2022 Spending Reviewed: Some Frugal Fails & Some New Ways of Being

The cost of living has been on everyone’s minds in 2022 so how did we cope in a year where inflation raced ahead into double figures, while interest on savings lagged behind? Did we make any changes to our lives that show up in our spending? Once again I have divulged the expenditure of a couple living in the northwest of England in all its peculiarity and shortcomings.

During 2022 we still only had my small NHS pension, my irregular travel writer income, interest and Premium Bond winnings [no we didn’t win big!] to pad out our savings. This income contributes about 40% of our spending and it is our dwindling savings that provide the majority of our funds through the year. We are beyond excited that in 2023 one of Anthony’s work-related pensions kicks in [over 20 years of service] as we gradually come to the end of our savings.

When we retired in 2017 we aimed to live on less than £27,000 a year for the foreseeable future, and despite high inflation we have spent under that figure for five of the last six years but it was a close run thing in 2022. Today the average household in the UK spends just over £30,000 a year [even if you take out mortgage / rent costs] and if we were both earning minimum wage for a 37 hour week and paying tax we would have an income of almost £33,000, so we were not budgetting for anything like the lap of luxury.

As in previous years, expensive home improvements that we consider one-off are kept separate and not part of the headline figure. On top of the budgeted expenditure in the usual categories [see below], in 2022 we also eventually managed to renovate our tired bathroom, splashing out £10,000 on a new super-modern bathroom and flooring for our hallway. I am hopeful I will never have to re-fit a bathroom again [I’ve no idea how anyone manages this without a campervan to fall back on] and I hope this one will see me out!

Here is how our budget breaks down into my different categories:

Essentials – total £8,941 [33% of total spending] [2021 £8,730 / 38%]

Food – £4,074 [2021 £4,142] – I have watched this figure carefully throughout the year and I am surprised it is less than 2021! The evidence suggests that the price of food has increased and there was a point where a pack of butter seemed to increase by the day and yet the spreadsheet doesn’t lie. I can’t explain this and my waistline would suggest we haven’t starved. We continue being vegetarian and using Lidl for most of our shopping, with top ups at the Co-op, Sainsburys and Tesco. We were in Germany and the Netherlands for two months of the year but food seemed a similar price there and we have averaged £339 / month spending in supermarkets [including alcohol] in 2022.

Utilities, insurance & service charges for a 2-bed 57.2 sq mtrs [615.7 sq feet] bungalow – £4,031 [2021 £3,854] – Considering the rising cost of everything, this budget line hasn’t risen too much either. Like most other people we have received the government help on our energy bills. We can’t do much about our Council Tax and TV License but did get a better deal on our home broadband. We have always saved energy and water for our pockets and the environment, using grey water to flush the loo, switching the shower off while we lather up and only washing clothes at 30C.

Our health – £836 [2021 £734] – Most of this spending in 2022 is on physiotherapy after my ongoing bout of sciatic pain. The NHS waiting list for physiotherapy is generally so long we just get on with this ourselves to prevent problems becoming chronic. This is certainly a frugal fail as after paying £55 a session for two months I found out our GP practice has two NHS physiotherapists with waiting lists of only a few weeks!

The money we spend on the essentials above are, in theory, the minimum we need to survive, if nothing goes wrong or wears out and we didn’t own a campervan and never went anywhere!

Stuff (electronics, books, newspapers and other kit) – £4,719 [18% of total spending] [2021 £3,170 / 14%]

Household spending [everything from glue, newspapers and books to bird food, gardening stuff and parts for the bikes] – £4,076 [ 2021 £2,506] This is much higher than 2021 so was 2022 the year of stuff? There were a number of replacements; new curtains for the living room; a couple of new electronic gadgets as thngs broke and a massive frugal fail – the decision in January to buy our first tumble drier! Doing this just as energy prices were rising was pretty stupid and [of course] we hardly dare use it now. Our local library has helped us be more frugal when it comes to reading. Once I had discovered the online reservation service [75p per item] and gained my reward card [6th book free] I was hooked. Other books come from friends, charity and second-hand book shops.

