’t really remember what I did every day before getting a pet?
In the afternoons, we usually go to our favourite local coffee shop, which is dog friendly and has the best pastries. I buy an oat milk latte and a chocolate croissant for £4.90. Afterwards, we swing by B&M to pick up some plastic boxes to store everything while the kitchen is being gutted – £14.49.
We also pop into Aldi for the first time since lockdown. We’ve been doing click and collect from Sainsbury’s to minimise contact with other people, so it feels very exciting to look round an actual shop and check out the bargains!
We do a big food shop three times a month so this is just a snack cupboard top-up; I buy hummus crisps, tiger bread, yoghurt, cereal bars, a knock off Jo Malone candle, veggie sweets and a travel water bottle for the dog. It comes to £11.62.
Total spent on Sunday: £31.01
Total spent this week: £144.92
I budget £500 a month for fun spending, groceries and petrol so I slightly overspent this week.
I don’t feel too bad though as I bought my friend’s birthday present and I only buy dog food and skincare every few months. I’m also spending a lot less on going out for food and activities than before lockdown and I’m strict on my monthly budget so the rest of the month should be fairly cheap.
However, knowing I only have one payday left before becoming redundant does put the pressure on to cut my spending!
How Amy could save:
We spoke to Nicholas Agwuncha from the Money Medics to find out how Amy can put aside more money (and what we can learn from her spending).
Here’s what he said:
Hi Amy, thanks for sharing your week with us.
Please don’t feel down. I think it is always important to remember that your work is not your identity and you should use this period to lean into your passions, especially if you enjoy writing. I would definitely recommend posting on LinkedIn daily showcasing samples of your work, reaching out to startups in particular. The Otta website is a good starting point. Finally, I would list your copywriting skills on Fiverr.
Now let’s take a deep breath and look at your finances. I’ve tried to pack as many quick wins as possible so you start implementing them tomorrow.
You’ve got a good cushion saved up, which is really good but I wanted to give you more ways to increase your savings further. They won’t be life-changing on their own but they can make quite a difference over time if you can implement some of them.
I really like how you’ve tried to implement a no-spend week challenge but on some days it hasn’t worked out, so I’ve laid out some rules to help you for future weeks.
No eating out/takeaways: Ramp up your cooking skills to tap into your inner foodie and for romantic nights in with your partner you can use the Gousto website as inspiration
Always utilise ingredients you already have at home: Indulge in free entertainment. Utilise websites like london on the inside and attend free online events via eventbrite
No mindless shopping: Browse Pinterest to create a barrier for giving into any impulse buys
Exceptions: Only shop for essentials and groceries that can go with existing items or serve as replacements
So now we’ve gotten that out of the way we need to focus on rationing your savings and increasing how long your savings can last during this period.
Even though you have the habit of tracking your expenses, we need to readjust your budget in light of your current circumstances, so you are fully prepared before you receive your final paycheck. I would suggest you look into using Money Dashboard or Yolt to help you identify your biggest purchases over the last 12 months.
We need to readjust your budget and live as simply as possible so this means evaluating your real needs vs wants during this period. I’ve made a list for you below:
- Groceries/Food (including pet food)
- Utility bills
- Phone bill and Internet bill
- Mortgage payments
- Everything else
Now that we understand some of your monthly expenses, compare that to the £5.400 you have saved up to give you a realistic time frame for how long you can survive without income.
I’ve provided some quick tips you can apply to help you stretch every pound:
- Buy store named brands and reduce how much you spend on fresh produce.
- Try switching your gas and electricity bills via apps like Youtility or Look after your bills
- Sign up for cashback via Quidco or Topcashback for additional purchases
- Plan thoughtful gestures for any more birthdays coming up e.g cooking a special meal
Just remember: tough times don’t last, tough people do and you do have friends and family that will always be there for you.
*Name has been changed.
How I Save is a weekly series about how people spend and save, out every Thursday. If you’d like to anonymously share how you spend and save – and get some expert advice on how to sort out your finances – get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
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