In 2017 I was feeling a trifle smug. We had spent around £24,000 in our first year of retirement, way below budget. That smug smile was wiped off my face earlier in the year when I reported that things were not looking so positive in 2018 and I was feeling a frugal failure. With inflation I could have expected our spending to increase to around £25,000 in the year, instead it seems we were just saving up all our big financial hits for 2018. In 2018 we were just average [2017 UK average household spending was £28,818). This isn’t much comfort when we’re supposed to be being frugal and minimalist. In our spending you won’t find any costs for haircuts, party frocks, frippery or pay TV, so what went wrong? I’ve divided our spending this year in to essentials, stuff, experiences and giving. The graph gives a summary.
Essentials – total £9,654 [34% of total spending]
Food – £3,870 – We are two vegetarian who like to drink red wine and gin & mostly use the discount supermarkets. I do know that wine and gin are not essential but we haven’t separated the costs of these from our supermarket shops during the year and together these probably represent about £400 of the total. [2017 £3,612]
Utilities, insurance & service charges for a 2-bed 58 sq mtrs [624 sq feet] flat – £4,841 – This year we have changed supplier for our gas and electric and moved to a cheaper mobile phone contract to save money. The increase is only because we payed up-front for the gas boiler servicing to receive a discount [2017 £4,621 mis-reported last year!]
Our health [including tai chi classes [?essential?]] – £943 – An expensive year thanks to some dental work [£235] and both of us needing new specs [£503] [2017 £376]
Stuff (electronics, newspapers and other kit) – £3,333 [11% of total spending]
Household items [including parts for the bikes] – £2,364 – Although this category does include a multitude of things, including postage, one newspaper a week, books [often second-hand] and bits and bobs for repairs, it also includes stuff. In 2018 we decided to buy a new laptop [£450] and one new mobile phone [£115], replace our ageing head torches [£70] and cycle helmets [£50]; although all replacing old and well-used items these are purchases that we don’t make easily and we had been putting off for some time. [2017 £1,668]
Clothes & accessories – £969 – Whenever we can we buy second-hand clothing. The almost £1,000 we have spent is mostly for replacements for walking gear that has worn out. Even with the best quality clothing things don’t last forever and this year we have bought new walking shoes, trousers and rucksacks. It is true that about £100 of this spending is for a couple of things that were bought because of a want, rather than a need. [2017 £525]
Experiences – £14,095 [51% of total spending]
Holidays [our favourite spending line] – £4,681 – Despite being away on holiday for even longer, around 40% of the year [155 nights in the campervan, plus a couple of other holidays in self-catering cottages] we have spent less on this budget line in 2018. Result! The spending is mostly on accommodation and ferries and also includes £380 for a 2019 holiday. [2017 £5,285]
Restaurants & cafes – £2,963 – Only a tad more than last year [2017 £2,864]
Running the campervan [servicing, insurance & parts] – £2,578 – a big increase on last year [2017 £1,636] all due to replacing brakes and tyres, failures in the air conditioning and power steering and a bit of wing mirror jousting. What a year! Readers might not agree that the costs for our campervan come under experiences but for us this is an important part of our lifestyle and so this is where it fits best. Friends might be surprised that I didn’t put it under essential spending!
Diesel for the above ‘van – £1,937 – the price of diesel has increased and we drove more miles in the Blue Bus this year, particularly on our trip to Croatia [2017 £1,641]
Tickets for concerts, football & attractions – £1,114 – Wow! We must have been to a lot of events this year! Tickets for the football have increased in price and in Croatia we visited more paying attractions than we might have as we’re unsure whether we will travel so far again. Although this is experiences, rather than stuff, this is definitely an area we could try and make savings in 2019. [2017 £633]
Public transport – £670 – We don’t use the campervan around Manchester and cycle and walk to do things or visit friends but sometimes [if it is raining/cold/too far] we take the tram, the bus or the train [2017 £517]
Unknown spending – £152 – [2017 £81]
Giving – £1,025 [4% of total spending]
Gifts & donations – £1,025 – we buy our family and friends birthday presents and buy Christmas presents for a shorter list [2017 £1,173]
TOTAL SPENDING FOR 2018 – £28,107 [2017 £24,196]
I’m pleased to see how much our spending is weighted towards doing things, rather than buying stuff so perhaps a tick for being minimalist if not uber-frugal. Despite having a year that has still been a bit heavy on replacing things 51% of our spending has been on our own version of enjoying life. We have a plan to cut down our spending on stuff in 2019 and I hope spending only 4% on giving make us look frugal rather than mean as I’d like this to remain this low.
It is impossible to make any conclusions from one year and averaged over two years our spending of £26,152 a year still seems fairly low. This year has shown us how important over-saving or over-estimating budgets is for planning to live without any earned income. After this expensive year my travel writing income is becoming essential, rather than extra cash.
Having spent more than our original budget of £27,000 our future annual budgets have been increased to reflect this. We’ll see what 2019 will bring and try hard to have a low-spending year but at the moment we have no need or plans to go back to the nine-to-five!