Clothes & accessories – £643 [2021 £664] – We try and follow a one-in-one-out policy with clothes as even good quality kit eventually wear out and almost half of this £643 went on footwear. After putting up with wet feet time and time again on our hill walks we splashed out on a new pair of boots for me and had to replace other shoes. A massive frugal fail occured on our trip to Scotland in March. We set off in glorious and warm spring weather and forgot to pack our thick padded coats! Of course, you guessed it, a week in and the Scottish weather was Arctic and every charity shop had sold all its stock of warm and showerproof outerwear. We had no choice but to buy a coat each and were just grateful that we caught the sales. The only bonus to spending an unnecessary £130 is that we now keep these two spare coats in the campervan, so we’ll never be caught out again!

Experiences – £11,805 [46% of total spending] [2021 £9,517 / 31%]

Holidays [still our favourite spending line] – £4,096 [20210 £3,634] – We eventually got our holiday with friends in a big Scottish house in 2022, having waited two years and a pandemic to get together. We spent about four months of the year sleeping in our campervan in the UK and Germany and the Netherlands and so paid for lots of campsites and ferries but to save money we only took one trip across to mainland Europe instead of the two each year we planned when we retired.

Restaurants & cafes – £2,311 [2021 £2,225] – This number tell a story of someone who, although they love their family and friends dearly, has lost the need to socialise so much since being locked down. Our spending on eating out [everything from takeaway chips from our local chip shop to a posh meal out with friends] hasn’t recovered since BC[Before Covid-19]. In 2019 we spent just over £2,400 in this line of our budget, revealing how our life has changed and I don’t know if going out will ever return to BC levels. That said, we ate so much cake and ice-cream in Germany I’m honestly amazed this figure isn’t double!

Running the campervan [servicing & insurance etc] – £2,058 [2021 £1,280] – After a cheap year in 2021 it was inevitable we would have to spend more on the Blue Bus in 2022. The biggest expenditure was front tyres that were replaced in the autumn as they were getting to the end of their life. As the spare tyre was five years old we swapped it for one of the removed front tyres that still had some tread and a couple of years of life left in it.

Diesel for the above ‘van – £1,905 [2021 £1,261 ] – It is not surprising this budget line has increased in 2022 as the cost of diesel rocketed. Paying more than £100 to fill up its huge tank is no longer a novelty! When we are at home and on campsites we generally travel on foot, by bicycle or by public transport and our campervan can easily sit for a week or two without going anywhere. We also deliberately reduced our mileage on our trip to Europe, staying in Germany and not following the Elbe into Czechia as we had originally planned.

Tickets for concerts, football & attractions – £744 [2021 £589] – This is another area of spending that hasn’t recovered in the AC [After Covid-19] world. In 2019 we spent £200 more on going out than we did in 2022 and in 2018 we spent even more! Nevertheless we are getting back into the swing of enjoying some experiences. Gigs in 2022 included The Pretty Reckless in Manchester and we had a nostalgic trip to see Preston North End play football with a friend [we were regulars when we lived in Preston]. I sat next to a couple who had been attending PNE matches for over seven decades, what dedication! We have also visited some wonderful places, a highlight being Eilean Bàn early in the year. This island sitting under the bridge between the Isle of Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh is a haven for nature and has a delightful museum to Gavin Maxwell who lived here at one time.

Public transport costs – £691 [2021 £528] – Bus and train fares have increased. On our regular trips to Manchester to see friends we always choose to let the train take the strain but the West Coast Mainline now resembles a lottery more than a service. Three train companies run this route, Northern, TransPennine and Avanti and all of them [but particularly the latter two] have failed to provide a full timetable throughout the year even before strikes began. We now expect cancelled trains on the reduced timetable and plan accordingly after a couple of frustrating and uncomfortable journeys.

Giving – £940 [4% of total spending] [2021 £1,352 / 6%]

Gifts & donations – £940 [2021 £1,352] – In 2022 we have supported Morecambe’s Food Bank, charities campaigning against climate change and Ukraine. Whereas our donations to charities have increased, our gift giving has been more frugal. What isn’t included in this figure is the regular item I pop into the Food Bank bin in the supermarket. This is a small part of our grocery total and we find it is a way of giving without noticing the financial cost.

TOTAL SPENDING FOR 2022 – £26,405

Considering inflation and some big frugal fails I am happy with this figure. The area I would like to reduce in 2023 is the £4,700+ we spent on stuff. Even though where possible we bought second hand, much of this spending has a negative impact on our planet.

Over my six years of retirement we have spent an average of £24,715 a year. Thanks to my travel writing income over these years we have enough flexibility to be able to have a budget of more than £27,000 in 2023 and beyond without being forced to go back to the nine-to-five.

