A Spending Diary Comparison. Me vrs Much More With Less

At the beginning of lockdown Faith Archer (Much More with Less Blog) and I compared spending diaries for a month. We love to do a spending comparison to learn from each other the detail of family and household spending for a month and to share with our readers what two real life families spend. We decided to repeat the exercise for a month at the end of lockdown, from 15th June to 14th July a month where the restrictions of lockdown have lifted, and we begin our new normal.

As ever it was a full spending diary, including everything. Monthly bills, food, savings (paying ourselves), household expenses, one off costs, family spending, emergency spending and business costs. This time round was fascinating. Spending had increased compared to the first month of lockdown.

We both have similar jobs as personal finance experts with blogs and writing/appearing in newspapers, radio, TV. Our family lives are similar too, we both have four-bedroom houses not too far from London, Faith is married with two children, I am divorced with three children.

Lockdown restrictions are ending

I am over lockdown; I am not going to lie. Strict lockdown was a challenging four months for me. It saw me become financially independent (divorce decree absolute was granted), there was a huge personal transformation with healthy lifestyle then dark times with a month of illness, there were mental health issues and family issues.

I am floating off to my new life in my PensionBee advert, first seen July 2020!

Throughout lockdown my business continued to prosper and I knew it was the perfect time to take a huge step and rebrand my website and transform Mrs MummyPenny into the best personal finance website in the UK, or the world. I wrote a book, the Money Guide to Transform Your Life to be published 1st September. I achieved a lot and faced many demons.

Coming out of lockdown has never felt so good. I feel like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis into a new world of facemasks and social distancing, but yeah for returning to eating out, to socialising, to getting my nails done and to returning to the gym. Of course, this all means an increase in spending for both Faith and me.

Watch Faith and I talk about our lockdown diaries in this YouTube video in collaboration with PensionBee. Talking about everything mentioned in this post, particularly mortgage repayments and holidays.

Paying Ourselves

I made a big contribution to paying myself during the comparison month. I had built up my emergency savings to a level I feel comfortable with, six month of essential costs (bills, food, mortgage) and had some excess money to put into savings. £1000 went into my PensionBee pension, £1000 into my Stocks & Shares ISA and £1000 into a Zopa Fixed term Savings Account.

This is also doubling up as an experiment to see how each pot of savings grows over time, I will look at the growth every year. I matched up my pension fund choice to the S&S ISA choice (PensionBee Tracker fund vs. Vanguard 80-20 Life strategy Fund). The Fixed term savings account is set at 1.4% for two years and I am also comparing to a pervious saved £1000 in my instant access Marcus account at 1.05%.

I saved £3,000 compared to Faith’s £180 to her monthly pension contribution and investment app.

If we strip these savings and paying ourselves costs out my total spend was £5,407 and Faith’s was £4,185.

Business Expenses

As mentioned, I have been doing a lot of work on my website and have written a book. Meaning an investment in my business of £1,333 over this one-month period. I have employed a marketing and design agency for my re-brand. I met Liz of Lingo design at Standon Calling festival last year and knew we had to do some work together. One year later I employed her to re-brand and design my website. Liz and team have done the most incredible job, every time I look at my website, I feel joy, the colours, the customer experience, the layout, the logo, the imagery. I adore it.

£1,333 business expenses covered website design costs, book editing costs, new profile photoshoot, a business coaching session, as well as smaller monthly business costs, accounting software, etc.

Faith spent a lot less than me on her business, just £41, on some TransferWise and IT costs.

If we strip out work expenses our spending diaries become much more comparable. My spending was £4,047 and faith spending £4,144. This now makes me FEEL LOADS better!

Holiday Costs

We are both prioritising holidays and both paid final balances for our UK staycations. Faith paid £1,520 for her family trip to Yorkshire and stay at a local glamping site and I paid £1,023 towards Norfolk and Isles of Scilly. (My total holiday spend, Norfolk holiday cottage was £600 in total for a week for boys and me, Isles of Scilly, Penzance for just me, 9 days is £900 in total for 9 nights’ accommodation, boat, train).

Taking our total spending down to £2,624 for Faith and to £3,051 for me.

Spending Diary Comparison Post lockdown holiday Norfolk

Personal Care

We both spent a pretty big chunk on Personal care, Faith at £547 and me at £183. In here was lot of the things that we are now able to do now that lockdown is over, haircuts, physio appointments, yoga classes. And private therapy for both my household and Faith’s. Lockdown has been a huge challenge and I can say on behalf of both of us that that we are so grateful that we can afford to pay for private therapy. I investigated the waiting lists for NHS therapy, with a referral from a doctor it would take months. Both of us could not wait, protection of mental health is key.

