My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money – and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Helen Edwards, 37, from Stafford in the West Midlands takes us through her week’s spending.
Helen is an NHS doctor who specialises in emergency medicine. Her husband, James, is a junior NHS doctor training to be an anaesthetist.
Their work is mostly shift-based so they are able to divide the care of their daughter Beth, aged two, although she also goes to nursery two days a week and they have help from Helen’s parents.
During the pandemic they have been very busy at work but now Helen is 33 weeks pregnant and so is working from home.
Helen and James say they are good at saving. During the last five years they have got married, bought their first home, saved for one maternity leave and are saving for another. They have a retirement fund and an emergency fund. Helen tends to organise their money, as James has spent a lot of time studying for professional exams over the last few years.
Over to Helen…
This week is a bit odd as it’s my last proper week of working from home, but also because I am actually at work for two days doing departmental induction.
Today, though, I am working from home. James is taking Beth to nursery so I can have a bit of a relaxed start to the day.
I get up with Beth at 07:30 and have breakfast with her. Our milkman has delivered two pints. We get this three times a week at 90p per pint – it is more expensive than milk from the supermarket but plastic free, from local cows, and saves money as we don’t go to the corner shop for milk and buy lots we don’t need. It also means we can go food shopping once a month. Beth’s nursery is £37 a day but we pay through tax-free childcare so it costs us £29.60.
While James gets our IT sorted for an exam next week, I send some emails and work on some projects. We have homemade sandwiches. James collects Beth from nursery, we have tea together and then he goes to start a night shift while I do Beth’s bedtime. I read my book and have an early night – very rock and roll!
Total spend: £31.40
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Today is the most expensive day of the month – the day 90% of our bills come out! We put all our money in the joint account, but keep £200 pocket money each, which we use to pay our professional subscriptions, our personal mobile bills and for gifts for each other in our own accounts. Today we pay our mortgage (£1,396.32) life insurance (£169.83) council tax (£217) Sky subscription (£38.35) gas and electric (£57) broadband (£31.50) and TV licence (£13.37) from the joint account.
Beth is having the day with my parents – I am working from home again but take advantage of my morning break to pay the cleaners’ bill- it’s my luxury (£117.34)! James gets in at 09:00, mumbles incoherently and goes to bed. Over lunch time I have an obstetric appointment.
In the afternoon our weekly veg delivery comes from the local market (£29.10, lots this week, usually order about £15 worth). I prep tea and we eat at 18:00 before James goes to work at 19:00 and I do bedtime with Beth.
In the evening, we get an Asda delivery. Usually we pay about £40 for the bits we get from there every three months, but this month has lots of Christmas presents and other stuff in it so it’s a lot more (£118.34). I don’t mind too much as we do the Money Saving Expert 1p Savings Challenge – we never manage every day but there is always enough for the Christmas food in the jar!
Today is an early start as I am in work. I leave at about 06:45 (after taking in the milk: £1.80) and my parents come to feed Beth her breakfast and take her to nursery (£29.60).
It’s a busy day of organising. It all has to be social distanced so everyone tunes into the lectures from home. It’s a bit weird as I won’t get to work with these colleagues as I will be on maternity leave for their rotation with us. I have a socially distanced lunch with a colleague – we treat ourselves to a nice M&S lunch (£8). In the afternoon, people come in to collect their uniform scrubs, get fitted for FFP3 masks and learn how to use a couple of bits of equipment.
I get home about 18:00. James has been asleep all day, but woke up to collect Beth from nursery and is feeding her supper. He preps our supper, which we eat after doing bedtime. In the evening I sort out what money is left for our savings this month – we pay monthly into a stocks and shares ISA (£940) and this month have £690 for extra savings – I leave more than usual in the joint account to allow for Xmas presents.
Total spend: £1,669.40
Another day of induction – this time lots of clinical topics – so again I leave home at 06:45. Today they are tuning in from home all day. I do two of the talks. Again I treat myself to M&S lunch (£6.65).
I also bring my colleagues a treat – a big box of individually packed Biscoff biscuits for our office, which a friend kindly picked up from Costco for me (£6.99).
It’s another busy day and I get home at 18:00. Poor James has been studying all day while Beth has been at my parents again. I pre-prepared dinner last night. We do bedtime then I test him on his revision until bedtime.
Today has been the first day after the end of the second lockdown. Our lockdown experience has been very different from most people – we haven’t had to worry about our jobs or cope with a reduced income due to furlough, but it has been stressful in other ways – obviously we have had to see a high volume of very sick patients, and during the first lockdown our nursery closed, and my parents were isolating from us, so we had no childcare, which was very hard to manage with two full time jobs – we had to swap a lot of shifts, and it seemed like we were never at home together. It has also been an odd time to be pregnant – my husband has not had the chance to see the baby on a scan or come to any of my appointments, whereas last time he came whenever he could, and I have not been allowed to see high risk patients at work as there is concern about how pregnant women may be affected by Covid.
Total spend: £13.64
Today Beth gets to return to her normal toddler activities – she lives in a social whirl! After breakfast and bringing the milk in (£1.80), we go to Forest School, which we usually do once a month, where we do some outdoor activities and then have a snack round a campfire while the leader reads a story. Beth loves it and it is run at a local petting farm so she gets to see lots of animals while we are there, plus there is a lovely farm shop, though we don’t need anything today (£7.50). We come back for lunch and check in on how James’ revision is going (status: grumpy) before we make dinner and then head out to toddler gym class. It is reenrolment day (£37.20). After we pop into Asda to buy birthday cards for my Dad (£5.40). We go home and relax with some books and the dreaded Peppa Pig then make tea and Beth goes to bed. I help James revise in the evening.
Total spend: £51.90
Today is my Dad’s birthday and we have treated him to a takeaway afternoon tea (£50.85 for three people). Beth and I have a walk in the morning then pop out to collect the tea and take it over to my parents with Dad’s birthday presents and cards. We have lunch/afternoon tea with them (Beth picks out the best bits for herself!) then we go to her swimming lesson (£13). She has really missed this during lockdown and has asked about it every week. We still swim with her for the time being but she is nearly ready to be in the pool on her own. After getting changed we go home and make tea and do some very important painting before eating and Beth going to bed. Again I help James with revision and potter about doing chores.
Total spend: £63.85
We have a lazy day after a busy week. James is still studying so I take Beth to the park and also later, after lunch, for a walk. We do some very important art work and also get paint all over which is great fun for her, not so much for me. We do bedtime then eat supper and I help James revise again.
Total spend: £0
Total spent this week: £4,018.34
This week is the most expensive week in our month -and this has been even more expensive than usual, mostly due to Christmas prep. We have a lot of zero spend days usually! However, as you can see, 40% of the money we “spent” this week actually went to our savings, and actually this is a fairly low proportion of our monthly income for us, so I don’t feel we are doing too badly.
For me, savings are about financial security for the future, not having to work until we are nearly seventy, and being able to give our children some support for their education and when they start their independent lives. We are very lucky to have well-paid, secure jobs which let us work towards this goal.