We now have only three years until we are both receiving our state pensions and no longer rely on our savings.

Although retiring early was fantastic, for me, saving was never just about being able to give up work before we were in our mid-60s, it was also about us having the financial resilience to survive whatever ups and downs life threw at us. Let’s hope we continue to stay afloat and even thrive through whatever 2023 brings us.

Let me know in the comments below how your budget matched your spending in 2022.

Author: Back on the Road Again Blog

I write two blogs, one about my travels in our campervan and living well and frugally and the second about the stories behind the people commemorated in memorial benches.

16 thoughts on “2022 Spending Reviewed: Some Frugal Fails & Some New Ways of Being”

    1. Thank you for being honest! I have reviewed our spending since we took early retirement as it is the saving that allows us to have all the adventures.
      You might be more interested in my review of 2022 in our campervan which will be coming soon.


  1. Hi Carol,

    Thanks for this very detailed and honest blog, which will be very helpful for anyone considering the impact of financial independence on van life (in particular) on retirement. Before we retired, I crunched the numbers and, although we finished work earlier than planned due to mental health issues (with a financial impact on our savings plan), it’s still been the best thing we ever did.

    We manage our annual budget within my one pension. This will be our sole income until we (hopefully!) reach State Pension age in 7-8 years time. This does allow us to save some money each month, half of which goes towards the cost of the following year’s outgoings such as insurances, vehicle servicing, travel etc.

    I do track our expenditure each year (can’t get out of the habit!); last year we spent £22,449 against a net income of £22,265. We had a few short trips around the UK in our van last year, with one 6 week trip to France (used the Eurotunnel which was mainly financed via Tesco Clubcard vouchers). Our annual costs included:

    £5,382 – supermarket (covers food and everything else bought in supermarkets – mainly Lidl in the UK and SuperU in France)

    £1,106 – diesel for our campervan (2013 Citroen Relay 2.2 HDi)

    £1,267 – petrol for our small car – it’s 18 years old and only used on the island, but is starting to cost us in terms of maintenance costs. We’ll keep it running until it’s no longer cost effective.

    £2,406 – spending on the garden; £1,000 of this was on a new patio. The garden’s Cathy’s passion and ‘place of sanctuary’ so it’s money well spent in terms of mental health.

    £397 – eating out. We don’t eat out much; we’re often disappointed in the quality and cost of eating out and I prefer to visit a local market to buy good produce and cook it myself.

    £598 – new spectacles for both of us

    £939 – clothes and walking shoes/boots. We buy for comfort these days! We did spend £150 in a Decathlon in France last year, as we find their clothes fit us well and are of decent quality.

    £281 – campsites (UK and France)

    £98 – aires (France)

    £3,467 – vehicle costs. This is for both our campervan and car (insurance, MOT, servicing, fixes). Last year we had to replace the exhaust on the Micra (£200) and fix some other issues (£260). The van had four new tyres (£384), needed a new radiator due to a leak (£344) and fixing the cracked shower tray (£365). So 2022 was an expensive year with the vehicles.

    £1,687 – gas and electric. This isn’t too bad considering our gas is supplied from an external LPG tank.

    Overall, we spent a little more than we earned, but we had the savings put aside for unexpected vehicle costs, so it was manageable.

    This year we probably won’t travel to Europe, but do plan some trips (about 2 weeks each) to the Lakes, Scotland and Yorkshire, plus perhaps some other trips further south. Whilst this should save us some travel costs, we’ll take a big hit on campsite fees!

    Thanks again for sharing and I hope you both have a healthy 2023 with lots of travelling. I’ll be referring to your many excellent articles when planning our upcoming UK trips!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Paul. I have only just spotted your comments, WordPress had thrown it into spam! I’m so glad I always check this periodically and sorry for not replying sooner. Comparing is almost impossible but always interesting. Owning a campervan is never going to be cheap (I can’t believe the cost of a shower tray!) and we are lucky that we have no need to own a car as well as (if it wasn’t a bungalow) you’d be able to see Lidl from our house! Good tyres are an essential for me too.
      Campsites in the UK will cost you more but the network of aires, along with CLs and CSs do allow you to keep costs down here and Scotland, particularly, is great for free camping. The Lakes is a tad more crowded for free camping (but beautiful – and of course I am biased) but there are some places where you can tuck yourself in quietly and we have a few favourite CLs there. I’m just reviewing our 2022 in camping and we did spend £38/night on one site because it was recommended by a friend but it was never going to be as good as I would expect for that much money! We plan to go to France in 2023 and we’re looking forward to all those municipal sites, aires and ACSI bargains.
      Thanks again and happy new year.