Personal Fun Money

A slightly different category with more extravagant spending. Here I have money spent on my gel nails, supporting charity, supporting small business, and buying books (about grief, thank you David Kessler). Faith has spent money on flute lessons (I love this!), and WeightWatchers (I loved telling her this was personal fun money!!!). My spending was £184 vs. Faith’s spending of £61. Faith also has £102 of husband’s fun money. So nice to not have this category to account for.

Spending Diary Comparison new nails post lockdown

Clothing and Shoes

Admission time here. I spent a lot at £676 and Faith spent nothing. I am not going to justify anything. As soon as John Lewis opened, I made an appointment with a personal shopper (appointment is FREE) who chose some 70% clearance bits for me to transform my style into a newly single fashionista woman. All my new clothes are beautiful, flattering, and colourful and match my rebranded website!

Spending Diary Comparison Retro Revival shopping

I also shopped small business with Clare at The Fitting Room Stevenage buying new bras and bought two beautiful dresses from Retro Revival in London.

Food – Groceries and Eating Out

We both spent similar amount on groceries at £447 for my household and £449 for Faiths. However, I also spent an additional £367 on eating out with the boys. Yes, I fully embraced the return to new normal and having other people cook for me. We had Wagamama’s, Knebworth Caffe Vero, Knebworth Lytton Arms, I had beautiful cocktails and sashimi at Milos in London, a beautiful restaurant to celebrate the end of my detox and 1 stone weight loss (most of the month was spent on detox, no booze, sugar, meat, caffeine, gluten, dairy and acid).

Faith spent much less: £76 on eating out during a trip to the beach and on an Indian takeaway. How good did it feel to not being the ONLY one cooking for our families?!

Spending Diary Comparison Lytton arms knebworth

Bills

Least interesting category, but of course an essential spend. I spent £459 and Faith spent £587. The difference mainly explained by council tax where my bill is £150 vs. Faiths bill of £308. We are comparable now with broadband, mobile, energy, water, insurance, and TV.

It is so important to get the best deal here for your essential bills. Check that each bill is value for money and you are paying the lowest amount. I recommend Octopus for Energy, use TopCashback to compare car/home insurance, mobile & broadband AND get cashback, use LifeSearch to check your life, income, and health insurance.

Mortgage wise I am on a mortgage holiday and Faith is mortgage free. But if you need to check your mortgage costs, now is a good time to re-mortgage and save with a better deal. I used Trussle in March to re-mortgage, who were amazing. I got a great deal and I was a tricky self-employed customer requiring a high level of borrowing.

Car Costs

My costs were £199, and Faiths were £371. Faith’s costs took a leap due to an annual hit of car insurance that she paid in one go to avoid any interest charges. The insurance was £348 for two cars which sounds like amazing value for money, well done! My costs include my leasing payment of £176 and a tiny bit of petrol and pay as you go By Miles insurance.

I have filled my car with petrol two times during four months of lockdown! And my car is a Toyota CHR hybrid so only costs around £30 to £35 to fill up the tank.

Cleaner

I re-employed my cleaner during lockdown (I detest cleaning, life is too short) who comes every two weeks, and spent £50, Faith also has a cleaner once a week, which cost £96.

Household costs

One off household costs fall into here, for me it was a first payment towards a new bed and mattress and new bedding £255. Faith had an annual boiler service costing £81.

Children costs

We both spent similar here me at £101 and Faith at £119. Including bits for the children to keep them happy during lockdown. I bought books, a smart watch, and trainers. Faith bought clothes and paid for some home learning for her son.

Spending Diary Comparison Bestway pool

Summary

Once you strip out costs such as paying ourselves, business investment and holiday payments we spent very similar amounts. £2,624 for Faith and £3,051 for me.

I hope you enjoyed our latest spending diary comparison and have learnt some interesting money saving tactics and a bit more about each of our lives. A spending diary is so personal and invaluable to getting in control and understanding your monthly spending and budgets. I love to use this fact-based information to prepare a real-life budget using realistic numbers.

To read Faith’s take on our spending diary comparison, head on over to PensionBee website to read her learnings, highlights and thoughts.

Mental note I must spend less than £813 on groceries and eating out going forward!!

This is a collaborative post with PensionBee.

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Lynn Beattie

Aka Mrs MummyPenny

Personal Finance Expert

I write about personal finance made simple, lifestyle choices that will save you time and money, as well as products and services that offer great value.

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