  2. Not sure why people comment to say they have no interest. Anyhow. I found it very interesting, so thanks for sharing. I’m looking to retire in about 12 months, so it’s very helpful. It’s very hard to figure out what you’ll spend / how month you’ll need per month.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Graham for commenting. Good luck achieving your retirement. My suggestion would be to either look at your own expenditure for the last year or start to note it down now for a few months to get a handle on how much you spend while you are working to begin figuring out how much you will need for retirement. With the information you can consider how much more or less you will need. It is surprising how much work can cost with commuting, clothes you would never normally buy and all those gifts for weddings and babies but you also might have plans to do some nice things in retirement! Our spending has been similar in retirement to before.


  3. It is assuring to read this post. We were very lucky to be able to retire very early (in our mid 40s) and living on savings then, later, work pensions, has always required some tight budgetary control. Julia is the finance manager in our household. Every year, like you, we set a budget and though most years we might overspend, it’s generally by not too much. Setting budgets creates a discipline. They can be reviewed each month and adjustments made. It is good to know we are not alone! We’ve always found posts like yours and from others very useful. Thank you for sharing.

    John (Olivewood).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you John. You are right it is a mixture of discipline and flexibility so well done to Julia the Finance Manager for getting you through! Between us we sometimes have to be careful not to overdo the discipline and remember we are allowed to enjoy ourselves! I am afraid that without Anthony looking over my shoulder I might have blown it all by now and be working in Lidl 🙂


  4. As always Carol, fascinating and as John says, somewhat reassuring, so thank you. Himself receives his State pension and a couple of other very small ones but I am one of the many women whose pension date was put back with hardly and notice and no time to make substantial changes. So like you, the “price” of retiring early is part-pension with savings top-up.

    I have spreadsheets going back for years and it’s interesting to see how stable some of the numbers are, and how similarly we spend in each category on a percentage basis.

    Physio ‘frugal fail’ notwithstanding, how is your back?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jayne. Don’t get me started on the change to women’s state pensions, my spreadsheet was on fire as I tried to keep up with the changes and the amount we needed to save kept going up! I won’t really relax until I start getting it as I keep expecting the government to take it away again. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a backlog of old spreadsheets! I find that history of our spending fascinating but I’m sure our son will just press delete when we die 🙂 The back / crippling sciatica pain has improved massively thank you. I eventually went to my GP and she gave me amitriptyline which was like a miracle. I’ve just stopped taking it and the nerve pain is only slight, no more night walking at the moment. My plan now is to try and make sure it never returns.


  5. We spent more in 2022 than we have in our entire lives.. we bought our first house and put down 20% cash and moved 2200km+ across Canada. Sooo yeah. Now we’re trying to watch expenses and build up some savings along with trying to pay down our mortgage as fast as we can! The cost of living is horrendous everywhere… 😦 So hard lately..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Carla and congratulations on buying your first house. Moving house is the most expensive thing. We moved in 2019 and, although it was planned, it played havoc with our spending. No matter how you budget, there is always something extra to buy for a new house but we find it calms down after a year. Sounds like you’re doing the right thing keeping an eye on your expenses but I would suggest not to set yourself high savings targets for the first year if you then feel bad about not achieving them, better to aim a bit lower and be happy if you do better! 🙂 Once everywhere is decorated and as you like it in your new house, then you can get back into the saving groove. I’ve just checked out your blog and your cat is gorgeous! I’ll add your blog to my reading list and follow your adventures and good luck with the reading pile.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It seems like you already know me… lol! I always set such grand goals then “fail”, so I am trying to be far more realistic now! My top goal is to save $$$ to pay off our mortgage in 1/3 the time. But we’ll see how things go! As for decorating, i’m kind of a “minimalist” so not too concerned about decorating but am trying to make my home feel more “welcoming” than “clean & bare”. *blush*

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting read & very thorough Carol -I admire your organisation. Barry does the number crunching, I’d be hopeless. Comparisons ‘re food prices see interesting & also the useful tip about your library. Sounds like those emergency coats were quite a find!

    Liked by 1 person

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